I not sure if ‘The Art of Eating’ is actually the correct title for this post, probably more appropriate is ‘The Science of Eating’, however, I’m not a scientist, nutritionist or expert in dietary matters so this is just about what helps get me through as someone who suffers with Crohns after years and years of trial and error, countless eating plans, diets and experimenting with eliminating certain foods.
Firstly I want to dispel the misconception that what you eat can cure/control IBD (Crohns and Colitis), if this were the case I wouldn’t be writing this. The lessons I have learnt as a relative newbie to this stuff is:
- food that you could tolerate last week may not sit well with you the next
- modifying your diet can help
- eat little and often
- white foods are my friend (except cauliflower – avoid at all costs!!).
I’ve always considered my relationship with food love/hate – I love it, it hates me.
It either makes me put on weight or it makes me ill and both of these things are bloody irritating as I genuinely love food. The only thing my taste buds repel through choice is coconut (coconut milk is ok) and mushrooms – quite literally the spore of Satan.
As a Crohnie I defy the typical characteristics of someone with IBD who is usually under weight and struggles to put weight on. In my case, if I take my eye off the ball for one second my weight creeps up – this is one of the reasons I dismissed having Crohns – I can’t have Crohns and be ‘well-padded’, can I? On the positive it must mean my body retains nutrients somewhere/somehow. Another point of frustration with defying the ‘norm’ as a Crohnie is that a lot of health professionals correlate how much you weigh to indicate how well you are. i.e. if you have maintained your weight, or have put weight on, you must be doing ok – definitely NOT the case for me.
Over the years to manage my weight and my stomach I have tried countless diets starting with Slimming World when I was in my mid-teens, Weight Watchers and Atkins in my twenties (interlaced with silly starvation diets such as ones designed for people just about to go under major surgery which consisted of beetroot, honey and Ritz crackers – I kid you not), Slim Fast shakes, and most recently in 2009, to get rid of my baby weight following the birth of my first child, Sure Slim.
Today, and for the last year, I live gluten, wheat and dairy free. I also keep red meat to a minimum (although I love a good steak), avoid fizzy drinks and processed sugar, and moderate my intake of raw fruit and veg. Since being on steroids and Remicade I’ve also stopped drinking coffee too (my only vice is alcohol – a glass of wine, a good tipple of whiskey or brandy and on occasions vodka or gin).
So what does that leave me? Good question…
My diet mainly consists of:
- Wheat-free bread (M&S without wheat is my favourite)
- Soya milk
- Rice and potatoes
- Fish and white meat
- Snacks such as ready salted Hula Hoops, boiled sweets and good quality dark chocolate as treats
- Veg and fruit without seeds and fibrous skin – bananas, nectarines and apples
- chicken/clear broths
- Peppermint tea.
Up until recently I did eat eggs too but these are in the category of ‘was ok, now isn’t’.
On the days where I’m having a flare-up (like today and the last four days), even these foods aren’t ‘safe’ and can produce disastrous results.
If my stomach decides to react, on a good day I may get a few hours to prepare myself for the impending ‘evacuation’ where the pain starts to build slowly. On other occasions – which is more typical, I can eat something and within minutes, half an hour tops, I’m doubled over in agony and the sweats, shakes and diarrhoea starts straight away. The speed of the latter is quite often still a wonder to my husband who marvels at the fact my stomach can react so quickly. On many occasions he says “but you’ve literally only just eaten that, surely it hasn’t even reached your stomach yet??” I know, I can’t explain the mechanics either.
It’s on the point above why I entitled this post ‘The Art of Eating’ as it is an art. Just like everything else involved in my life it’s a routine – a process I’ve refined and honed (maybe my Six Sigma training didn’t go to waste after all).
As a Crohnie there are things I simply can’t do and things I must do where food is concerned.
- When travelling, either commuting to work, or at weekends, I never eat before I leave the house. I only eat when I’ve reached my destination or am confident there is sufficient access to a loo.
- I never eat anything that is ‘dodgy’, out of date or doesn’t look ok. Too many times I’ve risked this with dire results.
- I’ll only go off-piste and stray from my safe food list if I’m in the safety of my own home/friends house etc. and if I get ill in these scenarios I accept the consequences as I’ve consciously made the decision to eat something a bit different – eating a take away is a perfect example – on countless occasions they’ve made me SO ill.
- Don’t pig out – if I overload my tummy with either rich food or big volumes of food this will also send my stomach into spasms.
I realise I sound like a complete fruit-loop when reading this back. How the hell did I become one of ‘those’ irritating people who can’t eat anything just as it comes? Believe me I hate it too and would love nothing more than to eat what I liked without the slightest care in the world – what a euphoric feeling this would be.
When I achieve remission I’m going to eat the world, and then probably seek out the next fad diet. Old dog and all that…
Food on a bad day…