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Two male rugby players fist-bump under a shared speech bubble of lots of greasy, fatty foods. Under them is a fancy woman with a speech bubble full of fancy food. Under her is a small people looking up with a tiny empty speech bubble.

How To Be Social Around Food

Sometimes, I wish that food didn’t play such an important part in our social lives. Whether it’s going to the restaurant with colleagues, to brunch with your significant other, or out for a drink with friends, it’s almost impossible to meet with people without putting something in your mouth.

Anxiety related to food

No matter how many good days I’ve been having, my relationship with food is never an easy one. I always prefer to eat at home, close to a bathroom, just in case. (And not have any plans after that.)

Of course, that’s not realistic. In everyday life, I try to accommodate food in ways that reduce anxiety to the minimum. I never eat right before leaving the house, even if it means going out hungry. And whenever I do have plans, I exclusively stick to safe foods.

The most difficult part is eating out though. No matter who I am with, no matter where or when I always get anxious about going to a restaurant. The less I control the situation, the worse it gets.

I don’t know how many times I’ve missed out on social gatherings just because of the food. Like every time my girlfriends go brunching. The time my colleagues invited me to a Lebanese restaurant. When my boyfriend’s family went out to a place that exclusively served pizza. Or every other time people decided to go someplace that doesn’t serve IBS-friendly meals.

Is it okay to insist on what you need?

Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I don’t like to interfere with people’s plans. It makes me feel uncomfortable to ask them to go somewhere else just so I can come. Especially when I’m not part of the inner circle.

On some occasions, this isn’t so bad. If I’m meeting up with close friends, I have no problem suggesting a restaurant that works for me. After all, they’re my friends and I know that they want me there. The same goes for my family, of course.

But what about social gatherings organized by my boyfriend’s group? Do I have the right to ask everyone to accommodate my needs if I wouldn’t even be invited if I wasn’t their friend’s girlfriend? How about an invitation from coworkers whom I’m not particularly close to?

I always feel that whenever I’m not essential to the event, I should skip it rather than insist on a place that works for me. But I know that not everyone feels that way.

Some people tend to impose their needs much more. One girl I know loves fancy food and makes us go to more expensive restaurants all the time. Although I know for a fact that without her, we would end up eating fries and burgers somewhere casual.

Is this a bad thing? Maybe not. But it surely gave her the reputation of having to have things her way. And it’s not something that aligns well with my personality.

Introversion and IBS: a constant struggle

In the end, all this comes down to the never-ending contradiction between my introverted, accommodating personality and my IBS.

I’m usually the type of person who never wants to cause any trouble for anyone. On the other hand, my IBS has pretty strong opinions on what it expects from my food choices. Finding the right compromise between these two can be really, really hard.

Should I stay true to my personality, even if it means missing out? Or will people just think that I don’t care about them if I don’t attend social gatherings?

Would it be better for everyone if I asked them to accommodate my needs? Or would they just be annoyed with me, and stop inviting me anyway?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I would love to know if I’m the only one experiencing that struggle. Is it all just in my head? How do you deal with these situations?

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