A woman dabs a napkin at the corner of her mouth, looking suddenly worried and shocked. An empty basket of food lays before her.

The Shame of Messing Up with Food

IBS hits everyone so differently. It truly is an individualized syndrome. And when it comes to food, IBS patients couldn’t be more different. Some people can have dairy while others must avoid it like the plague. Some can indulge in eating rice while others take one bite and feel pain immediately. Gluten seems to be a common food to avoid, yet I’ve met many with IBS that can digest gluten with no problem. It’s amazing how differently IBS can affect people.

Avoiding trigger foods with IBS

One thing we all have in common, however, is the idea that we have to stay away from certain foods. The foods themselves may be different, but the concept of having to avoid certain foods is a common thread with IBS patients.

As for me, I have to avoid the following: wheat products, most grains, processed sugar, dairy, and spicy foods. Of course, like most of us, these are the foods I love the most and grew up eating on a regular basis. So the temptation is real!

The worst part about dealing with IBS is the unpredictability. I always get in trouble when I start to feel well. I’m having a really good day or 2. Minimal symptoms. I feel more like my old self, with better energy, and low anxiety because my bowels are acting normal. So what do I do? I think to myself: Man, I’d love a sandwich right now. I’m hungry, I’m feeling great and I miss being able to bite into a delicious sandwich.

Giving in to temptation

So off I go, to my favorite spot for a delicious sandwich and I enjoy every single bite. I think what I may enjoy slightly more than the sandwich itself, is the fact that I am doing an activity that I used to do all the time before my diagnosis. It’s a feeling of nostalgia. A feeling of freedom. A sort of event that provides me with some type of healing. I can finally do something that takes me back to the days of being healthy.

Shame sinks in

Oh, but the moment I take that last bite and begin to clean up my surroundings, the shame kicks in. Intense shame. I can’t help but think: what have I just done? I am going to be sick soon. Why can’t I be more disciplined? I go down this rabbit hole of shame and it can get quite dark. Because it can start to turn into: why me? Why can’t I be normal again and just have a sandwich? Why can’t I be the old me? Why does my life have to be this way?

Oof. And the worst is when you start to feel the symptoms. The gurgling of the stomach. The cramping beginning to start. And you know it’s time to head home and get in bed because soon things are going to get bad. And the entire time you are enduring your flare, you can’t help but think it’s your fault. You ate the sandwich. You did this to yourself. You’re just ashamed.

Can you relate? Do you feel shame when you eat what you shouldn’t? Share your thoughts below.

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