How to Make Gatherings With Food Easier
The types of fears we have around food
The greatest fear for someone with IBS when it comes to food usually occurs when we’re in a situation where we don’t have full control over our food choices. In this case, the fear usually relates to the following things:
- That we’ll end up going hungry because there won’t be anything available for us to eat.
- That we’ll accidentally (or purposely, because we’re starving) end up eating something that we can’t tolerate and it will trigger our IBS and make us ill.
- That we’ll experience symptoms because of the food that we’ve eaten, which will be extremely embarrassing.
- That we’ll need to leave early because we can’t function properly anymore or we can no longer hide our symptoms.
All these fears are completely normal for someone with IBS, because they have a reasonable chance of occurring. Especially if the person hosting the gathering and/or doing the cooking isn’t used to (or aware of) your special needs. But there are things you can do to make it easier.
Strategies for making gatherings with food easier
The best way to approach gatherings with food is by working through the strategies below, in the order listed.
1: Talk to the host before the gathering
It’s always best to talk to the host and/or cook before the gathering so that they have the opportunity to cater for your needs. Make it as easy as possible for them to help you by giving specific information. Also try to make suggestions on how their preferred food options could be altered.
- Keep dressings and sauces on the side
- Cook your meat separately (and plainly)
- Have a buffet-type arrangement so that people can assemble their own meals
2: Offer to bring some food to serve at the gathering
When talking to the host, it might become clear that there are certain parts of the menu that can’t be changed for you. In that case, you can offer to bring something that could be served alongside the meal. For instance, you could bring a dessert or a side dish.
3: Talk to the host when you arrive at the gathering
If you haven’t been able to talk to the host before the gathering, then you need to talk to them as soon as you arrive. This way, there may be a chance to get them to adapt the way that they’re serving up the food to make things safer for you. Or they might be able to pull aside some of the ingredients before final assembly to keep your selections ‘plainer.’ But if you wait until the food is served, then usually everything will be fully seasoned and sauced and you won’t be able to change things for your needs.
4: Bring some foods with you as a ‘just in case’
This is a last case scenario and not my preferred option. There are two ways to do this. Firstly, take certain items (like a special bread) that can also help to fill you up. The second option is to take a fully cooked dish, such as a rice, pasta or potato dish. These choices can double as sides for everyone to share or a meal for you if nothing else works.
Have you ever had a public IBS accident?