Situation: Your name is Sally and you struggle with your weight and you have an unhealthy relationship with food. You go out to eat with one of your super skinny friends and you order extra bacon on your bleu cheese bacon burger (because bacon is the best thing). What would you do if your friend said, “Say, Sally. Why are you ordering that extra helping of bacon? Don’t you think that’s a bit much?” Seriously, what would you do? I imagine you’d be horrified and decide immediately that your friendship is not as valuable as it once was.
Plea: Do me a favor, the next time you’re out with a friend who is choosing to or must eat gluten free, dairy free, soy free, meat free, sugar free, whatever free, do not ask them why. Please. For the love of everything you hold dear to you. If they offer up the information, then listen intently, but just don’t ask.
Food is a very personal experience for many. I was recently diagnosed with a digestive disorder called Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In my opinion, this diagnosis was created by western doctors so they could tell people like me that we have a disorder without telling us how to fix it. My doctor actually said, “Well, it could be due to anything really. Try to add some fiber to your diet and let’s talk again in a couple of months.” If you knew what was happening to my body at that time and I told you I had to drink some nasty fiber bevies and hope for the best for a couple of months, you would have fuh-reaked out.
IBS can manifest in a variety of ways. I cringe when people ask me, “What is IBS, what happened to you?” You really don’t want to know, y’all. It’s really gross. Imagine all of the gross things that could happen to your butt and they were happening. So, what did I do? I politely told my doctor to bugger off (under my breath, in my car as I was driving home from my $2,000 appointment) and hired a nutritionist. For thirty long days, I had to remove every major toxin from my diet so we could isolate what was triggering my Unhappy Butt Syndrome. I ended up eliminating dairy, soy, gluten, alcohol, processed sugar and caffeine.
If you thought to yourself, “So what DID you eat?” I applaud you for being the eleventy billionth person to ask me that question. To answer, I ate a lot of meat and veggies and rice and quinoa and eggs (not considered dairy to my tummy). Burritos and pizza, my favorite food groups, were no longer allowed. (Yes, I’m aware there are food allergy alternatives to these foods, but who are we kidding? It’s not the damn same). I started seeing a therapist because this major physical shift in the way I ate was messing with mind. I felt isolated. I couldn’t just go grab a beer or a slice anymore. I had to meal plan (what am I, a mom?) and my comfort foods were no longer available to me.
After going through all of this, I’ve found a happy medium. I allow myself a few cheats here and there, but I know when my body can’t handle certain foods and I set limits for my diet. For the first time in my 29 years of life, I feel amazing. While I can’t eat what I used to love, I’m finding new favorites and I actually enjoy using the bathroom.
But all of those frustrated, isolated feelings come back when anyone asks me, “Oh, you’re gluten free? Whyyyyyy?” The honest answer is a really gross story about poop that I’d rather not share after I ordered a salad without croutons or cheese. If you wouldn’t judge your friend – who doesn’t have dietary limitations – about her choices, please, I beg of you, don’t judge anyone else’s.
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Food-shaming is so middle school. I’m glad your butt is happier now.
Thanks, Nina. :)
Jeez! Waaaaah! Just reply “For medical health reasons, it’s a dietary thing.” and leave it at that, if they inquire further just say “It’s personal.” Everyone else doesn’t have to be curbed of natural human curiosity, you need to learn basic social skills. I’m THRILLED to hear the dietary plan has worked & I’m VERY familiar with what IBS can do to you as my step-son had it, but he at 19 was fielding the questions better than you seem to. Sheesh!
Thanks for reading and commenting, Lydia. This story is targeted at the individuals who ask and pry and push. If a friend asks, “May I ask why you can’t eat gluten?” I’m perfectly capable of and have responded politely. I’m not shaming curiosity, here. I’m sorry it came across that way. This was an article about passing judgment. And, if I may be so bold, I could have done without the judgment you just passed on my social skills. Again, thank you for reading.
You are quite right, Tatum, that was rather judgmental on my part. I apologize. Also, for the record I jumped right into the article and never read the title. Had I realized it was an intentional rant in that way – I’d have approached it differently.
I think Abbie’s feeling below is understandable, but in a day and age where everyone is constantly sharing their personal details on all the varied social media sites, it’s hardly surprising that people would have a tendency to get excessively over personal in their questions. I see the reason behind wishing it weren’t so, but I also see the futility of thinking that it’s going to change any time soon. (My guess would be, it won’t.)
Hey, Lydia. I respect your take on all of this. Totally legit. Thanks again, sincerely, for reading and sharing your thoughts. I hope you have a killer weekend, lady. ;)
Ms. Tatum likely handles all such situations as any adult would. But wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to have those uncomfortable conversations if people simply acted with a bit more politeness and tact? Minding our own business, etc. I read this self-titled “rant” as an expression of her frustration at having to respond to such inquiries far more often than she would like.
Thanks for sharing your story, Tatum. It takes a brave soul to share personal experiences like this. I’m trying to go gluten free for autoimmune reasons — and I’m a bit lactose intolerant, so I have to watch my dairy. I really admire how proactive you’ve been, taking it upon yourself to learn ways to get better, be healthier, and listen to your body. I’m just in the beginning stages now, so I know how difficult cutting just ONE of these things from your diet can be.
Hey! I know how you feel :) I have IBS as well and had to say to goodbye to one of my favorite foodgroups: dairy… and especially cheese :p I miss cheese so much it’s not normal :p. I can eat goat’s cheese and lactose free cheese but it’s just not the same. But even with restricting my diet (no grease etc…) my bowlls still seem to come straight from hell. What I found that really helped me is Molkosan. They have it here in Belgium… and some other countries. It tastes vile but it’s a small price to pay to have a ‘normal’ life. I can now eat some of the comfort food I like (helloooo french friens, come to momma), but dairy is still a big no no