This week I wanted to address how to deal with digestive health issues in social situations, traveling, or even around the holidays. How do you defend yourself and your lifestyle choices. How to overcome those feelings of being insecure. Simply, how to just be YOU.
First and foremost. WHO CARES. Why do you need to defend yourself to anyone. If living your life, the way that you want to, makes you happy, makes you feel your best, does it matter? It shouldn’t, but of course it does. We all have feelings of insecurity, we all want to be liked, accepted, and thought of by other people as how we see ourselves. Even I feel that way, we are all human. Every day I have moments of self doubt, feel insecure about my body, my self worth, and question my own life and the path that I am on. It can be even harder when you are struggling with something that someone else, your friends, significant other, parents, strangers, whomever simply do not understand. Such as, digestive health issues, anxiety, eating disorders, you name it. It took me a while to be comfortable sharing the types of digestive health issues that I had and being so opened about it to my friends, family, and you- my instagram/blog world. You go through stages, you’re embarrassed, scared, nervous to talk about it, fear others will judge you, you hate that you have them and everyone else seems to be so “perfect,” and it begins to control and define your life. The worst, when you are starting a new relationship. Oh My God. You hold a grudge against your friends, family, and anyone in your circle and maybe even ostracize yourself from social settings because you are tired of explaining yourself, fear of eating certain things and feeling terrible after, scared to turn down drinks and being made fun of etc. Seriously, so exhausting and actually quite depressing!!
What to do: What do you do when you’re out with your friends and you may have gone over board either with the alcohol or have eaten foods you are intolerant to or that simply do not agree with your stomach/should be completely avoiding if you have IBS, leaky gut, SIBO or any other digestive health complication. What do you do when you are feeling so terrible; reads: severe bloating, cramps, severe abdominal pain, headaches/migraines, anxiety attacks, brain fog, IBS-D/C and you desperately want to cancel but either have canceled one too many times, simply can't miss it, or fear the repercussions from your social circle. It is sometimes so hard to plan ahead when you simply do not know how you are going to feel that day.
Don’t stress. I’ve learned that when I stress out, replay these moments in my head over again and become angry at myself for doing it (whether canceling, missing an event, overdoing it on certain foods or alcohol, etc), it actually becomes worse. It stresses my body out, causes my cortisol levels to rise, causes inflammation to the body, makes the bloating last longer, IBS-C is a result, and I usually have trouble sleeping. We all know that stress can wreck havoc on our digestive system and for me at least, when I am stressed or anxious, my stomach is the first to feel it.
Game Plan & Place to retreat: What I like to do before I go into a social situation, whether it be with close friends or strangers is have a game plan and a place to retreat even for just 5 minutes to re-group. Pick a place at the location where you can re-group by yourself, come back to focus, catch your breath and check in with yourself and how you are feeling. Literally pick the bathroom. Go there. This often stops me from being pressured into things that aren’t what my body needs. This sounds silly, but it works. If you drink, know that alcohol can be a factor in what disrupts your digestive system and understand that at the end of the day no one truly cares if you drink or not. Know your limit and stick to it or just say no, even if you have to 5 times. I also always like to confide with someone close to me, to let them know what is going on with me mentally and physically before hand, if I want to, so I can give them that cue: as in I need to leave or I am just feeling off or get this person to stop talking to me kind of thing because I mentally just can't focus. I've come such a long way in healing my body, that the feeling of feeling good outweighs feeling like complete [shit] for an entire week. I am not preaching to you to be a certain way, nor to drink or not, but know how it will affect your body if you have SIBO, leaky gut, IBS etc.
Pack snacks. Always. Especially if you are traveling. This seems so obvious, I know. I can't tell you how many times I've neglected to do this and have been roaming around trying to find something remotely healthy that would hold me over until I reached my destination, but ended up having to either buy something terrible for my body or not eating resulting in a migraine and being super irritable. Now, I always try and plan ahead even if I make some of my energy bites (recipes throughout blog), pack dried nuts, lemons for water, or even carry nut butter packets with me! My friends think I am crazy, but better than being sorry, starving, and in pain!
Make the decisions: In terms of food, check out the menu before you go anywhere so you feel less anxious if there will be anything you can eat, if that causes you stress. When I was at my absolute worse, like we are talking for one summer the only thing my body could handle was chicken and grapefruit, without getting sick, that was pretty awkward, I would often be stuck at places where I could not eat one thing on the menu and I felt extremely awkward and often ordered things that would make me feel extremely uncomfortable, but would do it anyway to avoid questions, comments, or anything from others. Often times, when I go to a restaurant or an event I will (to this day) make a beeline for the waiter/server/host and let her know of my allergies, what I can and can't eat and if there is a special menu that she can bring me or what she would recommend. That way, I don't have to do this in front of everyone at the table, take what feels like an hour figuring out what to order and make it a big to do! No one notices and everyone wins!
Pick the place to eat or go out! My friends know me well enough now where they always ask me first, if this place “looks good” to me, aka - is there food on the menu that you can eat and will enjoy because we want you to be there. I used to be annoyed by this, only because I was uncomfortable with myself, but now I appreciate it and understand they are doing it because they care. Other times, I would eat before hand, which I know, doesn't sound like fun, but knowing there might not be anything my system could handle, I wouldn't risk it. I would rather show up, enjoy myself the entire night, than not. Another idea, if you are attending a party or a holiday party make something! Sounds obvious right?! Whenever I am going somewhere I always bring a dish or two knowing that I will have something to eat and everyone can enjoy it too. Even if they say they are all set, I offer to bring it anyway and just let them know why I am. Trust me, the host will feel less stressed when you bring something for everyone to try than you showing up letting them know you are allergic to everything they are serving. Ironically, it is often a good conversation starter about what it is (since it's usually homemade/ healthier/ different), why I brought it etc and then everyone seems to be so much more understanding about the way that I am feeling and why I eat a certain way. Instead of judging they are curious and interested.
I am beyond the point of ordering and eating what everyone else is just because that is what everyone else is doing. I would rather feel good because when you feel good about yourself, you will be much better company to be around. I never restrict, I almost always find something that I will enjoy even if I have to modify it; nowadays most restaurants can do anything! You can always order a protein mixed over your favorite greens, vegetables, or carb! Be creative. I also look at the side dishes or appetizers and often times order a few to turn them into a meal! That way you can order a few things and not always be stuck ordering a salad or something that isn't satisfying to you.
It is extremely easy to get caught up in social settings when in groups to go for the extra drink or eat foods that would bother you, because everyone around you is doing it and you are either in this “I don’t care” mode or genuinely enjoying yourself. Know the difference. If you are truly enjoying the moment and at peace with your decisions, your actions will affect you less, if you are negative towards your actions and feel a sense of wanting to throw in the towel, because you are frustrated with feeling a certain way all the time, then that is always when my digestive problems seem to shine, but not in a positive everything is great, rainbows and butterflies kind of way. I think that it is important to be confident in your decisions to be a certain way, regardless if you are fully confident in the way that you are feeling. The old me would be extremely anxious and cautious going anywhere that I often wouldn't go, losing so many friends and missing out on so many memories, now I hardly ever say no, unless I am experiencing a flare or I just simply don't want to go because I don't want to go. I've come to the point in being in social situations of rejecting certain foods and sugary alcoholic drinks as it is being thrown in my face and reaching for the things that I want yet not worrying what others are thinking. Chances are someone will ask you why, you'll tell them, and I guarantee you, they will say they have the same digestive issues too. The problem is, they feel pressured and think oh well I'll figure it out later, or they I don't really care and they don't know how good they can truly feel while still enjoying the same setting as everyone else. Trust me, I am not saying I don't drink on occasion or indulge, or let loose and go overboard at times, but by now I am just pretty intuned with what my body needs in order to feel its best. When you used to take medication upon medication and practically live at the doctors or the ER room with migraines, you crave more good days than bad. So, when I do have those times over doing it for MY body (speaking in terms of my digestive health) I know what I need to do to take care of myself the next day or week. I am NOT talking oh, I ate a cookie or I had a slice of pizza, but more or less, I may have ate something that disrupts my system terribly, such as too much fruit (yup, fruit), too much sugar, stayed out too late too many nights in a row, those kinds of things.
I often think that we actually can mentally and physically make ourselves feel a certain way. That is why I always say to go into any situations with a positive attitude and it can make a world of a difference. Even if I am feeling off and my leaky gut or IBS or SIBO is prevalent, I try and make the best of the situation. Speaking from experience, I know that whenever I go anywhere with a "this sucks" attitude, I pretty much pick everything apart while I am there, I have the worst time, and it seems that EVERYTHING bothers my stomach from the foods, the drinks, and the people- which isn't even possible, but they do. However, I could go to the same dinner, event, what have you, with a positive mindset, eat the same foods, drink the same drink, and be around the same people, and nothing bothers me. So much of your happiness depends on how you choose to look at the world and the settings around you. I do what I need to do before hand in order to enjoy my time spent there, whether it is moving my body at a hot yoga class, going for a walk, or any other type of self care regime. Do something before that makes you happy, clears your head, and makes you appreciate your body for all that it does. Be selfish in taking care of yourself and don't apologize for it. If you aren't feeling your best it is hard to give yourself to others. If you have to cancel, then cancel, your friends will accept your decision and if they don't then that is their problem not yours. I've lost friends, because they truly don't understand or I think that they just don't care enough to, crazy right, but I've learned to surround myself with people that truly care, understand, and like to do the same things as I do. Remember, being with your friends, family, your boyfriend or girlfriend is good for you, good for the soul. Do you think they honestly care what you are eating or drinking, they simply just want your presence even if you just show up for a little bit. Instead of focusing so much on what you are doing, focus on who you are with and how they make you feel, don't get inside your own head. You can be your own worst enemy. As long as you are honest with yourself and the people that surround you, nothing else matters.
I've had countless of messages asking me how to deal with situations where all of their friends are drinking or eating this and that, or their friends or family do not eat the same way they like to and it is difficult to be themselves, say no, explain themselves, or be open about their health problems. So, when they often times, "give in" for lack of a better phrase, yet they are the only ones suffering the next day, week or weeks because their digestive systems can't handle it the same way. Figure out why you are doing it, the real reasons why you can't say no and why you can't just do your thing. Remember, if you have leaky gut, SIBO, any form of IBS, your body handles and breaks down things very differently than someone with a perfectly "normal" digestive system. [You can read about my part I, the What is here.] It is truly important to listen to what your body needs, taking care of your body so it will perform will instead of looking a certain way, that should be the ultimate motivation. It sounds like a broken record, but it couldn't be more true.
Remember, you don't always have to explain yourself to anyone if you don't want to, be comfortable and confident in the way that you live your life and the healthy choices that you make. Know, that you are doing it for yourself, so you can feel a certain way, and only for yourself. Once you start taking charge of this feeling, a feeling of self worth and happiness will prevail and you won't want it to disappear.
Please let me know what you all think! Comments, questions, email is always open.