“You don’t eat dairy or eggs or onions? Why?”
“Well, what on earth do you eat?”
“I’m sure just a little bit wouldn’t hurt.”
“Life just isn’t worth living without those things.”
“Have a bit of cake and stop complaining.”
“Oh don’t be so fussy.”
I am sure every IBS sufferer knows of the perils of eating out or going to a big dinner.
Two years ago, I discovered that dairy and eggs were huge triggers for my unrelenting IBS symptoms. So overnight, I whisked them out of my diet quicker than you could say “Betty Crocker.”
Within three months, the majority of the symptoms had disappeared completely, and I’d regained a sense of bodily control, which was incredible! No longer was I bound to the toilet or worrying about whether my friend’s house had a toilet out of earshot, just in case.
While it was relatively easy for me to accept my new eating habits, other people didn’t seem to follow suit. I remember one occasion where a friend tried to sneak a bit of lasagna onto my plate: “You need feeding up, love, you’re looking thin.”
Apparently, she thought my new dietary requirements were simply my latest attempt to be fashionable. I assured her I’d much rather devour a chocolate bar than be trendy, yet my stomach issues meant that I had to keep my eating in check.
Regardless of how long you’ve not been eating a particular food item or food group to keep your pesky symptoms in check, there will always be someone who has an opinion about your dietary requirements. And while we’d all love to fire back with a quick-witted response, often they don’t quite rise to the occasion in time, leaving us feeling a little bit flat. So, next time you get a hurtful or ignorant comment about your IBS, here are some ideas for what you could respond with:
“It looks like someone is being super fussy!”
The response:“I wouldn’t say I’m fussy, but I’m conscious of what I put into my body.”
Try not to let passive-aggressive comments like this get to you. Acknowledge your willpower gently, and feel proud that you stick to your way of eating. Perhaps your polite yet blunt response might make them think twice about their own food choices. Perhaps they were looking for a reaction from you, but this comment politely lets them know that your eating habits aren’t up for discussion, or at least not negatively so.
“It’s just not healthy to cut out food groups left and right. You’ll be malnourished!”
The response:“Thank you for your concern, but I’m feeling better than ever. And I’m totally healthy!”
Often, people feel the need to voice their concerns and “words of wisdom.” Usually it comes from a good place, as this type of comment tends to be from relatives. It’s worth bearing in mind that, for older relatives, cutting out food groups for health reasons is a completely alien concept. Many have grown up in post-war times, where families ate whatever was at the dinner table. So try not to get wound up by it.
“One bite won’t kill you!”
The response:“But it looks so delicious, I’m sure I couldn’t stop after just one bite!”
Try to play to their cynical advances with kindness. You could launch into a discussion about the effects that even a morsel could have on your bowels, but then that might rile you and other diners up. Try to knock their negativity with your own jovial positivity. Plus, if it’s a home-cooked meal, you’ll be delighting the chef!
“We’re serving macaroni cheese for dinner.”
The response:“That used to be my favourite! I’ll pop out and get a side salad so that I can join you.”
You may have even informed the hostess of your dietary requirements, and they either forgot or just went against your wishes, creating a bit of an awkward atmosphere. Your comment brings the subject to their attention subtly (perhaps they genuinely forgot, or didn’t know in the first place).
“Oh, you’re so difficult!”
The response:“It can be a little tricky sometimes, but I’ll bring a dish next time so that it’s less trouble.”
Often, people don’t really understand that a remark is hurtful until after they’ve said it. Polite responses here are key, unless they make a habit of telling you that you’re difficult. Offering to bring your own dish takes the stress and hassle away from them.
“Life just isn’t worth living without [insert ingredient]!”
The response:“How strange that you think that way. There’s much more to life than [insert ingredient], don’t you think?”
This remark can sometimes be rather innocent, but often it’s said with hurtful intent. In those cases, this response should put them in their place!
Just remember: Above all, no one should make you feel awkward, upset, hurt, or embarrassed by your choices to eat (or not eat) certain things. While you should feel free to explain your situation if you want to, you should never need to justify your health or your dietary restrictions.
Scarlett Dixon is a U.K.-based journalist, lifestyle blogger, and YouTuber who runs networking events in London for bloggers and social media experts. She has a keen interest in speaking out about anything that might be deemed taboo, and a lengthy bucket list. She’s also a keen traveller and is passionate about sharing the message that IBS doesn’t have to hold you back in life! Visit her website and tweet her @Scarlett_London!