Having Crohn’s Disease makes social events, dinners, dates and eating on the go extremely difficult. If you’re anything like me, diet makes all the difference in controlling my disease. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have a very restrictive diet caused by strictures in my small intestine. Normal healthy intestines expand elastically when food passes through. People who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease build up scar tissue in diseased areas where inflammation is prevalent.
Sections of my small intestine have been damaged so many times that a large amount of scar tissue has built up, creating a stricture so that my intestine does not expand when food passes through. Add in some inflammation on top of scar tissue and you’ve got a very small area for food to pass through. For me, I cannot eat fibrous foods that don’t break down, causing bowel obstructions. Food cannot pass through the strictured section of my small intestine. Things like red meat, skin on chicken or fruits, green vegetables, nuts, and seeds, all have to be avoided or I may end up with a bowel obstruction which usually means haveing to be admitted into a hospital to make sure the obstruction passes or if it does not, the obstruction will have to be surgically removed.
Having to avoid so many foods makes eating out difficult and stressful.
It can be very awkward if you’re on a date or a business dinner and the person does not know you very well, having no idea you suffer from a chronic disease. I do not tell everyone I have Crohn’s Disease unless you know me well or follow me on social media. Exposing some of my insecurities, I have always had a fear of having dinner with someone I do not know very well and haven’t found the right time to explain my in-ordinary circumstance. I’ve always been afraid of them judging me before they get to know me or thinking I’m a fitness freak and exceptionally picky. I’ve been fearful of scaring off a potential job opportunity or girl off by thinking I’m high maintenance without explaining myself. If I were to order a side of plain chicken with white rice and no vegetables, it would be awkward for me, and for her, without understanding my situation. I am much more open about my disease now than I once was, but it still doesn’t make it easy explaining my disease to random strangers. So without further ado, here are my best recommendations for eating out with Crohn’s Disease.
Tips for Eating Out
Whether it is a dinner party, going out for dinner with friends, brunch, or just eating on the go, I always find it is helpful to pre-eat or bring a snack with you in case there isn’t anything I can eat. I rarely leave the house without food. If I am going out for dinner with friends not knowing where we are going, I will pre-eat to make sure I do not give into temptation by eating something I know may not be a great choice if there isn’t anything I know I can eat.
2. Browse the menu before you go
Depending on your scenario, if you already know where you are planning on eating, check online for the menu. Most restaurants have an online menu or worst case a phone number you can call and enquire about dietary restrictions.
3. Don’t be afraid to tell your server exactly what you want
I know it can be awkward but almost all restaurants will accommodate your dietary restrictions. If you’re out with good friends it makes it a lot easier to tell the server what you want. Everyone knows your situation and won’t judge you by making a very specific order. Don’t be afraid to ask exactly what is in your entré. If the server doesn’t know how spicy or what exactly is in it, ask him/her to check with the chef. Just explain that you have dietary restrictions and if you eat the wrong thing you could get sick. Many people nowadays have allergies and health problems; it is extremely common to ask for specifics.
4. If all else fails, bring your own food
I do not eat out very often because I find it to be a nuisance and it usually does not keep me on track with my fitness related goals, so being prepared by bringing my own food has worked best for me. I bought a six pack bag this summer that is pretty awesome. The key is being prepared. I cook large amounts at once and eat the leftovers for the next week. I throw everything into Tupperware containers and put it in my six pack bag that keeps everything cold when I’m on a trip or out of the house all day. Most places will not have a problem with you bringing your own food in as long as you specify that you have a health condition. They may even warm your food up for you.
5. Don’t be afraid to say no
I know it can be hard when you’ve been invited to someone’s house for dinner and there isn’t anything you can eat. Just say no or explain yourself about why you’re not eating. Most people will understand. I hate making people go out of their way to accommodate me but that’s just a part of living with a chronic disease.
I hope these tips help anyone having difficulty eating out and dealing with their dietary restrictions. The bottom line is most people are very understanding once you explain to them why you can’t eat something. Doing your research and being prepared is what has helped me deal with the barriers caused by Crohn’s Disease.