So, let’s chat food today.
On this blog I try to be open about my personal life; from the reality of a long distance relationship to the fact I’m actually a full time student not blogger. However, something I haven’t talked about are the issues I’ve been having with food for nearly a year now. I’m not talking eating disorders, I’m talking intolerances to food. Intolerances which have been caused from having a stress related illness: IBS (irritable bowel syndrome – it is what is says).
Before we get in to all the details I think I need to give you a bit of background information about me and food. When I was a teenager I was unbelievably fussy, first I was a vegetarian for a while, then just didn’t eat chicken but most other meat, at one point I lived off the same meal for months on end (I was very poorly with other issues at this point) and I was always the weird person who didn’t like popular foods like chocolate. Then I decided I wanted to go and volunteer in South Africa and I knew I had to get over my crazy eating habits. I slowly began to eat a wider variety of food and by the time I arrived in South Africa I was happy to try everything I was offered. Since then, I’ve never really looked back on my fussy eating habits, okay well maybe, I still cannot eat lamb but that is entirely to do with my dad teasing me so much about eating baby lambs growing up. Aside from that, with the help of travel I have become open to trying all kinds of food. I went from a fussy teenager who was a little bit afraid of food to a traveller who couldn’t wait to try the next local dish.
Then IBS happened.
IBS has been causing me issues since last June and naively I assumed it would go away as quickly as it appeared. Of course it did not and nearly a year later I’m still battling to keep in under control. I was going to write about my experiences last summer when travelling in Europe and struggling to find suitable food to eat but I figured people who know better than me have created awesome resources for this kind of stuff (Jodi from Legal Nomads is one of those) so there was no need to. But, fast forward six months and instead of just not eating bread or milk the list of foods I can eat is shorter than the list of foods I should not.
I’ll paint the picture for you….
No gluten, no dairy, no alcohol, no caffeine, no onions, as well as trying to stick to a low FODMAPs diet because you know, it’s not like I need to eat anything tasty.
I’ve been doing this for two and a half months now, and you know what it is driving me mental. Admittedly at the beginning I would have ‘naughty’ days where I would give in and have something (normally cake) with the above ‘not allowed’ foods in. However, as time has gone on those naught days have gotten less and some how I have found will power to say no to cakes and creme eggs and everything in between. And as much as it is about will power to say no to food I love, knowing what is in the food is easy – in the UK we take for granted having labels in English and any allergy foods highlighted in bold.
I’m about to head over to Rio for two weeks and am slightly dreading the food situation. In a restaurant I’m going to have to study the menu a hundred times over before I’ll know what is safe to eat and as for shopping in the supermarket, well my ability to read Portuguese is little to none. Finding out what is in my food is suddenly going to be the biggest issue. There is going to be no indulging in the local cuisine until I know what it is made from, no drinking too many caipirinhas or grabbing something from the vendors on the beach like I did before. I have to understand that although I love food and it’s a big part of travelling for me that I just cannot push this, the consequences are too great.
And you know what, that is the hardest thing about all of this, not eating the same meal every night of the week because its ‘safe’ and ‘agrees with me’ but having to forgo a huge side of travelling. I love exploring a country by its food and not being able to do that is what sucks the most about this. It isn’t that I can’t eat these foods because the reaction will be severe enough to send me to to hospital or something (if you are one of those people then I really feel for you) but it’s that there is a reaction which could force me to forgo an afternoon of sightseeing in favour of lying down and being near a toilet. And it is something I am struggling to adjust to.