People ask me all the time how I deal with having a lot of restrictions on what I can eat. A lot of people say "I would just eat cake anyway, even if it made me feel sick!" I personally think a lot of people think this but don't quite understand how *not* fun it is to feel really terrible all of the time. To be completely honest, a lot of good has come from me having IBS. I have got SO much healthier about what I eat. I have tried so many new foods I probably never would've bothered to try. I have learned to cook for myself. I have learned so much more about nutrition and what is really healthy. I would say 90 % of the time, if not more, I don't even miss most of the stuff I can't eat and when I do it's often the healthy things that I miss the most.
However, there are 2 times that my stomach issues REALLY piss me off. #1- when I eat out, #2- when I travel (directly related to #1). When I cook for myself, I add only ingredients I know I can eat, and there is very rarely a problem. After about 2 years, I finally have figured out where and what I can eat and eating out is relatively successful now. BUT, when I travel things get a lot more complicated. Suddenly I am faced with all new restaurants, and eating out almost every single meal. Immediately my stomach usually rebels against this and I end up feeling horrible the rest of the trip and considering how much I enjoy traveling, this puts a major damper on the whole idea.
The NUMBER ONE reason why eating out is such a problem is because of the overall inflexibility and lack of understanding among restaurants. My family trip to California was a great example of this. I thought Northern California was practically KNOWN for being healthy, so I thought I'd be all set. Except that when I got there I found out that a "dry" sandwich apparently means lather the bread in butter, and it is considered perfectly acceptable to list something on the menu and not list MAJOR ingredients so I get a surprise cheese stuffed in my chicken or fish dripping in gravy. It became a joke in the family how often I had to send back my food. And I HATE to send back food, so most of the time I ended up just eating whatever I was served and then feeling horrible afterwards.
At one restaurant near my house I asked for chicken and veggie rolls steamed instead of fried. The chef actually came out to ask me if I realized "how that was going to look." Honestly buddy, I could care LESS how that looks as long as it tastes good and does not make my stomach hurt. And frankly, even people without IBS should probably steer clear of fried food so I don't see why we don't all order food steamed instead of fried. I realize I am not a chef. I cook only to feed myself budget-friendly and healthy food. I know that to chef's food is an art and you want it to present well. But in my opinion, this should not be at the expense of health.
One of my good friends has troubles with her stomach as well (and with that, lots of food restrictions). She told me a long time ago that she tells restaurants she is "allergic" to things she shouldn't be eating because that's the only way people seem to get it. I agree with her completely, as I've found people immediately start to care when I mention allergy. However, I have a lot of trouble this because my troubles are NOT an allergy and I will not have any serious health problems if I get a tiny piece of cheese mixed in my pasta. Also, I find it annoying that restaurants cannot just accommodate whether it's an allergy or a preference! Some people do not WANT unhealthy foods (or even healthy ones) mixed into their food and they are paying good money to have it how they want!
Oddly enough, I have found that the most helpful restaurants are often chain restaurants. I wonder if it's because they have chefs that may not be as into creating a special product? Just a thought...One of the BEST restaurants for allergies and intolerances is Outback Steakhouse. They shock me with how helpful they are, and after I did some research I read that the owner of Outback has a wife with Celiacs! Yay for him (and her) for taking one step towards making eating out a better experience for those of us with tummy troubles. I love going out to eat too much to give it up, so I will continue to plow through and hopefully get a bit better at advocating for myself.
What has your experience at restaurants been? Have you ever tried to change or alter your order to make it more healthy for you?