In this blog post, I want to talk to you about food.
I became an ostomate in 2008, and because I was so scared to eat the ‘wrong food’ I ended up losing a lot of weight.
Let me start at the beginning: when I first got my stoma, I was told there were certain foods that I shouldn’t eat as an ileostomate without my colon because apparently the body can’t digest it. I remember being given a leaflet that listed everything I love: fruit, vegetables, peas, corn, cereals, nuts, anything remotely tasty!
I am quite a health-conscious person who has always struggled with weight and always wanted to eat well. When I got that leaflet, I wondered what on earth I COULD eat. It was a really scary time, coming to terms with the stoma itself and potentially not being able to eat anything that I actually enjoyed.
I still remember my first meal from the hospital. I chose a pasta meal - surely I couldn’t have gone wrong with this…
When it arrived, it was a lentil-based pasta dish. Lentils were on the list as a DO NOT EAT food. It had vegetables with their skins on, another DO NOT EAT food, and I remember freaking out, having to pick through the food to get to the pasta. I was like this with every meal, I had to pick it all apart, just to make sure I could analyse what was in it and make sure I could eat it.
This carried on for a good few years. I was so concerned about getting a blockage after reading that scary leaflet in hospital, and I heard horror stories of people swallowing a grape without chewing it and also getting a blockage - I didn’t want to experience this!
Fast forward a few years and I’d spent all that time being super careful with everything I ate… but I was REALLY craving peanuts.
Peanuts were a food I had always enjoyed growing up and the thought of never eating them again was really saddening. I did some research online and found that some people could eat whatever they wanted, other people struggled with certain things and would cut them out their diet completely.
I had lost a lot of weight, partly through body dysmorphia, but also because I was worried about blocking my stoma. I decided to take the plunge and try food that was on the DO NOT EAT list. I started with very small amounts, a handful of peanuts, to see how my body reacted to it. Then I’d wait a few days to make sure, and try some other food that I was craving, such as an apple with the skin on.
After doing this for a while, I realised I was actually pretty lucky, there was no pain and my output seemed absolutely fine. It was around this point that I thought, “Hey, having a stoma really isn’t that bad! I can actually eat things!” It was one of those hallelujah moments!
All those years of being scared are now a thing of the past and I eat everything that I want to eat.
One thing that I would suggest to anyone out there that feels the same way, is to allow your body to heal. I gave myself a good couple of years before I pushed the boundaries of food. Always remember to CHEW YOUR FOOD! Make sure that you are chewing every bit of food you put in your mouth. Do not swallow anything whole, keep in mind that it needs to come out! Also, make sure you start off with small amounts. Don’t go straight in with a whole bowl of popcorn, have a handful, and see how your body reacts to it.
Just to round this up: do not be scared of food. A stoma is not a barrier and it certainly shouldn’t stop you from eating the foods you love and enjoy!
If you are feeling like I did, then I hope this blog helps you overcome the fear.
Until next time!
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