To Eat or Not To Eat
One Man’s War With The Diet-restricting
Spontaneity-killer That Is Crohn’s Disease
by Todd Smith
On the way to coach my son’s soccer game, I drove past the Dairy Queen at 50th and France in south Minneapolis. The DQ marquee announced one of the greatest food pairings to hit the culinary world since garlic met onions: “Girl Scout Cookies Blizzard!” Underneath the traffic-stopping headline it read, “You Know You Want It.”
Oh, I wanted it. I wanted to get up on that. I wanted a Girl Scout Cookie Blizzard so badly that I was willing to sacrifice my lower intestines for it. Literally. I suffer from Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammation of the lower intestines that severely restricts my diet. As a result,
I’m stuck wanting to eat the best of what life has to offer without being able to do it. I would love to eat the Twin Cities’ finest frozen cookie treats, jerk chicken wings and brick oven fired pizzas. The stakes are way too high, though. I live every day with the very real threat that one
bad meal could potentially turn my stomach into volcanic knots.
So instead of indiscriminately buying a Blizzard like a normal person, I calculated my personal "bowelgebra." Bowelgebra is a colonic based arithmetic that weighs your current BM status against the type of food to be eaten and the availability of a restroom if things should go
awry. Because of all the dairy and sugar, a Blizzard had the potential of becoming a gastrointestinal bunker-buster launched into my stomach, detonating in intervals as it systematically moved through my digestive tract. I envisioned that after I ate the Blizzard, it would most likely leave me sprinting across my son’s soccer field, not as an enthusiastic coach,
mind you, but as a grown man frantically looking for a bathroom. And since you can’t coach a soccer game from the toilet, I passed on the Blizzard and drove empty-handed to the game.
People who suffer from IBDs (Irritable Bowel Diseases, such as Crohn’s) live a life not worth eating. Even though IBDs affect millions of people nationwide, it’s an affliction that is seldom mentioned in polite company. IBDs are a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation. There is no Lance Armstrong for people with IBDs. Instead, we have people like, well, me, who circle the DQ parking lots of the world like starving weirdos.
Since I subsist on nothing more than rice, grilled chicken, canned fruit and bread, my body is in a constant state of craving. And in case you haven’t noticed, food is everywhere. You can’t avoid it. Between the cable shows, magazines, books and teasing restaurant marquees, food is as omnipresent as porn. I read and hear about sexy dishes every day: The bife acebolado at this tiny Brazilian café is so succulent; omakase at Origami is a foodie orgasm! METRO recently printed a huge glossy photo of a Manny’s Torta that was so seductive I didn’t know if I
should eat the sandwich or hump it.
But because of my Crohn’s, I live a monkish lifestyle filled with sobriety, a battery of medical procedures and zero spontaneity. When I eat out at a restaurant, I check the menu online beforehand. A night out with the guys requires Imodium, Prilosec and prayer. I tread lightly going into any social gathering because I don’t want to literally become a party pooper.
So I take it one day at a time, one meal at a time. I eventually made it to my son’s soccer game and had a blast. After the game, my son pestered me for the proverbial post-game treat. “Um, dad, can we get some ice cream?” Murphy asked politely. Underneath the crisp fall sky I felt a song in my heart. I did a quick bowelgebra calculation: one Girl Scout Cookie Blizzard, two spoons, three blocks from home and things were, uh, regular.
“I know just the thing,” I replied.