I suffer from IBS. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s one of those incredibly inconvenient but otherwise medically insignificant disorders that always manages to strike at the most inopportune times, resulting in awkward conversations in which I try to invent plausible reasons for my sudden and prolonged absence from or tardy arrival at a planned social gathering. There are only so many times you can be forgiven for rushing from your table at a restaurant because you thought you saw Dennis Quaid going into the ladies’ restroom and wanted to talk to him about your screenplay This Thursday: The Day After the Day After Tomorrow. There has to come a point where that excuse just won’t fly. Mostly because no-one knows who Dennis Quaid is.
The thing that makes IBS a very manageable condition for many people is the fact that it is often triggered by eating certain foods, such as wheat, dairy, or fats, and can thus be controlled by careful avoidance of these foods. In theory this seems like a perfectly logical and reasonable way to prevent an emergency toilet situation. The fatal flaw in this management plan however is that it assumes the sufferer is able to implement some degree of self-control. My kryptonite, as a sufferer of IBS, is wheat, which has led to many of my friends describing me as a “glutard.”
Delicious, satisfying, found-in-nearly-everything-that-tastes-good wheat (or, as I like to call it, the Food of the Devil) is hard to avoid. Well, that’s not technically true. It’s actually very easy to avoid if you’re willing to allow your taste buds to lead a wholly unsatisfying and soulless existence. I find myself torn in a perpetual struggle between intestines and tongue. Each day I face a battle between my colon and my taste buds, a constant internal dialogue of actions vs consequences:
Taste buds: Look, someone made a cake and brought it to work.
Colon: Don’t even think about it…
Taste buds: Hey, remember that time you ate that cake? That was some good cake. Eat the cake.
Colon: Hey, remember what happened 30 minutes after you ate that cake? Don’t eat the cake.
Taste buds (singing): Cake! Cake! Delicious cake!
Colon: Please don’t…
Taste buds (singing louder): CAKE! CAKE! EAT THE DELICIOUS AND CRUMBLY CAAAAAAAAAAAKE!
As you may have gathered, my colon rarely wins these little arguments, and often pays a hefty price. Of course, apart from the unpleasant physical reaction (the particulars of which I will not burden you with) there is also the inevitable shame-spiral that follows. Those of you who also indulge in hedonistic delights such as food, sex, liquor and spending money on beautiful things may be familiar with this particular phenomenon.
It begins with doubt. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.
After doubt comes regret. Yep. Definitely a bad idea.
Regret is followed by intense feelings of resentment and self-pity. This is bullshit. Why do I have to go through this?! Other people don’t have to go through this shit.
Slowly, the self-pity dissolves and is replaced with a growing sense of embarrassment and shame. I can’t believe I did that. I’m never doing that again.
And finally, inevitably, the shame-spiral bottoms out in a pit of self-loathing. I am so disgusting. I’m worse than a fat lonely guy eating mayonnaise out of the jar because he likes the way it feels on his fingers. I am the most repulsive human being in the world.
So there it is. My life as a glutard. Caught in an endless cycle of temptation, indulgence and regret, with no sign of sanctuary. I guess it would be kind of like if wanking really did make guys go blind. There’s just no way they wouldn’t take that risk. Sure, it would be tough for anyone with an allergy to Labrador hair or those who don’t look good in Ray-Bans, but at least you’d have a smile on your face.