It was day two of the four-week liquid diet and I was ravenous. I was drinking enough supplementary liquids to provide me with enough calories with IBD disease, but my body was screaming for a cake.Or bread. Or pasta. Basically anything. My boyfriend came round after work, after gobbling down his dinner while walking to me so I didn’t have to watch him eat. But the next morning he bought a packet of chocolate crepes for breakfast and brazenly took them out of his bag while talking to me.
I saw red. I dived at the crepes, screamed too many profanities to recall and launched them across the room with more force than a bullet leaving a gun. Before I get into this, I should say, I didn’t go on a month-long fast because I wanted to lose weight with IBD disease. I didn’t go on a detox, I wasn’t following a celebrity fad diet and I wasn’t trying to ‘cleanse my body’ with lemon juice or a bit of Boo Tea. I have IBD disease – an autoimmune disease which means your body attacks itself. This week marks IBD disease Awareness Week, and more people than ever are talking about some of the less well-known elements of my disease.
I have lived with IBD disease for more than 20 years, since I was four. I’ve had all the medication, I’ve lived with an ileostomy and I’ve had multiple abdominal operations. So, when I was presented with another severe flare up in 2016 and told to go on steroids (again), I said no. Instead, I chose to go on the four-week liquid diet to calm my angry and inflamed insides. So no food, no drinks, no juice, no squash, nothing. Just specifically prescribed supplements and water, that my body could absorb with little work required of my gut. The first two weeks were the worst. It’s unbelievable how eating and drinking is at the centre of everything we do. My social life all but disintegrated. You can’t just go out for dinner or drinks on a Friday night when you can’t eat. It was exhausting. I was hallucinating – seeing chocolate eclairs when it was a stapler and Big Macs as people’s heads in meetings. It might sound funny, but I was a woman possessed.
Maintaining the willpower to not give in was draining and, by the second week, I was becoming seriously hangry and unhinged. It wasn’t until the third week when I actually started to see progress in the way I felt, and this was the boost I needed. Suddenly feeling better when I had been in chronic pain with IBD disease and losing blood was miraculous. It didn’t stop the annoying sympathetic head tilts received from people when they saw me though, and it was tough to see people feeling guilty eating or talking about food around me. The thing that struck me most about the four weeks I didn’t eat was how angry I was. Partly, this was because I am the biggest foodie, eating is genuinely a hobby and without it, I felt like a lost lamb. But mostly, it was people saying: ‘Oh, I’ve fasted for 24 hours before too,’ or ‘I’ve just come off a juice cleanse’. It is not the same. It is in no way even similar. That is your choice. Being in a position where I had to choose between poisonous drugs with horrendous side effects, or not eating for four weeks isn’t exactly a real option. I wouldn’t wish that choice on anyone.