It's hard to refute that the epitome of a fit man is someone who has a chiseled mid range you could grate cheese on. Then there are men like me. We are bombarded with the latest craze in Men's magazines and on the Internet, about men having six pack abs. This for me is a stomach churning thought especially as I suffer with IBS.
I'm not suggesting that it is impossible to have defined abdominal muscles with IBS. However, what I face on a day to day basis is, after feeling a sense of accomplishment with my exercise routine, I then have to "work out" what foods are going to trigger my flare-ups and make me feel bloated.
In early April I booked my holidays and I was excited about getting away from it all. I went to a department store in Croydon to try on some summer clothes and picked out some shorts, vests, t-shirts and headed for the changing room. I was faced with complete horror when I closed the cubicle door behind me to find, not just one, but three mirrors showing every angle of my body. As I started to take off my own t-shirt I was pleasantly surprised at how 'buff' I looked, from the chest up. It was evident that my exercises were paying off. However, from the chest down I saw the image of a woman that was at least in her seventh month of pregnancy. I thought, "Oh I know, it must be one of those funny mirrors that distorts your image at the fairground". I accepted that deluded vindication for just one of the mirrors, but all three?
Then I thought, "The man in the mirror obviously isn't me, did someone else slip in here while I wasn't looking"? I obviously had to admit that I ate something the night before that triggered yet another bulging episode. IBS is socially destroying and here I was trying to figure out what I ate, drank or thought about to set it off again.
I quickly tried the clothes on with little judgment, hoping the garments would be fine once my swollen stomach had gone down. On my way home I felt quite embarrassed and thought about how to conceal my excessive gut from beachfront ridicule, whilst on holiday.
Irritable bowel syndrome, better known by its acronym IBS, is a disorder of the intestines that can cause a myriad of bowel related discomforts.
I did everything that articles and blogs suggested with personal anecdotes of how to reduce the swelling of the abdomen. What I found was, what worked for others didn't necessarily work for me.
Some articles said eat almonds, don't eat almonds and eat bananas, STAY AWAY FROM BANANAS!
I feel confused and enormous discomfort whilst going through my bouts. There is a great deal of punitive self-assessment and moral indignation for not being cured completely. I mean, I commit to the right amount of stomach crunches and eat healthily according to low FODMAPS and gluten free intake. I am even more confused because I stopped drinking alcohol 5 years ago, but the evidence was right there in those 3 mirrors that laughed at me, showing a panoramic view of a man who over indulged.
My condition didn't start until a chain of events immobilized me in my early 30's. I was at the beginning of my spiritual journey reading literature on personal empowerment although I have to admit, in those days was also eating excessively to the nth degree.
I am still having challenging moments with IBS but I now look at it differently. You see, even though I am coping with this ailment, I don't own it. What I mean to say is I realized that I have to be more responsible for what I consume in my body as well as my mind.
They say that IBS is more common in women than in men. Although the difference between my masculine and feminine side has me looking forward to my 'man boobs' growing bigger. I am utterly convinced that getting older sucks, especially as I discover new ways to hide my Buddha belly with each passing year.
I literally take pictures of everything I eat now so I can have a gallery of visual culprits to point to. I scrutinize my daily intake as various foods react differently in my body.
I have resigned myself to the fact that IBS is an individual ailment that only I can monitor. I don't compare my consumption with anyone else. When I feel any amount of emotional or food intolerance, I know that listening to my body and learning about myself serves to assist a healthier me and just maybe one day, a couple of defined abs...Dear Santa!