The Existential Crisis my Colonoscopy Caused

by Karen Mann

I’ll just come out and say it. We’re getting colonoscopies this week. My husband and I are doing couple’s colonoscopies.

OK, not really; we’re doing them on alternate days.

But I’m bringing this up because the preparation involves strict dietary requirements. Most doctors advise following a specific diet days before the procedure for the best result.

What is this diet? (For the record, I’m using the term diet to refer to the list of foods one consumes, not as part of a plan to lose weight.) They call it a “low-residue” diet. This means you can’t have foods with fiber, including nuts and seeds, most whole fruits and vegetables, whole wheat anything, and legumes. When I saw the list, a lot was happening in my brain. You tell me if it sounds familiar.

But first, this is what I could eat:

Meat, fish, tofu, white rice. ✅
Eggs, dairy, cheese. 👍🏻
White bread, noodles, pasta, flour tortillas. 🤯

That last row? Those were my trigger foods. The ones I used to restrict when trying to be “good”, and then would overdo as soon as I lost the strength to fight against the restriction any longer.

In full transparency, my first thought was: Awesome! I have an excuse to eat Lucky Charms! My next thought was: What if I gain weight? How can I compensate? Maybe I’ll eat keto. Maybe I’ll fast for 72 hours. This is the input from a brain that still has some old programming in place.

Despite all my personal growth, there are remnants of the knee-jerk thought patterns of disordered eating. These things came up as part of the script I’d held for decades.

Now I have this other brain that’s better at telling me my truth, and I use it to recognize when old patterns emerge and offer myself a new script. But this time, something still felt off. What was it?

After just one day, panic set in. I felt trapped and watched myself reach for these newly encouraged comfort foods to manage the panic. But there was no comfort to be had. These foods had lost their power to soothe me. Never in my life have I craved vegetables more. I had to go to the root to figure out what needed soothing.

That’s when I realized that it isn’t the food itself that holds power. It’s the freedom to choose it. My panic was over the loss of that freedom, following the doctor’s orders when my body wanted something else.

It wasn’t the white bread or the sauteed spinach I wanted; it was my freedom. Restriction is restriction, whether it’s from your favorite veggie or sugary breakfast cereal, and it feels suffocating no matter how it shows up. The choice is what you’re after. Does that resonate with you?

At the moment, I am acknowledging the emotions that are coming up, allowing them, and telling myself that I am taking the best care of myself possible by following the diet so I can have a successful cancer screening. I’ll soon be diving into a big salad. For now, I’ll be OK with my white toast and eggs. My weight will do what it does, and that’s OK, too.

If your doctor has told you that you must avoid certain foods or eat certain foods due to a health concern, you might feel like some of your freedom has been lost. It might be helpful to talk with someone to work through the emotions this brings up. A good coach will give you compassion while helping you find ways to feel free while eating what’s best for your biology. Book a free strategy call, and we can talk things through.

I’m looking forward to saying goodbye to the low-residue diet for the next ten years. Unless I decide it’s what I truly want for myself.

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