At the beginning of this month, I had my very first preventive colonoscopy. For those of you in your mid-40s and over, you may know that the procedure is now being recommended at the age of 45 (previously it was age 50) to screen for colon cancer and other bowel issues. So when I turned 45 earlier this year, I booked my colonoscopy for this fall and thought it would be “no big deal.” But as the months went by and the procedure day drew nearer, I found myself getting more and more stressed about it.
I was not feeling anxious about the actual procedure itself because people I had spoken to who had had one told me that it is the easiest part. I was more distressed about the prep for the procedure. I knew that for several days prior, I would need to be on a “low residue” diet (basically low fiber), and then on the day before, I could only have clear liquids (but no red, purple, or blue).
I’ve been eating intuitively for over a decade and have not restricted or changed what I have eaten during that time other than while fasting for blood labs. Even though I knew the low residue diet was important for the procedure, it still filled me with dread, and honestly, I felt quite depressed. I found myself becoming preoccupied with what I “could” or “could not” eat. I obsessively looked at the lists of foods to avoid, and I felt such sadness. Despite the fact that now I was supposed to be eating foods lower in fiber (no seeds, nuts, beans, whole grains, or high fiber fruits and vegetables), it felt reminiscent of my dieting days.
Interestingly, I also found myself eating past the point of fullness more often during this time. It felt like I was having my “last supper” before the prep day, as I knew I would not have solid food for over 24 hours. Even though I rationally knew that food deprivation almost always leads to food preoccupation, I was still surprised at how difficult it felt.
The day of the “prep” was the worst day by far. I had stocked up on Jell-O, tea, apple juice, and vegetable broth, but it was (not surprisingly) completely unsatisfying. On the tip of a friend, I learned that I could also have gummy bears and Jolly Ranchers (just not the red, purple, or blue ones) as they liquify at body temperature, so I had some of those as well. Overall, I was a cranky, hangry person, and all I wanted to do was isolate.
By the time I started drinking the liquid laxative that early evening, I was pretty miserable. I will not go into the details of this part other than to say that I spent a lot of time in the bathroom that night and in the wee hours of the morning.
Luckily, I had booked the colonoscopy for first thing in the morning, which meant that I would be done with it all sooner. And, as advertised, the procedure itself was quick, easy, and painless (I was thankfully asleep for it all.) Of course, I was thrilled to hear that my colonoscopy results were excellent, with no areas of concern, and I will not need to get another one for 10 years.
Once I was able to eat normally again, I quickly noticed that my food preoccupation subsided, and I started feeling more relaxed around food. I was no longer a cranky, hangry mess and was able to eat in tune with my body’s cues.
I am very grateful that my procedure went well. And despite the discomfort, stress, and anxiety I felt during the days prior, I am glad that I had this experience. It reminded me that I never want to go through the restriction/food obsession cycle of dieting again. And it also reminded me that my body is amazing and always trying to protect me – that survival instinct is no joke! My advice to those of you who will be getting a colonoscopy? Take off the day before, make sure you have plenty of supplies at the ready, and remember that this too shall pass.