When you first start the OMS diet, it can seem like you’ve been converted to a religion where the "I can’ts" are written high.
The food villains
Not only can’t you have cheese and butter and meat, but those lovely takeaways and meals out simply won’t happen any more. You remember seeing the vegetarian option from the days when you used to eat out, and it almost invariably contained cheese – moussaka, lasagne, goat’s cheese tartlet, quiche.
And even if there’s a nut roast on the Sunday lunch menu, you sigh, it’s sure to contain fat, and the gravy they serve with it will be impossible. It’s time for doom and gloom to set in.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. A bit of forward planning and positive thinking, and you’ll find yourself able to join your friends at your favorite restaurant, just as you used to.
So how is it possible, then, to eat out and stick with OMS?
• Have a look at the menu in advance – they’re usually posted online. See if there’s anything you can have; there’s often fish, salad, jacket potato or pasta.
• It might be that everything comes with a sauce, dressing or filling that you can’t eat. You can ask for it to be served without the dressing, and take your own bottle of eg flaxseed oil and balsamic vinegar.
• Sometimes a starter can be the only thing on the menu that you can have. Ask for it to be served as a main dish.
• Most venues are willing and happy to help. Ring ahead and tell them your dietary requirements, and ask if an item can be adapted for you. The staff may edit a menu specially for you, or even come up with unique meals.
• Consider in advance what you want to tell them about your diet, and be clear what you’re going to ask for. OMS will mean nothing to them, and you won’t want to blind them with science. Some people say they have an allergy, as this is easier for people to understand quickly. Others find it easier to say they’re vegan (although this cuts out fish). Still others explain about the saturated fat issue, and ask for things to be cooked without fat.
• Develop a relationship with restaurants you’d like to visit regularly. One OMSer has found a local Indian restaurant that prepares her meals with no oil or ghee.
• When possible, choose the restaurant yourself. Italian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Mexican have options. Did you know that pizza without cheese is actually really tasty?
• Do some online research. happycow.net will tell you whether there’s a good vegan restaurant near you, or near to wherever you’re travelling. Or simply Google ‘vegan restaurant' near the name of place. And look at the Overcoming MS Facebook page too – recommendations are often posted there.
• Just a couple of things to watch out for. First, remember that vegan doesn’t mean fat-free. And also, watch out for vegan cheese – it’s often full of sat fats.
BUT before anything else, perhaps changing your viewpoint is the most important. It will give you confidence to go forward with your head held high. So:
• You don't have to apologise for your diet, (i e for your ‘inability’ to eat certain foods). Don’t say "I’m sorry I’m such a pain!"
• Develop a thick skin. Don’t be embarrassed when you’re – in effect – asking to be a special case.
• Develop a sense of humor. When people say "here comes the awkward one", laugh it off and tell them light-heartedly that you’re doing this for your health, not because you’re awkward.
• Realize that the restaurant isn’t doing you a huge favor – they want your custom and, to put it bluntly, they want your money. So it’s in their interest, as well as to your benefit, that they arrange things so you can purchase their meals.
• Don’t feel sorry for yourself, because you can’t have everything on the menu, as it appears everyone else can. Instead, feel proud! You’re doing something about your MS, and for your health.