Health Diary Week 71: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

My Lockdown Birthday Smiles

Image: Louisa Helfinger (Pixabay)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate… with a twist. It was my birthday week, so I gave myself the week off from focusing on health and nutrition – I mean who wants to think about those things when there’s a special occasion? Instead, I’m sharing my birthday smile-provokers.

What’s New

Okay, so just a couple of non-birthday related updates to share with you first…

Covid vaccine article:

I collated some interesting online expert scientific panels about the UK Covid-19 vaccines. I published my article on Medium (here), as well as sharing it on WordPress (here). The article didn’t attract much interest, but regardless, I’m proud of myself for producing and sharing my writing, so it was worth the effort.

I have a (temporary) job:

Excitingly, I was successful in my application for NHS (bank/temporary) Administrator in a Covid vaccination centre – yay! I had a phone interview, which I think was actually my worst interview to date – funny how things work out. Anyway, I’m looking forward to starting, albeit somewhat nervous. And I’m hoping this experience will provide a better chance at achieving a permanent NHS job in the future.

Okay, let’s move on to the birthday stuff…

Physiotherapy

Hmmm, this doesn’t sound birthday-like, but it was great to have my injury taken seriously. So my birthday started with a video call physiotherapy consultation. After seeing what I could do, the Consultant confirmed I need physiotherapy on my shoulder – it’s going to be a while before I can receive it, because of Covid restrictions. In the meantime, I’m following some set exercises (details here). It feels good to be moving forward with this.

Curry puffs

I’ve always loved Nana’s curry puffs – nowadays they’re reserved for special occasions. I’ve adapted the recipe to a lower histamine version (details here) and made a batch to freeze ready for my birthday (after sneakily eating a few first, of course). I had some curry puffs for my birthday breakfast (odd, I know) and then ate a few over several days, sometimes with salad (they seem more healthy that way) – I’ve still got some left in the freezer:

Birthday curry puffs. Clockwise: Curry puff filling. Cooked curry puffs. Curry puffs with salad

Amusing cards

I love receiving birthday cards and messages. This year I had a few cards that made me chuckle. I’m going to start with a well-meaning message “Try to have a nice birthday even without friends!” – this made me laugh – if it wasn’t lockdown, these words would have a completely different meaning.

And then there was my traditional (since 2007) “pak choi!” message in memory of the time I was in Laos and made a fool of myself. I’d just bought something at the market and in thank you, I placed my hands together, bowed my head and said “pak choi” – I was mortified this came out of my mouth instead of “khob chai”, the actual phrase I’d meant to say.

I loved the scary cute drawing (you’ll figure out which one it was below) drawn by one of my, umm, talented friends – I think it’s probably of me, perhaps drunk or concussed. My friend apologised for her art, but actually I thought it was fantastic. Thank you – you know who you are.

There was a very sweet card to a “dear friend” that I opened the day after my birthday. It turns out it wasn’t for me, but for my Mum whose birthday is a month later:

Birthday card giggles

Birthday haul

I feel very fortunate – I absolutely loved all my gifts. I got more bamboo bedding: pillows and a duvet set – sooo luxurious! And, hypoallergenic and sustainable. I enjoyed watching the pillows slowly expand – yep, simple things. Also, I received my favourite chocolate and 100 chamomile teabags (I think that will keep me going for a while!), an illustrated book created by my sister’s talented friend and a fantastic 3-D printed moon lamp. I had a couple of thoughtful deliveries from friends, including some gorgeous ecological stationary: a beautiful cork case, pen and pencils (containing seeds ready to plant), and a cute soy-wax candle in a jar with a pretty crystal and sparkles:

Birthday haul. Clockwise: Unopened presents. Opened presents. Bamboo expanding pillows. Chamomile tea – lots!

Birthday wrap

My Mum wrapped one of my presents in really gorgeous bird paper and added a pretty bow (upside down – so Watson-like!). And when I unwrapped my gift, I found a pair of scissors along with it – Mum exclaimed she’d been looking for those for ages! And I love that my sister wrapped one of my presents in Christmas paper – the outside was a stripey pattern, so it wasn’t obvious until I unwrapped the gift:

Birthday wrapping. Top: Bird paper with upside down bow. Lost scissors. Christmas paper

Pond life

My birthday was the start of a string of beautifully sunny Spring-like days – such an amazing birthday present. Check out that sunny weather forecast and vibrant blue sky. We sat out by the pond and watched the birds come and go, including our regulars: Mummy Bird and we think, Baby Bird (Week 39 and Week 40):

Birthday sunshine. Clockwise: Weather forecast. Sitting by the pond. Maybe Baby Bird. Mummy Bird

Cats

We had a couple of cat visitors over the weekend – Jasper and Not Molly (I’m wondering if this is her elusive big brother). They just boldly stroll up the driveway and through the fence into the pond area. I like Not Molly’s moustache:

Cat visitors. Top: Jasper. Bottom: Not Molly

Ducks and Snow Moon

Early evening, our three regular ducks flew spectacularly into the pond for their dinner, so of course we fed them (video here). There was a fourth duck, but the others wouldn’t let him join their gang and we haven’t seen him since despite feeding him too. And early evening we noticed the gorgeous big “Snow Moon” – my photo didn’t do it credit, but you get the idea:

Pond life. Our duck friends. “Snow Moon”

Birthday Dinner

Mum made a delicious Birthday roast dinner. We had roast potatoes, sweet potato, kalettes (a kind of hybrid of kale and Brussel sprouts – very tasty), stuffing and cauliflower ‘cheese’ (details here):

Birthday dinner. Clockwise: Dinner of cauliflower ‘cheese’, roast potatoes, sweet potato, kalettes and stuffing with gravy. Cauliflower ‘cheese’. Roasted kalettes. Roast potatoes

Cake

Mum whipped up a tasty cake (thanks for spoiling me Mum) – a cocoa sponge with black cherry jam and coconut cream – very indulgent – there’s still some in the freezer:

Birthday cake – yum!

Online Houseparty

I finished my fantastic day with an online Houseparty with friends. It was great to see them and I even got dressed up for the occasion:

Me ready for online Houseparty

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

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More from What’s on Watson’s Plate

Article: COVID-19 Vaccines – What the Scientific Experts Say

By Katey Watson

26 February 2021

Image: Gerd Altmann (Pixabay)

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Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted greatly on our lives for over a year. There is finally “a light at the end of the tunnel”, with approval of several vaccines. However, a “Misinformation pandemic” has caused confusion. Therefore, I decided it would be helpful to share what I have learnt from attending the following recent online expert scientific panels about the vaccines approved within the UK:

1. The Royal Society[1]: The Race for a Vaccine[2] (28 January 2021).
2. ZOE Symptom Study[3]: COVID-19 Vaccines: What we know so far[4] (3 February 2021).
3. University of Southampton[5]: Beating COVID-19 – Vaccines, Trials and Prevention[6] (9 February 2021).

What are COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2?

COVID-19 is the disease that develops from exposure to the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

Viruses comprise either ribonucleic acid (RNA) or deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus that is RNA based. Coronaviruses are typically respiratory viruses, replicating in the airways. Four coronaviruses circulate yearly, resulting in cold-like symptoms, whereas SARS, MERS and COVID-19 can cause serious illness[2]. SARS-CoV-2 uses its spike proteins (as a key) to enter our cells through ACE-2 receptors (a doorway). It then hijacks our cells’ machinery to replicate and spreads to other cells in our body. COVID-19 develops if there is a high enough viral load within the body.

COVID-19 is a biphasic disease – it has two main phases:

1. Viral replication: Initial illness for about a week, before the patient starts feeling better[2].
2.  Inflammatory response: Severity depends upon how successfully the immune system halted viral replication – the lower the viral load, the milder the symptoms[2].

Graphic of SARS-CoV-2 viral particle. Image: Joseph Mucira (Pixabay)

Why vaccinate against COVID-19?

Vaccination programmes are a means to safely attaining herd (community) immunity. They suppress or eliminate the infection by reducing its opportunity to spread. These population-wide initiatives protect everyone by shielding those who have not yet or cannot be vaccinated, as well as protecting the individual[2]. The proportion of the population required to obtain herd immunity depends upon the transmissibility of the specific infection. The higher the R0, the more contagious the infection and the more likely mutations will arise. Therefore, where infections have a high R0, it is important to develop a vaccine to reduce or eradicate disease[6].

Vaccines produce stronger and longer-lasting immunity than naturally acquired immunity from previous infection[2, 6]. Incurring both types of immunity provides a cumulative effect, offering greater protection[6].The vaccines approved so far should prevent hospitalisations and death in most cases[6].

COVID-19 has caused long-lasting problems in some patients’ organs, especially the brain and lungs. The long-term health costs from COVID-19 outweigh any potential vaccine long-term risks[4].

The immune system

The two main parts of the immune system are:

1) Innate immune defence:

This first-line (non-specific) defence is constantly alert for invaders. If a threat is identified, the innate immune system cells search for and kill infected host cells and protect others from infection[7]. In viruses, the lower the viral load, the milder the symptoms. But SARS-CoV-2 suppresses the innate response resulting in an increased viral load[2].

2) Adaptive immune defence:

This secondary response is very specific to the invader (e.g. SARS-CoV-2). The major players are:

  • B cells: Antibodies attach to the virus and label it for destruction[7].
  • T cells: Kill infected cells, activate other immune cells and support the antibody response[7].

These cells have a subgroup of memory cells tasked with remembering the specific virus and learning to combat it better next time the virus is encountered[7]. It is expected that COVID-19 vaccines should lengthen the immune response to about a year instead of a few months[2, 4, 6].

Types of vaccine

At time of attending the expert panels, vaccines in use within the UK were Pfizer-BioNTech[8] and Oxford-Astra-Zeneca[9] which teach the immune system to target the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein – the key to entering host cells. The immune system recognises the spike protein and uses it to train antibodies and T cells to inactivate this particular protein. With this spike protein inactivated, the virus cannot enter the cell and replicate, rendering it harmless. These vaccines do not contain the actual SARS-CoV-2 virus and, importantly, do not suppress the innate immune response, unlike the virus[2]. Many other COVID-19 vaccines are under development with potential for future use worldwide[2].

The main types of COVID-19 vaccines are:

  1. Replication-incompetent vector (Astra-Zeneca, Janssen): An inactivated cold virus producing a spike protein. An immune response is mounted against the spike protein and cold virus[6]. (Used against SARS and MERS[4]).
  2. RNA (Pfizer, Moderna): RNA (in this case mRNA or messenger RNA) produces a spike protein from the genetic material carried inside a “lipid particle”. The lipid particle aids the immune response. (Used previously in anti-cancer vaccine research[6].
  3. Recombinant spike protein base (Novavax, Medicago GSK): The spike protein is created in a lab and transported in an “adjuvant” (immune enhancer) to create a stronger immune response. (Fairly traditional method)[6].
  4. Inactivated virus (Valneva): The virus is grown in a lab, killed and inactivated. This method might be useful against spike protein mutations. (Traditional method)[6].

Efficacy:

Vaccine efficacy (efficiency) percentages indicate the ability of the vaccine to protect against developing COVID-19. It is difficult to compare efficacy between COVID-19 vaccine studies, because researchers use different groups of people and measurements to assess their particular vaccine[4, 6].

Image: Belova59 (Pixabay)

Fast vaccine development

Expert scientists were already aware that a viral pandemic posed a serious threat to humanity. Therefore, new vaccine technologies (including mRNA vaccines) had already been in development for many years[2].

At first sight, ten months to develop, test and approve vaccines seems remarkably quick when compared to previous vaccine development. However, this timeframe seems reasonable when it is considered:

  • There was huge worldwide government investment (billions of US dollars) – usually there are long delays waiting for funding to trickle through[2].
  • The three trial phases ran in parallel – usually they take place one after the other[2].

The World Health Organization was integral in coordinating the development of new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines[10]. The UK’s “Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency” (MHRA) is the global expert, previously ensuring vaccine safety for the whole of the European Union. Any uncertainty about vaccine approval is not about safety, it is about how well the vaccines will work and for how long[6].

How vaccines work

1. First dose: Primes the immune system to recognise the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Specific antibodies are created, and remembered by memory cells[2]. There is some protection against COVID-19 after two to three weeks (depending on the vaccine)[4]. Partial protection should prevent severe disease, keeping most people out of hospital[2, 4].

2. Second dose: Boosts the immune response, making it stronger and longer lasting. Memory cells recognise the SARS-CoV2 spike protein, produce improved antibodies and memorises them for next time they are needed[2].

12-weeks between vaccine doses

Some were concerned when the advised three weeks gap between vaccine doses was changed to twelve weeks. The timeframe changed after Astra-Zeneca analysed their data from people who had received their second dose at twelve weeks – results indicated better efficacy with a longer gap. They are now analysing data from those who had their second booster later than twelve weeks – the data suggests even higher efficacy[4].

There was no medical reason for Pfizer choosing three weeks between doses – presumably, it was to enable faster turnaround for their vaccine release[6]. It was thought Pfizer vaccines would likely perform comparably to Astra-Zeneca, because they elicit a similar immune response[4].On the 18 February 2021, evidence from Israel’s Pfizer vaccinations reported the second dose could potentially be delayed, because the first dose provides adequate interim protection, but advised more long-term follow-up was needed[11]

Image: mohamed Hassan (Pixabay)

Transmissibility

People who have had the vaccine can still carry the virus (SARS-CoV-2) without succumbing to the disease (COVID-19). Hypothetically, it could be spread to someone else, although this is not yet known for sure. But, there is probably reduced risk of transmitting enough virus to cause severe disease, because it cannot replicate as easily in a vaccinated person[2]. The UK’s recent fall in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations, suggests the vaccines offer some protection against transmitting the infection to others – we are awaiting further data to confirm whether this is the case.

Vaccine suitability

Questions were raised about whether the vaccine was suitable for all adults:

Previous infection with SARS-CoV-2:

It is likely the first vaccine dose would improve the immune response in those recently infected with the virus (up to six months ago) compared to those who have not been exposed[4]. COVID “long-haulers” should be safe to take the vaccine, because ongoing symptoms are an inflammatory response, not the virus itself[4].

Autoimmune diseases and immune suppressants:

People with autoimmune diseases or prescribed immune suppressants are not usually included in vaccine trials, because they skew the study results, rather than concerns over their safety. Therefore, according to Professor Tim Spector, the vaccines should be safe for this group[4].

Astra-Zeneca and the over 65’s:

Astra-Zeneca was tested on a limited number of over 65’s, because many in this group were advised to shield at the time trials were commencing. Therefore, it seemed inappropriate to ask most of this group to attend research centres[4]. On 15 February 2021, the World Health Organization recommended Astra-Zeneca for adults of all ages based on the available study results[12].

Vaccine side effects

No steps were missed in testing the vaccines before approval[6]. Phase three trials (the biggest phase, testing for efficacy) included ten times more volunteers than usual – sometimes over 30,000 people, compared to the usual 2,000 – 3,000[2, 6].

The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) assessed the Astra-Zeneca vaccine based on millions of doses – their results showed exceptionally good safety. Up to 1,000 reactions are considered normal, but for the Astra-Zeneca trials, there were only the usual immediate minor side effects (e.g. sore arm, fever) and no hospital admissions[6]. Any vaccine side effects of concern are expected to occur fairly immediately; therefore, people usually wait fifteen minutes after vaccination before leaving the vaccination centre[2].

Common side effects:

As with most vaccines, common minor side effects can occur soon after vaccination and may last a few days. The most common is a sore or slightly swollen arm near site of injection. A smaller proportion, experience systemic effects, including headache, fever and/or fatigue. Systemic effects are more likely after the second (booster) dose, because the immune system is already primed to recognise viral proteins[4]. These symptoms indicate the immune system is developing protection. People are more likely to experience side effects if they are anxious about them, even with the placebo saline injection (placebo effect). Symptoms are eased with paracetamol[4].

Side effects due to previous COVID-19 exposure:

Individuals who had previously experienced Covid-19 were twice as likely to experience systemic side effects after the first vaccine. This suggests in these circumstances, the primer (first dose) acts like a booster (second dose), as the immune system was already primed by prior natural exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Consequently, these individuals could have more protection, closer to that experienced after the second dose. It is still safe to have the second booster dose[4].

Image: Wilfried Pohnke (Pixabay)

Mixing vaccines

It has long been known, mixing different classes of vaccines between doses can provide a more efficient immune response[4, 6]. Currently the UK does not plan to mix doses, because this has not been tested on SARS-CoV-2 vaccines yet (this is the next research step)[6]. In the future, a range of vaccine boosters could become available to provide better protection against specific variants[4].

New variants

New SARS-CoV-2 variants were always expected – it is part of natural evolution[2, 4]. Viral replication is not perfect – copying errors result in random mutations. Changes that enable the virus to spread more easily are more likely to become dominant over those that spread slowly, as this increases the virus’s survival chances[2]. Regardless, it is extremely unlikely a variant would completely resist a vaccine – there may be more susceptibility for mild infection, with most avoiding severe illness[6].

If enough people are vaccinated, variant concerns will be less relevant, because the infection will be forced to die out. The key is to work together (worldwide) and focus on vaccination to drive down R0 and levels of virus circulation[4]. With less virus circulating, there is less opportunity for the virus to mutate into new variants.

RNA viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, evolve slowly. Therefore, it is thought current vaccines should remain effective against COVID-19 for at least a year. Research scientists are working on vaccine tweaks to protect against new variants – a much quicker process than creating vaccines from scratch, as only minor changes to the existing vaccines are required[2, 4, 6]. Also, less volunteers are needed in these trials, further speeding up the process[4].

Image: memyselfaneye (Pixabay)

The Misinformation pandemic

There is major concern about the spread of misinformation by people in a position of trust and those in algorithm-led social media bubbles. The whole of society needs to tackle this issue, including:

  • Public citizens/peers,
  • Government,
  • Scientists[6].

A common misconception by many people is that mRNA vaccines are “gene therapy” and not actually vaccines, because they think the injected mRNA alters human DNA. This does not happen – after the mRNA has passed on its message, it just breaks down and degrades in a harmless manner[6].

The future

It has almost been a year since the UK (and many other countries) first went into lockdown. So what does the future hold for us? This is what the scientific experts predict:

Yearly vaccine boosters:

It is unlikely COVID-19 will completely disappear – instead, it is expected to become a background infection (endemic). We will probably need an annual booster for the immediate future, particularly to protect the vulnerable[4, 6].

Changed behaviour:

There is likely to be an improved attitude towards infection – changing behaviour to prevent infection risk – similar to attitude/behaviour changes towards accidents. Historically, accidents were a common cause of death, but this gradually changed over the years with improved preventative measures[6]. The public are now more aware about the importance of handwashing and ventilation, but other bad habits still need to be addressed, including the UK culture of going into work when unwell[6].

Targeted strategies: Identifying the spreaders:

It is unclear whether spreaders are adults returning home from work, and/or children returning from school. When this has been identified, better targeted health strategies can be introduced to protect the community[2]. Governments are expected to prepare improved response systems to mitigate pandemic spread of emerging future viruses[6].

Utilising technology:

The latest generation vaccines (mRNA and replication-incompetent vector) are as good as, if not better than traditional vaccines. There is very promising potential to use this technology to protect us against other prevalent diseases, including cancer[2].

Future research initiatives:

  • Preventing long-haul COVID[6].
  • Investigating the impact of the vaccines in long-haul COVID patients[6].
  • Research into vaccinating children to protect the community[6].

Lessons learnt:

  • The countries suffering least from this pandemic were those with a quick and decisive response: Taiwan learnt from the SARS epidemic in 2003 and reacted quickly. The UK (and other countries) need a quicker and more decisive response the next time an infectious disease emerges[2].
  • This pandemic has highlighted some serious inequalities within society needing to be addressed[2].
  • Global vaccination is needed to control this pandemic[2].
Image: Aksh Kinjawadekar (Pixabay)

Returning to ‘normal’

The big question is “Will the Covid-19 vaccines bring back normality?” Currently in the UK, we cannot change our cautious behaviour, because the virus is still widely circulating and we need to protect the whole population[4]. A more normal situation is expected in a year or so, but we need to embrace a new normal to protect humanity. Humans have taken away too much from the planet, affecting the climate and environment – the new normal needs to be a more sustainable way of life[2].

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health concern, with scientists working around the clock to develop treatments and preventative vaccines to counteract this threat. However, the “Misinformation pandemic” has led to public confusion about the safety and effectiveness of approved vaccines. Therefore, scientists led expert panel discussions to address concerns and answer questions (some of which I have shared with you here). Vaccination programmes are imperative to control the spread of fast spreading infectious diseases with high mortality, such as COVID-19. Vaccines provide stronger and longer-lasting immunity than naturally acquired immunity. Fast vaccine development and approval was enabled by massive government investment and parallel-running trials. The long-term adverse health effects from COVID-19 outweigh any potential vaccine long-term risks. Vaccination programmes are a community initiative, aimed at protecting everyone, including those who cannot be vaccinated. The future of humanity requires a more sustainable lifestyle to protect our planet from new and re-emerging infectious diseases.

Image: Gerd Altmann (Pixabay)

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References

1. The Royal Society, 2021. The Royal Society.
2. Prof. Brian Cox, Prof. Melinda Mills, Prof. Charles Bangham and Dr Rino Rappuoli: The Royal Society, 2021. The Race for a Vaccine.
3. ZOE Symptom Study, 2021. ZOE Symptom Study.
4. Dr Anna Goodman and Prof. Tim Spector: ZOE Symptom Study, 2021. Covid-19 Vaccines: What we know so far.
5. University of Southampton, 2021.University of Southampton.
6. Prof. John Holloway, Prof. Rob Read, Prof. Saul Faust and Prof. Lucy Yardley OBE: University of Southampton, 2021. Beating COVID-19 – Vaccines, Trials and Prevention.
7. The Open University, 2014. SK320 Infectious Disease and Public Health: Block 1.
8. GOV.UK, 2021. Information for UK recipients on Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
9. GOV.UK, 2021. Regulatory approval of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca.
10. World Health Organization, 2021. COVID-19 Vaccines.
11. Amit, S., Regev-Yochay, G., Afek, A., Kreiss, Y. and Leshem, E.: The Lancet, 2021. Early rate reductions of SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 in BNT162b2 vaccine recipients.
12. World Health Organization, 2021. WHO lists two additional COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use and COVAX roll-out.

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate

Health Diary Week 70: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

A Trip to A & E

Image: mohamed Hassan (Pixabay)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

Well, it’s been a bit of a medically themed week…

My Shoulder:

I first noticed something wrong with my right (dominant) shoulder when I went outdoors swimming in Week 49, but I stubbornly ignored the pain. During Week 51, I awoke with my shoulder feeling mis-aligned – my muscles and tendons felt like they were over stretching. In Week 53, my shoulder did a large crack and re-positioned – the pain relief was amazing. But, in Week 57 still half asleep, I stretched and my shoulder felt like it moved out of its socket. The pain was immense, and I instinctively bashed it back into place. I ignored the discomfort and adapted to my ridiculously reduced range of movement (I know – I shouldn’t have ignored it). Just before Christmas, I noticed my shoulder didn’t look the same as the other, but Covid cases were surging, so I just decided to put it to the back of my mind until it was safer to seek medical attention.

On Monday I finally caved (thanks Harry for nagging caring). The Doctor’s surgery saw me that morning and sent me to the hospital’s A&E ward (FYI: nowadays you need to phone 111 to make an A&E appointment). I had two x-rays and the Consultant tried manipulating my arm. Thankfully my shoulder is probably in the correct position (phew!), but my rotator cuff was locked and needs musculo-skeletal physiotherapy. On Wednesday’s phone review with my Doctor, she completed the physio referral and we discussed investigating my hypermobility issues.

Image: Tumisu (Pixabay)

Histamine intolerance:

So, the last time I went to the pharmacy to buy antihistamine, they raised concerns about the amount I was using and asked me to review this with my Doctor. I absolutely hate going to the Doctors, so I figured I’d address the shoulder, hypermobility and histamine issues at the same time. There wasn’t time to talk about it on Monday or Wednesday, so on Friday I had another Doctor’s phone appointment, who prescribed a stronger antihistamine (H1 blocker) than my usual over the counter one. We’re keeping the possibility of H2 histamine blockers under review.

Job update:

I didn’t get the Occupational Health Admin job despite interviewing really well and being told I could “breeze it”. Apparently, the major reasons were that they wanted someone who would stay in the job – I’m pretty sure I made it clear I was committed. They said a basic admin role wasn’t sufficient for me and I should aspire for greater things – I guess I should feel complimented. Also, the successful person could audio-type and was willing to work full time (I’d agreed 30 hours over 4 days). I’d really wanted to work in Occupational Health, but of course I continued on and got back on the job search.

Food and Nutrition

Okay, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices…

Breakfast:

My breakfasts included porridge oats, cereal and fruit:

Week 70 Breakfasts. Left: Melon. Right: Cornflakes with oat milk

Lunch:

I had salad for lunch every day; mostly salad filled pittas with Quorn ham – I’m so pleased I seem to be able to tolerate these Quorn slices even though they’re fungi based (contain some histamine):

Week 70 Lunches. Salad filled pittas

Dinner:

I opted for fusilli pasta meals four times, just because it was easy. Also I had cauliflower with turmeric rice and green sauce. Another day, I made Mum some scrambled tofu, so I decided to risk some myself in a wrap with salad leaves and notomato sauce. Mum surprised me on Saturday with fennel steaks and homemade chips (fries), accompanied by notomato sauce – yum:

Week 70 Dinners. Left: Scrambled tofu wrap. Right: Fennel steaks and homemade chips

Snacks:

I hadn’t realised until writing up my food diary that I didn’t snack much this week. I just had popcorn, Brazil nuts and some oat biscuits:

Week 70 Snacks Log Table

Drinks (excluding usual water intake):

I drank chicory coffee alternative with oat milk and ¼ teaspoon of golden sugar (three to four large mugs each day), apple juice, and rooibos tea with oat milk:

Week 70 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

I’m pleased with the amount of physical activity I achieved this week. I’m especially happy I used my exercise bike five times, totalling 160 minutes (2.7 hours). Admittedly, I only went for a walk once (50 minutes total, 42 minutes brisk). Also over five days I did some shoulder exercises recommended by the A&E Consultant (approximately an hour in total), which has started loosening up my shoulder a little:

Week 70 Exercise

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I didn’t really have any idea what to expect result-wise this week. So, I was content with losing 0.2 lb (0.1 kg) weight and I wasn’t too disheartened that my body fat increased by 0.6%:

Week 70 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Here’s a few of my smile-provoking experiences this week…

My A & E visit:

Okay, I get that going to A & E doesn’t sound like something that would make you smile. I was really nervous about going, but relieved to book an appointment to reduce waiting time as a walk-in patient. I was there at 12pm and home again within two hours – in the past, getting through A & E so speedily was completely unheard of! As it was, there were only two other patients waiting. Of course, there must have been plenty of people arriving in ambulances with life-threatening conditions. And although the corridors I walked along seemed relatively calm, I was well aware the Covid wards would be full-on busy and I was so grateful for not being one of those patients. And the best news (for me) this week was that my shoulder didn’t need re-positioning:

My Trip to A & E as a walk-in patient. Left: Me in A & E. Right: A&E adults walk in area

Cushion collaboration:

My parents looked kind of cute working together on making new seat cushions for the conservatory – the previous ones were faded and literally falling apart. Dad calculated the amount of material required for six chairs and assisted in cutting out the pattern when the material arrived. They’re a cute bee design. Good work Mum and Dad:

Cushion Collaboration. Clockwise: My parents discussing cushions. New bee design and old faded stripey cushion. New bee cushion. Old stripey cushion

A Room with a View:

On Thursday, I was having a break from my computer screen, when I heard rowdy seagulls, so I looked out of my window and watched them circling, some flew quite close. By the time I’d decided to grab my phone, they’d mostly dissipated, so I only managed to catch one seagull on camera (badly). But I’m sharing the photo anyway, because I enjoyed watching those noisy gulls. Afterwards I became engrossed observing the steadily darkening clouds roll in:

A Room with a View. Left:Seagull from my bedroom window. Right: Dark clouds rolling in

Another Watson spillage:

I had a large glass of cold water and Mum had some very hot coffee. She asked me to pour some of my water into her coffee mug. I hesitated, thinking “Can I do this without an incident?” I reasoned “Surely I can!”. Alas, I was wrong. I completely missed Mum’s mug and poured my water over the chair. Dad, who had been watching us, sighed. Mum and I giggled. I cleaned up the mess. This reminded me of my cacao incident back in Week 52:

Amusing memories: Week 52 cacao incident

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

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Health Diary Week 69: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Talking to Strangers

Image: Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke, Pixabay

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

It felt like a lot happened this week. I was a bit wiped out by Friday afternoon and took things easy Friday evening and all of Saturday – I felt no guilt whatsoever about lazing around on Saturday and enjoying two rugby Six Nations matches. Okay, so let’s take a look at my week’s main events…

Job Interview:

I had pretty much given up hope of being interviewed for the NHS job: Occupational Health Service Administrator, despite my rejection being changed to we’ll put you on the reserve list (more on this in Week 68). So, as you can imagine, I was mighty surprised to receive an email on Wednesday inviting me to interview. I adapted my plans, suspending my work on several more job applications and my vaccine article, to prepare for my interview on Friday. Is it weird that I enjoyed the interview?

Covid-19 vaccinations:

I’m so relieved that both my parents have had their first dose COVID-19 vaccinations now. Dad received his invite last week and booked for Monday – he had the Astra-Zeneca jab. Mum received her invite on Tuesday and was vaccinated on Thursday with Pfizer. Dad said it’s the easiest vaccine he’s ever had. A few days later they were both a bit cold-like, but only mildly – a small price to pay.

On Monday, BBC news reported a quarter of UK adults had been vaccinated – that’s excellent! On Tuesday, I attended the University of Southampton: Beating COVID-19: Trials, Vaccinations and Prevention. It was informative, although the most interesting part was the Q&A session, as it addressed more of my queries. And on Wednesday, the BBC updated that priority groups 1-9 (over 50’s and over 16’s with underlying health conditions) should be vaccinated by the end of April instead of May. Also, the World Health Organization recommended Astra-Zeneca for adults and confirmed the 8-12 weeks gap until receiving the second dose was okay.

Food and Nutrition

Okay, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices and identify any tweaks I could make to improve my nutrition…

Breakfast:

I had quite a fancy (late) breakfast on Monday due to a cooking disaster that I managed to save (more on this later; also here). I had porridge oats with a gala apple twice and melon once. The remaining days were cereal – cornflakes once and I returned to my favourite multigrain maple syrup cereal, which was much sweeter than I’d remembered pre-low histamine:

Week 69 Breakfasts: Left: Porridge oats with apple. Right: Nature’s Path maple sunrise multigrain cereal

Lunch:

We were a little low on salad items this week, but I still managed to get our salad fix over four days accompanied by corn and potato balls or courgette ‘frittata’. Twice I had my simple go-to fusilli pasta (rice, corn and quinoa) with sweetcorn. And once I grabbed some courgette and sweetcorn rice from the freezer and added seeds and nutritional yeast (aka nooch):

Week 69 Lunches. Left: Cornmeal and quinoa flour based frittata with salad. Right: My simple fusilli pasta

Dinner:

Three times I opted for the above mentioned go-to fusilli pasta; twice I added vegan blue ‘cheese’ and nooch, another evening I used roasted butternut squash from the freezer (details here). Also, I ate brown rice (from the freezer) and added veg, accompanied by a garlic pitta pocket and a sneaky handful of my parents’ oven chips. Another day I had a baked potato filled with courgette, sweetcorn, sweet white onion, seeds, smoky ‘cheese’ and mild curry powder (small rhinitis reaction experienced). My dinner highlights were the roast-like meals – one from freezer bits-and-bobs, the other prepared by Mum with cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’:

Week 69 Dinners. Left: Roast from freezer leftovers. Right: Roast with cauliflower and brocolli ‘cheese’

Snacks:

Snacks included my usual sweet and salty popcorn and Brazil and pistachio nuts. Also, I’ve been enjoying my favourite ever chocolates: Booja Booja almond salted caramel truffles – so delicious! This means I can try adding more almonds to my nut menu – yay! And I seem to be forming a habit again for those delicious oat biscuits – thankfully they’re limited to four to a pack, so I know that’s my fill each time:

Week 69 Snacks: Two of my current favourite indulgences: Left: Booja Booja almond salted caramel truffles. Right Nairn’s Oaties biscuits

Drinks (excluding usual water intake):

I had lots of chicory coffee alternative (of course), a rooibos (redbush) tea and cranberry and apple juice a couple of times:

Week 69 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

I’m back on the exercise bike (three times this week), albeit a very gentle pace at half the resistance I was previously doing – but it’s progress and I’m proud of myself. This makes up for my lack of walking (just one short walk) – it was very cold outside and a bit icy – I just didn’t fancy it. This was probably what pushed me towards the exercise bike, and the bonus is I can watch TV at the same time:

Week 69 Exercise Log Table

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

My body weight didn’t change this week (it’s been the same for three weeks), but I’m okay with that, because my body fat dropped by 1.1% and that’s the most important figure here for my health tracking:

Week 69 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Ahh, my favourite section – what made me smile…

Meal Recovery:

I was really hungry on Monday morning and fancied a ‘frittata’. So, I grabbed the frozen potato slices I’d been saving and chucked them in the frying pan before defrosting them – big mistake! I ended up with smashed potatoes, but I thought “It’ll be fine, I’ll just mix them into my cornmeal and quinoa flour mix”, which I did. But then when I transferred the mix into a pan, I just had an unappetising blob (I wish I’d taken a photo!). I reassessed the situation, added some sweetcorn and made little balls, which I accompanied with salad and my green sauce from the freezer (sauce details here). I’m relieved to report it ended up being a delicious meal (although somewhat later than intended) and I had a batch to freeze for lazier days:

Meal Save: Potato and corn balls. Top: Potato and corn balls with salad garnish and green sauce. Bottom: Right: In a salad filled pitta. Left: Frozen sliced potatoes mess!

Snow Day?:

It was a proper Wintry week, with some parts of the UK snowed-in and experiencing temperatures as low as -23oC! – I really wouldn’t like that! Instead, in my part of the UK, we had some little snow flurries on Monday, and on Tuesday I awoke to this light dusting of snow – it didn’t last long:

A light dusting of snow

Jay visitors:

Recently, we’ve had new bird visitors – a couple of Jay birds. I couldn’t get a good photo, because we spotted them from inside the house and I didn’t want to startle them by going outside, as they’re notoriously shy.  It was lovely to see them, but I’m a little concerned for our long-tailed tits, as apparently Jay eat nestlings of other birds and small mammals, as well as acorns, nuts, seeds and insects (RSPB info). We’ll see if they become regulars:

Jay Visitors: Top: The bolder Jay on our driveway. Bottom: The shy Jay mostly stayed in the trees, but landed on the fence briefly

Talking to Strangers:

I’ve found myself looking forward to and enjoying talking to complete strangers (not random ones!) in these weird COVID times. It started with Dawn, another Admin on the long-haul Covid food group – I don’t consider us strangers anymore, we communicate regularly and know a bit about what’s going on in each other’s lives. Then last week, I was contacted by Hazel via LinkedIn, as she’s considering applying for the MSc Nutrition and Behaviour degree that I’d completed and wanted to know more. We had a video chat on Thursday for well over an hour – Hazel was an inspiring woman, carefully considering her options – why wasn’t I like this in my 20’s? Also, there was that Occupational Health job interview on Friday that I thoroughly enjoyed:

Socialising in the time of COVID. Image: Alexandra_Koch, Pixabay

Mindfulness with Friends:

I always look forward to my monthly meets with the Action for Happiness crew, Karen, Chrissy, Julie and sometimes Chris – I’m so grateful Karen invited me into this local friend group, because everyone’s so kind and accepting. Mostly we catch up on each other’s news and then finish off with a mindfulness session led by Chrissy. This time we did a relaxing seated mindfulness session – just what my busy mind needed. Fingers crossed we can meet in person next month:

Temple in Cambodia, 2006

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

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Health Diary Week 68: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Enjoy the Little Things

Enjoy the little things. Image: Merry Christmas (Pixabay)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

I’m pleased to report that on the whole, it’s felt like a really positive week.

Covid vaccine update:

I love that many of my family and some close friends have either been invited to, or already received the vaccine, including my Dad (yay!), most of my Aunts and Uncles, cousin, sister’s boyfriend and two of my best friends. And it won’t be too long now before it’s my Mum’s turn. It finally feels like we’re properly moving towards getting out of this pandemic mess.

I have an article brewing:

Last week I told you I’d attended a brilliant expert panel discussion about the UK vaccines: The Race for a Vaccine[1] hosted by The Royal Society. And this week, I watched: Covid-19 Vaccines: What we know so far[2] hosted by the ZOE Symptom Study – also a great event. Next week, I’ll be attending yet another: Beating COVID-19 – Vaccines, Trials and Prevention[3] by University of Southampton. My plan is to collate the three discussions into a blog article.

Job application update:

Remember last week I told you I’d applied for an NHS admin role in Occupational Health? Well, I didn’t even get an interview. I sent my supporting statement to a friend who already works in the NHS and he said my application was… excellent, maybe too excellent. He suggested I request feedback, so I did. The response was that my application was “very good and details well your roles and experience…we have recommended you go on our reserve list”. Where I fell short was “recent, relatable administrative experience using various patient systems” – at least now I know how to move forward on my next admin application.

Facebook Admin

I had my first MS Teams online meet, so that’s another form of socialising technology I can happily use now. Dawn and I met to discuss further updates to the Covid Long-Haulers food group. I do enjoy our little social chats before we get down to business.

The Rugby Six Nations:

I’d completely forgotten that the rugby Six Nations was starting on Saturday, with two matches, so my day unexpectedly became rather lazy, as I settled down in front of the tele (but let’s not discuss the England results). There was another match on Sunday, so I achieved a bit more that day at least.

Food and Nutrition

Okay, moving on to what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices and identify any tweaks I could make to improve my nutrition…

Breakfast:

I ate cornflakes three times this week. I’m going to try re-introducing my pre-low histamine diet cereal again and see how I get on with it. I’d totally forgotten about my pledge to eat porridge oats at least once a week until Sunday, so I managed one portion, with apple, chia seeds, sweet cinnamon and golden syrup. Other than that, I missed breakfast once, had just two Brazil nuts another day and indulged in Nairn’s Oaties biscuits another time:

Week 68 Breakfasts. Left: Cornflakes. Right: Porridge oats with apple

Lunch:

I had some form of salad for lunch every day. I’d made a batch of vegetable balls (details here) to accompany my salads, which I ate four days straight – they tasted so good! I ate the veg balls in a pitta bread with salad over three days – I’m loving that I can get away with eating some gluten free bread products again. I have been a bit indulgent though, as Mum found me a soya-free garlic vegan mayo and I’ve been stirring a teaspoon of it into my salad – I need to do this less, as it’s high in saturated fat:

Week 68 Lunches. Left: Sweetcorn and onion ‘omelette with salad. Right: Veg balls and salad in pitta

Dinner:

Mum really wanted me to make her some scrambled tofu, so I decided to undergo a histamine challenge (food re-introduction) by having some too, in a wrap with fried potatoes on the side – I think I had a bit of a reaction, but it was well controlled by my antihistamine medication. Another highlight was the fennel steaks with Mum’s homemade chips (fries) – I ate way more chips than I should have! Oh, and there was also the roasted butternut squash with seeds and fusilli pasta – sooo good (details here) – this was a nice change to my go-to fusilli with vegetables and seeds, which I also had twice this week. Another day I cooked up some rice, vegetables and seeds, but wanted to add more excitement to my meal, so I accompanied it with cheesy garlic bread using a pitta pocket (small pitta) – more saturated fat:

Week 68 Dinners Log Table
Week 68 Dinners. Clockwise: Fennel steaks with Mum’s chips and not tomato sauce. Butternut squash and seed fusilli. Scrambled tofu wrap with fried potatoes and not tomato sauce. Vegetable and seed rice with cheesy garlic bread

Snacks:

I can’t believe I didn’t snack at all on Wednesday! On the other days I indulged in the usual sweet and salty popcorn, nuts and crackers. I do love beetroot – so on Monday, I snacked on beetroot leftover from lunch. Mum bought me some salted caramel and chocolate puddings, as I’d seen theirs last week and was a bit envious that I couldn’t have any. It was risky, but I decided to try one and honestly, I was a bit disappointed, so I told Mum she could have the other one – if I’m going to take a histamine risk, it has to be for something I really, really want:

Week 68 Snacks. Left: Steamed beetroot. Right: Plant Pioneer salted caramel and chocolate pudding

Drinks:

As you know, chicory is my go-to coffee alternative, so I had several cups of these each day. Other than that, I also had some apple and elderflower juice a couple of days, on top water intake:

Week 68 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

I was easily more active this week compared to last week’s abysmal 27 minutes walking. I totalled 224 minutes (3.7 hours) walking, of which 162 minutes (2.7 hours) were brisk. I’ve been considering giving the exercise bike a go, but I’ve been putting it off, as I’m nervous about causing a histamine reaction. I’m going to aim for a gentle exercise bike session next week though:

Week 68 Exercise

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Well, it could be worse, at least I didn’t gain any weight, but I did stay the same, despite the additional activity levels. But annoyingly, I gained body fat, so I need to keep an eye on this – starting by reducing the saturated fat intake:

Week 68 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

I actually had trouble deciding which smile-provokers to include this week, as there were quite a few, so I decided it would be fun to focus mostly on the little unexpected occurrences…

Tasty Balls:

…But firstly, I want to share my yummy vegetable and seed balls triumph with you. As I mentioned last week, my appetite has increased during these Winter months, resulting in larger portions. So, instead of making a cornmeal and quinoa based ‘omelette’ and eating the whole thing, I decided to add extra flax and chia seeds to firm up the mixture and make balls instead, and freeze some before I had the chance to go back for more (details here). This tasty batch kept me going for four days – excellent:

Batch cooked veg (courgette, carrot and sweetcorn) and seed (flax and chia) balls

Massive Onions:

We received some massive sweet white onions from Ocado – I was suitably impressed:

Massive white onion shown against an apple and mug, for context

Brilliant Blue:

It was a beautifully sunny Saturday morning, so Mum, Dad and I sat out to have a late morning cuppa together. It was pleasantly warm with the sun shining down on us. And the sky was such a brilliant bright blue colour:

Beautiful blue Winter sky

Is it Spring yet?:

I’m not a fan of the Winter months, so I was excited to see signs of Spring approaching, firstly noticing the appearance of Dad’s crocuses when we sat outside for our cuppas. And the following day we spotted a row of them by the roadside when Mum and I were out walking:

Is it Spring yet? Top: Dad’s blooming crocuses. Bottom: Roadside crocus row

Mask Fail:

What can I say? I wouldn’t want to be standing in the vaccine queue next to the lady who appears to be wearing her mask as an awkward earring. And don’t even get me started on the lack of physical distancing:

Mask fail: Department of Health vaccine rollout plan – 2nd part of diagram (BBC News)

Home Schooling – Learning the ‘F’ Word:

This one was a laugh-out-loud moment. I was talking to Bevy and Harry on Zoom and they showed me their son’s recent home school writing task – set by the school. For context, the children were being taught to write using a tree and monkey story to help them figure out where to start the letter. Now, do we really believe that the teachers didn’t realise what they’d done, or perhaps they wanted to give the parents a laugh, or subconsciously teach children the ‘F’ word?:

Home schooling: “Okay, today we’re going to learn the ‘F’ word”

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things”

Robert Brault, author

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

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<<<Week 67
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References

1. The Royal Society, 2021. The Race for a Vaccine.
2. ZOE Symptom Study, 2021. Covid-19 Vaccines: What we know so far.
3. University of Southampton, 2021. Beating COVID-19 – Vaccines, Trials and Prevention.

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate

Health Diary Week 67: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Love, Learn, Create

Mum’s painted portrait of me

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

Monday through to Thursday was a particularly busy time, with deadlines to meet – it kind of reminded me of juggling university with work. The rest of the week was more relaxed, meaning I could carry out tasks at my leisure.

Job application:

I applied for another NHS job – Occupational Health Administrator. Although I can apply for some advice/practitioner roles, I actually enjoy admin work too. I try to get this across in my supporting statement as I don’t seem to get interviews for admin roles even though I’m well qualified to do them – Business Administration degree and years of experience. My friends reckon my problem is being over-qualified, so it’s assumed I’d move on quickly – in truth, I’m happy to stick around in a job I’m enjoying – I just want to help others and interact with people.

Facebook Admin:

Talking of enjoying admin… I’m loving being an admin on the Facebook long-haul covid food group – it was an honour to be asked. Dawn (who set up the page) and I are working on refreshing the site (banner, About, etc) and trying to come up with ways to encourage our members to be more proactive in sharing ideas and sources of information. 

Covid update:

Talking of Covid… According to my local newspaper, where I live is currently a Covid hotspot (I was surprised). UK deaths have continued to be high (1,725 on Wednesday – 2nd highest so far) and we’ve got some more easily spreading variants. But on the upside, UK cases are falling and vaccine roll-out appears to be going well.

Building my Knowledge:

I love a bit of personal development. This week I attended three online events to widen my knowledge – MyNutriWeb journal club and webinar and The Royal Society discussion led by Professor Brian Cox about the Covid vaccines (particularly excellent). More on this later. 

Food and Nutrition

Okay, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices and identify any tweaks I could make to improve my nutrition…

Breakfast:

Breakfast included cornflakes (three times), porridge oats with apple, chia and flax crackers, oat biscuits and Brazil nuts. I’m going to aim to eat porridge at least once a week, as it’s a good source of fibre. I also want to eat more morning fruit:

Week 67 Breakfasts: Left: Porridge oats with apple, chia seeds, sweet cinnamon and golden syrup. Right: Sainsbury’s gluten free cornflakes

Lunch:

I had some form of salad every day, accompanied by ‘omelette’ (cornmeal and quinoa flour based), ‘cheese’ and crackers, or in a pitta (pitta ingredients here). I think I indulged in the coconut based ‘cheese’ too much – it’s very high in saturated fat, so I need to keep an eye on this. Also, I need to address my portion sizes (difficult during Winter when I feel constantly hungry) – I keep going back for seconds of ‘omelette’ and potatoes:

Week 67 Lunches. Left: Coconut-based ‘cheese’ and crackers with salad. Right: Salad-filled pitta

Dinner:

I really didn’t feel like cooking from scratch this week, so I opted for easy options – jacket potatoes with veg and seeds (twice, example here), fusilli pasta with veg and seeds (twice) and vegetable paella from the freezer (details here). One evening I just had a salad filled pitta, followed by roasted Jerusalem artichokes. Another night, Mum cooked up roast potatoes, sweet potato, Jerusalem artichokes, steamed cauliflower and carrots:

Week 67 Dinners. Left: Filled baked potato (courgette, baby red pepper and sweetcorn). Right: Vegetable paella and beetroot

Snacks:

Snacks included my go-to Brazil and pistachio nuts, sweet and salty popcorn, and chia and flax crackers. Also, I had a pitta pocket with yeast extract (histamine risky), oat biscuits and a few oven fries. I only ate chocolate once – a few goji berries, coated in raw chocolate (also risky):   

Week 67 Snacks

Drinks:

On top of water, there were lots of my usual chicory drinks this week. I drank a carton of cranberry and apple juice over three days (high sugar). I also indulged in two vodkas (white rice-based) with ginger beer, which I think was the main cause of my rhinitis flareup a couple of days later:

Week 67 Drinks

Exercise

The truth is, I didn’t really exercise. At the beginning of the week I managed a 27-minute walk, but only 10 minutes were recorded as brisk. I was just really tired and completely lacked any motivation. At least it won’t be hard to improve on this next week – and I intend to.

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Unsurprisingly, I gained some weight (1.4 lb/0.6 kg) and body fat (1%). I expected the gain, because of my lack of walking, which really does seem to make a difference to my results. But also, as I mentioned earlier, my portion sizes have grown recently to match my increased appetite:

Week 67 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Okay, let’s see what made me smile this week – the love, learn and create edition…

Lettuce Love:

As you’ve probably guessed, I love a salad, even during the Winter months. I was super impressed by this massive lettuce head received in our Abel and Cole salad box:

Lettuce Love: Clockwise: Big lettuce head. Salad with ‘omelette (cornmeal and quinoa based). Big Lettuce head (again). Salad with ‘omelette and asparagus

Heart to Heart:

This week’s MyNutriWeb webinar was “All Things Diet and Heart Health” by expert speaker Dr Wendy Hall from Kings College London. The takeaway message was the importance of making overall dietary changes, rather than focussing on specific nutrients. The evidence suggested heart health was improved through eating more fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and unsaturated fats, and by reducing saturated fat and salt intake – no surprise there really but worth reiterating:

MyNutriWeb Webinar: All Things Diet and Heart Health

Journal Club – Mobile Apps and Health:

I attended the fourth MyNutriWeb Journal Club: “Can a mobile app improve nutrition for women before and during pregnancy?” (journal article here), led by Dr Sarah Hillier from Southampton Solent University. The “Smarter Pregnancy” app was developed in the Netherlands by the Erasmus Medical Team. The app focused on vegetable and fruit intake and folic acid supplementation. We critically analysed the randomised controlled trial, including conflicts of interest and limitations. The results of the trial were promising, with diet improved in those who used the app, compared to mothers who didn’t use it:

MyNutriWeb Journal Club: Nutrition before and during Pregnancy

Professor Brian Cox:

I’m a fan of Professor Brian Cox, Professor of Particle Physics, University of Manchester. I’ve seen him lecture in person, and a brilliant lecture it was too. He’s also The Royal Society Professor for Public Engagement in Science, so I was excited to see he was hosting The Royal Society’s live online discussion with relevant scientific experts: “The Race for a Vaccine”. The discussion included the covid vaccines currently in circulation, how they were developed so quickly, how we know they’re safe and what this means for the future. It was so interesting and informative – I highly recommend watching it (access here):

The Royal Society: The Race for a Vaccine, hosted by Professor Brian Cox

My Painted Portrait with Turtles (of course):

Mum completed my painted portrait and I love it! Mum’s style is to add something personal to the background, so I requested turtles, because I’ve loved them ever since I was a kid when I first spotted them swimming wild in the Caribbean Sea. It was so much fun watching the portrait develop and having input into the final outcome:

Mum’s progress on my portrait: Turtle theme. Can you spot the hidden creature in the last picture?

Spot the Secret:

I love it when artists add a little hidden something into their artwork to further personalise the piece. I first encouraged Mum to do this when she painted a scene for my Aunt and Uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary last year – she included their star sign constellations linked by a bright star. So naturally, I asked Mum to do something for mine and we agreed upon a little hidden creature, just because that’s what appealed to me and seemed appropriate. Can you spot it above?:

The Secret Message: Linked star sign constellations. Painted by my Mum for my Aunt and Uncle’s wedding anniversary

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

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<<<Week 66
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More from What’s on Watson’s Plate

Health Diary Week 66: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Busy Bee

Busy bee on the driveway, 2020

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

It’s felt like a busy week. Has it been for real? Let’s see…

Job Application:

Firstly, apologies for the delayed post – a job I was applying for suddenly had the deadline brought forward from next Sunday to last night, so I had to drop everything and concentrate on that. I’ll tell you more about it next week.

Moving House (well, sort of):

Between my household, we’re doing a bit of house sitting of what was a rental property but is now waiting to be sold. We moved in some basic furniture and essentials and I’m planning to spend a few nights there each week. Packing and moving stuff kind of wiped me out – I felt like I’d completed a personal training session and the body aches the next day matched that feeling.

Facebook Group Admin:

As well as running my own Facebook page, I’ve also recently become an Admin on a covid long hauler food group, whose aim is to work together to pool resources. I had a video chat with Dawn, who set up the group, to discuss how we could encourage more members to contribute and I took away some tasks to work on.

Continuing Professional Development:

MyNutriWeb recommenced their free webinars and journal club. This week I attended How to be Vegan Savvy: A Practical Guide. I intend to write an Instagram/Facebook post about it soon, as there was some great information about building ‘Nutrition Bridges’, something I’m proud to report I’d already been doing.

Food and Nutrition

Okay, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices and identify any tweaks I could make to improve my nutrition…

Breakfast:

I’m loving a salad filled pitta for breakfast – it just feels refreshing. But I need to limit pitta consumption, because of its risky histamine ingredients, so I only had this twice and a pitta with yeast extract once (yeast is also risky, though usually tolerated in small amounts). I’m back on the cereal and had cornflakes with oat milk a couple of times. I had porridge oats once, with seeds, maple syrup and cinnamon. Another morning, I just ate some chia and flax seed crackers. I need more fruit in my life:

Week 66 Breakfasts. Left to right: Salad pitta. Cornflakes. Salad pitta

Lunch:

I had a version of my usual salad for lunch four times, once in a pitta and another time with a cornmeal and quinoa-based frittata (details here). Thank goodness for the freezer – twice I had previously batch cooked soup – cauliflower (my favourite) and butternut squash. I opted for my simple but satisfying pasta once (details here):

Week 66 Lunches. Left to right: Salad. Salad pitta. Frittata and salad

Dinner:

I had my trusty pasta for dinner three times, because it’s so easy when you’re strapped for time – I added courgette (zucchini) and red pepper and once I stirred in ‘not tomato sauce’ (from the freezer) for a bit of variety. On Monday, I experimented with coated cauliflower, using a plain flour instead of cornmeal, but it didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, although still tasted good, because I like cauliflower. I accompanied it with Mum’s homemade chips (fries), so that made up for my slight disappointment. My favourite meal was probably the veg and seed loaded jacked potato – such comfort food (details here). At the end of the week I made a vegetable paella. And, on Sunday, I experimented with a green sauce (more on that later) and topped my paella with it for a change from the night before:

Week 66 Dinners. Clockwise: Vegetable and seed pasta. Cauliflower bites and chips/fries. Vegetable and seed baked potato. Vegetable paella with green sauce. Vegetable pasta with not tomato sauce. Vegetable paella

Snacks:

I ate a small amount of chocolate most days – I seem to tolerate Booja Booja chocolate truffles, probably because they’re predominantly coconut fat (which is very high in saturates, so I need to keep my intake low). Raw chocolate coated goji berries seem okay too, so I’ll try to get some more of these. But it all went wrong when I ate a chocolate lolly (from Christmas), which I think triggered a pretty bad rhinitis histamine issue, so I definitely need to be careful about my chocolate choices. Other snacks were chia and flaxseed crackers, popcorn, Brazil nuts and crisps/chips-like products:

Week 66 Snacks

Drinks:

Typically, I drank a few mugs of chicory drink each day and I had rooibos (redbush) tea once. On Friday, whilst socialising with friends, I indulged in three vodkas (white rice based) with cranberry and apple juice – thankfully no ill effects experienced:

Week 66 Drinks

Exercise

At the beginning of the week the UK was battered by Storm Christoph, with over 200 flood warnings. It wasn’t too bad here, but there was enough wind and rain to put me off walking – I didn’t want a tree branch to fall on my head! I got out for a walk on four days, of which 135 minutes were brisk (over two hours):

Week 66 Exercise

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I lost both weight (1.2 lb/0.5 kg) and body fat (0.5%) this week – I’ll happily take that. I really want to get back down into the 150 lb bracket soon, but I know I should be prioritising reducing my body fat over the weight, so perhaps my aim should be to get down to 34% fat, as this is the top end of the acceptable range for my age (according to my scales booklet):

Week 66 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It’s a little bit sci-fi this week…

Food Experiment:

I decided it was about time I undertook another food experiment. I’d been inspired to try making a green sauce by someone on Instagram (I totally forgot to take a note of who it was, so sadly I can’t acknowledge them). My recipe is a mash-up of my cousin’s wife’s Mum’s (mouthful much!) green chutney and the mystery Instagram person’s green sauce. The base is coriander (cilantro) and macadamia nuts (ingredients here). I have to say it tasted great and is so versatile – use as a sauce, dip, spread or mix into coconut milk (occasional indulgence) for a mild curry-like sauce. I already have ideas on how I’m going to improve the recipe:

A portion of my green sauce

Let’s Talk:

I love that we now have widely accessible technology to see other people in real time when we talk to them. This week I met Dawn for the first time to discuss the Facebook group I’m assisting her with. We seemed to get on really well, which was a big bonus of course as we’re working together now. Also, I organised a Houseparty with my pub buddies who I haven’t seen as a group since before the Summer – so great to see this lot. And, I had my weekly catch up with Bevy and background Harry:

Online Meets. Image: mohamed Hassan, Pixabay

Threatened by a Dalek:

I was in the kitchen innocently preparing myself some food when a menacing voice repeatedly called ‘exterminate, exterminate!’ at me. I located the offender within a kitchen drawer. It seems the novelty dalek (Doctor Who) bottle opener’s contact had become nudged against some metal cutlery causing it to constantly shout at me:

Offending Doctor Who Dalek bottle opener

I found my pen:

You know how annoying it is when you can’t find your favourite pen (or something else) and all you can do is assume it’s been sucked into another dimension? Or is that just me? Anyway, I was pleased when the universe eventually returned my pen to me a week or so later, albeit in the depths of my weighted blanket cover:

My dimension hopping pen returned to present day in my weighted blanket cover

Twenty-One:

Realising that on Thursday at 9.21 pm it was the 21st minute, of the 21st hour, of the 21st day, of the 21st year, of the 21st century – like Wow!:

Twenty one: Image: Alejandro Garay, Pixabay

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

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Risky Business

Tandem Skydiving: Just me hurtling towards the earth with an Army guy strapped to my back (2006)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

There’s just a couple of updates for you this week’s …

Diary Re- Start:

Well, I’m finally back on the diary – I had to force myself to do it, but I’m glad I have, because it makes me more mindful about what I’m consuming (I think) – so yay, go me!

Water Leak:

Annoyingly, we had a water leak – water was seeping through the ceiling, so we had to let an ‘outsider’ into our house. We were all wearing masks, kept out of each other’s way where possible and ventilated the house by opening the windows. Although it raised the anxiety levels a bit, especially since it’s been a bad week Covid-19 wise, with the UK’s highest number of deaths so far in one day (1,564 on Wednesday), it was also good to see one of my friends briefly, as he also happens to be our plumber.

Food and Nutrition

Okay, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices and identify any tweaks I could make to improve my nutrition.

Food Risks:

I took a few ingredients risks this week where my low histamine diet is concerned, more than I’d realised when I looked back through my food diary whilst preparing this blog – I definitely need to keep an eye on this. The least risky were continuing eating mango and yeast (not together), as they’re usually okay in small quantities. Also, I’ve continued with a little dark chocolate most days, despite it potentially causing significant symptoms at usual intake – I seem to be okay with it though, which is fortunate since I love the stuff. But most importantly, I’m trying to slowly re-introduce legumes (seed-producing plants). Previously I’d tried green beans, a legume vegetable, but I experienced severe rhinitis. So, this time I attempted pulses (the dry seeds). More on this later.

Breakfast:

I’m happy to report I breakfasted on fruit three times – mango and melon. When I got up late (more often than I’d like to admit), I skipped breakfast (once) or took a light option of Brazil nuts (twice). Another morning I ate a salad pitta – who says you can’t have salad for breakfast? – Certainly not me. I should add that the pitta contained a little soya, as I used a teaspoon of vegan mayo:

Week 65 Breakfasts: Left-to-right: Melon. Salad filled pitta. Mango

Lunch:

It’s been a grey weather kind of week, which tends to veer me towards comfort food, so I opted for fusilli pasta four times. It’s so easy to prepare: Cook the frozen sweetcorn with the pasta, drain and mix with onion, chia seeds, dried herbs, turmeric, sweet paprika and rapeseed oil. On a side note, Mel from Lighter Brighter Me wrote a great post about comfort food recently. The remaining three days I had salad with a grain-based frittata or omelette:

Week 65 Lunches. Left-to-right: Simple pasta. Cornmeal based frittata and watercress salad. Pasta and salad pitta

Dinner:

Dinners were often comfort foods too. I had an always satisfying baked potato with courgette, cabbage and onion.  More potatoes – Mum’s homemade chips/fries, accompanied by cauliflower ‘cheese’ from the freezer. Also, excitingly, I had Christmas roast dinner leftovers from the freezer (details here). Of course, there had to be some rice dishes too – dhal (lentils) with brown rice and vegetable rice with a cheesy garlic roll (details here) – both delicious meals. And let’s not forget the pasta – I had spaghetti with vegetables and seeds in a not tomato sauce (details here) – tasty. After a big lunch, I just had a salad filled pitta with a few crisps/chips – I shouldn’t have eaten the crisps as they contained tomato powder (a big histamine no-no) – thankfully there were no noticeable consequences:

Week 65 Dinners. Left-to-right: Vegetable turmeric rice and cheesy garlic roll. Christmas roast leftovers: potatoes, stuffing, Winter mash and red cabbage. Vegetable and seed spaghetti in not tomato sauce

Snacks:

I’ve been incredibly hungry this week! Snacks included Brazil nuts, plain crackers, chocolates, crisps/chips, popcorn, poppadom and chocolates. Twice I had a pitta, once with salad, the other time with yeast extract:

Week 65 Snacks

Drinks:

As usual, I drank several chicory coffee replacements. I also had a rooibos tea once – this was my ‘go-to’ before I discovered chicory. I had fruit juice a few times, once with a double vodka:

Week 65 Drinks

Exercise

I’m pleased with myself that I ventured out for a walk five times this week – probably because Mum and I motivated each other more – Mum walks with me more at the moment because she’s unable to play tennis during lockdown. We achieved a respectable 197 minutes (over three hours), a massive improvement on last week’s 46 minutes:

Week 65 Exercise

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I really wasn’t sure what results to expect, so I was relieved to have lost some weight – 0.8 lb (0.4 kg), although my body fat remained the same:

Week 65 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

I was happily contented this week, so let me share with you what made me smile…

Legume Love:

I finally ate some legumes – lentil dhal, a wonderfully comforting food. And, what’s more, I didn’t react adversely – yay! I’m a big fan of legumes, not just because of their taste and versatility, but also for their health-promoting properties:

  • Increased satiety (fullness after eating), reducing risk of over-eating[1, 2].
  • Low fat and lowers fat absorption[3, 4].
  • Nutrient dense – many contain fibre, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals[3, 4].
  • Protection against heart, gastrointestinal and cancerous diseases[5, 6].
  • Cholesterol-free and reduces total cholesterol[7].
  • Particularly low glycaemic index – less glucose spikes[8], increases satiety and reduces appetite[9].
  • Feeds your health-promoting gut microbes (prebiotic) – these friendly guys produce vitamins and reduce inflammation[10, 11].
Dhal lentils and brown rice. This is a photo from Week 38 (pre low histamine), as the photo I took this week was a bit rubbish, so ignore the tomato mix

Quinoa Experiment:

I was really excited to receive some quinoa flour, as it’s a source of quality plant protein and fibre. So, I used the flour as a base for a kind of ‘omelette’ and served it with a side salad (details here). It tasted so good, but I had an issue with stability – it got stuck in the pan, so much so that the first slice came out as a blob – it was kind of funny. Obviously, some tweaks are required, although my frozen and reheated portion the next day stayed together better:

Quinoa Flour Experiment. Clockwise: Amisa quinoa flour. My quinoa base omelette after freezing and reheating, with salad. My first slices (blobs) of quinoa base omelette, with salad. Quinoa omelette sticking in the pan

Mum Portrait Artist – Take 2:

I was excited that Mum started on a painted version of my photo. I cheekily asked if I could also have a painted version as Mum previously created a pastel and painted version for my sister – so it’s only fair right?:

Mum the Portrait Artist. Clockwise: My painted portrait started. My watercolour pencil portrait. Emma’s pastel crayons portrait (Mum’s first portrait attempt). Emma’s painted portrait

Minnie Mouse?:

I did have a chuckle when I noticed that the way Mum had pinned my photo to the board made it look like I had Minnie Mouse ears. It reminded me of when I was a kid (back in the 80’s) and asked Mum to do my hair Princess Leah style and someone in my class complimented me on my Minnie Mouse look:

Me and My Unintended Minnie Mouse Ears

My Girls:

I had a lovely girly online catch up with my besties Bevy and Charlotte (and Harry in the background). We don’t get to meet up with Charlotte that regularly, so it was extra lovely to chat to her. We first met at work in the early 2000’s and have been close friends ever since:

Me, Bevy and Charlotte at work (2004). Haha, I actually look kind of tall in this photo!

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References

1. Reverri et al., 2017. Assessing beans as a source of intrinsic fiber on satiety in men and women with metabolic syndrome.
2. Boers et al. 2017. Efficacy of fibre additions to flatbread flour mixes for reducing post-meal glucose and insulin responses in healthy Indian subjects.
3. Thompson et al. 2012. Bean and rice meals reduce postprandial glycemic response in adults with type 2 diabetes: a cross-over study.
4. Li et al. 2014. Dietary pulses, satiety and food intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis of acute feeding trials.
5. Kouris-Blazos and Belski 2016. Health benefits of legumes and pulses with a focus on Australian sweet lupins.
6. Bahado-Singh et al. 2015. High fiber Caribbean diets with low-intermediate GI improve glycemic control, cardiovascular and inflammatory indicators in overweight persons with type 2 diabetes: a randomized control study.
7. Zhang et al. 2010. Benefits of a rice mix on glycaemic control in Asian people with type 2 diabetes: a randomised trial.
8. Jenkins et al., 1981. Glycaemic index of foods: a physiological basis for carbohydrate exchange.
9. Mollard et al. 2011. The acute effects of a pulse-containing meal on glycaemic responses and measures of satiety and satiation within and at a later meal.
10. Fernandez et al. 2015. Healthy effects of prebiotics and their metabolites against intestinal diseases and colorectal cancer.
11. Bukyen et al. 2010. Carbohydrate nutrition and inflammatory disease mortality in older adults.

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Health Diary Week 64: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

We Are Family

My Grandmother (Nana)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

Here’s what’s new in my life this past week…

Lockdown:

I should probably start with the big news here in the UK – we are back into a national lockdown (3.0) due to a concerning (though unsurprising) rapid rise in Covid-19 cases, related hospital admissions and deaths. This hasn’t majorly changed my behaviour, as we were already being really cautious and following the science, rather than governmental updates.

Long Lost Family:

My biggest news personally is discovering about 90 new family members – how amazing is that?! My Mum had chatted to family in Australia, who told her about our extended family group on Facebook, so I joined too.

Job Interview Update

Last week, I forgot to update that unfortunately I missed out on the NHS Occupational Health and Wellbeing Practitioner position. I was told I was a close second choice and there was nothing I could do to improve my interview. The successful candidate already had experience working in the NHS and a specific mental health qualification. Upon reflection, I should have talked more about my mental health training from when I was a University Disability Adviser and the relevant mental health modules in my Health Sciences degree. I’m still really pleased with myself though, as I usually find job interviews incredibly challenging, whereas I enjoyed this one.

Food and Nutrition

It was another diary-free (and lax on the low histamine diet) week, although I did take some photos of what food was on my plate…

Salad Meals:

As you know, I often enjoy a salad for lunch. On my current low histamine diet, I skip the tomato, avocado and vinegar containing dressings. My salad is still tasty though and includes mixed salad leaves (not spinach or rocket), beetroot, radishes, cucumber, celery, spring onion, chia and/or pumpkin seeds in a sweet paprika and rapeseed oil dressing, with steamed potatoes and a cornmeal-based (no eggs) vegetable frittata (ingredients here):

My Typical Salad Lunch: Low histamine style with cornmeal-base frittata

Pasta Meals:

I never get bored of pasta – currently I’m having brown rice or corn-based fusilli or spaghetti accompanied by vegetables. My ‘go-to’ veg are courgette (zucchini), sweetcorn, green cabbage, grated carrot and sweet white or spring onion. I’ll often have a simple pasta lunch when I’ve run out of fresh salad items and load it with sweetcorn, onion, chia, flax and/or hemp seeds, mixed herbs, turmeric and rapeseed oil. Dinner pasta calls for more veg and sometimes quinoa or polenta balls (ingredients here):

Pasta and Veg Meals: Left: Fusilli. Right: Spaghetti with quinoa balls

Rice Meals:

Rice and vegetables have become a staple since adopting a low histamine diet – it’s an easy ‘go-to’ dinner:

Rice and Veg Meals

My Food Highlights:

One of my meal highlights this week has to be the comforting cauliflower ‘cheese’ with roasted sweet potatoes, pan-fried courgette and steamed purple carrot. The sauce didn’t actually contain any cheese and was instead sweet potato based – delicious:

A very saucy cauliflower ‘cheese’ (sauce made with sweet potato), roasted sweet potatoes, pan-fried courgette and steamed purple carrot

My other favourite were vegetable puff pastries (I made these) and Mum’s homemade chips (fries), although admittedly an incredibly high fat combination. And I scoffed my way through two batches of veg puff pastries this week, so that’s a lot of saturated fat! – but they were ever so tasty!:

Left: Veg puff pastries and Mum’s homemade chips. Right: Some of the vegetable puff pastry ingredients – see, it’s not all beige, at least not on the inside

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Okay, so I gained 3.2 lb/1.5 kg. This sounds like a complete disaster right? – Fear not, it wasn’t. Initially, the gain was a bit of a shock, but then I remembered I was expecting to weigh around 162 lb anyway at this stage after holiday indulgences – it’s just last week I lost weight for some reason when I expected to gain, so the 3 lb jump this week seems a lot. The truth is, I haven’t been particularly careful about what I ate and only went out for a walk once, but I needed a break from behaving. I’m aiming to be back on track from next week:

Week 64 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

So, let’s move on to some of the experiences that made me smile over the past week…

Family:

Earlier I told you about discovering loads of extended family I never knew I had. I’ve particularly loved looking through the old photos, noticing some family resemblances and connecting with new people. It’s made me reminisce about my amazing Nana who was dedicated to caring for her local community as a District Nurse:

Old Family Photos: Top: My beautiful Nana (grandmother). Bottom: My Nana as a girl (front row, sitting) with her family, Near Bhusawal, India

Online Socials:

Happily, it’s been a rather social week, albeit all online. I chatted to Bevy and Harry a couple of times, Tina and Becky and family (Emma, Carl, my Aunt and Uncle). And a monthly catch up with Karen, Julie and Chrissy – Chrissy led a bitesize mindful movement and breathing session, which was fabulous and much needed. There are still several friends I need to catch up with, so hopefully I’ll be doing that soon too:

Calming gardens in Luang Prabang, Laos (Eco Adventure Tour, 2006)

Portrait Artist Mum:

I might have told you previously that last year Mum completed portraits of my sister and the boy she used to look after. So, this week, it was finally my turn – yay! Mum decided to try out her new watercolour pencils to replicate my latest profile picture . My friend’s daughter might have influenced the inclusion of the sea-life additions (Week 63). I absolutely love it:

Portrait Artist Mum: Portrait of me at various stages

Cute Kittens:

I was searching through some photos for my extended family group and stumbled across some of the adorable kittens I looked after when house sitting for friends a couple of years ago. There were four kittens and two cats – what was I thinking?! It was a challenging, but heart-warming few days. The kittens learnt to climb over the child barrier from the room they were supposed to be residing in, during the short time between my friends leaving their home and me arriving. So, they weren’t where I expected to find them and I frantically searched for the little guys. On another occasion, I found one kitten hiding in a bag hanging on the back of the door – how on earth did the little tyke get in there? And how could I not share this?:

Cute Kittens: Kitten and cat sitting for friends (Lancing, 2018)

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

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A Brief Update…

Me Outside CommuniKate, Wales Trip (2005)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate. Unlike my usual posts, this will be a briefer one, as I’m taking a bit of a break, which means I’m not keeping a diary for a few weeks. I still want to continue communicating with you all though, so I’ll report my weekly results and share some positivity.

What’s New

All-in-all it’s been a very quiet week.

Hello 2021:

Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all much happiness and success in 2021. Unsurprisingly, given the circumstances, I had an incredibly tame New Year’s Eve – just my parents and I at home watching TV. Very different to last year’s rowdy night at the pub. It was pleasant enough though. I opted for one cheeky alcoholic beverage – Polish potato-based vodka with cranberry juice:

My vodka and cranberry juice indulgence

UK Covid-19 Cases Rising:

As expected, Covid-19 cases (especially the new variant) are rapidly increasing. So, there’s been more movement into the top Tier 4 restrictions (I was already in this), which is very close to a localised lockdown. Thankfully, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use in the UK, which is great as it is more easily distributed than the current Pfizer one. Frustratingly, it sounds like it may take quite some time to trickle down to me, but I’ll be happier when my parents have been vaccinated.

Food and Nutrition

So, I didn’t keep a food diary this week – it was nice to have a break from tracking everything so closely. I was a bit lax on managing my histamine levels – although I mostly opted for low histamine foods, I did indulge in chocolate, ‘cheese’ and bread. So, I kept dosed up on medication to control most symptoms (I experienced some fatigue and nausea) – not the best method, but it’s only temporary.

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I was completely surprised that I didn’t gain weight and body fat this week! Instead, I lost 1.8 lb (0.8 kg) and 0.3% body fat – amazing! I didn’t feel like I ate less or more healthily, so was I more active? I checked my Active 10 results for the past couple of weeks – I walked 66 minutes more compared to Week 62 and an extra 52 minutes were brisk walking. Maybe that swung it?:

Week 63 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Despite this being a shorter version of my usual post, I still wanted to share some of my week’s positive experiences with you all …

Storytime:

I absolutely love Pretty Pretty Good Short Fiction’s short stories, so I was really pleased to see a new release “Once upon a time… long, long ago…”. I look forward to the daily chapter publications, although sometimes I save them up for a good binge read. This tale was a little different to the previous love stories; instead, it was written from a child’s perspective, focused on homemade cookies made with mum. I could totally relate to this, as I fondly remember my sister and I baking cookies with our Mum and wanting to eat the lot immediately!:

My sister and I baking with Mum at Christmas time (actually, I just seem to be running around!), Tortola, BVI, late 1980’s (One of my favourite photos ever, because of the memories)

Delightful Nuts:

Macadamia nuts are one of the three types of nuts I know I can consume on a low histamine diet. Sadly, I wasn’t that keen on them despite their creaminess. As shared in Week 62, I was delighted to discover they work really well as a flavoured ‘cheese’, my favourite being onion, garlic and herb (ingredients here). I’d had some leftover in the freezer, so I decided to try it as a pasta sauce with added spring onion and sweet paprika (details here) – so delicious – I’m actually craving cheesy pasta now just thinking about it!:

Macadamia nut ‘cheese’. Clockwise: Cheesy pasta. Macadamia nuts. Crackers and bits with macadamia cheese. Macadamia ‘cheese’ spread

Snow – Well, a Little:

What a wonderful surprise to awake to snowfall on Tuesday morning, especially since we rarely get snow in these parts of the UK (video here). I threw on my dressing gown and hurried outside to enjoy the large clumps falling from the sky. I’m glad I went outside to appreciate it, as the snow didn’t settle and soon disappeared:

Snowy Morning. Left: Snowy sky. Right: Me in the snow soon after rolling out of bed

Princess Ariel:

I updated my Facebook profile picture and had a surprising load of likes and lovely comments. My favourite comment was my friend who said her young daughter was watching her scroll through the feed and asked if I was Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid – how adorable and incredibly flattering. To be fair, this isn’t how I look day-to-day – I’m usually somewhere in between ‘just-rolled-out-of-bed’ (above) and ‘made a proper effort’ (below):

Princess Ariel? Left: My latest profile picture. Right: Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid (Image: peridotmaize, Pixabay)

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

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