Health Diary Week 54: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Real Meals: Week 2 Histamine Elimination Diet

Butternut Squash Risotto

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

What’s New

Firstly, apologies for the delayed post – it’s been a tough week – my second on the Swiss Interest Group strict histamine elimination diet[1] and I’ve had some last-minute socialising (safely distanced) before lockdown:

Resisting Antihistamines:

The diet advises refraining from taking my usual antihistamine or steroid spray, to accurately track progress. This was scary, as this year, I’ve developed an increasing reliance on these medications to get me through the day and sometimes even then, they didn’t prevent severe rhinitis. More recently, in desperation, I sometimes took an extra dose of the antihistamine – I know – this wasn’t good practice. So, I’m amazed I haven’t taken any of this medication for nine days (as of Sunday). But it hasn’t been an easy ride – I’ve felt constantly exhausted and I’ve had to contend with several days of severe rhinitis (I got through two boxes of tissues!). And, I’ve had itching episodes (this was new for me), a couple of times developing a rash across my chest and shoulders.

Progress:

I was thinking I should be feeling loads better by now, but I’ll keep going for the duration (another two to four weeks) and check my diary to identify any patterns. I think part of the issue could be environmental (e.g. dust, pollen). I’m also wondering if I have an issue with oat milk, as it often contains minimal histamine due to the fermentation process. But the other plant-based option, rice milk, has the same issue. Or perhaps, it’s the blueberry muffins I ate that weren’t super fresh after a day? I’ll keep an eye on how it goes.

Histamine Intolerance:

If you’d like more information on histamine intolerance and its symptoms, the Swiss Interest Group[2] and Dr Tina Peers[3] provide a helpful overview. Here’s some typical symptoms to be aware of:

  • Rhinitis: Runny nose, sneezing, coughing, throat irritation, breathing difficulty
  • IBS symptoms: Bloating, wind, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, heartburn
  • Skin issues: Eczema, psoriasis, rosacea (flushed face), itching (e.g. scalp), rashes (arms, legs, trunk), severe reaction to insect bites, swollen eyelids
  • Painful joints (muscles, jaw, neck, groin), easy bruising, period pains (including when not menstruating), cystitis episodes
  • Insomnia, exhaustion (ME), migraine, dizziness, nausea, vomiting.

Appetite Reduction:

I’ve been pleased to notice a reduction in my appetite and lack of food cravings (e.g. chocolate, coffee) since last week’s rice and potato diet. I kind of feel like I’ve been reset. I kept putting larger portions on my plate and then only eating half – I’m loving this side of things at least.

Food and Nutrition

So, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate and how my diet has changed since Week 52:

Breakfast:

I had porridge oats three times, topped with either apple or blueberries, flax and chia seeds, sweet cinnamon and a maple syrup drizzle – I have to say this was delicious – why didn’t I have porridge sooner? Next time, I’m going to try making my porridge with water instead of oat milk to see what happens with my rhinitis. Apples are a renewed love too – I’ll be eating more of these. I also indulged in jams on rice cakes, which was rather tasty:

Week 54 Breakfasts

Lunch:

My first substantial meal after the rice and potato diet was butternut squash risotto (a change from my usual risotto) – it tasted amazing! My previous Typical Salad has been replaced by a new one: mixed leaves, spring onion, celery, radishes, cucumber, beetroot, chia and pumpkin seeds, mixed into sweet paprika and rapeseed oil, with a side of steamed potatoes. Rapeseed is a good choice, as it’s low in saturated fats (6.6%) and high in health-promoting polyunsaturated fats (88.6%) (Fats graph in Week 6). If I want something more filling, I can add fusilli brown rice or corn pasta. I experimented with quinoa, accompanied by asparagus and beetroot (pic in Dinner section) – it tasted okay, but needs some tweaking:

Week 54 Lunches

Dinner:

After the late lunch of butternut risotto, I only had a freshly made (thanks Mum) blueberry muffin for dinner. There was a pasta salad, the quinoa meal I mentioned above, a rather tasty pumpkin and coconut milk curry-ish (I couldn’t use all the usual spices), a large baked sweet potato (I froze half) with asparagus and white cabbage and a large baked potato (I froze half) with sweet paprika and rapeseed oil (my new ‘go-to’ dressing). I’ve noticed my meals are rather yellowy-orange these days!:

Week 54 Dinners

Snacks:

My snacking habits are completely different now – there’s no chocolate! Rice cakes are my new friend – topped with some cheeky jam. Also, crisps have been replaced by popcorn, either sweet and/or salty. I can eat Brazil, pistachios and macadamia nuts and most seeds – a good savoury ‘go-to’. I toasted seeds (in sweet paprika and rapeseed oil, of course) from my pumpkin – they were very more-ish. Mum made another batch of blueberry muffins, so I indulged in these too:

Week 54 Snacks

Drinks

I’ve changed this heading from ‘Alcohol’ to ‘Drinks’, since alcohol is not permitted on the elimination diet and I’ll only be able to drink it occasionally on a low histamine diet. And when I do, I’m better off sticking to clear spirits. I had regular sips of water that haven’t been recorded in the below table. My drink of choice was rooibos tea, but I’m concerned it’s staining my teeth when I don’t use milk and milk might be an issue. I’m also enjoying apple and cinnamon tea and I’ve introduced peppermint tea too. I’m going to have a look at what other teas I can include:

Week 54: Drinks

Food Diversity

I was concerned I may not be eating enough of a diverse diet to feed my little gut buddies (health-promoting microbiota), so I decided to check my intake and I’m pleased to report I consumed 50 different plant foods this week. The last time I checked this was Week 31 – what a different diet I had back then, containing many high histamine foods:

My 50 Challenge – Week 54’s Food Diversity

Exercise

It’s been another week of minimal activity, because I just haven’t felt up to doing much. I’m pleased that I had a couple of walks, totalling just over two hours – that will do for now:

Week 54 Exercise. My Active 10 walks. Bug hotel spotted at a train station

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Excellent – more weight loss – 1.4 lb (0.6 kg) since last week. I gained a bit of body fat though (0.8%), but I’m not surprised given the amount of rapeseed oil I’ve been using to replace dressings and sauces. I need to try the British Dietetic Association alternative to tomato sauce[4] recipe at some point:

Week 54 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

I’m pleased to share with you a few of the experiences that made me smile this week:

I’m Looking Sharp:

I was looking back through my photos and saw the below ones that made me chuckle. I didn’t have a positivity section at that time, so I didn’t share this with you then… Apparently, I was looking sharp in my new profile picture – check out my fruity self! I suppose kiwifruit (my hair) can taste quite sharp:

I’m looking sharp! (Sorry for the poor picture quality)

Rugby Six Nations:

I love a bit of rugby, even though I’m confused about what’s going on half the time. The Six Nations was suspended earlier this year when that virus hit. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the final matches were going ahead. My Saturday consisted of watching all three matches. England won the cup – yay!:

Rugby Six Nations (Images: from www.sixnationsrugby.com/)

Vegan Diets Webinar:

It was encouraging to attend a webinar about supporting people on vegan diets to eat healthily, without anyone trying to make it sound like it was complicated, because it doesn’t have to be. I love the infographics produced by Science and Seaweed for MyNutriWeb. There’s a really handy Vegan Eatwell Guide[5] for obtaining a well-rounded nutritious diet. If you’re interested in veganism, or eating a more plant-based diet, there’s some helpful resources by The Vegan Society[6]:

MyNutriWeb Vegan Diets: Person Centred Practice Webinar (Images: MyNutriWeb)

Mum’s Coconut Art:

We’ve been collecting empty coconut shell halves leftover from our bird feeder and wondered what to do with them. I suggested we do something artistic, like making little scenes. Mum took up the challenge and started trialling Christmas scenes – love this!:

Mum’s Coconut Christmas Scenes Art

Another Family Reunion:

Naturally, my week’s highlight was that my sister and her boyfriend decided to visit us for the day. I’m so glad they did, because later in the week it was announced that England is re-entering lockdown. We risked sitting in the conservatory as it was cold and windy outside – we usually only socialise outside. It was lovely to see them again:

Emma and Carl

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.

>>>Week 55
<<<Week 53
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References

1. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.
2. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2019. Histamine Intolerance Outline.
3. Dr Tina Peers, Ca. 2020. Symptoms of HIT.
4. British Dietetic Association Food Allergy Specialist Group, 2018. Sensitivity to Histamine and other Vasoactive Amines.
5. The Vegan Society, 2020. Vegan Eatwell Guide.
6. The Vegan Society, 2020. Vegan and Thriving.

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate:

Health Diary Week 53: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Histamine Elimination: Rice, Potatoes, Repeat

Rice, Potatoes, Repeat

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

What’s New

Well, what a challenging week! I started my histamine elimination diet[1], opting for super strict, meaning only rice, potatoes, salt and sugar[2] on the menu for seven days straight. I’d planned to fast for the first three days, because I felt so yuck after last week’s indulgences. But I soon changed my mind when I realised I’d also have to contend with caffeine withdrawal, since coffee, black and green teas and chocolate were being eliminated. Instead I opted for one meal a day until Thursday.

The worst of the caffeine withdrawal symptoms were over the first five days, manifesting as headaches, fatigue (I kept falling asleep during the day) and some gut discomfort. I’d gradually reduced my coffee intake leading up to the elimination diet, but clearly not enough. In hindsight (don’t you just love it), I should have gone through the caffeine withdrawal prior to starting the diet. Also, this would have helped me cope with the rhinitis, as I caved into taking antihistamines for those five days, because I couldn’t deal with those symptoms on top of the withdrawals.

Food and Nutrition

It was my most boring week ever of food I’m afraid. I literally just ate rice and potatoes all week, with salt added for flavour. I tried adding a little sugar a couple of times because it was ‘allowed’, but decided I wasn’t really into and it wasn’t necessary as I was eating carbohydrates anyway (more info on carbs here). Rice was either brown, white or cracker form. Potatoes were either steamed, baked or oven wedges without any oil.  Below is a collage of my whole week’s meals – the top row is what I ate Monday through to Wednesday. The other rows are each day of the week in succession:

Week 53 Meals: Potatoes and rice – Very beige!

Alcohol

No alcohol – just water all week. I tended to opt for a large mug of boiled water, just because it felt more comforting:

Week 53: Lots of mugs of boiled water

Exercise

There was absolutely no exercise. I spent most of my time in bed napping on-and-off:

Mine and Claudia’s most extravagant stay (by far) in South America (1 night, Quito, Ecuador) before heading off to the Galapagos Islands (2008)

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I lost 5.6 lb (2.5 kg) in just one week, taking my BMI down to 29.0 (back to overweight from last week’s return to obese) and my body fat reduced by 2.7% to 39% – lovely. Now, I know my results for the week look pretty impressive, but that’s to be expected given my minimal food intake Monday to Wednesday and my limited diet of just potatoes and rice. I’m not going to lie – of course I enjoyed seeing my numbers drop so much, especially after last week’s gain:

Week 53 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

As I said earlier, it was an incredibly challenging week, so it’s nice to look at the positive experiences. Surprisingly, there were quite a few smile-provokers:

Cracking Shoulder:

My highlight has to be when my right shoulder cracked loudly and re-aligned itself correctly after a couple of weeks knowing it wasn’t in the right place (hypermobility issues). The pain had been nearing unbearable – it felt like all the ligaments and tendons in my arm were stretching in the wrong direction when I moved it and I was thinking I’d need to seek medical help. The relief when it realigned was immense – it’s still sore, but I can cope with that:

Shoulder and arm pain – ouch. Image: Tumisu, Pixabay

Knotty Hair Relief:

Recently my hair had become annoyingly knotty on the ends, but I don’t feel comfortable going to a hairdresser salon yet. So, I entrusted Mum with the scissors and said, ‘go for it’. I think she did a decent job, not that I’ve looked at it closely:

Knotty hair relief hair trim. Image: sille23, Pixabay

More Learning – Cardiometabolic Health:

Yep, more learning for me. This week’s MyNutriWeb continuing professional development was part two of ‘Cardiometabolic Health and Plant Based Eating’. I’m, so loving the increased promotion of plant-based eating for healthy ageing. The key recommendations were not to get caught up on individual nutrients and instead look at dietary patterns. Also, it’s important to choose a diet you feel you can adhere to best. The recommended diets we looked at were Mediterranean, Vegetarian (ranging from vegan to flexitarian) and Nordic:

MyNutriWeb CPD: Cardiometabolic Health & Plant Based Eating. Images: MyNutriWeb Instagram

My Brian:

I don’t have a Brian, but I do have a brain. I was amused to see this game advertising brain health development as it had a key spelling mistake, which didn’t promote any confidence in me that it would improve my brain. Oh, and that below figure of 72 wasn’t my brain age! – Maybe it was Brian’s?:

Advertised game: Reduce your brian age! Image: Word Crush

1,000 Likes – Yay!:

Wow, I’ve reached 1,000 Likes. Thank you so much to everyone who has pressed that Like button, especially to those who read my posts – sometimes you just get Likes without your post being read, with the expectation to return those Likes. Just so that you know, I never Like a post unless I’ve read it first:

1,000 Likes on WordPress – Thank you 😊

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.

>>>Week 54
<<<Week 52
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References

1. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.
2. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2020. SIGHI-Leaflet Histamine Intolerance: Dietary Change.

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate:

Health Diary Week 52: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

One Year Review: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning…

Me on my 1st Birthday, 70’s style

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Hi, I can’t believe it’s already a year since I started on this health challenge! So, it’s time to review my year and also reflect on when my health concerns first began. And of course, I’ll also include some smile-provoking experiences – appreciating those little things in life became high priority in 2020, but I intend this to be part of my everyday life moving forward.

Overview

Part of me would have liked some big reveal of my health improvements, kind of like they do on TV weight loss series. But then I considered how not all health improvements are visible – it’s not all about weight. And people can lose weight in an unhealthy or non-sustainable way – I don’t want that – I want to age healthily and enjoy my life. I remind myself it took nearly five years to regain the weight I initially lost (more on that below), so how on earth could I expect to lose it all again in just a year? My aim was (and still is) to make sustainable lifestyle changes to gradually lose the excess weight impacting on my pain levels (hypermobility issues) and reduce risk of developing Type 2 diabetes[1] (a condition both sides of my family have contended with). So, my primary objective was (is) to restore my healthier lifestyle and move forward from there. This isn’t a race – I’m in this for life with the intention to live healthily (well, on the whole). That sounds sensible, right?

Now, the way things panned out haven’t been as expected – who would have known we’d have to massively adapt our lifestyles to survive a pandemic? Certainly not me. So, I’m proud of myself for not giving up, despite probably contracting the virus back in March and struggling with some lingering symptoms of insomnia and brain fog for months (more about this here) – thankfully, I think this is now mostly resolved.

Okay, so let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start… hang on, I sound like Maria from Sound of Music! Sorry, I digress…

History

So, what I should share (and did share in Week 0), was that this isn’t my first struggle with health and weight – it’s my second.

Late Night Socials:

I love socialising, alcohol was often a key component – I‘d go out most night’s in my late teens and 20’s and every weekend in my 30’s – I guess what I’m trying to say is I drank a lot of alcohol and snacked on less healthy convenience foods, sometimes equivalent to a meal, late at night. It caught up with me in my 30’s – I started becoming uncomfortable with my size at some point – it was a very gradual process. Also, I started experiencing food intolerances (gluten, dairy, sulphites) and worsened reactions to pollen and dust.

Left: Me aged 19 about to head to a house party. Right: Me aged 21 at College Summer Party (1990’s)

Weight Gain, Injury and Hypermobility:

I had no real health concerns until my early 30’s, when I started noticing a weight gain. So aged 32, I re-took up tennis and swimming – activities I’d loved as a kid. But then I decided to try jogging regularly and within a couple of months, I was experiencing excruciating pain in my feet – all exercise stopped. A couple of years later (at my heaviest weight), I was finally referred to a podiatrist who diagnosed plantar fasciitis, most likely caused by my rubbish running technique and hypermobile ankles offering little stability. The podiatrist identified several hypermobile joints[2] and explained high impact exercise was no longer an option for me – gutted.

Young flexible me flinging myself around fearlessly – there’s not much evidence of my bendiness as we didn’t take so many photos back in the 80’s

Turning things around:

Understanding my issues better, enabled me to work around them. So, I set up health challenges with various friends and Mum – I lost about 15 lbs (6.8 kg). Also, I re-took up swimming (less pressure on the joints) and completed my first 5 km swim challenge. Another important factor was transferring to part-time work, enabling more time to focus on my health behaviours.

After completing 5km Swimathon, 2012

Feeling healthier, increased my motivation to continue moving forward. I felt ready to start addressing the food intolerances – gluten was eliminated from my diet. I also gave up caffeine to improve my sleep – I had 10 days of horrible withdrawal symptoms. All was going well, until December when a cold progressed into a horrific sinus infection – the pain was unbelievable. I had a recurrence a few months later, spurring me on to eliminate dairy, followed soon after by becoming completely plant based (I was 37). I lost about 20 lbs (9.1 kg) during this time and felt at my healthiest since my 20’s. It took about four years to get to a place where I was happy with my weight – Wow! – I hadn’t fully grasped that until now, having looked at the below table:

My decade of changes: Weight and key events

Studying and Weight Gain – The Three S’s:

As you can imagine a lot of people questioned my plant-based diet, which was great, because this finalised my decision to study Nutrition – I had to take a long-winded route, studying Health Sciences with The Open University first (in hindsight I’m so glad I took this route) because I couldn’t jump into an accredited course[3] with no relevant science qualifications. The decision to study led to my assessment confirming Dyspraxia[4] (at 38) – finally I understood myself better.

However, five years of intensive studying took its toll and slowly the unhealthy habits crept back in and I regained the weight lost, along with regular flare-ups of food and environmental intolerances. I’ve asked myself what happened? Looking at the above table, I’d say the culprits were:

  1. Sitting for long periods of time (reduced NEAT – non-exercise activity thermogenesis[5])
  2. Stress from throwing myself into a degree level science with little prior knowledge, followed by completing a postgraduate degree in a year
  3. Sleep deprivation from long nights studying

(I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks based on my above table)

Late night studying. Image: Ambady Sasi, Pixabay

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not regret having put those five years into studying, because not only am I more confident, I’m also proud of the skills developed and knowledge obtained.

My Progress

After graduating from my latest degree, I decided it was time to take some time out to focus on myself and gain back my healthier lifestyle (more on this in Week 0). And that’s how the idea to write this blog came about – I needed accountability.  

So, what’s happened after a whole year? Well, everything moved in the right direction. I lost 5.8 lb (2.6 kg) total – I get that this doesn’t sound like much, but it could easily have gone the other way given the challenges 2020 have presented – namely that virus – I was unwell for 68 days (long-haul COVID?) and continued to have sleep difficulties until mid-September (180 days – yep I tracked it). Add to that, my intensive physical activity levels plummeted with cancellation of circuit training and lack of fitness after illness. And then there’s the social isolation – not great for a comfort-eater. Am I making excuses? – Yea, I guess so, but they’re kind of warranted.

My weight increased by 1.8 lb (0.8 kg) from last week, because I indulged in foods I knew I had to cut out from Week 53 – at the end of the week I ate three pieces of chocolate cheesecake over two days! The most notable overall changes are that my right thigh lost 9 cm (don’t worry, both thighs reduced proportionately) and bust reduced by 7 cm. And I’m pleased I lost 5 cm from around my waist. My waist to hip ratio is still in the high-risk zone for type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but it has decreased at least. I view this past year as only the start – I’m still highly motivated to keep moving forward, so please continue to stick with me.

Week 0 versus Week 52 body changes: Weight, BMI, body fat, waist circumference (WC), hips, waist to hip (W:H) ratio and right thigh, calf and bicep

And, if we look at my body shape, it’s changed a little – my waist is more defined – I’m a little more toned looking. Oh, and my boots zip up – that was a concern at the beginning of this. One thing’s for sure, I feel better than this time last year, despite everything 2020 has thrown at us.

Left: Me at the beginning of November, 2019 (a couple of weeks into the health challenge). Right: Me now, 2020

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Okay, I couldn’t leave without sharing some smile-provoking experiences:

Cuteness:

I saw Bevy and Harry’s son, Lawrie, briefly after his swim class. I hadn’t seen the little guy in real life since probably February. Lawrie looked very cute in his spiderman robe. And he was so good listening to his parents about maintaining physical distance. But when it was time to leave, he reached out his hand towards me and said, “Come on Katey, let’s go” – cuteness overload! I wanted to hold his hand but resisted. It was so lovely to see him though (oh and Bevy and Harry too of course):

Remember the days when we could hold hands? Image: Bruno Germany, Pixabay

Exercising my Brain:

Ah, more learning for this knowledge hungry lady. It was Breast Cancer Awareness week, so naturally the MyNutriWeb continuing professional development webinar was ‘Breast Cancer and Diet’. The four key recommendations were to limit alcohol (there is no safe limit), maintain a healthy weight, be physically active (follow the national guidelines) and breastfeed if you can if you have children. It was heartening to hear that UK survival rates have doubled over the past 40 years due to improved detection and treatment:

MyNutriWeb ‘Breast Cancer and Diet’ webinar and infographic

Freebie:

Who doesn’t love a freebie? In preparation for my low histamine diet, I‘d ordered some nutritional supplements from the Vegan Kind Supermarket. And kind they were, for they sent me an unexpected mallow puff chocolate bar with my order, which I promptly devoured, thank you very much Vegan Kind:

Mallow Puffs gifted by Vegan Kind Supermarket

Calamitous Katey:

Why is it that when I’m being particularly careful, I seem to have unfortunate incidents? Knowing that a comforting cup of cocoa could be a joy of the past, I decided to indulge this week. I was carefully resealing the pack, aware it wouldn’t be used for some time, when… Whoosh! Cocoa powder exploded out of the bag all over the kitchen cabinet! Obviously, I called Mum in to witness the result and we giggled at my mess before the clear up commenced:

The cocoa powder spillage

Motivational Quotes:

I do like a motivational quote. My former job share Marjory and I used to share a book of quotes and we’d leave it open on a page for the other to read when they arrived at work. So, I wanted to share some quotes I found regarding perseverance:

“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”

Earl Nightingale (1921-1989), American philosopher, motivational speaker, radio personality and author.

“Sometimes the strength within you is not a fiery flame that all can see, it is just a tiny spark that whispers softly, “you got this, keep going.”

Unknown

“It’s perseverance that’s the key. It’s persevering for long enough to achieve your potential.”

Lynn Davies CBE, Welsh former track and field athlete.

“There is no failure, except in no longer trying.”

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915), American founder of the Roycroft Arts and Crafts community, philosopher, lecturer, critic, publisher, novelist, essayist, and biographer.

“When you feel like quitting, remember why you started.”

Unknown

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.

>>>Week 53
<<<Week 51
Home

References

1. Diabetes UK, Ca 2020. Type 2 diabetes?
2. Hypermobility Syndromes Association, 2017. What are hypermobility syndromes?
3. Association for Nutrition, 2020. Accredited Programmes.
4. Dyspraxia Foundation, 2019. Dyspraxia in Adults.
5. Malaeb, S., Perez-Leighton, C. E., Noble, E. E. and Billington, C., 2018. Workplace Health and Safety [online] 67 (3), 102-110. A “NEAT” Approach to Obesity Prevention in the Modern Work Environment.

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate:

Health Diary Week 52: Delayed

Image: mohamed Hassan, Pixabay

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Week 51

Hi, just a quick update to let you know that unfortunately my usual Wednesday health diary post is postponed for Week 52. I usually write up the week after my Monday weigh-in and work on it until I publish on Wednesday. But this Monday I started my histamine elimination diet (Week 53) and since then I’ve had a horrible headache preventing me from using a screen for long. I’m assuming caffeine withdrawal is involved . I’m aiming to complete my Week 52 blog for Friday – fingers crossed!

Also, sadly I’ve not been able to read everyone else’s blogs – I hope to catch up on those soon too, because I love reading them.

I hope you’re all doing okay.

Week 52>>>
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Health Diary Week 51: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Once Upon a Time… in Watson World

Open Book Landscape Scene: Mystic Art Design, Pixabay

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

What’s New

It’s been a relatively quiet and happy week. Here’s my updates…

Guest Blogs:

Excitingly, I published my first Guest Blog written by my cousin, Alice, who works in the clinical trials industry: Mythbusting the Coronavirus Vaccine. It was an informative read, supported by useful references (I especially liked the first video that provided an animated explanation of vaccines). I’m looking forward to sharing more Guest Blogs in the future.

General Health:

I’m relieved to report I’m still sleeping well and I feel back to usual resilient self. The rhinitis issues are ongoing – most likely because of what I’m eating – but I’ll be addressing these soon with the looming strict Histamine Elimination Diet[1] from Week 53 onwards. Also, I’m still struggling with a painful right shoulder and arm, but I’m hoping that will ease up soon.

Dyspraxia Awareness Week:

It was Dyspraxia Awareness Week. Dyspraxia[2] is the lesser known cousin to Dyslexia. When I was diagnosed with Dyspraxia in my late 30s, a friend retorted “it’s just a label, everyone has problems” – what they didn’t realise was that I’d lived my life feeling stupid in disguise. The diagnosis provided a life-changing insight into myself and now I’m happy with me and I don’t feel stupid at all (well, not often). Okay, so we know there are plenty of challenges for us neurodiverse individuals to overcome, but we mustn’t forget our many positive attributes:

Dyspraxia Awareness Week Instagram Screenshots: @genuiswithinuk and @bpw_14

Food and Nutrition

Right, its time to have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices. I should warn you, this week I’ve unashamedly indulged in some of my favourite foods, because of my soon to be food limitations and the need to free-up some freezer and cupboard space…

Breakfast:

I really am a sucker for those oat biscuits! – I had these for breakfast four times. I also had a sausage sandwich twice and two bubble and squeak veggie cakes:

Week 51 Breakfasts

Lunch:

For lunch, I had My Typical Salad five times. The remaining days, I ate a Singapore style curry noodle pot and rice crackers with hummus:

Week 51 Lunches

Dinner:

My dinners were a mix of convenience and fresh foods, other than on Monday when I had Mum’s delicious veg curry and dhal, leftover from last week. I enjoyed a vegfurter hot dog and a Shawarma and salad kebab. I had burgers twice, one soya-based with oven fries and salad; the other burger was jackfruit, accompanied by oven potatoes, peas and sweetcorn. And then there were cheesy nachos twice, loaded with plant protein mince, tomato salsa, lettuce and once also with avocado – yum!:

Week 51 Dinners Table
Week 51 Dinners: Clockwise: Pant Kitchen burger, oven chips and salad. Waitrose jackfruit burger, oven potatoes, sweetcorn and peas. Shawarma and salad kebab and corn on the cob. Plant Kitchen mince loaded on cheesy nachos with salsa and lettuce

Snacks:

Well, I ate some chocolate every day, not excessively at least. Also, I worked my way through some chickpea and bean snacks and canned sodas:

Week 51 Snacks

Alcohol

I drank rum with soda on weekend evenings, again, not excessively: four rums on Friday and two on Saturday evening, with half a can of soda per rum:

Week 51 Alcohol

Exercise

I had another one of those weeks with reduced physical activity, totalling 184 minutes, just over three hours. That’s not bad, but not where I’d like to be either – I aim to work on improving this:

Week 51 Exercise. Top: Table. Middle: Walking: Beautiful flowers. Wii informing me about my walking issue – the combo of Dyspraxia and hypermobile ankles and hips doesn’t help. Some strange plant thing. Bottom: Wii compliments – wow!

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Well, my weight stayed the same, but my body fat percentage increased. I’m pleased there was no weight gain at least. I’m in a kind of in-between zone, knowing my diet is going to be incredibly strict soon for at least a couple of months, so I’ve not worried too much about what I eat:

Week 51 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Don’t you just love a good story? Well, I do. Now, I’m not guaranteeing a good story, but I decided this week’s What Made Watson Smile would be presented in story-teller style, just for a little change…

Chapter 1: The Stalker Spider:

Once upon a time [that’s how all the best stories start apparently], Katey [that’s me], was sat at her computer, diligently researching, when out of the corner of her eye she noticed a rather large spider walking up her shoulder towards her face. As you can imagine, this was rather a shock for poor Katey, resulting in a squeal, a leap to her feet and flinging the ‘Nana’ shawl, previously wrapped around her shoulders, onto her bed – bad move Katey – now the spider was potentially making itself cosy in her bed! She couldn’t locate it, so all Katey could do was try her best to forget the incident ever happened.

By the next morning, Katey had completely forgotten about the spider incident. But mid showering, she noticed a spider hanging out above her head – she figured it would stay put. Did that spider stay put? No, it did not – it climbed down towards her, so Katey hastily completed her shower and started examining an emerging pimple (how annoying) on her chin. Now, that very same spider decided to exit the shower and amble along the ceiling to position itself above Katey’s head. “Really?” she thought. So, Katey sidled across to the other mirror (this one magnified her spot – nice!) to continue her inspection. Temporarily distracted by her blemish, Katey disregarded the spider, but upon gazing upwards, she saw it was above her head yet again! “Why was this spider stalking her?” she wondered. “Could it be the same spider as last night?”. Of course, she realised this was highly unlikely, but Katey decided it was so and that this spider wanted to be her friend, so she bid Frankie (as he became known) farewell and continued with her day…:

The stalking spider – well not the actual one. (Image: Clker-Free-Vector-Images, Pixabay)

Chapter 2: Wii Bully:

Imagine Katey’s surprise at the start of her Wii Fit training session, when Wii asked her how healthy she thought Val [aka Mum] was. Wii even asked Katey if Val looked fatter! Katey thought this rather rude but, responded that Val looked the same. Well, Wii wasn’t believing that for a second and suggested Katey wasn’t paying enough attention – to be fair this could be true, but what a thing to say! Wii continued this awkward discussion with a ‘side note’, informing “that dogs become more motivated when their owners pay more attention to them” – definitely a gearing up to offensive from Wii’s usual passive aggressive self. Was it wrong that Katey sniggered? Yes, probably. Katey knew that at that very moment Val was in the fresh air obtaining her daily exercise playing tennis:

Wii Fit: Bully antics

Chapter 3: Naked Ladies!:

How dramatic one can sound! – It wasn’t in reality. Wednesday was a gloriously sunny morning, so much so that Katey got her arms and legs out to soak up a bit of immune-supporting Vitamin D during the driveway morning coffee – bare legs in October? Yes indeed. Whilst chatting with her parents, Katey watched the frequent bird visitors and gazed at a lovely white butterfly, whilst her Dad noted how good his ‘Naked Ladies’ looked, and Mum mused aloud about her current art project. Katey spent much of her day on the driveway, including a lovely afternoon meet-up with her bestie, Bevy:

Driveway. Clockwise: The driveway and my rather large coffee. My bare legs soaking up some Vitamin D. Butterfly beauty. Dad’s Naked Ladies

Chapter 4: Rainy Mindfulness and a Little Mishap:

Now, by Wednesday evening the clouds rolled in and rain arrived. How quickly the weather can change in Blighty! Thankfully, the previously postponed Mindfulness meet went ahead regardless. Katey prepared sufficiently by wrapping up warm and arming herself with an umbrella, blanket and hot apple and cinnamon tea. Karen’s garden looked welcoming as always, with a beautifully decorated canopy to offer shelter from the rain and gentle lighting. Chrissy led a wonderful mindfulness practice, calming everyone’s minds. Afterwards, the conversation easily flowed. As the evening progressed, the canopy gradually lowered under the rain’s weight. Just as the group were making arrangements to leave, the overhead canopy suddenly collapsed – the wooden peg leg shot out of the ground, over Chrissy’s head (with a small donk), the collected rainwater emptied itself between the gathered friends (a soaking narrowly avoided) and Julie became encased in the canopy sheet and could no longer be seen. Well, you can imagine the surprise and the subsequent giggles. Thankfully, all survived relatively unscathed and headed home to bed in their warm dry homes:

Rainy Mindfulness socialising. Top: The beginning of the evening with intact canopy. Bottom: Me adequately prepared for the rain

The End. Or perhaps not…

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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References

  1. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.
  2. Dyspraxia Foundation, 2019. Dyspraxia in Adults.

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Guest Blog: Mythbusting the Coronavirus Vaccine

By Alice Taylor

9th October 2020 (updated 13th November 2020)

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Introduction

Hello! I’m Katey’s cousin Alice and I’ve spent 10 years working in the clinical trials industry. As you can imagine, over the past few months I’ve been following the news of coronavirus vaccine development closely, both from a personal and professional point of view. More recently, I’ve also seen alarming claims about the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine go viral on social media and am concerned that these claims may harm efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

A misleading message about the vaccine that was shared on my road’s coronavirus support WhatsApp group. I have seen many similar messages posted on other social media platforms.

I’ve written this article to explain more about the changes the UK government are proposing to make to existing vaccine legislation, and how these changes would apply to a coronavirus vaccine specifically, to try and combat misinformation.

To clarify, the organisation I work for now doesn’t have a potential coronavirus vaccine in development.

What is a vaccine?

A vaccine is a type of drug which is designed to prevent someone from getting a disease, rather than treating a disease once someone has already caught it. Vaccines work by teaching the immune system to fight against a weakened version of a disease, which is unable to cause the disease itself. This means that if the actual disease ever shows up in the body, the immune system will recognise it and can defeat it quickly before it causes any problems. Watch this video[1] for more information.

The World Health Organisation estimates that vaccines prevent 2 – 3 million deaths globally each year from diseases like diptheria, tetanus and pertussis[2].

How is the UK government proposing to change the law with regards to a coronavirus vaccine?

The British government published a consultation paper on the 28th August 2020[3], which lists changes they are proposing to make to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012[4]. This law governs the licensing, manufacture, wholesale dealing and sale or supply of medicines for human use. The consultation paper was addressed to key people and organisations with specialist knowledge of public health and the existing law, although anyone was welcome to comment on it.

The 2012 Regulations already state that exemptions to certain aspects of this law can be made for medicines used to treat a pandemic disease, like COVID-19. However, the law doesn’t currently allow any exemptions for medicines used to prevent pandemic disease, so a coronavirus vaccine would not be covered by the existing legislation. As the government believes an effective COVID-19 vaccine will be the best way to deal with the pandemic[5], they are proposing to change the law in several ways to make widespread rollout as easy as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the proposal, based on comments I have seen on social media. Note, these questions and answers only cover this particular proposal – I haven’t tried to predict any further changes the UK government may consider, or how other countries may choose to roll out a vaccine.

If the coronavirus vaccine is unlicensed, does that mean it hasn’t been tested?

No, ‘unlicensed’ doesn’t mean ‘untested’. All drugs in the UK have to go through three phases of clinical trial testing to prove the drug is safe and effective before they can be rolled out more widely, and this is true of every potential coronavirus vaccine too. There are currently over 40 different coronavirus vaccines being developed by scientists all over the world, in various stages of the testing process[6].

It usually takes a really long time, sometimes up to 10 years, for all three clinical trial phases to be completed. As the COVID-19 pandemic is an urgent, global threat, the testing process is being sped up by overlapping some of these phases. (Check out a really useful diagram which illustrates this here[7].) This is a much more difficult and expensive way of conducting clinical trials, which is why this isn’t the normal process. Although the trial phases for potential coronavirus vaccines are being accelerated, in the UK the testing itself within each phase is no less strict than it would be under normal circumstances. At each phase, if there isn’t enough data to show a coronavirus vaccine is sufficiently safe or effective to move on to the next phase, that vaccine will be abandoned.

Licensing is the stage that takes place after these three trial phases have been completed, where the licensing authority (the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency [MHRA] in the UK) reviews all the trial data. It then decides whether the drug should be granted a license, and what patient population, disease indication and dosage that license covers. If a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine is available, as proven by clinical trial data, the manufacturer will still have to apply for a license from the MHRA. However, given the circumstances, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (who advises UK health departments on immunisation)[8] will advise the UK government to proceed with coronavirus vaccine rollout before a license has been granted if they believe there is strong enough evidence to do so.

Could I sue the drug company or the person administering the coronavirus vaccine if I had a bad reaction after receiving it?

Generally speaking, no. The law already protects drug manufacturers from being sued in the civil courts when the licensing authority recommends that an unlicensed product is used in response to a public health threat. The government is proposing to expand this legal protection slightly to include drug companies who want to put an unlicensed product on the market, where that drug company is not the manufacturer of the drug – as is the case with several of the potential coronavirus vaccines, which are being developed by universities rather than drug companies.

You couldn’t sue the person administering the vaccine either. The law already protects people administering licensed vaccines from being sued, on the understanding that it isn’t their fault if someone has a bad reaction after vaccination (provided they administered the vaccine correctly). The government wants to amend this part of the law to include people administering unlicensed vaccines too, for the same reason.

You could still sue the drug company if the vaccine is defective, with defective defined as not as safe as you are entitled to expect. Likewise, you could still sue the person who gave you the vaccine if you could prove it was administered incorrectly.

Could I claim compensation from the government if I had a bad reaction after receiving the coronavirus vaccine?

This isn’t yet clear. The government does currently operate a compensation scheme called the Vaccine Damage Payment[9] for people who are severely disabled as a result of vaccination. Individuals are only eligible for this payment, given as a one-off tax-free sum of up to £120,000, if their severe disability was caused by vaccination against certain specific diseases. The government hasn’t yet clarified if coronavirus will be added to this list of diseases. 

Will the people administering the coronavirus vaccine be unqualified or non-medical?

No, the people administering the vaccine will be qualified. Given the huge number of people who would have to be vaccinated in as short a timeframe as possible, the government wants to amend the law to allow healthcare professionals who do not normally vaccinate, e.g. midwifes, physiotherapists and paramedics, to be able to administer a coronavirus vaccine. The group of people allowed to administer a coronavirus vaccine may be expanded further to also include those who are not registered healthcare professionals. In all cases, there would be a detailed protocol to follow to ensure all of these people are appropriately trained via an NHS approved training programme before they may start vaccinating.

The people administering the coronavirus vaccine most likely will be non-medical – just as they are now when it comes to other vaccines. ‘Non-medical’ means anyone except doctors or dentists, so that includes pharmacists and nurses, who administer most vaccines like the flu jab already[10].

Will the coronavirus vaccine be mandatory or mass promoted?

No, the proposed changes to the law do not include plans to make a coronavirus vaccine, or any vaccine, mandatory in the UK.

The government is planning mass promotion of the coronavirus vaccine in a similar way to how they promote the flu vaccine. It is already legal for vaccination campaigns to be advertised to the public, but the vaccines in these campaigns currently have to be licensed. The proposed changes would allow the promotion of an unlicensed, temporarily authorised COVID-19 vaccine.

Will the coronavirus vaccine be 100% safe?

No, no vaccine is 100% safe. The underlying principle behind a coronavirus vaccine, same as any other vaccine, will be that vaccinating is safer than not vaccinating[11]. People can and do suffer bad reactions from vaccines and this is unquestionably terrible for those affected. However, this is a very, very small proportion of the total number of people who receive vaccines, the vast majority of whom experience no significant side effects. Given the potentially fatal consequences of COVID-19[12] – as well as serious long-term effects aka ‘long covid’[13] – and provided that there is very robust scientific evidence to support it, the government would deem the benefits of taking a coronavirus vaccine to far outweigh the risks. It is up to individuals to decide if they agree.

Update: Consultation Outcome (added 13-Nov-20)

The government published the outcome to their public consultation on proposed changes to the Human Medicines Regulations on the 16th October[14]. Based on the 191,740 responses received, the government will go ahead with drafting legislation to amend the existing law as they had outlined, and as summarised above, with 3 key changes:

1. Attaching conditions to a temporarily authorised vaccine

The consultation outcome emphasises that although the existing law contains a provision that enables the temporary authorisation of an unlicensed medicine in response to a public health emergency, this provision should only be used in truly exceptional circumstances. The decision to use this provision will only be used at the request of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if the MHRA advises that there is robust evidence to demonstrate that the vaccine is sufficiently safe and effective. The government has amended the proposed changes to say that a review must be done within a year of the first use of this provision in order to evaluate the whole process, but they note that they expect any temporary authorisation to be short-term anyway as it would cease as soon as a full license is granted.

2. Extending immunity from civil liability

Many people responding to the consultation were concerned that pharmaceutical companies would not be held accountable for any problems with the vaccine (e.g. serious side effects). The consultation outcome explains that the existing law already recognises that it is unreasonable to ask drug companies to take on the liability for consequences of the government’s decision to authorise the supply of an unlicensed drug. However, the outcome stresses that you would still be able to sue the drug company who make the vaccine in the event of a ‘sufficiently serious breach’ of the approval conditions set by the government. Where the original consultation proposed that the courts would judge the seriousness of any breaches of the approval conditions from the perspective of a pharmaceutical company, the outcome states that the courts must instead make this judgement from the point of view of a person who has ‘relevant expertise in the subject matter of the breach’.

3. Expansion of the workforce

The consultation outcome makes it clear that new vaccinators must undergo comprehensive training and pass a competency assessment, under the clinical supervision of a healthcare professional, before they can administer vaccines to patients. Based on the consultation feedback, the government has added a requirement for new vaccinators to receive continued supervision by an experienced vaccinator, where appropriate, once this training is complete.

The outcome also clarifies that vaccinators must obtain informed consent from each person receiving the coronavirus vaccine before it is administered, as is standard practice now for all other vaccines or indeed any kind of medical treatment, test or examination[15]. This underlines that the coronavirus vaccine will not be mandatory – it will only be administered to people who voluntarily consent to receive it, after they have been fully informed of all potential benefits and risks.

Vaccine Information Resources

If you’re looking for further information on vaccines and the coronavirus vaccine in particular, try the following links:

  • The Oxford University Vaccine Knowledge Project[16] – an excellent resource recommended by the NHS for all kinds of clear, general information about vaccines, with detail on those which make up the UK immunisation schedule.
  • Full Fact: Coronavirus Treatment[17] – Full Fact is a charity based in the UK which addresses a wide range of viral misinformation. Their expansive coronavirus coverage includes responses to claims that RNA vaccines change your DNA, and that Bill Gates is planning to put microchips in COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center: Vaccines FAQ[18] Johns Hopkins University in the US has been a brilliant source of coronavirus information from the start of the pandemic. Some common questions about the coronavirus vaccine are answered here, while elsewhere on their vaccines hub they go into detail about COVID-19 vaccine trial design, regulatory integrity of vaccine studies and more.
  • CDC: Busting Myths and Misconceptions about COVID-19 Vaccination[19] – a short but useful piece from the American Centers for Disease Control tackling common COVID-19 vaccine myths.
  • WHO: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Advice for the Public: Mythbusters[20] – a very handy page that pools together a large number of myths about the coronavirus, including the claim that vaccines against pneumonia offer protection against the coronavirus.

I’ve found it a lot harder than I thought it would be to find good resources debunking coronavirus vaccine myths specifically, so I’m not surprised that misinformation about it has been able to spread and take hold among the general public so stubbornly. Speculation, unconfirmed reports and outright lies have filled the hole where reliable information should be. Experts are well aware of this issue and know that it’s essential that it’s dealt with in order for the vaccine to be rolled out successfully[21]. Now the first effective coronavirus vaccine is on the horizon (albeit with many questions still to be answered[22]), hopefully a comprehensive, nationwide myth-busting campaign will follow shortly. In the meantime, if you do see or read something alarming about the coronavirus vaccine, remember to follow advice on how to spot misinformation[23] before you get tricked into believing (and worse, sharing) something untrue.

References

1. https://youtu.be/-muIoWofsCE
2. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/immunization-coverage
3. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/distributing-vaccines-and-treatments-for-covid-19-and-flu
4. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/1916/contents/made
5. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/distributing-vaccines-and-treatments-for-covid-19-and-flu/consultation-document-changes-to-human-medicine-regulations-to-support-the-rollout-of-covid-19-vaccines
6. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html
7. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-54027269
8. https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/joint-committee-on-vaccination-and-immunisation
9. https://www.gov.uk/vaccine-damage-payment
10. https://www.independentnurse.co.uk/news/health-secretary-draws-ire-of-practice-nurses-over-flu-jab-remarks-1/229985/
11. https://vk.ovg.ox.ac.uk/vk/vaccine-safety
12. https://ourworldindata.org/mortality-risk-covid
13. https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3489
14. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/distributing-vaccines-and-treatments-for-covid-19-and-flu/outcome/government-response-consultation-on-changes-to-the-human-medicines-regulations-to-support-the-rollout-of-covid-19-vaccines
15. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/consent-to-treatment/
16. http://vk.ovg.ox.ac.uk/vk/faqs-about-vaccines
17. https://fullfact.org/health/coronavirus/?utm_source=homepage&utm_medium=trending#treatment
18. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/vaccines/vaccines-faq
19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/about-vaccines/vaccine-myths.html
20. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters
21. https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2020-11-10-covid-19-vaccine-reliable-communications-needed-beat-infodemic-misinformation
22. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-54880084
23. https://fullfact.org/health/how-to-fact-check-coronavirus/

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Health Diary Week 50: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Coming Soon…

Image: Priyam Patel, Pixabay

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Hi and 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 wet week – loads of rain and general greyness – surprisingly, this hasn’t brought my mood down and I‘m continuing to feel positive – decent sleep makes a massive difference (Week 48 provides an insight into how I combatted my insomnia). The only downer has been the ongoing rhinitis (aka snot and sneezing). Now I’m really silly, because I know the rhinitis is probably caused by what I’m consuming, but I’m kind of ignoring that, as I only have a couple of weeks left before I seriously  restrict my diet (temporarily I hope) in an attempt to break the excess histamine cycle (more in Week 47).

A happy, smiley me this week

Coming soon!:
I’m really excited to announce I’m going to share my first Guest Blog post on Friday 9 October. I’d recently been thinking about how so many people I know have inspiring health stories or interesting specialisms, but don’t necessarily have the platform for sharing. So, I thought why not share my platform with family and friends. We’ll be debuting with my cousin, Alice, who works in the clinical trials industry – very relevant given the current COVID-19 vaccine trials. More stories to follow soon (hopefully)…

Food and Nutrition

So, let’s move 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:

My breakfasts were mostly mixed grain cereal with almond milk. I’ll be swapping to gluten free oat milk soon, as almonds, well, all tree nuts, which is pretty much all nuts, will be off the menu. I’ll be replacing nuts with more seeds. Other meals were fresh papaya and yeast extract on toast:

Week 50 Breakfasts. Left: Nature’s Path cereal. Right: Papaya

Lunch:

Predictably, I had My Typical Salad four times, accompanied by hash browns or falafel. I enjoyed more salad stuffed into a sandwich with ‘ham’ slices, twice – I do love a good sandwich. Also, I had a Thai red curry ready meal, as I’m trying to make space in the freezer for storing homemade meals, because according to the British Dietetic Association, any aged food (e.g. ready meals, refrigerated leftovers, fermented) results in increased vasoactive amines (including histamine)[1], meaning I need to avoid these and immediately freeze any leftovers:

Week 50 Lunches. Left to right: My Typical Salad. Amy’s Kitchen Thai red curry. Quorn ‘ham’ and salad sandwich with crisps

Dinner:

On Monday I had leftover cauliflower roast with a baked potato and purple carrots. We had vegetable fajitas the next day – I’m going to have to come up with a tasty alternative on my elimination diet. Mixed bean chilli, which I had twice will also be a thing of the past, as will the chickpea curry and lentils I also ate. But I’ll try to reintroduce beans and lentils soon after my elimination, as legumes have many health-promoting properties. Oh and no more soya, so the burger will be out too. Despite the looming restrictions, I’m kind of looking forward to finding new meals to enjoy – I like to experiment:

Week 50 Dinners. Clockwise: Roasted cauliflower. Curry, dhal and rice. Mixed bean chilli and garlic bread. Vegetable fajita

Snacks:

There was quite a bit of snacking this week. My appetite seems to have increased with the change in season. I’ve inadvertently moved the oat biscuits to the morning snack slot – that’s basically me having enough willpower to resist them at breakfast, but totally caving when I meet my parents for morning coffee. I had crisp-like snacks a few times. I ate a bit of chocolate every day, except for when I indulged in Mum’s highly indulgent pavlova – made with leftover water from a chickpea can, instead of eggs – delicious! – honestly:

Week 50 Snacks. Left to right: Eat Real quinoa chips. Pineapple pavlova with whipped cream (‘wow!’). Montezuma mint chocolate

Alcohol

On Monday evening, I finished off the last of my low-sulphite red wine – just one glass – from when I met with Elise in her garden over a week ago – surprisingly it still tasted fine. Saturday night was more excessive – I drank the equivalent of six spiced rums with three cans of cola. I finished the evening with my last bottle of gluten free beer. I felt surprisingly okay on Sunday, although my sleep was disrupted, so it became a ‘duvet day’ – it was wonderful – the duvet day, not the disrupted sleep:

Week 50 Alcohol. Left: red wine. Right: Gluten-free beer

Exercise

Well, it wasn’t hard to improve on last week’s minimal physical activity. I’m happy I totalled over four hours exercise, with two Wii Fit sessions (77 minutes total), 50 minutes on the exercise bike and two walks (two hours total according to Active 10, including home pottering). The walks were strategically timed for breaks in rain – there were still raindrops on the flora photos:

Week 50 Exercise. Clockwise: Shy squirrel. Berries. Yellow flower (that’s all I know). Some kind of inedible berry?

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Okay, my weight stayed the same at 167.4 lb (75.9 kg) – I’m totally okay with this, as I expect to lose weight (with additional health gains) when I’m following the histamine elimination diet. It pleased me that my body fat percentage reduced by 1.5% – any progress shall be rightfully celebrated:

Week 50 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Ah, possibly my favourite section…

Creative Socialising:

Over the Winter months, my social bubble will decrease with expected increased viral cases (e.g. COVID-19, flu, colds). With the recent ridiculous amount of rain, we’ve become more creative about social space. I’ve used our garage to meet a couple of friends during downpours. We usually shut-off the conservatory when it’s cold, but agreed we’ll use it this year to replace our household driveway coffee mornings, so we’ve now got a toasty heater. On the rare occasion we might meet someone outside of our household in the conservatory, we decided to open the windows for ventilation and that it couldn’t hurt to use my air purifier (I originally got it to reduce allergens). N.B. I don’t think air purifier effectiveness has been tested on COVID-19 particles as yet (interesting Which? article about this[3]), so we still need to be as vigilant as always:

Creative socialising. Left: The garage set-up (chairs will be spaced further apart) and driveway/pond view from the garage. Right: My air purifier and the new heater for toasty(ish) conservatory socials when the garage isn’t a possibility

Nerd Joy at Journal Club:

I was excited for the upcoming MyNutriWeb journal club. I loved journal club at Uni, where we reviewed scientific nutrition articles. I even undertook a systematic review for my Dissertation, involving reviewing loads of gut microbiota experiments. The plan had been to complete a meta-analysis too, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough data for the statistical analyses. Sorry, I digress… This week we reviewed a paper investigating a specific fibre (prebiotic) and bacteria (probiotic) supplement(s) effect on the gut microbiota and immune function – interesting right?:

Images: MyNutriWeb: Journal Club info and my certificate of attendance

Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

I should clarify, having IBS doesn’t make me smile, not that I have it – thankfully I don’t – okay, so that’s a positive in itself. But unfortunately, it’s a condition experienced by many. So, it’s important, from a professional perspective, to review how to assess the symptoms and potential triggers. The MyNutriWeb webinar took a holistic approach, recognising how diet, the brain and microbiota are inter-linked. So, identifying and managing food and drink triggers (diet), reducing stress and negative thought patterns (brain) and improving gut health (microbiota) to reduce symptoms is important – fascinating stuff:

Images: MyNutriWeb IBS webinar and infographic

The Pond is Back:

I wondered if the pond next to our driveway would ever re-fill – it’s been empty all Summer. I was excited to see that the recent days of heavy rainfall resulted in a few inches of water (top right pic). I also took a photo of the pond from the other side (bottom left pic). I suspect the cats won’t be impressed their territory has been somewhat decreased – I hope we still see them from time-to-time:

Pond Views. Clockwise: Rainy day from the dry inside. Pond from the driveway. Beautiful butterfly. View from the other side

The Meringue Incident:

It’s rare I hear my Mum swear, especially the ‘F’ word, and so loudly too! She had one of our frequent Dyspraxia[2] incidents – the kind when you’re trying ever so hard to be really careful. Mum was removing an oven shelf to move the meringue up, but instead dropped the whole tray onto the meringue she’d spent ages beautifully presenting. We did have a giggle about it though. Thankfully, all was not lost, and Mum re-shaped the meringue (kind of), so you’d never know what had happened after she’d lavishly topped it with cream and fresh pineapple – I have to say it was delicious:

Top: That pesky jumping oven shelf. Bottom: Left: The squashed meringue re-shaping. Right: The beautiful end result

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. Oh, and remember, I’ll be publishing a Guest Blog post on Friday – please check it out.

>>>Week 51
<<<Week 49
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References

1. British Dietetic Association Food Allergy Specialist Group, 2018. Sensitivity to Histamine and other Vasoactive Amines.
2. Dyspraxia Foundation, 2019. Dyspraxia in Adults.
3. Woodger, C., Which?, 2020. Coronavirus: can an air purifier protect you?.

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate:

Health Diary Week 49: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

My Inner Mermaid

My sister in school production of Neptune’s Realm, BVI (1984)

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<<<Week 48

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

What’s New

I’m pleased to report I’ve felt more positive this week. I’m sleeping six to eight hours a night – a massive improvement on the four hours I was averaging over the past six months. Weirdly, I’ve felt more tired despite the additional sleep – it could be due to intolerance flare-ups, or the CBD oil (more in Week 48) or something else – who knows. I’m just happy to be regaining a healthier sleeping pattern.

I’ve had a few days of intolerance-type reactions with severe sneezing and snot (too much info? Okay, rhinitis sounds better), making me super tired and fuzzy-headed. I haven’t had a chance to research histamine intolerance further (more in Week 48), but I’ll get on it soon, as I really need to find a solution and get this under control.

I’ve applied to the NHS Professionals temp bank for administrative work. I figured it could be a good way to get my foot in the door – if I can just get my foot in the door. My two long-time employments started off as temporary positions – fingers crossed this strategy works here. Until then, I’m working on my continuing professional development and have drawn up a weekly schedule (yes, it’s an Excel spreadsheet – I just love a spreadsheet) to maintain some kind of routine.

Food and Nutrition

Firstly, I should explain I’ve been a bit lax on my nutritional choices, because I’m aware of the looming elimination diet and how restrictive it will be. Ironically, this probably contributed to my rhinitis flare-ups. So, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices…

Breakfast:

I used up the last of my frozen  sourdough bread with yeast extract, as I’m aware it will have to be eliminated from my diet soon and I want to make space in the freezer for what I can eat. I had some delicious strawberries – they’ll also be off the list. Other foods included those oat biscuits (twice) and cereal (twice):

Week 49 Breakfasts

Lunch:

I started the week with leftover curry, dhal and rice, but mostly I had salad; My Typical Salad five times and a filled wholegrain pitta once. I’m happy with all these choices, except that I’m back to the rapeseed chilli oil dressing (high in fat, but healthful omega-3 fat rather than saturated fat). My dressing choices are becoming limited, as my favourite balsamic vinegar will be off the list:

Week 49 Lunches

Dinner:

Dinners were often on the stodgy side – I craved stodge – I was hungry. This included a seriously loaded burger in a bun and oven fries, sausage sandwich and a disappointing Mac ‘n Cheez. My healthiest choice was the roasted tahini-coated cauliflower with potatoes, purple carrots and corn on the cob. Other decent meals were Nana’s spaghetti (pic in Week 46) and Shawarma and salad kebab:

Week 49 Dinners

Snacks:

My morning snacking was minimal; I had those oat biscuits once (they’re too tasty), another time some mixed nuts. In the afternoon I had chocolate twice, rice crackers with hummus and a pack of crisps. I snacked most evenings. I was particularly excessive on Wednesday, interestingly the day I struggled most with my intolerances – I ate seaweed puffs, ‘chicken’ slices, hummus, crispy seaweed and half a bar of chocolate. Spread over the rest of the week, I had chocolate, hot cacao, crisps/chips, pear and a falafel with hummus:

Week 49 Snacks

Alcohol

I drank the equivalent of five rum and sodas at the online family Houseparty on Friday night. I think this may have contributed to my rhinitis issues on Saturday:

Week 49 Alcohol

Exercise

I had no energy and lacked motivation for exercise this week, so it was minimal, only 107 minutes, incorporating a 30 minutes gentle swim (oh how I’ve missed swimming) and a 51 minutes stroll. On the up-side it should be easy to report an improvement on activity levels next week. Just to explain, my total walking for the week is 77 minutes, based on my Active 10 App, because it includes my general wanderings at home:

Week 49 Exercise
Some lovely flowers spotted on my walk with Mum

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I wasn’t surprised to have gained weight (1.6 lb, 0.7 kg) and fat (1.1%) this week, given my lack of physical activity and potentially larger portions of the foods I know I’ll miss when I undertake my histamine elimination diet:

Week 49 Results

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Despite only a couple of in person meet-ups outside of my household (with Elise and Bevy), I’ve felt like this was adequate social contact. We also had an online family get-together for my Uncle’s birthday, where I also saw my sister and her boyfriend. Here’s some other examples of my smile-provoking experiences:

Cats in the Pond!:
Okay, I’m being a tad dramatic – they’re patrolling the currently empty pond. It looks like there could be a looming territory battle between Jasper the Friendly Cat, Molly the Disapprover, New Cat and Elusive Cat. Jasper and Molly have already had a loud territory row. My money’s on Jasper – he’s pretty tough and seems to spend the most time there. It’s like my very own wildlife programme, but with cats:

Clockwise: Jasper the Friendly Cat. Molly the Disapprover. Elusive Cat (white and tortoise-shell coat – I’ve not captured a pic yet). New Cat

Bird Feeder Antics:
Meanwhile, a few feet away at the bird feeder… The Starlings are causing havoc! They deterred some of the smaller regular bird visits by swooping in together, taking over the feeder and constantly squabbling with each other. Surprisingly, the Starlings don’t seem bothered when a Pigeon or Dove want to share their dining space – they just like to argue amongst their own family unit:

Clockwise: Long-Tailed and Blue Tits, Starling and Pigeon. Starling and Dove surprisingly eating nicely together from the same tray. The return of the Long-Tailed Tits between the Starling raids. Starling raid

Embracing the Nerd:
Not literally! – I’m back on track with my Nutrition Continuing Professional Development. I’m incredibly grateful MyNutriWeb provide free accredited lectures. Also, they’ve just started a Journal Club – we’ll be discussing peer-reviewed scientific articles – I’m so looking forward to this:

Top: MyNutriWeb lectures attended and my certificates for the past two weeks – both had a strong emphasis on the benefits of plant-based diets for health and the environment. Bottom: Upcoming lectures

The Mermaid in Me:
I absolutely love swimming – I’d forgotten how much, as I’ve not been in a pool for well over a year – I’d become self-conscious about my body and stopped going – somewhat counter-intuitive I know. Elise convinced me to try the outside pool at her leisure centre as her guest. I was anxious about going into a public area but wore my mask (face mask, not snorkelling mask) for the brief amount of time I was inside. It felt amazing being in the pool (surprisingly warm for an outside pool) and I was pleasantly surprised I hadn’t lost too much technique, although it was painful for my right shoulder (it’s been sore for weeks). I can’t wait to get back into swimming again when it eventually feels safe to do so, maybe even setting myself a challenge – another 5km swim perhaps:

Me completing the 2012 Marie Curie Swimathon 5 km (200 lengths) challenge to raise funds for end of life care. It seems I had a turbo-powered advantage here – thanks Harry Jackson for capturing that shot! – he hadn’t actually realised – I was sat at my work desk looking through the photos during my lunch break when I spotted it and dissolved into uncontrollable giggles, pulling my boss out of her office, who found me with tears streaming down my face – she soon joined in

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.

Week 50>>>
<<<Week 48
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References

1. British Dietetic Association Food Allergy Specialist Group, 2018. Sensitivity to Histamine and other Vasoactive Amines.

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate:

Health Diary Week 48: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Social Butterfly

Me, ready for a ballet production (1980)

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<<<Week 47

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

What’s New

It’s been a good week. A big reason is breaking the insomnia cycle – since March, I was surviving on about four hours sleep a night – I should be getting seven to nine hours[1]. I’d considered swapping to a drowsy antihistamine, but I was concerned by dementia claims. NHS Behind the Headlines[2] somewhat eased my mind, but I’m still cautious, having read a more recent study[3]. So, I decided to try CBD oil instead. “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential” (World Health Organization[4]). (N.B. CBD oil can adversely interact with some medications). I chose a company regulated and compliant with EU farms, organically grown, provides lab reports, Vegan Society approved and with good external reviews. The first night I took it, I slept seven hours straight – I couldn’t believe it – finally a decent night’s sleep.

And, I had more social contact – outside, physically distanced, and no more than six of us or online meets. More about this in my ‘What Made Watson Smile’ section.

Also, we had an unexpected return of the Summer – not long ago we were commenting how Autumn had arrived, so it was a wonderful surprise to enjoy the sun and warmth this past week – I’ve spent a lot of time outside.

Other news is I had my first dentist appointment since lockdown. I was nervous about being inside a building that wasn’t my home, but it was okay – I felt quite safe, as it was well ventilated and seemed to have good hygiene procedures. Talking of which, I had a new Hygienist which I was also worried about, but she was lovely and didn’t hurt me at all despite having to use more traditional methods to avoid aerosol concerns. All was well with my teeth and gums – phew!

Food and Nutrition

So, 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:

Hmmm, I need to improve on my breakfasts. There’s no fresh fruit here and I keep reaching for those morning oat biscuits, but I suppose that will all change when I start my histamine elimination diet (more on that in last’s week post). My mixed grain cereal was okay, but I did add a quarter teaspoon of sugar, which I should try to avoid. Also, I had raspberry jam on my sourdough toast, another high sugar food:

Week 48 Breakfasts

Lunch:

As per usual my lunches were mostly salad-based. I omitted the hash browns/falafel from My Typical Salad unless I felt particularly hungry. Once I lunched on a wholegrain pitta, as I was time-limited – it was filled with loads of salad and half a cheese slice. On Sunday, we decided to have curry for lunch – Mum made an aubergine and potato curry, lentil dhal and brown rice that we accompanied with two poppadom each and various chutneys/pickles – delicious:

Week 48 Lunches

Dinner:

Three days in a row I had Vegetable Risotto, with some different veg than usual – I love a risotto. Another day mum made broccoli and cauliflower cheese – we had it with sausages, roast potatoes and carrot (including our homegrown ones). I ended up having the cheesy bake for three days – not a great move because of the high total and saturated fat content from coconut-based cheese. Following the curry lunch, I had a light dinner of a wholegrain pitta with sweet chilli hummus:

Week 48 Dinners

Snacks:

My snacking activity was predominantly post-dinner. Fruit was involved in afternoon snacks a couple of times, compensating a little for lack of breakfast fruit. I had chocolate over five days, but in small quantities, so I’m okay with that. My highlight surprisingly (only because I’m not usually a fan of crumble), was rhubarb and strawberry crumble (thanks Jen; photo in my positivity section), made extra indulgent by having both ice cream and custard – I’ll allow myself this one guilt-free, especially as I declined seconds – go me. But when I got home my parents offered me their leftover chip shop chips (high total and saturated fat) and I accepted – whoops:

Week 48 Snacks

Alcohol

Oh, it was going so well. I had my first beer (gluten-free) in over seven years and thought that would be that. But then we had an unexpected invite for wine in my neighbour’s garden to make the most of the last of the warm evenings. So, of course I accepted. Mum and I trundled round for a very pleasant evening and before we knew it, it was gone midnight and I’d drunk at least ¾ of a bottle of red wine – will I ever learn? But then, I’m very aware that soon I’ll start my low histamine elimination diet, so alcohol (and loads of other stuff) will be off my menu:

Week 48 Alcohol

Exercise

I’m pleased to report I incorporated some form of physical activity each day, including walking (nearing four hours over four days), Wii Fit (over two hours in three days) and exercise biking (a 45 minutes session) – adding up to over six and a half hours – a good hour more than last week:

Week 48 Exercise. Left: I’m hoping I don’t see more discarded masks on my walks. Also, please cut your disposable mask straps after use, so that wildlife don’t get caught up in them. Right: Curious squirrel

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

This week’s results weren’t as successful as I’d hoped for – my weight stayed the same at 165.8 lb (75.2 kg). Admittedly, my body fat increased by 1.3%. I’m not so worried about my results at the moment, because I expect to lose some weight on my histamine elimination diet when most of my favourite foods are removed, some potentially permanently (eek):

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

I think we better move on to what made me smile this week, before the thought of eliminating all my favourite foods detracts from my positive mood:

My Mum loves me so much she gave me the last asparagus:
I found one piece of asparagus lurking in the fridge. Mum steamed it up and placed it on my lunch plate as a little surprise. I see it like offering someone your last Rolo – we love asparagus in this household:

Wii Fit was Nice (to me):
I thought I should share Wii Fit’s nice side since I’ve previously mentioned its passive aggressive nature (Week 42 and Week 46). Of course, it still has its moments – most recently towards Mum, sneakily informing me she hadn’t trained for a while – to be fair, she was actually at tennis. Oh, and I was 24, my youngest yet on Wii Fit, just for one glorious day:

All going well balance-wise on ‘Yoga’ – it’s a different story on the ‘Balance’ exercises section

Some Wii Fit Personal Bests:
This week I achieved a few personal bests on the Wii Fit, including Balance. I completed Balance Bubble (beginner level) with the highest user ranking and I achieved the most spins on Super Hula Hoop (10 minutes). They may be small wins, but they’re wins nonetheless, so I’ll happily take them:

Top: Super Hula Hoop – I love how my Mum and sister are always hula hooping with me. Bottom: I’m still an amateur, but I completed the level, so I’m proud of myself

Homegrown Stumpy Carrots:
We were surprised the carrots from a ‘M&S Little Garden Seeding Pot’ grew, albeit they were rather stumpy, but tasted good – nicely flavoursome. Good going Dad:

Top right: Carrot haul. Left: Growing carrots in the garden during the Summer. Bottom: The M&S pots in the kitchen during Spring

Driveway Bird Feeder Antics (Continued):
Dad had to reinforce the bird feeder, because it’s taken such a battering from the heavier birds (lolloping pigeons and squabbling Starlings) and potentially other creatures. Sadly, we don’t see the Long-tailed or Blue Tits so often, possibly due to those pesky Starlings. Mummy Bird visits us less often too, sometimes she just flies down to say ‘hi’ and then disappears off again without eating. The pigeons love the new ‘perch’ and eat nicely together at the lower feeding station, completely oblivious to the squabbles above:

Who’s a Social Butterfly? Me, yes me!:
It’s been a wonderful week of catching up with people (physically distanced and outside), Bevy and Harry, Jen and co. and a last-minute invite to Elise and Mike’s garden to make the most of the last of the warm evenings. And, earlier in the week, I had a lovely catch-up with Claudia online:

Left: Bevy, in real-life – yay! It was sunny and we were lacking shade, so I suggested Bevy bring a hat – she wore it well. So, I thought it only fair to share a photo of Claudia and I wearing hats too – they were made for us by our Peruvian host family during our South American travels (2008)
Jen’s first ‘Crumble Connections’ meet-up – I really needed this – I mean the social connection, not specifically the crumble, although I have to say, Jen made an absolutely delicious rhubarb and strawberry crumble. There were five of us in the garden. (Photos by Jen, except the last one, that was mine)

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.

>>>Week 49
<<<Week 47
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References

1. Sleep Foundation, 2020.How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? [online]. Available from: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need.
2. NHS Behind the Headlines, 2015. Media dementia scare over hay fever and sleep drugs [online]. Available from: www.nhs.uk/news/medication/media-dementia-scare-over-hay-fever-and-sleep-drugs/.
3. . Coupland, C. A. C, Hill, T., Dening, T., Morriss, R., Moore, M. and Hippisley-Cox, J., 2019. Anticholinergic Drug Exposure and the Risk of Dementia – A Nested Case-Control Study. JAMA Internal Medicine [online], 179 (8), 1084-1093. Available from: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2736353.
4. World Health Organisation, 2018. Cannabidiol (CBD) Critical Review Report [online]. Available from: www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf.

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate:

Health Diary Week 47: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

The Human Yo-Yo

Image: OpenClipart-Vectors, Pixabay

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<<<Week 46

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

What’s New

It’s been a more positive week compared to Week 46 – admittedly there were a few lows, but all-in-all a better week overall. The insomnia experienced since I was unwell in March hasn’t helped, so I’m trying to resolve this issue. I stumbled across antihistamines[1] as a potential solution to break the cycle. This seemed ideal, as I already use antihistamines, so my plan was to swap to a drowsy inducing one and take it before bed. But further research revealed I need to wean myself off regular antihistamine use[2], because they could damage my health long-term and actually increase histamine release (annoyingly, I can’t find the source where I read about this issue). I may still try the antihistamines short-term though.  

Then someone shared an article about histamine intolerance[3], which took me down a rabbit hole of research, because it’s highly possible this is the root cause of my gluten, dairy and ‘sulphite’ intolerances. I’ve been known for my nose to get through a whole box of tissues in a day or for my stomach to bloat to the extent I look pregnant. Interestingly, according to Dr Peers[4] 80% of people with this condition are women and 80% have hypermobility[5] (which I have). So, I decided to investigate a specific elimination diet[6] of food/drinks containing histamine and those triggering its release (N.B. I’m confident to manage this diet myself because I have relevant nutrition and health qualifications, otherwise I’d consult my GP or a Dietician first). Completely changing how I eat again (the last time was 2013) is a daunting prospect, but I’m up for the challenge and intend to start from Week 53 to give myself plenty of time to undertake adequate research. And of course I’ll be sharing the progress with you all.

Food and Nutrition

So, 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:

Not such a great week for breakfasts. I’ve fallen back into the habit of the easy-grab oat biscuits – I should make porridge topped with fruit instead – maybe I’ll be more inclined to as we head properly into Autumn. I ate pineapple twice though, so that’s good (unless you’re trying to avoid histamines). And, I had cereal with oat milk once – I’ve recently swapped from almonds to oats as it’s more environmentally friendly, but I prefer the taste of almond milk:

Week 47 Breakfasts

Lunch:

I had a week full of salad lunches – it’s a good thing I love salad. On six days I had My Typical Salad – sadly this will have to be adapted soon to exclude tomatoes and avocados – I’m gutted about that, but hopefully they can be re-introduced eventually. We also had a delicious Shawarma kebab:

Week 47 Lunches

Dinner:

I didn’t realise until my week’s analysis just how much pasta I’d eaten for dinner – I had some form of it five times – I reckon I could happily eat pasta every day, but this isn’t a good idea, as diversity to obtain a range of nutrients is preferable. One of my non-pasta meals was a high fat, but tasty pizza; the other, was my highlight of plant-protein mince filled tacos – yum:

Week 47 Dinners

Snacks:

I didn’t snack loads, except over the weekend, especially during the evenings. The unhealthiest snack (high in sugar, total and saturated fat) were the chocolate ginger tiffin – I’d actually had these in my food cupboard since February and only ate them because they had reached their end date – I shared them with my parents during our morning coffee and bird watching meet-up on the driveway. Also, I had crisps/potato chips a few times, so that would have increased saturated fat intake. I think my chocolate intake was okay – another favourite food to be excluded during my histamine elimination diet – I’ll be okay, right? Right?:

Week 47 Snacks

Alcohol

I drank two bottles of cider when I visited the pub garden for my friend’s birthday. It turns out they weren’t a great idea – I ended up with a headache that lasted the rest of the evening and into the next morning. I’ll be giving up alcohol during my elimination diet – I might be able to re-introduce vodka later on an occasional basis:

Week 47 Alcohol

Exercise

My physical activity was less than I’d thought, totalling five hours, an hour less than last week. I’m pleased I incorporated WiiFit (once, 45 minutes) and exercise biking (twice, 90 minutes), as well as walking (twice, nearly three hours). I hope to report a higher amount of exercise next week, with all the activities listed, perhaps even two sessions of WiiFit:

I’ve got such long legs!

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Okay, so I put on a bit of weight, just 0.6 lb (0.3 kg), but on the up-side, I lost 0.6% body fat, which I’m happy about, as fat loss is a preferable outcome. My weight is yo-yoing somewhat, but as long as the overall trend, as slow as it may be, is in the right direction, I’m happy:

Graph: SI: self-isolation. LD: lockdown. PLD: partial lockdown

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Looking back on the things that made me feel more positive and smile was a particularly helpful activity this week and I’m glad I can share this with you all: 

Going Out-Out (well, sort of):
Tina kindly invited me to join her for some Birthday celebrations. So, I anxiously ventured to the pub for the first time since February. Granted it was on a weekday and during the afternoon, so, it was fairly quiet really, but great for me. It was lovely to socialise for a few hours with Tina, her Aunties and Ben. As the sun set, the Landlady pointed out the glowing orange-tipped trees effect – they almost looked Autumnal:

Jasper the Friendly Cat:
Jasper (not my cat) has taken to joining us for our morning driveway coffees. He seems very chilled. I’m kind of torn between my fear of him hunting our bird friends and loving having a cat around (my old girl passed away back in 2017). Thankfully, he hasn’t seemed interested in the birds so far:

Seeing my First Dragonfly of the Year:
I love dragonflies – I don’t know why exactly – maybe it’s just because I think they’re beautiful. So, I was happy to finally spot one flying above the driveway. Unfortunately, its visit was too fleeting to get a photo. But I’m hopeful I’ll be seeing more dragonflies soon and capture a picture:

Image: komkrich Srigoson, Pixabay (I wish I could say I’d taken this great photo)

Hello Friends:
I had lovely online chats with Chud and Bevy (separately). I was delighted to finally catch up with Mark – we met about twenty years ago at work and used to spend a lot of time belly-laughing, whilst being incredibly productive I should add. Naturally, we maintained the friendship after we both left the company. Also, I had a WhatsApp chat with Marjory, my former job-share – thankfully, we used to overlap once a week, otherwise we would never have met – we often lunched together in the park, appreciating nature and chatting about health and the environment:

Left: Marjory & I on WhatsApp this week. Right: Mark & I at my Summer house party (2010)

Nature Close-Up (Continued):
Instead of just marching along during my walks, I’ve tried to take time out to take a closer look at the surrounding nature. Sometimes you spot something you’ve never noticed before, like some strange orangey tiny flower-tubular thingies I spotted amongst a bush. Does anyone know what these are please?:

Left: Orangey tubular flowers from a distance (top) & close-up (bottom). Right: Some other plant from afar (top) and then close-up (bottom).

Mindfulness Meditation and Lovely People:
My highlight has to be the evening catch-up in Karen and Chris’s garden, as I felt completely relaxed. Our lovely hosts previously ran Action for Happiness[7] courses. And it was lovely to meet Julie and Chrissy for the first time – both incredibly inspiring women. Chrissy, a yoga instructor and runner of 52 marathons in 52 weeks, led a Mindfulness[8] meditation session – just what I needed:

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.

>>>Week 48
<<<Week 46
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References

1. National Health Service, 2020. Antihistamines [online]. Available from: www.nhs.uk/conditions/antihistamines/.
2. Olson, E., Mayo Clinic, 2020. Healthy Lifestyle – Adult Health. Is it OK to use over-the-counter antihistamines to treat insomnia? I’d like to avoid prescription sleep aids. [online]. Available from: www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sleep-aids/faq-20058393.
3. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2019. Symptoms [online]. Available from: www.histaminintoleranz.ch/en/symptoms.html.
4. Dr Tina Peers, Ca. 2020. Symptoms of HIT [online]. Available from: www.drtinapeers.com/symptoms-of-hit.
5. Hypermobility Syndromes Association, 2017. What are hypermobility syndromes? [online]. Available from: www.hypermobility.org/what-are-hypermobility-syndromes.
6. British Dietetic Association Food Allergy Specialist Group, 2018. Sensitivity to Histamine and other Vasoactive Amines [online]. Available from: www.bda.uk.com/uploads/assets/5aa56020-71df-46f2-b47bc5e93317c25b/histamine.pdf.
7. Action for Happiness, 2020. Keep Calm. Stay Wise. Be Kind [online]. Available from: www.actionforhappiness.org/.
8. MIND, 2018. Mindfulness [online]. Available from: www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/mindfulness/about-mindfulness/.

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