Health Diary Week 80: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Back to Work

Back to work: Me looking a little dazed by the prospect

“The best way to enjoy your job is to imagine yourself without one”

Oscar Wilde

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences. Firstly, I must apologise for the delayed post – a couple of unexpected situations and general work tiredness slowed me down.

I started working for the NHS

I was nervous (but also massively excited) about starting work as a Covid Administrator in a vaccine centre. I’d been a University Disability Adviser until mid-2017 when I took voluntary redundancy to complete my studies full-time. After graduating at the end of 2019, I’d intended to have a few months break. And then Covid-19 emerged and I contracted it mid-March 2020 (read my story here), leaving me with some lingering symptoms delaying my return to work.

I had no idea how I would handle my fatigue, despite only working three days a week (just over six hours each shift). I worked Wednesday to Friday and was hugely relieved I was okay, but I spent much of my weekend sleeping before my next shift on Monday. My shift pattern will settle down soon, so I’ll be able to develop a routine.

I worked on check-in, where I welcomed and booked-in people for their vaccine, before directing them to the assessment queue. I’m hoping to work in the vaccine bays soon. What I’ve absolutely loved is being around people again.

Me dressed for work: NHS vaccine support staff

I lost weight

I was hoping that being back at work would increase my activity levels and halt my recent creeping weight gain. When I weighed myself on Monday, I’d lost 2.2 lb (1 kg) in weight after my first working week despite being sat down most of the time – yay! My shift timings mean I miss a meal at work, so that must have helped. And I probably burnt a few calories trying to keep warm, as the building was well ventilated (rightfully so).

Medical updates: Histamine and clicking jaw

I missed a phone call from my Doctor to review my histamine issues, whilst I was at work. So, this meant another e-Consult form to request a set time to speak to my Doctor. Hopefully I’ll hear back soon.

Also, I had a dentist appointment to shave down one of my teeth to reduce a heavy bite. Hopefully this will stop my jaw from clicking so much and improve bone repair from an extra tooth previously removed. Thankfully, it was a simple process – no anaesthetic required and over quickly. I’ll be interested to see if my jaw does stop clicking.

Pre-work breakfast: Baked oats and quinoa flakes

Now that I’m working, I either miss lunch or dinner, because of my shift timings. My employers provide sandwiches and snacks, but sadly I can’t eat these (except the apples) because of my low histamine, gluten free and vegan diet. I just take dry foods (popcorn, crackers, nuts) to snack on during a break and eat filling pre-work meals. My pre-work breakfast was baked oats and quinoa flakes with apple and blueberries, topped with macadamia butter (details here) – super filling, dessert-like breakfast – yum!:

Baked oats and quinoa flakes with apple and blueberries (and other goodies)

Pre-work lunch: Pasta salad in macadamia butter

My pre-work filling lunch also incorporated my trusty, newly discovered quinoa flakes and macadamia butter. This time I made a fusilli (brown rice) pasta salad – I have an idea on how to improve it next time, but I must say, I was impressed with this creation (details here):

Pasta salad with macadamia nut butter and quinoa flakes – so filling!

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Here’s a few of this week’s smile provokers…

Real-life people:

What really made me smile this week was interacting with people in real-life – returning to work and seeing friends. It was wonderful to meet in Karen’s garden for the first time this year (and the bonus was it was daylight, initially) instead of on Zoom. We had a lovely catch-up (myself, Karen, Julie and Chrissy) and a calming mindfulness session led by Chrissy:

Garden meet-up and mindfulness (Week 47)

The talented Mr Blackbird:

Our blackbird friends have been incredibly busy with nest maintenance and feeding. Mummy Bird and a male were collecting mud and sticks from the pond, flying back-and-forth to a nest somewhere behind our house. Our blackbird friends have also been enjoying the abundance of worms in our garden and the buffet we provide on the driveway for the ground-feeding birds. But impressively, Mr Blackbird has also figured out how to hang from the bird feeder to obtain extra sustenance:

Mr Blackbird demonstrating his skills

Super Moon:

I awoke Tuesday morning (27 April) at 4.30am to a huge, clear moon lighting up my room. Unfortunately, my photo attempts didn’t do it justice, so you’ll have to take my word that it was gorgeous. I found out later this was a super pink moon. I didn’t notice it being pink, but then the one shown below isn’t obviously pink either:

Super pink moon. Image: TheOtherKev, Pixabay

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

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Health Diary Week 79: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Sunny Spring

Beautiful blossom and blue sky on one of my walks

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

Covid Adminstrator shifts – yay!

I was concerned that I hadn’t heard back about starting my role as “Covid Administrator” despite chasing it up. So, I was talking to my parents about how I was going to consider other NHS temp bank positions, when I received a phone call to obtain my availability for shifts at the vaccine centre – how exciting! I’m going to work three days per week for now, starting next week (at time of writing, this week!). I’ll let you know how it goes in my next post.

Histamine update

It was a rough week with the histamine issues. I suspect the high tree pollen count contributed to the problem. The symptoms (cold-like) gradually worsened throughout the week and by Thursday (after my morning walk) I was completely floored for the rest of the day. I’m worried about how I will cope at work if I can’t control these symptoms. How can I possibly not appear scarily germy and manage to wear a mask all day?

So, I completed another e-Consult Doctor’s form requesting referral to an Immunology Clinic and asking if I could try mast cell stabilisers (to calm down the cells that release histamine) – I’ve started wondering whether my issue is more to do with over-active mast cells, rather than a histamine intolerance (a problem with the enzymes that break down histamine). I need professional medical help to figure this out. In the meantime, I’m being extra careful again about minimising histamine food risks:

Some of my low histamine meals this week. Clockwise: Pasta salad. Veg and seed rice. Veg and seed noodles. Fennel steaks with homemade chips and notomato sauce

Exercise: Walking rewards

I was really pleased with myself for going out walking every day this week, despite feeling unwell. “Active 10” recognised my efforts and gave me three rewards this week: “1,000 Club” for reaching over 1,000 minutes brisk walking since I first downloaded the app, “High Five” for five out of seven days brisk walking (I achieved seven days) and “Perfect Week” for hitting my brisk walking target everyday – go me! But, I still gained a pound (0.45 kg) in weight – it doesn’t seem fair:

My Active 10 rewards and week’s walking record. Clockwise: Perfect Week. High Five. My week’s walks. 1,000 Club

Food creation: Baked oats

I had to give the baked porridge oats another try (details here), of course with a few improvements. This time I added blueberries, as well as the fresh apple and black cherry jam (I’d also meant to add quinoa flakes, but completely forgot!). And, after baking I added a drizzle of macadamia nut butter – absolutely delicious!:

Food creation: Baked oats with blueberry, apple, black cherry jam and a macadamia nut butter drizzle

Food creation: Egg-free ‘omelette’

It’s been a while since I’ve made one of my ‘omelettes’ for lunch, so I decided it was about time I made one again. (Okay, so this wasn’t actually an omelette, but I don’t know what else to call it, so ‘omelette’ will have to suffice for now). The base was a mix of cornmeal and quinoa flakes, whilst the filling was yellow pepper, courgette/zucchini and seeds. I got a bit carried away with the seed topping! I had three portions leftover to freeze – bonus. The omelette accompanied my usual salad (I need to write a post sometime about my new typical salad since being on a low histamine diet):

My egg-free ‘omelette’ creation, accompanied by my new typical salad

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It’s been a good week, if we ignore the histamine issues. We had glorious sunshine culminating in lots of outside time, including socialising with friends…

Socials and a kitten:

My social week included a lovely online catch up with Marjory, whilst I was sat outside bird watching and enjoying the sunshine. Also, I visited Tina and Ben and enjoyed a chat in their sunny garden spot – so nice to see friends in real life. And, I walked up to Bevy and Harry’s to meet Loki, their new, adorable Maine Coon kitten (and socialise with Bevy, and Harry of course):

Kitten cuteness. Top right: Loki, the Maine Coon, when he first arrived home. Other pics: Loki now. Awww – cute, cute, cute!

Dragonfly visitor:

A dragonfly landed on me while I was quietly sat reading in the garden. I love dragonflies:

Dragonfly. Image: Tanuj Handa, Pixabay

Cactus corner:

I was admiring the new cactus corner in the conservatory, when I noticed that my real-life cactus plant was flowering – I’ve had that cactus for years – it’s the only one that survived from a set of four. I was also impressed by Mum’s latest ‘repair shop’ work on my fake cacti – I wish there was a before-and-after photo, because Mum did such a good job of livening them back up with a bit of skilful painting and adding decorative flowers:

Cactus corner. My real-life flowering cactus and Mum’s cacti repair work

The case of mistaken identity:

I finally realised that my neighbour’s cat, “Not Molly” is in fact “Molly”. I was concerned that Molly was no longer coming to visit, and her elusive brother was visiting instead. But when I was discussing this with my parents, my Dad, said “Are you sure this isn’t Molly?”. I was convinced it wasn’t Molly, because this one had a moustache. But then I looked back through my photos and realised Molly did indeed have a moustache and was clearly the same cat – how could I not have noticed the moustache before? I felt so silly, but also relieved Molly is okay:

Cat confusion:“Not Molly” is “Molly”

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 week for another catch up.

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Health Diary Week 77: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Katey in the Kitchen

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

Antihistamines: Acrivastine versus Loratadine

In Week 75, I updated that my Doctor had said I could choose between the antihistamines Acrivastine (brand name Benadryl)[1] and Loratadine (brand name Clarityn)[2]. So, naturally I undertook a bit of research to decide between the two options. The main findings of interest to me were:

My Acrivastine versus Loratadine research summary table

I decided Loratadine was my best option. Acrivastine is another of those antihistamines containing a high histamine food colouring (I really don’t get the deal with this!) –  Quinoline yellow (E104): “Very poorly tolerated, severe symptoms” and a “histamine liberator”[5]. The pharmacist confirmed that tablets for both Loratadine and Acrivastine contain lactose (which I have issue with), but you can get Loratadine solution (doesn’t contain lactose) on prescription. I just hope the other ingredients are okay, as I couldn’t find details for this. I was concerned that a common side effect of Acrivastine was sleep difficulties[1] – when I caught Covid (March 2020, read my Covid story here) I had 180 days of insomnia (which also messed with my mental health), so the possibility of going through anything like that again was hugely off-putting. I’ll let you know how I get on with Loratadine.

Side note: I should also mention that I asked the pharmacist whether all Fexofenadine (a stronger antihistamine) contained Allura Red/E129 (a high histamine food colouring) – apparently it does, so that’s definitely off the cards.

Exercise

I’ve been feeling too fatigued these past few weeks to exercise much. So, I was pleased with myself for completing three short walks this week, totalling 98 minutes, of which 54 minutes were brisk. Here’s hoping I can be more active soon. If I can, it will help towards losing the extra weight I’ve gained this week – I’ll tell you how much another time:

Exercise: Walking. Right: Pretty scene spotted on one of my walks. Left: My Active10 record

Food creation: Baked oats

Instagram has been trending with baked oats recipes these past couple of weeks, so of course I thought I should try them (details here). What I loved about this meal is that you just throw it all in an oven proof dish and pop it in the oven, leaving you to get on and do other things while its baking. It was tasty, so I’ll be having it again for sure, maybe with blueberries next time instead of apple and I’ll add in some macadamia butter – yum!:

Baked oats: Apple, black cherry jam, chia seeds, flax seeds, maple syrup and sweet cinnamon

Food creation: Vegetable and seed noodles

I rediscovered my love of King Soba noodles. I made a delicious meal of pumpkin and ginger noodles, notomato sauce, vegetable and seed mix and vegan feta – my mouth is watering just thinking about it! – details here. Vegan feta is a histamine risk, but one I’m willing to take occasionally:

Vegetable noodles: King Soba pumpkin and ginger noodles topped with notomato sauce, vegetable and seed mix and Violife feta ‘cheese’

Food creation: Risotto burgers

I had another attempt at my butternut squash risotto burgers. This time I added more binder (chia seed ‘egg’) and made up the burgers pre-freezing the risotto. The risotto itself was great and getting eight burgers from the leftovers was brilliant (details here) – lots to freeze for a low energy day:

From this tasty butternut squash risotto:

Butternut squash risotto

To these butternut squash risotto burgers:

Butternut squash risotto burgers. Clockwise: Risotto burger in a pitta with salad. Cooked risotto burger. Chia seed ‘egg’ ready to be stirred into risotto. Pre-cooked risotto burger

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

I had a pretty good week. Here’s some of my smile-provoking experiences:

Messy cooking:

I’m a messy cook – I claim its due to the dyspraxia. I got into such a mess making my risotto burgers, including my hands becoming well coated in burger mix. And when I was tidying up, I misjudged returning the flaxseeds to their shelf and they fell off, spilling over the floor. My parents are so used to these occurrences; Dad didn’t take any notice and Mum walked in calmly to see what had happened this time. I love that we just accept these little incidents as part of everyday life. And the seeds didn’t go to waste – I deposited them on the bird feeder for our little friends:

Messy cook. Clockwise: My hands during burger making. Flaxseed spillage (I think the birds were happy with the edition to the bird table). Burgers batch cooked and packed for freezing. Burgers pre-cooked, ready for freezing

Popping corn:

Talking of mishaps. I was staying at the rental property which is lacking cooking facilities and was feeling a little peckish. So, I decided to try out my new popcorn maker for the first time. The instruction manual said I needed a big bowl, but I didn’t have one, so I thought two small bowls would suffice. How wrong I was! Firstly, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of popcorn such a small number of kernels produce. Secondly, they came flying out of the popcorn maker at speed, bouncing off me while I was trying to catch them in my too small bowl. I wish I’d filmed it. I was yelling “No, no no!” at the machine while trying to contain the situation. Hilarious!:

Popcorn making: My first attempt with my popcorn maker and subsequent mess (this was after I’d cleared up a bit)

Long Covid research:

I attended the Royal Society’sLong Covid: an unfolding story” Q&A session, which was both informative and supportive. It was encouraging that two of the speakers had the lived experience of Long Covid: Dr Nisreen Alwan (Associate Professor in Public Health, University of Southampton), and Dr Adam Rutherford (geneticist, author, and presenter of BBC’s Radio 4’s Inside Science). I was most pleased to hear that there’s loads of research being undertaken, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we get more answers. I particularly want to hear more about the link with histamine issues:  

The Royal Society – Long Covid: an unfolding story. Left: My Q&A session questions that never got past review stage (I really wanted to hear about their hypotheses around histamine issues and mitochondria dysfunction – maybe another time)

Cherish each moment:

Do you remember that beautiful white blossom tree I shared with you in Week 75? Well, we had a couple of nights frost and all that beautiful blossom was destroyed. You might ask why this might make me smile? Of course I was disappointed about the blossom disappearance, but I was pleased that I had taken the time previously to enjoy the beauty when I first saw it. It reminded me that we need to cherish each moment, as we don’t know how long they will last or what’s around the corner:

Cherish each moment. Left: Beautiful white blossom tree, Week 75. Right: The same tree after a frost, Week 77

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

Betty Smith, American novelist and playwright

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”

Alice Morse Earle, American writer and antiquarian

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 week for another catch up.

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References

1. National Health Service, 2018. Acrivastine.
2. National Health Service, 2018. Loratadine (including Clarityn).
3. Drugs.com, 2021. Acrivastine and Pseudoephedrine.
4. Drugs.com, 2021. Loratadine.
5. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance, 2016. Food Compatibility List.

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