Health Diary Week 97: Be Kind, and Surround Yourself with Kind People

Image: Women on deck chairs (By: Here and now, unfortunately, ends my journey on Pixabay, Pixabay)

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<<<Week 96

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

My NHS Working Life

Let’s start with some work updates…

Full-time Hours:

This was my first week working full-time hours, for years! The time flew by in a whirlwind and before I knew it, my working week was done. I was pretty tired by Friday, but also incredibly relieved I didn’t feel horribly fatigued (it was a long-haul Covid concern of mine) – I feel more confident now that I will be okay working full-time hours.

Staff Wellbeing Administrator: Week Four:

It was my first week working from home as a Staff Wellbeing Hub Administrator. I liked it. I feel more settled in the role now (everyone continues to be nice and encouraging). So far, I mostly answer the phone, and book and process counselling referrals. I’m expecting to take on more responsibilities soon.

Health and Wellbeing Coach: Week One:

This was my first week as a Health and Wellbeing Coach[1]. I met loads of people, many whose names I can’t remember, but everyone seems lovely. One morning, I shadowed the Social Prescriber[2] who I’ll probably have a lot of contact with – she was amazingly helpful. I’m surprised by the freedom in my role – lots to consider. It all scares me a bit, but I felt like this when I began a science degree with no science background and I excelled at that, so I’m sure I’m capable and will find the whole experience rewarding.

Image: An image of martial arts coaching that came up when I searched “coach”, which made me laugh because it’s nothing like me or what I was envisaging, so of course I had to use it here (By: 1820796, Pixabay)

Ears, Nose and Throat Referral

I received an ENT appointment – I’d almost given up on it happening. Now I’m a bit nervous about what they’re going to do to me – will they stick a camera up my nose that I’ll have to try not to sneeze out? – Every time I do a Covid lateral flow test, I retch, my eyes water and I sneeze violently! This could be interesting. Anyway, moving on…

Some Tasty Meals

Nowadays I can handle a wider variety of foods compared to when I first became low histamine back in October 2020 – almost a year ago! I had several tasty meals this week: Mum’s courgette and broad bean risotto, topped with roasted sweet potato. And Mum’s dairy-free cheesy vegetable bake (cauliflower, broccoli and carrots), served with roast potato, sweet potato, fennel and steamed courgette. A simple pasta salad. And a hearty Sunday brunch of scrambled tofu, served with potatoes, pitta bread and hummus – keeping me satiated until dinner time:

Image: Clockwise: Vegetable risotto topped with sweet potato. Cheesy vegetable bake with roast veg and steamed courgettes. Pasta salad. Scrambled tofu with potato, pitta and hummus

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Don’t you just love a sunny bank holiday weekend? – I most certainly do. My last three smile-provokers were part of my weekend, but before I get to that…

Dragonfly:

I’m sure I’ve told you before how much I love dragonflies – I think they’re beautiful. So you can imagine how delighted I was to get a close look at one in our garden during my lunch break and even capturing some decent shots (they don’t usually stay still for long):

Image: Dragonfly. I chose this photo to share, because from this angle the dragonfly looks like it has a friendly smiley face

Kind people, kind words:

My little monthly mindfulness friend group are so kind-hearted. Karen, who hosts our get-togethers gifted us all a book called “Kind words for unkind days” by Jayne Hardy. I like how it is divided into chapters, e.g. “Words for the days that feel overwhelming” and “Words for the days when you’re being unkind to yourself” – helpful and comforting:

Image: Kind words for kind days book

Crumble Club:

I had a particularly social weekend. There was my usual visit with ‘my dear friend Bevy’, but I also went to my lovely friend’s Crumble Club. Jen made delicious crumble (of course), which we drowned in custard (I took a DAO enzyme to reduce dietary histamine effects). We allowed ourselves some emotional crumbles too – it’s nice to feel comfortable enough to show vulnerabilities around friends:

Image: Tina and I at Crumble Club. Me unnecessarily scrunching up small to try to fit into the picture (hahaha)

A lazy Sunday in the sun:

Deciding to spend Sunday afternoon at a marina cafe was a genius idea, even if I say so myself. I indulged in three colas (sugar excessive, I know), one with vodka. My friend and I just chilled out for hours in some deckchairs over-looking the marina, enjoying the warmth from the sun:

Image: My bank holiday Sunday afternoon lazing in a deckchair overlooking the marina (there were some cloudy times, but it stayed pleasantly warm)

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.

>>>Week 98
<<<Week 96
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References

1. NHS, 2021. Health and wellbeing coaches.
2. NHS, 2021. Social prescribing.

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Health Diary Week 92: A Surreal Week

Image: Surreal time, Spinxh21 (Pixabay)

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<<<Week 91

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

Time Out

This week was the start of my two weeks off work to relax before starting my new job as an NHS Staff Wellbeing Hub Administrator. It started well: Gorgeous sunny weather and socialising, but then…

A Family Bereavement

…Very early on Wednesday morning, when you know it can only be bad news, we had a phone call: My cousin, Ben, had passed away suddenly from a heart attack. As well as it being an upsetting shock to the whole family, it also made me think about my mortality, as Ben was only a few years older than me (still in his forties). I want to be here for many more years, and crucially, enjoy those years feeling as healthy as possible.

Exercise: Walking

As part of my health-promoting behaviours, I’ve been trying to get out more for walks (a convenient, low impact activity). I was pleased to achieve 334 minutes (over five and a half hours) total walking, of which 246 minutes (four hours) were brisk. Active 10 rewarded me 2000 Club (2,000 brisk minutes since starting a year ago), Perfect Week (for hitting my daily targets) and Wonder Week (for daily brisk walking) – go me:

Image: My Active 10 walks and rewards. Left: Week 92 walks – 334 minutes total, 246 minutes brisk. Right: My rewards: 2000 Club, Wonder Week and Perfect Week

Histamine Food Challenges

This week my main histamine risks were avocado and lentils:

Avocado:

Last week, I’d started re-introducing a little avocado back into my life and I thought all was going well. But I got carried away, increasing the quantity and consuming avocado several days in a row. By Thursday I was suffering with some sneezy and snotty issues – no surprise really. So, I’ve decided to quit the avocado for now and try again another time:

Image: Avocado on my plate of salad delights

Lentil dhal:

On Monday, my parents had visitors – friends we met when we lived in the Caribbean back in the 80’s. Mum cooked up a curry lunch and ensured I could tuck into the side dishes: Lentil dhal with rice, spiced cauliflower and potatoes – yum! The dhal was made with the usual spices, so these were a risk on top of the lentils:

Image: Some of Mum’s curry feast. Lentil dhal (centre dish), spiced cauliflower, spiced potatoes and rice

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Despite the difficult news, there were still occasions for smiles this week, so I’d like to share some of these with you…

Rusty the loving dog:

A big highlight was cuddles with the gorgeous Rusty, who visited with Dennis and Jenny, our neighbours when we lived in the Caribbean. Rusty loves attention and I was very happy to accommodate him, so we spent most of the day together:

Image: Rusty the loving dog lying with his leg on my lap (we spent much of the day like this)

Bevy, Loki and a new campanula:

Looking back, it was actually quite a social week. As well as my parents’ visitors, I met with Karen, Julie and Chrissy for our monthly catch up with mindfulness (courtesy of Chrissy). Also, I had my usual weekly visit with ‘my dear friend’ Bevy (and Loki kitten). Bevy proudly showed me her latest campanula plant, grown from cuttings of the one I’d bought her years ago:

Image: Loki kitten with the new campanula outside plant (a cutting from the one I’d gifted Bevy)

I went to the pub:

The big social event was a visit to the pub (outside) with friends. I have to admit it ended up being a bit of a sensory overload situation by late evening with people becoming inebriated and louder, whereas I hadn’t consumed much alcohol and was sober. I left at the end of the evening feeling quite anxious and was relieved to return home. But, having said that, it was exciting to go out and lovely to see everyone together in person:

Image: Me ready for an evening at the pub with friends

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.

>>>Week 93
<<<Week 91
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Health Diary Week 91: Look up

Image: My dawn hot air balloon trip, 2007

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<<<Week 90

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

Firstly, I’m sorry, this post was so delayed – there were some unexpected circumstances – more on that in Week 92.

Histamine Intolerance – Insect Bite Reactions

What can I say? I’m an insect magnet! Or rather, whenever an insect nibbles on me, I react with horribly red, raised, itchy bites – a typical reaction in people with histamine intolerance[1].

I’d sat on the grass in Bevy’s garden after covering myself in insect repellent. But I missed a strip along my lower back, and of course the insects feasted on this small patch. Bevy didn’t notice any bites on her, despite wearing zero repellent.

Histamine Food Risks

I was treated to some absolutely delicious food this week. Let me tell you more…

Yeast (pizza):

Oh, how I’ve missed pizza – I haven’t had any since going low histamine in October 2020, mainly because of the tomato base. It also contains yeast, which can be problematic[2], although I take calculated risks by consuming gluten free pittas.

Ben (aka Ben Cooks Plants) made pizza in his new pizza oven (built himself). For me, Ben made a specially adapted low histamine dough (no gluten and minimal yeast), and a white sauce base instead of tomatoes (my hero!). I polished off two pizzas – excessive, I know. And yes, I felt absolutely stuffed for the rest of the evening!:

Image: My low histamine pizzas, courtesy of Ben Cooks Plants. Clockwise: Beetroot and green pepper pizza pre-dressed. Beetroot and green pepper pizza dressed with pumpkin seeds and fresh herbs. Peach and ‘parma ham’ pizza dressed with ‘parmesan’. Peach and ‘parma ham’ pizza pre-dressed

Cashew nuts (ice cream):

Now, I very much enjoy ice cream and the weather has warmed up considerably, so I thought it was about time I tried the Booja Booja honeycomb caramel ice cream waiting patiently for me in the freezer. Cashew nuts (replace dairy) are one of its six ingredients – they’re listed as “Moderately compatible, minor symptoms, occasional consumption of small quantities is often tolerated”[2] – I didn’t notice any symptoms, which is great as they’re more affordable than macadamias and pistachios, my other nut options. The ice cream verdict? – Heavenly!:

Image: Booja Booja honeycomb caramel ice cream (yum!)

Alcohol (vodka):

I indulged in four singles of potato-based vodka (two with apple juice, two with cola) in Tina’s and Ben’s garden. The riskiest of these ingredients was the vodka as it not only contains histamine, but also encourages histamine to be released (by mast cells) and blocks histamine degrading enzymes (e.g. diamine oxidase)[2] – very risky indeed, but not as much as wine. So, this was one of those occasions when I chose to take one of my DAO enzyme tablets to help break down excessive histamine consumed. I didn’t have any noticeable ill-effects (phew):

Image: Naturdao, plant-based DAO enzyme supplement

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It was a good week – a great start to my two weeks off work…

Hello sis:

My sister and her boyfriend Carl decided to visit us before covid restrictions were lifted (they didn’t want to travel to us by train when other travellers may not be wearing masks, especially as covid cases are rising again). As always, it was lovely to see them. Mum prepared an impressive buffet lunch. Emma’s friend visited – Madeleine and I were amused watching Em and Carl practice setting up and packing away their newly acquired tent – definitely wouldn’t be my forte…

Image: My sister and Carl visit. Top: Buffet lunch. Bottom: Watching tent practicing skills

Gin and tonic o’clock:

We had gloriously hot and sunny weather, so much so, that we’ve had to stay inside during the hottest time of the day. Whilst watching our bird friends by the pond, I was treated to my first gin and tonic since before I started my low histamine diet in October 2020 – no noticeable ill-effects – lovely:

Image: Gin and tonic, pondside

Uninvited guest:

Oh, the cheekiness (and delight) of inviting yourself over to your friends’ garden and then being offered homemade pizza. It was a beautifully sunny day and there was much hilarity – at times there were tears of laughter running down mine and Tina’s face:

Image: Pizza delights, al fresco. Clockwise: Ben’s home-built pizza oven. ‘Ben Cooks Plants’ preparing pizza. Ben’s standard, gluten free, vegan pizza in the oven. My low histamine, gluten free, vegan pizza in the oven

Looking skywards:

I love being able to sit outside looking up at the sky. In Tina and Ben’s garden, we saw loads of noisy seagulls above us feasting (it was flying ants day). And I was surprised to see a group of eight magpies gathered on the rooftop. It was also a night where we spotted several satellites travelling past. But my highlight has to be catching sight of a meteor, during daylight, enter and burn up on entry into our atmosphere – such a sight:

Image: Meteor, Free-Photos (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.

>>>Week 92
<<<Week 90
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References

1. Dr Tina Peers, Ca. 2021. Introduction to Histamine Intolerance (HIT).

2. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.

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Health Diary Week 78: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Just a Quickie

Speedy snail. Image: Clker-Free-Vector-Images, Pixabay

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<<<Week 77

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

It’s been a fairly quiet week overall and I’ve been struggling with histamine issues (more on that in next week’s post), so this will be a bit of a quickie.

Antihistamine progress: Loratadine

I’ve started on 10 mg per day of Loratadine antihistamine solution[1]. I was previously taking 10 mg twice per day of Cetirizine solution[2] to keep my symptoms relatively under control (this was double the advised dose – not recommend without your Doctor’s approval). The new medication hasn’t been an easy adjustment, if you can even call it that. I’ve felt fatigued, itchy, snotty and sneezy all week – incredibly uncomfortable. I’m going to give it another week before I report back to my Doctor and explore other options. I’m starting to suspect my issue might be that my histamine-releasing cells (mast cells) are over-active, rather than my previous assumption that it’s my body having an issue breaking down histamine (an enzyme dysfunction). It would be great if I could be referred to an immunological clinic, so that they can figure it out for me.

Food Re-purpose: Pasta bakeCauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’

Last week Mum made a delicious cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’, which she served up with roast potato and sweet potato. I froze the leftovers for another day – I love it when there’s leftovers! I decided to re-purpose the cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’ into a pasta bake for a simple, low effort, tasty meal:

Cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’. Top: My re-purposed cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’ pasta bake. Bottom: Mum’s cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’ with roast potato and sweet potato

Food: New buy – Quinoa flakes

Someone on Instagram recommended quinoa flakes as a “game changer” ingredient if you’re not keen on quinoa, so of course I had to get me some to try. Apparently, they can be used as a breakfast cereal, porridge oats replacement or in baking. I haven’t tried them yet, but I’ll let you know how it goes when I do:

BioFair quinoa flakes

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Here’s a few positives from my week:

Every step counts no matter how small:

I hadn’t felt like I achieved much health-wise recently due to my histamine issues holding me back. But I’m happy to have made a little step forward: I realised that I don’t need to add sugar to my chicory (coffee replacement) drink – I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to realise this! Any improvement, as small as it may be, is better than giving up, or falling back into unhealthy habits. So, I’m giving myself a little pat on the back for reducing my ‘free sugar’ intake a little:

The ‘pat on the back’ image Pixabay offered me (Graphics@ HandiHow)

Friends in real life:

I was excited to meet up with Bevy in person, especially as we missed last week, for a good ole catch up on the driveway:

Dad’s pretty flowers along the driveway

Choir practice:

I joined a choir! For those of you who know me, this is a big deal. I don’t sing in front of people – it’s one of my fears. This started at Junior school (I must have been around 10 years old) after the music teacher stopped the whole class saying that someone was singing out of tune and everyone pointed at me. After that I just mimed. I used to love singing before this incident. Anyway, my friend, Dawn, encouraged me to attend the online long covid choir (and explained you can mute yourself). So, I thought why not give it a try? I’m so glad I did. Zoe (the teacher) had such a friendly smiley face and was really encouraging. I liked the breathing exercises and explanations of how to sing particular notes. It was fun, so I’ll be returning next week for more:

Heartfelt Choir. I joined a choir!

Happy Birthday to me, again:

My Mum found a Birthday present she’d put away ‘safely’ for me. My Birthday was back in February. I was given a bamboo comb, which I was on the verge of buying myself, so I’m glad I hadn’t got around to purchasing one yet. It was a lovely surprise receiving an unexpected late Birthday present:

Happy Birthday to me. My belated bamboo comb Birthday present from my Mum

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.

>>>Week 79
<<<Week 77
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References

1. National Health Service, 2018. Loratadine (including Clarityn).

2. National Health Service, 2018. Cetirizine.

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Health Diary Week 75: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

My Medical Week

I got a Covid vaccine sticker – like when I went to the dentist as a kid

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<<<Week 74

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

Covid vaccine and my side effects

Excitingly, I had my first Covid vaccine, at the centre I should be working in soon (no updates yet about when I’m starting). And I must say, it was well organised – efficient, yet friendly. I was given the AstraZeneca vaccine[1] – the one where concerns were raised about strokes as a possible rare side effect. Personally, I’d rather take the much smaller risk of a stroke than the much larger likelihood of contracting covid and its nasty complications. I mean, have you seen the potential side effects from taking paracetamol?![2]. Interestingly, all I found about this stroke complication (that wasn’t just a media news report) was a science article[3] linking to a research paper based on only nine patients (not yet peer reviewed)[4] with an Editorial note advising that the researchers work for Pfizer – massive potential for bias!: “The authors disclose conflicts of interest, including personal fees from Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies”[4]. They also state “At the time of this posting, the World Health Organization maintains that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue”[4].

So, what happened to me? I had my vaccine at 9.30 am (it just felt like someone touched my arm – easy peasy). At 6.30 pm I started getting shivery – I checked my temperature and it was 36.6o Celsius (C), within the normal range (35.7 – 37.3 o C, 96.3 – 99.1o Fahrenheit (F)). After dinner, I had gut ache and felt a bit nauseous for a couple of hours. I became increasingly shivery and by 8.30 pm I had a low-grade fever of 38.5o C (101.3o F). I took some paracetamol and gradually my temperature and shivering decreased. I became incredibly hot for a while and had a headache. By the morning my temperature had returned to normal, although I needed to take more paracetamol for my headache, but this soon eased up. My most surprising symptom started about the same time as the shivers; I developed pins and needles, and numbness in my right-hand fingers (the arm I chose to have vaccinated as it was already injured) – the information leaflet stated this occurred where there was already nerve inflammation – I guess that makes sense. The next day and onwards, I’ve just had a sore, achy arm. Overall, a small price to pay to hopefully avoid catching Covid-19 (again).

Covid vaccine card (1st dose completed) and new staff ID card (“Covid Administrator” sounds like I’m actually dishing out Covid!)

Clicking jaw

I had dentist check-up and hygienist appointments this week. It feels so weird going inside a building, removing my mask and having someone poke around inside my mouth, when the rest of time I’m being so cautious. I’m pleased to report no fillings were required and my gums were okay. But I have a clicking jaw on my left side (probably a hypermobility thing) – the dentist checks it each visit, but this time, she noted an issue with a “heavy bite” on my right side that could be making it worse, so she wanted to do some research and get back to me. Later that afternoon she phoned and advised the “heavy bite” could be impacting the bone healing from where I’d had an extra tooth removed (right side), so they want to shave it down to reduce the pressure and it may also relieve the clicking – so that’s happening next month.

Antihistamines continued

I had another phone Doctor’s appointment to reassess the histamine intolerance. We agreed the Fexofenadine wasn’t going to work if all formulas contained Allura Red (E129), so I offered to contact the pharmacist and ask about this. We briefly discussed first generation antihistamines as an option, but I’m not keen on these, because they cause drowsiness and I’m unsure about potential long-term neurological health effects[5]. We discussed trying the other second generation options, Loratadine and Acrivastine, although weaker than Fexofenadin. There didn’t seem much difference between them, so I was told I could investigate and choose which I wanted – I’ll let you know what I decide and the outcome.

Food challenges: Excessive risks were taken

I took some excessive risks this week. I went overboard on the Quorn vegan ham and Sainsbury’s free from grated ‘cheddar cheese’. I hadn’t realised until looking back while writing this post that I’d eaten these foods three times in one week (that’s too much). Also, I’d avoided looking too closely at the ingredients, until now – they both contain several ingredients incompatible with histamine intolerance. I’ll probably still eat them occasionally, but I need to keep track of how often and how I react. Then of course there was the yeast from the two pittas I ate, also filling up my histamine cup/bucket.

And on Mum’s birthday, I indulged in some chocolate mint ice cream and mango sorbet (both containing risky ingredients) – what was I thinking? Sometimes its so hard to stay on track on this low histamine diet. To be fair, I resisted some of the temptations on offer, but I admit, I’m a little worried about the looming consequences from the foods I caved into.

Food challenges. Clockwise: Quorn vegan ‘ham’ slices in salad pitta. Jacket potato with Quorn ‘ham’ and Sainsbury’s free from ‘cheddar cheese’. Northern Bloc ice cream and Hackney Gelato mango sorbet. Quorn vegan ‘ham’ and Sainsbury’s free from ‘cheddar cheese’ pitta

Food creation: Quinoa and brown rice vegetable burgers

For months now, I’ve been meaning to attempt making burgers with a quinoa base, to get more of this great plant protein in my diet, despite not being keen on the stuff. My first attempt went well (details here), but I need to make a few tweaks for next time. I definitely need to add more chia and flax seed binder and maybe chop the veg smaller to hold the burger together better. The flavour was decent, but next time I’ll rinse the quinoa more before cooking to remove any bitterness (thanks for the tip Deb):

Food creation: Quinoa and brown rice vegetable burgers. Clockwise: Making the patties. Pre-cooked burger. My messy hands! Cooked burgers ready for freezing
My dinner: Quinoa and brown rice vegetable burger with roast potatoes, celeriac, fennel, bell peppers and courgette/zucchini

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

What made me smile this week? Quite a few things. Here’s a few…

A walk in the park:

I went out for two walks this week before I succumbed to post-vaccine tiredness and took it easy for the rest of the week. I walked through a park and noticed a tree full of white blossom – such a contrast compared to its surrounding bare trees. I actually saw this last week too, but I couldn’t get a picture (without looking dodgy) as there was a cute couple sat under the tree kissing:

Walk in the park. Clockwise: Blossomy tree from afar. Closer. My shadow. Blossom close-up

From sunrise to sunset:

I just love a sunrise or sunset (although its rare I’m awake for sunrises). This week I was treated to both. Such beautiful colours. My favourites are those over the ocean (whilst sipping on a cocktail) – maybe I’ll get to see one again (and have a cocktail) in the not-too-distant future:

Left: Sunrise. Right: Sunset. Both beautiful in their own ways

Low histamine wine:

Instagram can be a useful resource (and a source of procrastination). I was excited and delighted to find that low histamine wines exist – I think the one below only supplies to Austria and Germany. But when I shared the post in the Long haul Covid food Facebook group, someone else found a company in the UK – yippee! And, then I stumbled across wine wands, which apparently filter the histamine out of your drink. I’ll be looking into these further – they’re not a complete solution as the actual alcohol itself encourages your mast cells to release histamine, but I’ll take it as hope for an occasional tipple further down the line:

Low histamine wine options – woo hoo hoo! Left: Low histamine wine (source: bioweingut.weiss, Instagram). Right: Wine wands (source: Lowhistamineeats, Instagram)

An abundance of Italian herb seasoning:

I like to have a mix of dried herbs to easily flavour my meals. I had asked Mum (who places the online grocery orders) to order some more Italian herb seasoning. It turns out she got a little carried away and ordered six lots! Apparently my usual one (M&S) said out of stock, so Mum ordered alternatives and both came, but that still leaves the random one in the middle. Unfortunately, I can only use the M&S ones as the others contain black pepper. We did laugh at Mum’s surprise excessiveness:

Over-ordering Italian herb seasoning

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.

>>>Week 76
<<<Week 74
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References

1. GOV.UK, 2021. Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency: Information for UK recipients on COVID 19 Vaccine AstraZeneca.
2. Drugs.com, 2021. Paracetamol Side Effects.
3. American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2021. A rare clotting disorder may cloud the world’s hopes for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.
4. Greinacher, A., Thiele, T., Warkentin, T. E., Weisser, K., Kyrle, P. and Eichinger, S. 2021. A Prothrombotic Thrombocytopenic Disorder Resembling Heparin-Induced Thrombocytopenia Following Coronavirus-19 Vaccination. Research Square.
5. 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, 179 (8), 1084-1093.

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Health Diary Week 72: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Ch-ch-changes

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<<<Week 71

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

What’s New

I just have a couple of updates this week:

I’m changing my blog:

Recently I’ve been thinking about how I can sustain writing my blog when I have less free time with the imminent return to work (which I’m rather excited about). I want to ensure a healthy balance between work, blogging and leisure to best support my overall health.

So what have I decided? Going forward, I feel it’s time to leave the food diary reporting behind – I still need to log possible histamine reaction foods with slow re-introduction of more diversity into my diet, so I will let you know what I’ve introduced successfully (or not). I intend to continue sharing what’s happening in my life and any new food creations or particularly tasty meals, because I do love food. Once a month I’ll report on my health results (e.g. body fat percentage and weight), although my main focus now is promoting an all-round healthy lifestyle. And I will continue sharing smile-provoking experiences – appreciation of the little things in life to boost our resilience and protect our mental health.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about my plans. What would you like to see?

Another job interview:

I had an interview for admin support in training and education at a local hospice, still part of the NHS, but also a charity. I didn’t expect an interview, because one of the essentials was a driving licence – I never learnt to drive due to coordination difficulties (dyspraxia[1]). Anyway, back to the interview. I had to attend in person – all my other interviews were via Zoom – it was a challenge finding a suitable outfit! I did a Word and Excel test first, then faced a panel of three interviewers (from a distance, we were all masked-up). I think it went well and I enjoyed the interaction. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime I still have my temporary admin role in a vaccination centre to look forward too.

Food and Nutrition

Let’s start with my nutrition updates and move on to my meal highlights…

Histamine issues:

I suffered for my birthday indulgences last week, on Monday and Tuesday. I was a bit lax and suspect one of the culprits was the cocoa birthday cake. I also had two units of vodka, which I’m sure added to the reaction. I guess my “histamine cup” overflowed.

At the end of the week I started re-trying the prescribed, much stronger antihistamine (fexofenadine hydrochloride). Previously, I stopped taking it after three days, as I ended up with terrible rhinitis, brain fog and fatigue. I discovered the ingredients included Allura Red (E129) – listed by Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance as “incompatible, significant symptoms at usual intake” and “liberators of mast cell mediators (= histamine liberators)”[2] – why, oh why would the manufacturers put this in an antihistamine medication? – It’s just a food dye![3,4]. But I feel I have to persevere and try again to report back the Doctor confidently about its effects – I’ll let you know the outcome.

Covid Symptom Study diet scores:

Last year, I completed a diet survey for the ZOE Covid Symptom Study and this week I received back my results… Interestingly, my diet scores improved during the pandemic (August to September 2020) compared to pre-pandemic (February 2020). My traditional diet score was already good at 11 out of 15 but increased to 12. My gut friendly diet score improved from “satisfactory” to “good” – I’m unsure what I did differently here, because I can’t see my survey answers.

Covid Symptom Study diet scores. Left: Traditional diet score. Right: Gut friendly diet score

I’d love to see how my diet scores have changed now that I’ve had to adopt a low histamine diet (October 2020). I barely eat health-promoting legumes (e.g. beans, pulses) containing fibre and good quality protein – I really hope this can change soon. I rely on brown rice, cereal grains, oats, vegetables and fruit to support my fibre intake – my gut seems pretty happy with this. My protein is mainly sourced through nuts, seeds, rice and quinoa (I need to eat more quinoa) and now occasionally Quorn ‘ham and ‘chicken’ slices. I obtain health-promoting omega-3 essential fats via seeds (e.g. chia, flax and hemp). But I consume way more total fat (thankfully mostly unsaturated) because I rely on rapeseed and flax oils to dress my meals, as I can’t eat tomato or vinegar containing sauces. But on the positive side (score wise), I now have to cook meals from scratch, as I can’t eat convenience foods or most fake meats yet.

Salad lunches:

As you know, I love my salad lunches, whether it’s my usual salad with mixed leaves, a filled pitta bread or pasta salad (great for when I’ve run out of salad leaves, details here):

Salad lunches: Fusilli pasta salad, salad with corn bites and salad and Quorn ‘chicken’ filled pitta

Dinner highlights:

Recently, I’ve struggled with finding the energy and motivation to cook properly. But I did make this rather delicious butternut squash and seed risotto, with portions leftover for other days:

Butternut squash risotto

And, I thoroughly enjoyed a slightly odd dinner incorporating leftover red pepper, courgette (zucchini) & seed fusilli pasta from the night before. I had a craving for ‘cheesy’ garlic, onion and herb bread. So, I ended up throwing it all together in the pitta (details here) – very satisfying:

Pasta and cheesy garlic pitta: Carb-ilicious!

Exercise

I went for three walks this week, totalling 149 minutes, of which 102 minutes were brisk – it’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. I’ve been half-heartedly doing my physio exercises – they hurt – but I will get properly on board, because my intention is to increase my fitness levels as my shoulder gradually improves.  I must get back on the exercise bike again!

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I didn’t report on my results last week, as my focus was birthday smiles (Week 71) – my weight increased by 1.4 lb (0.6 kg) and remained the same this week. Despite this, my body fat actually reduced last week, by 0.5% but increased a little, by 0.2% this week. I’m okay with this after the recent birthday indulgences:

Week 72 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

For me and meteorologically, Spring starts on the 1st March. This past week I’ve noticed loads of indications of Spring: On my walks (more here), in the garden and by the driveway pond, so naturally this was my happy focus this week …

Signs of Spring:

These are some signs of Spring I spotted whilst out for a stroll:

Signs of Spring: Out walking

Roadside daffodils:

Daffodils are so vibrantly yellow – such a joy to see them springing up alongside the roads when I’m out walking:

Roadside daffodils

Magical flower rings:

There’s something that feels a bit magical about seeing flower rings around the trunk of a tree – it reminds me of fairy tales. And they are pretty too of course:

Magical flower rings around trees: Daffodils and crocuses

The intricate beauty of flowers:

I thought these flower shots were particularly gorgeous:

Intricate beauty of flowers

Dad’s flowers:

And let’s not forget Dad’s driveway flowers – so pretty:

Dad’s driveway flowers

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.

>>>Week 73
<<<Week 71
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References

1. Dyspraxia Foundation, 2021. Dyspraxia in Adults.
2. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.
3. Food Standards Agency, Ca. 2021. Food additives: Different food additives and advice on regulations and the safety of additives in food.
4. NHS, 2020. Food colours and hyperactivity.

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

My Lockdown Birthday Smiles

Image: Louisa Helfinger (Pixabay)

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

What’s New

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

Covid vaccine article:

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

I have a (temporary) job:

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

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

Physiotherapy

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

Curry puffs

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

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

Amusing cards

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

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

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

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

Birthday card giggles

Birthday haul

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

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

Birthday wrap

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

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

Pond life

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

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

Cats

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

Cat visitors. Top: Jasper. Bottom: Not Molly

Ducks and Snow Moon

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

Pond life. Our duck friends. “Snow Moon”

Birthday Dinner

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

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

Cake

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

Birthday cake – yum!

Online Houseparty

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

Me ready for online Houseparty

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

>>>Week 72
<<<Week 70
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Health Diary Week 68: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Enjoy the Little Things

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

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<<<Week 67

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

What’s New

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

Covid vaccine update:

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

I have an article brewing:

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

Job application update:

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

Facebook Admin

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

The Rugby Six Nations:

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

Food and Nutrition

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

Breakfast:

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

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

Lunch:

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

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

Dinner:

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

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

Snacks:

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

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

Drinks:

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

Week 68 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

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

Week 68 Exercise

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

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

Week 68 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

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

Tasty Balls:

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

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

Massive Onions:

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

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

Brilliant Blue:

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

Beautiful blue Winter sky

Is it Spring yet?:

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

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

Mask Fail:

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

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

Home Schooling – Learning the ‘F’ Word:

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

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

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

Robert Brault, author

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

>>>Week 69
<<<Week 67
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References

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

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

Love, Learn, Create

Mum’s painted portrait of me

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<<<Week 66

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

What’s New

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

Job application:

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

Facebook Admin:

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

Covid update:

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

Building my Knowledge:

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

Food and Nutrition

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

Breakfast:

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

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

Lunch:

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

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

Dinner:

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

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

Snacks:

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

Week 67 Snacks

Drinks:

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

Week 67 Drinks

Exercise

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

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

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

Week 67 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

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

Lettuce Love:

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

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

Heart to Heart:

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

MyNutriWeb Webinar: All Things Diet and Heart Health

Journal Club – Mobile Apps and Health:

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

MyNutriWeb Journal Club: Nutrition before and during Pregnancy

Professor Brian Cox:

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

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

My Painted Portrait with Turtles (of course):

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

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

Spot the Secret:

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

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

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

>>>Week 68
<<<Week 66
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Health Diary Week 63: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

A Brief Update…

Me Outside CommuniKate, Wales Trip (2005)

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

What’s New

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

Hello 2021:

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

My vodka and cranberry juice indulgence

UK Covid-19 Cases Rising:

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

Food and Nutrition

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

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

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

Week 63 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

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

Storytime:

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

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

Delightful Nuts:

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

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

Snow – Well, a Little:

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

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

Princess Ariel:

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

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

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

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