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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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wasn’t just a media news report) was a science article[3] linking to a research paper based on only nine patients (not yet peer reviewed)[4] with an Editorial note advising that the researchers work for Pfizer – massive potential for bias!: “The authors disclose conflicts of interest, including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.

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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 67: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Love, Learn, Create

Mum’s painted portrait of me

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

What’s New

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

Job application:

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

Facebook Admin:

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

Covid update:

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

Building my Knowledge:

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

Food and Nutrition

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

Breakfast:

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

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

Lunch:

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

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

Dinner:

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

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

Snacks:

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

Week 67 Snacks

Drinks:

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

Week 67 Drinks

Exercise

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

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

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

Week 67 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

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

Lettuce Love:

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

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

Heart to Heart:

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

MyNutriWeb Webinar: All Things Diet and Heart Health

Journal Club – Mobile Apps and Health:

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

MyNutriWeb Journal Club: Nutrition before and during Pregnancy

Professor Brian Cox:

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

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

My Painted Portrait with Turtles (of course):

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

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

Spot the Secret:

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

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

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

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Health Diary Week 65: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Risky Business

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

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

What’s New

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

Diary Re- Start:

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

Water Leak:

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

Food and Nutrition

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

Food Risks:

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

Breakfast:

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

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

Lunch:

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

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

Dinner:

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

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

Snacks:

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

Week 65 Snacks

Drinks:

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

Week 65 Drinks

Exercise

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

Week 65 Exercise

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

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

Week 65 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

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

Legume Love:

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

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

Quinoa Experiment:

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

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

Mum Portrait Artist – Take 2:

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

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

Minnie Mouse?:

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

Me and My Unintended Minnie Mouse Ears

My Girls:

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

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

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References

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

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

We Are Family

My Grandmother (Nana)

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

What’s New

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

Lockdown:

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

Long Lost Family:

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

Job Interview Update

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

Food and Nutrition

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

Salad Meals:

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

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

Pasta Meals:

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

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

Rice Meals:

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

Rice and Veg Meals

My Food Highlights:

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

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

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

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

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

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

Week 64 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

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

Family:

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

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

Online Socials:

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

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

Portrait Artist Mum:

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

Portrait Artist Mum: Portrait of me at various stages

Cute Kittens:

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

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

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

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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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Health Diary Week 62: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

The Christmas Week Edition

Me in My Sparkly Santa Hat

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

This week’s post (and Week 63) will be a little different than usual, because it’s been the Christmas holidays and I decided to have a break from keeping a food diary. So, here’s my Christmas Edition…

A Relaxed Week – Perhaps a Little too Relaxed

As well as taking a break from my diary, I didn’t worry too much about my histamine intake. I’ve had to ensure I’m well dosed-up on antihistamine (Cetirizine) and corticosteroid spray (Beclometasone) to keep symptoms at bay. I experienced some fatigue and nausea, which I assume were histamine related, but nothing like how it has been.

I indulged in vodka on Monday and… threw up! I had five units, which was possibly a bit too much when I hadn’t drunk booze for so long (silly me) – lesson learnt (I think). On Wednesday I had two units and was fine – phew! And no problems when I had one unit on Christmas Eve. I received a Polish potato-based vodka for Christmas and I’m looking forward to trying it at some point soon – New Year’s Eve perhaps.

The vodkas I bought for myself: Left: Haku Japanese white rice vodka. Right: FAIR quinoa vodka

Just Us

It was just my parents and I over Christmas, since we’re currently in the same household; unfortunately we didn’t see my sister. We collectively decided mixing with others just wasn’t worth the risk, despite the relaxed Christmas day rules – Covid-19 cases are rapidly rising (again) and we’d been pre-warned we’d be Tier 4 (localised lockdown) from Boxing Day. So, we chose to keep it an insular one.

Christmas Eve Buffet

Usually on Christmas Eve night, I’d be at the pub with my friends until midnight and then come home (rather tipsy) to a late-night buffet. Instead, we enjoyed our buffet much earlier and I only drank one vodka with cranberry and apple juice. I prepared a separate vegan and gluten free mini buffet for myself (details here). It included a side salad, blue cheese, homemade macadamia nut spreadable ‘cheeses’ (smoked paprika and garlic and herb – ingredients here) and homemade veg puffs (ingredients here) – delicious!:

Christmas Eve Buffet Dinner. Clockwise: My Mini Buffet. Side Salad. Macadamia Nut ‘Cheeses’: Sweet Paprika and Garlic, Onion and Herb. Vegetable Puff Pastries. I didn’t eat it all, but I did eat a lot!

Still a Kid at Heart

Am I too grown-up for a Christmas stocking? Nah! I awoke Christmas morning to find a stocking filled with lots of beautifully wrapped wonderful goodies – yay! Santa also decided that my Mum wasn’t too mature to receive a stocking either:

My Christmas Stocking Goodies. And so Beautifully Wrapped – Thanks Santa

Chilled Christmas

We got up fairly late on Christmas Day. It was a beautifully sunny day, so we all went out for a stroll. Afterwards we had coffee (well, I had my Chicory Cup) on the driveway, watching the busy birds – who would have thought we’d be sat out on a Winter’s morning?!

Christmas Morning Coffee on the Driveway – actually it might have been the afternoon

Christmas Dinner Feast

It took us a while to get around to cooking Christmas dinner. I had a delightful assortment of veg – roasted carrot, parsnip, sweet potato and Jerusalem artichokes, Brussel sprouts with chestnuts, red cabbage with apple and Winter mash (swede, carrot and celeriac). My favourite was the crispy on the outside and soft on the inside roast potatoes (just heavenly!). There were also ‘chipolata’ sausages wrapped in ‘ham’ slices, sage and onion stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy. I was completely stuffed by the end of the meal, but still looking forward to the same again on Boxing Day:

My Christmas Dinner: Clockwise: My plant-based Christmas dinner plate. Roast potatoes (my fav part), Brussel sprouts and chestnuts. Winter mash. Red cabbage with apple

Spa Evening

And what did I do in the evening? Well, I treated myself to a mini spa. I donned a face mask, loaded the bath with lovely smellies, grabbed a book and just chilled – lovely:

Me Trying to Smile with a Rapidly Solidifying Face Mask

Gifts Galore

Wow, I was totally spoilt, receiving loads of wonderful and thoughtful gifts, mostly from ethical and independent businesses. I particularly loved how my sister and Carl bought us all a gift from a charity shop – I got boxing gloves and my Mum received the sparring pads – I’ll try not to be too hard on you Mum. Emma also supported a local artist through some of her gift purchases – great idea.

The Amazing Present Haul

Bamboo Bliss:

Have I ever told you how much I love bamboo products? – it’s beautifully soft, antimicrobial (antiallergenic) and importantly, a sustainable material. So, imagine my delight when I received a bamboo duvet, pillow, pillowcases and weighted blanket (I’d wanted one of these blankets for ages – very comforting).

Chocolate Feast:

I was excited at the prospect of indulging in some chocolate over the festive season. I haven’t had any since 19 October, when I started my low histamine diet – that’s over 10 weeks ago! I didn’t venture into the chocolate stash until Boxing Day – I was a little nervous it would cause rhinitis histamine issues. It tasted rather wonderful – Booja Booja is the best chocolate ever (in my humble opinion). But once I’d started, I wanted more (and more and more) – uh oh…

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

So, after all my indulgences, am I surprised that my weight and body fat increased? Nope. Am I concerned? Not at all – I mean it’s Christmas! Do I expect to gain more weight next week? Probably. But that’s okay, because I’ll get back on it in the new year. As it stands, I’m around a stone lighter than this time last year:

Week 62 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

So, what else made me smile this week? I’ll show you…

My Present Wrapping Skills:

I can wrap presents nicely – let’s not discuss the wonky paper cutting or tape issues though. In a bid to be more environmentally friendly, I used plain brown paper, as well as reusing bags, ribbons and other bits:

My Ace Present Wrapping (oops, I just spotted wonkiness in the top left pic)

Quinoa Protein Balls:

I’m not a massive fan of quinoa, but I’d been trying to think of an enjoyable way to include it in my diet, as it’s a good quality plant protein source and currently I can’t consume legumes, my former go-to, partnered with grains. And so, I created a rather tasty quinoa balls option (recipe here), served with brown rice spaghetti and previously batch cooked not tomato sauce (with fresh parsley). I have to say it was really tasty and there’s a nice batch of leftovers that have been frozen for another day:

Quinoa Protein Balls, Not Tomato Sauce and Brown Rice Spaghetti – Delicious!

I Got Cheesy:

I used to make a soft ‘cheese’ alternative with cashew nuts, but cashews are currently off the menu. However, I can eat Brazil, pistachio and macadamia nuts. I wasn’t that impressed by the macadamia nuts, so I thought I’d try making them into flavoured cheeses. The onion, garlic and herb version was so tasty, that I made it again (more successfully) on Boxing Day to accompany my salad lunch (ingredients here) – delicious!:

My Macadamia Nut ‘Cheese’ (onion, garlic and herb) with Boxing Day Nibbles

Daytime Moon:

I noticed a gorgeous daytime moon in the blue sky, peeping out above the treeline and had to take a photo:

Daytime Moon

Random WordPress Notification:

On Christmas morning I received a message from WordPress informing I’d reached 1,337 Likes – great to know, albeit a little random to choose this figure as a landmark:

Random WordPress Notification: My Likes

My New Avatar:

One of my besties created an Avatar Me for Christmas – very thoughtful and something on my long list of ‘to-dos’. The original was a much slimmer and less curvy version of the real me. The thing is, I strongly feel it’s important not to promote an unrealistic slim version of myself and I actually quite like my curves, so we agreed my avatar should be amended to reflect my figure more realistically. Absolutely love it – Thank you!:

My Christmas Present Avatar: Left: Final Version of Me. Right: Skinnier Version

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 61: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Unexpected Delights

Rainbow Spotted during my Walk

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

What’s New

Okay, I’m starting with a heads-up – I’m unsure exactly when I’ll post week 62 results, what with Christmas happening. It might just be that I post a slimmer version than usual (I might not be slimmer though!).

I’m happy (and relieved) to report I had a minimal rhinitis week – Yippee! 

My most exciting news (for me anyway) is that I have an NHS job interview for the position of Occupational Health and Wellbeing Practitioner. Honestly, I was surprised to be shortlisted, but having said that, this job sounds very me and the more I think about it, the more I want it. So, fingers crossed I perform well and impress the interview panel.

The big national news (not good news sadly) came on Saturday – the Prime Minister announced there’s a new SARS-COV-2 variant in the UK and it’s around 70% more transmissible than previous strains. Sooo, the plan for easing restrictions for five days over Christmas were changed to just Christmas Day. And they’ve introduced a Tier 4[1], which is pretty much a localised lockdown – anyone in this Tier misses out on Christmas mixing. I’m fortunate to be in Tier 2[1] (for now) and we didn’t have much in the way of Christmas plans, but it must be horrible for those finding themselves in these last-minute circumstances.

Tier System. Image: Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms via BBC News

Food and Nutrition

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

Breakfast:

I opted for a light breakfast of just three Brazil nuts twice, just because I didn’t fancy much. I had corn cakes with apricot and/or blackcurrant jams three times – I prefer the taste of corn cakes to rice cakes. I ate porridge oats just once with apple, chia seeds, maple syrup and sweet cinnamon. My favourite breakfast was mango – it’s low histamine and I tolerated it well (phew!):

Week 61 Breakfasts. Left to right: Mango. Corn cakes with jam. Porridge oats with apple

Lunch:

Lunches were either my pasta (three times) or salad (four times) accompanied by some form of cornmeal (no surprise there). Once, I made a tasty cornmeal-based frittata with red potatoes, Winter cabbage and sweet white onion – delicious. The salad typically contains leaves, radishes, cucumber, celery and spring onion with a sweet paprika and rapeseed oil dressing. My simple pasta (twice) just contains sweetcorn, onion, turmeric, sweet paprika and rapeseed oil. But on Sunday I got a bit snazzier and added courgette and grated carrot – tasty:

Week 61 Lunches. My New Typical Salad with Polenta (left to right: bites, balls, frittata)

Dinner:

All but two of my meals were utilised from previous batch-cooking – whenever I cook something, I try to have at least one extra portion left to freeze for days when I don’t have time to or feel like cooking. This week I used up my vegetable spring rolls, sweet potato chips and wedges, cauliflower bites, cauliflower ‘cheese’ and my unusual paella. I’d fancied vegetable paella, but didn’t have the typical ingredients, so I just used what I had – yellow pepper, purple sprouting broccoli, Winter cabbage, sweetcorn, celery and sweet white onion… and it tasted great. One evening Mum treated me to some homemade chips, which I had with a spring roll and not tomato sauce:

Week 61 Dinners: Left to right: Spring Roll with Sweet Potato Chips and Cauliflower Bites. Unusual Paella. Mum’s Chips with Spring Roll

Snacks:

Popcorn continues to be my go-to snack, especially the sweet and salty variety. Other snacks included corn cakes with jam, nuts and crackers. I took a risk on Monday and helped myself to a handful of ‘cheese’ and onion crisps I’d found that were open (may contain histamine) – there didn’t seem to be any adverse effects:

Week 61 Snacks Log Table

Drinks

I drank loads of Chicory Cup – up to four cups a day. I had a rooibos tea and apple concentrate once. I took a risk on Friday and had a tiny sip of Mum’s glass of red wine (high histamine content) – it tasted so good. My vodka order arrived (moderate histamine, so I need to be careful) – I really wanted a potato-based vodka, but I couldn’t find any in the UK – they’re mostly wheat. Instead, I settled for quinoa and white rice. I’d ordered the vodka for Christmas and my Birthday but decided to try it and poured myself a double topped with ice – it was so strong and took me two hours to drink!:

Week 61 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

Go me! – I got myself out for a walk every day this week, despite there being quite a lot of rainy days – somehow, I managed to dodge the worst of it. Once I went for a walk with my neighbour, Elise – it was good to have a catch up. So, unsurprisingly, I improved on last week’s total exercise – nearly four and a half hours this week compared to just over two hours the week before:

Week 61 Exercise: Left to right: Squirrel. My Week’s Active 10 Walks. Red Leaves

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Wow! 2.6 lb (1.2 kg) weight loss and 0.9% body fat reduction – I’m very happy with that. This brings me down to 158.6 lb (71.9 kg), so back under the 160 lb mark – yay! It seems that just little tweaks of getting out for a walk each day and being more mindful about how much rapeseed oil I add to my meals made a positive impact. Talking about positive…:

Week 61 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It’s been a positive week (apart from the latest virus stuff), so of course there’s been lots to smile about. Here’s a few things that brightened up my life…

Journal Club:

MyNutriWeb hosted its third Journal Club with Dr Gemma Walton leading the discussion. The research paper[2] we critiqued reported on a randomised control trial that found a specific probiotic mix (Lactobacillus gasseri PA 16/8, Bifidobacterium longum SP 07/3 and Bifidobacterium bifidum MF 20/5) reduced cold virus symptoms by two days. We discussed how specific bacterial species and strain (as opposed to just genus) were important for health outcomes. In hindsight, I’d also be interested to know which cold virus(es) the participants had, because there’s loads of different ones and I wonder whether this would make a difference in how patients responded to the probiotics mix:  

MyNutriWeb Journal Club. Images: Right: MyNutriWeb Instagram Post. Left: My Certificate of Attendance

Garage Social:

Excitingly, the garage door has been fixed – we haven’t been able to use it for a couple of months. This is fantastic news, because I could meet-up with Bevy, even though it was pouring with rain – we were nicely sheltered in the garage doorway:

A Working Garage Door – Yay!

My Little Elf Friend:

Mum and I went for a drive to hand deliver some Christmas cards. One such recipient was Tina. When Tina opened the door, it brought a smile to my face, as I was impressed by Tina’s cute elf attire. And, it was lovely to have a quick doorstep chat:

Tina the Christmas Elf

Rainbow Delight:

I was out walking with my friend, Elise, when we spotted this delightful rainbow in the park. There was a hint of a second rainbow above it:

Beautiful Rainbow on a Grey Rainy Day

Random Happiness:

I had a message from a new Instagram contact, @majellarohan, informing me that I’d been randomly chosen for a positivity quote. How lovely:

Random happiness message from @majellarohan

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. Wishing you all a happy holiday season.

Happy Holidays!

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References

1. GOV.UK, 2020. Guidance: Local restriction tiers: what you need to know.
2. de Vresea et al., 2006. Probiotic bacteria reduced duration and severity but not the incidence of common cold episodes in a double blind, randomized, controlled trial.

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Health Diary Week 60: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Mindfulness in the Woods

Woodland Trees

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

What’s New

This week felt quite productive on the whole – I completed some job applications and arranged a new shower installation for my tenants. But Tuesday was the exception – I achieved very little, owing to a case of bad rhinitis, which continued into the following afternoon. My poor nose was ever so sore. I’m unsure what triggered my histamine reaction. I’m wondering whether it was something in my multivitamin and mineral supplement, which I’ve not taken as often as I’d intended over fear it could set me off – I’ll have to keep track of this.

And, I’ve been more social, albeit mostly online, despite being ‘allowed’ to socialise with up to six people outside (England Tier 2 ). On Wednesday I had a lovely mindfulness catch-up with Karen, Julie and Chrissy, although sadly not in person as previously planned, because it was very cold. Thursday was my most social day, starting with a visit from my uncle who we probably haven’t seen for over a year. He was working in the area, so joined us on the driveway for a cuppa. I then caught up with some friends online.

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 and health…

Breakfast:

No porridge oats for me this week – I just didn’t fancy it. But I know I should eat more oats, as they’re a good fibre source and I definitely need more fibre in my life now that legumes (beans, peas and pulses) are out on the low histamine diet – I really hope I can re-introduce them in the not so distant future. Instead, I ate nuts, apples and rice cakes with jam:

Week 60 Breakfasts: Left: Rice cake with black cherry jam and an aple. Right: Brazil and pistachio nuts

Lunch:

I ate salad for lunch five times this week, usually accompanied by either polenta or cornmeal frittata. I’m in a Facebook group, which includes people with histamine intolerance and was surprised to hear that corn is a trigger for some – fingers crossed this doesn’t present as an issue for me, as it’s become a staple on my low histamine diet. In fact, on Thursday, my lunch was just cornmeal mash with courgette (zucchini). And on Friday I made my best cornmeal frittata yet. We were lacking fresh salad on Wednesday, so I made a simple rice with turmeric and courgette – I should have used brown rice for added fibre, but I was hungry and craving white rice, which is quicker to cook:

Week 60 Lunches: Left to right: Salad with polenta balls. Turmeric rice. Salad with my best cornmeal frittata yet

Dinner:

I had a couple of meals from the freezer during the week: frittata with roastie potatoes and butternut squash risotto. Unfortunately, the risotto is less risotto-like texturally after it’s been frozen, but it still tasted good. On Monday I had a very satisfying plate of veg: roasted potato, sweet potato and carrot with pan-fried cabbage and courgette. As I was feeling rough on Tuesday, I opted for my simple pasta of sweetcorn, spring onion and turmeric. Thursday was my favourite baked potato combo of courgette and sweetcorn (I know – lots of courgettes this week). I made a tasty vegetable spaghetti on Friday with… courgettes (of course), baby sweet peppers and sweetcorn (my other easy go-to veg). My highlight was the cauliflower ‘cheese’ Mum made at my request with sweet potato instead of cheese – more on that in What Made Watson Smile:

Week 60 Dinners Log Table
Week 60 Dinners: Clockwise: Cauliflower ‘cheese’. Vegetable spaghetti. Plate of vegetables. Courgette and sweetcorn jacket potato

Snacks:

I didn’t snack much this week, but when I did it was usually sweet and salty popcorn. I ate chia and flax crackers a couple of times and once I chose rice cakes with jam. I should try to include some fruit into my snacking to mix it up a bit and reduce my free sugars and salt content:

Week 60 Snacks Log Table

Drinks

I’m consuming a lot of Chicory Cup (alternative coffee), which is completely okay (especially as it’s a source of fibre), except that I add a little sugar (1/4 teaspoon) to each drink, so I need to be mindful about this. Other hot drinks were rooibos and peppermint teas. I also drank some juices – I don’t want to be having too many of these due to the high sugar content:

Week 60 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

It’s been another gentle week exercise-wise, focusing solely on walking (when the weather was decent). I only went out three times and I can’t always blame the weather for the days I didn’t walk. But it was an improvement on last week (that wasn’t hard), totalling just over two hours strolling. My motivation for walking was renewed at the end of the week after watching a video shared by fellow blogger, Effective Diet Plan, reviewing the scientific evidence on how 30 minute daily walks can aid weight loss – so now I’m going to have to prove that in next week’s blog:

Week 60 Exercise – Walks: Left and right: Interesting tree trunks. Middle: My week’s Active 10 walks

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Oh no, my weight is gradually increasing again – I gained 1 lb (0.5 kg) and 0.2% body fat. I will get this under control again, although I’m not exactly eating loads. I guess I need to get out on those walks I just talked about. But also, I might have gotten a bit overly generous with the rapeseed oil in cooking and as dressings – I’ll still use the oil, but be more conscious about how much I’m using each time:

Week 60 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Okay, let’s get some smiles on our faces…

Saucy Goodness:

I love cauliflower cheese – so much! But most cheeses, including hard dairy varieties, soya and some nut-based ones are an issue on a low histamine diet. So, this presented the perfect opportunity to try making a sweet potato cheese sauce alternative. Well Mum actually made it, because I was engrossed in completing a job application. The great thing about this was that it reduced total and saturated fat content, as cheeses tend to contain a lot. The ingredients are here if you’d like to give it a try. I reckon it would also be great in a mac and cheese:   

Cauliflower ‘cheese’ – Just look at all that non-cheesy (sweet potato) saucy goodness – yum!

Woodland Secrets:

Mum and I wandered through a little woodland area, looking for interesting trees and bark to photograph for Mum’s latest weekly art project. We stumbled upon a pathway we hadn’t noticed before and spotted this rather beautiful scene. The path ended in a clearing within the woods:

Woodland Walk

Mum’s Mindfulness-Provoking Art Projects:

There’s been a beneficial knock-on effect of Mum’s weekly art projects. Mum tells me the theme and if relevant, I’ll spend time more mindfully, looking carefully at what’s around me during my walks in case there’s photo opportunities for Mum. Last week’s mission was garden gates, which I tried to take photos of discretely. This week, as mentioned above, was trees and their bark, so I took photos of the ones below to provide Mum more options to choose from:

Interesting Trees and their bark. The one on the left looks like it has a face, don’t you think?

Hello Heron:

I was delighted to watch this heron gracefully alight on my neighbour’s rooftop while I was diligently working away at my computer. I wish I could have got a closer shot. In my excitement, I fumbled with my phone trying to take photos of the heron mid-flight as it flew away – as you can see by my unsuccessful efforts below:

Heron Visitor

Land Rover Parking Zone:

So, I was sat at the dinner table with my parents when I glanced towards the Christmas tree and noticed a little, rather battered, Land Rover parked underneath it. I asked what this was about (it’s not like we have any kids in the house) and Dad’s response was “Oh, so that’s where it went” – no further explanation – has Dad started playing with toy cars during lockdown boredom? Upon more questioning, he explained that he’d found it lurking under some furniture. I wonder if it’s still parked under the tree – I’ll have to check:

Parked Land Rover under the Christmas tree

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 61
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Health Diary Week 59: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Christmas Vibes Arrived

One of Mum’ s Christmas Coconuts

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

What’s New

It’s been another quiet week for me. I only left the house twice!

Covid-19 Vaccine:

The most exciting news was that the MHRA (UK medicine regulator), approved the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. It’s due to start being rolled out to the most vulnerable next week. I think it will be a while before my turn arrives, but at least it’s on the horizon. More on UK vaccine regulation here.

The Plan:

I didn’t really explain my histamine plan last week. I’m hoping to calm my mast cells (histamine releasers) for at least six months to give time for a better-behaved generation of mast cells to take over. To do this I need to accept that I’ll be taking antihistamines at least once a day and follow a low histamine diet (mostly). I’ll be doing this more seriously from January, because I’ll be indulging in some higher histamine foods over Christmas week. When I’m happy my cells are behaving better, I’ll try the histamine elimination diet again before starting some food re-introduction challenges. Of course, with further research, the plan might change – we’ll see.

Oh, Christmas Tree:

We usually put up our Christmas decorations mid-December. But not this year. On the 1st of December we got the decorations out and made a start. Then on the 2nd, Dad put up the tree and lights and found us some festive tunes – that’s his part done. Mum and I then decorated the tree together.

The Naughty List:

Now, traditionally (in our household at least) tree decorating is accompanied with a glass of Port and mince pie. The thing is both these treats are on the naughty list where histamine is concerned. But not only did I risk it anyway, I bought some particularly indulgent Lottie Shaw’s iced gin mince pies that were not gluten free – I have a rebellious streak. I ate one with a glass of Port and it was all delicious. That first couple of sips of Port were divine. Was this sensible? No. Do I regret it? Not so much. Did it affect me adversely? Well, yea. On Friday (alcohol always seems to affect me two days later) I had a full-on rhinitis day, controlled to an extent by antihistamines. Interestingly, my gut seemed okay gluten-wise.

Food and Nutrition

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

Breakfast:

I skipped breakfast on Monday. The following morning, I ate a bowl of melon – I’m loving melon. Another light meal was Brazil and pistachio nuts. I had porridge oats with apple, seeds, maple syrup and sweet cinnamon a couple of times. My favourite breakfast was colcannon mashed potato from the freezer – it felt comforting:

Week 59 Breakfasts. Left: porridge oats with apple. Rigth: Colcannon (cabbage with mashed potato)

Lunch:

I opted for the easy to prepare lunch option of pasta with sweetcorn, onion and turmeric three times. My other lunches were salad-based, my favourite being a tasty watercress salad (ingredients):

Week 59 Lunches. Left: watercress salad. Right: Courgette and yellow pepper cornmeal frittata with salad

Dinner:

My batch cooked freezer meals came in handy three times – pumpkin, potato and coconut curry(ish) (ingredients), vegetable spaghetti and butternut squash risotto (ingredients). I made another batch of risotto earlier in the week – it seems to be becoming a staple. My highlight was delicious fennel steaks and chips that Mum made (more details). And my second attempt at spring rolls (vegetables and rice) was an improvement on last time, except for the first one sliding off my spatula and bursting on the floor:

Week 59 Dinners Log Table
Week 59 Dinners: Clockwise: Butternut squash risotto. Fennel steak and chips. Vegetable and rice spring rolls. Vegetable spaghetti

Snacks:

Popcorn, especially the sweet and salty kind, featured heavily on my snacking menu again. I also enjoyed nuts (Brazil and pistachio) and plain crackers a few times. I snacked on rice cakes and jam and white rice once. And then there was the indulgent mince pie – I still can’t bring myself to regret it:

Week 59 Snacks. Left: Mince pie and Port. Right: Brazil and pistachio nuts

Drinks

Chicory coffee replacement is my new love (I might have already told you this) – I drink it a lot. Now and then I slipped in a rooibos or peppermint tea. Cold drinks were water with apple or cranberry concentrate:

Week 59 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

My motivation to go outside was pretty minimal this week – I’m not proud of myself. I dragged myself out for a walk twice, totalling just 94 minutes, a massive decrease compared to last week. Clearly I need to up my game:

Week 59 Exercise. Blue sky and treetops

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

It was no surprise to me that I gained a little weight this week – 0.6 lb (0.3 kg), so I’m now weighing in at 160.2 lb (72.7 kg) – boo, I want to be under that 160 lb mark again. On the positive side, my body fat percentage decreased a little, by 0.3%:

Week 59 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It’s smile time!…

Christmas Tree Decorating:

Well, of course I had to include the Christmas tree decorating in my smiles section. Our tree decorations are mostly memories – holiday souvenirs, gifts from loved ones, or handmade treasures from craft fayres. So, when we’re sorting through them, Mum and I take some time to reminisce:

Decorated Christmas Tree. Cheeky Mince Pie and Port

Upcycling – Mum’s Christmas Coconuts:

How cute are my Mum’s upcycled Christmas coconut shells? I think the answer is “very cute indeed”. She hung them in a couple of strings in the window (centre pic). Mum experimented with modelling clay to make a couple of the snowmen and a tree. There’s a robin and snowman theme going on here:

Upcycling: Mums Christmas Coconuts

Spooky Moon:

I’ve always loved looking up at the sky. When I was a kid, I wanted a telescope. I got binoculars and a bird watching book instead – I loved them (but still wanted a telescope). Anyway, Mum pointed out the spooky moon, so I’m sharing it with you:

Spooky Moon

Two Guys and a Gal:

Our duck buddies are still here – two guys and a gal. It’s always a joy to see them in the pond. They seem to disappear off for the day and come back in the evening. I never see them leave or arrive, so I presume its some kind of magic:

Lining Up My Ducks – well, they’re not actually my ducks and they chose this arrangement themselves

Expanding Follows:

It’s been a milestone week in terms of follows on my Instagram and WordPress accounts. I reached over 200 follows on WordPress and over 1,000 on Instagram. I’d like to say the hugest thank you to anyone who has supported me throughout my health diary. And I continue to enjoy reading everyone else’s posts:

Follows: Over 1,000 Instagram and 200 WordPress Follows: 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 60
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Health Diary Week 58: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

I Changed My Plan

Plan Change. Image: yogesh more, Pixabay

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

What’s New

It was the last full week of lockdown 2.0, so it’s been relatively quiet here – again just leaving the house to go for a walk and an unplanned drive (more on that in my smile section).

My injured shoulder is improving, although movement is still quite restricted. I’m optimistic it will continue to improve over time.

 I was up to ten days without taking antihistamine (since I last caved), but I didn’t feel healthy – I was exhausted most of the time and struggled to function. So, I decided to undertake further research – I spent ages searching for information about adverse long-term effects from my antihistamine (cetirizine), but couldn’t find what had worried me before, so for now I’m discounting that concern (Week 47). I watched a really interesting YouTube video by RUN-DMC, interviewing Dr Tina Peers, a specialist in histamine intolerance (Factsheet[1]) and mast cells (a histamine releaser). Interestingly, the focus was on long-haul covid and a possible link to mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)[2]. She advised that mast cells are renewed around every six months, so by calming down these cells (e.g. adopting a low histamine diet, taking specific supplements and antihistamines), the next generation of mast cells tend to behave better (video here[3]). All fascinating stuff, requiring further research. So, I’m back on the antihistamines for now.

Also, I’ve just finished completing an application for another job that sounded very me, which is why this post is a day later than usual. Fingers crossed!

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:

My breakfasts were quite minimal, as I just wasn’t feeling it. I had hearty porridge oats with apple and blackcurrant jam once, but other than that, a handful of nuts or some fruit (melon, apple) sufficed:

Week 58 Breakfasts: Left to right: Canatloupe melon. Porridge oats with apple and blackcurrant jam. Apples

Lunch:

I hadn’t realised until looking back at my diary that I’d opted for pasta with sweetcorn and onion four times this week – I didn’t have much energy for food preparation – hence why I’m back on the antihistamines, as not taking them seemed counter-productive to my nutrition status. I managed to cobble together salad on three days, but supplies were limited before our next online delivery. I was pleased with my cornmeal-based frittatas, one with red pepper, the other with cabbage. But I risked using a red pepper past it’s best and I suspect that set off a nasty bout of rhinitis Monday evening:

Week 58 Lunches: Left to right: Red pepper cornmeal frittata with salad. Brown rice pasta with sweetcorn and spring onion. Cabbage cornmeal frittata with salad.

Dinner:

I utilised some of my batch prepared meals from the freezer for several dinners. I tweaked my brown rice with purple carrot and cabbage (ingredients) by stirring in some not tomato sauce (ingredients) – this worked very well. I loved the vegetable paella I’d made previously (ingredients) – I added some polenta bites (ingredients, plus onion) as the portion was a little small for my liking. I also had pumpkin and potato coconut curry from the freezer with some rice (ingredients). Mum cooked up some red cabbage, sweet potato wedges and Jerusalem artichokes, which was a surprisingly satisfying meal. And I assisted Mum with making a delicious squash soup (ingredients) earlier in the week. But my highlight has to be the amazingly tasty cauliflower bites and potato roasties I made, incorporating cornmeal for crunchiness and various flavours (ingredients) – this took some time to cook, but I’ll definitely be making it again – Oh, I should mention they were accompanied by steamed broccoli:

Week 58 Dinners Log Table
Week 58 Dinners: Clockwise: Brown rice with purple carrot and cabbage with not tomato sauce. Vegetable paella with polenta bites. Red cabbage, sweet potato and Jerusalem artichokes. Cauliflower bites, potato roasties and broccoli

Snacks:

There wasn’t much in the way of snacking really. Mostly I snacked on popcorn – I proportion it into a small bowl to avoid over-eating, because it’s just so more-ish. Other times I had an apple, rice cakes with jam, or a handful of nuts:

Week 58 Snacks Log Table

Drinks:

As I mentioned last week, I’m totally in love with my replacement coffee – the wonderful Chicory Cup – I drink two to three cups of this stuff each day. Thankfully, it’s naturally caffeine free, so I’m not bouncing off the walls. I was having half a teaspoon of sugar in each cup, but I’m now down to a quarter teaspoon instead. Surprisingly, I didn’t drink any rooibos tea this week. I’m also loving Rocks apple concentrate, which I sometimes have with my lunch. And Biona cranberry juice is another pleasant daytime cold drink. I should mention that I also drink plenty of water throughout the day and evening:

Week 58 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

I’m really pleased with myself for going walking nearly every day – I just missed Wednesday. Mostly I went out with Mum and once Dad joined me. My walking totalled 310 minutes (over 5 hours), which I’m happy with, even more so because it’s a decent increase compared to last week’s physical activity. I want to get myself back to some exercise biking soon. Although, I’m feeling a little wary at the moment, because Dr Peers advised exercise can trigger mast cells to release histamine[1] and I’m trying to calm down those guys:

Week 58 Exercise: Left: Autumnal view from atop a hill. Lone flower seen on a walk.

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Well, there was no change in weight and my body fat percentage increased slightly, but I’m not particularly concerned at this stage. I’ll wait and see what next week brings before deciding whether I need to make any tweaks:

Week 58 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

There were plenty of smiles this week. I especially like sharing the little occurrences, as I think it’s important to recognise and appreciate these more…

I Ate a Prince:

I’m loving the names given to squash. This week I had a ‘Crown Prince’ squash, which Mum and I made into a very simple but delicious soup (ingredients here):

Crown Prince Squash. Images: Top: Abel and Cole. Bottom right: Martin Ludlam, Pixabay. Bottom left: Mine

I’m in the Club:

I enjoy reading and critiquing scientific research papers, so I was really pleased when MyNutriWeb introduced a journal club. We critiqued a cross-sectional research paper investigating energy content of restaurant meals. I’m such a nerd, but a proud nerd!:

MyNuriWeb Journal Club. Images: MyNutriWeb

Natural Beauty:

Mum and I spotted these berries and flower whilst out walking one day. They looked extra beautiful, because everything else around them looked quite barren:

Pretty berries and flower spotted on a walk

Slow – Hedgehogs:

We saw this cute sign outside someone’s home during one of our walks. I love that they’d put up a sign. And a bowl of water for passing creature visitors. Also, the little red flowers by the sign were a lovely sight too at this time of year:

Slow down for the hedgehogs!

Potato Love:

My sister made me smile when she sent me a meme of a kitten cuddling up to some mashed potatoes. She’s right – I love potatoes, I think I always have. I seem to be developing a similar relationship to cornmeal, onions, turmeric and sweet paprika:

Top: Meme my sister sent me. Bottom: My potato roasties – yum!

The Failed Country Park Walk:

Mum suggested we jump in the car and visit a local country park for a walk. But us being us, this didn’t go quite to plan. First, we thought it would be a good idea to stop at a park to cut through on foot, but then realised the grounds were very muddy. So, we aborted that idea and drove to the back of the country park (diverting to check out the house I first remember living in), but we couldn’t find anywhere to park. So, we drove to the usual car park, but we got confused by the new not-ticket system and I needed to wee by this point, so we just drove home and went for a shorter than intended walk close to home, while giggling about our fail:

Driving around – this was a day (back in the Summer) when we knew what we were doing

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 59
<<<Week 57
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References

1. Dr Tina Peers, 2020. Histamine Intolerance factsheet.
2. Dr Tania Dempsey, 2020. Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS).
3. RUN-DMC, 2020. Here’s How You Treat Long Covid – Lessons From MCAS – Dr Tina Peers.

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