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

Katey in the Kitchen

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

Antihistamines: Acrivastine versus Loratadine

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

My Acrivastine versus Loratadine research summary table

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

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

Exercise

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

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

Food creation: Baked oats

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

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

Food creation: Vegetable and seed noodles

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

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

Food creation: Risotto burgers

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

From this tasty butternut squash risotto:

Butternut squash risotto

To these butternut squash risotto burgers:

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

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

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

Messy cooking:

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

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

Popping corn:

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

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

Long Covid research:

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

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

Cherish each moment:

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

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

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

Betty Smith, American novelist and playwright

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

Alice Morse Earle, American writer and antiquarian

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

>>>Week 78
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References

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

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Health Diary Week 76: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Let’s Concentrate on the Smiles

Smiling Sun. Image: Clker-Free-Vector-Images (Pixabay)

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<<<Week 75

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences. This post is briefer than usual, because I’m feeling kind of exhausted and not much happened really. Don’t worry, this isn’t a reflection on my state of mind – overall I’m feeling pretty happy and that’s going to be my main focus here, after the histamine update.

Histamine overload

I must confess I’ve been lax these past couple of weeks about managing my low histamine diet. I’ve taken little risk after little risk, gradually building up to toxic histamine levels in my system. I need to get motivated to get back on track somehow, because I’m experiencing the fatigue now, along with rhinitis – it doesn’t feel, look or sound good! Surely that’s motivation enough?!

Food creation: Potato bowl

Thankfully potatoes are okay on this low histamine diet, which is great, because I absolutely love potatoes – I can’t imagine not having them in my life. (Having said that, I used to say this about tomatoes and avocadoes, which I can’t eat these days, but I haven’t actually missed them that much). Anyway, one evening I decided I just fancied a bowl of potatoes for dinner. Of course, I wanted an interesting bowl of potatoes, so I concocted a vegetable, seed, spice and herb mix before baking them in the oven (details here). I have to say, the result was an incredibly deliciously satisfying dish:

My potato bowl creation – so tasty!

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Despite this being a shorter than usual post, I still wanted to share some of my positive moments with you, because not only does the reminiscing make me smile, so does the thought it might make someone else smile too:

Street party?:

I decided to take the opportunity to spend some quiet time at my parents’ former rental property before the sale completes. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I was confronted with a street party directly in front of their house (especially after joking with my Mum that this would happen – I didn’t actually think it would). I declined the offer to join the gathering, after all, no more than six people from different households should be meeting outside. I’m quite proud of myself really, because I miss socialising with groups of people, but I also know there will be a safer time to do this:

My sister and I dressed for a street party, 70’s fancy dress style (I’m the little one)

Friends in real life:

So, instead of group gatherings, I took the opportunity to meet a couple of friends outside, now that we can. And how lovely it was to meet friends in person. Sadly, I missed seeing Bevy – hopefully next week. But it brought me great joy to visit Tina’s garden for a proper catch up, whilst enjoying the sunshine warming my face. Actually, upon my arrival, Tina noted I already had a suntan – this was from sitting outside during the glorious Summer-like days earlier in the week:

My somewhat dazed, slightly sunkissed (or pink) face

Pretty flowers:

Talking about sitting in the sunshine. I’ve been keeping an eye on this particular flowerpot when my parents and I sit out the front of the house for coffee (chicory for me). I’ve enjoyed observing the flowers develop over the weeks – aren’t they just so pretty?:

Dad’s pretty flowers. Clockwise: In full bloom, Week 76. Pretty flower that didn’t survive past Week 75 (something ate it!). Flowers not quite in bloom, Week 75. Close ups of flowers waiting to open, Week 75

“Not Molly’s” disapproval:

The boy cat from behind our house, who I call “Not Molly” (because his sister is called Molly and I have no idea what his name is) has become a regular visitor to our driveway. He’s very cautious of us, so when we arrived home from Tina’s house, he sat staring at us disapprovingly from behind our garden gate, almost as if he thought we shouldn’t be there:

“Not Molly” staring at us disapprovingly from behind out garden gate (hmmm, the windscreen needs a good clean)

 Boojagrams:

I love a good quote. One of my favourite things about opening a box of Booja-Booja chocolate truffles (other than the chocolate, of course) is reading the Boojagram. This lockdown has provided a lot of time for self-reflection, which led me to decide some time ago to just be me and not worry so much about what others think about me. So, I felt this message was quite apt:

“Maybe a good way of changing the world is being you”.

Mister Booja-Booja
Mister Booja-Booja Boojagram No. 62: “Maybe a good way of changing the world is being you”. (Excuse my poor attempt to neatly remove the quote from the box)

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 77
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Health Diary Week 74: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Blossom

Tree blossom

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<<<Week 73

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences. Okay, I’ll start with the job stuff…

Psychometric assessment

I received an email on Monday to undergo online assessments for the NHS Graduate Management Trainee job I applied for. I’m not a fan of being assessed, especially in timed circumstances, because I have a slower reading and processing speed due to my Dyspraxia[1]. At university, I received extra time for exams to provide a more level playing field, but I felt uncomfortable asking for this under these circumstances, despite declaring a disability on my application.

There were two parts to the assessment; the first was to check if your personality fit with the NHS and management, consisting of statements on a Likert scale from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree” – this was okay. But then there were the timed, four minutes per section assessments: Verbal reasoning (24 questions), numerical skills (16 questions) and abstract thinking (10 questions). I ran out of time on each part and completely messed up the numerical questions, despite being capable of answering them. I decided I had to just congratulate myself for trying and draw a line under that experience.

Covid Vaccine Centre

I completed the mandatory training and online DBS (criminal record check) for my temporary, bank admin job in a Covid vaccine centre. I received an email back from the lovely admin person, advising I should be able to start work next week – Yay! – I can’t wait to work again.

The Administrator also advised that once I receive the welcome letter, I can book my COVID vaccination – fabulous news – such a relief, especially with the expected slow-down of UK vaccine availability during April (supply issues) and potential restriction of exports to the UK by the EU to enable them to catch up on their programmes. The government reported that despite this slow-down, they still aim to offer the vaccine to all UK adults by the end of July – I really hope this happens.

Typical meals

I didn’t experiment with making anything new this week and just stuck to my easy go-tos: Oats and/or fruit for breakfast, salads for lunch, and mostly pasta or rice (rice details here) for dinner:

Week 74 meal examples. Clockwise: Porridge oats with blueberries, seeds, sweet cinnamon and maple syrup. Salad with potatoes, cornmeal bites, beetroot and celery

Food challenge: Tofu

My weekly challenge was scrambled tofu (again) because Mum wanted me to make her some and I love it so much and didn’t want to miss out. Previously, I experienced mild rhinitis reactions after having tofu in seeded wraps in Week 68 and Week 70. But the seed wraps contained sunflower seeds, listed as “Incompatible, significant symptoms at usual intake” by the Swiss Interest Group on Histamine Intolerance[2]. So, this time I opted to serve my tofu in a pitta bread with notomato sauce (details here)  – I didn’t have a reaction – excellent! Next time, I think I’ll try it Nana’s spaghetti-style (Week 46) with adaptations of Quorn ‘ham’ slices and notomato sauce – I’m excited:

Food re-introduction challenge. Clockwise: Scrambled tofu in pitta bread. Nana’s spaghetti-style scrambled tofu (Week 46). Scrambled tofu seeded wrap with potato roasties (Week 68). Scrambled tofu, salad leaves and notomato sauce seeded wrap (Week 70).

Freezer food finds

Where would I be without my freezer food saviours? Hungry! I found portions of cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’, roast potato, sweet potato and stuffing – I felt like a winner. Sadly, I forgot about them cooking away in the oven and ended up with an overly done dinner, although mostly recoverable – phew!:

Freezer food: Cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’, roast potato, sweet potato and stuffing. Clockwise: Frozen. Charred! Plated pre-gravy. Plated with gravy

Exercise

I’m supposed to be doing my twice daily physiotherapy interim exercises while I’m waiting for my actual physio appointment for my shoulder hypermobility injury. I’m ashamed to say I’ve been a bit lax. I’ve done them once most days, but it just hurts so much – I will do better.

I went out for three strolls this week, totalling 162 minutes, of which 89 minutes were brisk walking. It was lovely to have a stroll and chat with my neighbour who I hadn’t seen for ages due to lockdown rules.

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

And let’s finish off with sharing some of my smile-provokers…

Mandatory training completed:

I was pleased to complete the additional mandatory training courses for my NHS temp admin job, a) because I enjoy learning, and b) so that I can start my role soon – I really want to get back to work now:

NHS mandatory training. Left: Recognising and managing anaphylaxis. Right: Resuscitation – Level 1

Food horrors:

So there I was sat in the cosy warm kitchen, at the little table, happily munching away at my dinner, when suddenly I realised I was literally facing my own food horrors – foods I used to love (tomatoes, satsumas, bananas and avocados) but I can’t eat now because of their high histamine content. I realised I was surprisingly okay with that:

My food horrors – some of my former favourite foods: Tomatoes, satsumas, bananas and avocados

Driveway sun and Spring flowers:

It’s wonderful there’s increasing opportunity to sit out by the driveway pond without being wrapped up in coats, hats, scarves and gloves. And I’m enjoying watching Dad’s potted flowers gradually appear:

My favourite driveway flower photo, so far (it’s actually really small, but so beautiful close up)

Spring is here (again):

We’ve already had the start of Spring from a meteorological perspective (1st March). And on the 20th March, Spring began astronomically[3] – yay! I’m loving noticing more signs of Spring when I’m out walking. So, of course I have to share some of my favourite picture snaps:

Spring is here (again)

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 75
<<<Week 73
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References

1. Dyspraxia UK, Ca 2017. What is Dyspraxia?
2.  Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.
3. Met Office, 2020. When does spring start?

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

Ch-ch-changes

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

What’s New

I 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 70: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

A Trip to A & E

Image: mohamed Hassan (Pixabay)

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

What’s New

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

My Shoulder:

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

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

Image: Tumisu (Pixabay)

Histamine intolerance:

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

Job update:

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

Food and Nutrition

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

Breakfast:

My breakfasts included porridge oats, cereal and fruit:

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

Lunch:

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

Week 70 Lunches. Salad filled pittas

Dinner:

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

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

Snacks:

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

Week 70 Snacks Log Table

Drinks (excluding usual water intake):

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

Week 70 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

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

Week 70 Exercise

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

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

Week 70 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

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

My A & E visit:

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

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

Cushion collaboration:

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

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

A Room with a View:

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

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

Another Watson spillage:

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

Amusing memories: Week 52 cacao incident

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

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

Talking to Strangers

Image: Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke, Pixabay

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

What’s New

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

Job Interview:

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

Covid-19 vaccinations:

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

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

Food and Nutrition

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

Breakfast:

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

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

Lunch:

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

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

Dinner:

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

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

Snacks:

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

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

Drinks (excluding usual water intake):

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

Week 69 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

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

Week 69 Exercise Log Table

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

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

Week 69 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Ahh, my favourite section – what made me smile…

Meal Recovery:

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

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

Snow Day?:

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

A light dusting of snow

Jay visitors:

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

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

Talking to Strangers:

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

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

Mindfulness with Friends:

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

Temple in Cambodia, 2006

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

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

Enjoy the Little Things

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

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

What’s New

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

Covid vaccine update:

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

I have an article brewing:

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

Job application update:

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

Facebook Admin

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

The Rugby Six Nations:

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

Food and Nutrition

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

Breakfast:

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

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

Lunch:

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

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

Dinner:

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

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

Snacks:

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

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

Drinks:

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

Week 68 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

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

Week 68 Exercise

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

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

Week 68 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

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

Tasty Balls:

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

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

Massive Onions:

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

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

Brilliant Blue:

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

Beautiful blue Winter sky

Is it Spring yet?:

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

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

Mask Fail:

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

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

Home Schooling – Learning the ‘F’ Word:

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

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

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

Robert Brault, author

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

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References

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

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate

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

Love, Learn, Create

Mum’s painted portrait of me

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

What’s New

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

Job application:

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

Facebook Admin:

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

Covid update:

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

Building my Knowledge:

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

Food and Nutrition

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

Breakfast:

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

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

Lunch:

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

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

Dinner:

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

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

Snacks:

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

Week 67 Snacks

Drinks:

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

Week 67 Drinks

Exercise

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

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

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

Week 67 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

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

Lettuce Love:

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

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

Heart to Heart:

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

MyNutriWeb Webinar: All Things Diet and Heart Health

Journal Club – Mobile Apps and Health:

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

MyNutriWeb Journal Club: Nutrition before and during Pregnancy

Professor Brian Cox:

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

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

My Painted Portrait with Turtles (of course):

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

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

Spot the Secret:

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

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

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

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

Health Diary Week 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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