Health Diary Week 57: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

I Totally Caved!

Me on Messenger – this isn’t how I usually look – honest! I hope this pic made you smile

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

What’s New

Here in England, we’re still in lockdown – I know, it’s not actually new, but worth mentioning – the only time I left my home was to go for a walk.

Histamine Error:

At the end of Week 56, I took a risk and ate some bread containing sunflower seeds – this turned out to be a very, very bad idea! And I enjoyed the bread so much, that I ate another two slices for breakfast on Monday. The result – severe rhinitis on Tuesday and Wednesday rendering me incapable of functioning – so, I caved and took antihistamine and steroid nasal spray – I was a bit gutted, as I’d achieved 24 days without them. In hindsight, I should have checked the histamine food list[1], as it showed significant symptoms at usual quantity – whoops! Thankfully, I felt okay the remainder of the week. As of last Sunday, I’m back up to four days without use. Also, I’ve changed my environment slightly, by moving into the guest room and swapping my duvet for a different one – I’ve also got a hypoallergenic bamboo duvet and pillow coming my way for Christmas – so excited about this!

The Potential Culprit: Seedful gluten, dairy and yeast free (tasty) bread

Hypermobility Incident:

The other unfortunate occurrence was a repeat hypermobility[2] incident on my right shoulder – it part popped out of joint (subluxation) when I stretched my arms while still half asleep. Thankfully, it quickly realigned itself, but now it’s incredibly sore and achy again, disrupting my sleep.

Food Experiments:

It’s not all doom and gloom – on a happier note, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with food preparation for my low histamine diet – I enjoy challenging myself. And of course, you’ll see more examples of what made me smile later in this post.

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:

Monday started with that fateful seeded bread, so I won’t be doing that again. I only had porridge oats once, with apple and my other usual toppings. On Thursday I felt brave enough to try another food challenge – this time was a safer choice of mango, as occasional small quantities were found to be usually well tolerated[1] – and indeed it seemed to be. I had a honeydew melon over two days for a change – it tasted delightful. I skipped breakfast on Sunday, just because I didn’t fancy any:

Week 57 Breakfasts. Left-to-right: Mango Challenge. Porridge Oats with Apple. Honeydew Melon

Lunch:

I had my new typical salad over five days, with beetroot when available and either steamed potatoes, or my new love, polenta bites. When I felt rough on Tuesday I opted for some Mexican chia and flax crackers and salted popcorn. Likewise, on Wednesday I chose a simple pasta flavoured with turmeric and sweet paprika, accompanied by crackers:

Week 57 Lunches: My New Typical Salad with Steamed Potatoes or Polenta Bites

Dinner:

On Monday I ate half a sweet potato from the freezer with fresh asparagus and broccoli and my first trial of making polenta. Tuesday was a simple dish of rice with turmeric and sweet paprika, as I didn’t have the energy to do much. I was feeling a lot better by Wednesday evening, so I made a butternut squash risotto. I cooked a batch of brown rice with cabbage and purple carrot the following day. At the weekend I decided to experiment and finally prepare a ‘not tomato sauce’[3] and some cauliflower bites – both were soooo good. My Mum kindly made me a baked potato with courgette, turmeric and sweet paprika – love this! On Sunday I decided to attempt a red pepper frittata with cornmeal instead of chickpea flour (it worked well) and accompanied this with potato roasties and ‘not tomato sauce’:

Week 57 Dinners Log Table
Week 57 Dinners: Clockwise: Sweet Potato with Broccoli, Asparagus and Polenta. Butternut Squash Risotto. Cornmeal Pepper Frittata with Potato Roasties. Rice with Cabbage and Purple Carrot

Snacks:

Snacks were my usual popcorn and nuts (macadamia and Brazil, sadly I’d run out of pistachios). Also, I had a few butternut squash seeds from my risotto and I wanted to see how they tasted roasted – they were good.

Week 57 Snacks Log Table

Drinks:

My teas included rooibos, apple and cinnamon and chamomile. Juices were cranberry and apple and cranberry concentrate. My most exciting drink has to be the chicory coffee replacement – game changer! – I don’t feel quite so deprived. I’ve decided I’m probably okay with small amounts of  gluten free oat milk in my rooibos and chicory drinks:

Week 57 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

My exercise was solely walking – that will do me for now. I completed four walks, totalling 218 minutes (over three and a half hours), a little less than last week, but that’s okay:

Week 57 Exercise: Left-to-right: Blossom in November? My Active 10 walks. Tree tops

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Excitingly, I lost 1.8 lb (0.8 kg), finally taking me under the 160 lb mark (yippee!), weighing in at 159.6 lb (72.4 kg). A lovely surprise – although it shouldn’t be, because I’m preparing meals from scratch, much like I did when I first went completely plant-based (now vegan) and lost loads of weight. The only difference here is my higher fat intake, albeit mostly unsaturated fats. Admittedly my body fat went up slightly, but my three measurements (to obtain mean average) ranged between 37.8% and 39.4% fat, so I’m not confident about the reading:

Week 57 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Okay, this week may be a bit top-heavy on food making me smile, but hey, that’s not so bad given my current diet restrictions…

Zoom Time:

I’ll start with something not food based – my lovely Zoom meet up on Tuesday with Magda and Emelie, friends from university. I felt bad that I was sniffling and sneezing throughout the meet – not nice for them, but it was so good to catch up and hear some exciting news that brightened my day:

Images: Alexandra_Koch and Annalise Batista, Pixabay

Corny Love:

I can’t believe I haven’t cooked with cornmeal before – I’m loving it! I started with pre-prepared polenta grains – too grainy, but I could see the potential. I’d recommend making polenta from the finer cornmeal and adding flavours. My go-to is spring onion, chia and flax seeds, rapeseed oil, turmeric, sweet paprika and salt. I bet it would taste great with garlic and chilli too. Also I successfully made a frittata with a cornmeal base. And my tasty cauliflower bites were coated in a cornmeal and spice mix – I’m totally having that again too:

Cornmeal: Clockwise: Polenta block. Polenta bites with salad. Cauliflower bites. Frittata

Not Tomato Sauce:

It took me a while to find the motivation to try the British Dietetics Association alternative tomato sauce[3], but it was so worth it. I now have a decent batch of sauce in the freezer. Admittedly it has quite an earthy taste with carrots and beetroot being the main ingredients, but I quite like that. I’ve used it as a hot stir-in or cold ketchup-like sauce:

Not tomato sauce: Clockwise: My beetroot hand. The sauce batch ready for the freezer. Cauliflower bites topped with sauce. Pasta topped generously with sauce

Pretend Coffee:

Wow, I’m so incredibly happy that I found this Chicory Cup replacement coffee, so I had to give it a spot here. It says to add two teaspoons, but I found that one was enough for me. As soon as I tried it, I ordered more. This has made me feel less jealous of Mum and Dad’s cafetiere when we have our late morning coffee break:

My Coffee Replacement: Chicory Cup

Nutrition e-Symposium:

On Wednesday I attended an afternoon e-Symposium presented by Alpro Foundation via MyNutriWeb discussing the benefits of a plant-based diet for cardiometabolic health (e.g. heart disease and type 2 diabetes). A healthy vegan (wholly plant-based) diet came out top for weight loss, health gains and lowest environmental impact, although just increasing plant foods had a beneficial effect:

Alpro Foundation e-Symposium (Images: MyNutriWeb)

Messenger Video Silliness:

Tina arranged for us to have a Messenger video chat – it was great to have a catch up. I’d never used the Messenger chat room before, so I was keen to give it a try. Little did I know about the hilarious features – after Tina’s demonstration I had to try them all out. As it was, we settled for chatting to each other wearing glasses (top row of the pictures):

Messenger Video Silliness

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 58
<<<Week 56
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References

1. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.
2. Hypermobility Syndromes Association, 2017. What are hypermobility syndromes?
3. British Dietetic Association Food Allergy Specialist Group, 2018. Sensitivity to Histamine and other Vasoactive Amines.

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate

Health Diary Week 5: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

All Moving in the Right Direction (Finally!)

Image: Annca from Pixabay

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<<<Week 4

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

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

… I’m going to jump straight in here – I’m feeling totally thrilled that all my results moved in the right direction this week. My weight reduced by 2 lb and fat by 0.7%. What I need to do now is figure out what I did right, so that I can keep doing it!:

My week 5 results compared to the start & last week (all good – finally!)

…So, I drew up a summary table to clearly see what I’d consumed and physical activity for the week (yep, getting a bit nerdy again!).

Week 5: Food intake & physical activity

Alcohol

The difference between this week and the previous ones that immediately came to mind, was a much lower alcohol intake – I only had one rum (a double) with Saturday’s dinner, compared to many vodkas or wines in previous weeks. Since alcohol is so calorie-dense, seven calories per gram (fat has nine per gram)[1, 2], I clearly need to track my alcohol intake more closely in future!:

Image: Daniel Reche from Pixabay

Exercise

The other factor that probably attributed to my weight/fat loss was the amount of physical activity I undertook. I walked (not fast, just casually) for about five hours and spent four hours on planned exercise (circuits and exercise bike) – that’s nine hours total! Unfortunately, I injured my wrist (I can’t pinpoint exactly when – it’s a hypermobility[3] thing), so I’m currently limited on some exercises – no boxing-pad work (my favourite) or anything else placing pressure on my wrist. Despite that, I was able to incorporate alternatives that still gave me a decent work-out, so I’m hoping this won’t affect me massively or for too long:

Image: Video stills from Fitness 4 U Fareham
Me on the boxing pads station at circuits in 2016

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…

I ate a good amount of freshly prepared food, which I find can help to keep calories down, because you know how much fat or sugar you’re adding.

Breakfast:

For breakfast, I had fruit salad three times – a good start to building towards my 5-a-day fruit and veg[4]:

Fruit salad ingredients: strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, mango & kiwi fruit

Lunch:

Lunch generally involved some form of salad (including My Typical Salad) – the tastiest lunch was a recently discovered Shawarma (Soya-based) Kebab. The great thing about this meal was that it was a decent source of fibre, incorporating wholegrains and salad. Why is this important? – Because fibre is crucial to health – in the UK, only 4% of women and 13% of men in my age range (19-64) reached the recommended 30 grams fibre[5, 6], so we literally need to add it in at any opportunity!

Shawarma kebab: You can’t really see the Shawarma soya protein, as there’s so much salad crammed in, but it all tasted amazing and was filling.

I love Vegetable Risotto, so I was happy enough to eat it three times for dinner, having made a batch load. However, my dinner highlight was fajitas, another fibrous meal if you use wholegrain tortillas and vegetables (I had mixed bell peppers, mushrooms and onion, as that’s what was in the fridge):

Pre-wrapped fajita: Mixed veg, tomato salsa, guacamole & iceberg lettuce in wholegrain tortilla – I had 2 of these!

Snacks:

The great news for me was that I had chocolate snacks without any dire consequences. I used ‘swaps’ to lower sugar/saturated fat content – raw chocolate-coated goji berries, instead of chocolate bars and raw cacao hot almond milk drink instead of hot chocolate – hot chocolate can contain ten teaspoons of sugar[7], sometimes a lot more! My favourite savoury snacks are hummus and wholegrain pitta or rice crackers, decent sources of plant protein and fibre:

Image: Samir Biscevic from Pixabay

A Positive Week

It’s been a great week results-wise and I’m hoping I’ll keep moving in the right direction – but I’m going to keep experimenting to figure out what I can get away with, so keep watching this space…

Week 6>>>
<<<Week 4
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References

1. Alcohol Change UK, Ca. 2019. Alcohol and calories [online]. Available from: https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/fact-sheets/alcohol-and-calories.
2. NHS, 2016. Calories in alcohol [online]. Available from: www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/calories-in-alcohol/.
3. Hypermobility Syndromes Association, 2017. What are hypermobility syndromes? [online]. Available from: www.hypermobility.org/what-are-hypermobility-syndromes.
4. National Health Service (NHS), 2018. Eat Well: Why 5 A Day? [online]. Available from: www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/why-5-a-day/.
5. Public Health England and Food Standards Agency, 2018. National Diet and Nutrition Survey Results from Years 7 and 8 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2014/2015 to 2015/2016) [online]. Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/699241/NDNS_results_years_7_and_8.pdf.
6. British Nutrition Foundation, 2018. Summary of Key Findings from the NDNS Report of Years 7 and 8 (combined) [online]. Available from: www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritioninthenews/new-reports/ndnsyears7and8.html.
7. Diabetes UK, C. 2019. How to cut down on sugar [online]. Available from: www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/carbohydrates-and-diabetes/how-to-cut-down-on-sugar.

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Health Diary Week 0: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

The Starting Point (I’ve got to do this!)

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Photo by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay.

Background

…So, today it starts seriously. I need to sort out my weight and fitness levels. I’m fed up with disliking the way I look (I’m avoiding looking in full-length mirrors and my clothes don’t fit), but more importantly I want to be healthy and my body hurts from the excess weight on my joints.

My harsher side feels ashamed that I let myself go again. My kinder side reminds me not to beat myself up – the past five years have involved intense studying, with long hours sat in front of a computer and high stress levels.

Photo by Ambadi Sasi from Pixabay.

Now I’m at my heaviest again – last time was due to a long-term jogging injury to my feet when I was 33. For several years I couldn’t stand more than 30 minutes before experiencing excruciating pain (a pain always in the background now). A referral to a podiatrist revealed hypermobility[1] and I was advised my days of high impact sport were over. No more jogging or tennis for me. I was gutted!

The changing shape of me!

Current Situation

But back to now… a few weeks ago I decided I really needed to take some action, as my stomach was noticeably bigger, I couldn’t fit into most of my clothes and my boots wouldn’t zip-up around my calves! My self-esteem has gradually decreased as I’ve become bigger and I want to feel healthy again.

My calf-boot-zip issue!

Planning Stage

… I set up a spreadsheet (I’m a bit of a nerd!) to record my progress. This included a diary to monitor my sleep (poor sleep being a potential contributory factor in weight gain – more on this later), diet (I’ll explain food choices in following blogs), activity (exercise, social events) and health (both physical and mental).

Additionally, I decided to keep a food diary for at least a month, possibly 3, so that I can analyse results better.

My slightly nerdy spreadsheet.

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Okay, this is the incredibly uncomfortable part!

I weighed myself, which I found highly depressing – 175 lb (79 kg) at 160cm tall (5 ft 3 inches), placing me in the ‘obese class 1‘ category with a BMI of 31[2]. My scales calculated 43.4% of me was fat! According to the Salter scales handbook, women in their 40s need to aim for 24-34% fat. However, I’ve read that these bioimpedance scales aren’t necessarily accurate for measuring fat, although they do provide a good indication of which direction fat percentage is moving, so I’ll keep recording this regardless.

The dreaded scales!

Scarily, my waist circumference was 100 cm, 20 cm more than the recommendation for European Caucasian women, indicating abdominal obesity and a ‘very high risk’ of developing a metabolic disease (e.g. heart disease, type 2 diabetes)[3]. It’s crucial I sort this out!

Feeling Motivated

Motivated to take further action by these scary results, I followed up with a session on my exercise bike – an intended everyday activity.

My fold-up exercise bike (handy in limited living space).

So, here I am, at the beginning of another health journey – one that will likely have some ‘downs‘ along with the ‘ups’. However, now I don’t feel like I’m doing this alone, as I’ll be reporting my progress to those willing to read these blogs (you) and perhaps you’ll even join me with your own personal journey back to health…

Week 1>>>
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References

1. Hypermobility Syndromes Association, 2017. What are hypermobility syndromes? [online]. Available from: www.hypermobility.org/what-are-hypermobility-syndromes.
2. World Health Organisation: Regional Office for Europe, 2019. Body mass index – BMI. Available from: www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/disease-prevention/nutrition/a-healthy-lifestyle/body-mass-index-bmi.
3. Alberti, K. G. M. M., Eckel, R. H., Grundy, S. M., Zimmet, P.Z., Cleeman, J. I., Donato, K. A., Fruchart, J., James, P. T., Loria, C. M. and Smith, S. C., 2009. Harmonizing the metabolic syndrome: a joint interim statement of the international diabetes federation task force on epidemiology and prevention; National heart, lung, and blood institute; American heart association; World heart federation; International atherosclerosis society; and International association for the study of obesity. Circulation [online], 120, 1640-1645. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.192644.

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