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

Sunny Spring

Beautiful blossom and blue sky on one of my walks

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

Covid Adminstrator shifts – yay!

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

Histamine update

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

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

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

Exercise: Walking rewards

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

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

Food creation: Baked oats

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

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

Food creation: Egg-free ‘omelette’

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

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

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

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

Socials and a kitten:

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

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

Dragonfly visitor:

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

Dragonfly. Image: Tanuj Handa, Pixabay

Cactus corner:

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

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

The case of mistaken identity:

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

Cat confusion:“Not Molly” is “Molly”

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

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

Blossom

Tree blossom

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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.

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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 73: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

A New Style

Me 60’s style, NYE (2007)

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

Job updates

I was unsuccessful for last week’s job interview for admin support in training and education at a local hospice. The feedback was helpful – I was told it was a positive interview and I was very likeable (of course) and highly organised. Where I fell short was needing to give more specific examples of my admin experience – another lesson learnt and stored in my brain for next time. All these job applications and interviews feel a bit like Groundhog Day – I have to keep learning what I did wrong and try to correct it, so that I can move on.

In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to starting my temp admin job when all my checks and mandatory training are completed. I thought I’d completed all my initial training, but then I was emailed with more modules due to training changes for vaccination hub staff.

I felt pretty rough this week (more on this below), so I’d decided to rest up over the weekend. Sadly, this was not to be. One of my friends emailed me a Graduate Management Trainee job on Friday, and said I just had to apply – I agreed. Frustratingly, I realised the closing date was Sunday afternoon (noooo!) – And so there dissolved my planned weekend lazing in bed watching the Six Nations Rugby.

Antihistamine fail and swollen lip

I gave my prescribed antihistamine (Fexofenadine Hydrochloride) another try, despite identifying an ingredient, Allura Red (E129), as incompatible for people with histamine intolerance (Swiss Interest Group[1]). As before, on the third day, I experienced terrible rhinitis, brain fog and fatigue. As a result, I mostly spent Monday and Tuesday in bed feeling rough. I’ll report back to my Doctor and request other options.

I returned to my usual Cetirizine Hydrochloride antihistamine on Tuesday and took a corticosteroid nasal spray (Beclometasone Dipropionate) for a few days to help control my flare up. But then on Wednesday, my bottom lip became sore and swollen for about 24 hours. I don’t know why this swelling happened – it hasn’t happened before. Was it the Fexofenadine? Was it my grapefruit and orange bath gel? I’m unsure, but hopefully it won’t happen again.

Food challenge: Red lentils

My rhinitis was much improved by Thursday. So on Saturday, I decided to try red lentils again, as I was okay last time I ate them (Week 65). Conveniently, I had some dhal and brown rice in the freezer that Mum had previously made. I had a bit of gut discomfort afterwards, but that could just have been because I ate loads of rice – there didn’t appear to be any other adverse reaction – phew:

Red lentil dhal and brown rice – there is rice hidden under the dhal (picture from Week 65, the first time I’d re-introduced lentils)

Food creation: Risotto cakes

I love risotto, but it’s just not the same when reheated from frozen – the result – a stodgier consistency, although still tasty. And then I found a solution – inspired by cookingstefano who shared their risotto omelette creation on Instagram. I figured I could do something similar (without eggs) with my butternut squash risotto leftovers from Week 72. All I did was add some extra flax and chia seeds to my defrosted risotto and formed the risotto into cakes using a ramekin.  I pan fried them in a little rapeseed oil and finished them off baked in the oven – they had a lovely outside crispy crunch. Of course I’m already devising plans on how to improve them next time:

Risotto cakes. Clockwise: cookingstefano risotto omelettes. My risotto cakes from Week 72’s leftover risotto. Stodgy re-heated risotto from freezer (Week 53). My beautiful butternut squash risotto (Week 72)

Freezer food saviours

The freezer has been my saviour since following a low histamine diet. It can be hard cooking from scratch when you’re busy or just plain tired. So, I was relieved to be able to heat up the frozen leftovers from my birthday dinner and enjoy them one night. Another day, I had a half jacket potato filled with courgette, sweetcorn and seeds, which I re-heated and served with some salad – so satisfying. Then there’s batch cooking cornmeal and quinoa flour bites I have with salad lunches – yum. And I’m always grateful for those days I don’t mind chopping loads of veg and then freeze portions to keep it fresh and ready for when I’m cooking up a meal:

Freezer food saviours. Clockwise: Cauliflower ‘cheese’. Jacket potato with salad. Chopped veg. Cornmeal and quinoa flour bites

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It was a quiet week, but of course there were some smile-provoking occasions…

It was warm enough to get my legs out:

It was a gorgeously sunny morning on Monday and thankfully the full effects of the rhinitis hadn’t quite set in yet. We had cuppas on the driveway, watching the birds come and go. I even went back inside to put on cropped yoga pants to let part of my legs and feet catch some rays. We saw Ratty, a rather cute looking water rat, swim across the pond. We’re hoping Ratty hasn’t got any family and friends close by:

Me sat in the sunshine, sunning my lower legs and feet

Being checked up on:

It was so lovely that a fellow Admin on one of the Facebook groups, contacted me a couple of times during the week to check how I was doing. Dawn gently suggested I should probably try to find some time to rest and recover from my flare up – she was right. This reminded me I should check in on a few people too, as it can make an important difference to someone:

A relaxing scene. Sunset from the Brecon Beacons, Wales (2012)

My Mum:

My Mum is the best, just saying. It was Mothers’ Day this Sunday, so of course I treated her to a couple of treats: jewellery – silver bee earrings, from Oranges and Lemons (Etsy), and Booja Booja fine de Champagne chocolate truffles. I also made Mum scrambled tofu, but on Monday, because we both forgot I was going to make it for her on Sunday – whoops. I’ll try to be a better daughter for next year’s Mothering Sunday:

Mum, Emma and I (I’m the baby that kind of looks like E.T.)

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

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Reference

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

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