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

My Lockdown Birthday Smiles

Image: Louisa Helfinger (Pixabay)

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

What’s New

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

Covid vaccine article:

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

I have a (temporary) job:

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

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

Physiotherapy

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

Curry puffs

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

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

Amusing cards

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

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

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

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

Birthday card giggles

Birthday haul

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

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

Birthday wrap

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

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

Pond life

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

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

Cats

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

Cat visitors. Top: Jasper. Bottom: Not Molly

Ducks and Snow Moon

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

Pond life. Our duck friends. “Snow Moon”

Birthday Dinner

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

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

Cake

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

Birthday cake – yum!

Online Houseparty

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

Me ready for online Houseparty

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

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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 38: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

100 Follows – Thank You!

Image: Mr Harry Jackson

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Hi all, welcome to another weekly instalment of what was on my plate, my health results and some positive smile-provoking experiences…

Food and Nutrition

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

Breakfast:

My breakfasts were sparse on fruit again – I had fresh papaya with lime juice and some strawberries. Unfortunately, we can’t really count the homemade banana bread muffin or raspberry jam (on a hot cross bun) as fruit portions, but they were rather tasty. I also ate Nairn’s oat and fruit biscuits (twice), Nature’s Path Mesa Sunrise cereal and Quorn ham free slices and coleslaw on toast (not pictured):

Lunch:

I had salad for lunch every day (go me) – my typical salad six times with either falafel, hash browns or rice-filled vine leaves, accompanied by homemade fennel-based coleslaw, or the shop-bought stuff. The salads were all delicious, but my highlight has to be the Vivera Shawarma kebab loaded with salad in garlic mayo sauce:

Dinner:

Dinners were nicely varied; it’s hard to pick a highlight, but I suppose if I had to, it would be the veg-fest of roasted cauliflower (coated in tahini and spice sauce), potatoes and mixed carrots with runner beans and courgette:

A close second was one of my favourite meals: risotto with an array of veg – broad beans (my fav), peas, courgette, asparagus, spinach and tomato. I mixed in a small spoonful of mayo on the leftovers day to add a bit more creaminess for variety, surprising it doesn’t look as appetising with the mayo – still tasted great though:

Naturally (for me), I chose more rice-based dishes, this time with fibrous brown rice: a red lentil dhal and mixed bean chilli with nachos, guacamole, salsa and garlic bread (confession: I ate way more garlic bread than that one piece on my plate) – both meals were delicious:

And who doesn’t love a jacket potato, right? I had it with baked beans (easy option), followed the next day by melted cheese, hummus, coleslaw, salad (leaves, tomato, celery, red onion) and gherkins:

Snacks:

As always, there was plenty of snacking between meals. Some were healthier choices than others: tasty watermelon, Itsu seaweed thins (not pictured) and hummus with baby cucumber and/or Peckish rice crackers. However, once I also snacked on some cheesy chilli nachos (messy photo!):

Of, course there were daily chocolate snacks, usually 4 to 8 squares depending on size. One day I ate a whole 25g bar (smaller than an average bar) of Doisy and Dam, regretting it within minutes, as I felt kind of nauseous – eating half the bar would have been a more enjoyable experience – silly, greedy me:

The snack winner was a post-lunch desert: A delectable pavlova (made from the water leftover from a can of chickpeas) with coconut and rum cream (instead of dairy cream) and a topping of fresh strawberries and pineapple – thanks Mum, it was amazing:

Alcohol

I drank alcohol (10 units of spiced rum) over two days – closer to the 14-unit weekly UK limit recommendation[1] than I’m comfortable with; plus four of those drinks were with non-diet ginger beer adding additional calories to the estimated 488 empty (no nutritional benefit) calories consumed[2]:

I didn’t make up for the calories by running! Images: Drinkaware

Exercise

Physical activity levels were lower than usual, totalling 255 minutes (4 ¼ hours). Walking was my predominant activity: 175 minutes total (53 minutes brisk), followed by 45 minutes exercise biking and 35 minutes on Wii Fit aerobic and balance exercises – How is it I’ve managed to get progressively worse at ‘Heading’ a ball!?! This week I achieved my worst score ever:

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Despite my snack indulgences and reduced activity levels, somehow my weight and fat percentage stayed the same – I honestly thought there would be a gain – I’m surprised and relieved:

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Okay, time to move on to the ‘What Made Watson Smile’ positives:

100 Follows:
Well, I have to start with a huge highlight – achieving over 100 Follows. A massive thank you to everyone who has/is supporting me by reading these blogs:

Bevy and I, Wales (2012)

Nature Education:
Being reliably informed the ‘coal tits’ I’d referred to in my last blog were actually ‘long-tailed tits’. My bird (and any nature-related) knowledge is incredibly limited – we have a tick-box book to identify birds, insects and plants. Here’s another visit to our driveway from those long-tailed tits:

Special Supermarket Delivery:
My Vegan Kind Supermarket delivery haul. It mainly contained ‘discretionary’ foods (aka chocs and crisps) – I’ve promised myself I’ll work my way slowly through them:

Walking to Socialise:
Enjoying walking again since discovering quiet local routes. On one walk, I watched busy bees amongst a large lavender plant. And, using walking to socialise (physically distanced) with friends. My friend and I walked many circles around a local park chatting for about an hour and a half:

Family Quiz Error:
The online family quiz error. I’m not a fan of quizzes, so I was the ‘Quiz Master’ using questions and answers Mum had cut-and-pasted from a website. She had been careful not to look too closely at the answers and hadn’t realised she’d missed a section of answers, so on my first glance it looked like the planet closest to the sun was apparently ‘Buttocks’, not Mercury:

Reminiscing to Inspire:
Reminiscing with Mum about our times on the beach and snorkelling, because her art class project was ‘Where would you like to be?’. Mum chose snorkelling, so I sent her a range of photos for inspiration:

Right to left. Top: My sister & I ready for snorkelling, British Virgin Islands (1980s), Me snorkelling, Xel-Ha, Mexico (2003). Middle: Me snorkelling, River Prata, Brazil (2008). Bottom: Snorkelling, Galapagos Islands (2008).

Mum’s art class picture inspired by waking up with the Beatles lyrics from ‘Octupus’s Garden’ in her head and subsequently asking me for snorkelling inspiration photos:

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Thank you for reading and 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. Drinkaware, 2020. Units and calories in spirits [online]. Available from:  www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/alcoholic-drinks-and-units/units-and-calories-in-alcoholic-drinks/spirits.
2. Drinkaware, 2020. Units and calorie counter [online]. Available from:  www.drinkaware.co.uk/tools/unit-and-calorie-calculator.

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