Health Diary Week 91: Look up

Image: My dawn hot air balloon trip, 2007

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<<<Week 90

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

Firstly, I’m sorry, this post was so delayed – there were some unexpected circumstances – more on that in Week 92.

Histamine Intolerance – Insect Bite Reactions

What can I say? I’m an insect magnet! Or rather, whenever an insect nibbles on me, I react with horribly red, raised, itchy bites – a typical reaction in people with histamine intolerance[1].

I’d sat on the grass in Bevy’s garden after covering myself in insect repellent. But I missed a strip along my lower back, and of course the insects feasted on this small patch. Bevy didn’t notice any bites on her, despite wearing zero repellent.

Histamine Food Risks

I was treated to some absolutely delicious food this week. Let me tell you more…

Yeast (pizza):

Oh, how I’ve missed pizza – I haven’t had any since going low histamine in October 2020, mainly because of the tomato base. It also contains yeast, which can be problematic[2], although I take calculated risks by consuming gluten free pittas.

Ben (aka Ben Cooks Plants) made pizza in his new pizza oven (built himself). For me, Ben made a specially adapted low histamine dough (no gluten and minimal yeast), and a white sauce base instead of tomatoes (my hero!). I polished off two pizzas – excessive, I know. And yes, I felt absolutely stuffed for the rest of the evening!:

Image: My low histamine pizzas, courtesy of Ben Cooks Plants. Clockwise: Beetroot and green pepper pizza pre-dressed. Beetroot and green pepper pizza dressed with pumpkin seeds and fresh herbs. Peach and ‘parma ham’ pizza dressed with ‘parmesan’. Peach and ‘parma ham’ pizza pre-dressed

Cashew nuts (ice cream):

Now, I very much enjoy ice cream and the weather has warmed up considerably, so I thought it was about time I tried the Booja Booja honeycomb caramel ice cream waiting patiently for me in the freezer. Cashew nuts (replace dairy) are one of its six ingredients – they’re listed as “Moderately compatible, minor symptoms, occasional consumption of small quantities is often tolerated”[2] – I didn’t notice any symptoms, which is great as they’re more affordable than macadamias and pistachios, my other nut options. The ice cream verdict? – Heavenly!:

Image: Booja Booja honeycomb caramel ice cream (yum!)

Alcohol (vodka):

I indulged in four singles of potato-based vodka (two with apple juice, two with cola) in Tina’s and Ben’s garden. The riskiest of these ingredients was the vodka as it not only contains histamine, but also encourages histamine to be released (by mast cells) and blocks histamine degrading enzymes (e.g. diamine oxidase)[2] – very risky indeed, but not as much as wine. So, this was one of those occasions when I chose to take one of my DAO enzyme tablets to help break down excessive histamine consumed. I didn’t have any noticeable ill-effects (phew):

Image: Naturdao, plant-based DAO enzyme supplement

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It was a good week – a great start to my two weeks off work…

Hello sis:

My sister and her boyfriend Carl decided to visit us before covid restrictions were lifted (they didn’t want to travel to us by train when other travellers may not be wearing masks, especially as covid cases are rising again). As always, it was lovely to see them. Mum prepared an impressive buffet lunch. Emma’s friend visited – Madeleine and I were amused watching Em and Carl practice setting up and packing away their newly acquired tent – definitely wouldn’t be my forte…

Image: My sister and Carl visit. Top: Buffet lunch. Bottom: Watching tent practicing skills

Gin and tonic o’clock:

We had gloriously hot and sunny weather, so much so, that we’ve had to stay inside during the hottest time of the day. Whilst watching our bird friends by the pond, I was treated to my first gin and tonic since before I started my low histamine diet in October 2020 – no noticeable ill-effects – lovely:

Image: Gin and tonic, pondside

Uninvited guest:

Oh, the cheekiness (and delight) of inviting yourself over to your friends’ garden and then being offered homemade pizza. It was a beautifully sunny day and there was much hilarity – at times there were tears of laughter running down mine and Tina’s face:

Image: Pizza delights, al fresco. Clockwise: Ben’s home-built pizza oven. ‘Ben Cooks Plants’ preparing pizza. Ben’s standard, gluten free, vegan pizza in the oven. My low histamine, gluten free, vegan pizza in the oven

Looking skywards:

I love being able to sit outside looking up at the sky. In Tina and Ben’s garden, we saw loads of noisy seagulls above us feasting (it was flying ants day). And I was surprised to see a group of eight magpies gathered on the rooftop. It was also a night where we spotted several satellites travelling past. But my highlight has to be catching sight of a meteor, during daylight, enter and burn up on entry into our atmosphere – such a sight:

Image: Meteor, Free-Photos (Pixabay)

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

>>>Week 92
<<<Week 90
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References

1. Dr Tina Peers, Ca. 2021. Introduction to Histamine Intolerance (HIT).

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

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Health Diary Week 90: Feeling Appreciated

Thank you postcard received, as part of the NHS Big Tea event, 2021

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<<<Week 89

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

Physiotherapy

I had another in-person physio appointment, which was great as a couple of new exercises were introduced to improve movement of my dominant arm behind my back and to increase overall shoulder strength. It is expected I’ll only need one more appointment, as I’ve almost recovered normal use of my arm – great news.

Exercise: Walking

In my current job, I can get in a fair amount of walking during a shift, even when working in a seated role – I recorded 70 minutes walking on the day I was mainly sat updating medical records in the vaccine bay – I try to get up and move around between vaccine vials (when the vaccine drawers need to prepare the next batch). My total weeks walking was recorded on my Active 10 phone app as 296 minutes, of which 101 minutes were brisk.  And sometimes I don’t have my phone on me, so my stats are lower than the amount I actually walked. I still need to get out for more brisk walks though, as you can see in the below graph:

Image: My Active 10 walking stats. Left: My week’s walking log. Right: 70 minutes walking when working in a seated role (not bad)

Food Risks

I don’t know what got into me this week – perhaps it’s because I was feeling particularly well since having the antihistamine combo (Loratadine liquid in the morning and Cetirizine liquid before bed), so I got a bit lax on my low histamine diet. As it was, my rhinitis and fatigue symptoms started flaring up on Saturday, but they calmed down by Sunday – phew! I experienced minor gut ache, which could have been histamine related or due to the re-introduction and increase in different types of fibre (legumes) as explained in my article: Carbs: The Good, the Bad and the Sometimes ‘Farty’![2]. Anyway, here’s more about what I ate:

Scrambled tofu:

Mum wanted scrambled tofu again (as did I), so of course I made us all some. The tofu itself was a risk (significant histamine symptoms expected[1]), and the risk was further increased with my wholegrain pitta (yeast, fermented products) and cauliflower hash browns (sunflower oil, black pepper). I absolutely loved this comfort food meal and don’t regret it one bit:

Image: My scrambled tofu with pitta, hash browns and notomato sauce (a proper comfort meal)

Broad beans (risotto):

Now, I love broad beans, to the extent I used to cook up a whole batch, peel off the outer coat and just eat them as a snack. But, they are listed as “Incompatible, significant symptoms at usual intake”[1], so I’d obediently avoided them. But I’d been craving them recently and they’re seasonal, so I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Mum kindly cooked up a rather delicious risotto loaded with broad beans, asparagus and courgette – divine!:

Image: Mum’s green risotto: broad beans, asparagus and courgette (divine)

Chickpeas (hummus):

Now, the chip butty is one of the Brit’s proud inventions – basically a chip (fries) sandwich – trust me they’re wonderful. And when I visited Amsterdam (many years ago), they made amazing falafel wraps loaded with hummus and salad. Well, I kind of combined these two delights to make my own creation – chips, salad and hummus pitta – I can’t even begin to tell you how good this was! But risks were taken (again) – the frozen oven chips were pre-cooked in sunflower oil (single dose considered okay[1]) and hummus is listed as incompatible[1], and there were the pitta bread ingredients as well – but it was totally worth it:

Image: Chip, hummus and salad butty (yum!)

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

As always, I’m very happy to share a couple of my smile-provokers with you…

A family visit:

My Uncle Chris dropped in for a visit as he was in the area for work. It was lovely to see him and catch up on some family updates. The last proper family event where I saw this part of my family was at my cousin Alice’s wedding in Liverpool, a great vibrant city – we had a fabulous weekend. Hopefully, we’ll meet up with the wider family in the not-too-distant future:

Image: Mum and I (and Cilla), Liverpool, 2018

Return of the long-tailed tits:

Our long-tailed tit bird visitors have returned. These little fluff balls are so cute – they look like little anime characters. I was starting to worry that we wouldn’t get to see them this year, because the starlings have been so dominant at our bird feeder:

Image: Oldiefan (Pixabay): Long-tailed tits. My own photos just didn’t do these little cuties justice

Feeling appreciated:

On Tuesday, I got to my work position to find a little message for us all on one of the boards, wishing us a “Happy Tuesday” – courtesy of one of our friendly security guards. Then during my break, I received a gift bag as part of the “NHS Big Tea” event – they contained a cupcake, cup with tea and coffee and a thank you post card – how lovely. I passed on these treats to Dad who seemed to enjoy them:

Image: NHS positivity. Clockwise: “Happy Tuesday” message. NHS Big Tea gift bag. “A Big Thank you NHS” sign on someone’s house that we pass on my way home. The cupcake and postcard from the NHS Big Tea

I feel a lot of appreciation recalling the moments that bring me happiness. Likewise, feeling appreciated makes me happy too – I receive a lot of that nowadays since working for the NHS, from both patients and line managers – I really appreciate the appreciation – thanks so much to all those lovely people:

Image: NHS appreciation on one of the walls at the Covid vaccination centre where I currently work

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 91
<<<Week 89
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References

1. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.
2. Watson, K, 2019. Carbs: The Good, the Bad and the Sometimes ‘Farty’!.
3. RSPB, Ca. 2021. Long-tailed tit.

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Health Diary Week 88: Nature’s Magnificence

Image: Nature’s Magnificence – Blue Footed Booby bird (check out those blue feet!), Galapagos Islands (2008)

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<<<Week 87

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment (albeit a little delayed – sorry) of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences.

A Career in Health and Wellbeing

It was a standard week workwise. I’ve really enjoyed working in a Covid vaccine centre – I’ve felt part of something important and mostly everyone has been so nice (co-workers and patients). But I am ready now to move on to my real interest – Health and Wellbeing. So, I can’t wait to get started in the wellbeing admin post in August.

I’ve also been exploring Health and Wellbeing Coach jobs. I had a meeting with potential employers to find out more about the role – it sounds challenging in a good way, and I liked the people I spoke to. The meeting felt like an interview, so I was relieved I’d prepared beforehand – something I’d learnt after a disastrous PhD studentship ‘chat’. Anyway, I’ll keep you posted…

Practice what you Preach

Now that I’ve committed to work in Health and Wellbeing, I really need to focus more on improving my own health behaviours, particularly my physical activity – I’ve got lax since returning to employment. So, I had a lovely walk, partly in the countryside (totalling 92 minutes, of which 69 minutes were brisk – an acceptable start), whilst enjoying a social catch-up with my neighbour Elise:

Image: My Active 10 app walks. Left: My walk with Elise (92 minutes total, 69 minutes brisk). Right: Week 88 walks (284 minutes total, 116 minutes brisk)

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

As you know, like many others, I have developed a greater appreciation of the joys of nature since this pandemic – nature’s magnificent beauty has provided me with many moments of happiness…

Our pond jungle:

I think it is amazing how quickly nature can reclaim its territory. The foliage by the pond next to our driveway has really taken a hold, especially the foxgloves. I love how the pond area constantly changes (more photos in Week 85):

Image: Our driveway pond jungle – Foxgloves

Invasion of the birds:

I walked out of the rental house on Sunday morning to a loud chattering of so, so many Starlings – they were everywhere – on rooftops and grass verges – it was almost intimidating, but also totally amazing. It brought back a memory of swifts at Iguazu Falls (Brazil) when my friend Claudia and I travelled South America:

Image: Swifts at Iguazu Falls, Brazil, 2008 (This image came into my mind when I observed all those Starlings outside the house)

Survivors:

How excited I was to discover that at least three of the baby blackbirds had survived the magpie dramas of Week 85. Daddy Bird seems to be doing the majority of feeding the not so little ones. We wonder if Mummy Bird has more babies on the way or maybe she’s just got Daddy Bird well trained – I think she might be a bit bossy:

Image: Our Blackbird family. Top right: Mummy Bird looking proud. Top left and bottom row: Daddy Bird feeding one of the demanding baby birds

Almost famous:

When I visited Bevy, she excitedly informed me that I’d had a mention on Gardeners’ Question Time, a BBC Four Radio programme – I was referred to as “my dear friend Katey”. If you’re interested, its 28.28 minutes into the programme. Bevy’s question was about the campanula plant I bought her several years ago when her son was born. The plant has flourished, but some of the flowers developed a mutation of four petals instead of the usual five – it’s a mystery… And Bevy, I totally love your nerdiness!:

Image by Bevy: The campanula plant I gifted Bevy (five petals)
Image by Bevy: The campanula where one flower has four petals instead of five

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 89
<<<Week 87
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Health Diary Week 87: Lots Happening

Image: Owl at Hawk Conservancy Trust, 2012 (I was quite proud of this action shot)

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Week 86

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences. There’s so much to tell, but so little available time – I’ll do my best to be informative, yet succinct…

New Job?

The feedback from my Staff Wellbeing Hub Admin interview was that I was a strong candidate… But I was their second choice. They were concerned about my work-life balance, because of my interests outside of work – Ironically, I’d started adding my outside interests into admin job interviews to demonstrate that my mind would still be challenged outside of work. This was to counteract the other concern that always comes up when I apply for admin – “Would the job satisfy me when I appear to be better suited to an advisory role?” I honestly enjoy admin; I also enjoy advisory work too. I’d like to do both.

Excitingly, I was offered two days a week, because their first choice wanted to work three days, so I gratefully accepted. The bonus is that this still leaves the possibility of doing some advisory work too… Or perhaps a Health and Wellbeing Coach? – there’s currently adverts for this role within the NHS.

Image: Me listening to a student (well, posing for a promotional photo) at our work enquiry desk. Ca. 2003 (I look so young!)

The Histamine Saga

Here are the latest updates on my challenge to find out more about my histamine issues…

Allergy Clinic:

Last week the Allergy Clinic changed my appointment to a phone one – I reasoned maybe it was because the first appointment is just a consultation. But this week, the clinic rejected my referral – Nooo!  I phoned to check if this was an error… it wasn’t. They’ve recommended I’m referred to an ENT Clinic – I’m confused – I don’t think I need my ears, nose or throat checked out?

Food Risks:

We had family visiting for my Dad’s birthday, so I took some small food risks, with the support of my DAO enzyme tablet. Mum had prepared a curry for dinner – I had the dhal (lentils), potato and peas from the curry (tomato based), poppadom (chickpea) and Nita’s Mum’s coriander chutney (chilli, cashews). Thankfully, there were no ill effects from rhinitis, but I had a slightly sore (burned feeling) tongue for about a week – probably from the chilli, maybe also the tomato:

Image: My histamine food risk dinner: Lentils (dhal), potato and peas from the curry (tomato base), popadom (chickpea). Nita’s Mum’s green chutney not pictured

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

I love identifying things that make me smile. Here’s a few things from this past week…

I had pudding:

Mum made rhubarb crumble for Dad’s birthday treat, instead of a cake. I rarely get to have a proper pudding, because of my histamine issues. I decided since I’d already had my DAO enzyme tablet, this was my opportunity. And of course I drowned my crumble in the vanilla custard freebie gifted by the Vegan Kind Supermarket (Week 81) – delicious:

Image: Left: Coconut Collaborative vanilla custard freebie from the Vegan Kind supermarket. Right: Pudding: Rhubarb crumble drowning in vanilla custard

A gift from work:

I was just leaving work when one of the Admin Shift Leads asked, “Would you like a brown bag?”. I assumed this could only be a good thing, so I said, “That would be lovely, thank you”. And within my brown bag were two rhubarb and pineneedle drinks and a box of chocolate (my Dad’s favourite). What a lovely gesture. I passed on the chocolate to my parents and saved the drinks for myself:

Image: My brown bag contents: Monty Bojangles chocolate and Double Dutch drinks

Another friend reunion:

When I was studying for my Nutrition degree, my two main buddies were Magda and Emelie. Emelie has since moved back to Sweden, although we’re still in regular contact. Magda doesn’t live too far away, so we arranged to meet up in person for the first time since the pandemic started. We decided to have a walk in a country park and wow, we had so much to tell each other – it was so lovely to see Magda in person rather than online. The walk was picturesque – a change from my usual roadside walks. And my Active10 app reported I’d completed 168 minutes total walking, of which 88 minutes was brisk – go me:

Image: Countrypark walk – river view (it was a pity about the fallen tree, but a beautiful view nonetheless)
Image: Countrypark walk – field view

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 88
<<<Week 86
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Health Diary Week 75: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

My Medical Week

I got a Covid vaccine sticker – like when I went to the dentist as a kid

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<<<Week 74

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

Covid vaccine and my side effects

Excitingly, I had my first Covid vaccine, at the centre I should be working in soon (no updates yet about when I’m starting). And I must say, it was well organised – efficient, yet friendly. I was given the AstraZeneca vaccine[1] – the one where concerns were raised about strokes as a possible rare side effect. Personally, I’d rather take the much smaller risk of a stroke than the much larger likelihood of contracting covid and its nasty complications. I mean, have you seen the potential side effects from taking paracetamol?![2]. Interestingly, all I found about this stroke complication (that wasn’t just a media news report) was a science article[3] linking to a research paper based on only nine patients (not yet peer reviewed)[4] with an Editorial note advising that the researchers work for Pfizer – massive potential for bias!: “The authors disclose conflicts of interest, including personal fees from Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies”[4]. They also state “At the time of this posting, the World Health Organization maintains that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue”[4].

So, what happened to me? I had my vaccine at 9.30 am (it just felt like someone touched my arm – easy peasy). At 6.30 pm I started getting shivery – I checked my temperature and it was 36.6o Celsius (C), within the normal range (35.7 – 37.3 o C, 96.3 – 99.1o Fahrenheit (F)). After dinner, I had gut ache and felt a bit nauseous for a couple of hours. I became increasingly shivery and by 8.30 pm I had a low-grade fever of 38.5o C (101.3o F). I took some paracetamol and gradually my temperature and shivering decreased. I became incredibly hot for a while and had a headache. By the morning my temperature had returned to normal, although I needed to take more paracetamol for my headache, but this soon eased up. My most surprising symptom started about the same time as the shivers; I developed pins and needles, and numbness in my right-hand fingers (the arm I chose to have vaccinated as it was already injured) – the information leaflet stated this occurred where there was already nerve inflammation – I guess that makes sense. The next day and onwards, I’ve just had a sore, achy arm. Overall, a small price to pay to hopefully avoid catching Covid-19 (again).

Covid vaccine card (1st dose completed) and new staff ID card (“Covid Administrator” sounds like I’m actually dishing out Covid!)

Clicking jaw

I had dentist check-up and hygienist appointments this week. It feels so weird going inside a building, removing my mask and having someone poke around inside my mouth, when the rest of time I’m being so cautious. I’m pleased to report no fillings were required and my gums were okay. But I have a clicking jaw on my left side (probably a hypermobility thing) – the dentist checks it each visit, but this time, she noted an issue with a “heavy bite” on my right side that could be making it worse, so she wanted to do some research and get back to me. Later that afternoon she phoned and advised the “heavy bite” could be impacting the bone healing from where I’d had an extra tooth removed (right side), so they want to shave it down to reduce the pressure and it may also relieve the clicking – so that’s happening next month.

Antihistamines continued

I had another phone Doctor’s appointment to reassess the histamine intolerance. We agreed the Fexofenadine wasn’t going to work if all formulas contained Allura Red (E129), so I offered to contact the pharmacist and ask about this. We briefly discussed first generation antihistamines as an option, but I’m not keen on these, because they cause drowsiness and I’m unsure about potential long-term neurological health effects[5]. We discussed trying the other second generation options, Loratadine and Acrivastine, although weaker than Fexofenadin. There didn’t seem much difference between them, so I was told I could investigate and choose which I wanted – I’ll let you know what I decide and the outcome.

Food challenges: Excessive risks were taken

I took some excessive risks this week. I went overboard on the Quorn vegan ham and Sainsbury’s free from grated ‘cheddar cheese’. I hadn’t realised until looking back while writing this post that I’d eaten these foods three times in one week (that’s too much). Also, I’d avoided looking too closely at the ingredients, until now – they both contain several ingredients incompatible with histamine intolerance. I’ll probably still eat them occasionally, but I need to keep track of how often and how I react. Then of course there was the yeast from the two pittas I ate, also filling up my histamine cup/bucket.

And on Mum’s birthday, I indulged in some chocolate mint ice cream and mango sorbet (both containing risky ingredients) – what was I thinking? Sometimes its so hard to stay on track on this low histamine diet. To be fair, I resisted some of the temptations on offer, but I admit, I’m a little worried about the looming consequences from the foods I caved into.

Food challenges. Clockwise: Quorn vegan ‘ham’ slices in salad pitta. Jacket potato with Quorn ‘ham’ and Sainsbury’s free from ‘cheddar cheese’. Northern Bloc ice cream and Hackney Gelato mango sorbet. Quorn vegan ‘ham’ and Sainsbury’s free from ‘cheddar cheese’ pitta

Food creation: Quinoa and brown rice vegetable burgers

For months now, I’ve been meaning to attempt making burgers with a quinoa base, to get more of this great plant protein in my diet, despite not being keen on the stuff. My first attempt went well (details here), but I need to make a few tweaks for next time. I definitely need to add more chia and flax seed binder and maybe chop the veg smaller to hold the burger together better. The flavour was decent, but next time I’ll rinse the quinoa more before cooking to remove any bitterness (thanks for the tip Deb):

Food creation: Quinoa and brown rice vegetable burgers. Clockwise: Making the patties. Pre-cooked burger. My messy hands! Cooked burgers ready for freezing
My dinner: Quinoa and brown rice vegetable burger with roast potatoes, celeriac, fennel, bell peppers and courgette/zucchini

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

What made me smile this week? Quite a few things. Here’s a few…

A walk in the park:

I went out for two walks this week before I succumbed to post-vaccine tiredness and took it easy for the rest of the week. I walked through a park and noticed a tree full of white blossom – such a contrast compared to its surrounding bare trees. I actually saw this last week too, but I couldn’t get a picture (without looking dodgy) as there was a cute couple sat under the tree kissing:

Walk in the park. Clockwise: Blossomy tree from afar. Closer. My shadow. Blossom close-up

From sunrise to sunset:

I just love a sunrise or sunset (although its rare I’m awake for sunrises). This week I was treated to both. Such beautiful colours. My favourites are those over the ocean (whilst sipping on a cocktail) – maybe I’ll get to see one again (and have a cocktail) in the not-too-distant future:

Left: Sunrise. Right: Sunset. Both beautiful in their own ways

Low histamine wine:

Instagram can be a useful resource (and a source of procrastination). I was excited and delighted to find that low histamine wines exist – I think the one below only supplies to Austria and Germany. But when I shared the post in the Long haul Covid food Facebook group, someone else found a company in the UK – yippee! And, then I stumbled across wine wands, which apparently filter the histamine out of your drink. I’ll be looking into these further – they’re not a complete solution as the actual alcohol itself encourages your mast cells to release histamine, but I’ll take it as hope for an occasional tipple further down the line:

Low histamine wine options – woo hoo hoo! Left: Low histamine wine (source: bioweingut.weiss, Instagram). Right: Wine wands (source: Lowhistamineeats, Instagram)

An abundance of Italian herb seasoning:

I like to have a mix of dried herbs to easily flavour my meals. I had asked Mum (who places the online grocery orders) to order some more Italian herb seasoning. It turns out she got a little carried away and ordered six lots! Apparently my usual one (M&S) said out of stock, so Mum ordered alternatives and both came, but that still leaves the random one in the middle. Unfortunately, I can only use the M&S ones as the others contain black pepper. We did laugh at Mum’s surprise excessiveness:

Over-ordering Italian herb seasoning

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

>>>Week 76
<<<Week 74
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References

1. GOV.UK, 2021. Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency: Information for UK recipients on COVID 19 Vaccine AstraZeneca.
2. Drugs.com, 2021. Paracetamol Side Effects.
3. American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2021. A rare clotting disorder may cloud the world’s hopes for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.
4. Greinacher, A., Thiele, T., Warkentin, T. E., Weisser, K., Kyrle, P. and Eichinger, S. 2021. A Prothrombotic Thrombocytopenic Disorder Resembling Heparin-Induced Thrombocytopenia Following Coronavirus-19 Vaccination. Research Square.
5. Coupland, C. A. C, Hill, T., Dening, T., Morriss, R., Moore, M. and Hippisley-Cox, J., 2019. Anticholinergic Drug Exposure and the Risk of Dementia – A Nested Case-Control Study. JAMA Internal Medicine, 179 (8), 1084-1093.

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

We Are Family

My Grandmother (Nana)

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<<<Week 63

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

What’s New

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

Lockdown:

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

Long Lost Family:

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

Job Interview Update

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

Food and Nutrition

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

Salad Meals:

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

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

Pasta Meals:

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

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

Rice Meals:

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

Rice and Veg Meals

My Food Highlights:

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

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

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

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

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

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

Week 64 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

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

Family:

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

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

Online Socials:

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

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

Portrait Artist Mum:

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

Portrait Artist Mum: Portrait of me at various stages

Cute Kittens:

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

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

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

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Health Diary Week 40: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Some Personal Bests

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

Food and Nutrition

Breakfast:

So, I skipped breakfast once as I knew I was going out for a calorie-dense lunch – more on that shortly. I had mango twice and pineapple once – an improvement on last week’s no morning fruit. I ate Nature’s Path Mesa Sunrise cereal once and had my easy go-to Nairn’s oat biscuits 4 times:

Week 40 Breakfasts

Lunch:

Predictably, I had My typical salad for lunch – 5 times this week. I cooked up some THIS Isn’t Bacon rashers that were at their end date, using some in a ‘bacon’ roll and keeping the remainder for a dinner ingredient:

My lunch (and social) highlight has to be the meal out at Offbeet New Forest, sat in the Sunnyfields Farm Pyramid Field, chatting with my friend Harry and briefly Bevy when she joined us online. Along with the creamy curried gnocchi, I shared some of my parents’ Indian loaded fries. It was all so very tasty:

I took the photo; the description image is from Offbeet’s website
Week 40 Lunches

Dinner:

This week’s dinners included a seriously loaded (and messy) Plant Pioneer burger with oven fries – we’re talking melted Applewood cheese, lettuce, tomato, gherkins, coleslaw, fried onion and tomato salsa. After my big lunch out, I had a toasted sandwich for dinner – Applewood cheese, Quorn ‘ham’ slices, homemade coleslaw and tomato:

Twice I had leftover Veg Risotto (Week 39) with a cheeky dollop of mayo mixed in – I just love risotto, especially with broad beans:

Then there was ratatouille, another favourite – it’s basically tomato, peppers, courgettes and aubergine. We had it with 2 Plant Pioneer jackfruit burgers and a Waitrose breaded jackfruit burger divided between the 3 of us. The next day was the magical meal transformation: we used leftover ratatouille as a sauce with spaghetti (Dove’s brown rice) and added white cabbage, THIS Isn’t Bacon rashers and olives – I was completely happy to have it the next day for dinner too:

Week 40 Dinners

Snacks:

I was more mindful of my snacking compared to last week, resulting in eating less and reduced saturated fat options:

Week 40 Snacks

Admittedly there were still some unhealthier choices – a couple of times over the weekend I had some Kettle Chips crisps. Decent savoury snacks included my go-to Peckish rice crackers and hummus a couple of times, once also with some baby peppers. Also, I had some mixed unsalted nuts and Karma Bites popped lotus seeds:

Sweet snacks included my usual 2-4 chocolate bar squares on 4 days – surprisingly not every day. But I did have the last Gu vanilla and chocolate cheesecake (at its end date) – massively indulgent, being high in total and saturated fat. I had fruit a few times though, including strawberries, raspberries and the mango surrounding the stones – being offered the stone is a treat in my household and brings back childhood memories with my Nana:

Alcohol

My alcohol intake (spiced rum with Diet cola) was acceptable, within the recommended 14 units maximum weekly allowance, although I would’ve liked to reduce it from 9 units down to 6 units over the 3 evenings I drank. No inconvenient hangovers at least:

Week 40 Alcohol
Image: Drinkaware

Exercise

I completed a 40 minutes Wii Fit session on aerobic and balance exercises. No exercising biking, but I’ll do it again when I’m stuck inside for our 14 days self-imposed quarantine. I set myself a challenge to go out walking every day this week – I’m proud to report I succeeded, totalling 432 minutes (just over 7 hours), of which 286 minutes (over 4.5 hours) was brisk. That’s nearly 8 hours total physical activity, compared to just under 3 hours last week – I’m very happy with that:

Week 40 Exercise
Active 10 walks

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Okay, so how did all my actions reflect in my weekly results? Well, I’m pleased to report I lost the weight gained last week, plus a little more: I lost 2.2 lb (1 kg) and 0.6% fat – phew:

My progress may seem slow and somewhat up-and-down, but its’ to be expected when working towards healthy sustainable weight loss through a nutritional, but also non-restrictive method. The dip in weight, between Week 21 and Week 23, was when I’d been feeling my worst with suspected COVID-19 (thankfully I’m okay now), so a weight gain after that is to be expected really. Hopefully I’m back on more of a downward trend again now:

Key: SI: self-isolation (due to symptoms). LD: Lockdown. PLD: Partial lockdown

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Right, I think it’s time to move on to those smile-provoking experiences…

I’m an Amateur:
I had a run of Wii Fit personal bests in super hula hoop, advanced rhythm boxing, step plus, balance bubble and most excitingly heading – I’d got progressively worse at heading, but this week I achieved my highest score and reached amateur status – yey!:

From 18 points (Week 38) to 67 points (Week 40)

The WordPress Community:
A lovely compliment from fellow WordPress blogger, Troy Headrick from Pointless Overthinking, about my fruit face avatar designed by my Mum, based on how she sees me in fruit form:

Clockwise: The inspiration by congerdesign (Pixabay). Mum’s first attempt. Me. My final profile picture

Coffee and Birds:
The simplistic daily morning ritual of bird watching and coffee on the driveway with my parents. I can’t share the bird feeding videos on here, but I’m posting some on my Instagram if you’re interested:

Mummy Bird feeding Baby Bird


The Dusk Sky:
Thank you Tina for pointing out the dusk sky during our online Houseparty meet-up. I hadn’t actually properly appreciated it until looking back at my photo:

Lunch Out:
Feeling safe enough to collect food from my favourite food place (Offbeet New Forest) and eat comfortably alfresco in the Sunnyfields Farm Pyramid Field. And of course the social side of meeting Harry and Bevy for a lunchtime catch up and having a quick chat with Offbeet Chef and friend (Bald Vegan Chef):

Images: Top: Offbeet; bottom: Pyramid Field at Sunnyfields Farm

Nature Walks:
Spotting beautiful, surprising or amusing nature whilst out walking:

My Neighbour:
Walks with my kind neighbour Elise who is helping me explore the local area to figure out where I want to live:

Elise during our stroll in a park

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. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy reading everyone else’s inspirational and informative posts.

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Health Diary Week 33: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Jenga!

Image: Amy Moore, Pixabay

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Hi again. How quickly the next week comes around!

What’s New

Overall, I’m pleased with this week’s progress, because I’ve struggled emotionally – I’m uncomfortable talking about my feelings, but here’s how I see it using the game ‘Jenga’ as an analogy: I was precariously balanced (I hadn’t realised), then a ‘block’ was removed (nothing major), resulting in me toppling (feeling anxious and alone). However, I’m completely aware I’m in a more fortunate position than many, so I’m ready to pick myself back-up and continue on…

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:

I had fruit (mango and pineapple) only once. I ate a pack of 4 Nairn’s Oaties biscuits 4 times with my morning coffee. I succumbed to a slice of toast with peanut butter and jam one day and skipped breakfast another.

The big share bowl of mango & pineapple – I didn’t eat it all!

Lunch:

Lunches consisted of my My Typical Salad 5 times, either with hash browns or rice-filled vine leaves. Other than that, I had a Heck vegfurter hotdog (high fibre; made from mushroom, carrot and beetroot) and my highlight, Mum’s cauliflower and almond soup.

Lunch highlights: Left: Homemade cauliflower & almond soup. Right: Heck vegfurter hotdog.

Dinner:

Dinner is generally my favourite meal of the day, as it tends to be more varied. Mine included leftover dhal and rice – I love how a low-cost meal can be so tasty and nutritious. Also, Meatless Farm Co. mince, mashed potato, baby carrots and green beans with gravy. I had an odd combo of leftover mince and baked beans with pasta – simply a lazy dinner. Another hotdog to finish the open pack. I enjoyed a baked potato – half with baked beans, the other with coconut-based cheese and coleslaw, because I couldn’t choose between the two fillings. My highlights were vegetable fajitas (peppers and mushrooms) and a Plant Pioneer burger with low-fat oven chips.

Dinner highlights: Top: Burger (with all the works) & low-fat chips. Bottom: Veg fajitas with guacamole & salsa.

Snacks:

So far, not too bad, other than lack of breakfast fruit. So, let’s assess my snacking… 4 days of morning snacks: grapes, satsumas and mixed nuts. On the day I missed breakfast, cheeky fries leftover from my parents’ dinner. My pre-dinner and evening snacks (5 days each) were small amounts of chocolate (e.g. ¼ of a bar). Saturday night (online pub) I indulged in crisps, including cheesy nachos.

Snack highlights: Left: Cheesy nachos – pre-melted to demonstrate I didn’t overdo the cheese! Right: Hazelnut chocolate desert pot (our weekly veg box ‘surprise’) – I ate it over 2 days.

Alcohol

Alcohol included a double rum and cola on Friday during an online family meet and Saturday’s pre-measured 6 vodkas with a bottle of soda water and fresh lime.

Exercise

My physical activity was a respectable 190 minutes, split between 3 gentle exercise biking sessions and a 70-minute stint on Wii Fit, including yoga, aerobics, muscle and balance exercises. I had a shock when the Wii Fit body analysis reported I’d gained 2 stone and 5 pounds since I’d last used it!

Wii Fit aerobic & balance exercises: It seems I have an inability to move in the right direction, resulting in missing targets, whilst managing to get hit in the head by every flying object – impressive!

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I ‘m pleased to report my 1 lb weight loss this week – yey! I’d expected a gain, because I thought I’d eaten poorly and not moved enough.

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

I’m so pleased I introduced this section, especially given the challenges this week brought. I’ve enjoyed looking back on and appreciating the positive experiences

Bird Watching:
At the beginning of the week, when it was still sunny, I enjoyed watching the birds at the feeder:

University Friends:
Chatting with my friends Magda and Emelie online on Zoom – last time was early March in person. We met on our MSc Nutrition and Behaviour degree. They both have incredible work ethics – I wish I’d been a bit more like them back when I was in my 20’s!:

Photo from MSc graduation back in 2019 – seems so long ago now!

Studying:
Completing Week 2 of the Future Learn COVID-19 course by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Also, it’s been interesting reading other’s thoughts and I’ve enjoyed sharing my own too. Such a well-run course, I’d highly recommend it:

COVID-19 Week 2 course agenda: The practical implications.

Long Baths with Weleda:
My emotional comfort-blanket: Long (very long!) soaks in the bath with my favourite bath milk, Weleda arnica muscle soak:

New Turtle T-Shirt:
Trying on my new Rapanui WWF t-shirt that helps safeguard turtles – love it! – thanks Mum. Why Rapanui?: “Certified Organic Cotton…Not tested on animals. Does not contain animal-derived products. Printed in the UK with low waste printing tech. Made in a renewable energy powered factory audited for a wide range of social and sustainability criteria”.

Catching Up with Family:
Chatting to Emma (my sister) and Carl (her boyfriend) online – it’s been a while since we’d last spoken:

Emma showing us her worse-for-wear ‘lemon pig’.

Improved Confidence:
Realising how much my confidence and critical-thinking skills have grown over the past 5 years, thanks to the Open University Health Sciences degree. I was pleasantly surprised to receive 57 ‘Likes’ on one of my Future Learn comments. I realise this may not sound like much to some, but it’s the most ‘Likes’ I’ve ever had:

My response to the Educator’s question asking about challenges where resources are limited.

More Online Socialising:
Houseparty with the guys even though they made me do a quiz – I’m asking the questions next week!:

I returned from getting a drink to find myself alone in the House! It was okay – they came back.

Looking back, there were plenty of occasions for me to smile – it’s helpful to document these things.

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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