31 days – Habits created

One month has passed since I made the positive change to improving my health.  My intention was to be sugar free (apart from sugar in vegetables and dairy products) and be meat free).  I have however, taken it a step further and not eaten any fish, eggs and virtually cut out dairy products and so for the majority of the month I have eaten a vegan diet and the remainder of the time, vegetarian.  It wasn’t really a conscious decision…it just sort of happened.

Apart from the first week of sugar detox unpleasantness, I have enjoyed the month. I have found a few things out about myself – I do have will power and an inner voice that is looking out for me!! On the odd occasion when I have been hungry between meals (I actually haven’t wanted to snack between meals very much at all), I’ve opted for a savoury snack – new found passion for oatcakes and Marmite – rather than a sweet biscuit or two … or three! I have found myself having internal dialogue – acknowledging how much better I feel and do I really want to jeopardise that feeling?! In fact, there has been a bar of chocolate in the bottom of my handbag all month – I found it the other day. 31 days ago it would have ‘shouted’ at me and been snaffled and the wrapper probably hidden! There are also biscuits, homemade cakes and puddings for my husband – i’m not interested! Although I am focusing on how the food choices make me feel, an additional benefit is that I have lost 4kg over the month. Chemo weight is finally coming off  😁 yay!

I do think about food a great deal – not in a negative way though. Instead I enjoy planning and thinking about the day’s meals, enjoy reaching a mealtime hungry and therefore really enjoy what I am eating – every rainbow mouthful – rather than just seeing food as body fuel. I have settled in to a pattern of planning the week’s main meals on a Friday, collating the shopping list from this and therefore only buying what we need. An additional plus is that we don’t have any food going to waste and the weekly food bill is reduced!

Creative food swapping is becoming easier – my cheese sauce swap has really helped cut out a lot of dairy. I did think removing cheese from my diet would be hard – not helped by many vegan cheeses tasting, in my opinion, pretty vile. However, I have found a brand that tastes good and melts well – perfect for lasagne toppings etc.  Oat milk is very tasty in tea and coffee or I drink weak black tea (thanks HS for the tip 😊) although I have cut my consumption of these drinks significantly and prefer herbal teas.  Butter is the one food I haven’t found an alternative I enjoy. Toast and butter..mmm… I don’t have it very often but thoroughly enjoy it when I do. Any really tasty alternative options out there? From a purely health point of view I think butter is better for me than a vegetable spread with lots of additives.

I have been pleasantly surprised, when I have eaten out, about the number of vegetarian and increased number of vegan options on the menus. Foods with wonderful flavours and textures.

So many people have been supportive, which is lovely, but – here comes a negative – occasionally the odd person (occasional not strange!) passes a comment such as, ‘ Should you be eating that?’ or even, ‘You can’t eat that!’ For me, my diet choices are for my health – mine. My choice; my decisions.  At the moment, I can’t imagine eating meat / fish again but…if I want to…I will. I am not going to pigeon hole my dietary choices.

A taste (pardon the pun) of the rainbow of food eaten this month:

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My next steps:  eat cake, steak and fizzy drinks.  I very much doubt it.

I will however eat fruit if I feel like it.

I will continue to plan our weekly food and buy only what we need to keep wastage low.

I will continue to enjoy every mouthful.

 

 

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Health Esteem Queen for the month of May

On May 20 2017 the wonderful Sara of mshealthesteem.com   posted her interview with me as she had nominated me Health Esteem Queen for that month.

I urge you to take a look at her wonderful blog and health and wellness website.

I have posted the interview here as well:

Tell us about your health philosophy.

I believe we are what we eat. With this in mind I cook all my food from scratch where possible, and use the best ingredients to ensure the outcome is a balanced and nutrient dense meal. I also believe in ‘simple is good’ and very rarely produce food that has taken hours to prepare. I cook gluten-free and fructose free / minimum fructose food.  (I am no means perfect and do occasionally succumb to chocolate or cake – when I do I don’t ‘beat myself up’.)

Having recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and now on drug therapy for many years, this has heightened my awareness of and the importance of, treating our bodies well. I not only try to ensure nutritious food goes in to my body but I also am careful of the products I put on my skin – e.g. paraben free products, paraben and aluminium free deodorant.

I exercise daily – walking my dogs and spending time with my horse. I also try to meditate daily for at least 10 minutes.

What’s your favourite part of your health-esteem journey so far?

As a result of the changes to my diet, I never feel bloated, my skin texture has improved and I have lost weight. I no longer count calories, I eat fats – coconut milk, avocados etc, I don’t snack between meals and most importantly of all, the bathroom scales do not rule my life which they did for as many years as I can remember. I now have a sustainable positive mindset about choosing the foods I eat and the amounts of food my body wants. I actively listen out for the feelings of satiety and most importantly and totally amazingly for someone for whom bulimia has been a constant companion for so, so many years I am eating guilt free. It has been such a liberating experience – I am now free from my bingeing habits and the suffocating feeling that food is controlling me.

Why do you think self-love is an important aspect of someone’s health?

I think self love is all about owning our own power and acting from a place of kindness toward ourselves.  What matters is how we feel about ourselves; that we accept ourselves; we become responsible for our own lives and we stop trying to prove something. Self-love isn’t about being narcissistic it is about looking after ourselves. We have one ribbon of life and should value it – our health being one of the most important facets of our lives and one which we can have significant control over.

What changes were necessary in order to achieve your state of self-love?

Firstly, looking inward: I needed to identify my own individual appetite drivers and my food choices. Once I understood my triggers to eat, triggers not to eat I then became able to manage my weight. Fructose was a trigger for me – so I removed it. Snacking and being unaware was another trigger. For a long time I, like many others I have talked to, seem to have been in the pursuit of the perfect diet – the key few ‘must have’ ingredients or ‘must do’ approaches to eating. I have followed the latest hot topic dietary approaches and listened to all the ‘experts’ wanting to share their ‘dietary magic’. At times I have been lulled in to the promises of quick fix approaches – which have ‘worked’ – but of course any weight loss has slowly returned or different diet approaches have not be sustainable. If I have followed a restrictive diet my emotional reaction has always ended in rebellion.

Then, I recognised and accepted that my working environment was harming my health. Continual pressure and stresses were taking their toll. So a change of direction was in order. (That is partly on hold due to diagnosis but I do have a plan!)

Finally – acceptance of who I am, who I will never be and most importantly…the person I no longer want to be.

What inspired you to become the Healthy Foodie you are today?

The pursuit of a sustainable way of life. I have always thought myself to be quite savvy about food. I have however, at different times in my life be ruled by it; controlled by it even. For a large proportion of my life I have awoken in the morning determined to be in control and not worried about what I was going to eat during the day. Invariably after my first of several weigh ins the feelings of guilt/ self loathing etc. would raise their ugly heads. I have tried many diets over the years – never needing to lose too much but never satisfied with how I looked or felt.

2 years ago, I was given a copy of ‘Simplicious’ by Sarah Wilson. That was it…my turning point:)

Why did you choose to switch to a plant based diet?

For my health.

Every year, following the rich and meat laden excesses of the Christmas period, I would serve only vegetarian meals for my husband and I for the month of February and then try to limit the amount of meat/poultry based meals we ate afterwards.

Last year, I decided to extend the month and I ate a vegetarian based diet for several months. I do now eat meat occasionally – could I do without it …yes. Could I do without my vegetables, pulses, grains etc…absolutely not!  .

Being on a plant based diet ensures that I feel fuller for longer; don’t suffer with bloating and feel generally more energised.

Any tips for those wishing to add more plants to their plates?

Variety – explore the multitude of textures and colours available.

Seasoning – learn to use herbs and spices to enhance and enliven dishes

Describe a typical day on your foodie plate.

Breakfast –  oat, chia and teff porridge served with coconut milk and a milk kefir smoothie – acai, baobab or maca flavoured

Lunch – buddha / abundance bowl with something green e.g. watercress, something red – peppers / tomatoes / beetroot; something yellow  – peppers / sweetcorn and some protein – pulses / fish / egg

Dinner – easy to prepare meal and often one pot e.g. a cauliflower , chickpea and quinoa bake

What is a daily health ritual must?

Drinking plenty of fluids

What advice would you give for someone wishing to make some health invoking changes?

Identify why you want to change and the positive impact this will have. Then break it down in to small and manageable chunks. Don’t view it as failure if it doesn’t always go to plan. Each day is a new opportunity to start again.

What’s your biggest health misconception pet peeve?

Fats are bad for you

What is your favourite health food staple?

Chia seeds – so versatile and nutritional powerhouses

What’s your go to healthy snack?

Brazil nuts – brain food!

What does Health-Esteem mean to you?

Possessing self regard for your health. Valuing yourself enough to want to look after yourself on the inside. As well as the outside.

 

Oat, chia and flaxseed breakfast muffin – gluten and dairy free

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I have combined ingredients that have a real benefit for the body – some of which I have listed:

Flaxseed – high in fibre aiding digestion and helping to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, omega 3, vitamin B1, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium

Chia seed – high in fibre, omega 3, potassium, omega 6, calcium, copper, phosphorus and  zinc

Coconut oil – healthy saturated fat

Oatmeal – rich in fibre, high protein, low fat

Spices – ginger and cinnamon – both anti inflammatory

Oat milk – lactose free, low in fat, vitamin E, vitamin B, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium

The combination also chosen to keep me feeling fuller for longer 🙂  I have used coconut sugar as the sweetener — very little.

Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4       Muffin tin – 12 bun

Ingredients:

1 cup of gluten free self raising flour                            2 eggs

1 cup of oatmeal                                                                1/2 cup of oat milk

1 tsp ginger                                                                          1/4 cup coconut oil – melted

1 tsp cinnamon                                                                   1/4 cup coconut sugar

2 tbsp chia seeds                                                                 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp flaxseed

Method:

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the eggs, milk and coconut oil and stir until mixed. Divide between 12 the muffins.

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Place in the centre of the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes – until skewer comes out clean.

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Mrs Impatient

On the 28th of December, I wrote that I had finished chemotherapy and was at last starting on the road to recovery…followed by a post on the 26th February about the start of a new healthy me.

I think I was both naive and deluded! My doctors told me the chemotherapy would impact on my system for several months and  this compounded by the 5 weeks of daily radiotherapy would mean that the side effects would be long reaching. But …oh no…not me I thought! Well – they were right. I have been  / am really frustrated by the very slow process of recovery.

I understand that my body has taken a battering but I truly thought I would bounce back more quickly. I am struggling with accepting this – although I have no choice and am trying to turn my, ‘But I’ve only managed to do this,’ into, ‘Today I have done this!’ I have accepted (I think) that I won’t be the same as before diagnosis – and that isn’t a bad thing, I had already recognised that things needed to change – hence handing my notice in at work. I am accepting that this is a blip, a haitus in my plans and future goals and only that. I would like to have heard the words, ‘You are clear.’ but know that with the ‘high risk cancer’ (oncologist’s words not mine) it is all about doing things to increase my survival rate and chance of being around in 10 years. This is taking a bit to process…but I will 🙂

On a very positive note I now have a complete covering of baby soft hair on my head (albeit a different colour and flecks of grey – lovingly pointed out by one of my daughters!!), a full set of lashes and eyebrows and I do now feel in the right place mentally to tackle the few pounds that I put on during chemo and am fully embracing the diets choices  I used to make prior to treatment.  Of this part of my life, I can be in full control.

Would love to read the thoughts and words of wisdom from those of you who are at the same point as me,  ahead of me or just interested in my ramblings 🙂

All a bit bonkers…

This is going to seem to be a bit bonkers…

I have only just realised; I have had cancer.

People who know me will probably think that I have finally lost the plot. They know I was diagnosed last July. Since then I have existed within a whirlwind of tests, operation, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, weekly and sometimes daily visits to the cancer hospital, visits to my own doctor, visits to district nurses, etc.

Throughout all of this I haven’t really had time to think…or been able to think. It was during my penultimate visit for radiotherapy treatment (18/19 treatments on 9th February) that the reality hit me – like a sledgehammer. I then did what I had vowed I would never do – spent a week wallowing in self pity and ‘woe is me’ mode.

Now it is all about moving forward. Yes, I still have reminders of the treatment – operation scars, nails falling off, aching bones and joints, burned skin – but… my body is recovering and the signs are clear. I have a covering of hair on my head, eyelashes and eyebrows are returning and my energy levels are increasing.

During treatment my diet changed. Partly due to taste buds; partly due to the fact that many of my staple foods were banned (sprouted legumes, kefir, salads) and partly because somedays eating anything was better than eating nothing.

It is time to recalibrate.

Here is to the healthy me 🙂

Most peculiar

It’s been a funny old week – definitely not the amusing type.

I am now in to my second week of cycle 1 of chemotherapy and have experienced some odd and some deeply unpleasant (won’t go in to that!) effects. Changing tastes:

Firstly I have absolutely no appetite –  a novel and curious feeling for a devout foodie.

Secondly – for a few days when I did feel the urge to eat it was for foods I never normally eat. I longed for shop bought fish, chips and mushy peas – the combination tasted like nectar! Another night I sent my poor husband to the shops to buy a tin of Baked Beans (reminiscent of a pregnancy midnight raid!) and wanted only beans on toast with cheese on top. This, unlike the fish ‘n chips, was a total  disappointment – unsure whether my tastes are changing or just that I have not eaten processed foods for so long.

I have gone off tea and coffee and am enjoying powdered skimmed milk as a hot drink!

I am seeking much stronger flavours  – no subtlety to my palate at the moment.

Somethings I eat have no flavour yet I can smell them. Flavour is the combination of taste -what your taste buds pick up (sweet, salty, sour, bitter and  potentially umami) and the smell of the food. The roof of my mouth seems to be completely inert at the moment (the same feeling when you have burnt it).  The roof of the mouth is the palate – and presumably where the terms palatable  / having a pleasing palate come from. I can only assume this change is what is affecting my dietary choices and experiences.

All very odd and quite fascinating … as long as it settles down!

 

Irony

…a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result.

I believe I eat healthily. I have a number of friends who frequently message me, after seeing something I have posted on my Instagram account @jfb50, asking me, ‘What on earth is that?’ or ‘So what does that do?’  I even have one particular checkout assistant at my local supermarket who quizzes me on everything that passes along the belt – ‘How are you going to cook that?’ and one day popped up in the spice aisle when I was looking for sumac and followed me around the supermarket asking me all about the food I was buying!

I eat a balanced diet and thoroughly enjoy what I eat. I ‘listen’ to my body and respond to any dietary preferences. Talking of preferences – I avoid taking tablets of any kind if I can – unless prescribed.

So…with this in mind, this week, I ‘willingly’ signed the consent forms for a 6×3 week treatment cycle of chemotherapy. The impact of these toxins: the destruction of the flora in my large intestine that I have nurtured with my daily kefir and frequent meals of beans and pulses; the stripping of calcium from my body and all manner of other unpleasantness that I don’t really want to think about! But of course, the pay off is, I hope, the destruction of anything lurking in my system that shouldn’t be there.

I know that the food I eat will heal me and my positive attitude will see me through 🙂

Any tips gratefully received 🙂