I’ve had a breakthrough! After several cameras up places where cameras shouldn’t go and biopsies and appointments… The consultant was pretty clueless. All he could say was that I have severe inflammation which was related to my diet and stress levels (but said he couldn’t recommend anything because he wasn’t a dietician ‘see you in 3 yrs for another camera!’)

I was really hoping for a magic pill but sometimes you need to help yourself. Things have been stressful of late (mum has had five rounds of chemotherapy, an operation to remove tumours, and we’re now waiting on radiotherapy) and I am the world leader at comfort eating. Then I accidentally started juicing. I thought I’d do it for one day and see… Then another… 7 days later, 8lbs lighter, up early feeling full of energy and I was hooked!

I went back to cake and wine over the weekend and I didn’t feel good at all. So I went back on the juices for a few days and feeling fab again! Long term, I’m planning to have juices for breakfast and then ‘normal’ meals for the rest of the day. The plan I followed was Jason Vale’s 7 day juice cleanse and I loved it so much that Hubbie is now doing it after seeing the results. I can’t recommend it enough. Is it a miracle cure? No. Is it perfect? No. Has it made a difference to my life? 100% yes!!

Where did the last 6 months go?

Did you miss me? I’d like to say that I have been absent from here because I am soooo well nowadays I barely have time to sit at the computer between Marathons/ Bungee jumps/ all-night raves, but I really shouldn’t lie to you.

I got well, I got ill. I fell off the wagon. I jumped off the wagon. I smashed the wagon into tiny little pieces.


Early morning run around the lighthouse at Mevagissey

I mean, things were going well. I’d been feeling pretty similar to human again. On a trip to Cornwall in October I was actually jogging. I walked over hills and beaches, played rugby with my kids. This, people, was what it felt like to be alive. I even sneaked in a gluten free cream tea (or two) and didn’t take to my bed for the next 48 hours. I wanted to grab passers by and proclaim ‘Look at me! I’m NORMAL!’

My diet had been pretty awesome because to be anything else wasn’t acceptable. But then came the stress. And stress likes to drink red wine and eat curry in her PJ’s. Stress is a slob.

In December, Battle-axe Grandma caught a hospital acquired infection following a broken leg. She died two days before Christmas. Because my father, BeelzeBob, never wanted to lay eyes on me again I couldn’t go to the hospital to say goodbye to the old gal. That stung.

The funeral was tough. He couldn’t avoid me then, and he was perfectly well behaved and polite. His wife didn’t come to the funeral (let’s not even start on that one) so he sat on his own by Grandma’s coffin and cried. And, knowing I was the last person he wanted to see, I couldn’t even comfort him. Yep. That hurt too.

A week or so later Hubbie and I went out for Tapas and far more cocktails than was strictly necessary to let off some steam and say ‘Finally, it’s over. We’re free of BeelzeBob. Time to look forward’. Three days later I got a phone call from my Mum. Her breast cancer was back.

Mum has an appointment with the oncologist tomorrow. The cancer is inoperable but with chemo it could be shrunk. We hope. Yes, it’s taken a while. She lost faith in her local hospital and decided to move to Derby hospital for treatment. Precious time has been wasted. Stress has had me skipping meals, losing sleep, forgetting what’s good for me but if I don’t turn it around now I won’t have the strength to face what the next few months have in store for me. For her. For us. I can’t talk about how I feel about this yet. I will, soon, but for now facts are all I have to trade.

People are counting on me to be strong. And in the midst of the stress I want to be able to smile. To enjoy my family, to live life to the full and help others do the same. It’s taken me years to realise that looking after yourself is not a selfish thing to do. Quite the opposite. It’s now or never. So the blog is back up and I’m hoping you will hold me accountable because it is more important than ever to get Back2health.

F is for FODMAP

Is anyone else as clueless as me?

Here’s a crash course in the low FODMAP diet. As I have mentioned before, I have food allergies. Wheat is a no-go and sometimes dairy trips me up. Occasionally I experience symptoms associated with eating wheat even when I am certain that no gluten-containing items have passed my chapped lips. The days where I feel at my best are the days when I don’t eat anything at all.

The long-term effects of the ‘eating nothing’ diet are not healthy (to put it mildly). When I follow a squeaky clean diet I feel a lot better – no doubt about it – but even then I can wake up feeling like I’ve single-handedly downed a bottle of cheap red. Which, if you know me, is ridiculous; I only drink expensive wine!

Here is not the place to talk about bowel movements so let’s just say ‘things were not as they should be’. I made several trips to the doctors and finally got a diagnosis of Diverticulosis. Before I had time to get excited about adding another medical condition to the long list of ‘reasons why I’m not normal’, I was handed a way out; the low FODMAP diet.

Is this the key? I can clutch at straws faster than anyone so I’m all in. I’ve bought the book, done my research and done my shopping. There’s no going back.

Here’s what you need to know; FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosacchrides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols. Catchy, isn’t it? It’s the scientific way of naming sugar molecules. Eating a low FODMAP diet claims to have changed the lives of many people with food allergies or digestive problems.

For eight weeks, high FODMAP foods are shunned. They are then reintroduced into your diet group by group. I am surprised which foods are a no-go. Onions and garlic are out for a start. At least 50% of the meals I cook start with these two staples so I was a little worried.

Apples are frowned upon, as are chickpeas. (What, no hummus?) Asparagus has got to go and watermelons won’t be darkening my fruit bowl for the time being. For the uneducated (i.e. me) there seems to be very little pattern, but I am putting my trust in Dr Sue Shepherd and Dr Peter Gibson.

I started yesterday with a home-made pesto. Surprisingly, our store-cupboard standby contains onion, garlic and, in some cases, cashew nuts (all on the banned substance list). It is just possible that I will never buy pesto again. Home-made pesto is uh-may-zing. As one of my instagram followers put it #pestoisthebestthough. (recipe below).


Mini-me devoured his pesto with gluten free spaghetti while I had courgetti (thanks to my Hemsley & Hemsley spiraliser), a side salad of watercress and baby leaf spinach and a slab of monkfish with roasted cherry tomatoes. Mmmm. Taste-bud heaven.

I started today with softly scrambled egg (butter and two eggs – no milk) on gluten-free toast. Today’s portable lunch was quesadilla (or, to simplify, tuna and cheddar sandwiched between two gluten free tortillas and lightly fried in coconut oil.) I’m still wondering about dinner but I like the look of ‘Thai-inspired Stir-Fry with Tofu and Vermicelli’ from the low FODMAP cookbook.

Tomorrow I’m cooking baked salmon topped with some more of that homemade pesto for when Hubbie and Sunbeam return from their Cornwall trip. Isn’t it great when you can get your teeth into a diet? (Pun intended).

Yes it’s only been 24 hours but so far, so good. There’s been no bloating or spasms and I’m viewing it as a challenge rather than a restriction to my diet. And I can have a glass of wine a day, so it’s still a civilised way to eat.

I’ll keep you posted as to how I get on. Is anyone else is interested in joining me? If so, message me, and we’ll do this together.

Pesto recipe (Fills a medium-sized jar)

Pinch sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

100g fresh basil leaves

100g freshly grated parmesan

100g pine nuts

Olive Oil (enough to bind it together)

Squeeze of lemon juice

Put everything, except oil, in a food processor and pulse. Keep adding olive oil until it is the consistency you prefer. (It doesn’t need to be smooth). Taste and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice as desired. Spoon through gluten free pasta, warmed courgetti or spread it over a salmon fillet and bake.

Will keep in the fridge for a week.


Watch out! Guilt ahead!

Watch out! Guilt ahead!

The kids are back at school after a long and wet week off and I’m still standing. (Just!) I’ve not been able to post on here for a few weeks because Time and Energy eloped leaving me stranded.

During our ‘week off’ we also had the added bonus of it being the first anniversary of my step father’s death and my deceased father-in-law’s birthday. Mum and mother-in-law live at opposite ends of the country, both in need in support and counting on one, slightly overwhelmed and soggy me. I managed to spend time alone with my Mum but felt guilty for not being able to do more for her (or my mother-in-law). I was giving a lot of my attention to my Mum and therefore didn’t take the kids on days out as I’d promised. “Hey boys, who wants a new game for the Wii instead?” GUILT. And of course Hubbie was feeling the absence of his father even more keenly and I could do little for him. GUILT.

Battle-axe Grandma had emergency surgery at 1am for a ruptured bowel. (‘Prepare yourself for the worst; she’s not strong enough for this operation; at the best she’ll be in intensive care on a ventilator for many days’) Not only did she pull through, but she was breathing too strongly for the ventilator so they took her off it within hours. She is now back home with a bed downstairs and swearing at anyone who dares treat her like an invalid. She’s been home a week and I still haven’t been to visit her. GUILT.

This week I am volunteering for Derby’s first ever Book Festival. www.derbybookfestival.co.uk I am covering five events, two of which I’m leading. If I was to be brutally honest with myself I don’t have the energy for this but I want to be involved sooooo badly so Hubbie is largely holding the fort at home while I indulge in book love. GUILT.

Unfortunately guilt is an all too common play-mate for the modern woman. We try so hard to be everything to everyone. Super-mum, doting daughter, domestic goddess, red-hot lover, supportive friend, helpful neighbour, employee of the month and valued member of the PTFA (of course I’ll sell raffle tickets!).

We set ourselves an unattainable goal but to be anything less than all of the above makes us feel guilty. How many of us make time for ourselves? Honestly? When there’s a pile of ironing winking at you, can you walk past it and pick up a book?

The way I see it (and let’s face it, I’m still a work-in-progress) if you don’t look after yourself you can’t be ANY of those things you want to be. It’s the ground-level equivalent of ‘fit your own oxygen mask before helping others’.

This week’s book festival is ‘time for me’ but, given the fluctuating state of my ME if I don’t take care of myself the rest of the time too, I won’t make it to the Michael Morpurgo event on Monday or, if I do, I will be wiped out for the foreseeable future.

Me time!

Me time!

To this end, the most delicious and healthy meals have been planned for the week. (Yesterday’s stuffed aubergines and the mackerel, spinach and potato lunch were gorgeous and gave me enough energy to volunteer until 8.30 last night. Thank you Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.) The housework can wait. (Seriously, if you’re THAT bothered by the state of my carpets please feel free to vacuum them yourself.) Mum’s coming over to stay this weekend (She gets company and I get someone else to entertain the boys) and the ironing will be put in the spare room where it can’t bother me. Sorted.

Hold on, are you still reading this? I’ve gone on far too long and stopped you from doing something far more important. Sorry. GUILT!

Time is precious. Don’t waste it on guilt xx

It’s all about me! (M.E)


You think YOU’RE tired?

 It’s ME awareness week this week. How aware are you?

Unless you have it or are very close to someone living with it, it’s likely you don’t ‘get’ it. My friends (wonderful, caring people) just don’t get it, though they try very hard. My husband gets it because he is the one picking up the pieces and, in reality, he’s as badly affected by this illness as I am. If I can’t get out of bed he’s the one coming home early to pick the boys up from school, putting on the washing, cooking the dinner, screening the phone calls…

There are different analogies doing the rounds. You might have heard of the spoon analogy. It basically says you start off with a number of spoons and once you’ve used them up (depending on the difficulty of the task more than one ‘spoon’ may be used) then you are spent. No more energy. Kaput.

I read an article on Mumsnet yesterday; http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/guest_posts/2376412-Guest-post-M-E-Awareness-Week-No-Im-not-just-tired which likened ME to a mobile phone battery which never fully charges and loses its charge very quickly. I like this one. It’s been a while since I was fully charged.

There are those who call it ME (Myalgic encephalomyelitis), it is also known as SEID (Systemic exertion intolerance disease), but I call it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (because it’s easier to say and spell). I don’t care what title it is given, it has robbed me, and many others like me, of some of life’s simple pleasures. Things that other people take for granted like bike rides with the children, staying up past 10pm, meeting up with friends have been lost to me more times that I can count.

Today I should be at a script writing seminar with the BBC but I can’t muster enough energy to get on the train. But that’s ok. I could have pushed myself to go but I know that it would have destroyed me for a week or more. I have my eye on the weekend when I’m taking my boys to watch the rugby 7’s at Twickenham and family time takes priority.

I have a card above my desk whish says “I radiate beauty, confidence and grace. Every cell in my body is healthy and vibrant. I feel great when I take care of myself.”


It might not be true (yet) but I’m working on it. The key phrase there is “I feel great when I take care of myself”. I AM taking care of myself. The food I eat is healthy. As with most things in life, you get out what you put in. Yotam Ottolenghi’s tomato salad was all I wanted to eat yesterday http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/recipes/salads/tomato-and-pomegranate-salad-shop. (I left out the pomegranate seeds and added crumbled feta and served it with pitta bread).

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s sliced Banana with lime juice and zest is my new mid afternoon snack (eaten with a cake fork). I am embracing my life and making the most of it.

If you know anyone with ME, go easy on them this week. They might look like they are full of beans when you bump into them in the street but you don’t know what it just cost them to do the school run. They aren’t being antisocial when they turn down your invite to lunch or unhelpful when they say they can’t help out at the school fair. They are just prioritising.

I guess I need to take my own advice on board. I am often my harshest critic so this week I’m doing it: I’m going easy on myself.

(PS I had some lovely comments on my last post from you guys wishing me well with my difficult week. Thank you. Your comments meant a lot to me. Grandma is still hanging on in there (she’s a tough old bird) but unfortunately my Father has said he never wants to see me again. While it is incredibly sad, I feel like a weight has been lifted. Onwards and upwards!)

Emotional eating – part 2

When I was considering writing this a couple of days ago I was winning! Energy levels up, feeling positive (even a few pounds lighter despite the Easter Bunny’s visit) and in control of my life.

I started writing again; I was helping my husband in his business, the kids were happier… What could possibly go wrong? Yesterday I got news my Grandmother was in hospital. Deep breath. As with most things, this is just the tip of the iceberg. So yesterday I skipped lunch, drank too much wine and dined on chocolate roulade. And did I feel better? What do you think?

It’s always worrying when someone you care about is ill. That’s natural. But my kamikaze eating is about something entirely different. When I go to the hospital today to visit her I’ll see my Dad. I haven’t seen my Dad in nearly six years. Last time I heard from him was by letter four years ago when he basically told me I was a bad parent and nobody in the family liked me (and much more that’s just too complicated to cover here). The thought of seeing him turns me into a timid 15 year old again and I am dreading today. 

Last night I didn’t sleep too well but even so I am feeling stronger. I won’t let him ruin my health or take my focus away from my Grandma today. And as I type this I almost believe it. Wish me luck…

Emotional Eating.

A cup of tea and Deliciously Ella's sweet potato brownie. Mmmm.

A cup of tea and Deliciously Ella’s sweet potato brownie. Mmmm.

A few weeks ago I was full of the BEST of intentions. I was going to eat and drink healthily, exercise and beat Chronic Fatigue. Why is this easier written than done? I’m feeling pretty good today but the last ten days or so have I have been dragging my aching bones through each day counting down the hours until I can flop into bed again.

I’m still on the wagon (sort of) but a ‘bump in the road’ has sent me flying through the air to land unceremoniously on my backside. Two weeks ago we scattered my step-dad’s ashes on what would have been his 63rd birthday. He’s been dead less than a year but it isn’t the rawness of this event that has me reaching for the wine, it is the recurring shock and trauma.

Even though he and my mum had been together over a decade they had only been married for five weeks. When Mum went to look after her sister for the weekend Tony had been in seemingly good health. Two days later his brother let himself into the house and found Tony on the bathroom floor. I had to call my Mum and tell her the devastating news. I couldn’t even tell her face-to-face because she was a four-hour drive away.

I keep replaying it in my mind, how she answered the ‘phone shouting ‘goodbye’ to a friend in the background. She was so happy. I said “Mum, I have some terrible news.” Pause. “Tony is dead.”

Mum and Tony on their wedding day April 21st 2014.

Mum and Tony on their wedding day April 21st 2014.

There are no words to describe the absolute anguish of hearing your loved one in that much pain; of knowing that you are the one to give her the worst news of her life; of not being able to hold her. And that is before you even start on the pain you are feeling within yourself for losing a person who has been your father for a decade.

I seem to have got off track here and forgotten the point of this blog. I should be blogging about food and recipes and how well I am feeling. Shouldn’t I? Well, actually no. The point is food/ health/ wellness is not something that exists on it’s own. It is important to look at what affects our relationship with our health.

For me, emotions play a huge part, as I’m sure they do for most people. I get stressed and I make bad decisions. I am an emotional eater. A big bowl of cheesy pasta, or family-sized bar of chocolate, comforts me for the time being, and it is the instant fix that I am searching for when I reach for ‘bad’ foods. But I now understand more about how my body reacts to food, especially sugar, and know that this isn’t the best thing for my health. I can’t say that I have stopped emotional eating but at least I am aware of when I’m doing it now and reach for something on the healthier end of the ‘comfort scale’. Looking after yourself is more than just eating the ‘right’ foods. If it feels like you are punishing yourself by denying yourself then you are doing it all wrong.

I’ve made small alterations to my diet in the last couple of days and I am already back on track and reaping the benefits. I’m snacking on Medjool dates and drinking lakes of water (before having the evening glass of vino). The other night, when I was desperate for a curry, I made a vegetable and lentil curry in the slow cooker. (It is no exaggeration to say that we are such regular patrons of the local curry house that the kids call the manager ‘Uncle Ali’.) Not reaching for the phone for my usual curry dripping in ghee is a huge achievement for me. It’s my ‘go to’ food when I’ve had a bad day.

So, tonight’s recipe is a variation of a Gwyneth Paltrow recipe. Soba noodles made with duck broth, chicken and veg. Anything that can drip down your chin gets extra ‘comfort food’ brownie points from me. Hold on. Did someone say brownie? Time to break out some of Ella’s sweet potato brownies again.