Need help avoiding the Christmas crazy?

Christmas is a time of extremes, it seems – we’re being sold gastronomic delights, whilst also being told that we need to ‘slim down’ for the Christmas party dress/suit/outfit of your choice. These conflicting messages can wreak havoc for the most of us – “gorge yourself on this festive treat” … “how to stay lean over the Christmas period” (no prizes for guessing where that article came from!) – but for some these messages can be seriously dangerous!

The holiday season shouldn’t be plagued by guilt and worry about ‘staying lean’ or ‘working off you Christmas dinner’. But trust me, I understand all too well how easy it is to be affected by these messages that surround us.

I absolutely love Christmas and all the baking and food preparation involved, but I used to stress about how much I could have, how I would look in X outfit and how I would ensure that come the New Year I hadn’t put on any weight. And who can blame me, or you, when we are practically swimming in messages telling us how we should look, which exercises are best for burning calories etc etc. This is called diet culture and this is a pretty good definition from Body Positive Australia;

Diet culture encompasses all the messages that tell us that we’re not good enough in the bodies we have, and we’d be more worthwhile and valuable if our bodies were different…Diet culture is deeply ingrained in our everyday existence and prevents us from living our most full and meaningful lives”

The concept of diet culture is a hefty discussion and not one that would fit into this article but many of the resources below talk about it in a really clear way.

 

All the crazy diet and food talk over Christmas can get you doubting yourself, and start the niggling thoughts that maybe you should do something about your body – and let’s not even get into the rubbish that comes out in the New Year!

I found that questioning what I read and saw in magazines, online and in adverts started changing the way I felt about eating and released me from some of the rules and anxieties I had picked up on. Everyone is different, so I just wanted to include some of the very small things that made a big difference for me, and started making me realise that there’s more to life than worrying about food and the way I look. These are pretty good tips for all year round if you feel like your social media etc. need a shake-up – but seeing as the messages seem to be amplified around this time of year I thought it would be a good time to write about it.

 

Unsubscribe to mailing lists for Women’s Health or other websites, magazines etc. offering constant weight loss (or ‘optimal wellness’ advice). There are so many diet-related messages that we can’t avoid seeing on billboards and in newspapers, for example, that we can’t control, but let this be your chance to take back control of your inbox!

 

For no-nonsense chat about food and nutrition the following Instagram accounts are a diet-free zone:

Laura Thomas 

Pixie Turner

Christy Harrison

Untrapped

Fiona Sutherland

Not Plant Based

(Laura, Pixie and Fiona are all doing some form of anti-diet/bullshit advent calendar on Instagram this year.)

 

I’ve started listening to some great podcasts that discuss the concepts of Health at Every Size, and non-diet approaches to health – something that I’m still learning a lot about as it’s in contrast to the ‘anti-obesity’ messages we’re constantly fed. These podcasts are particular favourites of mine at the moment:

Don’t Salt My Game

Food Psych

All Fired Up

 

And the following accounts are my favourites for spreading the body positivity message. There are a lot more accounts than I have listed here, so go explore this wonderful section of instagram for yourself! As Laura Thomas always says, diversifying your social media feeds can do wonders for the way we feel about our own bodies. Seeing people of all sizes, colours, abilities, ages and genders living happy and fulfilling lives is a breath of fresh air compared to the usual narrative that only young, white, able bodied girls are happy – and only once they’ve lost those magic 5 lbs. These can help you on your way to body acceptance and body love.

Megan Crabbe

Michelle Elman

Taryn Brumfitt

Stephanie Yeboah

F*** Your Fitspo

 

This is by no means a definitive list of accounts to follow, nor do I claim to be an expert on food anxieties or body positivity. And if you think that you or a loved one might be struggling with signs or symptoms of disordered eating please try to reach out for professional help – there are some helpful resources on the BEAT website.)

 

I hope you have a Merry Christmas, or holiday season, enjoy, and try not to become overwhelmed or hoodwinked by the incessant diet talk!

 

Taking some time out…

Despite the impression that you may have got, I haven’t completely given up on this blog! I absolutely love writing on here – I find it extremely cathartic. But as I’ve got stuck into my final year of uni, I’ve realised that I actually have quite a lot on my plate. So I’ll still be posting on here sporadically but I’m not going to put myself under any pressure to do so regularly. I’m sure you’ll all understand!

This term I’m diving head first into my final project for which I’m writing a systematic review on the effect that a healthy diet has on the psychological well-being of teenagers – so interesting, right?

(A systematic review is a type of literature review that critically analyses research studies that have already been conducted in a specific area to try and decipher whether there actually is an overall effect) 

So don’t be alarmed by the silence – I’m still ticking away at uni and I’ll write on here every now and again when inspiration hits!

In the meantime, stay updated with my goings-on in London by following me on Instagram @jess_rann

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A Florentine Holiday

Italy has sat at the top of my travel wish list for as long as I can remember, so goodness knows why it’s taken me so long to visit! My long-awaited summer holiday this year was to Florence, and the beautiful city lived up to all of my romantic expectations. With many referring to Tuscany as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, its capital is oozing with cultural delights.

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite finds from the trip but please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do/places to see. If I could go back and stay for a year I would – and I’m sure I’d still run out of time to fully appreciate everything that there is to do and see (and eat) in Florence.

My boyfriend and I stayed to the west of Florence, a short bus ride from the city centre, surrounded by Tuscan countryside and close to the river Arno. Taking a walk up through the surrounding hills and villages, we stumbled across olive groves aplenty and a church at almost every turn!

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Whilst exploring we found an old mill that had been converted into a beautiful hotel
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For a panoramic view of the city, a climb up through the Boboli gardens to the Basilica di San Miniato to the south of the city centre is perfect and offers a little breather from the busy cobbled streets. Maybe avoid doing the walk in the midday heat though – we made that mistake and it made for a rather sweaty time.

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The tier of palaces, villas and gardens of Boboli
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A must-do when you are visiting Florence has to be climbing the Duomo, the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Situated in the historic criss-cross streets in the heart of Florence, and what feels like the tourist hub, the dome is one of the city’s most iconic sights. Not recommended for anyone suffering with vertigo or claustrophobia, the 463-step climb up the steep interior steps culminate in a spectacular 360-degree view of the city. (You need to pre-book a time-slot to climb the Duomo.)

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The fresco’s on the interior of the duomo depicting The Last Judgement
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For a little bit of retail therapy, Boutique Nadine in the Santa Croce neighbourhood is a slightly pricey but beautifully curated boutique. It’s worth taking a wander through the streets of Santa Croce which can feel like a haven from the tourists. Soul Kitchen Bar, which is just next door to Boutique Nadine on Via de’ Benci, is a perfect low-key spot for cocktails and people watching in the early evening.

 

The food was undeniably the best part of the trip – the pizza, the cheeses, the pasta…

The top markets that I would recommend wandering round are the Mercato Centrale (Florence’s central market) and the Sant’Ambrugio Market. Both offer an attack on the senses as you peruse the various local delicacies as well as fruits and vegetables, and fish and meat counters.

 

My final recommendation from the trip would be to visit Touch for dinner. Offering modern dishes made with traditional Tuscan ingredients, you can choose between a tasting menu or order à la carte. It was the most expensive meal of our whole trip (pizzas usually cost around 7€) with the tasting menu costing 40€ without wine. However, the flavours were astounding, and with wonderfully accommodating staff who were more than happy to recommend dishes or wine to compliment the meal, it was definitely our favourite meal of the trip.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about a few of our favourite spots – I’m already trying to work out when I can go back!

What the *$!@ is #selfcaresunday?

Type the above hashtag into Instagram and you are bombarded with images of young wellness bloggers posting photos of them going ‘off the grid’ and ‘taking time out for themselves’. While this is completely unattainable for most of us (hello, student budget/full-time job/[insert life commitment here]), there is some benefit to the idea of ‘self care’. Sometimes our day-to-day can be so hectic, and when we actually have a half an hour to ourselves with nothing to do most of us grab our phones. Now, I’m as fond of scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest as the next person, but I regularly fall down the black hole of social media and realise that an hour has passed and, yet again, I didn’t have my relaxing bath or whatever I had wanted to do that evening.

Therefore, I have written myself a list of activities that I know I enjoy doing for those evenings when I have half an hour (I know that for some people even this seems like a luxury) or so to see if it will encourage me to give myself some lovin’ that doesn’t involve the instant gratification of social media.

This is my list below – I’d love to hear about any of your favourite self-care activities!

  • Make a cup of herbal tea (*current favourite = lemon and ginger)
  • Read some of my book in bed
  • Do an adult dot-to-dot (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it – dot-to-dots with 1,000 dots are tricky!)
  • Challenge myself to a sudoku
  • Run a bubble bath
  • Paint your nails
  • Do some of your colouring book
  • Listen to a podcast in bed
  • Go for a short walk
  • Listen to a favourite album from start to finish (no shuffling)
  • Do a face mask
  • Catch up on some favourite blog posts
  • Take a long shower
  • Call my mum/nana/granny/neighbour
  • Watch a DVD

 

I hope you get a chance to practice some self-care this week.

X

 

Image: pexels.com

Placement update – Cow’s milk allergy in paediatrics

I made it through 12 weeks of dietetics placement – and well done to everyone else who has been on a work placement or internship this summer! That first taste of adult life and not having a huge uni summer stretching ahead of you is tough! But I have thoroughly enjoyed this summer, and it has been a big learning curve.

Working in such a wide range of dietetic specialities has given me the opportunity to see a variety of patients, from infants to teenagers, working-age and elderly adults. I think the area which I have progressed in the most is paediatrics – I wasn’t very confident about working with children initially. It’s such a varied area – I could be seeing new-borns all the way through to 18-year-olds. One of the main reasons for referral that I came across in paediatrics was cow’s milk allergy, which I have written a little bit about below.

 

Cow’s milk allergy

According to Allergy UK 2-3% of 1-3 year olds are diagnosed with cow’s milk allergy in the UK. It occurs when the immune system reacts to the protein in cow’s milk causing either an immediate reaction, or a delayed-onset reaction. The infants that we saw in clinic usually experienced a delayed-onset reaction, where symptoms tend to emerge after a few hours, days or weeks. Many of the babies show symptoms of vomiting, reflux, diarrhoea or constipation, tummy pains, eczema or rashes, among others.

The only way to check for sure that the above symptoms are caused by a cow’s milk allergy is to exclude all cow’s milk and dairy from the baby’s diet and see if the symptoms improve.

Babies with a confirmed cow’s milk allergy must follow a completely dairy free diet. This means using a specialised infant formula or, if the babies are breastfed, the mothers must also exclude dairy as proteins from the cow’s milk can pass through the breast milk and continue to cause symptoms. However, we then work with mothers to ensure that their diets are nutritionally adequate, particularly providing enough calcium.

We also explain to parents that children often grow out of a cow’s milk allergy, so in the future we would work with them to slowly reintroduce dairy back into their child’s diet to see if they are still allergic.

** (Lactose intolerance is different to cow’s milk allergy. Lactose is the sugar present in cow’s milk and our bodies use an enzyme called lactase to break this complicated sugar down so that it can absorbed. Some people have lower levels of lactase, but the levels of lactase fall gradually and naturally as we get older and drink less milk than when we were babies. If people have particularly low levels of lactase they find it difficult to digest the lactose in milk so can start developing symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, stomach pain and wind. However, lactose intolerance more commonly occurs in older children or adults – very rarely in infants.) **

 

For more info on any of the above, I have included a couple of resources below. Always remember to visit your GP or a dietitian for any dietary advice.

Allergy UK – https://www.allergyuk.org/information-and-advice/conditions-and-symptoms/469-cows-milk-allergy

BDA Food Facts sheet on ‘Suitable milks for children with cow’s milk allergy’ – https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/CowsMilkAllergyChildren.pdf

 

Image: pexels.com

Nelson’s Coffee Co.

Ever since we started going out my boyfriend has been going on about a coffee shop in our home town, and it’s taken me over a year to finally visit – but boy, oh boy, it was worth the wait! I’m just sad that I’ve missed out on so many brunch, coffee, and afternoon tea and cake opportunities in that time.

Nelson’s Coffee Co., situated just round the corner from Eastbourne train station, offers a seriously laid back vibe with a side order of fantastic coffee. (Please note that this isn’t a sponsored post – I just fell so madly in love with the place that I had to write about it!)

My boyfriend and I went for a late brunch last Sunday ordering a turmeric latte and the pancake stack for me, and the fritter stack with an espresso for the beau.  The incredibly fluffy pancakes oozed with blueberries and were topped with strawberries, pistachio crumb, almond flakes and vanilla mascarpone. My first turmeric latte didn’t fail to impress – if you like chai latte’s I highly recommend giving it a go (although don’t force yourself just because you’ve heard that it’s healthy – the jury is still out as to whether it actually has the mega effect that some wellness gurus are claiming).

These are the only pictures that I bothered to take before I got stuck in – I wasn’t faffing about with perfect lighting with this food sitting in front of me! But if you’re in the area I highly recommend giving Nelson’s a visit – there are multiple goodies that I’m dying to try on the menu.

Have a great week! I’m nearly done with placement – only a week and a half left – so hopefully normal service on the blog will resume then!

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Top tips for tummy troubles

This one covers digestion from mouth to, well, bottom. So, if you’re munching on your muesli, maybe give this a read later!

Having problems with our gut such as bloating, wind and constipation can be fairly common, but there are some tips and tricks that can help reduce the chance of getting these symptoms.

 

Take time to eat and drink

How many times have you gulped down a glass of water when you’ve realised that you haven’t had a drink all morning? Who else sometimes gobbles down their lunch whilst sitting at their desk?

Taking time to chew our food properly is the start of digestion, breaking it down into much smaller pieces and coating it in saliva. Saliva contains an enzyme called amylase which starts to break down the starch, long chains of sugars, into shorter chains of sugars.

Chewing food well also gives our brain time to register that we are eating and to prepare the rest of the digestive system. This can also have the effect of making us feel more satisfied, something that Laura Thomas has also mentioned in her Mindful Eating podcast episode.

By chewing food and drinking fluids slowly we can also reduce the risk of taking in a lot of air at the same time which can sometimes make us feel a bit windy.

 

Find a routine

Something else that can really help with ‘getting things moving’ is to have a regular meal pattern. If you haven’t eaten anything since breakfast and then have a huge dinner this can affect our stomachs.

For some people, their routine might be 3 meals a day, whereas others may include some snacks in there too. If you’re absolutely starving by the time you get to your next meal it might be worth trying to have a snack in between next time.

 

Up your fibre intake

The current recommendation is to have 30g of fibre a day, but most adults are currently only eating about 18g. Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be digested an absorbed in our small intestine. Instead bacteria in our large intestine partially or completely breaks it down. It is essential for preventing constipation, softening stools and making them easier to pass, as well as lowering our risk of heart disease, diabetes and colorectal cancer.

These foods are particularly high in fibre;

  • Starchy foods like oats, potato with the skin on, sweet potato, high fibre breakfast cereals, wholemeal or wholegrain bread and pasta, and brown rice.
  • Vegetables such as peas, sweetcorn, parsnips, green beans, carrots
  • Beans and pulses such as chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils
  • Fruits like apples, pears, plums and prunes, apricots, raspberries and blackberries
  • Nuts and seeds such as almonds, peanut butter, linseeds and chia seeds

This table has been adapted from the BDA Food Facts sheet on fibre which shows how you can fit extra fibre into your diet.

Portion size Fibre per portion (g)
Breakfast Porridge 50g 5g
With raspberries 80g 2.5g
Snack 1 banana or apple 1 medium sized 2g
Lunch Baked potato 180g – medium cooked 5g
Baked beans 80g 3g
Sweetcorn (tinned) 80g 2g
Snack Wholemeal bread 2 slices 6g
  Peanut butter 1 tablespoon 1g
Dinner Wholemeal spaghetti 150g 5g
Suggestion: add a tomato based sauce and vegetables
TOTAL 31.5g

 

Remember that if you are having serious and recurrent problems with your stomach or digestion please see your GP or registered dietitian to rule out any other health problems.