Healthy v Clean eating: where I stand

The mini controversy caused by Dr Giles Yeo’s recent Horizon programme ‘Clean Eating – the Dirty Truth’ was a welcome distraction from the world melt down documented daily.

The programme focused on the new Instagram driven trend of ‘clean eating’ and explored the work of women who advocate healthy eating: Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella), The Hemsley Sisters (Melissa & Jasmine) and Natasha Corrett (Honestly Healthy). Dr Yeo expressed concern that there is no evidence base for encouraging consumption of real food (over processed food).

This was interesting viewing for me because diet is an essential part of managing gastroparesis. After my virus in 2014, eating anything was problematic for me. Even water caused me fullness, pain and reflux. Before my diagnosis, I initially thought that eating more roughage would help my body process food. I ate bowels of granola and fruit for breakfast, salads for lunch and lots of vegetables at dinner. Ironically, I was doing the worse thing possible because those with gastroparesis should follow a low fibre diet to ease digestion. Then, following my diagnosis, I followed the specialist’s advice for a typical low fat/low fibre ‘white carbohydrate’ gastroparesis diet: lots of potatoes, white bread, steamed puddings. But this did not help either. It meant my body was getting minimal nutrition, it was boring and not satisfying to eat, it exacerbated some symptoms such as fullness, hunger (yes, you can feel full and ravenous simultaneously with gastroparesis) and nausea. Continue reading


Retreating from reality is no escape

The reality of Christmas is often different from the Christmas we dream of. My dream involves family and friends, food, snow, board games, presents, reading a Christmas murder mystery in a comfy chair by a roaring fire, and carol singing. It’s a dream shared by many across the globe, I suspect. But it’s a reality for only a few.

There seems to be an ever widening discrepancy between the reality of Christmas and our desire for a perfect experience. Interestingly, the Samaritans have launched a #RealChristmas campaign. They explain: “When you’re surrounded by images of the ‘perfect Christmas’, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really going on in our own and other’s lives. By being honest about our #RealChristmas we can encourage a healthier attitude towards mental health both at Christmas and all year round”. Continue reading

Spiced apple cake


Autumn is my favourite season. And this has been a particularly glorious autumn: crisp and sunny days, trees burning with autumnal hues, polished conkers lying on the ground. Yes: I am feeling poetic and creatively inspired. ‘Tis the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and maturing sun. I even managed a drink (hot) in a pub garden last weekend after a long morning walk. My seasonal fervour has seeped through to my cooking and I’m particularly proud of this spiced apple cake which was/is a veritable success. Friends, family and colleagues that demonstrate culinary prowess have been asking me (frequently) “what can I make that you can eat?” Especially so at work where it sometimes feels as if I’m in an episode of Bake Off: our office kitchen is a daily delight and danger with so many skilled bakers about! So here is something that I can eat which you can also enjoy (I hope that others with gastroparesis are also able to sample this too):

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Personal update: travelling outside my comfort zone.

July 1st marked my 31st birthday. I naturally found myself reflecting upon the last year and thought it would be appropriate to share a personal update with you:

Some of my happiest memories in life have been whilst travelling; enjoying new experiences and embracing different cultures. Since my diagnosis, I lost the travel bug. This was mainly because a huge part of travelling (for me) is sampling the host country’s cuisine but I also became quite anxious of not being able to eat whilst travelling. This is a legitimate fear for anyone who has to follow a particular diet but gastroparesis adds a further layer of complexity because there is no such thing as a ‘gastroparesis diet’. I cannot tell a restaurant or hotel that I am gluten free, or dairy free or nut free. It is hard enough to explain to friends, colleagues and family what I can and cannot eat:

Not very spicy food; low-ish fat (40g/day); low-ish fibre (15g/day); I also try and avoid refined sugar, dairy and eat low-gluten foods when possible. All vegetables (including potatoes) must be well cooked (soft) and peeled. I cannot eat the following: seeds, nuts, granola, beans/legumes (except red kidney beans), brown or wild rice, raw vegetables, salad leaves, berries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, coconut, corn, green beans, kale, figs or oranges.

I can see them (understandably) thinking: ‘Well, what can you eat then?!’

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Focusing from the right


I took this view with my new Panasonic Lumix camera (a Christmas present) whilst enjoying a wonderful long-weekend at Lake Maggiore in Italy recently. I love this camera: it is very easy to use, is great for taking landscapes and the design resembles the old brownie cameras. It also has an old fashioned view finder: the eye sensor automatically detects when you want to use the view finder instead of the LED screen which is especially useful in bright sunlight. Putting my eye to the camera really made me think about perspective and focus. Continue reading

Nourishing thoughts

I was told by many well meaning people, at the beginning of my illness and in the early stages of my diagnosis, to be a patient patient: that this, too, would pass. So I waited to resume my life. For months, I put my life on hold until I got better and things went back to the way they were before the virus struck.

It did not pass. Instead, my life shifted to accommodate gastroparesis or, rather, I evaluated pretty much every aspect of my life to work out how I could start moving forward and build a life I wanted to live.

I realised though that, although gastroparesis might be a constant, life does change day by day and even the specifics of illness alter too. So, in a sense, the worst did pass. I found great comfort in knowing that nothing in life is static or permanent: the only certain truth is the reality of this moment right now.

The following thoughts and ideas have nourished, inspired and helped me. I think these are crucial life-skills (regardless of whether you have chronic illness or not). Each deserve an individual post (to follow!) but here is a summary of what I’ve found most helpful to date:  Continue reading

Why am I writing this blog and who is it for?

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass – it’s about learning to dance in the rain. Vivian Greene

Welcome! I have started this blog as part of my recent journey learning to live with, and manage, a challenging and relatively rare illness: gastroparesis.

It helps me to have a record of what has helped and to hear about what has worked for others facing their own difficulties or problems: physical, mental and/or emotional. During challenging moments, when I am experiencing a bad flare up and an increase in symptoms, I find it useful to focus on what has improved, what has worked, what is going well: this blog is a useful reference point for me to turn to when I am feeling vulnerable, isolated or anxious. It helps me gain a better perspective. Isolation is, I think, one of the toughest elements of living with a chronic illness but it helps to know that you are not alone. You will not be going through the exact same experience as me, and the terrain of my journey may be very different to yours, but knowing that you are not alone – that we all experience moments of despair or isolation for a multitude of different reasons – helps.

My hope is that something I post on this blog will resonate with you and perhaps help you too. Continue reading