What I ate in Barcelona 

As lots of you know I have lots of dietary issues so I always like to research where I’m going to be eating before I go away, this was definitely the same with Barcelona! I thought I would do a little write up for you as we honestly had such incredible experiences with food whilst we were out there. Here are a few of my suggestions – all of these places were seriously amazing and all had such unique atmospheres! Let me know if you give any of them a try or have tried anywhere else in Barcelona that you loved!

Flax & Kale

Flax & Kale came up on a few of my healthy restaurant searches that I did before I went away. I was looking for somewhere that was gluten free and also catered for allergies. Flax & Kale did that and more!! It’s menu had all listed allergens, it included raw food as well as options for plant based and gluten free food.

The atmosphere was incredible, it was quite a large restaurant but it had a cosy feel due to the set out of tables in little courtyards. The courtyard we were in had a herb garden in the middle where all the herbs they use were being grown. It was also in the open air which was perfect for the hot evenings we had whilst we were there.

Our main meals were raw. I had a raw, plant based, gluten free pizza and it was just absolutely incredible. I discovered pickled radishes which were just incredible and all the food tasted amazing. It doesn’t sound like it could taste nice but honestly it was just amazing.

I had a quick look at the dessert menu just on the off chance (as I can never eat puddings!!) but actually found one that was vegan and gluten free!!! I honestly had to pull the manager over to check it was actually something I could eat as it tasted so good so I didn’t believe it was free from! Honestly I think it was the best thing I have ever eaten. Chocolate ice cream  with some form of cake and fresh fruit. Amazing! This place is worth a visit if only for the puddings or a juice!

Milk

I had googled the best brunch places in Barcelona and this place came up on Time Out. I couldn’t believe it but it was literally just around the corner from our AirBnB! The portions were huge and kept me going all day. I had chorizo hash which was chorizo, potatoes, spinach and a poached egg!

Brunch & Cake

This was another one of the restaurants that came up when I googled for healthy food places and it definitely lived up to its Instagram page!! The menu was huge and the smoothie and juice list was incredible. Mangos in salads on a hot day are just the one!

El Nacional

I found out about this restaurant via a few blogs I read before going away. It’s basically a big space with lots of different restaurants – like a brasserie, grill, fish and tapas place. The atmosphere was brilliant!

We ate in the taperia and it was incredible. The way it works is that there are some dishes that are carried around by the waitresses and you pick as they walk around, and other things you can order off the menu. The sangria was also amazing.

Satan’s Coffee Corner

This little place was also round the corner from out AirBnb in the gothic area of Barcelona. It prides itself on having the most amazing coffee in Barcelona and that it certainly did!! After eating here on our second day we came back for take away coffee just before we left Barcelona as we couldn’t get enough. Definitely check out the ever changing menu and even if you don’t eat definitely stop for coffee!!

 

Bar 1881

Okay so this isn’t strictly food, but it’s aperol so it counts right?! We went for drinks at on our last night to a bar (and restaurant) overlooking the harbour. The drinks weren’t as pricey as I expected, and the view was just epic. This was an amazing way for us to finish our trip to Barcelona!

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Link Love #1

So I’ve been reading some incredible things across social media and blogs recently. There are some seriously amazing writers and people out there and I’m all about sharing good work! I know I rely so much on people sharing what they love on social media, so I thought I would create a series of posts containing all the writing I’m loving at the moment.

I’m not sure how regularly I’ll post all my link love but you can be sure that when it does arrive it will be everything I have been loving recently!

So here goes, # 1!

  1. This post from Elle Next Door who describes what it is like to live with Coeliac Disease so perfectly. I would never be able to express this in such an articulate way. I read it and could relate to every word. Please have a read!
  2. Sophie Cliff’s post about needing a duvet day. I am often a culprit of trying to keep going with everything all the time, I know I often need a duvet day but don’t let myself have one because of the guilt of being unproductive. This has reminded me that it’s important to give your body & mind a break every once in a while!
  3. Hannah Gale’s post about how women treat other women in regards to their bodies. This post is just so needed in the current society we live in and I could not be happier to share it for you all to read!
  4. Lauren Rellis’ post about how suddenly health can become such a priority. This was a post I can really relate to and it really made my morning when it landed in my inbox. It always amazes me how the internet can remind me that people feel/think the same things and that is so comforting!
  5. The story of what it was like to be on Air Force One on 9/11 had me avidly reading earlier this week. It gave definitely gave me chills.
  6. Amy’s description of what a Sunday Well Spent looks like had me dreaming of Sunday already!
  7. This description of what people with chronic illnesses hear when certain phrases are used is well worth a read even if you don’t know anyone with a chronic illness.

Let me know what you think of all these posts, and what would you suggest I get reading this week!?

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The London Mindful Project: Mindfulness for pain and illness

I’ve been interested in Mindfulness for quite a while now and so when a free seminar on Mindfulness for pain & illness popped up at London Mindful I was all over it.

I normally find their courses way out of my price range so I was pleasantly surprised that this was free and online. It was on a Wednesday evening so I could even partake from the safety of my duvet with a cup of tea!

I’ve had lots of problems with my health over the years but this year has probably been one of the hardest. With a bad neck & back being a standard for me, adding in a slipped disc which refuses to heal and ribs that are popping out in my sleep I’ve been dealing with quite a bit of pain lately. I’ve been researching quite a lot about how mindfulness can help with managing pain so I was really keen to try this out.

The course was online on a webchat, where all participants take part through a webcam and mic. The tutor talked us through the background of pain, and what it can do to our bodies. It was really interesting to hear the impact of chronic pain. She then went through some interesting information about how mindfulness can help with this (which I loved as I’m all about helping pain!) She also talked us through several meditations which were so good. I always find that the approach of a person talking you through the meditations is so important and the tutor’s approach was just right. Plus, the team at London Mindful are amazing and so helpful when my computer decided to crash at just the wrong moment!

I came out of the session feeling so calm, and like I had really given my brain a break. (Plus I had taped bake off for when I had finished so it was the perfect evening really! Who is everyone’s favourites?!)

I’m going to do a bit more research on a book the tutor suggested buying which was called Mindfulness for Health and contains an 8 week mindfulness course. I love the concept of mindfulness and being present in the current moment, rather than worrying about the past or future so I think applying this to my health would be perfect!

If anyone knows of any mindfulness classes (in person or online!) that are on the more affordable end of the spectrum please do let me know as I’d be so interested in getting involved 🙂

The 3 best healthy food places in London

Looking for somewhere you could pop into for Lunch this weekend? I have answered all your prayers!

  1. The Mae Deli

This is a cafe set up by Deliciously Ella (who I am sure everyone has heard of!) The food is divine – it is gluten free, dairy free and vegan (although there is the option to add chicken or salmon to a meal but the food is so delicious you really don’t need to!). I’ve only been for a main meal and juice, but I am dying to go for breakfast and to try their hot chocolate!!

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2. The Good Life Eatery

The Good Life Eatery again has the most incredible selection of food. The juices are also to die for and the selection of cakes & brownies is amazing!!

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3. The Detox Kitchen

I can confirm that they have one of the best gluten free, diary free & vegan brownies in London. SO yummy! They also do great boxes of food for lunch where you can pick and use exactly what you want and in what size. It’s always heaving at lunch time with lots of workers who want their healthy fix!

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Can anyone else recommend any good new places for me to go to? I’m always on the look out for new restaurants 🙂

 

What is a Spoonie?

Spoonie. A term that is being used increasingly in mainstream articles. But what exactly is it?

The term “Spoonie” was coined by Christine Miserandino to describe the impact of her chronic illness. It has fast become a very popular way to describe what it is like living with a chronic illness to people who might not have experienced living with one, or knowing people who have suffered.

The full story can be found on her website here.

It is SO worth a read. It quantifies and explains what is quite an abstract idea.

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Essentially the spoon theory is that you have a limited number of “spoons” per day. Each activity you do takes up a spoon. So showering and getting dressed is a spoon, making breakfast is a spoon, getting to where you need to go is a spoon, lifting something heavy is a spoon, making dinner is a spoon, unpacking the dishwasher is a spoon. You have to prioritise your spoons. Obviously, going to uni/work is nonnegotiable, so sometimes social or cleaning activities have to fall by the wayside. It’s all a juggling process – something that I have learnt to do over the years – but it can be frustrating having to plan and organise your life so that you don’t run out of “spoons”.

Have any of you heard of the spoon theory? What do you think of it?

 

What is the FODMAP diet?

FODMAP. The diet that more and more people are being prescribed by Drs. But what really is it?

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FODMAP is a diet which excludes certain types of foods. The term FODMAP is an acronym, derived from “Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols”.

According to the handy source that is Wikipedia “FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. They include short chain oligo-saccharide polymers of fructose (fructans) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS, stachyose, raffinose), disaccharides (lactose), monosaccharides (fructose), and sugar alcohols (polyols), such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol.” (This makes no sense to me either so for me and you it’s easier to look at a list of excluded foods to make sense of it.) These foods include onions, garlic, gluten, some dairy products, artificial sweeteners, apples, pears, cherries, green peppers, peas, beans, chickpeas, cauliflower, asparagus, honey, agave syrup, fruit juice and more than one glass of wine. (This is by far not an extensive list but a quick Google search will give you a list – these are just be foods I can rattle of the top of my head!)

I also minimise the amount of sugar I eat as although it’s not on the high FODMAP list I know my body doesn’t handle a lot of sugar well.

Foods are categorised into high and low FODMAP foods. The idea is that you avoid the high FODMAP foods for a period of time and then gradually reintroduce the foods back into your diet. Often not re-introducing garlic, onion and gluten though.

When I started the diet, coming up for 2 years ago, hardly anyone had ever heard of it. I told Drs and family and they looked at me blankly, waiting for an explanation on why I was telling them I was on a diet with an odd acronym.

Fast forward 2 years and I’ve heard more and more people being prescribed the diet for IBS type symptoms. I’m not sure I agree with this sudden prescription of the diet without ruling out other issues first. It is massively restrictive and therefore can have a massive impact on your quality of life if you don’t know how to manage it properly. It’s also true that if you don’t follow the diet properly it’s likely to have no positive effect. Therefore for a lot of effort and stress, it might not give the health results you need or want. I think that Doctors need to rule out all other possibilities before prescribing the diet and then follow up with support to ensure it is a worthwhile endeavour for patients.

For me, I have followed the diet very faithfully for coming up 2 years. I haven’t eaten dairy for over 10 years anyway, and I’ve been on and off gluten for years as well as sugar and various other foods, so making a change to my diet wasn’t new to me. I haven’t eaten gluten, wheat, onions, garlic, apples, pears or artificial sweeteners for 2 years now (and dairy for 10 years obviously!) The other foods, like chickpeas, green peppers, beans, peas, asparagus and various fruits don’t have such an extreme effect on me so if I have them once in a while (often because I have no other option if I’m away or at someone else’s house) I don’t have such a bad reaction. If I was to eat them on a constant basis however I would get very ill.

The basis of the FODMAP diet is that you are meant to be able to re-introduce foods again but I have found I can’t do that. When I have accidentally eaten onions or garlic I have been SO ill it’s not even worth thinking about trying to eat them. I even have a reaction now when there is cross-contamination with any of the main foods I can’t eat.

That is one of the downsides with the diet, I find that as soon as I cut something out I have a more extreme reaction to it. I think this is because my body has got used to not having to digest or deal with those foods so as soon as I do my body has an awful reaction. I think this is why my reactions have now progressed to if there is cross-contamination with the foods I can’t eat with the foods I can eat.

In terms of managing the diet on a day to day basis, I don’t find it difficult at home. I have to cook everything from scratch and make sure I am incredibly organised. I have to take my own lunches everywhere and snacks as well. This of course does make me feel like a bit of a freak when I whip out my homemade lunch rather than being able to join in on a lunchtime trip for food. But it is so worth it for me in the benefit it has for me health. I think the complicating factor for me is that I also have hypoglycaemia so I absolutely have to eat every few hours otherwise I get so nauseous and dizzy that I faint. It’s always worse in the morning and so I have to make sure I have plenty of snacks with me to prevent an onset of symptoms.

The hardest part of the diet is eating out and going away. Eating out in the UK tends to be okay as all restaurants have to have an allergy list (although onion and garlic aren’t included in this annoyingly!) I do have to work a lot around menus and take a lot of foods out the dish, but it’s not the end of the world! I steer clear of Thai, Indian and Chinese restaurants as there is no way I can eat anything there.

Going on holiday is a bit harder as I have to be very organised with when I’m going to eat food, what snacks I need and where I can eat that will understand the foods I can eat. I spend a lot of time researching where I can eat before I go away! It does sometimes take the joy away from holidays a little bit but again, my health is the most important thing and if I was to eat something I couldn’t eat it would then ruin the holiday anyway! I’m very lucky that the friends and family I go away with are so understanding. I really am grateful for them!

I’m always looking for new foods to incorporate into my diet, new recipes and new snack ideas. Almond butter is currently my best friend!!

I hope that the FODMAP diet is a bit clearer for you now. If you have any questions please comment away! I would also love to hear from anyone on FODMAP or a similar diet and how you handle it?!

Mindfulness

Mindfulness.

Now it’s a word that’s been floating around a lot lately. But what exactly is it? And how do you do it?


I discovered mindfulness through an app called “Headspace” which I downloaded 2 years ago (to the day actually). It has guided general meditations and meditations for particular areas of your life, such as commuting, walking and even fear of flying. It also contains series about health, relationships and performance. There is SO much content on the app, I haven’t even got through it all and I have had the app for 2 year. The app allows you to access the first 10 sessions before you have to sign up for a subscription so you can see if you like it for free. It also has some very informative video animations which describe exactly how mindfulness works and the science behind it. You can also gift a subscription to the app to someone else, so if you know someone who might be interested in mindfulness, here’s the perfect present idea for you! (You can thank me later 😉 )

I then moved onto various books and in particular the Headspace book which I picked up for the bargain of £1 in a charity shop, keep a look out 😉 I also read The Gratitude Diaries which also talked a bit about mindfulness. (As does the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin!)

Mindfulness focuses on being in the moment, not necessarily trying to think of nothing, but noticing the thoughts and then letting them go and bringing your thoughts back to your breath. It helps you focus on being in the moment and the present, rather than worrying about the past or the future. With so much going on in the world at the moment, I have been really enjoying just being able to be in the present. It is also beginning to make me appreciate the smaller things in life, like the sunset or spending quality time with people, things that might otherwise completely pass me by with my brain wandering off thinking about tomorrow, or next week, or even next year!

There is also lots of science behind how mindfulness works and how it can improve your happiness levels. I don’t want to go into it too much here but check out the science tab on the Headspace website if you want to find out more information.

I love listening to the guided meditations on the Headspace app… when they’re not sending me to sleep, but then I guess that is pure relaxation!!

Have you guys had any experiences with mindfulness? I’d love to hear your stories.

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