Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of Food, Food Dairy Co

The gorgeous pages from the Food Diary Co. Scroll down to find my 10% off discount code – exclusive for you guys!

‘Why don’t you start a food diary Bryony? You might actually be able to see what is making a difference rather than speculating’. That was my Mum, talking to me after I had my sixth open stomach surgery. I was at home undergoing a mega recovery and felt frustrated I was still in pain and discomfort. With nothing else I do, I started a meticulous food diary, which went on to dramatically change my quality of life.

That was back in 2015 and so when Laura from the amazing Food Diary Co got in touch with to share her amazing food diary, I was made up. And also in disbelief. It is so useful and life changing to document what you eat and your symptoms, that someone has actually made a business out of it? What a brilliant thing. At the beginning of the this summer, with my new diary, I started documenting my lifestyle and diet again and just as it did before, I found some hard to ignore patterns. (Scroll down for my discount code to buy your diary!)

But before I get to that, let’s rewind back to 2015. It was the first time I had even thought about documenting my diet and my symptoms and I didn’t really know where to start. I was first diagnosed with Crohns Disease when I was four years old and nobody had ever suggested to me that this might be a good idea. Which seems mad now even three years on – but back then it was a bit of a breakthrough. I started by simply writing down what I ate and rated my pain out of ten. I thought it might be quite poignant to show one of my diary entries, which I dug out of the archives below.

A Belly Full of Food, Bryony Hopkins

You can see dramatically how much my pain changes when I had a drop of milk!

Even just with this very basic method, I was able to deduce that dairy was causing me major problems. My pain shot up to 8 or 9 out of 10 on days when I had milk in my tea, a slice of cheese or even milk chocolate. When you see changes like that, it becomes incredibly hard to continue as normal. I went through a similar process in 2016 to discover gluten was having a similar effect and since I cut them both out – I’ve never looked back, and I’ve never documented what I was eating since.

So when I received my diary, it seemed like a no brainer to start again. The most brilliant thing about The Food Diary Co, is the ability to document SO much more than just your diet. Like so many other people with gut conditions, I am massively impacted by many lifestyle factors outside of my diet. A busy day can impact my stomach. A run of late shifts, lack of exercise or drinking alcohol, can all impact my stomach. Even just a bad nights sleep – that can impact my stomach! And it was brilliant to have a place to jot all this down in my new Food Diary. It became almost like a journal for me – as I was able to write down so much more than just my pain.

A Belly Full of Food, Bryony Hopkins

You can see here the layout of the page, where you can jot down everything from mood, sleep, stress, drinks, medicine and exercise.

Having a place where I could write down everything from sleep, drinks, stress and medicine essentially gave me place where I could actually identify patterns. I’m sure I’m the same as many in the fact that I am very time poor – with a demanding job, a busy social life and juggling lots of commitments constantly. It seems strange saying it out loud, but sometimes I genuinely can’t remember what I ate for breakfast – let alone how it made me feel! It actually became incredibly refreshing to see how I was doing every day – and be able to look back on it, see it in black and white and absorb the patterns appearing.

Living with a condition like Crohns Disease is a minefield – every day is different and sometimes in the fog of fatigue, it can be hard to see the wood from the trees. From looking back at every entry over a month and then looking at the ‘month’ round up page at the back, some of my triggers became clear. I am majorly impacted by stress, lack of sleep, alcohol and unfortunately my one love, coffee. My summer with The Food Diary Co has also made it pretty clear that I can’t do oats in large quantities and I can’t do soya milk everyday. Who knows why this is the case and I am still in the process for hunting for other patterns for other niggles. What I do know now though is that I have the knowledge and tools to make better decisions for my health – based on my scrawly biro writings in my Food Diary. I’ve started reserving my energy so I don’t get burnt out and I always make sure I get 8 hours sleep. These lifestyle changes have essentially made it easier for me to put one foot in front of the other.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of Food

A veggie pasta packed with goodness

So what top tips would I give if you are starting a diary for the very first time? Throw everything at it and literally write down everything you can possibly think of. Even if it doesn’t seem relevant – jot it down. What this diary is amazing for, is making you see that everything you do has an impact on how you feel. I will even write down ‘cried today about X’ or ‘felt really happy about Y’, because I know my mood is detrimental to my wellbeing. I’ll also write down what medication I took, as well as how much water I’ve drunk. I asked Laura, the fabulous founder of The Food Diary Co, what her advice was.

‘I would say firstly, congratulations! You’re starting a journey to taking control of your gut and health again, and I am so excited for you! Secondly, be sure to check out our blog on the website because we have lots of really great posts that can help you, including our big bumper guide to using a food diary (if you want a downloadable copy of your own to keep, be sure to sign up to the newsletter for your free download!), and the 8 ways I used my food diary to heal post. That one is all about the habits I formed to help me successfully keep a food diary.’

I hope this post has given you some food for thought on starting on a food diary journey, I would love to hear your thoughts. Better yet – to get you kick started you can use my exclusive discount code for 10% off a beautiful Food Diary Co! 

Use the code ‘BELLY10’ for 10% off at the check out – and get in there fast! The code ends on 31st October 2018. Click here to buy.

Cannot wait to hear what you think!

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** I was gifted the diary for free, but was not paid for this post. All reviews completely honest.**

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Rich dark chocolate, rice flake porridge, gluten free, dairy free, vegan

Quick, simple, delicious and easy on the stomach. Dark chocolate and berry porridge

This recipe is an absolute winter warmer and totally indulgent. I mean dark chocolate for breakfast? Errrr, hello!
Top secret ingredient is the source of the dark chocolate, making it totally delicious and rich.
So, how do you make this badboy you ask? Read below…
Serves 1. Dairy free, gluten free and vegan.
Ingredients 

  • 50g rice flakes
  • 250ml of nut milk (I used almond, but hazelnut or cashew would be equally delicious)
  • Handful of frozen berries
  • Handful of Montezumas dark chocolate… or some other good quality dark chocolate
  • Mixed chopped nuts
  • Date syrup
A Belly Full of Bryony, Dark chocolate rice flake porridge

Divineeee

Method

  1. Place the rice flakes and the almond milk in a bowl and mix together.
  2. Pop your frozen berries in a small pan and heat on a medium heat. Add a little date syrup to sweeten and let the berries soften.
  3. Put in the Microwave for on full power for two minutes.
  4. Once the rice flake and milk porridge is done, take it out of the oven, give a quick stir and leave to stand for a minute. This is important as it thickens as it stands.
  5. Your fruit should be softening now and looking bubbly and warm. Take off the heat.
  6. Take your dark chocolate (in my case, secret ingredients, Montezumas dark chocolate buttons!), and pop them into the porridge. They will melt instantly with the heat of the porridge, giving you a lovely gooey mixture.
  7. Pop on the warm berries, sprinkle over the chopped nuts and squeeze over the date syrup. Bon appetit!
A belly full of Bryony, dark chocolate rice flake porridge, gluten free, vegan

Dark chocolate buttons are my secret ingredient, but really you can use any good quality dark chocolate.

BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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A dinner experience like no other, I recently was privileged enough to try the Tasting Menu experience at Pied A Terre. The restaurant has one magical Michelin star and is located in the middle of Soho – right by Goodge Street Station. Scroll down to the photos for a course by course visual feast and read about the experience below…

A light seafood mousse with seafood cracker.

Canapés to start: A light seafood mousse with seafood cracker.

Canapés to start, Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of

Canapés to start, beetroot and celeriac puree.

Asimakis Chaniotis is the man behind the menu and the executive chef of the restaurant, which is owned my restaurateur David Moore, who is regularly, greets and serves guests front of house. I’m not entirely sure where to start with the dining experience, as it was completely overwhelming and delicious.
Pied A Terre is understated from the outside, but was beautifully dressed for the festive season, and the shiny red Michelin placard placed outside. I attended with a fellow journalist and blogger, and we were treated to the 7 (!!) course tasting menu, PLUS 2 rounds of canapes and a palette cleanser. And bread. Wowza, yes.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of - Gluten free bread at Pied A Terre

Gorgeous gluten free bread, with greek dipping oil.

The attentive waiters poured us still water, before swiftly bringing these little morsels over to the table. The kitchen was already aware I was gluten and dairy free, and we received these dainty fish mousse canapés and a beetroot and celeriac puree.
In front of us they also placed some delicious gluten free bread, and some dipping oil for me instead of tarragon butter. The oil was deliciously thick, and later when I met Askimakis, he told me it was from his hometown in Greece, located just above Athens. This fact alone shows the love and attention that goes into every ingredient, and its source is particularly important to authentic flavour.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of

A palette cleanser before the tasting menu began, a fresh fennel salad.

We were then served a palette cleanser of fennel salad and this was all before course one of the tasting menu had even begun! Treated to seven delicious courses, which you can see below, I was blown away by the sheer quality and attention to detail of the food. Literally – food art! And it tasted pretty good too.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

Mylor prawns with dashi (Japanese cooking stock), yozu, soy and wasabi. Yumm!

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

Poached duck egg yolk with fresh rocket salad and butternut squash.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

My favourite course – Octopus with squid ink, sweet pepper puree and spring onions.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

Cornish plaice with courgette and baby onions. Simple and delicious.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

After all that and this was the main course!! Roasted partridge two ways with red cabbage and cranberry (no bread sauce for me!)

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

When you can’t have cheese or crackers – what else? Vegetables! With sweet puree.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

Palette cleanser before dessert, delicious sweet raspberries with raspberry puree.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

And finally – dessert!! Blood orange with mandarin, mango sorbet and a meringue dome. Divine.

Overall, I have to say one of the most impressive elements of our meal was the sommelier – Oliver Christie. He handpicked the wine for each of our courses, and tailored them depending on what dish we had (some of mine which were allergy friendly were different to my pals!) He gave us each one, let us enjoy it, and then came back to tell us more about it. Did you know the signature smell of a Reisling is a sniff of petrol? Or that the Japanese white wine that came with our first course was one of the best I’ve ever tasted? (It was a 2016 Koshu Kayagatake for the wine buffs amongst you – listen to me sounding like I know what I’m talking about!) He presented such information in a fabulously informative way and really made the experience go that one step further. And knew so much about all the wines on a thirty page wine list!! I just about manage to pick a Pinot Grigio from Sainsburys supermarket shelf…
Head chef Askmakis also took us downstairs to the kitchen, which was amazing to see the end of service take place, even if it was just for a second. A dining experience like no other, I would strongly recommend a special dinner at Pied a Terre, particularly the Tasting Menu Experience with wine pairs. It’s not a cheap night – at over £100 a head, but worth it for something really very special.
I would definitely family and friends back to sample the A La Carte.
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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So I was recently approached by Schwartz to review their ingredient ChatBot. The idea is you type in your ingredients and it generates recipes for you based on what you have in the fridge. I work a lot and sometimes am too exhausted to think about what I want for dinner and was up for giving it a go. At least I’ll learn some new recipes right?
I have to say; I was quite sceptical at first. I have previously used ingredient search websites and they have often given me extremely complicated recipes containing a number of ingredients I don’t have in the cupboard. However, I went into the trial with an open mind and as soon as I typed my first ingredients into the ChatBot on Facebook, I quickly had more faith in the tool; the responses were extremely quick. Here’s my week cooking with the ChatBot…
Monday: So the ingredients I typed in for my first evening cooking with the Schwartz ChatBot were salmon, broccoli, pepper and courgette. I entered the paprika for the spice and it generated over 400 recipes for me! The function to flick through them within Facebook was really effective and I selected the third recipe in the list – salmon skewers with spicy tomato sauce. The ChatBot offered the option to send it to my email, which worked really well and meant I could bookmark the recipe in my emails for later in the evening when I was ready to cook. Recipe I used is here.
The first thing that struck me was that there were obviously other ingredients needed in the recipe aside from those entered. Luckily on the way back from work I went via the supermarket, so could scoop up the extra bits I needed. The recipe was extremely simple and easy to prepare – but did also rely on you having a food processor to make the sauce, which could be problematic. This particular recipe also skipped a fairly important step regarding how you actually cook the skewers (bake/fry/BBQ). As someone who regularly cooks, I made the call to pop them in the oven for 16 minutes and they came out beautifully succulent and tasty. However, if you didn’t have basic culinary knowledge, that would have thrown you a little.

Schwartz Recipe 1.2

The finished product!

I served the salmon skewers with the spicy sauce and they were delicious. I had never created or consumed salmon on skewers before and I really liked the olive oil and parsley coating.  Although I definitely wouldn’t have the tomato sauce again – it came out really warm and liquidy.  However, I did eat the leftover salmon skewers on a bed of spinach for lunch the next day and the salmon was still really tasty cold. The whole process, including prep, took me around 30 minutes. I would definitely cook this again and adapt the recipe for future consumption.
 Wednesday: On this occasion I didn’t have time to go to the supermarket to pick up anything extra for the recipe, so I was purely relying on the recipe and what I had in the cupboards! The ingredients I entered were sausage, peppers, tomatoes and paprika for the spice. Again, it gave me over 100 recipes and this time I had to flick through a few more, to ensure I had the majority of the ingredients. I chose Chorizo and Tomato pasta, after scanning the recipe and my cupboards. I replaced the chorizo with the sausages and luckily, I had the tomato sauce ingredients to hand too. See the recipe I used here.
The recipe was very simple and clear. I added a little garlic to the homemade tomato pasta sauce and I cooked up gluten free pasta to accompany it. Dinner was ready in less than 15 minutes and was very tasty. To be honest, this is the kind of simple dinner I have quite regularly, so I didn’t feel any new dinner inspiration.

Schwartz Recipe 2

Simple sausage pasta with tomato sauce and peppers

Friday: I was particularly tired after this day at work, so I was really looking for something tasty, comforting and quick! I really adore prawns but often cook them in the same way. So to stimulate some new recipe ideas, I kept it simple for the ChatBot and entered prawns, chilli and tomatoes. It gave me over 300 recipes and I went for the third – Thai Prawn Curry. The recipe is here.
I did go to the supermarket to pick up extra ingredients – mainly the Schwartz 7 Thai Spice for the dish. This recipe was extremely simple and took about twenty minutes altogether. I served with fresh lime wedges and coriander on a bed of coconut rice, and thoroughly enjoyed the dish. I put the curry I didn’t eat in the freezer, meaning I now have a delicious meal to defrost when I’m short on time. This was a delicious and quick thai curry – but obviously didn’t beat a recipe created with fresh paste.
Essentially, The Bot is perfect for people on the go and needing recipe inspiration. Sometimes I stare blankly at my fridge ingredients, willing them to do something interesting and different with minimal effort from me when I’m exhausted. The Bot did take all thinking out of the equation, but does require a cupboard full of basic ingredients and some culinary experience.

Schwartz Recipe 3.3

Thai red prawn curry

If you want to check it out, visit Schwartz FB page and type in your ingredients in a Facebook message. The rest is easy!

*This is not a sponsored post. It was a genuine culinary experiment!*

BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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This blog post has been in the pipeline for a few weeks now. Well, since my gastro consultant told me for the first time in my entire life that I’m in ‘clinical remission’ from my Crohns Disease. Big announcement. Big two words – two words I wasn’t expecting to hear, AT ALL! (See below for what remission means)
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be in remission and how my body feels and I think it’s important I share this. Let’s rewind quickly first though… why was being told I’m in ‘clinical remission’ such a big deal – yet such a surprise at the same time? I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease at the age of four – which now at the age of 25, is a staggering 21 years ago.

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Loving the liquid diet life back in April 2016…

I recently candidly told my story for the first time for World IBD Day, which was featured in the Huffington Post. You can see the article here.So 21 years of fighting, dealing with medication, being cut open time and time again… until spring 2016 when I found myself in the middle of ANOTHER FLARE. All I could think was geez, not this s**t again.I was told outright I needed to go on high dose steroids to get things under control and I just couldn’t do it. I made the decision to go on a four-week liquid diet – which turned out to be a massive turning point in my entire Crohns journey. You can read about my liquid diet journey here.
So fast forward a year, and I’m sitting opposite my consultant who has seen me through thick and thin since I was 17. He’s a straight talking man, but a man I know has a lot of time for me (it’s a personal challenge every single appointment to make him crack a smile! I succeed every time, obvs). We run through the usual things and out of nowhere, he says ‘well, it looks like to me you’re in clinical remission’. There was a long pause, until I said, ‘well, nobody has ever said that to me before!’ Cue the smile from Doc and he said I’m by far the healthiest he’s ever seen me. He let me go after agreeing to reduce my adlimumab injections to every fortnight and told me to enjoy the summer.
I walked out the hospital in a complete state of disbelief. CLINICAL REMISSION – WHAT THE F**K? How did that happen? How did I not even see that coming? I still suffer stomach pain, bloating and fatigue. Whilst I’m not passing blood, I still have to manage my lifestyle to contain my symptoms. I evaluated the past year since the liquid diet and it finally dawned on me. This remission isn’t a result of adlimumab , a drug I have taken for over 7 years now. This remission was a result of me changing my diet and lifestyle. As I travelled back into London from my specialist hospital in Oxford I thought – I BLOODY DID THIS. And how have I gone 21 years without anyone telling me to evaluate my diet and lifestyle sooner?!? I felt weirdly elated yet frustrated that I could have done something a lot sooner if I had known what impact a year of change would make.
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I continue to feel extremely lucky that I’ve reached this point in my life, but I still won’t be lured into feeling secure. I have had a few people say to me now ‘oh you’re in remission? Well brilliant, you’re alright forever now then!’ Well no, that’s not quite how it works. As we all know, IBD (I’m talking Crohns & Colitis here) is a chronic condition and can rear its ugly head at any time. A fact that I’ve been conditioned to never forget (although I wish I could!) Additionally, being in ‘remission’ doesn’t mean I no longer feel pain, bloating and extreme fatigue. I still have to very carefully manage my life and diet. Eating one thing that disagrees with me, being too exhausted or stressed can quickly send me in a little downward spiral. Self-management and self-care doesn’t stop at the phrase ‘clinical remission’… the journey never ends!
Having said that, the biggest lesson I have learnt is that the medical professionals don’t always know EVERYTHING. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the incredible support from my Gastro team at the John Radcliffe in Oxford, but it was my decision to do the liquid diet and make a lifestyle overhaul. That being said, it’s not always easy and there may be a lot of trial and error. What I’m saying is try different things, do your research and know that you can make a difference to your illness.
And for me – I’m going to live life the fullest and continue sharing the journey with you!

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Sunning in Marbella with my favourite people and smiling because I can!

**So what is ‘remission’? Achieving remission means stopping symptoms as well as inflammation. Another way to think of remission is as a span of time when your disease becomes inactive or quiet.**
As always, I’d love to hear what you think.
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BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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