This Friday 7th April is World Health Day – but what does it actually mean to be healthy? For me, being healthy is having a handle on practical things you can do to make your life easier and make you feel better about yourself. If you feel better about yourself, your body and your emotions, then surely that is a one way ticket to feeling healthier.  So where should you be looking to feel healthier? You should be looking at YOU!
Perhaps you could start by asking yourself some of the following questions…
How is your health?IMG_4859
Okay maybe this is an alarmingly obvious question, but often we neglect to ask ourselves. How is your health? Are you on an even keel, or are you particularly tired? Are you in any pain or rundown? Are you feeling in good shape? Are you feeling happy with your body? There is often no easy ways to answer these if you have a chronic condition. Like me, suffering from Crohn’s Disease, I’m never quite sure how my health is! But I can recognise when I am over worked, over tired and stressed and I know that these are vital keys which can unlock a whole host of problems for me! It might be worth also giving my Listening to Your Body article a read, to help you get more in tune with your body! Answering all of these honestly will get you straight on the path of figuring out what tweaks you need to make to your lifestyle to start feeling healthier.
What are you eating? Is it making you feel good?
This can be a hard question to answer but I think it’s vital to start working out where you’re at with happy and healthy eating habits. Essentially – it’s not just about what you eat, it’s also about how you feel about eating. Our emotions are strongly linked to our eating habits – I think we’ve all reached for chocolate or ice cream when we’re feeling low.

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I switch to really easy foods when my stomach is playing up – like this simple turkey noodle soup

So really this question is about honestly asking yourself if your food choices are making you PHYSICALLY happy. Sure, chocolate may feed an emotion, but how do you physically feel after? For me, I love cheese (like, really love cheese), but it was making me so bloated and giving me terrible stomach pains. Despite the fact I loved it, I knew I had to cut it out and it turned out that it was dairy entirely which was causing me problems. Sure it takes willpower to cut out something you love, but if you feel better afterwards it’s a no brainer! I discovered this by writing a food diary and documenting all the things I had eaten that day and how I felt afterwards/later at the day. I think this is a fabulous way to get in sync with how your body is reacting to what you put in your mouth. Evaluating and understanding what you’re eating and how it’s making you feel is the first stop to feeling better and healthier about your diet.
Are you exercising?
We are absolutely barraged with advice on how we should be exercising these days. Running, weights, HITT, yoga, Pilates… but really you need to find w

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Me pre yoga at The Life Centre, in Notting Hill, London

hat works for you. I find it completely overwhelming sometimes, and that’s even before people have started telling you what they do to stay fit! You have to go with what feels right for you and not what everyone is telling you. I have friends who do PT sessions – but I sure as hell couldn’t think of anything worse! Instead, I signed up for a beginners yoga class and learnt the basics. It’s good for all of us to exercise – but there’s no point doing a fitness regime you hate.
Are the people around you making you happy?
Another hard question to answer, but it’s worth considering what your support network is like around you and do they actually make you happy?! This could be a colleague you always talk to or a friend who drains the life out of you… if you’re not getting anything out of a relationship, is it a relationship worth having?
How do you relax?
Arguably, I think this is the most important question of them all! How do you get your ‘me time’? It might well be exercising – or it could be reading a book, watching your favourite TV programme, meditating or practicing mindfulness.  Whatever it is, make sure you’re making time to actually do it! A relaxed soul is a happy soul – and a happy soul is a healthy soul!
Happy World Health Day 🙂
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bryonyhopkins

Happy Monday gorgeous gang! This has been a jam packed year already and I’m super excited to use this post to make a few announcements – all blog related of course. Thank you to all of you who have been reading and enjoying my posts so far – it’s given me such joy to develop recipes, review my favourite eateries and share my Crohns story with you!
First off – A Belly Full Of now has its very own Instagram account!!
I’ve already reached over 100 followers in just three weeks, which has been just brilliant (everyone loves a food pic!) Give @bryonyehopkins for loads more recipes, food inspiration, Crohns updates and tips on living and managing IBD.

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Find me on Instagram! @abellyfullofbryony

Secondly – I’m starting a Nutrition course tomorrow!
This is something I’ve been thinking about starting for months now and I finally found a good’un at The College of Naturopathic Medicine in London. I’ll be taking a short course in ‘Nutrition for Everyday Living’ and will be feeding all my new found knowledge back into my posts! a138890e4646fecda59789f343ebc053The course syllabus is going to offer me a wealth of nutritional knowledge, recipe and wellness ideas – particularly focusing on food as medicine. It feels like the natural step to take this blog further into this hugely competitive market – aside from the fact that I personally want to understand more about IBD and diet! It still surprises me how much what I put in my mouth impacts the way I feel.
Thirdly – I begin my yoga journey, tonight!
Again, this is something I’ve wanted to do for years, but something I’ve always put off because I’m too busy/stressed/poorly etc. I’ve done a few ad hoc yoga classes and found them hugely strenuous on my delicate belly – being cut open 6 times doesn’t do great things for your stomach muscles! So I did my research and signed up for a fantastic Beginners Course at The Life Centre in Notting Hill, London. I felt learning under a basic environment would give me the chance to learn at a pace that is comfortable for me and my stomach. I’m really looking forward to sharing my experiences with you!
That’s all on the announcement front, but I hope you’ll check back in soon. It’s such an exciting time for my passion project and I really hope sharing my experiences benefits you too! If you have lived with IBD for a long time, have been newly diagnosed or just enjoy a healthy lifestyle – I hope my journey to health will inspire you to give something new a try.
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bryonyhopkins

So I know this is coming about 4 weeks late and everyone has already done their bit about 2016 –  but having taken a fortnight holiday to reflect, I came to realise how much 2016 gave me. Whilst the world of politics pretty much turned upside down – my personal journey of 2016 was pretty revolutionary too!

2016, was the year of the liquid diet. It seems mad to think that this time last year I was going through tests which would eventually lead me to making the steroid vs liquid diet decision to get my Crohn’s Disease  back under control. I had absolutely no idea that decision would have such a major impact on not only my quality of life, but also in finding something I’m insanely passionate about! This blog was born out of the trauma and need for some distraction during my month of not eating – I’m not sure A Belly Full Of would ever have come to being without it!!

Without that liquid diet, I never would have become the food blogging- instagramming lover that I am today. I would never have cut my pain levels in half and I would never have realised quite how much my lifestyle and food was affecting my health. To look back at my liquid diet journey – check out the ‘Liquid Diet Diary’ tab at the top!

But it wasn’t just the liquid diet that made 2016 amazing. 2016 was the year I finally got my Journalist job title

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First piece to camera on coffee – obvs

and started working on stories across the globe for a huge British broadcaster. It was also the year of my first on screen appearance – on a food related story, obvs.

2016 was the year I travelled halfway across the world to Bali (read my Bali tips here!) – the furthest I’ve ever travelled and something I’ve always been quietly nervous about, in case of something going wrong with my health! Obviously nothing happened and I gained some incredible food inspiration from across the world – and learnt so much about their amazing culture.

2016 was the year I ran my first ever 10k – having always been a self proclaimed exercise hater (I still am, and I won’t even deny it!) Another massive personal achievement for me, having always found vigorous exercise extremely painful on my stomach. I completed the 10k in 1 hr 11 mins AND raised over £1,400 for Crohns & Colitis UK (I probably should note here that I genuinely haven’t run since then…!!)

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 And last but certainly not least, 2016 was the year I learnt to meditate. This was an extremely important personal feat for me, having identified later last year that my stress was severely affecting a flare up of my symptoms. The London Meditation Centre, with the amazing Jillian & Michael, taught me the art of vedic meditation and whilst this is something I am still working on to absolutely nail and get my forty minutes in every day, I have already felt a difference in my stress levels, my approach and outlook to life and a drop in my pain levels when I’m consistently meditating.

So I am going into 2017 with fire in my belly and so many more ambitions for this year. It just goes to show how much can happen in a year! Whilst all this was incredible – I still had some health ups and downs and have come into the new year on another medication for a short while. Life is nothing short of surprises – but it’s amazing how much better I feel having made changes on MY TERMS. My gastro consultant and team are truly amazing, but nobody has ever sat down with me and suggested these simple changes that have made such a staggering difference. I’m going into 2017 feeling like Crohn’s no longer owns me.

Watch out for much more to come on A Belly Full of this year…!

For more of my updates, you can catch me on Instagram & Twitter.

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bryonyhopkins

Amigos! I’ve been on the prowl again for more delicious vegan, vegetarian and gluten free places to eat in the capital and these really are delish. Due to working ridiculous hours in the office (it’s been a busy news time!), I have been having to eat away from home more than I would usually prefer – but with these simple eateries right on my doorstep, I have little to complain about!
Squirrel
Price: £

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The interior is such a winner at Squirrel – love these barrel dispensers of herbal tea

Based about 2 minutes from South Kensington, Squirrel has a casual salad bar vibe with the most amazing treehouse interior. When I arrived to meet a couple of friends for dinner, the place was packed out for what looked like a health and fitness talk – which just goes to demonstrate what kind of place Squirrel is! The best part of this place is having the ability to build your own salads and warm bowls – although the menu they have put together with names like ‘Kale Yeah’ and ‘Prawn Star’ is definitely enticing! As it was dinner time in autumn I was in the mood for a warming meal, so went for the Miami Rice, which was delicious. I washed the meal down with a turmeric latte (my first ever!) and a gluten free, vegan rocky road – which again was very tasty. Unfortunately, my friends ordered two turmeric lattes which didn’t tastevquite right, and the waiter in this instance left little to be desired in terms of customer service – but in the end the lattes were swapped with green tea. Despite this, I would still definitely return – and for £7 a plate, I think the price is unbeatable for that quality organic produce.
The Good Life Eatery
Price: ££
The Good Life Eatery is a much loved favourite of many London food bloggers and once I visited, I understood why. With a few stores dotted across central London, I went to the cafe in Sloane Avenue – just a short walk from South Kensington tube station (other way to Squirrel!). This place has a great menu – a combo of raw dishes and warming bowls. I went with a friend, who went for the classic Good Life Salad, packed with raw goodies, whilst I got the veggie ‘In a Hurry Curry’.
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Delicious spread at Good Life Eatery

We ordered at the counter and then found ourselves a little spot in the compact cafe. As a matcha latte lover – I couldn’t resist ordering one to see if it matched up to my favourite Kin lattes. The matcha was great – but I have to say, I didn’t need it as my curry was extremely filling. Packed with flavour and chunky pieces of butternut squash, aubergine on a quinoa base meant I was extremely full by the end. My friend loved her Goof Life Salad – amazing colours on the plate and so many elements to enjoy. From the gluten free crackers to the kale, goji berries and roasted sweet potato. I wanted to order a cake for after – but I was too full! Would definitely recommend for dinner or a big hearty, vegan lunch. Would love to return to sample brunch!
SaladPride, Neals Yard
Price: £
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Best turmeric latte I’ve ever tasted!

I found SaladPride by complete and utter fluke – and I’m so glad I did! I was killing time after work and before meeting a friend when I stumbled into Neals Yard near Seven Dials, Covent Garden. It started absolutely pouring down and I sought refuge in this little cafe. As I walked in I saw the menu say turmeric latte and I knew I was onto a winner. I ordered one of those and then saw a range of small square cheesecakes in the fridge next to it – and low and behold, they were all dairy and gluten free! Despite the fact I was about to meet my friend for dinner, I ordered a chocolate hazelnut cheesecake on recommendation of a passing customer and sat down to enjoy them. The cheesecake was amazing and the turmeric latte was the best I’ve tasted. I was only in there for less than half an hour but have since discovered on twitter that the owner has written two cookbooks (Breakfast Love and Salad Love) and the cafe does a range of food from breakfast through to dinner. I will definitely be returning to taste some of that!
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bryonyhopkins

 

Stress is not caused by the environment, but by our reaction to the environment.

This is by far the most important and poignant message that I learnt recently when I embarked on a four-day meditation course.
I know what you’re thinking… meditation? How stressed must you be to resort to meditation??! The truth is, I’m not particularly stressed. Well, of course, I am stressed, but I’m no more stressed than Billy the postman or Leila who served me a latte this morning. We are all stressed. We all take on stress from our own lives and then feed off each other’s stress. It really is one big stress cycle. So when I signed up for meditation, my primary reason wasn’t to de-stress me (although, that has been an added bonus). My main reason was to further explore and understand the power of the mind over the body. For me stress= Crohns flare. The correlation was so alarmingly obvious; it became something I couldn’t ignore anymore.
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Throwback ten years ago, to my fourteen year old self, and I actually learnt how to meditate alongside my paediatric specialist, Dr Sullivan. I was extremely poorly. I had been on every drug under the sun and my body was still raging with inflammation. Major life altering surgery was looming and amongst this, Dr Sullivan suggested I tried meditating. I have to be honest – I didn’t get it. I was a teenager and I was full of hormones! Despite this, I went to a meditating school in London where I learnt the technique but I really couldn’t get on board with it. I wasn’t ready or prepared to understand.
Looking back now, I couldn’t be more grateful for what he did. He planted the seed, which has grown as I’ve settled into my life (ie turned into an adult). It niggled and I couldn’t get rid of it – I knew there must be some value in meditating and I had to go back and find out more. So I signed up for a four day basic meditation course at the London Centre of Meditation to see what I was missing out on.

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The door that welcomed me to my meditation course

 
The technique I learnt was ‘vedic meditation’ – originating from ‘Ayreveda’, one of the oldest holistic bodies of knowledge in the world. Vedic meditation originates from India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. The theory of this type of meditation is deep rooted and practiced by repeating a personal mantra silently in the mind. As soon as I sat down on day one, I knew I had to forget what I had previously learnt ten years ago. The technique was different, the philosophy was different and I had to give this a go with a completely open mind.
Jillian, our meditation coach got us meditating on day one. We each learnt an individual mantra in private and then returned as a group to practice our first meditation together. It’s hard to articulate the feeling of that first twenty-minute practice, but it was blissful. Whilst thoughts still danced around in my head, by coming quietly back to my mantra, I was able to relax and I barely noticed the minutes passing. I felt my muscles relax, my tense shoulders loosen and my brain begin to slow down. It was truly peaceful. I was so chilled on the way home from the session I completely missed my stop on the train! I couldn’t understand how I had missed this feeling ten years ago?!!
Over the next two days, with the homework to meditate for twenty minutes morning and evening, Jillian helped us understand the power of the mantra and how we are realistically going to fit twenty minutes twice a day into our lives. I was extremely reluctant to give up anymore sleep, ESPECIALLY in the morning, but I was surprised how keen I was to jump out of bed into my meditation. During meditation, your metabolic rate is lower than that of the deepest point in your sleep. Similarly, during a meditation session, your body will be receiving 2-5x the amount of rest you receive during sleep. I know what you’re thinking – how can that possibly be right? But the science backs it up. Read more here and here. There are real physical changes that happen during the body during meditation – changes for the better.
I was generally astonished at how quickly I began to feel the difference in my life. I began to feel more relaxed at work and more able to cope with changing demands. Decisions that I had been torturing myself over become clearer. On day four of the course Jillian talked to us about ‘transcending’ – and suddenly I had a flashback to ten years ago. ‘Transcending’ was all I was taught and all I was told to seek to achieve – the place in your mind where you travel beyond thought and sit in a blissful place of total tranquility. Reaching the stage of total tranquility on a permanent basis is known as ‘enlightenment’ – although few ever reach this stage.
fullsizerender-2Whilst I am not expecting a miracle on my Crohns through meditation, I am excited to see if the long-term effects have any impact on my physical health. I have a lot more reading and understanding to do but I feel like I’ve opened another chapter in the life of Bryony.Two weeks on from the course and I am still juggling managing to fit the 40 minutes of meditation into my life, but I’m getting there. The most fascinating thing I found was that it was just the normal Tom, John and Ben learning to meditate with me – businessmen from the city and family men. There was nothing weird about it or any cult feeling about it. Which made me wonder why more people aren’t doing it?! If you can just close your eyes for 20 minutes and feel a benefit… why wouldn’t you do it?*
Continue to follow my blog to keep up to date with the first few months in my meditation journey!
*Critics insert a long list of excuses here!
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bryonyhopkins