Remember that nothing is forever and if it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive. Rethink, re-evaluate and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of

Spoiler alert – you can still have a brilliant career with IBD. Now I’ve said that, hopefully you will know what to expect from this blog article – because guess what, being diagnosed with IBD (or any chronic illness) doesn’t mean you can no longer shoot for the stars and achieve your dream career. It doesn’t mean you have less earning potential and it certainly does NOT mean you are not as brilliant and talented as your colleagues.

Why do I have the authority to say this, you might ask? I’ve been working in the media industry since I was 21, and I have been through plenty of blunders in the process of trying to understand how to make my work and Crohns work together. There is no handbook for this stuff and I didn’t realise how easy I had it at university in terms of being able to manage my workload based on my illness. Of course, I had deadlines and exams, but I could revise from my bed, without anyone questioning it. I could write essays in my PJs, saving energy on getting dressed and commuting. I could dip out lectures if I was poorly, and it didn’t mean I was impacting anyone else apart from myself and I certainly wasn’t losing money doing so.

When I got my first full time job out of university as a receptionist at an animation agency, it was a total shock to the system. Not only was I commuting from my parents into London (an hour and a half each way), I was also working 0830 – 1830 hours. I didn’t know how to tell my manager about my Crohns because I barely understood how it was going to impact me at work myself. It was a struggle, but six years on I have figured out a way to try and make it work.

Before you read on, you should know I absolutely do not have this all figured out. One of the gifts of my industry is it is very fast paced, so moving jobs regularly is normal. It’s a gift because I have had the opportunity to try out multiple work arrangements with no impact on my future employability (because every young journo is doing the same!). After having to tell managers about my Crohns so many times, I think I have finally nailed the conversation about my chronic illness and I’m not scared to ask for what works for me anymore, and that’s what I want to share with you in this blog.

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My story

I have always worked and never been afraid of hard work, but I didn’t know how to balance my Crohns until I started work after university. I had my first Saturday job at 16, and always worked throughout the summer at cafes, bars, shops – anywhere that would pay me, basically! I worked as a receptionist after university for 4 months, before I landed my first job in a large news organisation. Getting this job was the first time I had a conversation with any manager ever about my Crohns. I never declared it at my Saturday jobs (I suppose my 18 year old self thought I didn’t need to), but after a brutal 4 months of not telling my workplace at the animation agency, it was clear as day that I needed my managers to be in the loop.

Shortly after I started at the news broadcaster, I had a huge bowel obstruction and needed major abdominal surgery. I was off work for 8 weeks in total and my bosses were absolutely amazing and totally supportive. At this stage, you would have thought I would be able to have the same conversation with my manager when I moved to a new department. But I didn’t. Plagued with feelings that I wouldn’t be seen as good enough (combined with my own imposter syndrome at even being a TV producer), I didn’t tell any managers. I worked shifts for a year and a half full time and it led me into a pit of exhaustion. So much so, I quit. I led myself to a point of complete exhaustion that I couldn’t see the wood from the trees – and I was convinced I didn’t want to be a journalist anymore. I moved into a completely different role in a new organisation, which I convinced was right for me. It wasn’t.

At this point I realised I had to start telling everyone who was involved in my work life about my Crohns. I am extremely fortunate I returned to the same organisation as a freelancer and have since had unbelievable support from every department I have worked in. It took that entire experience for me to realise that if I wanted to make my dreams a reality, I had to be honest and I had to ask for what I wanted. Since then, I have worked a mix of full time, and doing part time when my health was unstable. I am now starting another new role in a different department in a week (at time of writing), and I’ve already told them about my Crohns. It is unbelievable relief for me to be able to do so, and actually helps me perform better at work.

How to have a conversation with your boss about your IBD/chronic illness

From the questions and comments I’ve received in my inbox, this is the thing you guys dread the most! However, I think this tick list will help you prepare for the conversation and how to have it. Honestly after years of avoiding this conversation and now having it seemingly every 6 months, I can promise it is really not as bad as you think! As always would love to hear if you guys have any further tips – so please do message me if you do!

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Top tips for dealing with colleagues

Ultimately colleagues don’t need to know the ins and outs of your illness like your manager does, but equally, if your health demands you are absent for recovery or appointments, this may impact them (it certainly works that way in my industry). I have found it best to let my colleagues know they can ask me questions at any time, and I will always explain if someone asks why I was off sick/away. I won’t announce my life story or tell them the ins and outs of Crohns unless they ask, but I will make it clear that it’s not a secret. Equally, don’t feel obliged to share more than you are comfortable with – and if you have concerns, don’t be scared to raise issues with your manager.

Dealing with money worries

It’s all very well me saying go part-time, but we all know that this means a pay-cut and actually, this really isn’t always viable. I think this is why it is so important to establish an open conversation with your manager. If you have a chronic illness, you should also have the right to ask for reasonable adjustments to make your job work for you, which may include flexible working arrangements, like working from home or reducing your hours when your health requires it. To learn more about reasonable adjustment and other options, click here.

 What are your rights as an employee?

Many of you, like me, will have really understanding employers who value your work and value YOU. However, if you feel you are being treated unfairly, Crohns and Colitis have brilliant advice here.

Go get it 

I really hope this blog has provided some helpful advice for how to cope with managing a career with IBD. The thing is about having a chronic illness is that it makes you question everything, and I firmly believe we should never ignore these questions. Remember that nothing is forever and if it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive. Rethink, re-evaluate and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

If you’ve got this far – THANK YOU! As always, please do get in touch with your thoughts – love hearing from you all!

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Bryony Hopkins | A Belly Full of | A Belly Full of Food | Australia

The beauty of flying longhaul is finding idyllic spots like this. Taken at Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island

There isn’t anything much more stressful when you have food intolerances than giving your total trust to someone who is serving you food – which is essentially what you have to do for the entirety of any flight you took. It obviously doesn’t help that the the is aircraft travelling 35,000ft above the ground, so you really don’t have anywhere else to turn!

Flying 23 hours to Australia is probably the longest I’ve ever had to trust that what was being served to me was ok to eat – and over the course of many other long haul flights I’ve defos learnt the dos and don’ts. Essentially kids, it’s all in the preparation. Because let me tell you, there is NOTHING worse than being hangry somewhere over the ocean!

Find below my 10 tips to flying longhaul with intolerances!

1. Look online to see the meal options as soon as you’ve booked your flight.

Often they will have ‘vegetarian’, ‘gluten free’, ‘low lactose etc’ and if you only have one intolerance, or low severity, this actually might be you sorted. Unfortunately in my experience, airlines are pretty rubbish at catering for double intolerances (dairy AND gluten is a nightmare!) Having said that, I have found that the gluten free meals are generally MOSTLY dairy free too. So I usually select gluten free and then call the airline, as described below…

2. Call the airline ahead of time

It’s not unreasonable as a passenger to request your needs to be catered for, so explain your intolerances and ask what they can do. Unfortunately sometimes they will only offer you a very bland option – on a very memorable 11 hour flight to San Fran I was only offered fruit, because that was the only totally safe DF & GF option (that was Virgin Atlantic…!) If so in this scenario head to number 3…

3. Pack snacks. Literally, all the snacks

As many as you can fit in and of variety! Even if you have selected an appropriate meal – you never know what might actually end up in front of you. Always best to have yourself covered so you don’t starve.

4. Know the rules

It is worth knowing that countries like the US, New Zealand and Australia do have a restriction on what food can be bought into the country. The US don’t allow meat and dairy products for example, whilst Australia also prohibits grains, nuts and seeds. Quite annoying if you have packed snacks but they do sometimes check bags into the airport – so always best to leave any leftovers on the plane (sorry!)

Bryony Hopkins | A Belly Full of | A Belly Full of Food | Australia

The famous Bondi Iceberg Pools – a slice of heaven!

5. Pack homemade sandwiches and teabags

Homemade sandwiches are really easy, are filling and you have the peace of mind knowing you made them. You can take these on your flight out to your destination and also on your return. If you can get a lunchbox going, then that’ll protect any squashing! Would also recommend bringing on any soothing teas you find help your tummy, like peppermint tea. The plane will always have hot water available and this can be a really comforting thing to do when you’ve been in the air for a long time.

6. Explore the supermarkets

Don’t forget to explore options in supermarkets in your destination! You could find lots of other good options which you could take on the flight back.

7. Be sensible kids

This is a boring one – but try to avoid alcohol and drink LOTS of water. Altitude can have a funny impact on the stomach, as well as you will dehydrate quicker. Avoiding alcohol & drinking water can definitely help sooth the stomach.

8. Travel with your medication in hand luggage

If you have Crohns like me, or IBD or any other serious medical condition, you absolutely MUST carry your medication in your hand luggage. Even if you have medical sharps or injections, it’s essential it is on your person and not in the hold. Not least because you probably need to take it over a period of 24 hours anyway! I will be doing another blog post on travelling with medication – but make sure you have all your meds on you.

9. Essentially always prepare with provisions & make sure the airline are aware.

AND ENJOY IT! I always try to see a long haul flight as ‘me’ time with no distraction. Listen to podcasts, watch movies, write in your journal – make it time that feels good. And don’t forget to get some shut eye to try and get ahead of the jetlag!

Bryony Hopkins | A Belly Full of | A Belly Full of Food | Australia

The Oriental Gardens at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

We flew Singapore Airlines to and from Australia and I was honestly so impressed. I opted for a gluten free meal and it was almost 70% dairy free too – I even got vegan butter with my GF roll and soya milk! Would highly recommend this airline for comfortable longhaul flying.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts and stories. What are your experiences flying longhaul? Share your stories in the comments or over on my Instagram, @bryonyehopkins.

Bryony Hopkins | A Belly Full of | A Belly Full of Food | Australia

Living our best life – Blue Mountains, New South Wales

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With easter round the corner, I’m sharing a super simple recipe for vegan and gluten free chocolate truffles. They are sooooo delicious and decadent and the best part is, you can customise them to your taste! This recipe makes around 20-25 truffles and they keep in an airtight container for weeks! Make ahead and it makes a perfect easter treat <3

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INGREDIENTS

For the truffles:

  • 300g dairy-free dark chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 240ml light coconut milk
  • Teaspoon of peppermint/orange/vanilla/almond/coffee extract (I personally love peppermint flavour!)

For the topping:

  • Cacao or carob powder
  • Desiccated coconut
  • Chopped up nuts

 METHOD
1. Break the chocolate up into little pieces in a large bowl. Add the coconut oil and coconut milk to the bowl. Mix together and transfer to a saucepan. Heat the mixture on a low heat, until the chocolate is fully melted and combined with the coconut oil and coconut milk.
2. Remove the warm mixture of coconut milk, coconut oil and chocolate from the stove and transfer back into the bowl.  Add your desired extract and gently mix together.

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It doesn’t matter if they are random shapes and sizes – adds character!

3. Leave the mixture to stand and cool down for at least 30 minutes to an hour – until it is completely cool.
4. Cover the bowl in cling wrap and transfer to the fridge. Leave to cool for four hours – or even overnight.
5. When the mixture is nearly set, remove from the fridge. If it’s been in overnight, you may have to allow the mixture to warm for 15-20 minutes.
6. Now the fun part! Get yourself a few bowls and fill with your desired toppings. Use a teaspoon to scoop small amounts of the chocolate truffle mixture and roll them into balls in your hands. Now roll them in your favourite toppings! I personally love cacao powder, chopped nuts and desiccated coconut.
7. Repeat until your mixture is finished! Store the truffles in an airtight container in the fridge and enjoy after a dinner… or even with a cup of tea! 🙂
Really would love to hear what you think of these! Get in touch 🙂 I’m on Twitter @BryonyEHopkins or Instagram @abellyfullofbryony.
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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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