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

This was our Maui campervan for 4 weeks in Australia! We drove over 2000km up the east coast in this badboy, we called her Cami the Camper!

‘How are you coping with camping with tummy troubles?!?’ is probably the most common question I got in my DMs whilst I was in Australia. And for good reason, camping can entail being far away from a bathroom, navigating to said bathroom in the dark & not having the comfort of privacy and facilities you would usually have at home.

This blog is the first of a mini series of posts I will be sharing with you after spending 6 weeks travelling around Australia – and each blog post addresses the most common questions and queries I got in my DMs whilst away. One of the most resounding questions I got, as mentioned above, was asking me how camping was possible with IBD or IBS. If someone had said to me 10 years ago that I would be camping on the other side of the world for 4 weeks, I honestly would have laughed. (You can learn more about my Crohns story here.) I have never enjoyed or entertained the thought of camping – but now having spent 4 weeks in a campervan, I have realised it is more than possible. The secret is really identifying your anxieties and making sure everything is planned to minimise those concerns.

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

The beauty of driving a campervan is the freedom to stop wherever you like and find the most secluded spots. Taken at Hellsgate, Noosa Heads, Queensland.

I think these simple top tips will really help & also reassure you that whether you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, there are ways you fulfil a travel dream and enjoy a adventure in the great outdoors, like I did.

1. Ok full disclaimer here, I got a campervan with a onboard toilet.

Yes, a proper flushing toilet. And I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it without having that reassurance. They do cost a little more but I honestly think it’s so worth it. Navigating to the toilets if you get up at night can be stressful – and this just eliminates that anxiety.

I should add that obviously this means you have to empty the toilet yourself too – and I want to also reassure you that this also really isn’t as bad as it sounds! They are usually equipped with a self contained toilet container and are full of chemicals – so really you are just disposing of chemical fluid.

We booked our van through STA – who talked us through what the best option was for us.

2. Book a campsite with proper camping facilities – and I mean, private toilet cubicles and showers.

95% of our campsites had really decent bathroom facilities. If you go for a campervan or tent with no toilet facilities – don’t be afraid to ask for a camping spot near the amenity block. It seriously helps in the night!

Whilst in Australia we booked all powered sites – which means you can plug the van in and have full working electricity and this cost around $30-$40 (Australian dollars) per night, which is around £20-£30. We booked a huge amount of sites through Big4.

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

Beautiful views at every stop of Australia’s East Coast. Town of 1770, Queensland.

3.  Which brings me to number 3 – always pack a really decent torch. Campsites get alarmingly dark at nightfall and this will be your saviour!

You can also use it to spot some pretty amazing wildlife in the campsites – we saw possums, koalas and kangaroos at night with the torch!

4. Often camping involves lots of travel and time on the road – another time you could be away from a bathroom.

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

On one of our longer drives we stopped off at the Town of 1770 to see where Captain Cook landed when he discovered Australia. Freedom to find spots like this, is why driving yourself in a camper is so amazing.

Plan your route and suss out petrol stations enroute. They will all have toilet facilities! We were lucky we had a SatNav onboard that told us when we had petrol stations coming up and I found this such a relief.

5. Make sure you have enough of any meds you take for your tummy.

And be reassured even in a campervan without a flushing toilet, you will often have running water which means you can make peppermint tea/take meds when you need to.

It’s quite amazing that even the smaller vans will have running water (which again, you have to fill up yourself at campsites!) and this is very important not only for being able to cook basic food like pasta or rice, but keeping hydrated and being able to take medication too.

In Australia the tap water is of the highest quality – so you don’t need to worry about only drinking bottled water.

6. You can also cook some pretty simple & delicious meals with really basic camping cooking equipment.

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

Enjoying a proper camping supper, made on our pull our BBQ! After it fell dark, the stars shone so brightly you could see the Milky Way. Incredible!

In our van we not only had running water but a 3 ring stove inside and a pull out barbecue on the outside. We also had a toaster, microwave and a kettle – which meant we could actually cook some really simple meals all with our own equipment. When you’re travelling it can always be a bit hit and miss eating out, and I don’t know about anyone else but I get a great source of comfort eating food I’ve cooked myself (not least because I know what’s in it!)

We ate a lot of simple tuna pasta with sweetcorn, with gluten free spaghetti and also barbecued fresh fish and meat which we served with fresh salad or even rice bags which we slung in the microwave. The smaller vans also have this type of cooking equipment.

7. Go with someone you trust. Because generally that just makes the whole thing easier!

Maybe this is obvious, but make sure you are travelling and camping with people or someone you trust. It means if you do have any issues, being open and honest about it will make it a whole lot easier.

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

Freedom is sparkling seawater and smooth sand. Taken at Burleigh Heads, Queensland.

8. Boring but essential – make sure you get good travel insurance that’ll cover your medical problems.

It might cost a lot, especially with IBD – but it’s worth it. I used Medical Travel Compared to get a really good price for this trip (it still hurt how expensive it was, but for peace of mind it was worth it!)

9. If you have Crohns or Colitis and you’re going away for an extended period of time, it is probably worth telling your specialist consultant.

I had lengthy chats with my IBD nurse ahead of my 6 week trip, to make sure I had the right medication and also documentation for those medicines. I also asked their advice of what to do if something went wrong whilst I was away and more than anything, they reassured me that my health insurance would cover any disasters.

10. ENJOY IT! The beauty of a campervan is the freedom & flexibility to stop anywhere, see untouched natural beauty & watch the stars.

Your tummy shouldn’t get in the way of that.

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

The trip was the adventure of a lifetime – and I hope this inspires you to see you can fulfil your travel ambitions too!

What are your tips you’d add to this list? DM me and I might feature you on my Instagram!

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bryonyhopkins

Edinburgh, travel guide, scotland, arthurs seat, A Belly Full Of

Climbing to the top of Arthur’s Seat and being blown away of the views of Edinburgh!

Over the Easter weekend I spent a glorious 72 hours in Edinburgh with my partner in crime Josh, and wow, what a gorgeous city. I switched off my social media for the weekend to truly enjoy this incredible city and now I am sharing my top tips for eating gluten and dairy free, and what to see and do, in this city.

Scotland, Arthur's Seat, Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of

That fresh air makes one very happy!

It helped that I was absolutely inundated with suggestions of great places to eat and drink, and for a relatively small city, we were absolutely spoiled for choice! Having said that, most of our finds were on the hoof as we explored, so I hope these gems add to the ever-growing list of allergy friendly places to eat in Edinburgh.

Friday PM and Eve

Edinburgh streets were just gorgeous. This taken on Victoria Street.

So after settling into our gorgeous Air BnB (see below for my tips on accommodation in Edinburgh!), we went on a wonder in the city and came across the pizza parlour Amarone, recommended by the lovely Gluten Free Gatherer and I just had my heart set on pizza for dinner, so we booked ourselves in for that eve. We were also famished, so we stopped off at a brilliant little coffee place called Fortitude Coffee where I had a sticky toffee loaf, which was vegan and gluten free with a black filter coffee. Delissshh and easy to miss, although that loaf was the only allergy friendly option.

Black americano and sticky toffee loaf. The icing was YUM!

Onto dinner and I absolutely loved Amorone (recommended by my pal, the Gluten Free Gatherer!). I went for a chicken and pepper number, without cheese and on a gluten free base and was very impressed. None of this rubbery or tasteless base business, this was extremely crispy. Definitely would recommend!

Unfortunately no vegan cheese, but still delicious with a tomato base

Saturday
The morning started in the search of breakfast, and having been recommended Urban Angel a 1000 times, we tried to grab a table. Unfortunately, they don’t take bookings and we were too hungry to wait 45 mins so ended up in a closer café, which wasn’t great for GF or DF, but did do black tea and a veggie fry up! Luckily we stumbled across a market where I found Missy Vegan Cupcakes and picked myself up a vegan and GF chocolate tiffin, which was HUGE.

This was essentially the fuel that got me to the top of Arthurs Seat! Which I definitely recommend as an activity in Edinburgh – it’s a surprisingly hard climb but absolutely worth it. The views from the top are just insane!



After such a wild trek up to Arthurs Seat (it had been raining all weekend so was a rather treacherous climb, absolute mud bath!), we needed some proper sustenance so found ourselves in a lovely little pub called High Street Number 1 on the Royal Mile. At first glance, it didn’t look like they did much allergy friendly, until we spotted the gluten free fish and chips! Served in GF batter and fried in a separate fryer, this was a GF dream.

It would have been rude to visit Edinburgh trying some of the local booze (I mean, we’re only human!), so we walked a little further up to the Royal Mile where we tried some of the gin offering at a small pub called The Albanach. Edinburgh Gin (this is an actual brand, not just gin from Edinburgh!) was an absolute find. So many gorgeous flavours, so good paired with Fever Tree Tonic. My fave was Rhubarb and Ginger. SO GOOD.


 

Sunday

After waking up with a slightly sore gin head, we were on the prowl for one thing only, BRUNCH! We headed this time towards Leith, as our apartment was just positioned in perfect walking distance between Edinburgh city centre and Leith on the coast. The Roseleaf was positioned just past the canal and WHAT A GEM! Disguised as a rustic pub, this spot did the best brunch skillet I’ve ever tasted and the menu was extremely well labelled for allergens. I went for the vegetarian breakfast skillet, served with a toasted gluten free muffin. The real stars of the show were actually the choice of juices and hot drinks. First we went for the ‘Red Cappuccino’ – a twist on a classic chai latte but infused with more cinnamon and ginger. I had mine with soya milk and it was beautifully rich and creamy. Then we went onto the juice menu (because you know, holiday) and particularly loved The Heartbeat (pomegranate, apple and raspberry) and the coconut crush (pineapple, coconut water and apple). Would definitely recommend this gem!

For dinner we headed to an incredible artisan Italian deli that was right next to our apartment called Valvona and Crolla. Think high ceilings stacked with wines, cured meats, pastas, sauces and fresh vegetables. They had a whole row of fresh Italian gluten free pastas, so we picked up some bits for a night in at the apartment. Served with a bottle of red it was the perfect (albeit) unusual Easter Sunday dinner.


Monday

With only the morning left we had to fill the time the best way possible, BRUNCH! We headed to Urban Angel which I had been recommended by near enough everyone for a great gluten free brunch! We had to wait 40 minutes for a table, but the delicious gluten free bread did not disappoint. I mixed and matched, with smoked salmon, poachies and Portobello mushrooms on the plate paired with one of my fave hot beverages, turmeric latte. Gorgeous.

Travel (London to Edinburgh)
So there is much discussion about the best way to get to Edinburgh and as it was our anniversary weekend (5 years!), we splashed out on first class tickets on Virgin Trains and I honestly couldn’t recommend this form of travel enough. You literally hop on at Kings Cross and it’s only four and half-hours into the centre of Edinburgh. Complementary beverages and sandwiches are included(unfortunately not GF or DF), so make sure you stock up on snacks from Waitrose or M&S at Kings Cross. We probably paid about £150 each for a first class return, which was definitely worth it for the space and free wifi!

Accommodation


I really didn’t know anything about Edinburgh before this trip, so wasn’t sure what or where to go for in terms of accommodation. However, Josh & I are massive Air BnB fans (honestly best places I’ve ever stayed in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Marbella etc), so we booked an apartment about 8 mins walk from the train station on Brunswick Street. The apartment was gorgeous and owned by the friendliest couple, Pat and George. They left milk in the fridge (for Josh obvs), cereal and the place was immaculate. Perfect location to walk into the city centre, as it was only about 15 minutes. Check out our apartment here.

Would love to hear if you use any of these travel tips in your future travels to Edinburgh!

 

Check out my Pitstop Guide to Copenhagen for more travel tips!
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

bryonyhopkins

I’ve been lucky to take some incredible trips already this year, and I am so excited to share them with you! I’m going to start with Copenhagen, the land of hygge. I remember my Mum & Dad talking to me about this word about 2 years ago, and I honestly had no idea what they were talking about. They kept telling me they felt hygge when they sat in the garden – but what the hell is hygge?? Pronounced ‘hue-gah’, it is essentially acknowledging a moment which is special, precious and warming – whether you are alone or with friends. This isn’t a process of buying something to achieve hygge, it is literally a moment of warm loveliness and being aware of it. Sounds pretty lush right?
So when my boyfriend booked a weekend trip to the Danish capital, I was over the moon. I’d never visited any of the nordic countries before and was extremely intrigued. And I have to add – it is beyond beautiful. Definitely one of the cleanest, friendliest capital cities I have ever visited… not to mention the food! I’ve packed all my Danish knowledge into this punchy twelve top tips – so when you go (not if, because you HAVE to go!), you will be fully armed with the information to have the weekend of a lifetime.

  1. Pack for all weather types. Like the UK, the weather in the nordic countries can be extremely hit and miss. We took our trip in June, and I packed for rain, sun, cold, storms – the lot! In the space of 72 hours we experienced an all day thunderstorm and a heatwave. So pack smart – and make sure you pack comfortable walking shoes!
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    Walking through the parks in the heatwave!

  2. You can do a 72 hour trip because the city is tiny. You can walk across the city in under an hour and so it is possible to see a lot in a small amount of time. The flight time is only around an hour and a half from the UK, which means you can fly on a Friday morning and be back on Sunday, and still see so much!
  3. Book an Air BnB. Denmark is on the more expensive side – think London prices, plus a little more! For this reason, I recommend booking an Air BnB instead of a hotel. The city is packed with apartments, crammed on top of each other, but they are all beautiful and make excellent use of space. Additionally, it’s worth staying in an Air BnB to get a vibe for the danish interior design – which is just to die for. We stayed in a beautiful apartment in Norreport, with a dreamy kitchen. The Danes love the healthy lifestyle and our apartment was full of vegan and gluten free treats. AMAZING!
  4. Eat everything at Torvehallerne food market. The best part of staying in Norreport was the INSANE food market which was right on our doorstep. Torvehallerne food market is packed with over 60 stands of unique food sellers flogging the most amazing fresh goods. Literally everything you could imagine -from artisan coffee, to massive chocolate eclairs and numerous juice bars. And the best part? SO MANY DAIRY AND GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS! I enjoyed gluten free muffins, dairy free chocolate mousse and so many types of chia seed pudding. This seafood platter was another bonus – we enjoyed this for lunch twice over the weekend!
  5. Enjoy the parks. The green spaces are the bread and butter of Copenhagen. I always thought London did well for beautiful parks and gardens – but Copenhagen trumps us to another level! I would definitely recommend having a stroll around as many as you can. Orstedparken is beautiful, with a river running through it and right next to Torvehallerne food market – so perfect for a luxurious picnic. The gardens of Rosenborg Castle Gardens are also absolutely stunning and the Kastellet gardens will lead you right to the famous Little Mermaid statue!
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Rosenborg Castle Garden

6. Go and see the Little Mermaid… but don’t expect to be overwhelmed.  Fairy tale Hans Christian Andersen wrote the original version of The Little Mermaid and there is a statue on the Copenhagen waterside to honour this. The Den lille Havfrue is a must see, but it is tiny!!
7. Tivoli Gardens is a MUST visit. We were told by many friends that we HAD to go to Tivoli Gardens – but having taken the name at face value, I was just expecting another green space. Oh no – Tivoli Gardens is another world of it’s own. Think beautiful garden with restaurants/theme park/park/open air theatre. It’s all of these and so much more!You could easily spend a day getting lost here, although be prepared to spend some money and queue for rides. We enjoyed just strolling around and didn’t choose to eat there, though there were certainly a wealth of food options. Very touristy, but definitely worth the entrance fee, just to absorb the atmosphere and admire the pretty gardens.
8. Take a lot of spending money because it is expenny. Think exclusive and think London prices. We paid around £7-£8 for an alcoholic drink (Aperol Spritz or beer) and more for food. FYI they operate in Danish Krona – not to be confused with Swedish krona or Norwegian krone.
9. Everything is fresh and seasonal – which explains the prices! The food is to die for and would definitely recommend sampling their fresh seafood. They are also crazy for rye bread – which unfortunately us gluten free folk can’t tolerate, but my boyfriend loved the healthier bread option
10. Drink by the harbour in Nyhavn. This is one of the most iconic spots in Copenhagen, and the one you’ve probably seen on Google images and on postcards. The harbour is stunning, leading out to the open waters of the sea and there are hundreds of bars along either side, with blankets and heaters outside when it’s cold, and umbrellas for when it’s warm. The atmosphere is buzzing and many locals come down with a crate of beers and drink on the waters edge. This was my favourite place to come and people watch – and they made a mean Aperol Spritz!IMG_7339
11. And you can drink their tap water! This was pretty revolutionary for me, as I as standard drink around 2 litres of water a day, even more when it’s hot and we’re walking across the city! Denmark is a land enriched by water and they take pride in helping it enhance their lives. For this reason, Denmark has some of the cleanest drinking water in the world. They believe it’s the richest and most important resource they have – good on them!
12. Walk up the longest pedestrian road in Europe. Strøget is the longest pedestrian road in Europe and is full of designer and high street shops. In the later afternoon and evening, you can find street performers attracting large crowds and people pulling around vast amounts of shopping bags. A shopaholic’s dream!
For more of my Copenhagen photos, see my Instagram @abellyfullofbryony.
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bryonyhopkins

Lots of people have been getting in touch recently asking for Crohn’s or IBD advice after being first diagnosed and I suddenly thought it would benefit others to write down my entire Crohn’s story – warts and all, from start to finish (well, to present!), for World IBD Day today. I was diagnosed at the age of four, and now at the age of 25, I’ve experienced A WHOLE BUNCH OF STUFF, including lots of abdominal surgery (yes, I’ve had a ileostomy) and medication. I sincerely hope that documenting some of my experiences may help others suffering from IBD, those who have just been diagnosed or just want to understand more about the illness. It’s a confusing and ever changing illness and I must stress that every single person with IBD is individual. What works for one person won’t work for another – there is no IBD ‘path’ – you just have to carve your own story! (So basically, don’t freak out if you’re newly diagnosed and reading this!)

So let’s start with diagnosis, and to be honest, I can keep this pretty brief, seeing as I was four years old and I really don’t remember much! I was on holiday with my family in Wales, when my parents noticed I was getting extremely pale, not eating, losing weight and going to the bathroom A LOT. On one horrible morning when my mum asked me how I was feeling, I told her I was losing blood. I went straight to a hospital in Wales, where I was admitted and quickly transferred over to an expert gastro unit in Oxford, where I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. And that was the start of my IBD journey! I should add here that Crohn’s Disease is an autoimmune disease – it is your immune system malfunctioning.

Steroids, crohns

Let’s ignrore my questionable haircut and my brother’s weird face. On steroids in primary school

In simple terms, the body eats away at the digestive system, causing inflammation, ulcers and bleeding anywhere along the digestive tract. I was at my sickest as a child; I remember countless birthdays and Easters spent in hospital. My first treatment was steroids, which sent me completely bonkers and made me put on weight faster than an inflating balloon. My disease was ravaging my large intestine, and although the steroids worked for a short time, as soon as my dose was reduced, I would start to flare again – big time. I went through cycles of mesalazine, azathioprine and infliximab, but nothing would calm my angry insides.

When I was coming up to about ten years old, I went on my first liquid diet. By this point, the conversations about having to remove my large intestine had been floating around for some months now. It was pretty clear that the disease was extremely resistant– it wasn’t responding to any medication. The liquid diet consisted of drinking cartons of Elemental 028, a nutritional drink designed to be absorbed instantly into the body, with your gut having to do absolutely zero work. As I was about to enter puberty,

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I thought I wore it well tbf. At school age 11

I was required to consume even more of the liquid to ensure my growth wasn’t stunted. It was physically impossible to drink the required amount, and so I would sleep with a tube that went up my nose and into my stomach and the rest of the liquid would be pumped into my body. In the very early days of the liquid diet, it was so traumatising having the tube passed up my nose that I didn’t want to take it out – so I went to school with it. The psychological battle was immense, but the liquid diet was my most effective treatment yet.

Alas, a few weeks after I started eating again, the Crohn’s returned with vengeance and at the age of twelve, I had an ileostomy formed. By this point I was practically begging them to take my large intestine out – I was tired of being constantly sick and living this half life in and out of hospital. Still being so young, they were reluctant to actually remove it all, and hoped that bypassing it via the ileostomy would help it heal. It did not. Nine months later I was back under anaesthetic and had my entire large intestine removed – with the exception of a tiny bit at the rectum. This tiny bit of intestine turned out to be my saving grace. Due to the mechanics of the colon, because I still had that little bit left, there was a chance they could reconnect my small intestine with the end of my large intestine and a chance I could be bag free in the future. To be honest, I think this is what got me through. Although I was desperate to feel better, nothing could prepare me for the emotional and psychological difficulties of living with a bag whilst I was going through puberty. A teenager is self-conscious enough as it is right – without having to worry about part of your intestine sticking out of your stomach! The three years with an ileostomy are a blur now, but it dramatically changed my quality of life. I finally had my life back. I was able to function – I was able to go to school everyday. I was able to hang out with my friends. I didn’t have to take drugs, I could eat what I wanted and I wasn’t at the mercy of my disease anymore.

When I reached the age of sixteen, the ileostomy had done its job and I was rewarded with a bag reversal. Another major operation, reopening my entire 30cm scar and another scar left where the ileostomy once was, but I was completely liberated. FREE FROM A BAG! Lollzzzz but totally not free of Crohn’s. I was actually pretty healthy doing my ALevels and I secured my place at Loughborough University to do a degree in Drama with seeming ease (health wise at least!) I had the most amazing time at university, but during this time, the Crohn’s began to spread to the lower part of my rectum and small intestine, and so I was put on Humira – a weekly injection administered myself. This managed to get the Crohn’s under control, but by my second year I was struggling with repetitive obstructive symptoms. I was in and out of hospital, in and out of A & E, and it came to pass that they had to operate.

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After my sixth operation, I asked my Mum to take this to let me friends know I was ok. Two hours out of surgery, I have no recollection of this being taken!!

Again. They found and closed an internal hernia, as well as adhesions, which were causing the obstructions. A year and a half later, just as I was completing my finals, the obstructive symptoms started again and after a particular memorable experience where I lay in a hospital bed in Leicester, surrounded by my friends and boyfriend who had fled a night out to my aid, I was under the knife again. Looking back, it was perhaps the immense amount of partying (I’m only human!) that took place over these three years that led me to need these two ops. The toll to my body was great and as I was recovering from my fifth operation, I began to ask myself, would these operations EVER stop?

After recovering from this fifth op, I plodded on quite well for a while. I got myself a job at the BBC as a Researcher and plunged myself into the world of commuting and full time work. I’d be lying if I said it was easy, my body took a while to adjust to the exhaustion. After my 21st birthday, a hernia popped up on my scar. LO AND BEHOLD – ANOTHER OPERATION. By this time I was officially at breaking point with being opened up so many times. I remember vividly bursting into hysterical tears in front of the surgeon and asking him, ‘WHEN WILL THIS END?’ I like to think I am an extremely strong individual, but I just couldn’t take any more operations. The isolation of the 8 week recovery alone was enough to send me completely insane, let alone the physical shock of going through all that pain over and over again.

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Apols for the faint hearted here, but this was post my sixth op. You can see the little scar from my ileostomy too

I guess the positive of undergoing such repetitive surgery was becoming proud of my scar. It’s 30cm long, stretching from just below my chest to below my pelvis and it’s extremely visible. I wear it loud and proud now and I take the stares on the beach to mean, ‘wow – that girl must be made of steel!!’

I got to spring 2016, when I started to relapse again and I was given the choice, which lead me to start writing this blog in the first place. Sat in front of my gastro specialist, he told me I needed a quick treatment that was guaranteed to work – steroids. I couldn’t do it to my body- I couldn’t do it to my mental health! So I took on the one month liquid diet, which is where this blog was born. It was honestly the best thing I ever did and despite the mental battle, I came out feeling amazing. My skin was glowing and I appreciated the impact of what I put in my body more than ever. I reintroduced food gradually and found I was intolerant to whole food groups by keeping a food diary for weeks, which has further kept my tum happy. You can read my liquid diet journey here. In October, I learnt to meditate – a skill, which my paediatrician had tried to introduce to me during puberty. You can read more about my journey to meditation here.

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Ended up forming quite a bond with my liquid diet cartons

Since then I have taken a short nutrition course, started yoga classes and started experimenting with what I eat and how it feels in my tum. I feel so very grateful for the journey I have come on to where I am today. I whole-heartedly believe everything happens for a reason and my IBD journey was meant to lead me to where I am today. To stand tall, tell my story and be confident in who I am. Because there are thousands of stories like mine that aren’t being shared, or are being misunderstood. IBD ain’t glamorous. Heck, I’d enjoy a day where I didn’t think about my gut – but that is the reality for so many of us living with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. This is what we live with and we plod on. We make mothers, fathers, partners, friends and colleagues and STILL battle the debilitating symptoms of IBD – with a smile. I dare anyone who is embarrassed or struggling to deal with their IBD to speak out, confide in a friends/family and realise YOU ARE STILL B****Y BRILLIANT. IBD will not rule your life.

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Living and loving life in Bali – wearing that scar loud and proud. YES I’VE BEEN TRAVELLING TOO!

If you’ve got to the end of this epically long post, then thank you so much for reading and I hope you have taken something from my story. I would welcome comments/feedback  (comment below!) and any of your stories. I would love to hear them all.

Happy World IBD Day!

*I know I haven’t just written a book, so to do a thank you sounds weird – but I can’t write this and not mention the amazing care I have received over my entire Crohn’s journey from the gastro team at John Radcliffe Hospital. They have always answered all my questions, listened to me when I have said no, given me VIP treatment and taken the best possible care of me. Brilliant, brilliant team.*

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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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