HELLO strangers! This post is well overdue – as I promised the blog will live on, and it does! It’s been a roller coaster two weeks to be honest, with my birthday falling slap bang in the middle of it and so I have been entirely consumed with enjoying my new found zest for life (and eating, obvs).

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Birthday joy

Since my last blog post, I have been slowly weaning myself back onto food. I have been on something called the LOFFLEX diet – Low Fat Fibre Reduced Exclusion Diet. This diet was developed by nutritional researchers at Addensbrooke University in Cambridge, and excludes foods which have been found to aggravate Crohn’s. You are recommended to follow this diet for two weeks after finishing the liquid diet, before introducing other foods. The LOFFLEX excludes all the staples that I used to eat – goodbye wheat, goodbye all oats and grains, goodbye citrus fruits and goodbye all fortified sugars (ALL SWEETS AND CHOCOLATE!) Of course that’s totally doable, but I also cannot eat any nuts, dried fruit, any gluten free products, eggs, sesame… basically anything fun.
Here is what I’ve eaten on a typical day: 
Breakfast – 1 carton of elemental. 2 ricecakes with seedless jam/honey/soya spread
Morning snack – Mint tea or elemental. 2 more ricecakes if hungry!
Lunch – lettuce, cucumber, avocado and prawn salad. Drizzled in olive oil.
Afternoon snack – 1 carton of elemental
Dinner – mash potato or jacket potato, with olive oil or soya spread. A piece of white fish and veg (carrots/kale/courgette peeled)
So as you can see the elemental lives on… and I think it will do for a while. I’ve come to find it to be my security blanket when I’ve eaten something that doesn’t agree with me. It’s also the only thing I feel 100% safe about putting in my body – it’s amazing how much trust I have in it. I’ve focused a lot on the positives throughout this blog and I can’t lie, the benefits have been tenfold. I want to get real for a moment though – for all the fellow Crohnies out there who have been following my journey through the liquid diet and who may go through the same themselves. It’s not all roses the garden. What I’m coming to understand is that Crohn’s are is far more complex than I ever could have imagined. It’s clever and it’s fierce – and it reacts to the things you least expect…
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Currently living off veg, veg and more veg

I have been keeping a strict food and symptom diary to document how my body reacts to various foods. Since introducing food 13 days ago, I have had 3 ‘elemental days’. These have followed a day where I’ve consumed something that clearly isn’t my friend. As you can see above, I have kept it pretty bland – but on days where I’ve felt brave, I have introduced something new. Last week, I decided to introduce a fresh fruit juice for my breakfast – one of the juices I prepped in my previous blog post – Day 23: The juicy epiphanyIt was delicious – so refreshing and filling. I followed it with lunch and dinner that I had trialled and tested before…
Later that day I experienced a solid 4/10 pain. Let me put this into context – this is NOWHERE near the pain I was getting before. I was easily on 8/9 before I started the liquid diet. However, I’ve gone from, no pain, to some pain. Hmmm. Looking back at the LOFFLEX I realised apple was a known irritant and the juice contained 3 whole apples. I had the culprit. I followed this with 2 elemental days – where I reverted to feeling grumpy and fed up. The pain did ease though.
Furthermore, yesterday I had a gorgeous breakfast of quinoa flakes, soya yogurt and maple syrup. It was unreal to eat something with actual flavour. Whilst on my sugar high, I experienced a 6/10 on the pain scale. Hmmm!! I will have to go back to figure out which element of that breakfast was the irritant (praying it wasn’t quinoa!) And so, you see, the trial and error continues. At times it is frustrating – especially when I am eating the same things day in day out and I am feel nervous about what to eat. I haven’t even reached the reintroduction stage where I try the more difficult foods – I’m still hopscotching around step 1!
Revamping your diet is HARD. It’s a total lifestyle change. I know it will all be worth it though. How do I know I hear you ask?! The proof is in the pudding (or lack of pudding…). Watching this totally gave me the boost I needed – Kris Carr Super Soul Sessions with Oprah
Life is for LIVVVINGGG and last weekend I enjoyed my 24th lap around the sun in the best possible way. Just five weeks ago, I wouldn’t have been equipped to celebrate in any way. Least of all with one dinner, two lunches and a night dancing in a club! So while I still can’t eat a plethora of interesting foods – at least I am eating. I am LIVVVINGG with the power in my hands. I can take some control some of my healing process.
BUT I HAVE SO MUCH TO LEARN! Anyone embarking on a dramatic diet will vouch for this – it’s overwhelming at times. I hope that following my journey will help many of you. I’ve read tonnes of books where I’m told to eat this/eat that but I just end up asking myself, HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT? I am learning, condensing and translating for you.
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Day 28 and I’VE DONE IT. I’ve completed the month… and oh my god. It feels AMAZING! I would apologise unreservedly for the delay in this blog post – but I’ve been enjoying my first weekend of (some) food far far too much!

On Friday evening I had my first solid food and the first taste really was the sweetest. I have to be honest – I was worried about starting to eat again. The devil in my brain was telling me that as soon as I started eating again everything would instantly unravel. Once I had that first mouthful, I literally didn’t care. I died and went to potato heaven! I have never ever appreciated how fluffy and warm the inside of a potato could be!

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Genuinely the best thing I’ve ever tasted

Before we all get over excited – the diet I’m on now is bland with a capital B. And I haven’t quite waved goodbye to my beloved Elemental, it remains a staple snack for now. This next part of food introduction is absolutely crucial to remaining well. For the next two weeks I will be eating something called a LOFFLEX diet – the Low Fat Fibre Limited Exclusion Diet. Which in layman’s terms, means I’m on a diet of peeled veg and rice cakes! (Not that I’m complaining!!) The diet was formulated by dieticians working at Addenbrookes NHS Trust in Cambridge, were they poured tonnes of money and resources into the effectiveness of an exclusive elemental diet for Crohn’s patients. The LOFFLEX diet excludes typically troublesome foods (wheat, dairy) and also products which are hard to digest (heavily fibrous foods like lentils, beans, veg with pips, sweetcorn etc). After doing this for two weeks – and everything is still going well – you introduce other foods and see if you get a reaction – such as eggs, onion, oats, wheat, alcohol (booo!).. the list goes on and on! So I could well end up with a completely different diet at the end of this… For more information on the LOFFLEX diet, click here.

Now we’ve got the boring medical stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the amazing things I did eat AND appreciate this weekend! (No juicy steaks or Starbucks here unfortunately) Saturday morning I enjoyed a gorgeous Pukka mint tea with rice cakes (which I am surprisingly enjoying!).

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Bland = yum

Unfortunately, the Elemental lives on for now. It’s the perfect way to bridge the gaps between some of my meals in the early stages of food introduction – and keep the hunger at bay when I’m out and about and don’t have a rice cake or peeled potato to hand!

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Which means I continue to be the boring sober one.. and the designated driver!

Yesterday I went to an actual restaurant. I went to an actual restaurant with actual people and sat down for a meal – something I haven’t done in far too long! Navigating my way around the menu was a total minefield, as I don’t fall into any single category like gluten free, vegan or vegetarian. I finally selected a salad, but still had to be the person who said ‘can I have it without the nuts, and without the dressing, and without the pumpkin seeds… in fact, can I jut have a plate of lettuce??!!’ My stomach has shrunk to the size of a pea, so I only managed half of this plateful. I relished every mouthful though!!
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Interestingly, I have felt noticeably more relaxed this weekend. I didn’t even realise how tense I felt all the time, constantly making sure I didn’t give in to the temptation of food. Willpower is tiring! Of course, not being in pain is also a massive relaxant!
As I said above, my journey is nowhere near over. I’m not saying this liquid diet will keep me well for years,  maybe not even months, (Crohn’s has a habit of sneaking up when you least expect it), but I feel extremely optimistic. It has opened my eyes up to so much more – more than I ever could have imagined. After the appointment with my consultant where I took matter into my own hands, by putting the liquid diet on the table and refusing steroids, I called my Mum in floods of tears. Have I made the right decision?! What if it doesn’t work??!! Why am I taking matter into my own hands when I’m not even a doctor!? Now I know I 100% made the right decision. I am reading books I never thought I’d read (list of recommended reads below) and I’m finding new ways to keep my symptoms at bay without being at the mercy of toxic drugs – something I felt only 4 weeks ago.
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Now that is a HEALTHY food shop!

If you’re reading this with Crohn’s or Colitis and are suffering a bad flare – I would urge you to suggest a liquid diet to your consultant. It is not used widely in adults as patients often struggle with compliance. Yes, it requires a hell of a lot of willpower. But the results are so worth it – without any nasty side effects. Read on below for a list of books which will totally get you thinking in a different way.
Lots of people have asked me if the blog will continue past the liquid diet – and the answer is of course YES! I’ve loved writing the blog and seeing the positive feedback from sharing my story. I will continue to write through this transitional period and share any hints and tips I pick up along the way! After that, thefoodfree blog will change guise – so watch this space!!
I also must say a big thank you to everyone who has been following my journey. Thank you for the love and support (and donations!) – I can’t even put into words how much it means to me.
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Love, (a very happy and healthy)
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Recommended reads:

  • Mind over Medicine by Dr Lissa Rankin – will completely change your thinking towards your illness
  • Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr – hear from amazing Kris Carr, cancer survivor and wellness warrior
  • Deliciously Ella Everyday – tonnes of fabulous plant based recipes for Eleanor Woodward, who ate herself back to health
  • Get The Glow by Madeleine Shaw – more amazing healthy recipes
  • Juice by Liz Earle – the beginners guide to juicing
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Just one week until I can start eating again and I feel great. It’s funny, people keep saying ‘yes definitely let’s go out for dinner when you’re feeling better’. Although I’m not eating and drinking, I am not ill. I feel the best I have felt in months and it’s really an incredible feeling. Granted, it’s not ideal that this has been induced by not eating and if I’m honest, I don’t know how things are going to go when I start introducing food. But I’ve done three weeks. Twenty whole days of fighting through sheer hunger, foul moods, tears (there have been many), frustration and I’m feeling truly fabulous. (And I’m only really thinking about food 75% of the time now!)

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Feeling totally ab fab

So you’re feeling great sure, but are you symptom free? For now… yes. My symptoms are completely at bay. I haven’t been in pain for days. I feel confident to say I’m in remission now. Take that steroids – I didn’t need you. I did this on my terms!

Today I went to watch the London Marathon and it was honestly the most inspirational day. Over 39,000 people running 26 miles across London for thousands of amazing charities. For friends and family that have been lost, for loved ones struggling with debilitating illnesses. And that’s when I realised where true strength lies. Inspiration and power lies in those 39,000 people who were literally battling through blood, sweat and tears for a bigger and better cause. That is real testament to determination and willpower.

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And that is why I enter the last week feeling great. Next Saturday I will have my first meal (before we all get overexcited, it’ll probably be a plate of easily digestible mash potato) and then I will slowly start to introduce foods, until I find a diet that works for me. This process takes around 4-5 weeks but I feel wholly optimistic I can crack this by being completely vigilant about what I put into my body. If Deliciously Ella healed her PTS and Kris Carr fought back after cancer with diet – why can’t I?! And as my new motto goes, believing is healing!
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In July I will be running 10k for the fabulous charity, Crohns and Colitis UK. It may not be a marathon but is a big feat for me, having literally just recovered from a flare. If you want to put a penny in, please visit my Justgiving page here.
 
 

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Since starting this liquid diet and this blog, I have had so many conversations with friends, family and colleagues – many of whom have said the same thing to me time and time again. ‘Wow. Four weeks not eating? I could never do that!’ I completely understand this rationale – it’s unimaginable to think about giving up such an integral part of day to day life. But I firmly believe that anyone could do it. Absolutely anyone. Because life throws s**t at every single one of us and we deal with it. The human brain is an incredible thing – when you think how much adversity it can process, deal with and compartmentalise, when the right time comes to do so.
I have been completely inspired this week by a book called ‘Mind over Medicine’, by Dr Lissa Rankin. She talks at length about the mind-body relationship, and how our thoughts and feelings can translate into physiological features. She also talks about the stress and relaxation responses within the subconscious mind, both triggered by various elements of our lives. For example, negative thoughts could exacerbate a already raging disease – whilst scientific studies have shown that patients with a sense of hope, belief and positive thoughts ingrained in their deep subconscious mind, are more likely to heal quicker.

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Highly recommend this read for anyone battling an illness or anyone wanting to understand more about the mind-body relationship

Whilst this is just the tip of the iceberg of what she talks about – it really got me thinking about how I’ve approached various Crohns treatments and what I’ve felt during that time. Did I really believe that the medication would work? Did I have trust in my doctor?  Did I truly understand what was going on inside my body? Was I breeding positive or negative thoughts about it all in the very subconscious parts of my mind? The part of your mind that can influence you or affect your body without you even being aware of it…
I think this is a good time to tell the story of how this liquid diet came about. After countless tests since November last year, my consultant discovered I was experiencing a bad flare up. The first actual active Crohn’s Disease I’ve had since I was 13. After trying a mild form of steroid, a drug called Budesonide, which barely hit the sides, the consultant presented me with one option. Prednisolone. A extremely aggressive form of steroid which can result in some really nasty side effects. Extreme hunger, rapid weight gain, mood swings and depression being just some of the side effects I experienced when I took the drug as a child. It is seen as the most efficient and quick working drug for Crohn’s, as it modifies the body’s immune response and therefore decreases inflammation. It was actually me that put the liquid diet on the table. I did it as a child and I knew it worked. I had faith in it. I believed in it and I was dedicated to it. It felt a much purer way to cleanse my body of the disease and despite every hunger fuelled emotional outburst, I still firmly stand by my decision. I felt empowered that the decision over my health was coming from ME. And it’s working – I was right.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that life throws us all kinds of crap. Every single one of us. We are constantly processing and dealing with a mix of positive and negative feelings about all kinds of things. Yet we carry on – we persevere. Believing in something is the first step to making something happen. And that is why anyone could do this – because if you had to, you would.
life is tough darling
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(Betcha didn’t expect a preachy post like that today!)
For more information on Crohn’s and IBD, read Day 13: Let’s get medical

bryonyhopkins

It’s day 14 and I’M HALFWAY BABY! The worst part is over (apparently) and the only way is up! The only way is to the food that will be filling my belly in TWO WEEKS! To celebrate, I went for a run. I know, I really know how to party.

I’m not going to lie, given the recent hunger situation, I was very apprehensive a run was a good idea. Before telling my flatmate to send out a search party if I didn’t return – I stepped out on my first run since everything with my health went a bit pete tong. I signed up for a 10k run in January, when I was feeling post Christmas optimistic and fabulous. Let’s just put this into context – I don’t run. I have never run. I am not a natural runner. So I really was starting at zero. By end of Feb I was running 5k pretty comfortably… I ran 5k today and it was HARD. I left the house having consumed 7 cartons, which at 215 calories a pop, is 1,505 calories in total. So that’s enough to last a run on right? Let me talk you through it…

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At the beginning of the run – I’m a running machine!

Start of run: Right, this is great. I feel great. I am a one woman running machine. I am the queen of running. I can run whilst not eating, totally.
10 minutes into run: OH GOD I am so hungry. How is it possible to be this hungry?
15 minutes into run: HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO FEEL SICK AND FEEL HUNGRY? Maybe I should stop.. oh wait, is that a burger van? I could just run to that..
16 minutes into run: oh no, that’s just a large white van. No burgers. Keep running.
20 minutes into run: Let me just fill my mind with the amazing dinner I’m going to eat when I return. Oh wait..
25 minutes into run: I really feel quite faint. Maybe 1505 wasn’t enough calories to set off on. Hmmm, should have packed a shake in my bumbag
26 minutes into run: Except I don’t have a bum bag. Do people wear a bumbag when their running? Do people still wear bumbags full stop???
28 minutes into run: Still thinking about bumbags and whether I should invest.
30 minutes into run: Oh god I think I need to stop. Really am going to pass out.
35 minutes into run: Final stretch. I CAN DO THIS. Someone line up a shake at my front door!
38 minutes into run: I can see my front door.
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So hungry on my return, I was eating my lip.

40 minutes into run: SOMEONE GET MY DINNER, I WILL EAT ANYONE AND ANYTHING.
I have just inhaled 3 cartons consecutively – topping me up with another 645 calories. I can categorically say, it’s no where near as satisfying as a proper post run dinner (my fave is Lean in 15 prawn thai green curry – yummm)
To keep me motivated (to run and to not eat!), I will be running the British Vitality 10k run for Crohn’s and Colitis UK– a really fantastic charity that funds vital research into IBD. A shameless plug here but any spare dollar feel free to visit my Justgiving page. Bryony and Josh run 10k (first ever share!). It may not be a marathon, but would mean the world to me to raise as much money as poss!
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Crohn’s – I’m kicking your arse.

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