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

January is the month of new years resolutions. ‘Eat less cake’, ‘don’t eat chocolate’, ‘eat more vegetables, ‘lose weight’…. the list could on and on. Whilst I whole-heartedly support all efforts to get your health back on track post Christmas, I often find these kind of New Years resolutions a silent trap. They are unrealistic and will inevitably make you feel completely demotivated when you don’t see them through by the second week of Jan. What I would suggest is making a few simple changes to help get your health back on track. Easy steps to leave you feeling happier, healthier and most importantly – motivated!

  1. Exercise

Yes, I’m going straight in with this one. Get yourself back in the gym! This is the first sure way to get you feeling healthier post Christmas season. There are so many ways to get that body moving. First of all – find a form of exercise that you actually enjoy!20x30-BRIT1658 Take up a new yoga class, try out zumba, go swimming or go for a run in your local park. Trying something you’ve never done before is an excellent way to reignite the exercise excitement! I’m going for yoga this January!  Why don’t you take a friend with you? Combining a bit of social and encouragement is another way to spice up your exercise routine. Finally – why not purchase some new gym gear?! Try some colourful leggings or new trainers… going shopping always seems to motivate me..!

  1. Rethink your diet

Rethinking my diet was one the most positive things I ever did and I feel so much better for it every single day. Often we eat the same things out of habit – but this January I challenge you to evaluate what you put in your body! What things could you eliminates and replace with something healthier? Perhaps it’s your sugar filled coffee, love of biscuits or tendency to graze on processed snacks. There are so many gorgeous vegetables in season in January – including iron filled kale and vitamin packed carrots. Why not crisp your kale up with some olive oil in the oven for a healthy snack or dip carrot batons in humus. There are so many delicious herbal teas, which act as cleansers (green tea or peppermint are particularly good – I adore Pukka teabags). Whatever it is – I challenge you to find an alternative for your guilty pleasure this January.

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Cutting out gluten and dairy has completely rejuvenated my quality of life 

  1. Pledge to learn 3 new healthy recipes

In hand with the previous point, I urge you to get yourself in the kitchen and get creative! Get out that recipe book you’ve never looked at or use your imagination! Perhaps you could go for one meat dish, a fish dish and a vegetarian dish. Or maybe a breakfast, lunch and dinner! However you decide to do it – make sure you do the following. Replace your olive oil with coconut oil – it has less trans fats and cholesterol. Use at least two vegetables or fruits in your dish and a good source of protein. This could be meat, fish, tofu or beans if you’re a vegetarian. Try to avoid hard carbs – opt for sweet potato or a grain.
Try my Cinnamon Rice Flake PorridgeCrispy chicken with garlic greens & creamy mash or The super stir fry.

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The super stir fry! So easy and delicious

  1. Give social media a break or a cleanse

We live extremely hectic lives – all of us, every day. We work super hard ALL THE TIME!! and the pressures of day-to-day life can be further exaggerated by the constant access to the internet and social media. Perhaps it’s not something you realise is impacting your life, but why not giving social media a break for a few days? You might find you have more time for yourself and others if you’re not distracted by the online world. You might be surprised by the results…

  1. Look after your skin

The cold winter weather can be extremely harsh on the skin. Low humidity and brisk winter chills can leave skin feeling dry and chapped. Look after your skin this January by making sure you exfoliate at least twice a week, finding a face wash that works for your skin and remembering to moisturise twice a day! Make sure you keep hydrated to keep your skin from drying out – this could be from drinking water or eating vegetable with high water content, like cucumber, celery, orange or watermelon. Try whizzing up one of these in a smoothie for a morning boost!
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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

I have been absent from A Belly Full for over a month now and for that I am sorry – but `I promise it was post worthy! Sometimes it’s healthy to get away from the daily grind and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I spent two amazing weeks exploring

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Cuddling elephants at Elephant Safari Park, Ubud

Bali with my two best friends and it was the ultimate trip of a lifetime. I travelled across the world to drink in pool bars, hike through jungles, learn all about the Hindu way of life  go white water rafting, cuddle elephants and so much more (including a squat toilet… that was a whole adventure in itself)! AND of course I couldn’t leave Indonesia without learning how to cook some of their traditional dishes which I can’t wait to share with you.
 
I have so many tips and tricks for travelling around this beautiful country which I will share with you in instalments (I literally feel like I could ramble for pages). We visited Seminyak, Ubud, Gilli T and Gilli Air – but there is still so much we didn’t get to see! Which obviously means I have to go back. Right now I just want to share three of my absolute highlights with you, so you just get a snapshot of my two weeks living the Balinese life (well, kind of…)
Exploring the North
On our third day of the holiday, we took a day trip to the North of the island (we were staying in the south, in Seminyak). We had an incredible personal taxi driver – Mano Tours – who
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The views of Tanah Lot Temple

picked us up from our hotel in a cool air conditioning SUV, literally perfect in the sweltering hot weather! We paid around 1,000,000 Indonesian rupiahs for the day, which works out at about £20 each – which is EXTREMELY good value for what we got! We had already agreed some desired destinations and our first stop was the Tanah Lot Temple in Tabanan (this was en route to the north, on the south west of the island). The views were incredible and we started to get an idea of the rich Hindu culture in Bali. Tanah Lot means “Land Sea” in the Balinese  language and the temple sits on a large offshore rock which has been shaped continuously over the years by the ocean tide. We went early morning so didn’t see the views at sunset, but the tour guide told us hundreds flocked to the sight every evening to see the sun sink below the temple.
 
We then travelled further north to visit Pura Taman Ayunand (The Royal Temple) and then even fu
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Three english roses outside The Royal Temple

rther north to reach the mountainous area and the Ulun Danu Bratan Temple – one of the most famous tourist temples in the country. All three were gorgeous and it was fascinating to learn about the worship and ceremonial practices of the Balinese culture. As we drove through the landscape, the tour guide told us most Balinese people originate from small villages outside the main tourist spots (Seminyak, Ubud, Kuta etc) and often live and work in their village throughout their lifetime. Some families own rice paddies or farms, whilst other men work in construction. The women often stay at home and cook, clean and look after the family. Many young Balinese children grow up to move to Ubud and work in hospitality – yet tradition states the youngest son must stay in the village to look after the family. Our tour guide says this doesn’t always happen these days – in fact he had earnt enough money to pay for his parents house in the village.
 
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Ulan Danu Bratan Temple

After the temples we visited the most amazing waterfall – a first for me!! We trekked down around 500 steps into the jungle to get down to reach Nungnung waterfall (it was SUCH hard work on the legs) – but the view was 100% worth it.
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What a natural beauty. (I mean the waterfall – not me)

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We also took a moment to appreciate the tranquility of the jungle

To finish off the day we took a dip in the Banjar Holy Hot Springs right in the north of Bali , where we cleansed our souls and relaxed in the warm water surrounded by the jungle. It was a three hour car trip back to our hotel in Seminyak, but it was amazing to see so much of northern Bali without taking a chunk out of our trip.
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Soul cleansing in the Holy Hot Spring

Mount Batur
We booked the Mount Batur trek before we travelled to Bali and I have to say – I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much. Mount Batur is an active volcano located in the north west and is famous for its gorgeous sunrise views. When my friend told me we had to be picked up at 2AM for the sunrise climb, you can only imagine my dismay (as someone who values sleep more highly than actually being awake!!) We were picked up from our hotel in the end at 2.30am and took an hour ride to the base of Mount Batur. We were then faced with the two hour climb through pitch black jungle to reach the sunrise point at the top… I know, I’m really selling it right? Once we pulled up at the bottom of Batur we were greeted by our personal tour guide – who equipped us with head torches and walking sticks. And that was it – off we went. In pitch black. It was surprisingly steep in places and often we had to stop to catch our breath – and for the lovely tour guide to offer us a snack from his backpack! The rocky terrain was hard to navigate at times, but wherever you looked, there were teams of other tourists powering up the route to reach the viewing point for sunrise. We reached the summit just before the sun began to rise and we were able to sit on a bench which looked over the entire Lake Batur.
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Breathtaking

The view when the sun began to peak over the horizon was breathtaking – and even more so when the sun started beaming over. We were lucky to have a day when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the view stretched on for eternity.
If that view wasn’t enough, we then were able toimg_4971-1 get up close and personal with some mountain monkeys, who certainly were not afraid to pitch a hat or two!We also felt the steam as it still spiralled out of the active volcano and saw a sacred cave where Hindu ceremonies often take place. The whole experience was incredible – if not completely shattering! It’s safe to say the rest of the day was dedicated to napping and/or sunbathing!
Gili Islands
After spending one week on mainland Bali, we travelled to the Gili Islands, which are part of a neighbouring Indonesian island called Lombok. Our time in the Gilis was the ultimate chill time – spending four days on Gili Trawangan and two days on Gili Air. Despite the islands being more built up for tourists than I initially imagined, the vibe was very relaxed and the pace was much slower to that of Bali. It was a shock at first to be woken by the regular calls to prayer (unlike Bali, Lombok is a Muslim country), we settled into the routine of eat, sunbath, sleep, repeat and our highlight of the day became walking to the north of the island to watch the sunset.
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The famous Gili  T swinging into the sunset!

I was absolutely over the moon to finish off our trip with a cooking class in Gili Air after enjoying so much Indonesian cuisine (have yet to cook myself up a Nasi Goreng since being home, the most traditional Indonesian dish!) We cooked up four dishes at the Gili Cooking Classes, including some unique Lombok sweets, a classic satay sauce, traditional fried noodles and a yellow chicken curry.
Look out for a more detailed blog on this and some alterations so you can make these dishes at home!
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Cooking up a storm

This post is really only giving you a flavour of what I experienced in Bali and I’m really excited to share more in depth posts on each place we visited so keep your eyes peeled. I haven’t even touched on the elephants, white water rafting or markets! What I have learnt since being away is the soul and the mind needs a break – seeing the world whilst doing it is just an awesome bonus.
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bryonyhopkins