Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of, Sadhana Yoga

The outside of the studio had a very on point message. Sweat. Chill. Repeat.

With a really frantic few weeks moving into my new flat, when I got a mail in my inbox inviting me to try a class at Sadhana Yoga studio, I thought – YES BLOODY PLEASE! I need all the zen in my life. When I found out it was close to where I had just moved to, I really did think Christmas had come early.

So what’s the deal with me and yoga? Well, yoga has been part of my life on and off for many years. I was actually first introduced to it by my Mum back when I couldn’t have been older than 12 years old, when I desperately needed some distraction and relaxation. She took me to a class at a local leisure centre and I loved it – had never felt such a serene feeling sweep across me when I was in the class. I loved the breathing, the feeling of totally letting go of stress from the day and just having that sacred five minutes at the end of the session to focus on your breathing and relax.

Since then I have never quite kept up consistent yoga practice, even though I know I love it. I have taken some yoga classes at various places and done a couple of beginners courses of 6 weeks – but it always seems to fall off my radar every now and then. When I saw that Sadhana was located so close to where I lived and was a studio dedicated to all different types of yoga classes, I thought yesss, this is when I can get back on this horse!

Sadhana Yoga and Wellbeing studio is based near Clapham Junction and is literally walking distance from the main train station and bus stops. The choice of classes is vast – everything from Bikram Yoga, to Vinyasa and even ‘Dynamic Body’ yoga. I had a look at the class descriptions on the website before deciding which one to go for – and decided that I would push myself our of my comfort zone and go for something different. So with that, I booked into the ‘Dynamic Body’ class, which was described as a core muscle work out, with strength building in the upper and lower body. The class will culminate deep stretches to encourage the body to open and release any lasting tension’.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of, Sadhana Yoga

The outside of Sadhana, on what was a bit of a rainy day in London. Immediately forgot about the weather as soon as I stepped in the door!

I arrived on a Saturday morning for the 1030 class and the interiors of the studio were just beautiful.  The vibe was very relaxed and the front staff were really helpful, giving me a short form to fill out. This is of course quite normal for a yoga studio, so they have your next of kin details and also can be made aware of any injuries you have.

I had looked up on the website the night before to see if I needed to bring my own mat – which they did advise, although you can rent a mat if you need to when you’re there. I headed into the class five minutes early and it was already quite full. People lay with their eyes closed and it became clear that people came to Sadhana very regularly – these people looked utterly relaxed just lying with their eyes closed, whilst we waited for the teacher.

The instructor was Letitia Wilkinson, a professional dancer and what I quickly found out during the class, was this was very much about core strength – of which I massively struggle with due to so much abdominal surgery! Letitia was a fabulous teacher though, very gently motivating as we moved our bodies into many strength positions – from the plank to balancing on tip toes. I realised about 10 minutes in that the reason everyone else was just in yoga pants and a sports bra was because this is a SWEATY class. It really did push my body and I experienced positions I had never done before.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of, Sadhana Yoga

Internal scar tissue in my stomach means I really struggle with core strength exercises – but the instructor was very patient and encouraging. Which is always nice!

I am always weary of my core strength when I enter into classes like this – because mine is disastrously weak in comparison to other people’s. Lots of scar tissue has meant I’ve consistently never actively engaged that part of my body, always opting for work outs which focus on my lower or upper body instead. There was no where to hide in this class when it came to core strength, and Letitia was totally patient and encouraging. I spoke to her after the class and she gave me some fabulous tips about how to engage my core better in the plank and other core based exercises, and I walked away feeling like I had some tangible tools to move forward, whilst also feeling good that I can completed a very challenging class.

I can’t wait to try some of their other classes next and I would definitely recommend this yoga studio, offering  such variety and also something different in their strength and movement classes. Sadhana means ‘disciplined and dedicated practice or learning’ – so I guess I will just have to keep on going!

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**I was gifted the class for free, but was not paid to write this post. All reviews and opinions completely honest.**

 

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Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of Food, Food Dairy Co

The gorgeous pages from the Food Diary Co. Scroll down to find my 10% off discount code – exclusive for you guys!

‘Why don’t you start a food diary Bryony? You might actually be able to see what is making a difference rather than speculating’. That was my Mum, talking to me after I had my sixth open stomach surgery. I was at home undergoing a mega recovery and felt frustrated I was still in pain and discomfort. With nothing else I do, I started a meticulous food diary, which went on to dramatically change my quality of life.

That was back in 2015 and so when Laura from the amazing Food Diary Co got in touch with to share her amazing food diary, I was made up. And also in disbelief. It is so useful and life changing to document what you eat and your symptoms, that someone has actually made a business out of it? What a brilliant thing. At the beginning of the this summer, with my new diary, I started documenting my lifestyle and diet again and just as it did before, I found some hard to ignore patterns. (Scroll down for my discount code to buy your diary!)

But before I get to that, let’s rewind back to 2015. It was the first time I had even thought about documenting my diet and my symptoms and I didn’t really know where to start. I was first diagnosed with Crohns Disease when I was four years old and nobody had ever suggested to me that this might be a good idea. Which seems mad now even three years on – but back then it was a bit of a breakthrough. I started by simply writing down what I ate and rated my pain out of ten. I thought it might be quite poignant to show one of my diary entries, which I dug out of the archives below.

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You can see dramatically how much my pain changes when I had a drop of milk!

Even just with this very basic method, I was able to deduce that dairy was causing me major problems. My pain shot up to 8 or 9 out of 10 on days when I had milk in my tea, a slice of cheese or even milk chocolate. When you see changes like that, it becomes incredibly hard to continue as normal. I went through a similar process in 2016 to discover gluten was having a similar effect and since I cut them both out – I’ve never looked back, and I’ve never documented what I was eating since.

So when I received my diary, it seemed like a no brainer to start again. The most brilliant thing about The Food Diary Co, is the ability to document SO much more than just your diet. Like so many other people with gut conditions, I am massively impacted by many lifestyle factors outside of my diet. A busy day can impact my stomach. A run of late shifts, lack of exercise or drinking alcohol, can all impact my stomach. Even just a bad nights sleep – that can impact my stomach! And it was brilliant to have a place to jot all this down in my new Food Diary. It became almost like a journal for me – as I was able to write down so much more than just my pain.

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You can see here the layout of the page, where you can jot down everything from mood, sleep, stress, drinks, medicine and exercise.

Having a place where I could write down everything from sleep, drinks, stress and medicine essentially gave me place where I could actually identify patterns. I’m sure I’m the same as many in the fact that I am very time poor – with a demanding job, a busy social life and juggling lots of commitments constantly. It seems strange saying it out loud, but sometimes I genuinely can’t remember what I ate for breakfast – let alone how it made me feel! It actually became incredibly refreshing to see how I was doing every day – and be able to look back on it, see it in black and white and absorb the patterns appearing.

Living with a condition like Crohns Disease is a minefield – every day is different and sometimes in the fog of fatigue, it can be hard to see the wood from the trees. From looking back at every entry over a month and then looking at the ‘month’ round up page at the back, some of my triggers became clear. I am majorly impacted by stress, lack of sleep, alcohol and unfortunately my one love, coffee. My summer with The Food Diary Co has also made it pretty clear that I can’t do oats in large quantities and I can’t do soya milk everyday. Who knows why this is the case and I am still in the process for hunting for other patterns for other niggles. What I do know now though is that I have the knowledge and tools to make better decisions for my health – based on my scrawly biro writings in my Food Diary. I’ve started reserving my energy so I don’t get burnt out and I always make sure I get 8 hours sleep. These lifestyle changes have essentially made it easier for me to put one foot in front of the other.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of Food

A veggie pasta packed with goodness

So what top tips would I give if you are starting a diary for the very first time? Throw everything at it and literally write down everything you can possibly think of. Even if it doesn’t seem relevant – jot it down. What this diary is amazing for, is making you see that everything you do has an impact on how you feel. I will even write down ‘cried today about X’ or ‘felt really happy about Y’, because I know my mood is detrimental to my wellbeing. I’ll also write down what medication I took, as well as how much water I’ve drunk. I asked Laura, the fabulous founder of The Food Diary Co, what her advice was.

‘I would say firstly, congratulations! You’re starting a journey to taking control of your gut and health again, and I am so excited for you! Secondly, be sure to check out our blog on the website because we have lots of really great posts that can help you, including our big bumper guide to using a food diary (if you want a downloadable copy of your own to keep, be sure to sign up to the newsletter for your free download!), and the 8 ways I used my food diary to heal post. That one is all about the habits I formed to help me successfully keep a food diary.’

I hope this post has given you some food for thought on starting on a food diary journey, I would love to hear your thoughts. Better yet – to get you kick started you can use my exclusive discount code for 10% off a beautiful Food Diary Co! 

Use the code ‘BELLY10’ for 10% off at the check out – and get in there fast! The code ends on 31st October 2018. Click here to buy.

Cannot wait to hear what you think!

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** I was gifted the diary for free, but was not paid for this post. All reviews completely honest.**

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Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of Food event

I will forever look at this photo and wonder how I look so awake at 7am. (Photo: Emma Parlons

In early July, I was absolutely delighted to host my first ever A Belly Full of Food event. This has been something I’ve been keen to launch for a while and I was so excited when everything began to come together for it. I kept it super small for my first event (I’ve never even organised something like this before!), and so I really wanted to write a little about it so I could share it with more of you and hope you will be able to join me for the next one!

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Rhiannon Lambert & I mid gut health talk!

For anyone who follows me or reads this blog, you’ll know that I am a HUGE foodie and also mega passionate about educating people on living with IBD. As a journalist by day, I am hugely motivated by getting evidence-based knowledge out there and educating others about how food can play a role in a disease of this nature. I find the online world hugely frustrating at times, when I see influencers advertising products, which are not necessarily based on evidence and the messages out there are confusing and conflicting. This is something I was really keen to address in my first event, and I was so delighted that Registered Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert came to speak and share her nutritional knowledge (more on this below!)

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of Food event

The gorgeous spread of brightly coloured fruit outside

A Belly Full of Food breakfast mingle came around when I stepped into the doors of the gorgeous Panzer’s Deli, in St Johns Wood and met the amazing team there. We worked together on hosting this first gut health foodie event under the A Belly Full Of brand (eeeeek!)

The aim of the event was mainly education – to learn about gut health, including IBD and IBS and also gathering together some foodies to eat some amazing food! I was so lucky that Panzer’s Deli put on an amazing spread, which catered for gluten, dairy free and vegan, including the most insane fruit salad, fresh berries, coconut yogurt and artisan coffee made to order. Everyone gathered to eat the delicious food, before I introduced the special guest, which was the lovely Rhiannon Lambert of Rhitrition.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of Food event

How epic is this gluten free and vegan spread at Panzer’s Deli?

Rhiannon was absolutely focal to the goal of my event, as a Harley Street nutritionist, she knows everything there is to know about food, nutrition and gut health, and would never say anything that wasn’t rooted in evidence and research. Together over half an hour, we discussed IBS, IBD, Coeliac Disease and some gut health basics. Along with the huge support from Panzer’s Deli, a wonderful friend Sarah from BTempted Cakes bought along her brand new vegan and gluten free cupcakes for the goodie bags – what a way to start the day!!

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of Food event

Feeling so excited to have the first event go so well and gives me so much pleasure to announce that this isn’t the only A Belly Full of Food event. I can’t wait to share the details of the next one with you – a much bigger event which won’t start so early in the morning! I’d love to hear any other health topics you’d like me to look to cover in the future – not just gut health, but anything! This concept is really about educating on a wealth of health conditions and topics. Hit me up with your suggestions below (or via Twitter, Instagram or email). I really would love to hear from you!

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of Food Events

My beaut GF girlies bought me flowers and it was just the loveliest moment. GIRLS SUPPORTING GIRLS

Bryony Hopkins A Belly Full of Food www.abellyfullof.com

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Last night I posted a spontaneous story sharing how I was feeling as I go through a bad patch with my Crohns Disease. What started as a raw moment of honesty ended up with me somehow ended up going off on a tangent, stating the fact I still take medication for my Crohns Disease and I am not ashamed to say so. The replies and outpouring of people thanking me for being so honest was incredible. A couple of people told me they had fought against taking medication themselves, because it seems like a ‘goal’ to be med free and this got me thinking. What world do we live in that there is a whole tribe of people boycotting medical intervention? And not only that, there are people on social media who are willing to tell us we are wrong to take medicines, based on absolutely no scientific evidence? In fact, in response to the story I posted I received a message telling me I should try another natural remedy and if I did, I wouldn’t need medication. That literally sums up the entirety of the problem we are facing. It really has me scratching my head and feeling desperately sad and worried about the way the ‘wellness’ word is shaping how we feel about meds…

It seems bizarre to me that I even have to state that it’s okay to take medication when you have a chronic illness and when I said it on my Instagram story; I really wasn’t expecting such a reaction. Inflammatory Bowel Disease is an autoimmune, which literally means your body is attacking itself. It is completely irresponsible to think that no medical intervention for such a venomous disease is needed. This has really made me quite concerned that anyone reading or finding my story online might be lead to believe that I have ‘cured’ my Crohns through diet alone, because this is absolutely factually incorrect. I won’t recap my life story, but please do read my whole Crohns story here.
So here are the facts. I have been on medication pretty consistently and in some form since I was four years old, even since I have done my liquid diet and since I had my ileostomy reversed. I take humira injections every fortnight and I have just finished a course of mesalasine suppositories for constant bleeding (these are unpleasant, think of pills that go up instead of down!) I take Ondansetron on days when I feel so nauseous I might pass out, a drug which is used for cancer patients and I have done all of these things since I went totally gluten and dairy free, and since I upheaved my lifestyle.

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No amount of dairy or gluten free would have meant I didn’t need the surgery I have needed.

So what is it about wellness and health on social media that has led us to feel like we should be ashamed of taking medication? And why have even I, at points, felt like a failure because I still have to take medication alongside my dietary and lifestyle changes, otherwise my intestine literally might disintegrate? This is such a hard question to answer but I think its two main reasons.

  1. We know of several hugely successful health bloggers and Instagrammers who have made their fortune based on ‘curing’ their chronic illness through diet. Whilst they may not have directly said they don’t take meds, it has lurched us towards this ideology that it is possible for us all to achieve this goal, whilst we forget that every single one of us is completely different and unique.
  2. We want a message that is clear and simple. I.e. – ‘you can put your IBD into remission if you’re gluten free’ or ‘if you’re vegan you won’t suffer from your psoriasis’. These claims are wildly dangerous and not evidence based BUT they are clear, and so they gain attraction. It’s the same as a punchy news headline. The message ‘I am gluten and dairy free but I also take injections, and suppositories and anti-sickness tablets and to honest sometimes I still don’t feel great’, is a less eye-catching strapline.

So where does this leave us? It leaves us angry, defensive and confused. I should say at this point that I honestly believe I have radically changed my quality of life due to making some diet changes, but has my Crohns gone? Of course not. Am I still on medication? Yes. And what happens if I stop my medication? Well, things fall apart pretty quickly. I believe diet is an absolutely integral part of dealing with a disease which manifests in the gut, but I feel angry and upset that social media has led us to a point where we feel like we can boycott medical intervention because someone slid into our DMs to tell us better.

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I have tried every treatment, up heaved my lifestyle and still rely on meds. That’s just IBD!

So if you’re reading this and follow me, I really hope you know and appreciate that I enforce all dietary and lifestyle changes alongside medical advice recommended by your doctor. Sometimes of course, we make our own decisions regarding medication/surgery/treatment – but this isn’t me saying to ignore the advice of medical professionals. And if you take medication to stay on track of your life, then own it! The clear message here is that every single one of us is completely individual and unique. What works for one person, might not work for another, especially with a disease as complicated as IBD, and so we should remember that when we are flicking through social media.  Anyone can say anything these days – so make sure you are getting your information from a reliable source.
Do I hope one day I might not need medication to keep me well? Of course. But I just want to live a full and healthy life – and at the moment, my meds help me do that (most of the time!)
As one of my wise followers DM’ed me ‘If diet was the answer to cure IBD, we would all be well!’
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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We saw in the New Year at Sky Gardens – a day I felt good and it was bloody brilliant.

I’m not sure if it’s too late to say Happy New Year, but seeing as this is my first post of 2018, I feel it’s appropriate to say!
My new year started with a bit of a bump, as all of you who follow me may know I have Crohns Disease, which I write about quite regularly. This little hiccup has really reaffirmed to me that all I ever really want each year is good health. Health to be happy, good health to live my life and good health to enjoy every day to the fullest.
I’m sure many of you fellow Crohnies will relate to knowing that you’re really operating at 50% and so, I have compiled a list of 10 things it’s okay to feel when you’re going through a bad patch with your chronic illness.

  1. It’s okay to stop and admit you feel like s**t
  2. It’s okay to lean on your friends and family
  3. It’s okay not to be strong all the time
  4. It’s okay to cry
  5. It’s okay to be angry
  6. It’s okay to want to talk about it, over and over again
  7. It’s okay to look after yourself and be antisocial
  8. It’s okay to research and understand every single treatment and medication possibility
  9. It’s okay to jump to the worst conclusion and mentally prepare
  10. It’s okay to be frustrated when people don’t understand

 These are some mantras I’ve had to keep reinforcing for myself recently, particularly as my body is fighting so hard; I am sometimes too exhausted to be rational (cue literally tears about everything, putting slippers on wrong way, jumper back to front.. you get the jist!) Although, I think the above could apply to many life situations and I think it’s important to remind each other that we don’t have to have a brave face, everyday.

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31st December 2017. Always sparkles. Always optimistic.

So although 2018 hasn’t started as I wished (sick days, hospital appointments and spending too much time resting), every bump on the road reminds me what to be grateful for and helps me remain positive that the blip will pass – and the year will continue with ease. These mantras help me hold onto the good days – and try to forget the bad days.
It really is true, that the greatest wealth in life is health.
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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