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

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

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

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

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

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of

My story

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

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

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

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

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

Pink and Beige Cute Icons Process Infographic (1)

Top tips for dealing with colleagues

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

Dealing with money worries

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

 What are your rights as an employee?

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

Go get it 

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

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

img_6295

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

A dinner experience like no other, I recently was privileged enough to try the Tasting Menu experience at Pied A Terre. The restaurant has one magical Michelin star and is located in the middle of Soho – right by Goodge Street Station. Scroll down to the photos for a course by course visual feast and read about the experience below…

A light seafood mousse with seafood cracker.

Canapés to start: A light seafood mousse with seafood cracker.

Canapés to start, Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of

Canapés to start, beetroot and celeriac puree.

Asimakis Chaniotis is the man behind the menu and the executive chef of the restaurant, which is owned my restaurateur David Moore, who is regularly, greets and serves guests front of house. I’m not entirely sure where to start with the dining experience, as it was completely overwhelming and delicious.
Pied A Terre is understated from the outside, but was beautifully dressed for the festive season, and the shiny red Michelin placard placed outside. I attended with a fellow journalist and blogger, and we were treated to the 7 (!!) course tasting menu, PLUS 2 rounds of canapes and a palette cleanser. And bread. Wowza, yes.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of - Gluten free bread at Pied A Terre

Gorgeous gluten free bread, with greek dipping oil.

The attentive waiters poured us still water, before swiftly bringing these little morsels over to the table. The kitchen was already aware I was gluten and dairy free, and we received these dainty fish mousse canapés and a beetroot and celeriac puree.
In front of us they also placed some delicious gluten free bread, and some dipping oil for me instead of tarragon butter. The oil was deliciously thick, and later when I met Askimakis, he told me it was from his hometown in Greece, located just above Athens. This fact alone shows the love and attention that goes into every ingredient, and its source is particularly important to authentic flavour.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of

A palette cleanser before the tasting menu began, a fresh fennel salad.

We were then served a palette cleanser of fennel salad and this was all before course one of the tasting menu had even begun! Treated to seven delicious courses, which you can see below, I was blown away by the sheer quality and attention to detail of the food. Literally – food art! And it tasted pretty good too.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

Mylor prawns with dashi (Japanese cooking stock), yozu, soy and wasabi. Yumm!

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

Poached duck egg yolk with fresh rocket salad and butternut squash.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

My favourite course – Octopus with squid ink, sweet pepper puree and spring onions.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

Cornish plaice with courgette and baby onions. Simple and delicious.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

After all that and this was the main course!! Roasted partridge two ways with red cabbage and cranberry (no bread sauce for me!)

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

When you can’t have cheese or crackers – what else? Vegetables! With sweet puree.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

Palette cleanser before dessert, delicious sweet raspberries with raspberry puree.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full Of, Pied a Terre

And finally – dessert!! Blood orange with mandarin, mango sorbet and a meringue dome. Divine.

Overall, I have to say one of the most impressive elements of our meal was the sommelier – Oliver Christie. He handpicked the wine for each of our courses, and tailored them depending on what dish we had (some of mine which were allergy friendly were different to my pals!) He gave us each one, let us enjoy it, and then came back to tell us more about it. Did you know the signature smell of a Reisling is a sniff of petrol? Or that the Japanese white wine that came with our first course was one of the best I’ve ever tasted? (It was a 2016 Koshu Kayagatake for the wine buffs amongst you – listen to me sounding like I know what I’m talking about!) He presented such information in a fabulously informative way and really made the experience go that one step further. And knew so much about all the wines on a thirty page wine list!! I just about manage to pick a Pinot Grigio from Sainsburys supermarket shelf…
Head chef Askmakis also took us downstairs to the kitchen, which was amazing to see the end of service take place, even if it was just for a second. A dining experience like no other, I would strongly recommend a special dinner at Pied a Terre, particularly the Tasting Menu Experience with wine pairs. It’s not a cheap night – at over £100 a head, but worth it for something really very special.
I would definitely family and friends back to sample the A La Carte.
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

bryonyhopkins

So I was recently approached by Schwartz to review their ingredient ChatBot. The idea is you type in your ingredients and it generates recipes for you based on what you have in the fridge. I work a lot and sometimes am too exhausted to think about what I want for dinner and was up for giving it a go. At least I’ll learn some new recipes right?
I have to say; I was quite sceptical at first. I have previously used ingredient search websites and they have often given me extremely complicated recipes containing a number of ingredients I don’t have in the cupboard. However, I went into the trial with an open mind and as soon as I typed my first ingredients into the ChatBot on Facebook, I quickly had more faith in the tool; the responses were extremely quick. Here’s my week cooking with the ChatBot…
Monday: So the ingredients I typed in for my first evening cooking with the Schwartz ChatBot were salmon, broccoli, pepper and courgette. I entered the paprika for the spice and it generated over 400 recipes for me! The function to flick through them within Facebook was really effective and I selected the third recipe in the list – salmon skewers with spicy tomato sauce. The ChatBot offered the option to send it to my email, which worked really well and meant I could bookmark the recipe in my emails for later in the evening when I was ready to cook. Recipe I used is here.
The first thing that struck me was that there were obviously other ingredients needed in the recipe aside from those entered. Luckily on the way back from work I went via the supermarket, so could scoop up the extra bits I needed. The recipe was extremely simple and easy to prepare – but did also rely on you having a food processor to make the sauce, which could be problematic. This particular recipe also skipped a fairly important step regarding how you actually cook the skewers (bake/fry/BBQ). As someone who regularly cooks, I made the call to pop them in the oven for 16 minutes and they came out beautifully succulent and tasty. However, if you didn’t have basic culinary knowledge, that would have thrown you a little.

Schwartz Recipe 1.2

The finished product!

I served the salmon skewers with the spicy sauce and they were delicious. I had never created or consumed salmon on skewers before and I really liked the olive oil and parsley coating.  Although I definitely wouldn’t have the tomato sauce again – it came out really warm and liquidy.  However, I did eat the leftover salmon skewers on a bed of spinach for lunch the next day and the salmon was still really tasty cold. The whole process, including prep, took me around 30 minutes. I would definitely cook this again and adapt the recipe for future consumption.
 Wednesday: On this occasion I didn’t have time to go to the supermarket to pick up anything extra for the recipe, so I was purely relying on the recipe and what I had in the cupboards! The ingredients I entered were sausage, peppers, tomatoes and paprika for the spice. Again, it gave me over 100 recipes and this time I had to flick through a few more, to ensure I had the majority of the ingredients. I chose Chorizo and Tomato pasta, after scanning the recipe and my cupboards. I replaced the chorizo with the sausages and luckily, I had the tomato sauce ingredients to hand too. See the recipe I used here.
The recipe was very simple and clear. I added a little garlic to the homemade tomato pasta sauce and I cooked up gluten free pasta to accompany it. Dinner was ready in less than 15 minutes and was very tasty. To be honest, this is the kind of simple dinner I have quite regularly, so I didn’t feel any new dinner inspiration.

Schwartz Recipe 2

Simple sausage pasta with tomato sauce and peppers

Friday: I was particularly tired after this day at work, so I was really looking for something tasty, comforting and quick! I really adore prawns but often cook them in the same way. So to stimulate some new recipe ideas, I kept it simple for the ChatBot and entered prawns, chilli and tomatoes. It gave me over 300 recipes and I went for the third – Thai Prawn Curry. The recipe is here.
I did go to the supermarket to pick up extra ingredients – mainly the Schwartz 7 Thai Spice for the dish. This recipe was extremely simple and took about twenty minutes altogether. I served with fresh lime wedges and coriander on a bed of coconut rice, and thoroughly enjoyed the dish. I put the curry I didn’t eat in the freezer, meaning I now have a delicious meal to defrost when I’m short on time. This was a delicious and quick thai curry – but obviously didn’t beat a recipe created with fresh paste.
Essentially, The Bot is perfect for people on the go and needing recipe inspiration. Sometimes I stare blankly at my fridge ingredients, willing them to do something interesting and different with minimal effort from me when I’m exhausted. The Bot did take all thinking out of the equation, but does require a cupboard full of basic ingredients and some culinary experience.

Schwartz Recipe 3.3

Thai red prawn curry

If you want to check it out, visit Schwartz FB page and type in your ingredients in a Facebook message. The rest is easy!

*This is not a sponsored post. It was a genuine culinary experiment!*

BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

bryonyhopkins

This blog post has been in the pipeline for a few weeks now. Well, since my gastro consultant told me for the first time in my entire life that I’m in ‘clinical remission’ from my Crohns Disease. Big announcement. Big two words – two words I wasn’t expecting to hear, AT ALL! (See below for what remission means)
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be in remission and how my body feels and I think it’s important I share this. Let’s rewind quickly first though… why was being told I’m in ‘clinical remission’ such a big deal – yet such a surprise at the same time? I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease at the age of four – which now at the age of 25, is a staggering 21 years ago.

IMG_2726

Loving the liquid diet life back in April 2016…

I recently candidly told my story for the first time for World IBD Day, which was featured in the Huffington Post. You can see the article here.So 21 years of fighting, dealing with medication, being cut open time and time again… until spring 2016 when I found myself in the middle of ANOTHER FLARE. All I could think was geez, not this s**t again.I was told outright I needed to go on high dose steroids to get things under control and I just couldn’t do it. I made the decision to go on a four-week liquid diet – which turned out to be a massive turning point in my entire Crohns journey. You can read about my liquid diet journey here.
So fast forward a year, and I’m sitting opposite my consultant who has seen me through thick and thin since I was 17. He’s a straight talking man, but a man I know has a lot of time for me (it’s a personal challenge every single appointment to make him crack a smile! I succeed every time, obvs). We run through the usual things and out of nowhere, he says ‘well, it looks like to me you’re in clinical remission’. There was a long pause, until I said, ‘well, nobody has ever said that to me before!’ Cue the smile from Doc and he said I’m by far the healthiest he’s ever seen me. He let me go after agreeing to reduce my adlimumab injections to every fortnight and told me to enjoy the summer.
I walked out the hospital in a complete state of disbelief. CLINICAL REMISSION – WHAT THE F**K? How did that happen? How did I not even see that coming? I still suffer stomach pain, bloating and fatigue. Whilst I’m not passing blood, I still have to manage my lifestyle to contain my symptoms. I evaluated the past year since the liquid diet and it finally dawned on me. This remission isn’t a result of adlimumab , a drug I have taken for over 7 years now. This remission was a result of me changing my diet and lifestyle. As I travelled back into London from my specialist hospital in Oxford I thought – I BLOODY DID THIS. And how have I gone 21 years without anyone telling me to evaluate my diet and lifestyle sooner?!? I felt weirdly elated yet frustrated that I could have done something a lot sooner if I had known what impact a year of change would make.
IMG_8266
I continue to feel extremely lucky that I’ve reached this point in my life, but I still won’t be lured into feeling secure. I have had a few people say to me now ‘oh you’re in remission? Well brilliant, you’re alright forever now then!’ Well no, that’s not quite how it works. As we all know, IBD (I’m talking Crohns & Colitis here) is a chronic condition and can rear its ugly head at any time. A fact that I’ve been conditioned to never forget (although I wish I could!) Additionally, being in ‘remission’ doesn’t mean I no longer feel pain, bloating and extreme fatigue. I still have to very carefully manage my life and diet. Eating one thing that disagrees with me, being too exhausted or stressed can quickly send me in a little downward spiral. Self-management and self-care doesn’t stop at the phrase ‘clinical remission’… the journey never ends!
Having said that, the biggest lesson I have learnt is that the medical professionals don’t always know EVERYTHING. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the incredible support from my Gastro team at the John Radcliffe in Oxford, but it was my decision to do the liquid diet and make a lifestyle overhaul. That being said, it’s not always easy and there may be a lot of trial and error. What I’m saying is try different things, do your research and know that you can make a difference to your illness.
And for me – I’m going to live life the fullest and continue sharing the journey with you!

IMG_6942

Sunning in Marbella with my favourite people and smiling because I can!

**So what is ‘remission’? Achieving remission means stopping symptoms as well as inflammation. Another way to think of remission is as a span of time when your disease becomes inactive or quiet.**
As always, I’d love to hear what you think.
Follow me on Instagram here. And on Twitter here.
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

bryonyhopkins