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.

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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.
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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!

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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.
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BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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After my Crohn’s journey blog post for World IBD day was picked up by Huff Post, I was over the moon when they asked me to write another piece for their campaign ‘Everybody’. The campaign seeks to redefine and empower those living with disabilities and invisible illnesses, whilst raising awareness of the modern lifestyle with such conditions. I took this opportunity to write a piece about positive body image when your body has been through the mill – and I’d love to share it with you below.
Let’s take a minute to talk about positive body image. Do you feel positive about your body? Do you love everything about yourself? Do you embrace everything you have and your flaws? This question is becoming increasingly hard to answer. Now imagine you have something on your body which is a little unusual. A scar, stretch marks, a burn… or in some cases, a little part of your intestine sticking out of your stomach to form an ileostomy bag. This little bag has saved your life. The scar has saved your life. Yet why is it so hard to get it out in public?
I have lived with an invisible illness for over twenty years – which at the age of twenty-five, is pretty much my entire life! Crohns Disease is an autoimmune disease, which can affect any part of the digestive tract. The body attacks itself, causing bleeding, ulcers, extreme stomach pain, nausea and diarrhoea (I know, mega glam!) I am just one of over 300,000 people in the UK living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (we abbreviate to IBD). The disease can manifest itself in a million and one ways, which mean every single person’s journey is different. No two IBD stories will be the same – but the feelings at the core often are. My journey started when I was four years old and to date I have been under the knife seven times. Which means of course, my body has taken a bit of a bruising – internally and externally. Simultaneously, my confidence has taken multiple blows too.

The journey I have come on to accept who I am and what I look like has been long, arduous – and painful. And I’m not talking physical pain here; I’m talking about gut wrenching emotional pain.scar 2016 At the age of twelve my large intestine was so ulcerated and swollen, the only answer was to remove the whole thing. To be in a position where your body is rejecting an organ is a funny concept to get your head around, but I was so sick, I just wanted it out. To remove this, they had to make a 30cm incision, from just below my chest to below my pelvis. They then had to form an ileostomy, which I lived with for three years. This ileostomy transformed my quality of life and medically, I was the healthiest I had ever been. My confidence however, was on the floor.
My family has always instilled a great sense of perseverance in me, and so even though my teenage years were a monumental struggle, I still did everything my friends did. I went on school trips, sleepovers, did P.E classes and even had boyfriends. But I was constantly anxious, private and not myself. It was like my ileostomy and my scar had wrapped me in a Perspex box and I whilst I was physically there, I couldn’t engage in the way I wanted to. Most of all, I kept everything a secret. I didn’t talk about my Crohns, I certainly didn’t talk about my bag and I DEFINITELY didn’t talk about my gut issues. This was ten years ago now and I have since had my ileostomy reversed, but the memory of how I felt remains strong. I often open up my social media accounts and feel proud about how much awareness has been raised in the past few years and how many people are open about their IBD experiences. There was a time when talking about gut issues was taboo and embarrassing. Whilst it still might not be the best dinner chat, the grow of Insta-famous nutritionists and health bloggers mean there is now a forum for talking about this kind of stuff; there is a community sitting there waiting for you to unlock it and find the support you need. The fact I am even writing this article is a beautiful thing!! The growth of online support and awareness really couldn’t come at a better time; the rate of IBD diagnosis’ in young adults is at an all-time high… and rising.
Scars are beautiful because they demonstrate a battle won. The point is that there is no such thing as an ‘imperfections’. Who defines what is or isn’t perfect anyway?! If you have stretch marks because you’ve carried a baby, own it! If you have stretch marks because you’ve gone on an incredible journey to lose weight, own it! If you have spot scars from your teenage years, own it! And why should you own it?bryony bikini 3
Because ultimately, not accepting the way you are will only make you unhappy. Everybody is beautiful in his or her own way. If you’re body has overcome something amazing why should that be hidden? I’m not saying it’s easy by any stretch of the imagination, and there will surely be tears lost along the way to finding your way to body confidence. I used to walk around in a bikini with my hands covering my belly to hide my scar! But to my mind, if your body has been through the wars and has overcome it, then it should be screamed from the rooftops! MY BODY IS AMAZING AND THIS SCAR SHOWS YOU WHY!
Living with an invisible illness is a paradox, with which I still struggle. I want to look healthy and the same as all my peers, yet I also want people to understand the pain and struggles felt on a daily basis. Whilst looking completely normal, I want someone to rub my back and say ‘don’t worry Bryony, I understand you’re in pain/you feel sick/ you’re exhausted… Why don’t you take it easy today?’ On paper, it sounds absolutely bonkers (and also SO unrealistic!!) – yet this is the genuine dilemma of so many of us living with invisible illnesses. You can’t see it, so I’m fine, right!? It’s a total double-edged sword. Yet I’ve come to realise that humankind is pretty amazing at times. People understand more than you know and if they don’t, I’m no longer scared to put the record straight. Everyone has life experiences, which should be shared and learned from. Visual body victories are no different!! Share your knowledge, own your scar and tell the world what you’re all about. Your perspective on life is unique; and so very precious.
How is your body amazing? I’d love you to share your stories with me – in the comments below or on my social media channels to the right 🙂
Read the article in Huff Post here. 
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This Friday 7th April is World Health Day – but what does it actually mean to be healthy? For me, being healthy is having a handle on practical things you can do to make your life easier and make you feel better about yourself. If you feel better about yourself, your body and your emotions, then surely that is a one way ticket to feeling healthier.  So where should you be looking to feel healthier? You should be looking at YOU!
Perhaps you could start by asking yourself some of the following questions…
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Okay maybe this is an alarmingly obvious question, but often we neglect to ask ourselves. How is your health? Are you on an even keel, or are you particularly tired? Are you in any pain or rundown? Are you feeling in good shape? Are you feeling happy with your body? There is often no easy ways to answer these if you have a chronic condition. Like me, suffering from Crohn’s Disease, I’m never quite sure how my health is! But I can recognise when I am over worked, over tired and stressed and I know that these are vital keys which can unlock a whole host of problems for me! It might be worth also giving my Listening to Your Body article a read, to help you get more in tune with your body! Answering all of these honestly will get you straight on the path of figuring out what tweaks you need to make to your lifestyle to start feeling healthier.
What are you eating? Is it making you feel good?
This can be a hard question to answer but I think it’s vital to start working out where you’re at with happy and healthy eating habits. Essentially – it’s not just about what you eat, it’s also about how you feel about eating. Our emotions are strongly linked to our eating habits – I think we’ve all reached for chocolate or ice cream when we’re feeling low.

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I switch to really easy foods when my stomach is playing up – like this simple turkey noodle soup

So really this question is about honestly asking yourself if your food choices are making you PHYSICALLY happy. Sure, chocolate may feed an emotion, but how do you physically feel after? For me, I love cheese (like, really love cheese), but it was making me so bloated and giving me terrible stomach pains. Despite the fact I loved it, I knew I had to cut it out and it turned out that it was dairy entirely which was causing me problems. Sure it takes willpower to cut out something you love, but if you feel better afterwards it’s a no brainer! I discovered this by writing a food diary and documenting all the things I had eaten that day and how I felt afterwards/later at the day. I think this is a fabulous way to get in sync with how your body is reacting to what you put in your mouth. Evaluating and understanding what you’re eating and how it’s making you feel is the first stop to feeling better and healthier about your diet.
Are you exercising?
We are absolutely barraged with advice on how we should be exercising these days. Running, weights, HITT, yoga, Pilates… but really you need to find w

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Me pre yoga at The Life Centre, in Notting Hill, London

hat works for you. I find it completely overwhelming sometimes, and that’s even before people have started telling you what they do to stay fit! You have to go with what feels right for you and not what everyone is telling you. I have friends who do PT sessions – but I sure as hell couldn’t think of anything worse! Instead, I signed up for a beginners yoga class and learnt the basics. It’s good for all of us to exercise – but there’s no point doing a fitness regime you hate.
Are the people around you making you happy?
Another hard question to answer, but it’s worth considering what your support network is like around you and do they actually make you happy?! This could be a colleague you always talk to or a friend who drains the life out of you… if you’re not getting anything out of a relationship, is it a relationship worth having?
How do you relax?
Arguably, I think this is the most important question of them all! How do you get your ‘me time’? It might well be exercising – or it could be reading a book, watching your favourite TV programme, meditating or practicing mindfulness.  Whatever it is, make sure you’re making time to actually do it! A relaxed soul is a happy soul – and a happy soul is a healthy soul!
Happy World Health Day 🙂
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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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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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