Tag Archives: alcohol

Exploring food sensitivity

Apple and Pear
Fruit from the core list

It’s no secret that I strive to eat healthily.  Not all the time – let’s face it what would a week in Cornwall be without pasties and cream teas? Or a blow-out birthday meal? Or an eat-until-you-pop Christmas dinner?

But the rest of the time, the 80-90% part of normal life then I try to make sensible choices.  And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that certain foods affect me in different ways.

The difficulty is knowing exactly what it was that caused the problem.  And that’s what I’m trying to find out – what are the foods that fill me with energy and zest and what are the foods that make me feel lethargic, tired, dull, bloated, and low in mood?

I’ve got a good idea which the guilty culprits are but I want to find out in a scientific way rather than by guess work.  For example is bread ok or not?  And if my body doesn’t particularly like me to eat it, is it the wheat, the yeast or the sugar?

So I did some research and found a book that could help me on my quest:  The Six Secrets of Successful Weight Loss by Dr John Mansfield – a doctor who trained at Guy’s Hospital, London and has worked in the field of food sensitivity for nearly 40 years.

His book talks a lot about weight loss but it was the chapter on food sensitivity that really interested me.

The two key concepts that he explains are that food sensitivities stem from foods (generally newer ones to the human diet, eg. grain and dairy) that we tend to rely on too much in our diet and over time may create an adverse reaction within our body.  Secondly, if we become sensitive to a food we may not notice because in general, we will be eating that food regularly which creates a “masking” effect within the body.  This means that we feel better after we have eaten something we are sensitive to rather than worse (confusing huh?), unless we haven’t eaten that food for five days in which case the body will react to it.

He then outlines a plan which involves stripping the diet right back to a core list of foods that are generally accepted not to cause problems for anyone. After one week of this then you start to introduce one food at a time at breakfast and dinner and monitor the effects.

Perfect – a scientific approach to what I want to do.

Not so perfect is that the core list is only 40 foods – of which I like about 27 of them (turkey, cod, green beans, lentils, apples and pears to name a few).  So the first week is going to be tough – but I am going to do it.

After the first week I move into phase one, introducing foods that shouldn’t cause any problems but are slightly more prone to causing sensitivities than the core list so that includes broccoli, chicken, peppers and more.

I’m not expecting any problems with phase one, but phase two I think will be interesting.

The foods I’m really keen to see if I react to are:

Caffeine (coffee historically causes migraines so I tend to drink tea – strong and black)

Sugar – this has caused me so many problems in the past I would be surprised if I don’t react negatively

Wheat

Yeast

Dairy – particularly cream (which I love and crave) and greek yoghurt which I eat a lot of in the belief it is good for me (I hope I’m right)

Alcohol (wine)

How will I know if I’m having a negative reaction?

Well I’m going to have to get used to weighing myself on a regular basis: twice a day to see how my body reacts to the “safe” foods. In the first week I can expect to lose a little weight and although I might feel a bit rubbish for a few days, if I am sensitive to food, then I should feel amazing by the end of the week.

Then when I introduce each new food I have to see if my weight increases (probably due to an immediate inflammatory response in my body which should happen within a few hours) and/or I suddenly feel lethargic or experience some other negative response.

It’s a bit technical and I’m going to have to think hard to keep my menu as varied as I can given the constraints but I’m really keen to identify the best foods that work, or don’t work, for me.

I’ll be updating daily on twitter…you can follow me on @mumontherum and I’ll be using a hashtag of #foodsensitivity.

I’ll also be blogging again at the end of week one to let you know how I’m getting on.

A year without alcohol

Glass of red wine
My glass of red wine on Easter Sunday

Friends who’ve known me a long time would say that I was the least likely person to stop drinking for an evening, never mind the best part of a year.

In fact I can hardly believe that 12 months have gone by since I decided to not drink alcohol.

Last Easter we spent a lovely day lunching with friends and along with that lunch there was plenty of wine.  I felt happy as we headed for home and bed.  But by 4am I was wide awake, my senses alert, heart racing and feeling like adrenaline was whizzing around my system.

Aside from the health cost of drinking a bottle (and often more than that) of wine, the immediate and noticeable cost for me was the broken sleep.  I spent Easter Monday so tired.  I wasted the whole day stuffing rounds of toast down my neck and generally not achieving anything.

So I decided then on the spur of the moment to see what it would be like to not drink for a bit.  I didn’t commit to not drinking for 12 months, but instead to take it a day at a time. And I didn’t tell anyone either.  I just quietly decided to see where it would take me.

My birthday was the following day – so that was the first test.  I faltered as I ordered an apple juice.  A glistening glass of Pinot Grigio seems a far more fitting drink to celebrate my birthday.  It’s not just the taste or the mellowing effect as the alcohol hits my senses, but the way the light cuts through the yellow hues casting golden lights on the table top, the tiny drops of condensation on the glass and the coolness and weight of that glass in my hand .

I missed that first glass of unordered wine and probably the second and third too.  But I enjoyed the feeling of clarity and wakefulness later on that evening and the next day.

It was weird going to parties and social occasions.  Without alcohol I felt like I was only partly engaged, like a spectator rather than a particapator and I felt an overwhelming need to apologise for my sobriety.

But after a while the not drinking becomes the norm and I successfully navigated my way around my parents’ golden wedding celebrations, holidays to Center Parcs and France along with other events.

I sleep better without alcohol. There’s none of that remorse either: “I said what?”, those sinking moments when you remember that tact and sense don’t usually go hand in hand with a few drinks.  And I don’t get hangovers.  Hangovers just get in the way of life.  I never want to exercise if I’ve got one so not drinking has helped my fitness increase.

And best of all I wake up raring to go, wanting to pack as much as I can into every 24 hours.

It wasn’t a year without alcohol though.  I decided that Christmas was a good time to make an exception to the rule and drank Baileys and the occasional glass of wine to help the festivities along.

But along with a few other glasses of wine for Mother’s Day and a couple of other occasions this year I’ve had, over the course of a year, less alcohol than I previously drank in a fortnight.

So it’s been a success but now I’m wondering where to go from here. I had a few drinks over this Easter – nothing wild, just a glass or two with dinner.  And that’s how I’d like to keep it.  The occasional drink.

It seems like the healthy way to go.

I’m hoping the habits I’ve developed over the last year will stay firmly etched into my way of life. I don’t day-dream about that first glass of wine in the evening as a marker between the stresses of the day and that moment of relaxation as the day comes to its close – for me a peppermint tea does that – hard to believe, but true.

I’ve learned some lessons too that will help me…

1. No one else really cares whether I drink or not.  They did at first: “What, not drinking? Are you feeling all right?” but that was only because it was a change from the norm.  Once the new norm was established it became: “I guess you don’t want a drink?” or just “Fancy a tea?”

2. Drinking or not drinking doesn’t really change an evening out.  Ok so I probably won’t be dancing on the table tops at 2am if I’ve been sipping mineral water but I will still enjoy myself.

3. If I drink on an empty stomach ie. as I’m preparing dinner it affects me very quickly and I will end up not caring how much I drink – and I will almost certainly drink too much.

4. Whereas if I only drink once I’ve eaten some dinner I will probably stop at one drink.

5. A little alcohol doesn’t seem to affect my sleep as long as I have a) drunk plenty of water during the day, b) drunk water alongside any alcohol and c) drank the alcohol early in the evening rather than shortly before bedtime.

Whereas I used to find drinking addictive I now find feeling healthy and full of vitality is equally addictive.

If a doctor told me I had to give up alcohol completely tomorrow I would. But on the other hand I think its nice to have an occasional glass once in a while.

So I will.

Cheers.