Hello everyone! Earlier this week I received some very exciting news…I’ve been shortlisted to win best Free From & Illness Recovery blog of the year in The Health Blog Awards! The Health Blog Awards are a collaboration between That Protein and the Health Bloggers Community in order to celebrate the growing community of health bloggers around the world.
As you may know, I only started writing a few months ago and admittedly, at times I thought I might stop because it is quite a commitment to run alongside a busy full time job. But it’s times like this when I’m so pleased I didn’t!
I wanted to take a minute to reflect on why I started this blog and why I believe I am a worthy winner (despite the very tough competition!).
From the age of around 20, I’d say I had quite an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. It wasn’t necessarily that I would restrict food, but I certainly didn’t eat enough in relation to the amount of exercise I was doing. Being brought up in a farming family, I was used to everything being go, go, go. So when I started a placement in my third year of university and everything seemed to move at snail’s pace, I really struggled and it turned out that too much thinking time for me + sitting on my bum all day was not good for my mental wellbeing! So an unhealthy cycle began; I would leave work and head to the gym to make up for the fact that I was so ‘still’ at work. I’d never been a member of a gym before as I’d always been active without it but it turned out I liked to challenge myself! If I ran 4 miles one day, I’d need to run 5 miles the next day. If I burned 500 calories one day, I’d need to burn 600 calories the next. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that I ended up extremely underweight (damn my competitive streak!).
Whether or not this kind of over exercise and under eating contributed to my later digestive problems, I can’t say for sure but it would make some sense.
It was around two years ago that I started to notice that my digestive problems were particularly bad. I’d have stomach cramps, bloating and other embarrassing symptoms. I went to the doctors and they told me I had IBS and that I should take a Rennie. Needless to say, Rennie’s didn’t touch the sides.
So I just put up with it thinking I would be like that for the rest of my life. But then it got really bad. I would eat something and experience bloating so bad that I looked at least six months’ pregnant. There felt like so much pressure on my stomach. Understandably, my appetite completely disappeared and I had to force myself to eat. I then went on holiday to Rhodes. I’d eaten some fruit for breakfast but I just couldn’t face having anything for lunch (which isn’t too unusual for me when it’s hot anyway but I guess I was already in a deficit). Later on, I went to the beach bar to get some water. Stood in the queue, a black cloud came over my eyes and I suddenly couldn’t see. I managed to find myself a seat and took a moment. I then went into the toilets which were round the back of the bar and collapsed. When I came round, I was soaked through with sweat. It was a very scary experience; not just that I was surrounded by ants but the fact that it happened when I was alone.
It took this for me to realise that this wasn’t normal and actually, if the doctors weren’t going to do anything about it, I would have to.
Earlier this year I took a food intolerance blood test. Admittedly, this isn’t the most accurate method of diagnosing food intolerances but I felt it would give me a start. I discovered an intolerance to dairy (ironic considering I was brought up on a dairy farm). At first I thought this would be relatively easy to cut out but then I realised I would no longer be able to eat milk chocolate and all hell broke loose (!). In all seriousness, I didn’t realise how many food products contained some form of dairy and at first, I didn’t know how I would be so strict. So I started this blog. I figured if I put my journey in the public eye and had to write about it, it would make me think about what I was putting in my body.
Very quickly I was overwhelmed by the response I had to my story. People I hadn’t spoke to in years contacted me to say they were experiencing similar symptoms and wanted to find out more about how I identified my intolerance and the impact it was having.
This spurred me on to continue writing and I started doing a lot of research in my spare time that I thought might be useful to share with others. I think the reason I feel so passionately about this is that I know I’m not 100% yet, but I’m a lot better than I was six months ago and the experiments that I’m doing with my diet in order to improve my gut health will help others too. In addition, I want to do further work about the relationship between gut health and mental health as I think this is something that needs a lot more research. We fill our bodies with artificial chemicals and processed foods that weren’t around 100 years ago and the number of reported cases of mental health problems has risen astronomically. I’m convinced there is a strong link and I want to help people to understand what their bodies can and cannot tolerate to try to turn the tables on this trend.
Winning this award will help me to amplify my message and give me a platform to continue my research so I’d be so so grateful if you could take a minute of your busy lives to vote for me here.
Thank you so much for reading x