Low FODMAP diet reboot

Barbara Cousins ETH Contents

What feels like a million years ago now I tried to start a low FODMAP diet to help ease my IBS and identify food triggers but I wasn’t in the right place and couldn’t stick to it. However, I am now a week into the 6-week elimination phase and this is how I’m getting on…

Why now?

I’m sat in the MDT office on placement, everything is relatively quiet with people dictating letters or typing away. Suddenly my stomach tightens – uh oh. Out of nowhere comes this high pitched squeaking sound – it’s coming from me – and my stomach starts to relax. I was mortified. I could feel my face blooming a lovely shade of tomato red, my mouth went dry, palms started sweating and my muscles were shaking. I spun around in my chair, apologised profusely and mumbled something about IBS as I dashed out of the room. The only consolation – it wasn’t in front of a client.

I had eaten gluten and dairy free tinned soup for lunch. There was no reason to be bloated and gassy but I was. My clothes felt uncomfortably tight, my insides were obviously unhappy and I was on high alert trying to make sure what had just happened didn’t happen. It was time to figure out what was going on. I went to my DR and got a referral to a dietician (who I’m still waiting to see) and started to plan out how the low FODMAP diet would work for me.

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Sausage Ragout | 350 cal

This is another recipe from Barbara Cousins most recent recipe book that has fast become a favourite in our house and is is super easy to adapt. This simple, one pan dish is gluten, dairy and egg free and takes less than 30 minutes to make (including prep!). Ideal for those chillier nights it’s a quick and easy go to when you’re not sure what to make and just want to use up what’s in your fridge or freezer.



You’ll need

4 gluten-free sausages
1 red onion – diced
100g of broccoli
2 large carrots
4 spears of asparagus
200ml gluten-free stock
400g chopped tomatoes
2 tsp tomato puree
Salt and Pepper to season


  1. Sweat the onion with a little oil in a pan until soft before adding the carrots and broccoli and cooking until soft
  2. Add the chopped sausage meat and tomato puree and cook for 2-5 minutes
  3. Add the stock and chopped tomatoes to the pan with some salt and pepper and simmer for 10-15 minutes
  4. Grill asparagus while the ragout is simmering
  5. Chop the grilled asparagus to add to the top of the ragout
  6. Serve up and enjoy!

The best thing about this dish is that you could easily make it vegan by changing the sausage for a vegan protein source. Plus you can use whatever vegetables you have to hand whether their fresh, frozen or canned to change the taste to suit you. You could even add some mustard or chilli along with the salt and pepper for a spicier take. It’s certainly an easy, adaptable recipe that everyone can enjoy.

What’s your go to food dish for the nights when you just don’t know what to make?

Creamy Mushroom Chicken | 442 cal

Creamy Mushroom Chicken Barbara Cousins

A few days ago G and I were feeling a bit down in the dumps and tired, so I decided to make us some comfort food to perk us up. I know, I know rewarding or cheering yourself up with food isn’t the answer but we both fancied something a little bit decadent without going completely overboard. When I was riffling through my cookbooks I came across a leftovers recipe in Barbara Cousins most recent recipe book and decided to adapt it a little to suit us.

This simple, one pan dish feels like a decadent treat but is really only 442 calories per serving, plus it’s also gluten, dairy and egg free. What more could a girl ask for?

Creamy Mushroom Chicken BC

You’ll need

300g of chicken
1 red onion – diced
220g of chestnut mushrooms
300ml gluten-free stock
100ml soya single cream
1 tsp gluten-free mustard powder
2 dried bay leaves
100g frozen peas
125g basmati rice
Salt and Pepper to season


  1. Sweat the onion with a little oil in a pan until soft before adding the chicken and cooking through
  2. Add mushrooms and cook until soft
  3. Mix stock, cream and mustard powder and pour into the pan. Coat the chicken, onions and mushrooms in the liquid, add bay leaf and leave to simmer for 5-10 minutes
  4. Add one part rice to two parts water to a separate pan and bring to the boil. Simmer with bay leaf and frozen peas until the rice is cooked
  5. Add salt and pepper to the mushroom chicken to taste
  6. Serve up and enjoy!

While we enjoyed this with rice it would go equally well as a baked potato filling or served as a pie with a side of your favourite selection of mixed vegetables. If you want to make it a little healthier you can also substitute the cream for milk or extra stock or switch out the chicken for tofu or more mushrooms. It’s certainly an easy, adaptable recipe that everyone can enjoy.

What’s your favourite go to comfort food dish?

How Body Weight Workouts At Home Have Worked For Me

So today’s post is a bit different. Before I begin I want to state that I am not a health professional, I don’t have all the answers and this isn’t an advice post – just a discussion about what I found works for me. As you can guess from the title it’s about strength training – a recent change to my workout routine. I am by no means a gym bunny and still have a considerable amount of fat to lose but I’m on my way and that’s what matters to me.

Before this I rarely worked out. I went for walks along the river and cycled or walked to and from uni – that was it. I was overweight (or obese if you believe in BMI scales) and extremely unhappy with my body. I knew I had to do something but I didn’t know where to start. I’d tried a few workout apps before but had only really stuck to them for a few days. Really I wanted a workout buddy but no one I knew was in the same frame of mind as me. That’s when I came across Fit Girls; an exercise regime with a HUGE supportive online community designed to get women back into exercise and healthy habits in a fun and accessible way. I decided I’d give it a go – if I didn’t follow it so what?


In the same way that slimming world works better than tackling weight loss alone because you are accountable to your group of slimmers, FGG works because you are accountable to the online community. I’ve made so many friends through this community and it has really helped me carry on with my fitness goals being able to chat to and share with like minded people. These guys and girls understand that no one is perfect, embrace the odd indulgence and share healthy recipes, encourage you to drink more water with the hashtag #sdac – stop drop and chug – and post sweaty selfies post workout so you don’t feel like you’re the only one that looks like a tomato afterwards.

Planning To Exercise

The biggest change that has kept me on track is knowing what I am doing in advance. Sounds silly and really simple but before FGG I would tell myself I needed to workout but never give myself a plan. So when it came to exercising I would shrug it off because I didn’t really want to do it and didn’t know where to start. With a mixed weekly exercise plan of strength training and cardio that feels achievable I’ve actually stuck at it (even when I really didn’t want to) and noticed some surprising changes in myself both physical and mental. There are still days when I really don’t want to exercise – it’s not magically become fun but I do enjoy the feeling of accomplishment once I’ve completed my workout and the changes I can see in my body.

Eating Well Not Dieting

One of the biggest draws for me was that FGG wasn’t a strict meal plan. I don’t like being told what to eat, especially if I have to eat 6-8 times a day, buy everything from a health food store and can’t adjust it to my tastes. FGG gives you a few recipe ideas, reinforces what is healthy and what isn’t and sends you on your way. With my IBS I’m currently unable to eat gluten or dairy (all the tasty food) which has made choosing healthily easier as I don’t really have any other choice – unless you count bloated and in pain. But it has led me to rediscover my love of cooking and have fun with different flavours. There are some incredible gluten and dairy free cookbooks out there (Barbara Cousins and Madeleine Shaw anyone?), so I’ve found a whole host of ‘new favourite’ recipes that are healthy, tasty and gluten and dairy free. If you’re interested drop me a comment and I’ll share a few on the blog.

Strength Training Vs Cardio

It’s important to have a mix of strength training and cardio in all good exercise regimes according to pretty much everyone on the internet. I can’t really comment on the validity of that because I’m not a personal trainer, but since starting FGG – which is  a mix of body weight strength training and cardio – I have noticed changes in my body shape that I have never had before.

On previous health kicks I would eat well and head out jogging, jump on a cross trainer, go to a dance class or practice yoga. I would get fit and drop some weight but my body shape never changed. I was still jiggly in all the same places, there was just less of me to jiggle. I didn’t like strength training because it was hard work and I didn’t want to build loads of muscle. Yet I still complained when my arms were a little flabby and my inner thighs looked unappealing.

I’m now on my second round of FGG and while I’ve lost some weight I don’t really care because I’m happier with the shape I see when I look in the mirror. My arms and inner thighs still need some work but I can see the shape of them changing and I no longer feel the need to hide them away. I still need to lose some fat from my middle but my waist is coming back, and I can see the tone of my muscles under the excess weight. I feel strong and capable – something which I haven’t felt in a long time – and I constantly wonder why it has taken me so long to do this.

Home Workout Cost

There are plenty of free workouts available online but they usually only target one area of the body. Whilst I could fashion an exercise regime from them I don’t really know what I’m doing and could be expecting too much or too little of myself. There are plenty of plans and apps available to suit everyone, some that require subscriptions and those that don’t. As a student I chose FGG because it was a one-off payment rather than a monthly fee. I’ve also found FitnessBlender who provide thousands of free workout videos on YouTube as well as one-off payment workout programmes from $5.99. I’ve bought some equipment – namely some girly dumbells, a snazzy exercise mat and some resistance bands. You don’t need them to get started with but I’ve enjoyed the chance to make my workouts a bit harder on the days I’ve felt I needed more of a challenge. I’m still on my fitness journey and trying to figure out what works best for me but I can definitely say that the change in shape I’ve achieved from strength training has just motivated me even more.

If you’re interested in following my fitness journey I have separate insta and Twitter accounts (so I don’t bore those who aren’t interested), feel free to add me and share your tips and advice.


Vegetable Fritters | 300 cal

If you follow my fitness instagram you’ll see that I keep whipping up vegetable fritters for a quick and healthy lunch or dinner. They’re only 300 cal, super easy to make and are gluten and dairy free – so I figured I’d share the recipe with you. Frozen veggies are once again my best friend with this one and make the whole process even quicker by cutting out the veg prep (yes I’m that lazy!)


You will need

  • Mixing Bowl
  • Microwave
  • 1 cup of Gram Flour
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 bags of microwaveable veg
  • 1 tsp frozen chopped coriander
  • Coconut or olive oil (for frying)
  • Dip of choice to serve


  1. Place the vegetables in the microwave to cook
  2. Add the gram flour, coriander and water to a bowl and mix to a paste
  3. Fold the veg into the mixture making sure of an even coating
  4. Heat some oil (I used coconut) in a pan to fry
  5. Add a spoonful to the pan and flatten to create fritter
  6. Cook fritters on either side for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown
  7. Serve alongside a dip of your choice – I went with mango, lime and chilli

After that all that’s left to do is enjoy! What are your favourite healthy recipes?

Why I Blog About Mental Health

A lot of people ask me why I blog about my mental health. It is after all very personal and something that some suffers find very difficult. Letting so many people – the majority of whom are strangers – know about the most difficult parts of your life and giving them the ability to judge and ridicule you can seem extremely daunting. But to be honest I never really thought of it like that. After a lifetime of suffering, I just felt the urge to communicate. Strangers can’t say things that previous friends haven’t already said and even if they did choose to be mean and rude it doesn’t matter to me.

More an more people are beginning to speak up about their experiences. Charities are trying to end stigma and normalise mental health issues. Everyone has mental health whether it’s good or bad and it’s important to know how to look after it. By sharing my story and adding to the voices already discussing the topic I can do my bit to make like easier for those who experience mental health issues that come after me.

It’s more than that though. I used to feel ashamed. As though there was something fundamentally wrong with me and because of that people had a right to ignore me, treat me like an outcast and walk all over me. That hasn’t completely gone away – in my darker moments that still creeps back in but I got tired of feeling that way. I realised that I do have the right to be heard and get the help I need. That there wasn’t anything ‘bad’ about the way I was feeling and that the only way I could change that feeling was to talk about it to anyone that would listen. I’m sure some people are sick of hearing it or cynically believe that it’s used as an excuse – trust me it’s not. I’ve done a lot of pretty rubbish things whilst ill that I am genuinely ashamed of but I’m trying to get to a place where I can heal and blogging is a part of that.

Being able to reflect on things that have happened and then articulate them in a way that others can understand has really helped me manage my mental health. Luckily so far I haven’t had any nasty or rude comments (touch wood) and have met some incredibly inspiring and supportive people through Twitter chats and online mental health communities. It’s made me feel less alone, has helped me through some rough times and showed me that my story can sometimes help others and I’m not always just nattering away to myself. Part of my studying this year has actually been on occupational storytelling which is essentially what I’ve just described and has reinforced that I’m on the right track whether people read or not.

I’d love to know what motivates others to blog – feel free to share in the comments


Honey, I’m home!

Where to start… firstly I’m sorry I’ve not been keeping up with my blogging there were a few reasons really;

  1. I didn’t feel like I had anything worth sharing and points that I did want to share I was unable to articulate properly
  2. I was busy being a student and a wife and a friend. As much as I love my followers and online friends sometimes you just need to spend some time with real people
  3. I needed some time to work on myself before I shared everything with the world again. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in what you think people want you to be online rather than just being yourself.

Still, life goes on and there’s a lot I can share with you (although you may not find it all interesting). The biggest achievement for me since we last spoke is by far the fact that I have finished my first year of uni. Where the hell did that time go?! I’ll write a separate post about my experiences as a mature student and go into a bit more depth but essentially I LOVE being on placement and find the taught lectures a bit slow. Still I’m excited to find out what second year has in store and get moving with actually putting in practice my OT skills now I’ve learned the basics.

G and I had a lovely little trip to Crete just before I went on placement. It was just what I needed; sun, sand and relaxation before I jumped head first into the vocational aspect of my learning. It’s also a great way to ensure you don’t overthink things and let anxiety get the better of you – I’d definitely recommend it before a big change.

Being away and eating lots of yummy but healthy food (tzatziki and salad anyone?) also kick started a health change for me. I’d completed a round of Fit Girls Guide before going to shed a bit of weight before the holiday but I realised that I actually missed exercising. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve started my second round which I’m detailing on my fitness insta account, set myself some achievable goals and made some healthy changes for my body, diet and mental health.

So, like I said lots to chat with you about. Still no change on the therapy front as of yet but lots of changes to mindset and general mental health which has been heartening – especially as G has noticed them too. Hope you’re all well and able to enjoy the sunshine (I’m sat on a sun lounger in my yard as I type this) and I’ll try and update more regularly now I have some more time.


Basa Fillet Parcel | 265 cal

Once again I’m back to extol the virtues of frozen prepared veggies. I’ve been picking up some favourite ingredients and finding ways to turn them into yummy recipes. This one has become a favourite quick evening meal and at only 265 calories a healthy one too. Not to mention no waste…


You will need

  • Baking paper
  • Microwavable container
  • 1 frozen Basa Fillet
  • 100g frozen Indian Superfood Mix
  • 50g frozen kale
  • 50g frozen peppers
  • 1 tsp frozen chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp frozen chopped coriander


  1. Layout enough baking paper to make a parcel
  2. Add the frozen peppers and garlic to the middle of the paper. Place the Basa fillet on top and cover with the frozen coriander
  3. Fold the corners of the paper to create a parcel
  4. Place into a preheated oven for 25minutes
  5. Add the supermix and kale to the microwaveable container with 3tsp of water
  6. Cook in the microwave on full power for 3minutes once the fish is cooked

After that all that’s left to do is enjoy! What are your favourite healthy recipes?

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Late last year I was diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder ~ a personality disorder also known as borderline personality disorder. To be honest I don’t like the name of the illness, even if the description fits. It makes me sound scary like I could snap at the click of a finger and become ‘unstable’. I don’t think that’s true (I certainly hope I don’t come across that way), but that’s my opinion. Though ever since my diagnosis I have been trying to find out exactly what is borderline personality disorder?

I spent some time on elefriends talking with other people with the same diagnosis and had a look around on the web for other people’s experiences. None felt quite like mine but I guess everyone is different, so I decided to see what different organisations had to say.

According to mind.org it is,

A mental health problem where your attitudes, beliefs and behaviours cause you longstanding problems in your life

However I prefer the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) explanation,

A serious mental disorder marked by a pattern of instability in moods, behaviour, self-image and functioning

Don’t get me wrong neither of these paint a pretty picture, then again living with the disorder isn’t always pretty either. People with BPD often have intense bouts of anger, depression, and anxiety (amongst other feelings) that last a few hours to a few days. Essentially it’s a constant emotional rollercoaster that you can’t get off. You can find out more about symptoms here.


As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I have struggled with mental health issues from the age of 13. Looking back I think it should have always been a BPD diagnosis, but unfortunately, it’s a disorder that is regularly misdiagnosed. For me, I have spent 13 years growing up and trying to manage and understand this illness without professional help due to a misdiagnosis, but I have still managed to develop tools and techniques to help me cope. If you’re in the same boat or know someone who you think might be then don’t despair you can get the help you need if you’re willing to be persistent. 

Help & Therapy

Since my rediagnosis, I have been offered help. I am currently undergoing assessment for dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) and it is looking positive for the first time in a while. I will still have to wait for a few months (NHS cuts) but I think I will finally be able to regulate and manage my mental health. Yay for me! There are other options available as well such as psychotherapy and medication but for me, they just weren’t the right fit. I tried medication but only managed 3 days before the side effects got too much for me.


I’m actually really nervous about posting this. I know that BPD has a strong stigma and I’m not 100% sure how people will react to this. I hope that the people I know won’t act differently around me but I know that to some extent it’s inevitable. I have yet to experience openly hostile stigma (and hope I never will) but I have certainly felt like an outsider and know just how demoralising it can be. I often push down and ignore my emotions in order to feel more accepted and stop the constant replaying of each and every interaction in my mind. I just hope by sharing my story people see that those with serious mental illnesses aren’t all scary murderers but people that are trying to find their place in society as well.