frenemies-food and wellbeing

The real me….

I started this blog to share information, support others and build the community we have as food allergy sufferers. However, I don’t want this to be solely about the food restrictions and good food finds; its also about the person behind the allergy. Those other issues that arise with food allergies not just the food restrictions.

This post is about a subject very close to me, mental health and wellbeing in relation to food.

As you guys are probably already aware I am a mental health nurse, but what you might not know is I am also a mental health service user. I have a diagnosed mental health condition; I actually have 2.

I was diagnosed at 18 with GAD; general anxiety disorder. This is a anxiety condition where you feel anxious about a wide range of situations/issues rather than a particular one. I was then diagnoses with OCD; obsessive compulsive disorder in my mid 20’s, I have obsessive and intrusive thoughts regarding my health and allergies and compulsions around germs and organization.

So how can these be affected by food?

They can in so many ways.

The shake up….

When the first UK wide lockdown came in to play the public went a little over purchase happy and the supermarket shelves were empty at times.

This effected me more than I expected.

I thought I would be ok, buying my normal items cooking my normal meals, I was wrong. I had to at time amend my choices due to lack of items as it appeared people were supplementing none allergy safe food with items from the free from ranges; and in turn this impacted my mental health. My anxiety rose and the rituals I have with my OCD were challenged.

Come the second lockdown I have established a routine to where my anxiety is manageable and the restrictions have not effected this routine to badly.

However, my routine has again been altered. Not by the restrictions or Covid but by choice.

The change over….

I have not long moved onto my first home; a nice newish build but definitely not my style in décor.

So this year, even with the pandemic, we decided to change our kitchen. We were told to remove it ready for our new one to be fitted, alas 3 weeks in no kitchen.

As anybody whos had a new kitchen fitted will know the upturn it causes; now add that to a restricted diet and wait for the fun to start. My anxiety peeked at the mere thought of having no where to cook, except for my microwave, and that my routine around food and food storage would be challenge.

Initially I thought it will be fine just grab some microwaveable meals, few soups and some sandwich stuff and I will be ok. But I have struggled.

My OCD at times is overwhelming; I have unwanted thoughts and to quieten them I have to complete the compulsions. Not completing can cause anxiety and anxiety can make my OCD more prominent. And the circle continues.

I have researched some meals to make in the microwave but finding pre-made meals that are suitable for a GF and vegan diet is tricky.

I have however found a few and there surprisingly tasty!

I’m not suggesting we live of microwavable meals and they tend to be high in salt and fat but for quick bites they are ok.

Anxiety can affect people differently both from a mental health and physical health perspective. One way anxiety effects people is around their appetites.

Some people suffer with a reduced appetite others an increased one. I tend to suffer with a reduced one. Beneficial, some of you maybe saying seeing as I have no kitchen and are struggling with finding food. However, when suffering with anxiety the body can burn more calories initially as you are in fight or flight mode and your metabolism is speeded up and you maybe more unsettled an moving around more. Long term however, anxiety can actually make you gain weight.

I find that having quick microwavable meals in just in case you are having a bad day and don’t want to cook always a good idea.

Sainsbury’s

I have found Sainsbury’s to have the most options for me. Their free from range is large and covers frozen, chilled and cupboard items. They have several items which are both GF and vegan and stock named brand items which just tops their stock up nicely.

The free from lasagna is currently my staple. I have a few in my fridge ready to go add to it some chunky salad and a great meal is made.

These little veggie balls by Smorgasbord have become my best friends, perfect for snacking on cold so no chef mic required and Sainsbury’s are currently selling them for £1!

Tesco

Like Sainsbury’s Tesco have a good free from section, I have found however a lot of their items tend to be GF or vegan and not both. Which is a shame because they look lovely. I did however, find this little gem, it doesn’t state GF but I could find no GF containing ingredients so I gave it a try and it was ok. I’d love to say amazing but it was a bit flavorless.

I have also tried Asda and Waitrose but came up short as there were no options I could find.

But I did find a tasty breakfast thanks to Costa and McDonalds!

There is still work to be done on stopping the stigma associated with mental health and mental health diagnosis. No mental health or physical health diagnosis is one to be a shamed of.

1 in 4 people of the UK will suffer with a mental health issue in their lives and a lot will not seek help. If you are worried about your own or someone else mental health and wellbeing there is information and support out there to help. I have linked some helpful pages below.

MIND

NHS mental health services

NHS information on charities and organisations

NHS mental health emergency support

Samaritans

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