Hello and welcome to my blog! I’ve been blogging about health and wellbeing since January 2016 and I love it more and more everyday! I hope you love it just as much as me and feel inspired to live a little healthier and happier too.
I started going to the gym in Y9 (2011) with a load of friends, I didn’t go often, and it was more of a 30 minute social event with a hefty piece of almond and raspberry flapjack and a couple of KitKats once we’d finished and then we’d sit there and gossip for hours. It was more something to do after school and we thought it was ‘cool’. So that went on up until I moved into sixth form, then I slowly started to do more exercise and combine weights into my routine but nothing major.
Once I’d moved into the sixth form I started going to the gym 2 to 3 times a week and eating healthier but still eating bowls of ice cream and cookie dough at night and a quick bacon and egg butty when I came home at lunch. The canteen at school was my best friend as you could get a mocha and a tray bake for a pound! I was basically eating for comfort or out of boredom and the stuff I was eating was pretty much junk and not keeping me full for very long.
To be fair my mum had been seriously ill with Hodgkins Lymphoma, my Grandma had just passed away after a long period of illness, my other Grandma was in and out of hospital and on oxygen 24/7 and my Granddad had just gone into a care home as his alzheimers was getting worse. But I was happy, or so I thought. I had a big friendship group and I was achieving well in school due to the amount of pressure I put on myself.
Near the end of my first year of sixth form, my best friend at the time moved to London which was a bit of a shock to the system. At this time I also became more interested in going to the gym and became more aware of what I was eating.
I started going to the gym every day, I was getting tinier and tinier but not noticing that much. I’d go to the gym and be an obsessive cardio bunny and not leave until I’d burnt off 400+ calories, or whatever I felt I needed to burn due to the amount I’d eaten that day. I was cooking what I thought was ‘healthy’, meaning I was only eating low calorie and low fat food and bars, but which were still full of sugars and other ingredients I’ll never be able to pronounce but I thought I was super healthy! That’s what the magazines, adverts, radio, TV and supermarkets were telling me and I was believing it! I bought low calorie and low fat cookbooks and ended up counting every calorie that entered and exited my body either in my head or on my phone. I would restrict myself to a certain number I thought would make me healthy and make me have my ‘ideal body’. I’d plan absolutely everything I was going to eat that day to make sure I didn’t eat anything else.
When I eventually reached my ‘goal’ I was scared I was going to put the weight back on and didn’t know how to maintain and stay at the stage I was at, so I carried on the slippery track I was on and carried on restricting my intake. I was obsessed with counting calories which then turned into only eating ‘clean’ foods (what a horrible term) for example lots of fruit, vegetables and protein. This went on through my last year of sixth form, so for around 6 months, in which time I’d stopped having my periods as my body reacted to my weight loss. And wouldn’t really want to eat out, not unless I could check the menu online before hand and decide which low calorie dish I was going to order.
I eventually went to the doctors to sort out my lack of periods and then got told I needed to visit the eating disorder therapist every week to make sure I was starting to put weight back on and not lose anymore. It was every Thursday at 9.30am and I hated it! Not because I wanted to lose more weight but because by this point I knew I needed to put weight on but I wanted to do it in a healthy way. I’d go and the therapist would tell me to keep a food diary for the week, which I then also became obsessed with and I’d go and she would read through it.
An example – breakfast, bagel with peanut butter and an apple for a snack, a chicken and salad sandwich for lunch, some melon and then a chicken curry with rice for tea. Then she’d say – “why don’t you try 2/3 bagels for breakfast and try eating a cake mid morning and afternoon, crisps with your sandwich and a milky drink and pudding after tea”. At this point I knew I had an issue and wanted to stop counting calories. All I really wanted was to be healthy and put weight on in a healthy manner but she didn’t understand and I remember once when she told me to have two more bagels and a bowl of porridge for breakfast, I just started laughing because even if I wanted to, no one could eat that much in one go! I’m not saying all therapist are like this by no means, this is just my personal experience. This went on for about two months, I was putting weight on, but not by listening to what my therapist was telling me, but by doing my own research and eating healthier fats, protein, natural dairy and carbohydrates. I actually ended up lying about what I was eating in my food diary just to make her happy (which my parents knew about) and once I reached a healthy weight, I just stopped going as I felt it was pointless and by that point my intentions had changed and I was eating healthier, however I was still counting and still slaving over the cardio machines, but I’d had enough and I was tired and I knew it wasn’t a maintainable way of living or enjoyable in anyway and all I wanted to do was be educated in health and wellbeing.
So, I took myself off to the gym, but this time with a new plan. I got myself a personal trainer. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made (Thank you Joe). My priorities were completely changed, I ditched the cardio, I was lifting weights, eating to build muscle and add healthy weight and I was on the protein bandwagon. I had a lot more energy but I was still counting calories, however I was eating enough to build more muscles and lift heavier but not too much so I would put on any unwanted weight on as fat. This went on for about 8 months I think, until the summer I finished sixth form. By this point I was a healthy weight, I was a lot happier, but I was still on tablets for my period, still counting calories and still worried about putting on weight and that if I missed a gym session, I wouldn’t be as fit.
After all this chopping and changing of my diets and exercise I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), this may have been through the amount of strain I was putting on my digestive system, my mind and my body, as well as other stresses at home and with school. Or maybe I’d always have stomach issues but not known what it was.
At first I just got given tablets to take before each meal and then I got told I needed to cut out certain food groups and then slowly reintroduce them one at a time so I could see what I was intolerant to. Personally I think it was a stupid idea to tell someone with a past of eating disorders to do but hey! I was getting a lot of pain and bloating and decided it was time to cut everything out and become a vegan. I followed vegans on Instagram and saw that they ate loads and loads and never put on weight, so for me this was great, I pretty much stopped counting calories and I just ate what I wanted, all healthy but because I was eating so much it was affecting my stomach more and more, especially because a lot of it was fruit. I was also always worried about whether I was eating enough and whether it was vegan or not and worried about being different and not going out for meals with my friends because it wasn’t vegan and then it just all got too much both physically, and more so, mentally. I was so stressed, unhappy and feeling guilty from calorie counting, that in the end my mental and physical health just couldn’t cope.
I ended up being diagnosed with depression and anxiety and dropping out of my foundation art course at college (I had intended to do an art degree and was attending open days ready for the following year) and then not really leaving my bed, hardly going out to the gym or seeing anyone, and I started to see a therapist who specialised in depression. By attending these sessions, I found out the illnesses and losses in my family which I couldn’t control had caused some of my issues, and pressures I put on myself at school and with food and exercise was my way of regaining control in my life. It sort of made sense.
So I was now on about 25 tablets a day, one for my anxiety and depression, one for my period and the rest for my stomach. I was no longer vegan, which I understand is an amazing way to live, cruelty free, so healthy, natural and energizing and I was enjoying the food and not counting but for me and my mental state it just didn’t work, but by no means is this the same for everyone. Different things work for different people but for me it didn’t. Anyway, I love meat and dairy and I love experimenting in the kitchen with them both and for my mental wellbeing, it just wasn’t for me. This may chop and change in the future but at that time it just wasn’t right.
By this point my day consisted of staying in bed or on the sofa, I had no energy to see my friends or family, and I cried an awful lot and was just so unhappy and scared of the future.
The one thing I did enjoy during this time was my Instagram site where I shared my now healthy and non-restrictive meals. I didn’t realise at the time but on the site I was telling my story of how I was finding a way out of this mess. I was posting the meals that were developing and working for me. Slowly I was getting better and better everyday and I was learning more and more about nutrition and wellbeing and sharing it through my Instagram and blog at the time. This gave me something to do that I enjoyed and now felt stable doing, it inspired me and cooking became something to look forward to and my whole perspective of food changed. I saw food as fuel and exciting and a way to be creative rather than be restrictive.
By new year I knew what I wanted to do and that was the create and share recipes. I still wasn’t really leaving the house and my stomach was a mess but I’d always get up to make and photograph my meals and make content for you lot on my blog. It really kept me going and helped me feel myself again.
I’d made a new blog (this one) and I was no longer counting calories. I wanted to learn more about health and wellbeing and experiment more with ingredients. Especially with breakfast recipes.
Which brings me to writing my book (first of many, I hope)
My journey to feeling myself again was through my breakfast book (not yet published)
I was researching and coming up with sweet and savoury, mainly porridge recipes, and taking loads of photographs, food styling and getting excited and spending every hour of the day on my book. This was mainly sat in bed but it took my mind off everything and really kept me going.
I was doing more and more everyday and I was feeling more like myself.
Obviously I had down days/afternoons and hours where I was depressed or panicking about the future and whether I would ever get noticed but I think that’s normal.
The book only took about two months to make and create because I was so dedicated and determined. It was truly what got me through the day and made me love food again.
So a quick recap – I was no longer seeing my food therapist or counsellor, I was no longer counting or restricting calories, I was getting better and feeling healthier everyday mentally but my stomach was still a mess.
When I’d finished my book and it arrived, I couldn’t be happier and more confident and proud of myself and how far I’d come. I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life and that book was my journey through this period.
I was back at the gym lifting weights, seeing my friends again and I loved going out for meals and getting inspired by new flavours and ingredient combinations.
Yes, I still had down days, more like hours by this point but I was getting there.
The Hemsley sisters, Green Kitchen stories, Deliciously Ella and Livia’s Kitchen were, and still are, my inspirations and I spent my days and still do spend my day’s recipe developing, blogging, filming and learning more and more about physical and mental health and feeling happier.
I then went to Good Roots festival 2016 (Another amazing decision) and I had one of the best days ever.
I ate a ton of healthy foods and bought loads of healthy treats and met loads of like minded people and I felt normal as I though I was part of something again.
I went to the Hemsley sisters talk about gut health which was a real wake up call and inspired most of my beliefs and the way I cook and eat today. I also went to Green Kitchen and my new roots talk which was so positive and inspirational, as well as “blogger to business” which again was so informative and reassuring that everything takes time and if you want something, go and get it! You can be whatever and whoever you want to be.
I was literally buzzing for days after the event and I just felt so inspired and motivated, especially by the Hemlsey sisters.
The week that followed, I read the Hemsleys books from front to back multiple times and learnt an awful lot about ingredients, preparation and combining. (I highly recommend). I started to eat lots of healthy fats, I cut out grains and gluten and lowered my sugar intake and I could see a difference after a couple of days. I tried re-introducing grains and gluten but found that they upset my stomach. So I’d now found the cause! I started to chew my food more, eat slowly and serve normal sized portions, snacking and eating seasonally and most importantly intuitively.
Those decisions and events I have just mentioned right there, were the best decisions ever!
After about two weeks of this I decided to cut out my 23 stomach tablets and I’m not kidding you, I saw a difference after a couple of days! The weeks that followed I did so much research on food combining, digestion, mood and food, health and mindfulness and recipe developed my heart out. I could write another two books with the amount I’ve come up with.
My depression disappeared, I’m practicing what I’m learning about food and mental health and I couldn’t thank the Hemsley sisters in particular, and all the others I mentioned enough! So inspirational, educational and positive!
My stomach hardly flared up apart from when I experimented with grains and gluten and oddly prawns. I hardly felt sick after meals and I knew what to eat and when to eat and what works best for me and my body as well as my mental wellbeing.
I felt so much happier, more confident and less stressed. I was going out more, I was learning an awful lot and loving it and my stomach was pretty much OK and I felt so much more confident now I knew what upsets it and why it gets upset – both food wise and when I felt low or anxious.
I loved experimenting more and improving more everyday. Learning techniques and about ingredients and ways of cooking. I signed up for a load of courses which I couldn’t have done before and I loved blogging and filming and sharing content with you guys.
I was eating mindfully and intuitively, organically and food combining where possible and eating lots of healthy fats, unpasteurized dairy, carbohydrates, pseudo cereals and proteins. I got my appetite back and I was snacking regularly and eating more in general which is great for recipe testing and my mental state as by eating regularly I was keeping my blood sugar levels stable which means my mood generally stays stable too. But again, I had my better days and not so good days but I now realise it all just takes time.
I no longer restricted or felt guilty and I just ate what makes me feel good and what works for me with less and less worries about what anyone else thinks.
I still suffer with anxiety but nowhere near as much and again, I’m getting there and finding methods of dealing with it better. I still get stomach upsets but when I do I record what I’ve eaten and if it happens again I just experiment and see what works for me rather than getting upset or feeling as though I’m strange and weird. I’m learning more and more about mindfulness and food and mood in general and I’m wanting to share it more with you guys! Food and mood are two peas in a pod and when the one of them is feeling off it, it’s likely the other is too, so I want to create recipes that keep both them happy and healthy so both myself and you guys have less problems! I hope to inspire others like myself and hope to help and make healthy eating more enjoyable, exciting and accessible and most importantly not restrictive or depriving.
I also hope to make people aware that mental health and wellbeing is just as important as physical health and like I said before, they work as a pair. They both need to be thriving for you to feel your best! They affect each other’s wellbeing!
Most importantly you’ve got to find what works best for you and what makes you happy.
Life’s too short to be restrictive, believe me, it’s not worth it!
Just take little positive nuggets from my blog and chop and change ingredients where needs be.
Get creative and just enjoy food and health in general.
I’m still on my journey, and will always be on my journey, to mental and physical health and wellbeing, as cheesy as it sounds, but its true! And everyone else in this industry is and always will be too!
I’m learning more and more everyday and now thoroughly enjoying what I’m doing every second of the way and I hope you guys enjoy my creations just as much as I’ve enjoyed coming up with and trialling them!
I’ve now got my own sweet business – @Leitchycreates. All my treats are 100% natural, Vegan, refined sugar free, grain, gluten and soy free. I’ve been doing stalls since November 2016 (you can buy chocolates in the shop section) and I also now stock at my local deli. I now try and do a stall every four weeks in and around Sheffield. I’ve got some exciting events of my own been planned and you can also now buy some of my treats online from my shop! At the moment my selection box of 6 assorted chocolates is available, my peanut praline boxes, my new chocolate bars and also my mini cookbook. This will get added too in the coming weeks.
Now my stomach has been fine since January 2017 I’d say. It only flares up if I’m feeling low or anxious. My parents call it my ‘talking tum’ as when I was little the same thing used to happy but we always just joked it off! Now I know its because they’re totally connected!! So anyway, my stomach has been fine food wise, since January. I now have a business in full swing and I’m pretty positive about everything right now. I’m probably the most confident I’ve ever been and I’m up and down to London regularly and meeting more and more people who share the same interests as me and support what I do! Which is incredible as I lost a lot of people through the years when I was ill. So as I’m feeling really positive about life and so chilled out about food, I thought I’d start reintroducing things! As you read earlier, I cut out grains and gluten as these were the things that my stomach used to get effected by. I also cut out all the unhealthy sugars and fats etc. and I’m going to keep it that way most of the time, being the healthy foodie I am and as I want to eat as naturally and as unprocessed as possible. But of course I’ll have treats, I am human. So after a bit of reading around, I decided to reintroduce the least processed grains, so ancient. I was already eating buckwheat and quinoa and I’m yet to try amaranth. These are things like rice, barley, rye, spelt, millet, oats, freekeh. So I’ve had and been fine with sourdough. I thought I’d be ok with sourdough to be honest as it’s known to be the easiest bread to digest and it’s been fermented. I’ve also tried barley, spelt, rye, rice, millet, oats and freekeh and been A ok! But I’ll keep you in the loop. I’m actually finding it really interesting and exciting in a weird way. It’s fun trying grains I’ve not had in a long time and some never before. Trying new ways of cooking, new textures and flavours. I make sure I soak them all in water and an acidic medium to make them easier to digest. To be honest I think I’ll be fine from now on (fingers crossed anyway) and my mood is just my stomachs worst enemy but I will keep you updated. It’s also really nice not to have a label and it’s made my mental state even better. Like before I didn’t see it as restricting which it isn’t when you know what to eat and everything but it is as well as I was cutting out two major food groups and I still had a label over my head. It’s nice to go out and not have to list my intolerances or worry about not been able to eat anything etc. Basically, I feel a lot more free and excited about my next journey and food in general. I’ve also got a lot more energy as I’m eating a lot more carbs which is also incredible and I’m just feeling better in my self. I also want to eat out a lot more and try all the options I couldn’t before haha! I’m having a lot of fermented foods as well which I think really helps! Things like sauerkraut, kraut, kimchi, live yoghurt, kombucha, kvass etc. I’m loving it! It just goes to show that this time last year I was basically bed bound and on 25 tablets and now I’ve got my own business, got my confidence back and I’m so busy and loving, I mean LOVING food. So if you’re going through similar things, believe me it will get better. Have hope, get help. be positive and everything will be ok in the end! Oh and you’re not alone!!!
Thank you so much for reading,