And what an incredible first year it’s been — exciting experiences, surprise collaborations and a few things I wish I’d known sooner. Here’s an exclusive insight into the past year of making positive choices for our tummies…
From an IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) diagnosis and a desire to find natural ways to improve my gut health, came a dream to use my writing as a platform to provide a hopeful outcome for others, the answers I struggled to find and, ultimately, The Gut Choice. As I sit here typing these words, I cannot quite believe it has been one whole year since I sat in this very spot, my two adorable guinea pigs squeaking quietly in the pen beside me, and launched my blog — but I did and I made my dream a reality!
So much has happened during this time and I’m continuing to learn things every day. In fact, my latest learning is that a blog anniversary is actually called a blogiversary! There’s been a lot of excitement, a lot of manically noting down post ideas in my phone, a few lightbulb moments, lots of tasty recipe creations, some not so tasty recipe creations (don’t worry — these didn’t make it onto the blog), an hour of being bathed in sound, infuriating technical glitches, utter joy when I’ve conquered these, admittedly tight deadlines, an unexpected global pandemic and not to mention an absolute ton of writing! But I’ve loved every minute of my blog journey so far and being able to share it with like-minded people, like you, has been incredible.
But, this isn’t a post to brag about my accomplishments, rather a chance to pause and reflect on them. As my dad often tells me: “You need to congratulate yourself on your achievements, big or small, Gemma.” I’ve come to realise doing this is essential for our wellbeing, so please join me in celebrating my one year blogiversary by revisiting my posts from the past year.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank every single one of you who has visited my blog, liked a post, commented, shared a post or subscribed; without you, The Gut Choice would not have been possible, so thank you! And, if you haven’t already, you can follow @TheGutChoice on Facebook and Twitter for more gut-friendly content.
Most relaxing: I went to a sound bath – here’s what happened
Never did I imagine that part of my blog journey would involve getting to lie on a mat for a whole hour and be bathed in the sounds of the ocean and gongs — bliss! But, thanks to music enthusiast Sarah Westwood that’s exactly what I got to do. While my eyes remained gently shut the whole time, this was an eye-opening experience in understanding how sound cannot only reduce stress levels but have a positive impact on gut health. As the tension melted away from my mind and stomach, it helped me to recognise the true power of sound. Research even shows the sounds you hear before, during, and after a meal impact your digestion. Now, I regularly take part in sound baths when I need to check in with myself, want to feel revitalised and encourage healthy digestion. Check out this virtual sound bath from Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place Festival.
Most stressful: Why you should try alternate nostril breathing
Maintaining my blog hasn’t all been plain sailing and, ironically, a post about how to use alternate nostril breathing to de-stress was the most stressful post to write. It wasn’t the volume of words or research nor the time frame, but compiling this post fell at a pretty stressful time. In early March, I headed out to a concert after finding out that my guinea pig had a hayseed stuck in her eye. I remember rushing back from an unplanned trip to the vets, the next day, to quickly capture the photos for this post in between heading out on another outing. Plus, publishing it came at a very uncertain time for the whole country as we were about to enter lockdown. I felt like a bit of a hypocrite, writing a post about how to alleviate stress when I was in the thick of it myself with my shoulders up around my ears and my jaw clenched, but perhaps it was good timing as it reminded me to practice what I preach. Nobody is perfect, right?
In case I haven’t mentioned it quite enough in previous posts, I am a real chocolate-lover. So, when I got the opportunity to combine Whole Earth’s Smooth Original Peanut Butter with dark chocolate (two of my favourite foods) to make a tasty treat that’s gut-friendly too, I just couldn’t resist! And, it’s safe to say these treats were irresistible too — they certainly didn’t last long! While these were effortless as there’s absolutely no baking involved, decorating them put my artistic and culinary skills to the test when I had to create a decorative swirl pattern on top using nothing but peanut butter and a knife. If you’ve tried these, then you’ll agree with me that they are the most divine gut-friendly treats around. If you haven’t, you’re missing out. Get the recipe.
Most upbeat: Stay positive affirmations & quotes
Okay, so this is not technically a post but as the world was beginning to battle the Covid-19 outbreak, I felt helpless. The only thing I really know how to do well is write. So I wanted to use my skills to help in some way. This was one of those lightbulb moments; positive affirmations and inspiring quotes help to get me through difficult times, so this led me to launch a whole page dedicated to helping myself and others stay positive during the Covid-19 pandemic. I really hope they have helped and continue to help you in some way. I have actually printed one of these off and stuck it on the front of my wardrobe door so that every day, when I wake up, I see the positive reminder that: “I am calm, I am capable and I am in control.” You can still download others here.
Hardest to write: What should I do after an IBS flare-up?
April was IBS Awareness Month and it was only fitting to mark the occasion with a post focussing on the long-term digestive condition that affects approximately two in 10 people in the UK. As a person who contributes to these statistics, writing this felt really close to home. For all other sufferers out there who needed guidance and answers, especially during the uncertainty of the pandemic, I owed it to them to get this piece right more than ever. I had the fantastic opportunity to speak to fellow sufferer and Guts UK’s Julie Thompson who thankfully provided some answers to a burning question that I’d had since my diagnosis four years ago. I really hope I played my part in IBS Awareness Month by helping to raise awareness of the condition and improve the quality of life for sufferers.
This was a piece that I could really dive into; I loved making all of the recipes and, of course, eating them! For me, it reinforced that looking after your gut health or following a certain diet doesn’t have to be boring. I experimented with new ingredients and adapted recipes that I’d found to create different flavours. I also discovered natural nutrition brand Purition and was able to incorporate some of their vegan whole-food blends into the dishes. The result was an array of delicious and nutritious gluten and dairy-free morning meals. One recipe — that I wish I’d discovered sooner — is quinoa and ginger porridge. If you want a change from traditional porridge oats, you seriously need to try this. It altered my perception of porridge completely and actually motivates me to get out of my warm and cosy bed in the morning. If that isn’t a great start to the day, then I don’t know what is!
The learning curve: The diet of a nutritionist
Who doesn’t love a good nosey at what other people put on their plate, especially when it’s the people we go to for dietary advice? Admittedly, that was part of the reason I wanted to write this post. However, not only did it provide an insight into what nutritional therapist Lauren Windas ate for an entire week, but it was extremely eye-opening and educational too. Who’d have thought that bone broth could be so good for your digestive system? I am extremely grateful to Lauren for taking the time to share her weekly meal choices, knowledge and expertise with all of us. Her feta and risotto stuffed red peppers will make your mouth water!
Most physically challenging: 12-minute HIIT workout for your core
Apologies to the neighbours who could hear me puffing and panting while I produced this post. An invigorating session this certainly is! Ever since my former personal trainer introduced me to this HIIT workout, I had been dying to share it with others due to its ability to strengthen the core and optimise digestive health. And what better time than during lockdown when all gyms in sight were closed. I really enjoyed demonstrating the exercises for this post as exercise is such a release for me and it gets the endorphins flowing, but achieving the right video shots meant performing these moves several times. Great for my gut, not so great for my energy levels or my neighbours! Haven’t tried it yet? You won’t be disappointed.
The future is bright
Not only have I learnt things about gut health this year, but important life lessons that I’ll carry forward with my blog — I need to have realistic expectations of myself, I need to believe I can and take inspiration from the amazing, talented bloggers out there. I’m really looking forward to seeing how The Gut Choice develops and I have some exciting things in store including exclusive interviews, delicious recipes, collaborations and giveaways. Stay tuned…
Acknowledging Love Your Gut Week
My one-year blogiversary couldn’t have been timed better with Love Your Gut Week coming up. From 21-27 September, I’ll be sharing one way you can love your gut each day on The Gut Choice socials.
Have you enjoyed reading these posts? Is there anything you’d like to see more of? Get in touch.