How to Eat Out Stress-Free with a Special Diet

How to Eat Out Stress-Free with a Special Diet

How to Eat Out Stress-Free with a Special Diet

I have been on my very restrictive Autoimmune Protocol Diet for over two years now and it has been transformational in reducing inflammation in my body. I am used to it now and am slowly re-introducing foods, and even though it can be boring if I don’t make the effort to make new recipes, I am quite happy with it.
Eating out at restaurants and other people’s houses, however, can be a real challenge. If you, like me, are restricted in this way you will know what it is like. You just want to be able to eat out stress-free when you have a special diet, and not end up feeling like a troublemaker or ending up getting ill due to ingesting some food that is detrimental to you.
I have developed different ways of dealing with these hurdles that can make the whole process easier for you and your friends and family…and the waiter/waitress for that matter! After all, eating out should be a relaxing enjoyable experience for everyone.

Social difficulties of special dietary requirements:

  • Embarrassment and stress due to feeling like you are being difficult.
  • Feeling like you are being an unreasonable or ungrateful dinner guest.
  • Not wanting to put more work onto others.
  • Awkwardness in restaurants.
  • Pressure from family to just be “normal”.
  • Friends and family having difficulty understanding the reasons for your diet.
  • Potluck events can be tricky as there is little or nothing you can eat except your own offering.
  • The temptation to eat something you shouldn’t just to make it easier for others.
eat out stress-free with a special diet

Tools and tricks:

Communicating your needs:

  • Spend some time planning how to explain the reasons for your diet and how it benefits your health. I sometimes like to say that I am on a prescribed diet plan recommended by my nutritionist (which is true!).
  • Practice a short clear explanation of what happens to you in the following days if you break your own diet rules.
  • Ask for exactly what you want in restaurants. eg ask if it is possible to just have fish/meat fried plain in olive oil with some steamed vegetables.  I like to imagine I am a famous actress or pop star and say what they would often and ask politely of course!


  • Advance planning is crucial. Get ahead by checking restaurants online menus, then email them to explain your requirements in advance. This saves a lot of the hassle and the chef will hopefully have a written record of what your requirements are on the day.
  • Aim for restaurants that make lots of fresh salads and simple grilled meats and fish. Identify sides of greens or salad that you can have in advance and swap them in for other disallowed foods.
  • Look on Paleo and Coeliac websites in advance for ideas of 100% gluten-free restaurants.
  • Take your own food contribution to dinner parties if that is helpful. Make it yummy so others will want to share too to make you feel less excluded.
  • Take your own seasonings to restaurants and dinner invitations.
  • Email friends/family some recipes that you can eat if that seems appropriate.
  • Print out allowed/forbidden foods for the family.
  • If it is a work lunch, it may be easier to just take your own food as you may be time-limited.
eat out stress-free with a special diet

Staying on track with special diet:

  • Think about ways of saying ” no thanks” to offers of food that don’t offend the person offering and allow them to eat it happily in front of you. eg. That looks delicious, and I would love to eat it, but my diet doesn’t allow it. You go ahead, I am going to have a herbal tea, fruit salad, or whatever..”
  • Sometimes eating in advance of the event is helpful, nothing worse than going hungry!
  • Be appreciative of any extra effort made by others to accommodate your requests rather than apologising guiltily. There is nothing to be guilty about, you have a medical condition, take care of yourself.
  • Tip well in restaurants for the extra effort made.
  • Stay strong in your convictions and don’t be swayed by others saying ” Just a little won’t harm you!” You know it will!

So with great planning ahead, clear compassionate communication and an attitude of gratitude, eating out will be something you can enjoy thoroughly. We certainly deserve a break from the kitchen and missing out socially is not beneficial to our mental health. So I encourage you to do your research but to also to keep a sense of humour as the best-laid plans..and all that…


“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ― Virginia Woolf Click To Tweet


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Why is Asking for Help so Difficult?

Why is Asking for Help so Difficult?

Why is Asking for Help so Difficult?

Asking for help is something that can be surprisingly difficult. Sometimes people don’t have clear boundaries and find it hard to say no to requests when they want to or need to. If you are someone with poor boundaries, and limits, you may feel that others do too. You may presume that they will feel pressured to say yes to a request when in fact they may be fine with that. This can lead to an unwillingness to ask others.
Trusting that the other person has their boundaries in place makes it easier to ask. In this high-speed environment that we all reside in now it is common to be stressed and under pressure, and so it is unsurprising that we may not want to ask a favour from another person.
asking for help

What if we all asked for help when we needed it?

I find it hard to even imagine, but my vision is of a world where we would be a lot less overwhelmed as we are sharing our skills and energy, and playing to our strengths.
These days not many people in the UK have a network of a community to rely on. There are online groups and support networks, and those can be very helpful but they don’t help you pick up the kids when you are ill, or help you move a fridge freezer. We need supportive friends and community networks to help alleviate pressure and loneliness.
Over the years there have been hundreds of times when I could have done with some help. I have not found it easy to ask at all. My previous friendship group has fractured somewhat as people changed, moved away and had families. I don’t have regular contact with most of them and although I have been happy to make a few new good friends, some of them have chronic illnesses and others live further away. I feel like I am in a transition time of finding my new tribe and it is taking some time. I yearn for community and social contact but as many stay-at-home mothers are now finding, I can go for days on end without any other adult contact. It seems the advent of technology has isolated us more than ever.
People have unique personalities and quirks, and some people love doing what I hate to do, and vice versa. For example, someone who loves animals may be more than happy to pet sit for a week, someone who needs a change of scene or a retreat may jump at the chance of a housesit. Some people even love to clean and declutter or do accounts!! So I think if we could all get better at asking for help and use our online social networks to communicate with each other, then we could build more community support and enjoy reciprocal arrangements.
It is not always necessary to repay or swap either. If you think of times when you have helped someone (willingly) it feels good! Helping others brings feelings of generosity and kindness and that is an uplifting sensation.

So why can we find it so hard to ask for help?

I think that we are trained socially to believe that only children need help and once we are an adult, we are supposed to know what we are doing and be capable of it all. With the rise of mental health issues in younger age groups this needs to change. The stigma around seeking help when you have a mental health condition is still huge and the levels of suicide in young men particularly are shocking.

“Being first to ask for help in a friendship takes courage and humility.” Afton Rorvik Click To Tweet

The barriers to asking for help:

  • Pride
  • Not wanting to burden someone else
  • Fear of rejection or being ignored
  • Embarrassment
  • Fear of seeming incompetent or weak
  • Shyness
  • Fear of being judged or even labelled
  • Not wanting to feel indebted
  • Feeling vulnerable
  • Not knowing who to ask or where to go for support
  • Hoping the problem will go away by itself
Pride can be a big one for men in this culture, perhaps as men have been landed with this model of being a strong, tough bread-winner. Essentially though this is just a distortion of the ego energy that may well have been passed down through generations. This variety of pride is unhelpful and best dropped as it prevents authenticity and any movement towards gaining support.

The benefits of asking for help:

  • Less stress
  • Getting things done that wouldn’t be possible otherwise
  • New outlooks, possibilities and ideas.
  • Learning new techniques and tools
  • Lessening of overwhelm
  • Sharing problems
  • May lead to a helpful diagnosis
  • It allows the other person the gift of giving
  • Takes pressure off the family unit
  • Reducing loneliness
  • Making deeper friendships

Here’s how to do it!


  • Ask the other person at a time when they have space and time to listen
  • Ask someone who is likely to be willing to give freely, not someone with a history of manipulation or deal making.
  • Ask from a place of truth and integrity
  • Be clear and direct
  • Explain specifically what it is you need support with, it could be something as simple as having someone to listen to you.
  • Trust that the other person will say no if they choose to.
  • Remember if the other person says no, they are saying no to the task, not to you personally.
  • If they say yes, express gratitude!
You can access help from your GP, counsellors, or organisations and charities. In general, these can all be found easily online but the GP is the first option if you are unable to find this information.
If children don’t see parents asking for help then they don’t witness the modelling of that behaviour and they will be less likely to ask for help themselves when they move into young adulthood. Surely that is a time when they might need help, guidance and support the most.
I am going to try to put this advice I have come up with into practice this week. I am thinking that practice makes it easier.
Why don’t you give someone the gift of being able to help others this week, by asking clearly for some support? Go on, I dare you! What’s the worst that could happen?

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The Highs and Lows of Parenting with Chronic Illness

The Highs and Lows of Parenting with Chronic Illness

The Highs and Lows of Parenting with Chronic Illness

Parenting is full of highs and lows but parenting with chronic illness is a whole different kettle of fish. If you have an autoimmune disease or some other chronic illness, you may be suffering extreme fatigue, pain, lack of mobility and many other agitating symptoms. In this post, I reflect on some of the the highs and lows of my past 11 years of being a Mum.
Every day is different but the majority of days I am experiencing at least one symptom of my various ailments. Sometimes 5 or 6 at once. So when I wake in the morning, I have no idea what the day will bring. When you are a parent, however, you can’t just reschedule, cancel or stay in bed. There are kids to feed, the school run, paperwork to fill in, laundry, housework and a multitude of other tasks to be done. I am happy to do it and I wouldn’t change being a Mum for anything but it is challenging when you are running on empty. You barely have enough energy to sort yourself out, never mind anyone else!
There are of course good days too, but sadly many parents with chronic illness have many more bad days than good.

My parenting with chronic illness lows:

Not being able to lift my son up at The Correspondents gig after a tramp across muddy fields at a world music festival. He couldn’t see a thing and was so frustrated with me as he was too young to understand.
When they were younger, my boys saying that girls don’t really do sport. I had to put them straight on that one swiftly!
Not being able to climb up and change my son’s sheets in his high bed.
Looking an absolute state at the school gates (hair like a bush and sticky dry eyes).
Almost pulling out in front of a car when in an exhausted brain fog.
Trying to join in the Mums race at sports day a few years ago to come way last. The disgusted looks on the kids’ faces were crushing.
Getting ratty with them in the supermarket when too tired to cope.
Tearing my shoulder cuff muscles lifting my heavy three-wheeler buggy into the car boot (twice!).
Having to cut short my breastfeeding to go back on medications.
Struggling to lift and carry the boys when they were little. I couldn’t lift them up anywhere near as much as I wanted to.
Forgetting to take money with me for cake sales and the like due to brain fog = very cranky kids!
The house being chaotic and cluttered due to lack of housework.
Not taking them swimming, to the park etc because I am just exhausted.
Not having any local help as friends/family are not nearby.
Putting my families needs before me too much and then depleting myself even further.
Knowing that I am not giving them as much attention as I would like to because I am running on empty.
Cooking dreadful meals because I can’t get it together.
Struggling on when I should be in bed.
Not inviting friends for them because I can’t handle the extra effort.
Feeling guilty around the PTA Mums at school because I haven’t volunteered to help with the latest fundraising event..again.
Comparing myself to other mothers who seem just so much more capable and fun.
My youngest having a go at me for not being more sporty.
Not managing to go shopping for food.
Not being able to afford things/experiences others have due to being on a single income.

Parenting with chronic illness highs:

The kids being extra nice to me and giving me extra cuddles when I am really unwell (so sweet).
The boys carrying heavy shopping bags for me.
Lots of time cuddling on the sofa watching programmes.
Seeing them develop compassion for others through caring for me.
Being able to breastfeed at all. Very grateful for that.
Having a wonderful lady from a local charity help me with the kids for a couple of hours a week when they were little so that I could have a nap.
Having a good excuse not to do the ridiculously competitive Mum’s race at Sport’s Day! (ha ha ..never again!).
Ok, so I realise I don’t have as many highs as lows in my list, and I could add many more situations to the lows. I also am aware that some of these things may be experienced by parents without illness too. It is never a good idea to compare yourself to others!
The thing is, that every day I am blessed by the miracle of having children, and this high far outweighs all the struggles. I had two (male) rheumatologists who said it was a ridiculous idea for me to even try for a baby. They obviously didn’t know how determined I can be!
Nobody can tell you how amazing parenthood is or how difficult it will be, as each experience is unique. My boys are a joy to be with (apart from when they are arguing ;-)) and I treasure their beautiful innocence and uniqueness. I truly love being a mother and at the end of the day, I am doing my best.

Suggestions for parenting with chronic illness:

So if you are lucky enough to have kids, but unlucky enough to be experiencing a chronic illness, then I suggest the following:
  • Find community and ask for help: Having friends to talk to and rely on is vital. If you don’t feel like you have that, try to get yourself out to a place where you might make new friends. Women’s / Men’s  circles can also be incredibly helpful for expressing emotions and asking for help. Look online to see if there is one near you. You could start one of your own! There are often local parenting groups also and of course there are huge resources and groups online and on social media. I feel the online support should be in addition to a local community though as online support can be great but there is nothing like connecting with people face-to-face.
  • Practice self -care: As I have said before, self-care is essential if you are experiencing chronic illness. How can you look after others if you have nothing left to give? Practising self-care allows you to put some energy in your piggy bank so that you are more able to care for others. Read my post on self-care tips here for ideas on how to do that.
  • Plan well and write things down: Planning for me is essential to keeping on tops of things. I use my Bullet journal to keep track of my monthly/weekly/daily schedules and also for any other notes and reminders. For some great videos on Bullet Journaling check out Boho Berry.
  • Know your limits: Another tip is to manage your limited energy wisely so that you can pace yourself and not overdo it when having a good day. This is easier said than done. For more information on this read my post on energy management. Having healthy boundaries is also essential. Learn how to say no and stick to it.
  • Let go of any guilt: This can be a mother’s ruin and doesn’t serve us in any way. It is inevitable that we won’t feel good about every action, inaction or decision, but we aren’t perfect and mistakes will be made. I try to give myself the compassion that I would give to someone else and try not to give myself a hard time. We may not be able to parent in the same way healthy parents do but we can give our love and attention as best we can.


  • Trust your Intuition. Find stillness in your day to tap into your reserves of intuition. They are there and are a much better guide than outside advice, as you know your kids best.


Guilt is a supreme waste of time and energy. @Emily Giffin Click To Tweet



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Fall in Love with Podcasts: Inspiration for Free!

Fall in Love with Podcasts: Inspiration for Free!

Fall in Love with Podcasts: Inspiration for Free!

Why you might fall in love with podcasts:

Many people may be aware of podcasts but have never checked them out. They are a fantastic resource for those with chronic illness. Like with listening to radio, you are free to close your eyes and listen or get on with a task or creative pursuit as you listen. The bonus is that you get to choose what you listen to and there are some amazing inspirational podcasts out there.
It is easy to access podcasts and you can listen to podcasts on anything that will play an MP3. If you find a podcast host that you really like you can set their podcasts to be downloaded automatically to your device so you have them there ready to be listened to wherever you are.
Another mega plus point is that they are mostly FREE and produced by people who are passionate about what they are doing!

Recommended Podcasts

Here I have listed some podcasts that I have come across recently that I am enjoying listening to as I go about my day. There are podcasts available on virtually every subject and it is easy to find information online on how to set up a podcast app on your phone or computer. The ones I have listed are either related to chronic illness or inspirational in a holistic way.


Phoenix Helix Phoenix Helix: Maximizing autoimmune health through the paleo diet and lifestyle

With Eileen Laird


This bi-weekly podcast combines personal stories of the autoimmune experience, with interviews with experts in the field of health and nutrition. Eileen is an inspirational woman who has managed her Rheumatoid Arthritis through the Autoimmune Protocol diet and other holistic practices for many years and has now been forced to add conventional medicine into the equation. Her authenticity and knowledge about the autoimmune protocol have made her a fantastic source of information and empowerment.

The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast

With Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt


This podcast series was created as a free resource to accompany Mickey and Angie’s book, The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook: A DIY Guide to Living Well with Chronic Illness.  Their mission with the book and podcast series is to spark a major shift in how autoimmune disease is viewed and treated all over the globe. These podcasts along with the other information in their books and blogs are incredibly useful for anyone ready to learn more about their condition and find a holistic path to managing all autoimmune disease.

I have personally found this series of podcasts amazingly helpful and it is so reassuring to hear about others going through the same experiences.

Autoimmune Adventures Autoimmune Adventures

With Julie Stiles


Autoimmune Adventures is a podcast, created and hosted by Julie Stiles, dedicated to helping people with autoimmune disorders reclaim their health and their life. The mission is to share cutting edge information and tools for people living with AI disorders and to create a community of support.

Adventures in Happiness

With Jessica Ortner


New York Times Best Selling Author Jessica Ortner takes you on a journey to explore strategies and ideas to help you feel your best. Life is an adventure, and it would be boring if it was always perfect and predictable! Jessica shares how to find your bliss within all of life’s complexities. This is a fantastic resource with so many inspiring interviews with top experts and inspirational speakers..and all for free!

Here is one inspiring episode about finding hope after the disappointment of Chronic Illness with Amy Kurtz.

The Notable Woman 

With Cristin Downs.


The Notable Woman Podcast interviews powerhouse women about the inspiring ways they are making an impact on their communities and the world at large. The Notable Woman is also for women who know they want to make a big impact in the world but haven’t figured out how yet. The podcast features content series of different lengths.


In the episode in this podcast link, Cristin interviews Julie Morgenlender about breaking down the stigma around chronic illness. They speak at length about Julie’s own diagnoses, what those illnesses mean for her and her daily life, and what sort of assumptions people make about her as someone with a chronic illness.

Invisible Warrior RadioInvisible Warrior Radio - Chronic Illness Support

With Adrienne Clements.


Adrienne Clements is an Illness Advocate + Empowerment Coach, and on this show provides you with simple strategies to navigate the various mental, emotional, relational, and existential challenges of living a life with chronic and invisible illness. Filled with practical psychology, empowering expert interviews, and personal insights and observations from her own journey as an Invisible Warrior.

Good Life Project Good Life Project

With Jonathan Fields


Inspirational, unfiltered conversations and stories about finding meaning, happiness, purpose, inspiration, creativity, motivation, spirituality, love, confidence and success in life. From iconic world-shakers like Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, Sir Ken Robinson, Seth Godin and Gretchen Rubin to everyday people, every story matters.

The Wellness Buzz Podcast 

With Carolyn Gray


Holistic Nutrition & Wellness Coach, Teacher, Writer, Speaker, Wellness Advocate, Blogger and Primal Blueprint Certified Expert Carolyn Gray explores the topic of Wellness while discussing her own recovery from chronic illness. Learn how a Paleo diet enabled her body to heal, her dedication to Food as Medicine, a move away from chronic cardio and exercise to lead a more balanced life so that her body could heal. Carolyn explores the topic of Wellness from a Holistic Perspective, talks about the more balanced life she is creating and interviews some amazing Wellness advocates who share their own stories of illness, healthy crisis and the lives they are living today.

So there are hundreds of hours of fascinating and inspiring listening to be going on with. I will be adding to this list as time goes by and making sure to link in any podcasts I find specifically relevant to autoimmunity and chronic illness. (I haven’t added specific podcasts on Rheumatoid Arthritis as they tend to be focused on conventional medication but just to let you know, there are podcasts like that out there should you wish to focus on that.)

So why not make yourself a cup of tea, get cosy and have a little rest as you listen!

Please comment below

Let me know if you found any of these podcasts especially helpful or if you have some new suggestions for me!

Instantly Help your Friends and Family Understand your Invisible Illness.

Instantly Help your Friends and Family Understand your Invisible Illness.

Instantly Help your Friends and Family Understand your Invisible Illness.

Is your invisible illness being seen?

Do your friends and family sometimes have difficulty understanding how your symptoms such as extreme fatigue, dizziness, pain, and brain fog can be so debilitating to you?
Do you often feel isolated and left out of social circles because you are often unable to join them?
Do your friends and family have unrealistic expectations of what you can achieve in a day?

My family are amazing at being understanding of my conditions and situation but I often find that friends just don’t get it. It’s understandable, they only see me when I am feeling great (comparatively).

That is, when I am free from infection and viruses, my dry eye symptoms are minimal, my joints are not in a flare-up, my skin is hive-free, my endometriosis or period pain isn’t severe, my anxiety levels are low and my fatigue has abated for a day. No wonder I am a bit of a recluse!

Things to learn and know about invisible illnesses:

People with some kinds of invisible disabilities, such as chronic pain or some kind of sleep disorder, are often accused of faking or imagining their disabilities. These symptoms can occur due to chronic illness, chronic pain, injury, birth disorders, etc. and are not always obvious to the onlooker.

Invisible disabilities are chronic illnesses and conditions that significantly impair normal activities of daily living. In the United States, 96% of people with chronic medical conditions show no outward signs of their illness, and 10% experience symptoms that are considered disabling.*

I wrote this for all of you with invisible illnesses to share with your friends:

When you see me I am at my absolute best (unless I am on the school run or in the supermarket and avoiding eye contact because it is too exhausting to communicate!)
When I occasionally go out at night I have been excited about it for months and my adrenaline is flowing like crazy which gives me an artificial burst of energy. (I will pay for that!)
You might see me swimming or participating in a yoga class. This helps to get my body moving and can be painful, it doesn’t mean that I am physically capable.
My fatigue is not the same as when a healthy person is really tired. It is more like how you feel when you have flu.
As well as my main condition, I often have a whole myriad of other symptoms related to various other parts of my body that you are not aware of. These can range from excruciating dry eyes to hair loss to infections to rashes etc.
My immune system is compromised so please don’t be offended if I don’t want to be around your children if they have chickenpox or if you have shingles or a similar virus.
I often feel so tired and run down that any social contact is very difficult, that doesn’t mean that I want you to forget about me. Please don’t stop inviting me to events. I would love to come if I can.
Please forgive me if I didn’t manage to get you or your kids a birthday present or I forgot a special occasion, sometimes my brain is in a fog and it takes all my effort to remember what day of the week it is!
Invisible illness
Invisible disabilities include chronic illnesses such as renal failure, autoimmune conditions, IBS, diabetes, and sleep disorders if those diseases significantly impair normal activities of daily living.
Those with joint conditions, Fibromyalgia or CFS who suffer chronic pain may not use any type of mobility aids on good days, or ever.
Chronic Pain: A variety of conditions may cause chronic pain. There may be back problems, bone disease, physical injuries, and any number of other reasons. Chronic pain may not be noticeable to people who do not understand the persons’ specific medical condition.
Chronic Fatigue: This type of disability refers to an individual who constantly feels deeply exhausted. This can be extremely debilitating and affect every aspect of a persons’ everyday life.
Mental Illness: Depression, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, agoraphobia, and many other diseases can also be completely debilitating to the person, and can make performing everyday tasks extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Chronic Dizziness: Often associated with problems of the inner ear, chronic dizziness can lead to impairment when walking, driving, working, sleeping, and other common tasks.
96% of people with chronic medical conditions live with an illness that is invisible.*
Many people living with a hidden physical disability or mental challenge are still able to be active in their hobbies, work and even be active in sports at times. Others struggle just to get through their day at work and some cannot work at all.

So please, if you know someone with an illness or disability that you don’t fully understand. Ask them about it. Find out how it affects them and how you can help. Invite them out and visit or call them, it might be the only contact they have had all day.

If you are the one with the invisible illness, share this post with your friends and family so they can support and connect with you better.

 Understanding is deeper than knowledge.

There are many who know you but few that understand you.

Please share in the comments below the ways in which your invisible illness affects your connection, confidence and sense of community.

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