Rewarding work

I’ve been shortlisted in the category of Inspiring Business Parent in a national award that celebrates flexible working. I’m very excited. And honoured. And more than a little surprised! But mostly I’m delighted as it shows that even when challenges and difficulties appear to knock you off course, wonderful things can come from it.

This particular award is focused on parents and working; still today there are challenges for mums (and dads) to combine work and family needs, an issue that is slow to be resolved despite on-going efforts to change attitudes and working practices. Similar challenges are faced by many other groups, including disabled, or less abled people who have much to offer but need flexibility that traditional working environments find hard to offer. So when you are a mum and a parent and less abled or restricted by health problems in some way, it just gets even harder.

My career of choice was always nursing; I was one of those people who did it because I loved it, a bit of a stereotype I guess! Human beings are fascinating, the human body the most incredible piece of technology you will ever find. Working in intensive care gave me a deep respect for everything that happens inside and outside the body to keep us functioning well. And an awareness of how easy it is to mess it all up!

When I discovered that my food intolerances were making me feel ill, it was my respect for the human body that made me do something about it. I didn’t want to feel that way, and I didn’t want to take medication to treat my migraines that could cause further damage elsewhere. So I chose food; and it worked! Removing the offending foods – dairy and yeast – started the healing process, discovering the benefits of a whole food plant based diet continued it. Little did I know at the time that these migraines were most probably the first signs of autoimmune disease, and that the actions I took then helped dampen down the inflammation and subsequent damage.

Making changes to the way you eat is hard. I started my blog The Sensitive Foodie to share my new discoveries with others in a similar situation, then I started running workshops and cooking demos; at the time, this was not mainstream at all. How things have changed over the last few years! Showing others how to make changes that helped gave me real encouragement, something I definitely needed when I was suddenly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological condition. There had been signs, and I had already given up my job working in ITU as I could not cope with the long shifts, the harsh lighting and the stress of working in a critical care environment. It also didn’t help that I kept dropping things!

Fortunately I had lots of support at the time to help, particularly my lovely family and friends, as well as my Buddhist practice. Two things stand out – my wonderful husband who agreed to provide the financial support so I didn’t have the pressure of making loads of money from my fledgling business, and the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis programme that uses food as a basis for healing. It was reassuring to know I was already following a research-backed way of healing, that had kept me well for some time, and continues to do so today.

So now, my work keeps me well – through the food and by being able to work flexibly and pace myself day to day. I am fortunate to be in this position, and I now help others in a similar situation make the changes they need to keep well by being an Ambassador for the OMS programme (click here to find out more about OMS) as well as running my Eat Well Live Well courses, giving talks and working with people on a one to one basis.

Interest in the food we eat, health and the environment is growing. I love running my courses and sharing the wonderful world of whole-food plant-based eating, sharing my enthusiasm and passion and seeing that growing in others, making it easy for them to eat well without being a slave to the kitchen. They take that home with them, share it with their own families and friends, and make a choice to be well. That’s a pretty awesome feeling, knowing something positive has come out of something that’s been hard. I may not be able to work as a nurse any more, but it’s good to know I can still help people, and hopefully prevent them from needing that care in the first place.

I’ll find out on 6th February if I’m a finalist for the awards, so I wait with finger crossed to see. I’m sure there are lots of inspiring parents out there who deserve recognition; it’s so great there are organisations like mumandworking and NatWest that are willing to give it.

To find out more about my next course starting on 5th February, click here.

To find out more about The Mumandworkingawards, Sponsored by NatWest, click here

 

 

Low sugar flapjacks

As a rule, flapjacks are awesome. I’ve loved these super sweet bakes since being at school – my best friend’s mum made delicious flapjacks and she always had a big chunk in her lunchbox that she would kindly share with me. Bliss point was hit every time with that enticing sugar and fat combo (golden syrup and butter!).

These days, flapjacks remain enticing but are rarely suitable for a whole-food plant based way of eating, particular for specific health-related diets like the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (OMS) programme. A wolf in sheep’s clothing (or the plant equivalent!), traditional flapjacks may appear to be the healthy option (with all those healthy oats) but the high refined sugar and large amount of butter or refined oils means it’s far from good for many people.

I’ve tried a few times to make my own dairy free, lower sugar flapjacks; this one is the best. It’s still super sweet, but the sugar comes in the form of coconut sugar and maple syrup, so less refined but still rich and enticing. I’ve used olive oil for the fat, plus a little ground flaxseed to help the mix stick together (and offer some extra anti-inflammatory omega 3). If you are gluten-free, then it’s easy to substitute gluten-free oats and flour. It’s a wonderful sweet treat, easy to make, and perfect for lunch boxes or after-school snacks.

So next time the need for a flapjack hits you, try this recipe instead for a healthier but still satisfying treat.

Low-sugar flapjacks (makes 9-12 square depending on how big you want them)
120ml olive oil
100g coconut sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
180g plain wholemeal/gluten free flour
150 oats/gluten free oats
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
100g raisins

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4. Line a 20x20cm baking tin with greaseproof paper.

Place the flour, oats, ground flaxseed, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and mix well. In another bowl, add the oil, coconut sugar, maple syrup and vanilla essence. Whisk well to combine. Pour the wet mix into the dry and stir together then add the raisins and stir again. The mix may feel a bit wet and stick together, but don’t panic. Tip the mix into the prepared tin and press down firmly into the bottom and corners, spreading it out equally to get a flat top.

Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the top starts to brown. Do not over-bake. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Cut into squares, then leave to cool in the tin. Once completely cool, tip out onto a board and finish cutting into squares. Then try not to eat them all at once!