Some Thoughts on Balance

This week I spent some time with my grandparents. While I was there something happened which made me recognise quite how far I've come in the last few years, nothing groundbreaking or exciting but something which two or three years ago would have made me panic. 

My Nanny offered me a sandwich! 

I know right - shocking! I'd arrived just before lunch and while I was too late for shepherds pie, there was a ham and mustard sandwich on offer, and without thinking I replied 'Oh yes please, that would be lovely!'

A few years ago I would have made an excuse and left before dinner, but I was enjoying talking to my Grandad - he's not been well in the last year or so, and a conversation with him these days can be hard work sometimes; he forgets peoples names and misses out crucial words or starts a story from the middle and you end up trying to piece together what he's trying to say, but today he seemed quite bright, and we sat in the conservatory with a cup of tea while he told me all about his new glasses, Nanny's hospital appointment, how my Aunty and Uncle are getting on with renovating their house. Before long we were back to the story of how he converted the loft fifty years ago, how he met my Nanny and what happened after he was demobbed from the RAF (which I've heard dozens of times but will happily listen to over and over!)

But, back to the sandwich! From the age of about 20 I suffered with acne, and after trying everything under the sun to get rid of it, I finally cracked it just in time for our wedding with a combination of diet, amazing skincare (from wonderful Louise at U and Your Skin who I've written about before) homeopathy (from Kathy, another huge support) and I think most importantly - changing my mindset! While changing my diet did help cure my skin to a certain extent, the way I went about it wasn't especially helpful for my relationship with food! As you know, I am a massive food lover, recipe book collector and fan of exploring new cafes and restaurants. However, I took the advice of the wonderful dietician I saw WAY too far and ended up completely destroying this healthy relationship! Overnight I gave up sugar, wheat, dairy, caffeine, red meat, alcohol, anything refined and basically any chance I had of eating anywhere socially! I stressed myself out so much over what I could and couldn't eat, I overdosed on herbal tea in a quest to find a 'builders brew' replacement, and I cried in the city centre because I was hungry and couldn't find a single thing I deemed myself allowed to eat! I lost a lot of weight, and it wasn't until I saw a video of myself that I realised how thin I was! I've since heard the word 'Orthorexia' being used to describe this fear of eating or drinking the wrong foods, and while I'm not sure I'd go as far as saying I had an eating disorder, I certainly wasn't very far off and my mindset definitely affected my way of life for a while. 

It also dawned on me around this time that my skin was changing, but not necessarily as a result of my crazy strict eating. I know that too much still sugar makes me feel awful, and that too much dairy gives me a bumpy forehead and spots on my back (glamorous!) but the acne I experienced on the rest of my face was so much better because I had started to balance my hormones and, crucially for me, I had stopped looking at my face! I was so bored of thinking about it all the time that I covered up all the mirrors in the house and made a conscious effort not to look at it!

So, I decided to relax my food choices a little and see what happened! I went with the mentality that I would only eat something I previously wouldn't have done if it was really worth it: the best sourdough bread, organic cheese (goodness I missed brie!) and I started saying yes to pudding in restaurants if there was something I loved the sound of. I started baking at home again which I used to adore and I suddenly felt like I'd got my recipe books back after discounting so many of them because the recipes didn't fit with what I was 'allowed'. 

This is how I continue to eat most of the time, very low sugar, not too much dairy, lots of vegetables and the best indigents I can find; if I fancy some chocolate it'll be the darkest organic I can find, or I'll make the molten chocolate pots from the Hemsley sisters book. I started drinking tea again, mostly organic decaffeinated (Clipper is my favourite) and after searching for a non-dairy milk that didn't split and failing to find one, I started using organic whole milk. I slowly let the things I thought were terrible creep back in occasionally, and you know what - my skin was fine! In fact, my more relaxed mind set combined with some light therapy (again at U and Your Skin) made my skin look and feel better than ever! I also remembered how much I love food, how a glass of red wine makes a meal a little more special, how much better fish and chips taste when you're sitting on the beach, and how visiting Cornwall without eating a scone with cream and jam is something close to sacrilege! 

So, was a ham and mustard sandwich worth it? Was it the best wholemeal bread I could find, filled with free range organic pork and perfectly seasoned with great quality mustard. No, it was a day old white sliced loaf from aldi with wafer thin ham and fluorescent yellow english mustard. But was it worth it - it definitely was! 

My Nanny used to cook the best food. I spent a lot of time at her house when I was growing up, and a lot of my favourite food memories are there. Her chicken korma with raisins and coconut that always felt so exotic, butterfly cupcakes she taught me to make all by myself (along with the wisdom that you never beat with a metal spoon and never fold with a wooden one!) ham egg and chips on a tray in front of the tv, a slice of warm tea cake in the afternoon, and the best porridge in the world, made with whole milk and finished with double cream, and big knob of butter and a sprinkle of brown sugar! 

There's been a long running joke that you can't go into my Grandparent's house without being offered something to eat or leaving with a food parcel. We used to get told off for eating Grandad's yoghurts or ice creams and they really do have a jar of Werther's Originals in the dining room (and the living room for that matter!) Nanny has always fed people, but she hasn't cooked for me in a long time. I know it was only a sandwich, but she cut the crusts off the bread, sliced it into four triangles and offered me crisps, an apple, a yoghurt, a cereal bar and a Kit-Kat, trying to make sure I was full enough! My Grandad set the table just like he always has. I got moaned at for having my fringe in my eyes and tutted at when I said no to sugar in my tea, and we sat at the table to eat together just like we always have. 

So, I think I've finally got things balanced. I feel really lucky that I know how to cook and eat well, and that I live in a privileged country and earn enough money to have such an amazing choice of food to buy. I love to cook and eat healthily, but I also love to eat with people and let people make food for me, and that is sometimes just as important.

Oh, I said yes to that Kit-Kat too...



  1. I love this - and you look amazing these days 😍

  2. this was a really touching post... the stories about your grandparents are so nice... I lost all of my grandparents (my mum's parents passed away quite young before i was born) and just today, whilst i was having tea, i remembered how my nan used to give me crackers with butter and sugar sprinkled on top, it was like her treat, being a bit cheeky when my mum wasn't looking. She always had a pot with biscuits and made the best tea cakes, sponge cakes, flans, rice pudding, tortas fritas, buñuelos... they lived next door and our houses shared the backyard so she would come in our kitchen with a tray, bringing us half of whatever she'd made. This memory has nothing to do with balance but your post did remind me of those childhood lovely moments :))