Day 99: Introducing new foods & a tip for overseas travel

I’ve been wanting to add olives to my diet for a while, so today was the day! They’re not a food I eat in great quantities, but they’re a ‘nice to have’ now that I’ve introduced so many basic foods that I’m happy with.

On phase 4, olives still need to be cooked – so have them on top on an SCD pizza, or as part of a sauce, stew, etc. On a diet that can be quite bland (at least in the beginning) they provide an awesome new flavour that adds a new dimension to your same-old foods. They seem to have treated me fine.

100 days tomorrow!

Tomorrow, I’ll reach my 100 day challenge. The thought is actually quite daunting – what will I do about my diet after 100 days? Well nothing radical, I can tell you that much. I think I’ll continue to eat a mainly SCD diet, but as I’ve mentioned previously, I’ll be transitioning more towards paleo, which I’m hoping will suit me well.

Bali, baby!

So I’m off to Kuala Lumpur on Friday, and Bali next Monday. It’s going to be an amazing trip and I LOVE Eastern food, so that will be interesting too. In fact, I’m even considering doing a cooking class while I’m in KL.

Eastern food really agrees with me and I find I have little trouble when I’m visiting that side of the world. That said, I did ask my doctor for a dose of cortisone, just in case. If you’re travelling abroad and aren’t going to be back for a couple of weeks, it’s a wise idea to have some back-up steroids with you.

You may not have flared in months or even a year or two, but you never know what could happen when you’re away from home and out of your regular routine. Our guts have a mind of their own, after all, and it would be terrible to be stuck in a foreign country and flaring! So back-up meds are a MUST – rather safe than sorry, after all 🙂

Breakfast in Koh Phangan, Thailand, 2013. My kind of food!

Breakfast in Koh Phangan, Thailand, 2013. My kind of food!

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Day 80: 10 goals for 10 more days

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I can’t believe I’ve been on SCD for 80 days. For any of you just starting out or even thinking about doing it, let me assure you, the time flies. 

It hasn’t always been easy but it’s been MUCH easier that I thought it would be, and I’ve learnt some pretty awesome things about myself and others along the way, like the fact that I can actually go to a social event and have an amazing time without stuffing my face. That there’s more to life than the food on offer. And that people are far more accommodating and much less judgemental than I sometimes give them credit for.

I have only 10 days left before I complete the 90 day challenge, and I’m extremely proud of my progress. Given that I’m so close to the end, I need some goals to focus on to really see a last good burst of progress before the end.  I also need to know what I’m focusing on going forward, so here’s a handy bullet list I’ve created for myself:

1. Continue to try to identify foods that cause bloating and discomfort, and remove them or limit my intake.

2. Practice self control – stick to reasonable portion sizes and don’t eat entire jars of nut butter over the course of a weekend.

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3. Experiment with ingredients to create interesting meals that I can incorporate into my new lifestyle.

4. Think about food rotations for ALL meals. Once I’ve added all tolerated SCD foods to my diet, I need to draw up an eating plan that rotates all three meals of the day on a 3-day basis (at the least). That means if I have eggs for breakfast today, I have to wait three days before having them again.

5. Start introducing more fruits and spices to vary my diet. Fruit (if tolerated) will make excellent breakfasts/lunches and snacks, and will probably give me a vitamin boost I need.

6. Commit to staying calm, focused and forgiving even when I’m having a bad gut day. That means no more panicking during a bout of diarrhoea. It’s happened two or three times on this diet and it was never a flare, so no need to panic.

7. Don’t stop tweaking my diet until my BMs are satisfactory most of the time.

8. Decide on a long-term diet plan – SCD, GAPS or paleo, but definitely dairy, grain and sugar free. The commitment is what’s kept me on track.

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9. Add an extra 10 days after the last 10 days. A round’ ‘100’ sounds great 🙂

10. Treat myself to an amazing holiday at the end of 100 days.

Bonus! 11: Get K to eat an entire SCD meal! That’s the hardest one of all 🙂

Okay, so 10 is a bit of a cheat because that’s already planned… but I think I deserve it – and far better to reward myself with a holiday than with food!

Oh, and I’m no longer daydreaming about cake, chocolate, donuts and chips… I’ve come a looooong way from Day 1!

Happy 100 days to me! This is where I'll be :-)

Happy 100 days to me! This is where I’ll be 🙂

Day 74: What to do when food boredom sets in

It’s inevitable that on a diet like SCD, which is so incredibly restrictive (at least for the first few months) food boredom will set in – even for someone like me who doesn’t mind eating the same thing every day. It’s in fact one of the most common reasons that people either stop the diet or don’t even try in the first place. It’s hard to eat the same few things all the time – meat, veg, fruit, eggs if you’re lucky, honey if you’re lucky. And by ‘lucky’ I mean ‘don’t react’.

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No matter how committed you are to this diet, you are bound to get frustrated by the limited choices available to you on the first 90 days of SCD (if you’re doing it properly). I’ve taken it particularly slowly so I am only on phase 3. But if you’re following the ‘rules’ and introducing new food only once every three days, that’s only 10 (maximum) new foods a month – and that’s not including setbacks and ‘important but not actual food’ additions like honey, spices, milk, etc.

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It hasn’t really happened to me since intro, but yesterday and today I looked at my dinner plate and thought, ‘eeeeeeugh’. I was just so over it, and I didn’t want another broccoli tree or bite of butternut.

But just because the number of foods you’re eating is limited doesn’t mean that your meals have to be. Think about how many combinations of food you can make with ‘just’ 20 different ingredients! Avo and honey, anyone? I mean have you even thought of that? 🙂

Yesterday I listed a few awesome SCD snack foods I can have at this stage of the diet. Now, I want to give you a few tips for shaking up your ‘boring’ SCD meals:

1. Rotate your meats. For many people following SCD or paleo diets, meat forms the backbone of the meal. There are so many options available besides chicken and beef. Try fish, venison, ostrich and turkey with your meals, or replace meat with eggs every now and then.

2. Have breakfast for dinner. Swap your meals around. Sometimes it’s fun to eat scrambled eggs for supper (especially when you’re feeling lazy), and weird as it sounds, you can actually get used to eating ‘supper’ food for breakfast. Remember when you used to eat leftover pizza for breakfast? This is the same thing… kinda. Simply altering the time of day you eat something can make it more appealing.

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3. Experiment with cooking methods. I recently switched boiling my butternut for roasting it. WOW! I didn’t add any extra ingredients, but the taste was completely new. As you progress through the phases, you’ll have more and more cooking methods available to you. Use them!

4. Experiment with flavours. Never mixed bananas with nut butter? Carrots with coriander? Yogurt with pear? Roast butternut with tomato? Honey with ANYTHING? Some combinations will be better than others but you’re bound to discover a few you love. I add fresh coriander to almost anything savoury and I eat half an avo with my main meals in lieu of illegal sauces or gravies. My absolute favourite is green beans with avo as a snack.

5. Don’t eat ALL the foods you can eat every day. This is a mistake I’ve made. Each time I’ve successfully added a food, I’ve started eating it every day. This means that I eat about 8 or 9 different veggies a day – but it’s the same veggies every day! Rotate 3 or 4 veggies and a few fruits at a time to prevent broccoli overload – and possibly developing intolerances. You should aim to rotate all your food every 3-4 days. Not always possible at the beginning of SCD, but easier as the diet progresses.

6. Don’t forget desserts! It may seem like much of this diet is savoury, but if you can handle fruit and honey, you have so many sweet options available to you. Make smoothies or  fruit ‘ice creams’ and sorbets, or top SCD-pancakes (made with banana and egg) with baked fruit and drizzles of honey or yogurt. YUMMO! And PS: Yes, you can absolutely eat dessert for dinner – on SCD, it’s a totally healthy option 😉

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7. Remember that every day 3 days, it gets easier. It’s a slow process, but there is progress. Don’t get disheartened, and on the days you get bored, challenge yourself to experiment with a new flavour. Roast a tray of onion, tomato, butternut and garlic with honey and coriander, or make a smoothie from banana, yoghurt and nut butter. Snack on peeled, baked apples with honey or nut butter, or make cauliflower ‘rice’ for an interesting change. A few simple switch-ups can make all the difference.

Do you have any tips for shaking things up on SCD or whichever diet you’re following? Please share – we could all use all the help we can get!

PS: Clearly GIFs are my new toy! I hope you’re enjoying them as much as I am 🙂

Day 73: Broccoli, bloating and 5 awesome phase 3 treats

I introduced broccoli yesterday and, as with most things I’ve introduced, I’ve followed best practices by eating it at dinner on the first night, lunch and dinner tonight, and I’ll do lunch and dinner again tomorrow.

Unbelievably, I seem (so far) to not be reacting to it. Could it be because I’m cooking it until it’s properly dead, or is it because 2 and a half months on SCD has really started to heal my gut? I like to think it’s the latter.

As for the bananas, I’ve been sticking to my limit of 2 per day, and it’s making a huge difference to my bloating. Right now, it’s 9pm and I’ve eaten all my food for the day, yet I don’t feel uncomfortable, bloated or particularly gassy. Portion control is going well too, and I think all of this is contributing to overall feelings of increased comfort.

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5 Awesome phase 3 treats

I tend to forget that  I can ‘mix and match’ the ingredients that I’ve already introduced to my diet to create some pretty amazing snacks. Here are 5 yummy things I can eat right now:

  • Banana and egg pancakes/scramble drizzled with honey

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  • Butternut roasted with garlic, tomato, onion and coriander

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  • Yogurt, banana and honey smoothie (with optional nut butter)

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  • Soups: Carrot soup made with homemade coconut milk, garlic and coriander; tomato soup with black pepper, garlic and coriander

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  • GUACAMOLE! (mashed avo mixed with garlic, tomato puree, coriander, salt and pepper). Use as a sauce with any meat – works particularly well with fish.

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There are lots more I could make based on the food I’m able to eat, so I really need to experiment a bit more. I’ve splurged on fresh stashes of macadamia butter and almond butter, with which I’ll also need to practice serious portion control. I also discovered that the shop downstairs has started selling freshly pressed apple juice! Life = made. Always such a treat when things just work out!

I’ve been thinking about buying a juicer. Anyone with IBD/IBS  have any experiences to share?

Day 69-71: A successful SCD weekend away

The weekend away was a (dietary) success! Turns out it wasn’t the nightmare I anticipated, and for the most part, eating was easy. I consumed almost all the food I took with, I didn’t starve, and I even managed to eat my own food at the wedding. I also discovered that I can navigate 2 days away from home with no means to heat my food, no cutlery and a black-tie event to attend. Go me!

Here’s where we spent the weekend:

Morgansvlei Country Estate, Tulbagh

Morgansvlei Country Estate, Tulbagh – absolutely gorgeous, isn’t it?

And here’s what I packed:

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Perfect amount of food for the weekend. Apart from a few boiled eggs, 3 bananas and an avo, I ate it all

Friday night supper

I earmarked the mince ‘bolognaise’ for Friday night, but when we arrived at our guesthouse, we discovered that it indeed had a fridge… but no microwave. K suggested I fill a metal box with boiling water (the box was next to our kettle, holding the teabags and sugar) and then place the tuppaware into it to heat it. That was a disaster, because the metal box leaked and we managed to completely waterlog our room!

Next I attempted filling the bathroom basin with boiling water, putting the tuppaware in, and weighting it down to keep it submerged under the hot water. It didn’t really work and I eventually gave up and ate cold mince.

Saturday breakfast

Thankfully, breakfast on Saturday was much easier: A few boiled eggs washed down with a mug of black coffee from the breakfast room.

My morning coffee on the pier outside the breakfast room.

Enjoying my morning coffee on the pier outside the breakfast room.

Having a Dawson's Creek moment...

Having a Dawson’s Creek moment…

... and just one more, because it's so damn pretty!

… and just one more, because it’s so damn pretty!

Saturday lunch

I kept my lunch quite protein-heavy to avoid bloat (I needed to not be blimpy at the wedding), so I had a few more eggs, a (cold) grilled chicken breast, and several spoons of macadamia nut butter. K’s lunch was a whole lot more exciting: we went to a quirky little outdoor place call the ‘Bush pub’ and she snacked on this droolicious looking chicken basket while the resident chickens clucked away at our feet! (#Awkward)

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Dinner at the wedding

I’d struggled to find the caterers for the wedding, so I filled a tuppaware with chicken and veg, stuck this note to it, and left it in the fridge at the venue:

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It worked! I chatted to the caterers once the wedding was underway, and when the rest of the table received their main course, I was served my own food. It was cold (WTF?!) but it was mine, it was safe, and I didn’t have to starve. I was also pretty happy that they’d known well enough to seat me right next to the wine 😉 It’s SUCH a treat staying at the actual wedding venue, because we didn’t have to worry about drinking and driving, and simply tottered back to our room after the event.

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I mostly avoided bananas yesterday as I didn’t want to risk ballooning in my tight little dress, but I gulped several down when we got back to our room afterwards!

K & I in our wedding rags

K & I in our wedding rags

Breakfast today

More boiled eggs, more coffee, and then home!

I must say, it was easier than I anticipated… but messier. After we drenched our room on Friday night in our failed attempt to heat the mince, everything was soggy and damp for the rest of the time we were there. Also, there was nowhere to clean my used tuppaware, and nothing to clean it with, so I had to make do with the bathroom sink and some handsoap. I wrapped all my semi-clean containers in brown bags and had to wash them when we got home today (eew).

Also, there was no cutlery besides teaspoons in our room, so I had to swindle a knife and fork from the group dinner on Friday night! (I gave them back of course).

My best food tip for a weekend away

All in all, diet-wise, this weekend was very do-able. I attribute this mostly to the fact that I took a lot of food that I could eat on its own, and without heating or preparing, such as boiled eggs, ripe avo, ripe bananas, nut butter. It definitely helped that we had a fridge in our room too. All you need to do, really, is plan ahead and plan for the worst (ie: no fridge, no microwave, etc) and you’ll be fine.

Today’s food

We got home and I had to spend about 4 hours in the kitchen prepping my food for this week, as well as a Thai chicken and coconut soup for K. I made all my usual veg, and also had a brainwave that I could roast my butternut instead of peeling, chopping, de-seeding and boiling, which is such a mission. I roasted it instead and it turned out beautifully! I’ll try it tomorrow.

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I also, for some reason, bought some baby gem squash earlier this week. I think it’s because our local supermarket was out of everything, and for some reason it seemed like a good idea. I realised today that you can really peel or de-seed it… and then I thought, what the hell? For more than 2 months I’ve avoided all skins and seeds; let’s see if my body can handle it. So I cooked them up and had a few of them with my dinner – skins, seeds and all! So far I feel okay. They’re very similar in taste and consistency to zucchini actually.

Adult gems and baby gems

Grown-up gems and baby gems

I also made a fresh batch of yoghurt and I PROMISE I will share the recipe ASAP. It’s been on my mind – I haven’t forgotten, I just haven’t had a chance!

I hope you all had a great weekend, and that your diets are going well. Amazing how such a basic thing can totally consume your life!

 

Day 66: Important observations about SCD so far

I’ve been on this diet for 66 days, and even though it’s not a massive amount of time, it’s long enough to have realised that my progress has fallen into two distinct categories:

  • Extremely strict
  • Experimental (within the bounds of legal, stage-appropriate SCD foods)

I haven’t once knowingly cheated on this diet and I’ve stuck to the 3-day rule (at times 4 days) since the start. But I’ve also become less fanatically strict and terrified of introducing new foods. Maybe it’s manifesting more psychologically than physically, because I’m not running around shoving random bits of food into my mouth. But it does mean that one big problem has crept in: Bloating.

Can totally relate

Can totally relate

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it because when I’m healthy and not in an active flare, the worst symptom I have is bloating, which also causes pain and that lovely, totally-not-embarrassing ‘talking’ that most often happens when I’m sitting in an echoey boardroom with several of my bosses, a handful of clients and the perfectly preened magazine editor.

Yet here I am, 66 days in, experiencing bloating most days. So, below is what I have deduced about my particular reaction to foods on SCD. As always, bear in mind that everyone tolerates food differently.

1. Bananas cause me significant bloating. I’ve known this since day 4 or 5 when I introduced them, and you’ve known it too because I haven’t shut up about it. I try to eat fewer but usually I fail because…

2. I’m a snacker which makes SCD REALLY hard. Who wants to snack on a dry meatball or a cup of carrot puree? So I snack on bananas. All. The. Time. And then for dessert I have banana ‘ice cream’. I do in fact always have prepared vegetables and ripe avos in the fridge, but bananas are also easy to eat on the go or take with to work, social occasions, movies, etc.

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3.  Other things besides banana make me bloated. What are they? I’m not sure. Because in this experiment that is the SCD, you need to use your own body as the control, and I’ve often failed to do that effectively. You need to feel good and bloat-free before introducing new foods, and while I’ve done that to some extent, I have also compromised my results by continuing to eat bananas while testing other foods.

This means I’ve often experienced bloating while testing, but I’ve always blamed it on bananas. However, I’m now noticing that I can eat other foods (ie: meals of meat, assorted vegetables and avo) and end up bloated – and because of the muddied test results, I can’t pinpoint the culprit.

4. You have to introduce SCD yogurt CAREFULLY. As good as it can be for you, dairy-free SCD yogurt is made up of not one but a number of ingredients – and some of these (most notably nut milk and honey) can be problematic.

Nuts, even when blanched, blended, strained and squeezed into milk, can aggravate a sensitive gut, which is why they shouldn’t be introduced until 3 months on this diet (or 3 months symptom-free, which I reached in about February). Honey is also tolerated by some but not by others, and both nuts and honey are considered potentially ‘problematic’ foods for people on SCD.

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5. Nut milks and honey are probably adding to my bloating. They’ve made a fairly recent but regular appearance in my diet in the form of my yoghurt, and since their debut I’ve come to really enjoy them. Is the benefit of the probiotics outweighing the bloat? I can’t honestly tell you because while my BMs are satisfactory and quite regular, I haven’t noticed a marked difference since introducing the yogurt. But I do love the sweetness of they honey and yogurt is such a perfect after-dinner treat.

6. I felt my best during intro and phase 1, but my BMs were terrible. Swings and roundabouts? Maybe, but there must be more to it than that. There must be more that I can do to control my symptoms so that I can heal and enjoy a varied diet without bloat.  This means that I probably need to go back to the drawing board – or at the very least, stick to meat and veg for a few days and see if it helps.

7. This diet is about more than mindlessly following the phases. It only works if you listen to your body and respect your symptoms, and if you actively work to manage them. I haven’t always done that. I haven’t always been fully committed to being symptom free as much as I’ve been committed to eating legally and according to the phases. In other words…

8. Just because a food is SCD-legal and allowed in the phase you’re on, doesn’t mean it works for you. I found out that mushrooms don’t agree with me so I avoid them. But I’ve ignored the ill-effects of other foods and now I have this major bloat problem which is really a huge tangled mess. You have to be actively involved in really feeling your symptoms, identifying what’s causing them and eradicating problem foods from your diet – if only temporarily. Mindless eating is not going to cure you, even if you’re eating SCD legal foods.

So those are my observations for now. On this diet, I am definitely my biggest ally and also my worst enemy. It’s also why I haven’t yet opened my new jar of macadamia nut butter: The cashew butter was going brilliantly until, after 3 days, I caved and ate the remainder (about half of it) with a spoon straight out of the jar.

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My goal for the coming days: WILLPOWER. I’ve already made so many sacrifices that I can’t allow these little weaknesses to trip me up now. Now to just find the motivation to do better…

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Day 54: What things do you do today that your future self will thank you for? Share your tips!

I’m not getting all philosophical here. I’m not talking about the 50 or 60 or 100-year-old you. We’re all working hard to improve our long-term health and wellness, otherwise we wouldn’t be following these crazy diets and (literally) exercising out butts off 😉

I’m talking about you tomorrow. Not tomorrow in the existential sense; tomorrow as in the day after today.

A friend of mine, Simon, used to say, ‘That’s future Simon’s problem’, which was funny at the time (we were in our early 20s and travelling the globe when he came up with this). I always thought it was a clever saying, but at the same time, I really hate lumping things on Future Debby’s shoulders.

I’m the kind of person who likes to do things now, which I definitely got from my dad. I hate having tasks hanging over my head, so I tend to do things now rather than later. This is also great for someone with an unpredictable disease like UC: You might be 110% healthy today and (wo)man down tomorrow, unable to get out of bed – or more accurately, leave the bathroom. And for many of us – myself included – flares can sometimes hit suddenly and violently without any warning.

So here are a few things I do – and that you can do – to make tomorrow easier for future you:

1. Cook big batches of food. I like to cook lots of food on a Sunday. Sure, it takes many hours, but it means I have food in the fridge and freezer for an entire week. Tonight, my dinner took 5 minutes to prepare – 4 of which were done by the microwave 🙂

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2. Get as much work done today as possible. I set myself targets each day at work, and I hate to leave without having completed them. When possible, I try to do even more if I can, so that I have a lighter load tomorrow.

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3. Think about the little things you’ll need in the days or week ahead. I’m going to a baby shower on Saturday, so last Saturday, while at the shops, I took a few extra minutes to find a gift. This means that the gift has been ready and waiting for a week, and I won’t have to rush around tomorrow after work (or worse, on Saturday morning before the event) looking for something. Last-minute gift buying is frustrating, expensive, and almost never goes the way you hoped. Buy ahead with everything if you can, especially avos. Forethought is never more golden than when you want a ripe avo 🙂

4. Do an extra load of laundry today. Uggggghhh laundry. But if you have the time, just do it today. Tomorrow, you’ll thank you. Same goes for sweeping the floors, dusting the counters or taking out the garbage. Do it when you have the time, and maybe tomorrow you’ll have an extra hour to put your feet up. Bliss!

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5. Go to the bank. These days, you hardly ever need ready cash. Which means that when you do, you need to start digging around the bottom of your bag, your cubby, your pants’ pockets, your partner’s pants’ pockets, etc. We’ve all been there. Every Saturday, our maid comes to our apartment, and we pay her in cash. While at the bank yesterday, I drew the extra cash so that I won’t have to rush around like a mad thing when she’s already here on Saturday morning.

6. Put in extra reps when you have the energy. If and when a flare hits, you won’t be able to work out as heavily as usual – or even work out at all. So when you have the energy, and you feel like you can push a little harder, do it. You’ll be so glad you did.

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7. Fill up your tank when you pass the petrol station. You’re always going to need gas – and Murphy’s Law says that when you hit the red light on your petrol tank, you’ll be miles from a gas pump. Cue unnecessary stress. Rather fill the tank when you pass the station and you’ll pat your future self on the back.

8. Buy a case of wine or bubbly when it’s on special: This way, you’ll a) always have a bottle to take to a BYOB without having to find a liquor store that’s open (in Cape Town, most bottle stores close at 5pm and you can’t buy on Sundays), and b) you’ll always have a gift in a cinch. This was K’s tip, from experience 😉

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9 & 10: Two more tips from K. I asked her what she would add to this list, and she said choose your clothes tonight for tomorrow, to save time in the morning, and always reverse park so that you can get out faster in an emergency.

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Is there anything that you do to help your future self out? Share your tips – I really love hearing them 🙂