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Tips for self-isolation – by Nicole Wilson

A Coeliac NZ member shares advice for staying well in self-isolation.... I was recently privileged enough to go on a wonderful family holiday with Hubby, my father and my brother + wife. In the past family holidays have all been NZ-based. Growing up it was usually in a camping ground in some far-flung corner of NZ. Now that we are all grown-ups and sleeping on the ground isn't the adventure it once was, my father decided to take us on a luxury cruise.

We were on a 15-day tour that started and ended with a couple of nights in Buenos Aires, Argentina and then 10-days on a small cruise ship to Antarctica. I had stipulated my need for gluten-free food (along with some other food allergies). Breakfasts were provided at the hotel as part of the city tour, and they were very good with some delicious GF pastries (that I snuck extras of into my handbag for lunch). However, heading into the city to eat, with the language barrier made it tricky but not impossible. Most cafes and restaurants had staff that spoke pretty good English. Asking for food ‘sin gluten’ or ‘libre de gluten’ (without or free from) was useful to know. In one restaurant I was lucky enough to get a waiter who had a relative with coeliac disease so I was very well looked after.

On the cruise all the meals were provided for. At the buffet and on the a la carte menu there was a symbol to denote GF, but it wasn’t always accurate so I did find it best to double check. Sadly the bread was not the best. The food on the whole was delicious, but it would’ve been nice to have more than a fruit platter or ice cream as a dessert option. It isn’t that hard to make a GF brownie.

Then, because we were already in Argentina to transit to and from Antarctica, Hubby and I decided to spend another week away for our 7th wedding anniversary. We visited the Iberā Wetlands in the north-eastern part of Argentina, because Hubby is a bit of a bird-nerd. The bird life was amazing! And we saw capybara, which are basically guinea pigs the size of sheep. We were staying at a resort where all meals were provided. Again I had notified them of my dietary requirements and they were excellent at catering to them. Though as with the cruise, dessert options were limited but this time the bread was fantastic.

Then it was back to the real world, and what a crazy, mixed up world we returned to.

Hubby and I returned just before the compulsory 14-day isolation directive. As it came through a week after we’d returned we went into self-isolation until our 14-days were up. That short isolation was easy to do – and we were fortunate not to have contracted or unknowingly spread the virus. However, there is the potential for long isolation periods as this situation continues. It is important to remember that isolation doesn't mean locking yourself away at home, tucked up in bed or on the sofa. Unless that is exactly what you need to do to cope right now.

Isolation is about reducing physical contact with others to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. Staying connected is very important because we humans are social creatures. Isolation and loneliness have a massive negative impact on our quality of life and overall health. So finding novel ways to stay connected and look after our health is very important, and in this digital age there are many ways to do this.

For those of us with specialised dietary requirements the panic buying around food can add to the everyday anxiety of simply ensuring that we are eating safe foods. I know I struggled to find everything I needed when I went to the supermarket the other day. For me this wasn’t a big deal because I planned ahead and checked what pantry items were getting low, not only looking at what had run out. This means that, hopefully, next time I shop I can get what I need but I know that I won’t likely run out in the meantime. Where possible I would also recommend using online services for shopping, especially for non-perishable items so that you can limit your visits to the supermarket. This also helps support businesses that are struggling at this time too, as many are now providing online options.

Another way to fill in time when in isolation is to learn a new skill. One of my favourite things to do is try new recipes, or make them up. Maybe now is the time to learn the trick of baking your own gluten-free bread or try out some recipes on the Coeliac NZ website.

*See details below for Nicole’s online gluten-free cooking class

Getting up and out and moving your body is still really important during isolation. Movement is good for body, mind and soul. Movement will help support your immune system, it will help keep your body functioning properly, it will help with sleeping, and it can help calm the mind.

I get that can be tricky at the moment if your joyful movement of choice is going to the gym or doing a yoga class at the town hall. Going to those sorts of places and isolation don't really go hand in hand. But maybe you could come up with some novel ideas on ways you could still do similar workouts at home.

Here are some of my suggestions on how to make movement swaps if you are in isolation:

1) Scheduled classes/workouts, e.g. gym or yoga class - do a YouTube search for videos to follow along with. If you have a buddy you usually go with to keep you motivated, challenge them to do the videos too, and to find new ones for you both to do.

2) Walking - you are still allowed to go out for a walk, you just have to keep your distance (2 metres) from anyone else out and about. If you don't want to get out on the streets and potentially come into contact with others, you could walk around inside or outside the house. If you usually have a buddy you walk with, phone them up and chat while you walk.

3) Spring clean - maybe not particularly joyful, but it can be satisfying, and I know cleaning the windows can certainly work up a sweat.

4) Gardening - if you have a garden you could maybe tackle a project you keep meaning to do but never get around to because it seems so big. Break it down into 'workout sessions' so each day you do 20, 30 or 60 minutes and you'll have it done before you know it!

Please take care of yourself and those around you during this difficult time.

Nicole Wilson is a Warkworth-based Associate Registered Nutritionist (NSNZ) with a down-to-earth, no nonsense approach to health and wellbeing. Once upon a time she owned and ran Elocin Specialty Foods, a gluten-free bakery.

Nicole runs an online gluten-free cooking class available at  You can do the course in your own time, in your own kitchen. Maybe even get the kids involved! There are no fancy ingredients or equipment required. If you need some help working through the recipes there is a closed Facebook group just for class attendees or you can email me direct. Download the recipe and watch the free online video demonstrating how to make your own Seeded GF Crackers at home – and for more recipe inspiration see nutritionkitchen.co.nz/

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