Lottie Drynan is a chronic illness and mental health advocate and creative, sharing her journey with and raising awareness about IBS online.
She shares the realities of the illness on her Instagram channel The Tummy Diaries @thetummydiaries including bloat-friendly outfits, she runs a support group for women on Facebook and she created an amazing gut-health diary to help others! It’s not surprising that Lottie won our Creative Impact 2020 Award in the Best Chronic Illness category.
We (virtually) sat down to chat to Lottie all about her successes, her lifestyle choices and the highs and lows that come with life as a creative online. She opens up about struggles and how she turned these into motivation to help others.
It may come as a surprise, but The Tummy Diaries actually started off as a recipe blog, but Lottie admits “that kind of disintegrated when I realised that I was missing a key skill of being a food blogger – being able to take photographs of food that actually looked half edible!”
“It was after years of suffering with stomach issues and finally being diagnosed with IBS that I realised I needed to take ownership of my health and wanted to really start learning more about my body and how I could feel better.”
“I’d been prescribed a restrictive diet to try and get my symptoms under control and I was feeling quite overwhelmed and isolated with it all so one evening I just decided to set-up an Instagram page to try and find others in a similar situation. I started following totally different accounts to those I followed on my personal account; switching from fitness models to people I could relate to, healthcare professionals, chronic illness bloggers and inspiring women who promoted self love and body confidence.”
Finding “her” people
Lottie noticed that the more she read and shared the more she felt like she had found “[her] people” and felt part of a supportive and positive community. “As my confidence grew I started to share more openly about the personal sides of having IBS; the bloating, the anxiety and everything in between and each time I shared, more and more started joining the conversation and I felt an even stronger sense of purpose and belonging. And well, here we are!”
And that audience on Instagram has grown to over 120,000 followers! Lottie notes that most of her audience are “womxn who either live with a gut health condition and/or are on a journey towards accepting their body.”
She uses her platforms to try to empower others to gain a better understanding of their bodies – whether that be illness related or not – and feel happy and confident in their own skin.
As well as having an online presence through The Tummy Diaries, Lottie also has a motivation and useful diary. The ‘My Tummy Diary’ is a three-month undated diary designed to help users gain a 360 degree understanding of their wellness and the lifestyle factors that affect their health. It has prompts to help track diet, stress levels, movement, menstrual cycle, water intake and so much more.
Lottie told us that ‘the idea behind it is to move us away from obsessing over one area such as food, and to instead look at the bigger picture and understand the smaller adjustments we can make to positively impact our gut, like going to bed earlier, practicing mindfulness etc rather than the drastic measures that aren’t often necessary such as cutting out entire food groups without an allergy or intolerance.”
“The diary has been designed with the help of, and approved by leading dieticians and healthcare professionals and also features an entire resource section full of information and ideas to help you get more in tune with your body.”
“The diary was born after my own experience with years of tracking food using problematic apps and restricting my diet which resulted in a very negative and dangerous relationship with food, before realising that there were so many other areas of my health I was unknowingly neglecting. It’s designed to be a safe and happy place that we look forward to using each day, even on the days where we don’t feel our best.”
Lottie on body confidence
Living and feeling our best is something that Lottie is passionate about in her own life, too, and promoting across The Tummy Diaries. We wonder if she had always felt so comfortable showing her body in front of the camera?
“Oh gosh, no! Five years ago I wouldn’t have shown my bloated belly to my best friends, never mind strangers on the internet.”
“But even without a chronic illness, bloating can be so normal and is something so many of us are affected by yet still struggle with finding ways to feel more comfortable and confident. My bloated wardrobe isn’t about hiding our body but finding ways to feel as good as we possibly can even during a flare-up.”
Feeling confident isn’t always easy and it is something that plagues us all. Lottie notes it is something she has worked on over time and something that has grown and bloomed within her.
“I’m so proud of myself to finally be able to say I am now confident in my own body. I don’t love every single part of it every single minute and still have moments or days (usually during a bad flare-up) when I need to work harder on it, but the fact I now go 99% of the day without even thinking about how my body looks means I’m in a good place.”
We do have to invest “real-time and energy” into being body confident but for Lottie, it “has absolutely been a journey but one of the most worthwhile ones I have been on.”
“Body image can be hard enough to deal with but when you throw in a chronic illness that impacts your physical appearance it naturally makes it harder. Practising self-kindness and all the other tips I share on my platform and in the diary, I’ve eventually managed to get there and it’s been life-changing so I just hope I can help others to get to this place too.”
Promoting better body image
You can learn to accept, and even eventually love your body despite your IBS and live a happy life
But how can we actually encourage a better body image day to day? We all have those days that are much harder than others, so how do we pick ourselves up? Lottie comments on a few tools that have helped her in the past that she encourages others to get involved with:
- Journaling is magical. Whether that be by using the Tummy Diary or even just a notepad, get those thoughts down onto paper, write some positive affirmations and start processing the emotions and changing any negative habits.
- Put aside some time for learning more about your body. Listen to podcasts, read books, book in with a doctor, dietitian or nutritional therapist (who takes a 360 degree approach) and really invest in getting to know what makes your body tick
- Get rid of anything that makes you feel rubbish and replace it with something that makes you feel good. Whether that be clothes that don’t fit or feel uncomfortable, social media accounts that trigger native thoughts and toxic relationships. Know your worth and know that positivity really does breed positivity.
Apart from encouraging a better body image, Lottie also shares more practical tips through The Tummy Diaries to help fellow IBS sufferers so they do not have to suffer in silence. We picked her brains for 3 key ways to help:
- The importance of understanding your body and how the gut-brain connection plays such a big role
- That a flare-up and bloating is not your fault and does not mean you have failed, you’re not worthy or you’re not beautiful. It’s an illness that we can do our best to manage, but when flare-ups do happen we need to find ways of looking after ourselves and helping our bodies and minds recover
I think we can all agree that far from being an online space and blog dedicated to the trials and sufferings of IBS, Lottie Drynan draws on her past and present experiences to help and guide others. She hopes to share her story as a beacon of light and hope to encourage better body image, accept and learn how to deal with your own IBS and how to live an abundant life!
You can find out more about Lottie and The Tummy Diaries online.
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Amy is a plant-based food blogger, recipe developer and content creator behind Nourishing Amy. She focuses on food, health and happiness to promote a nourishing lifestyle and regularly shares her positive vibes, inspirational affirmations and food creations on her social media channels and her website.