I’ve had a lot of enquiries recently about how to survive Xmas whilst on the Paddison Program so I thought I would give you the benefit of my discoveries over the last 18 months !  Being on the Program is quite like being on a vegan diet, except you can eat eggs !


1. This means NO MILK of any kind from either a cow, goat, buffalo or sheep and strangely enough, camels !!   I found to start with I eliminated all kinds of the above milks.  This meant having black coffee (not good for the stomach !), black tea  – which took a lot of getting used to and all sorts of herbal teas till I settled on a berry one which I love.  For cooking I use Oat Milk as I don’t like soya or almond, but this is a matter of personal taste.  You also can’t have any yoghurt made from the above animals and definitely not condensed milk or buttermilk.

2. NO BUTTER at all which means you must check all ingredients on their packaging to make sure none has  been put in.  Out of curiosity I had a look at the ingredients in margarine and, yes, there are a few types that don’t have buttermilk in them.  I have found one made by my local Supervalue and it’s made from palm oil so I use that in cooking – for example making my own pastry.  This way I can be sure of what’s in it !   Oil of any variety is 100% fat, but I make sure I use vegetable oil in small amounts if needed.

At Xmas there are loads of sauces around that contain milk/cream which  you must decline or make yourself using the above non-dairy ingredients.  Also masses of scrumptious desserts awash with cream and they really are a no-no !  If you are confronted with one, keep an eye out for fresh fruit and have some instead

3. NO CHEESE.   This means all kinds of cheese with no exceptions !  There is a vegan cheese made if you can find it, but I did not like it at all !  You will find that all processed foods/meals  are smothered with cheese and you have to give them a miss.

4. NO MEAT.  When I first went on the program I avoided all meat for the first 9 months.  I used soya mince for spaghetti bolognaise which, if you put a little gravy browning in it at the end, your husband will never notice the difference !   I now occasionally eat white meat such as chicken or pork in small amounts as I found I could tolerate them.  But don’t forget that there are loads of wonderful vegetables eaten raw or cooked and are delicious.

Of course Xmas is a very sociable time and you may be confronted with some or all of  the above.  When invited out to dinner I always immediately say to my  host/hostess  that I am Dairy Free and Vegetarian.  If they throw a wobbly, I say that I am perfectly alright with a salad though on the whole I find most people get quite excited about cooking with my restricted diet and come up with all sorts of ideas !  In restaurants I tell them firmly when we are being seated that I am dairy free and vegetarian and even down here in the wilds of SW Ireland they always manage to come up with something tasty !

As far as my family is concerned I haven’t found it a problem.  I will cook meat for them and I just eat the potatoes and vegetables.  I make soups from a packet of frozen vegetables with vegetable stock and water added, cooked and then liquidised.  Excellent, warming and filling !  My daughter-in-law is vegetarian so we both get on fine ! Salads in summer are wonderful, but not too many around at this time of year.  Obviously Xmas rockets up your sugar intake and it’s wise to try and limit it a bit, especially as going out for long bracing walks in the pouring rain are not much fun !  Alcohol is OK (but full of sugar !) in moderation, but since I started eating well I just love as much water as I can get down me !  I do partake of a glass of wine now and then, but I am quite happy to be the ‘designated driver’ and stick to water.  Luckily I have never liked fizzy drinks  and since watching a tooth dissolving overnight in CocaCola, have avoided it like the plague.!

In the UK & Ireland a vegan diet is now the ‘In Thing’ and supermarkets and restaurants are eager to stock vegan food and trumpet it out to their customers but do always check the labels for any of the above as their idea of vegan may not be the same as yours !!

Lastly I hear you say “IS IT WORTH IT ?” and to you doubters I can only say that the total joy of  the last 18 months on the Paddison Program and being without my RA pain of 17 years,  off all my drugs and having no fatigue at all has made me feel reborn.  Having to change what I eat is the very smallest price to pay and I don’t even miss the ‘NO’ foods any more !  Did I mention that on the Program I also lost 42 lbs without even trying ?! All I need now is a Program to cure my being 72 !!  HAPPY XMAS TO YOU ALL !


For a total of four years, Pat worked in TUNISIA based initially in their main city of Tunis, so as a result I spent a number of Christmases there. Although in the main Tunisia is very hot, in winter the temperature drops to below freezing sometimes, necessitating a warm jacket at the very least!
Going there for Xmas has one big advantage – it’s Muslim and they don’t celebrate Christmas – so absolutely no glitter or glitz, or Santa or reindeer. You leave it all behind in Paris or London or wherever and arrive to invigorating sunny days and heady nights where only  lights sparkle in their watery reflections.
Of course, there is the advantage of being able to go and spend Xmas Eve at a hotel like The Residence (my favourite hotel in the whole world !) who go over the top with glitter and glitz and French food to die for with not a turkey or a cranberry in sight. I remember one menu which said it had ‘poached wolf’ for the main course ! Now there still are wolves up in the mountains, but I had never seen one and on enquiring from our Tunisian friends found out that the French word Loup was actually a kind of fish and had just been literally translated !

We usually return there on New Year’s Eve and take a room for the night as their floor shows are legendary. Tunis is the original home of Contemporary Dance Schools and past pupils return for this one night to Tunisia to show off their mind-blowing skills in order to welcome in the New Year. One time when we went the whole show was put on in the huge Roman swimming pool with scantily toga-clad young men brandishing real flaming torches as they walked down into the water. After a good sleep in the preceding afternoon, I usually manage to stay up till about 3am and then wander back to our room to the scent of Neroli which pervades the entire hotel and sleep soundly till noon. Poor Pat has to be at the office by 8am, but he manages to sneak out without waking me and leaves me to my dreams.


Breakfast on New Year’s Day is spent beside a small indoor pool filled with floating flowers and a huge inverted Xmas pine tree hanging upside-down over the pool. Not a single decoration on it, but a high up window is opened and the local wild birds come down into the tree to feed on the resin and chirp and sing their small hearts out. Formidable.
On a couple of occasions when Pat has been away in a country I can’t visit due to visa problems, I have spent Xmas Day with my family here in Ireland and then jetted off to AUSTRALIA on Boxing Day to spend New Year with my daughter. This is indeed strange as they have all the Xmas paraphernalia at the hottest time of the year. Santa’s and glitter all over the place at loggerheads with the burning sun. Up in tropical Port Douglas, Far North Queensland where she lived it was also the ‘wet season’ so it was necessary on New Year’s Eve to put on a sparkly glamorous blouse on your top half and an old pair of shorts on the bottom half as when it rains there it can come up to your knees in seconds and somewhat dampens down the firework displays – but good fun and all part of the Ozzie experience as the water quickly drains away ! Also there is nothing like a boat ride out to the Great Barrier Reef to celebrate New Year and swim and snorkel in the warm waters of the Coral Sea whilst everyone at home freezes ! What a wonderful and amazing country it is !
But regardless of wherever you are, I hope you have a wonderful pain-free Christmas and manage to take it easy and reflect on all the good times you have had and those to come – as they surely will.