Category Archives: Diet

Blame FAT SOCIETY, not fat people

The blame game.

We love to play it, but does pointing the finger really help us move forward?

Often when we reflect on blame, we find that it’s not always as satisfying as we expect, even though in many cases, it might be our first impulse.

Fat people.

The last acceptable bias in society.

Free game for laughter, shaming and bullying.

Most people will tell you that a fat person is an acceptable object of abuse because they can change their habits, they can become thin.

And they would be right. It is definitely possible to become thin when you started out fat, but we aren’t looking at the bigger picture.

Over the last few centuries, people have been getting bigger.

Obesity is the single largest (forgive me) health crisis in the west. We are spending astounding amounts of money on the end stage results of fatness.

Roll it back 2-300 years and almost nobody was fat. It just didn’t happen.

So, if society as a whole was thinner a century a go, is it fair to blame the fat individual for their weight? Do fat people just not try hard enough to eat well?

Based on everything we’ve seen so far, with rising obesity levels throughout the entire population, that would imply that society is losing its willpower? That every subsequent generation is just that little bit lazier, more sluggish and weak minded. Does anyone really believe that? I don’t think there is any evidence for it. So why do you say that about the individual fat person? Why is the onus on them to be thin, when all of society is wider than ever? It just doesn’t make sense to bash fat people in light of the scientific trend toward obesity documented copiously in the medical corpus.

This is where we come to the title of this article. Pointing fingers at individuals is never helpful and completely misplaced. We are facing an obesity epidemic because society is FAT.

Let me explain.

Antibiotics are pumped into all of our meat and dairy, pesticides, growth hormones and a myriad of synthetic fertilisers engorge our plants and make them grow to monstrous proportions. Our fruits and vegetables are genetically tweaked to include MORE sugar, to yield MORE oil and to stay fresher for longer. Our water is flooded with flouride, hormones and even antibiotics. SUGAR, the number one substance contributing to this epidemic, is cheaper than ever and in more of our foods.

When we head to a shop, everywhere we are bombarded by snacks filled with inflammatory oils like canola, sunflower and palm, added sugar, which goes by names so exotic you’d need a masters in food production to decode a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, and preservatives of such abundance and diversity as to make jelly belly beans corp… well… jelly.

We are drowning in chemicals. Seemingly harmless products like yogurt and prepackaged salads contain teaspoons of sugar while claiming to support health. The food industry is deceitful to a fault, and if they were not regulated, we would be even worse off than we are now.

And what is it doing to us? Our digestive system cannot handle the abundance of damaging foods which are put on us unknowingly. Those of us who have become overweight have been the first to fall. Thin people, thank your good genetics amongst other things for your ability to stave off the fat, but eventually, even good genes will fail if we continue on this path.

Studies of the microbiome of the intestinal tract of obsese mice present some astounding findings. The most important of all being that in these mice, the microbiota are less diverse. Fat intestines are emaciated digestive landscapes. We are blaming fat people for the forest in their abdomen, but while they suffer with a digestive wildfire, their thin counterparts have stronger and more diverse intestinal landscapes.

When the gut biome fails, it makes room for pathogenic bacteria and glutinous carb/ sugar loving organisms. These bacteria, as described in GUT, could theoretically influence the host’s satiety and hunger levels, forcing them to eat more sugar by signalling the body to crave them. This reminds me of the cordyceps mushroom which takes over the host ant and makes it climb the canopies of trees to give the mushroom lots of light, to grow our of the dead ants HEAD (yuck). In this respect, we should treat the microbiome as something which can work in our favour to promote health, or against us, parasitically influencing us to gobble down more sugary fuel for their benefit.

Again, should we blame obese people for their fat bodies when we are only beginning to learn that our own intestinal tract, populated by a range of influential bacteria, can influence what we want to eat? And, that our society, pumping us full of the things which promote pathogens, is not at least somewhat to blame for fat people becoming fat?

What about fat children? You might say it was the parents. But, what about in cases where the child is fat, but not the parents? Children don’t actively attempt to gain weight and if their parents are not always fat as well, how can we blame them for their own obesity? Something else is at play here and it is not fat people’s unbridled gluttony.

So, fat people, unburden yourself from the shame which has been levied against you. You are not to blame for your weight (you probably already knew that anyway).

That doesn’t mean that you should continue to do the same thing. There are many ways you can start to improve you health. Two posts I created recently on fermentation and intermittent fasting can help you begin to regain some control over FAT SOCIETY.

At any rate, don’t forget that there are still whole foods, and cooking from scratch/ eating fruits, vegetables and free range meats and dairy are the best options in fat society. Go for foods that you know are single label. I’m talking bananas, cabbage, carrots, lettuce. Anything that comes with a list of ingredients is probably doing your body a disservice. Make it from scratch and claim back your health!

FAT SOCIETY WILL NOT WIN.

Leave a comment, like or share this with a friend!

J

 

 

 

Fermentation – An easy way to store veg and promote gut health.

It has been my pleasure in recent weeks to soak up the art of fermentation.

This involves something close to pickling a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but not quite.

Lacto-fermentation does not involve added sugar, so many products are more savoury once they ferment. Nevertheless, the range of foods that you can use in fermentation are staggering, each blend unique. The process is quick and simple, yielding probiotic pickles that help support your gut biome.

I had dabbled in this for a while, reading about it online and researching recipes for a range of fermented foods like Kefir, Kimchi and Saurkraut, but I took a dive and bought The Noma Guide To Fermentation on Amazon, plunging into it’s passionate and informative manual of frothy foods and drinks.

This is a wondrous book which provides all the central theory on fermenting your own foods, and the best bit, the lack of prescription. Noma advises us to play around with fermentation, finding blends of fruits, vegetables and spices which create exceptional flavours and unique taste bud experiences.

The key is salt.

Salting your foods in a correct ratio, somewhere at about 2% of the biomass of fruit and veg, will yield a fermented product in 3-5 days.

You can also try adding spices and herbs to these ferments to bring flavours together.

Kimchi blends cabbage, chilli, garlic and ginger with salt, creating a delicious gut friendly addition. I did in fact have some of this today with my lunch. It makes a delicious accompaniment to an omelette or scrambled eggs, as well as with a sandwich, maybe even as an addition to your healthy salad.

Fermented fruits and vegetables, touting all of the above qualities of ease, health and flavour are also among some of the most versatile foods in the world. What savoury dish does not benefit from the tart fizz of fermented foods? I challenge you to come up with one! You can add fermented foods to almost any dish to enhance flavour. The juices can help to build up a stock or gravy, can be poured over a prepared meal for some added zing, and can even added to deserts to make them pop! Fermented fruits and veggies are literally oozing complexity and utility from simplicity.

Aside from Kimchi, I plan to use my monstrously fertile rhubarb plants (seriously, these ancient garden stalks are like a hydra, they cannot be killed and grow back stronger when you cut them down) for a lacto-fermented rhubarb recipe which I found here. What I love about this is the blend of fragrant cardamom and fiery ginger with a seriously unique use for a tart vegetable (yes, rhubarb is a vegetable! hard to believe, I know). Some of the most fascinating ferments involve salted fruits and veggies which you might normally find in sweet dishes. One of Noma’s most famous ferments involves the gooseberry, a sour green hairy grape that pairs beautifully with fermentation. Sour fruits and vegetables shine in this process. The natural sourness of these fruits and vegetables can create beautifully tart surprises.

To boot, fermented fruits and vegetables can last months in the fridge. They don’t really go off, if prepared correctly, but be warned, the taste can become pretty intense the longer you leave them! Nevertheless, if everything else I’ve said on the subject hasn’t swayed you, what will you do with all your greens and colourful fruits come winter (the gardeners among you especially will want to make the most of your painstakingly raised produce)? At the end of the summer season, when you harvest your garden’s bounty, what better way to pay homage to your labour, than to preserve and pickle your hard work, letting it give back to you all through the winter!

Fermentation provides a literally endless supply of opportunities for us humans. It allows us to venture into a weakly explored territory of new flavours and culinary experiences (arguably something our ancestors understood well, but largely forgotten in a modern setting). It can add something special to almost any meal you make. Every blend produces a new and exciting flavour combination, influenced by the type of bacteria growing on the fruits and vegetables you use (all the more reason to grow your own!). It naturally aids our digestive tracts, which are constantly bombarded by unnatural chemical soups and processed junk. And finally, it lasts, giving you the benefit of your hard work all through the winter!

What more could you possibly want? It’s a no brainer to get into fermentation!

Keep well and enjoy learning, and if you liked this article, please share it with a friend or loved one who can benefit!

J

Intermittent Fasting – An easy, simple and powerful aid to better health.

As with many trends in the dieting industry, us seasoned veterans apply a liberal amount of scepticism to new and rising health fads.

We know, for instance, that you’ll often only hear the good, when there are certainly hidden consequences or trade-offs that come with making these drastic changes.

It’s our job to cut the wheat (yuck) from the chaff, and make sure that we make informed decisions based on a thorough understanding of both the pros and cons.

Keto has become a massively popular dietary trend in America, and has genuinely helped epileptic patients when drugs fail, and anecdotal evidence is growing that it can help diabetics shut down a cycle of sugar dependency, lose weight and become healthier.

All well and good, but the research is up in the air.

Studies suggest that long-term, the diet is hard to stick to, and when it fails, many dieters end up back where they started. Also, what are the side-effects of a long-term high-fat, high-salt diet? Some research suggests kidney damage, dangerous blood lipid profiles, and in some cases, death. In the short term, many users can experience horrible side-effect such as serious constipation and diarrhoea, palpitations, cramping, thirst, hypoglycemia, orthostatic hypotension and low-blood pressure.

It’s all too easy to find a new diet that touts extraordinary health benefits, wrap yourself up in the concepts and notions which support it, and turn a blind eye to the criticisms. More so when we consider that the internet is an echo chamber. Youtube’s algorithms show you what you want to see. Re-affirming what you watch. It’s force feeding you a truth that you want to hear. We must remain vigilant to the comforting cotton-wool like nature of social media and video sites which wrap us up in a cosy spool of ignorance.

So, what can we do? Remain critical of dietary trends, absolutely. Search google for literature on the efficacy of Keto for example. Search for side-effects, long term success rates, dangers and limitations of current data. This will give you a much more impartial attitude to your health and hopefully lead you to some safe and healthy middle grounds.

And of course, the best way to know how effective a diet or lifestyle change is, is to try it. We perpetually offer ourselves up as lab rats, eating the latest health food and documenting the effects. Thankfully, being in an age of relative enlightenment, we usually find either something doesn’t help at all, or it helps a little, or even a lot. We’re not usually faced with things which can really make us seriously ill. Thank you ancestors for poisoning yourselves for our gain!

With that in mind, I have been trying Intermittent Fasting, which displays promising evidence for being achievable every day, simplifying a busy lifestyle, and most importantly, reducing insulin sensitivity and promoting cognitive focus!

As I said earlier, we need to be careful with these kinds of changes. Intermittent Fasting can put the body into starvation mode, slowing the metabolism and destroying the bodies ability to deliver appropriate nutrition and energy to vital organs. The impact of this can range from fatigue, brain fog and low mood, to severe eating disorders and systemic organ failure. However, this tends to become a problem when people reduce their caloric intake as well as fast and continue to do this for long periods of time – not my approach!

So I’ve been fasting for two weeks on a 16:8 plan, which means that I fast for 16 hours a day and eat in an 8 hour window. It usually means I eat at 12 and stop eating at 8, with a little give and take here and there. I usually eat 2 meals a day of a relatively good size, with my first meal containing almost no carbs from wheat, potato or rice etc and my last meal of the day may contain a moderate amount of these carbs (though I try to avoid wheat and potato as both gluten and nightshades may irritate a sensitive digestive system). This actually prevents my body from going into ketosis, which it does not tolerate well, for all of the short term side-effects already listed above.

So, what has it been like?

Well, I have been really happy with the results!

As someone who has a big sweet tooth and is a bit of an emotional eater, fasting has completely curtailed my need for sweets. I just don’t feel a craving for them anymore. I haven’t had any chocolate the whole time and I haven’t wanted any! Miraculous and probably one of my favourite things about this change. This shows that my blood sugar is more controlled and that’s really important in staving off chronic illnesses like diabetes.

My blood pressure has also come down from about 140/90 which is just about borderline high blood pressure, to anywhere from 120/ 80 – 130 -80. This is an incredible reduction in just two weeks. I tried a lot of things prior to this to bring that number down, but very little I did seemed to work. This has been such a simple change to implement and is already significantly impacting my health and well being.

My skin has cleared up. I suffered from moderate acne all of my life. I still have the occasional spot, but the number of breakouts has reduced significantly. I’m losing weight. My trousers are baggier and my stomach is flatter. I have Sebhorrheic Dermatitis which is a more severe form of dandruff, which flairs up from time to time in a very bad way. This has also reduced, though not fully disappeared yet. Joint pain had begun to set in. Periodic sharp pain in my hip and knees became less noticeable and problematic. Asthma, which I acquired recently has been barely a concern since I made this change.

Overall, I am very pleased with the progress I have been making with this change, which has also simplified my lifestyle and is really quick and easy to implement. I’m seeing real, tangible health benefits which are not coming with nasty side-effects. It almost seems too good to be true!

We’re still in the early period at the moment and the proof in how effective this change is will come after I can say I’ve managed to stick with it long-term, but so far, it’s an exciting start to better health!

Join me if you can and try it out for a week, maybe it will help you as well!

Keep safe and well,

J

Childhood Obesity is Not a Child’s Fault

I was always big on food.

Since my earliest memory, I coveted chocolate and found comfort in sweet fruits and sugary snacks.

And loving food isn’t exactly the problem that causes obesity, but it was a problem for me.

By the age of ten, I was significantly overweight. By my late teens, I was on the cusp of obesity.

I had experienced an extreme and persistent emotional storm up until my 20s, where I began to settle a little and figure out where I was and how to fix it. I would describe my childhood as memories wrapped in fine web. They are not clear to me, but, like the spider who spins the silk, some insidious creeping evil lingers on thin, webbed sheets. Emotional abuse? Maybe? I am not sure. Memories a mind wraps in cotton wool, like the webbing that wraps a spider’s lunch, suggests some mind gore not easily tended to or mended.

I think, my point it this…

That, before I could even process that I was eating poorly, under the trust of parents, my body was wrecked before I had a chance to realise what had happened.

The legacy of that damage has caused mental and physical health problems that have severely impacted my life in many areas.

I have some degree of hatred for my body, so internalised these days that I actively avoid bringing this up with anyone. It’s just normal for me to feel disappointed in the way that I look.

I often have feelings that link my self-worth to my shape. It’s so hard not to do this when you absorb so much of the language and feel of the culture that you live inside. A language which is very much hostile to your existence.

And, when I think about it, is that just and fair to the children who suffer with being overweight and obese?

I hated my body as soon as I realised society hated it too. I have carried that burden since I came into my prime. The years of my life which were supposed to be so enriched with vitality, excitement and purpose, have been wracked with anxiety, spiritual desiccation and self-flagellation.

So many years of my life stolen to misery for something I had almost no control over. I was a child. I had no idea the ramifications for social status, happiness, longevity and vitality, but still I have felt ostracised and vilified.

It is not fair to assume all fat people have only themselves to blame. Childhood obesity is a problem that arises outside of that individual’s control and insidiously chews at their happiness and well-being before a chance is given to process it and address it.

I have struggled with my weight all of my life and am still lighter than I was at my heaviest. I try my best to exercise and work on my health, but much of the damage is already done and it was done before I even knew.

Not all fat people come to be fat through gluttony.

Some just existed, often within houses of emotional volatility and neglect, and then they woke up to adulthood. They were fatter than they should have been, but didn’t know why.

With love and well wishes to all bodies,

J

5 Things I’ve Learned Being Fat

1. Finding love should be easier when you don’t meet societal standards of beauty, but societies standards make you feel that you aren’t worthy of love.

2. Negative comments about weight perpetuate weight gain. I no longer accept malicious comments and will challenge them or turn them into positive affirmations internally.

3. My time is for creative, meaningful experiences and not absurdly weighted towards attaining punishing weight loss goals.

4. Diets always fail and eventually lead to binges. Change habits in small ways to make a global impact.

5. Challenging negative self talk. I deserve better than to project social expectations which have never served me onto myself in a bad way.

I used to be fairly thin, but I was just as unhappy and so much more of my time was spent on dissatisfying activities that stopped me from developing spiritually.

I am beginning to experience a great deal of pain just getting about normally and I need to make room for exercise, but not at the expense of my happiness and progress in life.

I’m glad I’m not conventionally attractive because at least people see me for my personality and not what I look like. That’s a far better starting point for long term happiness than beauty.

I’m not going to sit here and say ‘fat is beautiful, or healthy, or happy’, but I will say, fat teaches you to accept yourself and to challenge your limitations, to become a person people can look to for other reasons than my flesh suit.

Fat is often seen as weakness, but fat can be powerful. A desire to overcome expectation, to become happier in spite of what you look like or who you ought to be. We learn acceptance and forgiveness, both towards society and towards ourselves, so profoundly affected by it before we even have a chance to fight back.

Fat is forgiveness, acceptance and power.

J

Cutting Out Caffeine: One Week to Less Anxiety

It’s been a weird week.

I cut out caffeine.

Why did I do it? Well, I’m an addict you see. An addict, hooked on one of the last remaining socially acceptable chemicals.

I was so bad that I used to get coffee every morning before work, from fancy coffee places. My coffee was sweet, but my bank account was bitter! I was drinking 3-4 cups while I was at work. I was relying on it for focus, for energy and just to keep me moving.

And I was suffering from a whole range of anxiety related problems. Palpitations, chest tightness, muscle tightness, somatic paint, the list goes on and on.

Now, if you’ve been following my blog, I’ve been trying to tackle my mental health difficulties in a whole host of different ways. I’ve been eating vegan, meditating a lot, trying to follow my bliss, and lately, embarking on acupuncture treatments and chiropractic manipulations. I’m really making a concerted effort to become healthy again.

Caffeine is my substance. It’s my vice. I’m naturally a bit slow, a little bit spacey, like an astronaut on the moon, but this jet fuel helps me stay in tow with a fast moving world.

But at what cost?

Health problems? Anxiety? Over stimulation?

I wanted to see what it would be like to take it all away, just for a week and see how it felt. I’ve spent so many years buzzing about like a hyperactive bumblebee that I had forgotten what it feels like to not have that dynamo drink powering me up as I go.

So what happened?

Well, at first, as you can imagine with any kind of caffeine withdrawal, I felt a bit off for a few days. Headaches, lethargy etc. You know, the usual stuff.

But then, I really began to acclimatise and I noticed a couple of things.

I was eating more.

Something about caffeine suppressed my appetite enough that it was extremely noticeable when I took it away. I was eating more food and also food which was less good for me. So, in theory, that’s 1 for coffee and 0 for me.

I was spaced out all the time.

I was in a bubble. I felt like Kanye in Katy Perry’s E.T. video. And the strangest thing was that this never really wore off. I am naturally away with the fairies. I shouldn’t be so surprised, but I was surprised. I hadn’t felt like that in an age. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it put some things into perspective for me.

I work in an office. I don’t absolutely love my job, but I get by. But without caffeine, and me in my natural state, floating around like a bubble princess, I really began to realise how poorly suited I am for this kind of work. So many distractions, so many noises. So much shifting gears between activities and getting sidetracked. For me, bubble boy, this was a nightmare. I felt like I was the light silver ball in 3D Pinball, waiting for anything to space bar me into the stratosphere. Remember that game on Windows 98? What a time to be alive.

The most unpleasant side effect was anhedonia. If you don’t know what this is, it’s a total lack of interest in doing anything, even things you used to love or enjoy. It kind of fed into my realisation that my work was so unsuitable for my type of brain wiring. I was so tired with my job, tired with the same old cycle of Monday to Friday. Stopping the stimulant made this much more apparent. It was kind of amazing the extent to which I had been relying on coffee to hold my depression at bay.

In hindsight, I’m really trying not to beat myself up over this vice. My body craved it because my brain just isn’t making enough good-feeling chemicals on its own. It’s not my fault. That was a really liberating realisation to come out of the process. I have dependencies because I’m just trying to cope with a biological imbalance made worse by the demands of a modern 9-5 administrative job, not suited to my brain.

It also made me realise how much I needed quiet and solitude. I like to read, but it’s impossible for me to do it in noisy places. I need a quiet and calm atmosphere to do that. I could manage slightly better with coffee, but without, it’s just really good to know that I should be managing my environment so that I can be more productive. Maybe in the future, freelancing will be best for someone like me, where I’m in control of my space and can make the most of quiet time.

On the flip side though, my anxiety was down massively. I didn’t realise how much it was having an effect on me throughout the day. To feel genuinely calm and relaxed was a blessing. Tranquillity I had not been able to access for many years. And in a way, since my anxiety cleared up, I was able to think more clearly about everything. To really stew over my thoughts, rather than bouncing between them and losing track. It’s been really positive to slow down the pace and sit with ideas for just a bit longer.

All in all, it’s been a mixed bag. Some things have become better and other worse. I got rid of a lot of anxiety, but I also became more spacey and depressed. But that state of mind allowed me to ruminate on what it is that I’m doing wrong in my life. How my job isn’t good for my type of mind. How I should find something I love to do, at a pace that suits me. How I’m trying to be someone I am not in a society where the norms don’t benefit me.

And I guess you’re wondering whether I’ll stay away from the stuff going forward. Well, as with most things in life, balance is key. I’m going to drink less of it, absolutely. I don’t want the reverberating, painful anxiety. But for the time being, I need to be able to focus a little in a job I am not suited for. Maybe a coffee in the morning and a cup of tea in the afternoon? No more caffeine after 4pm so I can sleep well? I think that sounds like balance to me.

J

Chronic Illness and Vital Acceptance

If you’ve developed an illness that is now invading your every day life in a way you can no longer ignore, it can begin to gnaw away at our sense of justice.

You’re a good person, you work hard and try to get by in a difficult world. People can treat you badly and not bat an eye, but you’re not like that, and if you are, your awareness ignites you to apologise or make peace with your victim.

And yet, even so, you’ve been stricken with bad karmic juju. You’re suffering, but you feel that suffering is unjustified.

Our health is so important to our quality of life that we often get wrapped up in the ‘why?’. ‘Why is this happening to me?’ ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ ‘Why couldn’t I be someone else?’.

The ‘why’ is fine when we are dealing with the things that we can change. There are so many good ‘why’ questions that can really change the world. To some extent, a little ‘why’ can be good even in exploring chronic health problems. After all, a better understanding of our ailments can mean we can better address them and find some balance.

I’ve even written on the ‘why’ myself, exploring how a largely vegan or plant based diet can reduce inflammation in the body and improve overall health and wellness for those with chronic illness.

But, the ‘why?’ only goes so far. At some point, it yields less and less, becoming an exhausting obsession of diminishing returns. When we personalise our why’s and make them existential, we lose more and more energy, time, and happiness, to an unanswerable set of questions. When we reach this stage, we need to consider how we will accept the things which we cannot change and work on making our realities manageable, even joyful.

Acceptance is vital to living with chronic illness. We cannot continuously snarl at our illness, hoping that eventually it will subside or diminish. We cannot keep it in a box away from visitors, a morbid little secret out of the public eye. Our illness will live with us and we must accept that it continues, as do we.

Illness is unpleasant. It makes our lives hard, sometimes unbearably painful, both mentally and physically. It can be isolating, desperate and cold when so few understand how painful it is. But acceptance is part of changing that story. Don’t try to push it under the rug or pummel it into submission, but try to accept it as a part of you, aim to no longer fight with yourself.

In some respects, accepting chronic illness can make it easier to live with and tolerate. It can even contribute to recovery or partial recovery. The stress we cause ourselves when we are fighting our illness can inevitably strengthen it. The more you fight a thought, idea or perception of reality, the more power it gains over you and the more fear, panic and despair it generates.

Your reality needn’t be one of fear or aggression directed at disturbance and chaos. When you choose to allow or accept chronic illness to exist with you, rather than against you, you can begin to change your relationship to it. You can begin to be happier and lead a more fulfilling life.

We all want that, right?

J

5 Signs Your Life has Become Overwhelming and How to Begin Restoring Balance

You wake up, having not slept restfully for a week now. Your thoughts are dim and dreadful. They simmer at first, then a slow-boil turns to froth and foam and flying spit in your mind’s pot.

How will I get everything done today? There is nobody to help me. What is happening? How do I stop it? The world is out to get me. I am struggling. What can I do?

Splish, splash, schloop, go the thoughts inside your head as you watch from above. There is no saving this soup now, spoiled for good. Let it all burn.

Many can relate to that boiling pressure underneath the surface. It can lead to outbursts, uncharacterful behaviour and alienation, both for the person experiencing the feeling of being overwhelmed, and for the people close to them. Here are five signs that you’re not coping well, and some suggestions to fix it.

1. You’re Acting ‘Out of Character’

We are all creatures of particular habits. Some of us are quite reserved and don’t go out very much, others are very much the opposite, seeking social events everywhere they can and many opportunities to be the centre of attention. When you notice your typical behaviours are reversing and flying to the polar opposite of your ‘normal’, you know there’s something up. As in the examples above, someone who is quiet and calm, with a smaller social circle, might decide to get drunk every night and meet strangers. This can sometimes be hard to spot from the perspective of the person who is feeling overwhelmed, but family and friends should make every effort to monitor this behaviour and offer support where possible.

2. You Don’t Care Anymore

Generally, you’re empathetic, kind, a listener and someone who is compassionate to the needs of those around you. Lately though, you’ve been feeling kind of ‘meh’. You see people in strife and it’s just not twanging on that cardio banjo in there. You know you should be feeling something, but you’re struggling to get that emotion to translate. No, you’re not a sociopath, you’re just going through a rough patch and sometimes this can make you appear distant, callous or unfeeling. It’s the people who care the most who tend to lose this ability most drastically under pressure.

3. You’re Getting Irritated by the Smallest Things

Did your housemate eat your last banana? Did someone take your usual seat on the bus? Are you about to burn to ash over the news that petrol prices are going up? Do these questions make you feel like wielding a sledgehammer of destruction, like a malevolent Thor, brimming with spite and rage? Thinking about how proportionate our responses are to the perceived inconvenience, of course, at a time when we have calmed down, can sometimes give us the opportunity to reflect on how overwhelmed we feel.

4. Australian Animal Syndrome

Like the black widow, who hides in people’s toilets to bite their buttocks, and the koalas climbing from the bush below, we begin to do one of two things, bury ourselves, or attempt to escape out of our situation. Are you hiding from your problems, getting poisonous when people enter your personal space? Or, are you fleeing up into the canopies? Hiding or running can be a surefire way of knowing you’re overwhelmed and in need of intervention.

5. Your Opinion Of People Begins to Change

People you have held dear for years can begin to become ugly in your mind’s eye. You begin to create gargoyles where angels once stood, and by the end, you are surrounded by warped caricatures of the people you once loved. This is a very disturbing and unsettling mechanism related to being in a state of overwhelm, that can begin to unravel your sense of identity, purpose and happiness. If the people you cared about are no longer friends, loneliness can set in and begin to eat away at your joy.

So, now you have a few ideas about what being overwhelmed looks like, here are some important interventions to think about, so that we don’t continue feeling this way.

Be Honest

Speak to the people around you that you feel you can trust. Tell them that you do not feel that you can cope and ask for any guidance, support or assistance they can give you. If they cannot, try not to take this personally, it may be that they have a lot on their plate too. Try to approach people who you feel will be compassionate and understanding to your plight, as some people can make their problems seem more important, which will only make you feel worse.

Seek Support Networks

At school, work or university, make sure to access any available resources. For work, it might be some time off sick, or booking a few days holiday. At school, seeing the school counsellor or speaking to a teacher you trust might help you on the path to improvement. At university, try to utilise the university counselling services and student support networks. If you’re not sure, bring it up with your personal tutor. Speak to a GP about how you are feeling and see if they can refer you for assistance. And, seek the local charity networks to see if they can help you with additional funded support.

Meditate

Meditation can be a great way to relax and calm down, but it is also an excellent tool to make breakthroughs with seemingly insurmountable life problems. One of the best techniques I find with this, is to visualise a pool, dropping in a question at the height of relaxation and inner calm, without the expectation that it will return an answer. You are trying to submerge the question into your subconscious, so that it can naturally provide you with an answer in a more intuitive way. I find the headspace app is really incredibly useful for this, so go ahead and try it out.

Are You Looking After Your Health?

One thing I begin to notice immediately when I am overwhelmed, is how it so often correlates with slipping into old dietary habits which are not good for my sense of wellbeing. If you are lucky enough to know what kind of diet works for you, then make sure to reflect on this when you feel overwhelmed. Am I cutting some corners? Can I try and cook a proper meal this week instead of dropping into a convenience store for a cheap ready meal. Often our bodies just need that little bit of extra support so that we can deal with what life throws at us.

Give it Time – Like, A ‘You’ll Still Be Here When The Sun Explodes’ Amount of Time

So, now you’ve heard me whittle on about this, that and the other, and it’s either helped you, or left you more enraged than you began (absolutely not the intention, but a hypothetically plausible outcome). Start asking yourself some questions, without demanding desperate answers. Try to give yourself time and the love and support from those around you, even if you feel that they do not always understand. Look after your body and meditate without expectation, as if answers can come between now and the squashification of the universe, which scientists are referring to as ‘the big crunch’.

I wish you happiness, fulfilment and the ability to overcome anything that life throws at you.

J

Contact Us

 

The Commercialisation of Veganism

As I said in my last vegan related post, veganism has had such a warped presence in the media lately. It’s become a sign of political deviancy (definitely not always a bad thing), it’s become a trend or social statement amongst certain subcultures, but probably the most disturbing aspect of it’s image, and what has the most potential to destroy its benefits, are its aggressive commercialisation.

I believe the commercialisation of veganism is a slippery slope that takes the diet away from its root values.

Sure, it’s great that we have so many options now a days. For instance, we can get alternative milk products nearly anywhere – great for someone like me who has eliminated dairy. I can make sure I have something other than water to add to my porridge, and it means I don’t have to drink my hot drinks black all the time (though I don’t mind black coffee at all). There are so many types of tofu and other alternative meat products, and they’re getting cheaper. Even the dreaded vegan cheese is improving and I am seriously impressed with some of these options, no doubt attained through well meaning and dedicated research. All wonderful stuff.

However, I am falling into the convenience trap. I can go to any local store these days and pick up a vegan sandwich. It’s probably still healthier than the meat filled alternative, but the list of additives and preservatives in these meal deal sandwiches is, or can be, astonishing.

I am primarily a vegan for my health and secondarily for the planet and its animals. When I eat these easy-to-grab meals, I’m making a sacrifice in this aspect. These chemicals are not good for our bodies, and I now have to fend off the ever growing number of unhealthy vegan options available. This is fine if you’re not in it for the health reasons, but for me, it’s a shame to see more and more of this ‘technically vegan but not very nutritious’ commercial food being brought into our near view and within arm’s reach.

Macdonalds, the kings of convenience food, even launched a vegan meal just the other day. Again, it’s technically vegan, but it’s also deep fried. Is the market now going to become saturated with unhealthy vegan foods at the expense of one of its core tenets, health? As with most things that become popular, they tend to lose their roots, their original purpose and human benefits.

So, how do we combat this change? Campaigning is one thing, but we aren’t all into that, and many of us are using veganism as a way to recover from mental and physical illness.  We don’t have the time or energy yet to face the political and business side of commercialisation.

On the ground level, the individual only has two choices. To join groups where knowledge of healthy, free from additives foods can be found. We deserve to gain information from our like-minded peers on places that do nutritious vegan food that can still be enjoyed without cooking from scratch. Convenience doesn’t actually have to cut corners on health, but often it does and we must scan our local towns and cities intently to find those hidden gems, restaurants, diners and sandwich stores, that make the effort to produce good, nutritious food.

The other branch of focus is pretty straight forward and we attempt to do it all the time. We must try to organise our time so that we can cook healthy vegan food that we know will give us energy and help us recover from our ailments. We need to try hard to bring our enjoyment of cooking and preparation to life and to find ways to make food at home which is nutritious, simple and easy. It can be done, and like anything worth doing in life, persistence and practice makes it possible.

Well-being for the planet and the individual should remain the core focus of veganism going forward, and we can achieve this by drawing on our collective knowledge through local groups and working on our relationship with cooking and food preparation. Remember why eating vegan is important to you, perhaps even meditate and reflect on it a bit every day, so that you can focus on your goals and prepare yourself for daily success.

Good eating, cooking and learning friends,

J

Veganism Helped Treat My Depression

Veganism has garnered a reputation as something for radical political youths, hippies and edgy people with colourful hair (which I love, don’t get me wrong). But what is the merit and practicality inherent in a diet that has often been labelled the bad banana in the bunch?

I reached a critical point in my life only months ago. I was suffering with chronic back pain from a slipped disk, mood swings, something I imagine close to hypomania, joint pain in my knees and asthmatic symptoms like severe tightness in the chest. When I was energetic and ‘up’, a lot of these symptoms went away. Every couple of weeks, I would be sure to plunge into ever greater depths of dark depression, which no longer remained contained in my mind, spreading now deep into my bones and my heart and my lungs. My plummeting abyssal thoughts began to twist my body as well as my mind.

I reached a breaking point. I could not bear to go lower. To live in endless cycles of physical and emotional pain, followed by the barest respite of a fickle and uncanny happiness, like there were threads sewn into my lips, pulled up in a wild grin by an evil puppeteer, destined to cut them away and lead me back into doom with a shadowy, hollow cackle.

I started to move towards fixing myself. I did research. I read books and articles. What I discovered was that there appeared to be several links between food allergies (I was food intolerant to dairy as a child and this issue may still persist), chronic pain and mental health. One diet promised to eliminate or drastically reduce the impact of all three.

To the average individual, going vegan may seem drastic. Sadly, I have been to some very dark places in my head. I would eat or drink anything, a laughing periwinkle, ground unicorn patties, the algae on a whale’s back. Anything, to reduce the pain and suffering I was experiencing. When your depression starts to make you feel paper thin, until you start to feel the cracking of your soul, parched, barren and dry, I cannot express the lengths you would go to to avoid that feeling again. It is indescribable.

For me, this was an easy choice.

I feel better.

I am by no means happy every day. That would be impossible. I still have many bad days, but the bad days aren’t as bad anymore. I have more energy. I do not spend so many of my evenings in pain.

I am writing again! I work full time and I STILL spend some of my evening writing and looking after myself. This is an incredible milestone for me. I never expected to feel well enough ever again to write three blog posts in a week. Yet, here I am!

Part of this change will surely be down to my resolution to look after myself, to tackle my fears and insecurities, to grow as a person and to never take life for granted, yet part of that transformation is absolutely about radically overhauling what I choose to put into my body.

My last few blog posts have also been about the impact of meditation and meditation has so far proved extremely helpful in the fight against mental illness. I am tackling this problem from as many different angle as I can. I will not settle and give into my pain and suffering. I will use it to transform myself.

So, there we have it. Veganism is part of my commitment to look after myself. It’s not political, though I am happy to be choosing a more sustainable and animal friendly lifestyle in the process. It’s not to be trendy. I don’t and have never run in trendy social circles. I’m doing this because my research has led me here and I refuse to give into pain and stop fighting for my happiness in this life. Veganism is a commitment to my individual well-being and that is where my stance on the diet ends.

Nevertheless, I do believe that many people could improve their depressive symptoms by trying a vegan diet. It’s naturally low-inflammatory food staples do help to reduce allergic stress responses in the body which absolutely can adversely effect mental health. I won’t stress this too much as I am not a doctor and my research is purely personal, but I do want to share my story so that others may find some respite from their pain in depression.

We are all different. What is helping for me is not necessarily for you, but unless we research and persevere, how will we know what is?

I wish you happiness and good health, and a diet that helps you maintain the best possible head space.

Greenly,

J

Contact us