Around this time last year I decided I was going to give Veganuary a go. Veganuary is a charity and a movement which encourages people to go vegan in January and supports them in their vegan journey throughout the month and if they choose to keep going. As a pescatarian and former vegetarian who hasn’t really eaten meat for the best part of 25 years, I planned to just go vegan for January and then go back to eggs and fish at least. Dairy I wouldn’t miss – it didn’t always agree with me anyway – but I didn’t really think I would be able to give up eggs and fish as they seemed so essential to my diet.
My main reason for giving Veganuary a go was for the culinary adventure. I wanted to get back into cooking and try some new food, and I wanted to get out of some of my stale habits. There are lots of reasons one might choose a plant-based diet, and if the focus is to be plant-based rather than vegan, the reasoning is more likely to be health and diet. That being said, I ate a lot of amazing vegan junk food and cake in January, so I don’t want anyone reading this to think it’s all lentils and chickpeas! I also don’t want to give any wrong impression that veganism or choosing to eat plant-based is a ‘diet’ in the sense of it being a plan with which to lose weight. It’s not, although there can of course be fantastic health benefits to any change in what one chooses to eat, and cooking more from scratch and eating more vegetables and pulses can only be a good thing in terms of health.
So, it was all about food to start with. I was excited by how big Veganuary was this year – all the supermarkets had lots of exciting new things to try, and of course there was the Gregg’s vegan sausage roll too!
However, as the month went on I began reading, watching documentaries and educating myself, and I learnt more about the other reasons one might choose to be vegan. Of course, the main reasons are usually the environment and animal welfare. Although I’ve always been someone who likes animals and cares about the environment, I didn’t think eating a bit of fish and a few eggs were that big a deal. What did it matter if I put a bit of honey on my porridge or my shoes were made of leather? I never thought about the plastic my food and beauty products came in, and I certainly never checked to see if my products had been tested on animals or contained animal products such as lanolin and collagen.
But at some point early this year, perhaps even in the middle of January, just a couple of weeks into my vegan journey, I made a decision that this wasn’t going to be just a month-long experiment. It was like I took a good look inside and found a label that said ‘vegan’. It was a light bulb moment of ‘oh, this is what I should have been doing all along!’. I didn’t know I was a vegan, but suddenly it all made sense and I couldn’t imagine living any other way.
The definition of veganism according to the Vegan Society states:
“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
During my journey this year I have cut out all animal products from my diet. That was instant, and coming from being pescatarian I can honestly say it wasn’t difficult at all. I haven’t craved anything or missed anything really, and there have only been a few odd occasions where I have had trouble finding something to eat or have felt a bit left out. But, on the contrary, there have also been some lovely moments where I have felt so included; where friends or colleagues who aren’t vegan have made deliberate choices to provide a vegan option because they know I will be there, and that makes me so happy.
Making changes in other areas of my life is more of a process and not something that can happen overnight. As I use up a beauty product I try to replace it with something vegan, cruelty free and with as little plastic as possible. I’ve made the switch from bottles of shower gel to solid bars, and other products are slowly being switched over as I can. When I’ve needed to buy new clothes I have tried to look for vegan and sustainable options too – who knew a pair of trainers could be vegan! I just never thought about it before.
Above all else, this year has made me think so much. I just never considered whether it was right or wrong to use animal products, and I didn’t know about the exploitation of animals in order to provide us with everyday products like a pint of milk or an omelette. The environmental impact of eating meat and fish had never really occurred to me, and I was used to choosing the simple and fastest option, without thinking about how sustainable it was.
So, this was the year I discovered I was a vegan. I’m not writing this to preach at anyone else – you do you – but I do want the world to know I’m a vegan and I’m proud. I will continue to shout about it on Instagram, because I want people to see the delicious food a vegan can eat, to see how healthy I am (not protein deficient!) and to see the choices I make which make less of an environmental impact. Perhaps my choices can help to inspire another person’s choices, and that’s all I can ask.
I know this blog has been silent for over a year, but I’m back! Watch this space for more adventures as I continue in search of my ikigai…
After a bit of a rubbish week it would have been so easy to take my grumpiness into the weekend. I’ve been feeling stressed out and overloaded, and it’s at times like this that I usually turn to comfort food and spending my time in a way that doesn’t really benefit my health. But not today. Today I chose to start my day with a Wellness Brunch at my favourite Bristol cafe, Foundations.
Although the event was taking place in a space in which I felt comfortable, and I knew I would know at least one person there, attending an event like this was still a little bit out of my comfort zone. But, as I learnt today, sometimes it does us good to step just a little way out of our comfort zones and into our ‘stretch zones’; it’s good to push the limits a little bit.
I hoped to find myself in a room of like minded individuals wanting to think about health and wellness, and I knew that if nothing else, at the end there would be waffles.
As it turned out, there was so much more than waffles!
Cat Taylor of Nudge Yourself was brilliant. She ran the event with a perfect balance of looking inward and looking forward, laughter and mindfulness, breathing and punching. Yes, there was boxing, and there was also drawing with pencil crayons. What better way to start the weekend?
We thought about happiness more than anything else, and what it takes to achieve this.
After the workshop, boxing gloves off and pencil crayons down, we enjoyed a healthy brunch and had a good old chat. I met some lovely women – really interesting people, all very much on the same wavelength. We talked about journeys, and it was inspiring to hear other people’s stories and to meet some strong women, following their passions, trying to live their best possible lives.
Because that’s all we can do really, isn’t it? Live each day in the best possible way, get up when we fall down, and just BE HAPPY.
As part of my Veraflow dance fitness instructor training studies I’ve been asked to look at the question “What is fitness?“. Curious to look at more opinions than my own, I asked my Facebook friends what fitness meant to them, and here are the highlights.
A lot of friends spoke about “having decent energy levels” and “being able to do things“, and interestingly a lot of people mentioned mental health. One friend said “fitness is being able to do what I want to do without wondering if my body can do it“, which I thought just about summed up how I feel about fitness too.
Another friend commented, “fitness helps me clear my mental state after I’ve sat behind my desk at work all day“, and I couldn’t agree more. No matter how bad, stressful or busy my day has been, a session in the gym with my personal trainer or a night of salsa dancing will always make me feel better.
Lots of people referred to having a “better quality of life” due to fitness, and said that fitness is something that makes them happy.
One friend summed it up perfectly, “Fitness is the opposite of that depressing feeling when the hill is too steep, or the bag is too heavy. It’s about being able to enjoy life and the world around us for as long as possible.” Yes. This is exactly how I’ve been feeling abut fitness recently. I’ve been noticing how things that used to be a struggle or make me tired are so much easier now. For example, I went to London for the day last weekend, and I found myself taking the stairs instead of the escalator, jogging up them without a care in the world. Even standing on the escalator used to exhaust me before, but I’m fitter now and much more able.
So what is fitness? It will be something different for each person, depending on your own individual journey. Perhaps for some it’s running a marathon, and for others it’s simply being able to get out of bed each day. For me, fitness is being able to live the life I want to live, being happy and healthy, both inside and out.
What does fitness mean to you?
Nutrition is the foundation of any healthy eating plan, or so I’m told, but it’s something I’ve struggled with a bit over the last year. A year ago I got a personal trainer at the gym and it’s made a massive difference to my health, strength and wellness, and we talk about food a lot. He’s not one of these PTs who dictates a certain diet plan or tries to get you replacing meals with shakes or anything like that – we just talk about what I eat and why I eat it.
I have issues with food, and could definitely be called an ’emotional eater’. If I have a bad, busy or stressy day, I eat. If I’m tired, I eat. If I;m sad, I eat. And when I eat, I eat all the wrong things. Chocolate being the main vice.
Over the last year I’ve tried to get into food prepping; planning my meals ahead, making a schedule for the week, and cooking healthy meals to take to work for lunches. I’ve done OK… I mean, I’ve definitely made an effort, but there have still been a number of days where I’ve given up on my healthy thoughts and gone to the local food market for a less than healthy (and very expensive) take-away lunch. In the worst cases, I’ve bought a ready-meal.
Planning and prepping food takes time, time which I don’t usually have, and I find it quite stressful. It’s boring to eat the same thing every day (I LOVE food) and expensive (and sometimes wasteful) to keep lots of varied ingredients in my fridge.
That’s why, when I popped into my favourite new healthy cafe (run by a friend’s PT) just before Christmas, the sign for a ‘Meal Prep Club’ caught my eye. I almost wrote it off as ‘bound to be too expensive’, but luckily I didn’t act too quickly and stopped to find out more.
Foundations Cafe is a great, healthy cafe on Baldwin Street in Bristol, which happens to be close to my office. They serve delicious salads, baked sweet potatoes, sandwiches, protein shakes and all sorts of things, and it’s become of of my favourite places to eat out in Bristol. The Meal Prep Club they are offering is simple, and surprisingly not at all expensive. In fact, my lunches are working out at just over £3 a pop!
This week I have have my first few lunches from Foundations Cafe, and I can honestly say each one has been delicious and, most importantly, stress free! I simply order on a Sunday for the week ahead, and collect my lunch each day. One of the things I have really enjoyed so far is the surprise each day, because by Tuesday I have completely forgotten what I ordered!
My lunches have contained things I would never think about putting in my salad, such as walnuts and apricots, and things I would never include as I just wouldn’t keep them in, like feta.
Joining up to Foundations Cafe’s Meal Prep Club is one of the best decisions I’ve made this year so far! I feel like in doing this I’ve set myself up to a really good start and with a really strong foundation to have a healthy 2018. I love food, and I don’t want to go on some crazy diet or deny myself of things all year just to lose weight. I just want to eat healthily and happily.
If you’re in Bristol and want to find out more, check out the Foundations Cafe website: https://www.foundationscafe.com/meal-prep-club.
Lent starts today. For any of you who don’t know, Lent is a period in the Christian calendar which runs from Ash Wednesday (the day after Shrove Tuesday, or “pancake day”) until Easter Sunday. Lent has always been about penance and self-denial, and many people choose to give things up during this period. It is also supposed to be about prayer and charity.
Well, I’m already doing my bit for charity during this period, by volunteering for an event for Japan on March 11th and, although I won’t exactly be praying, the event is being held in a church.
I’m not a Christian, but I’ve often found that giving stuff up for Lent is a good way of imposing a rule on myself and forcing myself to do something. I can be very strong-willed, but I do need rules, and rules imposed by others are much easier to stick to. I could easily give something up for, say, a month, but when challenged by other people I find it hard to stick to my guns. However, if I can say, “well, I’ve given it up for Lent”, no one can really argue with that.
So, I have decided to give up chocolate from today until Easter Sunday (April 8th). From today, I will not be eating any chocolate in any form. No chocolate bars, no chocolate biscuits or cake, no mocha from Starbucks. No Options hot chocolate, Shape chocolate puddings, or chocolate coated raisins. Not even a Chocolate Button will pass my lips.
If you know me in the real world, please be kind and don’t try to break me!
A bunch of pink, sweaty women, writhing around in a school gym on a Tuesday night – what must we look like? Every week (well, almost every week – you know, unless there’s an offer of something better to do) we gather to shake our booty to the Latin-inspired beats of what is known as “Zumba“.
We wiggle, we shake… we even try to shimmy. The toned and tanned instructor smoothly moves from dance step to dance step, encouraging us to be sexy. Sexy? In an exercise class? Yes. We’re supposed to be sexy women, proud of our bodies, shaking our butts and sticking out our boobs. Calling out to imaginary men to come and dance with us.
We try. In our minds, we all aspire to look something like this:
In reality, we actually look more like this:
The class is entirely female, although men are welcome. Men do do Zumba, but not here. Our class is made up largely of middle-aged women – some younger, some older. There are certain stereotypes you will find in every exercise class. There’s the ever-so-keen one who always arrives first and stakes her place at the front, chatting with the instructor. Self-tan woman, who is an interesting shade of orange. Awkward girl, whose body is really stiff and robotic. The older lady, whose boobs occasionally brush the floor. And me – the hopelessly uncoordinated yet still enthusiastic one.
I generally stand somewhere around the middle, but to the side so I can dash out for water when I start choking on my own sweat. I try to watch the instructor and ignore everyone else around me. I try to “dance”, rather than “exercise”. I try to forget aerobics classes and think salsa, merengue, hip hop. I try to “zuumbaaaah” but, being British, I do find all the shouting and “yee hah”s a bit much.
Still, at least I earn my dinner on a Tuesday night.