Vegan Superfoods – Suggestions Anyone?

So the dairy-free diet is going fairly well, in that I haven’t lapsed at all, which is quite a surprise to me!

I wouldn’t say that the results have been miraculous to be honest. I would be tempted to give up and move onto eliminating another food, except that my reading has led me to understand that lactose can take quite a while to clear the body (either mine or my baby’s).

So, I will stick with it a bit longer…

In the meantime though, I am getting pretty bored of eating so much bread, oats, nuts and dried fruit. I’m pretty sure that my body is going to go on an all-out rebellion if I don’t get some more variety in my diet soon.

Has anyone got a suggestion for awesome vegan foods that I might be missing? Bear in mind that with two little ones I don’t get a lot of time for cooking or preparation, but I am open to recommendations.

Dairy Free Days: A Confession

I am very happy to announce that I have remained dairy free for a few days now. I’ve been diligently checking packets and refusing foods that I cannot verify as dairy-free.

However, I am spotting a potential pitfall of this obsessive packet-reading, being that I seem to have shifted my focus from eating healthy foods that are naturally dairy-free to trying to find acceptable substitutes to the foods I want. I’ve eaten a lot of dark chocolate mousse and protein bars so far this week.

I hope that by noting and admitting this in this public space, I will keep this budding bad habit in check, if only to save face!

I will update this blog soon with my progress, so watch out for any omission of this particular issue (in the event that I’ve simply scoffed a week’s worth of fake chocolate and iced buns).

As for whether my son is feeling the benefit of this change? Its kinda hard to tell as any progress is probably being compounded by what appears to be early teething. This week, he has mostly been grumpy.

On Being A Rubbish Vegan

A confession: I’m a rubbish vegan. Despite years of discomfort as a result of various food intolerances, I just can’t seem to crack the dairy-free bit.

I’m really good at being a vegetarian, as meat and fish holds no interest for me whatsoever. But dairy is an issue, which is ironic because it is quite evidently the food I react to the most.

Why do I struggle? Two words – junk food. I eat too much of it and psychologically don’t particularly want to give it up (because it’s tasty, duh) so I have a huge blind spot when it suits me.

It’s quite ridiculous really. This morning I ate a bowl of cereal with dairy-free milk, then later had a dairy-free latte with a croissant – y’know the all-butter pastry(?!). I was halfway through the damn thing before I realised my mistake.

Sad really, isn’t it?

Anyway, now that my motivations for the move towards a vegan diet have changed – though technically it’s a dairy-free (not choice) / vegetarian (choice) diet – as my son appears to be reacting to my milk, I am finally going to give it a proper go.

Tomorrow, I am going to attempt to go fully dairy-free. No all-butter pastries or milk chocolate in sight!

Updates to follow… Fingers crossed.

When it Rains…

A small family ‘adventure’ went downhill in a typically rapid fashion this afternoon, when a walk to the park followed by lunch in a cafe turned into full-on food refusal and a supermarket temper tantrum – because which toddler doesn’t love being dragged along the floor? I think someone may have been a bit overtired.

The grand finale was getting absolutely drenched on the walk (jog) home. Poor toddler was sitting on the buggy board with only a hoodie for protection. Guilty mummy moment right there. It was shortly after he fell off the buggy board too.

The weather forecast predicted a maximum of 30% chance of rain for the hour we happened to be walking home. I fancied those odds as the sky looked pretty clear…

On the plus side, once we had got home and changed into dry clothes we had yummy hot chocolate to warm up.

The raincoat is now going to live in the buggy between uses for the forseeable future. Lesson learned!

Time to Get Back On Track

Having just returned from a second short family break in two weeks, I am actually feeling relatively rejuvenated. [Mentally at least – physically I feel my usual level of parental exhaustion.]

As a result, I have felt quite motivated today to make a start on my short-term life goals, such as taking steps to live more sustainably and reducing the amount of dairy I consume (for health reasons).

By no means a perfect attempt – using a shampoo bar then accidentally using bottled shampoo instead of conditioner isn’t exactly less wasteful – but I’m satisfied with my efforts.

Hopefully I can keep up the momentum in the coming days. Next week is going to be challenging, so I would like to get back into a positive routine as soon as possible.

Another outcome of my trips is that I’ve been too busy to write though. Fingers crossed I can get into the right mindset for that too.

Giving Up (Caffeine)

Apparently, if caffeine was discovered today it would be considered a highly potent drug and would be unlikely to be legal in most societies. I can believe that. I am currently in the throes of a caffeine detox and my goodness do I miss it! Parenting small children is rather less fun right now.

Despite the obvious health benefits of this dietary adjustment, my main motivation for giving up caffeine is actually for the purposes of investigating potential causes of stomach irritation for my breastfeeding son. Following a bit of online reading, I have also cut out cow’s milk and my postnatal multivitamins in case they may be exacerbating the issue.

Tea, I love. Tea of all sorts. But coffee has become something that I ‘need’ to function. I know that it is essentially a psychological quirk, but the physical effect of imbibing so much coffee since giving birth has surprised me. I mean, it’s only been three months!

The last few days have been a blur of pounding migraine-like headache, irritability and feelings of total exhaustion – oh, the exhaustion! I’ve been going to bed at like, 9pm just to try and feel some kind of normal when my usual 6am wake up call from the toddler comes around. The withdrawal symptoms are just horrendous considering caffeine is so readily available. I mean, even hangovers usually subside after 24 hours! [Besides which, a hangover is more a collection of side effect symptoms rather than withdrawal symptoms, so that was a bad comparison anyway.]

Day three of ‘caffeine-free me’ is now drawing to a close and I think I’m over the worst of the withdrawal now. Luckily I wasn’t drinking quite as much coffee as I used to. The last time I went cold-turkey on caffeine a few years ago, I was having at least one coffee shop beverage per day, whereas it’s the granules that have snuck up on me this time. So rather than a week long headache, I was lucky to get away with 48 hours – not bad eh? Not good either, by any measure.

The addictive nature of caffeine is quite apparent. Ever since I gave up, I have been craving coffee all the time. Visions of sweet creamy caffeinated goodness plague my thoughts! Adverts really don’t help.

I’m not really a ‘foodie’, but I do enjoy my teas and coffees a lot – especially when they are paired with a sweet food. However, I have noticed that I don’t really enjoy eating those foods as much without a hot drink to complement them. Perhaps I will eat less junk food as a result of this purge? I already am I suppose, by ditching the lattes in the first instance.

Perhaps I will set myself a minimum goal of working my way through the various herbal and fruit teas that I have in the cupboard before allowing myself to indulge again. At least that way I will reclaim some of my kitchen storage space…think of all the new teas and coffees I could buy!

Feel free to share your experiences of cutting out caffeine or dairy below. Did you find it helped you? How long did you stick with it?

Do Compliments Undermine Conversations About Mental Health?

Recently – or more specifically, since giving birth – I have experienced a strange phenomenon.

I keep having conversations with well-meaning people, both friends and strangers, that leave me feeling quite confused and frustrated.

The general structure of the conversation goes like this:

[Friend or stranger coos over my baby]
Friend/Stranger: How old are they now?
Me: About X weeks/months
Friend/Stranger: How are you feeling?
Me: Ok…quite tired…
Friend/Stranger: [interrupting] Well you look great, not tired at all!

So what is wrong with this exchange?

Well, I’m not really the type to talk about my feelings readily – certainly not with strangers – but I will be a bit more open with very selective friends. However, as these conversations keep happening, it has struck me how much harder it is to be honest about how I’m feeling after such a comment. The compliment is almost dismissive of concerns that may have been expressed before it; presenting as ‘happy and well’ is all that matters, not how you actually feel.

I don’t know about you, but over the years I have really perfected my facade of emotional stability. I am lucky enough to have remained quite functional even in some pretty dark times, but presenting as something you are not to be more socially acceptable is generally not a good thing.

Today I met up with a friend from work for the first time since my little one was born and we had a very similar conversation to the example above.

While it was nice enough to see them, I felt that their compliment totally undermined any potential discussion of my mental health. They were aware that I have been struggling lately (in fact, this was the reason for them meeting up with me) but when they told me that I looked well, I felt like I couldn’t really contradict them. I felt that to do so would be akin to rejecting their well-intentioned compliment and may cause offence. I mean, how should I respond to that? – “Well thanks, but actually I feel like crap and hate myself like 90% of the time”??

I don’t think that would go down too well.

So, the effect of the compliment is essentially for me to not speak up about my mental health issues. Which is bad, right?

Don’t get me wrong, this is very much one of those ‘first world problem’ scenarios, but our society is currently experiencing a perceived mental health crisis, so maybe it’s worth considering?

Is it just me? Or am I actually making a valid point here?

Eight Reasons Why Parenting With Anxiety is Hard.

Anxiety has an annoying consequence of making regular life activities harder or even downright scary. Add a couple of feral lemmings into the mix and the results are terrifying.

If you’re wondering what could be so bad, here are some real life examples of anxiety-inducing parenting stresses:

  1. The responsibility. A pretty obvious one sure, but it’s a biggie. Being responsible for the wellbeing of someone else when all you want to do is hide under your duvet is hard. Just don’t read the news, ever, or you’ll never leave the house.
  2. The social interaction. Yes, you absolutely have to speak to other people, or even seek them out on purpose. Whether it’s a medical professional, health visitor or (the worst) other parents, there are times when it is simply unavoidable and actually in the best interests of your child. Don’t even get me started on social anxiety of toddler groups – because evidently misery lives company. Clearly there is nothing you want to do more when you are stressed and sleep-deprived than publicly argue with your toddler about the morality of snatching, or negotiating their participation in ‘singing time’ before dragging them out to the dulcet medody of their tantrum with your free arm (newborn is in other).
  3. The lack of hygiene. Nappies aside – given the choice, would you wish to spend your time around little people who like eating everything from fluff found under their bedroom rug to their own snot? Me neither.
  4. The lack of a schedule. Time for kids works on a more relative level than we are used to. For example, pooping exactly two minutes before you are leaving the house, being sick exactly one minute after being passed to a kindly relative and being asleep/awake at the exact opposite times you need them to be. You can plan your days until you are blue in the face, but don’t think for one second that the reality will be anything like you are imagining. If you are the type of person that gets tummy pains at even the idea of lateness, I recommend just throwing away your clock and winging it.
  5. The lack of control. No, you may not poop/have a shower/do anything in peace. Self-care is now a distant memory. Just face it, you are no longer in control of your own destiny. Young children operate on a different plane of existence and there is no changing this. Suddenly, you appreciate the little things so much more.
  6. The lack of logic. When the toddler years hit, you may find yourself stuck in an argument with a small person who was insistent that they wanted to go to the park during nap time, but now they would rather lie on the cold floor and nap than put their shoes on to go to the park. Also, beware possible arguments about how you don’t actually influence the TV schedule, or the forces of magnetism (when applied to toy trains).
  7. The lack of personal space. My partner has to ask special permission to hug me now, because having two kids constantly touching me is so overwhelming.
  8. The inability to relax. From storming into your room at 3am demanding cuddles, to suddenly running down the dark hallway towards you like a crazed animal while you are watching TV, you are always at risk of nearly soiling yourself. For mothers of breastfeeding infants, it’s the constant threat of them biting your nipple without warning that keeps you up at night.

So whatever your triggers are, parenting is sometimes likely to feel akin to immersion therapy.

The good news is, your child is probably one of the people on the planet that you can spend time with without it being too socially draining. Plus, they love nothing more than hanging out with little old you!

Also, while parenting may contribute to anxieties in the present, it can also be a reason to feel more positively about the future.

Honestly, I don’t think I ever really considered the future at all before I had kids as I never felt sure that I had one. But now, no matter how hard the day has been, I always look forward to tomorrow (even if it’s just because today is over!).

Fun Fair

Today I caught a glimpse of the the little boy that my toddler is growing into.

We went to a local ‘steam fair’, half expecting our toddler to be too overwhelmed to enjoy it, but to our delight he lived every minute of it. He was engaged and elated with every new experience.

Favourites included:

i) the steam train ride (obviously, as he is obsessed with engines),

ii) warm, freshly made sugared donuts (a.k.a “pastries”)

iii) expanding his soft toy collection by virtue of his duck hooking prowess. [However, when it came to choosing a prize he took some convincing that he couldn’t have the dirty plastic duck in lieu of a plush animal. What you see is what you get, right?]

I can’t wait to share more of these moments with him.