[wellness] The False Concept of Cooking

I’ve always been a big fan of eating whole, unharassed, clean vegetables. I really love the simplicity of it. I think it’s one of the things I love most about my rabbits – we can pretty much eat the same food. However, I didn’t always know how to eat. My biggest mistake when I first became vegan was that I tried looking for foods in the supermarket that were beyond the fruit and veg aisle. I found myself frustrated with the conventional foods and convenience foods in the parts of the supermarket that I’d always bought food from, the fact that dietary staples such as Packet Pasta (an example would be Kraft Macaroni), vegetarian frozen food, vegetarian chilled ready meals, curry sauces, snacks and even drinks were full of animal products. I had many a meltdown in the supermarket where I would just walk out of the shop and sit in my car and cry, because I didn’t know what to do, I was certain I wasn’t going to eat that crap, but I didn’t know what to eat.

Something my aunt told me recently, when I told her a vegan friend has found out she’s gluten intolerant, was “she’s going to have to learn to cook then.”

This is the big myth that keeps us all subjugated and enslaved to a world of shit food.

You don’t have to learn to cook. You don’t need to learn to cook.

You need to learn to eat.

A lot of “so you want to be vegan” type books (apologies if this book is real, I’m categorizing a type of book here) tell you that you need to eat more whole foods, that you can get “meaty” foods like tofu, Facon (fake bacon), scheeze (fake cheese) and so on, to replace the meat in your food.

Meat loss is not the problem.

All these eating books have built up the idea that you need to replace the meat with a solid, meat-textured object, that you only need to check the ingredients are animal free, and that if you do, POP! You’re vegan.

This type of eating is unsustainable, and really it undermines the fundamental principles of veganism. Instead of trying to find foods that you used to eat which happen to be vegan, and attempting to subsist off those (beans on toast anyone), or trying to “veganize” foods which are not vegan, or imitate foods, here’s a staggering thought:
How about try eating totally different foods, including lots of fruit and vegetables, and see where that takes you?

I’m only being slightly sarcastic here because it wasn’t until my mum died of cancer in December that I realised what I’d been doing wrong with my eating habits this entire time. We all do it. It’s so ingrained into us from birth that we must eat a particular way and when we question it we’re told it’s because of nutrition and when we get ill we’re told it’s because we’re not eating a particular way. On paper, I’ve always thought I understood this concept of “changing the way you eat” and thought it just meant, “stop eating animal products” and “move away from meat and two veg nonsense.” It’s so very much bigger than that.

What if the answer was to totally break free from all the things you think you know about cooking, all your kitchenware, all your dishes, steamers, microwave, etc etc? And then, once you’ve started listening to your body, identifying what it needs, and acting on it, you could maybe add some of those things back in?

After I got the news about my mum, I couldn’t eat anything other than raw vegetables for a week.

I didn’t understand why. My 22 year old sister, across the country, was spontaneously having the exact same problem. We both fundamentally knew, no matter what anyone told us was the cause of our mother’s death, that food was the key. In our house growing up, a meal would be chicken nuggets and chips, with maybe a tablespoon of tinned peas or sweetcorn. Snacks were crisps, biscuits and in summer, home-made ice lollies made from that stuff you dilute. We never had real fruit juice, fresh vegetables or fruit. Sometimes at Christmas there would be tangerines. When we went to clear her house, we found receipts for food shopping. Ready meals full of processed meat and other junk. I had changed the way I ate when I first left home at 18. Moving in with an Aunt while I finished school had been a culture shock. The idea of eating two freshly cooked vegetables with the evening meal literally astounded me. I felt so healthy. I didn’t even consider the possibility that this was only a moderately healthy meal. I still filled my face with chocolate and crisps, now adding biscuits and cakes to the list.

Sometimes, when I’m reading about nutrition and I come across some of the delicate balances of nutrients that we humans need, I wonder how it is that some people are still alive. I wonder how my sister and I didn’t grow up with some serious developmental disorders due to what we were eating.

I went to university. I became vegetarian. I felt like I’d never been healthier. I swapped sausages (which I’d always detested) for vegetarian sausages. Chicken nuggets became vegetarian nuggets. Chips (fries) were still chips. Pot noodles and spaghetti hoops were still the same too. Crisps (potato chips) were still a daily dietary staple. So was chocolate. I struggled with my weight, constantly fighting to get down to a 10 (US6). I exercised and didn’t understand why I was tired all the time. It literally didn’t occur to me that my poor diet was making me ill.

Fast forward two years. I became vegan. I took the “3 week vegan challenge” and, once the three weeks were up, I never really got round to eating eggs or dairy again. I felt healthier, stronger, happier, more outgoing, my grades soared and I was finally on track to get the degree classification I’d been obsessing over for the past two years. Never had I felt better. All my life, I’d been plagued by stomach pains, stomach cramps, trapped wind, bloating and a constant feeling of nausea. I had actually associated that nausea with feeling full. When I became vegan, after the first two weeks, all these problems went away. I realised that it wasn’t normal to feel like this, and that I had the power to avoid it. That was when I first started wondering if I was lactose intolerant. I had a few false starts in the first year; every time I slipped up, I felt the familiar nausea and pains in my stomach. It became a big decision-making factor in what I ate. And nothing vegan ever made me feel like that.

Two years later, I’d become quite ill. I’d been working at McDonalds and eating fries for lunch every day, or a hash brown if I was on the breakfast shift. Milkshakes started creeping their way in. And ice creams. Soon I was feeling sick all the time again, and I had forgotten why this happened. I thought it might be gluten, I was adamant that it couldn’t possibly be milk. After six months off gluten and feeling only slightly better (probably because my favourite food was pasta and cheese sauce), I had to concede that it was milk. I was being sick several times every day. I got very ill with a mobility problem and was in bed most days, with no money to buy good food. I finally cut out milk and, while some of my problems improved, others got worse.

I had cut out milk, but I hadn’t replaced it with anything. Yes, I was drinking soy milk instead of regular milk in my tea, but there was also the lasagna, mac and cheese, yoghurt; I had replaced them with totally different milk-free foods, but I hadn’t replaced the nutrients. Primarily, the protein.

I didn’t realise this until a fitness instructor was sat next to me at lunch one day and she looked at my food, tapped the plastic container and demanded “where is your protein?” in a particular tone that the written word cannot emulate. I looked at my food. I looked at her. Nettled at criticism of my food, I said, “I have protein with my evening meal.” She told me it wasn’t good enough. We never spoke much again, but in the back of my mind it got me thinking. Where was my protein?

I got wrapped up in other things such as teacher training, and my nutrient stores got even more depleted, until one day, early last year, I realised I couldn’t carry on. I was working 70 hours per week and not getting enough time to eat. I got diagnosed with anaemia and I knew it wasn’t the only problem. I looked at all my proteins in the cupboard and I could have cried. Quinoa, advertised as a complete protein, is one of the worst sources of protein of everything ever. White pasta has more protein. My Quorn, a vegetarian substitute for meat, which I was only eating for the protein because I hated the stuff, but it said on the label “good source of protein” was the second worst offender. In some cases, less than ten grams of protein per 100g. I believe, after years of false advertising, that they changed the labelling in the last 3 months because it’s a terrible source of protein. Nuts, textured vegetable protein and tofu all did a lot better. Nuts were the best. And lentils were really good as well. Mushrooms were another shocker, with hardly any protein in them. As a comparison, I looked at the meat that my boyfriend kept in a particular freezer drawer. The salmon, lamb, and chicken were all good sources of protein – but even the salmon was not as good as peanuts and pistachios.

I went around all the foods in my kitchen and I felt like my eyes had opened. I suddenly had a basis to found my dietary principles on. I was still eating a lot of processed and convenience foods, but I figured at the time that it was fine as long as I got my protein. However, I had noticed that I was struggling to get my five-a-day fruit and veg.

That was where I was at when my mum died.

Then my attitude to food was turned on its head even more.

Instead of eating for “taste” or “favourites” or “comfort” how about eating for nutrition? So, eat things that will enable you to get 45g of protein a day, eat enough things containing vitamins and minerals, get your 90g of carbs and 70g of fat. Ensure that the protein includes the right amounts of each amino acid, and that the fat contains essential fatty acids.

As long as you are doing that, it doesn’t matter how you eat. You can eat that as a meat eater, a vegetarian, a vegan, raw vegan, fruitarian or sproutarian (sorry, juicearians, if you even exist, it’s impossible to get all your nutrients from your specific diet).

When my mum died, and I was just eating vegetables, I began researching raw food diets because they have almost become fad diets. I did a series of articles on them, which explained what they all were and weighed up how easy it was to get each nutrient from each diet.

I then took that one step further and identified ten vegan sources for each nutrient, because I was sick of people saying that it was an unhealthy diet.

While I was researching all these different diets, I became very attracted to fruitarianism. I thought the ideals of the diet were beautiful, and reminded me of a renaissance garden of Eden type fantasy. Having researched it, though, I knew it wasn’t the healthiest diet to follow 100%. I know that some people do anyway, but on the other hand there are people who eat nothing but junk food – neither of these is optimal but it won’t kill you straight away, so people keep doing it. I felt myself changing inside. I felt that fruit was the answer. I had never really been interested in fruit before, so this was a revelation.

A typical fruitarian meal
A typical fruitarian meal that I ate.

So at the moment, I’m a 60% fruitarian, 40% vegan (cooked). For this reason, I eat breakfasts and lunches that are fruit and nuts. Some days, like proper fruitarians, I will graze throughout the day. Other days, I feel the need for a “conventional meal” so I prepare all my fruit and nuts and put it in a bowl to eat. It makes me feel like I’ve actually eaten, and is easier to keep track of what I’ve eaten.
Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve felt like I’m functioning at a much higher intellectual level than before – no, I don’t mean it’s made me smarter, I mean, I was struggling with processing power, my brain wasn’t processing things very quickly and was struggling to take in new information. Not only that, but I was feeling very tired through the day, pretty much four hours of tiredness, followed by four hours of wakefulness. Since I’ve been eating fruit for my daytime meals, these problems seem to have disappeared.

Another fruitarian meal
Another fruitarian meal that I’ve eaten

I’ve started eating fruits I never would have considered before – I always used to worry about buying fruit, because like many people, I would constantly buy it, eat a small amount, then it would go off, then I would throw it away. I got so mad at my wastefulness that I stopped buying fruit for years after a particularly bad incident with a bunch of bananas. Making a commitment to eat fruit during the day eliminates this problem because the fruit just gets eaten. I’ve gone from having no fruit in a week (just veg) to having four to six pieces in a “meal.” I enjoy food shopping a lot more and I finally feel like I’m getting enough of everything. I’ve also stopped skipping meals since I’ve been seeing fruit as a viable alternative to regular meals – before, I would often skip breakfast and lunch on the basis that I would look in the cupboard and feel like I just didn’t have the food I wanted to eat – but I didn’t know what food I was craving.

Another thing I really like, for why I skipped the raw vegan step entirely, is that you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment or cooking skills to be a fruitarian. Raw Vegans cheat a bit and use all sorts of weird and wonderful food processing techniques to make their food look and taste like “real food” whereas fruitarians just accept their food in the shape and size and flavour that it comes in, and eat it whole and unaltered. I really feel like it makes me connect with what I’m eating and where it came from in a way that raw veganism could never do for me.  I’ve found myself drinking a lot more water since I’ve started eating fruit, too, which generally improves my wellbeing.

I don’t think I am never going to be a full-time long term fruitarian, because I feel that other foods also have value, but I do enjoy a good fruit fest and think that if you’re having the same problems that I was, the addition of fruit and nuts to your balanced diet could be your answer.

Fad diets for the thoughtful 5: Conclusion and how to spot a deficiency

[Wellness] Fad Diets for the Thoughtful 5: Series Conclusion

Does anyone have a definitive answer: Can raw vegans or other raw foodists drink hot drinks such as coffee, herbal tea or regular tea?  This would be the dealbreaker for me.
Does anyone have a definitive answer: Can raw vegans or other raw foodists drink hot drinks such as coffee, herbal tea or regular tea? This would be the dealbreaker for me.

New to this series? Start here:

Raw Veganism:Part 1
Fruitarianism and Juicearianism: Part 2
Sproutarianism: Part 3
Breatharianism: Part 4

My table of comparisons between the diets discussed in this series, using vegetarianism and macrobiotic as baselines for comparisons, click to enlarge:

Table of comparison of vegan diets
I’ve included the first three for comparison – I’m not actually going to talk about macrobiotic, ovovegetarianism or regular veganism.

Conclusion:

In this series, I examined raw veganism, fruitarianism, sproutarianism, juicearianism and breatharianism to find out what they were, what the advantages and disadvantages were, and, as per my table above, whether they were nutritionally sound.  I also produced this handy infographic:

The colours show how healthy each one is if you ate 100% like this permanently.
The colours show how healthy each one is if you ate 100% like this permanently.

In conclusion, there are a lot of restrictive diets out there, many of which are founded on religious or philosophical concepts. Whilst researching this article I found out about The Creationist Diet, which I will discuss in a future post – Creationist vs Paleo diets. Of the diets discussed, I would strongly suggest that anything below a raw vegan diet is not fulfilling all of the basic nutritional requirements of a person. Raw veganism sounds really interesting as a concept (I actually think the concepts behind sproutarianism and fruitarianism are also pretty interesting) but obviously you would have to spend a lot of time researching and finding out about how to get the exact nutritional requirements from these foods without eating too much “filler” (fruit sugars, chlorophyll etc) in the process.

The 75% concept is a good idea – I would like to see more people in all these different sects of veganism advocating following 75% (their diet) and 25% (to take it up with nutrients). I would be particularly intrigued to follow a 50-50 diet between fruitarianism and sproutarianism to see what the effects were like, because their nutritional deficiencies do complement each other although I would only want to do this for a short while due to it being extremely difficult to get enough protein from fruit and sprouted seeds by volume (and I have had a protein deficiency in the past, I don’t want to go through that again). I have future plans to road-test raw veganism, fruitarianism, sproutarianism and 50-50 fruit-sprout-arianism, to be able to give a full and detailed review (and just to have experienced these things; in case you hadn’t noticed I’m all about getting the experiences). I will not be including juicearian and breatharianism/ineida, however, because they are just bloody stupid, and I can live without the experiences of abdominal pain, diabetes or death.

I also found out that some people use the term aquatarian to describe a water-only diet (and some people use it to describe pescetarians, presumably because they want it to sound nicer). Personally, I would like to see a water-organisms-only diet (fish, sea vegetables, seafood and water) and I would describe that as aquatarian. Presumably that would have too many nutrients for anyone to actually sell it to people. I would guess the water-only drinkers don’t live long enough to design or make a website, as none of them have one, just commentary hints about how “only water is pure” and how water has all the vitamins you need (which is absolute rubbish).

I’m going to offend someone with this; this entire paragraph is specifically talking about breatharianism: The breatharians with websites are obviously lying. If you can’t see that we need to eat and drink to live, you are either extremely gullible (possibly raised within a strict dogmatic faith), or you’re a spoilt middle class or upper class idiot with too much money and not enough sense, because anyone who has genuinely gone hungry or been surrounded by hunger in a situation beyond their control knows they need food to live. Find a real religion or spiritual system (or devise your own that works just for you) which will give you a sense of fulfilment and personal destiny, a spirituality or sense of purpose. Steve Pavlina has some great ideas about the mysteries of the cosmos – check him out: http://www.stevepavlina.com

Lunch Identification:
If you’re getting angry because I’ve criticized your diet, learn what’s making you so angry here: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/lunch-att/lunch-attitudes-1a.shtml Please note that this article explains the pathologies behind lunch identification but it falsely assumes that only vegans and raw vegans are capable of such a thing – failing to understand that the militant attitude of some plant eaters was directly caused by the same lunch identification (and worse) from omnivores – in other words, the meat eaters have spent the last 150 years disparaging vegetarian and subsequent diets, so of course vegans have grown to learn a logical set of reasoning to explain their choices to the next ignoramus who asks. I am not a vegan (I was not a vegan when I wrote this all as one long article before I published part 1 in December – I’m vegan now, and still totally comfortable with what I eat), but have been an omnivore, a vegetarian and a vegan (and all sorts of other things) in the past, and I am comfortable in my eating habits, so am able to make this observation. Also bear in mind there are a hell of a lot more omnivores so they each have to be less negative to wear a vegan down to the point where they reciprocate. Not that it stops the omnivores from going too far consistently (have I now pissed off every dietary group???).

This is important, because a lot of the anti-vegan propaganda focusses on the fact that veganism has a coherent rationale and that every vegan will tell you similar reasons for eating vegan. That rationale was developed as a response to what the article calls “dietary bigotry” – and in the first place, the bigotry was travelling from omnivores towards vegetarians and this fixation on trying to change other people’s diets and “convert them to meat eating” arises out of a chronic insecurity, which caused a reciprocal problem in the vegan community and downwards. Additionally, if the reasons are appealing to the vast majority of vegans and play a part in the decision making process, then it stands to reason that people will cite similar reasons for going vegan.

However, the pathologies described in the article are good and accurate and worth being aware of if you find yourself becoming obsessed with diet. The real question then would be what to do about it, but I think that your approach to that would be highly personal and utterly depend on your circumstances, such as what you were currently eating and how far gone you were. There is a fine line between conscious eating and silly eating, and only you can judge where that line falls. Unless you end up ill, in which case leave it to a qualified doctor.

Here are some signs you should not ignore in any vegan diet:

1. Constant tiredness – this is a symptom of many nutritional deficiencies, including protein, vitamin D, iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium. It’s also a symptom of excessive tryptophan, one of the amino acids that is plentiful in the vegan diet. Excessive tryptophan causes “serotonin syndrome” which can be deadly.
2. Constant difficulty doing “brain-intensive” work, e.g. reading – this is another symptom linked to the above, and implies a deficiency of protein, iron, vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium and calcium.
3. Constipation/diarrhea for more than 3 days – this is a big sign that something is wrong in your digestive system. Once you’ve solved the short term symptoms (with either a laxative or an anti-diarrhea pill) you need to start going through what you are eating and how you are preparing it to find out the cause of the problem – this can be caused by contaminated foods, such as lentils, which haven’t been heated quite enough to kill all the bacteria, also food intolerances, fibre intolerance, dehydration and excessive iron intake.
4. Hair loss (excessive) – Protein makes hair. If you don’t have enough protein, your hair falls out. It shuts down non-essential systems, and hair is one of these. Zinc and magnesium deficiencies also cause hair loss.
5. Irritability – This is another sign of protein deficiency, as well as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and a host of other things. If you have periods, do check that it’s not just the week before your period – PMS and PMDD both come with irritability as standard.
6. Pica – the need to eat things that are considered “non food” e.g. coal, glass, ice. You have a food deficiency. To identify what the deficiency is, find out what the “non-food” item you’re craving is made of, and see if any of its composition is a mineral (or other nutrient, but it’s most commonly minerals such as iron). Try supplementing with that mineral and see if the pica goes away.
7. Hallucinations and delusions – You have a severe B12 deficiency, get thee to a doctor and get some supplements as well.
8. Inability to “get going” – This is an extension of tiredness/fatigue/concentration problems, and is down to lack of energy – i.e. carbohydrates. Try a piece of fruit, try checking if you have any other symptoms, and if it’s still a mystery, go to the doctor.
9. Constant hunger – You’re hungry, even though you’re eating loads. It’s because you’re not getting the right stuff inside you. Try mixing it up and eating something really random that you wouldn’t usually try, such as nuts, goji berries, mushrooms or couscous.
10. Unexplained bruising and bruising far too easily, with the bruises not fading after the usual time – this is a vitamin K and iron deficiency. Usually accompanied by some other symptoms such as fatigue. Supplement with vitamin K and iron.
11. Your period has stopped – This is a big sign of malnutrition which I mentioned before with the video in Part 1.  If you usually have a period (and there are a host of reasons you might not, e.g. not having the right equipment, being on long term contraception, pregnancy, medical problems etc) and your period suddenly stops happening, check you’re not pregnant.  If you’re definitely not pregnant, you need to get more food into your diet.  Amenhorrea is never something to ignore as it is a sign that something fundamental is wrong with your body, even if you feel well.  I would consult a doctor if you absolutely will not change what you eat, but I don’t know what else they would say.

With all of the above symptoms, you need to take a step back, assess whether your diet is really giving you the nutrients you need. This can be really difficult to do when you’re still in the middle of it, so I would recommend trying supplements first, if you can find any that fit your diet rules, then have a think about whether there are any foods you could get that suit your vegan-subtype that would be a better long term solution to include in your diet.  Personally, if I was having problems with a diet, I would revert back to regular vegan or even ovo-vegetarian for a period of time, build up my nutrients so I’d got a good store of them, then try again.  I have a milk allergy so there is absolutely no way in hell I’d ever eat milk or milk derivatives, which is why I don’t discuss the role of milk in the diet.

In all of the places where I have mentioned a “doctor” I mean a medical professional who has spent many years training at a medical school and works in a medical setting with the ability to identify your ailment accurately and find a solution to it.  Retired doctors, pharmacists, nurses, holistic therapists, dentists, voodoo dancers, village shamans, hairdressers etc etc, all have good intentions and can have some good advice, but there are times when you just need to see an actual current qualified doctor who is up to date with latest developments in their field and has the power to prescribe you something that has been tested rigorously to make sure it actually works – and someone who you can hold accountable if it doesn’t work, because they have a vested interest in getting it right – or they can lose their licence to practise medicine.

[beauty] In Memory of Some Fine Lipsticks

In Memory of Some Fine Lipsticks:

Sadly, I have had to throw away all of my regular use lipsticks today. It’s been a difficult decision, but one I ultimately had to stand by for my own lips.

lipwear
The two lipsticks, lip balm and lipgloss I had to throw away this morning. Sad times.

Here is a list of the casualties:

Estee Lauder Pure Color Long Lasting Lipstick in 117 Rose Tea
Avon Anew Plumping Balm in Rose Tint
Collection 2000 Plumping Lipgloss in 3 Lilac Crush
Collection 2000 Volume Sensation Lipstick in 1 Forever Heather

They were my four favourite lipwears, I’m not sure you can actually buy any of them any more (I was in Tesco the other day and couldn’t even see the Volume Sensation Lipstick) so I’m right outside my comfort zone with no lipwear at the moment – all my non-regular use lippies are unusual colours whereas these were all wearable on a daily basis without people passing comment. At this rate, I might have to wear my Bobbi Brown Neon Pink lipstick just because it’s nearest. At least until I get to the shop to buy my next new nude.  I might need to rethink my eyeshadow colours for a while, swapping my earth tone browns for pale pinks so they match better.

Why did I have to throw these away? I hear you wondering. Well it started 6 months ago – see, I’ve always had exceedingly good immunity to coldsores, and even when I get them, they barely show and I never feel them. This bump appeared on the centre of my lip, then it kept going away. About 2 months ago, I realised it was appearing every time I used my Volume Sensation lipstick, but I thought it was a side effect of the lipstick’s active ingredient – Maxilip – which isn’t sold any more and I don’t know why. So I carried on regardless because it was my best colour and I liked the plumping effect. Unfortunately, earlier this week, the bump got a whole lot worse – like, now it’s two huge coldsores in both corners of my mouth, with the same bump still off-centre. I am currently bombarding it all with Zovirax, and it’s actually sore. Problem is, about a month ago, I stopped using Volume Sensation in favour of the Avon Anew lipbalm, and in between I’ve been using the gloss and the Estee Lauder lipstick, because they’re all in my regular rotation. So I’ve given coldsores to all my lipsticks, and now they’re giving them back to me!

I’ve never had a problem like this before, but the amount of times they just keep coming back says to me that I need to just bin the lot of them and start afresh with brand new unopened lipsticks. So it is with a heavy heart that I binned them all earlier this morning. I feel they deserve a eulogy, but I don’t know what to say. I hope they don’t end up in the possession of a bin diver, they will be disappointed when they get coldsores (but it will totes serve them right for not understanding that things get thrown away for a reason).

I have, of course, also cracked open the Zovirax (aciclovir 5%) coldsore cream to try and kill this triumvirate of terror that’s making my lips look awful during Christmas season, but throwing away my lipsticks should definitely prevent another re-occurrence.

Now I need to do research and read reviews about which lipsticks to replace them with. Unless anyone has any recommendations?  I prefer nudes and plumpers that work for longer than just while they’re on your lips.