Tag Archives: paleo

Choices, Changes

Over the last few years, I have moved from a Paleo type of diet to Vegan and back again several times. This blog had ‘From Paleo to Vegan in one easy midlife crisis’ as its subtitle at one stage.

The truth is, though, that it hasn’t been ‘one easy midlife crisis’ at all of course, it’s been more like a car with a faulty starter motor, so I lurch from one obsession to the next, and never quite seem to get anywhere.

Every year, it seems, I try to go vegan again.

Even going back to being properly vegetarian seems to be a challenge this time. But I will keep trying.

It’s not that I don’t care. It’s not that I don’t know either. I know.

I’ve had to block several over-zealous vegans who insist on sending me graphic pictures of animals being brutalised.

I know.
I really don’t want to see it.
I really don’t want to eat it.

So why do I keep falling off the vegan ‘wagon’? Why is it so difficult to stay vegan?

I have personally justified it with regard to my own specific health issues, most particularly PCOS which comes along with insulin insensitivity which means that, contrary to the oft-repeated mantra of ill-informed vegans that “carbs are not the problem”, they really can be a serious, even potentially life-threatening problem for people who can’t tolerate them.

Not all carbs are equal, and not all fats are equal, but that discussion is for another post. Suffice to say, though, that even allowing for the insulin insensitivity issue, it’s no real barrier to veganism. Low, or at least lower carb veganism is possible, it’s just more of a challenge.

On an unrelated note, I’m finding it a little bit difficult to stay ‘Christian’, or at least keep up the ‘respectable’ middle class mainstream image version of Christianity that is sometimes confused with authentic Christianity.

I’ve actually been exploring paganism – firstly for general cultural literacy (I had so many misconceptions) and secondly because it is something that has fascinated me for years. I will post again with more details about that exploration and what I’ve found, what I’ve been able to love and embrace, and what I’ve had to reject and draw the line at.

To me (and what was communicated to me by my Dad – what he saw in the Bible and in Christianity), the core of the faith is clearly love, peace, joy, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and more love.

Matthew 12v7

But sadly it doesn’t seem to be what is commonly offered by the church. Certainly individual believers embody those principles and exude a genuine spirituality. But the church as a whole seems characterised by the very opposite: intolerance, unkindness, judgmentalism.

Why should this be?

In fact, these things are not unrelated at all.

Veganism is supposed to be about compassion, kindness, love for all creatures. And most of the vegans I have met in person do indeed embody the compassion they espouse. But veganism as a whole has without doubt been brought into disrepute by some of its most vocal members.

I completely understand the anger that vegans feel about people blithely and ignorantly allowing animals to be brutalised and killed just so we can have a certain taste and texture on our plate.

We have no excuse.

But those tastes and textures continue to persuade us to ignore what we know, to carry on along the path of least resistance.

But the anger and self-righteousness and judgmentalism of some vegans continues to drive people away.

The anger and self-righteousness and judgmentalism of some Christians continues to drive people away.

(Do you see what I did there?)

I think I know what the essential problem with Christianity is. It is the over-riding emphasis (at least in Western Christianity) on ‘right belief’ over and above ‘right living’ and ‘right feeling’. It is entirely possible to be a Christian in good standing with the church who claims all the ‘right beliefs’ and have absolutely no change of heart, absolutely no true spiritual experience whatsoever. But as long as the beliefs are in line with the doctrines your denomination emphasises, there is no reason to question the heart or the spirit. It is entirely possible to carry hatred in your heart while claiming to follow the God who is Love.

I think the same thing can be true of veganism.

As long as you maintain a vegan diet, and you are able to feel self-satisfied in that, there is no reason to question yourself, search inwardly, become more compassionate.

But I think I’ve said before that there is no ‘upper limit’ for compassion, kindness, love. All of us can always move forward, become kinder, more compassionate, more understanding, more loving.

In the Bible, a ‘righteous’ man is defined not as the one who never falls, never makes a mistake but rather the man who ‘falls seven times and gets up again’. Proverbs 24:16

This year is probably the first time in maybe 15 years when I haven’t really managed to celebrate Passover/ Easter, count the Omer/ Eastertide or keep Pentecost/ Shavuot (the fact that they are all out of sync this year hasn’t helped). There’s a little voice in my head that wants to condemn me, make me feel guilty and miserable. But I’m not listening to it.

I’m not as observant as I’d like to be right now, but it is what it is – this is the season I’m in, and there’s not much I can do about it. The traditional Passover concludes “Next Year in Jerusalem”. This too shall pass, and perhaps next year I will be where I want to be with my religious observance.

I’m not going to kick myself either about repeatedly failing to be faithful to veganism. Honestly, I may never reach 100% total veganism for ever. But that’s ok. I’m moving towards it, I’ll keep trying.

And actually, as much as I can understand the wish that the whole world go 100% vegan today, every little helps. Small steps save lives.

If I fall down again, I’ll just get up again.

Don’t be discouraged.

Do whatever you can and know that it’s good, and don’t let anybody condemn you because you’re ‘not good enough’, ‘not vegan enough’, ‘not Christian enough’, or whatever.

It’s a cliche, but learning to love and accept and forgive yourself is the first and crucial step towards spiritual growth. And it’s probably the hardest.

But it’s never a wasted effort.

Don’t give up. 🙂

From my heart to yours. xx

 

Roundup of the Summer

I just thought, as the sun is streaming in where I am sitting and brightening my spirits, that I would do a quick (ha! Sorry it got long!) roundup of what’s been happening to me over the summer.

I’ve been very quiet, I’m sorry. I have noticed a pattern of becoming ill just as the summer is starting and getting a bit better as the weather and the seasons turn to autumn, but this year I have got progressively more ill as the summer has gone on – perhaps it’s due to the ‘Indian’ summer we’re having down here in Cornwall? (Which is lovely by the way!) I actually love the heat and the sunshine, but for some reason it doesn’t agree with my body.

Somebody suggested I might have reverse SAD, and I have struggled with depression and mental health issue this summer, so I don’t know if that is the cause of my summer lows, but it definitely wasn’t helped by some blood pressure tablets (Amlopidine) I was given. They did nothing to help my hypertension, but they totally flipped me out mentally. I stopped them and tried again three times so I know they were definitely the cause – I was experiencing racing thoughts, ultra-rapid changes of mood, agoraphobia and suicidal thoughts. I even contacted Outlook South-west for help, but they were only interested in the agoraphobia. I have had a series of telephone therapy sessions but it hasn’t really been very helpful. The racing thoughts and mood changes stopped as soon as I stopped taking Amlopidine, but the rest has stuck around. I think that all the stress and upset of eviction and the last few years made me vulnerable and susceptible to mental illness and Amlopidine pushed me over the edge.

At the same time, I was feeling very extremely ill physically, with increasing numbness, tingling, balance issues and migraines in addition to all my other symptoms. After being told for the umpteenth time by my GP that “there is nothing we can do for you”, I made the decision to change surgeries and get myself a new GP.

It was SO totally the right decision. Already I have been offered referrals to a Neurologist to rule out MS and a Rheumatologist to investigate the possibility of RA or Sjogrens with the promise of further referrals to come. Finally I am hopeful that it will be possible to get to the bottom of what my health issues really are and then move towards healing and health after so many years. (12 and counting)

On medical advice, I agreed that the vegan diet was doing me no good, and I have moved back to a paleo / primal style low carb diet. At first I only added fish but now I am back to eating meat as well. I began to feel better for the first three weeks and then crashed very badly. Having started to read Dr Sarah Myhill’s excellent book “Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Mitochondria not Hypochondria”, I have realised I was probably going too low carb (under 20g per day) and on her advice I am starting to take a supplement of a specific sugar called D-Ribose which she says is needed for certain hormonal conversions in the cells. It is a sugar which the body can normally synthesise itself, but people with ME can’t make it so it becomes an essential supplement. I will let you know when I have read more of the book and if I see any improvement. I’m also looking again at the Trim Healthy Mama diet (you know, the one that I slated not so long ago), realising I may need to incorporate some E meals (with light carbs) due to my health issues.

Incidentally, since going back to wheat-free, low carb / paleo / primal my blood pressure and cholesterol have almost normalised. Sadly, the weight is not shifting at all. (But at least it’s not going up any more as it did on vegan and vegetarian diets)

I haven’t been able to go to church since about May and that has definitely contributed to my feeling of malaise mentally. Even though we are living in town, I have been very isolated indeed. On the few occasions I have driven out to meet people I have been very ill afterwards so I am having to take it very easy and pace my energy out carefully.

On the housing front, I am not happy at all. Yesterday we went to see a house. It was big, but dark inside and it’s far away from husband’s work, so he didn’t like it and I can’t seem to persuade him to move. But it was beside a beautiful babbling brook that you could hear from inside or sit outside and watch it. When I got home I cried and shook with rage and grief. I feel so angry that husband moved us away from our home 5 years ago to seemingly never-ending stress, and doesn’t seem to care that it has made me so much sicker, that I haven’t been able to make friends, that I’m miserable and ill and that a three storey house is so totally inappropriate for somebody with ME.

I sat beside my bedroom window this morning and tried to imagine that the rumbling noise and clatter of building trucks and machinery was a babbling brook instead.

So my situation now is mixed. I am very happy and hopeful about my change of GP, but desperately unhappy about my living situation (and none too happy about my marriage).

I’m not sure whether I’m hopeful that things will improve as the autumn rolls in. I feel that I can’t be happy in this house, it’s just so stupidly arranged. Kitchen on the ground floor, living room on the first floor and bedrooms on the second floor. I just can’t cope. If I moved down to the tiny single bedroom on the ground floor, I’d need to go to the second floor to wash. I could go on and on but I won’t. Suffice to say, this house is making my life and health much worse, and I can’t wait to get out of here. The prospect of staying makes me desperate.

To finish on a light and happy note…. I try to come up with a list of 5 things to be grateful for every day (I sometimes post them on my @health_Shmi twitter account). Sometimes I struggle to come up with anything, in which case I am grateful for the 5 other people in my family. But here is today’s list: sunshine, hifi playing random CDs (Youngest son is my DJ), happy fat cat laying in the sun, daughter made me a coffee, and finally it is Friday and the weekend is coming 🙂

Enjoy!

Not Vegan Anymore?

I’ve never heard of Alexandra Jamieson before today, so I don’t know how important or influential she is, but this article was drawn to my attention as somebody with vegan sympathies.

http://alexandrajamieson.com/im-not-vegan-anymore/

Let me say at the outset that I’m not actually quite vegan – I eat free-range eggs and even fish occasionally, so technically I’m not even vegetarian, you might call me flexitarian. I don’t drink milk if I can avoid it, but I have cheese rarely. I aim for vegan as much as possible.

But I have been vegetarian on and off for the last 20 or so years, and I was fully vegan for a few months last year. I even considered writing a book to convince Christians to become vegan.

I had two reasons to become reason. One was my own health, which if you’ve been reading for a while you will know is not good, and has been for over ten years. I have an as yet unspecified illness which is currently called ‘ME/cfs’. In short, my health is pretty dire. I am overweight and in constant pain. So I hoped that going fully vegetarian and then fully vegan would help.

It didn’t.

In fact quite the reverse happened. I put on even more weight and got even sicker, and my cholesterol was raised from the year before when I tried paleo.

I found that although I’m not coeliac, I can’t tolerate much wheat, so adding wheat and fake meats into my diet exasperated my IBS to the extent that my GP started to be convinced that it was in fact IBD or Crohns. My brother has Crohns so it was a real worry. But I found that as long as I scaled back the wheat and the fake meats, my bowels behave themselves for the most part.

I was actually much healthier on a paleo / primal diet. All the science that I have read on carbs and cereals convinces me that a cereal / carb-based (as opposed to plant-based) vegan diet is potentially very detrimental to health, especially if you have metabolic difficulties with carbs, as people with PCOS and other endocrine disorders do.

My second reason though was conviction that, regardless of my health, it is essentially wrong to take the life of an animal, and further, to take the produce of an animal who is kept in cruel and inhuman captivity.

I admit I don’t have the same strength of conviction when it comes to fish as I do for mammals, but I have no doubt that the methods required for mass rearing and slaughtering even of fish are quite different than those required for small scale rearing.

I have always, since I was a pre-teen, thought that it was cowardly of a person to eat an animal if that person was not willing to do the actual killing themselves. I know I wouldn’t be. Could I kill a fish? Perhaps. (I’m not sure, perhaps not. Probably not, thinking about it. If I saw a fish suffocating and struggling I would probably have to throw it back.) A cow? A pig? A chicken? Never.

Hypocrisy and cowardice are things which I abhor. So I try to limit my own. OK so it is currently limited to fish-eating. I have at least stopped eating my favourite prawn sandwiches (my non-kosher guilty secret) after discovering the slavery scandal linked to supermarket prawn supplies.

But Alexandra Jamieson’s article disturbs me. Relativism, looking for ‘your truth’ as opposed to ‘my truth’ is so convenient! It becomes possible to justify almost anything that way. But there is an objective truth here, that animals are abused on an, unthinkable, indescribable scale.

And this is the problem with health-based veganism.

If you are a vegan for health reasons, without the moral conviction, it is doubtful that you will stay vegan. Being vegan is hard. It’s awkward. It’s difficult. It can make you a social pariah, and eating in restaurants is a challenge, and it may not reap the health rewards you are seeking.

But if you look into the reality of the way animals are treated, if you spend time with animals and realise they have feelings, that they feel fear and pain, and suffer when they die and when they are held in captivity, producing milk in painfully inappropriate amounts, if you know that it is the right thing to do, you will have a much higher chance of succeeding as a vegan.