Category Archives: health

Day 5: Enough’s enough

Getting out of my bed is hard when there is no coffee waiting. Breakfast is almost impossible if you’ve forgotten to soak your oats overnight. Lunchtime, when your kids have been fighting all morning, and there’s no food in the house except questionable Quorn which has eggs in it anyway, is just too much.

I scrambled some eggs. In butter. Then I put cheese on top.

I managed four and a half days of being vegan. My children are the reason I failed so early. My greed is the reason I didn’t get back onto that rickety wagon.

Tonight I ordered a plain cheese pizza. It was f***ing delicious.

Tomorrow’s dinner is this:

Oh the relief!

I felt bad for as long as it took to leave my lovely Mags of The Newbie Vegan a voicemail apologising – then I felt set free. Coffee! Cheese! A big ass steak! Nothing was beyond me now!

In all seriousness, I’ve actually learned a lot this week.

1 I eat too much crap for snacks when I genuinely love cucumber, carrot and celery sticks

2 Tofu is delicious stir-fried and much cheaper than meat (£2.50 per packet)

3 I drink too much coffee

4 I don’t drink enough water

5 I need to be more organised when it comes to food generally

6 As with most things in my life, being a working mum really constrains me. When mums say “I don’t have time”, they genuinely mean it. Neither can I pop to the supermarket to buy specialist ingredients because that involves taking two small rutting stags and shoehorning them into a trolley so they don’t run off while I search the shelves.

7 I need to be extra careful about where my food comes from. I already order my milk direct from a farm – it gets left on my doorstep at 5am – and I try to always buy Scottish meat.

8 I need to eat more fish and make less stuff with mince

So although I technically failed the Vegan Challenge (let’s just see how many of my goals I achieved here. Oh. One) I still think it was worthwhile.

 

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Day 4: God this is tough

Another morning coffee avoided. Another morning of weird breakfast because I forgot about my overnight oats. Dragging a reluctant six year old around Tesco trying to work out which aisle the bloody tins of chickpeas live in was a low point. But I’m hanging on in there.

I think, given my conversation with the farmer yesterday, the only reason I’m continuing with this challenge is for re-education purposes. I’ve gotten into bad habits and I want to reset. I’m enjoying eating lots of fruit and veg, particularly cucumber and carrot sticks, I’m feeling the benefit of not drinking coffee four times a day and I’m relishing the challenge of creating tasty evening meals using new ingredients. I mean, I had never bought tofu before this week.

Today I also bought quorn. I figured if I enjoyed my stir fry that much, I should just repeat that meal with other meat substitutes. These are the habits which are likely to stick. I cannot wait to use milk again and I am definitely going to bake myself a camembert when this challenge is over. Mmmmmmmm camembert…

Oh. I’ve just checked the label and Quorn contains egg whites. Crap.

Well, dinner was delicious. More stir fried tofu, this time with spring onions, beansprouts, carrots and courgettes.

tofu stirfry

Today’s menu

Breakfast: Tin of mandarins, fresh orange juice

Snack: Cucumber and carrot sticks, red pepper humous, water

Lunch: Vegetable soup, a banana, water

Snack: I didn’t have time for a snack today

Dinner: Stir fried tofu, spring onion, courgette, carrot, beansprouts, rice, Prosecco (don’t worry, I checked, no animal products were used)

 

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Vegan Challenge Day 3: The Farmer Speaks

I was skunnered this morning when Rod handed me a coffee, forgetting I was off the milk. I’d forgotten to soak my oats and was running around trying to get kids ready so ended up comforting myself with a trip to the local inconvenience store.

Yep, breakfast was two morning rolls dipped in olive oil and balsamic. Nutritious? I think not. I was racing to finish writing a press release before my nail appointment, so my snack was 20 Pringles. Not a good morning.

My fortnightly nail appointment is always a highlight. I travel halfway across Edinburgh to see this woman because she is excellent. She is also a character – obsessed with 195os style, owner of a gorgeous bulldog called Rose who smiles at me from her dog basket and, I found out today, she used to be the head bouncer at a notorious Glasgow nightclub called Archaos. She also grew up on a farm and spent five years at agricultural college, so I should have known better than to mention my vegan challenge.

Her rant lasted through the soak off and the first two coats of the new colour, but she made some excellent, and heartfelt points. The main one was: “The thought that farmers, whose livelihood depends on the animals they look after, don’t care and don’t look after their cows and pigs, is actually offensive. And I don’t use that term vey often cos people get too offended these days.”

She explained how strict the regulations are in the UK. There are actually laws about how much daylight, space and stimulation animals must have as a bare minimum. The picture of the sow separated from her piglets in a small pen that does the rounds on Facebook got her particularly riled up.

“Do you know how much a sow weighs? They’re twice the size of a coffee table and have about 20 piglets, if she rolls over she’s going to squash them and kill them. She goes in the farrowing pen for the piglets’ safety. They feed, they’re observed to make sure everyone gets enough, then the sow gets her own pen so she can move about safely – and can still snuffle her children through the barrier.”

Organic farming was another passionate subject for her – she derided the practice of depriving a cow who cuts itself on a fence from receiving antibiotics because lavender cream allows the farmer to claim organic status – meanwhile the cow suffers. She also pointed out the joy of UK farmers at leaving the EU because the regulations are ridiculously complex and actually prevent them from farming properly.

I won’t go on. She made some very interesting, and informed, points and given that I was still in mourning over my morning coffee, really struck a chord.

I was all set to give up on this challenge, but tofu turned my head. It’s delicious! Stir fried in soy sauce with a tonne of veg and some gluten free noodles? YUM.

I shall fight another day. Day 3 complete. And aren’t my nails gorgeous?

Today’s menu

Breakfast: Two morning rolls dipped in olive oil and Balsamic vinegar; pint of cucumber water

Snack: Pringles

Lunch: Vegetable soup, Bourneville chocolate bar, pint of cucumber water

Snack: Raisins

Dinner: Stir fried tofu with veg and rice noodles; glass of red wine

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Vegan Challenge Day 2: eyeing the ice cream

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 19.57.16If ever my resolve were to crumble, it would be right here.

Next to this freezer of fun was a mouthwatering selection of cakes and the seductive aroma of coffee. Not only did I resist all these temptations, I bought four ice creams for four small children and didn’t lick a single one.

My peppermint tea was actually amazing – so flavourful – and I experienced a small moment of smugness as I realised the level of willpower I had just displayed. For naturally, as soon as I was away from the dairy goodness and outside in the fresh air, I no longer craved it.

Two very good things happened today, foodwise. One, I realised I could eat the bag of Walkers Ready Salted offered to me after my vegetable soup, but the other was a game changer at the end of a very tiring day with my two darling, but temporarily possessed, sons.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 19.56.53

Now, I realise one of my goals this week was to avoid alcohol, but in my defence, I did. I avoided the Freixenet Rose my lovely mum had brought me at the weekend, because Mr Barnivore (see above) informed me they use “fining matters of animal origin”. As I was having the internal dialogue of whether this counts, I spotted the Corona bottles and saved myself the moral dilemma. In for a penny, in for a pound.

It’s 8pm and I am a little bit hungry – but I think I’ll have a banana and be fine. I’m quite chuffed with myself for not falling off the wagon yet. Or going to Starbucks for a caramel machiatto and a cinnamon swirl. It’s the challenge that keeps on giving…

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 19.56.46

Today’s menu:

Breakfast: overnight oats with almond milk and half a tin of peaches; water (I had a headache)

Snack: Carrot and cucumber sticks in the car en route to our day out

Lunch: Homemade vegetable soup (totally delicious, I surprise myself sometimes), half a packet of Walkers Ready salted (the other half was stolen by a small child), water

Snack: Peppermint tea, walnuts, raisins, banana

Dinner: Lentil and vegetable bake – made with passata, sweet potato, onion, celery, red pepper, carrots and peas (for colour, it was so orange.); a pint of Ribena.

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The One Week Vegan Challenge

I love meat.

The vegan lifestyle was something I was always aware of but paid no attention to – a bit like Morris dancing.

Over the last year I’ve become more conscious of food choices. We discovered the Wee Man was gluten intolerant, then about six months later Rod accepted he was too. I have two close friends who, over the same period, have been through hell with their newborns, only to trace it to a dairy intolerance. What is going on? Are we simply becoming more aware of allergies? Or is there something up with the food chain?

I’m a journalist, not a conspiracy theorist. I like facts. I know how high the food standards are in the UK, in comparison to many other countries. In Scotland, in particular, we have an amazing larder and wonderful farms offering full traceability. And yet modern society demands convenience and cheap solutions – so there are bound to be consequences for the health of the animals who provide our food.

My wonderful friend Mags, who’s always been vegetarian and a campaigner for animal rights, last week went vegan. Talking to her on the phone was kind of eye-opening. I was honest with her – I wasn’t going to watch the documentaries or read the horror stories. Neither was I prepared to give up meat and dairy for good, because I love them. What I did want to do was educate myself. What does being vegan entail? How easy is it to find alternatives and make moral choices? So I’ve set myself a challenge.

I’m going to go vegan for one week.

I’m not going to force it on my family, but I will try to integrate it where it’s practical.

I’ve done a big food shop – online so I could find the right stuff easily – and I’ve done a bit of research into vegan recipes. It’s the Easter holidays so it’s either the best or the worst time to try this… Tomorrow I’m going to drop off KD at nursery then the Wee Man and I are off on an adventure with a packed lunch. Mine is two seeded rolls with houmous, spinach and cucumber – no butter – , his is a GF wrap with grated cheese and salad cream. We each have an apple, a banana and an Alpro chocolate dessert, plus a box of carrot and celery sticks. It’s a colourful lunchbox.

My overnight oats are soaking in almond milk, so breakfast is easy, but I’m really going to miss my coffee in the morning. I mean I can try it with almond milk, but I’ll probably have to substitute peppermint tea. Well, I like peppermint tea, so maybe I’ll be OK.

My goals this week are:

  • to succeed in eating only vegan food for seven days
  • to drink loads of water
  • to avoid alcohol
  • to record how my body reacts – specifically improvements in sleeping and mood – but any difference to my skin, weight or general well-being will be very interesting to monitor.

Just as well I had a barbecue and meat overload today, not only am I all proteined up, I have three baked potatoes left over which will probably turn into three dinners. What on earth am I getting myself into?

Wish me luck!

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First Aid for babies and toddlers

Unless your workplace offers it, it’s surprisingly difficult to organise First Aid training.

It’s something I’d always intended to do, but time flies in and suddenly you’re phoning an ambulance and fully aware of your ignorance.

The British Red Cross was my first Google, though I was also aware of St John’s ambulance. There was a centre near me, but it was going to cost £45. If I could get 15 people together and find a suitable venue I could bring that down to £25 each. So I did.

Luckily the Wee Man’s school was happy to host and other p1 parents were happy to come and so there we all were, grinning at having a child-free Saturday morning, and feeling rather smug to boot.

Our trainer, Steve, was excellent. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect – perhaps some lying on gym mats performing CPR? But no. It was all very professional and informative. Plus there were adult and baby dummies, so no embarrassing close encounters.

Steve took some time at the beginning to find out what we wanted from the course, which was enlightening. Most people said their main priority was to learn how to not panic. When it’s your own child, it’s your worst nightmare to have to give first aid. I’m not a panicker, but I am someone who will hesitate in case I do the wrong thing, so my main priority was to feel confident in my skills, so I don’t waste time second-guessing myself. Others were more specific – “how do you treat a burn?”,  “what do you do when your child is choking?” and “what if someone has a seizure in a swimming pool?”

The biggest chunk of the course was concerning what to do when someone is unresponsive but breathing and then unresponsive and not breathing.

From memory, here’s what I learned.

  • Call their name and give them a little shake
  • Check if they’re breathing
  • Roll them onto their side and tilt their chin up or, if they’re under 12 months, hold them like a rugby ball, on their side, tipped slightly downwards
  • Call an ambulance

If they’re not breathing

  • Call their name and give them a little shake
  • Check if they’re breathing
  • Tilt their chin up pinch the nose, administer 5 breaths
  • Administer 30 chest compressions using the heel of one hand (or two if they’re larger) directly in line with the armpits
  • Administer two breaths
  • Administer 30 chest compressions
  • After one minute call an ambulance

In the case of a baby, we have to create a seal over the nose and mouth and breathe into them.

I think focusing on these key skills before our coffee break was a good way to do it. We practised on the dummies and talked about using your body weight instead of arm muscles for compressions – it can be quite tiring. We also received a handy wee mouth guard in a packet to stick in our wallets, in case we ever had to do this to a stranger.

I found it quite sobering practising these life saving skills on a little baby doll.

We chatted about it over carrot cake and brownies. Everyone has a story about a child’s head needing glued, or a burn or broken bone – we all just wanted to feel like we could handle whatever our kids threw at us. Other tricks we learned included:

  • hold a burn under cold running water for 10 minutes then wrap it in cling film
  • if a child is choking give them five hard smacks on the back, between the shoulder blades, with the heel of your hand, then two Heimlich manoevres, which are copywritten, so I think the Red Cross call them chest thrusts. With a baby, hold them down your leg and support their chin while you smack their back
  • If a child won’t let you use ice or cold water, cuddles, kisses and reassurance are just as good. It’s important to keep them calm.
  • If a child has a temperature, strip them down and open a window. Cold cloths on foreheads are for comfort only
  • if a child has a seizure, put something soft under their head, clear the area of any obstacles and don’t interfere while the seizure is ongoing. Afterwards, lay them on their side with their chin tilted up. Call an ambulance or for help if necessary.

I mean, this is for reference, I’d really recommend doing a course for yourself. We all agreed we felt more confident afterwards, especially as our children have more playdates now and more independence from their parents, so we need to feel confident looking after kids that aren’t our own. Steve’s mantra “Doing something is always better than doing nothing” has stuck with me. I just hope I don’t need to use most of my new skills any time soon.

Hey you know what we didn’t cover? What to do when your child slams a car door on their thumb.

Which the wee man did, precisely 24 hrs later, in a car showroom. I was distracted by his brother, who had locked himself inside another car.

Of course he was too upset for cold water or ice – so it was kisses, cuddles and McDonalds.

Some things you don’t need a course for.

ouch

ouch

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What Would the Wee Man Do?

When I found out Edinburgh schools go back on the 10th of January, I was tempted to call the council.

What on earth was I going to do with them? When would I ever get back to work?

When in doubt - balloons

When in doubt – balloons

Rod probably wouldn’t admit it, but he must have been glad to get back to work on the 3rd. No one pulling anyone’s hair, repeating his name over and over and over or undoing everything he did… Actually, he works in the car trade, maybe that’s exactly what he went back to.

Thank God the nursery reopened on the 4th – only the Wee Man to entertain for three out of the six extra days.

Two days in and I’m kind of astonished to realise I’ve loved it.

What? So we're at the park again...

What? So we’re at the park again – what’s your point?

If anyone is struggling to stick to their “Healthy January” resolution, may I suggest hanging out with my son? He makes every minute of the day count – and I love that about him. Some of my friends’ kids are content to watch movies, play with their Christmas presents and generally hang out at home. Not him.

Yesterday, after dropping KD at nursery, we went straight to soft play. We were the first ones there and he whooped with delight. One other family arrived, with two small kids, one of whom introduced herself to the Wee Man and off they went. She was adorable. I played football with them and cheered them coming down the slides. They got on so well that her mum and I swapped numbers and arranged a playdate.

After a couple of hours at home we were off again, to visit Auntie Kaka and play with all her daughter’s toys. Then it was the big one: his first swimming lesson. That half hour in the pool made me so proud I could burst. For once his general lack of fear played in his favour – he was leaping into the water, swimming valiantly as he sank lower and lower and laughing the whole time. I think his instructor fell in love with him a wee bit – I could see she was proud too.

Today we went back to the pool after the nursery drop off and practised. To say he was delighted was an understatement, I actually feel bad for keeping his arm bands on this long. There was an aqua aerobics class going on at the same time and he kept trying to join in, dancing even as he drowned a little bit. There’s a soft play at the gym so I managed a quick coffee as he played, but soon we were off again, home for lunch and a wee bit of telly before donning full waterproofs and heading to the park.

A dot in the distance

A dot in the distance

As he shot off across the field with his football in the sunshine I thought “He’s just a free spirit,” somewhat indulgently. With no KD to slow us down we must have covered the length and breadth of that huge field several times over. He only stopped to hang over the fence and chat to the woman poo-picking in the horses’ field. She’d heard the rumour JK Rowling owned the sprawling stables across the bypass too and we commiserated in our jealousy.

After an hour in the zero degree cold we headed back to the car and popped in to see his great pal and her brother who, in his mother’s words, is “mad on the Wee Man” (rather than mad with him)… His energy was undented. They tore around the house, laughing their heads off, as Allison and I drank tea and discussed whether boys or girls were more of a challenge to parent.

"You be Anna and I'll be Elsa"

“You be Anna and I’ll be Elsa”

In the end the only thing that stopped us was a clamp on the wheel. Yes, they may be saving paper by doing away with tax discs, but they have opened up a whole new cash generator. I had just loaded KD into the car seat and was going back for the Wee Man when I realised the junk mail on the windscreen was in fact a £100 fine.

Drinking through the pain...

Drinking through the pain…

We have a joke in our family. Whenever we’re stressing about something we think of Big B, my so-laid-back-he’s-horizontal brother in law, and say “What Would Brian Do?” I’m thinking of adapting it to “What Would the Wee Man Do”? He is joy personified. It’s exhausting, but when it’s all about him, it’s incredibly uplifting. And fat burning.

So whenever you’re fed up, go ahead and borrow my new catchphrase. At least it will get you through January.

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