I Am Not A Number

I am a 10, unless I am a 12 or a 14, sometimes all three at once and more often than not, none of these all at the same time while also still not being an M or an ML but definitely never a SM. All of these are a labels we pin to ourselves, we tag ourselves with to boost our body confidence. Or more realistically, give us a boot with which to kick ourselves.

I am not a number.

I am a woman whose body has given birth twice. My hips are not where I left them back in 2010 before my first pregnancy, my shape has changed although not in the way I would expect with my fluctuating weight. My body shape changes on an almost daily basis, moves with the changes of the moon and whether or not I’ve had beer, pasta or lentils that day. The size I get up to on a morning can sometimes dramatically differ from that which I face when I go to bed.

So when I buy clothes there needs to be a bit of breathing room, not just literally but figuratively as well. Clothes need to be worn in to feel at home on my body. The numbers are essentially meaningless except they can frame your whole self-perception. They are they to tell you which item should fit you but there is so little between the sizes in terms of fabric and so much between them in our heads. Not only that but the dress sizes are not universal. A size 12 in one shop could be a 10 or 14 in another.

I’ve been known to shop at certain places because they are generous in their sizing and I can twirl around with glee that I am in a dress size smaller than the one I think I am in my head. How screwed up is that? My body shape is my body shape regardless of what the number says on the tag. The more we try remember this the happier we will be with how our bodies look.

Last week I found the most perfect raincoat that I’ve spent years on the lookout for. The shop had a size 10 and a 14 in stock. I felt like I DESERVED to fit into the 10 since I’ve been going to the gym and eating well. I didn’t. My arms were too big for the arm holes and I knew that there was no way I could get a cardie underneath. The shop assistant suggested I try the 14, I said no. I said no to my perfect coat.

I went off and found another branch which also only had a 10 and 14. I tried on the 14 and it not only fit but fitted perfectly. My perfect coated fitted me perfectly in its inperfect-for-me size. I realised that I was so hung up on the number that I was prepared to let go of a beautiful and much needed coat because of it.

Then I realised I do this ALL. THE. TIME.

Sod the sizing; something that fits me in a size can look completely different on a similar sized friend because clothes are not made to fit our individual bodies they are made to fit an unseen idealised mannequin shaped body. Our bodies are all wonderfully shaped and do amazing things, we need to remember that so we don’t get hung up on someone else’s label for our bodies.

There is a way around this which is to make our own clothes. Only when I started to try sew my own clothes did I realise how much I could adapt something to really fit me and how good it felt to have clothes that truly fit. This is not always an option due to time, faff, cost of fabric. Recently I have taken to getting some great charity shop finds and adapting them to my body, which is surprisingly satifactory. But really, the best way to fight the numbers is to stop paying attention to them. If you care what the label says inside, cut it out. As long as it fit and you feel good, that is all that matters.

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How This Four Letter Word Will Ruin Your Body-Confidence And Ways To Avoid It

There is a four letter word which will do more to ruin your body-confidence than anything else and I would like to see it and all versions of this word removed from how you talk about yourself and your life. That word is FAIL.

Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking the following phrases:

  • I’ve failed to complete this
  • I’ve failed the challenge
  • I feel like such a failure
  • I have failed to fit into that dress
  • I’ve failed to lose weight/change dress size/fit into that item of clothing I used to wear
  • I’ve failed at life

You probably have one or more of these phrases going through your head each day and onc you have kids that sense of failure just packs the pressure on because you don’t want to fail your kids.

‘Fail’ is a destructive and counter-productive word that should be consigned to the same black box as ‘beach body ready’ and all those other negative messages in the world that make you feel like you aren’t acheiving.

Before I tell you how you can change your thinking to rid your life from FAIL-itis I want to tell you how my year of exercise started. I received an email from a vegan running blog challenging me to a whole year of running challenges. I thought, ‘why the heck not?’ and took it up. The first month’s challenge was to run at least a mile very day for the whole month. In Januray. In the Peak District.

For 12 days straight I ran through rain, snow, winds. I got soaked by inconsiderate people driving through puddles right next to me. I ran early in the morning before the kids woke up and at the end of a long day after I’d put them into bed. And then I got a day that it was impossible for me to fit in a run. Not just that I couldn’t find the time but it was completely and utterly impossible. I’d had 4 hours broken sleep, needed to get up and get the first train to London, spent a day in a meeting and then get a train back home, by which point it was so late I just collapsed into bed. I had failed.

So I missed the next day and the next. I thought I would just pick up the challenge in February but I didn’t. Nothing happened in March or April. I did the odd exercise video here and there, some yoga and my wonderful outdoor fitness class on a Monday. In June that ended for good. By the end of July I could no longer fit into some of my clothes with ease. Last month I joined a gym; this is most unlike me.

But does this story sound familiar? Do you start a challenge, get part way through and from external circumstances or as I like to refer to it as ‘life’, you stop for a day and that’s it the mojo has gone?

If so, here are my tips for combatting that:

1.Accept life happens

Missing one day of a challenge or even a week doesn’t mean you have ‘failed’ it just means you have a whole, complex life that needs attention. Be it children, work or family these things can sometimes gulp up your time in ways you weren’t expecting. Accept it, acknowledge it and get back on it. But most importantly the challenge is only with yourself so you are fully within your rights to…

2. Shift the goalposts

You know those cheesy, inspirational quotes that keep telling you you are only in competition with yourself? Well, theey are right. So who is to say that a 30 Day Shred needs to be 30 days straight? Is there a rule book somewhere that if you don’t do it without break days then you’ve not done it? Are we seriously saying we only accomplish things if we play by some rules set up by others or worse our subconscious?  Because that is total rubbish. Had I shifted my goal posts at the start of this year who knows where my running life may have been right now, I may have even enjoyed running. I doubt it but you never know. Sod the rules, change the goal posts, succeed.

3. Focus on the achievements

How often when doing anything to do with your health or wellbeing do you focus on your achievements rather than your end goal? Here’s the thing about health and wellbeing goals, as soon as you get near to them you push them further away. There’s always more you can do, better improvements you want to make. This is human but it also means we don’t always appreciate where we are right now and what we have done. Like that photo of you from 10 years ago that you take out and think ‘I looked so young, and thin. If only I’d appreciated that then’. Well big news: you are young and thin – especially to the 10 year older you who will be looking back at photos from now thinking the exact same thing. Appreciate yourself as you are now and celebrate the things you have achieved. Whether it is all-weather running for 12 days straight or lifting the next level kettlebell or simply going to a group.  All of it needs celebration and every time you feel like you’ve ‘failed’ then think of at least five things for every one negative.

4. Find your motivation

Failure saps motivation and feeds further apathy for doing something positive. When you find yourself missing stuff and not really wanting to get back into it, have a motivation plan. The hardest day is not the first day but the 10th or 20th or whatever your breaking point it to turn it into a routine that is part of your life. It turns out that my motivation is not really competition (with myself or others) so could take or leave a challenge. They tend to interfere in what I want to do in my spare time anyway. My motivation is sometimes fitting into some clothes I can no longer wear, or putting quid in a jar every time I do some exercise knowing that in a few months I’ll be able to afford something expensive that fits. This works really well for short classes and HIIT training. Or currently the big money investment of a gym membership for 6 months is keeping me ‘getting my money’s worth’.  My motivation is never fixed, it changes from time to time so I need to change with it.

5. Take the internet with a pinch of cynicism

How many times have you looked at your friends’ wonderful social lives, clean homes and sparkling children online only to find out when you meet them in person those images and posts they put out there are a small snap shot in time and they actually need your help and support? Or they are bored and it was their first night out in months? We don’t put out the things that are going wrong in our lives because that’s the part we hold back for those close to us. The same applies to all the ‘after’ pictures you see. We hold ourselves up to unobtainable lives projected out on the internet of strangers who we think are happier, healthier and more fun that we are. We aspire to a lifestyle that is impossible to acheive. We all do it and we all, deep down, know that what we see on the internet is a shell to live much like our own behind the filtered images.

Hold that mirror up to those you see in real life alone and more importantly only measure yourself and your successes against you alone. This isn’t easy, it is human to compare and feel there is something better out there. It is what makes us strive to improve ourselves but it also makes us miserable.

There’s no easy way to do this because we all love social media and our online projections of ourselves. You should no more remove yourself from that world than you should start thinking this is how people live. Just the next time you see some posts of someone you know having a really great time, check in with them. It might not be as it seems.

Guest Post: Jo Giroux on Weight Loss Exercise

Jo Giroux is a personal trainer, weight loss consultant and nutritionalist. She also runs the fabulous Park Fit class that I attend every Monday in the Derbyshire Dales. Jo is a wonderful trainer, incredibly motivating in the face of mass cynicism and has really helped bust my body back into a recognisable shape. Jo has kindly posted about the best ways to shed fat while exercising.

Get Fit

I’m often asked what’s best for fat loss or weight loss, and it’s a been the hot subject for years. As somebody that runs, I’m a big running supporter. But for fat loss? No. It’s resistance and HIIT training that’s key.

I hear the same thing time and time again – “I want to lose weight but I hate running”, ” want to shift a stone so I’ve started going running”. If this sounds like you and your goals then read on.

It’s very easy to assume that running will single handedly shift the pounds because you see how many calories you’ve just lost on your little running app or watch and think that’s it. The thing with running though is once you stop, so does the calorie burning. There is very little Exercise Post Oxygen Composition (EPOC) with running (or any other steady state cardio) – so you only burn calories whilst you run. There is no doubt that you’ll burn calories, which is fab, but it will take longer.

You see that woman (lets use a woman for this scenario) who runs and runs and runs, has slim hips, lean muscles etc etc. Trust me, she’s been running for years, probably since school. And she’s like that because of her GENETICS. Not because she runs for hours on end. Don’t compare yourself to that woman – you won’t get her figure because we’re all different. It’s about being the best YOU can be.

So in Park-Fit we do a lot of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and there’s a reason for that. When it comes to efficient calorie burning HIIT is leaps and bounds ahead of standard cardio. Why? EPOC! That thing I mentioned before. When you do HIIT your body and metabolism function at a higher rate of burned calories for hours and hours afterwards. What does that mean? It means that whilst your sitting with your coffee post Park-Fit you’re still burning calories. HIIT forces your heart to adjust to the changing conditions: sprints, hill runs, fast feet etc. Your heart learns to operate outside its norm, and your body learns to adapt to these changes. All of this changing and sprinting kicks your metabolism into high gear for hours after you’ve finished exercising.

Studies have shown that participants who did integral training as opposed to steady continuous exercise lost THREE TIMES the body fat. I’d take that option every time. The bad thing about HIIT is that it’s exhausting. Your body wants to give up after 20 minutes and it takes time to recover.

So where does resistance/weight training come into it? Simply put, the bigger the muscle, the more calories it needs to work and keep being efficient. Big doesn’t mean you’ll turn into Arnie – as women we don’t have the physical capacity to get like that. But we can become lean.

Which exercises in particular are best suited for weight loss? Exercises that recruit the largest number of muscles – squats, lunges, burpees, kettlebell swings, push-ups etc. Hence the reason I like to do these most sessions. Get them in your workout, mix it in with some HIIT and you’ll build muscle and burn calories at an accelerated rate for hours after you’ve finished.

This is all good and well, but if you don’t eat properly all the above means nothing. Eat right, eat real foods. Don’t miss meals – you may see weight loss but not necessarily FAT LOSS. If you skip or miss meals your body will hold onto its fat stores, resulting in a weaker metabolism. If you want advice about your food – just ask. I’m happy to help whether you come to a Park-Fit class or not.

So, my ultimate advice? Establish your goals, but be realistic about it. Do a variation of exercise if you can, and pick something you enjoy. If you want faster results in less time – do HIIT and resistance. Run if you like. I run because I love the feeling of running, but it’s not for weight loss reasons. That’s why I do burpees 😉

For more details about Jo Giroux, please visit her website: http://www.jogirouxfitness.com/

The 30 Day Shred and Lying.

Push ups = nemesis

 

Today I have completed the 30 Day Shred by Jillian Michaels. If there is a woman in her 30s who hasn’t yet heard of this workout I would be amazed. It’s a Mumsnet favourite for a reason: 20 minute work out from start to finish. I’ll be honest, I missed one day due to complete exhaustion and illness but otherwise I did it. It wasn’t easy, I lacked time, motivation, fitness levels and enthusiasm but I did it. If you’ve followed any of my Insta-spam you’ll see I put my all into it.

So here’s the thing, why do a 30 Day Shred? When the 30 days are up, then what?

This is what I’ve learned over the past month:

  1. Women tell lies.

I’m guilty of this myself. I was in the pub with friends right at the start of the month. As we were in the pub it is safe to assume these were childless friends and the subject of post-partum bodies came up. They talked about how their mothers still had great bodies after birth and didn’t know how they managed it. Then asked me how I managed it.

For a second, I was about to tell that great lie that sometimes we tell “it just happens”. Like there is something great about you if you find things effortless. No there isn’t. I shocked myself that I almost said this because a. it’s not been effortless and b. I’ve grown two humans inside of me, my body will never be the same again. I have no idea why for that split second I wanted people to think it was easy to lose the baby weight, like there is a shame in working out but it was there. Instead, I broke the news to the childless that my body has changed shape and I work damn hard to get somewhere near to my 20-odd year old body.

I try to be okay about stretch marks but I know that it is okay to be upset by them too. For all the wonderful things that happened to make them, it still doesn’t mean I like them any more. I don’t love my children any less if I get upset that I look like melted Barbie.

2. It will take more than 30 days to look like Anita, Natalie or Jillian.

Bless Jillian for her boundless motivation on the DVD. I love it, I push through the pain but somewhere in the Level 3 circuits she says that if you’ve been working hard and following the diet plan this is where you’ll start to see the 6 pack. And I believed it. I eat well, really well and I put so much effort into the work outs but I have not got a 6 pack or anywhere near. I still have a post-pregnant pouch.

And when I took mid-shred challenge measurements and found I’d lost 2 inches from my hips in 15 days, did I celebrate? No, I cried because nothing, absolutely nothing had gone from the part of my body I hate the most: my stomach. What on earth is wrong with me? I truly believed that it didn’t matter how fat I was on day 1, by day 21 I would have six pack. No, the 30 Day Shred will not give you a six pack in 30 days but it will give you the kick start you need to make that (or something else) your goal. It will take more than a month to get the body image you want, but if you get a kick start then the end goal doesn’t seem so far away.

3. Self-confidence is everything.

If you’d met me you wouldn’t think that confidence and self-esteem were something I struggled much with but beneath the outer presentation to the world is a very shy person who battles against all natural instincts to go up and talk to people. It might be why I feel so chilled out in London; no one wants to talk to me. When blogging this shred on Instagram, I really struggled with the sweaty selfie. There is something quite self-indulgent about it and also, I don’t want anyone to see me in my workout. I would rather hide in a darkened room alone to do it.

I was horrified last week when three people saw me jogging into town from the school run. Horrified. I struggle to do my runs after the school run because I feel so exposed in the playground in my running clothes. I hate it. It took me ages to build up the the selfie on instagram. So, not everything that is put out in the world is a real, honest document of life. There are the bits that I didn’t show. I showed my arms because I was so impressed with them taking shape. If I could have photographed my legs, I would have done. I got my husband to take a photo of my press ups because I could do them. Did I get any of the things I struggled with whilst struggling? Any of my podgy tum? Nope, I only gave you half a story, half of the reality. It is just another way of lying.

One of the great things about blogging all of this is that I’ve met some great people online. I am in a shredding group on facebook. As everyone was posting their ‘before’ pictures, they would comment on how much they hated their bodies when in fact they were normal sized and shaped bodies for women who had quite recently given birth. All this sharing will hopefully let women see what is normal post-pregnancy. And so here is my before and after. Suffice to say my anxiety levels are sky high posting this:

Before and After

4. A kick up the arse is needed.

I love this 30 day shred because it kick starts putting exercise into the daily routine of my life. After a month, I have finally figured out I need to plan my workout into my day as much as I plan my work into my day. I stick to my plan too. If something comes along and derails my day, I put on my gym clothes anyway and do it when I can.

I started this shred struggling with level 1. Today, I ran up a big old hill in the rain. That may not seem like much but I detest rain, running and hills more than anything. I get up and I do it not because I want to be skinny but because I want to be strong. We have a newly installed pull up bar in our house. I can barely lift off of the ground but I try each day because I know being strong is a realistic goal.

This is the point of the shred, not to just lose the weight but to know that a daily piece of exercise is a good thing. This is my ‘what next?’. The final few days of this challenge were the hardest because I was so ready to move on to the next thing. I now run home from the school run, do some work out before starting work, have picked up a yoga class on a Friday evening with friends and even do some strength work outs with my husband. I have 6 week abs, kettlebells and ballet arm challenges all lined up next plus runs getting booked in. I cannot wait.

5. Your body is the only one you need consider for goals.

It is very hard not to compare yourself to others, especially if you have groups that are doing workout challenges with you but your body is unique and special to you. Your fitness is like no one else’s and the only person you should be in competition with is yourself. Wise words that I should heed sometimes as well. Not sit on my phone after 3 glasses of wine being miserable that other people have lost more weight in the same time. We all tell lies about our bodies in one way or another, we only show what we want other people to see.

So what is next?

Well, I’m not going to bore everyone with daily photos of my 6 week abs, goodness knows I was bored of my instagram feed by the end of this month.  But I am going to keep working out and striving for my goals. I am also speaking to some women who have inspired me over this past month to talk about what keeps them going, how they’ve felt about their post-birth bodies.

A Trifle Unhealthy

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As the title suggests, I have been a trifle unhealthy of late. I am not proud of it. Personally, I blame the fact I have been using snacks to placate the children on trips and outings during the holidays and therefore chowing down on them myself. Although really it is all my own fault.

I don’t actually feel guilty about this because a. that creates a bad relationship with food and b. I simply refuse to look at instagram and therefore cannot see all those rainbow bowls of fruit and vegetables which sometimes make me feel inadequate. I love bread. There I’ve said it.

So, to celebrate this I am giving you my vegan trifle recipe that I made for my daughter’s first birthday. I admit, I cheated by buying instant jelly and pre-made custard* so it wasn’t really that complicated but I needed uncomplicated. We had a house guest the night before when I tasked myself with preparing a triple layer, sugar-free, vegan vanilla cake that all went tits up when I didn’t clasp the cake tin together properly and one layer leaked all over the freshly cleaned oven. I wasn’t the one who cleaned the oven so decided to let the other layer bake. My husband was less impressed with burnt on cake mix at the bottom of the oven. However, it all turned out for the best.

This trifle brings together a number of recipes from other sources including the vanilla cake recipe on the Vegan Society, custard from The Good House Keeping cook book**

Ingredients:

For the sponge layer:

100g self raising flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

50g sugar (or enough agave to make it sweet if not using sugar).

60ml vegetable oil

160ml cold water

1tsp vanilla essence

For the Jelly layer:

1 sachet of vegan jelly

A handful each of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

For the custard layer:

Either vegan pre-made custard such as Alpro or:

2tsp vanilla essence

1 1/2 tbsp cornflour

1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar

300 ml soya milk (use vanilla if you want)

1 x banana***

For the cream layer:

1 x carton of coconut cream. You could use the tinned coconut milk too. Pop two in the fridge the night before to ensure good separation and then spoon out only the hard cream at the top. I just bought a carton of solely the hard cream.

1 good squirt of agave

sprinkles

Method:

  1. Following the instructions to make a vanilla sponge, pre-heat your oven to 375 /gas mark 5. Mix all the ingredients together  in a bowl.
  2. Depending on size preference either spoon the mixture into a yorkshire pudding tray to make 4 discs or into a cupcake tray. Make sure you grease the bottom with oil or non-dairy butter before hand, even if it is non-stick. Bake for approx 15 minutes or until your knife/skewer pokes into the middle and comes out clean.
  3. While the sponge is cooking, prepare your custard. Mix the cornflour and sugar together with a little (put in by the teaspoon) milk until a smooth paste is achieved.
  4. In a non-stick pan heat the milk until boiling and then add the cornflour mixture. You must stir all the time from this point. Bring back to the boil and cook for 2 minutes where a custard consistency should have formed.
  5. Put the custard into a jug or bowl. Allow to cool a little and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  6. Once your sponge has fully cooled you can start assembly and jelly making. Place the sponge layer at the bottom of the bowl and sprinkle your fruit over the top.
  7. Prepare your jelly grains according to the packet. Normally this involves stirring water into the grains on the hob for 5 minutes. Once ready and before it has cooled, pour over the fruit and sponge. Place in the fridge to set.
  8. Once the jelly and custard has set, pour the custard layer over the jelly. Then slice the banana width way and layer on top of the custard.
  9. Put your coconut cream into a bowl with a good squirt of agave and maybe some vanilla essence if you wish. Using a hand blender (you can use a whisk but it will take longer) blend the cream until it is a creamy consistency. Pour over the banana and smooth down with the back of a spoon or a knife.
  10. Add sprinkles and refrigerate until serving.

So, after a summer of baking and eating it is time for me to start another 30 Day Shred. Follow my progress on here, Twitter or Instagram. Feel free to join in too. I’ll be tracking how I physically look rather than my weight because I can be the same weight and widely differing dress sizes. This is about confidence, health and completing the challenge.

* I have managed to make custard before from the Good House Keeping recipe and it turned out great.

**A note on this cook book belonging in my collection. It was a christmas present from my step-Grandparents one year. I think I may have been 14 years old. I was neither in the least bit interested in housekeeping or cooking and thought it was black humour on the part of my grandmother. My mum assured me it wasn’t and I shouldn’t have been so ungrateful as to laugh aloud at such an expensive and thoughtful gift. Given that my grandmother had a wicked sense of humour and often took the mick out of my parents, I still feel it was a joke present given to a teenager who could burn a pan of water. I shall treasure this book forever.

*** I have no idea if banana belongs in a trifle. I had a long drawn out discussion about this with a friend before the making of said trifle. However, I believe that bananas and custard belong together like tea and cake.

A confession

park fit

I have a confession to make: I hate exercise. Pretty big coming from someone whose blog is about losing the baby weight and being healthy. Although it is true, I dislike the actual doing of exercise. I have pretty much zero motivation to get my butt up and do something and I very much wish I didn’t have to. However, there are some things I hate more than doing exercise and it is these things that I think about when I am not feeling it about jumping about.

1. Never having any time to myself.

Okay, this is changing now the littlest one is getting bigger. I’m writing right now, right? The thought of an hour and a half each week where I don’t have to keep checking where the little people are, sorting them out or wandering around with a backpack of poop is more than enough to get me out of the house and into an exercise class. I love my children and bedtime is often a wonderful part of the day but once a week I feel the sheer elation of sharing that time with my husband, who single-handedly gets them to bed whilst I go jump up and down in the park. It is pretty much my favourite evening each week.

2. Not fitting into my clothes.

I live in fear that if I stop working out then my newly purchased size 10 clothes will start feeling tight on me and that fills me with enough dread to keep moving. The clothes in my wardrobe range from 8-maternity size 14. Actually, that’s a lie as the other week I chucked out all the size 8 stuff because I am a 32-year old wearing the clothes of a 21 year old. I also sent the size 14 and maternity wear to charity because I am not getting that big again. Having a moon-face does not suit me. Keeping only clothes suited to my current age and body shape keeps me going to fit into those clothes.

3. Having arms that keep waving after I have stopped.

I am getting guns. Badass guns and I want to keep them. I don’t want to be stick thin, I couldn’t care less about between-thigh space. I want to be healthy. I want to be able to backwards superman lift my 1 year old over and chuck her upside down; not feel like she is superglued to my back because of some little used, flappy muscles.

4. Not being able to eat cake.

I love cake. With the cream and the sugar and all its fatty calorie goodness. I don’t want to gorge on it. Well, I do but I won’t. I just want to have a slice of it now and again knowing that its not going to become an extra layer to the belly. I don’t want to spend my life on a diet, counting calories, watching what I eat. I know I eat well and eat lots. I just want to enjoy food without a bad relationship with it. To do that, I need to exercise. If I wanted to be thin, I would do some daft starvation diet. I want to be strong so I work out.

 5. Giving Up

It’s kind of easy to put off doing an exercise DVD or give up half way through because it is hard and makes you sweaty. I now go to Park Fit at our local park and make friends with other mums who also want get strong and healthy. It’s great, we keep each other motivated. When there is a new person who is struggling then they get encouraged along to finish. It’s too easy to give up on your own. Go for a run, feel your lungs are going to break out of your chest and quit is something I’ve been known to do before. I can’t quit in class, everyone is watching. When the teacher does a particularly difficult circuit she tells us we’ll thank her in the end and I honestly do. I have guns.

And so every time I think I simply cannot be bothered or do not have it in me to get off my butt and do something, I think of all the reasons I love what exercise does, the way my body has been changing, that I can run faster, lift heavier and do more.

It’s Not All Hummus and Quinoa: A response to the Telegraph and Becky Dickinson

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Telegraph writer Becky Dickinson went vegan – sort of – with her family for a week to see what all the fuss was about. I was curious, having very much enjoyed reading about Guardian foodie, Jay Rayner’s week of veganism back in 2008. It was a funny and honest account. Vegan food is slowly becoming more mainstream and I hoped that it wouldn’t be approached as some alien matter in 2015. I was wrong.

I am sure that Becky Dickinson did her research for the article before committing to a week of a new diet, as you would expect anyone to do when entering a new diet. She had certainly contacted the Vegan Society as a first point of call and made contact with a nutritionalist; whose comments I will address later. Although it doesn’t seem like she has talked to any vegan families about what they eat, how they transitioned. Or if she did then she went into this with her mind set that it would be awful that there was really no point in her doing it.

“What’s more, I’ve always harboured a secret view that those who abstain from major food groups, often under the guise of self-diagnosed intolerances, are at best a tiny bit annoying, at worst, neurotic.”

I am very aware of public perception of vegans but it is important to say that people chose to not eat meat and dairy for many reasons, not just ethical and health ones.

If you’re going to get your family to change your diet for a week, you have to plan, adapt food from what they already like. Get a few cookbooks for a start and find out what easy oven dishes are available.

Cook books: a source of knowledge and tasty food.

Cook books: a source of knowledge and tasty food.

Of course kids can be tricky eaters at time. My own son had started to refuse onions in everything. This makes for some interesting meal concoctions at times. But the thing about vegan cooks is they love sharing what they do, they want to celebrate the wonderful food they are making so you don’t have to be creative. Just check out Vegan Dad or the PPK for starters.

What you don’t do is try replace fish fingers and chips with quinoa. It is setting the whole thing up for failure. It read to me as though the writer simply googled ‘what do vegans eat?’ and got the answer ‘lentils and quinoa’. Sure, not everyone’s child will eat lentils because they’ve probably not tried them before. It takes time to introduce new food. Why make life hard for yourself? And why reference the much discredited Gillian McKeith?

If Becky Dickinson had truly wanted her kids to give the vegan trial a go, why not start simple? Linda McCartney sausages with chips or mash. Fishless fingers, or some of the other great vegan frozen food that the major supermarkets and smaller health stores are producing these days. Ease into it before plating up the “frog spawn”. If the writer herself was going to be negative about the food, then the kids really weren’t going to get behind the whole thing.

Then there was the quote from Dr Eva Detko:

“Putting growing children on vegan diets is not the best idea and I certainly wouldn’t do it to my child.” 

It is almost a step away from saying a vegan diet is a danger to a child. This is certainly not the case. I have two very strong, healthy, well-developed children raised on a vegan diet fully for one and in the majority for the other. If humans couldn’t grow and develop on the plants around them then why are some cultures across the globe who exist on a plant-based diet still in existence? Or putting it in more scientific terms than I can, read up on two doctors who can explain why a vegan diet is healthy over at Forks Over Knives.

These comments just remind me of the eternal conversation I have with my health visitor over my very healthy vegan daughter. I will be asked where she gets her dairy from if not from animals. I respond that she is still breastfed and gets all the dairy she needs but perhaps the question to be asked is where she will get omega-3, calcium, iron, protein. If meat eaters get theirs from animals, where do the animals get their nutrients from to produce it in their bodies for us? Okay that is putting it in very simplistic terms but it is worth thinking about. Plants give enough nutrients for humans to live and thrive.

When my son was younger and still vegan we needed to take him into hospital. He had blood tests taken to check what was wrong with him and his nutrient levels came back as perfect as could be. His vegan diet was helping him thrive.

As I had been stewing over the article all day and the missed opportunity it was I realised that this is what most people think when going vegan. They go to extremes to crack and give up. They don’t understand the point of meat replacements (erm, it is not meat), and a week of being vegan probably would be hell. I just wish that Becky Dickinson had gone into this with a bit more positivity and planning.

So here is my day of being vegan with my daughter and the tasty, nutrient-packed meals we ate to help her grow and have a great relationship with food.

IMG_3543We eat as a family so the kids get a version of what we are eating in the day. It helps them try new things. My lunch today was a bean burger made with vital wheat gluten, which give it a meaty texture and look. I got the recipe from a vegan athlete blog. It was served with a potato salad and a green side salad with alfalfa sprouts. The kids grow the sprouts a few times a week, it’s fun and they like eating what they have grown. Sprouted beans help the body absorb vitamins and minerals.

IMG_3547This is my daughter’s easy-to-make and not very creative lunch.

IMG_3553And this is her enjoying it.

Friday night is pizza night in our house. Often I make tofu ‘ricotta’ from a recipe, occasionally buy fake cheese or if I am being lazy just use olive oil and nutritional yeast. It tastes cheesy and contains the illusive vitamin B12.

IMG_3576I forgot to get extra bases in. When I have time, I get my eldest to help make our own dough but it is rare we get chance. So we pop to the supermarket for pre-made if I remember.

IMG_3578Instead I got to eat some quick comfort food.

IMG_3581 IMG_3586Empty plates all round and not a spot of hummus all day.

We love our food and we love trying new things. I just wish the Telegraph had given the article to someone who seemed more positive about a week long trial. It might have opened a whole new world of food to them as it did to me when I took the plunge 10 years ago. I still miss cheese and cheap chocolate but I love the great choice of vegan food I get these days. Even in my little market town out of London.

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