Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Veganuary: quick and easy vegan meals

For those of you out there who are contemplating dropping meat and animal products from your diet (even if just for the month of January -something apparently named "veganuary") but aren't sure where to start (especially if you live in Ireland -the bigger chains are getting better, but finding things like vegan snacks and frozen goods can still be hit and miss), here's 3 quick/ idiot proof vegan meals. Simple, ridiculously quick to cook, and nutritious too. Making the transition (even if just for the month, or simply "meatless Monday") doesn't have to be complicated.

I often hear people say they would be veggie or vegan, but they "can't afford it", or "don't have the time to cook like that". And I'm over here nibbling on me Tesco value potatoes, like:

You'll notice I am both terrible with keeping track of portion size and relaying recipes (Bicky can contest to this, the "I don't know what happened, I made it like you said but it tastes shite"). But just be thoughtful -think about how many people you are cooking for. If you accidentally make too much, you can freeze it or refrigerate, and will know for next time! The main thing to note is that because there is no meat, you will want to have extra vegetables. So take that into consideration -you should be replacing your meat, not simply going without it. In some cases this can be done with the carbs portion, if not the vegetable portion of the meal, but I would suggest a balance. E.g., you're having your Sunday roast, but with no meat. If you don't fancy any meat alternatives like Linda McCartney or Quorn (FYI, Linda McC is nicer), then simply have some extra spuds and some extra vegetables (not just extra spuds, on top of extra spuds... as tempting as that sounds).

While on the subject of meat alternatives -you might hear (especially in online groups) some silly noise about it all. Look, they aren't super healthy, you know that. They're mostly frozen foods, same as most frozen, convenient foods. But they aren't the devil either. Some believe "pretending to eat meat" or anything that looks like meat (like when we say veggie burgers, or vegan cheese) somehow takes away from our efforts. Seriously, it's dumb. Who cares what you call it. Plus this thinking gives outsiders the impression that they could never be veggie and vegan, that somehow you aren't allowed miss meat. Just because I don't, doesn't mean I can't understand why some would indeed miss the taste of meats. Honestly, most people who turn to vegetarianism or veganism do so because either a love of animals or they are an environmentalist -rarely simply because they don't like the taste of meat. So it's ok to say you miss it, to find alternatives that might taste similar.  If they help you transition, all the better! Worry about tofu and seitan later (nom nom). You'll get there, you little veggie rebel you!

But for now, lets cheat. On the cheap. These recipes are not only designed to be super quick to make up, but I also reference easy to find ingredients anywhere in Ireland...

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The road to Cork

As regular readers will know, I was diagnosed with joint hypermobility a while back (although this was nothing new to myself) and very possibly have dyspraxia (they seem quite commonly linked). However, I find myself in the predicament of being too unwell for physio and occupational therapy, and can't get any doctor to take me on or even advise me in my current state. Low muscle tone, no stable core, lack of balance and frequent subluxations... All becoming worse over time, as I continue to not acquire any medical help. But everyone in my GP office have been truly great, all willing to learn and research and try me on different medications. If it hadn't been for one doctor there stepping out of her comfort zone and putting me on Baclofen a few months back, I honestly have no idea what state my body would be in now. I'm far from being healthy but I'm a long way from where I was before I began taking Baclofen. It's one of the many reasons why I feel so strongly against both medication shaming and anti-science baloney (as well as pseudo-science). The wonders of medical science and the amazing things we have achieved as the human race leaves me in awe and amazement on a regular basis, so I loath any click bait scams that threaten our gullible society back into caves. 

...Well it wouldn't be a blog post if I didn't go even slightly off topic, haha. Right, so where was I...

So a bit about joint hypermobility: 

Having hyper mobile joints literally just means that your joints over stretch the usual range. If this is accompanied by pain it is often referred to as joint hypermobility syndrome. The joints over stretch, and as we looked at, can cause frequent subluxations or even full dislocations. This leaves me and many sufferers in constant pain. I find my subluxations were causing my muscles to react in intense muscle spams, which increase my pain (as well as make me look like a big, flailing fish on dry land), hence the need for Baclofen.

Many people are hypermobile/ double jointed, but they may not have any pain. So, if someone like me encounters a doctor who is not knowledgeable on such conditions as EDS, they may confuse the two.

The terms hypermobility syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos (type 3) are interchangeable, but really are the same thing. Some doctors simply prefer one from the other, and of course, using the term "joint hypermobility" spells the issue out in a more obvious way. To define hypermobility, doctors often use the Beighton scale in evaluating patients. If you Google images associated with EDS, you will find the extreme versions of the condition -please note that in order to be considered hypermobile, you don't have to have all of these signs, and you may not stretch as exactly in these photos. For instance, I can pull my thumb closer to my arm than most other people can, but not all the way to my arm as in the picture below:

In this example, I stretch enough to be considered hypermobile, even if not all the way. Other joints do over stretch to the full extent, and I'll talk a bit more about my personal case below -I just think it's important to note that you may not be as extreme as you will see in photos of the condition. While hypermobility is common in children, we all lose some of our elasticity as we get older -and those with hypermobile joints can be the same. In my own case, my body can stiffen and become very tense, due to the muscle issues. Being so tense and rigid goes against my body's usual hypermobility, and so it can make it hard to spot in older patients. Many specialists now use the Brighton scale, as they see a strict Beighton as outdated.

The cause of EDS lies within a fault in our collagen, the most abundant protein in the body that helps hold everything together (present in skin, joints, blood vessels -which is why symptoms can be so vast and hard to link). 

Because of this, the condition is more than just hypermobile joints and pain. A specialist will diagnose it on several criteria, including examining the patient and asking about medical history/ family medical history. Someone with EDS hypermobility type may have (although may not have all) some of theses symptoms: