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Crooked

14 Jun

It’s no surprise that I have crooked teeth. I am not happy about it. I would change it if I could. When I was in primary school, it became apparent that my teeth were very crowded. I had to wear a plate which was very uncomfortable and was told that in order to straighten my teeth now would be the perfect time to have braces.

I grew up in a single parent family without much money.  Despite this, my Mum was in a situation where she was potentially able to purchase a small holiday house, going in with a friend. This decision for her depended entirely on whether or not she had to spend money on my braces. So she asked me what I thought she should do. A 12 year old girl.

I had been convinced that a holiday house would give us a great lifestyle and holidays that all of us could enjoy. It was then implied that the braces would be a selfish and superficial choice, focussing on surface level appearance which is not important. I was told that I was beautiful the way I was and that people will love me for my personality rather than my looks anyway.

You can probably guess which choice I made. It also helped that I was very scared of getting braces. So at the time it was a fairly easy decision. But a few months later, I started getting bullied for having crooked teeth. Thankfully primary school was almost over but I was still referred to as “Rattus” by most of my classmates from that point forward. Even when I saw them again years later.

As it turned out, my Mum reassessed her finances and was not able to purchase the house she and her friend wanted without us relocating so our home could be rented out… so I didn’t get braces or a beach house. But I didn’t really care about the beach house.

You might be wondering why having crooked teeth even bothers me, I have amazing friends, a successful business and a loving partner. But I don’t feel as though I can smile or even talk confidently because of it. Every time I have my photo taken I have to try and conceal my teeth. And every time I meet someone new I am terribly nervous that they will notice how childish and ugly my smile is. It doesn’t matter how you try to convince me that this isn’t true. I still believe it.

In my early 20’s I vowed to make a change, to pay for my own braces. So I went to an orthodontist for a quote and was told that my crowding is so bad that I would need to have several teeth removed in order to even make room for the straightening to occur. On top of this I was given a price tag of around ten thousand dollars (more than double the price that my Mum was given nearly 15 years prior). So again, I was faced with the reality that this was out of reach for me and I guess I gave up. I am however determined to one day have the means to fix my teeth for good.

As my daughter’s teeth grow, I am seeing that even her baby teeth are coming through crooked and I know what the future has in store for her. Thankfully these days, there are improved approaches to straightening children’s teeth meaning that braces may not even be needed. Even though I agree with letting children make their own decisions, I will certainly be encouraging her to have the courage her teeth straightened. Although superficial, being able to smile genuinely and from the heart without worrying about your appearance is something that I would like my child to be able to experience, because up until now in my life, I still don’t know what that feels like.

The Truth

8 May

It’s been over 6 months since I made a post on the blog. It’s not because I haven’t had anything to say and it’s not because I’ve had a baby and now all of a sudden I’ve forgotten about my blog. Apart from the fact that I managed an exhibition in the Fringe Festival, planned and ran my first few workshops in over 2 years, went on a trip to Adelaide AND have been caring for a baby – who is now 9 MONTHS OLD! Apart from all of that…

I’ve been dealing with something that is too hard to explain. Normally all you badasses hear it straight, I tell things to you straight, even when it’s not pretty or when I’m not proud of myself. But now, what’s been going on for me is so personal… so confusing that I just can’t seem to get it straight in my own head first before explaining it out loud. Definitely not something that I’m used to struggling with.

Many times I’ve started to write, with the intention of sharing my situation but I end up just freezing and no words come. This has been blocking me for so long now that I think it’s best just to address it, share what I can and move on. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back into the swing of things and keep the momentum going (you know that comments always get me going). So let me just say this: I had a more difficult time with childbirth than I let anyone know (a true hardass). I did not recover well. Everyday I am reminded of this. And even though I am feeling much better and will continue to do so I feel that it’s important to tell you the truth. The truth is… sometimes I will tell you that I’m fine – when actually I’m not.

Back on board

14 Oct

You might recall that during my pregnancy I had undeniable cravings for meat. You can read more about my journey with meat eating here.

I had never really cooked much meat before this, so I was confronted with the reality of learning to cook it and, you know I love cooking right? So I’m sad to admit that I actually started to get creative with it and even enjoy it a little.

I had hoped that once giving birth that I could give up meat eating instantly but I found that early on the cravings got worse! Breastfeeding left me feeling dehydrated and hungry all the time and I was craving nutrient dense, high protein food, I was after all, making milk! I was eating around 6 meals in 24 hours and my body was going crazy for meat.

So now not only had I begun to feel used to the meat cravings I was actually enjoying cooking and eating it. It went from being a medicinal addition to my diet to a staple. So now that I’m no longer breastfeeding, my body has calmed down and as I’d hoped, my meat cravings have dissipated. The problem is now that I have an appreciation for meat in my life that I never had before. What’s a girl to do?

Thankfully after being a vego for so long it was impossible for me to eat meat unconsciously. I am very aware of what my choices support and had to make peace with that. I’ve recently been inspired by people who do the occasional-ethical-meat-eating thing and I think that for the time being, that’s what I’m going to do. In no way am I going to have it regularly but I have decided that every once in a while I might choose to have some. I am ok with this.

Still, please don’t offer me meat at your place or expect to be served any at my place. I’ll choose when and where I have it or if I have it at all. That being said, I’m SO glad to be rid of those damn cravings!

Under The Pump

8 Oct

So when Dottie was born, she needed to be taken to the special care nursery and we were separated. When we tried to breastfeed a few hours later she wouldn’t latch. Over the next few days we tried again and again without success. We took her to an osteopath and saw many midwives and lactation consultants, it just wasn’t happening and no-one was sure exactly why.

Initially I hand expressed precious droplets of colostrum around the clock. When we went home from the hospital I upgraded to a double pump and my new life as a pumper began. I pumped every 2 hours for 30mins for the first week, leaving little time for sleep or even caring for Dottie.

Once my milk supply was established we were building up quite a stockpile so I decided to drop back to 3 hourly pumping and then 4 hourly. Still it was hard work and I couldn’t have done it without Bob who became a night feeding pro! Then the pain began…

Firstly my breasts became engorged and full all the time. Although pumping is a good way to express milk it does not at all replicate a baby’s natural feeding rhythm so my body didn’t really know how to cope. Then I started getting lumps from blocked milk ducts. They were incredibly painful and could lead to mastitis. So now I had a dilemma, pumping relieves the pain of engorgement but then tells your body that it needs more milk. So if I pumped before the specified time I would get some temporary relief but would make the problem worse in the long run.

This continued for weeks. I was determined to give Dottie the best start I could but the pain and sleep deprivation was beginning to take it’s toll (not to mention the fact that I was missing out on caring for her). I ended up getting mastitis several times and the lumps continued… as soon as one cleared another would appear and I often had a few at a time.

When I was pregnant, I was excited about having a dairy free child. I never imagined that breastfeeding would be so difficult for me but when I was faced with the difficult reality, I had to consider dairy-based formula as an option.

I resisted to start with. I hated the idea of 1) feeding my daughter something inferior  and 2) supporting an industry which I am passionately opposed to. I may have eaten some meat during pregnancy but I never once consumed dairy or even wanted it. I soon realised though that hating something which could in fact be my saviour was futile, I needed to find appreciation for it and in essence love it.

It took some time but I was able to feel gratitude towards baby formulas and the cows who make them possible. And then one weekend I was pushed over the edge. I was in so much pain, pumping provided no relief. I was living on paracetamol, I couldn’t lie on my side or sleep at all. Bob had to take nearly a week off work to look after me and help care for Dottie because I couldn’t even lift her up. That was enough. We switched to formula. And thankfully I was emotionally ready.

I was planning on continuing to pump with the objective of cutting down to just a few pumps a day. The lumps and pain continued. The blockages were so bad that pumping wasn’t providing relief from the constant agony. So, I stopped cold turkey. I figured that I didn’t have much to lose. I’d have a few days of pain and it would be over rather than having to deal with the pain indefinitely. And I have NO REGRETS WHATSOEVER.

Dottie was fed breast milk exclusively for 6 weeks and although it’s not what I’d hoped for, it’s better than nothing. Once the pain was gone, I was able to sleep! Precious sleep. I felt human for the first time in what felt like forever. I was able to hold Dottie and hug people again and I could finally start being a Mother!

Immunity

18 Jul

This week marks 2 years since the last time I was sick with any sort of viral infection. No colds, coughs, sore throats, tummy bugs or fevers. Pretty cool huh? Want to know how I did it? Here’s a list of some of my secrets:

I eat mostly wholefoods. I noticed a massive change in my natural immunity when I cut down on eating pre-packaged, processed foods including sugar. Eating foods in their complete, natural form makes it easier for your body to digest and absorb nutrients.

I identified that I have an intolerance to yeast and now I avoid it. It took me years to figure out what was causing all of my digestive upsets and once I finally discovered that yeast was the culprit I eliminated it (and all it’s derivatives) from my diet. Consuming something regularly that irritates your body impacts on your immune system.

I include superfoods in my diet, especially those high in vitamin C and antioxidants. This might seem fancy or expensive but the truth is that I can easily go for weeks at a time without consciously eating any of this stuff but if I’m making a nut slice or a smoothie I always make sure some of these go in. The raw superfoods I use regularly are: cacao, camu camu, acai, maca and goji berries. I also take a vitamin C supplement.

I don’t wash my hands unnecessarily. I wash them only when they are dirty or when I have come into contact with a sick person. I have encountered many sick people over the past two years (including my husband Bob who has had about 3 colds during that time) and have never caught anything.

I don’t use cleaning products. This is mostly because I am sensitive so strong chemicals and smells. Apart from laundry powder and dishwashing detergent, you won’t find much else is my house! I use good old elbow grease and water for most household cleaning.

I corrected my vitamin and mineral deficiencies. If your body isn’t getting enough of something then it will not be able to operate at its optimum. Using blood test results interpreted by a doctor and dietician I introduced supplements and changed my diet in order to raise the levels of many essential vitamins that were low. I also take a non-dairy probiotic. If your immune system is using its energy simply to digest heavy, processed, acidic, unhealthy foods then it’s not going to have much strength left to protect your from bacteria.

I exercise regularly. Exercise releases toxins, shifts fat, boosts immunity and generally helps your body to perform better.

I am hydrated. I drink alot of water and raw juice. I rarely consume hot drinks like tea and coffee – I believe that the dehydrating effects of tea and coffee are not worth the supposed antioxidising benefits.

Of course I can’t know for sure exactly what has prevented me from getting sick but I wouldn’t be surprised if some or all of these things helped out along the way!

Intolerable

15 Jul

Some days I feel as though my yeast intolerance has completely destroyed my life and other days I believe it to be the greatest blessing imaginable. When I eat yeast my digestive system slows down and then it causes me all sorts of discomfort for up to 4 weeks, even when it’s just an additive or a flavouring.

There are so many normal and delicious foods that I can’t have because of it: bread, pizza and croissants to name a few… and because I also don’t have dairy, my options become very limited when I’m eating out.

Bob and I used to go out for breakfast every weekend, something which is virtually impossible for us now. Not only are most breakfasts based around or accompanied by bread, but all of the alternatives are usually high in dairy or cooked in butter. I can eat sourdough bread (thank my lucky stars) however most commercial “sourdough” is just sour flavoured yeast bread. Going out for breakfast is a thing of the past for me.

What about lunch? Thankfully there are a few reliable sources of nomi-friendly food on the Gold Coast but unfortunately most of them are the Southern end so we don’t get down there much. As far as traditional lunch options go, let’s face it – they are mostly based around putting things between two slice of bread. Sometimes I consider a soup or a curry but the problem here is that any prepackaged stock or sweet asian sauce is guaranteed to contain yeast extract (cry) and when you try to explain this to people, even chefs, they often fail to understand.

People associate yeast with bread and beer. It’s difficult to convince people that it is also found in other foods. Even sushi contains yeast!

Going out for dinner is about the same as lunch for me. There are a few safe options that are just a little bit too far away to be easy. Pasta is usually safe and thai style coconut based curries made with fresh spice pastes are usually ok too. Pretty much all indian food is made with ghee or yoghurt. Funnily enough I can often find some goodies at a pub of all places, chips and salad is easy providing that they have a non beer battered version.

Often though, I just reside myself to eating at home as explaining my needs to busy waiting staff is often more trouble than it’s worth. Many of you may be thinking, well that doesn’t sound so bad and you’re right, it’s not… but some days the craving for a pizza or a croissant is simply unbearable and the alternatives are just not even worth it.

So, what good could come from this terrible fate? Here’s just a few positives:

I learnt to cook. My cooking skills were very basic before I discovered my yeast intolerance 3 years ago. I used foods and flavourings out of packets and never attempted anything seemingly complex or adventurous. Once I wasn’t able to use stir-fry sauces I had to make my own. Once I wasn’t able to use vegie stock I had to make my own. Once I wasn’t able to have toast for breakfast, I had to find something else. I had no choice but to learn!

I turned to wholefoods. Considering that so many packaged food contain yeast derivatives or suspicious ingredients like “seasonings” or “vegetarian flavourings” I turned to a diet which is for the most part unprocessed. I absolutely LOVE eating foods in their natural form – it feels so right. I recently had white rice for the first time in months and it just left me feeling empty! I still use some packaged foods – far less than ever before – and mostly organic with as few ingredients as possible.

I eat less crap. I don’t get tempted by shitty foods at the servo, I take healthy snacks with me everywhere I go. There is hardly any ready made snacks in my fridge and pantry. If I want biscuits, I need to make them myself and because I can control what goes into them, I’m eating so much better than ever before.

I feel amazing. Before I discovered my intolerance I used to have a tummy ache pretty much all the time. It caused me to feel nauseous and anxious as well as having uncontrollable gas and pain that struck at random. I was afraid of going out in case the pain or anxiety showed up. I didn’t know it was possible to feel this good! I am so thankful everyday that I don’t suffer with those symptoms anymore.

Whenever I’ve had yeast by accident I’ve been reminded of the discomfort that I used to suffer with and I’ve realised that although sometimes I believe I’m missing out, I’m actually doing what’s best for my body.  When I think of my intolerance, it’s a love/hate relationship!

Fat Defenders

20 Apr

So the other day I went to Target to have a look at underwear and maternity clothing. My pregnant body is growing rapidly and my clothing options have become somewhat limited. In the store, next to the pitiful singular maternity rack was a huge new section for plus size women’s clothing. And I don’t mean clothes for women who are unusually tall or broad these were clothes for obese people.

What the hell is wrong with the world?

Here’s what I think… If you are obese, your body is desperately trying to tell you that you are unhealthy. Your diet is wrong, you eat too much, you don’t exercise enough and perhaps you’re also unwilling to take responsibility for yourself and lack the courage to try something different. That is the truth.

So, department stores are going to reward you for ignoring your health by providing you with reasonably priced, stylish, accessible clothing to keep you trapped exactly where you are.

Did you see this Mama Mia article about how there isn’t enough plus size clothing to go around? WTF? Firstly, I am a short, petite, healthy woman and I have the same problem – I cannot find clothes that fit me. My options are normally limited to: supre, miss shop, teen sections or buying larger clothes and having them altered (which is what I normally end up doing). But when I do go to places that specialise in small sizes like supre, do you know what I find? The small sizes are the first to sell out. Small people are desperate!!

I used to be a size 8 but now I am a size 6 (or XXS). My body hasn’t changed, the clothing sizes have! Probably in an attempt not to offend women who are becoming increasingly fatter. And now obese women are complaining that they can’t find stylish clothing!

So this article reports that trendy brands want to associate their product lines with slim people – what is wrong with that? Everyone is capable of being healthy and losing weight. In fact the desire to be able to fit into stylish clothing could be a great incentive for someone to lose weight.

They go on to list 3 points

1. The cost and fear of changing patterns to suit a curvier figure. The grading between sizes 6 and 12 is quite uniform but when you get up to sizes 16 to 24 women put on weight in vastly different ways and the pattern needs to be adjusted to make the garment work.

That cost is a real one! It would cost more to make bigger clothes and have more options. Would obese women be willing to pay the extra? It’s crazy to expect that clothing using twice or three times the fabric should cost the same as a smaller item. Maybe the additional cost would get people motivated to lose weight.

2. The stigma attached to a plus size clothing. The cooler, edgier labels have a reputation that the customer wants to buy into. Plus sizes aren’t part of that.

I recognise the danger of using unusually tall and slender models and not having realistic clothing sizes available however I do believe that part of the image that those “cool” labels promote is in fact, health! This is not a bad thing. Plus sizes are not a part of that because they are (generally) for unhealthy people.

3. They simply don’t think plus size women want fashionable clothes. There is a mentality that if you really wanted to wear fashion, you would lose weight.

And so there should be. Creating new lines of clothing for overweight people to stay as they are instead of encouraging them to lose weight to be able to fit into “normal” clothes is like taking out a loan to pay off your debt – it doesn’t make the problem go away. If overweight people needed to lose weight in order to fit into better looking clothes then they would realise that they can take responsibility for their own life! That is the biggest barrier to weight loss right there!

Another example in futility would be lap band surgery, I’ve known obese people who have seen this as their only option because they lack the self control to stick to a healthy lifestyle. I know that people can have amazing weight loss results from this surgery however it cannot be denied that the underlying issues are rarely addressed, not to mention the fact that the surgery is a huge expense and it pretty much entirely unnecessary.

I know I might be coming across a bit unsympathetic especially to those people who are naturally large or busty (as opposed to being obese) and require larger clothing. This is just the journey that some of us have to bear – I understand what it’s like! Of course I recognise that all people need clothing and I wouldn’t want to deny anyone of that right however I just think that a more realistic and sustainable approach is needed and that it would be so easy to promote normal sizes as healthy and provide overweight people with a real incentive to change and take ownership of their health.

Target on the other hand obviously caught on early and realised there was money to be made from the poor forgotten fatties.

Judge Not pt 3

12 Mar

I love to tell the truth. I love to share my stories and my journeys. However confessing to having eaten meat after 6 years without it was far more difficult than I had imagined.

Some of my fellow vegetarians judged me so harshly that they were bordering on cancelling the friendship with me altogether. To them I was just another failed vegetarian. Using pregnancy as an excuse to justify my disconnection from my food. And I must admit, if I was in their situation it’s likely that I might have had a sneaky judgement too.

I remember meeting a woman years ago in one of my classes who told me her story of surrendering her vegetarian ethics during pregnancy. Although I was outwardly compassionate, since then I have always thought to myself “I will never do that. It’s easy to have a balanced diet without meat whether you’re pregnant or not!”. When I finally allowed myself to eat some meat I judged myself for being “one of those people”. For a while I labelled myself as a cop out. And it turned out that my vego friends didn’t see me as much more than a cop out either. So I confessed to some meat eaters…

Remember part 1 of this post? Yep. Most meat eaters just welcomed me back to their side, content that I had finally “seen the light” and stopped being a protein deficient whinger. Thankfully I have a good understanding of the grips of the ego and how fiercely people will defend their truth so I was able to take these reactions lightheartedly. But still, I received very little appreciation for the huge emotional transformation that had taken place within me and the amazing power of my body to accurately tell me what it needs.

I found this appreciation of course in my spiritually aware friends, those who also listen to the needs of their body and make changes accordingly. At the end of the day I realised that all that matters is that I am comfortable with my own actions. I don’t really care whether or not people accept my choices or if they use my actions as a way of justifying their own actions. All of this is beyond my control.

It is my intention to continue having small amounts of meat during my pregnancy and I hope to revert to a vegetarian diet once the baby is born however I now know that I need to listen to the needs of my body first and foremost and I remain open to any changes that my inner voice may suggest.

Read part 2 of this post.

Judge Not pt 2

10 Mar

So I may have found peace with the eating habits of others but I’ve had a recent struggle accepting my own food journey. Since being pregnant I have been craving meat…. severely. I’ve been vego for about 6 years and I had the occasional meat craving in the beginning, but for the past 3 years, I’ve not found meat appealing at all.

So as you can imagine, I was completely baffled when my body started telling me that I needed desperately to eat meat. I know that my nutrient, vitamin and mineral levels are all good but just in case, I tried eating iron rich foods and ensuring my protein intake was abundant. I did this for a month while I dealt with daily cravings and nothing changed. During that month I went on an amazing emotional journey which began with a fierce attachment to my version of “right” and “wrong”. My values were being severely challenged by these cravings and some days I shocked myself when I realised that I was actually considering eating meat. What the hell was wrong with me?

I kept thinking about all the reasons that I don’t eat meat in the first place and it felt as if I had a war going on inside my head. Listen to my body or listen to my values… that was the choice I had to make. It’s not often that we’re torn between to two.

So the question I had to ask myself was, “Will I be able to cope emotionally with the impact of my actions if I do try some meat?”. This is not an easy question to answer. I thought of all the people who mindlessly eat meat at every meal and I thought of all the ways in which I am environmentally conscious in comparison to the general population. I could sense that I was trying to justify my desire to eat meat but the inner voice telling me to eat it was becoming too much to bear.

With all of my medical struggles over the past year I have worked with some amazing professionals, all of whom have encouraged me to listen to and trust my body. As I developed this communication with my body I have become intuitively aware of what foods I need to include and what foods I need to avoid, so this whole meat thing was really testing my relationship with my body.

After weeks of emotional turmoil I finally concluded that I would not know for sure unless I allowed myself to try it and see. I knew that my body would tell me if if wasn’t right. Realising this allowed me to find peace with it all. I knew I couldn’t consume meat if I felt terrible about it so I had to reach a point of acceptance. What a transformative journey.

So, yes I tried some meat. (this is where staunch vegans unfollow me on twitter) I didn’t struggle with it. My body was fine with it. I gave thanks to the animal that had suffered and I approached the entire process with openness and peace. And the next day….. ALL OF MY RANDOM DIGESTIVE SYMPTOMS WERE GONE. Completely gone. All of the weird gas, burps, tummy aches and nausea had vanished without a trace. Until this point I was not consciously aware of how unpleasant those symptoms actually were and how much grief they had caused me.

After about a week the symptoms returned and I tried some meat again and once again, I felt instantly better. I don’t understand exactly how or why this was happening but it allowed me to see a potential weekly meat dish as something amazingly therapeutic, and I let go of any remaining concerns about whether or not I was doing the right thing. I have to trust my body on this one. It wasn’t until I started to tell people about my journey that I was struggling again, this time with the judgements and values of other people. More on this in part 3 of this post.

Read part one of this post here.

#9 – I wonder if people realise …

12 Sep

That animal foods are far worse for the environment than plant foods. Here’s why. (click the dots to find out more).

Have a look around that website, it’s really informative.

If this is news to you, you might want to read my animal products post from a while back.