It Must Suck To Be A Vegetarian At Christmas

I never thought I’d say this, but for once I find myself in total agreement with my father’s view that political correctness has gone mad.

According to The Independent newspaper in the UK, a researcher has proposed that idioms such as “bringing home the bacon” and “flogging a dead horse” should be removed from the English language because the imagery they create is offensive and upsetting to vegans and vegetarians.

Veganism is on the increase, and at a time when some celebrate Veganuary and it’s just as easy to buy veggie burgers and sausages in supermarkets as the genuine dead animal, while I agree that an awareness of the sensitivities of others is important, where does it end?

The next step will be to stop insulting plant life as well, because surely, “as thin as a twig” has to be body shaming to the twig in the same way that the accusation of being “as red as a beetroot” is typically used as a derogatory observation.

It’s never easy to make a stand for your beliefs – particularly when it comes to food choices and intolerances – in the face of, (shall we say), old-fashioned principles. However, sometimes Karma has a funny way of evening the score. And one of those times took place during my recent holiday as my father reached into the fridge for a swig of orange juice one morning and grabbed at my carton of almond milk instead.

A smile may have crossed my lips as I watched him spit the offensive liquid over the kitchen floor after the barrage of insults inflicted on both NC and myself in relation to our dietary choices – hers vegetarian, and mine dairy-free.

For this is a man who prides himself on being a “war baby,” and hence, eats everything – a fact that was rammed down my throat as a child every time I refused to clear my plate of food – which was often because there is NOTHING (shudder) the man will not eat.

“Sell-by” and “best before” dates are ridiculed in his house. Indeed, the more moldy and unappealing a piece of food appears, the more gusto the man demonstrates in its consumption.

That was why I was careful to remind him about NC’s vegetarianism prior to our arrival – she only eats fish when she feels like it is pushed – a warning that was met by the usual muffled grumblings of disgust. And when I went on to inform him that I was currently dairy-free – for health reasons – I’m certain that his derogatory whoop of disgust traveled from the northern to the southern hemisphere with the speed of light.

If I’m honest, I knew that I was pushing my luck when I requested vegan cheese and almond milk – although anyone would think my request was that he smuggle a stash of heroin through Bali rather than be seen buying vegan cheese from Waitrose.

For, as I suspected, it is still not deemed fully socially acceptable in some circles of the UK to be vegetarian or lactose intolerant, which makes it tricky to eat out. Added to which, the British diet is influenced by the climate and is heavily laden with meat. But while the word tofu may still be met with some confusion, I did manage to find a decent coffee with rice-coconut milk as a substitute and we were also introduced to a fabulous veggo restaurant near Oxford Circus called Ethos. And trust me, there’s no danger of getting fat there either because they charge you by the weight of your plate.

I pity vegans, particularly at this time of the year.

A roast without meat, (or in Australia, shellfish and salads, but without the shellfish), is nothing to get excited about at Christmas lunch, and neither is Mum’s nut roast substitute that everyone knows is little more than reconstituted stuffing.

But, each to their own.

Poor NC remained admirably stoic as her Grandad ranted off a list of sustainable fish to her every mealtime while we stayed with him – a list he had learned by heart in an attempt to either understand or ridicule her beliefs – I’m not sure which. And as I watched him force-feed her prawns and mussels, he made me swear to consume every last morsel of vegan cheese from the fridge prior to my departure, just in case it contaminated the dead animals.

The Hidden Link Between Muscle Tone And Weight Gain In Middle Age

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I know I drone on about the unfairness of weight gain in middle age a lot. I don’t want to sound like some narcissistic bitch bemoaning the first-world problem of the loss of my youth, beauty, and self-esteem, (which I am…obviously), but we women of a certain age have a lot to come to terms with.

Almost a year ago, as I began to watch the weight creep on, I decided to try something new. I took up exercise again. I suppose I got caught up in the hype of wanting to look young again – thank you Revitalift – and so I’ve been secretly beavering away at some fitness stuff in an attempt to shed the kilos and keep the old ticker working as it should.

I suppose I thought I’d surprise you. If women’s magazines are anything to go by, many of us struggle with our weight at this age and I thought that one day I would put up my before and after photos and my secret to losing weight on this site and you’d all hate me. I’d sell my story about how I did it, and how simple it really was, because all it really involves is loving yourself, drinking lots of red wine (not white) and walking to the pub instead of catching an Uber. I thought I’d be one of those unrealistic representations of health that you see in photos of beautiful, young people in the gym. Only I’m no longer young and beautiful.

But then, in a moment of sheer madness, I decided to get on the scales – something I haven’t done since the last time I couldn’t do up my jeans – and to my horror, I discovered that I’d gained six kilos. This, after almost killing myself for a year.

And the problem with that is that I’m not the sort that sees the unfairness of life as a challenge. I see the world in black and white – as in I’m the type that receives that kind of devastating news and heads straight to the pantry for a six-pack of Kettle Chips and a bottle of Baileys, in spite of everything I write about accepting myself for who I am.

To be honest, I’m feeling kind of cheated right now about all that time I spent gritting my teeth through the pain in my lungs and the swelling in my knees, and my disappointment isn’t entirely linked to vanity. It’s linked to the unfairness of working so damned hard for fuck-all results. It is linked to the sacrifice and unfairness of losing not only my looks, my hair, and my memory, but of also having to come to terms with how my clothes sit on my new size 14 frame.

We’ve all heard overweight friends say things like, ‘I don’t know why I can’t lose the weight,’ and then we watch them eat and become smugly judgmental. And I will admit to enjoying my food as well. On occasion, I have been known to give in to my body’s natural bent for eating MOST of the pies, and yet, in general, I eat healthily at least five days a week.

And yes, (before The Alcohol Police remind me), I am fully aware of those naughty wine calories, which I had hoped would be compensated by my hour of exercise each day. Two glasses of wine equate to 160 calories, which by my calculations, equates to an hour’s walk. Added to which, I must lose the equivalent amount of liquid in sweat during my jogs around the park.

Cortisol can be another cause of weight gain at this age, and I admit that I have been content in the past to latch onto the excuse of stress as a result of Kurt’s antics and living with the old man. And yet I can’t even blame the boy at the moment, who has been suspiciously tame for a while now.

Which leaves only a couple of possible excuses reasons for this weight gain. 1. The first is that biologically-speaking, many middle-aged women gain weight during menopause – something to do with an extra padding of fat to protect our crumbling bones, which is vital if we want to continue to outlive men and lead the human race. Because seriously…who wants to leave this world on something boring like a fall, unless it’s in a bar, of course? But as I’m not officially in menopause yet, it has to be the second reason.

2. Muscle tone.

There’s A Sandwich Shortage In Australia

Far be it for me to take the spotlight away from Barnaby Joyce’s affair, however, Australia has a far bigger problem than a defunct political role model.

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It has a sandwich shortage.

 

When you drive through the state of NSW – that bit around Sydney and up to the Gold Coast – you will notice that the country is nothing like the way it is depicted in movies such as Mad Max ie. barren, soul-less, with kilometers of dirt, dust and cattle farms and serial killers that wait to hijack your combi the minute you step out of it for a pee. No, NSW is lush and green with beautiful beaches that must compete with some of the best in the world,

 

But long journeys are as boring AF, and what most of us tend to do when we’re bored is think about food.

 

In the UK, motorway cafes and petrol stations have remarketed themselves as fully stocked supermarkets that offer a variety of lunch options and snacks – they even sell wine. Whole aisles are dedicated to the sandwich, from the traditional egg and cress or chicken and mayo – my personal favorites – to the more exotic gourmet flavors handed down by their immigrant population. Even quinoa must have infiltrated the sandwich market at some level by now.

 

I bet that even Dean Moriarty, Jack Kerouac’s character in On The Road, found somewhere that made a decent sandwich, but in regional Australian, similar quests always seem to end in a hot pie with sauce (or “poie” as we pronounce it here) or a Maccas heart-attack fest. Mention a sandwich and the eyes of the locals glaze over – as though you just landed in one of North Korea’s practice missiles – which is kind of depressing when you think about the progress that has been made in diet and nutrition.

 

Far be it for me to knock the staple comfort food of my adopted country – I imagine that the steak pie has far more goodness in it than a super-sized Big Mac meal with a side of a chicken and cheeseburger and an Oreo sundae, which is Kurt’s lunch of choice after years of enforced healthy eating, but even with the dietary tweaks one makes on holiday, it is difficult to find anything healthy and tasty on the road.

 

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Admit it, you thought I was joking.

 

Sure, there are plenty of lollies, the sugar-fix of choice (if you can agree on whether to go sweet or sour) with six hours of barren landscape ahead of you, fights over playlists, bitching about the speed limit and which toilets to stop at. And there are plenty of (frankly) weird places to stop at in this vast country – Big Bananas, and cafes shaped like rocks where you sense that no one has ever heard of Netflix, (let alone dedicated their life to the sport of watching it), waxing or customer service, and where coffee is served via machines that all function slightly differently making you wish that IT was on the curriculum when you were at school – which all take on a heightened significance when you need to lift the tedium and pretense that there is any conversation left after twenty-five years of marriage.

 

We settled for a burger in the end. I couldn’t repeat the experience of last year when (finally) we found a café that was open and had a friendly staffer who had actually heard of the word “sandwich”, hadn’t run out of bread or only took cash. And it was only when I said the word “mayo” three times without a single glimmer of recognition of the abbreviated condiment, that all hope crumbled. When they (obviously) fertilized the egg, reared the bird and cooked it as we waited, my anxiety went into “abort mission” mode and the sandwich ended up in a bin down the street.

 

So we ended up at Maccas, again, and shared a portion of chips, one of those boring concessions to the aging process, where you allow yourself to stand on the edge of the pool of holiday-brazen-ness, but you only go in up to your waist. It’s a bitch getting old and realizing that you can’t ingest or imbibe whatever the fuck you want and that mental point system of calories in your head booms at you through a megaphone with “what the fuck are you thinking, you fat bitch?” every time you contemplate anything naughty but nice.

 

A full portion of chips is three glasses of wine to the muffin-top-challenged, so it’s a no-brainer, really.

Eating And Drinking Healthily In Middle Age To Maintain Your Body Weight

I’ve written a lot of posts about this topic in the past because let’s face it, girls, on a scale of stuff that still turns us on in middle age, (where sex with our husbands/partners is at one), food has to be at least a ten. The struggle is real. And to my horror, I recently discovered that there is sugar in fruit and wine – which is a bit rude, frankly – and a fact that has made rather a mockery of just about everything I have aspired to achieve over the past few years in my war on the muffin top.

 

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Sugar in fruit? Like, WTF!

 

The good news (this week) is that two glasses of red wine before bedtime is now good for us, according to the fat-busting scientists, which must mean that for those that are partial to a few more than two (due to mental health issues, say), that makes them virtually Roger Federer.

 

I gave up on traditional diets a long time ago, mainly because they don’t work, I can’t stick to them and they make me very dull and bad-tempered with a hunger only seen in Labradors and an irrational fixation on the breadbasket.

 

Fortunately, I am a moderation kind of girl, (Kettle Chips and cheese excluded – OBVS) and although I don’t deny myself any food groups really – except octopus because WTF and legs – I like to think that I choose wisely and healthily. I also try to balance my out my diet using a cutting-edge, self-developed point system that I stole from Weightwatchers designed for myself, that seems to work for me… sometimes – as in I don’t get the kind of hunger where all I can think about is eating other people’s leftovers in cafes and I can maintain focus on a sensible health target at this stage of my life – to maintain my drinking goals and weight at the same time.

 

Here are some of my tips:

 

If I have yogurt for brekkie, I won’t touch dairy for the rest of the day until my Snickers smoothie at bedtime.

 

If I blow out seriously on carbs, I limit myself to less than a bottle of wine that evening.

 

If I’ve starved myself with a steak and blue cheese salad for lunch, denied myself my morning tea toast and my afternoon snack of crackers and hummus, I allow myself an all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink week.

 

I only eat carbs when I’m hormonal, pre-menstrual, peri-menopausal, feeling fat, feeling unloved, feeling hungry, the kids hate me, or with wine.

 

You see – all pretty straightforward really. But let’s be honest, we all have those really shitty years when there’s been nothing on telly but sport for months, you’re fifty-two and still getting acne or your local restaurants decide to allow babies, and it’s hard to be virtuous all the time. Those days when all you want to do is crawl into bed with Pods on toast and an Amaretto on ice. And on those occasions – because remember, I said it’s about balance – I increase my exercise by searching out the furthest pub on Google maps and walking there AND BACK.

Who Knew That There IS Actually A Link Between Iron And Energy?

So it turns out that you actually need iron in your body, whereas I always thought that iron was naturally in your blood – one of those minerals that you didn’t really have to worry about apart from during pregnancy, because it had no real function like your appendix, and your clitoris, according to the old man. I also thought when you became deficient (AKA anemic), and your gums and your eyelids turned that scary shade of white, a few dead animals in your diet or some iron tablets and associated constipation, would cure it. Who remembers the black stools of pregnancy? Sounds like a horror movie, doesn’t it?

 

‘The black stools are coming…’ said in Vincent Price voice.

 

The thing is, I don’t really eat a lot of animals anymore, mainly because my daughter – one of those anal, in-your-face vegetarians who refuses to sit quietly and munch on her Tofu, won’t let me. And as you know, she’s very scary. Added to which, I’m in that stage of perimenopause where each month is like a scene from The Texan Chainsaw Massacre because I’m losing a lot of iron DURING MY PERIOD as well.

 

In fact, iron has a more serious function that merely being proof of how many kale smoothies you consume to brag about in book club – and as an interesting side note, you’d have to eat a ton of spinach to see any real change to your results – thank fuck!. You see, it actually carries oxygen around the blood which gives you more energy and means you are less listless – something that has been an issue for me for most of my life, and may, in fact, be genetic which is why Kurt’s iron levels will also be checked out asap. In my case, the symptoms only became really noticeable recently when I struggled to lift a wine bottle to my mouth one Friday night.

 

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How I think I look in my deficient state.

 

Anyway, the idea that I might beat that old bitch at the pool who keeps overtaking me in the fast lane was appealing, and as recent research suggests that there is a link between cancer and low oxygen levels, I decided to take my deficiency seriously. So when my doctor mentioned an iron infusion –  because my gut struggles to absorb iron in the same way it can alcohol – and I learned that the treatment requires a REAL drip from a REAL nurse that delivers the iron intravenously while you lie in a treatment room and look like there is genuinely something wrong with you – frankly, it sounded too good to be true. Disappointingly, though, you don’t get tea and biscuits afterwards like you do for a blood donation.

 

The health system is fantastic in Australia because we pay for it and unlike countries like the UK where you have to wait a year for an appointment and only get to see a specialist once you can prove you’ve ordered your coffin, here the GPs are lavish with referrals and scans. They are the Father Christmas’ of the medical world and a veritable lifesaver for those of the hypochondriac persuasion among us.

 

Even better, there are some minor risks to getting an iron infusion, so when you tell people about it, you can use that low voice that sounds like the treatment is REALLY FUCKING SERIOUS. There’s the possibility of headaches, fever, nausea etc – pretty much a typical Sunday morning hangover – plus an interesting new one where staining of the skin can occur at the injection site. When my doctor described this low-risk side effect, it sounded rather like a free tattoo to me – something that is definitely on my bucket list – so it seemed like a no-brainer.

 

Evidently, I didn’t do my research properly because I thought I would exit the surgery…I mean, injection, rather like those women in sanitary towel adverts, with enough energy to roller blade around the supermarket, surf in the middle of winter or even cook dinner, but alas, it can take up to two weeks for the effects to kick in. So, two more weeks of bed rest and the excuse to raise barely more than a weak eyelid when the old man suggests cleaning of any description…because deficiencies need to be taken seriously...but I’ll keep you updated. If I manage to knock out more than two blog posts this week, you’ll know I’m in recovery.

 

Whatever Floats Off Your Boat

Like many people I suspect, whenever I’m under pressure to perform or create an impression, I fuck up badly. tree-trunk-in-the-water-1254566_1280

 

Last weekend we were invited onto the boat of some of the old man’s work friends. For normal people, the idea of jet-setting around on a yacht in the clear, emerald-green waters of the Hawkesbury on what was forecast to be a beautiful Saturday night, with dinner in a stunning restaurant at the water’s edge afterwards, is a dream come true. I was naturally fearful.

 

Boating and skiing fall into the same category of “extreme sports” in my world, which is shaped by anxiety, and means that I see anything and everything as out to get me. For this reason, I only dip my toe into risky activities when I have to, even though there are elements of faking the life of the rich and famous that I could become rather accustomed to.

 

Unfortunately, work commitments meant that the old man and I couldn’t sail into the bay with the rest of our party that afternoon and so we were whisked onto our floating bedroom for the night just prior to appetisers and pre-dinner drinks. The setting and forecast couldn’t have been better as I tripped over a guide wire upon embarkation, which I managed to laugh off in spite of my insides doing a reverse dive with a half somersault and we spent a gloriously magical evening with extremely generous hosts and new friends.

 

One aspect of boating life that has always terrified me is the toilet arrangements. In fact, sod tweezers, food and music, top of my list of desert island must-haves would be a WC. ‘Pee off the side’, had been the old man’s helpful suggestion when I voiced my concerns before we left civilisation, which did little to sway my fear, but luckily we struck gold on this occasion when we found that our cabin was within spitting distance of the boat’s manual toilet. And in spite of the Titanic theme tune that refused to stop playing over and over again in my head, I relaxed after dinner and slept like a baby.

 

However, come the morning and after a night where I probably consumed more food than I would typically in a whole week, I had to go number twos.

 

Now some might find that situation awkward but I wasn’t concerned, because by now I was a pro at the process of filling and emptying the manual toilet. So it was with a new-found confidence that I slipped discreetly into the tiny cubicle while the rest of my new boating friends enjoyed their coffee in the morning sun, and careful not to over-use the paper, be efficient and quick, I was satisfied that no-one would ever know that I had dumped my load.

 

When I first pulled on the pump and nothing happened my anxiety meds kicked in reliably with their reassuring ‘it’ll be fine’ fervour, common in the first few seconds of one of my crises, even though the sight of the bulging culprit smirking evilly at me from the bottom of the bowl did little to assuage my sense of impending doom.

 

‘Breathe,’ I reminded myself as I tried to remain calm and began to pump furiously.

 

I pumped some more, aware that by now the Skipper must realize that we had a problem, but some guffaws from the cockpit reassured me that no-one knew, then I heard the engine go on and felt the boat begin to move, so I took full advantage of the noise and pumped with renewed vigour, silently praying that my nightmare hadn’t been detected.

 

But it was no use. The meanest-looking turd eventually went down with a helping hand, but that still left some persistent little critters floating around the surface, and finally I made the decision that breaking the toilet outweighed my shame and went and had a quiet word with the Skipper’s wife.

 

It was only when the old man told me that the whole boat had witnessed the product of my healthy bowel movements float past them over breakfast that it sunk in what a truly wonderful first impression I’d made with this new group of friends. There was no prize for the healthy buoyancy of my excrement, which the kayakers amongst our group were forced to dodge as they entered the water.

 

And I thought it was only me who considered “boating” such an extreme sport.

 

On a scale of “funny to the deepest shame”, the experience was more awkward than when my chicken fillet flew out of my bra and directly  into the face of my best friend’s husband when ‘Dancing Queen” came on at a party once, and slightly less shameful than when I was interviewed by Sydney University and was asked what I thought NC would gain from her time there and I responded ‘a high tolerance to alcohol.’

 

 

The Curse Of The Middle-Aged Baby Belly: Can Women Have It All – Both Wine And Food?

A common thread of conversation among my middle-aged friends is “weight gain”. We usually begin to moan about how little we can eat these days somewhere between dessert and cheese and then wash away our concerns with wine. maternity-830683_1280

 

I have to admit that having never suffered from serious weight gain issues before – apart from when I first discovered pints of lager at university – I used to think that they were linked to poor self-control and that if you pretended to exercise and ate in moderation, it was possible to maintain your weight. But it turns out that there is some science behind the middle-aged tyre, something about protecting our bones from breaking – although which bones my layer of lard is shielding around my navel, I have yet to learn.

 

One of the biggest priorities when we were looking for our new home recently was that it should be walking distance to a local pool, because the crazy machinations of the way my brain works got used to that luxury at our old place. I’ve been swimming for a while now and I can definitely see the benefits, although up until now it was more about maintaining my mental health than trying to disperse unwanted fat. Sadly, it seems I may have to change my focus now.

 

My body has never conformed to what Dr Google says it should be doing at any given time, most recently proven when I went through one of the biggest stresses in life – moving house – and gained weight.

 

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve reneged on the one deal I had with my body which was never to go up a dress size. Again. That might be because I’m more comfortable in myself, (although more likely to be because I love my food), but I now realise that I’ve been kidding myself for a while about my weight, aided by a combination of cheats such as changing clothing brands, choosing between wine and food , in other words, pretending that I can have it all. I also stopped weighing myself.

 

But those days are gone because my clothes have become so tight that even my support pants are struggling to hold me in and sadly, I look shocking in kaftans. I’m not vain, but a wibbly-wobbly tyre around what used to be my waist is not an attractive accessory, and typically all my extra weight has accumulated in the area between my breasts and pelvis so I look like I’m in the early stages of my second trimester. Why some of those fat deposits couldn’t have ended up on my wide, boney ass or in my lips is another of life’s unfair fuckeries.

 

I repeat, it’s not so much about the aesthetics, as proven by my recent descent into wearying pyjama bottoms as late into the day as possible (a benefit of working from home) and the fact that I didn’t complain or go back when a new, more economically-priced hairdresser gave me hi-vis, zebra highlights last week. My problem is that I’m very partial to retail therapy – particularly clothes – and my stomach is compromising that pleasure. Clothing manufacturers for young women do not incorporate the sort of elasticated, room-for- growth pouch you get in maternity clothes and I don’t know how I’m supposed to maintain my youth in slacks and smock dresses.

 

So what else can I do? Obviously I’m not going to become some aerobic psycho that takes up ‘boot camp’ and risk a premature heart attack or stroke and I fear that if I give up wine I might end up like those smokers who give up and then get lung cancer.

 

Calorie-counting doesn’t work either because my adding up becomes distinctly shady after the first thousand calories of Chardonnay.

 

And I do eat healthily most of the time. Although the kebab shop at the end of the road in our new neighbourhood was an unfortunate discovery.

 

Help!