Posts Tagged tired

Becoming vegetarian

The last toastmasters meeting of 2009, the group is asked to introduce themselves and give their new years resolution. When my turn comes round I stand up, introduce myself and thank the toastmaster for allowing me this opportunity to state what I want to achieve. When I say this publicly in front of others, I know that I make myself liable to everyone in the room to keep true to my word and I also ask that everyone keeps encouraging me to stay on track. For 2010 I will become a vegetarian!

It was the first time I voiced my opinion on the subject of diet, and as soon as I said it I began to wonder what I had let myself in for. My diet up until then consisted of meat being the main dish. The Scottish traditional meal is Haggis, neeps and tatties. I love Big Macs, big juicy steaks and donner kebabs! How would I be able to eat if I didn’t eat meat? Indeed, the last night of toastmasters had a buffet with lots of lovely nibbles, including chicken skewers, wings and sausage rolls. I was wondering how I would be able to stop myself. Luckily the room was full of people who just listened to my new years resolution. They made sure I never got within reaching distance of the forbidden food.

I failed my New Years Resolution on the very first day. In the evening I went to a friend’s house for a dinner party. The kind host had home-made steak pie waiting for us in the oven. Far from wanting to be polite and eat what was made, I just plain forgot that I had wanted to stop eating meat. The first mouth-full was tasty, but I couldn’t help but think something was wrong.. It wasn’t till the next morning I realised that I just broke my New Years resolution!

However I wasn’t deterred. It made me realise that real dedication would be required to keep up this challenge. The thought of never eating meat again was still overwhelming for me, but I decided to make it a 1 month challenge. At the end of the month I could treat myself. That made the challenge much more palatable. Since that day, I have had a couple of weak moments, but by and large I have managed to keep it up.

Why are you becoming vegetarian?

Here’s a question I get asked by almost every person I talk to. Some ask in a positive way, illiciting a response of general enlightenment, towards society or health. Usually these are the people who already know vegetarians or are ones themselves. Others appear to be more aggressive in their questioning as if I just challenged their own eating habits. They ask why I would want to give up on the tastiest part about food or make statements about how eating meat is not only healthy but necessary for a wholesome diet.

The reasons for me are to find out more about the benefits of vegetarianism. Over the last few years whilst travelling and at university I have met a few people who were vegetarian and claimed various health benefits. In the last year I have discovered a more extreme diet known as Raw Food diet and met a couple of people who practise this. One in fact had a TV interview talking about just that The arguments made in this video were compelling enough for me to consider more fully what I ate.

The strongest reason in my mind wasn’t for health reasons directly but rather more for the opportunities of more up-time during the day that eating more healthily could offer. Over the last year I have been looking at ways of increasing productivity throughout the day. Approaches such as waking up early, organising my day and keeping to schedules have helped me.

Differences so far:

I have experienced some unexpected differences. Instead of craving meat as I thought would happen, I have turned to dairy and sweets, The urges to add some grated cheese to a meal or eat chocolate are greater than ever. As a result I have gained a little extra weight from the start of the year.

I can feel that my up-time has improved slightly, While the day-to-day awakeness and alertness dont feel any different, the times when I thought I would be tired (when going to bed later than usual, or getting up much earlier) I don’t feel quite as bad as I would normally.

None of my long-term friends are vegetarian so its a big surprise to them that I have chosen to become one. They occasionally challenge my decision and argue that unless I have moral or religious objections, there is no reason to not eat meat. The main arguments are that humans are designed to eat meat (why else would we have the incisors?) and that our bodies require the nutritional value offered by meat to live.

There is enough resources online to show that all the nutrients a body needs can be found elsewhere. Most people in fact tend to eat too much meat which overloads the digestive system, making them more lethargic and need to sleep more to work off the toxins.

Social occasions can be difficult when one cooks a meal for everyone. For justnow I have decided that I wont be awkward in these situations and just eat whatever is made. Usually at meals with friends and family, meat is the main dish. It wouldn’t be fair to ask them to prepare an extra dish just for me so I am happy to eat meat once in a while.

I’ve found restaurants to be more challenging than they should be. Whilst the majority of restaurants do have vegetarian options, they are usually a very limited subset of their standard menu. Not nearly as tasty looking as the steaks and burgers I’d have usually gone for. I usually find myself scouring for the ‘V’ signs and choose the least unappealing dish, or go for a fish dish. I know fish is meat, but the health benefits I have seen are better than that of red meat.

One major benefit I can boast is I haven’t had a single food-hangover this year! This is a concept I discovered at university. Much like a hangover caused by drinking, a food-hang over is caused by consuming too much of whats bad for you. After eating a kebab or pizza on a night out, the next morning felt worse than had I not eaten. For a time I was in a phase of not drinking when going out to pubs and clubs, I would only drink water but still eat a kebab at the end of the night. Yet I still suffered the same hangover as 3 large glasses of red wine and shots. By cutting out the worst offender foods, I have really noticed a big change for the better.

I have really noticed a change in myself and others’ for having taken on this challenge. In a sense I can feel my diet has become less healthy because I am gaining a little weight and eating too much diary and chocolate. The next stage for me is to become more disciplined with food. I want to keep a food diary in which I record everything I eat for a few weeks. This will show to me what exactly I take in and ways to improve my diet.

My aims justnow are to increase my up-time to be available to do more things with my time. At this point, health issues or making the world a more environmentally friendly place aren’t the main focus.

I’ll look at my diet again soon and review what can be done to refine my diet further. Who knows, I may start back on the big-macs, or I may become vegan!

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beating SAD this year

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a recognised condition which affects many people in the world. The Winter time has less hours of daylight and worse weather, resulting in negative effects in people. Its symptoms are depression, fatigue and poor health. However, less extreme symptoms may not identify itself easily. I didn’t think I suffered from SAD but this year I will take steps to get out of the downward spirals and get back into gear.

Over the years SAD has become a recognised condition. It has been covered by tv documentaries and earlier this year I came across this website about the condition. These sources talk about the effects and how common it is. Living in Scotland, where the best winter weather you get is ‘at least its not raining today’ It got me thinking about how the seasons affected me, and possible steps I could take to counteract it. Think of it as a new-years resolution, except a little early. This is my challenge!…

By no means did I suffer the extreme conditions mentioned in the TV programme or website, but thinking back over the last few years of my life I did begin to notice a repetition of bad events and feeling low. After I started university in October 2001, I was ready to quit my course after about 6 months. I didn’t leave the course however, and each year from then on January to March I felt drowned in course-work and exams. I always put it down to the upcoming exams and coursework times. I left my graduate job in April 2006 to work elsewhere. Each year something would come up at the beginning which would make me feel a bit down, gloomy, a little depressed.

Were all these things due to circumstance? Of course, some events like my exam scheduling were certainly not due to my doings, but looking under the surface of the basic events led me to think about my feelings and thoughts during the first few months of each year.
These feelings corresponded to the symptoms listed on the SAD website. Loss of concentration, lethargic and generally gloomy all round.

This year it will not happen again! I want to see the world as happy and bright as the summer days full of opportunity and fun! However I am aware that hope alone wont get me very far, so I have compiled my battle plan to combat the evil gloom that is SAD!

Thanks to the SAD website, I can now recognise the physical symptoms and change in conditions which allow SAD to take hold. But this time I will be prepared…

Weather conditions
The first obvious sign that winter is kicking in is when things start to get darker a lot earlier in the evenings. When day-light savings sends the clocks back an hour, the evenings are even shorter. Then the mornings start to get gloomy. Pretty soon its dark when you get up in the morning and go to work, and then its dark in the evening when you leave for home. So in actual fact you see no sunlight all day! I feel sorry for the people living in the far north or south of the world. There will be times when there is literally no sun at all for months of the year! Daylight regulates our bodies on a sub-conscious level, and its important to realise just how important this is for all of us.
To solve this, the SAD website has suggested the used of a super bright SAD light for use when its dark. My solution will be to harness the great power of natural light and take a lunch time stroll outside. It might be cold and dull, even at midday, its better than the strip lights and TFT screens in the office.
I picked up somewhere that the physical reason the body needs light is because your skin produces Vitamin D with the help of light. Without the Vitamin D, your body becomes more lethargic. A booster of Vitamin D may help with SAD, so I plan to take multi-vitamins which should help.

Prepare for the mornings…
The mornings are where I experience the worst difficulties. If I haven’t slept in, I’m made late looking for my keys, bad traffic or having to scrape the windscreen. The key to stopping running franticly late is to set and maintain a good routine in the mornings. The best thing for me about being early for work is avoiding the morning traffic, so it is a great benefit to save 20 minutes on the commute. Getting up in the mornings used to be a real nightmare, but after the decision to get up early in the mornings (http://www.martinogg.com/2009/03/the-virtues-of-an-early-start/) I find getting up with the alarm clock might be tough but it sets me up for the whole day.

Diet
I have noticed that I have been more recently been tempted by more snacks and chocolate that what I would usually have, which doesn’t help mental alertness or physical condition. The key is to recognise that these cravings become more evident during the cold weather and the importance of eating healthily to maintain your health, both mentally and physically. How can you expect to be able to work a full day if all you eat is chocolate biscuits and drink too much coffee? Being more strict on yourself is necessary to ensure you eat healthily. Make sure you give yourself enough time for breakfast in the mornings (I am especially guilty of that so I keep an emergency pack of cereal at work just in case I find myself without time in the mornings). With other people snacking more at work its especially easy to cave in when someone offers you a biscuit, or some are left in the kitchen area to share. For these times I make sure I have a piece of fruit handy, so when I feel the cravings I can eat that instead.

Physical Exercise
During the summer months I would go for a walk, a jog or walk in to town at the weekends. Because it is so cold outside now, it becomes very tempting to just take the car, or exchange a post-meal stroll with a video game or TV episode. Finding the motivation to go to the gym dwindles and excuses upon excuses mount up. I have a very quick regime in the mornings when I get up. I go for a 5 minute brisk walk round my street. This helps the blood flow and is far more effective than snoozing for the same time. Instead of being very cold when getting ready, its actually warmer than outside. Before leaving for work, I do a set of stomach crunches, push ups and leg stretches. I don’t expect to become Superman overnight like the ab-swing infomercials promise, but it is an improvement over the zero exorcise I’d have otherwise done. I feel that it helps at work, because for the days I don’t do this, I feel noticeably less focussed on my work. Now, for the times I don’t feel like exorcising, I tell myself the benefits of doing so and that inspires me to get into action.

The downward spiral
For some, the winter months can mean a downward spiral in which keeping each ongoing day becomes colder, less active, more depressing and lazy. It takes courage, effort and discipline to keep this from happening. Bear in mind its not the season thats directly controlling these results; consciously identify where the bad actions are happening in your own world and take charge to stop things from slipping. If you already feel you are in a low position, take some small steps to get back into your stride. How about setting your alarm clock 30 minutes earlier and have a healthy breakfast? My dad recently re-introduced me to the wonders of porridge. Add some honey and its tastier than any breakfast cereal (even the chocolate ones) and it keeps you warm when you take that first step out the front door on a cold December morning.

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