Tag Archives: health

Talking A Lot Of Shite

After nearly two decades of being vegan, I’ve somehow recently managed to end up with constant constipation.

It’s come as a bit of a shock actually, especially since I’ve long prided myself on having the perfect poo (as according to the theories of diet guru, Gillian McKeith): years ago, one of my ex-girlfriend’s had a copy of ‘You Are What You Eat,’ and we sniggered our way through the parts of the book that talked about all the things that your stool shouldn’t look like, before I smugly came to the conclusion that my number twos were consistently of the right consistency during my twice-daily bowel movements. My ex, we decided, had too much fat in her diet (because her poo floated) and her brothers ate too much dairy (because theirs’ always stuck to the inside of the pan).

I am not joking. I was really quite pleased with all I achieved in the bathroom.

Anyway, I never had this problem till I moved to Sudbury – except for the times when I came here on holiday. And I’ve always maintained it was to do with hardness of the English water. Antonia had the opposite problem when she first moved to Glasgow: her IBS flared up.

The thing is, I don’t understand how someone with a very high fibre diet that includes at least one daily dose of beans (either on toast, in a chilli or simply from a carton of soya milk) can have trouble going to the toilet. I mean, if my bowels were just sensitive to the local tap water, then surely after almost a year of living in England they should have adjusted, not gradually ground to a halt?!

To be fair, I have recently changed my breakfast habits: instead of wholemeal toast or cereal I’ve been whizzing up smoothies made from bananas and berries and whatever other fruits I can find, together with kale and pond-scummy spirulina; because I wanted to be healthier and get a head start on my seven-a-day fruit and veg portions – and although I totally understand that eating the skins of fruits would be better for me, I don’t think it matters since I also usually chomp my way through a couple of apples, a half punnet of cherries and at least one large salad every day.

Lunch is usually a sandwich with hummus or plant-based cheese or avocado salad, and ninety percent of the time I eat seeded wholegrain bread. Dinner is almost always a mixed bean chilli, a lentil-based dish or something with lots of iron-rich leafy greens. And the snacks I have in between are five seed crackers or oat cakes or toast, all of which provide plenty of roughage.

So I’m perplexed.

I wasn’t keen on the idea of taking laxatives as it took me back to my days of being a teenage bulimic, but I had a look in Holland and Barratt just out of curiosity and was surprised to discover that none of their ‘natural remedies’ were vegan as they all contained lactose. Antonia’s response to that when I told her was: ‘That would have worked really well for you, hen… because you know dairy products give you diarrhoea.’

In the end, I got a two-hundred-and-fifty gram bag of prunes from Waitrose – I used to liked prunes when I was a teenager and regularly had to put up with my parents’ stupid ‘well, you’ll shite tonight’ comments. Maybe it was because I was vegan, or maybe it was simply because I ate a lot of other dried fruit, but I never noticed any difference.

One hour, two large glasses of water, and half a bag of prunes later I started to feel a bit sick. Two hours later, Antonia arrived and I began complaining that I still hadn’t been able to go. She said that me talking about prunes and constipation made her want to run to the toilet. Shortly after, on exiting my bathroom, she announced: ‘Mine’s smelly but otherwise fine.’ Charming.

Three hours later and I am still waiting…

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Building Up My Endurance In A Literal Sense

I’ve covered a lot of ground this week in terms of both mental and physical goals: a solo trip to Ipswich on Monday; a coffee meet-up in Colchester on Tuesday; and then I jogged from my house to Long Melford and back (just over five miles) on both Wednesday and Thursday.

I thought it was about time I went to some places without Antonia that weren’t simply the co-op or the gym or Caffe Nero; because I’ve been in Sudbury for more than six months now, and even though going out for me means committing extra hours to route-planning and wandering round in circles (when I could simply stay home and write), it feels much more satisfying to do things independently.

I also wanted to re-ignite my passion for running.

A lot of people who read this blog will have seen me out pounding the Renfrew pavements many many times. Because for the best part of seventeen years I was always training for a ten mile race or a half marathon or simply trying to improve my stamina. I used to regularly do a ten kilometre round trip from Renfrew to Paisley and back (because I was scared of varying my route when I was out on my own in case I got lost) and in 2006 during my preparation for the Edinburgh marathon I did this multiple times a day. Aside from that, running helped fuel my writing because I’m a kinetic thinker, and for me there’s nothing quite like striding along with the wind in my hair and letting the ideas bounce around in my brain.

That was until a couple of years ago when I ended up with plantar fasciitis*. And the pains in my feet were so severe that I was forced to give up running for nine months. I tried swimming instead, but it just wasn’t the same. And because my running was so intrinsically linked with the the words I normally put down on paper, my ability to come up with new and exciting stories began to suffer too. As did my diet, because even though I’m one of those vegans who prefers a bowl of cherries to a bag of sweets or a lentil bake instead of a fry up, I stopped caring about what I put into my body because I thought ‘what’s the point?’.

But my injuries eventually healed. And when they did it was my confidence that stopped me from getting back up on my feet, so to speak. I tentatively tried running again for fifteen or twenty minutes and I realised I’d put on weight – not huge amounts, but I wobbled in places I previously didn’t and I felt sluggish and, well, sweaty – and this made it hard for me to get motivated.

And this went on for several months. Until I moved house. That’s when I made a decision to start again from scratch, to forget about races and medals and fitness targets and simply get up out of bed and do SOMETHING. Within two weeks of living in Sudbury, I joined the local gym and I started going to karate and yoga and jogging for a few kilometres on the treadmill twice a week. (I also went along to a running club but that didn’t work out because on week one I stopped to tie my shoelace and the others left me eating their dust; the second week they abandoned a sixteen-year-old newbie at night in a secluded woodland area who had no clue where she was going – I was one of two people who ran back for her and after that, I decided it was the wrong club for me.)

Last week I did fourteen miles on the treadmill whilst watching the entirety of eighties’ movie ‘Inner Space’. It’s the longest time I’ve ever spent on a treadmill and the furthest I’ve run in about three years. And although I was pleased I’d managed it, there was also a feeling of anti-climax, because at the end of the day I was still in the same place. And I knew that if my writing was ever going to go anywhere again, because it has been stuttering along recently, then I had to put myself back out into the world.

I chose Long Melford as my fledgling destination because I’d been there a few times, and because it’s pretty difficult (even for me) to get lost, seeing as I only have to walk to the end of my street and cross the road and keep running in a straight line. And I simply woke up on Wednesday morning, got my trainers on and just went for it; no procrastination, no stopping, no looking back.

Antonia says she might come running with me some time. She’s been getting back into her tennis and wants to sign up to the gym too. It feels nice getting fit together, and I’ve been manically reading lots of superfood and wholefood recipes so that we can cook tasty healthy things – I’m not going overboard with it though, and no way am I going without my cherry pie from Co-op!

 

*Plantar fasciitis is caused by straining or tearing the ligament that supports the arch