Are HSPs more likely to be vegan?

HSP stands for “highly sensitive person”. I don’t necessarily agree with the choice of words because it makes it sound as though something went wrong during the upbringing of said person who somehow needs to “man up”. The scientific term for this is SPS, sensory processing sensitivity, which has to do with the way stimuli and external information are received, transported and processed in the brain. This has nothing to do with your acquired character or the way you were raised, you are born with it and this trait is hereditary, meaning that if you look carefully at the family of an HSP, the chances are that you will find another HSP.

Before I look at why I am asking if HSPs are more likely to be vegan, I will give you a little bit of background. It is estimated that 15-20% of the population is born with sensory processing sensitivity. This doesn’t sound like a lot when you think that 80% of the population may have never heard of the term and may not really understand the trait. But this also means that up to 1 in 5 people present the trait, and to put these figures in context, if I am in a room of 10 people, I may even find another person like me! (Yes, I am an HSP myself.)

How do you know if you are an HSP? Common signs are: sensitivity to bright lights, loud noises, chemical smells, complex social situations, and a general feeling of overwhelm in situations that don’t seem to put our fellow humans to the test like they do to us. HSPs can also display higher levels of empathy, they can sense the mood of a crowd and pick up signs that go unnoticed to others. Do you see where I’m going?

Sensing and perceiving all these things is tiring. Because we process things more deeply, our brains work harder and we need to spend some time alone to recover. Being unable to rest the mind and recover can cause high levels of stress to an HSP.

Before I knew I was an HSP, I would say things like “I cannot listen to jazz on a Sunday morning”, or “this music is so loud I cannot hear myself thinking”, because this was the true way I was feeling, but these thoughts could also upset other people who could not hear these sounds the way I could hear them.

Other things that can overwhelm me are: the sound of an ambulance, the blue flashing lights of an ambulance, loud repetitive noises – like someone drumming their feet on the floor- a massive war rocket hanging off the ceiling at the museum, a picture of a sad animal in a cage, a granny with mental health issues walking alone at the pub.

Here I finally get to the point: if we HSPs can sense, feel, perceive most things more thoroughly, surely these things include pain and suffering. So I think I can perceive a sad look, a desperate mood more than most people. Of course, perceiving and knowing are one thing -whether I care and what my ethical choices are is something else.

Still, if I can perceive things with more detail, I have an extra opportunity to be more aware and have more evidence to make a conscious choice. So I want to ask you: if you are an HSP or think you might be, do you think this has had an influence on your decision to go vegan? Do you know many vegan HSPs?

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback!

Advertisements

Three Social Tips For New Vegans

When you first go vegan there are many things to consider and my first and foremost recommendation is to do a bit of research about vegan nutrition. So many people go back to eating meat because their body “doesn’t feel right”. 🙄 Please, do the animals a favour and read more about how to make sure you are integrating new foods and ingredients and potentially supplementing the right way.

A couple of my favourite books which not only talk about nutrition but also work as a great motivation source are The China Study and How Not To Die.

However, the nutrition side of things could take forever to discuss, so I’m going to leave you with my recommendation and jump to my main topic for today: how to be prepared in social situations. No, I’m not talking about being a “nice vegan” or a “pushy vegan”, that is up to you. But there are a few things you can do to survive your first months as a vegan without starving, being too awkward or hurting your mum who made lasagne just for you but now you can’t eat them.

Tip no. 1 – Inform the right people about your new diet

When I went vegan I straight away told my close family and friends that I couldn’t (wouldn’t) eat certain things. This can help with social situations whereby your close ones may be disappointed if you don’t eat their food and they weren’t aware of your recent change. Like for example your lovely granny who made you cookies and now thinks you just don’t like her recipe. Maybe she still won’t understand what a vegan is but it’s worth trying to explain before the damage is done.

Tip no. 2 – Discuss your menu options beforehand

Calling a restaurant beforehand to check if they can tweak something is often a success. Most establishments are willing to adjust something, as long as they know and you don’t surprise them when they’re too busy. It also removes that awkward “questioning” in front of your friends about what you can eat, and the potential that in the end you could just be eating an embarassing green salad with bread.

Tip no. 3 – Be a squirrel

If in doubt, always carry a filling and nutritious snack, like a protein bar, loose nuts or energy balls. Whether you’re going to a wedding, night out or long journey, this will keep you going and stop you from an “hangry” rant about lack of edible options. The best case scenario is that you’ll have been carrying the snack with you without reason, and you have been catered for wonderfully. However, I like to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

I hope you’ll find these tips useful. If you need any more tips or have any questions leave a comment below!

A Year Later

It’s been a year since I shared my last post here. No, I have no excuses. Sometimes things happen in life which need immediate attention, you rush to fix those things and get sidetracked. But again, that’s no excuse.

So the question now is, what has changed in the vegan world over the past 12 months? The question is unavoidable because I’ve been away from this platform for so long, I wonder if my approach needs any readjustment.

There has definitely been a great improvement in the popularity of the vegan, plant-based diet. Thanks to increasing numbers of celebrities adopting this lifestyle – or even just the diet – there has been a boom in new restaurants, foods and content. New food ranges make it even cooler to be vegan as we can now show off our delicious junk food to the omnis. Sainsbury’s sale of vegan products exceeded sales expectations by 300%. London has never been such a great place to be a vegan.

However, my friends, it’s only too easy to feel deceived and start thinking that the worst is over and we can sit down and relax on a bed of roses. Just a couple of weeks ago I was sitting on a bus on my way home from work and the girl sitting next to me was on the phone discussing food with a fellow foodie. And the words came, “All the vegans will die”. I wish she had known there was one right next to her.

I never heard a vegan wishing the death of omnivores. Vegans can be quite vocal and yes, they will shove content and facts right in front of you but they never, in my experience, make such dark and grim wishes.

In conclusion, there’s no rest for the wicked. We have it easier but there is so much more to do, not just to make our lives easier and avoid someone wishing our death, but also to keep decreasing the number of victims created every day by the omni system, i.e. the same reason why we went vegan to begin with, to save the animals and all the beautiful creatures of the world. Keep it up guys!

Do Vegans Care More About Animals Than Humans?

I often write short -or not so short!- captions under my Instagram photos but I never get a chance to expand the topic. One of the topics that has stuck with me the longest is the argument that vegans care more about animals than humans.

If vegans are so aware of animal welfare, environmental issues, human health, how is it that they still purchase Nike items? Don’t they know where all the small bits and bobs that form their gadgets come from?

These – omnivores argue – are contradictions. First of all, let me ask omnivores: are all your clothes, household items and gadgets ethical? When is the last time you read a label? Most of the time, if they are honest, they will admit they are not so thorough in their purchases. Fine, neither am I. I confess to owning a pair of synthetic material Nike that I bought a while ago and no, I am not binning them until they are useless; only then I will buy new ethical shoes. Yes, I do own a smartphone. Yes, I can certainly do more for humans. I could watch my purchases to start with, I could do charity, cook meals for the homeless, adopt disadvantaged children. Why am I not doing all these things then?

I believe that humans evolve and evolution takes time. Eight years ago I wasn’t even vegetarian, right? Then I was veggie, then vegan, then an even more aware vegan. I am already reading all the ingredients/materials of all my food, cosmetics and clothing; I buy fair trade and responsibly sourced when possible. I feel like I’m doing a lot in terms of making a statement and carrying a belief, boycotting what I disagree with. However, avoiding all other major brands and going all the way requires superior skills that can only be achieved with a learning process. Ultimately, if I wanted to be 100% ethical and avoid all items that have more or less openly been produced by children or collected by underpaid workers who live in terrible conditions, I would become a hermit. And so would you. I doubt this is the ultimate solution. Somebody has to keep living in society and speaking up after all.

I have always thought that each one of us should do what they are best at, focus on the aspect of themselves that would benefit the community the most. I think I am quite good at spreading the word and creating awareness. I am a gentle advocate for veganism and plant-based diet in general, I don’t post violent pictures of slaughterhouses, I try to catch people’s attention by showing a healthy and happy lifestyle. If I started uploading pictures of blood, that wouldn’t reflect my personality. I’m not a preachy vegan either. In the same way, if somebody’s best talent is rescuing kids from the street, they should focus on that and I won’t question why they haven’t gone veggie yet.

Now, my biggest argument is coming. Veganism is empathy.

Don’t you think, if I managed to make someone more empathetic towards lambs and piggies, calves, horses, fish, whales, wouldn’t they by consequence become more empathetic towards humans as well? If you loved the speechless, the ones you always assumed were a commodity, wouldn’t you also be more empathetic towards the weakest in human society?

Feeling empathy means that you can feel all the sorrow in the world and all the happiness too. Sometimes it can be a bit too much as even reading the news can really affect me. However, this is a tool, an amazing weapon of peace.

Although I don’t call myself religious, I am quite fond of Hinduism and Buddhism. The following quote is from chapter 13, 27-28 of the Bhagavad Gita, which I read for the first time several years ago:

They alone see truly who see the Lord the same in every creature, who see the deathless in the hearts of all that die. Seeing the same Lord everywhere, they do not harm themselves or others. Thus they attain the supreme goal.

I think the key words here are “the same” and “every creature”. It means that we should see the Lord / spirit of the world / energy / whatever-you-want-to-call-it in everything. And most importantly there are no more or less precious expressions of life, because the same precious thing is inside all.

So, going back to the original question, do vegans care more about animals than humans? I don’t think so. I can’t vouch for every single vegan on the planet, however, being one and feeling like a vegan feels, I say no. We just speak for those who can’t speak, nor write; for those who can’t fight, who don’t possess weapons. For those that can’t go to the police when their mum or baby gets killed, those who don’t get an article on the press when they are killed by the millions every day. Because this is what we do best and because loving every creature means every creature.

Banana, Cacao and Vanilla Vegan Loaf

banana_bread

 

It doesn’t matter how much I say that from a moment in time onwards I’ll post more frequently, life has its own ways and things cannot be predicted. I still post daily on my Instagram feed, as that only requires a photo and a caption and I cook most days. For me personally, taking the time to write down the complete recipe and making it accurate takes that little extra time that I’m not sure I always have.

Things that have been happening to me recently include: a dodgy roof, inclusive of rain inside the house with bowls and buckets all over the floor; studying for an accounting qualification (don’t ask me how that even happened); working full time in an understaffed office; and, this isn’t actually bad, I got into yoga, which I added to my weekly routine. I go to the studio about once or twice a week and still do bodyweight and dumbbell training at home to strengthen my upper back and arms.

I surrendered to the roof problem because I realised it’s a first world issue. There’s running water (got the pun?) , electricity, a safe bed and food on the table. Like, what am I even complaining about? It does take energy away from other tasks but I have been through worse situations in my life and I’m just going with it now until it is sorted properly.

As I’m also getting towards the end of the level 2 qualification (might do level 3 afterwards) I decided to just take it easy this weekend and catch up with the blog.

I realised that although I don’t have a sweet tooth and usually I bake because I like baking more than I like eating cake, my “sweet” posts are the most popular. Is this because vegan baking is the last thing you actually master after switching diet? I think so. If I had been a vegan baker I would have been 100% vegan way earlier, the last barrier being birthday cakes and celebration foods.

So, this morning I realised that I never made banana bread before and decided to try. I googled several recipes and then decided to just make a mix to build my own recipe so that I could actually use only ingredients that were available in my kitchen and pantry without having to go out. This is what happened:

Ingredients:

Dry:

  • 140 gr self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 heaped tbs cacao powder
  • 50 gr coconut sugar (alternatively, brown sugar)
  • vanilla, freshly ground, to taste
  • a very small pinch of salt

Wet:

  • 1 medium banana, very ripe
  • 120 ml soy milk (use other vegetable alternatives if you are soy-free)
  • 1 ½ tbs sunflower oil or other neutral tasting oil

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. If you’re not using a grease-proof tin then you can oil it and coat it with flour or line it with grease-proof paper.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until they turn into an even powder.

In a separate bowl, mash the banana with a fork until almost pureed. add the soy milk and turn into a uniform “sauce” then add the oil and whisk well. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients straight away and mix until the batter just about comes together. It needs to be sort of lumpy, as if you were baking muffins.

Transfer the batter to the tin and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

The result is a soft, moist loaf with a gentle mixture of well-combined flavours. It is ideal in the morning for breakfast or in the afternoon with a cuppa.

I hope to write again soon to update you about a project and a bean stew recipe!

Cacao, Vanilla and Cointreau Cake

image

I really need to apologise for the lack of posts. The reason for my inactivity is that now apart from working full time I’m also studying. My boss is paying for me to learn accounting and this is great to get out of my comfort zone. I mean, I speak three languages fluently and I read literature since I can remember BUT me and numbers are like fire and water. Challenge accepted. I try to make everything work together.

So yesterday I made a cake to bring to an omnivore dinner. I waited to see the response to post the recipe. Everyone finished their slices and even had more, so I assume the cake is safe to eat and omnivore approved.

This is not something I would make for myself as it does have quite a bit of sugar but this is functional to creating a texture and taste that is closer to a traditional non vegan cake.

Ingredients:

For a 25 cm cake tin or smaller

• 180 gr all purpose flour
• 140 gr light brown muscovado sugar
• 50 gr raw cacao powder
• 25 gr baking powder
• 30 ml vegetable oil
• 300 ml oat milk
• 5 ml Cointreau
• vanilla, ground

Method:

This is a very simple cake. Preheat the oven to 180°C. In a bowl, add and mix well all the dry ingredients and a lot of ground vanilla. Measure the liquid ingredients, shake them well and add to the dry mix straight away. Whisk briefly until you have a smooth chocolatey batter.

Prepare the tin by covering it with some oil or spread and then flour.

Pour the batter. Put in the oven for approx. 40 minutes, depending on your oven. The toothpick experiment will tell you when it’s ready. You can serve the cake with vanilla ice cream or just on its own with a little icing sugar.

How I Defeated Pitiriasis Rosea

image

When I was 16, I was in high school and  not the healthiest version of myself. One day I noticed a red scaly patch on my arm and thought nothing of it. Then more, smaller patches appeared, until both my arms and torso were affected.
I went to see the family doctor who said I had psoriasis. After two weeks of treatment, nothing changed, although it was probably worse and I was referred to a dermatologist, who diagnosed me with Pitiriasis Rosea.

The bad thing about this skin condition is that we don’t know the causes and therefore cannot cure the roots or even the symptoms. I was told to keep hydrated and mosturize my skin. Needless to say, I used to drink very little water, my skin was dehydrated and I hated applying cream on my body. The first rash lasted for months. When the rash was over, I had lots of discoloured patches on my arms and was not impressed.

Most people experience only one episode during their lifetime but about 1 in 50 people suffer repetitive episodes. I was one of those 1 in 50 and suffered one or two episodes each year for the next 9 years, usually during season changes.

Going vegetarian at the age of 19 meant that I was a bit healthier and health conscious and the rashes were smaller and lasted for less time. The problem was still there though. I kept researching about my condition because if doctors couldn’t give me answers at least I wanted to try to find my own ones.

If you have ever had Pitiriasis you know how frustating it is, and anybody who suffers from a skin codition can certainly relate. I read on several pages that it is thought the condition -although not contagious- might be caused by a viral infection. I had nothing else to help me, so I asked myself: if this was to be the case, what would you do to fight a viral infection?

My first instinct was to make a DIY cream with coconut oil, peppemint and lemon essential oils, which are known for their antiseptic properties. I applied this on my scaly patches and in a week they were almost gone. To achieve lasting effects I had to do something more radical though. I had to detox and consume more alkaline foods. I don’t like to use labels and I like to be flexible and reasonable in my diet, so I won’t be promoting specific diets or movements apart from a general whole foods, plant based diet.

In late spring 2014 I became officially vegan. I had been mainly vegan for quite a while but I was still consuming the odd social dose of dairy -on pizza, for example. I decided to make the jump and never go back. At that time I was drinking about four cups of coffee a day, and I realised they also had to go. I was consuming processed foods, they needed to go as well. I decided to eat as clean as possible for a month. So, for the first two weeks I was 100% vegan, then I cut my coffee intake, I drank almost no alcohol and supplemented with some chlorella. Then at the beginning of this year I started exercising too.

It was hard and full on, but it was good. My energy levels increased, my mood improved dramatically.  These changes were enough to justify the hard work, but what I didn’t know straight away was that I was getting rid of Pitiriasis. My “companion” of nine years was dying.

That autumn I didn’t get the usual rash. And all the following seasons, no Pitiriasis. I have been clear for over a year now and am so glad!

My diet is not so strict anymore but it is much helthier than before. I allow myself a coffee every now and then, I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, preferring raw to cooked and I take some spirulina when I’m stressed or I do a serious workout.

At some point I wondered whether I would ever be clear of the rash, while now I can safely say that changing lifestyle has certainly kept the nuisance away!

I hope you will find the information useful one way or another. Let me know if you too suffer or have suffered from Pitiriasis, I’d like to hear your story!