What I didn’t learn from Veganuary

Many people will still be experiencing a welcome relief since Veganuary finally ended. It was a long month, but no longer do you feel the watchful eyes of friends and work colleagues on you at all mealtimes and you can safely return to your old habits with impunity. Or at least, without anyone questioning your food choices publicly. However, many people will have also been surprised to discover that their month of meaty abstinence really wasn’t all that bad. In fact, whether you waltzed through the month as a born again vegan or if you barely made it to the February, only confirming your commitment to being a proud carnivore, you may have done yourself more good than you realised. For some, choosing to follow a month-long vegan diet may have left them with some unexpected side effects. Thankfully, I don’t mean the compulsion to continue telling everyone about their month of denial. But even those that ditched veganism the second they could, may have inadvertently adopted some better food habits that could last a lifetime.

Now I have to say that I am neither advocating veganism as the magic bullet to guarantee a long life and inner peace nor suggesting that following a vegan diet is the best way to get a healthy, balanced diet. There will always be people brimming with good health who follow a particular diet and obviously, this includes many devotees of veganism. However, there are also plenty of others who rely too heavily on ready meals and junk food and it makes no difference to the quality of their diet if they are labelled as being vegetarian, vegan, paleo or gluten-free. In fact, some of the biggest cake eaters I know also happen to be vegetarian.

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Snacks attacked

With our Christmas tree down and the accompanying paraphernalia long packed away, our empty house and bare walls only emphasise a clean start to the new year. Change is in the air. At least, most hope things will improve on many fronts in 2018. Meanwhile, on an individual level, many have already made a change for themselves and are halfway through January as a teetotaller, vegan, raw water drinker or exercise fanatic. But even if you haven’t joined the masses and embraced a new food or exercise fad, you will still have to contend with the repetitive commercials and programs focusing on diet trends and quick weight loss. Amongst all this comes the news that parents are failing their children, again, when it comes to a healthy diet. Yes, it’s a cheery Happy New Year from Public Health England (PHE) who have launched their latest campaign even while the remnants of Christmas stockings are still hanging around many households.

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A heart to heart with the Christmas cheese board

As we head towards Christmas, I feel like a speeding train, incapable of stopping shopping, baking and wrapping unless I simply run out of fuel. Meanwhile, my fridge seems to have been taken over by mice. Every time I open it, I am met with a shelf packed entirely of every variety of cheese, sandwiched together carefully like a stinky puzzle. Each pack balances precariously against the rest, threatening to topple Jenga-like if I dare remove it.

But for now it is safe, as I know that it will be impossible to help myself to a little Wensleydale and cranberry without sending out a silent cheese alert, compelling my children to swiftly come to the kitchen. Once there, before I have even finished the last creamy crumb, they will begin to take out every morsel of cheese from the fridge, not to mention the collection of chutneys that lurk in its dark recesses. Then they will scavenge through the cupboards and take out all the boxes of crackers that they can find, regardless of whether they actually like them or not. And in an instant, my intended tiny snack will have kickstarted a cheese party. Unlike a quick bite, the cheese fest will be a crumbly, sticky mess of loveliness that never seems to end.

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Does your sandwich taste like Christmas?

We have reached that time of the year again, when the weather has changed and brought with it some early dark evenings. Late workouts now require some extra layers and high vis accessories, but in early December, it still feels like I am in the lull before the storm. But perhaps I am in denial as there are definitely the tell-tale signs of the upcoming holiday festivities around me. Already, the Christmas tv adverts are on repeat and the annual lighting of the Christmas streetlight displays has taken place. The shops are also filled with the most organised consumers determined to have ordered, bought and wrapped everything before the rest of us even think about it. Many others are hitting the shops while strategically settling in at home, posed and ready to strike online. As the the Black Friday sales stretch into Black Friday weeks, Cyber Mondays, festive Tuesdays and ‘FINAL’ sales, I will eventually have to face the fact that Christmas is coming. In the meantime, before I completely surrender myself to the organisational chaos and frenzy of planning Christmas parties, shopping and of course, cooking, there is a more pressing matter at hand. The battle of the Christmas sandwiches 2017 has commenced and every supermarket has launched their version of holiday spirit between two slices.

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Day 7 Cancer Research UK Pretty Muddy 5km

I woke up early feeling very excited, albeit slightly knackered, on the final day of my running tour. Just one more race to go and I would have done the week! But I also knew that Pretty Muddy wouldn’t be anything like the previous 6 legs of the tour. If anything, the name hardly suggested what I had signed up for. It could have been called Extremely Muddy or even Awfully Muddy because there wasn’t anything pretty about it. The reality was it was a 5km muddy, squelching course full of far too many filthy obstacles that you had to climb over, crawl under and charge between. The final obstacle of the course was the main attraction of Pretty Muddy and was strategically placed right before the finish to draw the crowds. It was a gigantic mud-coated, slippery slide that you had to climb up, hand over foot in order to get to the top. Once there, you faced plummeting it down into a deep, dark mud pool. Of course, the question that comes to most people is simply, why?! And also, who? Who would willingly choose to spend several days after doing a 5km run, still trying to get the mud out of their trainers, kit (and themselves)? Well the answer is that many hundreds of people are willing to make a mucky effort for a worthy cause and the funds raised by Pretty Muddy go towards fighting cancer.

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