Flexitarianism? | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/flexitarian-food-choices/

Flexitarianism, a useful term?

Heard of Flexitarianism? Yeah, me neither. But it’s supposedly going to be a key food trend of 2017! Flexitarians essentially follow a vegetarian diet, but they eat meat every now then. “Isn’t that a normal diet?” I hear you say. I would say not. “Is it useful then?” you ask. I’m going to say no to this also.

The different dietary options

Most of us will have heard of the major dietary choices: Vegetarian, Vegan & Pescetarian. Some of us may have heard of Fruitarians, or the other vegetarian sub-categories: Ovo vegetarianism & Lacto vegetarianism. Moving to university halls was the first time I was really confronted with people who chose these diets. I knew of the diets before, but had never fully thought about them. My partner for the first few years of university was a vegetarian and I loved cooking for the two of us. That, alongside my (vegetable focused) mediterranean diet, meant I got to know and love the veggie diet even before I chose to follow it, and then develop that into a mostly vegan diet.

What’s what:

Vegetarian (commonly referring to Ovo-Lacto Vegetariana): excludes meat and by-products of animal slaughter (e.g. rennet/gelatine), but includes eggs & dairy (that’s the ovo-lacto bit).

Vegan: excludes all animal-derived products (e.g. honey, dairy, eggs).

Pescetarian (or pesco-vegetarian): the vegetarian diet, plus the inclusion of seafood.

Fruitarian: diet of around 3/4 raw fruit, some vegetables are acceptable.

Ovo Vegetarian: vegetarian diet with eggs, but not dairy.

Lacto Vegetarian: vegetarian diet with certain types of dairy, but no eggs.

Food philosophies are chosen for a multitude of reasons: ethical, moral, environmental, religious or health. None of these reasons are ‘better’ than the others and none are binding.

A misconception

In a conversation with a friend who identifies as vegan, she pinpointed a common misconception. Discussing a situation where she was having dinner out with friends and a meal she chose had egg in it (which is ‘not vegan’). Her friends were shocked by her choice and asked if she was allowed to eat eggs. To which she, in my opinion correctly, answered, ‘I’m allowed to eat anything!’

And here is where I feel the problem lies. Many people assume that being a veggie or vegan is about a restriction and limitation of what you can or cannot eat – which in a way it is – but it is still down to you to decide how (& what) you’re going to consume food. This is crucial to understand.

If I say, ‘I’m not going to eat beef because it has disastrous environmental effects’, or that ‘I’m stopping eating chickens because of the terrible cruelty they are exposed to throughout their lives, from debeaking as babies to being kicked into lorries when being shipped off to factories’, I’m making my own decision, it is not a limitation, it is a (moral) choice. Much the same way as we avoid committing crimes in our daily lives. It would be easy to just swipe a chocolate bar from the store, but our moral mind restricts us and reminds us not to. These are analogous.

Understanding the above, we can say that those of us that choose a non-mainstream (meaning a non-meat eating) diet do so, mostly, out of intentional choice. In doing this, we are acting on values that we believe and thus are working towards a life that is more aligned with our true self. A life more honest to oneself is the best path to happiness. And here is why, in choosing our diet, we are not limiting ourselves, but consciously being our full selves.

When you can’t choose

There are situations where we cannot choose our diets, thus cannot be ourselves however. Let’s look at some examples:

Travelling abroad – some countries whole diets are fully built around meat eating (e.g. South America), here it may be difficult to uphold your dietary choices.

Dining at friends – if you’re not vocal about your diet when invited to friends’ houses for lunch/dinner, you may be served something you would not deliberately eat.

Moving back home – I’ve had to move back home to do my masters. My parents cook meals for the family and we have typically eaten meat. Not wanting to force them to cook separately for me, and unable to afford buying myself food, I felt pressure to conform to whatever they were cooking.

Gender Pressure – there is a bizarre notion that men should eat meat to be a real man (especially within sporting situations). This is false for two reasons: firstly, what you eat should not define your gender and; secondly, there is no such thing as a real man. It is also visible that vegetarianism/veganism is mostly associated to femininity – another falsity – as I said diet has no gender.

(This list is not extensive, if you’ve experienced other times when you’ve felt pressured to eat things you normally wouldn’t, please comment below! I’d love to hear your stories)

I experience some of these things on a weekly basis. Although my parents have now mainly adopted a vegetarian diet around me, they do sometimes cook a fish or meat dish. I stay at my sister’s house regularly, her family’s diet is omnivorous, and I eat with them at least once a week. Also, travelling regularly it’s not always possible to eat a veggie diet abroad when you can’t understand the language.

I identify somewhere between vegetarian & vegan, but I acknowledge the fact that I’m not really following the diet I’d like to. This creates issues when talking about diet with people. Can I call myself a veggie?

Enter Flexitarianism

Enter stage-right: The Flexitarian. On the face of it, this could be the way I choose to identify. Flexitarians predominantly eat a vegetarian diet, with meat included – BINGO! Except, I don’t want to identify this way. I feel that would be cheating myself. My values lie within the veggie-vegan sphere. I choose not to buy meat, or contribute to the animal farming industry, whenever possible. I disagree with the exploitation of animals in mass meat production, the environmental damages of the meat market are huge and there are numerous health benefits from eating less (or no) meat. These are moral stand-points for me, not flexible ones I can switch in and out of.

Flexitarianism doesn’t seem to have any moral stand-points. It looks like a catch-all term that’s been created by statisticians in order to categorise people into market segments. So no, I don’t think this term is useful.

(Oh, there’s also Lessetarianism, which is reducing the amount of meat you eat – this has its pros & cons, but I see largely similar to Flexitarianism)

What are you then? A veggie that eats meat?

No. I’m a vegetarian. Period. I stand by my morals and choices to not consciously contribute to animal exploitation. And when I’m given something that has, I take it humbly, knowing that I am living in a world where the cruelty & indignity given to animals has been normalised.

One by one, we can change the status quo. Be respectful to those around you. If you’re a veggie, respect the fact that someone eats meat. If you’re a meat-eater, respect that others choose not to eat animals. Maybe if we question why we eat certain things with more honesty and listen to those who eat differently to us, we’ll be able to accept each other more.

Because someone’s going to say it:

Some meat-eaters might say I’m just finding excuses to indulging myself in meat. I can tell you its not. The last time I had sausages, I felt bloated for two days straight and had congested bowel movements. On top of this, the idea of eating something that was alive a few weeks ago, which has subsequently passed, sometimes alive, through a massive machine, that comes out the other end in some weird shape, makes me feel sick. Just thinking of a chicken nugget send shivers down my spine. When eating meat, I have to disconnect myself from what I am eating.

‘Just don’t eat it then’ some might say, and yes I have thought about this. Most of the time I don’t, even if it means going hungry for a bit more. The thing is, ‘not eating’ does not solve the problem when I’m at someone’s house and they’ve spent time cooking a meal for me. I’m at risk of offending them, and more than this, the animal has already seen the harm on my behalf – in my opinion throwing it in the bin is the ultimate indignity. Stuck in this dichotomy, I feel obliged to eat.

Life as a high-functioning alcoholic | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/young-functioning-alcoholic/

Life as a high-functioning young alcoholic

Happiness is often seen as a place you arrive. Many of us search for it, without really knowing where to look. At a young age, I found that alcohol allowed me to feel the friendships I was dearly missing. I spent nearly every night of my undergraduate degree (plus the 1.5 years before) drunk. Every morning, a loud alarm, shower and a coffee were the only way I could feel awake. Despite this, I graduated with a 1st Class degree and produced and toured a documentary film around London during this time.

My drinking, however, was not evidence of a thriving social life or bouts of success. It was a confirmation of the loneliness I suffered from and the longing I had for intimate relationships with others. I know I’m not the only young person to suffer from loneliness. It makes me wonder how many of us turn to the bottle?

The first drink…

Do you remember the first party you went to where there was alcohol? I was 15, going to school friend’s party. She had moved to a different school – an all girls school – there were loads of new people to meet, especially of a different sex. The sexual curiosity of that age meant that we quickly moved to play ‘spin the bottle’. This night I experienced my first kiss, that same girl became my first girlfriend (which didn’t last once we sobered up). And the more I think about it now, this very night may have structured my whole basis for sexual relations & relationship building.

Most parties I went to afterwards increasingly evolved around alcohol & sexual encounters. My friend’s 16th, where someone proudly received their first blowjob. A 17th where someone threw up and blew their chance of getting with that guy they wanted. 18th parties where sex was apparently everywhere – along with drugs and cigarettes – including one where there was someone walking around with a tray of condoms. Every year there seemed to be a new addition to the toolbox of ‘fun’.

Apart from that fateful first kiss, I never ‘got with’ anyone at parties. I was that kid who wondered around trying to figure out what on earth was going on. Asking myself, “Why do I seem to just float?”; “Why am I even here?” As the evenings went on, I would grab another beer and then wonder around to find someone to talk to. Some conversations would last for a while, keeping me away from the isolation that seemed to be looming. But some conversations would be cut short by my partner, and I would be cast back into a world of confusion and self-pity. It seemed people just didn’t want to talk to or be with me; and it was during these times that I began to diminish my self-worth.

Free hugs!

I think it was at this young age when I first found the soothing cuddle of alcohol. Having ‘one more’ allowed me to feel comfortable, like I belonged. I used a bottle, and not long later a cigarette, as a barrier between the world and me. It felt safe. I thought I fitted in. This narrative was something I reiterated as I grew older. Little did I know that 5 years down the line I would have a drinking problem and wake up most mornings with a fuzzy head.

Culture clash

I grew up in a first generation immigrant family, well my mother was half-English but she had grown up in Turkey. So neither of my parents really understood British culture. I had been taught the strict and respectful manner of Turkish culture, which was different to the mannerisms and attitudes of my contemporaries. The cultural capital – social knowledge one has: in style of speech, dress, intellect, education (in & out of school) – that I had was a mishmash of two cultures that didn’t really fit, and I experienced this incompatibility through the awkwardness I felt with my friends at school.

Despite this, I was able to move through all the groups (maybe apart from the football one – I didn’t really like football) but that still only gave me a skin-deep sense of friendship. I felt most at home with the misfits, those of us that didn’t quite call ourselves that name (or any name) but certainly weren’t the ‘cool kids’. We weren’t the geeks either, however, perhaps we didn’t have a name, we were just sort of there. Wherever we were, it was there I was able to be myself and relax, yet it was a yearning to not be there that made me ache to be ‘cool’. I was not satisfied by the amazing friends I had in this group and wanted to ‘upgrade’.

Looking into the black of my eye

Towards the end of my bachelor degree, I started panicking about what I was going to do once it finished. After being asked “what do you want to be when you’re older?” all my life and still not having an answer, I felt stuck. How have I got to this stage of my life and do not know what I want to do? Is there something wrong with me? Panic and anxiety set in. Slowly, but very surely, a void began to emerge from within, as a subtle but definite sadness grew.

I had begun to ask myself questions around this time. Not extrinsic questions about jobs or positions or directions, but intrinsic queries. I started asking what I valued: about myself, about the world, my moral values, my ethical values; if I was really enjoying what I was doing? What did I regret doing in the last few months? Could I have said “no” to some of those things? Once I was able to shift my answers from analytical to honest, I realised that I’d been focusing on the wrong things.

Take 5

Meditation had a massive impact on enhancing the ability to analyse my self and my thoughts. I used the app called Headspace to get me started – and still use it daily. The increased awareness of my thoughts, and to watch negative conceptions from a distance, is indispensable to self-discovery. Practising mindfulness allows us to see ourselves in the present, rather than looking into the future or reminiscing on the past.

As the Headspace co-founder, Andy Puddicombe says: the present is so underrated, and yet we spend so little time in it. Studies show having a distracted mind is a direct cause of unhappiness, and in his TED talk, Andy cites that we spend nearly half of our time distracted. That means we might be spending nearly half of our lives potentially unhappy. There’s something deeply worrying about that. Meditation really allowed me to focus on now; to understand what I enjoy; to realise what I don’t enjoy. It doesn’t happen quickly, but taking the time to train your mind is invaluable.

Where I was…

No-one knew I had a drinking problem; I was always on top of everything I needed to do, was always at university & I had spent two years successfully producing a film. There was no doctor or medical professional who told me about it. None of my friends thought it – or at least not that I know of – and I had no major health issues. High-functioning alcoholism is problematic because as it is incredibly hard to detect.

Alcohol has been such a big part of my identity for the last 6-8 years: I worked in craft beer, I had done courses in wine tasting & spent time grape picking to fund a trip, even the film I produced was about the independent brewing industry in London. My knowledge of self was intimately intertwined with drinking and its culture. My social network had been built on the people I met in the London Beer scene: bars & their regulars, breweries & their critics.

I worked in pubs; and if you’ve ever worked in a bar, you’ll surely know the compulsive drinking that comes with the job. Alongside this, the band I was in had a massive culture around drinking and smoking, and after an awesome rehearsal & visit to the pub, I would head over to my local that was open till 3 am and drunkenly sip & smoke. I was adamant that this was my life, that I couldn’t change it, and that if I did I would disappear into nothingness. But most of all, I loved it.

Admitting I’m a young alcoholic

It was after over a year of self-analysis and self-development that I could finally see that I was, in fact, alcohol dependent. This was a truly petrifying moment. All of a sudden my entire reality came crashing. I no longer belonged anywhere. I was looking at my self, naked in the middle of nowhere. Nothing to describe who I was. No past or future. Now there was only the present. A blank canvas. This was the chance I had to answer the questions I had been asking over the past year and (re-)build my self.

The morning I woke up to this thought, in a hostel, was January 1st, 2017. It was the best hangover I ever had – well, at least the most productive. Once the initial headache wore off, and I had my (cold) shower I could see. It was like those mornings (or afternoons) you wake up after a heavy night and say, “I’m never going to drink again” – except this time I meant it.

Dry-January was a perfect chance to test the water. I breezed through, only having one glass of prosecco at my sister’s wedding (which I consciously decided to have). February, I started with all the energy of the previous month, tripping over one night when out with 4 friends and an awkward 2-for-1 deal. I didn’t punish myself for it though, I could see my weakness and have worked on strengthening it. The next time I was out with friends I abstained; the time after only had a half; recognising the urges that were building inside me each sip at a time).

Movin’ on up

I am still working on it. It is incredibly difficult to be 24 and not drink. Our whole society dictates that we do. Everyone I know wants to ‘get drunk’. It is terrible being the person who is ‘no fun’ because they don’t drink. You feel ousted by groups and as if you don’t belong (again). The challenge of not drinking is not only a physical one but overwhelmingly a psychological one. The psychological challenge is two-fold. Both fighting the urges to have a drink and, whilst mentally weak, trying not to be affected by the stigma and ‘otherness’ it brings you.

If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, you don’t have to fight it alone. Reach out to your loved ones. But if, like me, you can’t do that, reach out to me (hello[at]youngminimalist.uk). I’d be happy to listen and offer my support.

Stay strong.

Keep breakfast interesting | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/keep-breakfast-interesting-easy-way/

Keep your breakfast interesting (the easy way)

The breakfast’s the same, yet it changes every day – plenty of goodness & keeps you full.

I don’t know if you are like me, but I get bored of my breakfast very quickly. After eating something for a week or so, all of a sudden I just don’t like it any more. Put off from the idea of eating bread with feta and olives, or my appetite for courgette fritters disappears and cereal is a no-no. As someone who likes to start their day with nice food, this is an annoying dilemma.
In December, I was adamant to find something lasting for my mornings. Something that I enjoy making, enjoy eating, is wholesome and nutritious and will keep me going until lunch time. Alongside this, I love cooking, so starting the day by doing something I love is an added bonus.
Tip: One of the best ways to develop good habits, is by ensuring the thing your doing is enjoyable. I had wanted to get fit for ages, start running, cycling or going to the gym, but I really didn’t enjoy these activities on their own. They’re just so dull. When I found rock climbing however, everything changed. I was going 4 times a week, started cycling to the climbing wall. No extra effort needed. (I still hate jogging though) Finding the right sport for me was crucial for me to start exercising. My admiration & dedication to the sport has also lead me to form many other good habits, focused on developing my self for the sport. Find something you love to do and it will surely be easier to do it.
Morning porridge 

An awesome porridge recipe

I had porridge when I was younger: for me it was stuff that comes in a packet, my mum would add milk and mash a banana in it and, hey presto, there’s some porridge. I don’t like this type of porridge, it doesn’t taste of much, and it’s expensive. But now that I’m making my own porridge, I’m loving it!! One reason I’m enjoying it so much is because of the variability have, I can choose exactly what is going in it and I can mix it up every morning if I want to. I have a base recipe I start with and then build up from that, adding fruit, berries, nuts, seeds, spices or what ever takes my fancy.
Firstly, here’s the base recipe for an awesome porridge:
– Serves 1
  • 250g Oats
  • 100ml plant-based milk
  • 175ml water
  • tbsp Chia seeds
  • dash of Honey (try get a local one!)
  • tsp Cinnamon (change to taste)
  • dash of Vanilla extract (if you fancy)
Start off with a pot or small frying pan, throw in your oats, milk & water and put on a medium heat. Mix as it is heating to get the oats to absorb the liquids. Have your chia seeds at the ready, and about 2 minutes in (or as porridge starts to thicken) put them into the pan along with the cinnamon, and continue mixing. Once evenly spread throughout, add honey and vanilla extract to taste. Serve up in your favourite bowl.
Once you’ve got your porridge you can start the fun part of adding what you want into your breakfast. My favourite combination so far has been blueberries and halved raspberries, along with a seed mix. But, this part is really up to you! What do you enjoy? Strawberries? Apple? You decide.
Share your additions in the comments below.
Bon appetit!
New Year, New Routine | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/new-year-new-morning-routine/

New Year, New Morning Routine.

Your Morning Routine can bring you a healthier lifestyle! Develop the way you breath & shower.

As we start a new year some of us will be trying to redesign our lifestyles, doing more sport, waking up earlier, eating healthier, being more productive, focusing more on our relationships. New Year resolutions are popular every year, the problem is keeping that resolution as the year goes on. In changing my lifestyle to one of simplicity and meaning, I have decided to begin my changes with my morning routine. I’ve never really had a morning routine, and there are conflicting notions around whether routine is good for you or not. Does it put you into auto-drive? Does it help your body do its thing? I haven’t really figured that one out yet, but I’ve decided that some routine is good. With some subtle changes to my morning routine I’ve become more ready for the day and almost always start the day with a smile. I will present these changes in separate blog posts, as I feel they warrant explanations and reasons to allow you to make a good judgement as to whether you will decide to incorporate this into your life also. The order of the activities is up to you, but I would recommend the order of the posts.
BE WARNED: it does involve ensuring you have time in the morning, which may mean you have to wake up earlier (which in turn means you may want to go to bed earlier as sleep is such a (underrated) necessity in our lives). Now that you’re mentally ready, let’s get to it.

The Wim Hof breathing technique

I’ve been hearing about this for a while, and it is something that I was suspicious of at first. But after talking about it with a friend who challenged himself to doing it, I decided to give it a go also. Hof claims it has many benefits, like being able to control your immune system, improved sleep quality and reduced stress. (Sounds pretty good just after a bit of breathing right?) There have been heaps of research done on this, mainly on Wim himself [Watch Hof – VIDEO]. The technique has a couple of components: Breathing, Cold Exposure and Commitment.
So let’s begin with the breathing. There’s essentially a few simple instructions to follow – if you want more in depth get hold of his book, Becoming The Iceman:
  1. Find a comfortable seating position where you can keep your back straight. This can be cross-legged on the floor, preferably with pillow support under your coccyx, or in a firm chair.
  2. Take a deep breath in (to full capacity) using your diaphragm and allow to naturally discharge without any conscious effort at all. Close your eyes whilst letting your breath go.
  3. Do this 30-40 times and on the last breath, let your breath go for as long as possible, until your body forces you to take a breath…
  4. Again, fully fit your lungs and hold for ten seconds, then let go.
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 three – six times.
  6. After holding the last breath for ten seconds. Take a couple of deep breathes and become fully aware of how you and your body feels. Bring awareness back to your surroundings and, when ready, open your eyes.
Give it a go now!
Well done. Now onto the next step.
Take a cold shower!
I know, this is a bit of a weird one. But according to Hof, controlled exposure to cold has many benefits toy our health: ‘including the buildup of brown adipose tissue and subsequent fat loss, reduced inflammation to facilitate a fortified immune system, balanced hormone levels, improved sleep quality, and the production of endorphins’ [taken from Hof’s website].
To start with, try staying under for 30-40 seconds. Then as you get used to it build this up to longer periods. It is surprisingly easy to build up this tolerance, and really enjoyable. The second cold shower I had, I was under there for about 3 minutes, lathered myself and my hair and rinsed. Once the initial shock is over, your fine – its mainly the getting under that’s difficult.
That’s essentially it. Build this into your life, make it a daily event, and, crucially, do it with intention. Developing the skill to engage in your actions with intention will allow you to focus more and be more productive. Also, intentional living, something advocated heavily by The Minimalists, will help you cut out the useless activities from your life, freeing up more time to do what you want to do. I’ll be writing about this in more detail in a later post. For now, try this in the morning and see if you feel the difference.
Once you’ve had a go for a week or so, share your new morning routine experience below!