Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

I don’t know why but I love writing ‘Unpopular Opinion’ posts so much! Sorry if you are sick of all the different versions I have done by now but I cannot get enough of creating them, so here’s another one all to do with the festive season and Christmas itself.

1. There is too much pressure put on giving someone the perfect present

It feels like people view the presents they are given as a signifier of how much they are valued by the giver. However, presents should be all about the sentiment, not the price tag or what designer label it comes from. Giving presents these days feels like you are having to prove to the person how much you cherish them but that feels impossible to encompass in an item or two, so it ends-up simply being an unnecessarily pressurising process.

2. Opening presents in front of the person who gifted them to you is tense

When I am opening presents, I am way too aware of my facial expression! I worry that I’m either looking unimpressed or that I’m making too much of an effort to look happy with the present which means that I end-up looking like I’m faking my reaction. There is no satisfactory way to open a present and I wish people would accept that I am being truthful when I tell them that I am really grateful for their present rather than seeing the look on my face as the real signifier of truth.

3. Crackers are a disaster waiting to happen

Who thought that having multiple contests of strength occurring at the same time around a dinner table loaded with glasses, plates and drinks was a good idea? The males in my family especially really like to muscle-in on the crackers, so much so that their arms end-up flying back when they break and I live in worry that a glass of wine is going to go flying!

4. Flashing Christmas lights are too intense

I much prefer the softer type of lights where they either fade in and out or just stay the same. Some of the flashing Christmas lights around where I live look they are trying to replicate a secondary school rave more than be festive!

5. There are no Christmas-specific films that I love to watch

To be fair, I’m not really a big film fan anyway (except for the in the case of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films!). Although, I distinctly remember the Grinch absolutely terrifying me when I was a child to the point where I would simply avoid watching it when it inevitably came on every year. It wasn’t even the fact that he was trying to steal people’s Christmas presents from their own houses which scared me, it was more about the way he walked around and his creepy fingers!

6. People who put cold cream on top of their Christmas pudding are going too far!

Every single year at Christmas, I will look around me as people tuck into their Christmas pudding and see people pouring cold cream (fresh from the fridge) onto their hot puddings and it continues to make no sense to me!

7. The expectations people have for Christmas Day are too high and put an unfair amount of stress on the host

Every year people stress about making Christmas Day absolutely flawless. People get so caught-up in trying to make everything look picture-perfect and ensure that everything goes off without a hitch that they forget to enjoy the moment. I feel sorry for all of the people who run around their kitchens, boiling hot and flustered, on Christmas Day and miss out simply relaxing with everyone else and enjoying the day for what it is. 

 

Find my other ‘Unpopular Opinions’ posts below:

Unpopular Opinions – University Edition

Unpopular Opinions – Harry Potter Edition

Unpopular Opinions – USA Travel Edition

Unpopular Opinions Part 2

Unpopular Opinions

 

If you want to hear more of my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

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Unpopular Opinions – USA Travel Edition

As I mentioned in my Remembering The Summer Of 2018 post, I visited the USA for the first time ever this summer. It was a bit of a whirlwind experience which jet lag made all the more surreal as well as the crazy humidity which lingered around me everywhere I went. Along the way, I developed my own opinions about some American quirks and confectionary choices so, without further ado, here are some of my unpopular opinions which I gathered during my travels!

1. Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is disgusting

People talked at length to me about their passion for Dunkin’ Donuts and their coffee in particular (shoutout to the bus driver who raved about the place for a solid five minutes). So, I got myself a coffee from the buffet car on the eight hour train journey I took from Washington D.C. to Boston… I literally could not finish it because I hated it that much. This is saying something for me because usually I will be so desperate for caffeine that, no matter how grim a coffee tastes, I will chug it down anyway. There was also no other coffee choice available on the train, so I suffered the eight hour journey without my caffeine-fix (first world problems!). Honestly, I would see a Dunkin’ Donuts what felt like every five steps whilst I was in Boston because they are a Massachusetts-based chain, so it almost felt like the company was taunting me with memories of their horrendous coffee as I walked around the city.

2. Too many tasty things are displayed in grocery shop queues

My goodness, I had to develop an iron will whilst I was standing in the queue to buy groceries! It’s like they saved all of the most delicious, sugary items of temptation for the layout before the tills just so that I would have to stare at them in all their glory whilst I waited in line to be served. Really, it is an unfair tactic, I felt pulled in every direction whilst every flavour of Oreo was laid out there before me, ripe for my taking. You’ll be happy to know though that my lack of many dollars meant that I had to force myself to resist these sweet treats, otherwise I would inevitably have come back from my travels with rotted teeth!

3. America has way too many Starbucks

Sorry to continue the criticism of the biggest American chains but I felt like I was the places I visited were overflowing in a superfluous number of Starbucks chains. I feel like the little, independent coffee shops stood no chance against the power of a big corporation like that which dominated every street in every town. I like to support small businesses but that was hard since they seemed to have been mostly forced to relocate elsewhere because the cities I visited was so chain-reliant.

4. The idea of cream being put in my coffee is like sacrilege to me

Every time I had a coffee, which let’s be honest was very regularly, the person serving me would ask if I wanted cream in my coffee which is something you are never offered in the UK. Each time I would protectively cling to my coffee before they could get the cream in and plead for some soya milk whilst people looked at me as if I was abnormal for looking at the cream as if it were poison. There were even little cartons of coffee creamers in the rooms I stayed in. To be honest, I know I must be a very sad person but I just could not get over how millions of people were ruining their perfectly good coffees everyday by putting cream in there. Horrifying.

5. American airports are really confusing

I properly struggled with this one. I found American airports to be like highly distressing mazes which offered you directions in the form of very unhelpful signs for every mile you walked further into the trap. I’m glad I got to the Boston Logan International Airport about three hours in advance otherwise I would have had heart palpitations just trying to find my gate. I don’t know if other airports in the country would redeem my opinion of them overall but the two airports I went through over there were some of the most bizarrely laid-out places you could possibly come across!

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

Toxic Expectations People Have For Vegans

To preface this post and put it into context; I am a vegan. Also, I’m not going to judge you and start screaming at you in caps-locked letters if you tell me that you aren’t vegan. You do you and I’ll do me, okay?

The ‘vegan’ label can sometimes feel very weighty and like it has a lot of expectations that come attached to it. I say I’m a vegan and people expect me to be whizzing-up smoothies at 6 in the morning ready for a day full of leafy greens. In reality when I say that I am vegan, I’m not saying that I am perfect or that I particularly subscribe to ‘clean eating’. I love eating natural foods and nourishing my body in that way because that is one way I practice self-care and promote body-positivity within myself when, as a trans man, feeling any level of good about my body can be a struggle. However, just because I love natural foods (think grains, seeds, fruit, veggies, nuts, lentils etc) that doesn’t mean that I don’t also want a cookie or some chocolate every once in a while! There is no shame in this either, I just try to give my body what it wants rather than deny myself something due to pressure to be perfect. Perfect is not attainable, so why not just try to strike a balance between healthy and happy instead?

Whenever, I pull-out a vegan cookie to eat, people inevitably start to chorus ‘ooh, look at the vegan eating something bad’, as if veganism equates to perfection or purity. It’s not bad to give yourself treats in moderation. Also, the expectation of vegans to all subscribe to ‘clean eating’ is frankly toxic. Being painfully strict and analysing every single morsel you eat is, in my opinion and for my own wellbeing, more harmful than letting yourself eat a cookie every once in a while. The expectations people have of vegans to eat solely salads for every meal is toxic as well, as it promotes a sort of shame, at least for me, if I want to eat something which isn’t ‘perfect’ in nutritious value.

Really, let people eat what they want and figure out a diet which best suits their mental and physical needs. As long as people are happy and healthy, who cares if they tuck into a dessert with enthusiasm? Just let them be. Equally, if you enjoy focusing on plant-based nutrition as part of your lifestyle then more power to you. It’s time we shifted our perspective on the topic of food; we should be able to enjoy eating rather than stressing out about it. A good relationship with nutrition can have such a positive impact on our mental wellbeing when we think of it as fulfilling, nourishing and a doorway to becoming happy and healthy rather than something to feel intimidated of.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

My New Therapy

I have never thought of myself as much of a cook. I’ve simply known the bare minimum about nutrition and basic meals to stop me from starving to death and that was the extent of my cookery knowledge! However, recently I have come to consider baking and cooking a form of both self-care and therapy. Becoming vegan has allowed me to research some really interesting recipes and taught me that my dietary differences do not stop me from having food which I have always considered as very far away from being vegan, like loafs and cakes.

Baking especially makes me feel productive because the process leaves me with something I have created with my bare hands, a physical embodiment of all of the effort I have put in. It also makes my environment feel a lot more welcoming and comfortable because the smell of baked goods drifts throughout my kitchen and beyond whilst my food is in the cooker.

All forms of cooking appear to me to be a fundamental (yet often overlooked) example of self-care. When tidal waves of mental health issues are weighing you down or feeling sad threatens to overcome you, one of the first things we begin to cut corners with is our nutrition. Cooking from scratch seems like too much of a mountainous task and instead we would much rather curl-up on the sofa around a bowl of cereal (or at least that’s what I do anyway!). This sparks a vicious cycle of feeling bad about ourselves because we know that we are not eating properly or getting what we need from the food we are consuming. Therefore, cooking and baking always feels like a step in the right direction during these moments.

Working with ingredients and following a recipe gives you a structure, so that you are not drowning in your own thoughts, at least for a period of time. Then, your concentration becomes so enveloped in what you are trying to achieve, you stop having to ruminate on whatever feelings and emotions are burdening you at the time. You are simultaneously doing something good for your body, by making proper sustenance for it, as well as doing something good for your mental health as the process occupies your mind and offers you a sense of achievement when you reach the final product.

My personal favourite items to bake at the moment are vegan fruit cake and banana breakfast bars. Evidently, I have a ridiculously sweet tooth which I am trying to satisfy without processed sugar or the chunks of vegan chocolate which are taunting me from the cupboard. I save these shop-bought sweet treats for rewards for when I achieve something, like tackling the grocery shop in a crowded supermarket or making myself engage in small talk with the person next to me in a queue.

I don’t know if this post made much sense, I just wanted to share this newfound sense of joy I have been getting from baking. Let me know if you have any vegan recipe recommendations and I will leave some of my favourite recipes linked below…

Banana and Raisin Loaf – Deliciously Ella

Fruit Cake – The Vegan Society

Vegan mushroom risotto – Elavegan

5 Changes I Am Making This Summer

Dissatisfaction requires action. There are facets of my life which need improvement for the benefit of both my physical and mental health and I want to hold myself to making these changes by writing them here on my blog. My journey towards a better state of health is a gradual process which can be difficult but hopefully these five changes will take me someway further to a place of better balance and state of mind.

1) Doing weekly meal plans

I am very guilty of waiting until I am really hungry before I begin to cook or prepare any meal which means that I regularly opt for quick, easy and less healthy meals in order to rapidly address my hunger. Also, I don’t currently plan what I am going to eat in a week, therefore I often will not buy sufficient products from the supermarket to make the meals I want to. So I hope that making weekly meal plans, which will detail what I will eat for lunch and dinner each day, will mean that I make better quality meals and that I will be aware of all the ingredients I need to buy from the supermarket on a weekly basis.

2) Complete 10,000 steps a day

My time is quite unstructured at the moment because my academic year at University has finished which means that I can easily fall into the trap of having an unlimited amount of lazy days where I lounge on the sofa reading for hours on end. So, to remedy this and give me added motivation to get up on my feet and be more active I have bought myself a Fitbit so that I can track the number of steps I take a day with my goal being 10,000 steps daily. This should not be an insurmountable task because I have two lively dogs who would certainly relish going out for longer walks everyday!

3) Make fresh smoothies rather than buying them from shops

I used to have a really good routine of making fresh smoothies everyday at home with my NutriBullet but unfortunately I got lazy and fell out of the habit of doing this. However, I want to stop resorting to getting shop-bought smoothies which often contain artificial ingredients or added sugar and instead get back into the routine of making my own which will also give me the opportunity to select the ingredients I want to have. Also, this will reduce the amount of wastage I am responsible for because I won’t be buying smoothies in plastic bottles from the supermarket and I will be able to use-up the surplus fruit in my household which for some reason seems to languish in our fruit bowl without anyone having the intention of actually having any!

4) Start doing morning pages

To me morning pages seem like a really good idea because if I get my day off to a productive start then usually the rest of my day will follow suit. Also, I often wake-up with a lot of things weighing on my mind so the chance to offload all of these thoughts in one stream of consciousness into a notebook will surely benefit my mental wellbeing. It seems to me that morning pages carry less pressure than other forms of journalling as well because the intention is to simply write-out a continuous dialogue of what is in your mind rather than having the express intention of being meaningful or making the pages look beautiful as they do in bullet journals.

5) Re-start meditation

I have taken strides towards this goal as I have signed myself up to attend a meditation evening which will hopefully inspire and motivate me to include regular meditation in my daily routine. In the past, I have found that both meditation and breathing techniques have been helpful in terms of combatting my anxiety to some extent, so I want to make progress with my ability to implement both of these activities to better my wellbeing.