Another Gratitude List!

Things have been rocky lately (how many times do I start off a blog post with those words?!). In short, I have experienced some very unsettling mental health symptoms which are new to me and got me seriously concerned and fearful, I then changed medication and am waiting for my body (and mind) to adjust to these tablets. However, through the whirlwind of mental health confusion which has left me trying to catch my breath at times, I have seen glimpses of things I am so sincerely grateful for. Surrounding myself online with positive (yet realistic) accounts, whether that be on Instagram, WordPress or Twitter, has yet again realigned my perspective and made me give time, no matter how small, to the things I am grateful for. So, here’s a gratitude list from me to the world!

1) The seasonal change to autumn.
From the leaves changing colour to the crisp edge on the air, autumn is definitely upon us. I am thankful for this change of season because it has brought my attention back to nature. Consciously looking out for the changes in my surroundings, whether big or small, has made me undergo a whole new process of appreciation for the environment. When you can see the world around you as beautiful, it is one more weight taken off of your burdened heart and a way to look around you and feel some sense of hope.

2) Having access to mental health services
I retain the right to say that I firmly believe mental health services in the UK are critically underfunded by the government and so what they can offer people is curtailed by the lack of support they are given by the state. However, I am grateful that I do have access to support when so many people around the world are suffering completely alone in a whole variety of different, heartbreaking, situations. I am immensely grateful that I was able to get an appointment with a GP, talk honestly about how I felt regarding my medication and have him give me a way to reach out to the services I need. I want to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to the people who work in our National Health Service, as time and again they tirelessly try against the odds to help us in anyway they can.

3) My dogs aka the lights of my life!
Being reunited with my dogs has undoubtedly given me a huge boost (as it always does). Their boundless enthusiasm for life, their endless love and devotion as well as the all-round silly and ridiculous things they do which make me laugh out loud, are the things which really keep me going sometimes. I could write for hours and hours about all the ways they have improved me as a person and given me a little chink of sunlight in my life when I have felt completely hopeless. However, for now, suffice to say that I love them both so dearly and genuinely see them as my best friends.

4) The ability to cook
For me, self-care always starts with looking after my nutrition. Eating properly gives me a foundation from which I can start to feel better about my day and show myself some compassion. Preparing my meals is therapeutic in itself, then actually appreciating the fact that I have made the effort to give my body a nutritious and healthy meal allows me to shift my perspective which usually focuses on my habit of self-loathing.

5) Music
Whilst my ears have probably suffered from my reliance on music, at least putting my earphones in and drowning out the world has given me some peace of mind at times throughout these past few weeks. As always, I am immensely grateful to Paramore, Twenty One Pilots and Dodie Clark for making such raw, honest and insightful music. The fact that they don’t dress-up life as an easy ride in their lyrics gives me so much comfort whilst the beautiful music which laces together their words affords me hours of escapism.

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

 

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Remembering The Summer Of 2018

Sometimes we let moments pass before us without thinking much of them then, before we know it, a whole season has passed and it’s easy to forget what was achieved during that time. Summer always seems to be chock-full of events, experiences and memories, probably by virtue of it being a long period of freedom from University, for me at least. In retrospect, things that happened have taken on a different perspective in my mind and I have come to realise that a lot of things which occurred this summer were either things that I should be proud of or memories I should treasure. So, I thought I would record some of the highlights of summer 2018 on here!

1. I saw my brother graduate from University

My brother is now officially making his way in the ‘real’ world. It was surreal hearing his name called-out and watching walk along the stage in his swishy gown that he was so embarrassed to wear. I thought of how much he had changed over the four years of his degree, the new passions he had taken-up whilst at University and all of the future opportunities waiting for him in the big wide world.

2. I visited America for the first time

I’ve grown-up watching American films and TV shows, listening to American music, reading American books and studying American literature and history, yet I had never been to the United States. So, this summer I went to the US for a whirlwind week of sightseeing and walking for miles and miles. I started off with two days in Washington DC, then I took an 8 hour train journey all the way up to Boston where I spent the rest of my week. Then, after flight delays, I started my flight back to the UK at just after midnight, arriving at 10 am UK time. Then I had half a day to pack my life into boxes and suitcases before moving into a new place for Uni to start again. So, when I say it was a whirlwind, it really was a whirlwind!

3. I prioritised my writing

Throughout the summer, I made sure that I valued the time I had to write. For once, it wasn’t just a few scrawled sentences at the end of the day. Instead, I set apart actual chunks of time for me to invest in my writing. From poetry to fiction to opinion pieces, I made my way through many pieces of paper and developed my craft along the way. Taking writing seriously rather than discarding it as frivolous past time was definitely something I now feel vindicated in doing.

4. I came out online as trans

This was the most nerve-wracking blog post I have ever written to date but it was also so worth it. The reaction and feelings of validation I got from publishing The Gender Tag  is still having an impact on my daily life to this day. Taking the step to come out online has given me the confidence I needed to return to University using my real name, Ryan, rather than my birth name. Now, when I assert my identity, I feel proud of myself rather than ashamed which was a process of emotional development started by that blog post.

5. I started learning to drive

My goodness, this was an experience! Every time I got behind that wheel I felt either like I was going to die or be physically sick (or both)! A year or even six months before I would not have believed anyone who would have told me that I would be cruising along a busy A roads at 60mph but I did it. Every moment of feeling scared out of my wits and like I just wanted to give-up was worth it for the pride I feel now knowing that I felt the fear but did it anyway. I proved to myself that I could be brave and that perseverance is the key to learning any new skill.

6. I began baking

An overarching theme of the summer was learning how to come to terms with my body. As a trans guy, my body is most often associated with self-loathing for me, so the process of starting to nourish it was both a trial and a milestone in my life. Baking myself healthy snacks and allowing myself the time to consider the different nutritional components my body needed went some way to shifting the relationship I have with my body even though this shift was only limited. Progress is progress.

 

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

Cacao & Banana Overnight Oats Recipe

Overnight oats are great for when you are short of time in the morning or if you just want something to eat waiting for you to just grab when you get-up in the morning. It takes a couple of minutes to mix all of the ingredients together in the evening, then you just pop the mixture into an airtight container and store it in the fridge ready for the next morning.

Here is my recipe for cacao and banana overnight oats:

Ingredients:

1. Two small ripe bananas

2. Three tablespoons of cacao powder

3. Three tablespoons of rice protein powder

4. A splash of soya milk

5. One cup of rolled oats

6. One tablespoon of plain soya yoghurt 

Recipe:

1. Mash the two bananas thoroughly

2. Add the rest of the ingredients into the mixture and mix them all together. 

3. Pour the mixture into an airtight container and put in the fridge, ready to enjoy the next morning!

Benefits:

– Vegan

– Oats can lower cholesterol 

– Bananas are a great source of potassium and give you energy throughout the day

– High protein

– Cacao is a brilliant source of magnesium (and it’s delicious!)

 

 

Gratitude List #3

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This week has been a bit all over the place. From coming out to riding a rollercoaster of dips and jumps in self-confidence, I’ve felt a lot of emotions during the last 7 days (when don’t I?). However, to put this week into perspective, I have decided to write-out a gratitude list to emphasise to myself the positive things I can take away from this week and to share the intention of shifting to a perspective of gratitude when life seems to overwhelm you. So, without further ado, here is a list of things I am grateful for which have appeared, surfaced or been re-emphasised in my life this week:

  1. My ability to get myself new glasses which can support my eyesight and make me feel comfortable whilst wearing them.
  2. The abundance of dried fruit and nuts I have to make delicious vegan fruit loaves with.
  3. The supportive and welcoming LGBTQ community online which offers me a place to feel safe and be myself even when I feel rejected in my personal life.
  4. My bullet planner which makes me feel in control of the events in my life by allowing me to become organised.
  5. The person who cut my hair yesterday and made me feel good about myself whilst she got creative with shaving my hair!
  6. Ted, the dog I got to look after earlier in the week who is such a sweetheart, never fails to make me smile and tolerates the playfulness of my other dogs even when he just wants to have a sleep.
  7. The album After Laughter by Paramore which lifts my mood and evokes great memories from the last couple of years.
  8. The people who leave comments on my blog posts, these interactions make my day and I love reading and replying to them.
  9. My morning coffees – they are a short period in my day where I can just focus on doing one thing, relax and prepare for the rest of my day.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter: @RyanBInNature

Instagram: @awalkwithnature00

My Vegan Lunchbox

Having started a part-time job recently, which I will be continuing throughout the summer break, I have had to think of portable and easy to eat vegan lunchbox ideas that I can eat whilst I am at work. I pre-prepare my lunch the night before so I can just grab my bag in the morning and go. Also, I have been making things which I do not have to heat-up at work because there are renovations going on at the office, so the kitchen is out of bounds!

Without further ado, here is what I pack in my vegan lunchbox:

1. Spicy roasted chickpeas

Cheap, easy and nutritious, roasted chickpeas are a great snack to nibble on when the working day just seems to keep dragging on. I buy tins of chickpeas in water, then de-shell them and give them at least 30 minutes to sit in a sieve and dry out. Then, I lay them out in an oiled baking tray, sprinkle some cayenne pepper, paprika and ground black pepper over the top of them and let them cook in the oven for 40 minutes at 180 C. After the 40 minutes are over, I take them out of the oven, let them cool down, then put the chickpeas in a tupperware ready for me to pack into my workbag for the next day.

lunchbox 2

2. Ginger and almond energy balls

I cannot get enough of these, they are delicious and ridiculously addictive! I use pitted dates, chopped almonds, raw grated ginger and desiccated coconut in these energy balls which make them a healthy, sweet snack. To make 6-7 balls, I use 9 pitted dates, a handful of almonds (which I chop myself), a tablespoon of desiccated coconut and a lot of raw ginger but, seeing as many people are not keen on a strong ginger taste, you can add however much ginger you are happy with. I simply just pop all of these ingredients in a food processor, whizz them around for a minute, then roll the contents in my hands to make little balls.

lunchbox 3

3. Roasted red pepper hummus

I prefer making my own hummus because many shop-bought ones add unnecessary sweeteners and oils that I’m personally not keen on. I cut three red peppers into halves and roast them in the oven at 220C for 25-30 minutes (however long it takes for the peppers’ skins to blacken and wrinkle). Then, I peel the skins off of the peppers, pop the now skin-less peppers into the food processor along with a clove of garlic, a tin of chickpeas (with their shells taken off) and a tablespoon of tahini. Pulse the mixture in the food processor until the hummus reaches your preferred consistency and then decant it into a airtight tupperware to be stored overnight in the fridge. This hummus recipe is perfect to go with crisp breads or ryvitas which you can eat during your lunch break.

lunchbox image 1

 

So there’s a small selection of easily transportable vegan snacks which you can pop in your bag to keep you content throughout your workday. If you’re interested, I will leave a few links below to other vegan recipes which are good for lunch boxes that you can check-out as well.

Other vegan lunchbox ideas:

Toasted cinnamon and maple almonds – Deliciously Ella

5 ingredient spelt flatbread – Oh She Glows

Sweet potato & herb savoury muffins – Feasting On Fruit

Vegan Mushroom Risotto Recipe

After my post ‘My New Therapy’ in which I wrote about how cooking and looking after my nutrition has benefited my mental health, I thought that I would share one of the recipes which I have been using quite frequently over the past few weeks.

I firmly believe in making cooking a personal experience and allowing yourself a lot of freedom in the process, so feel free to go off script so to speak and make things fit your preferences and taste. Hence why my measurements are quite rough and unpriced, often I change little parts of the recipe day to day depending on whether I want my risotto more creamy or more veggie-heavy. Cooking is a very individual activity, everyone likes things slightly different, so try things out and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t work out the way you want them to – it’s all a learning process.

INGREDIENTS:

1)One shallot
2) Four open mushrooms
3) One clove of garlic
4) Vegetable oil
5) Three basil leaves
6) Vegetable stock (I use Knorr veggie stock pods to make the process quicker)
7) Boiling water
8) Brown rice
9) Salt
10) Pepper
11) Dash of soy sauce
12) 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
13) 1/4 a cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
14) 1 and 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
15) A handful of black olives (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Pour a coin sized amount of vegetable oil into your deep frying pan or skillet and wait for the oil to heat-up.
  2. Whilst the oil is heating, dice the shallot, crush the garlic and chop the mushrooms.
  3. Add the vegetables to the pan, stir occasionally and wait until the veggies brown slightly.
  4. Add the vegetable stock and continue stirring for a few minutes.
  5. Add the amount of rice you desire according to your preferences and, at the same time, add double the amount of boiling water in relation to the amount of rice you used.
  6. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. After the 10 minutes the basil leaves, a dash of soy sauce and a quarter of a cup of coconut milk to the mixture. Also, according to your taste add a dash of salt and pepper, then re-cover and let simmer again for 10 minutes.
  8. Add one and a half tablespoons of all-purpose flour, then stir thoroughly for a couple of minutes.
  9. Add a tablespoon of nutritional yeast and a handful of black olives, then stir for one minutes.
  10. Cover and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
  11. Stir and ensure that the risotto is no longer runny or watery, ensuring that the consistency is to your preference.

 

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