Meet the meat issues

Starting today is National Meat Free Week!

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I challenge you (well the campaign does, but I like challening people) to go a week without meat, from today for 7 days.

The campaign exists to get people thinking and talking about meat, its consumption, and its production.

About 2 years ago, I would have put my hands up in surrender and said, “I could NEVER be vegetarian. I love meat. I love burgers. I love kebabs. Animals were made to be eaten.” But then the question dawned on me… what exactly am I eating? Where does it come from? Why am I so disconnected from the things I eat, the very things that sustain my life? So I got learning.

What I learnt prompted me to respond and now I’m a vegetarian who mostly stays away from milk, cheese and eggs. Everyone responds to the things they learn in different degrees, and learning about the meat industry won’t necessarily prompt you to go vego, nor is doing so the only ethical response. But if nothing else, it’s good to be connected to and understand better, the things we put in our body .

The point of cutting out meat for a week is to show you how much meat you eat. You might not notice the change. But, if you’re an average Australian meat consumer, you will be eating very differently this week. Australians consume, on average, 123.8kg of meat a year, the third biggest consumer of meat in the world. That’s about 2.4kg a week, about 4 times the recommended amount. In 50 years meat consumption has gone up exponentially worldwide… The meat industry has changed. A lot. And for the worse.

So the extreme increase in the consumption of meat is a problem for a few reasons: (the below facts are just snippets of the issue, be sure to do your own research)

1. The impact on your health

NEW Health with Footnotes - March 2014_1

+ High consumption of red and processed meat (like bacon, ham, sausages, salami and other packaged meat such as pastrami) is associated with colon cancer3and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

2. The impact on the environment

MFW-Environment2

+ 90 per cent of the world’s soya and over 30 per cent of the world’s grains (including wheat and corn) are used to feed farm animals. The majority of which are intensively “factory” farmed.

+ At a time when some 800 million people suffer from malnutrition, one third of the world’s cereal harvest is fed to farm animals – enough to feed almost three billion people.

3. The impact on animals

MFW Factory Farming March 2014 with footnotes

Being meat free doesn’t just mean red meat.. it means ALL meat – including chicken, ham, fish (yes even tuna) and all sea food.

Scientists and environmentalists agree that reducing meat consumption will take pressure off the planet’s resources. Animal welfare groups globally have called for an end to intensive “factory” farming practices used to meet our consumption demands.

Going without meat for one week might get you to think about how you consume meat for all the other weeks in your year.  By just eating less meat, or having a few meat-free days a week, you can make a big difference to your health as well as help to lessen the damage on the environment. Alternatively you might decide to consider opting for meat and fish that is ethically and sustainably produced. Or you might want to go all out vego.

Skip meat for week, do some research and I’d love to hear what you decide to do! 🙂

 Images and stats taken from
https://meatfreeweek.org/  check it out for more info.

A GREAT book to read on the whole food issue, beautifully written and researched, is Eating Animals  by Jonathan Safron Foer – a great philosopher of our time!

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A good film regarding the health impact of animal food products is the doco Forks over Knives (wacth in full below):

http://www.alluc.to/documentaries/watch-forks-over-knives-2011-online/329436.html

Hijack of the day

It has come to my attention that today, and yesterday, and tomorrow, and every single day, have been been hijacked; taken over and marked with flags of ownership… though mostly for a good cause. I’m talking about all the National and International days proclaimed by organisations as Their Day.

The last year or so I have noticed it a lot more. Perhaps this is just because I am more in tune with the charity and cause frequency than I was before, or perhaps the growth in social media has given organisations more access to the general public. Or maybe, as I suspect, the ever accelerating process of globalisation and the consequent excess of information, with corporations and causes all wanting your attention, has both permitted and forced everyone to adopt an entire day, or even week, to publicise and broadcast their agenda – ‘raise awareness’.

If I sound cynical, I don’t mean to be (the tone seems to come naturally to me) –  I actually love knowing what ‘day’ it is today; whether it be International Dance Day (29th April), Red Nose Day (27th June) or my Birthday (11th December).

Days hold significance for people at all levels – individually and collectively. Western culture particularly values dates and general ‘officialness’.

As someone who is drawn to meaning, history and sentimentality (perhaps it’s just called being human), if I’m having a particularly uninspiring day, I’ll sometimes look up the date and see any causes that want my attention today, or any interesting history that has been officially scheduled into remembrance on this date. This quick investigation draws me out of the smallness of my world – one that can seem, on those days, claustrophobic, daunting or even boring. It connects me to meaning, and collective communities that are bigger than my otherwise shrinking thoughts.

For example, in the last week we have had:

  • Today (21st March) – World Down Syndrome Day

  • Thursday (20th March) – International Day of Happiness (United Nations)

  • Monday (17th March) – St Patricks Day

  • Saturday (15h March) – International Day Against Police Brutality

As well as a name, there is action to those days – people are getting together to celebrate, advocate, mourn, petition, remember.. something. It’s cool.

I might write about some of these ‘hijacked’ days and the causes responsible from time to time, on the days that they take place.

Heads up – Next week, starting on the 24th and ending on the 30th of March, is National Meat Free Week. Because I want someone else to explain, here’s an article from the Sydney Morning Herald that will tell you things:

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/eating-meat-when-less-is-better-for-you-20140315-34t7d.html

but I’ll write my own article next week. (I challenge you to read the article, and attempt a week without meat).

TODAY If you have had a mediocre Friday and need reminding that the world is diverse, vibrant, interesting and home to people with initiative and passion, here’s a list of things that are significant about today:

As already mentioned today is World Down Syndrome Day – this video made for the day is a beautiful watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ju-q4OnBtNU

It’s also Harmony Day in Australia, a day to promote cohesion and inclusion and promote a tolerant and culturally diverse Australia – schools across the country encouraged children to wear the colour orange to show their support for the message ‘everyone belongs’.

A long time ago today, in 1617 Pocahontas died in England – incredible that her name and parts of her story, are still remembered in the 21st century.

If you’re still not feeling connected to the world, here’s a song by Baths for you to chill out to – they’re playing tonight at Oxford Art Factory, which makes today a good day for the people who are going:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHvWURUzj3Q

Me and D <3

Me and D. It’s been 14 years and there is so far nothing to suggest that we won’t be together for the rest of my life. It’s complicated, and mostly not loving – I think D might be be trying to kill me, and I generally hate D…. but for better or worse, I’m stuck with it.

My motivation for this informative rant about my diabetes is mixed. Part of me knows (or at least hopes) that people are interested and want to be informed on this illness that takes up a huge portion of my life.  And another (possibly bigger) part of me is frustrated by some of the well intended but uneducated comments and questions that I am subjected to on a regular basis.

Mostly these comments are about what I can and can’t eat, why I’m not taking better care of my body, or ways that I can supposedly cure myself or limit my need for medication.

I have received extensive education on diabetes type 1 generally, and my own body, for the last 14 years and don’t particularly want to hear about what you learnt from a movie/google/your grandparents.

I have TYPE 1 Diabetes – type 1 is about 5% of diagnosed diabetes.. the other 95% is type 2. I was diagnosed when I was 8 and I will have it for the rest of my life (probs).

What is type 1 diabetes?

It’s  an autoimmune illness. This means that my body got some kind of virus that was attacked by my immune system. Unfortunately, as it waged civil war inside my body, it killed the beta cells in my pancreas rendering them a tragic casualty. These cells produce insulin. So the pancreas was wounded significantly, and abandoned its duty in insulin production. The human body cannot function without insulin and so all type 1s are dependent on artificial insulin daily (hourly) to continue living, though everyone requires different amounts. The insulin we use is artificially made based on some kind of cloned pig insulin.. (interesting side story).

Type 1 D varies from person to person, and some people may have an easier time controlling it than others for medical reasons that may bore you… *spoiler alert* I’ve had a really difficult time controlling mine.

So I was born with a predisposition to get type 1 D, got a virus and BAM. I didn’t eat too much as a child and I was not even a little bit overweight. Symptoms of diagnosis include extreme thirst and needing to pee a lot, fatigue and rapid weight loss. So I was actually underweight when diagnosed.

What does insulin do?

It is a hormone produced by your pancreas continually. Your body is amazing – doing all this stuff without you even telling it to! The pancreas has got to be the world’s most incredible calculator – it works out, based on the amount of carbs you eat, exactly how much insulin is needed to nativage that energy around the body. The insulin acts as a key to all the cells in your body. Without insulin, the cells are locked and don’t let in the sugar, leaving it to hang out in your bloodstream and cause trouble. Thats why when I was diagnosed the sugar in my blood tested at 38  – the healthy range is between 5 and 8. This excess sugar can damage lots of parts of your body like your eyes, nerves, kidneys.. the body tries to get rid of the sugar by peeing.

If the body doesn’t get insulin for a few hours it freaks out because no insulin = no energy = body starts shutting down. It starts breaking down fat and muscle for energy  – the by product of this breakdown are a bunch of nasty things called ketones. Ketones are toxic for the body and can start building up in the blood. These are hard to get rid off and can result in death. When you start getting poisoned by these, within a few hours you go into something called Diabetic ketoacidosis  – or DKA. This requires immediate hospitalisation and is extremely unpleasant and dangerous. This has happened to me 5 or 6 times.

So I get insulin through an insulin pump. I used to be on multiple injections a day, and originally I was on good old syringes… but times have changed. The picture shows my pump on the day I got in in 2012 with the little friend it came with.. The pump delivers insulin to me 24/7 through a cannula that I change every few days when I also refill the insulin. I have to tell it what I’m eating and when so it can give me extra insulin, but there always has to be a bit going in. Looking after a pump feels like looking after a baby sometimes, needing feeding and changing, waking me up in the middle of the night….

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So now I’ve got insulin what’s the big deal?

I can get high sugar levels if I eat too much and don’t give enough insulin, or if i get stressed – this makes me very tired, thirsty and prone to mood swings and the excess sugar is very bad for my body. Give insulin (a specific amount.. I’ll work that out).

I can get low sugar levels if I give too much insulin, dont eat enough, exercise.. etc. this makes me shaky, appear drunk or confused, and teary.  So if I start being weird and dazed check my sugars, give me juice accordingly (not too much).

People get confused all the time as to when to give sugar and when to give insulin, and in an emergency, this mistake can be very dangerous.

So to avoid these situations I have to engage in a daily mathematical battle and elaborate guessing game to stay within the healthy range. This is a daily battle – taking 8+ tests a day and reading numbers that all seem to incite an emotional response (guilt, anger, dissapointment, anxiety.. ). Longer term, I must aim for the all important HBA1C  – this is a blood test I take every couple of months and measures the average amount of sugar in my blood over the past 3 months. A non diabetic will invariably sit at 6%. A person with diabetes’ aim is to get to 6.6% or as close as possible. I haven’t ever really been close. Getting close to this number reduces my risk of developing complications such as eye degeneration, nerve loss, kidney failure, infection, memory loss.. etc. Anywhere below 8% is usually relatively good for a type 1 but everyone has different goals keeping in mind knowledge of one’s own body and what’s realistic. My current goal is anything below 10%… this number often shocks doctors and new type 1s.. it’s quite high.

Everything can affect the sugar levels (not just food) including stupid things like the weather, stress and hormones.

D affects everything in my life, and everything in my life affects D- it’s tres complicated.

Other things to mention..

Mental health- Depression is 2 or 3 times more prevalent in people with type 1 than in the general population..  this can be to do with the sugar levels and the effect they have on mood and hormones etc.. plus the burden of living with a chronic illness. Anxiety is also more prevalent, doesn’t take much to work out that one. Likewise is a complicated relationship with food resulting in common eating disorders (over half of girls with diabetes have had eating disorder related behaviour).

Please don’t talk to me about your relatives that have diabetes, especially if they are dead (you’d be surprised how often this happens). It causes me significant stress when you tell me you know someone who lost a limb or their eyesight to diabetes … it also causes me stress when you tell me about someone you know with diabetes who’s currently off climbing Mt Everest and “Don’t let it hold you back!” -it does sometimes, against my will, hold me back.. so withhold your motivational speech.  I do love talking about D, and listening to other’s experiences, but it’s not a comparison. Everyone’s journey with diabetes is different and sometimes its not comforting to hear second hand about someone’s triumphs or failures.

One more thing – saying things like  ’it could be worse,’ or ‘at least you don’t have cancer’.. is not helpful! No one wants to compare suffering or illness, and doing so is belittling. I am not going to say diabetes is worse than any other struggle – but it is damn hard. It’s completely self-managed . There is no other illness that requires so much hard work and thought. Diabetes control is not prescriptive, has no one answer, doesn’t get better, doesn’t take days off (ever!), and treatment constantly needs adjusting and changing. It could be worse, I could live in a country without access to medication, but my struggle is still difficult.

I am grateful for friends that understand my experience and journey with D, and I really do appreciate questions from people who are interested… just want to spread some education 🙂

The above was mostly off the top of my head, so some of this might be off scientifically speaking.. I guess this is just my understanding of my body and some of what I’ve picked up over the years.

Bait – My Blog About Important Things

Blogging about important things… I clearly don’t really know what I want to write about; I have so/too many things on my mind. And I don’t say that to appear worldly and intelligent, but to confess my mind’s habit to wander and muse to the detriment of focused activity… but regardless, writing is something I enjoy, and important things (important by my opinion) are fun to muse on. I suspect this blog will be largely unedited.. just to warn the perfectionists among you.

So to begin, here is something I wrote when I first thought about starting a new blog a few weeks ago:

I begin this blog with the desire to write about something.
But I feel cautious. I didn’t post this first entry for 4 weeks after I wrote it.I am hesitant to assume that my thoughts are so unique and beautiful that people would actually want to read them (and yet have, ironically, declared that my blog will be about ‘important’ things…). I am aware that everyone is popping up with their own blog.. along with the graphic onslaught of information I see explode all over my facebook newsfeed everyday, I am a little troubled. Though I like to think of the blogging as an expression of healthy civil society and variety of opinion, a lot of the images and ‘updates’ I bear witness to daily don’t give me the same fuzzy feeling of democratic community.

In the words of Mr Griffith from Easy A, “I don’t know what your generation’s fascination is with documenting your every thought… but I can assure you, they’re not all diamonds.”

I have been trying to cut down my online documentation of life lately; I don’t want to document my days in a public forum, I want to live them. (Updating my very own personalised highlights reel for all my fans becomes addictive very quickly.) I sometimes get upset when people snapchat me important and beautiful moments of their life.. like their favourite song at a gig, or the moment a soufflé opens and spills chocolate, or their friend walking through the arrival gate at the airport, or a delicious looking breakfast.
It makes me sad because I think of them getting out their phone and carefully positioning it, capturing the moment through their lens and not really seeing the moment themselves. They are looking at that screen and missing what’s really happening. I’m also aware of an accomplice in the robbery of experience; me, watching.

There’s a moment in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty that comes to mind:
Sean: They call the snow leopard the ghost cat. Never lets itself be seen.
Mitty: Ghost cat.
Sean: Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.
Mitty: When are you going to take it?
Sean: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean: Yeah. Right there. Right here.

There is a place for photography as an art form and as a medium for sharing, absolutely. I love a good photograph; I love that sunset you watched last night, and those big smiles at that event you went to. But there is something missed when we don’t completely absorb in the wonderful moment in which we are are living without feeling the need to document and share it. Photography has lost its privacy; its subtly. People don’t store away private photo albums for close friends when they come over for tea. They share them digitally for 1000+ friends to look at, without the commentary and laughter that goes with the back story, the explanation from the photographer. The same goes for the art of writing a good status – condensing a real experience into a witty few lines, always keeping the potential likes in mind and the formula or structure needed to get as many as possible.

Not surprisingly, increasingly becoming an interesting area for research is the rise of narcissistic traits with social media. Research from California State University has shown that excessive use of social networking may well be linked to heaps of psychiatric problems, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, depression, voyeurism and obsessive-compulsive disorder to name a few. Those who are very active on Facebook and Twitter have been shown to often have narcissistic or insecure personalities, according to credible studies. As any person who uses social media is aware, and, as all assumptions must be, backed by research, is that those who frequently update Facebook statuses or post Tweets are doing it out of a narcissistic desire to glorify themselves. The addiction to ‘likes’ stems from that part of our brain that is pleasure seeking and goes back for more of what lit it up. The likes can become a source of security and approval; a basis for identity.

So my first blog post seems.. ironic? hypocritical?
I am sharing my private thoughts on a public online forum on how obsessed my world seems with sharing private thoughts and moments on online forums, to the detriment of both their full enjoyment of the moment, and their ongoing mental health.I was getting to another point that I’ll leave for a later blog.

But for now, I’ll just say, I have created this blog to write, hopefully about important things, and I’ll attempt to stay away from narcism where possible.