Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Meet Daysy

In my last post about coming off hormonal birth control I mentioned that I might do a follow up post about what I am doing regarding contraception now. Well, here it is - meet Daysy!

"What on earth is that?!", you might be thinking - and I don't blame you, as a few months ago I would have thought the same myself! This little gadget is a fertility monitor that you use every morning to take your temperature, and it then shows your current fertility status. Your basal body temperature rises slighty after you ovulate, so after using Daysy for a few months she will have an accurate knowledge of your cycle, and based on your temperature in the morning she will then give you either a green light (meaning you are infertile) or a red light (meaning that you are fertile) for that day. She might also give you a yellow light, which means she is either still learning about your cycle (I am getting all yellow lights at the minute) or there has been an unexpected temperature fluctuation, so you should abstain or use a barrier method. Of course, if you are planning to get pregnant then the Daysy is also a very useful tool for that, too!

If you are a natural sceptic like me, you may be wondering just how accurate this will be. Basically, it is a high-tech version of the Fertility Awareness Method (NOT the same as the Rhythm Method!) in which you chart your basal body temperature, plus other signs such as cervical fluid, to gauge your fertile window. However Daysy does your temperature charting for you; there is also a DaysyView app you can download for your mobile and you can sync your device with that. According to the Daysy website, it is 99.3% accurate. This is around the same rate as the pill and the implant, which are both 99% effective, if used correctly in the case of the pill. 

I will report back with my thoughts and findings about Daysy in a few months, after I have had a few cycles of use. If it is something you might be interested in, I highly recommend doing plenty of research, like I did, and reading a book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler which should, quite frankly, be a must read for anyone with a uterus! At the end of the day it's your body and you have to do what you're happy with. Right now for me, that is being as free from artificial hormones and chemicals as possible!

Have you tried FAM or a fertility monitor before, or is it something you would consider?

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Quitting Hormonal Birth Control - My Experience

Well, that's a rather serious blog post title! With what people might consider rather serious implications; however all is not as it seems - I am not trying to get pregnant, nor do I plan on it any time soon! I just thought I would share my story as it is something I have been very interested in lately.

Since around November I seem to have went rather 'hippie' with my approach to health and my body. It all started when I went vegetarian last March - since then I have been constantly educating myself about food and nutrition and believe that food is one of the best medicines we can use. I watch a lot of videos on veganism as, while I am not vegan, I do try and eat very little dairy etc and like to get meal ideas. While watching various videos by vegan YouTubers I stumbled across videos about hormonal birth control and why many vegans don't use it. Apart from the fact that many versions of the birth control pill contain dairy, putting artificial hormones in to your body can have so many negative side effects. It wasn't until I started watching these videos and then doing my own research that it really clicked with me how many of the symptoms I had. Some symptoms I had always attributed to my thyroid, but perhaps birth control was also having an affect too? I decided I wasn't going to use artificial hormones any more and that I would let my body get back to its normal, natural state of being.

I started taking the pill when I was around 17. Scarily enough, I took the pill in various forms for ten years - a decade! At which point I thought "Why am I taking a pill very day when I could get the implant and not worry about it?" so in September 2014 off I went to the doctor and had the Nexplanon implant inserted in to my arm. I really didn't give it too much consideration; I just thought it would be more convenient than taking a pill daily, plus the implant lasts for 3 years. Yet once I did my research I realised that the implant was affecting me much more than I thought. My main issues with it were:
  • Weight gain: (around a stone over the 16 months I had it)
  • Hair loss; (I have naturally thin hair but was losing loads)
  • Irregular periods;
  • Loss of libido; (TMI but a harsh reality - so many people complain of the same thing!)
  • Depressed mood;
  • Mood swings. (I was not fun to deal with! Apologies to my fiancé!)
I suppose as a contraceptive it was highly effective; you're definitely not going to get pregnant if you (a) have gained weight and feel self-conscious and crap, and (b) can't stand your partner touching you! I was a total nightmare. My moods were all over the place and at the time I couldn't understand why. I have always been a laid back person who enjoyed a good laugh but I felt like I was going slowly insane; being constantly grumpy and easily irritated, always putting on a show for others to make it look like I was ok... it wasn't me at all. 

I even went to the doctor several times about the low libido - I assumed it was due to my thyroid as that can affect sex drive. The first time my thyroid medication dosage was increased, with very little effect. A second visit resulted in a full blood test and hormone profile, which came back normal. A third visit resulted in a physical exam (which was normal) and talk of being referred to gynaecology and perhaps a therapist in case my issues were psychological! Honestly! Not once was it suggested that the implant might be to blame. And as for the irregular periods.... at first I went months without having any, then had one that lasted a fortnight, and after that they arrived whenever they felt like it! The last straw was in December - I had a period early in the month which was fairly light and lasted about 4 days so I thought that was me for a while, but no! Two weeks later I was in work one morning when I got the most horrific cramps - I just wanted to double over except I was in a meeting and had to grin and bear it. My period was back again, heavier than ever, and I had absolutely no provisions with me in work to deal with it. 

I had well and truly had enough and saw the doctor about having it removed. I got my implant taken out on the 12th January and already the difference is amazing. My cycle seems to have returned back to normal fairly quickly which is reassuring. I started what was either a period or a withdrawal bleed 2 days after the removal, and then I began tracking my cycle using the app Clue, which was very useful. I used cheap ovulation tests every day until I got a positive result on 6th February. I am definitely not wanting children any time soon, if at all, but it was still a relief to see a positive test and know that my body was doing what it should! I have minimal scarring from the implant, just a small red mark that I'm hoping will fade in colour over time.

Scar from implant removal - 8 days post removal
I may write future posts about what I am doing regarding contraception now that I am free from hormonal birth control, but so far I am very happy to be hormone free! My mood has improved dramatically which I am pleased about - I am more like my laid back self and much less grumpy. (Interestingly, my doctor said that the implant shouldn't cause mood swings as it is progesterone, however my own research uncovered forum threads about Nexplanon and so many women said it made them moody and grumpy and killed their libido, so I am not the only one!) I've noticed less hair loss, and libido seems to be on the right track too. My weight hasn't changed yet but I am starting back to the gym this week which will help; it is hard to shift weight with an under-active thyroid anyway! If you think that your birth control might be causing you any issues, perhaps have a think about what it might be doing to your body and consider what is best for you and your health!

I hope this has been in some way informative - let me know if you have experienced anything similar as I would be very interested in hearing other ladies' stories! 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Well I guess this is growing up...

Every time I return to this blog it's after a stupidly long break! However life has been very busy, and was pretty mad through 2015 so I feel I am finally finding some equilibrium, with a bit more free time which I could devote to writing again.

I have some topics in mind that I would like to write about, which are definitely more in the 'lifestyle' category so expect some of those coming up soon. In the meantime here is a bit of a catch up...

I briefly mentioned in a post last April that I had got engaged at Christmas 2014... well, the wedding is this year, August 2016, so there has been plenty of planning for that going on, and there is still more to come! I'm not sure if any of the planning process really warrants being documented right now, but perhaps I will afterwards when I can discuss things more!

I welcomed in 2015 in Phuket, Thailand, and also had two trips to Scotland and one trip to Westport, Co. Mayo. Would you believe that I had three different jobs in 2015?! I started the year in a civil service job that I really liked, however it was always a temporary contract that I knew was coming to an end mid-March that year. I then got a new job at the end of March in a large law firm, which sounded a lot more promising than it was in reality! It was a very long commute (55 miles each way) and after a failed car share arrangement and weeks of bus craziness, I finally got my first car out of sheer necessity! I love my wee Micra though, she has been a life saver!

I was only at the law firm for a few months when I realised that I simply could not keep it up for much longer. I was totally sleep deprived, had no home life worth speaking of and to be honest, I felt like my mental health was beginning to suffer, too. I spent a few months applying for every job under the sun and then at the end of September I got something that I had been looking for since I finished University in 2009... A PERMANENT JOB! It was a miracle! I am still so thankful for my new job every day. It is much closer to home, in a small company and they are the nicest people you could ever ask to work for.

I also became vegetarian last March and haven't looked back, and I further embraced my crazy cat lady tendencies by volunteering at a cattery most weekends, which is messy and smelly and heartbreaking and soul soothing all at once! It's not for everyone, but I really felt that I wanted to do something selfless, and I love animals (cats especially) so I stared volunteering in September. I go almost every Saturday morning unless I have something else on. It takes 2 or 3 hours and then I still have the rest of the day ahead of me.

So really, I am finally accepting the fact that I am twenty eight years old; undeniably an adult now and it is time to not only embrace this, but also to learn about  myself a bit more! So that is some of what this blog will reflect and my ramblings will focus on these days... I hope you stick around for a mixture of everything that is to come!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Becoming Vegetarian

I actually had a mini internal debate with myself about writing a post on this - "Lauren, no one cares about your eating habits!" and "Anyone who might actually read your blog these days doesn't want to be preached at" - but the thing is, I'm not here to preach at anyone and also, while people may not care what I eat, some might be interested in the story behind it. That's what blogs are after all; stories from someone else's life. Plus, a while down the line, it might be interesting to look back on my own post and remind myself of what steered towards a lifestyle I had never really considered before.

I've always ate meat. I don't know of any vegetarians in my family when I was growing up and am only aware of one cousin now who eats a plant based diet! I love animals and always admired vegetarians because of their "will power" when it came to not eating meat. But I've now realised that will power has nothing to do with it.

Instagram is what started it all off. (What a very 2015 phrase!) I follow lots of healthy eating and fitness accounts, and had noticed my cousin Briana was in to healthy eating, especially a plant based diet. She told me about Freelee the Banana Girl on YouTube and one day I decided to check out her videos. While I watched in mild amusement at the thought of eating so many bananas everrrry daaaay (I'm not a huge fan of bananas!) a lot of what she said about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle made sense and was definitely appealing; mainly the health benefits and of course the fact that I wouldn't be contributing to the suffering of animals.

Following that I watched a few things on Netflix; Food Inc., Vegucated, and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead are the main ones I can remember. I also watched more YouTube videos including 101 Reasons to Go Vegan, and Gary Yourofsky's speech to a college class. I cried at some stage during all of those documentaries and videos. I cannot stand to watch cruelty to animals and the suffering that they endure all because people want to eat meat and dairy products is heartbreaking. The vision in our heads of happy cows and pigs and chickens on the farm, happily grazing in the sunshine, are far removed from the reality of where our meat comes from. (Apologies if  this is beginning to sound preachy, I don't mean it to be, it's just facts.)

The reality of it is upsetting, and horrific for the animals involved. If someone treated one dog or cat in the same way as meat and dairy animals are treated, it would probably make the news and there would be outrage (remember the uproar over the lady who put a cat in a wheelie bin? And there are frequent reports of those who are neglectful of their own dogs being charged with animal cruelty), yet it happens every day to millions of animals all over the world, all for us to eat their flesh. One night after watching one of the Netflix documentaries I was making gammon for dinner. As I prepared it all I could think of was the pigs filmed in the slaughterhouses, squealing and crying and well aware that they are about to be killed. I knew I couldn't continue eating meat.

I have now been vegetarian for a month and I have to say that on the whole, I don't miss meat. On one occasion when ordering something from the chippy, I did get a pang of jealousy for my fiancé's chicken goujons, but I only have to think of poor chickens who rarely see the light of day and are overfed so that their carcasses look better on the supermarket shelf, and any desire for a goujon is gone. Onion rings are the way forward!

You may have noticed that most of the videos I watched that contributed to my decision were based on a vegan lifestyle, yet I have not became vegan. In fact as I mentioned in my last post, I even hesitate to call myself vegetarian - preferring to say that I've cut down on eating meat - mainly because of the questioning it tends to evoke! I have definitely cut back on my consumption of dairy; I use dairy free spread and almond or soy milk at home, but in work I've still been stuck with cow's milk for my tea! As of next week I am bringing soy milk with me. I do love cheese but to be honest 
I wouldn't be eating a huge amount of it normally, anyway. It's now mainly a topping for a pasta bake or pie if I make one (not to mention that most veggie options in restaurants tend to include cheese!).

As for eggs, my fiancé's business is in free range eggs so not only are they free for us, but I know for a fact that his chickens are treated well and are truly free range, wandering outside in the fields all day. If these eggs were not available I would not buy eggs at all as the treatment of hens in the egg industry is just as bad.

While I ultimately decided to give up meat for both the sake of the animals and also my own long term health (reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer), the immediate health benefits I have felt in the last month have really surprised me. Here is what I've experienced so far:

More energy, decreased lethargy
Better digestion, less bloating
Mental clarity, less brain fog
Better mood
Weight loss (9lbs so far)
Nails that actually grow

Most people probably don't suffer with lethargy, slow digestion, brain fog, bad moods and their weight to the extent that I do in the first place, as I have an under active thyroid, i.e: hypothyroidism. It makes you feel like crap, basically. It means my whole body is under active in every way, and I've got so used to being lethargic, tired, bloated and grumpy all the time that I had no idea how bad it was until I started feeling better. I no longer start falling asleep after lunch (despite my new job requiring a 6am alarm) or feel almost incapable of conversation after 3pm (brain fog at its finest). I haven't been to the gym in over a month due to my new job, and sit at a desk all day, yet I've dropped 9lbs without even trying. I had previously went to the gym 3 or 4 times a week for months and my weight merely fluctuated by a few lbs before rocketing up again! My body clearly likes being vegetarian so far and that is a huge benefit for me.

My vegetarian shepherd's pie

I am finally feeling human again and that, plus the health and happiness of animals everywhere, is keeping me on this lifestyle. Will I be a vegetarian forever?  I don't know. Why lock myself in a box in case I need to get out of it one day? However I really can't see me reverting to my old ways any time soon!

Are any of you vegetarian or vegan? I'd love to know your stories! Also if anyone is interested in a post or even video about what I eat please let me know, I know they're popular on YouTube! You can also follow me on Instagram for the odd meal photo too!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Life & Other Stuff

With blogging there is always times of writer's block and times when life gets in the way (cliché, I know!) however for me both of these reasons have been true. Inspiration doesn't rear its head often so when it struck again recently I thought I should make the most of it.

I still love my makeup and beauty products, however I have neither the time nor the money to try as much as I once did! I feel like this blog always did verge on a lifestyle blog too and that will probably be more of the direction it could go, should I continue to give it a go!

Plenty of things happened after I gave up on my 120 to Thailand series... funnily enough, I went to Thailand and had an amazing time! I would definitely recommend it and would love to go back, it's just all the travel that I dislike! I also got engaged at Christmas, started yet another new job and most recently decided to stop eating meat... I still hesitate to say that I'm a vegetarian just because as soon as I put a label on it people start questioning me and offering their advice and opinions on the matter and warning me how ill be anaemic in no time. (Ok great thanks for the warning... how about you give me such advice after you become a doctor or nutritionist!) Perhaps my choice to stop eating meat will be a blog post in the future!

Anyway, to anyone who happens to actually read this, THANK YOU, and hopefully you'll hear from me again soon!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Day 10: #120toThailand

I'm managing to climb back on to the bandwagon, slowly but surely!

I brought two egg muffins to work and had those with some salami, really easy breakfast that I'll be making more often! Ten o'clock tea break was my usual serving of nuts plus some grapes. Lunch was soup followed by sugar free jelly. Dinner this evening was more soup, some smoked applewood cheese on toast, and homemade coleslaw from my mum. Easy meals but satisfying.

I managed about 3.5 litres today but I feel like I could have managed more. Will see how I do tomorrow.

Back to the gym today, always a shock to the system after a weekend of rest. During the front squats the coach saw what I was lifting and shouted "Lauren, more weight!" which is both terrifying and encouraging at the same time; I need to have more faith in my squats, obviously! The workout was tough, especially doing deadlifts and burpees immediately after the running. However I was lifting heavier deadlifts than usual for the workout and I also feel that my knees to chests are improving, I am much more stable and less wobbly now. It's always good to notice even small changes.

I got my Passport application sent off! WOOHOO. Now let's please all cross our fingers and toes and hope it arrives in time!! I also had an appointment with the nurse to sort out what vaccinations I will need, so I have those ordered and booked in for October time. Can't wait,,,, *AHEM*

Days 8 & 9: #120toThailand

Well what can I say... it was the weekend and I am but human.... I think my indiscretions were sliiiightly evened out by my good food?!

Saturday started well with a bowl of porridge with raspberries and peanut butter, YUM. Also some egg muffins I quickly whipped up - diced red pepper, scallions and egg with some cheese on top, baked for 20 minutes. I made four altogether and had the other two in the afternoon as a snack. Dinner was homemade pizza, as my boyfriend was getting a takeaway so I thought homemade was preferable! The crust was a simple dough of greek yoghurt and self-raising flour, and I used light mozarella, feta cheese, salami and spinach on top. Sadly there is just no getting away from how awful flour is. Oh dear. I also had a bar of Oreo chocolate after when the pizza baby had calmed down.

On Sunday I also got off to a good start of egg muffins with spinach, salami and some olive oil and balsamic dressing. However, we were watching the All Ireland Final and I am sad to say I gave in to temptation of a bag of McCoys and a Rocky biscuit. Dinner was homemade chicken and vegetable soup.

I think I managed about 3 litres each day, which was a good effort for me at home all day. I don't know why I struggle so much at the weekend!

I got my passport photos printed out for my application, gathered up all the necessary documents, and got my mum's neighbour to sign the photos for me. Pretty good going there!

I won't let a few bad food choices knock me back to much, everything in moderation!