[wellness] How to write the PERFECT New Year’s resolution that will stick – and avoid giving up on it.

How to design New-Year’s resolutions that stick:

This time of year, many people are looking back on the past year and wondering how the new one could be better. It’s a time for self-reflection and honesty. Here’s a step by step of how to write some New Year’s resolutions you can really take forward into next year:

dieting for new years never works

1. Remember that change comes from inside yourself, not from other people. If your resolution requires someone else to swoop in and change your life, you’re setting yourself up for failure from day one. So how does that affect a resolution such as “find love” or similar? Instead of focussing on “getting” a partner, “starting” a relationship etc, let it happen naturally, make sure you like the person you’re seeing for something more than the relationship status, and don’t place the burden of your internal emotional wellbeing on their shoulders, whatever relationship configuration you might be in – that is your basket to carry and it is unreasonable to expect other people to take it – they have their own!  Perhaps “go on more dates” or “meet more people” would be more achievable because there’s a definite touchable thing you can do about these resolutions, whereas “find love” is very needy and you can’t really make it happen by yourself.

2. Ask yourself, “do I actually want to change the habit, or just the end result?” For example, if you eat too much of the wrong things, do you really want to stop doing that or just lose weight? If it’s the latter, your resolution won’t stick. You need to want to have a life without donuts, cigarettes or meat for that resolution to work, otherwise it’s just forcing you to be something that you’re not. Can you re-write your resolution or re-vision it so that it’s achievable?

3. Can you actually control whether or not you get the thing you want? For example, if your resolution is to have a baby or to drive from Morocco to Algeria (Algeria’s borders have been closed for years), these are beyond your control. A New Year’s RESOLUTION is something you RESOLVE to do next year. Something you can control and make happen. So “taking snowboarding lessons” is a great New Year’s Resolution, while “winning the gold at the Winter Olympics” is not (that’s a dream or an ambition). Ditch a resolution that’s too fatalistic.

4. Do you have the means to achieve your goal? On my “things to do before I’m 30” list, I had “Circumnavigate the globe in a boat.” I can’t afford a boat or yachting lessons, so it wasn’t an achievable goal. Is there a more affordable goal you could work towards instead?

5. Are there elements of your life which will conflict with your resolution, and will you have to make far greater lifestyle changes to enact that resolution?

For example, when I worked at McDonalds, I could never have quit smoking because I needed that time out of the store, where I got to go outside and just think and time my escape, and as a non-smoker it’s awkward to just go outside and stand there for ten minutes when you work at a busy train station. On top of that my housemate smoked like a train – indoors. When I quit McDonalds, moved in with a non-smoker and got an office job, quitting smoking was easy. What would you need to change in your life to make your resolutions work? Are these changes realistic and how long would they take?

6. Make your resolution really specific: Word it so you will know what it looks like when it’s been achieved.  Once you’ve got a resolution, write down three things you are going to do to achieve it – one should be right now, the second should be in the next couple of weeks and the third should be in a month or two; regular work towards a goal helps it materialize.

I hope some of this provokes some introspection about your resolutions so you can write stronger achievable resolutions that will make you feel really good about yourself this year. What do you think? Have you re-written any of your resolutions or are you keeping to them?

How to build an igloo

So with all the boxing day snow we’ve been having, I decided to show you how to build an igloo; we built this in our drive in 2013:

1. Get some large plastic boxes:  Recycling boxes or storage boxes will do just fine for igloo building.  A packing crate isn’t very good as it’s not very strong and the sides are full of holes so the snow falls out instead of making solid igloo ice blocks.

This is the sort of box we used for the first layer - it's a 70 litre plastic box.  The lid wasn't much use.
This is the sort of box we used for the first layer of igloo ice blocks – it’s a 70 litre plastic box. The lid wasn’t much use.

2. Fill the boxes with snow.  Pack the snow down in the box to make giant bricks of ice.  You will need to repeat steps 2 and 3 a lot to make an igloo.

These are the stronger plastic boxes we used to make the bricks from the 2nd layer upwards.  I don't know where they're from - my OH was using them to store Lego before this.
These are the stronger plastic boxes we used to make the bricks from the 2nd layer upwards. I don’t know where they’re from – my OH was using them to store Lego before this.

3. Tip the boxes upside down in a circle (leave room for an igloo door) and pat the bottom to get the snow-bricks out (see picture):

This was the first layer from a different angle.  We left loads of room for the doorway.
This was the first layer of blocks for the igloo from a different angle. As you can see our first box cracked and we used a smaller one for the igloo’s other layers (which made our igloo really strong). We left loads of room for the doorway.

4. Once you have a complete layer, do the same above – but don’t line the bricks up (think about how brick walls are built), and make sure the ice blocks are facing slightly inwards so your bricks eventually meet at the top.

This was what our igloo looked like at our halfway point.  The igloo doorway was improved with bricks set at a different angle for structural stability.
This was what our igloo looked like at our halfway point. The igloo doorway was improved with ice bricks set at a different angle for structural stability.

5. At the top of the igloo, you have two choices – some people prefer to build a capstone out of ice, to stop everything from falling apart.  Otherwise, leave a hole in the top to let air in.  We left a hole in the top of ours.

This is what it looked like when it was nearly finished.  The MDF at the front was used as a door when we camped out in it over night and to keep cats out while we were building.
This is what our igloo looked like when it was nearly finished. The MDF at the front was used as a door when we camped out in the igloo overnight and to keep foxes out while we were building.

6. We used polystyrene and wire mesh to support the door of our igloo because the size of our ice blocks (and the ambient temperature being only -5 or so) meant the whole structure may have collapsed if we hadn’t used any support.  Smaller boxes (than 70 litres) or hardening the blocks of ice using cold water would have both prevented this problem, but it wasn’t cold enough for water-hardening the ice blocks and they just melted when we tried it.    For the amount of time we put into building this igloo, I was very happy to complete it and didn’t worry too much about it being 100% Eskimo-worthy.  Whether you end up with a perfect building made only of ice or not, you will feel damn proud when you go inside your finished igloo.

This is what the finished igloo looked like.  It took us about 5 hours to build, including a break every hour or so when we went indoors to defrost.
This is what the finished igloo looked like. It took us about 5 hours to build, including a break every hour or so when we went indoors to defrost.

7. Now admire your igloo.  Can you sleep in an igloo?  Definitely!  We camped out in ours with some roll mats and a double sleeping bag and it was surprisingly cosy (although we did this wearing serious layers).  It also confused the neighbours which was hilarious.

This is the finished result.  We had a LOT of fun in this igloo last year.  Hope it snows as much this year so we can build another one in our new house (and get some better pics)!
This is the finished igloo. We had a LOT of fun in this igloo last year. Hope it snows as much this year so we can build another igloo in our new house (and get some better pics)!

8.  Take plenty of photos and share them with me via Twitter @invokedelight so I can see your awesome creations!

Have you built an igloo?  Share your igloo pics with me on Twitter!  Who needs an expensive package holiday to Iceland?  You can do this in your own front garden!

How to design an INSPIRATIONAL rabbit hutch

How to design an inspirational rabbit hutch:  Designing a hutch for your bunnies

Today I want to talk to you about how to design a great hutch for your bunnies; I don’t have a specific design for you to copy, although plenty of the ones here are for sale.  I hope you are inspired to build or buy your own fantastic hutch for your precious bunnies.  Updated to remove Amazon links.

Available at www.petplanet.co.uk
Hexagonal rabbit hutch, available at http://www.petplanet.co.uk

We have designed and made three hutches so far, in all three instances we used the original hutches that we acquired with the rabbits. In the case of one hutch, we deemed it too uninviting to modify it, so it sits out in one of the runs as a playhouse instead, on the understanding that we’d never leave any rabbit in that run for more than a few hours if we need them all outdoors (i.e. if we’re vacuuming, doing home improvement etc). There’s already plenty of articles about specific hutches, I wanted to discuss more generally how to ensure your exciting hutch project meets your rabbits needs (and your own) and how this factors into the design process.

Consider the basic minimum for welfare:

Check out laws in your state, in case they’re different. Most states recognise rabbits as “exotic pets” which makes no sense to me – they’re as common as cats and dogs, and are native to the USA, so why exactly are they classed as exotics, like monkeys and weird spiders? In the UK, they are just classed as standard pets, and this means there’s laws about how they should be kept. In the UK, rabbit hutches should be at least 6X2X2 feet. In the USA, there’s no minimum, but welfare charities recommend the 6X2X2 rule there, too (for a standard sized rabbit, i.e. one that is about 2 feet long when resting stretched out – if you have a giant rabbit, the hutch size recommended is 9X3X3). While there is no recommendation about dwarf rabbits, we can do the same calculations and arrive at 5X18”X18” as a conservative (generous in favour of the rabbits) estimate. This is the bare minimum size your total rabbit housing space should be. Make it bigger, by all means! This doesn’t include any outdoor space e.g. if the rabbit hutch has a run permanently attached to the front. All rabbits housed outdoors need a run. The run needs to be at least 36 square feet, or 6 by 6 (8 by 4 is also apparently acceptable). Indoor rabbits are recommended to have outdoor access if at all possible, but there’s no recommendations for the amount of indoor space.

large rabbit hutch amazon

This outdoor hutch design would look beautiful in a bedroom or lounge – I’d tile a floor underneath it and cover the whole of the bottom level with hay to give an outdoor style environment.

How much time will your rabbit spend in their hutch?

Be realistic. Do they only come out for an hour at dinner time? Do you plan for them to roam free in a particular room 24/7? Do you want them to run around the house but only while you’re in it? Think about how much time the rabbit will spend in their hutch. If they’re going to be closed inside while you’re in bed and at work, that’s about 16 hours a day of hutch time. Scale up the space accordingly. You wouldn’t want to live out the majority of your days in a space that’s your height (height) x your height (width) x four times your height (length), would you? Think about what you would like if you were a rabbit. You’d probably want to run around a bit, and have room to binky (happy jump) and stretch as well as room to sleep and impersonate a bunny slipper.

This gorgeous crate is cunningly disguised as a coffee table and would be suitable for a 24/7 free roaming houserabbit, or even overnight accommodation for your houserabbit if it was decked out with food, water, hay and toys, although if your rabbit is in his house a lot, you definitely need something bigger.
This gorgeous crate is cunningly disguised as a coffee table and would be suitable for a 24/7 free roaming houserabbit, or even overnight accommodation for your houserabbit if it was decked out with food, water, hay and toys, although if your rabbit is in his house a lot, you definitely need something bigger.

Assess your rabbits needs:

Do they like to climb? Do they like to run around? If you left a dining chair out, would your rabbit climb on it? Do you have high ceilings? Do you have lots of floorspace? These factors affect whether you build a tall hutch, with lots of platforms and climbing spaces, or whether you build a short hutch with lots of horizontal space. If you have a low ceiling, a tall hutch isn’t your best solution. Likewise, if the rabbits are scared of climbing back down when they’ve jumped onto the couch, or if they’ve got a bad leg, they probably won’t suit a tall hutch. In this case, you would probably choose a hutch that took up a lot of floor space but with room above it for your own storage, e.g. wall shelves.

The dimensions are quite small but you could use it for dwarf rabbits or for inspiration of how to modify an existing hutch to make an exciting living space for your bunnies.
The dimensions are quite small but you could use it for dwarf rabbits or for inspiration of how to modify an existing hutch to make an exciting living space for your bunnies.

How awesome is the window box???!

If you have limited floor space, build upwards. Even if your ceiling is only seven feet high, that’s still a pretty tall rabbit hutch (you want the highest platform to be reachable for cleaning, and the roof of the hutch needs to be placed high enough to allow the rabbits to comfortably stand upright on their back legs).

This behemoth from www.rehutches.com has four floors of bunny play space and a storage locker for hay and food, making the most of a tall room.  I'd put this in my living room.
This behemoth from http://www.rehutches.com has four floors of bunny play space and a storage locker for hay and food, making the most of a tall room. I’d put this in my living room.
Rehutches also does this wider tall hutch option for people with more space.  I love the attic window!
Rehutches also does this wider tall hutch option for people with more space. I love the attic window!

Decide what you can afford, comfortably build, and fit in your house reasonably:

Don’t spend money that you don’t have on a rabbit hutch. You will resent your rabbits if they’re living in a palace and you’re out on the street asking them if you can stay the night, because you didn’t make your rent this month. Yes, it is natural to want the absolute best for your bunnies, they are part of your herd. However, they also like living in a forever home with happy humans. To this end, make sure you budget sensibly for your rabbit hutch or hutch building project. While budgeting, you may be looking at your various options and thinking “hey, it’s only wood and metal, right? I could build this myself!” If you have the skills, or think it’s within your ability to learn, then great, good on you. If on the other hand you last used a drill to make a beer bucket in 1993, perhaps this is a job best left to the professionals. The cost of a ready-built rabbit hutch (or flat packed) can be extortionate, and many companies only offer a one-shape fits all approach, with the most common options being all that’s available. It’s up to you, and there’s a fine balance between budgeting and build skill. The final consideration here is whether it will fit in your home. If you’ve got a specific space earmarked for bunnies, it might be better to go down the custom-made route. Design the space, see what you can make yourself, see if there’s anything for sale that would substitute for the bits you can’t make yourself, and if all else fails, ring a custom rabbit hutch maker and have your serious money ready because custom made rabbit hutches can be shockingly expensive.

Join two of these simple 55 inch panel rabbit runs together in a room (they're modular, like lego, so you can make a big rectangle or circle with enough panels).  Team it with some good tile flooring and plenty of hay and toys and a few platforms to get the perfect houserabbit's indoor rabbit home.
Join two of these simple 55 inch panel rabbit runs together in a room (they’re modular, like lego, so you can make a big rectangle or circle with enough panels) to make the walls. Team it with some good tile or wooden flooring, wall protection, a litter tray and plenty of hay and toys and a few platforms to get the perfect houserabbit’s indoor rabbit home.  Add food, water and a rabbit or two and you’re good to go.  For larger breeds or more rabbits, just add more Panel Runs.

The rabbit run above is available from most pet retailers worldwide.  Sometimes they’re called puppy pens.  I have two of these, 16 panels in total, which provide structural support to my Bunny Village where four of my six rabbits live.

Look around for inspiration:
A google image search of rabbit accommodation, rabbit housing, house rabbits and rabbit hutches comes up with lots of good results, although on the last two there’s a lot of rubbish to trawl through as well. The best thing about getting inspiration from other people’s pictures is that often you can find a way to simplify what they have done, and adapt it to make the ideal environment for your bunnies.

This is the sort of awesome rabbit home you can build using the panel runs I mentioned above.
This is the sort of awesome rabbit home you can build using the panel runs I mentioned above.

The above photo sourced from: http://bunniesaspets.com/house-rabbit/

Get designing:

Remember to do a more detailed sketch after the first, rough sketch, where your lines are drawn with a ruler and a scale, your materials are labelled and listed, and features are explained briefly. I like square paper for anything like this. If you’re open ended or uncertain about which materials to use, a quick browse of DIY stores can help. Otherwise, you could ask a member of staff at a DIY store (although some people have conceptualization problems when it comes to building something that’s slightly outside the box – these people get confused and think you want to make one of those tiny, 3 foot outdoor rabbit hutches that evil people leave their poor bunnies in. If you get stuck with a cretin, just smile and nod and go elsewhere). Also bear in mind that you are under absolutely NO obligation to buy something just because the sales advisor has spoken to you about a product. It’s okay to say “thanks, that’s really helpful, once my design is final, I’ll come back with measurements” then work out where you can get the cheapest bargain.

If you have the room in your garden, this giant hutch (it's more of a rabbit annexe or outhouse) from www.rehutch.com would be amazing even for a bonded quintet of giant rabbits!  You could build something similar using two garden sheds and some wood and wire, and make the bit in the middle roofless (cover in wire instead) so the grass continues to grow.  Not very handy with a saw?  The guys at Rehutch will probably custom make something for you.
If you have the room in your garden, this giant hutch (it’s more of a rabbit annexe or outhouse) from http://www.rehutch.com would be amazing even for a bonded quintet of giant rabbits! You could build something similar using two garden sheds and some wood and wire, and make the bit in the middle roofless (cover in wire instead) so the grass continues to grow. Not very handy with a saw? The guys at Rehutch will probably custom make something for you, I’ve never met them but their website seems very rabbit-friendly.

Get making:

This stage might include cutting wood and screwing it together. Or it might include clipping together a flat packed hutch from amazon. Whatever hutch design you’ve gone with, this is the stage where it will start taking shape. Remember to test your hutch for stability before moving the rabbits in, the only thing worse than the hutch falling down with them in, is when they crawl out afterwards, scared and confused, and electrocute themselves on an exposed wire you never expected them to get close enough to chew. Don’t let this happen.

Banacek waits for Jason to come home with carrots.
Banacek’s hutch is 6 foot wide, 6 foot tall and two feet deep, and was custom built by someone who’s handy with a saw and nails (not me).


Admire your new hutch:

This is the best stage. Take photos, take videos, introduce the rabbits to their new home, show your friends and the Internet. Feel proud that you conceptualized this and have seen it through to the end, you’re officially awesome. Bunnies sometimes take a few days to feel settled in a new home, so their initial reaction can sometimes be a bit icy, but they will grow to like their new, spacious, fun rabbit home.

Fad diets 2: Fruitarianism vs Juicearianism

This article about Fruitarianism and Juicearianism is part 2 of a 5 part series. Read part 1 here: Part 1: Raw Veganism  Part 3 is here: Part 3: Sproutarianism

Today, I’m discussing Fruitarianism and Juicarianism.  I decided to do them both together because some people get them confused – and for good reason, since they both involve lots of fruit.  Here’s my table of information for the diets examined in this series (with macrobiotic and vegetarianism being included for baseline comparisons). Click to enlarge:

Table of comparison of vegan diets
I’ve included the first three for comparison – I’m not actually going to talk about macrobiotic, ovovegetarianism or regular veganism.

Fruitarianism
The garden of Eden, an idyllic, beautiful, perfect place where man and woman lived innocently at one with the Earth. Even most Christians believe Eden was a metaphor for our different state of existence before God changed us as a species due to the Original Sin. Fruitarians? They see Eden as a valid and workable diet plan. It really sparks the imagination and I can see why people would try this as a way of connecting with their environment through consumption. But from a nutritional point of view it’s a terrible idea. Some religions follow this way of eating, and it was incorporated into the original Creationist Diet (a real diet, which I will compare to the Paleo Diet when I’ve researched them both).

The rules: You must only eat fruit, right? Actually, according to http://www.thefruitarian.com there are many different interpretations of what it means to be a fruitarian:
“Here are some common definitions associated with a Fruitarian diet:
Wikipedia: Fruitarianism involves the practice of following a diet that includes fruits, nuts and seeds, without animal products, vegetables and grains.
Dictionary.com: a person whose diet consists chiefly of fruit.
UrbanDictionary.com: A person of extreme dietary discipline who eats only the reproductive offshoots of plants.
Princeton.edu: People whose diet consists of 75% or more fruit.
Fruitarian.com: The fruitarian diet consists of RAW fruit and seeds ONLY!”
Source: http://www.thefruitarian.com/content/what-fruitarianism

So there’s a lot of scope here for trying different configurations of fruitarianism and seeing which one suits your body best. At a 75% fruit mark, this also allows you to bring in other foods, although it would depend on your individual beliefs as to what you would eat in the other 25%.

Fruitarians eat fruit and nuts

The Benefits: Getting back to nature and to a natural diet that can be eaten without processed or chemically-enhanced food seems to be an underlying theme to many of these diets, but fruitarianism does it in a way that still involves a lot of variety, with people using very different decision making processes to select foods – for some people, reducing their carbon footprint is important, for others, decisions are made by only eating local foods that would have been found if there was no city where they lived, and for others still, it’s about developing and following instincts about which fruit they should eat. Aside from the environmental benefits to eating fruitarian, adherents claim (the same as raw vegans) that they get significantly more energy from their foods than they did “before” however, I would argue rationally that it’s the developed consciousness of eating and sense of interconnectedness that is causing them to select foods that naturally contain more energy (plus all the fruit sugars), rather than adhering to any restrictive doctrine as critics have accused.

The Drawbacks: Deficiencies all over the place! As a fruitarian, if you avoided nuts/seeds, there are many vitamins, minerals and amino acids that you couldn’t get.  The problem is still present to a lesser extent even if you do eat nuts and seeds.

Sugar intake! The biggest issue is that there is far too much sugar (specifically fructose) in fruits. According to Dr Mercola, an advocate of unbiased un-moneyed medical information: “Fructose, a simple sugar found in fruit, is preferentially metabolized to fat in your liver, and eating large amounts has been linked to negative metabolic and endocrine effects. So eating very large amounts – or worse, nothing but fruit – can logically increase your risk of a number of health conditions, from insulin and leptin resistance to cancer.
For example, research has shown that pancreatic tumor cells use fructose, specifically, to divide and proliferate, thus speeding up the growth and spread of the cancer.”
Steve Jobs, often lauded as the “different thinker” who was the most famous fruitarian so far, died of pancreatic cancer. Ashton Kutcher, in preparation for his role in the Steve Jobs film, ate a fruitarian diet for six months and had to stop due to pancreas problems. Additional to pancreas problems, as mentioned in the quote above, sugar converts to fat in the liver, so eating crazy amounts of carbohydrates (the scientific name for sugar, prolific in fruits) will make you gain weight, as you can see for yourself from the number of people seeking help for weight gain in the 30 Bananas a Day forums.

Inadequate dietary fat intake! The main sources of fat in a fruitarian diet are avocado and coconut fat. On the “80/10/10” diet that is referred to by many fruitarians and raw vegans, 80% of the calories are carbohydrates, 10% fats and 10% protein. This produces problems with huge amounts of sugars (carbohydrates is the fancy name for sugars, remember), and insufficient amounts of protein and fat. “Fat” is a blanket term and covers a group of substances, and you need to eat a variety of these, not just two sources. Essential fatty acids are highly difficult to get into a 100% strict fruitarian diet, or a 75% fruitarian, 25% raw vegan one, as these need to come from food sources that don’t exist in these dietary configurations (amendment on January 7th 2015: you can get the correct amounts of essential fatty acids – the two we need are Omega 3 and Omega 6 – from eating a lot of linseeds or supplementing your diet with cold pressed linseed gelatin free capsules – although the companies don’t explain how they make the capsules so these might not be 100% raw-friendly).

Inadequate dietary protein intake! All proteins are not created equal, and it’s an oversimplification to just say “I will get all my protein from nuts.” They are very high in protein (pistachio nuts are one of the highest sources of protein of anything ever) but protein is a collective name for a group of substances made up of amino acids, and it’s the amino acids that you actually need. Saying “there’s protein in nuts” is like saying “there’s vitamins in an orange” both statements are true, but they don’t tell you which protein (or vitamins in the orange) are in the nuts, and this can and does lead to protein deficiencies which can make you lethargic, sluggish, confused and tired. Some amino acids are extremely difficult or impossible to obtain in the fruitarian diet.

High fibre issues! You will shit like a cow in a field for a few weeks until your body gets used to the fibre in all this fruit. It will be watery, smelly and prolific both in frequency and volume. Even then, you will still never shit the same until you change your diet. Fruitarians often explain this discrepancy and the associated digestive issues of bloating and flatulence as “your digestive system changing to attune itself to the fruitarian diet.” I’m not so sure about that, but one thing’s for certain – anything that gives you diarrhea is going to stop you absorbing water, leading to dehydration (which will make it seem like you’re losing weight).

Vitamin deficiencies! There are issues getting enough iron, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, selenium and iodine. Vitamin K is often mentioned, but there are plenty of fruitarian sources although planning is required to obtain adequate intake. Here is a list of fruits containing vitamin K: http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-009104000000000000000-w.html?maxCount=38

Fruitarians eat fruit and nuts

Conclusion:

The ideal behind fruitarianism is a very romanticized one, I could imagine a lot of upper class Georgians partaking in it, but it is lacking in a lot of major nutrients and more studies need to be done to find out how this affects the human body over various lengths of time. As a conclusion, I think doing this for any period longer than a few months is not safe, and alternating between this and a less restrictive diet is probably necessary for optimum health. It is certainly not a diet you can get by without seriously thinking about what you eat, and planning every meal carefully to avoid large-scale deficiencies.

Sources on fruitarianism:
http://www.incrediblesmoothies.com/raw-food-diet/faq/are-fruitarian-diets-really-healthy/
http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/open-lett/open-letter-f-1a.shtml
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/02/11/all-fruit-diet.aspx

Juicearianism
As extreme diets go, juicearianism is out there. Some people see a diet consisting only of liquids to be the antidote to the wholesale tooth decay problems associated with raw vegan and fruitarian diets. Certainly, the high fibre content of raw vegan and fruitarian foods damage tooth enamel, but the strong acids released from the plant cells when they’re juiced or blended also damage your teeth – in the form of acid erosion. Juicing as a long-term diet solution or incorporating repeated short-term juicing episodes (several days – between 4 and 40 – of only drinking juice) into your regular diet is extremely dangerous.

How it’s different to fruitarianism: It’s vastly different to fruitarianism because, while the fruits are raw, you throw away large parts of the fruit to make juice.  When I first heard about this diet, I just thought people meant that they drank smoothies all the time, I had no idea anyone would try to subsist on fruit juice.  Of all the diets I researched for this article series, juicearianism scored 43 on nutrition, compared to a score of 129 for ovo-vegetarian (dairy free vegetarian).  That’s 1/3 of the nutrients.  That’s not calories, or fat, or anything bad, that was scored purely on the bits that you actually need to take into your body to survive.  Without 2/3 of your basic nutrients, you would become very ill after a few weeks.

Fruit Juice
The Benefits:
Adherents claim they lose weight. Maybe it’s because all their hair falls out (presumably they lose weight because they’re not actually eating anything).

The Drawbacks: EVERYTHING ABOUT THE JUICEARIAN DIET IS STUPID!! I was trying to write this article from an impartial and enquiring minds point of view and every other diet (except breatharianism but that doesn’t really count) I’m discussing in this article series does seem to have some merit to the idealism and philosophy behind it. Juicearianism is just stupid. According to WebMD, the juicing fad leaves you lacking in protein and dietary fibre. This will cause constipation, dizziness and hair loss, all side effects experienced by juicearians, which they pass off as “healing” when caused by juice and “dangerous” when caused by starting to eat real food again.
In the words of the Wall Street Journal: “The question isn’t just whether these techniques work. It’s whether the body is overwhelmed by toxins to begin with.” This for me is the fundamental problem – there’s an assumption that we need to get rid of toxins, and that drinking lots of glasses of fruit juice will accomplish this. It’s all just a ruse to get you to buy a $400 juicer (according to webMD) as part of a $5 billion industry (according to Marie Claire). The consequences of following this diet can be seen in this article about “juicerexia” – which shows how juicing can lead to anorexia: http://www.marieclaire.com/health-fitness/news/a7601/cleansings-dirty-secret/   What is really unfortunate is that the people selling juicers and juice books don’t seem to care that they are making people seriously ill.

Conclusion:
“Healing reactions are very individual. Not everybody will experience the same flare-ups. The more toxic your body, the more severe the reactions may be.”** (see bottom of page about reference)
Because if you get ill from a diet that doesn’t actually provide all the nutrients your body needs, of course it’s your fault not the stupid diet. The double standard given by this website is that, when reintroducing foods, sodium is to be avoided because it will cause nausea and headaches (which are clearly bad) but that headaches and nausea caused by juice isn’t a sign that something’s wrong, it’s a “healing reaction.” I particularly dislike the fact that people are taking it upon themselves to instruct other people in what to eat, but their prose demonstrates clearly that they have no idea whatsoever about nutrition or health, and are supplementing their idiotic rhetoric with a carrot dangled in front of their dupes – that they will lose weight. They don’t even have an idealistic philosophy. And half of the proponents are selling juicers or directly profiting from the sale of juicers. This diet is Darwinism in action.
Disclaimer: If you like juice, great! I have absolutely nothing against fruit juice or using a juicer to make fruit juice (as opposed to juicearianism), however I do strongly believe you should make sure you drink it as part of a balanced diet that includes some actual food of any description. Living off juice for any period of time is dangerous, and will shorten your lifespan.  If I have offended you I hope that it at least provokes you to think again about the safety of what you are doing – and I hope that you do that thinking during a time when you are getting adequate Vitamin B12 intake so you can think clearly about it.

In closing, I’ll leave you with some of the comments by doctors on the whole “juice detox” fad, where people subsist off juice for up to a week – this isn’t even a discussion of long-term juicing – because it’s such a stupid concept.  My bold for emphasis:
“Consuming more vegetables is great, mainstream doctors and nutritionists agree. But they dismiss the detox claims as a confusing jumble of science, pseudoscience and hype. They argue that humans already have a highly efficient system for filtering out most harmful substances—the liver, kidneys and colon.
“If you’re confused, you understand the issue perfectly,” says Edward Saltzman, an associate professor at Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University.
“Nobody has ever been able to tell me what these toxins are,” Donald Hensrud, an internist and nutrition specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says about the myth of “detoxing” and “toxins.”

Peculiarly, the firsthand accounts of people following juicearianism for preposterous lengths of time all end rather abruptly, like this individual, who claimed to do a 92 day juice diet, but presumably had to stop after 17 days, because that’s his last blog entry: http://jimmybraskett.wordpress.com/
This poor fool thought that subsisting on only juice would make her look pretty. Clearly, it wasn’t the cosmetic surgery purchased by the profit the author mentions in the title:
http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=983127 Alas, this one, also, ends rather abruptly.

Sources of information on juicearianism:
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/juicing-health-risks-and-benefits?page=2
http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304360704579417170806726140
http://www.marieclaire.com/health-fitness/news/a7601/cleansings-dirty-secret/
**I actually don’t want to tell you where the quote at the start of the conclusion came from, because if I link to it, Google will think it’s more popular, and it’s possibly the stupidest website I’ve ever seen, I’m not sure it was actually written by a person who had any experience with what they were talking about, and I believe they might have just fabricated the entire website for adsense money – there were certainly more adverts than actual content on the site. Copy and paste the quote I used into google if you want to find out where it came from.**

[beauty] “Gel” nail varnish review: Collection Lasting Gel Colour and Avon Gel Finish

Two beauty posts in a row, you’re thinking, what is going on?

It’s Christmas soon, and I will be going to see my aunts, where I can’t really start taking photos of nail polish and what not so I thought I’d do two in a row then do my next beauty/hair post in the new year.  Between now and then, of course, I will do travel, rabbits and wellness posts.

Today I’m going to look at two nail varnishes that claim to give you “gel” nails.  Gel nails have been heavily marketed this year as the next big thing in nail polish, and it seems that nail varnish companies don’t even have to make a product that remotely resembles an actual gel finish in order to put “gel” in the title.  I’m not reviewing ones like that which I’ve tried out, because I don’t really have the money to waste on buying them to do a proper review, and I don’t think it’s right to do a review from the shop’s testers that you see in drugstores (although I’m sure some people do).  The two I’m reviewing both offer an above average shine finish, which I would say at least looks a bit like a gel.

Collection Lasting Gel Colour and Avon Gel Finish Nail Varnish

First of all, let’s talk colour.  As you probably know, Avon is a mail order company so their products can be a bit hit or miss.  The colour I got was called Candy Apple, and in the brochure it showed a nice pinky red – I thought it would suit me because my skin tone doesn’t suit orangey reds at all.  It turned up and was orangey red.  So I went to the shop and bought the Collection Lasting Gel Colour in Raspberry 7.  This was exactly the same colour as the other one was advertised, and I really love the Raspberry colour, it’s a very grown-up seductive pink in the bottle.

Going on my nails, the Lasting Gel Colour Raspberry stayed true to its bottle colour and the Gel Finish Candy Apple got even more red.  I definitely was happier with the Raspberry shade and wish Avon would be a bit more forthcoming with key information when they advertise products, such as more accurate colouring (perhaps they could photograph the bottles of nail varnish from the front rather than doing the computer-generated splodges of colours).

Avon Gel Finish in Candy Apple (left) and Collection Lasting Gel Colour in Raspberry 7 (right).
Avon Gel Finish in Candy Apple (left) and Collection Lasting Gel Colour in Raspberry 7 (right).  This is without fake tan but I still think the one on the right works better for my skintone.

Drying time was about equivalent – a light coat of both nail varnishes took maybe 90 seconds to dry.  Neither of them took very long and I was walking around on my newly-painted toe nails in no time at all.  Neither of them used a fancy drying light they just air dried to a nice shine.
The shine was superior on the Avon Candy Apple.  It was definitely the shiniest product once they had dried, although the Collection Raspberry wasn’t far behind – I tried to show the light reflection in my photos.  Both could legitimately claim to have a gel-like finish to them.  I examined them again two days later and they just didn’t look as shiny – I suspect they use waxes to get the shiny finish.  The Avon one looked like it had been smudged over the last two days, which is impossible because it was totally dry after 90 seconds.  The Collection one had faded to the same amount of shine as a normal nail varnish.  The colour of both nail varnishes didn’t fade at all though.

This photo is to show how shiny they were in normal lighting (with a ceiling light with an energy saving bulb).  I think the Avon Gel Finish one came out shiniest.
This photo is to show how shiny they were in normal lighting (with a ceiling light with an energy saving bulb). I think the Avon Gel Finish one came out shiniest.

In conclusion, I liked the initial super-shiny finish of the Avon one better, but I preferred the colour and the duration of the Collection nail varnish, which also happens to be significantly cheaper at £2.99 a bottle, whereas the Avon one is £7 a bottle.  If I was buying a red-like nail varnish again, I’d go with the Collection Lasting Gel Colour because I scoured Avon’s listings and they just don’t have any other colour that looks anything like Collection’s Raspberry 7 and I just really love that colour.  I’ve never had a gel pedicure so I can’t say how it compares to a professional finish, but then I don’t think these nail varnishes would ever really replace salon services, they’re more of a DIY option for people like me who like to do things at home (or on the road).  They’re both nice Christmassy colours though and at the end of the day it totally depends on your skin’s undertones as to which one would suit you best – I hardly ever wear colours this bright (and never on my fingernails, they’re always done in neutrals) but I was very taken with the pinky-red colour I saw in the Avon catalogue in the first place.

Which gel nail varnishes have you tried?  Do you think you got a salon finish?  Let me know in the comments or on my twitter @InvokeDelight  xx

Fad Diets Part 1: Raw Veganism

[Wellness] Fad Diets for the Thoughtful 1: Introduction and Raw Veganism

In this 5 part article series I am going to examine a range of restrictive diets branched downwards from Veganism. I have split it into five parts to make it readable and interesting, since the article is 12 pages long as I finish it off in Open Office, and that’s without the pictures.

Introduction:

Veganism is awesome. I’m going to put that out there first of all, because I believe it is true. Next I’m going to state that at the time of writing, I am not currently a vegan (I have been in the past, and will be again in the future). I believe it is our natural state of existence, and that, whilst the transition to cooked meat was a necessary one, millions of years of evolution ago, we are now reaching a point where transitioning back away from meat eating is necessary for a plethora of reasons. I will discuss these somewhere else. What I want to talk about in this series are the diets that branch downwards from veganism in the “even more restrictive” state. Anything that includes foods that are not strictly vegan were not included because they wouldn’t branch downwards mathematically. Don’t understand? Try reading up on databases. So we’re looking at the data set “diets that are considered at least vegan” and they are sorted in descending order of restrictiveness (see my delightful and informative infographic).

The colours show how healthy each one is if you ate 100% like this permanently.
The colours show how healthy/deadly each one is if you ate 100% like this permanently.

This article assumes you understand the principles and ideology of what being vegan is about, as well as a basic idea of what it entails. If that’s not you, go and look it up. I’ll wait.

What I’m going to discuss in this series:

Raw Veganism (this article)

Fruitarianism

Juicearianism (second half of post)

Sproutarianism

Breatharianism

All of these diets are discussed and explained in Viktoras Kulvinskas’ book Survival in the 21st Century: Planetary Healers Manual, a book written in 1975, now into its 34th edition at which point it abruptly went out of print. He also co-founded the Hippocrates Institute. Bear in mind when reading it that the body of knowledge about nutrition was vastly different, a lot of foods weren’t commercially available which are dietary staples nowadays, and the general diet of the omnivore and vegetarian were also quite different to what these groups eat now. I would argue that while some of his work is groundbreaking, particularly his “new diet” that was predominantly raw vegan, with significant amounts of fruit and sprouted seeds, at the same time, he thinks he has a scientific basis but doesn’t actually understand the underlying scientific principles, and some of what his book develops into is just plain ridiculous, like the concept that we are evolved to subsist on light and sound (the first mention of breatharianism I could come across). We have no means of converting either light or sound into energy. If you’re confused about the vitamin D connection, please read my article “The Mystery of Vitamin D” to find out how we make vitamin D – it’s not infused into our bodies by the sun, the sun does play a part but it doesn’t “synthesize” vitamin D as a lot of people believe.

So why did I put the words “fad diets” in the title? I believe, despite the fact all these diets have been around since before 1975, that they surge and recede in popularity at different points in time. We have been treated to a few years of “juice diets” being a fad, and are now seeing a rise in raw veganism, and whilst many people are lifelong followers of raw veganism, there is currently a growing number who are following the diet for a few months to lose weight – for these people, raw veganism is a fad diet. Fruitarianism and sproutarianism have never really been fad diets – but I predict that in a few years’ time, fruitarianism will be the big thing, as people search ever more deeply for answers to the fundamental question that drives almost everything that we do in life: “what’s for dinner?”

I have quantified the nutritional value of each of the diets listed above, and put this information into a table, to show how easy (or possible) it is to get the basic nutrients from them, this was so I could speak with a little more authority about these diets as I wanted to know whether foods actually existed in the categories that could provide all the nutrients humans require. One limitation of this sort of data is that it doesn’t actually show what volume of food you would need to eat to get the assorted nutrients. If you would like to know more about which foods contain which nutrients, all the data I used to compile my table came from this amazing database: http://foodinfo.us/SourcesUnabridged.aspx?Nutr_No=502

And here is my table (click to enlarge):

Table of comparison of vegan diets
I’ve included the first three for comparison – I’m not actually going to talk about macrobiotic, ovovegetarianism or regular veganism.  The numbers come from scoring using the system on the right, totalling each column.  Note: the “Fruitarian Tyrosine” value should read “very easy: nuts”

Table of comparison of vegan diets

Raw Veganism:

Raw food diets are really trending at the moment, and raw veganism, once the domain of tree-dwelling anorak-clad protesters is now becoming much more mainstream. If veganism is as out-there and uncommon as vegetarianism was 30 years ago, raw veganism is as common as veganism was five years ago. It’s much more talked about by people in social situations, although the conversations do still tend towards insecure ridicule in the “what are your shoes made of?” vein.  As you can see from my table, Raw Veganism scored 97 for total nutritional value, compared to 110 for veganism and 121 for ovo-vegetarianism.

The rules: Raw vegans do not eat or use any animal products, of course. The plant-based foods they do eat must not have been heated above 104-120F (40-49 degrees Celsius) at any point in their production cycle, and also must not contain certain additives deemed unfitting with the raw vegan philosophy. Some proponents advocate a 75% raw vegan lifestyle to ensure particular nutrients are still part of the daily diet, but many others state that their diet is as complete as a vegan one in terms of nutrition, therefore including 25% of cooked food makes no sense. I’m not in possession of any nutritional software, so couldn’t say who is right, although I do know the vitamin content of bell peppers changes when they’re cooked (I really want a program that accesses a database of nutrients; I could write one, but I’d need to populate a database with all known edible plants so I could use it wherever I was, so if you know of one that’s ready-made, or have made one that you’d like reviewing, drop me a line). Aside from not eating cooked food, the biggest difference between raw veganism and veganism is lack of soy-based products – staples such as tofu, soymilk, dairy free chocolate and cheese – because of the production methods. For me, that’s the main appeal because I feel like I can be overly dependent on soy, and I particularly was when I was vegan. Tofu is my favourite food ever but I wonder how many great things I’m missing out on because I gravitate towards tofu.

See my table pictured above to see how raw veganism fares compared to other diets.

The rationale: Some adherents dislike that food is damaged and devalued (nutritionally) by the cooking process. Others wish to eat as our evolutionary ancestors did. Others forgot to pay their electric bill then realised they didn’t need to (joking, but if this is you, what a cool way to make lemonade out of lemons). Others still find it is more in keeping with a nomadic, tent-dwelling lifestyle as they travel around experiencing new places – what is more enticing than pitching a tent in the pouring rain and NOT having to try and get a stove working? Whatever the reasoning, it will vary from person to person (“that’s right, we’re all individuals” – Monty Python). Their solution is to eat food that is closer to its original state.

The drawbacks: According to some prominent ex-vegans, who are as quick to attack veganism as they are to stuff a hot dog in their face, raw veganism is deficient in certain nutrients. Vitamin K has been cited (see my upcoming article on Vitamin K – a.k.a. Vitamin Kale) as one deficiency. Vitamin D is the big one. Vitamin B12 is also mentioned by some. Your standard vegan criticisms. By and large, raw veganism when done sensibly with correct planning and eating for nutrition, not to satisfy a quota of bananas, will yield as much nutrition as a vegan diet, although some of the food quantities and varieties will need to be varied. The biggest problem with raw veganism is a distinct lack of cholesterol – essential for vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D3 is a poorly understood and often forgotten little vitamin, which I have written another article about. Recent studies, outlined in my vitamin D article, show that within our lifetimes, a vegan vitamin D source will not only be able to be established, but also made on a large enough scale for everyone. Why is the research happening which underpins this? Because of the growing number of vegans, and their vitamin D deficiency – it has driven forward research, which will solve the problem very soon. Personally, I see no issue with supplementing with a vegetarian vitamin D source, and a vegan vitamin K source, if you need these vitamins. Vitamin A deficiency is quoted sometimes, but you can get provitamins A from vegetables such as carrots, and because we are not “true carnivores” like cats or dogs, we can convert the provitamin A into retinol, which is the bit we need, although we are not as efficient at this as “true herbivores.” Vitamin B12 deserves more consideration because it’s the source of more misinformation than any other concern-vitamin in the vegan diet.

The B12 Myth:

The vitamin B12 fallacy goes like this: “there’s no plant source of vitamin B12.” **WRING YOUR HANDS AND GRAB A SAUSAGE!!** Here’s a shocker: There’s no animal source of vitamin B12 either. Or fungi. Let’s think back to high school biology: Of the five types of organism, plant, fungi, animal, archea and bacteria, only archea and bacteria can produce vitamin B12. These bacteria are usually found in your gut and most people don’t need supplementing. Vegans don’t specifically exclude bacteria from the diet, as this would be impossible unless everything they ate was bathed in strong chemicals prior to intake, so the classification of vitamin B12 as non-vegan is misleading pro-meat-eating sensationalism. Due to bacterial symbiosis (the interrelationship of bacteria with other organisms), there are sources such as chlorella (an algae, designated vegan source of B12 because they can make more money from labelling it “the only vegan B12 source” then charging you six times the price of the others), streptomyces griseus and pseudomonas dentrificans, both of which come from soil, not animals. It has been shown that smokers, users of oral contraceptives and many pharmaceutical products are all at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency due to them preventing absorption in the stomach. This is not seen as a health risk, presumably because there’s far too much money to be made by big (and small) pharma companies by selling you a drug that causes B12 deficiency and then selling you a B12 supplement, then selling you meat because they’ve convinced you to eat it again due to alleged B12 deficiency. Let me repeat: Vitamin B12 supplements are as vegan as home-made bread, licking your fingers or giving someone a kiss.

Conclusion:
Raw veganism has come under a lot of fire, and whilst I’m not actually a raw vegan, I got very fed up whilst reading for this article with the sheer amount of rabid-ex-vegans (no prefix to vegan, note, despite the fact they were all actually ex-raw-vegans and most of them hadn’t even ever been vegan) who couldn’t be bothered to use the correct title for the diet they were lambasting and who kept calling it veganism without distinguishing, as if invalidating one was to invalidate the other.

The experiences these people have had with raw-veganism are often the cliche’d “oh this is so easy I’ll just eat salad for every meal” with no forward planning or consideration of the nutritional requirements of their bodies – something every vegan, raw or cooked, needs to be in tune with. Then they invariably got ill. They psychologically fixated on meat as the cure (remember, these people live in extremes – cheese, egg or a hot bowl of baked beans would not be dramatic enough). They ate some, and within minutes (instantly in one case) felt better (can anyone say “hallelujah”). That’s psychosomasis at its best. Then they have to shout so loudly to justify that they’re not raw vegan anymore (and they were probably the loudest drum bangers when they were raw vegan, too, evangelicals often are) – to convince themselves that they didn’t fail (they probably didn’t fail personally), but were failed by a “system” “group” or even “cult” of raw veganism. This is a logical fallacy because, whilst some raw vegans can be a bit pushy, it assumes that a greater group of individuals were responsible for their personal choices – unless you are actually in a cult with a controlling leader, this is unlikely to be true. Raw Veganism is a difficult diet to follow, and people following it sometimes underestimate the level of forward planning needed to go through with it, but it doesn’t satisfy any of the prerequisites for being a cult (see breatharianism, in part 4, for a real cult). What a paranoid conspiracy. These ex-raw-vegans clearly aren’t getting enough vitamin B12 in their sausages. I wonder why that could be. ^_^

You can find a lot of these people at letthemeatmeat.com (which I thought was Let The Meat Meat when I clicked through google, until I saw their website title). The lesson here is, don’t just eat what you can eat, eat what you need to eat, in the right quantities, in order to get your nutrients every day.

Whilst researching the raw vegan diet, I did come across a video on Youtube which explained that one of the potential problems that the videomaker experienced was that she lost her period for several months. I fully agree with the lady in the video – if you lose your period, don’t ignore it.

One of the themes I’ve seen both in raw vegan and fruitarian circles is women thinking it’s okay to lose their periods and encouraging others to ignore it too. Amenhorrea is never “unimportant” it signals that you’re doing something wrong. It is one of the first side effects of anorexia. If you lose your period, you need to go to the doctor, find out why, possibly see a nutritionalist and work out how to go forwards safely. See the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=4hjSCFN8REk

I am going to conclude (and remember I’m not a raw vegan) that raw veganism is a difficult to follow, but valid and nutritionally sound diet as long as it is followed by intelligent people who understand the concept of vitamins, minerals, and balanced diets, and aren’t afraid to supplement in a sensible way and shift their food values around to get the optimum balance for their own body, but that 75% raw sounds more achievable and sustainable over a longer period of time. The main thing to remember, though, is everyone is different, and people are affected differently by different diets, and it’s ok to stop following a particular diet (even if you were banging the loudest drum in favour of it) because it’s not working for you, there’s no shame in admitting that you need to eat differently, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else needs to eat differently too (eat being the operative word here).

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_veganism

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2012/08/dancing-with-raw/

http://www.thebestofrawfood.com/vegan-shopping-list.html (American food names)

http://almostrawvegan.com/what-is-arv/

http://letthemeatmeat.com/tagged/Vegan_Cliches

Twenty Must-Climb Mountains in Europe

Ever wondered which European mountains offer the best climbs?  As a key point on my “Things I Must Do Before I’m 30” list, I’ve spent the last few weeks compiling a list of twenty mountains in Europe that are worth climbing.  I’ve presented them here in order of height:

20. Ben Lomond, Scotland, UK.

Ben Lomond viewed across Loch Lomond

Ben Nevis may hold the title for the highest mountain in Scotland – and the UK – but Ben Lomond, sitting on the edge of Loch Lomond, is a worthier climb:  It has the traditional mountain shape, and at 3196 feet (974 metres), just about anybody can climb it.

19. Scaffell Pike, Lake District, England, UK
Scaffell Pike is the highest peak in England

Scaffell Pike is the highest mountain in England, at 3209 feet (978 metres).  It’s situated in the middle of a cluster of other peaks, and the view from the top is reputedly stunning.

18. Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy

Ever fancied climbing an active volcano?

Most people know that Mount Vesuvius is the active volcano that destroyed Pompeii.  Far less people know you can climb this mountain (when it’s not erupting) as it’s part of a National Park.  At 4203 feet (1281 metres) we’re still in “long hike” territory in terms of difficulty of climb, and climbing an active volcano is definitely a story to tell back home.  Just avoid any glowy orange streams.

17. Ben Nevis, Scotland, UK

Ben Nevis in summer

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain both in Scotland and the UK, at 4406 feet (1344 metres).  Its funny shape doesn’t put off legions of climbers every year, and there’s even special arrangements for disabled climbers to reach the summit.  Just beware the vicious midges that plague Scotland during the summer months.

16. Serra Do Geres (sometimes spelled Gerez), Geres National Park, Portugal

Stunning countryside, seclusion, what's not to like?
Portugal isn’t famous for having particularly high mountains, but the ones it does have are an excellent platform to hone your skills before attempting any of the Alps, Pyrenees or Sierra Nevadas.  At 5115 feet (1548 metres), Serra Do Gerez is a worthy offering.

15. Mont Ventoux, Provence, France.

That view across Provence...

Just take a moment to savour that view.  There’s a road all the way to the highest point, which is 6273 feet (1912 metres), so this mountain could be cycled, rollerbladed or skateboarded if you wanted to mix it up a bit.  As the name suggests, it’s windy at the top, so you’d better pack a mac.

14. Torre, Serra da Estrela, Portugal

Do you wanna build a snowman??

On the Spanish border with Portugal, Serra da Estrela (Star Mountain Range) packs an impressive punch.  The highest point is Torre, which is 6539 feet (1993 metres).  It’s also Mainland Portugal’s highest point (the highest point in Portuguese territory is on Madeira Island in the Atlantic Ocean), so if you bag this one, you’ve climbed the highest mountain in Portugal.

13. Rochers de Naye, Montreux, Switzerland

caves AND marmots.
At 6699 feet (2042 metres), this is the first mountain over 2000 metres on the list.  It’s also a Via Ferrata, a special network of fixed climbing points around the Alps (and now extended all across France/Andorra) that can be solo-climbed.  There’s also caves and marmots nearby.  What’s not to love?

12. Kaiseregg, Bernese Alps, Switzerland
Kaiseregg... sounds like an indie band.

This mountain looks like it got bombed, with the huge curvy hole in its front.  I guess that’s where the “egg” in “Kaiseregg” is supposed to fit. At 7169 feet (2185 metres), it’s well worth a climb when there’s no snow.

11. Arcalod, Jarsy, France
That is a rocky mountain.

The fourth highest mountain in France, Arcalod is 7274 feet high (2217 metres).  It also happens to be an Ultra Prominent Peak (the peak is at least 1500m above the surrounding landscape).  I would imagine getting back down again would be the trick.

10. Tour d’Ai, Leysin, Switzerland

Stripy drunk mountain

At 7658 feet (2334 metres) high, this mountain looks like it fell down drunk and landed in the forest.  I particularly love the stripy effect of the rock face and the greenery.
9. Torre Grande, Cinque Torri, San Vito Di Cadore, Italy

The pointiest peaks
Cinque Torri is a five-peak mountain on the Via Ferrata, one of the first Via Ferrate to be constructed – this one apparently has a museum dedicated to the World War One Italian soldiers who fought their war right here on the Austrian Front.

8. Mount Olympus, Litochoro, Greece

I love this halo cloud

In mythology, Olympus was home to the Greek Pantheon of Gods, and no list of European mountains would be complete without it.  It’s the highest mountain in Greece (of course) at 9577 feet (2919 metres), and as part of a national park it’s climbable, too.

7. Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy

This might be the most dangerous climb in Europe

Officially the highest active volcano in Europe, Mount Etna was rumoured to be the resting place of one of the Ancient Greek Titans.  Higher than Olympus, Etna’s height is constantly changing because of the regular eruptions, but currently stands at 10,990 feet (3350 metres).

6. The Eiger, Bernese Alps, Switzerland

Are you eager to climb it?

Famous for having the biggest North Face in the Alps, the Eiger has claimed the lives of many climbers in the early days of mountaineering.  It’s 13,020 feet high (3970 metres).

5. The Matterhorn

It looks like a wizard hat
Another infamous mountain, at 14962 feet high (4478 metres) the Matterhorn was classed as the most dangerous climb in the Alps for a very long time.  Now, there’s a funicular (railway) all the way to the top.  Also, it looks like a wizard’s hat.

4. Mont Blanc

It's big...

Most climbers consider Mont Blanc to be the highest mountain in Europe (although it depends on the geographical definition of Europe, as the community’s a bit divided).  It’s certainly the highest mountain in “geopolitical Europe,” at 15781 feet tall (4810 metres) it’s certainly no picnic in the park to climb.  Most climbers spend some time acclimatizing before making a bid for the summit.

3. Mount Ararat, Turkey

Mount Ararat

It’s the tallest mountain in Turkey, dwarfing even Mont Blanc, at 16954 feet (5137 metres), and is said to be the mountain where Noah’s Ark ran aground after the Great Flood, so it’s very historic.  You need a special permit to climb it, however.

2. Gora Dykh Tau, The Caucasus Mountain Range, Russia

Gora Dykh Tau

While there’s a lot of disagreement as to whether The Caucasus actually counts as Europe, both the Seven Summits and Seven Second Summits lists have mountains from the Caucasus range in them.  Dykh Tau is the European contribution to the Seven Second Summits (the second highest mountains in each continent) at 17077 feet (5205 metres), so it made my list (and the first five thousander on the list).

1. Mount Elbrus, Caucasus Mountain Range, Russia.

Tallest mountain in the Caucasus

If Gora Dykh Tau was the second on this list, then Mount Elbrus, the European listing for the Seven Summits, is of course going to be number one.  It dominates the landscape at 18510 feet (5642 metres) and has the reputation for having the worst toilet in Europe on its summit.

Which of these would you like to climb most?  Which looks impossible?  Are you inspired to climb something in the New Year?

[rabbits] Ten Things You MUST Know About Rabbits

Rabbit Care 102

So you went to the adoption center or pet store, fell in love with a little fluffy bunny, and you brought them home. Here’s what you need to know about the pet you just bought:

Rabbits eating in a rabbit hutch
Two of our rabbits eating. The red area is the remains of Banacek’s first hutch, and takes up 1/6 of their overall hutch size.

1. Rabbits are fibrevores. This means that they are herbivores (vegans) who eat grass. Cows are another example of a fibrevore. Your pet rabbit needs 24/7 access to hay, even if he has an outdoor run with grass. If he’s got no hay, he will get sick. Grass and hay are the ideal combination, but the water content in grass will give bunny diarrhea if he’s only getting the fresh stuff. They also like snuggling in hay – they prefer it to sawdust.

Rabbit digestion
It won’t look like a carrot when it comes out of the other end, and you shouldn’t feed them carrot tops either. I was trying to show continuous digestion, not the changes to the food that take place.

2. Rabbits have continuous digestion. This means they basically have a constant queue of food in their digestive system (see diagram). If they don’t have something to eat available to them 24/7, their digestive system goes to a standstill. This is called digestive stasis. Once they go into digestive stasis, it is very difficult to get their system to start again, and many rabbits die from this. Just to clarify, there’s no time limit on when it’s classed as stasis, but as a rule I would say if your bunny hasn’t eaten anything for six hours, they probably have stasis. Call a vet for advice.

Bunnies make a mess.
Top right is their bowl of water, left is their food bowl, surrounded by bunny nuggets.

3. Most rabbits don’t actually like water bottles. I previously had dogs, before I had rabbits, and I give all six of my rabbits a choice – I put a water bowl and a drinking bottle out. I have the space to do this because they are all housed in very large areas. Drinking bottles are now marketed as “safer” for small animals, but guess what? When they lived in the wild, they drank from ponds and puddles all the time and they never drowned!!!! Bottles were basically a lab-originated concept and aimed at rabbits kept in confinement with no quality of life. My rabbits all prefer their water bowls, none of them use the bottles even though three of them used a bottle for eight years before they came here. Yes, bowls can get full of hay and bunny fur, but you should be cleaning their food and water bowls (and/or bottle) every day anyway (or any pet’s bowls, for that matter). It’s good hygiene. Would you want to eat off the same plate for a week, or drink from the same cup for a week, without washing them? If so, perhaps you should consider NOT getting a pet until you’re mature enough to treat them right.

4. Rabbits make a mess. They aren’t like dogs, who leave dog mess everywhere for six months then become model citizens. Rabbits are generally highly litter trainable. The mess with rabbits is more general – their food ends up everywhere when they bury their faces in their bowls, their water can end up everywhere when they sit in it, their fur ends up everywhere (just like dogs and cats) and when you give them toys, they will probably destroy them. If they destroy the toys you bring them, don’t get upset. Did you buy the toy for them to enjoy, or to look pretty in Instagram bunny pics? You will notice that almost all of my photos and videos have some mess in them. There’s food on the floor, the occasional bunny poo (when they sleep they sometimes poo, so obviously when they don’t fall asleep in the litter tray their poo ends up on the floor, also around the litter tray sometimes, if the rabbits are sharing space, they will poo to mark their territory sometimes as well), bits of cardboard, stick and newspaper that they’ve nibbled… if you want a tidy house, you would have to spend your life following them round with a Dustbuster and constantly making your house devoid of signs of rabbits. If this is you, get a different pet. Don’t take away what is theirs just because you have an idealistic concept of what a house should look like, it’s not fair. If you did that to a child it would be cruelty. On the other hand, do keep it as hygienic as you can. I sweep up all the food/poo messes twice a day and vacuum every few days to keep it all fresh.

Fifer and Katie are marking the living room.
These rabbits like to make a mess!

5. Rabbits like to play. They don’t play how you expect them to though (unless you’ve watched far too many Youtube vids… then they probably do). They like to play chase and they like to play chew:

a) Playing “chew”: Rabbits explore everything with their mouths. To a rabbit, chewing things is the absolute most interesting thing ever, and they love to chew anything. It’s like their sixth sense – sense of chewy. Their teeth constantly grow and they need to nibble. Give them plenty of hay, cardboard boxes (some rabbits like Conflake-type boxes, others prefer the corrugated cardboard boxes, some like to go in the middle and chew shoeboxes), packing paper (never polystyrene or anything plastic coated), and perhaps a catalog or two. In the UK we have a store called Argos and it’s catalog is 2 inches thick. Bunnies love that. Also, this is a great use for any unwanted copies of fad books such as the Da Vinci Code or 50 Shades of Grey. Rabbits aren’t picky about the words, they just love to chew the corners off of books. I recently gave Banacek and Cleo a book called “Ancient Beluchistan” from the 1970s, that I got from a free book stand. It was cloth bound and had old yellowing pages, and they just pounced on it. Rabbits also like to chew their cardboard into projects, so if they do chew big holes in the cardboard boxes you’ve given them, it’s ok, they’re probably making it into a fortress so they can run around it a lot later. Leave them these chewed up boxes for as long as possible – they will get upset if you keep throwing their toys away every time they play with them.
b) Playing “chase”: Almost as important to rabbits as chewing is running. Rabbits love to practice this skill during “peacetime” (when their herd isn’t threatened) by playing chase. When you have one rabbit on their own, they will play chase with you. When you have more rabbits, they generally play chase with each other. This is because they’re faster and more maneuverable than you (sorry) so they get to practice their running away strategies more effectively. An important skill for you to learn is how to tell whether they’re enjoying a game of chase with you (or another rabbit), or whether they think you or the other rabbit is an actual predator and are panicking. There can be a fine line. I often augment chasing with cheerful talk, because it reassures the rabbit about where I am and what mood I’m in. Rabbits know your emotions by the sounds you make (how your voice changes) so keeping a cheerful narrative in a calm or loving voice keeps them knowing it’s a game. I like to say things like: “I’m chasing you! Chase chase chase the bunny! I’m gonna catch you and put you in a pie!” In a warm tone of voice so they keep enjoying themselves for longer. They will purposely stop at certain points to let you catch up. If I actually catch them, I never pick them up (they hate it). Instead, I stroke their nose very gently, or their back (but not the tail) and tell them what a good bunny they are. When they associate being chased by you with a positive outcome, they enjoy it more and will play for longer. One rabbit who I was babysitting for a friend took 2 days to understand the concept of play-chasing, then she loved running in circles, then she would get tired and lean on the wall to catch her breath. I started stroking her. She liked it so much, she just stood there for 20 minutes letting me stroke her. Her fur was a LOT softer when I gave her back at the end of two weeks.

grass hideaway
A toy that has been played with a LOT by four rabbits who all like to play chew. It’s still bunny safe because it’s made of 100% rivergrass. This was a good buy and has hours more fun left in it.

6. Rabbits have strong concepts of territory, privacy and (after a few weeks) entitlement. Decide right now which rooms you don’t want bunnies going in. Is there ant powder in the kitchen? Exposed wires in your bedroom? Are you going to clean these up and bunnyproof everything in the house, so they get all-areas-access? Or are you going to bunnyproof one or two rooms and let them spend most of their time there? In every house we’ve lived in, there have always been rooms that were off-limits to bunnies. This was usually for safety reasons – we couldn’t stop bunnies getting under the tumble dryer or kitchen units, for example – although there were other reasons too – Banacek seemed to think the entire bathroom was his litter tray (we suspect the previous tenants had missed the toilet a lot, and that Banacek was merely trying to claim this land for his herd), so once he was litter trained we gradually moved his actual litter tray to outside the bathroom (with the door kept closed) then to the top of the stairs, where it remained until we moved out. He hasn’t behaved like that in the new house, and only uses his litter tray unless he’s asleep.

Cleo is queen of the hay
Cleo has claimed this pile of hay as her territory. Banacek gets to nibble it as well, because he’s her partner. But no-one else. Excepting if they ask nicely.

7. Rabbits don’t separate your property from theirs. Rabbits assume that all property in their territory is communal; they would share their cardboard with you in an instant, and expect you to share your delicious hairdryer wire, shoes, bags, wicker storage baskets and decorative sticks etc. If you don’t want something to get chewed, put it out of bunny’s reach, and remember they stretch tall.

After the photo, Katie ate half of this box in retaliation to being left out by the other bunnies.
Banacek: “It’s the “NO FIFERS” club.”
Cleo: “No, it’s the “NO KATIES” club.”
Katie: “Why isn’t it the “NO BOYS” club?”
Fifer: “You’d still get left out somehow, Katie, let’s just play someplace else.”

8. Rabbits can use their environment and think sequentially when they want to. Here’s an example: I put a sunflower on a table where the rabbits couldn’t nibble it. When playing chase the bunny with Banacek, he went under the same table. I had to push the chair out to follow him. When he dug himself into another spot, I left him to it and went downstairs. Twenty minutes later, I thought I’d better check on him. I went upstairs and found him standing on the table, chewing the last sunflower leaf off the stalk. When I came towards him, he jumped straight down, I thought, “he knew he was doing wrong but he did it anyway.” When I told my OH about this, he said “he probably just got scared that you were stomping towards him, saying his name in a scary way, and ran away.” Bunnies get scared a lot. But how did the rabbit know there was a sunflower up there???

If only Avon sold boxes of hay...
Cleo’s sequential thinking goes as far as “can I get any more hay for any less effort?”

9. Bunnies get scared. A lot. Sometimes the silliest things will scare bunnies. Katie and Fifer are well known for panicking and stampeding when I move my feet after sitting still for a while. Their regular sitting spot is six feet away from my chair. Katie is especially skittish. I guess we will never know what happened to her before she came to live with us, but I have a feeling she got kicked more than once. Unfortunately, once they’re scared of something (especially if they have decided you were responsible for some reason) it’s near impossible to un-scare them. They will literally tear themselves apart or break their own legs to get away from a perceived danger. Think of rabbits as that really cool friend you have, who also has occasional anxiety attacks where nothing will calm them down. The best thing to do in this situation is leave them to it until they calm down. Then stroke their nose.

This is my phone background.
Katie asleep in a cupboard. When rabbits get scared, they hide in small, hard-to-reach places.

10. Rabbits need the security of their own place. Whether they’re an indoor or outdoor rabbit, they need somewhere to live. If you dislike those indoor cages, get an outdoor hutch from the pet store and put it in your living room. It’ll look like a piece of antique furniture. I did this with Katie and Fifer while we were settling them in – we knew they would probably live outside eventually, but for the time being, they were indoor bunnies, so we got them a 2 story hutch that was five feet wide and four feet tall. It was varnished and made of quality wood, and it looked really nice when it was in the house, and made the living room look a lot tidier than when we had Banacek’s metal indoor hutch in the living room. Don’t worry – they never spent more than nine hours a day closed into their hutch – they either were let out when we got out of bed, or they were put straight outside to their rabbit run which had a smaller hutch for shelter (we leave the door open on that one); the run afforded them much more play space. We have recently moved them into a large brick outhouse, their hutch has moved with them and we unscrewed and removed one of the hutch’s doors so they can always access all of their new space. Once rabbits are settled in a particular hutch, unless there’s a safety or welfare concern, it’s best to keep that hutch with them wherever they go. It’s their nest. Sebastian and Neville, our 100% outdoor bunnies (they hate indoors, they only get brought in if they’re ill and need round the clock care), had a smaller hutch that their previous owners had kept them in. They love this hutch, and while we wanted them to have a more warm, secure outdoor space due to them always being outside, we also wanted them to be able to call it home. We took the front off their old hutch and put it inside their new one – a large shed with hay insulation – so they have a lot more indoor space for those cold days when they don’t want to play out, and so they don’t have to make their old hutch damp or muddy if they’ve been out in the rain. They also have 24/7 outdoor access, as do Katie and Fifer now that they live out of the main house. The sense of security a rabbit gets from feeling like they own a particular place is very important to their well-being. Even if you never want to close your rabbits inside a hutch for the night, make sure they have a hutch that belongs irrefutably to them (you can take one or all of the doors off for them, if you like).

Banacek is a free range bunny
Our rabbits are free to roam the house and garden but they all have their own rabbit housing and they can always access it. All that cardboard?  That’s his toys.

Like rabbits?  Want to see a video of rabbits?  I’ve put together a video of two of our houserabbits doing cute stuff.  Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2UN06_oVtw

The Mystery of Vitamin D

The Complicated Story of Vegans and Vitamin D
(and why you’re deficient despite your best efforts)

Vitamin D is no ordinary vitamin. It is actually a group of vitamins, the calciferols, and the one you need to know about is D3 (cholecalciferol). This is the one you can get from sunshine, but only if you meet certain conditions: You must have enough cholesterol in your body, because it doesn’t make Vitamin D3 from nothing – it converts cholesterol into D3, and sunshine is just a catalyst. If you have been vegan for long enough, and even if you’re dairy free and just have a high soy intake, you probably don’t have much, if any, cholesterol in your body. If this is the case, you can live out on a nudist beach but you still won’t get enough vitamin D. If this is you, you can either take a vitamin D supplement, or eat eggs or meat to get cholesterol that can be converted into vitamin D. Since cholesterol has been shown to be incredibly bad for you (although still not very well understood by scientists), the best option is probably a supplement. To confuse matters, all vegan supplements are vitamin D2, and this doesn’t convert to D3 at all or have the same benefits.


How Much Do I Need?

The daily value of vitamin D (also known as recommended daily allowance) is another complicated one. In the US, the DV is currently 15 micrograms, but they are in the process of changing the advice to make the DV 20 micrograms, because of the worldwide Vitamin D deficiency epidemic. In the UK, the RDA (DV) is currently 5 micrograms, possibly explaining why there are so many cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder since the UK gets a poor sunshine quantity anyway. In Australia and New Zealand, the Adequate Intake is 5 micrograms (age 0-50) and 10micrograms (age 51-70) and 15 micrograms (age 71 and above), and the Upper Intake is 25 micrograms (age up to 12 months) and 80 micrograms for everyone over one year of age. In the EU, although the recommended daily intake is 5 micrograms, the European Menopause and Andropause Society recommend 15 micrograms until age 70 and 20 micrograms over age 70. In Canada, they suggest that you get at least 10 micrograms until you are one year of age, then at least 15 micrograms to age 70, then at least 20 micrograms if you’re over 70, with upper limits at 25 micrograms until age 1, then the upper limit steadily increasing until 100 micrograms at age 9.
As you can see, it’s very difficult to know how much Vitamin D we need to get, when everyone seems to have different recommended amounts, with some places giving you a “between X and Y” answer and others giving you an absolute value, and some of those values being significantly lower than others.  On top of that, there’s no distinction between what type of vitamin D we need according to the Daily Values, despite the fact they do different jobs.


The benefits of Vitamin D:

These are also contentious – US labelling laws only allow Vitamin D supplements to say “may reduce the risk of osteoporosis” but EU laws state Vitamin D supplements can say that it helps “normal function of the immune system, normal inflammatory response, normal muscle function and reduced risk of falling.” Health Canada says supplements can claim “may help achieve strong bones in children and reduce the risk of osteoporosis in older adults.”
Vitamin D2 only helps bones.  The clinically observed benefits of Vitamin D3 are wider than this, though, and include: Promoting calcium absorption (for strong bones), improving white blood cell count (helping immune system), mineral absorption, and there are Vitamin D3 receptors in every major organ so it may have wider roles that we don’t know about. The direction of current Vitamin D research is firmly fixed on determining whether SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is caused by low Vitamin D3 levels, with early results indicating a link.

Vitamin D Deficiency:
Lack of Vitamin D3 can cause depression, low bone mineral density, hypocalcemia (not enough calcium absorption), osteomalacia (softening of the bones including bowing of the legs), chronic musculoskeletal pain (sometimes misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia or polymyalgia which are both descriptions of symptoms rather than diseases), cardiovascular problems and rickets. During pregnancy, gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia are caused by inadequate Vitamin D intake. Deficiency can be diagnosed by a blood test.


Vitamin D Excess:

It’s difficult to overdose on vitamin D – you would have to take more than 1000 micrograms per day over several months to start getting signs of toxicity; if this happens to you, the symptoms are: firstly, increased urination and thirst, then anorexia (loss of appetite), nausea and vomiting, if you still have too much vitamin D, this will progress into weakness, nervousness, polyuria, polydispia, insomnia, and eventually renal failure.

Where can I get vitamin D from?
It depends on what you can and can’t eat. Apparently, animal skin and milk are good sources of Vitamin D. Certain fungi contain vitamin D2, including portabella (0.3 micrograms Vitamin D per 100g of raw portabella mushroom); shiitake (3.9 per 100g of dried; 0.4 per 100g raw); alfalfa plant contains Vitamin D (4.8 micrograms Vitamin D2 per 100g). Another vegan source of Vitamin D is lichen, a naturally occuring moss-type plant, which contains 0.67-2.04 micrograms per 100g of lichen, due to production variance (it’s not exactly farmed), although it wasn’t stated which D-vitamin they produce. Since vitamin D3 is the important one, that’s the one you need to be looking to get.  One egg provides 5 micrograms of vitamin D3, so if you’re dairy free vegetarian (rather than vegan), this is an easy option for your vitamin D3 intake.


Are Vitamin D supplements vegan?

There are two ways Vitamin D is produced for supplements: either from lanolin (an oil found in sheep’s wool) or from fish organs. Both these sources contain 7-dehydrocholesterol, which is then exposed to UV light to cause Vitamin D3 production.
Obviously, the fish organs are not vegan. The lanolin is contentious – it comes from an animal, but the animal doesn’t have to die to get the ingredient, in fact, sheep grown for wool live out a natural length of life (the discussion of how they exist and what a “natural” life for a sheep is, is of course a whole ‘nother kettle of worms), so if you’re a honey-eating, urea-containing-creams wearing vegan, this might be an acceptable option for you. If not, then no, there are no Vitamin D3 supplements that are 100% incontrovertibly vegan. Also not vegan (by the same definition of vegan): cars buses or bicycles (look up where oil comes from), so each to their own.

My attitude is that as long as we are all doing everything we reasonably can, given our individual circumstances, to minimize dependency on (and therefore suffering of) animals, there’s no reason to cause harm to yourself because then you aren’t really encouraging other people to live like you. Whilst researching this article, I was quite shocked that a lot of pro-raw websites were saying there was no Vitamin D3 deficiency (or any nutrition deficiency) risk to vegans! This is completely untrue – you need to eat consciously, for nutrition, to succeed at a raw vegan lifestyle. The risks are there, for vegetarians and vegans, and even meat eaters, and we need more information on how to manage them and eliminate them through sensible eating and planning without giving in and going over to the Meat Eating Side, rather than denial of the problem. Denying the potential pitfalls just makes them look like they will bend the truth to get more converts, and if they’ve lied about that, people won’t trust their other information, which might be sound.

Vitamin D in plants:
If you’re scientifically literate, there’s an excellent peer-reviewed academic meta-analysis here about the state of research into Vitamin D in plants: http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpls.2013.00136/full which is the most informative and interesting article I found on the topic. The authors’ first languages are not English and so sometimes they make simple grammar mistakes (find someone who doesn’t), but their science is rigorous and I particularly liked reading about the chemical transformations that take place during conversion. If you’re not scientifically literate, or if you can’t be bothered with reading it, I’ll summarize it here along with one or two conclusions I’ve drawn from their work:
1. Most plant sources of vitamin D were found to be D2 not D3, which is less good.
2. For conversion from 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D3, you need sunlight at a wavelength of 290-315nm (less than 290 would work but is totally filtered out by the O-Zone layer).
3. Only areas between 35 degrees above and below the equator gets this wavelength of sunlight all year round. The UK, Australia and Canada don’t get this wavelength of sunlight in winter, which underpins the theory that Vitamin D is linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
4. Vitamin D is only successfully converted if you are out in the sun for long enough (for 7-hydrocholesterol to convert to pre-vitamin D to degrade to Vitamin D3).
5. Vitamin D fortification takes place in some orange juices – so if there’s no “suitable for vegetarians” logo/statement on the packaging, it may have come from the fish sources I mentioned earlier.
6. If you put your portobella mushrooms out in direct sunlight for a while, the vitamin D3 will increase, making them theoretically a useful source of some of your vitamin D.
7. The reason most plants don’t have any Vitamin D3, is because it mostly comes from cholesterol (or, specifically, 7-hydrocholesterol), and most plants don’t contain cholesterol. So you need to get a plant that contains cholesterol (or lanoesterol) and expose the cholesterol to the right wavelength of sunlight for the right length of time to stimulate Vitamin D3 production.
8. Lanolin and mushrooms convert lanoesterol (another sterol) into Vitamin D3.
9. Theoretically, the researchers believe they have found a way to incite Vitamin D synthesis in plants, using arabidosis thaliana (a flower) as a model, through lanoesterol.
10. The production of Vitamin D in a plant that hasn’t evolved to do it naturally might affect the concentration of other vitamins – and toxins.
11. The source of high Vitamin D3 levels in fish are unknown, and particularly confuse scientists, because of the low levels of UVB light (necessary for D3 production) in their natural habitats; the researchers think the Vitamin D3 in fish might be due to microalgae, the beginning of the fishes’ food chain, and they point to two studies (Takeuchi et al, 1991) and (Sunita Rao and Raghuramulu, 1997) that measured high levels of vitamin D3 and pro-vitamin D in algae. Takeuchi also observed that the microalgae caught in August had higher levels of Vitamin D3 than that caught in October-December, supporting the idea that the sun is causing the Vitamin D3 in this plant. To further confuse matters, there are so many different types of algae that some seem to have the right sterols for Vitamin D3 production whilst others definitely don’t. However, with further study this could become a vegan Vitamin D3 source.
12. Sometimes, sterols turn to ‘soaps’ (saponification) before Vitamin D3 synthesis can be measured.

The conclusion states that:
“Traditionally, only animal products have been considered a source of vitamin D3, but today we know that vitamin D3 and its metabolites are formed in certain plants. Accordingly, fruits and vegetables have the potential to serve as a source of vitamin D. Especially, the Solanaceae family contains high amounts of vitamin D3, which is of special interest considering the importance of this family in human nutrition. The Solanaceae family includes important vegetables such as potato, tomato and pepper all of which have been found to contain vitamin D3. Our current knowledge is limited to the content in leaves, but future investigation will elucidate if also the edible portions contain vitamin D3. It would be valuable to screen a variety of crops and vegetables for vitamin D, but to carry out a larger screening development of less time-consuming and preferably more sensitive analytical methods are needed. A further challenge is to improve methods to study and quantify vitamin D conjugates in details.
Planktonic microalgae, inhabiting the sea, are another large group of photosynthetic organisms that contain vitamin D. Microalgae are, as part of the aquatic food chain, identified as a source of vitamin D for fish. Currently, the world’s wild fish stocks are being overexploited and there has been a growth in the aqua-culture industry. The current trend is to replace fish meals or fish oil partly by vegetable feed substitutes when feeding cultured fish will reduce the content of vitamin D compared to wild fish (Bell and Waagbø, 2008). Microalgae with a high natural amount of vitamin D may be used as a natural vegetable form for the bio-fortification of aqua-cultured fish.
Basic knowledge about the biosynthesis of vitamin D3 in photosynthetic organisms is still lacking and any increase in our knowledge will help us to manipulate the content to produce plants with a higher natural amount of vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is only synthesized in minute amounts, which makes it challenging to study the pathways and enzymes involved. However, it also means that even small changes in vitamin D3 can have a significant impact on human health.”

“The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.”
(Japelt and Jakobsen, 2013, published in Frontiers, 13th May 2013: http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpls.2013.00136/full accessed 17/12/14).

I think the conclusion speaks for itself, and am looking forward to the results of the further study, in the hope that one day soon we can get all of our Vitamin D from tomatoes and potatoes, and algae. Wikipedia does state that algae is a vegan source of vitamin D but obviously if it’s not for sale in a supplement or in its original form, it doesn’t really count yet. When I looked on amazon.com to find a supplement, there weren’t any vitamin D algae supplements. And if it’s not on amazon.com, chances are it doesn’t exist.  Here’s a list of what they do have in the “vegan vitamin D” realm:
Vegan D3


“Vegan” vitamin D3 supplements:

There are some products (I’ve linked to one below) making very dubious health claims, and no proof that they really contain vitamin D3 (particularly when you consider “fatty acid esters” the ingredient that allegedly contains calcium and magnesium, but where you wouldn’t find them because they’re nothing to do with fatty acids, in the “vegan D3” probably contains the cholesterol needed for your body to convert into vitamin D3, rather than actual D3 itself, and that would account for the anecdotal evidence (from reviewers) that these supplements work.  See this article on fatty acids and notice it’s talking about cholesterol:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatty_acid#Fatty_acids_in_dietary_fats
The volume of mushrooms needed to produce the amount of D3 allegedly in these products would be more expensive to produce than the products cost, so something odd is definitely going on here, I think they’re defining “vegan” differently to how most people define it due to it not being certified vegan by an independent body such as the Vegan Society (and how much they’re making of the fact it’s all “certified organic”): Questionable Vegan D3

Vitamin D and Dementia:

Another recent piece of research has shown a link between low vitamin D levels, and risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. In the study (which was epidemiological), those whose vitamin D was a little low (<50nmol/l), risk of Alzheimers was increased by 69% and risk of dementia was increased by 53%. In patients with severe vitamin D deficiency (levels 25-50 nmol/l), there was a 122% higher risk of Alzheimer’s and 125% increase in risk of getting dementia. Since the study was epidemiological, it isn’t conclusive proof that vitamin D can prevent dementia, however, it is positive evidence that vitamin D is a piece of a bigger puzzle that could show us how to avoid dementia in the future. Read more about this study here: http://www.drbriffa.com/2014/08/08/can-getting-more-sun-help-protect-against-dementia/

Risks of Sun Exposure:
No discussion of the complexities of vitamin D would be complete without considering the risks of sun exposure. Sunscreen has been shown to be a confounding factor in vitamin D conversion – sunscreen with an SPF as low as SPF 8 reduces vitamin D synthesis by 95%! The key is to get enough unprotected sun exposure to stimulate vitamin D production without being out long enough to get sunburn, although the study which presented these statistics observed that there was no “safe exposure time” established yet, where vitamin D production would be optimal but cancer risk minimal, presumably because the research needed to produce such a time would be thoroughly unethical, because you would basically have to get participants to go out in the sun, measure their vitamin D levels until the point where they got cancer in order for it to be a fair test, and nobody’s going to carry out a study like that (I hope not, anyway). Additionally, the same study found that people living above the Arctic Circle in Finland got higher amounts of vitamin D than those living at lower latitudes (still above 35 degrees). It was also found that people in countries closer to the equator, but who culturally practised covering most of the body and eating a restricted diet, were more likely to be vitamin D deficient, although the authors definitely did not advocate the public practice of declothing for these groups, as this would be insensitive, rather the authors of the study thought these groups needed to be more aware of their vitamin D intake. The study can be found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56078/ with the discussion of SPF fairly low down the page (do a “find on page” for “use of sunscreen”). One thing no study seems to have considered, is the role of UVB reflection which takes place in snowy environments (think of someone who has returned from a skiing holiday – they can sometimes look more tanned/burnt than if they’d gone on a beach holiday, due to sunlight reflection from the snow increasing the UVA and UVB exposure) – this would certainly have been a confounding factor in the Finnish study and could be the reason why vitamin D levels were higher in people who lived in the Arctic Circle (apart from the fact that the atmosphere is thinner up there so UVB penetration will be higher to start with). It certainly means there’s probably a band of latitude where UVB is sub standard, but further work needs to be done to establish exactly how far this band extends.

Vitamin D2 vs Vitamin D3:
Lastly, there are a lot of “vegan” vitamin D2 supplements on the market that do come from plants, but the problem with them is that D2 isn’t the D-vitamin that everyone’s getting deficient in, and it’s the vitamin D3 that doesn’t come from a plant source, but D2 will give your blood a false positive and it is only good for bone health. On top of that, a lot of packaging doesn’t actually specify which vitamin D it’s got in it, so sometimes you just don’t know what you’re buying. Vitamin D2 is of course also necessary for health, but studies have shown it is far less beneficial than vitamin D3, and has no effect on Alzheimer’s prevention (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007470.pub3/abstract). Getting vitamin D2 is better than getting no vitamin D at all, while we all wait for a properly vegan vitamin D3 supplement.  As you can see, amazon.com has plenty of vegan D2 for sale.

References:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56078/
http://www.drbriffa.com/2014/08/08/can-getting-more-sun-help-protect-against-dementia/
http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpls.2013.00136/full accessed 17/12/14).
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007470.pub3/abstract
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatty_acid#Fatty_acids_in_dietary_fats

What do you think about vitamin D3?  Are you excited that there will be 100% vegan (by every definition) supplements on the market very soon?

[travel] Buying Petrol Abroad

Buying Petrol In Europe and European-language countries

I was actually photographing the misty mountain in the background
The 7am queue, Sunday morning at a petrol station in the Austrian alps. The majority of petrol stations we saw in Austria/Germany were Shell garages.

When we were approaching the ferry at Dover, England, I pulled into the petrol station and filled the tank. My OH’s mum had told us confidently that petrol was much cheaper in France. This should have meant waiting until France to fill up, surely?  Why, then, was I getting petrol now?

Actually, I was deeply worried by particular practicalities of our trip, not least of which, where to actually buy petrol. I didn’t know any of the brand names and was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find these petrol stations. I’d looked online for a list of company names to look out for (Esso, Shell and even BP have stations abroad), but since no list existed I was limited by searching for the overseas locations of petrol stations I already knew the names of. I’d also searched online to find the names of fuels abroad.

I was still deeply worried about running very low on fuel and not being able to find a petrol station. This only happened in Italy, where there were so many different flavours of fuel and colours of hoses that it was rare to find somewhere that carried all of them. The only constant everywhere was diesel, which left me wishing many times that our vehicle was a diesel one. But you got what you got, all you can do is work with what you got.

I’m going to tell you what I learned about filling up abroad, and I’ve included a list of names of petrol types (and which engines they go in) for the countries I’ve been to so far.


Here’s my top hacks for buying petrol in Europe:

1. Service stations generally sell fuel at an almost-reasonable price, but it varies wildly. In Northern Italy on the Autostrade (plural of Autostrada, or freeway), they give you the next 3 prices for diesel and “benzina” from which you can work out the relative prices for your chosen fuel if it’s not either of those.

2. Always fill at two bars or quarter of a tank, and always round down when making the decision; every time we looked at the two bars (1/4 tank) and thought “it’s ok, we can shop around for a better price” something always happened that stopped us getting to a petrol station in good time, and we cut it far too close, far too often. We actually skipped quite a few stations on the way down because we didn’t understand which fuel to put into the car (because the Italians have so many) and they all had black, yellow or red pump handles, no green ones.  There was the time we suddenly ended up in a 4 hour gridlocked traffic jam around Firenze, in 45 degree heat, watching our petrol dwindle. There was the time we took an A-road (I think they’re “routes” or “interstates” in America – the one that’s the next size down from a freeway??) and our 50 mile route suddenly became 100 miles in the dark on continuous hairpin bends every 30 metres or less, so we constantly were doubling back on ourselves, and that hadn’t been marked on our map as such, cutting across from just below Ravenna to the E1. The scenery around there is apparently stunning, but at 1am, it was dark and we didn’t have enough fuel. Luckily the second half was 50 miles of the same, but downhill, so we just rolled it until we got to the E1, and there was a petrol station within 500m of getting onto the Autostrada.  The engine never stopped from lack of fuel, but it came very close a couple of times (making that dreadful hiccuping sound as it gasped for gas).

3. SP95-E10 is the name of a semi-synthetic fuel that is an EU-approved version of petrol. In some countries it’s cheaper than normal 95 octane petrol, in others, it’s more expensive. It’s good stuff though, at least, it was really good in our Citroen Picasso, and I was a little sad when we got back to the UK and couldn’t buy it anywhere. SP95-E10 gave us a vastly improved mileage and the car engine sounded healthier whilst it was using it. I would highly recommend it if you have a Picasso – it’s like they’re made for each other, which could be true, since it’s a French car and since SP95-E10 is prevalent in France. It’s often also called “Super E10.”

4. In Rome, most petrol stations are self-service, but there are men who will insist on filling your car for you (they will be on a mobile phone the entire time, and usually smoking as well, we saw many of these) and then harass you for a tip. Unless you’re sure of yourself physically or speak Italian louder than whoever is on the other end of the phone, you just have to give them some money. I consistently gave 2 Euros on a 20 Euro fill, and it did work out cheaper than the manned petrol stations on the ring road. I don’t think these men actually work for any petrol station company, but Rome is a city whose primary workforce are street hawkers, so you just get used to it.

5. In Austria and Germany, many stations have full service pumps and self-serve pumps, and these mean different things to elsewhere. With the full service pumps, you stop your car and tell the attendant how much fuel you want (like in the olden days of good service) and they’ll fill it for you. At the self-serve pumps, you put your own fuel into the car – but with either option, you still have to go inside to pay. They don’t have a pay at the pump option at these stations so either way you’ve got to waste the same amount of time. The full service pumps are usually about 15-20 cents more expensive per litre than the self-serve, which can seriously add up (that’s 1 euro extra every five litres of fuel. Your fuel tank is usually 25 to 30 litres, so service costs 5-6 Euros per complete tank fill).

6. Make sure you have a credit card as well as your money, some pay-at-the-pump self service machines only take cards, and they’re the ones you’ll get stuck with late at night.

7. To use the European pay-at-the-pump petrol stations, you actually don’t pay at the pump you’re using. In the centre of all the pumps, there will be a machine that you have to select options from and prepay for the amount of fuel you’re going to put in your tank. There are usually language options for at least French, German, Spanish, Italian and English, but once you’ve used 3 or 4 of these machines you’ll know the menu options well enough that you won’t need English (unless you really aren’t paying attention). Just follow the menu through to select fuel type and amount to buy, select payment method if it’s an option and give the machine the money. Eventually it’ll let you go back to your pump and fill up.

Some of them tell you the price in litres and get you to confirm you are happy with this price before letting you continue. Others just take your money. Once you’re filling up, it will automatically cut off at the amount specified. There isn’t an option with these machines to “fill ‘er up” so you need to guess how much fuel you want to put in. I usually went for 20 Euros because the price per litre was often quite high and I thought that if anything went wrong with the machine I’d only lost 20 Euros. If something does go wrong there isn’t really anything you can do about it because these stations are totally unmanned, so just write it off to experience.

8. Knowing your numbers 1-15 in foreign languages really helps with identifying which pump you’re trying to pay for petrol. In England, you walk into the shop and say “pump number 5” and you do the same thing in foreign countries. Just have the number ready before you go in and they can process your request faster. If you don’t know the numbers of the country you’re in, Europeans often can also do English although it might take them a minute to work out what language you’re speaking in, just like if someone started speaking to you in French at your place of work you’d need to think before responding.

9. Despite my worries, it’s actually really easy to spot petrol stations abroad – because they look like petrol stations. Big roof, booth for paying (usually), sign with prices, petrol pumps. Unless, y’know, you’re really unlucky and end up at a car wash or diner that used to be a petrol station and still has all the trimmings. I think my main worry was needing to look for them on my smartphone which always needed a brand name to search, but since it didn’t have any network at all from Dover onwards, that really wasn’t an issue for me because there were so many roadside petrol stations.

10. As a final hack, none of the petrol we bought in France was anything remotely resembling the prices OH’s mum had found before we left.  I hadn’t been holding my breath, but it’s worth bearing in mind that those price comparison tools are not always very up-to-date and it’s probably going to save you time to not bother looking them up, especially if you’re going to be gone drivin’ for more than a day or two.

Here’s the names of fuel in various countries, and what engines they go in:

France/Belgium:

Super E10 – unleaded engines

Super Carburant – leaded engines (old 4 star cars) don’t put in unleaded engines.

Gazole – Diesel engines

LPG – LPG/autogas engines
Sans Plomb 95 / Sans plomb 98 – Unleaded engines

You can carry up to 10 litres of fuel but not aboard ferries.

Germany/Austria:

Super – unleaded engines (95 octane)

Super Plus – unleaded engines (98 octane)

Super E10 – unleaded engines (synthetic SP95-E10)

Diesel – diesel engines

No lead replacement available.

You can carry up to 10 litres of fuel with you, but not aboard ferries.

Italy:

Benzina – generic term, sometimes used for “fuel,” still unsure if this would go in my car.

Benzina verde – unleaded engines.

Benzina super – unleaded engines (higher octane)

Gasolio – diesel engines (don’t ask for gasoline if you have a petrol engine, they’ll think it’s this)

GPL (gas di petrolio liquefatto) – LPG engines.

No lead replacement available, but you can buy a fuel additive to use with unleaded petrol.

Sometimes unleaded is called “senza plombo” but it’s not an official grade of petrol.

You can carry up to 10 litres of fuel with you, but not aboard ferries.

Over 800 miles of driving in Italy, I only saw SP95-E10 once, and it was far more expensive than anything else they were selling.

Spain:

Bencina – petrol, again nowhere was able to tell me if this was ok to put in an unleaded engine or whether it was a common term for something else.

Gasoleo “A” – Diesel engines

Gas-oil – Diesel engines

Gasoleo “B” – HEATING OIL ONLY DON’T PUT IN CAR!

gasolina super – Leaded 4-star engines

gasolina sin plomo – Unleaded engines.

biogasol – another one that no-one could agree on the meaning of. Most likely biodiesel but might instead be something to fuel houses. Probably best to avoid.

SP95-E10 may or may not be available in Spain – it’s likely because it’s a European initiative, but then we don’t have it in the UK, so I will report back when I return from driving to Moroccco.

You can carry up to 10 litres of fuel with you, but not aboard ferries.

Check out this AA motoring guide for other European countries and their specific driving rules, including what to carry when you go abroad:
http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/overseas/countrybycountry.html

Does anyone have any further experience on the names of unleaded/diesel in other countries? I’d love this to become a reference. Don’t just post website translations because I’m specifically collecting the words printed on the sides of petrol pumps. For example, some Italian dictionaries say “petrolio” means “petrol” but it’s actually never used in the sense that we would mean, because it means “petroleum” like “petroleum jelly” (Vaseline). If you asked for it at a petrol station you would get mocked. So, only contribute what you’ve seen at petrol stations please!

Happy driving!