Vegan transition tips

We are now into the third week of Veganuary and I thought that this would be a great time to share some of my tips for transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.  I’ve been a vegan for around eighteen months now and I can tell you that the first six weeks are the most difficult. But those weeks were difficult for reasons I hadn’t anticipated.

I had expected that I would have to deal with strong food cravings during my transition period.  In particular, I predicted that I would have the most trouble separating from cheese, because it was my favourite food in my pre-vegan days.  In actual fact, food cravings weren’t that much of an issue for me.  What I found the most difficult was just navigating the shops and restaurants as a new vegan.  Tasks that had previously been second-nature took on a whole new dimension and became time consuming and difficult.  I had to check labels, ask questions and the whole process was kind of overwhelming.  Additionally, modifying recipes to make them vegan was tricky in the beginning.  But as time passed and I gained more knowledge and experience, these things became much simpler and less stressful.  Let me share with you some of the things I wish I’d known when I first became a vegan, as well as my top transition tips.

  • Go at a pace that feels manageable for you.  There is no rule that says you have to be completely vegan from the get-go.  You might find it easier to cut out meat one month, then progress to dairy and eggs when you are ready.
  • Don’t rely on meat substitutes.  In the early days of adopting a vegan diet, you might be tempted to replace your usual meals with the “meat free” version.  Although this sounds like a good way to ease away from meat, I found this actually made it more difficult.  Meat substitutes are great, but most of them don’t have the flavour or texture of meat.  This means they’re less likely to satisfy cravings. Use meat substitutes sparingly and instead stock up on fresh veggies, legumes, grains, pasta and spices.
  • Try new things.  This is the perfect time to experiment with new recipes and ingredients.
  • Eating out can be a bit of a minefield when you’re a new vegan.  But there are loads of options available, even at restaurants that aren’t specifically vegan.  Mexican restaurants have a huge range of options, pizzas can be ordered without meat or cheese, salads are served at most restaurants and most burger places have at least one veggie burger.  Even my local pub has a veggie stir fry with smokey soy sauce that is accidentally vegan.
  • Plan ahead when you go shopping.  Make a list and spend a little time researching at home which brands offer vegan options.  You can find lists of accidentally vegan snacks at Veggieful which are super helpful.  This will save lots of time and stress when you actually hit the shops.
  • Embrace home cooking.  If you don’t know how to cook, this is the perfect time to learn.  Even though it might be difficult to find vegan versions of your favourite foods in stores, it’s pretty easy to make your own snacks, sweets and meals at home.  It’s also so much cheaper than buying pre-packaged meals or eating out.

Image from mikimottes.com
  • Don’t stress out about protein.  A lot of people believe that meat, eggs and dairy are the only sources of protein.  This isn’t true at all.  If you’re eating a wide range of foods that includes nuts, legumes and grains, you’ll be fine.
  • Some folks love to be jerks to vegans.  It sucks, but it’s a fact.  Accept this, but realise that it’s not your job to respond or be an ambassador for the vegan lifestyle.  If you want to, that’s your choice, but you do not have to engage with someone who is harassing you over your diet.
  • Don’t be alarmed by portion sizes.  When I first went vegan, I got really worried because I had to eat a much larger meal in order to feel satiated.  This occurs simply because plant-based foods don’t have as many calories and therefore it takes a larger amount to make you feel full and satisfied. So if you’re eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans, you might find that your serving sizes need to increase in order for you to feel full.
  • Make your own rules and choices.  You don’t have to be the “perfect vegan” and you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself.  You get to decide how to implement your lifestyle and make choices that suit you.  For example, some vegans get rid of all of their animal-based clothing and only buy animal free clothes.  I still own wool and leather from my pre-vegan days, and I will continue to use these things until they are worn out.  I won’t buy new items that are made from wool or leather but I will still purchase second-hand items made from animal products because I believe in recycling and getting the most out of clothing that is still wearable.  That’s my choice, and it feels right to me, even if it might not be the “perfect vegan” choice.
  • You are going to make mistakes.  You will buy things that have sneaky animal products in them.  You will accidentally order a meal that you didn’t realise had cheese or cream included.  It’s ok.  Mistakes happen and we learn from them.  Don’t beat yourself up or expect to be perfect.

It’s true that the first month or so of trying a vegan lifestyle can be difficult, but I promise you that it does get easier.  And the benefits definitely outweigh the initial struggles.

 

Do you have any transition tips that you’d like to add?  Or any questions about transitioning to a vegan lifestyle?  I’d be happy to answer them.

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Why I can’t teach you to orgasm

I love writing about sex.  It’s one of my favourite topics to blog about and I enjoy publishing posts about toys, BDsM and sexuality.  But I’ve never felt right publishing those Cosmo-eque “15 ways to have an explosive orgasm” posts.

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I was a passionate consumer of these types of articles for years.  I never had trouble finding my orgasm, but I was always eager to find new ways to bring on that pleasure for myself.  I felt compelled to try every new position, every technique that might possibly bring on a bigger, better climax.

 

And for years I found myself deeply disappointed.  Because each time I read one of these articles I wound up feeling broken.  More often than not, the fail-safe techniques contained therein didn’t work for me.  They didn’t bring me an earth-shattering orgasm.  In fact, most of the time they didn’t bring me any orgasm at all, just a feeling that I was inferior, that my body wasn’t working right and that I was missing out on untold pleasures as a result.

 

I vividly recall one holiday I took where my hotel room was equipped with a spa.  I was excited because I’d read so many stories of women who had masturbated by allowing the water from the jets to stimulate their clitorises or by letting a running faucet flow over their vulva.  Eager to try this method out, I ran myself a bath, scooted in line with one of the jets and waited.  And waited some more.  And shifted position.  And then began to wonder “at what point does this start to feel good?”  It wasn’t doing a darn thing for me.  I pulled out the plug, towelled myself off and went to bed feeling disappointed.

 

This pattern repeated itself over the years in so many different ways.  It even popped up when I was given my first ever sex toy.  I jumped into bed, eager to play with it because I was sure it was going to give me an earth-shattering orgasm.  I pressed it to my genitals, turned it on and waited for the magic.  And turned up the power and waited.  And finally gave up.  I thought my beautiful new vibrator was a total dud because I hadn’t wanted to scream with pleasure as soon as it made contact with my body.  How wrong I was.

 

I think the problem I had was twofold.  Firstly, I was taking a purely mechanical approach to pleasure.  I was reading the techniques in these articles and following them stringently.  But the thing is, our erogenous zones can’t be manipulated by pressing the right series of buttons in the right order.  You’re trying to have an orgasm, not operating a coffee machine.  And a lot of the time articles that promise to show you a new technique to help you come are written like an instruction manual.  So even if you follow all the steps, you still might not reach the desired end result because most of us need more than that to orgasm.  We need to be sufficiently relaxed and we need to feel safe.  There are hormonal fluctuations, physical rhythms and stress patterns that come into play.  Our body is a hugely complicated system, and so many factors come into play when you’re talking about physical pleasure.

 

The second part of the problem is decidedly more personal.  It’s taken me a while to be able to articulate it.  But a few days ago I listened to a lecture by Sonalee Rashatwar that set off a lightbulb in my brain.  In the lecture, Sonalee pointed out that in many non-Western cultures, people hold the idea that each person is born with all the knowledge they need to be happy and fulfilled, and that it’s merely a matter of accessing that knowledge.  This is different to the more western notion of a person looking outside themselves to learn what they need to know.  This statement resonated so fiercely with me because it so beautifully described how I feel about learning to orgasm.

 

I believe that for each of us, our body already knows what it needs to feel pleasure.  Think about it.  When we’re hungry, often our body will give us a signal of what kind of food we need to satiate ourselves.  If we are feeling agitated or upset, often an idea will pop up of something that will feel good or comfort us.  And I think that our bodies know what we need to bring us physical pleasure and orgasm.

 

In my experience, the times when I’ve learned a new way to orgasm, whether that be using a different sexual position, a different technique for touching myself, a new kind of toy or whatever, the orgasm has been a result of finding something that feels good and moving towards it.  In the case of my first vibrator, the way I eventually got it to work for me was when I was playing around with it one day, noticed that one of the settings felt really good against my body, and just relaxed and ran towards that feeling.  Finding that spark of “Oh, this feels nice” and then pursuing it has always been the way that I’ve achieved climax.  I’ve learned to look for the signals that my body throws up when I’m enjoying myself, or listen to those ideas that pop into my mind about different ways to move or play that might feel good.  It’s that experimentation and willingness to listen to my own body that have allowed me to learn how to have great sex, not from rigidly following the instructions in an article I read in Cosmo.

 

And that’s why I don’t feel comfortable writing articles that set out techniques that “guarantee” amazing orgasms.  Because I don’t think that approach to pleasure is helpful.  Sexuality and pleasure is intensely personal, and varies so much from person to person.  Although I can give you suggestions for things to try, or recommend toys that are great to play with, I don’t want to offer guarantees or step-by-step instructions.  Because by doing that, I’m discouraging you from being creative and playful in bed, from listening to your own body and chasing pleasure when it pops up.  I don’t ever want to write something that makes someone feel ashamed or broken.  I want to write posts that inspire you to try new things and look for the ways you can achieve pleasure that work for you.

 

Substituting vegan ingredients in recipes

I am an enthusiastic cook and I enjoy puddling about in the kitchen.  Few things excite me more than the prospect of a new recipe to try out.  When I was contemplating switching to a vegan diet, I felt a bit wary that my cooking would become very limited.  I was under the impression that I would have to stop making all of my favourite non-vegan dishes and that any new recipe I tried would have to be vegan approved.

 

I quickly learned that it is very simple to adapt recipes that are intended to be made with meat, dairy or eggs to make them vegan-friendly.  Today I want to share a list of the common non-vegan ingredients and the vegan alternatives that I typically use in their place.

 

Beef: Thickly sliced portobello Mushrooms.  Thickly sliced eggplant.  Seitan stir fry strips, black beans, Nut mince.

Chicken: Firm tofu, Fry’s rice protein and chia stir fry strips, Quorn vegan nuggets sliced into pieces, chickpeas, lentils.

Fish: Pulse chickpeas, lemon juice and a dash of soy sauce in the food processor.  This makes an awesome alternative to tuna in sandwiches, pasta bakes and can be mixed with breadcrumbs and fried to make “phish” cakes.

Eggs: For baking, I use an egg substitute product called The Vegg.  It’s a powder that you mix with water and add to your baking.  It bakes really well and looks and smells like egg when you mix it up.  Flaxseed oil or other vegetable oils can be used in place of eggs in baking. Applesauce may be used in sweet recipes.

Ham or bacon: For soups or stews that use ham or bacon, I like to add a can of white beans such as cannelini or butter beans for protein and texture.  Liquid Smoke can also be added to give the smokey flavour that these cured meats add to cooked dishes.

Milk: There are so many milk substitutes to choose from that it can make a vegan’s head spin!  My personal preferences for everyday are soy and almond milk. Coconut milk is naturally sweet for baking but can have a coconutty-flavour.  Rice, oat and hemp milk are also great options.

Cream: For pasta sauces that call for cream, I like to blend silken tofu in the food processor until it’s smooth.  For sweets and desserts, try this cashew cream recipe.

Sour cream: Simply blend silken tofu in a food processor until smooth and add a dash of lemon or lime juice, a pinch of paprika and a pinch of salt.

Cheese: Nutritional Yeast is perfect for adding a cheesy flavour to risotto, pasta bakes, soups or on top of pasta.  My favourite vegan cheeses are Biocheese and Green Vee cheeses.

Butter: It’s easy to find vegan spreads on the supermarket shelf. My personal favourite is the Nuttlex Buttery Spread.

Beef or chicken stock: use vegetable broth. Alternatively, Massal stocks contain no animal products and come in beef and chicken flavours.

Gelatine: Agar flakes or powder.

 

When you become more practised at vegan cooking, you’ll get a feel for how to adapt regular recipes to make them suitable.  When choosing your substituted ingredients, it’s important to consider the ingredient’s role in the recipe.  Is the ingredient there for texture?  To bind the mixture together?  For flavour?  This will help you to select a substitute that performs the same role so that your recipe is more likely to be a success.

 

Do you have any additions to this list?  What do you substitute to make ordinary recipes vegan-friendly?

 

 

 

New Years Resolutions 2018

The start of a new year always feels like a blank sheet of paper to me.  It’s clean and fresh, ready to be written upon.  Although I set goals and challenges throughout the year, new years resolutions always feel more charged and purposeful to me.  Today I wanted to take some time to review my 2017 goals as well as setting some new goals for the year ahead.

 

2017 goals in review

  1. Journal once per week

There was only one week this year that I missed journalling, and it was because I was ill with the flu and couldn’t even hold my head up.  I did a mixture of traditional day-to-day records, stream of consciousness work and journal prompts.  I really enjoyed taking that time for myself to put my thoughts down on paper.

 

2. Read all the books in my to-read pile

I didn’t even come close to achieving this goal.  Although I read a lot this year, I also got two bookstore giftcards, which inevitably led to the addition of about ten new books to the pile.  If I’m going to have any chance of working through my to-read pile, I need to concentrate on not acquiring new books just as much as reading the ones on the shelf.

Rocking my me-made cardigan to work. #outfit #workwear #cardigan #knits

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3. Knit a whole garment

I knitted not one, but three jumpers for myself this year (and made good progress on a fourth).

First time wearing my me-made jumper. #crafts #knits #TARDIS #blue #outfit

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4. Continue transitioning to a vegan-ish diet

I rocked this one and went full vegan this year.  I cooked loads of new recipes, tried foods I never expected to like and ate out at some fantastic vegan restaurants.

 

5. Declutter my flat

I got rid of approximately one quarter of all my possessions this year.  I was extremely ruthless and cleaned out every cupboard and drawer.  I was very honest about things that I was hanging onto out of guilt, or because it represented the kind of person I wished I were, rather than the person I am.  It was incredibly freeing.

 

6. Buy fewer things

I drastically reduced the number of “just because” purchases I made this year.  Although I did a fair amount of shopping still, I tried hard to be mindful of what I was spending money on and only bought things that were necessary or which brought me joy (and I went a bit nuts at Kinkfest and Sexpo….my bad!)

 

7. Write more sex positive posts

I’m really proud of the number of sex positive posts I published in 2017.  I completed my series on the ABC’s of BDsM, wrote about sex on Game of Thrones, reviewed some awesome toys including my glass tentacle wand, the Tantus Destiny and the Bootie plug and considered the performance of pleasure. I got a lot more comfortable writing about sex and talking about difficult topics.  I also attended Sexpo and Oz Kinkfest and met loads of incredible people at both events.

 

8. Build an aftercare kit

I had long wanted to build an aftercare kit for my BDsM needs.  I put together an awesome little bag filled with all the essentials I need to take care of myself after a scene.  It’s been super useful and it was truly therapeutic to consider closely the type of aftercare I need after a scene.

 

2018 resolutions

  • Close the gap on my long distance relationship

I’ve been dating my partner for almost two years now and we live three hours away from each other.  Long distance relationships are rewarding, but difficult.  By this time next year, I’d really like for my love and I to be living closer to one another.

 

  • Be able to do a forward split

My yoga practice has stalled a little this year, and I’ve noticed that my hips and hamstrings are especially tight.  I have still been practising but I’ve slacked off a bit.  So in 2018 I want to put more effort into regular yoga workouts and incorporating loads of flexibility training to allow myself to achieve a King Monkey Pose (or forward split) by the end of the year.

  • Learn colourwork knitting

It’s my dream to eventually learn how to make my own ugly Christmas sweaters.  But before I can do that, I need to learn how to do colourwork properly.  2018 will be the year of colourwork knitting for me.

  • 100 days of no spending

I’m trying hard to cut down my spending this year.  There are a lot of days when I will pop into the shops aimlessly during my lunch break or call into the supermarket on my way home without a clear idea of what I’m going to buy.  So this year I want to rack up 100 days where I don’t spend any money.  I think this goal will help me to cut down on those little “just because” purchases.

  • Publish one toy review per month

I have a stack of toys that are waiting to be reviewed.  I’d really like to get the ball rolling on more reviews and post one per month.

 

  • Catch up with one friend per month

I haven’t been terribly social this past year.  I realised towards Christmas that there are some people I adore that I didn’t see at all in 2017.  This year I want to make a huge effort to catch up with my friends more often, and arranging at least one friend-date per month will help with that.

 

So that’s my goals for 2018.  Cross your fingers and lend me your support as I work towards them.  And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so that you don’t miss any of my adventures and reviews.

 

What are your resolutions for 2018?

My favourite vegan resources

Happy Veganuary!  Veganuary is a campaign to encourage people to try a vegan diet for the month of January.  If you’re interested in veganism and want to give it a go, I recommend taking part in Veganuary.

 

To celebrate Veganuary, I’m publishing a series of posts about veganism during the month of January.  These posts will deal with some of the common questions faced by new vegans and assist and support you if you’re considering making the transition to a vegan diet.

 

One of the most important things to do at the beginning of your vegan journey is to do your research.  Veganism is a massive topic and there are so many things to be considered.  You need to think about the reasons why you want to go vegan, the health benefits and concerns associated with a vegan diet as well as recipes and meal inspiration.  The internet is filled with resources for new vegans, but it can be very overwhelming when you’re just getting started.  To help you out, I’ve put together a list of the resources that I found most helpful at the beginning of my transition to veganism, as well as the ones that I reference on a regular basis now.

 

Films

Forks over Knives: This compelling documentary discusses the health benefits of a plant based diet.  It considers whether eating a diet high in animal products can contribute to problems like heart disease and cancer and how moving away from animal products can have a healing effect on our bodies.

 

101 Reasons to Go Vegan: A presentation aimed at high school students to help you consider the ethical dilemmas involved in farming and eating animals and animal by-products.

 

Cowspiracy: A sobering look at the environmental impact of the farming industry.

 

Books

The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S Nixon: When you’re first learning to cook a plant-based diet, a comprehensive book like this one can be a lifesaver.  I read this book two months after I began eating a vegan diet, and it made life so much easier.  It is chock-full of recipes for meal inspiration, has pages of tips for negotiating eating out at restaurants and social gatherings, lots of interviews with vegans of all walks of life and great shopping lists in the back.  One important thing to note is that this book is focused on plant-based eating, which doesn’t include things like oil and so it’s a tad more limited than a traditional “vegan” diet.  But this book is still a great starting point and I highly recommend it.

 

Veganish: the Omnivore’s Guide to Plant-Based Cooking by Mielle Chenier and Cowan Rose: An excellent book to read if you’re concerned about the nutritional value of a vegan diet.  Although the book does have a lot of recipes, they are a tiny bit more advanced than most beginner-friendly books, owing to the fact that the author is a chef.  It’s still a great read and very informative.

 

Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans by Natalie Slater: Most vegan cookbooks are a plethora of salads, soups, curries and other angelic delights.  This punk-rock book is brimming with amazing vegan junk food options like pizzas, cakes, cookies, chips, sandwiches and nachos.  It’s colourful and creative and so much fun.

 

Websites

All Vegan, All Good: All Vegan, All Good is the shopping hub for cruelty-free clothing and products. If you are looking for good-quality vegan clothing, beauty products and lifestyle products, this website is a great place to start.  Browse through the list of shops or search for specific items.  This site has saved me so much time when looking for new shoes and beauty products.

 

Veggieful: This is my most-visited site for finding vegan groceries and takeaway options.  Although the site is packed with blog posts about vegan nutrition, recipes and so forth, the real kicker is the comprehensive lists of “accidentally vegan” items at major grocery stores and takeaway chains in Australia.  This website will save you so much time scouring ingredients lists and asking waitstaff what you can order.  It’s amazing and I love it.

 

Choose Cruelty Free: A comprehensive listing of all the companies that make cruelty free and vegan cosmetics in Australia.  This is immensely helpful as it can be very confusing trying to determine which products are cruelty free in the chemist or supermarket as not all of them are clearly labelled.  This website takes all the guesswork out of shopping for cosmetics.

 

The Cruelty Free Shop: The biggest vegan supermarket in Australia.  The brick-and-mortar store is located in Fitzroy.  However, if you’re not able to get to the actual shop, you can buy all your vegan goodies at their online store.  Featuring everything from groceries to snacks, makeup to lubricant, everything is 100% vegan.

 

Youtube channels

Keira Rose: Keira vlogs about a range of topics, including mental health and cosplay.  But my favourite part of her channel is her “what I ate” videos which are great fodder for meal planning and her reviews of vegan products.  She’s charming, funny and adorable and I’ve learned so much from her channel.

 

Jenny Mustard: I first discovered Jenny’s channel when I was looking for videos about minimalism and decluttering.  In addition to being a genius on these topics, Jenny is a total foodie and gives brilliant advice on simple, satisfying vegan cooking.  She’s a master of meal planning and has loads of snack ideas that will make your mouth water.

 

Plant Based News:  A great channel to help you access the newest vegan documentaries as well as interviews with scientists, doctors and health professionals.

 

Vegan Voyager: Laura’s down-to-earth tone and witty attitude make this channel a pleasure to watch.  Featuring great advice for vegan travel, avoiding products with hidden animal content and identifying accidentally vegan products.  Loads of delicious junk food and shopping tips.

 

If you know of any other resources that you think I should add to this list, please let me know.  I’m always on the lookout for new vegan books, films and online media to learn from and share.

 

As always, if you’ve got any questions I’d be happy to try to answer them for you.  Drop me an email or leave a comment and I’ll do my best to find the answer for you.

 

A guide to choosing sex toys as gifts.

I’ve been asked many times for advice on choosing a sex toy to give as a gift to a partner.  I had planned to write and publish this post in the lead-up to Christmas, but the last few weeks have been swamped with work commitments, family engagements and wild weather that left me without power or internet connection for long stretches.  Even though Christmas is over, I still wanted to address the topic of buying sex toys as presents, because it’s relevant year-round.

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Choosing a sex toy for another person can be fraught with difficulties.  The potential for embarrassment (both theirs and yours) is high.  You can accidentally insult someone if you buy something that is wildly contrary to their interests, or even potentially make them feel pressured to engage in sexual acts that they aren’t truly comfortable with.  It’s a bit of a minefield but I’m here with some top tips and tricks to help you choose a gift that your partner will find exciting and pleasurable.

 

Before you begin shopping, it’s really important to have a think about why you’re buying a sex toy for your partner.  Have they expressed an interest in trying toys?  Have they mentioned wanting to dip their toe into a particular area of sexual exploration, such as BDsM or anal play?  Do you live far apart and want them to be able to enjoy steamy masturbation sessions when you aren’t with them?  Or are you hoping that by buying them a toy you’ll be able to pressure them into letting you watch them use it?  You have to be really honest with yourself here.  If you are hoping to increase your partner’s pleasure or open the door to some fresh exploration, then that’s awesome.  If you’re using the toy to entice your partner into doing something they aren’t comfortable with, then you should back off.

 

Ok, so assuming you’re buying a toy for the right reasons, the next thing to consider is what your partner is into.  Think about the kinds of activities your partner enjoys in the bedroom, and look for toys that will enhance that experience.  For example, if you know that your partner enjoys being restrained during sex, maybe you could get them some gorgeous cuffs and a blindfold.  If your partner prefers clitoral stimulation, try an external vibrator.  Also, it pays to think about any areas of sexuality that your sweetheart has mentioned they are interested in trying.  If they’ve previously mentioned that they find pegging really hot, then a simple harness and small silicone dildo could be fun.  Or if they’re itching to try spanking, a paddle or a crop could be a cheeky addition to their toybox.  Pay attention to your partner’s preferences and desires and choose accordingly.

 

Another thing to consider is whether your partner already owns any toys.  If they have a budding collection, then it’s worth looking for any patterns in the toys they own.  Do they seem to prefer insertable toys?  Vibrators?  Is their bedside drawer filled with butt plugs of various sizes?  If there is a particular thing that they seem to love, try getting them something similar, with a twist. Dildos in luxurious materials like glass are a great start, as are vibrators with unique shapes or functions.

 

Once you’ve got an idea of the kind of thing you’d like to buy for your honey, do some research.  Look at online stores for ideas, read reviews from sex bloggers, watch youtube videos and pay attention to what they have to say.  Take into account any criticisms and decide whether these are deal-breakers for your partner.  Also remember that bodies vary wildly and what feels pleasurable to one person can be irritating or even painful for another.

 

Is your head spinning yet?  I’m not surprised.  Shopping for sex toys can be an overwhelming experience.  There are so many to choose from and so many different factors to consider.  Which brings me to my most important piece of advice.

 

If you aren’t 100% sure what to get for your partner, get them a gift voucher.  Unless you know for a fact that your partner is drooling over a specific model of vibrator, the best thing you can do is give them a voucher for a reputable adult store.  This way, they can either go by themselves or you can make it an adventure for the both of you to go to the store and choose something that suits them perfectly.

 

My first ever vibrator was a gift from a partner.  They took me to an adult store for Valentines Day, gave me a budget and asked me to take my time choosing the toy that I most wanted.  I’d been interested in getting a vibrator for some time, but I had absolutely no idea what type of toys were available or even what would work best for my body.  So actually going to a real-life store was the best thing to do.  Not only was I able to touch the toys, press buttons and feel vibration quality and materials, but I got some amazing expert advice from the shop assistant.  She knew her toys so well and helped me to choose a vibrator that I absolutely loved.  I left the store with something that brought me years of joy, my partner was chuffed that he’d given me the gift of pleasure and I didn’t feel pressured or uncomfortable.  To this day, I still believe this is the best approach to giving a sex toy as a gift.

 

Giving a voucher or a toy-shopping expedition as a gift overcomes a lot of the pitfalls of shopping for a partner.  It takes away all the guesswork or trying to imagine what they might like.  It makes your partner feel empowered to choose something that they would find pleasurable, rather than being pressured into using the specific item you picked out.  Going shopping as a couple can be a really fun bonding experience and you won’t waste money on something that your partner won’t use.  Unless you’re really certain that your partner wants a specific toy, I think that going shopping together or giving them a voucher to spend at their leisure is the best way to gift a sex toy to your partner.

My IUD experience.

I’ve just gotten back from my appointment with my doctor to check up on my IUD.  Now that I’ve had it for three whole months I thought that it would be a good time to have a chat about my experience with the IUD.

What on earth is an IUD?

IUD stands for intra-uterine device. It is a contraceptive device.  The device is about an inch long and is inserted into the uterus by a doctor.  There are two different types of IUD: the copper IUD and the Mirena IUD.  The copper IUD works essentially as a spermicide, as copper is toxic to sperm.  The Mirena contains a low dose of the same hormones that are contained in the contraceptive pill, and works by thinning the uterine lining so that a fertilized egg cannot implant and grow into a fetus. Both types of IUD are extremely effective, and are the most effective type of long-term, reversible contraceptives.  The copper IUD lasts for three years while the Mirena lasts for five.

Why did you get an IUD?

I started looking into getting an IUD about six months ago.  The main reason was that I suffer from chronic migraines, which tend to get worse just after my period.  I had been on the contraceptive pill since I was seventeen, and for the seven days when I was taking the inactive sugar pills in the pack, I felt wretched.  This got worse as I got older and it was during this seven day window when my migraines occurred most frequently.  I hoped that by getting off the contraceptive pill, I’d ease the severity of my migraines.

 

I had originally wanted to get a copper IUD, because it has no hormones at all and I wanted to get away from hormonal birth control.  But after meeting with my gynaecologist and having a long discussion, she recommended that the Mirena would be a better fit.  The reason being that the copper IUD has a lot more side effects, such as increased period bleeding and cramping.  Also, she hoped that the Mirena, being a much lower dose of hormones than the pill, and also the fact that its’ a steady dose rather than the stop-start nature of the pill’s hormones, would still give me the benefit of easing my migraines.

 

What was the insertion like?  Did it hurt?

The insertion was pretty quick, but it did hurt a lot more than I expected.  Now, I know that some people get IUDs and experience very little pain or discomfort.  But every body is different.

The first part of the process was pretty much the same as a pap smear.  I took off all my clothing below the waist and lay on the examination table with my feet in stirrups.  My doctor inserted a speculum into my vagina and then did a manual examination, using a gloved finger to feel my ovaries and check the position of my cervix.  That bit was uncomfortable, but not at all painful.  Next, the doctor used a clamp to hold onto the lip of my uterus.  This is done to make sure that the uterus stays in place during the insertion (did you know that your uterus can move up and down?  I only learned that when I started using a menstrual cup, because your uterus and cervix are actually much lower at the end of your cycle).  This hurt quite a lot, and felt like a really sharp stinging pain low in my belly.  Luckily, my doctor worked very quickly from this point because she knew how badly that clamp hurts.

 

Next, the doctor does what is called a Uterine Sounding, which is basically using a little rod to measure the length of your uterus.  This is done to make sure that the IUD is put into the correct position.  I didn’t find this painful at all, it just felt like a light menstrual cramp.  Next, the doctor inserted the actual IUD, using the applicator.  The applicator itself looks terrifying because it’s so long, but it helps to remember that most of what you see is just the handle for the doctor to hold onto and guide the device into place.  The actual insertion was pretty painful for me.  Even though I tried to stay relaxed and focus on breathing slowly and deeply, it still hurt.  But it was over very quickly, and once the clamp was released I felt much better.  My doctor gave me a high five and I was allowed to get dressed and leave.

 

That afternoon I felt a bit sick and woozy for about twenty minutes after the procedure.  I had a bit of cramping, which just felt like menstrual cramps but they only lasted a few hours and were perfectly manageable with some Ibuprofen and a heat pack.  I also had a bit of bleeding that afternoon.  The following day I felt absolutely fine and went to work with no issues at all.

 

Did you have any side effects?

I’ve had very few side effects with the Mirena.  The main one is that my periods have been kind of irregular.  This is probably because my body is adjusting to not being on the pill.  It’s a bit of a pain not knowing when I’m going to get my period, particularly as my cycle was like clockwork when I was on the pill.  But my doctor has said that my cycle will settle into a rhythm after a few months.

I’ve also had a tiny bit more cramping on my period than what I’m used to.  But nothing too severe.

About three weeks after the insertion I had horrible sharp pains on one side of my lower stomach.  I realised that these were ovulation pains, which are caused when the ovary releases an egg.  When you are on the pill, you don’t ovulate, so this was my first ovulation in 13 years and I think it was a shock to my body, and that’s why it hurt so much.  In subsequent months I’ve had the tiniest twinge of ovulation pain, but nothing so bad as that first time.

Are you happy with it?

I’m very happy with the Mirena.  I haven’t had a migraine since I got it inserted, which is the longest I’ve gone without a migraine in five years.  I don’t expect my migraines to stop entirely, because i know that I have other triggers besides hormonal fluctuations but this has definitely helped to ease them.  I no longer have to remember to take a pill every morning or worry about picking up my prescription from the chemist.  It’s been really freeing, and so for that short burst of pain it’s been well worth it.

 

I’d definitely encourage people to think about the IUD as a long-term contraceptive option.  It’s a less popular option than the pill because it’s more expensive initially and it has to be inserted, but it’s extremely effective and lasts for years.  I’m really happy with mine and I’m open to answering any questions you might have based on my experience.