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Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Be it Resolved...

What a year it has been my girlfriends… so much to reflect upon and so much to be grateful for. 2011 was filled with fabulous highs and definite adventure both in and out of my closet.

On the fashion front- I dropped a dress size and found that yes, fabulous dose really come in all shapes and sizes.

On the shoe my Brian Atwood appreciation society really did reach monumental status. The man knows how to make a pump and I am a card carrying/heel-wearing fan. I found a good pair of platform pumps really can make a good day better and a day at the office in a great pair of Atwoods really is the best medicine.

Speaking of medicine it really was a healthy year. I turned 40 on a mountaintop in Africa and spent the summer riding my bike across Canada. I got bangs in lieu of Botox and have embraced the small fortune that I spend on my moisturizer like it is a necessary mortgage beauty payment if you will.

I discovered kindness and a little hope in the unlikely of places this year and found cybersisters far and wide who celebrated themselves and their unique voice in the world.

Yes, it has been a wonderful year.

This week marks one of my favourite times of 2011.

Now my girlfriends, when it comes to days of the year I really don’t like to play favorites. Like the shoes in my closet, the days on my calendar are each special in their own way.

But like the shoes in my closet, I have been know to have a few days that stand above the others… days that hold sentimental value more so than others….

This next seven days are my calendar equivalent of Louboutins.

Yesterday of course was the holy of holies… boxing day. Let’s be honest- when signs everywhere read “70% off” it really is the BEST DAY EVER.

I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on the year and its gifts both fashionable and spiritual.

I spent the holiday weekend on call in the ICU in Lethbridge, Alberta. It was a rough one- not much sleep and not enough cheer but that is all behind us. Ahead is a full week off where I will spend my time riding my bike, cleaning my closet and catching up life in general.

I have last week’s New York Times to read and several blogs to write and amidst it all…. I realize that I have no resolutions.

Make no mistake I’m a chic who really plans ahead. Hell, I have been picking up out my clothes to wear “the night before” since I was 10 years old. I make lists and I check them twice.

As for change- I make it everyday- from outfit s to outlooks, from food trends to shoe trends.

And yet, I do not make resolutions. On a personal note- this stopped about 10 years ago when I decided to really change my life and all of the sudden the resolutions became and every day thing and were no longer confined to one day a year.

There is actually a study called the New Year’s Resolution experiment done in 2007 on 3000 people in the UK. This research shows that while 52% of participants in a resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12% actually achieved their goals. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, a system where small measurable goals are used (lose a pound a week, instead of saying "lose weight"), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends

Professor of psychology at Deakin University, Bob Cummins, says making New Year's resolutions helps us feel better about ourselves.

"One of the fundamental features of human beings is that we need to feel good about ourselves. It's a very, very strong need that we have," he said.

In fact, Professor Cummins says making a New Year's resolution is our way of seeking forgiveness and clearing our guilty consciences.

"The end of the year constitutes a kind of secular absolution that people earnestly say to themselves and their friends and their dear ones, 'I'm going to change'," he said.

"This turns them into not only a good person because they've got these good ideas, but it also makes them feel very good because they're absolved of their sins during the past year and they're not going to do these things any more.

"So in a way it's like an addiction in itself. People just must make these very ambitious personal claims of absolution at the end of each year."

SO that me- one year later…. Declaring my hopes and dreams and plan and challenges every day in my life and every week in this space.

Maybe a resolution would clear my conscience and make me happy? Yah… I’ll leave that task to the fabulous coat I bought on Boxing Day at 80% off. It makes me happy as hell and I don’t have to change a thing for it.

A big love to my cybersisters this holiday seasons… buckle up- I know 2012 is going to be one hell of a ride.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Freaking Holidays

Merry and happy dear girlfriends and welcome to the most stressful time of the year. Make no mistake, my cybersisters… I do love me a good retail festival but even I lately have found myself avoiding the shops as if they were a small screaming child. (sorry, I don’t like screaming children- on further thought- I don’t like screaming anything- unless there is a PRADA sale and then- well who can’t help themselves.)

The past few weeks have gotten me asking myself, who but bitchy in the water? No one holds doors open for anyone any more. Walking down Robson street lately is like playing a real life version of retail WHACK A MOLE where people come at you with parcels and packages and you have to avoid being hit by them regularly.

Yes, I know Christmas is an emotional hardship of a holiday. Shopping is polarizing sport. People love it or hate it. That coupled with the judgments of families and friends. It’s a challenging time. Who wants to defend their life choices at a table full of family members for hours on end?

I’m not being a Grinch when I say that perhaps we could tone down the nasty for the next few days? I know we live in a materialistic society- and I’m not suggesting we turn it around- hell I love my closet; but can’t we all, I don’t now… just get along?

Do you remember when we were little and times were so much simpler? Your handbag HAD to match your shoes and your nail polish HAD to match your lipstick. “Please” and “Thank-You” were a given and people were always happy around the holidays. Life was simpler, air was cleaner, and people were nicer, no?

Maybe I just remember it that way. I remember being mesmerized by Charlie Brown Christmas Specials and big trees in malls. I remember how the days always had a little bit more sparkle around their edges. We never celebrated Christmas (and no Hanukah really is not the same) but as an outsider looking in I always thought December was a special time where people seemed more hopeful, and quite frankly… nicer.

Was I just a victim of the marketing ads? Was there really no PEACE ON EARTH, no GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN? I never paused to ask my parents if the times in fact have changed. Maybe it’s just that I’ve grown up and grown a bit cynical. Maybe times in deed were as stressful back then as they are now it is just that I no longer have Charlie Brown to keep me hopeful?

Magazines everywhere talk about the “Christmas Depression” and how the holidays are more stressful and people more likely to have mood disorders and even suicides around this time of year. My VOGUE magazine had always been a source of knowledge but could it finally be speaking my medical language as well? Was CHRISTMAS DEPRESSION in fact a true disease? I wondered....

If in fact this were true than perhaps I was being too hard on my fellow shoppers. They were bitchy for a reason! They had Christmas depression? Mankind was in peril trying to find the perfect sweater set/iPod/perfume gift set for their loved one.

And then I went in search of a real scientific answer.

According to an article published in the JAMA in 1982- this idea of CHRISTMAS DEPRESSION is scientific bullshit. Although anecdotal notions are all about us suggesting that the stress of the holidays impacts peoples' mental well being, the science just does not back it up. There is no such thing in the medical literature as CHRISTMAS DEPRESSION. There is in fact a CHRISTMAS DISEASE but this is a form of hemophilia that has nothing to do with the holiday itself.

Several meta-analysis show that hospital admissions and suicides around this time of year are actually down. Less people visit Emergency rooms and doctors offices around this time of year. Sure you could say that they are all too busy but in my experience as a physician diseases don’t usually wait for you to get your “to do” lists in order before they rear their ugly heads.

Interestingly hospital admissions dramatically climb AFTER the holidays either suggesting that all the self indulgence over Christmas eventually catches up with us or in fact that people now have “the time” to be sick. Not really sure how to navigate that one my girlfriends but I will leave it to you to ponder.

Make no mistake- I do love me a good festive time. But medically speaking there’s no reason to be bitchy especially when gifts are involved. So on this holiday of holidays I say let's just all take it down a notch my sisters… pour yourselves a glass of mulled wine, settle down and let the joy begin.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sleeping Beauty

Girlfriends… it’s really light in my bedroom. I don’t say that to elicit a giggle. Get your minds out of the gutter.

We have southern exposure and no blackout blinds. I live in downtown Vancouver. As such, I can almost read a book…. At 2 am with the lights out in my bedroom… full moon or not.

Sure we have a great apartment but unfortunately it comes with those shitty white bottom of the barrel blinds. These are the crappy white lever blinds that come with most standard apartments in the downtown.

Make no mistake, I love it that these blinds are my key to privacy. I close the blinds and my neighbour can’t see me when I walk around my bedroom in my underwear. Yes, I understand that all things come at a cost but is it so much to ask that I get a set of drapes that black out the light and prevent me from having my very own underwear based You-Tube video?

Me and my shitty blinds have pretty much reached the end of our relationship. I need me some black out blinds.

I am tired (excuse the pun) of sleeping in a room that is lit up like Times Square.
I am tired of sleeping with a sleep mask on my face at all times.
I am tired of walking to the washroom in BROAD DAYLIGHT at 3 in the morning.

This really has become a problem.

You see, I really like to sleep in a cave. I like to get out of bed in the middle of the night and fumble to find the bathroom. I like to trip over things and want for a night light because it is so dark in the room.

My time spent travelling and staying in hotels allows me to see how the darker half lives. On the down side of course is bed bugs…. On the up side is the black-out blinds.

Yes my cybersisters I will risk the threat of vermin for the sake of not having to wear another one of those “sleepytime masks” with the word “Princess” scrolled across the front in glued on rhinestones.

Most people don’t sleep well in hotels. They talk about how the room is foreign to them and how they miss their own bed, their own room and their own pillow.

Me? Sure, I miss the familiarity of it all, but I welcome the dark.

You see our brains are pretty specific when it comes to being influenced by light.

We all have a biological clock in our brains that help to regulate our sleep and wake cycles and other key physiological systems that allow us to live in harmony with our natural surroundings such as day and night and the changing of the seasons.

This is same system that helps to tell us when we are sleepy or awake. It is the same system that gets “off kilter” when we travel and suffer from jet lag for example.

The most important function of a biological clock is to regulate certain biological rhythms like the sleep/wake cycle. The biological clock is also involved in controlling seasonal reproductive cycles in some animals through its ability to track information about the changing lengths of daylight and darkness during a year.

There are two types of biological rhytms. Exogenous rhythms are directly produced by an external influence, such as an environmental cue. (think time of day). These are not generated internally by the organism itself, and if the environmental cues are removed, the rhythm ceases. For example put someone in a dark room for days on end and they will eventually lose their usual day/night cycle.

Endogenous rhythms, by contrast, are driven by an internal, self-sustaining biological clock rather than by anything external to us. Biological rhythms like changes in core body temperature, are endogenous. They are maintained even if environmental cues are removed.

Humans have a circadian rhythm that has a natural day length of just over 24 hours. This “clock” needs to be reset to match the length of day for what is called the “environmental photoperiod”.

This is the amount of daylight in a 24 hour period. As you can imagine the body’s internal clock goes haywire in times where day and night are prolonged. For example- move to the arctic in the summer where the daylight last for 20 or so hours and you have a problem with your internal clock.

The cue that synchronizes the internal biological clock to the environmental cycle is light. Photoreceptors in the retina (the back of the eye) transmit light-dependent signals to a blace in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. This is an area that sits right on top of the optic nerve behind the eye. Drill a hole between your eye and your ear straight into the brain and you are there. I don’t mean to be gross or dramatic but it’s the visual I’m after.

Interestingly, our usual visual system receptors, the rods and cones, are apparently not required for this photoreception.9This mean that even some blind people still have a sense of a biological clock.

Special types of retinal ganglion cells are photoreceptive and project directly to the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and appear to have all the properties required to provide the light signals for synchronizing the biological clock.3 At the suprachiasmatic nucleus the signal interacts with several genes that serve as “pacemakers.”

A study published in Neuroscience Letters in 1986 exposed 8 healthy controls to bright light starting at 6 am and ending at 9am. These people were monitored for their sleep patterns for 10 days at first and in rooms where the light gradually became lighter at around 6am and progressed until 9 am. This had little effect on their day/night cycle.

The study then went on and exposed the same subjects to a bright light at 6am. Within 7 days the day/night cycle of these subjects was significantly altered. All subjects would now wake up at just before 6am almost as if they had anticipated the “light wake up call”.

Girlfriends- I’m a shitty sleeper at the best of times but I will bet my suprachiasmatic nucleus that my lack of black out blinds has something to do with it.

Now if you will excuse me, I must go… Barry from Levalor Blinds is coming over today to fit my bedroom window with some serious hardware and a blackout blind for the ages.

Look out my girlfriends… I feel a serious nap coming on.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Exit Strategy

Last week I was on a little plane. When I say little- I mean 16 people, a captain and a copilot. I don’t even think you could consider the captain a real captain. First of all he looked like he was old enough to be my kid. I realize my girlfriends that this is a bit ageist but really- dude looked like he would have trouble mastering facial hair, let alone a Cessna.

Here’s my thing about the “little plane”. I am not particularly afraid to fly. My beloved as some of you will know from previous posts… is the perfect gentleman on the ground and the prefect psychopath at 30,000 feet. I hoverer, do travel so much that I have learned to accept that man really was meant to fly. If not and I have a moment of panic- I take 1 mg of Ativan and try my best to align my Chakras as the metal beast takes flight.

But I HATE little planes.

Here’s the thing… I never worry that a 747 is going to fall from the heavens. How often does that happen? Once every 3-4 years? Really? When’s the last time we heard about a REALLY big plane crashing into a farmer’s field? It’s just not commonplace.

Little planes- another story. You don’t hear about little plane crashing very often either. WHY? Because they are little.

If I’m going to die in a plane crash I want it to make CNN. I want a four-page nation newspaper spread. I’m not going down in some bullshit tin can that makes the 6 o’clock local news ONCE and is forgotten until an inquiry appears 8 months later on page 6 of the local newspaper.

No, my girlfriends… I am a plane crash snob. If I must… I am going down in a blaze of glory and Anderson Cooper will mourn my loss- personally. Bring flowers Anderson- I like white ones.

But I digress….

There I was on the little bullshit plane. Ativan safely under my tongue when the co-pilot walked down the isle to give the woman behind me a safety briefing on the use of the emergency exit.

Here’s what I want to know…. How many people sitting in those exits on any given plane could really operate the damn thing?

Me? I work out. I can bench press with the best of them. My cardio is impressive. Never mind the mountain or the cross-country bike ride… I can carry three boxes of shoes and countless Barneys bags 18 blocks in NYC in a snowstorm. I can handle throwing a door out of a plane when my adrenaline is at full tilt.

At least I think I can…

But I can’t help but size up the woman sitting behind me and wonder what her upper body strength is? Could she rise to the occasion? Will we all help her out in the event she can’t “throw the door towards the rear of the plane and exit safely off the wing”? Will it rally matter at that point considering we will in fact be plummeting towards earth with gravity laughing her ass off?

Here’s the evidence…. According to the TSA website, the average emergency exit door weights between 30 and 40 pounds. My estimation is this is the same weight as a medium size suitcase fully packed. That is to say if the suitcase is German engineered carbon fibre and you don’t have more than 3 pairs of shoes in it. Yes, my girlfriends, I do travel with a Rimowa (fabulous line of luggage, light as a feather) but needless to say Mama likes her Manolos. So easily my suitcase can weigh 40 pounds without a thought.

Now here’s the test…. Step 1- pack your suitcase and make sure it weighs 30-40 pounds. Step 2- lift dais suitcase to shoulder height. Step 3- throw it 30 feet. Can you do it? If so… feel free to sit at my emergency exit.

Now I realize that in the event of said emergency maybe others on the plane will help out. However, lately I’ve noticed people don’t even open regular doors for me so why should I expect them to open emergency ones?

Fear not dear sisters…

According to (which my sources tell me is THE place to go for airline safety info) there are two kinds of over wing emergency exits. This excludes the full size door found on a Boeing 747 or airplane of that size.

The first is called a DISPOSABLE HATCH type exit. This is the most common. This is the very 40 pounds door that you must “lift and separate” from the plane.

The second is on Boeing 737 airplanes and next generation planes and is a SELF DISPOSING HATCH. You simply pull down on a handle and this initiates the exit’s self- opening mechanism whereby the door rotates up and out all on its own. If it does not work during an emergency? Yes, you are fucked.

So back to my situation where Grandma Mary Francis all 80 pounds of her must be trusted to lift a door/suitcase half her weight?

A study conducted by the Department of Human Factors and Air Transport, Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, showed that in depth visual and personal briefing on use of an emergency exit improved reaction times of passengers operating an ext strategy on a Boeing 737. The study, conducted in 2001 surveyed 7 groups of passengers traveling on Boeing 737’s. The study examined their reaction times (on the ground) operating the emergency exits after having No Briefing, a brief explanation (a written pamphlet) and a detailed 3-minute explanation along with a visual demonstration. After having no briefing the average reaction time of the passengers was 7.7 seconds. After having a detailed briefing it was 2.9 seconds. This was the time it took passengers to get to the exits…. NOT OPEN THEM.

Further research funded by Transport Canada involved running a series of large group evacuation trials using the Boeing 737 cabin simulator. Groups of up to 48 participants were recruited to evacuate the cabin through the Type III exit. In all trials, a member of cabin crew was located at each end of the cabin. In half of these trials, a third member of cabin crew was located in the seat behind the Type III exit operator. In these conditions, the additional cabin crewmember provided instruction to the exit operator on the call to evacuate. This instruction included a command to open the exit, and commands on how to open the exit and dispose of the hatch. All of the trials were filmed on video.

In the studies where there were two cabin crewmembers at the door, more than 90% of passengers opened the door correctly. In the studies where there was just one cabin crewmember present? Only 50% of passengers opened the door correctly.

As for the ability of passengers to open the door correctly? The study makes no mention….

Back to me on my tiny plane with no cabin crew for supervision and a woman with no upper body strength? Yes dear girlfriends… I am, shall we say, screwed.

Hey, I’m all for the kindness of stranger…. However, should the situation arise where I must rely on the upper body strength of strangers? What will I do in the face of this riddle? I will do what any good girlfriend does when she wants something done properly… I will do it myself.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Leaving Normal

Here’s the thing my girlfriends…. I think neuroses gets diffused in every generation… just a little bit. Yes, perhaps I might be just a bit neurotic. Those of you reading this who do in fact KNOW me have now just spit out your morning coffee all over your computer screen and are now chocking quietly while you mop up the mess.

Yes I know this is no real shocker… the fact that I feel the need to WRITE about this in fact confirms my diagnosis. I really do believe that 40 is the decade for self-awareness so, hey, bring on the knowledge….

But here’s the interesting thing about MY neuroses. I’m WAAAAY less neurotic than my ancestors. Hah!

Allow me to explain….

My grandmother (may she rest) grew up in an age where you kept three currencies in your wallet along with your passport at all times. You stocked your freezer with enough food to last at least 1 month solid. You bought pickled and canned goods by the case. WHY? Well in case there was another war for God’s sake! There was a level of social, political and economic fear that purveyed her generation so much so that I do believe it gave birth to what we now know to be modern day neuroses.

Fast forward one generation and you have my mother…. A beautiful woman who kept mints, a sewing kit, an unending supply of Kleenex and a small pharmacy in her handbag. My mother’s generation considered their pocket books to be the embodiment of “In Case of Emergency” in a leather handbag. My mother keeps a full set of the yellow pages in the glove compartment of her car. I kid you not. She has a case of water in her trunk at all times. Her car breaks down and she can rehydrate for months AND order take-out from anywhere.

Me? My purse is my accessory- for my outfit AND for my life. My handbag changes daily depending on the mood or the movement. I don’t own a car and therefore I don’t own a glove-compartment (or a set of yellow pages for that matter). I can’t keep mints in my bag without eating them all in a single sitting and as for extra currency? I am the woman who spends all her money at the duty-free before departing whatever country I am in order to “use up the extra cash”.

But lately I have noticed the odd occasion where I am worrying more than usual. Such experiences have made me wonder if I’m becoming a bit more neurotic…. I had always thought myself to be relatively care free in this department.

Of course if your foremothers were the kind of people who would make boy scout troop leader look completely disorganized- you undoubtedly come off looking like you are as neurotic as Gandhi. (Hint- Gandhi? Not neurotic. Gandhi = Prince of Peace)

I remember the joke in medical school…. In your first year of medical school you are convinced you have all of the diseases you are studying. By the time you graduate you are still suffering from these same diseases, but you no longer care that you have them.

I suppose as a doctor- seeing all that life can offer in its unexpected ways- I have to be a little neurotic. That and I had some pretty good neurotic role models in my life.

So I thought …. How neurotic am I? Is the fact that I’m worrying about such a thing automatically put in the running? Is there a test I can take, (perhaps Cosmo has one) that would help quantify such concerns? If so…. What would such a test look like…?

1. Do you have an earthquake kit?
2. Are there mints in your purse?
3. Do you carry a supply of band-aids with you at all times?
4. Do you have a phone book in your glove compartment?
5. Is Woody Allen your cinematic hero?
6. Do you make airline reservations at least 3 weeks in advance?
7. Are you aware at all times of you bank balance?
8. How many AIRMILES do you have? Quick… right now…. Off the top of your head?
9. Do you use a credit card specifically to collect the points?

Full disclosure? I have an earthquake kit in my house and two band aids in my purse. I live on a fault line and my husband who is IMPOSSIBLE to buy gifts for wanted one- it became a very sweet joke/birthday gift. It is also a fabulous and funny story to tell at parties. The band-aids? I wear four inch heals at all times and on occasion they have been known to chafe. I keep these band-aids in a lovely Prada pouchette in my bag and so it makes them less anxious.

As for Woody Allen? I confess… LOVE his movies. What’s not to love? Paris, New York and the quirky/crazy girl is the star of the show. “Bullets over Broadway” and the “Manhattan Murder Mystery” are regularly quoted in my home. “Don’t Speak”. Nuff said.

I can’t (or rather I chose not to) plan my life more than 4-5 days in advance. My bank balance is like the number on my bathroom scale- subject to change at a moment’s notice. As for AIRMILE? I have a bunch. I fly a lot. Credit cards should be used to collect joy first and foremost… the points are a happy side-effect to the spending.

There… I score 2.5/9 on the scale. My mother? She’s a solid 8/9 or a clear sweep if you only count “Annie Hall” and “The Purple Rose of Cairo”.

It turns out that there are in fact REAL scales to measure and diagnose neuroticism. There are three main questionnaires officially used to diagnose neuroticism. I have not officially taken any of them…. Ignorance is bliss.

Furthermore a study published in 1996 in Science magazine found an association between neuroses and a specific gene regulating serotonin production (a neurotransmitter) in the brain.

Further studies since then have confirmed a genetic association between neuroses and have also shown variation in PET scans and MRI’s in patients with neuroses.

So there… it’s not just a learned behaviour necessarily. Then why is it that my so called neuroses is being watered down across the generations? Could this be a genetic effect like with so many other traits…. The family gene pools shuffles the dice and the numbers come up differently? Or could this be that environmentally my generation needs less mints in their purse to cope with the world.

My formothers gave me a lot of their good gifts in the world… a sense of self and the knowledge that a woman could do whatever she wanted if she had the right brains a little bit of moxy. From them I learned the power of a woman who’s not afraid to speak her mind, and even less afraid to have her own opinion.

As for the power of a good pencil skirt and pumps to go with it? I picked that little lesson up all on my own….

And here I sit neurotic or not or maybe just a bit and postulate and all the while the world turns on. I will continue to look forward to Woody Allen’s next project and hope that I never need the earthquake kit in my front hall closet. 2.5/9 is not bad…. And so the world turns on.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Getting in the Game

When I was a kid- I watched alot of football.

I know my girlfriends- I don't seem the type.... but never judge an outfit based on accessories alone.

We had season's tickets to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Go Blue!) and I was a fan. No not the type of fan who paints shit on their face and stands in some ridiculous outfit waiting for the camera to pan on you so you can fist pump for all the country to see.... but I was a fan who sat in the stands (or on my couch in front of the TV) and cheered my beloved team on.

I remember those days all too clearly. you see the CFL play off season is in November in Winnipeg. November in Winnipeg is when mother nature loses all sense of sisterhood. November in Winnipeg (or anywhere on the prairies for that matter) is minus 30 and sunny. (yes, fellow Winnipegers.... we know- it's a dry cold- tell yourselves what you need to just to go outside)

So there I was in the stands one sunny day in November circa 1982 watching the Blue Bombers play. There I was cheering for my team dressed in.... a sleeping bag. Dear papa was not the most fashionable man but he was a freakin genius. I was warm as toast. That and he had a thermos of hot chocolate with Kahlua. You can see why the man was my hero.

Back then, the Bomberettes (the cheerleaders) wore snow suits in bright blue and gold (think 1970's snow bunny). Back then you could buy popcorn and beer and coke and hot dogs at the game, if you dared to take off your mittens and eat the damn things in the first place.

Fast forward 30 years to the Western Canadian Final of the Canadian Football league at BC stadium in Vancouver.

BC is playing Edmonton for a place in the Grey Cup and there I sit 20 rows up on the 45 yard line.

Gone is my Dad (sniff). The hot chocolate and Kahlua have been replaced by a quinoa and kale salad which I brough ina very stylish Tupperware container. And yes, in lieu of a sleeping bag- I'm wearing Helmut Lang. Full disclosure? When in doubt... that German genius dose fit a little small but does go a long way to making anyone look a bit like a rock star in his clothing.

This was a sporting event.... the fashion called for a one part "rocker chick" one part "rugged". Helmut was my guy.

But I digress....

I sat down in the stands with my foam orange "Go Lions" finger placed firmly on my right hand and p[prepared myself for 4 quarters of football nostalgia. Along with 42,000 of my closest friends I yelled at referees, cheered for my team and told complete strangers in orange tights and protective cups to "move your ass".

I spent 180 minutes strolling down memory lane, my father smiling over me as I shamelessly uttered profanities as if I was in the comfort of my own home.... and yes, my girlfriends... it was NOT frowned upon. This WAS my home and these were my peeps.

But I could not help but notice that my "peeps" were eating crap.

The man in front of me ate two servings of fries over the period of 4 hours. THere was a row in front of me who were eaitng fish and chips by the basket. To my left was the proverbial hot dog monster and to my right was a lovely young man eating what can only be called a "yard of popcorn". Yes, it was a bag the size of one's leg filled with popcorn- I do not exaggerate. THese were the items (more or less) of my childhood but their size had really exploded.

All that and above me was the club section where two platters of chicken wings and a buffet of nachos was in full swing.
And all around me was a beer garden.

It was somewhere in the middle of the second quarter that it donned on me how much a celebration of sport is conducive to the most unhealthy behaviours around.

How is it that a spectator of athletics is encouraged to worship that which is so NOT athletic. When did the sport of it all become so much about watching and so little about getting in the proverbial game?

And then it dawned on me.... Sponsorship of such events is often done by fast food chains and beer companies. The exposure that the average kid gets from the commercial advertising at a football game or a hockey game is easily 2000 calories worth of hurting.

There I was with my container of quinoa salad watching the consumption around me.

According to several studies by both the Harvard School of Public Health (2008) and the Sydney school of public health (2006), children exposed to food advertising during sporting events are significantly more likely to recognize certain products. These effectively increase consumption of such items. One perfect example is the rise in sport drink consumption among kids not engaging in sports.

Yah, I know. I WAS at a football game. Would it have killed me to keep it light and just have a corn dog? Yes, dear girlfriends it would. After all- I was wearing my skinny jeans and corn dogs are not my thing. But I hear you, dear girlfriends... keep it light. I just think sometimes we need to rage against the machine. Turns out this week's machine was a yard of popcorn and 3000 calorie tailgate party.

And so my girlfriends, here's my message.... love the football. Go team, go. At Sunday's Grey Cup.... I'll bring the PRIDE... you bring the fruit plate.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

All My Shots

Perhaps I am grasping dramatic this week dear cybersisters, but I am currently fully vaccinated. Yes my girlfriends, it’s flu season and as a healthcare provider I do like to give my immune system every added advantage possible.

And so last week, I rolled up my sleeve and took one for the herd. Currently no significant side effects. Perhaps a little sore throat, but that could be from spending a week talking my ass off and hoping the world might listen. Other than that, my arm hurts. To be more specific, medically speaking, my left deltoid is tender.

I should state my bias (what has ever stopped me before?) in that I am a fan of vaccinations. As someone who has spent the last few decades surrounded by diseases I have always thought that preventing them was a rather happy concept.

Times were different when I was a kid. My parents were the polio generation. They had all too vivid memories of a school friend or neighbour who wound up contracting the illness. My parents came of age when Jonas Salk revolutionized the way we look at diseases.

Infections were no longer messes to clean up after. No longer did we hope and pray…. We vaccinated.

Then came Jenny McCarthy and her brilliance/bullshit and the waters were muddied once more. Make no mistake- I welcome the dialogue. I think it’s important that people know risks and benefits when it comes to diseases… but really- should Jenny McCarthy really be the voice of reason?

But I digress….

When I was a kid- you vaccinated your kids. Measles, Mumps, Rubella? You got your shot. Hell my pediatrician had to chase me under the table at his office just to give me the damn thing. Sure, I screamed like a girl. I kicked and even had a tantrum (yes, girlfriends… a true feet stomping tantrum). But I got my shot. I of course got to go out for ice cream afterward as well as payment for my shot. Incidentally, I really thank my mother for encouraging this aspect of my emotional eating and teaching me that yes, blue licorice ice cream really can dull any pain.

When I was a kid- we did not have the vaccine for Chicken Pox and as such- my mother did the next best thing. Any time she heard that a neighbour’s kid had contracted the disease- she sent us over to play with them. This was my mother’s way of ensuring we’d get exposure to the virus at a young enough age so as to protect us when we were older. You see perhaps my mother knew that chicken pox in kids is a rather benign nuisance of an illness (in the majority of cases) compared to contracting the virus as an adult when the disease can be quite severe.

This is of course only a generalization and in fact chicken pox can be a severe illness in kids- but hey- it was the seventies- parents dressed their kids in courdoroy and poleyester. They left their kids with the 14 year old neighbour as a babysitter. There were some numbers on the kitchen table and 10 dollars for pizza. Parents in the 70’s fed their kids formula you bought at the grocery store and said things like “I’ll give you something to cry about”. They really were doing their best before the Baby Bjorn generation came about and told them how shitty their parenting skills were.

And so decades later- here I am relatively unscathed. I have grown up to be a rather well adjusted adult. Should you have a different opinion on this… please feel free to post your comments and I will promptly delete them.

I will however state it plain…. I’m all for vaccinations. If there is a shot that prevents small pox (and there is) BRING IT ON. I can’t help but think that if only we had a vaccine to prevent the big guns like cancer, heart disease, bad manners and unwanted facial hair?

When it comes to the flu- it turns out that it really is a big deal. It’s estimated that 30,000 Canadians die each year as a result of Influenza. The first influenza epidemic occurred in 1580. Since then scientists have been working their asses off to figure out what caused it. In 1930 it was discovered that influenza was caused by a virus in the ORTHOMYXOVIRIDAE family.

In 1931 Ernest Goodpasture and his colleagues at Vanderbilt University grew the first influenza viral culture in embryonated hens’ eggs. This work lead to the development of the first flu vaccine in the late 1930’s. In 1940 the US military approved their use and they were used in the WWII.

Today’s vaccines are dramatically safer and more refined than those used 50 years ago. In February of every year, Public Health authorities, epidemiologists and molecular virologist look at the three most common Influenza strains from the preceding year. They make their recommendations according to which viruses were most common in their country. In Canada, we rely on Health Canada and the CDC in the U.S.A for these recommendations. These viruses are then ennoculated and grown in fertilized chicken eggs.

The 2011 Influenza vaccine also contains the H1N1 vaccine in addition to the three most common influenza strains from last year.

As of 2009, there were 70 clinical trials on the use of the influenza vaccine.
Realize that most of this science is targeted at the elderly who are in fact at highest risk of dying from the flu.

According to a 2006 Cochrane review, in a non-pandemic year, a person in the United States aged 50–64 is nearly ten times more likely to die an influenza-associated death than a younger person.

A person over age 65 is over ten times more likely to die an influenza-associated death than the 50–64 age group. Vaccination of those over age 65 reduces influenza-associated death by about 50%

However, it is unlikely that the vaccine completely explains the results since you could make the argument that elderly people who get vaccinated are probably more healthy and health-conscious than those who do not.
That being said- nothing is perfect- Just ask my eye concealer. Things let you down all the time.

We do our best in life dear girlfriends. I am still under 65 year old… tick tock. But I do care for those most vulnerable to the influenza virus and let’s be frank- I have to take an ativan just to have my hair done…. Three days in bed with the flu would pretty much kill my spirit more than anything.

So…. Here I am… fully inoculated while my immune system is as busy as the shoe department at Barney’s.

Nothing in life is guaranteed my dear cybersisters… but just as I do with my Visa card limit and the upcoming spring lines…. I try my best to hope for the best and sometimes just BELIEVE.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Voltair Was A Vegan... and so am I

Here’s the deal, dear girlfriends…. November is upon us and I have taken a stand. No I am not growing a mustache in the spirit of Movember (thank heavens for laser hair removal- or perhaps I could really take those dudes).

I have decided to spend the month as a vegan. Gasp shock or exclaim WTF?? But yes, for the thirty days of November, I will take lemons and make tofu.

I’ve given up all animal and dairy products and switched to plant based proteins. I have not had a piece of cheese in 8 days and I love cheese almost as much as I love shoes. I am now spending my days eating fruits, vegetables and plant based proteins (such as soy, and grains- the names of which I can not pronounce without a bit of practice.)

You know you are a vegan when the names of the food you eat need phonetics to help speak them properly. (Quinoa= Keen-Wah)

Understand that I have spent the last decade drastically modifying my approach to nutrition and exercise in a systematic pattern that has been anything but a fad.

So why for one month should I drastically change what I eat? Why give up eating anything that had parents. Well- I blame The Half Iron Man.

Here’s the deal- I have signed up for a half iron man race in May. Yes I know I need therapy but I figured after the year I have had with the mountains and the cross-country adventures that I needed something more. So apart from swimming the English Channel (which I did in fact look into- newsflash- it’s a NO GO) I wanted a new challenge for 2012.

In came the Half Iron man. In reading about this crazy motherfucker- yes this is what this endeavor will here-to-for be called – I came upon the writings and nutritional philosophy of Brendan Brazier.

Brendan’s an Iron Man athlete and a Vegan. He’s written a few books- one of which is called the Thrive Diet. This is not an endorsement of Brendan. Make no mistake- dude has a point- but some of his philosophies are a little too herbal for my liking.

Girlfriends- you know how I feel about the whole Yoga-Holistic-Organic shit. I take it with a grain of Himalayan red rock salt and call it a day….

Brendan’s got some interesting ideas about the body as a wonderland… and I as open minded about food as I am about fashion. Always worth a new look-see.

So I am trying it out for a month. As my cybersisters will know- I am NOT a Half- assed kind of girl… I am putting Almond Milk in my coffee and coconut water in my smoothies. Needless to say- my fibre content has now surpassed my shoe budget.

I have eaten more “super foods” in the last 8 days than I have worn little black dresses in my lifetime….
It’s been a journey.

It turns out 0.2% of North Americans and 0.4% of people in the UK are vegans. Vegans consume no animal based products including no dairy products. For some vegans- honey is also off the menu (bee vomit that it is).

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared a vegan diet and a low fat diet over a 74-week period in a randomized pattern. Over 200 diabetic women were randomized to either a vegan diet or a low fat diet. Both diets resulted in similar weight loss but the vegan diet had statistically significant improvements in glycemic control and lipid profiles over the low fat –meat based diet.

A study published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2009 looked at the relationship between vegetarian diets and breast cancer risk in a prospective study. In a population of 37,600 British women with a wide range of diets there was no evidence for a strong association between either a vegetarian diet or total daily isoflavone intake and risk for breast cancer. The same study showed a lower risk of colon cancer in vegan woman than their meat-eating counterparts.

One final study in the British Cancer Journal in 2000 showed that vegan men had a 10-12% increase in testosterone levels and Insulin like peptide in the blood than do meat-eating men. There has been an extrapolation of this data to hypothesize that this may correlate to a lower risk of prostate cancer- the studies however are pending.

This leaves me- maybe a lower risk of colon cancer, no prostate and well… my breasts? Their just small- not safer.

One week down and 3 to go and I must admit I’m feeling pretty good. Perhaps it’s just a placebo effect or perhaps it’s my colon speaking to me in song… Maybe my body is thriving in the absence of the lions and tigers and bears that I normally subject it to. I do love the fruits and veg and I find the walks to Whole Foods with my beloved to “stock up” on Kamut and Hemp seeds and Chia to be some of the best parts of my day.

Eight days down, 22 to go- a nice little adventure that may teach me a thing or two. Maybe I’ll be nutritionally smarter at the end of all this… Maybe my skin will shine and my insides will be better than before. We’ll have to see what happens in December when I may in fact embark upon a cheese-tasting adventure will undoubtedly make the state of Wisconsin very proud….

Or perhaps I’ll just miss meat and that will be all. I’m trying not to read too much into the process. Make no mistakes- dear girlfriends- I’m strong in my beliefs- but I tend to confine my battles to the accessory counters at Barneys rather than the produce section at Whole Foods… Call me shallow? That’s just how I roll.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blood Suckers

I’ve been staying in a lot of hotels these days my girlfriends…. Between the Cross Canada trip this summer and the conferences and work this fall, I am having my bed made more days in a month than not, I must say.

On the plus side, there is something to be said for maid service. Not having to clean up after oneself really is quite the treat.

Let me confess my cycbersisters…. I suck at making a bed. I have tried my best to master this task but my technique is alas subpar and really I can’t get the sheets to sit just right. Overall my hospital corners are in a word, pathetic and really I leave the bed in much of the same mess as I found it unmade to begin with.

So, it can be said that leaving my room in the morning and returning in the afternoon to have it magically transformed, bed made, towels cleaned and bathroom sparkling has become something I am getting frighteningly used to.

This is of course a problem because like a fabulous pair of strappy sandals…. All good things must come to an end.

But it got me thinking about how we tend to get used to certain behaviours in life.

When I was a little girl, my mother made my bed every morning. Even when I wanted to join the work force so to speak, Mama insisted on making the bed. This continued- I kid you not, my cybersisters- until I moved out and went to University.

Yes, dear girlfriends, I had my bed made for me for the first twenty something years of my life.

As such, I suck at making a bed. I mean really suck- my mother ruined me for a good set of hospital corners.

And now when I stay at hotels, I am left in a wonderland where my bed is magically made every day to the perfect maternal specificaltions I once knew.

And then came bedbugs.

I never really thought much about the little buggers until this past weekend while in New York City, me best friend and I had a little girls weekend. The moment we walked into the hotel, she began a bedbug check.

This apparently involves putting your luggage in the bathtub while you lift the sheets at thte corners and basically flip the bed in order to see if in fact you have “company”.

There we were- two fabulous women in a five star hotel (yes I wore heels) flipping a matteress for a vermin check. NONE. YAY.

Not only was I in NYC for the weekend (cue music) I did not have an infestation in my perfectly made bed.

Bedbugs were quite common during the first and second World Wars. They were pretty much eradicated after WWII but since 1995 have seen a resurgence.

The biggest health effect of bed bugs apart are skin rashes and allergic symptoms. Yah THAT and the psychological mine field of knowing a little insect is sucking your blood each night….

Diagnosis involves finding the source of the bugs and the offending rash on your skin. Treatment is purely symptomatic.

According to the CDA approximately 20% of all hotels in the USA have Bedbugs at some point in the year. Fear not dear girlfriends- there is a website of NYC hotels that do and do not have the little suckers….

And so on this day after Halloween, I am home in my own bed- my clothes unpacked, my shoes back in their boxes….

Today I made my own bed and I did a shitty job.

Yet I slept soundly last night knowing that I would not be an unforeseen blood donor to a bunch of pests wanting a free meal. My hotel was not on the bedbug list and yes, I did inspect every inch of my skin on several occasions to rule out the telltale rash…

Turns out this Halloween- I dressed up as neurotic.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Oh Girlfriends, it is my firm belief that the age of a woman directly correlates to the price of her face cream. The older you are… the higher the price.

Here’s the deal...

When I was in my twenties- moisturizer was like a mother’s advice…. It was some I used when absolutely necessary and only if in a crisis. I would get a sunburn on my face and find myself at the pharmacy with a jar of “after sun/aloe vera” in my hands ready to lather rinse and repeat.

In my thirties- I began to dabble in moisturizers. I never really knew which one to buy. Do I need to regenerate or should I just use a regular day/night cream? Did cost really mean that I was getting a better product or was my money better spent on footwear? Which company should I choose? Do I go for a French made fancy name that I can have several pronunciations depending on whom you ask or should it be a straightforward Oil of Olay kind of product?

Finally my cybersisters....WHERE should this product be bought? Should I consult a fancy make up counter for advice from some lovely woman who was wearing far too much perfume and equally far too much make up or should I fend for myself in the cosmetics isle at the pharmacy?

Decisions loomed in the air as my thirties whizzed by. I dabbled in one cream or another feeling that time was on my side as promises were made all in the name of youth, beauty and a good few dollars spent.

And then came forty. At 40 I was no longer dabbling. I was not leaving my face’s texture or future to chance. I was spending no less than $100 on something French and something with a name that had both a clinical edge and a bunch of accents over its letter.

There would be Chanel’s REGENERISTE whose price is that of a car payment for 2 fluid ounces of hope in a bottle.

The jar that holds this precious serum (insert sarcasm here) is stunning. It is a champagne coloured glass square with a gold embossed top. It weighs as much as a watermelon and holds only 60ml of cream. My science brain knows that whatever is in this little jar/brick/paperweight of broken dreams really will not keep its promises.

That does not stop me. I happily hand over my credit card and let the dream begin.

There we are in Holt Renfrew at the scene of the crime. The woman helping me at the CHANEL counter is called Maria and she is lovely; sweet, considerate and kissing my ass just enough to make me feel special. She comments on my handbag and tells me I ‘ve lost weight. Yes, somewhere another fairy gets her wings and here I am the latest sucker to be born that minute.

After an obnoxious amount on money is spent, I am sent home with my new jar of REGENRISTE (insert French accent here) and the cycle of madness continues.

According to an expose in the British Daily Mail, a jar of Crème de la Mer which retails for 350 British pounds contains only 25 British pounds worth of materials.

The skin care market in the US is a $2 billion dollar annual industry. Sales in 2008 in the premium skin care lines (defined as products over $70 per unit) grew more than 8%. Recession? Not when it comes to the face….

According to Information Resources, Inc. in 2008, Americans spent a total of $605.7 million for facial anti-aging products, $569.6 million for facial cleansers, $345 million for acne treatments, $320.4 million for facial moisturizers and $27.8 million for body anti-aging products.

A study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in 2010 looked at the ingredients of the high end face creams on the counters today.

Moisturizers are based on occlusive substances (petrolatum and dimethicone) and humectant substances (glycerin) with a variety of sunscreens and botanicals for added functionality and marketing impact.

Among the moisturizers examined (over 200 brands in total) 80 percent of the formulations had remarkably similar products regardless of what was added to the cream. The study found that regardless of whether the product is a facial foundation, an antiaging night cream, a sunscreen, a topical antioxidant, or a skin-lightening serum, the formulation is basically a moisturizer with some added botanicals and sunscreens.

There is no randomized trial in existence that compares one moisturizer to another.

And so my girlfriends this leaves me with my usual leap of faith…. Marketing. Am I weak? Perhaps. Easily influenced? Somewhat. I’m just a girl at the big 4-0 trying to find her way at the cosmetic counter. That being said as with most of my shopping endeavors I am always in search of a better way of life.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Sunshine State

Greetings from sunny Florida dear girlfriends…. I must admit, I did not think I’d ever find myself in Orlando anytime soon.

Afterall, I am nowhere near retirement (as a work-a-holic, perish the thought) and well, quite frankly, Disney gives me a rash so Florida was never really one of my travel destinations.

You do never know where life will take you and so when the Obesity 2011 conference is being held in the “happiest place on earth” I convinced myself that my Roberto Cavalli caftan needed one last spin before winter and here I am…poolside….learning.

Let’s be clear girlfriends- I’m not going to DisneyWorld. I realize it is not just for children but I’ve never been a big fan of Disney. Never mind the marketing and the weird twisty message (all those sad maidens cleaning houses waiting for their Princes) I just don’t get it. It really is not my scene.

Afterall, the only fairytale character I could ever identify with was the witch in Hansel and Gretel. I know many of you are now horrified, but really… you build a dreamhouse out of gingerbread and some little bitch comes by and takes a bite out of it? Who among us would not stick the little shit in the basement and use her brother for bouille base?

No, this afternoon I will not be going to Epcot centre to tour the world…. If I want to see the world, I can be sure it will not find me in Florida. Florida is for sunworship and oranges. So here I sit pooliside (yes I was at the conference ALL day Sunday and Monday) with an orange Margharita , some sunblock and a very good book.

SO! I thought I’d take this break from learning for a little bit of my own research…

Do you ever notice dear girlfriends that at a pool or beach, you are never the one with that fabulous deep tan? Are you? No worries, I am not THAT one either. Make no mistake- I AM the one with the fabulous sunglasses and an unrealistic sense of self esteem when it comes to being in a bathing suit… (I blame my parents, by the by, for instilling in me too much of the “you can do anything” attitude- yes, that and the margarita I usually have on an empty stomach…. In a woman who has the alcohol tolerance of an eight year old…. Put it all together and I think I’m waaaaay too okay for being a chubby white girl in a bikini.)

But here’s the deal with tanning….

As I get older I’m starting to get just a little bit sun shy. Not enough “sun shy” to keep me out of the sun entirely… I am an ethnic girl after all and we do look better when our olive skin is in fact more olive. But I have noticed that once you start tanning- you find it a challenge to stop.

I had a wicked tan this summer. I did after all spend three weeks on a bike and sunscreen be damned I got me some colour. It is now almost a month since my “days in the sun” and I notice my healthy glow is starting to fade.

SO here I sit poolside…. On a mission. Darken it up one last time before I settle in for a long winter. It is like a Vitamin D binge fest before hybernation, No?

No. According to a study published in 2005 in the Journal of Addiction Biology… I may indeed have a problem. A substance abuse problem. And to think my shoe issue was not enough to handle.

The evidence suggests that frequent exposure to Ultraviolet radiation has the potential to become addictive. The researchers looked at Magnetic resonance Imagery and PET scans of people exposed to UV light through tanning bed before and after a treatment and found that the brain “lights up” in the reward centres of the brain in response to regular UV exposure. The results are similar to when a person is given a drug or a dessert.

The subjects in this study were repeated tanning bed users. The subjects were also subjected to study questionairres. Based on their answers more than 75% of the “frequent tanners” met criteria for a substance abuse disorder based on their answers. The investigators decided to go a step further.

They recruited a small group of people from tanning salons who frequent tanners (meaning they liked to go three times a week to maintain their tan… yes… think Jersey Shores). These subjects agreed to be injected with a radioisotope and then were subjected to both PET scans and MRI’s to look at where the brain activity was most stimulated after tanning. This allowed researchers to monitor how tanning affected their subjects’ brain activity.
On one occasion, the study subjects experienced a normal tanning session. But on another occasion, the researchers used a special filter that blocked only the UV light, although the tanners weren’t told of the change.

Brain images later showed that during regular tanning sessions, when the study subjects were exposed to UV rays, several key areas of the brain lighted up. Among those areas were the dorsal striatum, the left anterior insula and part of the orbitofrontal cortex – all areas that have been implicated in addiction. But when the UV light was filtered out, those areas of the brain showed far less activity.

The researchers also found evidence that the tanners appeared to know — on a subconscious level, at least — when they had undergone sham tanning sessions and not received their usual dose of UV rays. The tanners, questioned after each session, expressed less desire to tan after the real sessions, indicating they had gotten their fill. But on days when the tanners were unknowingly deprived of the UV rays, their desire to tan after the session remained as high as it was before the session began.
Where does that leave me? It leaves me poolside battling a new addiction that I am less than comfortable with. Never mind the skin cancer risks…. I’m forty for Shit’s sake. My skin can’t handle the pressure.

And so dear girlfriednds… figuring my Dorsal Striatum has enough to deal with and is already pre-conditioned, you will excuse me if I go upstairs to my room and change out of my Roberto Cavalli caftan and into my shoe shopping outfit…. I hear there is a fabulous outlet mall just a short cab ride away from my hotel that should do just fine to appease my midbrain’s need for addiction….. Screw Disneyworld, my cybersisters…. THAT mall is the happiest place on earth.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shower me with Wisdom

Here’s my observation for the week… who we are in life is who we are in the shower. Allow me to explain.

There are those of us (you know who you are) who take easily twenty minutes to shower. They climb in… wash up… and then…. They… just stand there and contemplate life. These are the same people who easily take a week to make a decision. They weigh all options contemplate each scenario and then make a decision that they will invariably regret at some point. These people are what I like to refer to as the Water Worriers. They try and sort out their life’s issues with the water beating down on them.

No judgment here (okay… judgment- it’s who I am) but REALLY? Get in the shower and get out. You want to contemplate life… take a bath. It is far more environmentally friendly.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are those individuals who really are the Splash Seekers so to speak. They take 5 minutes to “lather, rinse, and repeat” and are out of a shower without a thought in their head.

My beloved fall s into the former category. He really is a fabulous man… however; his carbon footprint really exists based on the length of his “shower time”. Dude spends a week in there. He sorts his day, aligns his life’s beliefs and emerges with the world’s ponderings solved and his hair washed.

As for me? My inability to “sit/stand still” knows no bounds. You want my attention? Put food in front of me. Otherwise- I’m a woman that cannot be chained. This of course translates into the idea that a shower is a place to get clean. Hell I hate washing my hair more than three times a week because it takes too long. I get in the shower- and start the clock… it’s called speed bathing and I am master class.

So here’s my thought… who we are in life is who we are in the shower. Those of us who make snap decisions and learn to live with them will bathe without a thought and “Splash and Dash” as if it were sport.

Those of us who peruse through life with a sense of intense deliberation and contemplation are the very same people who tend to use up a tank of hot water on the way to self actualization.

Remember that “Jetson’s” episode where Judy Jetson walked into this machine in her pajamas and immerged seconds later “fluffed and folded”? She was instantly perfect- bathed and polished? I remember thinking…”that lucky bitch”…. When technology evolves well beyond what we have right now, I will not be spending my money on moon landings or an extra organ- hell I am getting me one of those turbo shower machines that get me ready in a Judy Jetson minute.

Research on “shower details” has been done by the Shower Power campaign in association with Waterwise- an environmental organization in the UK aimed at reducing water consumption. Women only spend a mere 39 seconds longer in the shower than men. If you think about this girlfriends, we are pretty fast. Our hair is usually longer AND we most often shave our legs and other bits…. 39 extra seconds for all of that? I’d say that speaks to efficiency BIG TIME.
According to the Showerwise survey, the majority of women (71%) take showers of 10 minutes or less. More than a quarter (26%) take showers less than 5 minutes. As for men? 75% take showers of less than 10 minutes and 30% take showers of less than 5 minutes.

There are also intriguing differences on age, with time spent in the shower decreasing with increasing age. The 55s and over (mean shower time: 8 mins, 41 seconds) are five minutes faster than people aged 18 to 24 (mean shower time: 13 mins 26 seconds) with well over a third (39%) of people aged 55 or over even managing to shower in five minutes or less.
The older you are the less time you spend in the shower….

As for baths? A typical bath uses around 80 litres of water whereas the average shower sprays out about six litres a minute. So you'd have to be soaping yourself vigorously for over 13 minutes to use the same amount of water as that bath.
As for the length of a shower- no real randomized trials exist but some cushy research journals suggest that longer showers dry out the skin by cleaning of the body’s natural oils… Personally I think that’s what lotion is for…. And I’m a swimmer so I really don’t care.

SO there you have it dear girlfriends… something to think about the next time you are lathering up and letting that conditioner settle in….

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And Now a Word from My Sponsor...

Have you noticed dear girlfriends that lately we are BOMBARDED with marketing mayhem? I mean really how could you not notice. I don’t mean the billboards in TIME SQUARE kind of marketing or the commercials between your favorite television series… I mean the fact that advertising has now found its way into places it had otherwise never been- or never should have been.

Let’s examine the evidence.

Yesterday on a flight from Calgary to Vancouver I was hollered at not one, not two, but three times in the airport by three different women asking me to sign up for a credit card.

Make no mistake- I am a fan of credit… hell I may not believe in a lot of things… but I do believe in credit. The problem that I have is not with the card, nor with the undoubtedly lovely women who are pedaling them…. It’s the concept.

Isn’t an airport the one place in the world where people stare blankly at each other without any concern for another human being personal interest? Isn’t the airport the final sanctuary where we all just march on like drones towards a destination?
Does this last vestige of isolation really need to be invaded by someone trying to sell me something…? To my face?

And while I have your attention on this rant… what happened to going to the movies and just seeing the credits before the movie? Why do I have to sit through a Lexus commercial before I can watch what next cinema disaster Jennifer Aniston has gotten herself into or the preview for a Disney movie sequel that is coming out in 3 years time?

The final straw came when after reaching my seat on the plane bound to Vancouver that I was instructed to watch the television screen in front of me for a security and safety briefing. After being instructed on how to fasten my seatbelt and put on my life vest (in the event of an emergency landing over water) I was then subject to a TELUS commercial. Although the Jingle “when the beat stops, that’s when we rock” was not unpleasant, I resent those bastards for capturing my attention with a lifesaving skill review only to hold it captive with a promise for better cell phone reception.

Look- I don’t begrudge the free market for trying to make its way in the world. Hell I am a strong supporter of a good economy – check my closet if you do not believe me. What I do resent is having certain marketing and advertising shoved into my consciousness under false pretenses.

I came to board a plane and was accosted with a credit card sign up. I came to watch the movie and was faced with 2012 car of the year. All I wanted to do was to ensure that my seatback and tray were in the upright and locked position and I had to endure a dancing parrot and the promise of free texting features.

Is there not a place in this world where we are not trying to sell or buy something? Is this what it has all come down to? Where in the world is it still sacred? Hell, even in my own medical office there is a television set with advertisements flashing across the screen…. Not my doing dear girlfriends, I just rent the space. But really… do people need to be faced with the latest and greatest in life insurance and face creams while waiting for their Pap smear?

I can’t help but wonder where do we draw the line?

A study published in 2009 in the European Journal of public health showed that limiting a child’s access to television food commercials could help out a dent in the Obesity crisis.

Studies have shown that it is estimated that an individual is exposed to approximately 400 add per day in one form of another.

The researchers constructed a mathematical simulation model to estimate the potential effects of reducing the exposure of 6- to 12-year-old US children to TV advertising for food on the prevalence of overweight and obesity. The model was based on BMI or body mass index.

The study looked at rates of television add exposure and body size on children between ages 6-12. .

Based on literature findings, the model predicts that reducing the exposure to zero would decrease the average BMI by 0.38 kg/m2 and lower the prevalence of obesity from 17.8 to 15.2% for boys and from 15.9% to 13.5% for girls.

Now this was only television based advertisements but one can only imagine what would happen if we minimized other forms of advertising.

There you have it some evidence to suggest that even restricting some add exposure could help disease prevention.

I realize I a being biased. I often read magazine JUST for the ads. This is perhaps my way of using science to defend my life choices. Yes, I do love the free market but I suspect there will be more scientific evidence further supporting me putting the unwanted commercial down and stepping away from the insanity.

For now- I ignore the pleas of the woman at the airport wanting me to get yet another credit card. I tune out the TELUS commercials on the plane rides home and I come later to movies so as to miss the obligatory Lexus commercial before the credits. I’m learning, dear girlfriends that as with undergarments and the hunt for the perfect day clutch…. You really must pick your battles.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Put the Mat down and No One Gets Hurt

Dear girlfriends, I know you've spent many a Tuesday listening to me bitch.... so you are used to it. Here we go again. I AM TIRED. I mean really tired. I mean I spent much of Monday in my underwear in bed tired. Too much information perhaps... but if a girl can't share her personal beliefs with the Internet, who can she share them with. After all to paraphrase a great line from a great movie, isn't blogging just graffiti with punctuation?

Back to me and my fatigue. I supposed it should be expected. What with me pretending I was a superhero on a bike and all... that is what you get for wearing spandex for almost a month straight. But man oh man... my fatigue surpasses all espresso and I have resorted to... napping.

Yes, I am napping throughout the day. Fortunately I had this weekend off and so the napping at work was not necessary but come today it is back to the grind and they do frown upon napping at work don't they?

Whatever happened to those golden days of kindergarten when at around 2 pm we all lay down with our blankets in the play room for a nap? I know most kids hated that period of time when they had to lay there and sit still and just stare at the ceiling. Ironically those same children are now adults who pay hundreds of dollars in yoga memberships to lay on a similar floor somewhere ina dim room and have a similar type of nap.

But I digress....

I was one of those kids who just love the nap time. In fact I brought my own blanket and pillow from home to my kindergarten class to keep in my cubby hole just for this very occasion.

Amazing how who we are in life is often who we were in preschool... Hmmmm.

Turns out my naps have merit. According to a Study in Sleep Medicine in 2003, 30 minute naps in shift workers decreased daytime sleepiness relative to those who did not nap.

Studies at the Henry Ford Hospital's Sleep Disorders and Research Center in Detroit further confirms what is well established in the medical literature. Napping is even beneficial to someone who is a normal sleeper but who is getting insufficient sleep at night. Dr. Timothy Roehrs, Ph.D who is director of the institute commented that "We don't understand the underlying neurobiology, but sleep time is cumulative."

Roehrs says his group compared the alertness of people who slept eight hours a night to that of people who slept less but took a nap during the day. Both groups were equivalent, he says.

His group has also found benefits in the "prophylactic" nap for people who have to stay up late. "It protected them from sleepiness," he says. "A two-hour or a four-hour nap, before they have to be up all night, does provide additional alertness the next day." Research conducted by NASA produced similar results.

So here I am letting my body "catch up" on some rest with a 60-90 minute nap for the last few days and all the science in the world to back me up. How's that for a reason to buy some more silk pajamas?

You may judge and call me lazy... you may judge and call me a big baby.... hell you may just judge. But, my dear girlfriends as with all things on Tuesday I recommend we rely on the science of the universe... and if that does not sit well with you, perhaps lie down for a quick one and sleep on it... you'd be amazed what a little afternoon shut eye can do for a girl.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

End of Days

Ahh girlfriends. It has only been a week but it seems as though a lifetime has gone by. It is that time of the year when we return to the fall of it all.

Yes, my cybersisters I trust we all had a wonderful summer but its time to put the white away and labour once more…

With the sadness of the passing of summer’s free spirited times comes the fabulous of the fall lines (and aren’t they).

This year, my summer holidays were spent cycling across Canada. Yes, my girlfriends I did make it across safe and sound and even had a little extra time off in Toronto to stock up on fall’s promises.

And now, it’s time to change gears (literally) and change out my closet in acknowledgement of the passing of time.

Here I sit on a plane from Halifax to Vancouver reveling in the fact that it took me 23 days to get here on a bike and will only take 7 hours to fly home. There is no skipping the passage of time.

When I was a little girl I remember wishing days gone by. We had one of those large calenders that you get from the bank every September hung on the wall in our kitchen. It was usually blue and white and had the usual mainstream holidays on it like Canadian thanksgiving and Valentine day. It even had a little circle or crescent marked in the right hand corner on certain days symbolizing the moon in order to tell you when in the month would be a full or new moon.

Every morning I would get up and walk to the kitchen in my pajamas and grab a black marker to make an “X” on the square that marked the previous day. It was my way to put the day past and move forward.

Gone is the calendar. I no longer cross out days gone by. Instead I put a mark on the previous day by looking ahead to tomorrow. I put out my clothes for the next day and put yesterday on a closet shelf. I look forward to the new pretty another season will bring.

Here we are now counting down calendars and the passage of time. According to the Internet… which appears to be a new religion, the world will end on December 21, 2012.

The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This will apparently cause a polar shift in planet earth making it change its axis of spinning. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. This was linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 and to the date of December 21, 2012.

According to NASA- good news. This is bullshit. Nibiru does not exist. No planet plummeting to earth, no change in earth’s polarity. Furthermore…. guess what, it is apparently impossible for the earth to change its polarity.

So the countdown to countdowns ends. An “X” on the calendar is just that…. A end to the day and nothing more. As for me, I am terribly sentimental this week…. My summer holiday to end all holidays has just ended and I am back to work tomorrow….

Good news, dear girlfriends… I have some fabulous new outfits to last me a while…

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

She's Got Legs and She Knows How to Use THem

Hey girlfriends! Or shall I say Bonjour. Here I am in beautiful Montreal just one week shy of finishing my cross-country cycling tour. It really has been magical. The scenery has been perfection; the weather not so bad and my ass fell asleep in Alberta and has yet to wake up.

To top it all off I had two days off in Toronto and rewarded my efforts with an afternoon of shopping on Bay and Bloor. Big love to Gloria at Holt Renfrew who let me try on whatever I wanted and gave me champagne so that everything automatically looked good on me!

It is my firm belief that when one combines intense physical activity with retail therapy and fuzzy alcohol… World peace is not far behind.

I have learned a lot over the past couple of weeks on a bicycle.

I have learned that exercising for 5 hours a day gives one a certain freedom from the guilt of carbohydrate consumption.

I have learned that the right chamois cream (butt butter) is the key to protecting the good china when cycling 100 km or more every day.

I have learned that it is not a bad thing to confine one’s day to just cycling, sleeping and eating.

I have learned that cell phone coverage is a right and not a privilege especially in certain parts of rural Canada.

Most fascinatingly, I have learned that men hate their varicous veins as much as women do.

Allow me to explain….

For the last 16 days, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to check out people’s legs. When much of your day is spent riding in a line with a rider in front of you, there is not really much to look at. You stare at the back wheel of the bike in front of you and in turn the ass of the rider in front of you as well. Apart from the scenery you are looking at the back of someone’s legs and their ass for hours.

This is where you notice people leg composition. Who has hairy legs? Who is well shaved? Many men who cycle seriously do in fact often shave their legs.

It was on one such section of my cross-country ride that I noticed a fellow rider had one hell of a set of varicose veins. I myself do in fact have some serious varicose veins as well. As a kindred “venous spirit” I stared in appreciation. There they were my first set of blue wormy veins on a man.

Make no mistake, I have seen a lot of legs in my time… but these were the first big ass varicosities that I had witnessed on the legs of a man under age 50.

No judgment here my girlfriends as I too have a kick ass varicose vein. It sits on my right leg and begins at the back of my thigh and goes down to the middle of my calf. It is huge. I do not love it or hate it… instead I just accept it. No drama. Besides, I can always wear fabulous heals to offset the big ass vein bulging out of my leg.

Here’s the 411 on varicose veins….

They are more common in women than in men by a ratio of 9:1. They are strongly inherited. In fact one study published in the American Journal of Genetics in 2006 showed that varicose veins have been linked to the FOX2 gene on Chromosome 16.

There are two structural reasons for varicose veins to happen. You see veins themselves really don’t have a muscular wall to them. They drain by gravity and by the muscles around them acting to “pump” blood back to the heart. They do however have various “valves” in sequence along the inside of a vein so that blood only flows one way.

Varicose veins form because of what is called a junctional problem where there is a failure of the valve at the junction of the saphenous vein and the deep venous system. This is like saying there is failure at the stoplight where the TransCanada highway intersects with a city.

This is often why veins are found in the lower part of the thigh and in the calf. That is where the “junctional failure” occurs and where that valve often fails. As a result the blood pools in the vein and its stretches and becomes chronically malformed.

Another cause for varicose veins is as a result of a failure of the of the perforator veins. In other words this is a failure of the stoplights on the side streets in a city.

There you have it my girlfriends…. And now you are systematically inspecting your legs for veins. Understand that varicose veins also have a grading system from small little spider veins all the way up to large ulcerations in chronic varicose veins.

Yes, they can be unsightly but hey… sometimes life is just not pretty. My fellow male cyclist whose calves were full of wormy veins was a fabulous guy and a lot of other great qualities….

I will leave you (and him if he is reading this) this week with a quote from the great Lady Gaga… whose music has been playing over and over along my cross-country cycle thus far…

Rejoice and love yourself today because baby you were born this way.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Sleep at the Wheel

Greeting dear Girlfriends from the seat of my bicycle! Yes, my cybersisters here I am several time zones away from home in Thunderbay, Ontario.

Today I have cycled over 1100 kilometres across the country and yes, in 4 short days I will have reached a new goal…. 1600 kilometres of riding and visit to Holt Renfrew in Toronto.

Rest assured my sisters, I have come prepared. My riding shorts are Swiss and fabulous. I have several jerseys- all matching my bicycle.

Make no mistake, I am not a fast rider… but if you see me riding by I have my priorities in order… I do match. Speed is not my friend, but fashion knows no boundaries.

There I am on a fabulous bicycle for about 4-5 hours a day. Even if you love to ride, the time can take its toll. It’s a long time. I do pass it by listening to books on tape or music. Needless to say, I now know all the words to Lady Gag’s new CD and I can sing all the parts of the various Broadway musical soundtracks on my IPod.

Shall I share with you the highs and lows of my last 1100 km? Shall we wax nostalgic for the fact that, yes, I did ride through a hailstorm in Ontario conjugating the “F” word with every pedal stroke?

How about the ride through Kenora where I found a chocolate lab running down the highway and picked him up and stuck him in our RV. Yes, this little pup was adorable (I named him Digby) and he slept in our hotel room for the night before being returned to his rightful owner.

All along the way I have spent hours without the feeling in my hands. When you spend more than 90 minutes on a bike, your hands tend to fall asleep after about 45 minutes. You spend the next few hours shaking them out to regain feeling.

According to a Study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2003,
This hand numbness is very common. The study looked at over 1000 cyclists participating in a 600 km multistage event. 92% of the cyclists experienced motor or sensory symptoms of the hand. The most common injury is ulnar nerve compression, causing symptoms in the ulnar nerve distribution (ring and little finger).

The median nerve is involved less commonly. The cause of this injury is related to constant pressure and vibration, with the wrist in prolonged wrist hyperextension and abduction (holding your hand on the handlebars in a flexed position).

Treatment involves refraining from cycling until the symptoms resolve. Prevention entails wearing cycling gloves, adjusting the handlebar position, applying padding to the handlebars, frequently altering hand position during cycling, and reducing body weight on to the handlebars.

And so my cybersisters… I have solved my problem as I do with everything… through fashion. Racing gloves have become my token accessory along this cross-country journey. Like a pretty little boy scout I have come prepared… I have several pairs of fabulous racing gloves in a variety of colours and padding.

Eleven days down and twelve days to go until I reach Nova Scotia. There will be many more hours and many more kilometers. My hands will fall asleep and wake up repeatedly. Regardless of what happens, I’ll do what I always do in any crisis situation…. Be prepared, hope for the best and of course…. Accessorize accordingly.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Little Nipple Goes a Long Way

Girlfriends I ask you, What has happened to serving personel? More specifically what has happened to the OUTFITS of serving personel?

I'm not talking all serving personell. But lately I have noticed among mainstream establishmenets there is an expectation of nudity among the female serving personelle.

I recently ate at one such casual dining locations here in beauthiful Vancouver and could not help but notice that at 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon my waitress was, well, quite frankly- she was dressed for a night out.

Her name was Sherri and she really was lovely. She was sweet and kind and she refilled my diet coke without me even having to ask. Her concern for the quality of my meal, was matched only by the size of her bossom which was not well contained in her little tank top.

Yes, she totally care about whether I wanted dessert but lets be frank... her skirt was way too short and she was wearing go-go boots in July.

Yes, I am about to be a bit chauvanistic (but I'm a girl- we automatically get excused- welcome to a new double standard ladies!)Waitresses at certain establishments are dressing... well, they are dressing like.... what's the word I am looking for???? No this is not the time for name calling and language is precious... but face it dear girlfriends if you are eating at restaurant named after someone's uncle (Joey or Earl) your waitresses is probably half naked.

Since when did I order my Santa Fe chicken salad with a side of nipple? Isn't she cold? Does waiting tables really work up such a sweat that you must disrobe before you do it in order to stay cool?

I could not help but wonder how many "Sherri's" there were in the work force? I am quite certain that Sherri is instructed to dress in her little "Hooker-chic" style by her employers in order to garner increased tips perhaps?

A metaanalysis presented in 1997 at the Annual Conference of the Society for the Advanement of Behavioral Economics, showed that men tip more than women despite the gender of their server. However men will tip female service personelle on average 10-20% more than they will other male servers. (this translates into $1-2 more per tip)

Michael Lynn and Tony Simons of Cornell University conducted a study looking at a serving personelle's attractiveness and its effect on garnerin higher tips. Servers were asked to rate their own attractiveness including bra size and hair colour. They then used a regression analysis to determine if factors such as bra size, hair colour and overall looks played a role in the size of one's tips.

Now, I slept through University Statistics so I can't comment on the methods but the study did show an effect of certain physical features on the size of a tip.

Blonds received higher tips than non-blonds even though these servers did not rate themselves as more attractive than others. Women with larger breasts (size D and up) received larger tips than those with a size A-B cup.

Curvy waitresses received more tips than non-curvy waitresses.

Intrestingly the Cornell researchers found that tips increased with the age of the server.

The largest tips went to waitresses in their 30's...

"Sherri", my server was a brunette in her early 20's. Could she be half naked in order to compensate for her misgivings? If she was a curvy 32 year old blonde could I have her put on a sweater??

I sat back and contemplated the way the world works. A victim of the marketing machine (hell I BELIEVE those Ads that tell me this mascara will make my lashes 100X longer) I had to accept the fact that sometimes in life and in food service.... A little nipple goes a long way....