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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, 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....

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Big Day

I know Tuesdays are OUR days dear girlfriends... you know, the time when you and I sit down and reflect upon our choices in life and fashion and look at the world with a scientific eye and and a four inch heel.

But once in a while there are special days... Barney's end of season sale, Boxing Day and yes.... tomorrow.

Tomorrow, August 13, I am cycling across Canada to raise funds and awareness for Diabetes.

Yes, my cybersisters... this journey will combine my true loves... Cycling, healthy living, a voice for a great cause and one hell of a reason to buy fabulous sportswear....

IT will be a 21 day ride with a team of fellow philanthropic nut bars from Cycle 4 What Matters who will be riding at least 100 kilometres a day in a relay form from Vancouver to Halifax.

On a scientific note... I will burn approximately 85,000 calories over three weeks. I will ride at least 6-8 hours a day and try and sleep 8 hours a night. I will eat properly and rehydrate well but yes... there will be a treat or two.... the road must provide and my girlfriends do know my love of cake.

Sure part of me is in it for the baked goods... but mostly I'm doing it for the same reason I buy obnoxiously extravagant footwear.... because I want to. My justification is simple... change your perspective and change the world....

Should I pass you on my ride somewhere along this great land.. give me a shout out and I'd love to stop and chat...who knows? Perhaps your story may be just the voice to inspire a new girlfriend to pay it forward and move toward healthier living.

Off I go on my beautiful bike BELLA to ride for guts and glory. Yes, there will be tears of joy and yes there will be inspiring moments. I'll be interviewing Canadians across this great land and hearing their amazing stories in their quest for better health. I'll be blogging about it on so do feal free to tune in daily my dear girlfriends and share in the joy and the madness.... it should be one hell of a ride.

Wanna suport my ride with this months shoe budget? Go to the link below.... all funds raised will go to people living with diabetes:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Life Changing Experience

I must admit my dear girlfriends….I am bit cranky these days. Perhaps it’s the weather, perhaps just the way but I have lost my usually sunny disposition. Yes… this is bullshit- I really don't have a sunny disposition. Make no mistake, I don’t delude myself that I ever had one. I’m not one of “those girls” who thinks they are pleasant when in fact they suck. I realize I’m a bit of a bitch… but hell- if you dress a bitch up in pretty clothing she can be tolerable- can’t she? Look at Anna Wintour. The woman has a reputation for being evil- but she is a style icon and thus- really she’s fabulous.

Stick a bitch in a pair of great shoes and hell- she’d walk a mile in them…

But lately I am blue. Bluer than…. the fabulous pair of Louboutins I had to buy last week just to get myself out of this funk… and I could not help but wonder… was this seasonal? Was this hormonal? Worse… was this permanent?

Let’s take a poll my cyberissters… raise your hand if you can’t be in the same room with yourself lately??

I notice my recall is not what it used to be… Make no mistake- I have a pretty good memory to begin with- I can multitask with the best of them. But lately I notice I’m not as snappy as I used to be. I can play a wicked memory game in my closet…. Which shoes are in which box? No problem. But I am finding that I am often forgetting my keys a bit too often.

This is topped off with a touch of sleep disturbance.

So between the moodiness, the forgetfulness and the sleep disturbance I am either a nasty insomniac with early onset Dementia or I’m premenopausal.

I’d love to be dramatic… but I think it’s likely the latter. FU- (I promised my mother I would swear less in this blog... add the "CK" if you must).... Her comes menopause, here comes menopause… rolling down menopause lane?

Menopause is the term used to described the gradual cessation of reproductive functions in association with systemic symptoms associated with the withdrawal of certain hormones in the body.

Menopause is an unavoidable change that every woman will experience, assuming she reaches middle age and beyond. Menopause has a wide starting range, but can usually be expected in the age range of 42–58.

Early menopause can be related to cigarette smoking, higher body mass index, racial and ethnic factors, illnesses, chemotherapy, radiation and the surgical removal of the uterus and/or both ovaries.

It is officially declared after a woman has ceased to menstruate for one year.

Perimenopause is defined as the period around menopause when periods become irregular. Pre-menopause is defined as the period around perimenopause where systemic systems of menopause occur without the change in menstruation. In other words… you are bitchy and you don’t know why.

I recently read an article that cited that human beings are not the only animals to go through menopause. Apparently menopause is quite uncommon among other animals.

Yes, again, I envy my dog Lola. Not only is she so freaking cute that perfect strangers stop her on the street, but she is seriously cuter when she is chubby and apparently sails through her change of life without a nod of her chew toy.

Nonhuman primates such as rhesus monkeys and chimpanzees have been reported to go through menopause. It has also been observed in the guppy, the elephant and some whales.

The hot flashes result from vasomotor instability as a result of drops in estrogen.

The moodiness associated with premenopause have been shown to be associated with fluctuations in the levels of serotonin found around this period of time.

Recent studies have shown that antidepressants can be helpful in the treatment of hot flashes, improving sleep, mood, and quality of life. There is a theoretical reason why SSRI antidepressants might help with memory problems: they increase circulating levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain and restore hippocampal function.

Look… I may be premenopause. I may just be paranoid. 40 has hit me like a ton a bricks and I ma spending my year learning to cope with it. I am almost done with this and I figure by my 41st birthday I will be very well adjusted. Bear with my my cybersisters…. We will make it through.

Make no mistake, I am a FAN of drugs…hell I prescribe them every day. If you need em- use em.

But I think I will deal with my premenopause with a trip to NYC and a three day shopping bender. The fall lines need me and it turns out my life changing physiology needs them as well….

If it turns out I am not premenopausal… my wardrobe will definitely be no worse for wear….

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Lowered Expectations

I am coming to the realization dear girlfriends that I have relatively high expectations. Cancel the relative, actually. My expectations are just quite high.

Remember when you were little and there were those adds in the comic books for "100 baby dolls" or "lifelike sea monkeys". There they were posted on the back of a comic book advertising a mail away for 100 miniature dolls and all you had to do was mail in one dollar and they would send them to you. Alternatively, no doubt geared towards young male readers, they had "1000 sea monkeys for one dollar- just add water". You could again mail in a dollar bill and a package of "grow it yourself" sea monkeys would appear on your doorstep 4-6 weeks later.

I know what you are thinking. This HAD to be a hoax. There was no way you could get 100 miniature dolls for a dollar (plus shipping and handling).

But I was young. I was naive and I was after all BORN to shop. And the six year old version of me filled out the necessary paperwork on the back of the comic book and sent it off with crisp dollar bill (Yes girlfriends- we had dollar bills "back in the day" for those of you who were Born in the age of Brittany)

I would wait five weeks for my one dollar dolls to arrive. Clearly I was not in a financial position to chose express shipping if I was spending a week's allowance on a box of dolls. Besides.... I had my eyes on the prize. These dolls were going to be amazing. In my mind's eye I could see myself dressing these dolls and taking them to lunch. I could see tea parties the likes of which any eight year old would kill for. These were the 1970's dear girlfriends... this was going to be BIG.

There I was on a perfect August day. I remember it was August because it was summer, I was home from school and I was covered in mosquito bites. I sat at the kitchen table in my childhood home with a pair of scissor and a dream. The box should have been my first clue. The box was the size of a small shoe box.

While one side of my brain contemplated how 100 fabulous individually dressed dolls would fit in the small shoe box, the other side of my brain still had hope. Perhaps this was just the first of many boxes to come? Maybe each this was just a doll preview and the other dolls would follow.... one a week for the next two years??

And then I opened the box. Inside were 100 miniature plastic dolls the size of those miniature plastic green army men that are less than 1/2 inch high. I wanted a kick ass tea party and instead I got a large scale choking hazard. For the first time I remembered what disappointment felt like.

Professor Wolfram Schultz at Cambridge University in England is the leading authority on the study of human expectations. Studies show that the neurotransmitter Dopamine is released from brain cells in the nuleus accumbens deep in the brain in times when we anticipate rewards.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of desire. The levels of dopamine in the brain rise when we want something. Walking into Barneys or Bergdorf's or Neiman's puts my Dopamine levels back into the space program.

In fact studies show that when a cue from the environment indicates you're going to get a reward, dopamine releases in response. Unexpected rewards release more dopamine than expected ones.

Last week I walked into Holt Renfrew and found to my surprise the fall lines had begun to arrive. CUE THE DOPAMINE.

And so on that August summer day, back in 1977, I sat there at my kitchen table with my shoe box full of dolls with my dopamine levels were on high alert.

Newsflash on Dopamine, however. If you're expecting a reward and you don't get it, dopamine levels fall steeply. This feeling is not a pleasant one, it feels a lot like pain.

Dopamine also increases how fast out brain works. Increase Dopamine in the brain and you are bouncing off the walls.... drop those same levels and you are Robert DeNiro in an Academy Award nominated performance.

The dopamine cells in the nucleus accumbens connect to many parts of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, where the right levels of dopamine are critical for focusing. You need good levels of dopamine to "hold" an idea in your prefrontal cortex. Positive expectations increase the levels of dopamine in the brain, and these increased levels make you more able to focus. This makes sense intuitively: teachers know that kids learn best when they are interested in a subject. Interest, desire, and positive expectations are slight variations on a similar experience, an experience of having an increased level of dopamine in the brain.

This link between Dopamine and learning may explain why happiness plays such a role in learning. Studies show we tend to absorb more information in times when we are happier and more satisfied.

So there I was with my box of plastic disappointments and my dopamine levels were in the toilet. I can remember FEELING let down by this whole experience.

It turns out, I was chemically wired for the let down.

Thank you science for yet again explaining to me the intricacies of the world we live in.

The next time I head to a sample sale I will be sure to check my Dopamine levels at the door. If all else fails, I'll be sure to plan ahead. WE can not have another repeat of the toy doll incident.

Make no mistake, life will let us down. Those round toed pumps that you thought would be perfect for years to come are only good for a season. You do not look good in a skirt THAT short after a certain age and orange is a colour that only a chosen few can wear.

Fear not my girlfriends. We all have ups and downs... and so does our brain chemistry. The best we can hope for in life and in Dopamine is a safe place to fall.