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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, April 26, 2011

Sister Can you Spare an Opinion?

Confession time again my cybersisters…. I have a sweet tooth. In addition to the perfect platform 4 inch pump, I do love me a good cupcake. That being said…. I like being a solid size ten. In fact in the pursuit of the illusive size 6 (one day, my girlfriends, one day) I try and avoid that which is born of a bakery as often as possible. I do indulge nonetheless. Birthdays are the perfect occasion and my cybersisters will recall that I did climb a mountain in pursuit of baked goods.

My other particular weakness? Diet Pepsi. I remember the day aspartame became mainstream in drinks. It was truly a momentous occasion. I can recall vividly going to the supermarket with my mother and picking out varieties of sugar free sodas like it was a free for all. First there were the glass bottles at the “Pop Shop” and then years later the 2 litre plastic varieties became mainstream at the grocery store (I told you I was vintage…. Now do you believe me?) As a kid, we drank a lot of diet pop. There were 2 litre bottles littered all over the Zentner house back in the 70’s. Hell we would even swig it right from the bottle if we could.

Back then we did not know better. Hell, maybe we did know better but we really did not care. Recall this was the late 1970’s. Heroin and war were bad…. Everything else was free game.

So imagine my inner conflict when all those formative years of aspartame and then Splenda set me up for a big disappointment. For now, any time I casually order a sugar free soft drink someone inevitably (and rather smugly) feels the need to pronounce, “that will kill you, you know."

And therein ensues a long debate whereby I respond, “so will sugar, and I like a smaller ass”. And they tell me that a recent study showed… blah blah blah and suddenly my diet sugary buzz is ruined and I order a sparkling water instead and deal with the despair that only a really fabulous pair of Louboutins can pull me out of. Yes the logic is astounding and the recent burst in overt “vocal sharing” by random strangers in my life can only go to explain the recent expansion of my shoe repertoire.

So imagine how my world came apart when on a recent trip to Manhattan I found myself in a Bodega buying Diet Mountain Dew (DMD). Let’s be clear my girlfriends…. I LOVE the DMD. You can not get Diet Mountain Dew in Canada…. Perhaps this is part of my love for it. It really is a treat that I have to look forward to on my trips to America.

Make no mistake, I truly am a patriot. I love me some good old fashion socialized medicine and gun control laws…. Canada really is a near perfect country and I could NOT imagine living anywhere else. That being said, our television choices can suck at times (we don’t have real HBO or Showtime) and there is no Diet Mountain Dew on the menu. That being said what we lack in sugar free drinks we more than make up for in health and safety.

So there I am in a Bodega in NYC stocking up on the nectar of the Gods, when a random New York Woman turns to me and says, “you know that stuff is poison. It causes Diabetes”.

BAM. Out of left field. She diet pop shamed me. I stood there in the bodega with my half dozen cans of my sweet little guilt free caffeinated beverage and she just had to put in her commentary.

What has happened to this world? When did we all start caring so much about each other that we all got together and decided to give random opinions to perfect strangers at will. Is this some new plot to make the world better? Where are the meetings? Can I attend?

So instead of thanking this lovely woman for her concerns for my welfare, I responded in the only way I knew how when faced with a threatening advance of the sisterhood of the travelling bossy pants…..

“You, know what?” I said… “it doesn’t cause Diabetes, it causes Cancer.”

Turns out, I was not just talking out of my ass… there was science behind my statement.

A study done recently out of Harvard University followed two groups of men and their soft drink consumption over years to see if there was in fact a correlation between pop and diabetes.

The study published in 2011 in the American journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed data from more than 40,000 men who were followed between 1986 and 2006. During that time, participants regularly filled out questionnaires on their medical status and dietary habits, including how many servings of regular and diet sodas and other drinks they consumed every week.
About 7 percent of men reported that they were diagnosed with diabetes at some point during the study.

The researchers found that men who drank the most sugar-sweetened beverages - about one serving a day on average - were 16 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than men who never drank those beverages.

When nothing else was accounted for, men who drank a lot of diet soda and other diet drinks were also more likely to get diabetes.

But once researchers took into account men's weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol, those drinks were not related to diabetes risk.

The study concluded that it was other behaviours that correlate with diet pop drinkers that put someone at greatest risk for Diabetes… People at greatest risk for Diabetes may be choosing to drink diet pop because they are trying to lose weight and reduce their risk. If you took those same people and factored out their other risk factors you would find that it is NOT the diet pop tat is the key problem…

In other words… don’t hate the diet pop… hate the diet pop drinker.

There you have it dear girlfriends… order is restored. I’m a healthy food militant and a fitness freak. If I want to cross the border a have the occasional Diet Mountain Dew in a Bodega in the big Apple I am not putting myself at an increased risk for Diabetes. As for Cancer? The jury is still out. So for now? Please world…. Don’t share you opinions with me and I won’t share my pop with you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Breast Intentions

I had dinner with a lovely friend the other day. We had wonderful conversation and a real and much needed “catching up session”. She is “with child”, due today in fact and a big shout out to her if she is reading this between contractions.

The conversation flowed as easily as the sparkling mineral water and the best Italian food this side of Roma was enjoyed by all.

Somewhere between Cioppino’s Vitella Tonata and Seared Sablefish she dropped a conversational “bomb” and this week’s topic as she informed that she saw a woman only last week crossing 4th avenue in Vancouver WHILE breastfeeding her baby.

“You’re kidding me?” I asked. And sure enough she went on to explain that she had seen a woman with her child in a sling across her chest walking down the street in Kitsilano and the baby was sure enough, hand to heaven, having a mid-afternoon snack.

Girlfriends, I now appeal to you. Many of you have children and I am a fan of a good immune system. I am not opening up a debate on breastfeeding itself. It is in fact a GOOD thing. No debate here.

A huge survey has found striking evidence that mothers who feed their babies by breast end up with far fewer overweight and obese children.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal in February, 2011, found that 4.5% of bottle-fed babies were obese by the time they reached five or six-years-old.

Only 2.8% of babies given only breast milk after birth were obese when they reached school age.

Researchers looked at 9,357 overweight or obese children from the German region of Bavaria as they reached school entry age, and quizzed their mothers on how they were fed in the months after birth.

Compared with the 4.5% obesity rate of those children who had never been breast fed, only 3.8% of those who had been fed by breast for just two months became obese.

After breast feeding for three to five months, the likelihood of obesity was only half that of a bottle-fed child.

And less than one per cent of those breast fed for more than a year became obese.

As far a breast feeding goes- there is definitely a scientific case for disease prevention.

That being said, is there not as they say in Ecclesiastics, a “time for everything under heaven”?

Are we that busy, or furthermore is the baby THAT hungry that he/she needs a boob in transit? I can’t speak from experience here- I WAS never breastfed and I never will breastfeed. That being said- in my opinion, the only time a woman really can justify a “Breastfeed Walking” is if she was born in the Bronze Age or if she is crossing a continent in search of food and/or shelter.

This lady was not a political refugee nor was she in search of a the continental shelf. She was in fact sporting a Yoga mat and a serious case of what I can only call “the Marsupials”.

Ladies, I beg of us all…. Put the boob away, cross the street and take out the mother of all happy meals at a Starbuck’s with a blanket draped over the girls for a little privacy. Hell you can feed your child and flash me your nipples if you really want to but at least let’s not take multitasking to a an unholy level?

Am I being unreasonable dear sisters? Put the breast down and step away from the vehicle. Oh, and buckle up… it’s a scary world out there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

That's one Mad Madame

I ask you dear girlfriends, and answer me honestly…. Do I look like a Ma’am? You’ve seen the footage… me on a mountain, on a bike, at the beach, hell in a wetsuit…. You’ve seen me with and without a good blow out…. Does this face make you want to call it Ma’am?

Sure, I could stomach “Miss”, or “My Lady” or “Your Highness”, but really, “Ma’am”. It’s truly a kiss of death in the female nomenclature. In fact I’ll go out on a limb here and say, that I would rather be called “Yo, Bitch”, than “Ma’am”.

“Ma’am” is a shitty, shitty way to refer to a woman. “Ma’am” is a an old school librarian with flesh coloured pantyhose, reinforced at the toe and a sweater that smells like a storage closet. “Ma’am” is your music teacher who used to smack your knuckles while you played the piano in the event that a note was performed incorrectly. “Ma’am” smells like rotten gardenias and yesterday’s lunch meat.
“Ma’am” is bullshit.

My dear girlfriends… we need a new calling… down with the “Ma’am”. We must find a new address.

In the last decade alone, the English language has undergone significant additions and subtractions. Words come and go like wildfires. Facebook is now a verb, as in to “Facebook me”, while Tweeting is more than just the sound a bird makes.

Equally certain words have been removed from our cultural repertoire. I won’t give you too many examples… but you know what I mean…. Words like Jeggings and Stirrup Pants and Ballet Flats to name a few.

SO why can’t we banish the “Ma’am”. When will someone come up with a proper taxonomy for a 40 something woman who has a healthy sense of self-esteem and a really good sense of fashion?

Perhaps I should move to a French speaking part of the world, if only to be referred to as “MADAM”. Why should men have all the fun? “Sir” is quite a lovely characterization. “To Sir, with Love”, “They called him Sir”, “Please Sir, May I have some more?”. Why can’t we, my dear girlfriends claim a name of our own? One that does not make us cringe at the thought. One that empowers us to be all that we are and not reach for our walkers and our denture cream in a wave of self-loathing.

As far as the science goes… I have nothing. No there does not exist a study regarding the use of Ma’am and the decline of the female persuasion…. Give me time, girlfriends, give me time.

I hate it when THEY call me “Ma’am”. I know they are just trying to be polite, but it is a knife of hot buttered bullshit that goes straight to my psyche.

I wanna a new name, God damn…. Get to work my cybersisters… I’ve given you months and months of Tuesdays filled with creative quips and witty repartees…. You get me a new name and we’ll call it even.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mother Knows Best

A little girl sat down next to me on a plane last week. She was 16 months old, I later learned from her naturally proud mother (who incidentally told me later- she thought her daughter was a genius). She was pretty cute as far a little kids go. She had the requisite round face and shiny blue eyes that have not seen too much to know better. She was smiling her two-toothed grin.

As far as the outfit goes- she had on a corduroy jumpsuit with a flower cardigan and rather flashy (for a 16 month old) plastic necklace. By all estimations most people would have been cooing at this kid. In fact some heads even turned around me to inspect and admire the “little darling”.

Her name, I later learned was “Claire” and her mother affectionately called her “Claire-Bear”. I smiled at Claire and tried to ask all the “right” questions;

How old is she?
What is her name?
Is this your only child?

You know…. The standard operating conversation when faced with a solitary mother on a plane whose child will be seated next to you in a confined tin can of a space for the next few hours….

Make no mistake- Claire was a cutey. But in that lies one flaw- I don’t like kids. I know, my girlfriends, there you sit shocked and in horror. “How can she not LIKE kids?” you think. “Who doesn’t like kids?” you ask.

Well, it’s me. Me and the old lady in Hansel and Gretel. We both don’t like kids. If some eight year old comes by my gingerbread house hungry and decides to take a bite out of my back porch, make no mistake- I am locking them in the cellar without hesitation.

It’s a shame really. I suppose it is a true character flaw. I wanted to LIKE little Claire-Bear with her sweet little flower cardigan and pediatric bling. I even paused for a moment to “check my insides”. Maybe there was a shred of sentimentality that was dormant and would now spring forth in the presence of this little cherub from Yellowknife.

Nope. Nothing. All I could think of was “Why is it people still count their kids ages in months? What’s with the 16 months? When does that shit end? When she’s just over five years old will it be 64 months or five and a bit?”

It’s official. I do not have the maternal instinct. Make no mistake- I think I am a great caregiver. But I would make a crappy mother. Not only do I not have the desire (which is pretty EVERYTHING) but also I am wayyyyy to selfish for the job.

I wonder how many women like me ponder the very existence of their “Motherhood Principle”

A study done in Japan in 2008 looked for physiological evidence of the maternal instinct. Tokyo researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (M.R.I.) to study the brain patterns of 13 mothers, each of whom had an infant about 16 months old.

First, the scientists videotaped the babies smiling at their mothers during playtime. Then the women left the room, and the infants were videotaped crying and reaching for their mothers to come back. All of the babies were dressed in the same blue shirt for the video shoot.

M.R.I. scans were taken as each mother watched videos of the babies, including her own, with the sound off. When a woman saw images of her own child smiling or upset, her brain patterns were markedly different than when she watched the other children. There was a particularly pronounced change in brain activity when a mother was shown images of her child in distress.

The scans suggest that particular circuits in the brain are activated when a mother distinguishes the smiles and cries of her own baby from those of other infants. The fact that a woman responds more strongly to a child’s crying than to smiling seems “to be biologically meaningful in terms of adaptation to specific demands associated with successful infant care,” the study authors noted.

This obvious problem with this study was that it did not look at MRI’s of women who did not have children to see if there was a significant difference between them and the “parental controls”.

But I could not help but wonder if my brain was in fact wired differently? I mean aside from my obvious quirks and eccentricities (yes, I realize I am a bit special that way) was my brain hard wired against a motherhood principle?

This issue became all too evident when after boarding the entire plan, the flight attendant informed me that the isle behind me was free and should I like to move from my window seat I could in fact have an entire row to myself.

“She’s really good on planes”, Claire’s mother reassured me, “But I understand if you want to move. “

A hush fell over the plane. Everyone looked my way. Was I going to make a mother who had spent the last 10 minutes getting settled get up out of her seat with child in hand and move aside so that I could vacate?

Damn right I was. It was free isle for God’s sake- one without a child in it…. Farewell, Claire-Bear. It was lovely to make your acquaintance but I am one of the childfree in this country. As such, I am entitled to die alone and fly in peace. I blame my brain…. My brain made me do it. Amen.