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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.