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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, November 27, 2012

Run Lola Run

Oh my girlfriends…. May I say that as I write this it is in fact Sunday and I find myself in bed. No, I am not unwell. No, there was no sale on 8000 thread count sheets and no, I am not suffering the ill effects of one too many cocktails. Truth be told- I had one Chinese margarita on Saturday at my favourite fusion bistro but ONE was my limit.

Please my sisters- don’t judge although I am in training for my glory day in Honolulu,  every girl needs a cocktail once in a while.

But something in this get up and go girl, just got up and went. Here I am laying like broccoli in my 600 thread counts on a perfect Sunday morning. My schedule demands I recover from the 32km pain fest of running/insanity that took place the day before. While my head says get out of bed, my body suggests I should lay here for another 6-8 hours and watch every episode of the Real Housewives of New York City. This of course is not appropriate marathon training behaviour but somehow my heart just won’t budge.

Well, my sisters… the heart wants what the heart wants.

This brings me to a rather new concept for me… THE REST DAY.

I am rather unfamiliar with the concept of rest day. And yes, like every misstep of my personality…. I blame my mother.

Mama is a woman who can’t sit still. God love the little energetic woman who gave me life but truly- I blame her for not being able to rest for a given period of time.

Let’s be clear- my mama is a pretty amazing lady. She raised two kids while working full time and she has a “no-nonsense” way of going about things. To this day she is 72 years old and still walks on a  treadmill every morning for an hour…. With a knee brace. The broad (and I say broad with the highest of honours) is unstoppable.

Some of my best conversations with my mother were held with her back to me. Yes, my sisters- she was doing the dishes and I was sitting at the kitchen table doing my homework. Now as an adult- our best conversations are held by telephone. She is on the other end of the line walking on a treadmill and I am on my Bluetooth biking over the Lion’s Gate Bridge.

Yes, Mama taught me many a great things- chief among them was that an object in motion stays in motion.

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about my relative inability to sit still. Sure there are the odd days where I do indeed lay like broccoli but for the most part, I am a woman who does not like to take a load off on a regular basis. Perhaps I’m afraid that once I sit down, I may never get back up again, or perhaps it’s a clinical thing that I chose to ignore in order to get things done.

But every once in a while I take what I call a “pajama day”. This si a day where I schedule to stay in my pajamas and not move an inch. Make no mistake- Pajama days occur maybe once every 6-9 months but they do act to restore my sense of self.

On these the holiest of holies, I lie in bed with two fuzzy monsters, a laptop and a PVR stocked full of reality television and HBO dramas. I watch TV, surf the net and wait for my bed sores to develop.

On once such pajama day I could not help but lay there and wonder about the effect of my lazy day on my overall well being.

According to a WHO Health and Work Performance Questionnaire that assesses sick days, depression was cited as the number one reason for absenteeism on the job. And a February 2010 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter found that depression and anxiety were among the top five reasons for absenteeism.

Americans are clearly suffering. According to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, about 26% of American adults aged 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year.

Eighty-two percent of employees admit to taking "mental health days" to recover or recharge, according to a 2008 poll by ComPsych, a provider of employee assistance programs.

The poll asked employees: "What would most likely cause you to take a 'mental health day' (unplanned day off to recover or recharge)?"

30 percent said family/relationship issues
20 percent said work stress/workload
15 percent said personal issues (financial, legal, other)
12 percent said lack of physical energy/well being
5 percent said boredom/lack of motivation

The survey included responses from 1,036 employees of ComPsych client companies nationwide.

According to a study published in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Organizational Behavior, taking advantage of mental health days can help reduce job demands and extend the positive effects of vacation. In the study, individuals who took a full summer off from work returned with increased productivity and less burn-out. However, within a month of working a full-time schedule they reported feeling as though they had not even had a break.

Those workers who planned for and took advantage of regular mental health days to focus on leisure time, relaxing activities reported significantly less stress and burnout than co-workers who envisioned another year before vacation rolled around again.

And so my Sundays in the bed indeed do fuel my Attention Deficit Soul. Unfortunately due to my relative inability to be still, I am unable to indulge more than once in a half dozen moons.

Although infrequent, they are evidence based. Now if you will excuse me my sisters, I must roll over, take a Robaxacet and catch up on season 3 of Boardwalk Empire. It’s tough work girlfriends…. But someone must take one for the team.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

She Nailed It

I bite my nails in a way that is truly offensive.  Truth be told, I come by it honestly. My mother bites her nails as well. I can remember as a child her perfect long finger, with elegant fingernails polished to perfection. She sat in the front of the 1975 Oldsmobile cutlass while my father drove. She chewed on her cuticles as if she was manicurist on a mission.

And now more than 30 years later, I chew my hands with a vengeance. It used to be a nervous habit and now it is just routine. I have tried everything. I have tried bitter nail polish and gloves, acrylic overlays and weekly manicure. I have bitten through it all like a fanatical rodent.

My nails have born the brunt of every nail fad known to women. In the 1980’s I wore Lee Press on Nails. They were plastic nails that were self-adhesive and pre-polished. They came in a variety of colours and sizes and promised in a half an hour to transform any hands into movie stars.

My Press On’s were not available in Canada and were thus bought typically on trips to the United States with my family. We drove from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Fargo, North Dakota (it was 1983- there was little else to do for fun) and there in a Target I was introduced to the fabulous world of fake nails. I could bite my fingers to my heart’s content and within 30 minutes in the safety of my hotel room, my nails could instantly be polished and perfect again.

There I sat in the Holiday Inn in Fargo packet of LEE PRESS ON’s in hand anticipating the magic. I looked down at my stubby, bitten nails and imagined my long perfectly polished future.

Make no mistake; my future was perfectly polished, but lasted only 12-14 hours. The nails rarely stayed on for longer than THAT day and were no match for the chlorine content at the Holiday Inn pool. I loved my nails, but I loved the water slide even more.

In the 1990’s I fell victim to the craze of the Acrylic French Manicure. These fake nails are now popular among the adult film industry stars and Intensive Care Nurses in Alberta. This is not an association but merely an observation.

I spent most of my 20’s in the hands of various women of Vietnamese descent as they painted my nail beds with acrylic based products in pink and white in order to mimic a French manicure. They then took what can only be described as miniature bench saw to may nails and sculpted them into my own Sally Hansen advertisement.
My chewed up nail stubs were replaced by perfect long nail beds that smelled like acetone and looked like a dream.  I was on a contact high from the chemical fumes and deliriously happy from the visual effects.

But when the look and the fumes wore off, my sober self bit through the acrylic and the pain like a beaver from hell. Ten days and ten fingers later and I was back where I started. 

Now another decade has passed. Chanel comes out with a new nail polish every season that is the “must have” of the moment. Each winter I paint my nails a dark blue or black or red and promise to stop biting. I last a week perhaps two or three and the polish is gnawed upon over and over again. I make resolution after resolution and each one is broken as I bite back my promises... one finger at a time.

In spring I paint my nails a pale pink or pearl or nude colour and at $20 per bottle; the promise is renewed.  I have paid for Karl Lagerfeld’s car with the amount of Chanel nail polish that has been purchased in an attempt to banish my bad habit and to no avail.

A study published in 1971 in the Journal Of Child Development and Neurology showed that there may be a genetic component to nail biting.  According to the authors, nail biting is a frequent habit in children. It usually appears between 4 and 6 years of age.  About 35% of children bite their until puberty when the rates increase to 40-45% of adolescents. The majority of nail-biters give up the habit during their teens and it is only occasionally observed in adults.

The habit is markedly familial. In a large percentage of cases a history of nail biting during childhood by one or both of the parents can be obtained. It has been suggested that the children learn to bite the nails by imitating the parents, but this cannot be the case since parents usually stop the habit before their children are born.

The study in the journal looked at identical and fraternal twins and found that identical twins were twice as concordant for the habit of nail biting (both twins biting) compared to fraternal twins. In severe nail biters, identical twins were more than four times more likely to be concordant for the habit than fraternal twins.

This points to more than a learned behaviour because logic would argue that fraternal twins would both learn the same behaviour.

Winter  has come once again. I have bought Chanel’s now sold out colour (it is a puke brown but apparently fabulous) and have piled on the paint and the promises once more. My genetics will conspire against me as soon as I finish typing and I will stare at my fingernails with wanton abandonment in preparation for my next chew….

And now, I only have my mother to blame….

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Out Of Order

Oh my girlfriends- life is full of disappointments. I will never be a size 2 as hard as  try and my shoe closet of my dreams continues to elude me.

We've been together almost 3 years my sister and I am sad to report that I am taking the week off. My brain hurts and I just don't have it.

Every once in a while a girl needs a week off and well, this is mine.

Sorry to disappoint my sisters but hey- it happens.

Spend the week reading some of my older postings and reminiscing about the days gone by.

Fret not my sisters- I'll be back next week with wit and wisdom. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Unfinished Business

Good morning my sisters. Welcome to the weekday after.

Yes, my sisters have likely heard that the New York Marathon was cancelled. I had spent 5 months training for a race that never was.

Make no mistake, I am not a heartless cow- I strongly believe that this race should NOT have gone ahead.

Perhaps it would have been a statement about the triumph of a city in the face of adversity, however- it really was not the time to celebrate.

New Yorkers were suffering and now was not the time to run their streets. My marathon moment would have to wait for another year.

I can not but help to admit my sisters that I was indeed a bit sad about the cancellation. I am human afterall. Yes, I know I should feel fortunate that I have my health and my home- but it was indeed sad to train so hard and not have something happen as planned.

Of course such is life.

I have always maintained that we must rise to the occasion. Life hands us challenges and we must endure.

And so I did.

On Sunday morning having raised almost $2000 for the American Red Cross, I put on my runner’s finest and along with thousand of my closest friends- ran through Central Park.

24km later the voices in my head had ceased. I realized that I indeed could have run the remaining 18 km when the time came due.

There was not the ceremony I was looking forward to. There was no parade and the only one who knew my mileage was me.

It was indeed a personal run and not a public race. In a time when my favourite city was suffering- I ran through its streets in a moment of defiance. It was just another day and just another run but it was my New York moment for THAT moment. I did not get my life changing race but I had my health and my home and a sense of perspective.

No, this past Sunday, I did not get my marathon as planned. Hurricane Sandy (that iotch) came and went and ruined a great deal more than just my marathon dreams.

She stole so much from so many and my little run seems immaterial now.

No evidence this week my sisters- just a week of reflection on a storm in the east and in my heart.

Fret not, dear sisters- I have no doubt NYC will rise above as she has done in the past and she’ll be more resilient than ever.

And make no mistake dear girlfriends, I too will learn the right place to put this experience. At this moment there is still mixed emotions for a challenge not yet completed.

But life is indeed about the challenges and how we face each of them in stride.

Speaking of strides- Heads up NYC- get well soon, my ultimate sister- I’ll be back next November to run your famed streets- for we- have some serious memories to make.