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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

And on one day,,, she rested

Oh my girlfriends…. May I say that as I write this it is in fact my day off 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 last night at my favourite fusion bistro but ONE was my limit.

Please my sisters- don’t judge. Make no mistake- I have me a new fitness goal of completing a Half Iron Man and I am training like a motherfucker.

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 Friday morning. My schedule suggests I should be running and biking but my head suggests I should lay here for another 6-8 hours and watch every episode of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. This of course is not appropriate triathlon 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.

Analyze all you like my sisters…. I will lay here and see which housewife is the nastiest. Discuss amongst yourselves and get back to me.

And so I went looking for the scientific evidence to determine if my days spent in motion could indeed be blamed on my mother.

A large scale trial published in the British Medical Journal in 2007 showed a glimpse of such a link. The study looked at the correlation between physical activity in kids and that of their parents.

A total of 11 952 children from the Avon longitudinal study of parents and children were invited to participate in study clinics at age 11 years. Of these, 7159 (59.9%) attended the clinic and 6622 (92.5%) agreed to wear an accelerometre.

An accelerometer is a device you wear that tells you how active you are in a day.

Of the children who agreed to participate, 5595 (84.5%) returned accelerometres.

The study showed that children who were born to physically active parents and children who were born to mothers who were active during pregnancy were significantly more active by age 11 than those were from sedentary families.

Others factors did not affect a child’s physical activity. For example- when kids were born and how many siblings they had did not affect physical activity.

Although this study does not really allow me to blame my dear mother for my need to multitask at all times- it does give me some insight into just how I get things done.

Our parents really do impart upon us a sense of certain norms…. Whether we should play sports or whether we should work full time, work out like a crazy person and the do paperwork while watching television…. All these things may indeed be influenced by what our parents do.

And so another week begins and ends and I spent an entire day in bed…. I did not shower, I did not move….. I did however, like a good daughter, phone my mother. After all she may have gotten me into this mess in the first place.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Last Item on the Menu

You’ll forgive me my sisters if I spend one more glorious week on the subject of weight loss. As my sisters know I’ve spent the month as a health pusher – speaking to the masses about my new pet project and I have one more blog in me, so to speak about the subject.

It has been a journey of sorts and I have learned a lot…. From what outfit looks best on camera to the variety of attitude out there towards the whole weight loss field.

I have learned that this can be a very polarizing subject. People are very territorial when it comes to the nature of their diets. I am asked time and time again about what is the best way to lose weight….

What has struck me most after over a decade in the field and a lifetime as a patient is that I do indeed believe we all lose weight differently. I think what works for some may not for another but that the key to any long term success be it in the pursuit of health or the pursuit of a perfect black dress- is TENACITY. You have to stick with something fashion or otherwise for it to indeed make a difference.

The New England Journal of Medicine published and article in July 2008 about a study looking at weight loss based on three different diets. In a 2-year trial 322 moderately obese patients were randomized to one of three diets: A Mediterranean based diet, a low fat diet and a low carbohydrate diet. At the end of 2 years, they counted the pounds….

The rate of adherence during the diet study was 95.4% at 1 year and 84.6% at 2 years. The Mediterranean-diet group consumed the largest amounts of dietary fiber up 10 14 grams per day and had the highest ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fat  (good fats/bad fats) compared to the two other groups. Of course the low-carbohydrate group consumed the smallest amount of carbohydrates and the largest amounts of fat, protein, and cholesterol.

Over the two-year period, the low fat group lost on average 2.9kg. The Mediterranean diet group lost 4.4kg and the low carbohydrate group lost 4.7 kg.  Of the 272 participants who completed the trial the mean weight losses were 3.3 kg (low fat), 4.6 kg Mediterranean), and 5.5 kg (low carb), respectively. This was a difference of about 1kg between each diet.

I know… I sound like a buzz kill. That could not be farther than my point. I have never been a fan of “what’s the point” medicine. The point here is that NO diet reigns supreme.

Obesity is far more complex a disease than just picking a way of eating and sticking to it. If that were the case than most of these dietary studies would show much more significant weight losses. And understand that the New England Journal is one OF MANY!!

They key here is that there is no perfect diet….

We need to find a lifestyle that allows us to focus on content of food and healthy parameters when it comes to portion sizes. I know I am being vague but let’s take the Mediterranean diet for example. In this NEJM study- participant on the Mediterranean diet consumed about 15 grams of fibre per day.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2006, Participants who consumed 10 grams of fibre per day had a relative reduction of cardiac death of 14%. To me, that’s worth a bit of extra Spinach in my day…

I think the key, my girlfriends is for us to look at our diets and see where we can “tweak” things to make the outcomes better. If there’s anything the 80’s taught us- it’s that we can all learn from our mistakes.

Fad diets, like hemlines will come and go and I suspect we will never agree on a supreme program for anyone for weight loss….

That being said, my girlfriends, an accessory can make an outfit  just like a nutritious experience can do a body good.

We talk a lot in our environment about “alternative energy”… But I must admit, my girlfriends I am a fan of the vintage approach in fashion and in fitness. I say return to the old school of things when fruits and vegetables were our biggest form of fibre and fewer things came in a package. The science supports a benefit and hell; it might even be cool someday. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Notes from the Road

Forgive me my girlfriends if I take a break from the science for but a week and wax philosophical?

It has been quite a whirlwind over the last 10 days as I crossed the country on my first ever book tour. Although exhausted might I say that I am feeling rather inspired these days.

I have had the chance to speak to the masses through media about my little labour of love. I can’t help but reflect after almost two week on the who experience.

Sure on the surface there were the 25 or so outfit changes and the ability to finally justify my past season’s fashion binge. There was also the fact that my beloved was along for the adventure which made the whole experience more like a vacation than anything.

But it is a strange  thing to put oneself on display for the home viewer to watch and to sit in judgement. Every morning for the last 10 days I would get up at the crack of dawn, put on my best self and walk out into the world and onto a morning news set to discuss my book in 6 minutes or less.

It was indeed an unsettling feet to put oneself “out there” in the name of a healthy agenda and hope that the message might stick.

Make no mistake, I’ve had the most amazing  encounters with people from all over Canada and I consider myself so blessed to have been able to have such a platform for change.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately, my sisters, about what makes a community a healthy one. For me health is a language I try to speak as freely as fashion be it in my daily life or in my daily work.

But I wonder if the conversation can’t be more of a global one- if we can’t extend the concept of health to the communities we live in.

What makes a neighbourhood or even a society a healthy one?

On the surface, when we think of healthy societies we often think of Sweden- yeh, Sweden – there’s a healthy country. The healthcare system is amazing, they have the longest life expectancy and many of their disease rates are at an all time low.

Let’s be clear- healthy communities need a healthy structure at their core. They should by their very nature promote wellness and therefore stave off illness.

You can’t have a healthy community without a code of conduct that stresses certain innate wellness principles. First things first- there has to be a philosophy behind a community’s desire to be healthier. If the members of a community or the governing body of that community doesn’t get behind the problem or the solution then we end the discussion here.

Next, you kind of have to have the infrastructure to have a healthy society. When you build a park- children will play. When you build sidewalks connecting people they will walk to connect. When you make it easier to be active in a person’s daily life they are more likely to do so.

I live in downtown Vancouver. I remember when I first moved here seven years ago I read an article about how the city planners of Vancouver insisted that their city be designed such that it was a place that people could live and work in. They wanted a downtown core where people could walk to work and play. Where they could live within proximity of all their daily needs so that they never needed a car for their daily activities. I remember thinking that THIS was a city for me.

It’s no surprise that Dr. Robert Ross, a professor of Kinesiology from Queen’s University talks about the concept of “Optimal Default”. Optimal Default implies that exercise or activity is the optimal choice. Take any office building, for example. Where are the stairs? Are they easy to find? Remember the high school you went to. Did it have a second floor? Was it easier to get to the second floor by elevator or by taking the stairs?

As buildings got higher, stairs became less and less prevalent for their use. I would argue that in any building over 3 stories, the stairs are used “in case of fire”. Unless the building is burning down- we use the elevator.

You can see how we already have a big problem. We have now essentially made a stipulation that unless we build cities differently we are doomed to fail in the wellness world.

Unfortunately I don’t think we’ll ever restructure our current cities. Culturally we’ve become a nation of convenience. We’ve found a convenient way to eat and a convenient way to get from one place to another. I’m not na├»ve to think that we’ll tear up the freeways tomorrow and everyone will ride their bike to work. I know that fast food and fast cars are here to stay.

I’m not suggesting we abandon the use of elevators and walk ways but there must be a return in some form to activity as the default. When did we systematically engineer activity out of our lives and how do we try and bring it back?

As I write this I must admit…. I’m feeling a little sad. I’m not sure I have the solution for what make a city or a community a healthy one. I am baffled by how big the problem really is.

Perhaps it involves a return to the grass roots of it all, if you will. Could we delve a little deeper and see whether certain everyday healthy habits could be applied to our communities at large?

Maybe this is just what we need to shed a little light on a bit of a bleak situation. I am reminded that throughout history, no one ever solved any significant problems by continually highlighting how bad the situation is.

One thing I do know is the power of the human spirit. People really do want to be well. They want a better future for themselves and their families. They want to hope for more. So maybe its as simple as starting a conversation.

In the past week I've seen what one girlfriend can do to spark a change. I put myself out there and I really do believe that people will be better for it. It's not just about a change of an outfit, it's about a change in perspective

I guess in the absence of a global restructuring we’re going to have to start the healthy revolution one sister at a time.

Let’s start talking. Talk to your families about what they think it means to be healthier. Maybe we should ask ourselves what we could do tomorrow to be healthier. What one thing that we can change in our everyday routine to make our lives a little bit better?

Could we leave our car at home and walk or bike to work one or two days a week? Could we eat out less? Could we always take the stairs? Could we park our cars in the farthest spot in the lot? Could we take time every day to do one thing for our own health?

I’m not sure what the answer is, but maybe by asking questions we’ll find some solutions. One thing I am clear on is that we really need to start talking; to each other and our leaders about what our healthy priorities should be. Maybe we’ll start a “wellness revolution” or maybe nothing will change.

So after almost two weeks of me talking endlessly, I thought I might start listening to the voices around me. It has been a remarkable lesson- this little “ego trip” of mine and I have no idea where it will go.

But here’ my challenge girlfriends- open your minds and your mouths and see what you come up with- I’m here to listen and watch the story unfold and hopefully participate in the magic that comes after. Go for it my cybersisters, I dare you.

Monday, January 14, 2013

My sisters- you'll forgive me if I tell you that my GGTH will be a bit late this week- check back on Wednesday when my brain has had a rest and I promise to blow your mind.....

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Prescribing Minds

Oh my girlfriends, what a week it has been. We saw the New Year in and the joy that it brings. I have officially stopped wishing people “Happy New Year”. I figure it’s been a week- that’s enough good wishes. Time to look forward, no?

Here I am full speed ahead and in the midst of my book tour. Yes, as my girlfriends may know, I am now a published AWTHA. (This is authour said in a very proud New York accent).

THE WEIGHT LOSS PRESCRIPTION hit shelves (and online bookstores) on January 1 and here I am travelling cross country (sans bike) talking shop and putting my best shoe forward.

This book really was a labour of love for me as it’s the tour. What a treat it has been thus far to discuss my life’s work and waistline all in the name of literacy and health.

For those of you who have not yet rushed out to your local bookstore to blatantly support my shoe closet let me break it down for you…..

We all have a relationship with food. Some of us feel it’s the ultimate marriage others treat it like a bad boyfriend. Good or bad- how we relate to food is really a key to our overall health.

In this book I ask you to look at WHO you are when it comes to HOW you eat. Along with stories of personal and profession struggles and triumphs, I ask you to look at your own behaviour  when it comes to diet and exercise. In short what kind of EATING PERSONALITY are you.

Are you:
Do you use food as a crutch to help you get through things? Do you use food as a reward for a job well done? Do you eat our of boredom or use food to cope with stress? There are indeed biochemical reasons for why  we reach for food in times of joy and sadness. Studies show that 80% of obese women are indeed emotional eaters. The key is not to try and limit the emotions that you have but to assess the damage the emotional eating does and try to minimize it. IN the book I outline a clear plan of action to tackle your emotional eating tendencies.

Hoe many calories do you drink in a day? How large is your latte? How many glasses of wine do you drink in a week? Interesting studies show that the brain does not perceive the same sense of fullness from liquid calories as it does from solid ones. Further evidence from recent trials in JAMA and Lancet show that sugar sweetened beverages significantly increase one’s risk for obesity and hypertension I’m not asking you to cut out the coffee. To me coffee is like a great pair of strappy sandals… or a good breath of fresh air. (actually its more like any breath of air- mandatory for life). I am asking you to “modify your must haves” in a  way that still allows you to have your liquids and drink them too. In other words- cut back slowly on the amount of calories you are drinking and watch your health transform.

Yes, my sisters as with accessories- you can have too much of a good thing. Are you someone who eats well but too much? This is indeed a portion distorter. Studies show that portion size has double over the last two decades. We are inevitably eating twice what we used to. Don’t believe me? Look at a muffin in the 1980’s and compare it to one today. Nuff said. The key with a portion distorter is to retrain your brain toward a sense of food economy. Put your plate on a budget by knowing exactly how much is on it. You measure out your fancy face cream? Do the same for your mashed potatoes.

We’ve all been there. We start a diet on a Monday and try and hold on for just another week. We spend our time “white knuckling it” just until Friday. We use terms like WILL POWER and SELF CONTROL to try and just HOLD ON. And then life happens and we fall off track. WE try to get back on but it falls beyond our reach and then we figure we’ve blown it. We say “screw it” and bring on the buffet. This is the all or nothing dieter. Instead I want you to develop tools that allow you to be an ALL OR SOMETHING Dieter- someone who swings the pendulum in a much narrower range between what can realistically be maintained when the world takes over.

My sisters- you are far too classy a group of girlfriends to unwrap your burger. I know you are busy with work and life and the pursuit of happiness and the perfect little black dress but look how often you are eating out- and/or eating fast food and start to economize. Take lunch to work (I even have some ideas), plan ahead and still make sure you eat out once a week with the people you love. You never buy your clothes at a DRIVE THROUGH window- don’t buy your food there either.

6. A SITTING DUCK: I know there are a million reasons not to exercise. You hate it, you, are tired you have no time. Heads up- I’ve got an answer for each one. Too tired to exercise- you’d be tired whether you went for a walk or not. Go for a walk every day for 30 minutes and you’ll live an extra 4 years according to the data. Think of how much extra sleep you can get? I have a whole chapter on how to get moving sisters- get off your asses and read it immediately…. Preferably from the comfort of your treadmill.

So there you have it sisters…. My perfect book report if you will. I know it’s blatant agenda pushing but so is this blog. After three years together that’s what a cybersister is for….

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Should Old Acquaintance be Forgot?

Can you smell it my dear girlfriends? As distinct as Chanel No.5, or apple scented deodorant, here it comes, like a boxing day sale in hell, the New Year. Make no mistake, I am a fan of rebirth (my closet is a testament to the very fact). And when it comes to change, I welcome it with an open mind and an AMEX card. Of course I will continue to embrace the new years as they come as long as the following conditions are met:

 I can still call it “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s” and do not have to refer to Ryan Seacrest’s participation in said event in any way shape or form. I know Dick is no longer with us, but certian things are sacred in this world. Old movies, Brunch and the Ball drop among them. I mean who are we as a nation if we can not have our rituals? Afterall it takes me 35 minutes to get ready for bed each night. Should I give up my face wash/alone time just because the world around me moves forward? 

2 I am not subjected to an obligatory New Years Eve Party where the scrutiny and expectation of the evening forever outweigh the night’s enjoyment. But I maintain, I must be able to watch the BALL drop from wherever I decide to ring in the new year.

3Real Champagne will always be provided, preferably pink. A sparkling wine substitute will just not do. Yes Spain and Italy- I know you make a beautiful substitute but Prosecco is for that little Italian Villa I what to retire in when I win the lottery and my delusional future becomes reality. For now- 2013 must have pink champagne. 

4My outfit is my choice. This is the one night of the year where if I want to wear pajamas and a tiara, then by God I will.  The occasion will not chose the attire- I will. (Those of you who do not understand this last statement, think about how you were- on picture day in grade school and you will now know what I mean) .

5If I so chose, I am able to ring in the new year as any grown adult past the age of 35 should be allowed to; fast asleep in my bed, belly full, alcohol coursing its way through my veins as I sleep my way towards a morning hangover.
    Having made my list and checked it twice, I continue to be baffled by inventories of another kind… the ever dreaded New Year’s Resolution. Truth be told, I hate New Year’s resolutions. Each year we spend a good month of valuable planning time (you know who you are and be frank you time would be better spent cleaning your bathroom) anticipating the person we would like to be in the future.

Make no mistake, as human beings, anticipation is truly a key to our happiness. I myself can wait for the my new book to hit shelves (insert plug for THE WEIGHT LOSS PRESCRIPTION here- on shelves January 1), the Oscars, The Golden Globes and Fall’s Ready to Wear collections 2013. But I realized long ago (probably around age 30) that planning for a change only delays it further.

Here’s what the evidence shows…

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."

And so, some years ago,  I stopped it all.  I refused to spend another year standing on ceremony willing the change to come.  And my New Year’s Resolutions faded into oblivion as I decided to take on each day…

And so,  today really is the day. Whether it is a ten pound weight loss or an exercise regimen; quitting smoking to embracing bargain shopping; from bad habits to bad dating… today is the day to get off  “The Tomorrow Merri-go-Round”. I will not spend another year with resolutions to fill as empty as champagne flutes.

So my dear cyber sisters, my advice on this dawn of 2013 and for all other new years to come is this…  Be it resolved that we will live each day in a celebration and promise.  I will think of you all as I done my tiara and my flannels and settle in for my date with Dick's memory and his big crystal ball. And that is the best (and only) resolution I’ve made in a long time…..