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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, October 29, 2013

Will Run for Shoes

Big week this week my girlfriends. I am counting down for glory as they say. No Barneys is not having an early bird sale, but yes I am off to Manhattan and many, many outfits must be worn.

As some of my sisters know (yes I have been rather vocal.... me? you say? A loud mouth? Heavens no)  come this Sunday, I and 50,000 of my closest friends will be running the ING New York Marathon.

Yes my girlfriends 42.2 kilometres stretched out before me, all five boroughs of New York and off I will race for glory.

Big love to my running coach, whose arms shall remain nameless (you know who you are, Kristina) and an equal debt of gratitude to my personal trainer, Mr. V. for tolerating my endless, breathless chatter, excuses and yes, witty profanity over the last few months from the confines of the gym while we prepared this object (who really prefers to stay at rest) for motion.

I should tell my sisters- that although I have later in life become somewhat of a fitness fan, I was not always a person who liked to get her heart rate passed 100. Yes, my sisters- I would say that for most of my life I was somewhat of a lazy pants. (FYI- "LazyPants would be a great name for a fashion line- you heard it here first)

Allow me to explain.

When I was a kid- my mother enrolled me in little league. I was a rather chubby child and as such lacked the grace nor the genetics needed to hit a ball a respectable distance. Nor did I really have the physicality to chase a ball that was hit my way. Truth be told- i hated the sport- I found it unstimulating and rather pointless. I was competitive in school but my ambitions ended there. And so if you stuck me in a baseball diamond- the only thing that really appealed to me is that there was the word "Diamond" in the name and unfortunately jewelry was not part of the sport.

And so, like any good coach worried for the success of his team- mine put me in centre field.

I ask you dear sisters- do you know of any 6 year old girls who can hit a ball past the infield? It's a rare feet. And so, I spent 9 innings sitting (not standing- what was the point really? No 6 year old chick was gonna hit a ball my way) in centre field eating grass and daydreaming.

It was torture.

Fast forward to age 9 and my mother enrolled me in hockey. I was on an all boys team and was of course - given my girth- place in goal. The coach thought that my generous hips would be more likely to stop the puck. The boys, knew better and had an unspoken rule to "aim for her boobies". yes, they yelled this freely from the ice and the bench.

Good times, my sisters- good times.

In medical school my roommate was an aerobics instructor. I liked to use the step aerobics set she had in our apartment to hold my coffee and ashtray. It was my moment of rebellion perhaps?

But then about 12 years ago, I got religion. My journey to health began and now, in my head, at least, I'm a machine.

And so I have spent the last 20 or so weeks training for my marathon. Why a marathon you ask? Why indeed. I have no great answer only to say - BECAUSE I CAN.

You see dear girlfriends, I ran a marathon in 2008 and was convinced it was my last. It was brutal- as most marathons are. From there I switch to smaller distance races and triathlons.

And then I got injured. I tore my hamstring and was told I could not run. I went to rehab and physio and was the worst patient ever- but I did heal and sure enough back in March could start running again.

All that time off from running of course made me focus on cycling and swimming and I loved it. But I did miss the running. Make no mistake- I did not miss the pain and the pounding- the feeling you are going to die at moments and the fact that it just really is a sport that I will never be good at.

Instead I think I do it because of the the fact that I just don't like being told that there is something I CAN'T do.

And so I run.

I've heard it all- running causes arthritis, running a marathon can kill you. On this week the eve of my 26 miles to glory I say with science and a smile.... BULLSHIT.

A 2006 study in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that “Long distance running does not increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knees and hips for healthy people… long distance running might even have a protective effect against joint degeneration.”

The article went on to say that running also decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and depression, helps with weight control, improves bone density, and decreases mortality.

One of the best studies to prove this point is the 50 Plus Runners Association Study that was started in 1984. When it was launched a control group of subjects age 50 + were chosen and studied at 5 year intervals.

The study compared runners who averaged 26 miles per week with a non-running group. The most recent report published in 2009 in the Arthritis Research & Therapy Journal found that the runners experienced about 25% less musculoskeletal pain and that women runners benefited the most.

Those at risk of joint damage are runners who log high mileage (more than 120 km/week) every week for many years and who have a previous history of injury.

On the marathon and dying front, it seems that every year there is at least one news story of a person dying during a marathon. There have been a few cases of runners dying suddenly and it is important to look at some of the potential reasons for this.

Marathons don’t cause heart attacks- heart disease causes heart attacks. Studies show that almost all marathon deaths were as a result of underlying cardiovascular disease in a person who was exerting themselves.

A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2007 looked at the mortality rates from marathons compared to motor vehicle accidents in a retrospective analysis.

The study looked at how many people died in these marathons and then compared these numbers to how many motor vehicle fatalities occurred during these events in the given city they occurred. The hypothesis of the study was that there may be less motor vehicle fatalities due to the fact that there were road closures during these events (and therefore less traffic) in order to allow the marathon to occur.

Marathons  in the USA with at least 1000 participants between 1975 and 2004.
The marathons provided results for 3292268 runners on 750 separate days encompassing about 14 million hours of exercise. There were 26 sudden cardiac deaths observed in all, equivalent to a rate of 0.8 per 100000 participants.
Because of road closures, an estimated 46 motor vehicle fatalities were prevented, equivalent to a relative risk reduction of 35% . The net reduction in sudden death during marathons amounted to a ratio of about 1.8 crash deaths saved for each case of sudden cardiac death observed.
The net reduction in total deaths could not be explained by re-routing traffic to other regions or days and was consistent across different parts of the country, decades of the century, seasons of the year, days of the week, degree of competition, and course difficulty.
There you have it my sisters- I am officially a runner and on Sunday, do pray for me my sisters, for I will be a marathoner; with no real increase risk of arthritis and la 35% less risk of death than dying in a car accident.

Given that I don’t own a car and rarely drive- I’m not sure those numbers are indeed correct but I am making a point, No?

A fabulous week to all my girlfriends, I will be resting up and eating carbohydrates without guilt. When next we meet I will have a medal around my neck, a suitcase full of New York’s finest fashions and of course a belly full of Advil. Who could ask for anything more? 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bite me

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….

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Cup Runneth Over

It has come to my attention more so lately than before that people indeed “keep score”.  I suspect that evolution or survival has really made us this way. There is indeed a force around us as a species that makes us want to take stock in what we are and where we should be…. Relative to the person or even species next to us. Let’s face it people (brothers and sisters alike) we really are a bottom line kind of species.

I grew up in the North end of Winnipeg (insert shout out here). In the winters (and there were many) we played hockey in the streets. In fact I would argue that in cities across the great nation of Canada, street hockey was (and still is) somewhat of a religious practice. You bundled up, kept you jacket unzipped (zipped up jackets are for sissies) and you hit a puck around and ice covered street for God and country.

Sure there were those among us who indeed were pretty good at this game. There was even the group of kids who would graduate from street hockey to pond hockey. We never really kept score. We pushed a puck around a street or a pond and we played. Win, lose or draw when it was all said and done we were just happy to be able to feel our feet again once we came inside.

In those moments it was not so much about the game as it was about the moments. Make no mistake- I’m not one of those people who believes every kid should get a trophy just for playing. I believe in wins and losses in games and in life. But I think somewhere along the way we went to far.

Back in those winter streets there was inevitably one or two kids who were pretty good at the game. Inevitably at one time or another one of us would dream of growing up and playing for the NHL. Most of us however just grew up. We dropped the stick long ago and picked up a remote or a set of car keys that would take us to a game to see our favourite team. And then it became all about the score. If our favourite team won the world was good; if they lost…. Well I live in Vancouver, we riot in the streets.

Never mind the hockey analogy. I’m not even a hockey fan (yah, pass the judgment please). Sorry- but I grew up in a football family and well sports are like religions…. You are usually born into one.

Here’s my point. That one kid on the pond who grew up to play for the NHL? This was his lifelong dream. And now he’s playing in the “greatest game on earth” and it’s all about the score- who won and who lost and not about the game.

I can’t help but wonder if that indeed is a metaphor for life?

I’m a doctor. I work in a profession where a good majority of my peers were conditioned to believe that this was what they were going to do since birth. At cocktail parties someone inevitably asks me

“Did you always want to be a doctor?”
I watch the disappointment wash over their face when I laughingly answer,
“no” and take another sip of my drink.

But here I am, living the dream. The men and women I work with? They are living the dream. We have a job we can indeed be proud of. We get up every morning and we make a contribution to the world. And yet, even in medicine we keep score. We count treatment failures and side effects of drugs. We focus on the ones we leave behind more than the ones whose lives we change. We have become a culture that emphasizes our failures repeatedly and without any lesson learned.

I think that is what I mean by “keeping score”. Somewhere in the game of life, we have begun to take the “wins” for granted and count the losses with a ferocity.

I can’t help but marvel at how this has happened. Have we as a generation descended into cynicism?

It’s not just in sports and medicine where this is rampant. Pick a profession, a politic or even a theoretical concept and you’ll see that as a society we are focusing on the LOSERS more than anything. We’re keeping score everywhere; we emphasize the loses in every day activities and we celebrate the mediocrity around us.

Even this blog has become a bit of a bitch fest into that which sucks in the world. Is this a learned behaviour? Are we preconditioned to see the world as a win or a loss? Is a glass half full or half empty?

A recent study has shown that cynicism may be a bit of a birth right and less of a learned behaviour. A “glass half empty” attitude or a set of rose coloured glasses  may indeed be genetically predetermined… in part. Researchers from the University of British Columbia, Cornell University and Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health report in the journal Psychological Science that a gene variant may be the link in people who perceive the negative side of every situation.

It turns out that a deletion of the ADRA2B gene influences emotional memory and people perceptions of real time events- or whether or not we see the good or the bad in a situation.

It’s not surprising that your genetic code would indeed determine how you perceive the world around you.

In the study, 200 participants with and without the gene variant were shown a series of words in rapid succession. The words were preclassified as either positive, negative or neutral.

All participants tended to perceive the positive words better than the neutral words, but individuals with the gene variant tended to perceive the negative words better than those without the gene variant.

In other words, if you had the deletion- you were more likely to perceive the negative in a situation…. A glass was indeed half empty.

When I told my beloved about this discovery, the conversation went something like this:

ME: “They discovered the gene that makes people think the glass is half full.”
HIM: “Is that even possible?”
ME: “Clearly you don’t have it.

I should say that overall I am indeed an optimist. I suspect that I was in part baby, born this way. But I do think that optimism, like any skill is something that needs to be practiced in order to be mastered.

It is my concern that the world’s ever growing cynicism may be emptying my “half full” attitude. And so here and now, I am taking a stand. Genetics are not destiny. Every day we fight for or against what we are given in life in order to make the best of it.

And so I leave you this week my dear sweet sisters with a challenge to indeed stop keeping score…. Not everywhere… but in certain places. In a world where all too often it has become more about the win and lose and less about the play I wonder if we might stop once in a while and return to the days when it was all about the moment and less about the win.

Try it my girlfriends… for just 7 seven days and get back to me. After all in life, in medicine and in fashion we take what we are given and we make the best of it. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Forgive me my sisters.... the week got away from me and well like most things in the world, I blame Canada. I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in style this week and sure enough it'll take me a day or two to recover. So forgive me my sisters if I take another day to compose myself. Tune in on Wednesday this week and I promise to deliver. Grateful as always my girlfriends....

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Notes on a Scandal

It has come to my attention that we indeed all need heroes. This is a bit of a dilemma in today’s day and age when heroes as a rule tend to be of the human (and not supernatural variety). The problem with human heroes is that although they are in general, awesome, they are ineed human nonetheless and as a result will screw up at one point or another.

I remember my father sitting me down one day when I was a kid and advising me against having a hero.

“They will all eventually disappoint you.” He regretfully informed.

I chalked this advice up to the cyncism that comes with age and did indeed fail to head his call.

My first hero on record was Olivia Newton John. Please do not judge. I have widened my scope since then. In my defense it was 1978 and she could seriously rock a pair of leather leggings. Plus the woman could sing. I was an impressionable 7 year old and this woman had me at “How’s it going, Stud.”

As I moved through my teenage years and learned about the world around me, my hero worship broadened and matured. First came Judy Blume and then JD Salinger. Then there was Marilyn French and Gloria Steinem. My heroes were writers, so it seems; people who could put pen to paper and later font to Word Perfect and state in Time New Roman what I was thinking, feeling and hoping about the world around me.

I was raised a reader. Every night before bed and even well after lights out my 8, 10, 18 year old self was reading something, anything. Books to me were like food- sometimes the subject was nutritious and soul nourishing other times it was pizza. From Catch 22 to Catcher in the Rye to a Danielle Steele novel, I read it all.

Then came University and Medical School and my academic pursuits made reading an occupational requirement. I still read for pleasure but often when my eyes hit a book before bed, I could barely keep them open and months would go by before I finished any novel of substance.

When I finished my residency there was work to be done and reading for leisure seemed like an indulgence I could not afford.

And then I took up running.

When you run by yourself for hours in a week, there is only so much music you can listen to. My beloved does not even run with music; preferring to hear the voice in his head over an iTunes playlist.

Considering the voice in my head is that of an overcharged 40-something with varied issues from fashion to function, I prefer any musical interlude to drown out the “barking dogs”.

And so I discovered the practice of books on tape. During training season, I can easily exercise for 15-20 hours a week. This allows me to read/listen to 2 books a week.

But it turns out this form of literature is not for everyone. Indeed like anything, we all have an opinion about the form a book should take.

A few years back my beloved bought me one of those Electronic Readers. I spent five minutes with it and took it back to the store. If I could not turn the page or bend the spine I was miserable.

To this day, I still spend an entire week, every week reading the Sunday New York Times. This was a ritual I began two years ago as a New Year’s Resoluiton and it has stood the test of time. I love how the newsprint stains my fingers black. I love the cumbersome nature of folding big sheets of paper back and forth and carrying sections around with me wherever I go.

I love the tactile feel of reading.

That is unless I am running. Then, forget the book…. read it to me instead. A book on tape ignites in me the storytelling of my childhood; the moments when a grown up would sit beside me and open up the world of make believe from the pages of a book.

That and it allows me to multitask like a champion.

What a great world where you can have Malcolm Gladwell read to you from his latest work while you are long dsitance training through Stanley Park?  I can train for the NYC marathon and still finish David and Goliath all in the span of a few Sundays.

When we look at the science behind the written versus the spoken word- it turns out that the brain indeed favours the spoken word. Evolutionarily speaking language was first a verbal form of communication centuries before we wrote things down. IN fact the brain has to combine several centres in order to even read. WE use our visual cortex, our language centres and even certain conceptual and motor centres in order to interpret the written word.

Scientists have shown that the brain goes so far as to visually write down the words it is reading, even though our hands are empty.

The brain treats individual letters like objects and then forms a sort of “Objective landscape” of the written word.

Certainly this is different when being read to but what about an electronic reader? Why did I have no problem with a paper book or an audiobook but I could not stand an electronic one?

According to an article published in Scientific American in April, 2013, my brain is a bit of a snob.

A paper book has limits to its physicality that my brain indeed recognizes. There is a right and left margin, a beginning, middle and end. There are eight corners and I can orient myself to what I am used to.

“Turning the pages of a paper book is like leaving one footprint after another on the trail—there's a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far one has traveled. All these features not only make text in a paper book easily navigable, they also make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text.”, (Ferris Jabar, 2013)

Reading on a screen is an entirely different process. IN a 2011 study at the Technion in Israel college students were asked to do half a multiple choice test on paper and the other half on the screen.

When under pressure to read quickly, computer and paper reading were equal. When given the chance to take one’s time, the paper form of reading won out with scores as varied as 10% higher than on the computer screen form of the test.

Psychologists reason that electronic or screen reading limits a person’s desire to do what is called METACOGNITIVE learning regulation. This is a form of learning where essentially the brain plans ahead, sets goals and checks its work.

If you are rushed to read….paper equal computer…. If you can take your time, the goal setting part of your brain has a luxury and that is where paper reading may indeed prevail.

Make no mistake, there are a variety of studies out there to refute this. Further more, I suspect that a generation of kids who were raised to only read electronically will indeed have a different advantage…. But it’s interesting to see such a basic skill as reading evolve over time.

How does this apply to me, my sisters? (afterall, it is all about moi, no?). My brain just won’t adjust to certain new ways. What can I say? I’m old fashioned that way.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Game Over Cookie

Heads up girlfriends and my good boys too, I’m living with a cookie monster. No, not the one you are thinking of. No disrespect to my old friends at Sesame Street, but my cookie monster is fare more high tech.

As some of my sisters know, my beloved works in video games. Incidentally he also plays with them. Many a night of my life has been spent sitting by his side as he shoots zombies or wages war on Afghan rebels via an electronic console and a very large television.

This began when we were dating, almost 20 years ago. The “it” video game at the time was called “MYST”. It was 1994 and I drove to half a dozen stores in a Winnipeg blizzard looking for a copy of the game. My car was a 1972 Plymouth Valiant, it was Minus 30 degrees and the heater was broken. All of the signs were there. I should have know back then the price you pay when you love a gamer.

Years passed and my love grew. I went from an enabling, enthusiastic girlfriend to a supportive wife. I listened patiently to the cries from our family computer while my beloved gamer played the latest and greatest.

Shouts of,
“I need a medic!”
“Requiescat in pace, you bastard”
And “Mario”
Filled my living room over the years.

Did I object to the floods of explosions, grunts and growls that invaded my living room? Not so much.

You see marriage is about loving someone else’s pursuits in addition to your own; it’s about finding room in your life for another’s joy.

And just as my beloved knows every character on Sex and the City, I too know the names of the greatest video game heroes ever. My life can accommodate Duke Nukem and Batman as much as it can handle Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik.

Over the years I have found many ways to turn the other cheek in the name of love and the love of all things gamer. There indeed is a PS3 in our bedroom attached to a 52” screen. Make no mistake , the television was my idea- but the PS3 is my husband’s. Affectionately his user name for this console is “Jay in the bedroom” and yes, I think it’s charming.

Does he play video games in bed? Yes he does. Do I complain about the sound of zombies dying or Orks going to battle? No I do not.

Over the years we have developed an unspoken agreement. I can watch Survivor and Top Chef and any crappy reality television show I chose and he can be “Jay in the Bedroom”.
There was one night when at 2 am I awoke to the sounds of Call of Duty. My beloved had been playing with earphones so as not to disturb me when the batteries on said headphones went dead.

“What’s going on?” I called from a half sleep, woken to the sound of a war zone in my bedroom.
“Shh…” Jason comforted me, “you’re dreaming. GO back to sleep”.

You see my sisters, I know living with a gamer is often a metaphor for a video game itself. There will be times when you understand the rules and navigate through the various chambers and chasms. There will be times when you need a character or two to follow for guidance to a  certain level. Sometimes you have a variety of weapons to use and other times you need a tutorial on how to push the little red button to enable  a stun gun thingy or something. There will be times when you have to check your health and take a few minutes to restore what was lost. There will be times when you are ready for your next boss battle and times when you need to save your level and come back to it later.

But overall, your avatar is unique and real and something you grow accustomed to as if it had been with you all along.

I myself have only played one real video game in my 42 years on the planet. Sure, I was a child of the PacMan era and yes, I know my way around a Space Invaders but truthfully my only video game on record is Ratchet and Crank. It may even be called Ratchet and Clank- I never can get it right. It too me about a month to finish and I had to set the oven timer for 1 hour increments so as not to get lost playing the game for days on end.

That being said, I am capable of discussing in great detail any of the following video games:

Candy Crush
Duke Nuken
Company of Heroes
Bio Shock
Bio Shock Infinite
Batman: Arkam City
The Last of Us
Far Cry
The Legend of Zelda
Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3
Half Life 1 and 2
World of Warcraft
Anything SuperMario
Call of Duty
Assains Creed
and the list goes on.

I was perfectly happy living a symbiotic video game existence of this nature for years to come. That was until Cookie Clicker came on the radar.

Now, I have not played Cookie Clicker and this is by no means an endorsement. My beloved spent 3 days extolling its virtue. My understanding of this game is that indeed the goal is to make as many cookies as possible. Cookies are made by clicking the mouse button repeatedly. You can then even outsource cookie making to “Grandmas” Whom you hire to do your cookie baking bidding for you while you, say, go a for a walk with your incredibly magical wife. There's also something about cats making milk but I must admit that while Jay was explaining this bit to me, I got a little creeped out and just shut off. Cats making milk? That's just weird. 

Cookie Clicker is like the baked goods version of Candy Crush. I have not played Candy Crush, either but I am aware that it is indeed the technical version or crystal meth. I am told by those “on the other side” that indeed once you get hooked on Candy Crush- you are pretty much done for. I even went so far as to warn a friend against Candy Crush activities. Sure I was meddling but indeed she was a doctor with a full time practice and two kids at home. Her life was full enough already; she had no time for a video game addiction.

I myself had never considered my beloved a VGA (Video game addict). He always used enthusiastically but responsibly. There was indeed a time and a place for Unchartered 1, 2 and 3.

So imagine my joy when last Sunday morning I was awoken to the sound of a mouse clicking; not once or twice but at a rate of 120 clicks per minute. Yes, the boy had gone mad….. Mad for cookies and I was now along for the ride.

Make no mistake my sisters- I can handle the odd moment listening to the merits of RTS (real time strategy) or FPS (First person shooter). I can wax poetic and hold his hand and be ever so supportive while he escape from a South American drug lord or asks me to guess how much Rock Star Games made in its opening week of Grand Theft Auto 5.

But I do indeed draw the line at rabid clicking on a Sunday morning.

And so my beloved and I had our first video game fight.

“Click it again and I’ll break your mouse pad” I threatened from behind the pillow.
“Huh?” he asked innocently.
“You heard me,” I growled.
“But sweetie- it's Cookie Clicker. I've gotten millions of cookies. I’ve got grandmas working for me in factories around the world. They need me.”

My husband had turned from a sweet prince of peace to a crazed Cookie Slum Lord with international chocolate chip cartel ties to baked goods. He had factories and seniors as slaves and had subverted several labour laws by my count. This had to end.

“Today is Sunday. You have until Thursday to get this shit out of your system.” I announced, “now go downstairs and click your empire. The bedroom is off limits.”

And there it was.

A study published in Pediatrics in February, 2011 looked at the prevalence of video game addiction in a longitudinal study of 3500 kids in Grade 8. The study used American Psychiatric Society criteria to diagnose video game addiction.

The researchers showed that the percentage of pathological youth gamers in Singapore was similar to other recent video game addiction studies in other countries, including the United States (8.5 percent), China (10.3 percent), Australia (8.0 percent), Germany (11.9 percent) and Taiwan (7.5 percent).

Video Game addiction has been defined as excessive and/or compulsive gaming behaviour. The subject typically needs continued gaming in order to function and becomes irritable or withdrawn when not gaming. Accompanied with this is social isolation as a result of video game play.

In May, 2013, The Fifth version Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders known as the DSM-5 included INTERNET GAMING DISORDER as a new condition requiring further study.

Further studies have shown that certain repetitive play increases blood flow to addiction centres in the brain on PET scans of young adults.

Does my beloved fall into this category? Hell no, my sisters. Settle down. In a world where we often indeed rush to diagnose I will refrain here and now. Sure the boy loves his games but indeed he is not an addict. Does he have a temporary fix on Cookie Clicker? Hell yes. But indeed I’ve given him until Thursday and then like any sympathetic supportive wife…. I am shutting that shit off.