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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, March 25, 2014

Talk to the Hand

Sisters of mercy, welcome to another week. It has been almost 5 years since GGTH leapt upon the interweb in search of a voice and a self-centred purpose. Here we are more than 250 blogs later and might I say my girlfriends, sister is running out of things to say.

Here I was sitting on a plane just yesterday pondering the universe and the mountains below and yes… my mind was a blank. What wisdom would be my Tuesday rant? What to discuss this week?

I was stunted. Blank. That is until the woman sitting next to me leaned in and said….

“ I recognize you from TV. You are that doctor on the news”.
“ Yes I am”. I confessed.
“ You talk a lot with your hands.” She reported.
“ Indeed”.

And that was all.

I do talk a lot with my hands. In fact I gesture so much these days that I wonder if my Fitbit really does have me down for an average of 20,000 steps per day or is that just me- waving and flailing my arms around in protest?

Truth be told- there is indeed a lot to protest in the world these days. Never mind the usual injustices…. Here we are at 25,000 feet above sea level and some random stranger sitting next to me for the next hour feels the need to give me observational feedback on my behaviour that I can neither use nor correct?

And so, this woman (or perhaps it was the cabin pressure) flipped my neurotic switch.

Is it bad that I talk with my hands so much? Am I distracting from the message? Do I look like a fool flailing about? Should I watch myself and try and tone it down?

Shit no. I’m a hand talker…. Perfect stranger be damned. When I am passionate about a topic I gesture even more.

My husband (sweet soul that he is) has even named certain gestures of mine. When I am driving a point home I tend to “bring out the claw” This is a pointed claw like action that I have been known to favour in times where emphasis is paramount.

Said “Claw” is a favourite of mine. Indeed one anniversary, my beloved bought me a lovely silver cuff bracelet in order that “ the claw would have something fancy to wear”.

And so I sat there on that mid-size flight next to my random critic and pondered my handsy ways. I was a gesture-talker, a finger wager and someone who did not just make a point…. She pointed it.

Was this truly a social felony? Were my movements of my wrists and offensive move in themselves?

Turns out, this lady on the plane was indeed full of shit.

A study published out of Humboldt University in Germany shows that hand gestures is a sign of intelligence.

The study looked at 51 adolescents in Grade 11 at 3 different high schools in Berlin. Students were given IQ tests and assigned to one of three groups based on their scores.

The students were then asked to solve visual analogy problems. The problems involved being able to visually imagine rotating pieces on a chessboard.

Not surprisingly the students who higher scores in FLUID INTELLIEGENCE were able to solve the problems much better. Fluid Intelligence is the type of intelligence responsible for problem solving abilities.

The investigators then asked the students how they solved the problems.

Most surprising was that the students who had the highest levels of fluid intelligence gestured more.  More specifically, they made gestures with their hands or fingers that simulated circular movements around an axis.

The students all TALKED about the same things in their explanations, however, the most intelligent of students actually gestured along with their explanations more and even in a rotating fashion- mimicking how the problems would be solved.

The researchers went on to do MRI scans of the subjects brains and found that the cortical tissue in several areas of the brain was thicker in those students with higher fluid intelligence.

Several other studies have shown similar relationships between intelligence and hand gestures. Furthermore, certain studies have confirmed an association between brain function on MRI and hand gesturing.

We do not know yet whether gesturing facilitates the development of fluid intelligence or whether it is a by-product. But we do know that children who are asked to gesture in certain ways while learning new tasks learn better than children who are asked not to gesture.
Mounting evidence has also shown that hand gestures when done properly do indeed emphasize and legitimize a message rather than diluting it.

One such article published in Psychology Today in 2012 shows that certain gestures convey certain messages. For example, palms up convey honesty, palms down is certainty. The “didactic” which is described as a “sweeping claw” (pretend you are holding a bottle of water…. Now lift up your index finger and separate it from the fist as though to make a point) conveys intelligence.

It turns out that my CLAW is a dead ringer for the “didactic” (and my claw has a fabulous silver cuff bracelet on it.

There you have it sisters… make your point here (and there) and point it out- wave your hands and shout it out…. The world is watching and so am I. Talk it out my sweet sisters of mercy and by all means- use your hands…. Not only does it shows you care… it shows that your brain is bigger than the brains of other peoples’. And if by some reason you get a little self conscious about the fingers and wrists moving about…. Get a fabulous piece of jewelry to put on display…. Every sister loves a good show now and then.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Run for the Cause

Good morning sweet sisters. Allow me to report on the weekend’s events. Yes, I had a date with my soul sister of a city…. Manhattan. It was indeed the NYC half marathon and I ran it for guts, glory and an excuse to buy the perfect pair of strappy sandals (spring IS coming and it waits for no girlfriend).

And so on Sunday I laced up my running shoes and joined 20,000 strong in Central Park for a 21.1km race through Manhattan.

I should tell you that it is not easy getting into the NYC half. There is a lottery through New York Road Runners and I am not one of those lucky people. When I was eight years old I won a ceramic plate at an elementary school tea/raffle. I have never won anything since. Silent auctions, lottery tickets, office pools…. I do indeed participate. The Goddess fails to deliver every time. Fret not, I am never disappointed. We make our own luck in life. I am never resentful of my loss at the table of chance. I am lucky in life, love and bargain shopping; Lotteries just aren’t my thing.

For this NYC half marathon I entered the lottery twice and was rebuffed both times. Understanding that in the case “no” was a suggestion,  I did the next best thing… I threw money at the problem. Yes, I paid my way into the NYC half marathon. Before you judge me, sisters of mercy- understand that I ran for charity.

Yes. Most races, especially the big ones have a charity program where indeed you can raise money for a specific charity and run for that cause. All major city marathons have it including NYC, Boston, London and Chicago. The NYC half has a charity program called “TEAM FOR KIDS”. The program is sponsored through NYC Road Runners and is a group of distance runners who raise money to provide running programs to underprivileged kids in NYC. The program sponsors over 200,000 kids per year in over 8000 schools in the city who would otherwise not have access to physical fitness and exercise.

In my mind- this was the perfect cause for me. Most people send out emails and raise funds for causes, as do I. In fact having road cross country for diabetes and done the RIDE TO CONQUER CANCER, I am no stranger for asking those I love to open their wallets and show me the money.

For whatever reason, this time I thought I would give my loved ones  reprieve and so I decided to make the full donation myself. For the price of a very great pair of Manolo’s I could sponsor  a group of kids in a running program.

Having come to running late in life and loving full on in my 40’s, I could not think of a better way to pay it forward than to support a program that introduces the sport to kids at an early age who otherwise would not have the means and opportunity. THAT and I would pay my way to run through Times Square on a sunny Sunday. This was indeed a Win-Win.

And so on Sunday with a TEAM FOR KIDS bib on my back and a racing bib on my chest, I lined up with 20,000 strong to run the streets of NYC. The race was perfection. After a loop through Central Park, you run up 7th avenue, through Times Square and along 42nd avenue. Then a turn onto the West Side Highway with a  view  of Lady liberty the entire way. The race ends just beyond Battery Park on Wall street. Indeed you run the city. This was a Big Apple Bus tour- without the Big Apple Bus.

And yes, at the end… there was brunch.

As my girlfriends know- give me brunch and I will run. It is the promise of guilt free carbohydrates at the end of the “no pain, no gain” rainbow that gets me through every time.

My race, dear sisters was indeed perfection. Fueled by a perfect weekend of fabulous NYC restaurants (you know who you are) and the ultimate girlfriends’ weekend I RAN FOR KIDS and for myself.

My iPhone had the ultimate NYC music mix and I was raring to go.  

And so I did. I ran with a song in my heart and the city at my feet. All 21.1km of it.

According to Running USA 467,000 people in the USA ran marathons for charity in 2009 raising approximately $1 billion dollars. A survey out of the UK shows that 5 million Britons ran for charity causes in 2013 raising on average 280 British pounds each.

The survey found that as many as one in seven people have taken part in a fun run of some kind in their lifetime and nearly one in four would like to run to raise money one day.

Charity running is an entity unto itself. I could not help but think that my little NYC charity run really was born first out of my desire to actually run the race and not out of my desire to raise the funds for the cause. Did this selfish motive actually diminish the moment?

Did my NEED for the SPEED detract from my philanthropy?

I suspect there are those who would indeed argue that the only kid I really ran for was me. That being said, running is indeed a selfish sport by its nature. We run for ourselves. Each runner has a very personal experience along the road. Running is a lonely sport by nature.

And yet I would argue that running is one of those perfect sports where the one and the many collide. You see it is within the individuality of the sport that there is a shared collective. The race is personal but it is a shared experience regardless of where you finish along the course.

Each of us- whether we run for a cause or whether we run for brunch has something to take away from the moment. And it is in that personal moment that the runner is born.

And so, yes, my sisters… this weekend I joined a collective of runners for charity and raised some funds for a very good cause. Would I do it again? Of course I would….

But more important than the RUN FOR KIDS movement was the fact that this little kid indeed grew up to be a runner. Selfish or not, charitable or chaste… the road lays before all of us.

Life really is a race, my sisters…. Get your best shoes of the moment on and hit the road…. You never know where the path will take you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Visible Panty LInes

When I think about it, my obsession with underwear began when I was a little girl. I can clearly remember getting ready for bed each night and my mother would call out the check list from the next room….
Did you brush your teeth?
Did you wash your face?
Did you put on pajamas?
Did you change your panties?

She most definitely called them panties. Now the word seems either very fashionable or very naughty. Back then, it implied a pair of white cotton underwear with the correct day of the week printed across them.

I loved my “day of the week” underpants. You know the ones with a Monday or a Wednesday plastered across the backside. There was something we could rely on. The world made sense when on Tuesday you were wearing Tuesday panties. Under no circumstances did you mismatch days. Hell would freeze over before Friday touched your ass on a Monday morning.

We had control over the world with just a pair of a “day of the week” underwear.

As for the nightly changing of the panties… this was a ritual that has survived with me years later. In fact, my girlfriends, I am quite certain we all have the stories about how our mothers made us change our undergarments.

What is it about Mothers and underwear? Is this yet another generational education of the feminine mystique? Make no mistake, I do think my mother is a source of a wealth of information. I would never openly admit this to her and if she is reading this…. I will deny it in a follow up conversation. That being said, Mommy dearest had a thing about clean underwear at bedtime.

She argued that cotton underpants were the key to not getting a bladder infection. In fact at the time, the science did back her up. An article published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 1978 cited that “tight fitting undergarments made of synthetic material” increase the risk of urinary tract infections in children.

Unfortunately the article has no evidence or studies to back it up and thus I can safely say that Mama was in fact severely mislead. But with age comes wisdom and I would like to think that 30 years later, we are smarter about our bodies and the fabrics we place upon them.

Three decades of panties and briefs and thongs should be enough time along with a substantial generation of women to “shake the bacterial myths” from any tree of knowledge?

The generation before me spent a decade burning their bras. The generation of women after me has spent countless time showing said bras to the world. Shouldn’t there be a bit of evidence behind my mother’s urban underwear myth?

I ponder these life altering questions as I am now too near to 40 and still stuck in cotton briefs. Make no mistake, I call them “boy shorts” now so as to be cool. But really, the are just a small styling choice away from being “granny Panties”.

I have tried thongs. Hell I even spent $25 at Holt’s last week in the name of research on a pair of lacy “Hanky Pankies”. They have been recommended to me as the most “comfortable thong in the world”. I rushed home. I washed and laid them out to dry. The next day, I put on said lacy devils and realized that yes they may be the most comfortable thongs I’ll ever wear… however, I HATE thongs. Can’t handle the whole up the but thing. Never will. And if an expensive and trendy piece of clothing won’t cure my dislike for all things thong…. Nothing will.

It’s my dear Mama and her pantie rantings. I can not shake the need for cotton briefs. It’s as ingrained in my psyche as brushing my teeth before bed. I was hiking in the Andes mountains last winter and still found the water source to brush up before crawling into a tent for the night.

As for thong underwear, there is theoretical risk of increased urinary tract infections due to the fact that fabric from the underwear touches both the anal area and the vaginal area. That being said…. Good hygiene is everyone’s responsibility. To be blunt… wipe well and you have earned the right to wear a thong. There is in fact no hard evidence pointing to thong underwear as a source of increase bladder infections in women.

An 2003 study published in the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology looked t risk factors for vaginal yeast infections in over 1100 Italian women from eight different hospital or university gynecology clinics throughout Italy. Of 1138 patients recruited in the study, 931 were evaluable. A recent history of vaginal yeast infection was documented in 43.5% patients (358/823) with a mean number of 2.9±2.7 episodes per patient (N=302). A total of 77 patients (10.0%) had a history of recurrent infections defined as four and more episodes in a 12-month period. Of these 77 women more than 1/3 were related to life style. Such risk factors as synthetic fabric underwear, vaginal douching and bike, training bike and motorbike use were cited. The numbers were too small howvere to calculate any actual risk.

So the evidence continues to be controversial at best. I really did want to like the lace underwear, my dear cybersisters…. Science be damned. There was no evidence to the contrary.

Do I feel better wearing cotton underwear? No. Not at all. For I wear said natural fibres while riding my bike to work and back each day. According to the Italians… I just can’t win. Perhaps this is why a generation of women burned their bras in the first place.