Archive for June, 2012

The Incredible Shrinking Brides!

June 22, 2012

Tommy Europe and Nadeen Boman of ‘Bulging Brides’ on Slice Network
Source:tvlistings.zap2it.com

A couple of years ago I was addicted to the show ‘Bulging Brides’ on the Slice channel. The show follows women as they struggle to  lose weight in order to fit into their wedding dress, which they have purchased one to several sizes too small, apparently as a type of sadistic motivation to push themselves towards some perceived bridal ideal. Pushed to their physical breaking point by ex-CFL football player turned personal trainer Tommy Europe and starving after having their kitchens robbed of all comfort food by the show’s nutritionist these women are so determined to walk down the aisle in said dress that they are willing to miss social functions, get up at the crack of dawn to exercise, give up precious sugary sweets, and put up with being berated by Mr. Europe for (stupidly) breaking any of the endless rules (on camera). Most of them eventually do squeeze themselves into the prized dress, often just barely, leaving me feeling nostalgic for a nice Bratwurst and also pondering the tensile strength of satin and chiffon.

Just a few more inches and the dress should zip up!!
Source:fitnessmagazine.com

The show eventually got tedious to watch, and I haven’t seen an episode since, although the website indicates it is still airing new episodes.  Other shows of the same genre have also popped up, ‘Bridal Bootcamp’ and ‘Shedding for the Wedding’ come to mind, which similarly target the extra pounds holding women back from being the perfect bride on their special day. While most women do not document their journey on TV, it is certainly not unusual for women to obsess about their appearance as their wedding approaches. We live in a society where as little girls we are raised to believe that this day is supposed to be the most important of our lives. I know more than a few women who spent more time with their personal trainers than their fiancees in the weeks before their weddings. Strapless dresses mean shoulders need toning, tight bodices require a chiseled waist. Donning a bikini on the honeymoon? A whole body transformation is in order. Currently a bride-to-be myself I made a promise to myself that I would not give into the madness. I have already ordered my wedding dress. I did a novel thing and ordered it in my size, though the salesgirl was kind enough to point out that the bust would need to be taken in substantially. Likely the hips too. Apparently dresses are generally sewn in an hourglass shape and not straight up and down as I seem to be built. My wedding is in the winter, directly after the holiday season. It would show a high degree of self-loathing if I were to attempt any type of diet and/or exercise plan during this time ripe with merriment and excess. One thing I have learned after struggling to overcome an eating disorder is that allowing how you look and how much you weigh to define how you feel and your sense of accomplishment and believing others will judge you solely on these superficial traits will leave you constantly striving for an unachievable ideal that grows more distant as you get closer to it. I would love more toned shoulders for my lovely strapless dress, but I know myself well enough to know it’s a slippery slope down from there to obsession and I don’t have time to train for a Ms. Female Bodybuilder of the Year competition right now, what with a wedding to plan and all. So I’ll just stick to my regular routine and look like me on my wedding day, with a different hairdo and a beautiful gown. That I can zip up.

With enough time and body oil I feel I could definitely give Kim Chizevsky a run for her money!
Source:www.do-while.com

Breasts: If you’ve got em’….why not use them? My take on the great breastfeeding debate.

June 17, 2012

Source:wellness.inside.tru.ca

I have always associated my above average intelligence with the fact that I was breastfed as an infant. The general consensus while I was growing up was that breastfeeding resulted in babies with higher IQs than those who were formula fed. A recent article by Elisabeth Badinter in Harper’s Magazine informed me that this theory has since been debunked, along with some other research on the benefits of breastfeeding. Her article, titled “The Tyranny of Breast-Feeding;New mothers vs. La Leche League” is a scathing criticism of the organization La Leche League (LLL) which she basically accuses of using unfounded facts, scare tactics, maternal guilt and other forms of bullying to manipulate women into feeling compelled to breastfeed. The article has stirred up a storm of controversy and discussion, with many women siding firmly with Badinter, feeling like the message pushed by LLL is at odds with the modern version of motherhood, and others horrified that she would dare call the superiority of breastfeeding into question.

Source:harpers.org

Not familiar with La Leche League, I perused their website. I didn’t find it quite as offensive as Badinter seems to. Of course, I’m barren at this point in my life so perhaps I am not as sensitive to the coercion tactics buried among the site’s pages. I did, however, find it a little over-the-top in it’s proclamations regarding the merits of breastfeeding, and quite frankly, a bit cheesy. I could also agree with Badinter’s criticism that the LLL seems to promote and support a stance that women who breastfeed are superior and hold a superior role in society to those that choose not to or cannot, and that women are the primary and most important child rearers in the family unit. “The loving help and support of the father enables the mother to focus on mothering so that together the parents develop close relationships which strengthen the family and thus the whole fabric of society. LLL further believes that mothering through breastfeeding deepens a mother’s understanding and acceptance of the responsibilities and rewards of her special role in the family. As a woman grows in mothering she grows as a human being, and every other role she may fill in her lifetime is enriched by the insights and humanity she brings to it from her experiences as a mother.” This seems to imply that the father’s role in parenting is simply to financially support mother and child so that mother is able to adequately nurture her child. This is reminiscent of the Don Draper type of father of the 1960s and 1970s who is successful and a good financial provider but is basically absent from his children’s lives. Many women and men have fought hard to change these gender stereotypes and create a new family ideal, one where the responsibility for the child’s development falls on both parent’s shoulders if possible. Furthermore, what does this statement by LLL say about single mothers? Widows? Low income families? God forbid the mother must work and she can’t focus solely on mothering as her single role in life. She will surely contribute to the downfall of society. Give me a break.

Badinter certainly makes some good points in her article. Many women simply can’t breastfeed. There are latching difficulties, they can’t produce milk, they develop infections in their mammary glands, etc. Many women breastfeed for as long as they can, but have to stop to go back to work, either out of personal choice or out of economic necessity. Women who adopt babies obviously can’t product milk to breastfeed their babies. LLL would like to make women think that by not breastfeeding, mothers will lose the chance to form important bonds with their children, thus making women who are not able to form this physical attachment to their child feel like failures as mothers. This is not fair, and it is also not true. Maternal bonding can and will occur whether or not a child breastfeeds or not as long as the mother is meeting her childs emotional, physical, nutritional and cognitive needs. I don’t have a statistic for you, but many formula fed infants have bonded with their mothers.

This is essentially where I stop agreeing with Badinter. Now, generally I roll my eyes when someone makes the argument that something is better for you because it is “natural”. This is true for most herbal products, organic pesticides, natural sweeteners like Steevia, natural soaps and deodorants (P.S.-they don’t work-you smell bad), and magic mushrooms. However, when it comes to breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, I am of the staunch opinion that breast is best. Our bodies were made to do many things. This is not to say we have to do them. As females we are designed to bear children often as early as 11 years old. This is because at one point the average life expectancy was under 40 and many women died in childbirth. We women had to get an early start to keep the human race alive. There was no such thing as formula, and women breastfed or their babies died. Obviously times have changed. We don’t need to birth children when we are still children ourselves (though unfortunately this still occurs), and as a matter of fact many women are waiting later and later to have children. And we have alternatives to breastmilk to nourish our children. The problem is that no matter how much you want to argue about it, study after study has proven the advantage of breastfeeding. It decreases the incidence of infections in the infant due to transferred immunity, it may decrease incidence of a variety of diseases, may improve speech development and prevent cavities. It also benefits the mother by reducing the risk of postpartum depression, anemia, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis due to lack of estrogen. Badinter notes that the research showing that babies of breastfed mothers have higher IQs and a lower risk of asthma have has proven unfounded. But these are only two of the purported benefits. It is not as if the vast number of other benefits are inconsequential. In her article, Badinter quotes sociologist Linda Blum who says that “formula is constantly being improved to reproduce the advantages of breast milk.” This is true. It seems that scientists are continuously finding new components of breast milk that are imperative for childhood development. It wasn’t until between 2003 and 2008 that scientists discovered that the addition of DHA to infant formula was important for eyesight and cognitive development. So how can we be sure that there are no other undiscovered molecules in human breastmilk vital for infant development that aren’t present in artificial formula?

Badinter also seems quite resentful towards the LLL about the fact that they have support from numerous medical organizations. As if there is some type of conspiracy against women everywhere, an evil puppeteer in the sky just itching for control of every mother’s breasts. She doesn’t seem to consider the idea that perhaps all of these organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics are making their recommendations based on available research and in the best interest of children. She notes that currently the WHO recommends infants be breastfed exclusively for 6 months, and supplemented with breastmilk until 2 years. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends breastfeeding for the first 12 months of the infant’s life. The LLL on the other hand recommmends tha women breastfeed until the child decides he or she should be weaned, and furthermore, the ideal is on-feeding, meaning the mother must be available anytime, anywhere. I agree with Badinter that for working mothers this is not feasible. A recent Time Magazine article titled “Are You Mom Enough” discusses this further. According to the article, the natural age of weaning is between 2 and 7, with the average worldwide weaning age being 4. Of course in North America this is not the norm. It would be extremely shocking to see a woman breastfeeding a 4 year-old as evidenced by the controversial cover of said Time issue featuring 26 year-old Jamie Grumet breastfeeding her 3 year-old. Many called the cover sexualized and inflammatory. In our modern society where many women have careers, and children are often in daycare prior to 2 years of age, breastfeeding often ceases much earlier than these recommendations. Even still, many health benefits of breastfeeding can be seen as early as 6 months or even earlier.

Source:Time magazine

What is most disconcerting about Badinter’s argument is not that she feels somewhat hostile towards the LLL for their superior attitude. This is entirely understandable given the organizations old-fashioned and unforgiving philosophy. It is also not that she discounts years of research, although this is just plain ignorant. What rubs me the wrong way is that she does not seem to have any valid argument in defense of choosing not to breastfeed. In fact, her statements almost ruin her case. She says “As far as LLL is concerned, all mothers should be able to breast-feed. There are no naturally insurmountable difficulties, physical or psychological. It would seem there is no such thing as maternal ambivalence and that women who balk at submitting are simply reckless or bad.” Maternal ambivalence? What is that to be taken to mean? Why would a woman be unsure of? Whether she wants to breastfeed? Whether she should? If it is the right thing to do? The evidence is clear. The medical associations have given their opinions. There seems to be no clear reason not to breastfeed your child if physically able. If a woman hesitates in the face of the decision between whether to take the responsibility for the nourishment of their child or not then perhaps she should rethink her decision to have that child in the first place. We live in a society that gives women many personal freedoms. No woman is forced to have a child she doesn’t want. When making the decision to take on the huge responsibility of bearing and raising a child you should be aware of all that encompasses and part of that is sometimes putting your child before yourself order to ensure that he or she is having their physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs met. That is being a parent. Badinter doesn’t think this is reasonable. Badinter says about recommendations that women returning to work expell their own milk with a pump for their child to consume in her abscence versus using formula that “many women find pumping repulsive”. I’m sure that breast pumping is not comfortable, but I would hope that most mothers wouldn’t think that providing the best food possible for their child to be a ‘repulsive’ activity. The author’s statement that breastfeeding is associated with “loss of freedom and the despotism of an insatiable child” is probably most concerning. What does she expect? Whether breastfed or not, a child will hugely impact a woman’s lifestyle. All babies need to be fed, burped, be coddled when they cry, etc. Unfortunately babies demand a lot more than milk, and will continue to do so for years after they cease relying on a liquid diet. Get used to it or get a plant instead.

I believe in women’s rights. I am firmly pro choice. But if you make the decision to bring a child into this earth, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t do everything in your power to ensure he or she has the best start possible. While I can understand resistance to conservative and seemingly old-fashioned notions about motherhood roles, especially in these times when the family unit is often less than traditional, I also believe that the role of mother as  provider of nutrition to her infant has been long-studied and is the subject of much hard research data. Organizations like LLL can provide  information and support but women need to stay true to themselves and keep their own values and lifestyles in mind when reviewing the recommendations and data quoted on such websites. Above all, use common sense and critical thinking to decide what is best for you and your family. The decision to become a mother is not an easy one, and consequently being a mother will be the hardest job you will have. There will be many sacrifices but many gains. I have not yet been on this journey, but I hope to one day. I can’t say with any certainty what decisions I will make, but I can only hope that I will have my children’s best interests at heart.

Fifty Shades of Assault and Battery: There’s Heat in the Beat

June 15, 2012

I became curious about the book “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James while in London where it was the subject of billboard advertisements everywhere. Londoners seem to place more importance on reading than us here in North America, although as it turns out they are no less seduced by smut as this work of “literature” proves. On return to Canada I spotted women everywhere with this book in hand, and started to hear snippets about it in eavesdropped conversations and even in the news, where it has been dubbed “mommy porn” due to it’s graphic sex scenes and popularity among middle aged women.

I enjoy reading. While I have varied taste in books, I like to think that a common thread between my favorites is that they are all at least somewhat thought-provoking, serve to conjur up emotion in the reader, and are well written. But I will admit I have read and even enjoyed my fair share of  fluff. Sometimes you just have to rest your mind, and get out of your head a little bit. A cheesy, tasteless or tawdry novel is like the literary version of reality TV but better. The characters look however you imagine them to, they don’t all speak at once, and you don’t need to wait until next week to tune in. Also like reality TV, you are often embarrassed to admit you are a fan. I borrowed the Twilight trilogy from a friend, thus avoiding that embarrassing purchase. Unfortunately I was not so lucky with The Hunger Games. Although I muttered something about the books (the last 2 of which I bought at the same time to avoid humiliation three times) “being for my niece”, I’m sure it was pretty clear by my “Team Peeta” button this was not the case. “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic” were ebook purchases, the greatest invention ever for concealing kitschy novels. And the “Gossip Girl” novel? Stolen from my fiancee. He purchased it from an airport bookstore to read on a plane. Sorry honey, the cat’s out of the bag. But I digress. The point is, my curiosity as well as my desire for a mindless and entertaining book to read on the plane back to Vancouver after my sister’s wedding trumped the potential mortification that would ensue had anyone I knew seen me buy the book in question, and I finally purchased and read “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Now, I have never read a romance novel before, and I wouldn’t call this a romance novel in the same sense that I imagine the books I see older blue-haired women reading, with Fabio on the cover kissing beautiful women in flowing dresses surrounded by gardens of roses. The books with names like “Stolen Kisses” or A Midnight Adventure”. I wouldn’t exactly call it “porn” either, but there is a lot of sex in the book. I don’t want to rehash the whole plot, but basically girl (Anastasia) meets boy (Christian). She’s a virgin, he’s into S&M. He wants her to be his little pet, or submissive as they call it in the book. He even wants her to sign some contract to the same effect. She isn’t so sure. They have sex. About a million times. She’s uncomfortable with his sadistic sexual tendencies. She tries to get to know him but he won’t let her because he’s had a bad childhood. Because of his dominant tendancies he tries to control her. She resists. Eventually it doesn’t work, they break up and in the end they are both heartbroken. Cliffhanger which makes reader want to read second book of trilogy. Which I of course do. And then the third.

I have read several reviews of this trilogy. Most focus on the sex. Apparently sex in books is very controversial. You can turn on HBO and basically watch two people having intercourse, but god forbid we read about it in a book. I have gathered that one of the main issues is that some libraries are carrying the book and the concern is that children could get a hold of it. First of all, wouldn’t the libraries have some type of policy that adult materials be checked out by adults only? Secondly, shouldn’t parents have at least some involvement in their children’s lives here? When I was a young child, I wasn’t fleeting off to the library on my own. Furthermore, my parents were aware of what I was reading, watching on TV, listening to on my ghetto blaster (ah, the old days), and who I was talking to on the phone. When I was old enough to go to the library by myself, I was a teenager. And believe me, teenagers today have seen a lot more shocking things than they could read about in this book, no matter what Sarah Palin tells you. Other critics claim the book is “unrealistic” in terms of the amount and, ahem, ‘quality’ of her sexual encounters. While unlike some, I have not counted the number of orgasms in the trilogy (in fact by the end I was skipping the repetitive sex scenes altogether) I agree the numbers are outstanding. But it is a work of fiction. Furthermore, how interesting would a book be that read: (Spoiler alert! Excerpt from book:)”How he’s making me feel that familiar pull deep in my belly, tightening, quickening. NO…and my traitorous body explodes in an intense, body shattering…” (my alternate ending) “Shit!!! Baby, are you done already?” Many women love the book. They claim it is erotic, and that it is empowering to women because it was written by a woman. Uh huh. Never mind the fact that the protagonist is a young virgin who is being controlled by a dominating man who likes to spank her and “punish her” when she doesn’t “obey” him. She talks a lot to her “inner goddess” and refuses to quit her job so clearly she’s a strong woman. While it would seem men would enjoy the book, apparently not so. While Christian Grey is clearly dominant within the relationship, he is still extremely attentive and aims to please in the bedroom, and this doesn’t sit well with the men out there. It places undue pressure on them from the scores of female readers who want their own Christian Grey, sexual god and orgasm wizard.

These are all valid criticisms. But I can’t help but but be puzzled that people seem to be missing the biggest elephant in the room when appraising this book. Sure it is often noted (as it is in the book) that Christian Grey is ‘a little obsessive’ or ‘stalkerish’. But as I read the book, all I could think was “Get out! Get out now!!” This is an abusive relationship if I have ever seen one. All the red flags are there, and this girl, while being portrayed as intelligent and strong, just isn’t seeing them. Or worse, she is, but she is choosing to ignore them. Is there a worse message that a female writer could send to a predominantly female target audience? Anastasia continually forgives and excuses Christian’s bad behavior because of his troubled past. She allows him to avoid facing his past, his temper and his control issues by using sex to pacify and distract her. She makes excuses for him to others and herself, explaining his abusive behavior away as a need to protect her. If you disagree with me, look at the criteria.

You may be in an abusive relationship if he or she:

1) Is jealous or possessive toward you.  Check.
2)Tries to control you by being very bossy or demanding.  Double check.
3)Tries to isolate you by demanding you cut off social contacts and friendships.  Yup. Got angry when she didn’t tell him she was going to visit mom. Doesn’t like her going out with friends.
4)Is violent and / or loses his or her temper quickly.  Yes
5)Pressures you sexually, demands sexual activities you are not comfortable with.  I believe this is premise of book.
6)Abuses drugs or alcohol.  This may be a stretch, but seems to glurp wine/champagne entire book.
7)Claims you are responsible for his or her emotional state. (This is a core diagnostic criteria for Codependency.)  A favorite phrase is “Oh Anastasia, what are you doing to me?”
8)Blames you when he or she mistreats you.  See above
9)Has a history of bad relationships.  Yes
10)Your family and friends have warned you about the person or told you that they are concerned for your safety or emotional well being.  Best friend Kate warns her.
11)You frequently worry about how he or she will react to things you say or do.  She constantly worries about how mad he will be.
12)Makes “jokes” that shame, humiliate, demean or embarrass you, weather privately or around family and friends.  Not applicable. He never makes jokes.
13)Your partner grew up witnessing an abusive parental relationship, and/or was abused as a child.  Yes.
14)Your partner “rages” when they feel hurt, shame, fear or loss of control.  Yes.
15)Both parties in abusive relationships may develop or progress in drug or alcohol dependence in a (dysfunctional) attempt to cope with the pain.  4th book??
16)You leave and then return to your partner repeatedly, against the advice of your friends, family and loved ones.  Once so far.
17)You have trouble ending the relationship, even though you know inside it’s the right thing to do.  She’s too dumb to know it’s the right thing to do. She’s 21. And she thinks they’re soul mates.
(Courtesy of http://www.recovery-man.com)

Well there we have it. I once watched a movie called Boxing Helena. It was about a surgeon who was so obsessed with a woman that when he couldn’t have her he amputated her limbs and literally put her in a box in his gigantic house. I once dated a man who made me feel like I was living in a box. At first I found his attentiveness flattering. Then his constant questioning of where I was going and who I was going with, his checking up on me and jealous outbursts were smothering. When he followed me out for dinner with a good male friend it was over the top. When I finally broke up with him and he locked me in his car, drove 100 miles an hour to a deserted location and threatened to kill me it was downright terrifying. I’m lucky I’m here. Many women are not. So when I read a book like this that casually dismisses dangerous behavior I find it frightening. There is no shame in enjoying the book for what it is. Overlook all the other flaws. But keep this one in the back of your mind. This book is a work of fiction. In the book, the characters live happily ever after. In reality, they would not. So if you or anyone you know is in a relationship like this, please help them get out. Even if the man is gorgeous and rich and gives her an orgasm every time he touches her.

Why do you buy? (And no one asked you Karl Lagerfeld!)

June 13, 2012

The June issue of Elle Canada magazine features an article by Ben Barry (a modelling agent) titled “New Business Model” which basically summarizes his Ogilvy Foundation funded, Cambridge University thesis research regarding how “models-depending on their size, age, and race-influence purchasing decisions.” He notes this research differs from the majority of research into the use of extremely thin models in advertising which has traditionally focused on the impact this can have on women’s body image. As in it has already been scientifically proven that looking at gorgeous, thin, photoshopped models makes women feel crappy. Mr. Barry used a study group of more than 2 500 women aged 14 to 65 and sizes 0 to 18 from a variety of ethnic groups. He had them look at fake fashion ads all featuring the same product but with different models. The models differed in size, race, and age. He asked the women their purchase intentions when they looked at the pictures of women with similar and dissimilar sizes, ages and races as themselves. After the study, he also facilitated focus groups to discuss with the women why they may have made the decisions they did.

I think pretty much most women can guess what the results were. Women increased their purchase intentions more than 200% when the models in the mock ads were their size. When the women were over size 6 this increased to 300%. Purchase intentions also increased substantially (175%, 200% in women over 35) when women saw models their own age. Black women were 1 and a half  more likely to buy a product if the model was black. Why? In focus groups women explained that they could better imagine what the product would look like on them when the model looked like on them.  Would it look good on their body type? Would it be age appropriate? Would it look nice with their complexion?

Mr. Barry did not just do this research for his own interest’s sake. His ultimate intention is to show fashion companies that it would be fiscally wise for them to use a more diverse range of models in their ads and in their fashion shows. That it would attract a broader range of customers. As most of us are aware, most models in magazines are strikingly similar in terms of body size and shape. Even so-called “plus size” models are often smaller than the average American woman. And when was the last time you saw a woman in her late 30’s or 40’s (or older!) advertising anything fashionable? It is rare, unless it is an actress who has botoxed herself back to before she married Ashton Kutcher. Barry quotes the legendary and distasteful Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld (most recent offense being calling singer Adelle fat) “Unreachable beauty is a reminder to make an effort. But if you see something, and you can reach what you see, then you do not have to make an effort anymore.” Blech. I guess that explains his face.

Oompa Loompa

Karl Lagerfeld

While I agree that doing sit-ups with a picture of Gisele Bundchen on your ceiling may be quite motivating, I doubt most women would look at her in a bikini and want to run out and buy the same one. Watching the Victoria Secret fashion show does not make me feel like any sort of angel. The recent trend of using very young actresses to sell adult designer clothing lines, such as Dakota and Elle Fanning for Marc Jacobs or Hailee Steinfeld for Miu Miu is very perplexing to me. I don’t look at a child in an outfit and imagine myself in the same one. Most children and young adults I know could never afford designer clothing. It would only seem rational to target advertising to the middle aged women with established careers who are actually buying these clothes. On the other end of the spectrum, many ads show women my age (30ish) wearing incredibly short shorts (bum cleavage? Please!), jeggings, crop tops, or neon. I have no desire whatsoever to relive my teens. I have also seen ads  for skirts, suit jackets with bras underneath, or see-through  button-downs portrayed to be career wear. If I get fired, will Karl Lagerfeld hire me in Oompa Loompa Land? If I promise to keep reaching for that unreachable beauty?

Once and a while you will see a glimpse of a model in a magazine who doesn’t look emaciated, or who has a wrinkle on her perfect forehead. More and more fashion shows will send out 1 or 2 “plus size models” down their runway. Perhaps research such as Barry’s will help to convince fashion companies that diversity and a touch of reality in fashion is not a bad thing. I think Karl Lagerfeld is a lost cause. However the fashion world is ripe with successful female designers both established and up-and-coming who will hopefully have a better grasp on the female market and on the female psyche. Until then we will just have to rely on our own common sense, honest friends and camera phones to guide our purchase intentions. Just never trust the change room mirrors. They lie.

Consumer or Consumed? See it, Want it, Need it, Have it.

June 10, 2012

Disclaimer to my dad: Do not read this.

Last week at work, I got a large ink stain on my beautiful $250 Tory Burch burnt orange wallet. Devastated, I almost cried, but then I would have smudged my $35 Christian Dior mascara. Still feeling downtrodden after work I walked outside and of course it was raining, not unusual for Vancouver. Still, my $200 denim Filson tote bag does not zip up and I did not want it’s contents to get wet, and I was sporting my $300 open-toed Jeffery Campbell clogs. I couldn’t possibly walk to the bus stop in this state, so I opted to take a cab. At home, I did some research into the removal of ink stains from leather and was able to clean my wallet with the first aid staple isopropyl alcohol. I was so giddy at my resourcefulness that I felt I should reward myself. Essentially I had saved the price of a new wallet. Since I needed to return something at the nearest Winners I decided to go shopping. While there I was ecstatic to find that they had Hudson jeans in stock for half of the regular $200 retail price. What a great deal! I have been doing “The Brazilian Butt Workout” (purchased from an infomercial for $69.99) religiously. It has guaranteed to bring my bottom from flat to fab, and while I have noticed no change as of yet, nothing makes your ass look better than designer jeans! I have a chest of drawers full of them to prove it. And because they were half price, I opted to buy 2 instead of 1. It only makes financial sense.

I tell you all of this not to brag about my possessions or to give you mundane details of my life. I want to illustrate that I am the penultimate consumer of goods. Ads in fashion magazines? I am their target customer. Billboards? They scream to me. Why are there ads in buses, on the backs of toilet stalls, before previews in movies or on the backs of seats in cabs? For people like me. As much as I try to resist the evil influence of media, I am bewitched by the sparkling jewels, the perfectly pulled together models, the picture of the happy life that one pair of patent stilettos will bring me. Rationally, I know it is all fake. The models are photoshopped. The scenery is just a set. The smiles are forced. But when I see the ads, or the beautiful merchandise carefully and captivatingly displayed in the store, I am no less seduced. My pulse quickens, my breathing shallows. The commercial equivalent of the bad boy who’s no good for you, but who you just can’t get enough of.

It may seem I covet only designer brands. Not so. I am not exclusive. I want everything. It’s true that as I have gotten older I have begun to appreciate quality more, but I don’t search out brand names and actually prefer not to wear anything with a flashy label. (I might be a sucker for billboards, but I don’t want to BE one). Make something appealing in some clever and manipulative way, and I will be enticed to buy it. Half price? SOLD! Sample sale? I will push a physically disabled child out of the way to buy a fur coat in July. If it is limited edition, I’ll take 2. I don’t understand the concept of choosing between 2 items. Why make a decision you might second guess when you could just buy both and be twice as happy? Internet shopping is a skill. I am an expert. I believe you can never, ever have too many shoes. Shoes are like diamonds. They are forever. Your ass might get too fat for your jeans. Your feet will never get too fat for your shoes. If they do, you can still put them on display in a cabinet because they are works of art.

I fell in love with Tom Ford’s Santal Blush perfume. It is the most expensive perfume I have ever bought but I can’t get enough of it. It is my favorite of the 11 perfumes I currently have. Of course it is limited edition. Almost as soon as I bought the first bottle I started to worry. What will I do when this runs out?  When the worry became panic I bought a second bottle. My fear abated. Now I am almost halfway done the first bottle and I am becoming uneasy again. It is sold out but I could probably get a bottle on Ebay for a somewhat reasonable price. In London, I spotted a girl wearing a pair of wedge sneakers on the Subway. I needed to have them. All I knew was they were black and white and they had the word limited on them. As I am a self-proclaimed expert at internet shopping I was able to find out that they were the limited edition Ash Bowie high-top trainer. I found them at Selfridge’s and bought them for a steal at 150 pounds. I chose to ignore the 1.6 exchange rate. It was exhilarating. If I couldn’t have found them there, I could have ordered them online. I have both US and UK mailing addresses in case websites won’t mail to Canada. I can have packages forwarded to me from these mailboxes. This is necessary for all of the internet shopping I do. I recently wrote an exam through work. As a reward to myself, I decided I should buy myself something. I bought a $400 rose gold Tiffany key. I deserved it. Of course the results don’t come for 6-8 weeks, but I feel good about it. When I get the results, I’ll really celebrate. A pair of earrings caught my eye in the window of a Tibetan shop the other day. I stopped in and ended up talking to the owner for some length about Buddhism. He was so kind, I felt compelled to buy something. After all, he is an independent business owner and likely struggling in this economy. I bought a handcrafted steel wool scarf and a book in addition to the earrings. The book is on my bookshelf along with the 20 or so others I have not yet read. I buy books at a greater speed than I can read them. I could go on, but I think you get the drift.

From what you have read above you probably imagine me to be completely shallow and vain, not to mention imprudent and lacking in intelligence. This is not true in general. I am quite clever. I put myself through university mainly with scholarships and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. I have a good job, a pretty healthy amount of money in savings and am not in debt. I make an effort to be well rounded, enjoying several pastimes apart from shopping. I like reading, I dabble in photography, I jog, spend time with friends and my fiancee, take a dance class, am learning the guitar and of course write this blog. So if I have half a brain, and I recognize I have a problem, why don’t I just stop buying things I don’t need? Simple enough. Except that it’s not. Drug addicts can, for the most part, stay away from drugs, if they avoid the people and places associated with their drug addiction. Alcoholics can avoid alcohol. I can avoid the mall, buying magazines, or internet shopping. But I can’t avoid ads entirely. They are everywhere. I also can’t avoid seeing ‘things’ everywhere that I will want. I can’t avoid stores for the rest of my life. Eventually I will need to buy something necessary for life, whether it be food or drink, or even clothing, which is a necessity, although admittedly not in the excess that I indulge in it. Furthermore, as a woman who has a history of an eating disorder, I am at increased risk of addiction. Up to 50% of eating disorder patients abuse alcohol or drugs compared to just 9% of the general population. Bulimia has an obsessive compulsive component, so it is no surprise that I would substitute this type of behaviour with compulsive shopping. Impulsivity is a personality trait linked to bulimia. It is also a characteristic of shopping addiction.

Is my behavior out of my control? Of course not. It may take some work, but I have overcome worse. I have a wedding coming up, and I would rather serve Bollinger than Budweiser so I have a strict budget to adhere to. It’s time to tighten the purse strings, starting now. Or maybe tomorrow. Today I think I will see if I can find a book illustrating the concept of saving. And perhaps a new purse, with strings.

The Wonderfully Spun Wizardry of Dr. Oz

June 6, 2012
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Source:getthebigpicture.com

As a pharmacist, I die a little bit inside every time I hear the question “Do you have (insert Product X here)? I saw it on Dr. Oz…” As I work and have a social life, and also a fair amount of love and respect for myself, I don’t watch Dr. Oz, and therefore have usually not heard of said wonder product. The herbal, nutraceutical, aruvedic and homeopathic market is growing quickly and it is virtually impossible to keep up with every product being marketed. Not to mention that most of these alternative health care products are not well studied, and have unknown actions, side effects and drug interactions. Products that claim to have “science” and “clinical studies” proving their effectiveness may have small scale experiments or very small, often biased studies paid for by the marketing company in their favor. That being said, if a product is considered a “nutraceutical” it does not need to go through the rigorous clinical trial process that drugs do in order to be marketed. A lot of people don’t consider the possible harm these products can cause, assuming that because a product is “natural” it must be “safe”. Has nobody told you not to eat wild berries in the woods because they are poisonous and can kill you? Some wild mushrooms can also be fatal if ingested, while some are used as illicit drugs for their hallucinogenic properties. The list goes on. In fact, many of the western medicines we have today are derived from “natural” or plant medicines. Asprin or ASA is derived from Willow Bark, and in large amounts can cause gastric ulceration, metabolic acidosis and death. A commonly used class of chemotherapy agents, the taxanes, are also derived from plant structures. These agents are extremely toxic. Digoxin, a powerful medication for heart failure, from the digitalis leaf. This is not to say that it is never appropriate to recommend herbal products to patients. Many are well studied and useful in certain situations. However it is important to consider each individual’s medical conditions, medications, and what they are treating, weighing the benefits and risks for each person based on their particular situation. Health care professionals have an ethical responsibility to put patients first above all else. This is why it angers me that the good Dr. Oz is touting the benefits of these “safe” natural products to millions of impressionable and trusting people watching his show every day. And it really pisses me off that I have to clean up his mess.

First of all, who the hell is Dr. Oz? Even the name sounds fake. In fact, he is a real doctor. The problem is, he is a cardiothoracic surgeon. Meaning, his expertise lies in the operating room. He is not an expert in nutrition, herbal remedies, exercise, microbiology, dermatology, homeopathy, diabetes, obesity etc. However, if you watch his show you would believe he knows everything there is to know about health. He gives tips on everything from vaccinations to weight loss and nutrition to diabetes.Of course, he always has a panel of experts on board to back him up. These “experts” often have something to gain from advocating the point of the day. For example, a recent show discussing the fad HCG diet featured the doctor responsible for the recent resurgence of the diet’s popularity and who has published numerous recent studies supporting the diet. Advocating this diet which consists of starving by eating a mere 600 calories a day (the average is about 2000) and receiving expensive daily shots of the hormone HCG (the pregnancy hormone) will of course gain her patients, notoriety, and money. This does not change the fact that the data supporting the diet is very weak and the diet is dangerous.

For the good of the public and the clarity of my conscience I would like to draw attention to a few of the good doctor’s most recent and most dangerous claims:

1) Raspberry Ketone:
Claim: Raspberry Ketone is great for weight loss and has no side effects

Fact: Raspberry ketone is structurally related to synephrine (a stimulant) and capsaicin. As a stimulant, it has been associated with heart palpitations and shakiness. Syneophrine and norepinephrine, as well as ephedrine, similar stimulants, have been associated with increased blood pressure, heart rate, heart palpitations, chest pain, and cardiac arrest. Ephedrine has been restricted in Canada to use as a nasal decongestant.
There is some evidence that it helps rats lose weight. There is not enough evidence in humans yet.
This medication can significantly decrease INR and require a larger dose of warfarin and require much more frequent monitoring of levels. However there is an unpredictable effect.

2)African Mango
Claim: It’s a wonder pill that will make you lose tons of weight without changing a thing in your life.
Fact:Yes, the African Mango group loss some weigh over the placebo group in a small study. However, they also consumed fewer calories Quite a lot fewer calories. Hmm. I wonder why they lost weight. Apparently the African Mango acts like a fiber making you feel full. Eat more fiber. This has been in every nutritional guideline for years. Take heed people!!

3)7-Keto
Claim:A natural byproduct of the DHEA hormone we naturally produce that helps keep us young and regulates our metabolic rate. After the age of 30 this drops, slowing metabolism and causing weight gain. 7-Keto stimulates the thyroid to increase your resting metabolic rate causing weight loss, less fat, more muscle and a smaller belly, especially with diet and exercise.
Fact: Some preliminary evidence of a decrease in body weight and fat in obese females but more evidence is needed. Decreased hemoglobin in some patients. Also has been associated with an increase in T3 hormone in some patients. Could be a concern for people with overactive thyroid, heart disease or uncontrolled blood pressure.

4)Forskolin
Claim: Helps promote breakdown of stored fats in fat cells. May also release fatty acids from fat tissue. Results in loss of body fat and theoretically increased lean body mass.
Fact: This is a potentially dangerous herb for many people. There is some evidence for its use in asthma and congestive cardiomyopathy, but no statistically significant clinical evidence of efficacy for weight loss. It can cause decreased blood pressure and flushing. There are many significant drug interactions. It can also interact with many other herbs such as anise, arnica, capsicum, chamomile, clove, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, ginseng, horseradish, licorice, red clover, tumeric, causing risk of bleeding or serious decrease in blood pressure. Any patients on anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs, calcium channel blockers or nitrates should not take this herb. For patients on warfarin, INR may be increased if forskolin is used. Anyone with a bleeding disorder should not take this herb. Anyone with a heart condition should not use this herb. It should be stopped 2 weeks before any surgery to prevent serious bleeding.
This sounds really scary? Is it really worth it to lose a couple of pounds?

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Source:www.bcrt.ca

We live in a society that has been taught that everything can be cured with a pill. This is the combined fault of doctors, drug companies through marketing and advertising, retailers, and probably even pharmacist. But it is also the fault of patients. It is each person’s own responsibility to take ownership of their own health. There has been a big push towards an empowerment model of health care, that is one where the patient is a partner in their own health, and is an active voice in the decision making process with respect to how they are going to prevent and treat their medical conditions. In order to make informed decisions, people need to have knowledge. Shows like Dr. Oz give the facade that people are making healthy lifestyle choices for themselves, but really they are being manipulated by someone who is often spewing misinformation under the guise of health promotion. What needs to happen is that people need to look into what is right for them, consult other sources, and not assume that everything they hear on TV is gospel. If something sounds too miraculous to be true, it likely is. Weight loss is still only possible with diet and/or exercise. You won’t get abs without sit-ups. This is why I will never have any. And Dr. Oz will only go away if everyone stops watching him.