Archive for the ‘Women’s health’ Category

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.

The Wonderfully Spun Wizardry of Dr. Oz

June 6, 2012
Image

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.

SUMMER IS HERE! TIME TO GET OUT THE BATHING SUITS:)

May 16, 2012

Source:sodahead.com

The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. The temperature is rising. Summer is officially here. Spirits are high. We wait all winter for this season. We look forward to time outdoors in the parks, in the mountains and at the beach. Perhaps the only downside is that summer = bathing suit season which for us women can cause more dread than running into an ex boyfriend while at the grocery store in a sweat suit with no makeup while he is with his gorgeous new girlfriend.

There really is no greater pleasure than the search for a new swimsuit, whether for the summer season or a mid-winter vacation. There are many ways to embark on this quest. I have tried them all with differing levels of success. There is the tried and true try and buy method. No woman looks better in a bathing suit than she does under the fluorescent lighting of a department store change room. Pasty white from the winter, unshaven legs, bathing suit tried on over top of her underwear and viewing herself reflected in the funhouse mirror that seems to make its way into every change room.

Source:whohidthedonuts.blogspot.com

Buying and trying on at home can mean more flattering lighting but can lead to the depressing realization that your age is not the only thing that has gone up in the last year. Then there is the catalog or internet order method. Buying a bathing suit you admire on a swimsuit model and then guessing your size, only to receive it in the mail 4-6 weeks later and SURPRISE it doesn’t look quite the same!! Does wonders for the self esteem. Magazines this time of year will tell you that there is a bathing suit for every body type. The problem is that the models in these magazines range from 5′ 8″ to 6 feet tall and 100 pounds to 125 pounds. Their definition of curvy does not exactly represent the average woman. Most of us looking at these articles aren’t encouraged. But not to fear. There are three times as many articles telling us how to get our bodies bikini ready in 6 weeks or less. Thank you crunches! Ugh.

If you hate swimsuit shopping or donning a swimsuit you aren’t alone. A new study has found that even imagining trying on a swimsuit can put women in a bad mood. In the Journal of Sex Roles in May, psychologist Marike Tiggeman and her colleagues ‘wrote four scenarios to test the impact of clothing on self-objectification: In one, women were asked to imagine themselves trying on a swimsuit in a dressing room. In another, they imagined wearing a swimsuit while walking down a beach. The other two scenarios had the same settings, but instead of a swimsuit, the women were asked to imagine wearing jeans and a sweater.’ 102 female undergraduate students filled out questionnaires regarding their mood and feelings of body and self-objectification after imagining these scenarios. As you could imagine, imagining wearing a swimsuit made women feel worse than wearing jeans. But wearing a swimsuit in a dressing room made women most likely to self-objectify, not wearing a swimsuit walking down the beach. This shows how much self-objectification is an internal process. A 2006 study by the department of psychology at the University of California published in Body Image found that 31% of women had avoided wearing a swimsuit in public.

When it comes to attire, there is nothing more revealing a woman will wear in public than the glorified underwear that is the bathing suit. It is really no wonder women feel self conscious in swimwear. Adding to this is the mounting pressure women feel to not only have, but also to look perfect in their beach wear. Bathing suits are no longer just for the water. Victoria’s Secret fashion shows and designers have made swimwear high fashion. Couture bathing suits are found poolside at the most posh resorts and the most exotic beaches. They are a billion dollar a year business. In every magazine we see gorgeous, airbrushed women with perfect bodies modelling tiny bikinis. Tabloids determine who has the best and worst bikini bodies and call out those celebrities who have let themselves go each summer, as well as those who have (gasp) unsightly cellulite. This sends the message to us lay people that image is of utmost importance.

There are many options for swimsuits, from the bikini:

Source:telegraph.co.uk

To the tankini:

Source:modeikon.se

To the birkini:

I myself have my eye on one that I first spotted at H&M in London:

Source:www.h&m.com

It was sold out everywhere there, which tells me that I’m not the only woman that is feeling a little more modest this summer season. Or perhaps a little less interested in getting bikini ready in 6 weeks or less. But realistically, on the beach no one is airbrushed. Every woman has perceived flaws, no matter how perfect she may look to others. The important thing women need to learn is to be happy with who we are and to not obsess over every thing we want to change.

Let me see that….

April 28, 2012

The other night I found myself frantically searching my underwear drawer for my lone pair of thong underwear. Why the emergency you ask? Well, I had thankfully double-checked my appearance from all angles before leaving the house and realized the bikini briefs I was wearing were not only causing some unsightly PLs (that’s panty lines for those of you not down with the lingo) but they were also cutting into my tush giving the appearance of a double bum. Now, I may not have buns of steel here, but I have been doing my Brazilian Butt Lift workout religiously and feel my butt is well on it’s way from flat to FAB as promised. So assuming I did not in fact sprout a second rear end, I needed to fix this asap. The only possible solutions I could think of were 1)Ditch the panties. This was not an option. I’m over 30. Also more frightening than the idea of going out with twin tushies was going out with camel toe. 2)Wear a thong. No more underwear cutting into butt as underwear will have no backside, only a strip riding up between my butt cheeks giving the sensation of a perpetual wedgie. Number 2 won. So there I was ripping my drawer apart.

Source:xpshou.com

After this episode I started thinking about underwear and the role it plays in women’s lives. Clearly underwear serves a practical function for women. It holds things up and holds things in, it acts to smooth things under clothing, it serves as a barrier between intimate parts and clothing. It can change or accentuate a woman’s shape. In many cases it can also change the way a woman feels, whether it makes her feel more comfortable, sexier, more youthful or more mature. I have underwear for different moods. I have my nice ‘going out underwear’ and my laze around the house ‘boy shorts’ underwear. I have my comfortable slightly more relaxed fit ‘pms bikini brief underwear’ and my older almost ready to throw out ‘period underwear’. I have my seamless underwear for under tight pants and dresses and even a couple of pairs of gigantic high-waisted granny panties which I have learned are actually great for tight dresses as they don’t leave unsightly lines and seams across the front of the dress. And I have that one pair of emergency thong underwear. Why am I so averse? I once worked a job at a restaurant which will not be named where the orange shorts of the uniform were so short that the only possible underwear which could be worn underneath without peeking out of the bottom was a thong. For two years I donned this get-up while in university for my pharmacist degree. I grew to despise the thong. When I finally quit I threw out the shorts AND all my offending underwear and relished in wearing panties that covered my entire bottom. I haven’t gone back.

NOT ME!! Source:flickriver.com

It is believed that women have been wearing some form of undergarment since 3000 BC. Throughout history there has been a lot of controversy surrounding women’s customs with respect to underwear. Often women of higher classes wore very elaborate and constricting undergarments in order to shape their bodies to a form considered appealing in their time. One of the more controversial pieces which is still in existence today is the corset. The first corset appeared in medieval times and has persevered throughout the rest of history. During the French Revolution, women revolted by adopting the un-corset instead. This was a prototype which lacked the rigid boning of the corset making it much more comfortable and less constricting. However by Victorian times the corset was back again. Many have said the corset oppressed women throughout history, and also was the cause of unnecessary health problems. It has even been said that the lacing of the corset is a metaphor for sexual intercourse. The second controversial piece of underwear is worn by most North American women every day. It is the bra. Originally called the brassiere, it originated in the early 1900s, banding the breasts down so women could more easily do athletic activities. In 1935 cup sizes were introduced. In the 1960s and 1970s many feminists pronounced bras repressive to women, and bra burning took place all over the US and Canada. Today, there is a bra for every woman, from lined to unlined, underwire, push-up, push WAY up, backless, strapless etc.

1880s corset Source:corsetsandcrinolines.com

While at this point of my life I have to admit that my own underwear drawer is pretty G-rated, not all my undergarments are purchased for practical purposes. As I said before, sometimes women buy underwear that makes them feel sexy. Other times, they purchase undergarments to look attractive to someone of the opposite sex. Usually in these cases, we call the articles in question ‘lingerie’ and charge a lot more money for them. Lingerie is the fancy stuff, made out of lace or silk or satin. Or if you’re really kinky and in a seedy area of town it might be make of vinyl or pleather or PVC. The question is, why are we buying this stuff? Certainly society and class does not dictate the undergarments we must wear the way that it once did. That is not to say we have nothing to influence our decisions. Almost every day I see ads of beautiful models in sexy lingerie, often beside gorgeous men who are looking at them longingly. In movies and on TV, when an actress undresses, you never see her wearing ratty cotton panties and an old mismatched bra. No, you always catch her on a good day when she’s got on a matching set and she just happened to (thank goodness) throw on her best garter belt. And their relationships always end in happily ever after with perfect men who adore them. Then there’s those Victoria’s Secret Supermodels. Need I say more?? Women are constantly bombarded with messages that tell them what they need to wear under their clothes to be attractive. Not to mention how we should look in these get-ups. It’s just another impossible standard for women to live up to.

This past Valentines day, armed with romantic thoughts and courage, I visited a local lingerie shop. The first thing I noticed is that all lingerie seems to be made with men in mind. When I asked the salesgirl if she had something with a “whole bottom” she looked at me with a confused look. Apparently most women do not go there with modesty in mind. The second thing I found was that they did not appear to have bras in my size. 34A. The only A cup they had was 32A. But the girl assured me my “sister size” was a 34B and this would fit ‘perfectly’. In fact what it did was squeeze may back so hard skin poured out on either side of the band and I did not nearly fill the cup. Hmm. Thirdly, every bra seemed to be filled with either gel or water and weighed about 10 pounds. I think my significant other would know something was awry if my breasts were suddenly 2 cup sizes larger, pushed up to my chin, and sounded like the ocean. No, this was not the place for me. I eventually found what I was looking for somewhere else, something that I felt comfortable and sexy in. Did he like it? I didn’t ask.

I think as women we worry too much about what other people think about how we look. We worry about our appearance at work. Will we be taken seriously? Do we look professional? We worry about how we look when we go out. Do we look sexy? Pretty? Cute? Awake? What impression will I give? The answers we give ourselves are heavily influenced by what the media and society tells us. If we want this to change, maybe we can start with our most intimate attire. Wear what makes YOU feel good whether it’s white cotton or red satin. And sometimes practical can even be sexy to some people. I’m going to invest in another practical thong this week, you never know when you’ll need to pull it out.

If that was my kid I’d…(Will I be a good Mom?)

April 25, 2012

Source: sheckys.com

Today while running on the treadmill I observed a boy of about 6 or 7 years old from our apartment building riding his scooter around the park right outside the window in front of me. There was a pair of ducks at the edge of the park that caught his attention, and he proceeded to stop and stare at them for some time. They did not move, so he started to circle them repeatedly. When they still did not move, he kicked his foot towards them. They remained still. At this point he picked up a rock from the ground and threw it towards the birds. As there was no response, the boy continued to torment the birds by alternating between circling and rock throwing for about 15 minutes. My rage steadily built as I thought about how scared the ducks must feel and wondered why they did not fly away. Finally I had enough, jumped off the treadmill, opened the door of the workout room and walked onto a small patio and yelled to the boy “Throw one more rock at those ducks and I’ll come over there and throw a rock at you!” He quickly rode away. I am expecting to hear about this tomorrow from one of his parents.

Thinking about my response afterwards, I realize I could have probably handled the situation better. I realize it is likely not appropriate for an adult woman to threaten physical harm to a child. In my defense, I did refrain from sticking out my tongue. But it did make me wonder, if at 31 years old this was how I felt the need to teach a child a lesson (I’ll show you how it feels to have someone bigger pick on you!) what kind of mother will I be? I am quick to judge others when I feel they are making mistakes when it comes to parenting. I find this to be true of many people, whether they are parents or not. When I see a child throwing a tantrum in a grocery store or running amok in the mall I am quick to throw a disapproving eye at the parents. If I see a child drinking a grande hot chocolate or eating a huge hunk of chocolate I tsk tsk at the mother who would allow their child to consume so much sugar. You didn’t breastfeed? Criminal. Is that baby food organic? Is that freshly squeezed orange juice? Do you have an RESP? I can tell you exactly what you should be doing in all of these situations. But what do I really know about raising a child? Nothing.

I am a pharmacist. I know very practical things about children. I know how many milligrams per kilogram of many medications a baby should receive.  I know what to do in case of dehydration. I know what to give for fever, constipation, upset stomach, colic etc. I have growth charts showing typical heights and weights for children at various ages. But I have no practical knowledge of babies whatsoever. I have never changed a diaper. I have held exactly two babies, and my foremost thought was “If I drop you, your head will break”. I do not have any clue how long a child should breastfeed for, or how often. I don’t understand what “pumping” means. I have seen a breast shield and I am still confused as to how it is functional. I don’t know when a child should be able to hold their head up, sit, crawl or walk, but I know I am terrified that my child will not do any of these things at the right time. I don’t know when a child should begin to talk, read or write, or what to do to encourage these things. I don’t know when they should be toilet trained. I don’t know how they should sleep in a crib so they don’t die of SIDS. I don’t know if SIDS exists anymore, my mom told me about it a long time ago and that is why I never babysat an infant. When asked how you know what to do when you have a baby, people always say “You just know”. I think this is crap. Animals “just know’ instinctively how to care for their young. This is because all they have to do is protect them from predators and the environment until they can survive on their own to be considered good parents. Humans have to do this as well as nurture them, mold them into good human beings who are well rounded, well-adjusted, happy, healthy and successful in order to be considered good parents. This is a big challenge. I am hyperventilating just thinking about it, and I am an educated adult woman. I don’t understand how women 10-15 years my junior can do it. Some argue that in the ‘old days’ women got married and bore children when they were children (13-15 years old). But they also died very young, so they didn’t have to live to see their failures. Child parents now have the advantage that their parents are often still alive to help with child-rearing, and if not, well, let’s not pretend their offspring are at any sort of advantage. Has anyone seen 16 and Pregnant?

Even if I can overcome all of my fears of becoming a mother, I wonder, when is the right time? What is the “maternal instinct? Is it something that every woman has? Do I have it? What about the biological clock? How loud does it tick? I have always seen my distant future with children. But there was one point that the sight of a baby would not even phase me. I would be at work and a woman would come in with her newborn baby, and everyone would Ooh and Aah. They would pass this creature around from colleague to colleague while it squirmed and squished it’s red wrinkled face together. When it reached me I would always politely decline the chance to hold the little imp, never understanding the draw. Similarly, I could never understand the appeal of the newborn pictures where every baby looks the exact same, red face, black hair, alien face. And why show off the sonogram? Nobody can see anything. But something has changed. Now when I see a pregnant woman I feel an overwhelming urge to rub her belly. And I suddenly want to hold babies. Every baby! And take them home. I see the appeal. I realize my baby making window is narrowing. But I still don’t feel urgency. I don’t know if years of working with women, hearing pregnancy stories of heartburn, hemorrhoids, gallstones, enemas, 60 hour labors, pain, and stitches in unimaginable places have tarnished my viewpoint.

So am I missing a mother gene? Is there something wrong with me that I am over 30 and not dying to bear a child yesterday? Or is there something wrong with a society that pushes the idea of maternal instincts and biological clocks on women and makes them feel like if they do not fulfill a mother role by a certain point then they are flawed? It seems like pressures continue to be mounted and it is difficult to prioritize in this day and age. Be educated, have a career, be independent are the modern goals. But also get married and have children. We want it all, but often it is hard to find time for it all meaning some things need to be placed on the backburner. Women are increasingly choosing to get their careers and lives in place before having children and so perhaps it is not that this goal has decreased in importance but only that it has slipped from the forefront of the priority list. I feel that as I check other goals off of my list, I get closer to feeling ready to make the big step. Hopefully by that point I will mature a little more as well and not be picking fights on the playground.

My iPhone Raped a Congolese Woman

April 17, 2012

Source:guardian.co.uk

On July 30, 2010 hundreds of armed Rwandan and Congolese rebels entered the town of Ruvungi claiming to be looking for food and shelter. Instead, they gang raped anywhere between 150 and 300 girls, women and young boys, depending on which estimates prove accurate. The victims ranged from babies 10 months old to elderly women. Many women were raped by multiple men, some reporting up to 6. They were violated in front of their families, in front of their children. The nightmare lasted four days.

 

“Imagine your 15-year-old daughter walking to the corner store to get a carton of milk. She has walked along this street nearly every day growing up. But this afternoon on the way home, a group of men pull her into the bushes. Each man takes a turn raping her, the last one with the barrel of his AK-47. Left bleeding and unable to walk, she takes shelter in the nearby forest. Why doesn’t she go home, you ask? She can’t. The rape is considered her fault. She is now disowned by her family. After surviving weeks on berries and sugar cane she is discovered by a man who thought he smelled a rotting corpse. But the stench is the result of a rape so brutal that the passageway between her vagina and anus broke down, becoming one gaping wound.”

-Robin Wright, actress and advocate for the Enough Project

 

The UN estimates that the number of women who have been raped in the Congo in the last 10 years is between 200 000 to 300 000. Dr. Denis Mukwege, director and founder of Panzi General Referral Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu province in the DRC says the number is likely much higher. He says “Simple everyday tasks like gathering water, fetching water, expose these women and children to a great danger”. His facility can do 10 surgeries a day, and has treated 24 000 women so far. They also have psychologists on hand to help treat the women. But resources are limited.

 

A sad story, but what does it have to do with you? Not a thing, unless you are a fan of technology, as I know I am. I love my I-phone. I rely on it to tell me the time, give me my daily schedule, get me places when I don’t know where I’m going, keep me in touch with people, wake me up, play my favorite itunes, tell me the weather, tell me what song is playing and otherwise run my life. I also use a computer every day (alas, I’m typing on one now!), watch TV more than occasionally, dabble in photography, and play a video game here and there. As a consumer of these products, I have blood on my hands. The money I spend on these products filters down to Eastern Congo and helps finance the country’s war. In this war, rebel groups and the national army fight bitterly to control the very profitable mines in the region. These mines produce the ores of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, all of which are crucial in powering the above consumer electronic products none of us can live without. Conflict in the Congo exists for many reasons, political, ethnic, racial, land disputes. But over time it seems the fighting has focused on mineral reserves, and the hundreds of millions of dollars to be made over their control. Control is often gained by murder and rape in order to intimidate and demonstrate power. This has led to millions of Congolese losing their lives, including many young boys being forced to fight on front lines, many unarmed (another blog post altogether-see fallingwhistles.com). While there are legitimate mines, many are illegally and forcefully controlled, using young boys as slave labor.

 

So why are we just standing around and letting this happen? Well for one, people rely on their technology, so there will always be a demand for the products which use these minerals, which means a supply will be required. Secondly, minerals from the Congo are cheap, about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of those from other countries which produce them. And, according to electronics companies it is nearly impossible to trace the origin of the minerals their manufacturers use. But there is hope. In July 2010 The US Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act was signed into law which requires American companies to ensure the raw materials they use to make their product not be tied into the conflict in the Congo by auditing the mineral supply chains. A great idea, but many feel there are too many loopholes for companies, and many popular companies that produce electronics are not American. Also, at this point there is no good system in place to properly distinguish between conflict and non-conflict minerals. One man, Delly Mawazo Sesete from DRC has petitioned Apple to make all of their iPhones conflict free by christmas 2013. He has launched his campaign on change.org. The problem? He wants Apple to purchase minerals from the Congo, just not from militia mines. However, at this time, it is very difficult to determine which mines are militia mines and which are not, and the only way a company can be sure they are not buying conflict minerals is to not purchase any minerals from the Congo at all. Good idea, you say. However, by doing this, tens of thousands of miners working legitimate mines will be without jobs and will have no way of feeding their families. Clearly this is something that needs to be worked on so that we can do the best thing for the Congolese people.

 

So should we all throw out our iPhones? Toss our iPads? Let’s not be rash here. But maybe we can use our technology to spread the word, sign a virtual petition, or share this information with our friends on Facebook. There is no better force for change than education and knowledge. We can speak to the rest of the world for the women in the Congo whose voices have been silenced by fear.

Have You Met Your Mark?

April 14, 2012

Source: healthkicker.com

Today I am having a fat day. I am bloated and puffy. I have PMS. I have a pimple. I am overly reactive and emotional. When I looked in the mirror this morning, I was all stomach and thighs, and my arms jiggled like Jell-O in my sleeveless shirt. I tried to pull on my most form-fitting jeans, but it felt like the waistband was pushing against my belly causing flesh to form a roll over the top so I opted instead for shorts with an elastic waist. I went for a walk in the sun to clear my head. I have had these thoughts before. At one time I would have let them consume me, setting the tone for the entire day and resulting in self-destructive rituals. Today I have finally found the will to put them in perspective and push them out of my mind. I am no longer a prisoner to my eating disorder.

Many women I know have “fat days”. Days when body image is lower than usual, and you feel like you are a giant in a sea of pixies. Such feelings can be brought on by any number of things; Emotional issues, hormones, guilt from overindulging in food, etc. Whatever the case, these thoughts can significantly affect a woman’s mindset and negatively affect her day to day life. Some women avoid social interactions, romantic situations, or even work when they feel they are less than attractive. The sad part is, in most cases the problem is purely psychological. A woman may feel extremely different physically from one day to the next when in fact she has not changed at all. The only difference is in her perspective. If there are any physical changes, they are usually slight, and have to do with things like salt or water retention. A person can gain or lose a few pounds in 24 hours simply due to water gain or loss.

Many women I know have certain articles of clothing that they consider markers of fat gain and loss. A common example most people are familiar with is their “skinny jeans”. If a woman can fit into her skinny jeans then she is at her own  ideal weight. If she cannot, she has a goal: to lose enough weight to fit into the skinny jeans. Conversely, a lot of women have “fat pants”. When a woman feels she has gained weight, has eaten too much, or in general when self-confidence is low, the fat pants come out.

Right now, I don’t know my exact weight. At one point in my life, I could have told you my weight to the decimal place on any given day. When I was a teenager and I first recovered from my eating disorder, I stopped weighing myself entirely. I knew that if I started to focus on numbers on a scale again, it would be difficult for me to stop. At a vintage sale one day in university I bought several items of clothing. I tried nothing on because there were no change rooms. One of the pieces was a pair of shorts, which I learned when I got home was a child’s or youth size. For some unknown reason I did not get rid of these. When I had a relapse of my eating disorder a few years ago and lost a significant amount of weight, I had no scale and therefore did not start weighing myself right away. This was one reason I was able to remain in denial about my eating disorder. But at one point, I found and put on this pair of children’s shorts and discovered that they almost fit me. From that point on, these shorts became my marker for weight loss. Eventually they fit me perfectly, and at one point even became too loose. No one besides myself has ever seen these shorts on me. I have never worn them outside of my bedroom. It wasn’t until I went to counseling that I found out this was a common practice for women with eating disorders, to use clothing items as markers. I guess this is an extreme and more destructive form of the ‘skinny jeans’ idea. I have long since parted with the shorts and the desire to be the size of a child. But I still find myself averse to clothing that is of a rigid material or too tight in the waist as I know I will constantly be gauging whether it was tighter or looser the last time I wore it. I work on myself every day, but I know it will probably be a lifelong battle. My plan of assault is to try to be open and honest and ask for help if I need it. I have found it is a lot easier to stay healthy when you can admit you aren’t perfect. I am having a fat day. But I feel better already, and tomorrow will be better still.

I fit into children's shorts at this point in my life. I thought I was fat.

TOO BUSY TO EAT?-GNAW ON THIS!!

April 10, 2012

Source:alaskastock.com

Today, I jumped on the bandwagon and tried a Clif bar. For those of you who have never heard of these, where have you been?? These nutrition bars seem to have gathered some type of cult following. I felt I should know what I have been missing. Not much, as it turns out. I sampled the Banana Nut Bread flavor. It tasted like a glorified trail mix bar and made me wish I had spent my $3 (yup, that’s right, $3) on some real banana bread. Go into any grocery store, pharmacy or health food store and there is an entire section devoted to nutrition and energy products. There are protein bars, Atkins bars, Zone diet bars, Slim Fast bars, Recovery bars etc. Some are designed to replace entire meals, while some are designed to be snacks, or to provide a boost pre-workout or help replenish energy post-workout. The calorie content and distribution (carbohydrate/fat/protein) also ranges depending on the type of bar and its intended use.

These products are not new to the market, but the number of choices available and the sales of these products are increasing. According to Symphony IRI, there was a 16.3% increase in dollar sales for nutritional bars compared to the last year for the year ending January 22 2012. (Source: Candy Industry Retail Confectioner). It seems people everywhere are crunching away on these bars. There are several probable reasons for this. People today tend to be more concerned about their health. When looking for snacks, people are going to be more inclined to purchase something they feel is ‘healthy’ as opposed to ‘junk food’. Because of the marketing of these products and product placement in health food stores and health isles, these bars are assumed to be healthy by most people. Many of them are marketed for use as meal replacements, which can satisfy a dual purpose. For those people looking to lose weight, they may appear to offer a simple approach by offering a pre-packaged, low-calorie substitute for meals requiring little to no pre-planning.  I think we all remember the Slim Fast shake diets. “A shake for breakfast, another for lunch, and a sensible dinner”.  In addition, they are great for people on the go. They are portable, can be eaten anywhere, and are relatively mess-free.

So, what’s the problem? I recall a comedy act I once watched on TV where the comic joked that he had been trying to lose weight by eating meal replacement bars, but had given up and switched to Mars candy bars instead when he realized they were lower in calories and tasted much better. Of course the punchline was the absurdity that anyone would deem it appropriate to replace a meal with a chocolate bar. My question is, is a Caramel Nut Chocolate flavor Supreme Protein bar sweetened with maltitol, polydextrose and sucralose really that much better for you? Furthermore, are we really so busy nowadays that we can’t sit at a table, use a fork and a knife, and eat a proper lunch? It seems that we live in such a ‘go go go’ world that no one can take even a minute out of their day to enjoy something as simple as say, a bowl of soup. We can’t be bothered to call each other, we have to text. We can’t watch a show when it’s on, we PVR it and watch it later because god forbid we have to waste a spare moment watching a commercial. There are drive through coffee shops, banks and even pharmacies because we can’t even get out of our cars to run a simple errand. And no way can we interrupt our day for a meal. Even fast food isn’t fast enough anymore. We will eat a tasteless nutrition bar, or drink a smoothie for energy thank you very much. I decided to explore the nutrition content of a few of the most popular nutrition bars, plus this month’s Jugo Juice smoothie of the month, which I noticed today as I got off the subway is “Chocolate Peanut Butter”. This is posted directly beside their sign with the slogan “Healthy Fruit Smoothies” . Cliff Bar: Average 240 calories, 3.5g fat (0g saturated fat), 44g carbohydrate, 5g fibre, 9g protein. Jugo Juice Peanut Butter and Chocolate Smoothie (24oz): 273 calories, 8.5g fat (1.7g saturated fat) 44.5 g carbohydrate, 2.8 g fibre. Zone Perfect bar: 190 calories, 8g fat (2g saturated fat), 20g carbohydrate, 3g fibre, 10g protein. Nutribar High Fibre: 230 calories, 6g fat (3g saturated fat) 34g carbohydrates, 5g fibre, 12g protein. Most dietary guidelines recommend less than 30% of calories come from fat, and less than 10% of calories from saturated fat, making the Zone Perfect bar (38% fat) and Nutribar (11.5% saturated fat) less than ideal choices. The Cliff bar is very high carbohydrate at 65%, so beware of this one if you are carb-phobic! Surprisingly, the Jugo Juice smoothie is relatively well-balanced and probably quite delicious. As for that mars bar: 260 calories, 9.9g fat (34%), 4.8g saturated fat (17%), 40g carbohydrate (62%) and 2.5g protein (3.8%). So really, it doesn’t look a lot worse than a lot of the ‘healthy’ energy bars. And boy is it delicious!

I’m not suggesting eating a candy bar instead lunch. But I don’t think that skipping meals in lieu of energy bars on a regular basis is a practice backed up by a lot of science either. Here’s a novel thought: instead of a meal replacement bar how about a real meal? Sit down, take a break, and eat. Remember the 4 food groups? I don’t even know where one would place brown rice syrup, soy rice crisps, barley malt extract, or invert evaporated cane juice on that meal. These are just some of the ingredients in common energy bars. I think it’s time to get back to basics. Healthy doesn’t have to mean it has to be bought from a health food store, have a health claim on the label, be tasteless or make you feel like you are repenting for all past dietary sins. In fact, it has been proven time and time again that depriving yourself can be diet sabotage as it often leads to overeating later. If you are watching your waistline, there are many healthy options that are well balanced, taste delicious, and will make you feel satisfied. And if you still insist you’re too busy to sit down and eat, guess what? The world caters to you. Great ideas for on-the-run meals: Sandwiches. They come in many forms. On rye, pumpernickel, sub buns, white and whole wheat, as wraps and pitas, as donairs, on bagels or biscuits, even on gluten-free bread. You can eat them with one hand and still have a free hand for texting.

Easter spells EAT!!

April 9, 2012

Source:1funny.com

 

This year I thought a bit about what Easter means to me. I’m not a religious person. I wouldn’t quite say I’m an atheist, because I think I believe in ghosts and spirits and if there is an afterlife then maybe there is a big cheese there, some head honcho, a ‘divine ruler’ if you will. But I have had enough dalliances into the Christian faith in my lifetime to seriously doubt that the answer is there. The only grandparents I have ever met are of the Mennonite faith and went to church every Sunday. My Oma does not question the existence of god, only the likelihood of seeing her family members in his kingdom of heaven in the afterlife. So far I have no chance, as I have never been baptized. (In the Mennonite faith you are baptized as an adult). It looked promising for me when I was quite young. There were a few Sunday school lessons as a young girl until my parents finally had their fill of having to go to sermons themselves so I could attend. My sister and I owned a children’s book of bible stories which I enjoyed reading. One summer my parents even sent us to a camp with a religious component. We came back thoroughly brainwashed and convinced they were going to hell for all of their sins: getting divorced, drinking alcohol, using the lord’s name in vain, swearing. They were surely going to burn. It didn’t take long to reverse the damage, we quickly realized that being a devout Christian wasn’t a lot of fun. Anyway, I have a basic understanding of the Easter story, and what it means to those of the Christian faith.

What Easter means to most people I know: FOOD. For as long as I can remember, Easter has been another reason to gather, celebrate, and eat. Much like every other holiday, it is an excuse to overindulge. Food brings people together like nothing else, and many people have holiday food traditions that have existed since they were children. For our family, the Easter meal is ham. When I think of ham, I think of Easter. But family gatherings have not always been a positive experience for me. When I was suffering with an eating disorder, the idea of family dinners terrified me. I knew there would be expectations placed on me to eat all of the delicious food, the bread, the meat and potatoes and the fat-laden gravy. I could just visualize the fat depositing right onto my stomach and my ass. I would try all of the anorexic tricks. Eating slowly, filling up my plate with vegetables, cutting things up in small pieces. But when it comes to a Mennonite feast, you can’t get out of there without a full stomach. Which meant of course that I had to throw up afterwards, which always made me feel guilty and worn out. Even in recovery, family dinners can be difficult. I still feel at times that people are watching what I eat, making sure it’s enough, but not too much. Sometimes when I go to the bathroom after a meal, I feel like I have to prove I’m not purging. Sometimes I just try to pee at record speed, even skipping washing my hands. I think “No one will think I could have thrown up that quickly!!” Other times I will try to have a conversation with someone outside of the bathroom, or sing or talk to myself loudly. No one can vomit and talk at the same time!! I have gotten over most of this now, and can just enjoy a holiday meal for the good food, and the good company. But what I’ve discovered is that for a lot of women holiday feasts can bring about feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame. People tend to eat and drink too much, abandon their diets, regain lost weight. Not to mention the stress women can be under to prepare these elaborate meals. With family dynamics shifting away from the ‘nuclear family’ idea of 2 parents, 2 ½ kids and a dog, people may have multiple meals to attend in a day or over several days. I have a friend who went to 4 dinners this weekend. She claims to have gained 10 pounds. While I doubt this is true, this 4-day gorge-fest has certainly affected her self-esteem, if not her waistline.

It’s interesting to me that in the Christian faith, Easter is a celebration of God sacrificing his only Son to pay the penalty for our sins so that we can have eternal life. This sacrifice is celebrated with gluttony. (I will note that for some Christian faiths this gluttony follows a period of fasting, I just don’t know anyone who actually does this). In the Jewish faith, the Passover feast which celebrates the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt, consists of a much less appealing spread. Each component is representative of some part of the story about the Jewish people fleeing Egypt. Matzah, or unleavened bread to represent the haste with which the Jewish people fled, maror, bitter herbs to symbolize the bitterness of slavery, karpas, a vegetable like parsley or celery representing hope and redemption served in a bowl of salted water representing tears shed etc. For the entire 8 days of Passover, nothing with yeast is allowed, and there are several other food restrictions. It is a time of respectful sacrifice. Again, I’m not a religious person, but it sounds like by rearranging their philosophy a bit, Christians could seriously decrease their caloric intake.

For the rest of us agnostics, we just need to remember that it’s only a meal. Food is to be consumed, it shouldn’t consume us. If you eat more than you meant to, don’t beat yourself up over it. Here are some rules that might help you: If you ate an entire family-sized bag of Mini Eggs over the long weekend, don’t sweat it!! Nothing with the word mini in the name can affect your waistline significantly. Remember, red wine is good for your heart, and I read a study once that showed women who drink a glass of red wine daily are on average thinner than those that don’t. I’m sure the same is true for multiple glasses of red wine, white wine, tequila, gin, beer etc. One serving of vegetables cancels out one serving of carbohydrate. The same goes for a glass of diet soft drink. If you cook with olive oil you don’t count that as fat, because it’s “good fat”. Same goes for any fat in olives or avocados. Finally, anything you eat while cooking doesn’t count because you are doing manual labor and you are burning off all of those calories. If you feel better, it is probably a good time to mention that all Easter chocolate is now 50% off. Please, someone buy up all the Mini Eggs!!! They are my Achilles heel!

Thanks, Guilt and Pity (But no thanks for guilt or pity)

March 31, 2012

My Oma-Would you want to make this woman sad??

Working in a hospital I am surrounded by the ailing and afflicted. I can’t say I am desensitized to suffering. I feel for many of those who are battling painful, frightening, and possibly life-threatening  conditions, as well as those who love and care for them. However when everyone you come into contact with has some type of malady, you do begin to reserve your sympathy and emotional energy for those who are truly in agony in order to preserve your sanity. Every so often I meet a person who touches me and I can’t help being drawn into their pain. My father once told me never to feel sorry for other people. I understand what he was trying to tell me. He isn’t a heartless person without concern for his fellow man. But rationally speaking,  feeling sad for others can accomplish nothing but just that: making you sad. Feeling pity for another person is passive rather than active, and actually can harm someone more than it can help them by further validating and solidifying their role as a victim when in fact most people don’t want to be viewed in this light at all. However it tends to be human nature for our hearts to go out to the weak and the suffering.

Today as I was sitting and eating lunch in the foyer of the hospital, a lovely elderly lady started to chat me up about nothing in particular. As we continued to talk she told me that her husband had just had a stroke and was getting out of the hospital that day at 4pm. He would require a home care nurse since he couldn’t walk properly yet, he had difficulty swallowing, his speech was garbled and it was unclear how much function he would regain. She teared up a little as she spoke, and I must admit my eyes got a little watery too. She wasn’t asking for sympathy, it was evident she felt alone and was reaching for someone, anyone to talk to. It was right about then that a young man about my age in a wheelchair approached a ramp leading up to the café. He was attempting to maneuver himself at the correct angle to enable him to go up the ramp and was having quite a bit of difficulty. He finally realized this feat, only to have to get up the actual ramp, which seemed to give him some trouble. I saw that there were many people watching him, and it seemed as if quite a few looked poised to jump in and push him. No one did though, and I believe it was because he looked so determined wheeling himself up that nobody seemed to know if this was the right thing to do. I assume they were afraid of embarrassing him or insulting him by insinuating he was unable to make it himself. The old woman and I watched him fight his way up the ramp silently, and then I felt her touch my hand with hers. “We are very fortunate” she said. I looked at her, this woman who felt blessed though her husband would very likely never say her name again, and I felt humbled. No, this woman didn’t need my pity. In many ways, she may be better off than I. I’ll explain.

On my way home, I started thinking about all of the little things I take for granted on a daily basis. The fact I have friends and family that love me, I live in a great city, I have a secure job and a roof over my head. I take for granted my health, and that I have enough food to eat. It may sound repetitive to talk about how deplorable it is that in North America portion sizes have increased 2-5 times since 1970 while obesity rates are epidemic, and at the same time there are people in the world still dying of starvation. But regardless of how often you hear it, it is still wrong. I am a second generation Canadian. My grandparents lived in Europe during WWII when people often didn’t have enough food to fill their stomachs. When they moved to Canada, they were extremely poor and had to work harder than I or my children will ever understand to make a life for themselves. To people like them and countless others who came to this country for a better life, being able to feed your family well was no small blessing, a validation for all of their tribulations. There was a time in history when being plump was a sign of high social standing. The poor could not afford good food and so were thin and wasted looking. It is alarming how things have changed such that now “thin is in”. In fact, with fast food and pre-packaged food usually costing less than fresh fruit and vegetables and lean meats, those in lower socioeconomic classes are more likely to be overweight than the middle and upper class in today’s day and age.

When you ask people what’s really important in life, one of the most popular answers is being healthy. Another is having enough food to eat. However, at any given time it is estimated that 45% of women are dieting.  At some point in their lives, most women will actively deprive themselves of food. While not all diets are harmful, and in some cases losing weight will improve health, many women engage in practices that are potentially dangerous under the guise of health, such as fad diets, detoxes, fasts or juice and soup diets. In the poorest nations such as India and northern Africa, the average caloric intake is between 1400-1900 calories daily for women. The daily requirement for most women is about 2000, with about 900 being the amount needed for human functioning. Many diets today recommend caloric intakes of 1500 calories daily or less making their devotees at least if not more malnourished than many “starving” women in 3rd world countries. When you think of the focus we put on our bodies in this light, it seems so shallow, doesn’t it?

I may sound judgemental but that is not my intention. I do not mean to be the pot that calls the kettle black. As a woman who has battled an eating disorder since a teenager I am no stranger to body image issues or depriving myself of food. I have likely binged and purged enough food to feed a small starving village. When I think about how important I once thought that being thin was or how happy I thought that losing 5 more pounds would make me it seems so irrational now. I know that an eating disorder is a disease and I have the insight now to understand that it isn’t really about food or how you look, but I still carry around a lot of guilt about the damage I did to my body and what I took for granted during the time I was abusing myself. One image that stays in my mind is the look of concern and pain on my Oma’s face whenever I would go over to her place for dinner and I would avoid eating the things she would prepare for me and try to shovel onto my plate in true mennonite fashion. For her, cooking for her family is showing love. I’m not sure how much she knows about my eating disorder, or even if she could fathom such a thing, but I know she realized I was sick by how frightened and sad she looked. Even now, every time I go there she is so concerned about what I can and can’t eat, and if I’m OK. I was relieved when finally the last time I saw her she deemed me “good and healthy”. Someone like her could never understand why a person would deprive themselves of food on purpose. She has seen what real hunger looks like. Her idea of a light meal is Rollkuchen (fried bread made of flour and whipping cream). Food nourishes your body and keeps you alive. It is vital to survival. It also can be an excuse to bring family together. My Oma grew up in a different time, but as I was reminded today, it seems we could all learn a thing or two from our elders.