Sunday, August 30, 2015

#4 - coffee: the good, the bad and the ugly

So the 4th thing to try in 2015 is "reduce caffeine intake" (see list of 20 things to try if you want some background on this).

First off, I can only assume what this recommendation is meaning to say is: reduce the amount of coffee you drink. Why? Because most of us drink way too much coffee, maybe not as many as 20 cups per day like some of us (read: me) but too much that it is causing a negative effect on the body.
Source: some scientific journal I forget the name of

I was dubious too at first, how could coffee be negative, it is so damn delicious!? But then of course I am the girl who used to drink 20 cups of coffee a day without even knowing it. Yes, that is a true story. And yes I did sleep, the problem for me was it kept me in a chronic state of dehydration, as apparently you lose more water than you retain with coffee (so that's what a diuretic means?!) and as you saw in a previous post, water is kind of important and shit. So, although it is true your body will pull water from anything in order to hydrate itself, that only holds true if you drink one cup of coffee a day, not 20. Because anything over 1 just starts making you lose more water than you are taking in, so you have to double your water source for every cup of coffee you consume over 1 cup...

Yes, I have picked coffee over people before & I would do it again!
So that's the bad. For me, my coffee consumption started effecting my running negatively, in that I could not stay hydrated and it no doubt contributed to poor iron absorption in my body resulting in me having an iron deficiency. Now, I know what you are thinking, coffee is bad! Get rid of it!!

But before we jump on that crazy train of bullshit ideas, let's be reasonable. First, I would suggest that maybe 20 cups of coffee a day is not ideal and maybe we want to cut that down to a more reasonable amount for the body. What is a reasonable amount? Well that's where we are all a little different. Some of us can't even drink one coffee without it interfering with their sleep and then some of us can drink 20...
Andrea's previous diet (not recommended by anyone sane)

All the studies done on the health effects due to coffee consumption suggest no more than 6 shots of espresso or 3 cups of coffee (FYI: more caffeine in drip coffee than espresso). This moderate consumption of coffee is linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, some cancers. Of course you want to be drinking this coffee black, not with all those Starbucks sugar additives. As that kind of negates any positive effect coffee may have.

So there is the good. Moderate coffee consumption may improve your health.
True story

The ugly...well that's the withdraw you go through when you quit coffee after drinking 20 cups of it a day for an extended period of time (read: decades). Now of course I didn't quit all at once, that would have been insane but I did cut down over a period of 2 weeks to nothing. And for the 2 weeks after I quit I was depressed (and like real depressed!). And then it cleared up after the 2 week mark. And that is what can happen when one is addicted to a substance, seemingly benign as coffee...The DSM-5 (the manual they use to classify all sorts of mental illnesses) does now have caffeine dependency as one of its potential conditions. 

So there you have it, coffee, another example of me going overboard with something I love.

Coffee is just better
So what happened with me and coffee? Well, after I gave it up, I went caffeine free for several months after. And when I did reintroduce it I never drink more than 3 cups a day. Some days I don't even drink coffee. And whenever I am training for a race, I give it up entirely, if only to ensure my body stays as hydrated as possible during a period of time where it tends to lose a lot of liquid (what can I say, I sweat a lot when I run!).

So it's been about 2 years since I made that change. And it is working well for me. But that is mostly because I will do anything if it will keep me running longer, stronger and healthier. However, coffee will never leave my life because my non-date coffee dates are the only thing driving my love life at the moment!

The longest relationship I have had with anything or anyone has been coffee!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

#3 - eat more vegetables and other fun stuff I have planned for my vacation

So I know we are all excited about the post this week, #3 in a series of 20 things to try for 2015!!

This week it's: Eat more vegetables (ideally 7 to 12 servings)
Evidence that kale is awesome.

Well shit, talk about aiming for the stars here! I get that the majority of us (and when I say us I am not including myself) are horribly deprived of the essential nutrients we need for our bodies to function optimally and we need to keep our health suggestions accessible to the lowest common denominator because...actually no this is bullshit.

Just because the world is allegedly filled with these degenerate humans that can't eat well or think for themselves or balance a cheque book is not a reason for us to dumb down our health recommendations! Personally I do not think that the world is inherently full of degenerates, sure there are some and perhaps they are really annoying that they cloud our perception of what the majority of humans are actually like; regardless this is still not a reason to sink to their level.

So here we go...why do you need to eat more vegetables anyways? Well because eating a diet that is largely plant based is one way to get those micronutrients (Vit C, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium etc.,) we need.  I would also suggest you add fruit into this recommendation, especially if you are active, like say a runner, who seems to thrive on a high carb diet...

Apparently a substantial amount of people do not get enough vitamin C and this is due to people not eating enough fruits and vegetables. If you look up the recommended daily amount (RDA) of Vitamin C, you will notice that for adult men and women the daily amount ranges from 75/90mg for wo/men to 120mg for breast feeding moms. First off, this RDA is based on the amount of Vitamin C one needs in their body to not develop scurvy.

So, you may want to make your daily dose higher than the RDA, after all, I think we could aim a bit higher than being the human who doesn't have scurvy, don't you?

Hey did you know that Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron in the body?! Iron is one of those helpful minerals that produces red blood cells (RBC) in the body. As a human, it's kind of a big deal seeing as the RBC are kind of essential to binding oxygen, one of those pesky things we need to breathe and such.

So yeah, iron is another fun mineral we need and that we can get by eating more plant based foods. But this is not a post about the benefits of a plant based diet (although it kind of is). This is a post about how we need to eat more vegetables. And when I say "we" I'm not referring to myself. Why not? Well that is because I get at least 15 servings of fruit and vegetables a day and it is usually more closer to 20 servings.

Now I know what you are going to say "but that is over the ideal serving recommendation? Isn't that bad?!"

Nowhere in the history of the world has someone ever had a complication from eating too many vegetables other than living much longer than they would like to. It is absolutely ridiculous that there is even an upper limit to this recommendation! And that the word ideally is thrown in because after all, we will count your french fries from McDonald's as a serving of vegetables. Fucking bullshit. Everyone should lose points for eating at McDonald's or any fast food restaurant for that matter!

So when you go to eat your vegetables, aim for the ones that aren't starchy (i.e., not high on the glycemic index, causes spikes in blood sugar - not a good thing #futureblogpost) - so that would mean don't include potatoes or cooked carrots (apparently cooking carrots makes them sweeter, which you would know intuitively if you have ever eaten a raw carrot and a cooked carrot).  Yes, when we throw in how we prepare our food this effects the composition of the food - for example you reduce the amount of vitamin c you get when you cook peppers versus eating them raw...

Doesn't this feel complicated? You know what isn't complicated? Kale.

Kale is at the top of the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). What is the ANDI? Well other than a really cool way to spell my nickname, it is "a scoring system that rates foods on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content. ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities." (thank you WholeFoods Markets for the definition).

And guess what Kale is rated at?! That's right, 1000. Kale is fucking awesome. Obviously don't eat it if you have some health condition that prevents you from doing so, but for the rest of you! You should be eating kale.

Of course you don't have to listen to me, after all, I eat kale everyday, run half marathons like they are warm ups and am smoking hot. I'm not claiming causation, I'm just saying is all.

For a more evidence based endorsement of Kale read what the nutritionists have to say.

So what do I have planned for my vacation? I'm certain it has something to do with kale.

Hanging out with my cute kale plant :)

Now if only someone would blog about the top 5 places to get Kale in Victoria...maybe @TheCesspit knows someone?!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Thing to blog #2: eat out less

I really would like to avoid another international incident like last week, so we are sticking with the original plan here: The second thing we all should be trying to do in 2015.*

*For those of you that have no idea what I'm talking about, here is a link to the backgrounder, once you have caught up this will make a lot more sense.

Again, as someone who makes about 75% of her food out of her kitchen, and the other 25% from such establishments that feature organic local kale on the menu, clearly this thing to try is not directed at my kind of human.
Yummy kale selfie!

I feel like this is actually kind of a vague and pointless thing to try and if I was creating this list I would make #2, eat less fast food. Personally I would rather it say "stop considering fast food real food" but I know you got to meet people half way.

So for my #2 eat less fast food, I would also have this footnote: I'm just being nice right here, really your goal should be to eat no fast food. But if you are one of those people that insist on ingesting toxins, may I recommend that you substitute fast food with smoking. Smoking will give you the same high and it will suppress your appetite making you lose weight. I mean all that matters is what you look like on the outside, and being thinner and unhealthy is way better than being obese and unhealthy. And yes this is fucking sarcasm! I'm not seriously suggesting you take up smoking instead of fast food. Ugh. Just stop eating crap already!!

I think it has become apparent why I don't make top 20 lists of anything for mass publication. I think there is a rule of thumb about footnotes not taking up more space than the entire list...thankfully my blog does not follow such stringent rules. And maybe I don't like all these rules because apparently I'm some sort of free spirit who at any moment could spontaneously decide to move to India and teach yoga...

Yeah, someone seriously thought that, and it bothered me. Clearly this person has never read my blog because then they would know that I'm way too self-involved to do any of that...

Anyways, now that you have sat through that very random tangent, I will reward you by directing you to some of my more famous blog posts on what happens when I decide to eat out and this may help you to eat out less or eat out less with me or never go into the service industry. Who knows what the future will bring!

#1 - Hank's Untraditional BBQ - what happens when a non-vegan vegan eats meat, and gives you a good idea of what dating me is like. And yes when you are finished reading it you will want to eat BBQ and you will have a good idea of why I'm single (this is my #3 most popular blog post)

#2 - The Melting Pot - a group of Canadians hanging out in New Orleans where they decide to try a new type of restaurant and pretty much everyone wishes they didn't... (this post is from the archives - 2009!)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Drink more water! JUST DO IT!

Although I received much praise for my blog post last week, apparently not everyone was thrilled that I skipped my previously planned "drink more water" post. Here is an email I received from Traci Kneulpost of Kenai, Alaska.

Alaskan Guided Bear Hunting Tours! Because you can't kill humans!
Dear Andrea,
Howdy from sunny Alaska! I have to say me and the gals are deeply disappointed in you girl!! We've been following you since the beginning and we was so excited last week to read your post on water and how we need to drink more of it you can imagine our utter dismay to find that you broke your promise and instead wrote about the painfully hard process you Canadians have to go through to own firearms. Unimaginable!! Naturally, we felt really depressed after reading in graphic detail this hardship being endured from our southern neighbors. And we gals don't like getting depressed! We usually look forward to your blog because it is so hilarious but last week it disappointed us greatly! Some of us didn't even want to read you ever again!! It's like if we wanted to hear about Canadians severely restricted rights and freedoms we would move there, ya know? Anyways, after we read your miserable post and some of the gals were trash talking you pretty bad, I rounded up us all and we went out and shot some guns and now we are all feeling a bit better. Better enough to give you a second chance to redeem yourself. So I'm writing you this email. Because me and the gals have an important question about water that needs answering. And if you answer it to our liking, we may keep reading your sorry Canadian ass!

The girls want to know what water filtration device do you recommend that is both economical and a good device for beating your husband with? 

Hahaha!! We all agree with ya, water is important but so is keeping the right tools around to keep your misbehaving husband in line! Might as well kill two birds with one stone!! Not literally of course! ;-)

Traci & the gals


Here was my response...

I have three things to say:

Jesus fucking Christ Traci!! You do know that whatever you put out into the Internet doesn't disappear right?! Fuck! If you or your gals are going to kill someones husband (please don't do this OR beat them!! In fact please don't beat or kill anyone!!) at least have the common sense not to write about your plans on the fucking Internet! And please don't send these plans of yours to me!! The last thing I need is to be is associated with a gaggle of murderous wives from Kenai Alaska! Which BTW, sounds like the worst idea for a reality show ever and no doubt given the world we live in is probably already filming its 5th season.

Thank you to you and your gals for your longstanding readership and loyalty to my blog writing. I'm truly sorry to hear that you all weren't happy with last week's post. It is a tragedy of epic proportions that I cannot access firearms like you ladies and when I wrote said post I was neglectful to think of the effect this would have on my readers who are fortunate to have easy access to firearms. Apologies for not thinking of the hardship you had to endure to read about others not as fortunate as yourself. I truly hope this blog post will be the written therapeutic equivalent of firing a gun at a pack of squirrels.

Drinking more water is generally a good idea for people like me who are active and sweat more than is reasonably acceptable for a woman of good moral standing to do. Clearly I am being punished for some past life transgression (I was probably a head of state who restricted firearms access to the general public!). Also, you may want to drink more water if your beverage of choice is either alcohol, coffee or some sugary beverage like soda or juice with added sugar (WTF?! who does that!!?? You don't need to add sugar to fruit! IT ALREADY HAS SUGAR!!!).

The important thing here is to stay hydrated. Your body needs adequate hydration in order to function well, as water is the primary component of many of your bodily fluids, such as blood, sweat and tears! There is nothing better than drinking a tall glass of water after spending the last 2 hours crying and drying up because you just finished a blog post on how awful it is to live in Canada with all its restrictions on firearms!

Actually there is something better than water. That is we can drink good water! True, in Canada we can technically drink the water in our taps (yay!) as it typically meets the minimum levels of acceptable amounts of toxins. And when it doesn't meet those levels we have a pretty good system at letting people know when the water isn't safe. And we are pretty good at ensuring that everyone has access to safe drinking water because you know that is a universal human right, given our bodies need it in order to survive...wait a minute...never mind...obviously there are some exceptions to this rule.

 In order to get out debris, pollutants and fecal matter from the drinking supply, our drinking water is treated with harmless amounts of chemicals such as chlorine, making it safe for us to drink! And such water treatment process takes out a bunch of good stuff like minerals our body likes, such as sodium and potassium... and leaves all the other good stuff in like hormones (e.g., from birth control) and antidepressants  such as Prozac, which apparently are quite prevalent in such places as the UK, surely not here in lovely Canada where no one is on antidepressants...wait a minute! I don't know about you but I would prefer to get my Prozac dosage from my prescription bottle as opposed to my drinking water, although if I drink more water could I save money on my prescriptions...??? Someone needs to get an economist to figure that one out for me!

Anyways, given how much water I drink from the tap in a day (approximately 2 liters) I figured I would invest in one of those water filtration devices that take out the hormones and pharmaceuticals and reduces the level of chlorine and then re-mineralizes my water.

 So yeah, that's what I did because I insist on drinking more water to stay hydrated so I can run marathons and bullshit like that...

Me and my clean yummy water: recommend for drinking NOT killing people with!

As for using the water filtration device as tool to keep misbehaving spouses in line...probably wouldn't recommend it for that, seems rather ineffective...although I guess if you had to, you could take out the rocks and scrape someones eyes out with them...feels kind of labour intensive, I would probably stick to old fashion methods like your fists or firearms.

Hope that answers your question Traci!! And I truly hope I have been granted redemption by you and your gal pals. :)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A sociologist compares access to guns vs mental health services in Canada

During one of my study breaks, I happened to look at Facebook and came across a cartoon and a subsequent discussion that made me decide to change my blog post from "Drink more water" to instead writing up a comparative analysis on the accessibility of firearms vs. mental health services in Canada. Both important topics but you know I can't resist an opportunity to write about mental health!

So here is the cartoon:

The cartoon depicts a mentally unstable person (i.e., bald guy, with crazy face and bad posture) standing before two options: 1) Access to mental health care and 2) GUNS!!

Explanation 1: it is easier to gain access to guns vs mental health services

Obviously I could get all sociologist here and further examine the cartoon for underlying messages but I'm not writing a dissertation here, so we will stick to the simple "explanation 1".

Perhaps it is true that guns are easier to access than mental health services but surely that is only a reality in the US. After all, I can't just walk into any store in Canada and purchase a firearm; however, I'm not sure I can do that in the US either but I did see this Michael Moore movie "bowling for columbine" which won an academy award for best documentary and shit so I can assume it to be true.

Naturally I comment on the cartoon in typical arrogant Andrea fashion:

I may not be able to walk into any corner store and buy a gun like in the USA (I can only assume, as I've never tried). Although it may be easier to gain access to a gun than mental health care in Canada. I feel I could have found a gun a lot quicker than it did to get an appointment with a health care professional that could treat depression adequately. But maybe I'm wrong, maybe it would take me longer than 1.5 years to find a gun in Canada?

I was informed that the process for gaining a firearm in Canada is quite the lengthy process. And naturally that upset me because it suggests that I'm wrong. And of course it is ridiculous that it would take one longer than 1.5 years to get a firearm! I mean we should all have timely access to firearms and at the very least I should be able to access a firearm way quicker than it would be for me to receive adequate mental health services, right?!

So now I have a point to prove, after all, I can't be wrong, that NEVER happens.

So off to Google God to give me the answer.

I type in "getting a gun in Canada"

1st result:
A website created by a very informative passionate man named Noah (no relation to the Noah in the Bible) who basically tells you all the steps you will need to accomplish to get a license to own a firearm in Canada. Honestly, it was very comprehensive and easy to follow, I was quite impressed.  I feel the over process is lengthy but it is pretty straightforward.

Next I type into Google God "getting mental health services in Canada"

1st result:

I come to the homepage for Canadian Mental Health Association (a voluntary association that provides over 100,000 mental health services to over 120 communities across Canada).  There are some moving flashy pictures at the top and some sub-options entitled: 1) mental health, 2) public policy, and 3) Get involved.

I'm going to assume I want to click on Mental Health to find services as the other 2 options don't sound like it. Confirming my assumption is the short descriptor that falls below the sub-option:

Learn how to take care of your mental health. 
Get the facts about mental illness. 
Find help for yourself or others.

When I scroll over the sub-option to click it, 5 further options come up- the 5th is "Find Help", sounds like I'm headed in the right direction, so I click on it, and I'm brought to this page:

Ok, so I'm taken to a page that tells me with too  many words why I'm on that page (i.e., I'm on the page to find help) and then it directs me elsewhere for help...

So I check out the community support services for BC and all I can say is thank god rural people don't get depressed! Seriously though, I search for something near by with my postal code and a Victoria location is listed and so I click on it and get "page not found".

Yeah, I'm not making this shit up.

So after several clicks I'm still not sure how to get services for mental health except for the obvious call 911 or visit my GP for a referral to a mental health specialist.

Clearly a lengthy process and doesn't seem easy to navigate...but let's say you try going through your GP to access services, are they more accessible that way?

Well, the answer to that largely rests on your GP. Unfortunately, most GPs do not know how to deal with mental health issues, and the wait to see a specialist can take a minimum of 3 months if your GP will even give you a referral.

All I have is my own experience of the system as a patient and the anecdotal experience of others to say I may get access quicker than a firearms licence (allegedly, as I don't have a firearm license to compare) but the process to obtain mental health care services is not as clearly laid out, and even if you get services it doesn't mean they are appropriate or adequate mental health services.

And now for the qualitative sociological self-narrative of my experience with the mental health  system part of this blog post. 

My last bought with depression was pretty awful, as you are aware if you are a regular reader of this blog but just in case you are not, here is a link to all my blog posts with the label "depression" - if you go back to the first entry "Christmas thoughts" in 2009 you will see mention of the sun lamp, that was my previous GP's suggestion to dealing with my seasonal depression, it worked in so much as I didn't kill myself but fuck I still was pretty depressed!And of course things got even worse come 2013, so clearly my depression was not being treated adequately.

And you may think, how bad could it have been if you lived to blog about it? And I would say it is still pretty bad espeically if you are not me. Why is it not so bad for me?  Truth be told, I know the system pretty well and I've had depression my entire life so I was at an advantage this time around because I knew what was happening even though my GP couldn't deal with it in the most efficient manner.

Also in my favour, is that I'm intimately familiar with bureaucratic processes, I am a sociologist after all :) So for me, I got through the last time only because it was me and I kept pushing for help. And I knew if it was anyone else going through what I did and experiencing a major depressive episode for the first time, I probably would have killed myself out of sheer frustration.

And that is what it is like if you know you have depression and need help BUT most people who need help might not be able to admit it (due to stigma) and by the time they need it, something undesirable must happen in order for them to receive help. Apparently if you are suicidal you are taken way more seriously, but it is unfortunate it has to come to that in order to get help and for some people to realize they need help.

If you know you are struggling or finding it hard to cope and you reach out to your GP you better hope s/he can deal with it and if not I encourage you to find one that can. If you don't have the energy to find a GP who knows about treating mental health, perhaps you could try educating them by providing them with a clinical practice guideline on mental health.

Here is a link to a super awesome guideline on depression! There is also a patient guide available, which I have heard from some patients is quite helpful.

And yes, I may have been involved in the creation of said guideline but I will have you know that it is evidence-based, developed by a working group of GPs and specialists AND my psychiatrist refers to it quite regularly! How is that for endorsement!

Seriously though, the process to receive mental health services is convoluted at the best of times and the process becomes harder to navigate the longer your mental health issues go untreated and your health further deteriorates. The process is further confounded if you have a GP who does not know how to deal with mental health issues or how to navigate the mental health care system.

There are organizations there to help, such as the Canadian Mental Health Association. I have met some lovely compassionate people at the CMHA, technical difficulties aside. And of course, there are always clinical practice guidelines that can offer some assistance. And there is always talking about it with others who have been through similar situations, being vocal and normalizing the experience is one of the only ways we can reduce the stigma and help others get help :)

However, it has become clear to me what we really need to do to improve access to mental health  services, is we need to hire Noah to design a website for us and layout the process in as clear and efficient manner as he has in order to get us guns in Canada.

And now time for a selfie :)

My eyebrows look really awesome!