4 September 2015

My Diet Plan: Stop Joining Diet Plans.

Dieting sucks.

I've blogged before about my diet struggles. It seems like I have tried every "plan" from Weight Watchers (repeatedly) to Jenny Craig to The Biggest Loser to diet pills. I've probably spent around $5000 (and that may be a conservative estimate) into these programs, especially Weight Watchers.

Am I any skinnier? No.  But more importantly, am I any healthier? No.

I had my girlfriends over the other week. Everyone was talking, myself included, about how we are at our heaviest. In particular, most expressed how difficult it was to stick to a "program" and that it felt at times like a waste of money.  Despite that, the general indication was that most would re-join a program they have repeatedly failed on before because "anything was better than nothing."

But is that true?  (Note: the next comments aren't meant to be critical of their choices. Whatever works for them. I'm just speaking from my own history & experience).

It got me thinking to my own diet history. Despite all that I have spent, that I am at my heaviest weight. Shouldn't I know better? Haven't I learnt enough?

Two days ago, I came to a conclusion: dieting isn't hard. The programs I've spent money on are. Here are some basic mistakes of most of the diet programs:

1) Being overly complicated in calculating food intake without a real understanding of the nutritional value of the food.

An example is a Weight Watcher point.  The basic of a point is that it is calculated by some formula (that they don't tell you) of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber.  The lower the point, the better the food. Right?

Not necessarily.  Sometimes, the unhealthier product was the same points or less than the healthier option.  Coke can be lower in points that milk. How is that a great choice?

More importantly, other things on the food label, that aren't counted, matter. Like sugar. Like sodium. All critical to good health.

Which leads me to my next point...

2) Living a well-balanced life means that nutrition & health matters too. Food choices should not compromise health. 

The premise of Jenny Craig is that the meals are prepared for you to perfect portion and calorie servings.  But think about this: every single meal is pre-processed food. Which means every single meal exceeds the recommended sodium intake.  What the fresh hell?

Weight Watchers is no different.  Some lower-point food has extremely high levels of sugar or sodium.

Your food choices shouldn't hurt you folks.

3) Lack of emphasis on exercise.

Common to most programs I have been on is that exercise is an after-thought. Sure, they encourage you to move more, but there is no comprehensive plan for that.

And in the case of Weight Watchers, the idea that you have the option of trading "activity points" for "exercise points" is ludicrous for long-term success.

Here's the deal.  Exercise for weight-loss doesn't have as big of an impact if what you are learning is that you can justify food for it.  And the reality check is that most people under-estimate how much exercise they put in compared to the food they exchange it with.

Exercise for the purposes of weight loss should be in addition to eating less/healthier, not in exchange of.

But exercise should also be more heavily encouraged because it has far greater benefits in terms of health (like increasing energy, lung capacity, muscle-building, flexibility, etc...).

4) Lack of structure when it comes to meal plans. 

Sure, there is no shortage of recipes. Or suggestions on how to space your meals and snacks.  Or even what to have.

But meal planning involves more than just what you are eating. It's also how much you eat and how the choices sustain you until the next meal.

I will repeat this: food's only purpose is to fuel you to get through the day.  So while it seems a good idea to have a piece of fruit and yogurt only in the morning, is that going to be enough? Not likely.

5) Next to no emotional counselling.

One thing I did like about Weight Watchers was their group sessions. Good ideas came from those group sessions.

But the thing is, having "tips" is not the same as understanding the emotional reasons behind your food choices. These programs don't require you to peel back the layers to understand why you make the choices you do. Or what emotion you are feeding.

The tips, while good for managing your environment, only go so far.

While I have gleaned some good "tips" over the years (and my suggestions will reflect some of them), I've decided to give up "diet programs" and just start exercising some common sense. To not complicate matters. To take charge of myself and save my money.

Here's the basic common sense of dieting approach that I will be taking:

1) Food is meant to fuel your body, not comfort or meet some emotional need.

2) Eat a balanced diet that includes things that grow in the ground, and things that eat the stuff that grows in the ground.

3) Limit foods that aren't as good, but not to feel guilty for the occasional indulgence

4) Keep my meals simple.  Food has enough great taste that I don't need to add high-calorie loaded things to complicate things.  Use basic ingredients. Limit salt & sugar as often as possible, and definitely don't add them to meals unless absolutely necessary.

5) Move more in an deliberate way. Move more in a way that recognises my limitations (knees) but doesn't make excuses for them.  Plan activity at least 5 out of the 7 days for at least 30 minutes a day.

6) Before I reach for a food, pause and ask why. Am I hungry? Or am I feeding another hunger that doesn't require food?

7) Have a general plan for what I will have each meal, every week.  Have some go-to meals for breakfast & lunch that can be quickly prepared and consumed (given that I only have a 1/2 hour to consume each meal).  For dinner, have a plan for every day in that week, factoring in things like work schedules (husband), events, etc... and then plan accordingly.

8) Ensure that every meal includes at least 3 of the 4 food groups, and that every snack includes 2 of the 4.  For every meal & snack, a fruit &/or vegetable must be one component.  All three main meals must include at least 1/2 to 1 full protein.

9) Use the plate method of 1/2 plate being fruit or veg, 1/4 being protein, 1/4 being carb.

10) Weigh & measure my portions until I have a better sense of a reasonable portion. Routinely re-measure to ensure I am not "over-portioning."

11) Have a plan for eating out. Portion out half the entree and only consume the other portion if truly hungry. Otherwise, pack it up for lunch.  For my drink, fishbowl my water and tell them to add a variety of bar condiments (i.e., cherries, orange/lime/lemon wedges).

12) Find a way to track in a way that is achievable, such as an app, or blogging, or a scribbler.

13) While at the end of the day, it's calories in calories out, ensure the calories are more beneficial than not.

14) Stop drinking coffee altogether (especially the frapifattys) and move towards tea with honey.




18) Accept the limitations of my body (health) but keep working everyday to overcome them.

19) Relax. Don't let the weight loss effort consume my life.  Find a hobby/distraction to provide balance.

20) Keep your eye on the end goal, but mark the accomplishments along the way.

Have any other great advice? Leave them in the comments.


15 May 2015

The Road That Will Be Less Travelled

Source: Parks Canada, Elk Island National Park, pc.gc.ca.

Growing up, I didn't travel very much or very far. My trips were limited to mostly places in Alberta (like Jasper, Banff, Calgary, Crowsnest Pass) and BC (Sparwood to see family). Beautiful places but close to home. Affordable.

When I reached of age where I could make my own travel decisions - and had the funds to do so - I ventured out. My first couple of trips were bus tours so that I could pack the most into a trip in an affordable & safe fashion. Along with my friend Joanne, we went to places like New York City, Washington DC, Savannah, St. Augustine, Orlando, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and places in-between.

When I met the man who was to be my husband, we traveled one, maybe two times a year to Las Vegas. Last year, we did an epic one month road trip from Edmonton to Las Vegas, then over to Anaheim (and Disneyland), then up the Pacific Coast Highway with stops in places like Monterey, San Francisco & Port Angeles.

I have always made travel a priority, but this year, my priorities have had to shift.  My husband & I would love to continue to travel as we have. But we are trying to have a baby. We also want to retire early. While we are fortunate in that we have no major expenses, our goals mean that we have had revise how we travel.

This year, my husband & I made a difficult but correct decision to put off major travel plans.  The many places we want to see are being pushed back for the time being.

They say you should live your life to the fullest so you have no regrets. But the reality is that sometimes, you have to balance your regrets & your dreams. I would regret making travel a bigger priority than having a child or being able to retire early.

We haven't completely abandoned travelling though. We decided to stick to local areas where we could see something in one day (or overnight at the most). Just like in my youth, we will stick around this beautiful province.

On tap for this summer includes:

  • A trip to Elk Island National Park.  I've never actually been there before, so I am quite excited. Plus it's relatively close to home, so we can do this in a day.
  • A picnic at Ma-Me-O Beach in Pigeon Lake and at Wabamun Lake.
  • Little road trips here and there that are within driving distance, stopping to see sites and having a picnic. 
We are also considering places like Drumheller, the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, the Ponoka Stampede, any type of festival or event in a nearby town, the Reynolds Museum, etc. I am extremely lucky to live in a beautiful province like Alberta with all the scenery & travel options

When it comes to travel, I seemingly have come full circle with my youth.

14 May 2015

The things left unsaid.

Yesterday has no reason to end the way it did.

I woke up in a generally good mood. I had a productive work day and finished my tasks. I went to my new weekly fitness class and left a little bit stronger (even if the legs had the shakes).  My husband & I had an enjoyable dinner with great conversation.

By all accounts, my day was actually pretty good.

And then I uttered something to my husband at the worst possible time. I created hurt. It came from a place of hurt. I uttered it from a feeling of frustration. It was motivated by wanting to shift the burden & guilt to someone who was already carrying his share.

I could have very easily chosen not to be mean. I could have very easily chose to be understanding.

I could have left things unsaid.

But the infertility struggle comes with many emotions. Sometimes the emotions are ugly and can't be hidden.

I made a promise that I wouldn't go "crazy" on this infertility journey. That whatever shall be shall be. Most importantly, I promised it wouldn't interfere with the loving relationship I have with my amazing husband.

Yesterday, it interfered. Yesterday, all the isolation and guilt and anger and frustration and sadness came out in a few sentences. The wound was swift. The wound was deep.

It was unfair of me. It was mean. It was cruel. And now I must repair the damage I caused.

I can blame the drugs I am on, certainly. I can blame my inability to just confront people with my concerns. I am not a people pleaser, but I am also not a feather ruffler. In the past, when I have said something (usually coming from the same place as this time), it's created hurt and misunderstanding.

My choices always seem to come down to either remain silent, or say something & risk misunderstanding, anger, & hurt. I haven't figured out yet how not to do that.

Lesson is that sometimes, things are simply better left unsaid.

*Update: Love means saying you are sorry. And I did.  Love means forgiveness. And he did. xo*

11 February 2015

Catching up on stuff: A post on strength & fragility.

Hello faithful readers of five,

I know. I haven't written anything here for a while. I've had a thousand great thoughts in my head, but no will to actually articulate anything. I'll do better.

The last few months have been particularly difficult - more so for the people around me than myself particularly.  But it has been draining, this thing called worry. It has been challenging, this thing called stress. It has been a test in fortitude, this thing called emotions. It has been an experience, this thing called helplessness.

To recap:

  • On December 12th, my best friend's mom died. A woman I have known and loved for over half my life is gone. My sadness pales in comparison to Jo's, but it's still a devastating loss. Not only is a loss in the sense that your friend's parents are yours too, but it's a reminder of the fragility of your own parents. 
  • Speaking of Jo, her son (and my godson) was admitted to the Stollery Children's hospital twice. He's slowly getting better. But it's scary because they are so vulnerable. Oh, and Joanne was sick with bronchitis.  I feel helpless in that I want to be there for her, but there is so little I can do. 
  • Closer to home, my husband was sicker than a dog with some sort of viral infection. This after I came off my own bout of the flu.
  • My own health issues. I swear, I turned 35 a few years back and it's been downhill health wise since. A reminder that I need to nurture my body. Because the way you treat your body will catch up to you. 
  • In my immediate family, someone is facing a mental health battle with depression and suicidal thoughts/attempts. He was hospitalized in the mental health and we thought he was getting better. He seemed fine. Now he's back there.
  • An online acquaintance lost her son to suicide.
  • Not being anymore closer to having a baby than I was that year. The fertility care system in Alberta is less than adequate. (Although there is a ray of hope coming up. Maybe).
  • Dealing with a spiritual/faith drought. It happens to me more frequently than I care to admit.
  • The general flipping world right now.
  • All while dealing with the general stresses of every day life. 
So much worry, stress, emotion and helplessness in a short period of time. Sigh. 

The quest for 2015 will be trying to find a way to find strength in the things that bring me down. How to rise above and be the person needed for those who suffer. How to deal with my own fragility. How to keep optimistic when it seems like there is not much to be optimistic about. 

I will return to one goal though: blog more. Having an outlet is a good thing. Maybe. LOL.

28 March 2014

To Alberta's Political Parties: What Have You Done For Me Lately?

There is a lyric in Janet Jackson's song, What Have You Done For Me Lately, that I think sums up my current thinking on Alberta politics:

Used to be a time you would pamper me
Used to brag about it all the time
Your friends seem to think that you're so peachy keen
But my friends say neglect is on your mind...
Whose right?

What have you done for me lately?
Ooh ooh ooh yah!
What have you done for me lately?
Ooh ooh ooh yah!

Today, after originally reported by local blogger Kikkiplanet (a.k.a. Kathleen Smith) TWO WEEKS AGO, news of plans (although not confirmed to be implemented or finalised) to add a personal suite by & for Alison Redford (a.k.a. Alberta's former Premier) was released by Charles Rusnell of the CBC.

I GET IT.....WE ALL GET IT.  Another scandal about Premier Redford treated Alberta's wallet like her own...blah blah blah.  I got it the first 75 news reports released over the last two weeks years, ad nausea.  The fact that old news is being reported by lazy reporters who don't seem to do their job unless Kathleen stokes a fire up their ass is both amusing, and a sad commentary on journalism in this province.  But that is neither here nor there. 

Each political party in many ways resembles the first part of the lyric above.  As a voter, I've been enticed by many parties with their sexy promises, polished looks, and careless whispers of sweet policy caressing my ears.  Each party has a loyal group of partisan friends, saying how the other parties are up to no good and their party is peachy keen. 

But what I want to know from all political parties is what have you done for me lately?  It's not enough for me to simply say "elect us because the 'other' is <insert disparaging comment here>."  I want to know what you are going to do.  I want to know what your plans are for the future.  

I am not really interested in looking to the past.  As someone with a history degree, I am always cautious to judge the events of the past, without looking at the context of when a decision was made.  I also realize that sometimes it takes years to see the full realization of decision or action take, even the controversial ones. 

These are the things I want to hear from political parties in Alberta (that I am not hearing now):
  • "Who cares what the other parties are doing? Here is what we are doing."
  • "Here is our plan for what we think would would work."
  • "Here are our expense reports, so you can judge for yourself prior to the election if we are trustworthy."
  • "Here is how we would do this specific situation differently."
  • "We can't promise that our promises can be implemented, but we will try."
  • "We trust you, the voter, to make an informed choice."
Do not assume that a scandal is all it will take for me to vote for the "other."  With so many voices whispering in my ear, telling me who is right and who is wrong, my vote will be made in the silence of my own thoughts and observations, based on sound policy and bold vision.

21 March 2014

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: An Alberta Tale

There is an old song by the group 'Stealers Wheels' that pretty much sums up the reality of politics for moderates (like myself) in Alberta. Here is a small part of the lyric of Stuck In The Middle With You:

It's so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

This week in Alberta, Premier Alison Redford was forced out resigned after two-years at the helm. Now granted, much of this was brought on by herself. For a woman who is probably the smartest person we have elected to the throne as Premier, she sure had an optics problem. There is no easy way to justify some of the decisions she made, in either spending, how she conducted herself, or who she surrounded herself. It's sad really, because she did do some good things - most notably taking an aggressive stance to fix the post-boom/Klein-era cuts that created a major infrastructure deficit. But it was clear she needed to go. You can't have the perception of the air of entitlement, even if other leaders in this country are just as bad or worse. If she (or us for that matter) walks away with one lesson, it's to make sure you have an effective crisis management strategy. 

Well you started out with nothing,
And you're proud that you're a self made (wo)man,
And your friend, they all come crawlin',
Slap you on the back and say, 

Now some might say that maybe the problem is with the Progressive Conservative of Alberta Party. They are a dinosaur party that has run it's course after 43 years of uncontested rule. Hogwash. They were elected for 43+ years because they effectively adjusted their strategy of governing to match the prevailing wind currents. When we needed growth, they provided growth. When we needed fiscal restraint, they provided fiscal restraint. And so the cycle goes. 

A good party of any persuasion is a better one if they adjust their policies to match the reality, even if it goes against ideology. A tough pill to swallow, but all the leaders of all the parties in Alberta know that. To promise they won't adjust their ideology to the situation is complete bullshit. An NDP government can't install socialist programs when the price of dinosaur farts goes down. The WRP can't push an assertive socialist ideology in a province as diverse as ours. All any party can do is move the province a little to the right and a little to the left....by mere millimetres. 

If the PC's loses the Wildrose, it better be because the WRP offered a better solution, not because they were simply the "best alternative." But the proof will be in the policy pudding. The "pin-the-tail-on-Alison" game is over. 2016 is a long way off, and they better make the best of that short window. 

So what is the problem you ask?

The problem with Alberta is that you have clowns to the left, and jokers to the right. 

Somewhere along the way in this province, you had politicians, both in government and opposition, who thought it was cool to pit people against each other. It wasn't obvious at first. It starts with passing legislation or spending decisions that pits urban vs. rural communities against each other. It's the 15-second sound bites that paint one side or one party or one person as "evil" and the other "good."  It's making broad generalisations that we are all Martha's and Henry's, when in fact, few of us can relate to the lifestyle of said characters. 

It's parties letting their base get nasty with the other side, on their behalf, and not intervening to tell them to tone it down. Or even worse, egging them on. Then the very next day, doing "selfies" with the "enemy", smiles and wine all around. 

It's people, rightly or wrongly, defining what it means to be a big or little "C" Conservative or a big or little "L" liberal. It's people who pick on each other because they aren't their brand of "C" or "L." 

It's people using social media or the actual media to promote their own profiles/beliefs/agenda's, but then take no responsibility because they are merely "engaged citizens", regardless of how accurate their allegations are. 

What baffles me is about the whole Redford affair is that the expense records have been posted for many, many, many, months. I knew about them. One lazy Saturday in the summer, I stumbled across many of those records. But I had nothing to benefit from exposing them? First off, I didn't know the context of the trip. Did the ends justify the means? Secondly, it's not my job to do the footwork for the media in this province. Third, what are my expectations for a leader or an associate-level staff. Is it reasonable to expect someone of that calibre to stay at the Hotel 8 or eat at McDonald's, or fly economy?

I don't have the answers to that, because I didn't know enough about the context. I sure as hell wasn't going to put my reputation on the line on allegations without context.

So here we are, once again facing a leadership contest. Perhaps what is needed is a citizen expectation review.

In the meantime, as a moderate, I'm just going to sit back and watch. And think. And come to my own decision. Because I have clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right and:

I'm stuck in the middle with you.

11 February 2014

Thoughts on the Sochi 2014 Olympics.

Hello faithful readers of five,

The Olympics are here. I being a big fan of Olympic am naturally in my element. I have some random thoughts about a variety of issues pertaining to these games so thought I would just toss them in the cosmos and let them land where they land
  • I think the games so far have been enjoyable to watch. Despite all the controversy pertaining from everything to Russia hosting, to the LBGTQ issues, to the cost, they have been quite enjoyable. Nothing like sports being that great equaliser. At the end of the day, that is what the Olympics are all about.
  • Canada in particular is doing well. While that should be natural given we are a winter country, that hasn't always been the case. Nice to see that the results of the Own The Podium policies (devoting money towards Olympic preparation) is finally paying off in results. 
  • I have been digging the biathlon and cross-country skiing events this time around. I think I want to look into taking up either (or both) as a sport. I need a winter activity anyways, and everyone I have talked to about this loves cross-country skiing. 
    This would be my response after skiing too.
  • My royal appreciation nerdiness is coming out strong. How cute is King Wilhelm and Queen Maxima from the Netherlands? 
    Wax & Max
  • I can't help but feel sorry for my American friends. I caught a little bit of NBC's coverage of the Olympics. Simply bad. 
  • Speaking of NBC, and journalism in general, I can't help but wonder if there is residual Cold-War bias in how Russia is being portrayed. Now granted, some of the conditions as far as infrastructure is probably bad. But just the way Russia is being portrayed, you would think they were attending a boxing match between Rocky and Ivan Drago.
  • Part of the reason why I am drawn to these games is because of family ties to the area. My grandpa's ancestors come from the Black Sea area. In a twist-of-fate, my third cousin, Chris Robanske, is competing in these games. It's like coming full circle.
  • I have been enjoying spending time with my husband watching the games. Has made the post-NFL-football period less of a letdown. LOL.
  • I've been giving a lot of thought about various levels of governments in Alberta flying the Rainbow Pride flag (as a show of solidarity for gay athletes/protest against Vladimir Putin's archaic laws). My first instinct was to think "doesn't the Canadian Flag represent all of us?"  I had no problems with flying the rainbow flag to be honest. I originally found it sad that the Maple Leaf (or the Stars and Stripes, or Union Jack, or whatever national flag) isn't perceived to represent all of us...and if that is the case, then that speaks more volumes about "us" than Russia. But then I got to thinking. When we see a rainbow, it encompasses the whole world. A rainbow doesn't recognise borders or the reality of what is going down on the ground. A rainbow can be appreciated by anyone from all walks of life. A rainbow, in many ways, is the heart of what it means to be inclusive. I've heard arguments like "well why not fly the flag for _______ group who are also oppressed in Russia?". In reality, the rainbow flag represents inclusion, fairness and diversity for all citizens of this world, regardless of race, gender or sexuality. Although the rainbow flag is specifically represented by one group, the message of the flag represents us all. 

  • How nice was the ballet and classical music at the Opening Ceremonies? It was a nice change of pace from other ceremonies...and quite beautiful. 
  • This warmed my heart today. A Russian cross-country athlete broke his ski. A Canadian coach came to the rescue and gave him a ski so he could continue the race. How Canadian. (Click here to see video). 

Well that's it for now. I may blog some more as stories develop. Have fun watching the Olympics! (Assuming you haven't boycotted them or something. Then if that is the case, have fun watching repeats of Real Housewives of Mother Russia...or whatever!).

6 February 2014

Paint by Number

Hello faithful readers of five, 

There has been much ado on social media about the finale of The Biggest Loser: Season 15. The winner, Rachel Frederickson, lost 155 pounds and went from 260 lbs to 105 lbs, which was almost a 60% loss. Her BMI based on her supposed height of 5'4" puts her either "underweight" or just on the cusp, depending on what chart you read. (Some have her at 16, 17' or 18). 

People on social media have gone crazy, saying she is "anorexic" (and from some posts, that is being kind). Sites like Diets in Review have raised alarm bells by saying things like: 

@DietsInReview: Rachel’s 60 Percent Weight Loss is Nothing to Celebrate; Biggest Loser Should be Ashamed http://t.co/QFwbIlzxYk << What did you think? #BL15 

While some good arguments are being raised in general about the show and their methods, I think we need to stop criticizing Rachel. Repeat after me: 

                                                 People are not only numbers. 

                                    People are not defined by arbitrary numbers.

First off, we are not medical professionals. Even those who claim to be, they are not her medical professional. We have no idea what her health is like.

Secondly, a BMI chart is not the best indicator of...welll...anything really. It is a guideline (one that has been arbitrarily redefined over the years and varies in different countries). It doesn't factor in bone or frame structure.

By that chart, I should be in the hospital right now with a blown artery, oozing fat out of my nostrils. My husband is technically quite a bit "underweight" (more so than Rachel) and has no health issues related to his weight. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, society needs to stop valuing people only by the number they represent on the scale. When some competitors "only" reached weight losses of 25-35%, people were critical for "not doing enough with the opportunity they were given." When they started, they were criticized for "letting themselves go." 

You truly cannot win at any level of weight by arbitrary standards of society. It seems that the only acceptable weight of someone else is what society deems they are comfortable with. If you are too thin (naturally or by diet) or too fat (naturally or by diet) and they are uncomfortable, it's not ok. 

My post isn't ignoring the very real issues of anorexia or obesity. I am not sweeping the very issue of disorders under the rug. But let's be clear that this is a competitor on a reality TV show that was given the best medical & professional supervision on this journey. She may very well have done something like hot sauana or detoxing for the weigh-in for one or two days prior to the final weigh-in, which was not indicative of her efforts prior too (which she claimed she ate 1600 calories a day in the weeks leading). 

So enough with the shaming. Put down the pitchforks and focus on the fact that a beautiful determined person is exactly that - a person, not a number. 

28 January 2014

Let's Talk (Honestly) About Mental Health.

Source: theagenda.tvo.org

Today there is a campaign to raise awareness about mental health issues in Canada, spearheaded by Bell Corporation, call Let's Talk. (Click on the link if you wish to know more).The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of mental health issues through conversation, removing the stigma that is often associated with one who suffers such a condition. It is a great campaign.

Mental health issues have plagued my family for generations. My mother herself was hospitalised for depression, a condition that came into our home like an unwanted house guest every few months. I myself have had periods of my life where I have experienced the sensation of a tiny rain cloud situated permanently over my head. Mostly I just float around with apathy, not really caring about what is going on, especially to myself.

The thing with mental health issues is that it gnaws at you whether you realize it or not. 

Society has come to equate mental health issues as some sore of condition where emotions are dramatic and the person is unhinged. It's easy to spot the crazy person muttering obscenities in the wind. That is one aspect.

Most of the time though, it is this silent condition that you really don't notice because on the appearance, the person with whatever issue seems fine. Sometimes, the person themselves don't even realize they are experiencing anything until they are knee-deep in the condition. Others are aware, but like the song says "put on a happy face."

This week month, I have been feeling depressed, and most people would never know. I smile. I joke. But I also just don't care. I am tired. All I want to do is sleep or watch TV. The issues of my life and my struggles have piled on to the point where my default emotion, apathy, has kicked in and taken over. I am reminded this week of those I have lost - grandma, grandpa and Wendy. On the surface, everyone says I should have nothing to complain about. At least I don't have kids and can go wherever I want. At least I have a job. At least I have a home paid off. At least I am with someone. All are true. I am grateful. But that doesn't make things better for me or the emotions I feel. That doesn't mean I don't have struggles anyways.

Don't believe the picture people paint of themselves. We can all make our lives a Monet, when we really feel like a Picasso.

I have been lucky enough to have counselling services in the past. I have the tools that are helping me get through this. Writing seems to help. Getting out into fresh air. Talking about my feelings. Identifying though patterns and re-framing them. Removing myself from negative situations. I am using those tools to help me through this.

The truth is that not everyone is lucky enough to afford counselling services. Not everyone can pull themselves out. Not everyone shows their issues on their face. Not everyone realizes they are having mental health issues.

Dealing with mental health issues requires a fundamental way we look at all aspects of life, not just treatment. We need to review how schools both address mental health, and equip our children to deal with issues as part of the curriculum. We need to review workplace standards. Truth is, I pretty much have to lie about being sick just to have a day off. Would an extra week of holiday, or mental health days, or flex-days, or better mental health benefits work out for the employer in the long run? Do we do enough to promote preventative treatment in the health care system or society-at-large?

Mental health issues play such a big role in society, from crime to workplace productivity. The default reaction cannot be to sweep it under the rug and then pretend they don't have a factor in issues that emerge.

Let's start talking - and listening - about mental health issues everyday, not just today.

22 January 2014

2013: The Year That Was

Quote source: Garden State (Zach Braff)


It's that time of year where I look back on 2013, file that away in my memory, and move forwards. Technically this should have been done at the end of last year but, like every other blog post I wrote in 2013, I am late. I can't say that 2013 was a particularly stellar year, but it was better than 2011 so there is that.

Like I did at the end of 2012, here is a recap of 2013.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you have never done before?
I became a fan of NFL football. My husband and I actually took the time to study the teams, sit down, watch some games, learn the rules and calls etc. It was great. I am hooked.

2Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions, and will make any more next year?
Not really. I mean on the whole, I did make little achievements. Nothing to write home about, but achievements were made none the less. I ate a little better, but not to the level I expected. I moved a bit more, but not as much as I could of. That more or less sums up my efforts: did a little bit, but not a lot. My biggest let-down personally was spending so much time on social media, specifically Twitter. I lost track of what was important by thinking that was important. It is not, nor will it ever be. As for 2014, my only resolution is to spend more meaningful time with people that are important to me in real life.

3. Any major life events happen in your life?
Not like I had hoped. I thought by now I would be pregnant (at the very least). Turns out, my body has other ideas.

4. Where did you travel?
I spent a glorious week in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay. It was a fabulous trip and we did fabulous things. I didn't get as much time off this year because of the wedding in 2012.

5. What did you lack in 2013 that you would like more of in 2014?
Honestly, more general excitement or enthusiasm. I felt like I was going through the motions in 2013. Nothing overly exciting happened really. Things were fine. I mean, I can't really say 2013 was a horrible year. But I am generally indifferent of how my year was. The fertility journey probably had a role in my general apathy, because it was frustrating.The only bright spot was spending time with my husband and our Beaumaris Lake walks/NFL Football watching. I really enjoyed those, for it reminded me of the wonder of nature.

I would also like more time with friends. We didn't spend as much time with friends this year. It was weird that way, but with the business of general life...  That concerns me greatly actually, and I want to make more of an effort to connect next year.

6. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory?
No specific date stands out. My birthday I suppose because we were in Las Vegas again. Husband's birthday, but for an entirely different reason. His birthday drove home some important lessons which I won't get into here. Let's just say, it made me pause and think.

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I would have to say getting laterally promoted into my new job, although I am not sure it was the greatest move I could have made in retrospect. But that might be more of an organizational issue than anything else.

8. What was your biggest failure?
Well this isn't really "my" fault because there wasn't anything I could do about it, but my inability to get pregnant. And the underlying reasons for it. I regret not doing something about my weight sooner as it may have gone a long way to making things easier in the fertility department. Again, it's not exactly my fault, but I feel the guilt none-the-less.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I was diagnosed with possible Uterine Adenomyosis (they can only confirm with a hysterectomy, hence "possible") and a follocial cyst on my ovary that supposedly shrinks on it's own. Other than that, I was fairly healthy.

10. What was the best purchase you made?
I would have to say the purchases I made in Vegas, from the awesome hat that kept me sunburn free and looking fabulous, to the tickets to Shania and Michael Jackson 'One' Cirque du Soleil show, to the afternoon high-tea at the Four Seasons Las Vegas, and all the fabulous dinners and the cabana rentals by the pool. To travel and not indulge in memory-making experiences is so sad.

11. What things/people inspired you the most? 
I was inspired by my friends, especially Karen. It was a hard year for her with her marital breakdown, but despite it all, she kept a fairly positive attitude and worked on self-improvement, leading to noticeable weight-loss. I don't know if I would have been as focused in a similar situation.

12. What things/people disappointed you the most?
My answer is pretty much the same as #11. My friends...but in a different sense with two tangents. On the one hand, it was disappointing not connecting with friends as much. It takes a lot of effort to maintain friendships. Some people/days are better than other peoples/days at doing so. Don't get me wrong, in many cases it is understandable. But in others situations, maybe not so much. All I can do is work harder myself. Maybe I need to focus on trying to arrange things that are easier to do, like board-game night or movie nights or coffee nights, etc... back to the basics.

The other aspect is that online "friends" maybe aren't the most supportive. Everyone loves you on Twitter when you go at it with political engagement. Re-tweets and likes and comments galore. But if you share a personal story? Or try to engage in non-political conversations? Perhaps not-so-much. It's time for me to review my list and remove the non-engagers (and the ones that simply offend). Quality not quantity.

And myself. This diet thing should be a breeze for me by now. It is not.

13. Where did most of your money go?
There were a lot of incidental expenses, such as a new dryer or a new furnace motor. Vegas wasn't cheap either. But really, those are a part of living and you either budget or deal with the situation. But if I had to look at the day-to-day small purchases that add up, it's probably my morning coffee addiction. Assume I spend $5 a workday, that is $100 or so a month, which is $1200 a year. I know I spend more than $5 a day. I can get coffee for free at work. My fatty lattes add calories and drain my bank account.

14) What did you get really excited about? 
Seeing my husband every day after work. The fun things we did in Vegas. Joanne's pregnancy announcement. Karen moving to Calgary. The odd scale victory. In an apathetic year, the little things made me happy.

15) What song will always remind you of 2013?
The song 'Shot at the Night' by the Killers. I loved this song above all else. I listen to it all the time. The words resonate. About the person who wants more with their life, a chance to live.

16) Compared to this time last year, are you:

  • Happier or hardened? On the whole, I am happier, even if there were things that hardened me.
  • Thinner or fatter? Definitely fatter. Very disappointed with myself there.
  • Richer or poorer?  Richer in many ways. Except money. LOL.
17) What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I had worked harder at losing weight, and not just going through the motions. I have nothing to show for my efforts. Because there is nothing to show when you don't put in any effort. Funny how that works. Specifically, I wish I had exercised more. 

18) What do you wish you'd done less of?
By far, I wish I had spent less time on social media, especially Twitter. That is a time-trap. 5 minutes end up being your whole night. It is silly really. And all this time contributed to question #12...

19) What was your favourite TV program? Least favourite?
Normally I would say The Biggest Loser was my favourite. And it remains a favourite. But I was all over NFL Football in 2013 as well, especially Fox's coverage.

For least favourite, I would normally say most reality TV shows, and that is true. But can I add some talk-shows? The few days I had off, I was left saying "they cancelled soap operas for that?" It was pathetic, with Bethenny being the absolute worse.

20) What was the best book you read? Worst book?
I am embarrassed to admit that I didn't end up reading anything in 2013. Well, I did try The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, based on Joanne's recommendation. I wanted to like the book more than I did. It started off interesting, but it lost my interest mid-way when they started dealing with her family. Meh. Sorry Jo!

21) What was your favourite song/album/artist?
I like a few songs, some of which I listed in my summer song blog post. But easily, my favourite song/artist etc. was The Killers's Shot at the Night (which I posted above). I also liked 'Roar' by Katy Perry.

Least favourite? Most of the country music this year I found I could barely tolerate. It was very pop-driven and generic...and unbelievable and cliched. Every male-artist I think drives a truck on an old-dirt road, slinging a beer with the girl he fancies. Meanwhile, the female artists were scorned lovers. Meh.

22) What was your:
  • Favourite film this year? I didn't go to any movies this year, so most of the movies I saw were on TV or DVD. I saw Ted, which I enjoyed more than I should have. I saw For The Love of the Game with Kevin Costner and The Natural with Robert Redford, both baseball movies, for the first time. I liked the former a bit more than the latter, but both were good. Oh, I also saw Parental Guidance on the place (starring Billy Crystal). It was enjoyable.
  • Worst film? I can't think of anything in particular. Made of Honor was on TV and I ended up turning it off mid-way. Was it bad, or was I just not in the mood? Meh. 
23) What was the one thing that would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 
Any number of things. A pregnancy. Weigh Loss. A better job. Pick one. 

24) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Fat Pants 'R Us. 

25) What kept you sane?
Beaumaris Lake walks with my husband. Just being able to unwind with fresh air and beautiful scenery. 

26) Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Fancy the least? 
Nobody really. I appreciate those who use their celebrity to do good things in society. But so much of what is reported is the trash stuff. I do secretly admire some of the European Royals (if I had to pick somebody). They weren't chosen for their roles, but they go out and raise awareness for causes. But if someone has a name ending with Kardashian, I am simply not interested.

27) What political issues stirred you the most? The least?
The most would probably be the High Level/Calgary floods. So much devastation that will have a huge impact on the future of Alberta for years to come. There were some politicians who rose to the occasion (Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi), and some who failed (Premier Alison Redford and her government, who continue to fail on this issue).

The least might be either the Idle No More protests or the Edmonton Election.

28) What news story did you like the most? Hate the most?
I liked stories of where communities and people came together and rose above to help in dire situations, especially during the Alberta floods. As Mr. Roger's says:

I dislike any story in which, while protesting, laws are broken or people are hurt. Whatever support I have for their cause goes out the window when that happens. I also dislike NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) issues pertaining to social housing issues.

29) What sports moment did you like the most? Hate the most?
For me personally, the decision to start watching NFL. I have enjoyed watching the games, especially the Dallas Cowboys. It's a good bonding experience with my husband as well. There have been a few games this season that have been simply spectacular and enjoyable.

The most disappointing was the Edmonton Oilers. I so wanted to get back into hockey. I so wanted to cheer for the team. The Oilers had a lot of promise and this was supposed to be the year when all the rebuilding efforts paid off. It's far from that. It's not just a bad season. It's an embarrassing season.

30) Favourite blog (other than yours)? Blog Posts (other than yours?).

  • Favourite Blog: Going with my BFF's A Warm Cup of Jo & The Brooding Woman. I also am madly addicted to A Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor for my royal fix. 
  • Fave Blog Post #1: The Un-Anniversary.  This post moved me to tears. Part because I know her personally. Part because I was in her wedding and I wish I could have done something more before or during to help. Part because she is so open and honest about her painful journey. She is a strong woman my Wren. 
  • Fave Blog Post #2: Roots & Wings. Jo weaved a beautiful story together. A very moving post. 
  • Fave Blog Post #3: Am I REALLY ok? I discovered this blog, The Misadventures of a Darwinian Fail, over the Christmas holidays. This post resonated with me.
31) Favourite Blog Post (of yours?)
I didn't have a stellar blogging year. Mostly just Top Five posts, which were fine, except they were supposed to inspire me to blog more...not be my only posts. LOL. But there were some that were good.

My husband. He is such a great person and I love him so much. He is genuinely my best friend.

33) Who do you miss?
Well I always miss Wendy. This year drove home just how important she was.

I also miss the Dani that was enthusiastic about things. The skinny Dani. The healthy Dani. The confident Dani.

34) Tell us a valuable life less you learned in 2013.
I learned (and am continuing to learn) that real-life moments and people matter. More so than social media and the people you connect. Life, and pictures of, doesn't always need to be shared with strangers.

35) Quote a song lyric that sums up your year? 
"It's like you're always stuck in second gear. When it hasn't been your day, you week, your month or even your year." - The Rembrandt's I'll Be There For You.

36) What do you look forward to in 2014?
Connecting with friends. Going out and doing stuff in this city of ours, rather than sitting at home. Maybe getting pregnant. Our Pacific Coast driving vacation. Living life.