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What the $%* am I going to do with my life? (I’m going through an early-adulthood crisis)

21 May

What the $%* am I going to do with my life?

It’s a question that a lot of people ask, and I ask myself almost everyday. Still, no concrete answers. And in a world where folks under the age of 30 manage to become YouTube singing sensations and develop the next great app to feed my procrastination, this is very disheartening.

homer_scream_by_melfranz

I feel ya, homie

I once attended a career workshop where I learned that personality has a lot to do with what someone should make a career out of (duh, I know it makes so much sense after you think about it, but I was all like ‘I’m gonna be a lawyer cause I look so hot in a pant-suit and thick-rimmed glasses’). Well apparently I’m an idealist meaning that above all else, I need to be true to myself and I measure everything against my internal value system. But I’m also a rationalist meaning that I tend to gauge things based on their likelihood, practicality, and how realistic they are.

What that boils down to then, is that my desires to live big and change the world are invaded by a nagging voice telling me why it may not be possible or worth my time and energy.

It means I agonize over making major life decisions and that I question the integrity of almost everything I do. It means I doubt myself a lot (then again, that might just mean that I’m a pessimist with low self esteem but I don’t have the energy to address that right now).

To give you an idea of my conundrum, I wanted to rewrite my master’s thesis because it just felt right and my gushy insides were telling me that my message had to be communicated through another lens; that I needed to change the story I was telling the world.

And then there was my rational side telling me to stop being such an egotistical d-bag and that no more than 4 people would even read it.

But of course, I rewrote the damn thing and ended up graduating later than expected. Still, I don’t regret it.

The greatest story never read

The greatest story never read

Now that I want to write a book, that stupid voice of reason is telling me to write a filthy S & M hardback (pun-intended, hehe) because it seems to be the trend, when what I really want to do is write a story about the coming-of-age and transcendence of a young female gang-banger that no one will really care about unless she has hot lesbian sex with her cell mate. I predict slipping into depression three times during this particular piece of work.

Le sigh.

So since my artsy-fartsy side always wants to take over, I drew a picture of myself and included things that are important to me and tried to balance it with things that would help me eat. I thought it would help me brainstorm actual job titles I could settle on since searching for “Nomad health-researcher feminist-writer” in Google doesn’t get me really far.

This is my attempt to try to figure my shit out.


saaqshi stick

In theory, I should be very happy

Then I started daydreaming and drew this:

The idealist always wins. I mean I’m in freaking space!

The idealist always wins. I mean, I’m in freaking space!

Clearly I still need some help so I’m taking suggestions on what I should do with my life. Leave your comments below. No stripping or telemarketing please.

patrick_pole_dancing

Stay of the pole, ladies and starfish

Why I’m kind of a feminist

1 May
tumblr_static_feminism

I don’t know much about feminism, but I think I’m kind of a feminist even though I love rap music and That’s What She Said jokes. I’m kind of conflicted by this, but I’m going to try to work it out.

Treating others differently based on what may or may not be in between their legs is just not cool. This is especially true when you’re given the short end of the stick.

I feel like there’s another penis reference there.

I learned very young that boys were just better. They were more independent, they were tougher, and they were better at sports. And of course they were more relished by Indian relatives. I can still remember the looks of pity my mother received from friends and family when they realized she wasn’t blessed with a son.

“Why don’t you just try again?” they would ask her while I sat playing with Barbie dolls a few meters away.

Well, first of all: Gross. And secondly: Uh, screw you.

I, of course, didn’t say this aloud because I also learned early that running my mouth would land me a rolling-pin beating, and that’s never fun. But it still stung and it still filled me with resentment. I mean that kind of partiality is pretty hard to miss; it reeks of defamation.

My feelings of incompetence grew stronger as I made my way through adolescence. I ditched my dolls and with great difficulty avoided pink, ponies, and other markers of ‘girliness’ in an attempt to disassociate myself from what was clearly the lesser class. But that didn’t change the way I was looked at and it definitely didn’t change the way I was treated. I was still a girl, after all. If I knew all of the work I put in wasn’t going to make a difference, I would have just given into temptation and put on some damn nail polish.

I was frustrated and hella mad at the world yet for some unexplainable and miraculous reason I came to realize I wasn’t the problem, and despite my feelings of inadequacy, I wasn’t the one to blame.

High on a surge of newly found confidence, I began to see beyond the matter-of-fact truths that were presented to me. I realized that my sex was the function of a force greater than my DNA. I recognized that the reason that girls are ‘passive’ is not because we are inherently weak, but because it’s not ‘ladylike’ to throw a temper tantrum or to yell, fight, and punch someone in the throat when you’re upset. What I now know is that is that girls aren’t bad at sports because of chromosomal heterogeneity, but because they are given less opportunities and encouragement to play.

ASIDE: If you’re going to argue that men are still faster than women in 100 m race or can lift more weight, allow me to counter that by highlighting that if the motto of the Olympics was Balance, Flexibility, and Stamina rather than Faster, Higher, Stronger; women would be at the advantage.  Women have a lower centre of gravity, are more lithe, and actually suffer from less post-exercise muscle damage because of estrogen. Plus we have all that body fat that helps us last in super duper long activities like swimming the English Channel. So, we are just at a disadvantage in a social institution that was established to accommodate males rather than females. Even so, we’ve still made huge progress since actually being allowed to participate. Virtual high five.

Boom.

Boom.

And this was just the beginning of it. The more I accepted myself as an actual human being, the more skeptical I was of arguments that I wasn’t. Here are some other reasons why I’m kind of a feminist:

My Hymen

Historically speaking, girls need to be watched and protected because they carry a magical box in their pants (if they’re allowed to wear them), and if it falls into the wrong hands, the world will end. What I am talking about, Ladies and Gentlemen, is virginity. I remember watching 20/20 at an inappropriately young age and hearing a woman somewhere in the Middle East crying about her daughter’s rape by a solider. The girl was too young to know what happened and all the mother could say was that she needed the doctor to reattach her hymen so that she would be considered a virgin and therefore once again be marriageable material. Even more traumatizing to my young ears was the reporter’s aside discussing how some cultures abide by the practice of showing family members a bloody sheet to confirm the bride is a virgin post-consummation (some cultures even go as far as mutilating female genitalia to remove any pleasure associated with sexual intercourse in order to preserve virginity).

Years later, I learned that the hymen actually tends to degrade before a woman’s first experience of sexual intercourse by activities such sports, cleansing, and even walking. So what, I’m not supposed to walk because I might break my goods? Get out of here.

Oops, I went horseback riding. There goes my virtue.

Oops, I went horseback riding. There goes my virtue.

Bodywork

As much as I [now] enjoy putting on heels, pushing up my boobs, and caking my face, I don’t like to do it more than an average of 3x a year. However, as a woman I am expected to care a whole lot about my appearance. If I walked into an interview without mascara, lip-gloss, blush, and maybe even a skirt; there’s a good chance the interviewer would think Jeez, she couldn’t even bother putting on her face? I’m going to go out on a limb and say this probably wouldn’t happen to a man. And as it stands, I don’t like feeling obligated to do anything, and I don’t like feeling expected to do anything.

The Male Gaze and Assumed Rights Over My Body

During my trip to India, my body got a lot of attention. Bear in mind I wore sweat pants and baggy shirts in response to the fear mongering of my family and friends and the recent high profile rape cases that took place in the nation (yes, I realize that I lived out a ‘blame the victim mentality’ there, but I wasn’t about to take any chances in order to make a point. Shit is scary, yo). The attention I–or rather my body–got was geared around the fact that I am at a marriageable age and have an appropriate body for marriage. That is, it is tall and slim. And the comments were almost exclusively from older, male family members who were essentially giving me and my body their approval to exist and reproduce. Thank you for your permission, you sick, gawking, perverts.

Moolah

I like money just as much as the next dude, and I want to get paid as much as him for the same work, without having to put on high heels everyday. End of story.

feminism-radical-notion-t-shirt-1294f1

The best “That’s What She Said” ever

23 Jan

Before I get into the best ‘That’s What She Said’ ever, I feel like I need to give you some background information in order to contextualize my inappropriateness. The first thing you need to know about me is that I love the T.V. show, The Office.

Despite my exterior aura of perfection and maturity, I have two major and interconnected personality flaws. The first is that I cannot sit still for long periods of time, and the second is that I cannot keep quiet during these agonizingly long moments. This is especially true if I am expected to remain still and quiet.

I am the person who shifts in her chair during lectures, and incessantly and annoyingly shakes her leg or taps her pen during an exam. And if there is a situation where I need to remain quiet and respectful, my mind will continuously try to sabotage me by thinking of things to laugh about. Let me tell you, I have been a complete d-bag at Remembrance Day ceremonies because of this. I am not proud of myself.

So it’s not surprising that when I was in graduate school, attending conferences was the bane of my existence. Just think about it: large, acoustic auditoriums, full of people I highly respect and want to emulate and who I need to remain professional in front of should I ever choose to have a career in health research. And in the form of a faint blur in my peripheral vision, is my supervisor who is watching my every move.

The bane of my existence

The bane of my existence

So I am sitting in a lecture on exercise-induced capillary angiogenesis at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It is hour 3.5 of the 8-hour day; the last talk before we stampede towards the cafeteria for complimentary lunch and coffee. The speaker: a well-known and well-respected researcher in the field of exercise physiology.

I am seated in the back row with two of my (male) labmates on either side of me. I am squished between them and I want to push them away so I can slouch in my chair with my legs open. I don’t know why I wore this stupid skirt.

I’ve looked at my watch 83 times already and am now counting the number of hairs on the head of the balding gentleman in front of me.

I faintly hear the presenter.

“The hemoglobin saturation has been found to be associated with-”

Twenty five, twenty six, twenty seven-

“-as demonstrated in randomized control trials-“

Thirty one, thirty two-

“With significant changes in angio-angio-angio-angiogenesis. Phew! That was a mouthful, wasn’t it?”

I sit up straight in my chair, losing place in my counting. Did I hear that right? This is too perfect.

“That’s what she said!” I whisper loudly, tapping my labmates on the knee. “That’s what she said! That’s what she said!”

Then the wide-eyed and red-faced giggling ensues. I feel good for breaking my research friends from their torture. We quiet-laugh so hard we might pee our pants. The remaining .25 hours fly by and we high five on the way to lunch. My supervisor shakes her head at me.

I avoid making eye contact with her for the rest of the conference, but it is totally worth it.

The Link between Stress and Health

28 Dec

Why an evolutionary response that helped us survive is now compromising our health

Have you ever noticed that before a big exam or visit from the in-laws your nose starts to run, your head starts to ache, and you begin to fall ‘under the weather’?  This is not a coincidence or bad timing, but rather a manifestation of the intricate relationship between stress and health.

This relationship is based on an evolutionary response that is called the fight or flight response.  This adrenaline-based response occurs automatically when we perceive danger, and was actually very useful back when we were hunting and gathering our food.  We would see a threat or target-depending on how you interpret it-such as a lion, and our bodies would respond by elevating heart rate and breathing, dilating the pupils, narrowing our focus, and shunting blood away from our extremities (so we won’t bleed to death if our hands get cut). This response was preparation for what would happen next: we would either fight the lion, or run away from it (flight).

The problem is that these days we don’t face similar dangers on a daily basis, yet we still have this evolutionary response hard-wired in us.  During the fight or flight response, our body puts functions such as digestion and immunity on hold since they are not necessary for fighting off an external threat.

Furthermore, this response is activated by both the nervous system and the hormonal system so that hours after the perceived threat is gone, stress hormones linger in our bodies. So now when we perceive things such as public speaking, school, work or family as something scary, we have an exaggerated and lingering stress response and a greater susceptibility to infection and sickness.  This is why you get a dry mouth and cold hands when you have to make a major presentation, or find yourself getting sick during important (yet stressful) life events.

Interestingly, something as simple as going for a routine check-up with your doctor can set the fight or flight response in motion.  Many people experience “white-coat syndrome” where they will have a normal blood pressure on the way to and from the doctor’s office, but when they go in to meet the doctor face to face, their blood pressure skyrockets.  Fear of bad news, anxiety of getting a needle, or removing clothing for a check-up are all very real things that can trigger an intense bodily response!

Now imagine if you were always on edge and just couldn’t relax. Your blood pressure would be high all the time, your heart would be working overtime, your digestive system would not be able to properly absorb the nutrients your body needs, and you would be taking a lot of sick days!  This is a formula for disaster and can put a serious damper on your well-being.

So try to indulge in at least one thing each day that is going to make you happy, whether it’s reading your favorite novel, enjoying your favorite latte or taking a nap in your favorite pajamas. Feel free to take a chill pill once in a while for the betterment of your health!

Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats: a Look at Macronutrients

7 Dec

Our bodies require nutrients from food sources to thrive. Nutrients can be classified into macronutrients (macro=large) such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins; and micronutrients (micro=small) such as vitamins and minerals that are required in smaller quantities. This article will discuss macronutrients.

Carbohydrates and the Glycemic index

All carbohydrates from food sources such as breads, pastas, and vegetables are broken down to glucose (sugar) molecules in the digestive system and then released into the blood stream. Some carbohydrates such as white bread and rice are broken down very quickly in the digestive system and as a result blood glucose levels go up very fast. This is undesirable as it increases the risk for diabetes as it makes it more difficult to control glucose levels; increases appetite; and increases the risk for heart disease.

The glycemic index illustrates which carbohydrates tend to release glucose into the blood quickly (i.e. high glycemic index) and slowly (i.e. low glycemic index). It is preferable to chose low-glycemic index foods.

Protein

Protein from sources like animal meat, lentils and tofu are the building blocks for our muscles and help keep us strong. Protein should make up to 15-20% of your daily dietary intake and come from lean sources (e.g. avoid bacon and foie gras).

Fats- Not all are created equal

Fats can be categorized as unsaturated and saturated. Saturated fats usually come from animal sources such as meat, cheese, butter and ice cream, but can also come from non-animal sources like coconut and palm oil. These types of fats are considered ‘unhealthy’ because they are chemically ‘less fluid’ are ‘more stiff’ than unsaturated fats. To put this in perspective, imagine if the cells of your heart were made up of stiff cells versus more fluid and movable cells.

Fats should make up no more than 35% of your daily dietary intake, and the majority should come from unsaturated fat. Sources of unsaturated fat that you can include in your diet include olive oil, fish, nuts, and legumes.

Macronutrient % of Daily Dietary Intake Important considerations Examples
Carbohydrate 45-65% Choose low glycemic index and high fibre carbohydrates Whole grain and high fibre foods such as breads, pastas, oat, lentils, eggplant, okra, barley, spinach
Protein 10-30% Choose lean meats or vegetable sources Chicken, turkey, lentils, tofu
Fat <35% Choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources and avoid saturated and trans fats. Olive oil, fish oil

You’re holding a barbell. Now what?

13 Nov

Ever wonder how body-builders do it? Aside from strict diets, hours in the gym, immense dedication and the possible consumption of illegal and harmful steroids, body builders get their bulky look from lifting higher weights at lower repetitions.  So if you want to be the next Salman Khan, a good start is with 3 sets of 6-12 reps at 70-80% 1RM.

Resistance training has been found to provide a range of health benefits including the prevention of sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass with aging) and osteoporosis (the loss of bone density with aging) and improvements in metabolism.  Although these benefits are reason enough to hit the gym, most of us don’t know where to start, or are concerned more so with the aesthetics of strength training (be it the pursuit of a lean tone, or a ‘bulging t-shirt’ effect), or with the improvements in our ability to play certain sports.

Before starting a resistance training program, there are a few concepts you should become familiar with.

Reps and Sets

In the resistance training world, a repetition, or rep, refers to how many times an exercise such as a bicep curl is repeated. A set is simply how many groups of repetitions you do.  For example, you could do 3 sets of 12 reps for a total of 36 reps. You should always take a break between sets to rest and stretch the muscle.

1 RM

One Repetition Max, or 1RM, is the maximum weight you can lift through your full range of motion, only once. So if you are doing bicep curls, it is the maximum weight you can hold in your hand with your arm extended, and bring up to your shoulder while bending at the elbow. If you can do two of these movements with this weight, this is not your 1RM, it is your 2RM for your biceps muscle. Calculate your 1RM for all muscles you want to work on.

Muscular Power

Power is defined as efficient muscular contraction and requires a balance of speed and strength.  Power is demonstrated in actions where quick acceleration is required such as jumping for a basketball rebound or throwing a football. It is not surprising then that power is developed through performing maximum contraction in the shortest time possible. The best way to improve power in your sport activities is very simple: practice the action. That means if you want to jump higher in basketball, practice jumping and not throwing.  But be careful! Power training is particularly dangerous because of its quick nature. It is also important to have some degree of muscular strength and endurance (described below) before working on power. Do not focus on power if you are relatively inactive since you may get hurt.

Muscular Strength

This is often what we think we are improving when we lift weights, which is understandable since we often refer to resistance training as strength training.  However, strength, or the ability to exert force (and this force doesn’t have to be exerted quickly as in power), is most optimally improved at a certain workload.  Specifically, you need to do 3 sets of 5-8 reps at 80-90% 1RM.  Improving muscular strength improves your ability to do things such as open pickle jars, lift heavy boxes and climb stairs, which is especially important in older adults.

Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is the ability to contract a muscle repeatedly over a period of time, and individuals with high muscular endurance often have a lean and toned appearance. Muscular endurance is required for running, swimming and dancing and although participation in these activities will improve endurance, you can also include a resistance-training program of 3 sets of 12-15 reps at 60-70% 1RM.  Keep in mind that you will also be improving your muscular strength during muscle endurance training.

Bulk

Ever wonder how body-builders do it? Aside from strict diets, hours in the gym, immense dedication and the possible consumption of illegal and harmful steroids, body builders get their bulky look from lifting higher weights at lower repetitions.  So if you want to be the next Salmaan Khan, a good start is with 3 sets of 6-12 reps at 70-80% 1RM.

Rehabilitation

If you ever have the misfortune of being injured and you don’t have the ability to consult with a physiotherapist, you can improve muscle functionality by performing 3 sets of 6-10 reps at 50-60% twice a day. Be sure to see a doctor before doing this.

Remember: Be careful! You can hurt yourself training so make sure you stretch and have a buddy nearby who can help you lift weights safely if you get tired. And always give your muscles 48 hrs of rest before you start working out again. A good method is to alternate muscle groups everyday so you don’t injure yourself.

% 1RM Reps
Power 90-100 1-5
Strength 80-90 5-8
Bulk 70-80 6-12
Endurance 60-70 12-15
Rehabilitation 50-60 6-10