Wednesday 31 March 2010

Taking you back to the roots

The IL roots that is! I had a few incidents recently which make me feel like stepping back in time to the beginnings of IL - actually before IL. Although I am much fitter now, nothing seemed to be working out. All my wisdom seemed to be long forgotten and even my drive for sport had been lacking for such a long time that I feel rather breathless, powerless and wimpish.

So I decided to read a few of my own articles - if they were any good they should bring me up to scratch again; it's three years after all that I started writing for the site: Time to warm a few things up!

Sometimes it helps to just be aware of how the body works, so that one knows that one is not alone in this, and then there are the little helperlines which can incredibly enhance the chemistry in the body and hence lay the ground for all the rest. And So here is my selection from the body, health and nutrition section:

Well, and when I started writing back then I did so about my sport. See, and there is the dilemma. I was inexperienced and I wrote about what I knew and what was important to me at that time. I quickly realised that my experience is not about sport, but about being passionate - for whatever. And I realised as well that by writing about sport a lot, I already had put off quite a few people from reading the site. In the meantime none of my friends from back then is reading the site because they still think that it is a Bodybuilding site.

I was so desperate to please them and to get them back, that I entirely neglected the sport section. I haven't written about sport in about one and a half years, and the bodybuilding section is still incomplete although I have all the pictures sitting there ready to be processed. Back then I didn't understand how the internet works and how loyal behaviour in the internet is created. Not that I have become better in that, but I surely I have now decided for my lifestyle to focus on sport again, and I will do so on the site as well. Here is to catch up with a few of the articles we have already:

Now I am getting to the bit which a lot of people call 'airy fairy', but which I think is the most honest of the sections. Every article was written at a time when the issue was bugging me, and writing it down in a way that it didn't sound too much like a rant, helped rather well to thinking the matter through. Apparently there have been quite a few things bugging me - the number of articles and columns is really rather big; so big even that there was a point when I gathered the first year's pamphlets, worked through them again and wanted to publish them as a book. Oh yeah, dreams! Of course no editor thought that somebody would want to pay money for the wisdom of an old cow from the provinces. So the manuscript is sitting idly on my shelf. But here I would like to point you to the one or the other article nevertheless:

And then there is one more little article which sort of sums it up. I wrote it almost two years ago and it was to go into said book. Well it's about time to publish it now:-

From Strength 2 Freedom

Have a wonderful Easter time and see you next week all fresh and full of USG!

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Iron Ladies

There is a difference between being tired and fatigue. Everybody is getting tired at the end of the day, and once in a while we still are after a too short night of sleep. We may feel like an afternoon nap, or a lie in – that’s all rather normal.

Why so tired?
With fatigue I mean feeling constantly worn down. Being tired even when the night was long enough; the feeling that although the sleep was deep and dreamless one hasn’t slept at all. One is able to get through the daily tasks, even finds a laugh when chatting with the girls, but there is always this feeling of having to push through; there is no natural flow, one is clumsy and forgetful and creativity has left the brain.

So one is checking the calendar and is somewhat relieved to see that it is ‘the week before’. Thank God, it’s just one of those months, and there will be payback time: When this will be over the sun usually is shining a bit brighter, even. But not this time! So the search continues: Well, a lot of people have a cold: I may come down with something; it’s almost spring: This change of seasonal climate is stressful on the body and one is worn down by central heating and lack of oxygen.

I need a pill!
The re-installed power walking sessions, however and the garden work are not helping, in contrary: Instead of a rosy, fresh air complexion I look grey like an old bed sheet, the hair is lifeless, and I only have to look at food for it to appear on my thighs. The head clouds are getting bigger and the workload that lies ahead becomes ever more overwhelming: One already has to think about summer holidays and it’s only those few month to squeeze everything in – the garden, Easter, some travels to see family, preparing the BBQ place to be ready for the May Bank Holidays, sport definitely needs picking up and sh... the windows and the garden fence need painting, and all I want to do is to sit in my armchair with biscuits and tea and stare at the wall – even choosing a movie from the DVD collection is too much of a decision. It would be so great to have a pill to make it all go away. Well, maybe there is one:

Iron is needed to build the haemoglobin in the red blood cells, and that is the stuff which is transporting the oxygen that we breathe in, into to cells of the body where it gets burnt and turned into energy, so that the cell can do its job.

How it works
The burning process is using the same principles like a fireplace. In order to heat a room or cook some food two things are needed: a fuel like gas or coal and oxygen. Trying to light the fuel in a vacuum won’t work as the oxygen is missing; there has to be oxygen to turn the fuel into energy. This can easily be observed when extinguishing a candle with a candle snuffer. As soon as it is put over the candle, the flame uses the leftovers of the oxygen and then just stops burning.

This mechanism explains where the lack of energy comes from when iron is missing in the body. Iron means oxygen and if it is missing our fire has gone out or is about to, hence the body wants to save the meagre remains for vital organs, goes into energy saving mode and tries to put us to sleep. Additionally it signals for help. Once in a while it might make the heart work hard in the hope to get more blood pumped and hence more oxygen supplied - one then can feel the beat scarily loud and clear, or it may ask for fuel, meaning food, sometimes in the shape of weird cravings. Well, and since the body won’t waste energy to keep skin and hair nice, one might become rather flaky and ‘beige’. Although the typical pale complexion of an anaemic will come at a later stage.

Oh, what a bad combination: Wanting nothing more than hanging around and eating. So why on earth do we lose iron? It’s something really rather solid, how does it leave the body?

When things go wrong
The iron lives in the red blood cells, which when everything goes right live around 3-4 months and then get recycled and rebuild, if something goes wrong the iron gets lost. There are five main mechanisms involved in the iron trade where things can go wrong:

the body is not able to build enough red blood cells to replace the dying ones – then something is usually wrong with the bone marrow,

  • the body is not able to absorb the iron that it gets delivered with the food – then something is wrong with the intestines, like celiac disease,

  • the body is in need for more iron, like during pregnancy,

  • the body is losing a huge amount of blood, like during an accident or operation, or

  • the body is losing small amounts of blood, like during menstruation.

Regarding the first two, one would not just feel a bit off whack but rather sick. The underlying condition would cause further symptoms and doctors will take care of the situation. Additionally the symptom would probably appear rather quickly. The same is true for pregnancy during which iron levels should be monitored and balance out.

Balanced Diet
Well, when losing a large amount of blood the iron levels are usually the least of ones problems; this period thing however is very, very sneaky! Every month one is losing just a tad bit of iron, and although a lot of information sources are claiming that with a balanced diet one should have replaced the missing bits by the end of the cycle, I personally cannot confirm that. ‘Balanced’ for health people usually means ‘utterly healthy’.

In my book ‘balanced’ reads as ‘mostly being a good girl, but liking my coffees and teas and dairies’ – and those are all things that inhibit iron to be consumed by the body. Meaning that one can eat as much as one likes, but the body can’t use it because a lot of Chemistry goes on between the iron and the foods and hence it is passed straight through the intestines and does not get digested as it should be. Additionally iron from food sources comes in all sorts if chemical compounds and the body is rather specific about which ones it wants. Just nibbling a rusty nail as suggested by some urban myths won’t do the trick.

A warning!
Well, and then of course one has to give a warning that too much iron can be harmful, and even if some additional intake is indicated it may upset the stomach or cause indigestion. Hence I am taking this little pill before I go to sleep when my stomach is not entirely empty, but there is enough time between food and iron intake to not have the two interfere with each other.

My experience
I stumbled across iron a good two decades ago. I was young, I was healthy and I was tired down to depression. At that time I was researching vitamins to find out if they could have a positive impact on my allergies (which some of them have), and when I read the list of symptoms for iron deficiency I thought I had a mirror held to my face.

So I gave it a shot, didn’t have any side effects except of a bit of indigestion for a couple of days until the body got used to it, and felt an improvement instantly. After two days my energy came back and within a week I was my old self again.

I took a six week course as advised on the pack and then a couple of years later I ran into the same trap. It happens so slowly that one doesn’t realise it. Other conditions like sleep deprivation due too much partying, work or a cold can have a similar effect and hide the real cause. Again I took the pills with the same outcome: Instant relief!

I then checked with my GP, got off the drug for a month, had the blood levels measured which were in the lower third of the range – so nothing bothersome or unusual – but I already felt the lack again. He then confirmed that should I feel like needing it, I could take this low dose continuously without causing any harm. He as well told me that some people react to lower levels earlier than others, something that I found confirmed in the book ‘Well-being for Women’ by Helen Lawrence (Geddes & Grosset, 2004, p.18)

Regarding the duration of the course it seems that my body is telling me when enough is enough. I tend to all of a sudden forget taking them, so I am stopping intake altogether until the next time when I am wondering why I am so tired and if I might have caught a cold...

Will I ever learn?
This time round I was so proud to have survived Christmas well and thought that this would give me a brilliant head start into summer. Ha, I’d wished! Mid January I started feeling a bit drained, beginning February I had my holidays when I usually slip horribly food wise – what is ok as I am preparing for it – and after that I crushed. I didn’t realise what was going on until mid March when the downhill trend became more and more obvious. Within these six weeks my weight went up about 3 kg adding an additional 21,000 calories to my diet which I now have to get rid of again. If somebody however would have dared saying a word about my biscuit consumption, I would have gathered the last of my strength and would have gone for a kill. There was no control whatsoever. Now three days in I am back to my normal diet without any problems, liking my salt less bread, the eggs and bananas.

Well apparently I am an iron lady in many ways!

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Keeping the Romance

What on earth IS romance?

We had a dinner party the other day and one of our bachelor guests asked how we keep the romance going. As you know me – my answer wasn’t a straight one, but elaborated around the fact that at the beginning there might be a volcano-like experience of fire sparking and people not being able to keep the fingers of each other. Well I guess that’s what everybody is hoping for and some volcanoes might spark a bit hotter than others.

We all know however: The hotter the fire the more easily and severely one might get burnt!

See, I had a very bright volcano sparking once – no, not with hubby – and that might have been helped by the fact that the guy was Brazilian, and hence exotic enough to be more interesting than others, and hence me being more flattered to be considered a possible mate...

He wanted to have loads of kids and was very catholic – well, I didn’t mind kinds and were merely protestant; and a bit of a free spirit, really! But volcanoes have the weirdest effects: All of a sudden I was reading the bible and was prepared to pop at least five babies – well, I was promised a maid!

And then my steadily burning fireplace named Detlef came along the volcano burnt out with a puff. Apparently size doesn’t matter in fires either.

The next thing to consider is the foundation of the relationship which needs to be established by the time the fire loses its energy. That is the part where a lot of misconceptions are arising from: Everybody is hoping for the fire to stay at its hottest all by itself, and if this is not happening disappointment kicks in.

Some use a ‘fight and make-up’ strategy to fuel the relationship, but one has to be able to take the heat as well as the cold as this will never be a steady flame. Disappointment will be even bigger should the make-up sex all of a sudden taking place in the arms of a third party fire place.

The steady flame solution it to find a common ground, possibly with a house built on it, some kids playing in front, and a picket fence – or like in our case: a decent hedge.

Common ground and similar goals means, that one has to compromise at times and that one has to find the individual spaces. This is a bit like a very long school project: Hard work. And in the meantime one has to work around the nitty-gritty bits of life with unscrewed toothpaste, socks lying around, and garbage that needs bringing out.

While the make-up sex approach surely never gets boring it appears as less sustainable in the long run, while the picket fence people have to be a bit careful not to take the achieved for too granted and once in a while should see to find the fire tongs to stir things up a bit.

Whichever approach works for you: Romance means keeping this fireplace going the way you like it!

So, what are the things that fuel this little oven?

Well, if you are after the volcano version then you might cause a nice fight by forgetting the birthday or anniversary, leaving the toothpaste open and your socks on the floor. Then the jewellery or the flowers after might work to bring you onto the make-up sex road.

But for the steady fire person it’s not just about remembering dates either, it’s what one does with it. To have the secretary send over a bunch and an SMS apologising for being delayed for the dinner won’t work – although some would be glad to at least get that. As I said before: building a relationship is to find the best compromise and a truly romantic gestures would be to arrange a gift around one of these compromises; giving something back the other half gave up in order to make the relationship work.

The most romantic things however can be very tiny and spontaneous and sometimes the giver might not even notice it: It is when the better half is slipping into the others mind, and is just there when needed without being asked.

Imagine me cooking for 10 people short notice, hubby helping with the drinks, and the salad and when we needed something big to put the salad in I blanked... cooking and dishes are my resort and hobby, I buy that stuff, I know where everything is... with food bubbling on the hob and guests arriving soon, I lost the plot. And then hubby left the kitchen mumbling something like: ‘I know....’, and came back with a huge bowl from the bottom shelf that we rarely use. The perfect romantic gesture!

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Rituals, Faith and Happiness

I like rituals! It was very lovely to be invited for Haldi KumKum to a friend’s house recently. As a child I liked the tradition at our house when on 24th December the Christmas tree was lit for the first time of the season. I would not have seen it by then, mum would open a window and ring a little bell, and I, charged with the energy of a whole day’s build-up of expectation, would dash in only to find that the Holy Child was again faster than me, already had unloaded the presents and left by the open window.

It is a bit different when the whole thing shifts into the clerical area. Churches easily touch me emotionally – oh, these guys knew how to build in order to create atmosphere. But all the humbug that is performed in these buildings is just not for me. While my childhood Christmas ritual was to create a fairytale moment before reality of life would hit hard, church rituals feel like indoctrination to me. I hated the singing and mumbling, the guided concourse through the subject of the week, performed in an old language nobody properly understands. One might say: ‘Well, you go to conferences where a speaker covers a subject in a similar way and might be wasting an hour of your valuable time.’ Correct! But there I am allowed to leave, to question, to discuss, to even dismiss.

Rituals might create an atmosphere of belonging, as a drawback they create group pressure, though. Proper rituals involve more than one person, meaning that if one is skipping the game the other ones usually get upset. This is no different whether you skip your poker round, the Sunday lunch or your faith. Or is it?

For the poker round one usually is replaceable, and if the people one is playing with are real friends, then one still can have a drink with them. Sunday lunch involves family and one is not replaceable, at least not easily. One might only find out the truth of it when the will is revealed and the fortunes will benefit the cat. It however becomes really tricky when faith is involved. Religion always plays with ‘What If?’. I might be in doubt, I might not feel free in my decisions, I might even know that some of the doctrine is wrong – but What If that all doesn’t matter and me leaving the congregation would have the worst of all effects on me, my loved ones, my life and my afterlife – like purgatory, or so?

I could just make my peace with purgatory. I like it warm anyway. And if I would decide for myself that there is no afterlife and eternity, then the problem goes away in a jiffy. But oh no! People who found religious groups and sects know what they are doing. They usually try to get hold of the whole family structure... and all of a sudden the table is turning. Knowing that a mum couldn’t bear the thought of her only child burning in hell for eternity, and knowing that she would deeply feel that thought burn in her heart... Who would be able to do that to her? Luckily my parents were on my side, and even grandma was rather open to criticism of faith. But I got lucky not to have children of my own. Baptism would have been out of the question for me, for granny it would have been hard to come round to the thought of her grandchild not being baptised - What If...

And there we are looking at another eccentricity of those rituals. They help create social status. In the old days a child had to have as many godfathers, best with high status, as possible. Firstly then the child would be cared for and accepted into a network of opportunities the godfathers would provide, and secondly the parents would show to the public that they are closely involved with so many important people. In the catholic South of Germany you can see this phenomenon in the number of forenames a child had. Every godfather would add his and for some reason boys usually have more than girls. I am wondering why that is?

So now imagine me eventually having produced the long expected son, the family would have lined up a decent row of godfathers and I would say: ‘I give a sh...!’

That is just not what you do! The consequences would be that your – and the boy’s – inheritance would go to the cat, all the future opportunities for the kid would be blown out of the window, and your parents including the rest of the family would be dishonoured.

It is one thing to choose social isolation for oneself, but in this case one has responsibilities for another person...

... and this way the church has caught another soul to be dragged through the rituals for further indoctrination.

These days a lot of societies in the world already have changed, or are about to change. It is much easier now to take choices in the Western world, even countries with strong traditions like India see change, and the younger generation is rebelling – and more and more often winning.

Thing just is: One might think that people who these days join religions believe that they were developed to provide safety and protection in their society, and would hence make them happier - or at least that is what they are hoping for. Looking around me it however seems that the advantages and the constraints weigh each other off. I see really happy and really unhappy people at both ends of the faith spectrum. So what is the whole fuss then about?