Thursday, 25 November 2010

From Strength to Freedom

First published 2007

At age 16 I was cute and sexy, so I was told – I thought I had fat ankles and bum. At age 21 I was through with several diets and still thought the same, always aware of my flaws. Looking back from now – gosh, I was cute and sexy – should have enjoyed it while I had it. Despite my worries I even joined the 80s mainstream and visited nude beaches and pools. Blissful times – bless us!

So I saw this cute boy at the beach. The haircut hilarious – his dad’s homemade scissor craft almost spoiled his chances – but that rear and these shoulders, …ahhh, and he was so young. How could I ever think that he would be interested? But he was!

We fell in love head over heals and I couldn’t understand that the one thing he loved most was my bum. I had these brilliant boobs at that time - not too big, not too small – and this guy was after the one bit I hated most, the one thing that was always in the way and didn’t allow me to wear nice clothes because they just wouldn’t fit.

Now we are married for more than a quarter of a century and until a few years ago I still didn’t believe him. He supported me through so many diets, although telling me that they weren’t necessary. He became chubby with me and now slim again – not by diet, though – and he claimed throughout that the rear is my best bit. Well the boobs have gone south meanwhile, so they don’t count anymore, but I find that the rear drifted the same direction – so, what’s to like about that?

Obsessions! Mirrors, windows, glass doors – staring at my image whenever possible, then getting depressed, like a self fulfilling prophecy.

Depression followed by food, getting fatter, depression, pretending to like myself because one has to pretend that these days: ‘I love my body the way it is!

‘NO,’ -  for crying out loud – ‘I DON’T’. I hate it, it has pains everywhere, I can’t do what I want to do because I’m breathless and stiff, a few more years and I will be in my menopause, then things might spiral out of control – panic mode!

At age 40 the decline got steeper. Why on earth does it always have to come to the worst before one actually does something about it? I could have saved me the depressions, the back pains, the lack of breath. And I could have saved me this staring around at parties in the hope to find at least one woman who looked more pathetic than I did.

I know, I know – there are people out there who have it worse. I know! I had everything I ever wanted: house, husband, part time job, garden, friends, ... But that is exactly what made it so bad. I had nothing in particular to complain about and was unhappy nevertheless. Meanwhile food had become the best of my friends. To whom can you talk about such a silly thing? People might just think I’m bonkers?

At age 43 eventually I found my path. It was right there in front of me, all these years. Remember his nice rear, and his shoulders? He was a bodybuilder. Not one of the meaty mountains. No, more like the Davidoff fragrance advert guy. And he taught me everything about it. I had worked out on and off, but never made it my way of living. Now I gave it a go and, … the result turned out to be a little bit different from what I had expected.

All my life was about belonging - even going to nude beaches. Gosh, everybody went there, no big deal – actually it was for me, but I never would have admitted to that. All the moaning about ‘I want to be able to wear this or that!’ and all the laments on ‘I need to look slim for this or that event!’, it is all about fitting in, isn’t it? We need to belong: ‘Oh, I so much wanted to belong’. I could have invented ‘BELONGING’. And then something amazing happened: I got muscles! Real ones! And I love them. It’s like creating a sculpture. I am in control. Eventually I am in control. What a great feeling!

AND…I am in control AND I am strong! I can do anything I want to! I am independent! The strength radiates into everything. I dare doing things I never dared doing before. All of a sudden ‘belonging’ is not an issue anymore. ‘Belonging’ is restrictive, what I want now is ‘FREEDOM’.

At age 46 I definitely don’t belong anymore. Some people look at me not really sure what to think – it makes me smile. Others, strangers approach me in the street to congratulate me on my shape - it fills me with happiness. Not wanting to belong anymore was one of the best decisions I’ve ever taken, apart from marrying my darling husband. Now I’m free to achieve whatever I want!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

You Can't Cheat the Sandman

Some more thoughts about Christmas time. First published in 2008.

Two weeks ago I went shopping and came across a great offer on Panetone cake, this simple yet delicious Italian Christmas sponge cake. Well, one could make one from scratch - not that I ever tried, although I found a recipe - but I bought mine. What a good idea for an afternoon tea with the ladies, so I thought... Well, it's gone! I ate it... all of it... the whole kilo in 3 days!

I'm embarrassed, but it was soooo good. Firstly this is my favourite type of cake, and it's only on the market around Christmas. Secondly it keeps very well .. . OK, apparently not in my house, but generally you can keep it for about half a year.  So this cake is a great bargain.

There was just one thing that puzzled me: It was not THAT time of the month, and I thought I had learned to control myself rather well. Hmm?! I was fairly tired at that time though, only sleeping 5-6 hours per night, Detlef mothering me already: You should sleep more, that's not good for you,... Yeah, well I know!! But..!!!

However I couldn't help but think that the more I got tired, the more I was chomping away on this cake, wondering if there might be a connection. I remembered previous occasions where I just insisted on burning the candle from both ends and actually should have lost weight from all the activities, but got fatter instead. Then Detlef told me about something he had heard on the radio 'See, told you so!' style. Good girl that I am, I researched it with his help and it was broadcast on 'BBC2 Radio – Chris Evans drivetime, 22/11/07'. Dr. Adam Carey gave an interview on the effects of lack of sleep and this is what I understand from it:

It is one of the things where the body chemistry comes into play. There seem to be two chemical effects taking place due to lack of sleep.

Firstly, not sleeping enough means that cortisol, the bodies stress hormone, is rising. The body goes into energy saving mode when under stress ('starving' or 'high impact cardio exercise' - and apparently 'lack of sleep'). It means that the body takes energy from easily accessible sources like blood sugar and muscle, rather then bothering to attack the fat depots. When awake it demands fresh energy in form of being greedy for carbohydrates, or in my case: Panetone! And being still tired this is hard to resist anyway. Hence weight gain rather than loss, despite the active lifestyle.

Secondly, the levels of growth hormones are falling. Those are build while sleeping and are needed for all the repair work the body has to do. If growth hormones are low, the effect of exercises is wasted. Training is supposed to impose some kind of micro-damage on the muscle so that the body feels the need to repair and thus strengthen. With low levels of this hormone, on muscles will not grow despite the exercise. To cut a long story short:

Lack of sleep means more greed for calorie rich food, destruction of muscle tissue, restricted re-build of new muscle tissue, which altogether is resulting in a physically weak body with growing fat depots.


Off you go ladies, have a nap, sleep your seven hours per night, see to get to bed before midnight - it's not just about beauty, it's about well being, fitness, lifestyle - everything! Start your time management by planning your sleep and then work backwards through the day. Be religious about it. It's for a good cause and your kids will learn from you. Hey - what a great excuse that is!

My new motto:
You can't cheat the Sandman!

Body and Mind

First published in 2007

There might be - no, I'm sure there will be - a lot of you disagreeing with what I'm about to say, and if I were face to face to you, you might be shouting by now. I'll say it anyway: I do not think that there are spiritual or esoteric things going on. It is all down to chemistry!

This doesn't make our bodies less magnificent: A single bad word from someone you don't even know can throw you into utter dismay while a stranger smiling at you in the street can make your day. Tiny signals we read from other people or our environment using our eyes, ears and noses indulge our bodies in a vast stream of chemical substances giving us feedback in form of feelings instantly, and some of it will happen on a subconscious level, so we might not even know why all of a sudden the mood is swinging.

The legacy of the ancestors ...
This is the legacy of our ancestors, who had to develop a refined feedback system in order to survive. Emotions created due to the release of chemicals are transformed into movement of the muscles at a speed which is actually rather mind-boggling. Robert Winston who is a very well known scientist once described the way we have evolved from our ancestors in a marvellous BBC TV-series called 'Human Instinct - how our primeval impulses shape our modern lives'. It is available as book as well, and also describes why some of the things we inherited are backfiring now.

A good example of how thinking the right thoughts can release the right chemicals for fulfilling a task, is playing golf. Since my husband started to play golf and I gave it a try for one summer as well, we noticed that our bodies respond to thoughts very instantaneously. It is something that  golfer all over the world will confirm:

Imagine a lake in front of you with some shrubs behind it. The task is to play the ball over the lake. There are three ways of thinking about it:

1. 'Oh great! Please not into the water' - The ball will quite definitely hit the water, because that is the image your brain is focused on: The water!

2. 'OK, let's do this, play over the water' - Better already, but there still is this image of water existent.

3. 'I want to hit that shrub with the purple flowers' - That is the one to go for. Use a phrase that takes the Angst-item out of the equation.

Adrenalin levels will go down, the eyes will measure the distance and send the respective chemicals to adjust the muscle power, and all will be well. OK, your ball might be stuck in the rough now.

That's how our ancestors survived and evolved. The ones who had the best internal drug adjustment achieved certain goals faster and more consistently, had more successful offspring, and got better through tough times; the others went down.

... and the civilised lifestyle
Pity just is, that our world has changed too quickly for our bodies to adapt to the modern civilisation. Our ancestors had fewer resources, and whenever they found carbos they had to stuff themselves, and that's why we recognise carbohydrate rich food instantly and like it so much. Carbos had to taste good so one would enjoy overeating on the randomly found resource and the fat depot would help bringing them through the next famine. Only that carbos are not random anymore, and we never have a famine.

We have lost the intuition and the naive approach on how to live our lives because we got overwhelmed by the enchantments of the modern world. If we could re-discover the rules by which the body plays it's game we could come a bit closer to understand what some call 'Spirit' or 'Mind', and what I like to call 'My Chemicals'. And it would allow us to decide more easily when wallowing in vice is OK, and when austerity is the motto of the day.

Get in control
Another reason why I like this 'Chemicals' approach is because they are part of the one big game. We might not have understood all the reactions that are going on, but whatever happens: It implies that the body consists of intertwined parts which all have their role to play. The 'Body & Spirit', 'Body & Mind' approach implies that there are two entirely different sides of  the same thing, one heavy and routed on the ground, and the other rather light and not easily to be located. It implies that those parts can be treated separately, and that they have to be put into some state of balance, as if they could be kept on different sides of a scale.

Already the language which I intuitively chose, implies that the body and the mind are handled... treated from the outside, to MAKE them behave a certain way, whereas the chemicals DO their bits and we might want to take measures to enable them to do better. To find my spirits - how do I do that? Calm down my mind - again, how am I supposed to do that when my hormones are playing havoc? But thinking in chemicals: They are mine, I am in a feedback loop with them, we are one.

If I feel sad I look sad, and if I feel happy I smile.

However: If I make a sad face I will become sad, and if I make a funny face I will feel happier. Again: This confirms the feedback loop I mentioned before. Visible signs of  emotions are created either by sensors like noses, eyes, ears and skin creating chemicals making muscles move a certain way, or moving the muscles a certain way can create the emotion without the trigger of an external sensor. And that means that WE are in charge of our own bodies, by feeding it a certain way, by keeping a particular posture  and by moving it, we have direct influence. No other person, guide, or instrument can take away emotional pain, but you yourself. You can put yourself in charge, and by supporting your body's chemistry you have direct influence on taming your demons.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Still not for the squeemish!

Follow-up on 'From Fluff to Buff ' and 'From Fluff to Buff - The Sequel'

Hands up! Who knows a place where the following comes together:

  • Warm water,
  • Good light,
  • Towels on a hanger without getting wet,
  • Mirror, preferably magnifying,
  • Enough space to do the weirdest of stretches,
  • Privacy,
  • Glasses which don't slip of nose while doing stretches?

I am working on solving this riddle since beginning of 2008 now and still haven't found a solution that satisfies me entirely. I am talking about body hair. I am not getting any younger for crying out loud - I am not as bendy and half blind. But that doesn't mean that I will put up with it!

My first article about this issue produced a rather detached list of the various forms of hair removal. I tried to be open, however... hmmm sort of 12A approved. But I am telling you, I am now soooo close to using all the swear words I know!

After having researched all the more non-invasive options like creams, shaving, and epilating I moved on to waxing and then decided that this is all not working for me. All those methods don't solve the problem for good: I wanted to see those hairs dead as a dodo! Hence a while later my article on laser treatment.

Oh it did work, laser is great - a wee bit hurtful but great and worth every penny. I got so used to the fact not having to bother anymore, that I am now furious because it seems that the older I get the more this devilish body feature is fighting back. The fact that I keep coming back to the subject only shows the determination of this force of nature. Girls if you ever made jokes about women with a 5 o'clock shadow or a goatee - be aware that this might be you in a few years time - I am herewith pleating: Guilty!

And talking about the areas which are not instantly visible... you are thinking bikini... think a bit further; the above list of requirements is not the product of a sick brain, but well thought through. Will it end one day? I hope so! I cannot imagine myself giving up on the wish for the clean shaven look, whatever age I might get to.

Keep the laser hot ladies!

From Fluff to Buff - The Sequel

First published in January 2008

When I wrote the last comment on this issue, saying that I would get more info about laser treatment I meant something like: Pulling through with the waxing as planned, going in holidays and when I would be back, then... I might give the clinic which Kelly recommended a call.

Well, once I had uploaded this IL-edition I thought: Stop! What am I doing here? I'm always telling you to take action when you don't like the way things are going and I'm unnecessarily delaying things. Doesn't hurt to contact them!

Thus, true to our motto: Get the bum up and DO something, I actually put my bum down back on my chair and wrote these guys an email asking for a quote for the whole lot: Legs, bikini and under arm. And right after New Year I got a response from Health Counts Skin Laser Clinic.

Ooompf, can we talk about prices a bit later, please?! It is definitely something one has to save up for.

The information sheet that was attached as well confirmed all what I had read from other sources so I was confident enough to give them a call. ... and a minute later or so I had an appointment for consultation and patch test.

So that's how this works:

* You go there and fill in a usual patient form, from where they assess your health condition - it is going to be an invasive procedure after all. At least they ask you for everything which might cause the laser to have a different effect on the skin. E.g. they asked if I use St. John's Wort. That stuff makes the skin more sensitive to light. Well, laser is very intense light, so they need to know all these things.

* In the consultation you tell them what you want to have done and they will assess you skin/hair type.

This is essential in order to find out how well it will be working on you, and thus determining your personal risk. From that the best initial laser setting is derived. The laser is using a physical effect which can easily be explained by the effect the sun has on different surfaces. We know that dark surfaces get searing hot very quickly while white ones stay cool much longer. So the laser will burn everything dark much quicker than everything white. The idea is that the laser light heats up the dark hair much quicker than the surrounding area, leads the energy accumulated right into the root of the hair and kills it off, so that back growth is not possible.

Now, skin/hair wise there are 4 combinations possible:
  • dark skin , dark hair: Laser goes after both
  • dark sin, blond hair: Laser goes after skin
  • fair skin, blond hair: Laser is basically not working
  • fair skin, dark hair: Laser goes after hair

Obviously one is not interested in having skin burned. So if the skin is dark, the contrast is not very high for the laser to focus on the hair and thus not the best outcome will be achieved, while blond/white hair doesn't take in the energy and can't be treated.

It's best if the skin is fair and the hair is dark. And yippie, That's me!

* Then the patch test. In this clinic the patch test is charged £20 (January 2008) and they tested all the areas I was interested in. The test is to see how the chosen laser setting works and what the effect on the treated skin is.

I have to say, the atmosphere there was lovely. A lot of giggling and a very sensitive approach to the whole matter. Everything neat and clean and spa like. The girls there are all very sweet.

Little crayon squares were drawn onto the skin, a picture taken of the area for the records and then the laser came into action... and I was surprised! This thing is blowing cold air what is very nice - and necessary. Areas like the knees feel rather pin-pricklish: However, who had a wax in this area or used an epilator knows what pain is. This was nothing close to it. Well I'm writing this before the real treatment, so I may want to amend that statement at a later stage...

There is one thing to be aware of: The smell of burnt hair. Not all to bad, but it is there. I felt a little bit like a German Christmas goose. They don't lose their feathers easily and bits and pieces usually get smouldered off before preparing them. A bit of a weird recollection of childhood Christmas days, while lying around being rather exposed.

* Well that was it really, a bit of Aloe Vera gel and a bit of reddening, however not as bad and itchy as from waxing. Areas where the clothes pinched the skin while driving home got a bit hot, but not unbearable at all.

Another difference to waxing is that the dead bit of the hair that is stuck in the skin is visible as a little black dot. So it needs a bit longer than a day to look plain. It's funny, actually. If you touch it you expect a stubble, but it is smooth. So as the skin exfoliates those dots come off and the skin looks neat - forever!

* Several treatments will be needed, though - depending on skin/hair type, hormones and a few other things. At any time we have hair roots which are sleeping. As no hair is there to lead the heat into the root to destroy it, this little bugger will stay alive and wake up after a few weeks and grow a hair - but not for long! It is estimated that with my skin type I will need a minimum of 4 treatments for each area (most websites say 4-6 treatments in average).

So I paid my £20 pounds ... and made an appointment!

Come on, it makes sense!

Following through with the last waxing session would be silly as it is weakening the roots, and for laser you need them to grow strong healthy hair - for one last time!

And I'm not getting younger either. I haven't found greys on my head only, you know? Have a bit of a panic mode setting in...

Well, that's the moment to talk about money. It will be my next birthday, and Christmas, and birthday, and Christmas gift - at least, and a bit more. If I compare it to 6 weekly waxing sessions, then I have to live at least for another 10 years to make that worthwhile.

But imagine! Never, ever again pain, cuts and pinches from shaving/waxing, money to be paid, time to be spent! No itching or ingrown hair, and no more: "steam room , ooompf sorry, hehe, probably next time". Never again: "Sh.. Sun is burning from the sky - no skirt today"


I just HAVE to give it a shot.

So I'm running on countdown now. In order to have the hair at the right length I was told to shave on Sunday, promptly resulting in a couple of cuts... Grrr! And on Wednesday I will face 3 hours of laser treatment.

If I survive you will find an addition after this very sentence otherwise - there might not be a new publication. Well, I will at least ask Detlef to press the button.

17:40PM on Wednesday and I'm still alive and in one piece after two and a half hours of laser bzzz... Two ladies took turns with the laser, and the poor things must have nightmares as it makes a beep with every beam - and that were a lot of beams during this session.

Under arms (axillae) are done in a jiffy, if you wanted to have those done you are out before you really got in. Well I'm not very hairy, but still - it's quick and not very hurtful.

Bikini: Well, the more they get to the middle the more it pricks. Unfortunately the coarsest hair sits where the most nerves are gathering and the skin only just covers the bone. So not really pleasant, but bearable. The laser is moved from spot to spot and they work back and forth towards the areas that hurt most, so that those don't accumulate the pain too much. And by the time you finished thinking about what you are doing there it's already done.

The lower legs are a bit of a different matter. My left one hurts more than the right one and it was rather pin pricklish. Again bearable, however some beams took me by surprise.

The most important bits I found:

It definitely helps to feel comfortable with the team, especially when going for the whole lot. It is quite a bit of intimate time spent together. And the girls from Health Counts Skin Laser Clinic I can really recommend.

To have a positive attitude helps. You should be absolutely sure that this is what you really want. I wanted this to work so much that I actually didn't really bother whether or not it did hurt. I guess the bigger pain will be felt on hubby's credit card.

The pain is only lasting for this very brief moment of the beam. It is rather likely that the next beam doesn't hurt and as the laser moves on, the pain is already gone (although this depends on the skin/hair colour and the coarseness of the hair as well). Only if a lot of painful beams come in a row it becomes uncomfy, but the ladies knew exactly how to move the laser to get a good mix of beams.

Astonishingly enough, now after 2 hours or so I don't feel a thing under the arms or around the bikini area (had expected that to be the worst bit), but the lower legs are a bit itchy - a bit like after waxing or like a sunburn that starts peeling. I have a cream that is used for burns which is rather soothing. Aloe Vera gel works fine a s well.

You will not be 'beautiful and smooth' instantly. Every smouldered hair leaves a blotch and a dark spot. After a 5-6 days (so I was told) I can start using exfoliating creams. The old dead hair will start coming out of the skin and everything that helps (shaving, exfoliating, plucking) is ok.

Apparently the under arms and the bikini will have the first sleeping roots to wake up, leg roots seem to sleep a bit longer. So I will have the next session just for those two areas in 4 weeks time and have them checking when the legs will need doing.

Most of the clinics I found do a '6 for 5 treatments' deal, or similar. However, given that I wanted to have everything done in one go this amount of money would have been quite a commitment. Some areas might need less treatments altogether, thus I'm paying as I go along. Although that means gambling it. If it would turn out that need 6 sessions for each area than I will have lost money. But given my skin type I felt that I can risk it. So get all the price options and take them home. Don't take this decision during the consultation. It needs thinking through, and the patch test might give you some hints as well.

Be aware that you should use full sun block in order to stay as pale as possible before and between treatments. It might not be a good idea wanting to start after your summer holidays.

So that is it for now. The itching is easing down as I write, and I feel very confident that I will have a great holiday (in 12 days time) with smooth skin and without having to take heavy shaving gear. I'd rather opt for some fancy shoes to make my luggage heavy.

I will keep you posted and I hopefully I will have pictures when things are finished, as I will get hold of the before and after pictures they are taking.

Talk to you soon!

Update on waxing

26th December 2007

Follow-up on 'From Fluff to Buff'

Well, initially I wanted to wait with a further comment until the 3 waxing sessions are over, but I think I already came to a conclusion, now that the 2nd session has been done.
For starters: The waxing sessions are just fine, Bikini line is still a bit ouch, but the second time round the skin was less itchy and the knowledge about what to expect definitely does help. It is as if it releases tension from the skin and the hair is released easier. Additionally I got me some Aloe Vera gel what helps soothing. So on the 2nd day after treatment the skin was spotless.

The Verdict
I love the smoothness. There is no shaving that comes close to it. With dark hair and fair skin eventually all the shadows are gone: Definitely want that!
I love the not having to bother. I now realise how much time I need for shaving. Definitely want that!
It is not as expensive as I would have thought. £25 (legs and bikini) every 6 weeks seems ok to me.

It is said that one has 3 weeks of smooth bliss. Well, it might be just me, but after 2 weeks I get the first shadows and some ingrowth, especially on the bikini line. So for me it's:
  • 2 weeks of bliss,
  • 1 week during which I just get away with it in the open,
  • 1 week during which hubby still gets to see me, and then
  • 2 weeks of fur ball horror.
I expect that further sessions might make the hair look more faint, so that the 'hubby gets to see me' phase will extend towards the end of the 6 weeks, but given that I do a lot of sport, hang around in changing rooms - see comment below - and like to go to the steam room after work-outs: I don't think that's gonna work for me!

However, I'm sure that waxing is perfect for people who are more fair haired and probably have less than me anyway, and who don't have their lifestyle preference on sport, or sport where one tends to expose those particular body parts.
It is definitley worthwhile to time it for holidays or special occasions. I'm looking forward to my smooth legs on the beach - YaY!

But definitely look for an experienced waxer. The more broken hair the higher the risk of ingrowth especially around the bikini line (for some reason hair is particularly stubborn there, hence the more 'ouch!').

Further Plans
I'm determined now to explore the laser treatment option. Definitely not cheap, definitely not painless! However, I read a bit about it and found that I may be a perfect candidate. The bigger the contrast between skin and hair colour the better the results. Not working at all on grey! So I should hurry to find out before it's too late. Ladies, I'm telling ya, old age is trying hard to catch up on me. Well, so far I could out-smart it!

From Fluff to Buff

First published October 2007

Oh my God, look at her legs! Like a Gazelle ... as hairy!

Whenever there is something on the telly about hair removal: I’m clinging to it! It is a rather queasy and a bit of a scabrous subject and whenever somebody is talking openly about it I’m not to miss it, by no means!

What on earth is it about body hair? We are breeding pigs with an additional rib, have eradicated a lot of diseases, carrying fake boobs, have been on the moon and had all sorts of great achievements – but we still are squeamish about body hair and we still don’t know how to get rid of it.

The last TV show, depicting a lot of ingrown hair, and painful faces left me as clueless as all the others before. So let's see what remedies there are on the market.


I used hair removal cream once, about 100 years ago and back then it was a rather messy and smelly affair. If one is to believe the adverts at the telly, then these days it's nothing but fun to use these nice and girlishly wrapped chemical concoctions.
I bought this pack in a desperate moment when I didn't have my varifocals yet and thus couldn't read the label in the store. At home it felt like reading the blurb of a very dangerous medication and hence that stuff stayed in its wrapper. I heard that some of you have good results with it, though!

It’s OK, apart from the fact that after a few hours you feel like a hedgehog and after a day you look like one – especially if you have dark hair and fair skin.

Wet shaving is messy, although smoother. Dry shaving is quicker although the whole neighbourhood knows what your usual grooming hours are, and whether you have shaved today or not, and from the amount of swearing and choice of words they might even be able to guess which parts you have been treating.
This all makes one particularly ill at ease during holidays, where one might share a log cabin, apartment or even worse a room with people who are in the best of cases friends in the worst merely acquaintances. Can’t happen to me anyway as I refuse this sort of holiday arrangement - but this is worth another story!

BTW: If you are dry shaving – use baby powder. That doesn’t harm the shaver, but keeps the skin dry. Desperation made me research the websites of the adult scene. I thought if those ladies don’t know how it’s done, then nobody knows.
However having decided for the shaving option a while ago, I usually travel with heavy gear: Dry shaver for quick access and stray hair, plus a bottle of shaving foam in case the power adapter doesn’t work, or in case one should have a bit of time to achieve a smoother finish, or in case sunburn makes dry shaving impossible, although wet shaving is no fun then either.

It is plucking, although not with tweezers, but with a machine working like 20 tweezers at a time. The noise is even worse than a shaver and very distinct. Using a dry shaver you might be able to envision that neighbours hopefully might think that hubby has a really manly beard growth. Not so with an epilator.

The idea is to get the hair ripped from the root so that it grows back thin tipped, and that more and more roots get destroyed from the torture so that it won’t grow back at all. Some of them come with an ice pack to be somehow attached, wich I never managed to do properly, and of course this thing is never in the freezer when you need it. Or if it is, then you are already butt naked ready to go for a nice bathroom session when you remember that you forgot to get the icepack from the kitchen.
Tried it – not working for me, although a friend of mine has great results with it. But in my case too many hairs get broken off, and after 2 weeks there are hairs growing of all length so that I’m epilating every day to keep up with the irregular growth. Some of them are breaking below the skin surface and that’s the nasty ones which tend to grow in. Strong and sharp and sometimes a bit curled from ripping them, like these gift bows which start curling up when pulled over a blade, the hair starts growing into all sorts of directions. I have an epilator for appropriation – just in case you were interested…

Heat is applied into the root of the hair and kills it. Some say it’s painful some say it’s not. It surely is expensive and the hassle is to find a place where you can trust the people who do it, as they have to be well trained. It seems to be time consuming as a lot of sessions are needed to treat a whole body, but given that after that you never ever have to bother again … ?
However, for me that has the smell of surgery and hence it would be a last resort.

Same as Electrolysis really, just the means of applying the heat is different. Laser sounds a bit more modern and it does hurt. I know that some say it is not bad, but I saw a lady on the telly having the treatment and she WAS in pain. I think there might be a time where I would have to write another article comparing Laser to Electrolysis, but for now – it’s a last resort as well.

Oh well, I thought it’s nothing different from epilating. Hot (actually: warm) wax is applied and then some paper strip which binds together with the wax is applied and then pulled off, hopefully taking all the hair with it. But in the light of my upcoming beach holiday end of January, and after another disastrous shaving session which turned out to be only half thorough despite spending ages in the bathroom – I have to have the sun coming in from a specific angle, what happens about twice a year - I decided to brace myself and to have a chat with Kelly, my lovely beautician about the following.

Like with the epilating the hair is to be pulled from the root and thus the back growth will have a fresh thin tip which will not grow in but straight out – at least in theory. Apparently the statistic is that epilating misses too many hairs and breaks them. That happens as well if your beautician is an inexperienced waxer. So the word of mouth game is very important in this case.

There is only one BIG hiccup with the waxing. The hair needs to be really long to get good results. She says that the worst thing for her is if a client comes two days before a holiday for a first wax and has shaved the week before. She just can’t do a good job in this case because the wax won’t hold grip. Due to ingrown hair, irregular growth from shaving and thus not catching them all during the initial session, she needs 2-3 sessions to have them all come off the roots, and then having grown them back all the same length with thin tips in order to get a really good result.

So while I was enjoying my facial with some cotton pads on my eyes and seductive music in the background, I wrecked my brain to find out how many weeks there are until my holidays are due to start. She needs 6 weeks between sessions, I had shaved a week ago and looked disastrous already, and now she just told me that I had to wait another TWO WEEKS – Eeek!

But it was all so meant to be; once I appeared from underneath of all my fluffy towels, cotton pads and her soothing hands we eventually used her computer to count backwards. One session two days before I leave for hols, one right before Christmas and one mid November – and I’m not supposed to shave AT ALL.
However, at least autumn is the best time of the year to get started. Aren’t we all happy to wear trousers and boots again?

Well, we will have to see how it goes. At least I will have a great holiday without having to take any excess toiletries with me. After that I might bleach during the time the hair has to grow long enough for the next session and if that is not working for me, I might stick to my word then and research the last resorts a bit more.

Keeping you posted!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Going To The Bathroom

Going to the bathroom is easy. You go there, open the door, enter, close the door and there you are!
After that: Only you know. Oh these euphemisms! It’s supposed to be a silent business and preferably an untraceable one these days. I’m always happy if there is some music in public toilets or if somebody is running the hand dryer at the right time. If you visit old castles they sometimes show a different picture of toilet culture. I saw something like this at Norwich Castle when exploring the 'Castle Keep'. While sitting there together and getting comfier as released from some burden, our elders may have discussed politics that might have changed the world. Probably it’s not a good idea to go back to the very old days, then.

However we are fascinated and disgusted at the same time watching people on the telly getting their colon washed or having their bucket full of poo analysed while not being able to talk about problems we might have ourselves. And I’m rather sure that at one time or another everybody has some trouble with the toilet business.
So, let’s talk business!

You might have noticed already that I’m a bit obsessed with how our ancestors lived. I believe that their lifestyle holds a lot of answers to our questions arising from modern life. And one of the questions I always was wondering about was: How on earth did they cope without toilet paper? Apparently it was invented in 1391 in China, but what did people do before that? And thinking back much further when human kind probably was a bit hairier than now, and didn’t have underwear to change daily, and washing machines, and water taps,…

Now eventually I found out: They had better digestion, they didn’t need toilet paper!

Toilet Paper vs. Diet
Since I changed my diet my toilet paper consumption has been drastically reduced. It’s the so much-vaunted high fibre food. Imagine our ancestors roaming the countryside minding their business and then getting hungry. Sh… no supermarket around to get a snack. They had to pick some berries here and some leaves and seeds there. Linseed for example grows vigorously throughout the year - at least it does in my garden - and it is very tasty and nutty in flavour. And it has another speciality. It develops some gelatine like surface when getting wet. And that stuff makes stool slippery and good to handle for the colon. As does any other fibre – given that there is enough water around.
I heard a story once that an elderly woman was submitted to hospital with cramps and they had trouble big time to clear her guts out. Older people seem to have trouble taking in enough fluids, so she had some indigestion problems from dehydration. When she heard that whole grain products would help she ate that stuff dry without drinking more than usual adding to her problem instead of taking it away. Her whole guts were full of rock hard pellets.
So getting the balance right in adding whole meal, dry fruit and seed components to the diet and having a drink with it is essential for healthy stool (well formed and slippery – imagine a chocolate bar when it got just a bit too warm) and hence healthy guts. Still fancy a chocolate bar now?

Slogging Your Guts Out
Another thing that can cause serious trouble is our rather hectic and inflexible lifestyle. Our ancestors didn’t have the time constraints we have to face these days. ‘Need to leave the house now, but not ready for toilet yet, probably in 20 minutes – bad timing – keep it in, can’t go within the next hour.’ The longer it’s kept the harder the poo gets, and at the end of the day one might have missed it altogether already feeling very much indigested.

Then comes family dinner, the only real family time of the day so that is not to be skipped and anyway: 'You deserve a decent meal at the end of the day!', followed by a not really good night sleep. Next morning eventually pressure reaches top level but for some reason it won’t come out. Pressing hard the eyeballs feel like popping out and eventually – relieve. Happily leaving the house being in the middle of school run one might start feeling a rumour and then things go quickly, everything from sweating to panic attacks – a loo is needed, one has the runs!

Having had this experience of panic attack and embarrassment makes things worse the next time round and panic rises even more quickly, sometimes even before leaving the house, but no guts rumbling, no reason for panic, or is there? Impossible to grasp that one can have indigestion and the runs at the same time the doctors might be consulted. And the diagnosis often is ‘food intolerance’ or ‘irritable bowl syndrome’, and there might be some ‘haemorrhoids’ as well.

Good news is that you don’t entirely rely on the doctors for help. With amending your diet towards the mentioned above you might be partly successful already. That doesn’t mean that you have to change everything completely and at once. Only adjust little things which you actually might like. I got lucky, because I found my favourite bread recipe – working on it to get it online for you – and having a browse through the bread shelves or dropping in at a local bakery or farm shop to find good whole grain or even sourdough bread doesn’t hurt.
I found a liking for muesli bars, although they are tricky. They make a good snack but in a 'snack situation' it is easily forgotten to drink enough. That’s when they are starting to backfire – in a very literal sense of the word. I never go anywhere without a bottle of water. People are wondering why I always wear big handbags, …if they knew!

Toilet Culture
That we all go to the loo more or less regularly for all our lives doesn’t mean that we know how to do it. When I was still a school girl we had 'Design' in our arts class and some of the 'naughty boys' wanted to show of their guts and chose: 'Design of the perfect toilet'. Everybody was giggling away and the teachers didn’t seem to expect a lot of it either. But actually they did some extraordinary work.

They went to meet a nurse who at the beginning was a bit overwhelmed by their request and then told them that leaning back a bit actually would give the guts the least obstruction so that gravity could do it’s work best. So they actually built a loo with a comfy back and leg rest and of course some attachments for drinks, papers, telly and whatever else comfort man needs on the throne. BTW: they got an 'A'!

Years later after suffering from what I called a 'weird belly' for quite a while – what did I know at that time about 'irritable bowl syndrome'? – I recalled their work and started to experiment with different postures on the loo. I never went to the doctors, firstly I was too embarrassed by the nature of the matter, and secondly I thought myself to be a bit bonkers: How could the doctors help there?

Over the years I refined the technique and then eventually even got confirmation for my discoveries from my mum – the only person who talks freely about such things. We were on holiday together and new environment, new food and new rhythm needed some adjustments on the toilet routine. So we started talking and giggling and she said that they had been talking about this in her Yoga class. Damn! So many years of experimenting and the knowledge was all there – only that nobody talks about it! That’s about to change. Here is my guide on:

How To Go To The Toilet

Never, ever press!

Firstly you look silly, and secondly: It will give you haemorrhoids. The usual way of pressing with taking air into the lungs, holding breath and then tightening the tummy muscles while bending slightly over is highly counter productive. The intestines get pressed together what doesn’t help the flow and the pressure in the blood vessels is increased. I had a friend who had vessels in her eyes burst from pressing too hard, she looked like a zombie.
Located around the sphincter which is the strong muscle which keeps everything in at your will, are a lot of big blood vessels. If you press too hard you make them swell and actually obstruct the exit. Or they may slip out and show as haemorrhoids. The theory of haemorrhoids is a bit more complex, but I guess you get the picture.

Don’t read!
I know: If it needs a lot of time then it’s so booooooring! And it might be the only private place where you actually have time to read. However, how can you feel what’s going on inside you when you are thinking about something else? Make the toilet session a one-to-one with yourself. After a while you will know when it is worthwhile waiting a bit longer, or when to give up and to try later. Additionally the posture isn’t good because usually when reading one would sit bent forward, what is not entirely wrong, but if it doesn’t go along with the correct way of breathing it can be rather obstructing. And thirdly: You need your hands and arms for something else anyway. You won’t be able to hold the book.

Don’t sit too long!
If you already have needles and pins in your feet something is not right, you should try later again. Have a big glass of water every half an hour or so.

Getting to know the enemy
The troublemaker is the large intestines (colon). The colon has to do the fibre digestion (although some fibres go through without ever being digested) and water retrieval. There are up to 8l of water extracted from the digested material per day. So it is basically a water recycling station of the body. It is almost 2 m (if I converted that right that is about 6.5 feet) long and I guess that's why it coils around all the other organs and bends 4 times, to somehow get it into the tummy without crouching it too much. Although I feel that it clustered enough already. But have a look where it actually wiggles along:
Somewhere from the bottom right hand side (A) the colon comes up as a rather big thing rising almost up to the rib cage. It bends (1) and goes above the belly button across to the left side sagging a bit in the middle (B) and then bending again (2) and going down and towards the back (C). During all this it’s getting thinner and when it reaches the pelvis ground (3) it rises up again, now getting bigger, wiggling a bit left and right, back and forth and eventually bends down (4) to end in the anus (D).
The picture from Gray’s Anatomy shows the small intestines in the middle of the large ones. Although parts of the whole stuff is fixed to the back it is a confusing matter and there is no wonders that if we don't keep the contents smooth and slippery the one or the other bit gets stuck.

Ideally the duration of passage through the whole of the body from eating it to going to the loo is 24 hours. In a BBC TV series called 'Truth about food' they changed the diet of two truckers from junk to fibre and the result after only 10 days is amazing. And it shows - It's possible to pass what you are eating within 20 hours.
So basically the time the food is in the colon should be rather short. But these bends are not really helping. On top of that the colon has two types of movement. In the middle bit (B) it's shoving its contents to the left AND the right to mix everything through. Great! Feeling stuffed already and then it's trying to mix it.

Then comes the most stupid bend (2). If you are really indigested and something is stuck in the middle bit (B) you can even feel the shape. To get it moving through this sagging bit, massaging it up and over the bend so that it then can move downward on the left side guided by gravity is the task ahead.

Breathing …
Breathing! We do it so naturally, don’t we? We don’t think about what is happening and what impact the filled lungs can have on the rest of the body. To get a bit of an understanding what we are actually up to we need to know a bit how the body is build.
The big bit of the body where head, arms and legs are fixed to (basically what you see in the picture above) consists of two parts, although it pretty much looks like one. The top bit is the rib cage containing the lungs and the heart. It is sort of sealed from the other part by a thin layer of muscle going across like a disk called diaphragm. The lower bit that is the belly has the pelvis as sort of a bowl where the intestines lie in.
You can imagine it as one bowl upside down which is the ribs, another bowl which is the pelvis and the diaphragm in the middle keeping the contents of each bowl apart. It’s a bit like a trampoline, rather flexible and it can arch in either direction - up or down.
There are two ways of breathing:
…into the chest!
In this case you breathe in and make your lungs wide. It’s the usual way of breathing. It spreads the rib cage and you feel that the bra sits a bit tighter. This pulls the diaphragm up and induces a bit of suction on the belly.
…into the belly!
In this case you make the lungs long when breathing in by pushing the belly muscles out. That makes the diaphragm arch down and puts some pressure on the organs below. The shoulders are not moving at all and the belly gets bigger and thinner as you are breathing in and out. It's best practised while lying on the back. As the rib cage is held to the ground it doesn't widen that easily and then belly breathing comes naturally. You can see the tummy slightly moving up and down.




On the 'Normal' picture you can see a bit of chubby bits above the pants and a round belly button, indicating that the diaphragm is a flat disc going across the thorax at about the height where the bra ends.
In the 'Chest' picture the middle bit is stretched up, the chubby bit is gone and the belly button is long, indicating that the diaphragm is working like a suction cup on the contents of the belly. The suction is induced by the lungs sucking in air due to spreading of the rib cage.

The 'Belly' picture is a bit hard to see as the stretch goes to the front. But you can see that there is nothing hanging above the pants, the belly button is not as round and the surface looks smoother. The diaphragm now is a suction cup towards the lungs pulling them down. This is achieved by pushing the tummy muscles out.
Imagine what your guts are doing when sitting crouched all day. I always feel it a relief to stand up straight and take some deep breath into the chest. I then can feel the rib cage widen and the belly to be sucked in. Everything in the belly get’s sucked up a bit and then sinks slowly back while breathing out. It’s like giving the intestines the chance to re-arrange themselves and to have contents that got stuck in the bends move forward.
Sitting on the loo the belly breathing is the one that will help to massage the guts and to enforce peristaltic movement (that’s the sort of wiggling movement the guts are doing naturally to move their contents forward).

Applying pressure from the outside!
Whenever we flex a muscle deliberately we unknowingly tend to flex a few neighbouring muscles as well. So instead of using the tummy muscles to apply pressure and meanwhile tensing up everything else with it, use your arms and hands to apply pressure from the outside while leaving the rest of the body relaxed.

When sitting down cross your arms in front of the body at about the height where the ribs end. That is just above that bit of colon that goes across (B). Bend forward that your arms are squeezed between belly and legs. I have short legs for me it actually works best in high heals otherwise I'm on my toes. That way you already should feel some pressure inside that is directed downwards.

Now breath in deep and slow into the belly. Blowing up your belly by pushing the muscles out, you should feel yourself lifting up a bit more as if you were lying on a bellows pump.
This way you are keeping the pressure at the same level. When breathing in it comes from the lungs from the top and when breathing out it comes from your arms from the front.
Because the arms are tucked in between tummy and legs you can apply the pressure very evenly by just leaning against them using the weight of your upper body. If you would sit upright just pressing your arms or hands against the belly you would tense the neck and the back as well. It would be very tiring and the pressure wouldn't be as continuous.
The Yoga version of my mum doesn't cross the arms but presses the rolled in fists into the belly. I never got the grips on that one, but she can't do my version. So you may want to experiment a bit on the best posture. But whatever posture you choose - you have to admit: No way to hold a book!

Lean back and relax
If you got used to the above you should feel the belly nerves rumouring after a short while and it's time to bring into practice what the boys found out with their 'loo project'. Give freedom to your guts.
Lean back, pulling the cheeks a bit apart. BTW: you know that you gained or lost weight when your bowl all of a sudden doesn't fit your bum as well as it used to. Very weird feeling that!
However, make yourself comfy, probably use a towel around your neck and wait.

I'm rather religious about what I call my meditation time. With this soft pressure massage I can bring forward a due business to up to 30 minutes. I tried this out using my way to work. I don't have it far, so I usually can risk to leave the house and I know exactly the feeling and the timing now and when I have to rush to the toilet there. But if we are planning for trips I take my time even if I don't feel the urge and I usually get the task done, so that we can leave in time. For me the understanding of how this bit of the body works and to find out how to get the pressure to the right area has improved my quality of life immensely. So I hope that all the theory I've put you through will give you the one or the other idea.
To an always brilliant business!