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Sunday, 22 April 2018

A Back-to-Basics Health Reboot

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A 'Back-to-Basics' Health Reboot

Multiple Sclerosis. Diverticular disease. Hypothyroidism. Potential high cholesterol and pre-diabetes. These are the health conditions I am currently dealing with. All are manageable, most could become serious if not treated, and all are little more than an inconvenience to me most of the time.

However, I have been feeling like crap for most of the past year - tired, unmotivated, possibly depressed. As yet, there have been no answers, only more problems. As usual, MS seemed the most likely culprit, given the symptoms. In the past, I have turned things around in days or weeks, with careful life husbandry. But this time around, months and months in, my frustration level was getting the better of me.

Time to get serious! As the cliché goes, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

As I set out to improve my health and my life, I realized (was reminded!) that getting healthier doesn’t have to be complicated. I already knew what I needed to do (and which the doctor had been telling me all along!). Unfortunately simple doesn’t mean easy, otherwise we’d all be healthy already!

With that being said, here are four straight-forward steps I’m taking now, based on advice we hear every day. Plus one extra that I came up with for myself.

1. Eat better

This is the biggest change I have made so far, and the one that seems to have helped the most. I started out by researching which foods or eating regimens were best for all of the health challenges I’m facing. Not a good idea! The Interwebs are awash in dietary guidelines, the specifics of which often contradict each other.

Eat more veggies and fruit. Cut back on the saturated and trans fats. Reduce or eliminate processed foods and sugar. Most things in moderation. For many people, a simple tweak to their diet can be enough to effect change, but if, like me, you have specific health concerns, talk to your doctor.

My doctor initially suggested the Mediterranean diet, which is great, but involved me ‘relearning the wheel’ (of cooking), so became a challenge to maintain.

In the end, I picked a condition-specific diet—the Direct-MS diet (www.direct-ms.org), which is similar to a paleo diet--no dairy, gluten, legumes or foods with a high sugar content—any food, in fact, which might be an allergen. I chose this regimen because I could fit a lot of my existing eating pattern into its framework, and also I had done it in the past with some success.

I have been following this protocol now for nine weeks, have lost five pounds and feel better in every sense of the word.

2. Exercise

Following the doc’s advice to the letter on this one was easy. Go for a walk!

No gym membership required. No expensive equipment to buy. And no classes to attend or regimented schedule to stick to. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things. I know that they are what help some folks stick with their exercise habit. And, I do have a gym membership, for walking on the treadmill through the dark, wintery months.

For me though, thoughts of adding in a yoga session or two, perhaps even getting back to going for a run (either of which I would love) overwhelm me at the moment, and make me less likely to do anything! So walking it is!

3. Sleep

This one should be easy too, at least in theory. If you’re tired, you rest, right?

A regular sleep routine is one way to help get a good night’s sleep. But, for me, being fatigued has meant sneaking in a nap some afternoons. Which leads to later nights and restless sleep. Which becomes a circular insanity that is hard to break out of. Even at the best of times, I am inconsistent with bedtime and tend to stay up later than I should. Still some work to do here!

Other good sleep hygiene habits involve keeping a cool, dark, quiet bedroom. And, reduce all screen time before bed—brownie points for me on this as I don’t watch TV in bed, and rarely do I have my phone there.

Reduce or eliminate(!) caffeine and alcohol. It’s true; a glass or two of wine is now a sleep killer for me, a fact that I do ignore occasionally, and always to my detriment!

There are also many sleep aids available over the counter, to help with occasional sleeplessness. Although they do make me sleep, personally I find they always leave me feeling ‘hung over’, so use them as little as possible. Definitely discuss this with your doctor!

4. Consistency

Although it is obvious that doing good things consistently over time will produce the best results and form new, good habits, to me it has always been easier said than done. I wanted the quick fix. I tried every fad diet going, becoming queen of the yo-yo dieters in the process. I would go to a full-on aerobics class, wake up the next day unable to move, get discouraged, and quit. Rinse and repeat every one to six months, depending on my motivation!

I didn’t get into this situation overnight; I am not going to fix it overnight either. I am fifty-five years old, the least I can do is give myself fifty-five weeks (maybe even fifty-five months) to slowly improve my health. Ditching the all-or-nothing thinking, and despite slip-ups that normally would send me to the couch with a bag of chips, I am nine weeks in and still going.

5. Open-mindedness

In my quest to feel better, I have to ask what I haven’t yet tried, that might prove beneficial. Acupuncture through Zen, there are options that might be considered ‘alternative’ but that may help. I will probably draw the line at bee-stings and snake venom (a personal choice, and no reflection on those who have tried them), but most other things would be up for consideration, again with the consultation and support of my doctor.

There may not be a cure for what ails me, and some of what happens is out of my control. But I believe there is still a lot I can do to help myself feel better. As well as the simple steps outlined, I have already gone back to massage therapy, treatment that was beneficial in the past. I’ve also started using health affirmations based on a series of cards I bought from A Healing Spirit. Small steps so far, but each is important on my new journey.










Saturday, 14 April 2018

Happy Fifth Blogiversary to Menopause Moi

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Happy Fifth Blogiversary Menopause Moi

This past week marked the fifth anniversary of Menopause Moi. It seems like no time at all, and at the same time, feels as though I have been blogging (or worrying about blogging) for forever.

I will be the first to admit however, that my blog baby has been severely neglected over the past five years. It has spent much of its existence on life support. I am here because, despite the worry and overwhelm of fifty million opinions out there in the world on how to ‘be a blogger’, I still like writing it. And, as one of my dear friends likes to say, I’m too stubborn, or too stupid, to quit!

I would like to say a huge and heartfelt ‘THANK YOU!’ to the ladies who inspired this endeavour in the first place, as well as all of you who have stuck with Menopause Moi and me since the beginning. And if you are new to MM, welcome and Thank You too. You all continue to inspire and encourage me.

As for the blog itself, I am hoping to breathe life back into it, posting more consistently. There will be new posts for the next month or two anyway, as I already have some ideas sketched out. I hope you’ll continue to check in, and check them out.

I have learned a lot since starting the blog, and like to think that what I write and post has improved since Day One. However, if I’m delusional in this belief, well as I say, at least I’m still having fun.

So, here’s to another five years. I’d have cake, but I’ve gone gluten-free—again! (More on that next week!)

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Sunday, 25 March 2018

Dear Donna: A Letter to My Pre-Menopausal Self

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Dear Donna: A Letter to My Pre-Menopausal Self

(This was previously published on iVillage Canada)


Dear Younger Donna,

Menopause! You know it is coming. Perhaps it’s already making its presence felt, in subtle ways. Here then is a “Back to the Future” of what you can expect when you find yourself in the grip of that most common menopause symptom—the hot flash.

Eat, Drink and Be Sweaty!

You’ve heard all the health advice on the news. You’ve cut down on saturated and trans fat, reduced salt and sugar intake and started to exercise more. You know you can do better, but hey, you’re trying. Now, at menopause, they’ll give you a new list to watch out for--the hot flash triggers. And all your favourites are on it… all of them--spicy foods, red wine, chocolate, and coffee!

Seriously, what the heck is that all about? You can live without the spicy food, and have (reluctantly) cut back on the red wine. But the chocolate and the coffee are non-negotiable. Trust me, you’d rather live with the discomfort than do without. And, especially where coffee is concerned, those around you would agree. Try to do what the Doc says, but draw the line somewhere!

Fun in the Bedroom: An Oxymoron.

Your hot flashes will also impact those other pleasures, the bedroom charms of sleep and sex.
Night sweats will be the worst, keeping you awake. You will sweat in places that, while they've been there all along, you have never been so uncomfortably aware of before. You will fling the covers aside, effectively double-duveting the Hubby. If this doesn’t wake him with a hot flash of his own, it’s likely that the scrambling around to retrieve sheets and blankets five minutes later (when you’re freezing) will do the trick. Share the misery, that’s what I say!

And as for sex… the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a thing of the past. However, the bad news is that, with hot flashes, spontaneity will go out the window. Hubby will be excited to see you stripped down to your skivvies, given that your night attire previously involved flannel and fleece. But, his ardour will dampen significantly when you threaten to do him bodily harm if he so much as lays a finger. Timing, and speed, will become key!

Can Anything Help?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it will take time to figure out. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible. You’ll suffer longer than is necessary if you assume you know what’s going on. And if you’re going to try natural remedies, for Pete’s sake, do your research. Otherwise the psychedelic trip, from an inadvertent mixture of clary sage and red wine will be a lesson you won’t soon forget!

One last piece of advice--don’t wear white! It will only emphasize the lovely shade of puce that you’re turning, which will prompt Hubby to announce (loudly) “You’re having a hot flash, aren’t you!” This will then prompt you to want to punch him. It’s just not worth it.

And remember, my dear, this too shall pass. You won’t have to take the bad with the good forever. You’ll learn that menopause can also be a time of incredible personal growth and creativity, so there’s a lot of good to come and much to look forward to.

Sincerely,

Older (wiser?) Donna















Saturday, 3 March 2018

A Newbie’s Guide to Palm Springs.

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A Newbie's Guide to Palm Springs

Recently, the Hubs and I took our first trip to Palm Springs. Being We(s)t Coast-ers, we were looking for somewhere warm and dry to get some relief from the February blahs. Having only one week however, we also wanted a location that was easy to get to, and with no jet-lag or time change to acclimatize to. Palm Springs became the logical choice.

A Newbie's Guide to Palm Springs

Thursday, 22 February 2018

My Golden Olympic Memories

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My Golden Olympic Memories

While the rest of the world celebrates the current Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang (which are awesome), I’m throwing it back to 1988. To Calgary. To ‘my’ Olympics.

No, I wasn’t an athlete, but I did get to use some of my talents in the spirit of the Olympic Games. Because I was conversant in four languages, I volunteered my time and was hired as a host at the Athlete’s Village.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Olympics of Eddy the Eagle, the Jamaican Bobsled team, Alberto Tomba, fierce figure-skating rivalries, and the crowning of a new sweetheart for Canada, Elizabeth Manley.