Sunday, September 25, 2016

New Bras!

Hey - I've not been giving the lingerie much thought lately. (Honestly, I just hope it's clean these days. And matching. After all, I'm not a savage! :-)) Nonetheless, the bras - they find me! I have 2 new styles to tell you about - one that I am addicted to and the other I've just ordered online (after waiting MONTHS for it to become available)...

The Bra I Love Most Right Now: Sculptresse Chi Chi in Black and Taupe (Sadly the fashion patterns are hideous.)

For starters, my bra-fitting friend extraordinaire (formerly known as Veronica) is actually named Sam and she has opened her own shop in the east end. Alas, I'm about as far from the east end as can be (actually and spiritually - there's a divide, people!) so I see her entirely too infrequently. The boutique (called Broad Lingerie) is rather new and already developing a cult following. What I'd recommend - if you're making a pilgrimage from far away - is that you give her a call to ensure that she's got good stock in your size range. New business owners need to be prudent about overstocking and Sam's offerings are very popular. Trust me, there is no better fitter in this city and I know practically all of them. She's friendly, absurdly knowledgeable, respectful, collegial. She knows all the bras and, over 15 years, has seen pretty much everything. She understands that finding a bra that fits is about the wearer's interpretation fit as much as anything else. When you work with Sam, you have a partner in fitting - and I cannot say enough about how I appreciate that.

So, Sam ordered me the Chi Chi, in black, as a lovely gift, and I LOVED it so much, I  made her sell me the one she'd brought in for herself, in taupe!* Remember, she and I are boob twins (even though our body shapes and heights are completely different). I wear these bras at least twice a week and often more. They wear excellently, the ultra-soft but strong band is a joy. They provide AMAZING support and lift and that boobs on a plate shape I love. The upper lace is stretchy, like the Panache Jasmine's - but happily less flimsy - and the proportions of lace to firm under cup are better, IMO, in the Chi Chi because there's less lace and more non-stretch, under cup lift. It's also really comfortable. Though Panache wires are the firmest you'll find (and some people find them painful), I believe the brand has modified construction to ensure that said wires are more comfortably inset into the newer styles (Floris is another example of this.)

This bra will accommodate many different shapes but probably caters most to the evenly projected client. The stock photo, above, gives the impression that it's wider at the under arm than it actually is...

Until very recently, Chi Chi was made exclusively with the plus-sized wearer in mind. While this brand continues to make terrific bras for women in the 36-46 band with ample cup needs (up to HH), it recently started to make a couple of the styles in a 34 band. And those bands are quite firm. So, I can wear this in a 34 band and it fits fantastically.

Moreover, I can assure you that it is excellent for people with heavy or dense projected breasts. Though it looks very elegant and sexy (if not Cleo-style youthful), if you're an ample-chested woman - plus-size or no - and your breasts are heavy - this engineering is up to it.** Sam and I concur that this is as close to an Empreinte fit you'll find without going there. And this bra is infinitely more affordable and easier to size into (given that there are way more sizes to choose from and those sizes are more incremental than Empreinte's).

Cleo By Panache Piper Longline - Unlined / Unpadded

Photo courtesy of Dreams And Underthings - check out the review!
I've been waiting for this style for, oh, ever. A longline in a small-band / large cup proportion without any freakin' padding. I hate padded or molded bras, as you know, so I've got no longlines to speak of. I have no idea why every other longline on the market, which caters to this size range, provides only padded options. I really hope this works for me size- and shape-wise, in this phenomenal cobalt colourway, because there are actually no other offerings to try! Plus it's gorgeous, don't you agree?

There are few reviews at this point because it's just come out but, fear not, I will let you know what I discover. I am concerned that the wires will be too short for the channels (as the review linked to, above, indicates) and that the boning is plastic (which I find suboptimal from a support perspective). I also worry - quite legitimately - that the length will not work for me. I'm short in the waist and ever less narrow from my real waist to my hips. (That zone may have the same general proportions but it's inches larger than it used to be.) I'm concerned that this band will flip up if it cuts in at the wrong spot - especially with plastic boning.

Mind you, that eyelash lace at the hem is absurdly gorgeous so I have to try...

Today's questions: Have you tried either of these bras? If yes, whatcha think? If no, are you tempted? Do you think padded longlines are an affront? Would you never wear a seamed/unlined longline cuz you only love padding? Let's talk!

*Don't worry - Sam stocks both of these bras in store. 

** This bra, while it would work on a woman of any age, is particularly suited to the woman of a certain age. Breasts tend to become fuller and heavier at this time of life - especially if one has started off with proportionately large breasts - and good engineering is SO important to ensure maximum lift. It also caters to those with moderate monthly size fluctuations and to those who require more outer cup support, for example, if one's weight has shifted to the outer torso (as it may, in middle age). One other thing, just to clarify: Genetics-depending, dense or heavy breasts can still hold their own. When I say heavy, it's not a synonym for sagging or deflated. This bra is particularly good for those of us with self-supported fullness who need a lot of immediate centre- and lower-cup projection.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Work In Progress: Sweet Jane Pullover

Brief check in. This week has truly kicked my ass and, as usual, it's couch-lock time for Krissie. I'm really looking forward to having some bandwidth again, if only to move the crafting yardstick forward. Sure, it's not like I need anything new - and I've even knit up many Xmas gifts to date - but I feel so lackluster without a project to engage with. In truth, I have 2 projects - the second sock in a pair (never have I stalled on a second sock - and this is circumstance, not aversion) and the Sweet Jane pullover - which is a lot of freakin' stockinette (albeit in the round). I've never made a non-fitted sweater before (much less an A line one) and, man, it takes a lot of extra work (and yarn) because the whole thing is, well, bigger. This one's being knit with sport-weight, so it's not exactly quick - nor is it stupidly slow as it would be were I using fingering-weight yarn. I'd show you where I'm at, but it's utterly boring to view a stockinette sweater in process... Imagine a sleeveless shell widening slightly under the bust. In grey. Instead, here's a photo of the designer's finished work:

Sweet Jane by Amy Miller
Of course, I've had to go totally off road with my version of this sweater because I did not even come close to getting gauge. Pattern calls for a US5 needle and I'm using a US2 - and my fabric is still 3/4 of a stitch per inch bigger than the pattern calls for (that makes a big difference over 38") and half a stitch off per inch, in row gauge. There's an argument to be made that this sweater is not for me, given that I cannot begin approximate the size range using the recommended weight of yarn - on any needle.

Here's the thing, though. I just sucked it up and redid all the math. (Note: Simply making a smaller size was not going to work because even the smallest size, as instructed, would produce an end product that's too big.) I knit 4 swatches, decided which fabric I preferred, and then started taking notes. Mercifully, it's not like I have colourwork or cables to concern myself with.

And, natch, this is one of those sweaters wherein row (vertical dimension) gauge really matters because the hem is asymmetric and you need to start it in the right place. Not to mention that the sweater is loose under the bust, and then widens as it moves towards the hip. To mess up gauge at the bust - vertical or horizontal - would produce a really bad fit.

Why am I knitting a sweater when I've said, numerous times in the last year or so, that I'm done with this form of hand-knits, that I prefer slim, machine knits in luxe yarns?

Well, I'm a knitter, and when a pattern calls to me I throw caution to the wind. If this sweater works (and I've lived long enough not to get overly attached), I'll have a totally fun tunic to wear with skinny jeans. Moreover, I'm unhappy with the fitted sweaters I've made in part, I'm sure, cuz they really don't work optimally with my current, transitional mid-section proportions. Lately, I choose garments to show off my shoulders, arms and legs and this does fit the bill, no?

Curious to know your thoughts about this pullover? I find it rather modern, almost RTW (in a plush way). Do you like it? Does it bore you? Would you knit it? Let's talk!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Yoga Therapy

People have asked me about the trajectory of my yoga practice these days and, I've got to say, it is like nothing I've done since I was in my early 20s (back in my hardcore Iyengar days when I was training to teach).

Brief side bar: For those of you who are unfamiliar with Iyengar teacher training, it is unlike any other. This is not gym-yoga teacher certification. I trained (seemingly endlessly) for 2 years before I took my "exam" and gained level 1 certification. Senior teachers have decades of training and certification behind them. Many of the Iyengar teachers I have known are infinitely more knowledgeable about functional anatomy than other rehab therapists - not that I'm dissing anyone. What I mean to say is that, for chronic structural and systemic issues, I'll start with Iyengar yoga pretty well every time because it requires specified, active and focused engagement on the part of the person receiving treatment. And a senior teacher is generally phenomenally capable (though not always). Plus, the nature of the relationship between the teacher, the student and the practice is highly refined. This is a questioner's modality.

Having said that, for years I moved away from technical extremism of the method in favour of others - the lively, adrenaline-filled, highly aerobic forms. I was young, and youth doesn't generally favour "deep technique" at the peril of all else. Don't misunderstand, I've always been more of an Iyengar practitioner than any other sort, but I went "fusion" for a while - and likely will again. After all, variety is the spice of life, etc.

Let me say this now, and loud, and clear: I am profoundly grateful for my Iyengar training and my decades of regular practice. They have saved me time and time again - through chronic pain, acute injury, exhaustion, illness, anxiety and plain-old daily living. Furthermore, I know, with every practice that I undertake: I am capable because asana, increasingly, is second-nature. The more taxed my body has become, the more reliant I've become on the confidence imparted by body-memory. Because getting into many of the poses indicated in the Iyengar therapeutic practice*, is not something that most infirm or inexperienced persons can accomplish alone. It can be scary to invert, to tie oneself up, to trust a prop (or 10). Moreover, until you know what you're doing, it can be dangerous.

I think it's important to note the regrettable fact that, even with impetus, most people do not have the space, the (sometimes) pricey props or the knowledge to benefit from this practice at home. And those who don't live in major urban centres may not have access to the requisite studios and teachers to learn. Not to mention, the best time to learn something complicated is when you are young and healthy. Sometimes people come to the therapeutic Iyengar practice only after chronic illness has set in. A good teacher and commitment are CRITICAL, under those circumstances, but also challenging - and this scenario doesn't lend itself to one being able to benefit from therapeutic home practice in the short run. This is in no way to dissuade anyone from Iyengar therapy. I just want to qualify that the benefits come with sincere application and effort. It's not passive in any way.

Below is a sample practice that I might do on any given day. Most mornings I do about 20 minutes of traction work but I wouldn't call that a practice so much as maintenance. My average time in a  therapeutic session is about 75 minutes but, given how batshit busy my life is right now, I'm only doing that 2x per week.

I don't know when I'll return to standard-issue, active practice on a regular basis but I've decided not to give it undue consideration. Right now this is where I'm at and I'm so grateful to be able to accomplish what I need to in order to heal. When I get to the next phase, I'm sure I'll know it...

Kristin Sample Iyengar Therapeutic Practice**
  • Savasana 2 over wooden blocks / Corpse pose back bend over wooden blocks to open the thoracic spine (@5 minutes)
  • Tractional Uttanasana (Standing forward bend) with wall ropes at groin and then at upper thigh. Head rests on blocks. (@5 minutes).
  • Tractional Adho Mukha Svanasana (Dog Pose) with wall ropes at groin and then at upper thigh. Head rests on block. (@10 minutes)  This is probably the single most useful thing I do for pain management. It allows the spine to lengthen while the hips are stabilized. Gives intensive traction at the hips too.
  • Tractional Adho Mukha Svanasana - Twist variation (Dog Pose Twist). Ropes hold hips in place to allow for arms and torso to twist while hands and torso move right or left of the mat. (@5 minutes). I often hear numerous pops throughout my spine and neck in this pose.
  • Tractional Rope Sirsasana (Headstand) with hips supported by a rope sling. (@5 minutes) Awesome for balancing endocrine and nervous systems. Plus, extreme spinal traction, esp. at hips. To get out of this I bring my hands to the floor, straighten out of the ropes into Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) at the wall (@2 minutes). Then rest in Adho Mukha Virasana (Childs Pose) (@3 minutes).
  • Virasana (Hero Pose) followed by Adho Mukha Virasana (Reclined / Backbend Hero Pose) over bolster with upper legs supported by belt. This is weight-bearing on hip, knee and foot joints. It opens the psoas and moves deeply into the mid-thoracic, lumbar and sacral spine. (@5 minutes)
  • Tractional Sarvangasana, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana and Halasana sequence using a chair (Shoulderstand, Backbend and Plow Pose) (@10 minutes) This is a power-triumvirate allowing for long stay in a deep inversion, inverted backbend and inverted forward bend. Also stabilizing for the nervous and endocrine systems.
  • Upavistha Konasana (Wide Angled Forward Bend) with Twist Variations (@10 minutes). With adequate flexibility, this pose provides excellent spinal traction in a very sustainable fashion. The twists are terrific for moving into the hips, side body and lateral thoracic spine. Rest afterwards in Savasana for a couple of minutes to ensure that the hip joints are balanced. Sometimes my hip joint and sacrum click massively after this sequence.
  • Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall over Bolster) (@10 minutes) This provides cervical traction and is a supported inversion. It's very good for promoting cardiovascular and ciruculatory health.
  • Supine Upavistha Konasana, Legs supported by ropes. (@5 minutes). This provides an opportunity for my sacrum and the muscles around it to release. Very calming.

* The supported or therapeutic practice is only one form of the Iyengar methodology, but is central to the philosophy of structural and endocrine/nervous system health. When you do "regular" Iyengar practice, it looks much more like any other sort of yoga you'd find at any studio though it does make use of more props than other styles and it holds poses, statically, for LONG periods of time. 5-10 min in headstand is not unusual. Of course, you'll never be encouraged to undertake long holdings of complex poses until you have achieved a level of ability and awareness via less comple poses and modified versions of the complex pose.

** Note: For interest, I've provided the English pose names as well as Sanskrit but, really, if you are not familiar with the Sanskrit names, you probably don't know enough about the method be trying this outside of a classroom environment.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Just Say No?

I came across this article, yesterday, about a woman who group-takes ayahuasca, and I was rather entertained. I was also ever more committed to my "Seriously, people. Don't take hallucinogens!" stance. In full disclosure, I did try them (psychedelic mushrooms), once in my nervy youth, let's say legally, in Amsterdam. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I felt like I was trapped in a Gaudi building, and not in a good way. The bright walls were melting. Time stood still. It was the longest 6 hours of my life (other than labour, it's own kind of hallucinogenic trip) and made me understand I am not the appropriate candidate to divorce my consciousness from reality as I know it.

I do find it hilarious when conservatives speak about the gateway nature of psychoactive drugs, as if every human being is predestined to fall under the thrall of being high*. Because I really don't believe that most people want to hallucinate. Anyone who's ever had a panic attack knows that it's profoundly wretched to be removed from oneself - to be fundamentally depersonalized

The idea of going to a new-agey vomit-fest, replete with ladies known as "helper-angels", and no stand-by medical assistance goes against every grain of my pragmatism. At least at that TIFF party, if you overdo it with coke, there's probably a doctor from Mount Sinai on hand.

But I know it takes all types and that, for every traumatized psycho-active drug taker there's another one who finds the meaning of existence. (Note: I feel utterly confident you can do that with a spectacular meal, but then I have access.**)

Chelsea Handler, not a public personality I generally recommend, did a vaguely interesting show about taking this drug, all the more interesting because she regularly indulges in all the drugs and has a noteworthy high-tolerance. Moreover, she's a human Venn diagram representation of the intersection of crassness and honesty, which is intriguing in this context, if not in most others. I'm sure you can find the episode on Netflix.

*Please note that I distinguish this experience from being stoned.

** OMG - I'm addicted to spectacular meals. Scaramouche, in my teenaged years, was a total gateway!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

It's Relative

I've spent much of my yoga-doing time engaged in a battle of self-accomplishment. It's not surprising, on balance. I'm a competitive self-improver. Sure, I only lock horns with myself, but you'd be surprised by how far you can descend into that paradigm.

One of my most entrenched obsessive loops is about surpassing. Today, I can do X. Tomorrow, I will be able to do X+1. Tick the box. Move on. And the thing is, most of the time I do achieve because I apply steely logic and effort and the truest, best intentions. Also there's some good fortune involved. And then there's the fact that I torture myself if I don't meet my expectations. I'll go to any extreme to avoid that outcome...

You might wonder how it is that I ever managed to instruct anyone effectively. I assure you that the human mind is adaptive enough to apply insanity to oneself and good sense to others. Not to mention that we attract those who can learn, one way or another, from what we show them. Furthermore, I'm a pretty fun teacher.

But never mind how light-heartedly I apply myself to others, in my own mind and body I've been relentless. Which is why, over the past few years, as they have changed in all the ways, I have become increasingly confused. Strength turned to weakness, as I saw it. Lively courage came to cower. Energy became lethargy. Lightness sank. I have always been steady - mentally and physically - but as I've observed flexibility (and to a lesser extent, strength) taper, I've been beside myself. Not to mention that there's always a certain tension in my fascia. It's not that I seem stiffer but I have to work actively to stay agile. When I go from stillness to motion, everything teeters to find its keel. I know this is what age feels like - though how, I can't tell you because I'm not old, much less old enough to be feeling this way. How does one spend close to 30 years practicing a skill with dedication only to decline? Don't answer that.

Because even that question is rhetorical at this point. What the last couple of years have shown me is that yoga is about proprioception at the micro level. It's never been helpful to judge the look of the pose - and, oh, how I regret the upsurge of yoga as lifestyle if only because, back in the day, we were all taught that yoga is how it feels and then there were no pretzely, sexy creatures, gracing the cover of magazines, convincing us that this is how awareness feels. It's not even helpful, particularly, to judge how the moving parts intersect in a given pose (how the bones abut, how the muscles pull at their end points) because often the data is flawed.

In the end, it really is about withdrawal of the senses (that 5th limb I never really understood - it always seemed so vague). It's only when you can become every part of yourself, at every level, that you can see the macro in the micro. And damn, that's a worthy goal. Alas, too bad you can only find it when you stop turning everything into a goal. (It would appear I have my work cut out for me.)

So, under these circumstances, how do I continue to achieve? Well, aside from the fact that I really should get the compulsion under control, I think that achievement is in the life-long maintenance - in doing what allows me to align at the most discrete level, which I hope will enable me to eschew physical pain (after all, it's just one of millions of chemical strings) and to feel the grace of ease. My very mobility is fostered and improved by all of the work I do. Achievement for me is now is a lightness of being that I find, occasionally, when I allow my body to become my mind. Achievement is about abandoning my preset expectations. It's about feeling a tremendous gratitude for how I exist.

These are the things that Yoga Journal doesn't tell you.

*FYI, I'm very happy I was not a credible case - and I'm not suggesting that his call was incorrect, just that it seemed reflexive and based on a base-line that didn't necessarily take me into account.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


As of my naturopath appointment today, I've had three medical opinions that corroborate each other: My pain condition is entirely concurrent with the presentation of spinal osteophytes and degeneration (which extend into my hips). Oh, and I'm "very young to be dealing with this degree of osteoarthritis". According to everyone in the know, this must have been in active development for many years.

I don't want you to think that I've ignored this issue. Yeah, I didn't do the one thing that might have got me to a diagnosis sooner (full X ray panel), but then I really didn't think - in a zillion years - that this could have been what's going on. Sure, I worried I might be dying or managing a terrible degenerative disease (yes, I know arthritis is a degenerative disease and that it can be terrible), but arthritis is much more boring - and mercifully treatable - than the kinds of things I imagined. I did visit the doctor many times, but apparently I didn't explain things in language she could understand until my symptomology had become quite pronounced. My early visits were punctuated by vagueness, due to no fault of my own.

I said, in my last post on this topic, that arthritis doesn't run in my family. Well, apparently, it's best not to gain these details from my mother because she only considers her family history when providing intel. You'll be happy to know that she was tested, after chemo and radiation, to confirm that her bone health hadn't been adversely affected by cancer treatment and she learned, at that time, that, at 66, she had "the spine of a 26 year old". I don't know how one gets that degree of detail about spinal age but she was very pleased to learn about this, braggy even. Yeah, I know, I'm all sour grapes, but c'mon. I really hope, given that she has high cholesterol and young bones, and I have normal cholesterol and old bones, that I'm genetically distinct enough to avoid that triple negative breast cancer I've got a 50-50 chance of getting. If it's a deal, I'll take it.

Since then, my mum and I have continued our conversation, wherein I have reminded her of my father's neck surgery (@15 years ago - he received a bit of metal to do the job of discs that had stopped working), and my paternal grandmother's hip replacements (x2) due to falls and breaks that removed her from her independence in the last years of her life. At that point my mother remembered that 2 of my 3 paternal uncles are in constant, intense back pain that severely compromises their mobility and quality of life. They're approaching 70 but it's been going on for years. Why no one thought to mention this sooner is beyond me. I mean, it's not like I haven't been in hideous discomfort, on and off, for many years now. And it's not like I suffer in silence?!?

Look, this is all good. This information has already improved the quality of my life substantively. For starters, I'm having my Vit. D levels tested (my gene presentation indicates I need more than the average person) so that I'll know how much I need to take to ensure that my bones can absorb calcium far better than they do now. I already supplement with Vit. D but it's likely I'm going to need to take a lot more.

My yoga traction wall has been pretty close to life-changing. Even though I'm absurdly busy, and mentally over tasked right now, by carving out 20 minutes a day for partial or full hanging, I can diminish pain from an 7 out of 10 to a 1 out of 10 - and that reprieve generally lasts 12 hours.

I've been shockingly pro-cruciferous veg. No, I don't like them any more than I did 2 weeks ago, but now I'm viewing them as medicine. Plus, in restaurants they tend to be quite tasty. Also, three words: homemade cheese sauce.

I continue on my low-inflammation path with the supplements I was taking before, plus some new ones. Also, I drink fresh-pressed turmeric and ginger shots like an elite athlete. My juice budget is out of control.

Moreover, surprising even to me, I haven't eaten a bag of chips or crappy carbs for a week and a half. Yeah, I'm still eating chocolate - and I've upped my pistachio usage by like 100% - but I'm staying away from the inflammatory stuff because, seriously, I've got a measurable reason to do so. If I can reverse and/or control this situation, I'm going to do it. Feeling 80 every morning is not on.

Perhaps most meaningfully of all my tips and tricks, I've changed my attitude about pain. I feel it, but I refuse to listen to it. It's fear that that empowers a chronic pain brain-loop, but now I know what's going on. And knowledge is power. So I say "fuck-you" to pain multiple times a day, and it sure isn't doing me any harm.

On the positive side, my hormone panel came back and, rather surprisingly, I'm in very good shape on that account. Yeah, my estrogen is slightly higher than that of a pre-perimenopausal woman (like by a few points) and my estrogen is slightly lower (like by 4 points), but this is pretty small potatoes in the scheme of things. At my age, it's not unusual to experience hideous estrogen-dominance associated with all kinds of nasty perimenopausal shit.  At this point, I get the occasional hot flash (no more night sweats) and I'm bitchy (but that could just be my personality). Yeah, I know it is taking a toll on my figure but I'm even getting over that. I mean, gorgeous is as gorgeous does. And I won't be in hormonal flux forever. I'm pretty sure I've got time and means to lose a bit of abdominal girth once transition subsides. Not to mention that, if I finally do eschew the carbs for medical reasons, it's going to be that much harder to hold onto unnecessary weight.

Look at me being all optimistic! The more I live, the more I realize that I've got to manage diet-induced inflammation if I want to a) be pain-free and b) slim. I think this has finally hit home. But you know how I don't believe in peaking early. So let's not get attached. :-)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Last of Summer

It's not particularly warm here this weekend. OK, in truth, it is September and I did just experience the hottest summer in memory, so a daytime decline from 37C to 24C seems very painful. But we wake to 18C, a sad reminder of the trajectory we're on. I should say that it's gorgeously sunny - the kind of weather most people drop their jaws at - and it is expected to warm up again next week. The air show, which I mention annually (and which I'm fortunate enough to see perfectly from my third floor terrace), is silver perfection against an azure backdrop. I'll get to see it 3 days in a row from the comfort of my home. I love the air show.

There is no sewing or knitting going on here at the moment. Actually, this is the least crafty I've been in 6 years. But I view my new work venture as a creative undertaking and I am most definitely applying my skills to it. Instead, what I do (when I'm not working) is read. Reading used to be my salve - particularly fiction. (I was an English Lit major, after all.) A few years ago, at the blog advent, I went from reading multiple novels a week to reading online only. And, for some reason I do not comprehend, fiction ceased to interest me at all. Truly, I could hash out ANY book with you 10 years ago. These days, I don't even know who the fiction writers are. I still have not returned to it (though I'm sure I will one day, when I have a bit of time to savour). Right now everything about my life is applied. I read to figure out how to do something, to make something, to vet something, to classify. So my genetic test results have kept me happily engaged, as do the blogs. I've also been reading a number of books with a health-meets-culture/philosophy/historical perspective.

I highly recommend 2 television shows that you should watch if you want to be riveted and entertained but also educated:

Michael Mosley's Make Me Series (particularly Live Forever) and The Truth About Exercise. I LOVE this guy. He's so relatable and the pacing is great. His interest in health is well-entrenched. Not only is he a doctor-turned-television presenter, but his father died of a heart attack at a very young age and, as a result, Mosley has been exceedingly intent on detangling his own health predispositions since then. He openly discusses, in one of these series, that he's skinny-fat and prediabetic (despite gym exercising, which does nothing to improve anything for him). He and his smartie team of scientists test him out a zillion ways and apply theories to his health-care regime. They analyze his blood and predict that he's not in the best positioned to gain positive results from the kind of exercise programs we're all encouraged to undertake - largely because his genes predispose him to gaining very little aerobic benefit. He then devises and tests a high-intensity (but very short) fitness regime, the results of which are fascinating. I pretty well love everything this guy has ever appeared in - prob because I find him so intelligent (and he's a questioner, just like me!) - but also because his interests are mine. These shows aired originally on BBC in UK. I think they may be avail on the internet now. I saw them on TVO or PBS.

Redesign My Brain with Todd Sampson (a Canadian-Australian). It took me a while to get into this because I have a very low tolerance for scary things on TV - and this guy uses neuroplastic techniques (on top of a very robust genetic profile and previous elite athletic accomplishments) to do some crazy-ass shit. 2 of the 3 episodes involve heights. It is MIND-BLOWING what this guy can accomplish in a few months. Sure, he won the genetic lottery on all the fronts, but you will be amazed nonetheless. If he can do these things with relatively minimal, but intensive, training over a few months, what things could you be doing (if slightly less spectacle-focused)??

Both of these series have that Kristin-approved well-funded-scientist-meets-challenge format. If you've seen these shows I'd love to know your thoughts! If you haven't, take some of this long weekend to curl up on the couch with popcorn and a glass of wine (or nuts and a green juice). Your choice. :-)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

In Which I Go On (and On) About Genetic Testing

About 6 weeks ago, I finally took the plunge and purchased DNAFit testing to learn more about my genetic predispositions re: fitness and nutrition. It's expensive so I dithered for a while (cost me @$450 CDN and that was right after Brexit). It also took a long time to get the results, longer than it should have, because my kit got lost in the mail and there were potential postal strike issues here (just resolved). Theoretically, one could get results within 3 weeks - from start to finish, maybe even faster if you're in the UK. You order, wait for the kit, take a scrape swab (2 minutes worth of effort), post it back, wait for it to get back to UK and then wait @10 days for the reports). My online results finally arrived 2 days ago. It'll take another week for my fancy dossier to arrive (but I suspect that info will mimic what I can now see online).

For starters, I totally recommend it. The industrial design of the kit alone makes it worthwhile! (OK, joking, but just sort of.) The information I've received is substantive, but I will say that you should plan to invest in the additional (@$175 CDN) post-report consultation* unless, like me, you enjoy doing research. The way results are positioned in the reports is very neutral, for many good reasons. But I want to know what my specific polymorphic variations mean for me, especially when considering how propensity, indicated by one allele combo (from one gene), influences another. So much of predisposition is about how the moving pieces intersect.

I don't need to tell you that I'm no scientist. (Sorry, Scientists, if I'm butchering the concepts!) But I've done as much extra research as one can (in 2 days, with a new job) and I'm amazed by what I've learned independently, now that I have the raw data to work from. Furthermore, my naturopath is also reviewing this info in conjunction with my latest blood tests, hormonal panels and spinal radiology report. Between this and my new yoga rope wall, I've got some tricks up my sleeve!

I'm well aware that this post is the very definition of first-world solipsism but, as I like to say, it's my blog so I'm going there. Furthermore, as the DNAFit people like to say, like on every freakin' page, your genes won't change but your lifestyle can. Genetic propensity is merely an indicator.

The Good Things I Learned

It's always nice to lead on a strong foot so here are some rather meaningful "pros" I discovered:
  • I don't have the gene variation associated with celiac disease. What I mean is that I can happily digest gluten.
  • I do have the gene variation associated with being able to digest lactose. Which I could have told you. Cuz I love me the dairy and it doesn't give me any issues.
  • Middle-agedness aside, I have low "fat sensitivity", which means I'm not genetically predisposed to obesity or to the metabolic syndrome that often accompanies it, particularly if I keep the carbs complex and the saturated fat in check.
  • I strongly skew, fitness-wise, towards endurance (volume) - not power (intensity). Maybe that's why I can walk around for 12 hours a day, covering miles and miles, while I'm on vacation.
  • My profile predicts a tendency towards intermediate VO2 max (aerobic) capacity. Alas, I'm never going to make any use of this one - running ain't happening! - but it's nice to know.
  • I have a genetic predisposition to recover from exercise rather quickly with minimal inflammation. In fact, there's nothing in my profile that shows an increased likelihood of inflammation related to immune response.
 More Complicated Things I Learned
  • I have sodium sensitivity which could lead to hypertension (though I believe, from my own research, that I have other gene variations that protect me from this). Nonetheless, as per the advice from every medical association in the land, I should limit my salt intake to 5.5g a day (whatever this means). This is a real issue because a) I love salt and b) I especially love it when I'm stressed and c) I seem to be stressed much of the time. I don't have a solution for this one yet.
  • I also have alcohol and caffeine sensitivity: I metabolize the booze fast (which can lead to hangovers) and the caffeine slowly (which can be detrimental to bone health - what you'll see, below, is likely my biggest issue). Happily, I very rarely imbibe enough to bring about nausea or nasty post-drinking effects (um, that's just unpleasant) and I only have one double-espresso in the morning. I've known for years that drinking more than one will leave me with shakes for an hour. So my body's got me covered on these accounts. Note: These are examples of how my lifestyle is a protective factor against my genetic predisposition.
  • Apparently, I also have the gene variation which detrimentally affects bone structure and calcium absorption, which is why the caffeine thing is that much more relevant than it would be otherwise. This bone thing comes up in my report, again and again, vis a vis various gene variations and I have to say I'm really surprised by this. Mind you, it predicts arthritis. Apparently, for me, high intake of vitamin D is key (because that's how my calcium absorption will be improved).
  • Alas, and this ain't great either, I show a moderately reduced capacity to neutralize free radicals because I have a deleted version of one of the genes that's instrumental in this process. Given my immediate family history of breast cancer, that's not encouraging. What is encouraging - and this goes back to lifestyle protective factors - is that I can pretty much make up for this by eating extra-high volumes of cruciferous vegetables, like daily. Alas, I HATE a good 90% of cruciferous vegetables because the texture torments me. But, seems my cold-pressed, green juice (with no fruit) habit might be just the thing for this. Furthermore, I'm going to buck up and start eating the tree-like vegetables I loathe. In soup. FYI - I didn't know that arugula is a cruciferous veg. Happily, I eat this in salad all the time because it's one of the few green vegetables that doesn't have the texture of trees!
  • Somewhat to my dismay, but hardly a deal-breaker, I'm one of those peeps who shouldn't eat much grilled or smoked meat because I have a version of the gene that rapidly activates the toxic substances present in meat grilled at high temps. You know, I have until now, eaten bacon multiple times a week. And I'm no stranger to a good steak or chop on the BBQ. That's how my husband cooks. But I've been using lifestyle, yet again, to counteract this for the past few months - just by accident. For whatever reason, I've been off the meat and into the seafood. Or eating the meat raw!
  • I can't say this one is a surprise (given my Latina origins), but I have moderately high carbohydrate sensitivity. This test tells me that I should limit refined carbs to 8% of my daily calories and to get the rest of the carbs I eat from complex, healthful sources. I don't know where the fuck this leaves my standards (potato chips or fries or rice) but I sense it's in the grocery store.** Of course, carb sensitivity isn't a bad thing - half of the ladies in the world live their lives as if they have it - but I feel like such a statistic.
  • Finally, and this is closely entwined with my bone health situation, I have a high propensity towards soft-tissue injury. Between these two things, my pain condition isn't exactly beyond the realm of prediction.
What none of this testing takes into account, as far as I can tell, is my nervous system - the humming-birdlike pace at which my brain and arrhythmic heart are naturally inclined to function. I'm ready to bet that I metabolize absurd amounts vitamin D and omega 3s for this reason alone (though this is totally conjecture). If so, that might predispose me to require even higher daily amounts of these nutrients, than have been recommended by the test, for other genetic-support reasons.

I would LOVE to be able to take a genetic test that predicts things like predisposition to anxiety, phobia and OC response. I'm sure I'd be off the charts but, you know, maybe I'm wrong?! I didn't exactly predict bone health issues and there they are. If anyone knows of a good test that does this, please let me know in the comments. I've become so robot in my 40s :-)

So, did you make it this far?? If yes, I'd love to know if you have done any genetic testing for diet, fitness or other info? What was the most interesting or life-changing thing you learned from the experience. Let's talk!

*FWIW, I have no idea if that consultation is worth it because I haven't undertaken it. I'm just saying that the positioning of information in the reports was too facile for my liking. Then again, I'm one of those in the weeds people. For someone else, the report might check off the boxes.

** The Low Carb diet,  according to DNAFit, is:

20% Protein
40% Carbohydrate (15% starchy, 25% fibrous)
40% Fat.

Gotta say, that's entirely feasible - and hardly low carb (though it is light on refined carbs). It's more or less what I do now, except the ratio of my startchy and/or refined carbs to fibrous carbs is skewed in the wrong direction.