Friday, 30 April 2010

Depressing new scientific study: chocolate lovers are more depressive

I always believed that chocolate lifted your mood. All the serotonin and what not. But according to a new scientific study reported on BBC News, people who regularly eat chocolate are more depressive. People who eat at least a bar every week are more glum than those who only eat chocolate every now and again and there isn't much scientific evidence for the theory that chocolate lifts mood.
Hmmmm, what does this mean for someone who eats chocolate every day?
Dr Natalie Rose, from the University of California, led the study and admits that this is rather a chicken and egg situation. They cannot tell if chocolate is the cause of depression or if people who are depressive tend to eat more chocolate believing this will cheer them up.
I've never been on anti-depressants or anything like that but I have long been a believer in the effect of healthy eating and mood elevation, so I have decided to conduct a little experiment.
As of tomorrow, I will not be eating chocolate for the entire month of May. It's a little experiment to see if not eating chocolate has any effect of my mood whatsoever, if it makes me feel better or turns me into a grumpy lady desperate for serotonin. Also it will be interesting to see when I crave chocolate the most, if I'm feeling sad, or grumpy or stressed, or just a bit hungry.
Of course I am aware that my experiment is totally useless in the scientific field. You may need to stay away from chocolate a lot longer than a month to see the true effects, it may not be the chocolate itself causing the depression but perhaps, if you believe in the theory of GI, the sugar the chocolate contains (N.B. I will probably still eat cake, I have a lot of birthdays in May) causing glucose highs and crashes. Or perhaps depressive people just tend to have a sweet tooth, the two are not linked and it's a random coincidence. Also, I'm just one person and in the grand scheme of things, my experiences don't amount to much in the way of evidence.
Ah, the perils of science.
All this aside, I am intrigued to see what effect it will have on me if I kick my bar a day habit. I imagine I will find this pretty tough. To be honest, the most likely outcome is that chocolate will be replaced with some other sugary confection... then again, I should have more faith in myself. Maybe I will feel happier at the end of it. Perhaps I won't miss chocolate at all. Maybe I'll get that washboard stomach I've been dreaming of forever!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A post that discusses Christianity, Prejudice and Freud. Oooh!

This week in Stylist, that delightfully colourful freesheet for girls, I read an interesting article about the prejudices against christianity. According to the article, 70% of us claim christianity is their faith, so, Stylist asks, why do practicing believers face prejudices on a daily basis?
For a freesheet it was certainly an interesting read from a viewpoint that is rarely discussed. So top marks to Stylist on that front. And the colourful products are all so pretty... 
Anyways, as an athiest, I have long felt that there is nothing there. This may be a reaction to the intolerance of certain walks of life the christian faith can preach, this may be a reaction to the barbaric wars, sexism, homophobia and, well, murder that has taken place throughout history in the name of god. Perhaps it is common sense, if I were born on the other side of the world, my religious beliefs would be completely different, thus religion is circumstantial and doesn't that make faith redundant?
However in truth, my lack of belief in god is something I feel in my gut. My non-faith as it were. At university I read an article written by Freud, this article stated that religion was merely an expression of fear of death. Perhaps to many that is rather insulting and Freud did say a lot of weird shit, but this article resonated with me. It made sense.
And religion can be comfort in difficult times. And for that there is nothing wrong with Christianity. Far better to pray for comfort when you are in emotional or physical turmoil than to drink yourself stupid or do drugs. Also, Christianity has defined right and wrong in our society in many ways, i.e. no stealing, no adultery, respecting thy neighbour, helping others less fortunate than yourself and what not.
However, having encountered prejudice and hypocrisy from various Christians I have met I found this article moaning about prejudice rather difficult to swallow.
For example, the Christian women who stands outside the abortion centre near my office giving out pro-life leaflets and shouting abuse at any poor young girl going inside, despite the fact she is probably about to make the hardest decision of her life, makes it hard for me to not judge Christians as being judgmental.
As another example, when I first went to university I went to Christian Union Barn Dance with some new flatmates. Being the liberal, free-thinking, everyone has their own path hippie I was, I had no problem attending. I thought it would be fun, besides, one of the lads was cute. That was until I was forced to sit down and listen to a lecture about how non-Christians were all going to hell and it was the job of all Christians to turn them to the path of light... Despite my anger at this fucking awful and almost cult-esque speech I continued to be friendly to everyone, counting the minutes till I could get out of there. I got chatting to this one bloke - now, I was a virgin at this time, romantically saving myself for a man I could love - and this chap asked which church I was from. I told him the truth, that I was an athiest and just looking to meet new friends. He replied 'Oh don't worry, I love non-christian girls, total freaks in the sack.'
I think I have made my point. And yes, it was quite funny.
But I do feel sympathy for individual Christians who may not have any intolerances against those from other walks of life but are shoved in a bible basher box for which they don't deserve. Christians who do use their faith for their own comfort, if it's something they believe in their own gut, something for them rather than something they try to impose on others.
Possibly that old adage 'two wrongs don't make a right' is rather fitting here. Shall we cut a deal Christianity? You don't judge me, I won't judge you.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Election Fever...

Last night telly history happened. I'm sure you are aware of this, unless you are hidden under a rock somewhere?
The leaders of our three political parties, Gordon Brown of Labour, Tory David Cameron and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg were involved in a live debate on ITV. Admittedly it was a rather 'eighties Britain' looking affair not helped at all by Gordon Brown's awful pink tie, dark brown suit and light blue shirt combination. However the debate was enthralling, I haven't got this excited by telly since vampire Bill Compton and Suki finally got it on in True Blood. In fact, I got so excited, that I forgot all about The Outnet first birthday designer £1 sale.
David Cameron looked so plastic I spent more time searching out a wrinkle on his face than listening to what he was saying. It bothers me that this man should spend so much time on his appearance. Surely he is going to be so busy with his botox injections, his facials and his suit fittings that he's not going to have time to really run this country? That and there is his child on the way, a dad I know is so knackered from his newborn that sometimes he isn't aware what day of the week it is, let alone anything about national debt, how many bobbies are on the beat and the state of the health service.
Gordon Brown I felt came across in a very gentle and trustworthy manner with his warm scottish accent. I was surprised by how I warmed to him, regardless of the terrible suit. And contrary to claims that he is nothing but a dour, bullying Scot he raised the biggest laugh of the night with his 'You can't airbrush your policies like you do your posters David' quip.
However, his comments about the economy left me running scared. It was like he was suggesting that we should just keep muddling on as we are. Keep spending as we are. Now, I don't know a huge amount about politics but I do know about budgeting. In short, there is no way you can pay off a debt without making cut backs and I think, as a country, we are prepared for this. We are aware that we, somewhere, at some point, are going to have to pay more taxes to sort out the national debt. All I want is a government who can sort this out in an efficient and responsible manner.
Perhaps it is irresponsible of me to admit on my blog which way I am planning to vote at present, but hey, I've admitted that I suffer from mild depression if I don't exercise, the rate of my debt just a year ago and if you check out my posterous blog, you can see what undercrackers I've bought recently, so obviously discretion isn't a strong point of mine.
Anyway, based on his performance last night, I'm going with Lib Dem and to me, Nick Clegg was the clear winner of the night. I also did an online quiz about who I should vote for this morning, Lib Dem was the outcome and if a quiz says so, it must be the right choice (I'm ignoring that the quiz suggested that the Conservatives should be my second choice).
Nick Clegg really stepped up to the bar and used this opportunity with all his might. The way he kept sticking his hands in his pockets after earnestly gesticulating his points and the fact that his suit was slightly too big for him reminded me of a young and enthusiastic teacher who really does want to do everything he can to make things better. He seemed to be the only one out of the three who talked about saving us from national debt in a practical everyman manner, scrapping all the bureaucratic crap and spending the money on real people, things that really matter. His only pitfall was the nuclear stuff - does he want us to be a sitting duck?!
Admittedly I am biased, I've always voted Lib Dem and always got irritated when people have told me my vote is 'wasted.' If everyone who wanted to vote Lib Dem but voted for someone else because they were worried about a 'wasted vote' actually voted Lib Dem then parliament might look very different.
After the disaster of the recession and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan people are deeply unhappy with the current government and I still don't think there is a great deal of trust for David Cameron, being the slimy, smooth-foreheaded character he is. So now more than ever I think Lib Dem has a chance, at the very least to form part of a coalition government - something both David Cameron and Gordon Brown were obviously considering. Brown made attempts in the debate to argue their compatibility in this way and Cameron posed all 'buddy buddy' with Clegg for photographers at the end.
Reading the papers this morning, I got very different stories about the election debate last night. As the Media Guardian today notes, "British newspaper readers woke up this morning to news of nine different debates between the main party leaders, with a range of outcomes to suit every taste."
Don't you just love the freedom of the press?!
Don't listen to what the papers say, make up your own mind... take a quiz.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A big FatSecret

Sometimes in life you overdo it. I am guilty of this. I have been guilty of this a lot recently. Too much chocolate, too much alcohol, too much cheese, too much, of well, everything.
And it has given me a double chin. Nobody likes a double chin.
So, time to hit a health kick and hit it hard. 
But it's not just a vanity thing really. This is not something I have admitted to before but if I don't look after myself, I get depressed. And I mean massively depressed. I feel totally out of control, like I can't handle anything about the world.
I started being a health geek in the second year of university. My gran had just died and I was really upset, I had all these new subjects and exams that I was nervous about and even though I had a nice boyfriend, good friends and family I was always very shy, socially anxious and scared about what the world held.
However, when I worked out and ate healthy foods, I felt on top of it. Like I could handle anything this world threw at me. And the double chin disappeared, result!
Ever since the health geekery has slowly taken over much of my life. That was until the end of last year. At the end of last year, it all went a bit wrong. Which is a shame because I think last year was a time when I needed those endorphins a hell of a lot. For the months of December and January I didn't work out at all. Not once. And since that it has been pretty sporadic. I also ate a lot of crappy high-fat but very comforting foods too. I couldn't say no to chocolate or crisps. I tried to give them up for lent, I failed. I was using cake to fill the hole of sadness and it was only making me feel worse.
Last Saturday morning, while lying in bed feeling shockingly terrible from yet another hangover and eating an entire tub of glace cherries, I decided that this bullshit had to stop. This was not me, this undisciplined, weeping mess of a woman was not the woman I was just a couple of years ago. I'm fucking tougher than this.
So, on Sunday I went for a five mile run with my marathon runner friend (yep, his average Sunday consists of a marathon, he is a machine) and I felt uncommonly better. A bit of that old 'I can handle this fucking world' was back. And hurrah for it.
In a restaurant on Monday I went for the healthy fish and salad option and didn't eat any chocolate for the first time in fucking ages.
Today I have ignored the Easter egg and packet of Turkish Delight sitting on the office cabinet behind me.
And yesterday my sister introduced me to my new obsession: FatSecret.
It's AMAZING and free! It's an online food and exercise diary that automatically records the calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates you are eating everyday and then compares them to the amount of activity you are doing. You can do a daily weigh in to see how much weight you should have lost from the diet and exercise regime you have been following. They also have tips, recipes and a forum so you can make dieting buddies. It's so cute, practical and useful! Although admittedly somewhat American.
But my lord, I didn't realise quite how many calories there were in everything, (260 calories in a snickers bar, ouch) and also, just how easy they are to burn. Just by sitting on the tube for twenty minutes, you can burn 84 calories.
Happily there is nothing pro-anorexia about it. If recordings show that you are getting underweight it sends you dire warnings that you should go to your doctor. And it can even help you maintain your weight but just be healthier.
I'm pretty excited thus far about this personal calorie calculator. Fingers crossed for a happier and healthier few months ahead.