Friday, July 20, 2007
Good-bye and good-luck

I wrote my first blog post two months ago on May 15. I remember the day well. I was hungover and stopped for a bacon sandwich on the way to work that I destroyed in record time as the glistening fat ran down my sleeve and congealed in the hollow of my wrist. I slurped it up and continued walking.

I should get healthy, I thought to myself as I passed by Bloomsbury Square uncertain as to whether I would make it to work without being sick in a bush.

And so in a fit of self-loathing I begun my fitness odyssey. I emailed my friends and asked them to recommend some fitness crazes I should trial.

The responses I got ranged from the bizarre to the delightful and go to show that everyone has their own ideas of what constitutes good health.

James, a mate in Dubai recommended I drink camel's milk, a popular Middle Eastern delicacy. I didn't.

Matthew Philp in New York wrote: "I was talking to someone (who works in marketing…) the other day about the Master Cleanse diet where you just drink a mixture of Lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper diluted in water and it acts as a detoxing fast. He said it was fascinating how springy you feel afterwards. I want to try it but I have to schedule it in. "

We never did schedule it in. It seemed somehow unappealing.

Jessica Halloran, a sports reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald recommended Bowen Therapy, for seemingly no other reason than "it originated in Geelong."

Jackie Dent, a former journo now working for the UN in Kabul pointed me to Five rhythms dancing at Tufnell Park. It turned out to be the Shamanic Trance Dancing which I had trouble convincing anyone to attend with me. One day... one day....

Julia May recommended floatation tanks, which I tried and disliked and the CSIRO diet which I didn't try but I also dislike.

London-based journo Elizabeth wrote "I tried Kundalini yoga at the weekend and it damn near ripped my shoulders from their sockets. I haven't been able to raise my arms the past three days and each time i reach for the mouse next to my keyboard I let out an inward scream. Will keep an ear out for more radical treatments."

Errr - no thanks, I like to keep my limbs.

Australian film-maker Colleen Hughson suggested "I'm not sure if they have the 'Art Of Living' (Indian Breathing techniques) in London but you should give that a go. I did the breathing course 18 months ago and If I had any will-power I would have kept it up..."

I never did make time to learn how to breathe properly. Maybe one day I'll regret it if I forget how to breathe and I die.

Tom in Melbourne also sent me the name of a guru who may be passing through London on some sort of corporate speaking tour. The definition of 'health' is as elastic you want to make it.

Dan Cass, yoga enthusiast and Bondi man offered the following bit of advice "there is a new vitamin therapy for pregnancy etc that's $700/mo you should look at. Sounds nuts and costs a fortune. Can't remember the name of it. " But Dan - I'm not pregnant!

Political hack at the SMH, Stephanie Peatling was optimistic: "Sharing your ambitions publicly is probably a good way of making sure you don't renege on it!" Not necessarily Steph. I reneged like a...umm.. politician.

Cairo based photographer Penny Bradfield was also a bit optimistic on my behalf: "'Capoiera' is a traditional Brazilian-martial-arts come dance. It is done in pairs or in a group. When done correctly it looks truly amazing. It involves a lot of fitness. "
I dance alone. In my pajamas. To Amy Winehouse. I don't do groups.

Rachel Patterson in Melbourne (who has known me since I was in nappies) obviously thought I had serious issues. For my health kick she suggested I try "hypnotherapy. People use it for all sorts of things including weight loss, recovery from illness, trauma, abuse and addiction." Euuuwww... heavy!

Adam from Sydney also send me a thinly veiled message in his suggestion: "If in New York you must go to the Albert Ellis institute. He founded CBT and is 96 and still does large group therapy in his upper east side Jewish home. This really is a complete trip. Very personal development. Very New York. Also I suggest doing some psycho drama."

I Googled psycho drama. It's for people who can barely cling onto the notion of being people. All I want to do is lose a few kgs...
But still the 'helpful' suggestions kept coming.

Vivienne of Sydney said "I would like you to try the NO HAIRWASHING challenge – it’s ok to rinse it in water, but no ‘product’, no shampoo, conditioner…nothing! Apparently, once the oils adjust, your hair is lustrous and just fine. In other words, we’ve been conned into thinking we have to use all that stuff when it’s NOT necessary. I think you should post daily pics of your hair on the blog, and it is one you could do while you’re doing – say – the seaweed detox or the circus skills training workshop."

But apparently your hair smells and no one goes near you and by the time your hair is at that lustrous phase you have have so completely ostracised yourself that you have no friends left. Which means you have more time to go to the gym I guess.

Jo Fox also wins a prize for the most unappealing suggestions: colonic irrigation and pole dancing. At the same time?

Back in Sydney Louise advised that my health kick should include "Arnica cream for neck aches (you can get it from the chemist) and found it really works. My brother was beaten up really badly about ten years ago - with a metal pipe. Someone suggested using Arnica (maybe in tablet form though) and he has virtually no scars, despite looking like the elephant man after the bashing. Seems like a bit of a miracle cream to me."
When I get attacked by a metal pipe Lou - until then....

But the most practical suggestion was by Damien who said the best way to get healthy was to spend "three months in a London City Law Firm."

See you there kiddo.

P.S - This blog has been more fun than I have ever deserved to have. Thanks for supporting the blog and hopefully I'll be back blogging for CNN in the near future. Good luck on your own journey to health. Me thinks its not as simple as all the pundits make it out to be.
Love Brigid

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Thursday, July 19, 2007
Ethics and illness
Oh no! Second last post. I must stop mooching. But there must be an upside to ceasing my blog about health: I will become well again.

As I write this I am sitting at my terminal in the CNN bunker clutching my stomach with a suspected case of dysentery (picked up maybe from the dry-retch inducing latrines at the music festival).

I can add it to my list of 18th century diseases that I have picked up since starting Project:Life.

Prior to commencing 8 weeks ago I smoked, drank, ate bacon sandwiches and hadn't been ill in years.

Now I haven't touched a cigarette in a month, sup wine moderately and will cross the road to avoid bacon sandwiches but have suffered from

- consumption
- nerves
- fatigue
- and now dysentery.

My only conclusion is that trying to be healthy will make you sick.

If I had of continued this project much longer no doubt I could look forward to such Dickensian diseases as Scarlett Fever, polio and syphilis.

Gym dilemma number 2389:

As we know the gym these days is a sociological jungle with rules and norms separate from that of 'normal life.' So it throws up some ethical dilemmas - like this one:

I was at the gym and had put in a particularly valiant effort on the stepper. I was grunting like a poodle choking on a lamp-chop, I was sweating like my dad when he wears polyester in the sun, I had climbed 65 imaginary flights of stairs.

I fell off the stepper and headed for the showers to wash off the grime.
Uh oh, I discovered as I prepared to step under the comforting jets. I didn't have a towel.

So gym dilemma number 2389: is it okay to dry yourself using an article of clothing you wore at the gym in lieu of a towel? Or is that completely gross? Or is it not as gross as not showering?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Say no to legal drugs

There is a lot said about the dangers of illegal drugs. The scary ads where the kid takes ecstasy at a party and then suddenly they are in a grim hospital room (tight shot of the patient gaunt like a figure in an El Greco painting, everything blanched out by a painful white light, a sense of aloneness pervading those little rooms) and the kid has gone from having lots of friends and dancing at a party and everything being really fun to eating hospital food and looking really, really freaked out and being in massive trouble with their parents.

Or the campaign where we are shown the bridge of a coke user's nose being eroded, then collapsing in a mass of cartilage and blood. Or when the person taking crack starts frothing at the mouth and looking like a Gremlin.

Through drugs awareness campaigns, kids know not to accept illegal drugs from the dodgy guy standing next to the DJ booth in the clown hat. And just because the person with the drugs is a 'friend of a a friend' doesn't mean they can necessarily be trusted.

But how come anti-drug commercials have never warned about accepting drugs from people who go to countries where there are fairly loose laws on buying pharmaceuticals?

A case in point - friends of mine recently returned from the Middle East with the joyful news that one can just walk into a pharmacy and buy Valium without a prescription.

"What you don't even need to fake an anxiety attack or a broken pelvis or a long haul flight?" I asked incredulously.

"No! You don't. You just walk in and ask for them and they give them to you."

With this we were all silent. "Wow," exclaimed someone with a low whistle. "Just like that?"

"Yeah, just like that."

The silence continued as we all were lost in our own private reveries: all the pharmaceuticals we were given when we broke our arms, or had panic attacks, or had ADD or fallen off our trail bikes during holidays in Vietnam. They were great. Would it be possible to access those drugs now when we were well? God - the bliss. What could be!

The thought was seductive but also faintly worrying. Legal drugs such as Valium are highly addictive. There are reasons why many doctors are reluctant to prescribe it and why they will only prescribe it in controlled doses. And yet my friends have stumbled on a land without regulation.

Should I succumb maybe I will be starring in the next anti-drug commercial.

Voice-over: Brigid Delaney was an obscure blogger who ironically wrote on health issues when she succumbed to the lure of legal drugs.

Wide-shot of BD at the gym. Flash to shot of BD running around Regents Park. Shot of BD walking a Dalmatian with guy wearing Abercrombie and Finch. They are drinking lattes and laughing. Shot of BD hiking with parents in Lake District, cheeks rosy, eating a peach.

Voice-over: Then Brigid's friends came back from the Middle East with Valium that they obtained without a prescription from a back street pharmacy.

Tighter shot: BD swallowing the blue pills while walking the dog. Flash to shot of BD asleep under a tree looking happy. Shot of BD finishing the packet of Valiums. Shot of BD asleep. Shot of BD having panic attacks trying to obtain more pills.

Voice-over: Addicted! There'll be no more peaches or beaches for Brigid.

Tight shot of BD in a grim hospital room, gaunt like a figure in an El Greco painting, everything blanched out by a painful white light, a sense of aloneness pervading those little rooms and the BD has gone from having lots of friends and dancing at a party and everything being really fun to eating hospital food and looking really, really freaked out and being in massive trouble with her parents......

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Age-orexia: the new anxiety

It was with some alarm that a month or so ago I picked up the Observer Woman magazine and came across this cover story: 'My name is Christa. I'm an age-orexic'

Great! I thought. As if women (and men these days) don't have enough hang-ups about their appearance.

Weight of course, is a perennial intellect drainer. When we could be spending brain power on how to halt global warming, or cure diseases, or spread resources more equitably, we instead spend our brain cells obsessed with bits of ourselves that are too big.

It's boring. And now it seems the absolute fear and obsession around aging is catching up with our hang-ups about weight. Boo - I say. Even as you've read this sentence you are closer to death. Where you will be in the ground. Rotting. And eaten by maggots. We can't escape it. Life reminds us that we must come to an end through the changes that appear on our faces and our bodies.

So you can botox all you like sister, but the reaper ain't fooled by your botulism filled forehead. We all get picked off in the end.

D'Souza in the Observer writes of her obsession:

"I'm not alone in thinking the idea of being 50 is an absolute outrage. I'm not alone in believing middle age happens only if you are ornery or slovenly enough to let it. Here is clear-cut, concrete proof that, up and down the country, it's all pretty much the same. We are now, amazingly, more obsessed about being young than we are about being size zero......In other words, if you want to insult the average British woman, don't guess her weight, just guess her age."

Cripes! She really knows how to make things hard for herself - doesn't she?

I must confess to a spot of age-orexia. There was a time (a while ago now) where I used to be asked for my ID at the pub. And at the pokies. And buying matches. And seeing an R-rated movie. Each instance made me bristle with injustice. How dare those trunk-necked bouncers think I'm 16. Big hair and loads of make-up, climbing in the toilet windows of pubs, carrying a copy of Investment Property: A User's Guide, were some of the ruses I tried.

Then one day they stopped asking. I was let in without questions. I was aging and, well - the process goes on. And on. And now on bad days I look like I've slept on jagged rocks.

I haven't been asked for ID for quite a while and although I haven't reached the point where I have to start wearing foundation makeup, that day is not too far away.

That is why my parents are such a breath of fresh air. They have been staying in London for a few weeks and have had a grand time. Could it be the museums, the walking holiday in the Lake District, the art, the culture, seeing me - their only daughter? No - it's the senior discount.

As newly minted 60 year-olds they have been shouting their ages to the roof-tops.
'We're sixty!' they tell ticket-sellers at the theatre without any hint of embarrassment. 'Do we get a seniors discount?'

'Oh god - have you no shame?" I murmur. " The seniors aren't my parents.." I say to no-one in particular.

To bus-drivers they cheerfully disclose their age and are not even asked for proof of their ancientness.

"Aren't you worried that he believed you were that old?" I asked.

"Not really, " says my mum. "We get to travel for half-price - you don't."

But if you are getting old - then I am getting old, I reasoned with them. So stop it! Now!

But on reflection I reckon Christine D'Souza and all age-orexics, should meet my parents. They reckon turning 60 is great. It halves many of the costs of expensive old London and entitles you to seats on public transport.

As for botox, they can't be bothered. Before dinner every night mum has a brandy and dad a beer. They sink into the couch at my place - tired from walking all day.

They look relaxed and happy. And you know what - when you are relaxed and happy, you don't look so old. Maybe that's the cure for age-orexia.

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Friday, July 13, 2007
Moshing for health

This weekend, Brigid's Blog heads to the Latitude Festival in Suffolk. That's not health related! you well may scoff, but if you've ever been in a mosh pit (the impression of a teenage boys sweaty nipples indented on your grubby t-shirt, the barest squeak of air entering your lungs, eardrums shattered, internal organs compressed) you know you need to be quite healthy to survive.

I am told this festival is quite delightful and a bit more 'mature' than other festivals. There'll be poetry readings, film screenings, gourmet camping and the kind of intelligent pop that you grow into after a teenage hood in your room listening to the Smiths and Nirvana.

The last mosh pit I was in, The Beastie Boys, resulted in an anxiety disorder. I was trapped in a mosh with a heap of rough blokes. We were cheek-to-jowl in a sort of a clothed group shag. Then the Beasties started playing Sabotage. The writhing shag got excited. There was mud. Shirtless blokes slipped in mud, pulling on the sleeves of others to help them up. The helpers fell on the people in the mud. A sort of human whirlpool occurred in the middle of the massive crowd. People were falling in. The people on the bottom couldn't breathe. The crowd behind us were surging forward crushing those trapped in the whirlpool. "LISTEN ALL Y'ALL ITS SABOTAGE"! The band played on. Would this be the end, I thought? At the Beastie Boys?

I lived. I'm not sure how. I am feeling ill just typing this. I haven't been near a mosh since. But somehow I can't imagine the same experience occurring during Jarvis Cocker's set on Sunday. Or when the Good, the Bad and The Queen play their lovely mid-winter-vibed melancholy dirges. I can however, imagine a lot of people like me, the anxious and afraid, enjoying the music from the edge of the fields.

This blog wraps up in a week, and although I would love to continue taking all of you with me on my 'fitness journey, ' sometimes there are times when you must walk alone.

The burden of taking my international audience to the grim gym with me each week was obviously a huge liability, inhibiting me from achieving my fitness goals. So like a sherpa discarding a white man's overstuffed backpack, so I must discard you all.

But stick around next week, as I cram some incredible fitness experiences into my blog (sour cream facial, horse-whip massage, warm coca-cola bath) and attempt to lose 8 kilograms in a week through the revolutionary orange peel and herbal tea diet.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007
Weight loss by hypnosis
Losing weight by doing absolutely nothing? Sounds like my kind of diet...

So it was with great interest I read Rachel Cooke's piece in the Observer last weekend about losing weight after attending seminars by hypnotist Paul McKenna.

She writes: "I'm not convinced that our little chat is going to have any effect. Then something weird happens. I don't start thinking I am Christy Turlington but, over the next few days, I notice that I eat more slowly, and feel full more quickly. This involves no effort on my part; it just happens. By the end of the following week, my trousers fit better."

While its sensible to be skeptical of anything that promises to take all the work out of health and fitness, McKenna's program is based on sensible advice.

As for McKenna's 'system', it's "very, very simple. It consists of four golden rules. Follow them, and you will lose weight. One: when you are hungry, eat. Two: eat what you want, not what you think you should. Three: eat consciously, and enjoy every mouthful. Four: when you think you are full, stop eating. That's it."

It seems we know how we should behave, we just lack the will do to it. Can hypnosis replace willpower? I bet there's a hell of a lot of people willing to give it a shot.


In the meantime I have locked on my own secret to weight loss - chip your tooth!

It only happened yesterday (on a pistachio nut) but already I have vision of the chip turning into a crack and the crack running up to my gums and my front tooth snapping off, leaving me looking like Nanny McPhee.

As a consequence I have been avoiding eating. When it has become unavoidable I put the food in the 'good' side of my mouth and laboriously chew on it. Its unpleasant and even the most innocuous soft looking foods I now view with some anxiety.

Forget losing weight the Paul McKenna way - try the Brigid Delaney method and get someone to half knock out your front teeth.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007
The black lung
The visions we entertain of ourselves are at best wistful, at worst a dangerous fiction.

My vision: rosy cheeked and glowing with health from my detox, I would make my way with startling speed along the fields and up the mountains of northern England’s Lake District.

Stopping to admire the scenery I would quote the region’s favourite son, William Wordsworth: “Which is the bliss of solitude/And then my heart with pleasure fills/And dances with the Daffodils.”

Pastoral delights – sheep, squirrels, butterflies would accompany me – like children following the Pied Piper and the air would be scented with mountain dew and wildflowers.

I would return to London like Heidi’s pal Clara coming back from the mountains: restored, vital, healthy, glowing and alive.

Instead I have come back half dead, suffering from what I believe to be consumption.

(Readers: revolting ‘too much detail’ warning….) This morning (as I have most mornings on the mountains) I coughed up blood. At night I lie awake, body wracked with a hacking cough that makes me appear as if I am in the throes of an exorcism, trying to expel Satan himself from my lungs.

I emerge feebly to the horrid, damp communal dining rooms of country B and Bs and try not to gag as yet another plate of bacon and eggs and black pudding is put before me.

Against the grimy window panes it rains and rains. Inside my lungs black stuff ferments then congeals.

Other residents of these wretched B and Bs shun me as the sound of my nocturnal hacking, splutterings, spitting and throat-clearings have obviously penetrated the thin walls.

Is it an elderly dying man: they may have asked themselves at 4 am? Shall we call an ambulance? Is it a dog whose voice-box has been partially torn out? Shall we call animal welfare?

No, it is moi: consumptive, delirious from fatigue, damp of lung, full of good intentions to walk in the Lake District but destroyed by those very intentions when the walking involved setting out in a grey swirly gale, with the wrong clothes on.

My travelling companions, hardier than I of lung, have grown weary of my morning dissections of the increasingly frightening appearance of my phlegm. As a consequence, I breakfast alone. Just me and my black lung and scrapped and bloody throat and a dozen abandoned black puddings.

Ahh a health blog. Since taking this three month assignment on my health has declined to its present low level.

In my weakened state I do not have the energy to contemplate my next health challenge. But I have a month – a month to turn it all around.

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Welcome to the diary of a reluctant exerciser. Having previously shunned fitness regimes in favour of bacon sandwiches, Brigid Delaney vows to finally shape up, get fit and eat more healthily. Over the next three months read how she gets on in a brave new world of gyms, exercise classes and no bacon sandwiches.
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