Wednesday, April 17, 2013

United Pole Artists

Recently, I became a member of United Pole Artists.  Not only do I like to keep up on important news in the pole industry, but I like to support my pole family.  I realize that my new day job hasn't allowed me a lot of time to pole and do interviews, and I still feel very strongly about the industry being united and supportive.  Annemarie is traveling all over the world to make sure she gathers up pole news first hand. 

Although the website offers a newsletter and lots of free content, the members-only area offers a lot of extra information.  Also, if you own a pole-related business, purchasing a business membership gives you an opportunity to advertise on the site.

I think my favorite perk is the pole celebrity pole jams!  You know I love me a certain pole celebrity (Nadia Sharif)!

If you aren't sure which membership is right for you, check out their chart HERE.  If you own a pole business, the advertising value alone is worth more than the $118 you would spend annually on a business membership. 

If you want to get your news from someone who is in the industry and truly understands what pole dancing is all about, check out United Pole Artists.  The website is easy to navigate and there is tons of great content.  Visit their site and let me know what you think! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

April Blog Hop: Twirly Girls at Pacific Pole Championship

For April's Blog Hop, we are talking about pole competitions.  There sure are enough of them around.  Thanks to the "new" day job, I haven't even updated my list in awhile, which was quickly reaching 10+ pages for only a couple of years worth of events. 

In March, three+ beloved Twirly Girls participated in the Pacific Pole Championships down in Los Angeles, California.  As I have been asked by Vertical Art and Fitness to write about the event, I want to keep this post fairly simple.

I do have some opinions about competitions in general, safety, timing, judging, etc....but feel as an "ambassador," I should probably keep some of the more negative opinions to myself.  There have been some discussions on Facebook about fair judging.  I feel like I am not on a level to comment officially, although I do feel like changes should probably be made, especially after speaking to several judges from various competitions over the last year. 

Anyway, back to my lovelies from Twirly Girls.  PPC spanned two days this year.  Our girl, Alyssa, was participating for the very first time.  She was in the category of Championship -- Level 2 -- Junior.  She competed on Friday.

First, to define the competition category, here it is straight from PPC's website:

The Championship Event: This event is for those dancers wishing to compete with a traditional technical competitive program. Designed to offer competitors the type of experience found at the other major pole competitions, the focus will be on the dancer’s technique, flexibility, artistry and difficulty of tricks. 

Level 2 (Intermediate): This is the appropriate level for intermediate dancers who have the ability to invert safely. In addition to the skills permitted in Level 1, dancers may invert on the pole (hips higher than head), however dancers must maintain three points of contact with the pole while inverted.

Juniors: between the ages of 18-24 on or before the date of the event.

Alyssa took FIRST!  FIRST PLACE!  This was her very first competition and we are SO proud of her.  Check out her performance HERE.  Alyssa received a very sweet compliment from Kelly Yvonne of the Choreography House when she came off stage.  Unfortunately, we were watching United Pole Artists Facebook page, so we got the results as another performer (in another category) was competiting.  Sorry about the silent cheers and the jumping in our seats!! 

Diana was next to compete, but not until Saturday.  Diana competed in PPC last year, so this was her second time participating in this event.  Diana competed in the Entertainment -- Level 3 -- Junior/Senior division. 

The Entertainment Event: This event is focused less on the difficulty of the tricks executed and more on the dancer’s ability to interpret a piece of music to provide a comical or upbeat performance.

Level 3 (Advanced): This is the appropriate level for the more advanced pole dancer who can invert and perform movements such as handsprings or ayashas safely and securely. Dancers at this level may perform any tricks and any inversions.

Seniors: between the ages of 25-39 on or before the date of the event.

Diana did not place in the top three but she did really well, especially after the line-up was changed at the last minute and the person who performed right before her was another person named Diana who also did a zombie-themed routine.  Seriously?!  How does THAT happen??  That would have totally ruined my day but Diana came out and still rocked it.  Check out our Diana's performance HERE

Last up from the Twirly Tribe was Sean Michael.  (Side note:  I love this boy.  I take Sean Michael's class at Twirly Girls on Saturdays.  If you are in the area and looking for a good class, give it a try.)  Sean Michael competed Saturday evening.  He was in the Championship -- Level 3 -- Male division.  There were only two competitors in this division.  Their scores were separated by two-tenths of a point.  Sean Michael, unfortunately, placed second.  I felt like the winner had a very "safe" routine.  Sean Michael's routine was strong, original and fun to watch.  Check it out HERE

I absolutely must give an honorable mention to Twirly Girls friends Kate Cotruvo (Club Etak) and Tiffany Rose Mockler (Poletential).  We love our Nor Cal Pole Posse.  They both did a great job at the competition!  You can see Kate's competition routines below:

Kate Entertainment Level 3

Kate Championship Level 3

Congrats to all competitors.  By my count, almost 150 people competed that weekend.  I saw a lot of slippery poles and I give props to those who put themselves out there and do this! 

Don't forget, this is a blog hop!  If you want to read other bloggers' takes on pole competitions, click HERE. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Enlarged heart versus inflamed heart

Recently, I blogged about my latest "condition," an inflamed heart.  I talked about how I had decided to have gastric bypass years ago after being diagnosed with an enlarged heart.  I figured they were the same issue.  And apparently they are not. 

I took phen fen years ago, which caused heart valve defects in some patients.  As part of the class action lawsuit settlement, I was entitled to a free heart scan (woohooo!).  Although my valve was in tact, I was told my heart was "enlarged and flabby."  You know, if my heart was working so hard hauling my lard ass around, it should have been svelte and in-shape.  I remember my doctor telling me that I needed exercise to lose weight but that I shouldn't let my heart rate get over 130 beats per minute.  Oh ok, as soon as I get up in the morning, I think my heart rate jumps that high.  Again, I should have been a walking, talking fat-burning machine if all of those books and heart rate estimates are correct. 

Anyway, so what is an "enlarged heart?"

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Enlarged heart (cardiomegaly) isn't a disease, but rather a symptom of another condition.

The term "cardiomegaly" most commonly refers to an enlarged heart seen on chest X-ray before other tests are performed to diagnose the specific condition causing your cardiomegaly. You may develop an enlarged heart temporarily because of a stress on your body, such as pregnancy, or because of a medical condition, such as the weakening of the heart muscle, coronary artery disease, heart valve problems or abnormal heart rhythms.

While having an enlarged heart may not always be preventable, it's usually treatable. Treatment for enlarged heart is aimed at correcting the underlying cause. Treatment for an enlarged heart can include medications, medical procedures or surgery.

While I did not openly have any of the listed causes, being over weight is a generally-accepted "excuse" or reason for "heart problems" in the medical world.  So, I opted for the weight loss cure through gastric bypass.

Fast forward nine years.  I lost 165 pounds, then gained 65 back.  I'm still 100 pounds lighter than I used to be.  Recently, another doctor ran some tests and found that my heart was inflamed.  Enlarged.  Inflamed.  All words just saying I have a BIG HEART.  Turns out, that is not correct.

What is heart inflammation?

According to

...inflammation is common for heart disease and stroke patients and is thought to be a sign or atherogenic response. It’s important to know what inflammation is and what it can do to your heart. 

According to

Excess body fat can lead to a host of heart diseases. Veins and arteries become compromised, and blood vessels in legs and microcapillaries in eyes can wear out three times faster in overweight individuals. There is also an increased risk of high blood pressure with each additional pound of fat.

Most of us know the effects of being overweight where the heart is concerned. Unfortunately, what is less well known is the effect of excess inflammation on the heart. You may associate inflammation with the redness, swelling, or heat you see or feel when you get a cut, bite, or minor infection, or with the pain you feel in a swollen joint (as in arthritis). But uncontrolled inflammation is also at the root of heart disease.

Research published in a 2004 issue of the journal Circulation indicates that the immune cells of obese individuals seem to exist in a proinflammatory state, which places these individuals at an increased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Increasingly, researchers are showing that fat cells are prime production sites for proinflammatory messengers such as IL-6, TNF-a, and C-reactive protein (CRP levels are a well-known indicator of heart disease).

I had my c-reactive protein tested. Over 3 was bad. Mine was almost 5.

So, although enlarged hearts (think fatty, neglected, over-worked heart) and inflamed hearts (think not-well-cared-for, abused-with-bad-food-and-no-exercise, swollen heart) [*that's sarcasm, by the way*] are potentially related, they are not exactly the same thing.  And again, heating healthier and exercising (which they say will lead to weight loss) is the generally "cure."  Medications can be prescribed in more severe situations.  I don't have a lot of the symptoms that they claim go along with these issues.  For example, no high blood pressure, no high cholesterol.  But heart issues do seem to run in my family.  So, maybe my weight doesn't matter and my heart just isn't built to tick right. 

To be real and honest, my family history does play a part in this and apparently exercising (even if not to lose weight) and eating less fatty food (again, even without the intention to lose a single pound) is important.  I am trying to be very aware of the food I put in my mouth and make more time for exercise.  I have added krill oil to my diet and I now take a baby aspirin every day (not good for gastric bypass patients, yes, but I guess a potential stomach ulcer is better than a potential heart attack). 
I'm 36.  I feel like I shouldn't be dealing with these kinds of issues.  Is it pre-destined?  Did I do this to myself?  I guess it doesn't matter but if I want to stick around awhile longer, I better take my health a little more seriously.  Anyone else had these issues?  How do you deal?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vitamin D and the Sun

I am a child of the summer.  I was born on August 31...right at the end of summer, and usually during the hottest part of the season.  If I could live my life in a bathing suit and flip flops, I would.  Yeah, I know, I should be worried about skin cancer.  But I remember being a kid and having the outline of my swimsuit suntanned into my skin well into winter time.  I miss those days.

Now that I've had gastric bypass, one of the vitamins I seem to be deficient in is Vitamin D.  That comes from the sun, right?!  I definitely struggle in the winter without my sun.  I also struggle now that I'm an adult that has to go to a job all day, every day and I get much less time to lay around by the water, relaxing and soaking up the rays. 

I have often justified going to tanning booths to help with my psoriasis.  Studies show that some of the beds aren't the same as the sun when it comes to helping kill psoriasis (the funny thing is, the doctor's offices DO offer a certain type of tanning bed but it is generally NOT the same one in your run of the mill tanning salon), but the real reason I was going was for the brown skin.  Yeah, I'm sure, I'm dealing with wrinkles and all that, but I do love being tan. 

A couple of years ago, I decided that since I was in my mid-30's, I should be taking better care of my skin.  No more tanning.  I now look like a vampire.  In fact, when we go to Disneyland and the rides take photos of us, you usually can't see my nose or mouth because I am SO white.  There has to be some middle ground.

I wrote about Vitamin D recently and wondered how much sun you "need" to get enough Vitamin D the natural way.  And so, as per my usual protocol, I Googled it.  I love Google...that bitch knows EVERYTHING.

Your body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays in sunlight. You probably need from 5 to 30 minutes of exposure to the skin on your face, arms, back or legs (without sunscreen) two times every week.

Dr. Holick advises estimating the time it would take your skin to turn pink in the sun. Then divide that time by 25 to 50 percent, depending on your skin type. So, someone like you who has fair skin, burns easily and lives in Pennsylvania would be advised to spend 20-30 minutes in the sun with your arms and legs exposed (not your face) between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. two to three times a week from March through May and September through October but only 15-20 minutes in July and August when the sun in strongest. If you remain outdoors longer than the specified time, apply sunscreen. (Don't even try to get sun time from November through February; in your area, you won't get enough UV to help, and you'll probably get pretty cold outside with bare arms and legs.)

Given that there is a matrix of variables that need to be considered, it is impossible to prescribe a one-size-fits-all guideline that would balance the sun exposure needs versus risks for all people. However, because there are diseases related to both insufficient and excessive exposure, it is important for each of us to get a sense of how much sun our skin needs to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D without increasing the risk for skin cancer.

So, it appears that I can get my Vitamin D from the sun but I will probably have to continue my Vitamin D3/dry supplements, as I am probably not going to be able to increase my time in the sun any time soon.  I have started back to the tanning beds, but only once a week.  I don't do that for the vitamins or my psoriasis.  I just do that because it makes me happy.  And sometimes you have to do that for yourself. 

Tan and in Mexico in 2007

Pale in 2012

Monday, April 8, 2013

March post for The Pole Dancing Shop

We all have our names for them. Pole Kisses. Pole Scars. Badges of Honor. BRUISES. No matter how hard you try, especially when you're new to the game of pole dance, you are bound to end up with some bruises. Some people hide them, trying to explain that they are not, in fact, being abused. Others wear them like badges of honor and courage, earned in the battle against the cold steel of their pole.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Share photos of your best pole kisses HERE!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Gastric Bypass: What is Dumping Syndrome?

Post-gastric bypass, you noticed that sometime after eating certain foods, you get sweaty and tired.  Could mean you ate too much sugar.  Dumping syndrome is defined by the Mayo Clinic as:

...a group of symptoms that are most likely to develop if you've had surgery to remove all or part of your stomach, or if your stomach has been surgically bypassed to help lose weight. Also called rapid gastric emptying, dumping syndrome occurs when the undigested contents of your stomach move too rapidly into your small bowel. Common symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea and diarrhea.

I have been in the same support group for about ten years.  I started about a year before surgery and am now nine years post-op.  I've noticed in the past four years or so that post-ops don't seem to experience dumping syndrome as severely as patients from my time.  I believe this is due to surgeons choosing to bypass the intestine at a different spot. 

For me, dumping syndrome is caused by eating too much sugar/carbs and/or drinking alcohol (God forbid I try all of those at once, I might literally blow up).  It seems like there may be other causes, but this has just been my personal experience.  For me, the process goes like this:  I eat or drink whatever it is that I'm not supposed to...and within 15 minutes, there's a little sweat on my brow.  If I continue to do what I'm not supposed to, I will sweat more and start getting very tired.  Usually, it's a lot of yawning, but I can fight it off.  Nine years ago, I would have been drenched in sweat and would have been forced to lie down and sleep it off.  In worst-case scenarios, I could be in the bathroom within a few minutes of eating said bad item(s).  Sometimes, it just has to come up. 

I always felt a little grateful that I got dumping syndrome somewhat easily.  I felt like it kind of kept me honest, since sugar is my downfall.  Even though I can definitely eat a lot more sugar now than I could nine years ago, I do feel like dumping has helped me keep 100 pounds off.  I can go on and on about how disappointed I am at being up 65 pounds but the truth is, I'm still 100 pounds lower than my highest weight.  That's a pretty big success in my book. 

Have you ever experienced dumping syndrome?  Did your surgeon explain it and did you realize what was happening?  How do you "make it better?"