Archive | February, 2013

Last night I thought my house might just float away

24 Feb


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It was the rain that woke me. I had to be up at 4am to work the Sunday morning shift at Bankstown Airport and I was doing my best to get some shut-eye but it was just so loud. The rain was loud because there was so much of it. And it wasn’t just the rain.

The roof gutters were overloaded and water was streaming so loudly past our doors and windows that I was convinced the roof was leaking and searched for it. Thankfully the roof held up.

Then the wind picked up.

I felt like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. It was positively howling. I will never know how the house stayed standing. The glass in the windows shook and even though they were closed the curtains and blinds were moving each time a new gust slammed into them. At one stage the wind was so furiously fast that it emitted an intense whistle. I swear my heart stopped.

I started wondering about the roof caving in on the kids as they slept. I started wondering about the streets being flooded and us being stranded.

I started wondering about driving into flood water and being swept away. How would I get us out? How would I keep us safe?

Mother Nature can be scary when she wants to be and with the intensity of current weather patterns across the world you’ve got to wonder what will happen next.

My son Philip is 9 and he asks questions all the time about possible disasters. Does Australia have earthquakes? Yes, but just little ones. Does Australia have hurricanes? No (although last night I heard of several mini-twisters). Does Australia have fires? Yes, bad ones but not in Sydney. Does Australia have flooding? Yes, bad ones but not in Sydney.

I think of silly things, like how I’ll buy an inflatable raft and put one in the house and one in the car just in case. I’ll stop up on kids vitamins and Space Food Sticks and store them in waterproof containers. I’ll build an underground shelter in case of fires, cyclones and other dangers. It can double as a panic room.

I’ll put Uno, Monopoly and some books in there. I’ll pack water, long-life milk and chocolate.

I feel like saying I’m lucky to live in Sydney is like asking for trouble (I’m knocking on wood as I speak!).

Last night I was scared to death. I can’t wait for the sun to come out again.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

How one mother helped her obese daughter lose weight

17 Feb

The Heavy, Dara-Lynn Weiss

“There is no truth, there is only perception” Gustave Flaubert

I’ve been thinking a lot about perception lately. How we perceive the world, how we are perceived…it’s truth mixed with subjectivity mixed with judgement.

So it’s fitting that I stumbled upon a book written by an amazing women who was a victim of perception. By the end of the book I couldn’t believe how inaccurately she has been portrayed; disbelieving but not surprised.

Her name is Dara-Lynn Weiss and about a year ago she featured in a Vogue article discussing her decision to put her seven-year-old daughter on a strict diet with the sole purpose of helping her to lose weight. It didn’t help that the essay she had written appeared in Vogue, that she was packaged as an upper class New York mum and that the photo showed her and her daughter looking like the last thing they needed to do was diet. I remember reading it in shock. Putting kids on a diet? Can’t she just play netball or something?

But this was an active little girl with a huge appetite and a skinny brother.

The outcry to the essay was just as swift and the judgement harsh. She was irresponsible. She was materialistic. She was teaching her child to rely on her looks too heavily. She was obviously a vacuous and misguided woman.

Far from the truth. As far as you can get.

Dara-Lynn faced a dilemma many of us are familiar with. She had a clinically obese child. Her son could eat what he wanted but her daughter paid for her voracious appetite with uncontrollable weight-gain and the associated nasty treatment at school. Concerned friends and family suggested Dara-Lynn help her daughter lose weight. Dara-Lynn didn’t know where to begin.

She tried to do it herself. She’d always fed her family healthy foods with occasional treats but what she quickly learned and something I realised over 12 years ago when I first tried a calorie restricted diet. It’s not so much what you eat, but how much you eat. When it comes to weight loss and weight gain a calorie is a calorie. There’s no magic pill.

Dara-Lynn came across research I too had stumbled upon and felt fascinated and validated by.┬áMark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University went on a “Twinkie Diet” to prove that people can lose weight eating anything as long as what they eat doesn’t exceed the calories they need to eat for weight loss. Not only did he lose 11 kilos, his health improved, his cholesterol lowered and his blood-work showed improvements in his saturate fat count.

The other new information she discovered that when it comes to diet vs exercise, most experts conclude that exercise doesn’t necessarily lead to weight loss. If you eat too many calories, no amount of exercise will help.,9171,1914974,00.html

This mother of an obese child had limited success in managing her daughter’s weight in a world where it’s just not possible to control our child’s diets constantly and where one excessive meal a day can easily undo any weight loss. I myself know that one bad day of eating with abandon takes at least three days of restriction to correct.

So Dara-Lynn turned to an established program which focused on helping children lose weight and then she continued on her own until her daughter reached a ‘normal weight’. You need to read the book to understand her journey and she deserves a bloody medal. She knew she was the only one who could help her daughter and she did it with the judgement and stigma associated with placing a child on a diet.

The happy ending is that not only is her daughter a ‘normal weight’, she can make the right choices for herself now. She knows she can only have a treat twice a week and she knows she has to be careful how much healthy food she eats to. Dara-Lynn has empowered her daughter to be in charge of her own health and I can’t help but think that her daughter will be able to use this skill in other areas of her life.

The book is called The Heavy and it is a brilliant read for any parent or anyone who has struggled with weight. And it’s a wake-up call.

Managing our growing obesity crisis is going to require us to take a hard look at how we eat, how we socialize, what we teach our children and how we deal with weight issues. Just as Dara-Lynn explains, a diabetic child or a child with food allergies doesn’t suffer from the stigma an over weight child does and yet each is a serious health issue which requires careful management.


Sick and tired of waiting to see doctors

13 Feb

Kids Line Up

Since the birth of my first child I’ve felt like I live at hospitals and medical centres. After the birth of my second child it became worse and after my little girl arrived I may as well brought along sleeping bags.

Hardly any of those visits have been for me. I usually just shuffle my way through illnesses and only go to the doctor for me when I absolutely have to. Case-in-point this week when a virus struck me down like a thunder bolt.

I was at the gym working out when I noticed tiny red spots all over my arms. My first thought was that it was a sweat rash but later in the shower I realised it was all over my body. I googled it and was told I could have Leukimia. Or measles, or meningitis. With three kids in tow headed for the medical centre but instead of going to our usual centre where we have to endure a one hour wait I chose a different centre where you can make appointments.

I still had to wait 40 minutes.

The doctor actually came out after 30 minutes but Caterina had chosen that particular moment in time to use the toilet so he saw another patient before me.

Finally we all fell into his office and my kids who were tired and bored started destroying his office. We both told them to sit down and behave which they did for about 50 seconds, long enough for him to quickly examine me.

The good news – I wasn’t dying. The bad news – it’s a virus that just has to ‘run it’s course’ and there was nothing to be done but rest. Rest?!? I have three children. As if.

After a 40 minute wait I felt entitled to at least some new multi-vitamins, some cream or perhaps a hug?

This is why I NEVER go to the doctor for myself.

With the kids it’s different. I always take them ‘just in case’ because if an illness is ever going to become worse it’s always at 2am when everything is closed. They never take a turn for the worst during daylight hours. And after several 4-6 hour waits at our local hospital emergency room I’d prefer to take them to the doctor for every tiny little thing than have our precious rest interrupted. This doesn’t always work. Like the time Philip and I were dancing to the music at the end of Gnomeo and Juliet and he jumped into my arms, some how turned himself upside down and I dropped him on his head. I heard a crack and called an ambulance. I thought I’d broken his neck. He was screaming and crying.

We rushed to hospital with a neck brace on him and they delivered us to emergency. My little man fell asleep. As he slept doctors (who probably had DOCS on hold) asked me to describe how this had happened, asking if I’d ‘wrestled’ him into a headlock. I explained how it had happened and they woke him up and examined him.

My previously crying, distressed child said he felt fine. It was like nothing had happened.

Because I couldn’t slap him in front of people (just joking) we stayed for observation and then were sent home after 2 hours.

People ask why I carry around such a large handbag and it’s because when waiting for doctors, dentists and other professionals you need an array of items to keep your children from going nuts, thus preventing your own nervous break down. My over-sized handbag contains snacks, drinks, toys and several discarded Happy Meal items. It’s saved me several times.

Next time you are at the doctors office waiting waiting waiting might I suggest adopting a calm attitude, ignoring those giving you and your children dirty looks, teach the kids thumb wrestling and settle in. Because they never stick to their appointment times and it’s never a 10 minute wait. Use it as quality time. Talk, play, have fun. You may as well.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi


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