Friday, December 26, 2014

Was this year a Success?

Hello all, 
It has been a long time since my last blog. I had a teaching contract and at the same, I was ironing the last touches to my book before when it off to print.  Since 2015 is just a few days away, I thought I would write to reflect upon the year. I have to ask myself : Was it a success? 
I am going to start off with this excellent excerpt from Oprah when she was at the Stanford Graduate School for Business.

No Mistakes in Success

Her words really resonated with me when I looked at the year.  My book was delayed. I had a contract that was taking up a lot of my time, and my mother had a stroke. My pocket book didn't get better.  I was hit by government payback from my last return and unforseen large expenses. Something though that I did notice ...
My whole concept behind my book just became larger. Calmness is no longer about getting people to buy my book to help them relieve their stressful existence. It became me really breaking open my old armour and connecting with people on a human level. Calmness to me isn't just about diminishing stress. It's about really focusing on what money can't buy:  relationships, community, health, and self awareness. This is a new beginning and a very exciting one. 
Arrival of My Books:  December 10, 2014

My mother's stroke is another lesson within itself. Our relationship has been strained in the past. We come from different worlds. She is of the old European dynasty while I was born in the New World with its diversity. I realized that though we have had a lot of challenges, she is really in my heart and I will gretly miss her when she passes on. Her presence has really tested me and shaped me. I also reflect about  my own physical health and how much we do take our bodies for granted. She is on the road to recovery which will be a long one. We are there every step of the way. 

My mom and I,  NYC, July 2012
I can say that I have become more fearless and more compassionate. I remember a moment when I was in Japan where nothing affected me in the slightest because I concluded that what is ... is. You can't debate with existence. However, you can measure personal growth. To me, that is success. 
To your peace and prosperity for 2015!

Lots of love, 

Helga DeSousa
To learn about myself and my book, please visit my site:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Food addiction: The Binge Battle #foodbinging

As I mentioned a many time before, I have struggled with my weight for most of my life. Even when I was at my fittest and was running full and half marathons,  the scales were up and down.  I would look at other people and think, why couldn't I look like them -- be a normal size.  I am five foot 1, so the weight is more visible since the only way is to expand vertically.  I was at a healthy weight five years ago and could fit into sizes that I never dreamed of fitting in.  I was in the gym for 3 hours a day/ 5 times a week. I also ate according to the weight watcher plan. The pounds went off.  But there was another crucial factor.  I had quit my corporate job to switch into teaching. Came back from Japan and finished teacher's college. That summer, I was not employed. I had a lot of time on my hands, still had some money in the bank, and I was stress free.  The moment I took on a job for teaching, five years later, I am now at the heaviest weight I have ever been in my entire life. And the battle continues. Some days I win.  Other days, I lose. So I have to stop and ask myself, what happened? How did I let circumstances lead to this?

The funny thing is that it wasn't until I got to this point that I realized that the body reflects our quality of life. My life for the past five years has been riddled with employment uncertainty, stressful class management, and a work-life balance that has gone out of whack. I had to move in back with my parents because I couldn't afford rent. My father had passed away three years ago and my mother can not stay home alone at night because she gets anxiety attacks. I have been helping her, but it has been uphill battle with drawing those much needed boundaries and being a good daughter. I still struggle with this at times. The money is tight. I haven't  been able to travel and move freely as I use to. Sometimes I find myself in a very dark place.

 So what does this have to do with binging and food addiction?  It has to do with when I use food to calm myself and  to break away from what I am doing or feeling. When I mean food, I don't mean real food. I am talking about sugary treats. From the current research ( and I can't quote where at this point, look it up), refined and processed sugar is an addictive substance that hits the same opiate receptors in the brain as the ones blamed for drug and alcohol addictions. We have it, it makes us feel good, and then there is a crash (we feel like crap and guilty). It sounds like a hopeless situation, doesn't it? And it is no wonder why so many people struggle with their weight.  However, with everything, there is still an element of choice. Even when the craving for sugar is overpowering.

I had an epiphany on this the other day. I realize that the reason why I give in at times to those cravings is that it is a form of reward.  It is a form of twisted self love. When I went on diets in the past, the opposite happens which is self hate. I find myself creating extensive lines of logic as to why I should give in. I had a hard day. I can start again tomorrow. I am feeling anxious. I am feeling angry. I am feeling stressed. I have to get this task done and I feel I am not up to it. Or I am so excited and happy that I might as well celebrate this feeling with something that I love. Or that I am out with friends and I should eat what they eat in order to belong.   Sounds familiar? Notice the whys.  When you are aware of the why then you realize that what you are doing is not in line with your goal for a healthy body weight (I mean your healthy body weight not the magazines!).

Here is where the choice comes in. Turn it around. Instead of deliberating over the whys for giving in to the cravings, look at the whys for having a healthy body weight.  Not an easy thing,  I know when the "want" for the fix sets in.  The wonderful thing about our brains is that it can create new neural pathways (neuro-plasticity) and let the old ones fall away (binge habit).  It can be done, but you have to decide which is stronger: your temporary sugar fix or a healthy body just leaping into life with new energy and possibilities? I am going to aim for the latter every day from now on. Are you with me?


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Karma comes around ...

Well, time flies ... it has been about almost three months  since my last blog post. Just to update you from my last post, I did the meth-choline test which was suppose to induce an asthma attack. The purpose is to confirm that I have asthma. The test came out negative. My lungs resisted and no asthma attack came about. I still don't have any clue whether these results are accurate  It the extreme heat we've had this past summer or an anxiety over something. Don't know. But I am breathing well these days and off inhalers. That matters to me!

I have attempted some draft posts before, but never came around to finishing it. The moment would pass and the inspiration went elsewhere on to other projects. So what fuelled this post today? Karma.

Don't you feel sometimes that the bad guys seems to get away from murder? Don't you feel that Karma has fell short and not been really coming around to that other person. Wouldn't you wish that you could just speed it up a bit? Take Karma by the hand and say ... hey ... that's the one. Get him or her. Is there no justice in the world? No integrity?

 A few weeks ago and I went to see a movie on opening nigh tand there was a long line-up  A couple was budding in. I mean an older couple. ADULTS maybe in their 40s. They were not cutting in front of me, but they were cutting in front of the people behind us. My friend made a point to the couple that the line was outside. The couple had the audacity to stay on. I did nothing. I  just stood there  hoping that they would get shoved off course by the "true wait in liners" running to get their seats. No such luck. Us Canadians are too damn polite!

See where I am going with this?

The problem with that scenario is that I did not take action to call on that couple. Instead of wishing Karma to take over for me, I could have called the manager or staff over to tell them to stand in line like everyone else. But there will be a next time. That is just a small example. I could give you a much more petty and drama infusing occurrence, but I rather stick to something much smaller to drive home the point not only to you, but to myself as well.

When I think about it, it really is a cowardly thing to wish ill will on anyone rather than meet that human being eye to eye.

Karma does have a place, but on its own terms. Not on the whim of the  little self-righteous mes that think that they are the centre of the universe.

Until next time,


Friday, August 24, 2012

Too Much Time on my Hands Leads to Self-Experimentation

I am still self experimenting. I went on a 100km ride two weeks ago to see if I could go on my cycling trip which was a 286km ride to Algonquin Park. The ride went well. We tackled many hills and it down poured on us. Muscle wise, I was perfect. No aches or pains. However, after the ride stopped, I had a chest pain. That night I couldn't sleep. I had to use my inhaler (which is a steroid combo with a broncho-dilator) twice. My chest tightened and I struggled a bit getting in that air. I could breathe, but it was this sensation that I have this cement bag on my chest. I was trying to take in deep breathes, but no success. I called up my beloved to tell him the bad news. I just didn't want to be a burden and  hospitals are just not around when you are camping in the bush.

This was at my 50km mark. The weather was perfect! Too bad, so sad! 
Another way I know that I am going through a symptom is the inability to complete a yawn. I yawn, but can't make it. Anyhow, there is no congestion in my lungs. My airflow is normal according to a pulmonary function test I did at the hospital. My brother-in-law suggests that it may be anxiety and others have as well. They thought that is may be stress due to my dad passing away and me being the main caretaker of my mother. It may well be. All I know is that at times, it is hard to get that air in. I will be doing a methacolene test at the hospital which induces my lungs to have an attack. It is one of the ways to prove that I have indeed asthma since I do not seem to exhibit typical symptoms. My asthma specialist thought it was strange that I didn't experience symptoms during my ride, but after the fact. That ride was an experiment. This test will be an interesting one. I will let you know. I am suppose to be off the puffers for a couple of weeks. Then they pump the stuff into my airways and see how I fair.

In the meantime, I am still doing my diet experiment. I have been mostly paleo. My energy levels are stable. I get less asthma like symptoms so far. That could be also a placebo effect. What I do notice is when I do cheat on sugar, I get some of the symptoms. The reason is that to get the sugar out of your system and then re-introduce it, has its adverse effects. You are more likely to notice it then you would if you continually have sugar in your diet. I had some medjool dates yesterday. Seem healthy enough, right? Natural. No added sugar. No preservatives. Here is the thing. The natural occurring sugar is Fructose. It is still sugar. Your body reacts to it like it does with glucose. When broken down, it becomes glucose. Robb Wolf who I have mentioned before in my paleo blog site, refers to fructose is that "aunt" that looks innocent enough. The liver works harder to break down fructose than when it  receives straight glucose. Anyhow, at any rate, my innocent dates were evil. You live, you learn.

Here is a blog on Fructose by Amy Kabal who is a dietitian:

Fructose Effects on the Body

Here is another experiment of mine. Pure coffee. I bought a bag of coffee beans that are from Costa Rica. I learned from the Bullet-Proof executive that consuming coffee in its highest quality form has some benefits.

 Bullet Proof Executive- Coffee enhancing health

According,   Dr. Mercola and his associate   this form of caffeine binds with those receptors that are known to be addiction receptors (i.e. addiction to sugar).  Secondly, it helps to restore brain cells and heighten your energy levels. The trick is to be buy coffee beans that are grown in high altitudes where mold is non existent. Some coffee are processed with the mold. Avoid sun dried and aim for water processed. I got a coffee grinder and I selected some beans to have them roasted at the Green Beanery. Again, I will let you know how that works.

Perhaps all of this self experimentation amounts to one thing:  "Too much time on my hands."  I have been blessed with it. So why not use it?

Until next time,


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Morning Coffee with "History of God"

I am reading "History of God" by Karen Armstrong. The book is a historical account on the formation of the three major monotheist religions:  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She not only gives a historical backdrop, but she also intermingles her account with "people's experience" of God from a cultural context. It is a "heady" read and I am still mulling through this large paperback, but I find it very interesting.

I thought it was interesting that the writings of the text were heavily influenced by either their political and cultural surroundings. I also thought it was interesting that these religions started out with pure and simple principles of communal harmony and equality for all (including women). But once the politics came in and the texts fell into the hands of generations later, God became something to Fear, Women became  marginalized and God also became something like a Ruler rather than the essence of existence.  Again, since this is a sensitive topic to a lot of believers, I am not by any means putting down these religions since I do see the strength and beauty of spiritual communities. I just find these historical patterns very intriguing. 

We have been very successful with manipulating the natural world for our purposes. When we do that, most of the beauty of what is natural is somehow lost. I am not putting down Science either. I am also a big lover of science with its analysis and breakthroughs. Knowledge is power as in the old adage. However, it is how it is used and twisted is what is disconcerting and unfortunate. Religion has its political and cultural roots that have kept people in check for a many millennia. These roots  do not invalidate people's connection with God. The essence is still there. The troubling part is how this powerful relationship has been used and still being used today. We can look to examples in history and even today where fierce-less rulers will align themselves with religion to get public buy in. You can  question a human, but no one can question God (except for the Atheists). 

So where am I going with this?  Come on now, this is one of my all time favourite topics. If we could cut away all this build up and fat that we accumulated over the centuries and stick to the essence of what God may be to anyone (regardless of what religious backbone), religion would not be such a sensitive topic. Some of our backs wouldn't be up if we talked about science and its explanation of natural phenomenon. There wouldn't such an extreme effort to blot the concept of God from our daily lives.  Who knows?  Or, perhaps we would find something else to argue about?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

An Old Lesson Revisited

I want to write about an epiphany I had two weeks ago. It was a lesson I had learned before, but I guess ignored. Let me tell you a story about my initial lesson  and it goes like this:

I joined a running club with YMCA in 2002 roughly.  I had a coach and a group to run with. Everyone was running at different paces and different levels. I was one of the slowest runners. I think simply because I believed I couldn't do it. My coach gave me a training schedule and I guess I was frusturated at times on my runs. I had a running partner  who was slightly faster than I, but I think held herself back because of me. So although I enjoyed being with the group and having a training schedule, I was jealous of the faster runners. I also did not think that my coach was there for me.

 I trained for my first marathon and I wanted to go big. So I signed up for the New York marathon. Got in on the first try. The New York Marathon is a lottery system where you register, but not guaranteed a spot. My coach and another member also signed up for the marathon and got in. However, I was resolved to do it on my own. I didn't want to run with them because I knew I was slower and I was just fed up running with the group. I bought a plane ticket. Flew on my own, and had a hotel room at the Sheraton in Manhattan.

On race day, we all ran like champions from the start line. The streets were lined with crowds of people cheering for us. New York is great about that. The streets are always full of people from the Start and all way to the Finish line. That is one of the reasons why I love the city. I felt like a superstar. So I made the number one mistake and ran at full tilt for the first 10km. Then I ran out of gas. It was a hot day on November 2, 2003. The temperature was about 30 degrees Celsius and in the 90s Fahrenheit.  So I made a number two mistake. I drank too much gatorade. You are suppose to pace yourself with your drinking (drink little sips) and gel yourself up every hour which I didn't do. I felt sick. I started to zigzag as I ran. A  man stopped me and told me that it wasn't worth it. I responded deliriously, "I want my medal !"  Then he got a cop to escort me off the course and to the First Aid station.

 I sat on a bed and threw up my gatorade on the pavement. They were starting to load people up from the First Aid station on the bus to the Finish Line. I was determined to finish and not go home empty handed. Then I looked out to the runners. All of a sudden, I see my coach, my other running member and couple of other runners running slowly.  I escaped from the First Aid Station to join them. They were glad to see me and were suffering as well from the heat. So they dragged me to the finish line which we completed in about 6 hours.

Just a funny note to add, when we reached the finish line, one of our group members proposed to his girlfriend as I had to vomit in the corner. I was also unable to eat the usual victory dinner of "going all out".  But I was in good company.

My coach and I after our victory dinner with our medals
November 2003

My lesson is that I can't do it on my own. I am self sufficient enough and independent enough, but I still need people in my life for support all the way. In turn, I need to be there for other people as well. Because it really isn't about you. It struck me that all these years I have been taking courses, reading books, and taking trips to better myself. But how can I be better all by myself? Where is self expression if it isn't expressed through others?  I thought I would share this with you because I think it is important to note this.

We as human beings did not make it as individuals. We survived through our communities. Every successful person can speak of other people that have helped them make their dreams realized.

So today, do at least one thing to help us as the human family  move a bit forward.


Monday, July 16, 2012


I still haven't received my prognosis yet. But it is now looking more like asthma. Heat and humidity may have been the trigger. Being the stubborn woman I am, I decided to do some cycle hill training in the dead heat. Low and behold, I was gasping for air. I was already having some breathless symptoms prior to this feat, but exercise seems to chase it away and open up my lungs. I got away with it for nearly twenty years. Thanks to training for races and for my years of strength exercises (which I still do love).

The difference is that ever since I ventured into my "new career", my exercise time has been lessened and my "asthma symptoms" started to creep back. So if you are noticing this yourselves, take heed. Slow down, reassess and give back the respect your body deserves. I have rested for a week and a half. I noticed when I was active, my symptoms lessened, but they did not go away. I am continuing to be active, but now I know that I have to take some precautions like extreme weather temperatures. 

I will be going to an asthma clinic and will be doing a Pulmonary Function Test. The test is the same one they did with  my father who was diagnosed with COPD (though was never a smoker, so we think it was due to years of being a steel worker and inhaling steel filings). He had a hard time putting that breath out and his results were not good. So now it is my turn. My doctor says that my lungs sound fine. I am going to bet it that it is asthma. 

 According to the Paleo folks, grains, sugar, and legumes are culprits to the body's super sensitivity to allergens. Asthma is caused by the narrowing of the bronchial tubes due to some allergen trigger. I have to admit that I am not 100% paleo. I am about 70%-80% on most days. I even bought a Paleo cookbook to help my paleoness. But I will creep in that sugar or that grain based carb now and then because I love it. It's a relationship that is bad for me. But if you knew my past dating record, I held long to bad even though "bad" was not good for me. Until I got tired of the pattern. Which is "key".  I have to be tired enough of this breathless pattern which only became a problem recently. Then again, this could all be about the weather. And we all know, that changes too!

Until next time, 


P.S.  I just found a blog about a man who cured his asthma with the paleo diet. His asthma symptoms were exactly the ones I have been experiencing. Amazing stuff!

JD Moyer: How I Cured My Asthma With One Simple Diet Change