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Sunday, May 24, 2009

#23: Best Friend Bust-Up

Best Friend Bust-Up Why do many of us insist on keeping a friend we no longer - to be honest - really like? Sometimes, you just have to make a break. Here's when you should and how to do it gracefully.

It was a pretty odd time for someone to be drunk - 6am - but as soon as I heard Cass slurring over the telephone, I knew she'd been at the bottle. Again. She was deliriously drunk and happy; I was at one of my lowest ebbs. My father had just died and I'd been sorting through his things with my family. I told her it wasn't a good time for me to talk. "What you need is a drink," she bellowed. I didn't want to tell her what happened. It was only a week until Christmas and I had no desire to depress her. Besides, had she ever really listened to my troubles? Then she said, "Don't tell me something terrible has happened. Don't tell me one of your parents had died. Ugh, I don't need to hear that now." Well, she'd guessed what was wrong, but she'd also let me know just what kind of a friend she'd be if I needed solace. I did, of course. But not from her. So I switched my cell phone off and ignored her remorseful SMS messages. I knew if I logged on, my e-mail would be bulging.

What Kind Of Pal...?
This wasn't the sole reason I decided I no longer wanted her to be my friend. It was simply the culmination of what had been a sham of friendship for years. I could share the good times with Cass, but, hey, please - no misery around her. Why had I kept on seeing her when I knew there were plenty of other women in my life who were much more nicer, warmer, kinder and better friends? Experts says that at the age of 66 she no longer has anyone in her life that she doesn't want. Sounds fab but how does she do it? "As you get older you realize that you just can't waste your precious time with people who aren't pleasant. But it takes a long time to get there. Well, it's nice to know that in a few decades, we might be able to tell Cass to get lost. But experts urges us not to wait. Women are raised to put others' needs before their own, and that includes other women. We feel guilty and selfish if we don't. It's the same with relatives. So many women go on seeing people they just don't like because it's expected and we think it looks good to other people. A lot of women would rather be good than happy. Which do you want? Harsh words but so true.

It's all about our precious, precious time. A mature women can shift out the dead wood from her life because she doesn't know how much longer she'll be around. But we younger women don't have the luxury of time either. So much of our time is crammed full of working, sleeping, eating and traveling - there isn't really a whole lot of time left to spend with the people you care about. So why spend time with people who are hateful or anything less than damn good mates? "Because sometimes you find that a friend has got you in a bind," says Krissie who has for years been trying to offload a former childhood friend. She says: "My mother says I’ve always attracted 'lame ducks'. I'm the one who always gets the nut sitting next to me on the bus. That's how it was with Millie. "We met in elementary school and she clung to me like a leech. When she attempted suicide, I couldn't just dump her, could I? She has real problems and I do sympathize. But this isn't a true friendship, is it?"

Chum Convenience
We often become friends through circumstances more than choice. The best example is the work colleague who becomes a pal because you share so much. Then one of you leaves the firm and you realize all you had in common were shared experiences and now they've gone, so has the basis for your friendship. A simple test to work out whether a friend is really a friend, or just someone you see out of duty. Does she always ring you? How do you feel when you hear her voice on the phone? If your heart sinks or you don't pick up when you see her number on ID caller, it's time to reassess. Think about what you don't like about her. Maybe one of you has changed, but the friendship hasn't. Friendship need to move on, as much as people do. You could also find yourself gradually facing the fact that this so-called friend of yours has actually spent the entire relationship subtly putting you down. Now, with a bit more confidence and self-assurance, you may well think it's time for you to say "enough".

Of course it's never easy to tell someone that you think they're using you, or just that you find them boring. So most of us just let the friendship tail off, we don't return calls, we make sure we're always busy. Eventually, she gets it. Few of us front-up about it, unless of course there's been a fight. Jenni loved putting Christine down whenever they were with other friends. So why did Christine put up with it so long when her other friends couldn't stand Jenni? Christine knows why Jenni behaves like that: she's insecure and nervous in crowds. So she gets drunk and goes over the top. But she can be really sweet and Christine is basically the only friend Jenni has. They say you're stuck with your family but you can choose your friends. Sometimes though, you can feel just as stuck with friends. I'd find it very hard to drop Jenni and, yes, Christine have tried confronting her over the way she belittles her - but all she does is cry, promise never to do it again and then does. What can Christine do?

Making The Break
Sometimes an open fight or frank discussion will change a friendship that isn't going well. But in many cases, as with Christine and Jenni, your friend feels attacked and just defends herself. If you have the kind of friend who just says, 'I'm perfect, leave me alone' then all the frank talk in the world can't change a thing. So the only thing might be to withdraw. It's worth trying to change it... but if you can't, do you really have the energy and time for a friendship that doesn't do it for you? Long-term friendships are what make life worth living. And the longer you know people, the more you've shared together, the greater the understanding. You even speak in a kind of shorthand that both of you understand. That's the kind of friendship worth having. Why have any other?

Why indeed. This is why it's common for women in their 20s to start weeding people out of their lives and sifting out is healthy. You may find yourself in a friendship that's no longer functional so you have to get out of it. It's unrealistic to think that all the friends we ever make can last forever, because they can't - nor should they. Friendships change because we change, leaving to let go is important. We all tend to have transitional people in our lives, people who're there for us at a specific time and help us move from one stage to another. But it’s usually mutual and beneficial for both parties to move on. It's unhealthy not to let people go. If you cling onto old friends, no matter what, you're probably a bit insecure. This is usually rooted in a fear of abandonment, which goes back to early childhood. If you think that's why you hang onto all friendships, even bad ones, it might help for you to work out why you fear losing people. Professional counseling can be a help, but for most women, all that's needed is a good, emotional stock-take. Just realizing what's going on may be enough to help you make the break.

Time To Let Go
Why hang onto all the flotsam and jetsam that attaches itself to you? There's nothing wrong with being selective. Listen to your feelings: if they're telling you that a friend has not only outlived her role in your life, but she's actively taking energy and emotion from you, it's time to let her go. However, it's much harder for some women to be assertive in personal relationships than in, say, a restaurant. He says letting things drift may be crueler than telling someone straight out. It's easier just to be unavailable but the problem is that you're not giving someone a clear message; wouldn't that be kinder? After all, if this so-called friend were a boyfriend, you'd soon get rid of him, wouldn't you? Sure, it's much harder with our girl friends because they've usually seen us through so many painful, experiences with and without men. Yet this is precisely why friendships are too important to throw away on someone who isn't worthy. We often make bad friendships at a time when we're not very sure of ourselves: new job, new man, starting at university. But once you become a bit more self-assured, and know what you want from life, there really is no need to hang onto someone who isn't really there for you/

And if telling a bloke who's been a real bastard to get lost can boost your confidence, there's nothing quite like saying a final goodbye to a cruel friend, as Christine discovered: "It's not as if I hadn't warned Jenni that I didn't like the way she kept putting me down. So I just said to her one night, enough is enough. I didn't want her around anymore. I felt guilty at first as she switched on the inevitable tears but then I was angry. I realized she was just manipulating me. Always had been. Once I stood back and saw this 'friendship' for what it really was, I no longer felt emotionally bound to her. It was such a relief. I feel ready for anything." And so can you, if you let that unworthy friend go. I'm telling Cass tonight...

How To Ditch A Bitch

» Tell her that you've been promoted so you will have very little time for any friends for the next six weeks/month/years.

» Say you're too preoccupied with your own problems to be a decent friend to anyone.

» Explain that you want a six-month break from her because your friendship is so intense, it's taking too much out of you.

» Confess that you don't think that you've been able to be a good friend to her and you want her to find someone else to befriend her.

» Tell her straight that you don't think the friendship is working out, but stress that it's no-one's fault. It's just one of those things.

» Gradually withdraw, don't answer her calls and don't initiate any contact. She'll assume that you've just drifted apart. If she's still too thick-skinned, change your number.

» Decline every invitation she extends to you, no matter how entertaining it is.

» Be honest and kind: say that you feel you've grown apart and that you could both find better friendships elsewhere.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Is Your Star Sign Making You Fat?

Is Your Star Sign Making You Fat? Ever wondered why you'd sell your mother for a Mars bar, while your best friend would rather scoff Big Macs? Well, it turns out our food weaknesses are governed by our star signs. But there is a way to beat your cosmic cravings.

Aries: March 22 - April 20
You're always on the go, so you tend to grab any greasy snack you can find! It's not that you have a fatty-food fetish, but french fries make such a convenient fuel when you want to keep your energy level up as you run around. Since you find cooking boring - why slave over a hot stove when you could be out having fun? - you need to take the time to plan your meals ahead, experiment and try popping a healthy snack in your groovy bag to beat those hunger pangs.

Cosmic cravings: Strong-tasking foods such as sinfully rich curries and disgustingly gorgeous deep-fried chicken.

Healthy Alternatives: Appeal to your fashion-conscious nature by snacking on stylish foods - lots of Zen-style stuff like sushi with pickled ginger and tofu burgers with chili sauce.

Eat More: Cooling foods such as melon, cucumber and salad. Also, stock up on carbohydrates such as pasta and rice for extra energy while you're racing around town.

Taurus: April 21 - May 21
You love luxury, which means indulging yourself with the best comfort food money can buy. Unfortunately, that means you often struggle with those extra pounds. Your ruling planet is Venus, who is also the ruler of honey - so you have a sweet tooth, too. When you suspect an attack of misery (and therefore a binge) is coming on, get out, make a point of eating with others and copy what that health freak is doing!

Cosmic cravings: Comfort foods like cakes, biscuits, chocolates and creamy sauces.

Healthy alternatives: Trick that sweet tooth with low-fat chocolate drinks, low-fat milks and luxuriously sweet fruits.

Eat more: Fiber and energizing foods such as broccoli and mangoes.

Gemini: May 22 - June 22
You have loads of get up and go, and your naturally high stress levels usually keep you slim! For you, food has to be interesting and you are drawn to contrast in flavors, but as you're impatient, you can be a total fast-food junkie. You're a people person - to really enjoy cooking, your kitchen needs to be packed full of friends! Never shop when hungry; better still, with your natural talent for computers, log on and go for home shopping (and delivery) instead.

Cosmic cravings: Loads of sweets, crisps and chips.

Healthy alternatives: Pack dried fruit and low-fat crackers into your handbag for low-fat, healthy snacking.

Eat more: Fresh fruits and salads.

Cancer: June 23 - July 23
As the material moon rules your sign, you love taking care of others, and that includes feeding them with wholesome-but-yummy dishes, which you'll happily pick at when cooking! You love cream, but your body finds it hard to digest, so you should buy low-fat dairy products - especially sweet yoghurts for a quick dessert. You have a weakness for fine wine (which has loads of hidden calories) so try to keep it down to one glass a night.

Cosmic cravings: Anything creamy, as well as indulgent munchies such as fried fritters.

Healthy alternatives: Fat-free yoghurt with honey and low-fat soya substitutes will give you that creamy fix, without all the calories and fats.

Eat more: Citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables.

Leo: July 24 - August 23
You don't have the patience or inclination to spend hours cooking, but you love going to glamorous restaurants - for you, food is yet another reason to celebrate. Eating until you're ready to burst is probably one of your biggest downfalls, but pigging out - then skipping meals - isn't the path to good health. Try to eat smaller meals more often to keep your energy levels even and the calories down.

Cosmic cravings: Fried food, luxurious desserts and anything that looks good.

Healthy alternatives: Choose stir-fries over deep-fried foods, slurp on steamboats, and make your own glamorous desserts with tropical fruits.

Eat more: Strawberries and root vegetables.

Virgo: August 24 - September 23
You're health conscious, but when stress hits, you often find it difficult to eat and your digestive system becomes sensitive. Your diet obsession means you can sometimes be a little too strict and sometimes a naughty treat would give you the buzz you need. Also, avoid fad dieting and cutting out whole food groups - you'll just stress yourself out more over that. Do your research and supplement your diet with multi-vitamins.

Cosmic cravings: Cheese snacks and high-energy drinks that are often full of sugar.

healthy alternatives: Skip the sports drinks for water or fresh fruit juices; and try low-fat cheese.

Eat more: Foods rich in vitamin B, such as dark green leafy vegetables.

Libra: September 24 - October 24
Your indecisiveness can make cooking a tricky business - you'll often give up almost before you turn on the stove! But you love good food and getting anyone to cook for you brings a sense of excitement, especially if you know you're in for a luxurious and stylish feast. To resist bingeing on comfort foods, stock up on quick but healthy alternatives and don't even buy those biscuits in the first place!

Cosmic cravings: Cheesecake, chocolate and exotic sauces.

Healthy alternatives: Exotic doesn't have to mean sugar-filled; try snacking on low-fat frozen yoghurts, fruit, yoghurt with honey or pureed fruit.

Eat more: Cereals and other fiber sources.

Scorpio: October 25 - November 22
Being ruled by transforming Pluto, your food needs to be full of variety and taste. For you, eating just isn't about fuelling your body - it's a chance to indulge yet another one of your senses. However, sometimes you fall into the trap of being erratic about your eating habits without even realizing what you're doing, so keep an eye on your eating patterns. Regular meals will nurture and give you a sense of well-being - don't underestimate your needs.

Cosmic cravings: Chocolate, rich desserts, strong flavors, rich dishes with peppers, cream and wine.

Healthy alternatives: Indulge your sensual side with low-fat aphrodisiacs such as oysters and strawberries.

Eat more: Raw fruit, cereals (rather than fried noodles for breakfast), and drink more water to flush out your system.

Sagittarius: November 23 - December 22
You often treat food as a refueling pit stop, gulping on the go. You're social, but fancy restaurants don't do it for you, you'd rather share a burger or hot dog with friends at the park or an outdoors event. You need to slow down and realize what you're eating. Foods with interesting herbs and spices will appeal, if you just take some time out to taste them properly!

Cosmic cravings: Greasy pizzas and rich oriental sauces.

Healthy alternatives: Make your own pizza instead, with low-fat cheese, and skip the coconut milk-based curries in flavor of nice veggie stir-fries.

Eat more: Vegetables and carbohydrates - especially brown rice - for sustenance.

Capricorn: December 23 - January 20
You're so practical and busy that you don't often fuss about food. But you have a soft spot for familiar foods - traditional family recipes that you enjoyed as a child are often favorites. While you rarely put on weight, it doesn't necessarily follow that you're a healthy eater! Those family favorites are often dripping with oil. Always buy the best cuts of meat and never skimp on lots of healthy vegetables.

Cosmic cravings: Chips, fried rice, rich sauces and creamy desserts.

Healthy alternatives: Little changes make a big difference - eat those family favorites with steamed rice instead, and choose vinegar dressing for your salads.

Eat more: Salads, raw vegetables, healthy carbohydrates, and make time to enjoy!

Aquarius: January 21 - February 19
One day you'll e preaching about food additives and genetically modified food and the next, grabbing a fast food burger! But the human body is sensitive and doesn't like having fat and gristle pumped into it after being "clean" for so long. Balance your diet and think about how you're mixing your foods. Stock up on basics like tinned fish, frozen veggies, noodles and rice for fast nutritious meals (though watch that starch!)

Cosmic cravings: Ice-cream, sticky desserts, starch.

Healthy alternatives: Foods that are packed with flavor as well as nutrients, such as frozen yoghurt, pureed and frozen fruit, and experiment with pulses.

Eat more: Fruit and fish.

Pisces: February 20 - March 21
Being an emotional sign, when stress hits, the weight tends to pile on. However, you can also forget about basics of eating! This see-saw confuses your body, making it hard to build up fitness or lose weight. Bring your eating habits into line and start your day well, with a good breakfast; also, eating smaller meals more often will stop your binge/starving tendencies. You enjoy the romance of eating with other people - particularly friends - but usually find cooking boring. Try a vegetarian restaurant instead of a pizza parlor.

Cosmic cravings: Vodka Red Bulls, avocados, wine.

Healthy alternatives: White wine spritzers, gin and tonic, fruit drinks and salads (hold the salad cream).

Eat more: Fiber and drink more water.

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