Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Book Review: The Alchemist

I found The Alchemist by Paul Coelho, to be deceptively simple at a first glance, but quite deep in reality. It is about the importance of seeking one’s own meaning of life and spending one’s life fulfilling it. 

Paul Coelho calls it seeking one’s “Personal Legend.” Doesn't that sound sort of fairytale-like? This story about a young Shepherd boy, Santiago who embarks on a courageous journey of self-discovery, comes across like a fairytale. Unlike the classic fairytale however, we are given a process, alongside possible stumbling blocks, set in a coming of age style fairytale. Does that even make sense to you?

Coelho explains that there is the need to come to the realization that our lives are dictated by what is acceptable. This is revealed in our customs, our family traditions and expectations of how our lives should be, the laws of the land where we leave and tradition. We must be willing to strike new paths in a brave new world to find a special Personal Legend. We must be willing to brave disapproval from our nearest and dearest, something that is always so difficult to do. 
Sometimes we must be willing to acknowledge that love may turn out to be an obstacle. Why do I say this?
We've been led to believe, especially as women that we have to sacrifice all for the happiness of our loved ones. The Alchemist forces us to reevaluate our perception of love. The author contends that " never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit it's because it wasn't true love."
Thus he makes it clear that there is no need to give up our Personal Legend or dreams in order to live the way the other person wants us to. No need at all. After all, has it not always been said that 'if something is yours and you let it go and it comes back to you, then it was truly yours. If it doesn't then, it was never yours.'

Coming to the conclusion that love means not giving up your dreams for anybody tends to be tough. Sometimes, living with a decision to stick with your guns in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles appears too hard and there is that urge to give up. “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”

Giving up would however be the worst thing you could do in your life. This is because in giving up, one has failed to achieve one's dreams, just by dodging the hardships that would be necessary to achieve our Personal Legend. This is illustrated where :“My heart is a traitor,” the boy said to the alchemist, when they had paused to rest the horses. It doesn’t want me to go on.That makes sense,” the alchemist answered. “Naturally it’s afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you’ve won."

The struggle to discover our Personal Legend doesn't end here. Guilt is a major obstacle. This is because after achieving what you have, and looking around, you would find that you are in a minority. So we hide our achievements. This too is a bridge to cross.

In conclusion, let's take a look at the book title, The Alchemist. In the same way an alchemist turns metal into gold, we are encouraged to turn our potentially ordinary lives to golden achievements. My father made me memorize a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson when I was very young which has resonated strongly with me over the years "Most of the shadows in our lives are caused by standing in our own sunshine". In comparing that quote to The Alchemist, I'm drawn back to a period in the book where our protagonist was nearly tempted by pride to return home before he had even embarked on his treasure hunt. Just imagine the life full of regrets he would have endured, had he turned back.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Losing Weight The Lazy Way

I'm medium height, about 5ft 4inches. I'm told that's tall for a girl. But i'm the shortest person in my family.

The only time i have been skinny in my life was up to about 14 years old. 

As i started puberty, i found i was always hungry. At the same time, i developed a bad ice-cream habit which i haven't gotten rid off to date. Anyway, my weight has to date, ranged from my lowest at about age 21 of 59kg to 83kg (cringe). Although to tell the truth, lately its staying at the 79kg mark.

I'd rather not exercise, it isn't that i hate exercise or anything. In fact about 4 years ago, i took the exercise route and i got down to a lovely 65kg. 

However, i wasn't able to maintain my exercise routine, i was still eating the same and i regained the weight and some. I love food. That's when i told myself that since you can't maintain the exercise thing, why don't you try weight loss from the food angle? 
Then i remembered that i had successfully done so about 9 years earlier.

I was in my first year in University and i was visiting my aunt in Abuja, Nigeria. She was always on my case about my weight. So i started to listen a little bit. She had all these alternative health remedies books lying around. I did a lot of research. I found out about intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting or IF as it is commonly known has many forms.

For me, i decided to skip breakfast and eat 2 meals. This meant i ate at about midday and had a banana at night if i was really starving. That was it. For the first three days or so, i was starving so much. Then i guess my stomach shrank and i was no longer feeling hungry from my restrictive diet. In a month, i lost about 10 kg. My aunt was so happy.

When i returned home to Ghana my mother was worried. I think she thought i was sick or something. It turned out that she wasn't the only one. I actually had a girl come up to me on campus to insinuate that i had some disease that had caused me to lose weight. At that point, i regret to say that, at the time, i cared too much about what other people thought that i immediately started to eat more, so as to gain back the weight and be normal to the world again.

All that hard work undone by a few careless words. Anyway, i have never been called a quitter.

So i put on all the weight again plus some as usual. Then my clothes stopped fitting me properly and i started to feel unhealthy. Since i didn't want to go the exercise route again, i decided to research into diet pills. 

The first ones i tried were the Hydroxycut pills from USN, A South African company. I bought them at the Accra Mall Pharmacy for about 100GH.

I've actually tried those twice now. The first time they worked a little bit for me by speeding up my metabolism and suppressing my appetite a little bit. However i had horrible side effects like really strong heart palpitations, dry mouth and insomnia. However, i lost some weight and that made me happy.
The second time i used them, i had all the side effects and no benefit. Yes, this time i didn't lose a single ounce.

For my next foray, i decided to go local. I used the Fatless mixture and capsules from the Malarigo Co. Ltd, North Kaneshie after my younger sister told me about her overweight friend who had used them and had lost so much weight. That bit excited me. That cost me about 60GH. It came with an instruction sheet which was basically a diet plan, which i didn't follow. I took them all right, but there was no change in my appetite and i didn't lose any weight. That led me to suspect that i had probably been sold snake oil. In my opinion, if people are losing weight on this drug, then its probably because of the diet plan. So maybe the Malarigo people should stop selling the drug and just sell the instruction sheet.

You would have thought i had learnt my lesson by now. But i hadn't.

A friend of mine who runs a pharmacy, told me about this drug they stocked called Duromine which was very successful in appetite suppressing. As usual, i got super excited and convinced him to get me some to try for free. However, he told me the retail price is 110GH for 15 capsules. A pack has 30 capsules and is 220GH. 
He was right. The Duromine suppressed my appetite and made me want to drink a lot of water because i had dry mouth. I also had insomnia the first three nights.
But i lost some weight and that made it a successful diet drug in my opinion. In about three weeks of using it, i had lost about 5 kg. However, it stopped my period. That got me worried about its possible effect on my fertility and so i stopped taking it.
And i kept off the weight for some time because the drug stopped me from craving food for some time. 

However, because i stress eat, i gained the weight again.

So i returned to the Duromine again and i'm losing the weight. My stomach is flatter and food is no longer the most important thing to me.

I'm not advocating the use of Duromine. I would advise anyone who contemplates using a diet drug to see his or her doctor beforehand. I don't want any wahala on my head. I'm just sharing what worked for me and what didn't.

Tell me all about your weight gains and losses and worries in the comments!

So i took Duromine for a month. Three days on it and three days off it. I am 11 kilos down!!!!!! Its made me more mindful of what i put in my mouth. Whenever i feel like eating when I am not hungry, i ask myself, what is the problem? That way, i am able to decide that ok maybe a walk would be a better option, or a call to a friend, or a new and interesting book to read. Basically anything but eat!
See you at the 65 kilogram mark!

Friday, 1 July 2016 Review - The Regimen Review 

Bad acne has been my bane for the past ten years or so of my life. i have tried a lot of things, from a dermatologist at Rabito Clinic in Osu (that one was very harsh on my pocket and it didn't even work), to cheap medications that were recommended to me, to really expensive treatments from neighbourhood beauty supply shops. 
i was tired of being all dressed up and looking good to go some place and some stranger would walk up to me and say "oh i have a product that you can use to clear your pimples". i mean, come on, at least begin with you're looking good mpo eh. lol.

For some time now i have been seeing mention of whenever i google stuff about acne treatment. i finally gave in and went to the site. The first thing i noticed was that they mentioned that they do not do paid advertisements, that they rely on word of mouth recommendations. That's when i realised that maybe this would be my answer.
However, because i live in Ghana, i wasn't certain if they would ship here. Well, guess what!!! THEY DO!!!! I was excited. So i put in my post office box number and my Ecobank Visa card information and they sent it to me in about two weeks. I received a call from Ghana Post and i went to pick up my package. The Regimen Kit is made up of:
8oz. Cleanser
8oz. Treatment (Benzoyl Peroxide - 2.5%)
8oz. Moisturiser with Licochalcone

It cost me a total of $66.01 including shipping, which at the time came to about GH260.00. Ouch i know.

The Regimen Kit

The whole regimen revolves around using a 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide in large amounts along with the gentle cleanser and a thick moisturizer. 

Steps in using the products: (these are included in the package)

First: Use the Cleanser to clean all the impurities and bacteria acquired throughout the day. Use only two pumps and make a great lather before applying it to your wet face. Make sure you only clean your face for 10 seconds. Rinse and pat dry. Take note that you should be very gentle in drying your face.
Second: Wait until 5 to 15 minutes until face is fully dry then apply 2 pumps of 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide in a gentle manner and wait for it to dry.
Third: Again, wait for 5 to 15 minutes until the BP is fully absorbed. Put 2 pumps of moisturizer on your face and wait for it to dry before putting make-up on. 

These steps should be done twice a day atleast 10-12 hours apart.  

Here's the overview and my review of the products:

Step 1 - Gentle Cleanser
"When treating acne, it is important to avoid irritation. This generously sized, ultra-gentle liquid cleanser is designed to be pH balanced so it doesn't over-dry or strip the skin. It also produces a thick lather which cleanses just the right amount and rinses clean."

My Review: 
I love the cleanser. It is indeed very gentle to my sensitive skin. It doesn't sting and is not painful when applied. It doesn't even hurt if it gets in your eyes. You only have to apply it on your face for 10 seconds though and you also need to be very gentle. Dan (the founder of emphasized that everything you do using the regimen should be gentle to steer clear from further irritation, since Benzoyl Peroxide itself can really irritate your skin if you are not used to it. I also found that instead of the two pumps the instructions say to use, one pump was enough for me. Cheers to lengthening bottle use. I'm not ready to get another one now. lol

Step 2 - 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide
"This 2.5% benzoyl peroxide treatment is gel-based so it goes on clear and spreads easily. It is pharmaceutical grade, pH balanced, fragrance-free, and dye-free. It won't "clump up" with moisturizers, and won't turn white when you perspire. Studies show that 2.5% benzoyl peroxide works as well as 10% solutions, without the excessive dryness and irritation."

My Review:

The treatment is quite alright for my face. I was a little worried because i tend to have sensitive and oily skin. However, i did't experience any irritation. Maybe it was because i didn't use too much at a go. I built up to the full amount of two pumps over a week. I noticed that my acne has been behaving now. No noticeable zits peeking through. I have been using this product for 3 weeks now and I can really see the difference. 

Step 3 - Moisturizer

"Overly dry skin perpetuates the acne cycle. Since benzoyl peroxide is a drying and peeling agent, it is important to properly re-hydrate the skin. This generously sized, intensely hydrating, non-comedogenic lotion eliminates dry skin and flakiness completely, while soothing acne-prone skin. It goes on clear and absorbs quickly, leaving no residue. It has a super-light feel and is fragrance-free and dye-free. Use it liberally without fear."

My Review:
Okay, last but not the least, the moisturizer! This is a very rich moisturizer! I only apply 1 pump of moisturizer to my regimen because my face tends to get so oily! I can't emphasize how oily I get when I put two pumps. My face is drying up but its not uncomfortable.still oily. I love the moisturiser. It doesn't break me out. It is gentle. Not totally odorless but i can bear the smell. 

Right now I am seeing huge improvements and those who know me are commenting on it. Even at that time of the month, i didn't have any breakouts. Currently, i don'st have any pimples but i do have hyper pigmentation from the old acne scars on my face. i hear glycolic acid is the best treatment for that, so i have sent for some from I would do a review when that arrives.  I love The Regimen and i wholeheartedly recommend it. It's amazing!!