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Posing sans makeup in Marie Claire

“The universal thing that defines beauty is inner confidence. And I know a lot of people say that, but it is really hard to find. It is really hard to do your own personal homework and really understand who you are as a women, as a girl, like, who you are. What makes you authentic? What makes you unique? Like, who are you? Answering all those questions and really knowing yourself. That is probably the hardest part about feeling beautiful, but it is the most incredible part, when you actually do discover it.”Jessica Simpson in an interview with South Colorado’s KKTV

When it comes to beauty, the pop/”country” singer-turned-actress-turned-“sexual napalm” knows more than a thing or two. She recently explored “The Price of Beauty” on VH1.

Do you agree with her?


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In honor of the fourth season of Mad Men premiering this week, the Web churned out how-tos on throwing your own themed viewing parties, character studies of smooth-talking protagonist Don Draper and of course, odes of love to The Queen of Curvy, Christina Hendricks. Right now, everyone seems to have a girl crush on the voluptuous redheaded actress. Because, well, she’s gorgeous. But she’s also unconventional! *gasp!* She’s the anti-Kate Moss! *sqee!* She’s DEFYING SOCIAL STANDARDS! *faint* Her size 14 hourglass figure apparently stands for so much more than a flashback to a time when women weren’t hell bent on looking like “tits on a stick.”

Yet, I can’t help but agree with this article from BBC News Magazine that asks:

“Christina Hendricks…has been identified as the woman with a body others should healthily aspire to. But how realistic is it for women to look like her?”

By aspiring to look like Hendricks—who is said to possibly measure in at 38-32-38 and wears a C-cup—we’re just collectively chasing after a different yet still unattainable model of perfection.

Hendricks may be blessed to have a flat tummy along with a “pow, pow, pow” booty and “wow, oh, wow” boobies, but in the real world, women with Hendricks’ figure have larger stomachs and wider waists to match their generous bosom, says a psychologist from the National Centre for Eating Disorders who is quoted in the BBC story.

For these real women, looking like Hendricks would likely require a mega-rigorous diet and exercise. Or, at the very least, uncomfortable undergarments! And let’s face it, Mad Men fans from Millenials to Boomers, are not going to regularly stuff themselves into ribcage-choking corsets or girdles to attain a perfect hourglass. (Thanks to Sara Blakely, we get to pull on a pair of relatively comfy Power Panty Spanx and go!)

Breath-robbing aside, I’m personally not a fan of anything that drastically transforms my body into something that it’s not. Just this past weekend, I picked up a pretty strapless bra at Victoria’s Secret. I was all about it, until I realized that it’s part of their new “Miraculous” collection, which basically has enough padding to stuff a king-sized comforter. It adds THREE WHOLE CUP SIZES! This bra could catapult my pear shape into mini-Hendricks hourglass terrain. But I’m not down with such obvious faking. Even though it’s not “in” or “ideal,” I’m simply more comfortable being little in the middle—and ontop—while havin’ much back.

Still, the occasional or chronic discomfort with the mirror can make any woman susceptible to this infectious idea that the ideal body is a celebrity’s—be that buxom or twig-ish. As much as I appreciate that society is once again embracing a figure that is slightly more attainable than the emaciated type, there’s still a problem with putting any extreme on a pedestal. The deep-end result: Some women are forging undergarments altogether and going straight under the knife, requesting in some cases “head 2 toe” carving à la Kim Kardashian, Jessica Alba, Angelina Jolie and yep, probably Christina Hendricks.

With these cases becoming more and more prevalent, I think it’s time to say, seriously, ladies, let’s get a collective grip. It’s one thing to think, “Wow, she’s smokin’!” (literally, ha), but quite another to go all Heidi Montag on yourself. You oughta feel free to girl crush all you want, but know that the most “ideal” body shape will always been your own.

Let’s get something straight, shall we? Emaciated women are not healthy and, therefore, in my opinion, neither beautiful nor aspirational.

Perusing the headlines this morning, I came upon this Huffington Post piece, in which journalist Stephanie Marcus photographically documents the mannequins in the storefront of the Club Monaco on the Upper East Side. One extremely disturbing shot, illustrating the mannequins’ “Help, I haven’t eaten since 2007” spines:

(Photo by Stephanie Marcus & The Huffington Post)

Whose delusional idea was this? They should be fired. This not only has my blood boiling, but it’s got my wheels spinning about the other ways in which retail stores discriminate against the average U.S. woman who wears a size 14 and neglect petite (I mean short—not size 00) women.

As a 4’11” size 4-6 who wears a 5 1/2 shoe and is not an anomaly – here are few things I’d like to point out that particularly annoy the Hell out of me:

EXPRESS. Try as you might to be the #1 purveyor of professional dress pants for the American businesswoman, you’re doing a disservice for the average one. The average American woman is 5 ft. 4 inches tall. As much as I adore the fit of your “Editor”-style dress pants, I’ve been distraught for years that the ‘petite’ cut only comes in solid black. You make them in light grey with thin blue pinstripes and a pretty “earth” brown, but those only come in the regular length. (Which creates about 2 feet of pooled fabric at my feet.) Apparently, shorter women are color blind…or have more money to shell out on alterations?

Steve Madden. Why must you make adorable shoes, but then refuse to size them any smaller than a size 6? I know that my size 5.5 foot is a couple of sizes smaller than the average woman’s, which is what? 7? But petite women want to wear cute shoes, too. But you know what, your shoes aren’t exactly comfortable. So maybe I’m better off.

Forever 21. Welcome to the Twilight Zone where a size 10 is plus!

Everywhere. Please make shorts for women with real thighs. And enough with the skinny jeans. They only look good on about 2% of women. Also, in the fall, I will become annoyed again with the fact that many shoe manufacturers insist on creating gorgeous knee-high boots…but only for women with twig-thin calves.

I'd like to see some shorts made for real women with real thighs.

Here’s what some other regular women had to say:

“As a short person and not a very skinny person, I wish there were more exact sizing like with men’s pants.” -Julie*, 25, 5’2″, size 8

Old Navy‘s sizing is getting disturbingly big. Even an XS top can be too big on me, which is ridiculous! And yet, I can barely squeeze into a size 8 pair of jeans. Also, regular jeans seem to be cut length-wise for women who are 5’8″!” -Katie, 25, 5’4″, size 6

“It would be nice to have an inbetween Misses and Women’s [Plus] size. For women who are short, with a big stomach and boobs like me.” -Karen*, 56, 5’2″, size 16

*=Names have been changed, per the source’s request.

Fashion Retail America, we know you’re just all about the bottom line. So I really don’t get why you’re more interested in cutting your clothes for and idealizing a 5’11”, 110 lb. woman who does not exist. Wouldn’t it better to create more merchandise for the 5’5″ and below, beautiful pear and apple-shaped women who do?

And to the Club Monaco on 87th and Broadway, get a clue. Your concept of an eye-catching window display is about as brainless as your decapitated wooden models.

Anyone else?

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Gina Guarino has been overweight for the majority of her 27 years. It’s been a long, sometimes uphill journey, but she recently lost 85 pounds by following Weight Watchers and adopting a fitness regimen that her high school Phys Ed teacher once told her she’d never be able to do. Nonetheless, Gina still copes daily with her body image, weight-loss plateaus and staying on track. Her successes and her struggles are what makes her, in my opinion, an everyday heroine. Healthy weight loss and positive body image go hand-in-hand. But for many of us, like Gina, who have battled both for most of our lives, weight and body image harmony will always be a work in progress. Gina talked about her personal progress with The Body Logic…

The Body Logic: How long have you struggled with your weight and relationship to food?

Gina: My weight issues started as far back as I can remember, since I was probably 6 years old. I was always eating seconds or thirds (and trying to keep up with my father and two older brothers), so the weight just kept packing on and packing on. Because my mom tried to control my eating habits, I would just go to bed so hungry all the time. But then, I would actually hide food under my bed, in my closet, in my dresser, so that when I went to bed I had comfort food, and I went to sleep happy. I even remember getting up when my parents went to bed and very quietly I would go into the kitchen and make Toll House chocolate chip cookie batter (over time, I memorized it and got very good at being quiet and very clean, so it was not noticeable) and just sitting up in bed watching movies and TV in my bedroom until the whole thing was finished. Food was a big comfort for me back then, it was really my only true friend.

What were your first attempts to lose weight?

Gina: In junior high, I experimented with weight loss pills of all kinds, laxatives, a friend’s mother’s prescription of Fen-phen, and I also went as far as becoming bulimic to lose the weight. I remember joining my very first real weight loss plan the summer of my junior year: Richard Simmons. It was rough to stick to, and I lost about 35 pounds just in time for my senior prom. But I don’t remember even being happy with the weight loss. I was still a size 14, which to me back then was obese compared to other girls at school.

How did your struggles progress into adulthood?

Gina: After high school, I worked as a waitress at night and on the theatre circuit, auditioning during the day. The weight gain started right away. I was eating at work constantly, and I was eating on the go much more frequently, as well. I became a fast food junkie. Before I knew it, I was 20 years old, and I had ballooned up to about 210 pounds and I was a size 18/20.

My best friend and I decided to join Weight Watchers. I was very dedicated, and I ended up losing 47 pounds. For the first time, I was in a size 10. When we both had gotten comfortable with the program, we decided to stop paying every week and do it on our own. Bad idea. Within a couple months, the weight started packing on again. Soon, I was bursting out of my 18/20 and had to buy size 22/24 pants.

Was there a “a-ha” moment, a turning point that turned things around for you?

Gina: I was in a production of Thoroughly Modern Millie, and I remember that costume week was the worst week of my life. They could not find any costumes to fit me. My doctor said that I was borderline diabetic, and my weight was a whopping 287 pounds. I had a meltdown and decided something had to be done. I decided to give Weight Watchers another try; and this time, I was even more dedicated than the first time. I began losing, and after I hit the 50 pound mark, I just remember thinking, I don’t want to stop now, I can do so much more, and I accomplishing so much. I will never be the weight I was ever again. And from that point on, I stuck to the plan.

At her highest weight vs. 50 pounds down

What do you like most about Weight Watchers, compared to other plans you’d tried?

Gina: I could buy my own at the store if I wanted to, I could still eat out, not feel I was on a “diet” and I could still cheat here and there and have snacks when I felt the urge. Weight Watchers just seemed so much more natural than the others, something I could follow for life and not just for a few months or a year.

How have you dealt with weight-loss “pleateaus” during your Weight Watchers journey?

Gina: I have plateaued twice. I was hardly working out in those first 50 pounds—it was all just eating right and cutting my portion sizes. I decided after about two months of no loss, I had to do something. So I started doing aerobics at home, going to the gym sometimes and walking. That helped jump start my metabolism again to break the plateau and lose another 37 pounds.

The second plateau happened to me about five months ago. My body just stopped losing all together. But a friend of mine who has lost over 60 pounds was on this running kick, and she really wanted me to start running with her. I’ve always hated running—did not want to run unless I was being chased. But she told me it will help and encouraged me to just give it a chance.

One afternoon, I joined my friend for a run, and I told her to cut me some slack and take it easy. We literally would just sprint from point A to point B and then walk, sprinted then walked. I didn’t exactly enjoy it or want to keep doing it. I just knew running wasn’t for me. In high school, my P.E. teacher told me that “fat girls can’t run,” and ever since then, I believed it.

Even though you hated it, what made you decide to keep trying?

Gina: My friend told me that she was going to do a half marathon. She really wanted me to just try to do a mile straight through without stopping, staying at an even pace. I only agreed, because she was my friend, and I knew I needed exercise anyway. So, we went to this indoor track, and I had my iPod, and I said to her, “One mile, then I am done.” So, I was running around this track at a good pace and listening to music, feeling a little winded here and there and walking a bit, and before I knew it, my friend turned the corner and held up 5 fingers. “5 miles!” I was shocked! I just ran 5 miles? Oh my God?! So, I figured that since I wasn’t dying, I could keep going. Before I knew it, she said, “7 miles!” Except for the fact my body could hardly move the next day, I felt great! I became addicted to using an outdoor track that’s not far from my house. I enjoyed being outside in the nice weather, while doing something wonderful for myself and my well being.

How has your body image changed since you’ve lost weight and started running?

Gina: Well, I will be honest. I still see myself as a fat girl. There are still times when I walk into a clothing store and head straight for the plus sizes like I am on automatic pilot, cause that is still in my head. I do know I look better than before, and I feel so much healthier, but I still have a really hard time appreciating the work I have done and looking in the mirror and saying, “I’m happy.”

Gina: Then & Now

What do you think about using the scale as a measure of success?

Gina: Scales are the devil. When I was a dedicated Weight Watcher, I only weighed myself at my meeting, once a week and didn’t even own a scale at home, and I had no problems. The minute I decided to do it on my home with a home scale, it made me go nuts. I found myself weighing myself when I got up, after work, after I ate, before I went bed. Every chance I got! After a couple months of that, I knew I had to either hide the scale or get rid of it. I told my boyfriend to hide it and only bring it out to me once a week. The best thing I ever did! I have come to the realization that the number on the scale should not bring happiness. I need to take my own advice, and be more happy with how my clothes fit than what number I see on the scale. Success should be measured on how you feel, not what size you wear, how much you weigh – but, it’s hard to think that way with how programmed we are to look at the number.

What keeps you motivated to stay on track, to keep running and pushing yourself even further?

Gina: How I want to see myself and how I want to feel in the future. I don’t want to be 30 in the next couple years and be unhappy with everything I wear and every time I look in the mirror. I also think about how unhappy I was when I was almost 300 pounds and how I never want to get that big again. Feeling healthy and more vibrant helps, too. Also, I’m motivated by friends around me who have lost a significant amount of weight and are working hard toward their goal.

What would you recommend to a girlfriend who is frustrated with her weight or is struggling with a plateau?

Gina: I would suggest digging deep to figure out where the weight gain came from. What makes you eat at 1 a.m.? What makes you go up for the second or third plate? There is a lot of self-searching that comes along with losing weight. It’s more than just changing your eating habits. It’s changing your life for the rest of your life – a complete lifestyle change. And you also have to make sure that you are ready for it and that you want it for you. No one can make you or help you lose weight but you.

Struggling with a plateau is hard. What I can offer is that you can’t nuts over the gain-lose-gain-lose process, it comes with the territory. You just need to keep pressing forward. Do not let it bring you down and hinder your success.

You can read more from Gina on her personal blog, Are We Ever Thin Enough?

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Slacked a bit this week, sorry! I’m busy, busy, busy with some up and coming writing projects that I’m very excited about. In fact, stay tuned for my first Heroine: In Real Life Q&A to be featured early next week. I’ll be chatting with a warmhearted diva from Palos Hills, Illinois who has lost 85 lbs. in a most inspiring way! In the meantime, a discovery…

Photo via and

We’ve all been there. In a dressing room at a department store, and you hear a gorgeous, fit-looking woman say, “There’s no way I could ever wear that dress, unless I lost 20 lbs.” Or you pass a gaggle of svelte teen girls in the mall, chattering about how they should really “skip the carbs.” Or, we ourselves, stand in front of the mirror and scrutinize: “My arms are like bat-wings. My thighs are dimply. My belly, pouchy. Ugh!” What’s insanely freaky is that this socially pervasive fat-talk is catching for the much younger ones. Don’t you think it seems like a disease that must be cured?

One antidote: Operation Beautiful, started by a 25 year-old named Caitlin, who began her campaign by scribbling anonymous, feel-good notes to other women. Then, she’d tack them on public bathroom mirrors, in gyms, in retail stores, etc. She says, “The point is that WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL. You are enough… just the way you are!” She began Operation Beautiful, because she was fed-up with hearing fellow femmes’ chronic “fat-talking.” Her hope was that the self-love-promoting Post-Its would inspire other women, and then they’d pay the message forward. It worked like gangbusters. Now, supporters of the mission send photos of their Post-Its to Caitlin on a daily basis, and she features them on her Web site. She even has a book coming out in August.

For many of us, it’s a revelation… That even if you need to drop a few pounds for health reasons or your skin is broken out thanks to PMS or your jeans are giving you muffin-top today or your hair is frizzy because it’s humid outside, guess what? You are still beautiful. Caitlin’s Post-It Revolution is a sweet, simple way to broadcast that important message to the world.

I think I’ll make it my mission to post one today. How about you?

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Circa 2001, I began a personal love affair with the life and times of Carrie Bradshaw & Co. (Thanks for the ripped DVDs, Hemant!) Even though I dreamed of working as a writer at a magazine one day, my idealistic 17 year-old self knew that an Upper East Side walk-in closet filled with Manolos and DVF wrap dresses on a freelancer’s budget was fairy tale and legend. Fantasy aside, the show was woven with glistening truthful threads on relationships, men, dating, love, female sexuality, self-image, self-esteem, oh yeah, and sex. I would credit the show for encouraging me to own and assert my needs and desires: a gratifying sex life, a meaningful, successful career and true love. Oh yeah, and to someday also be a mom. Thanks to SATC, women nation-wide discovered or were reminded that these needs didn’t have to be mutually exclusive.  

Word on the street is that the Sex & the City franchise has lost its “sparkle.” That with the big screen sequel that hit theaters last week, it’s no longer empowering—

it’s just saggy, sad and filled with wrinkly, menopausal women “pumped full of Botox and hormones.” One friend told me that it was a monumental fail. Another said that she wished for those two hours of her life back.

It appears that many of these haters fall into several categories. (Warning: A few spoilers ahead.)

-They are menopause-misogynists, set out to bash the film if only because it is carried (no, no pun intended here) by successful, sexy women who happen to be well over 35. These critics are having a field day picking apart how the cast looks so friggin’ old and by default, of course, unattractive. When they make Oceans 113, no one’s going to say anything about George Clooney looking like the Cryptkeeper, but SATC2 is fair game. As Jezebel puts it, “It’s rare to see a writer attack a male lead with this kind of vitriol. Does the “leatheriness” of her skin really make the movie that much more unbearable?” Oh yeah, bear in mind that the Men-Hate-SJP factor also plays a role in this catty free-for-all.

They jumped on the hater bandwagon and drew the conclusion that the film sucked well before the credits rolled. Case in point: Newsweek‘s review decided to go with the popular argument that the flick turned the original series’ the feminist vibe totally backasswards: “The characters go from trailblazers to conformists, suddenly telling us that work and child-rearing actually don’

t mix…” False. Yes, in the beginning, we see Miranda quit her job…and leave behind a boss who is chauvinistic and abusive. I was completely empowered by that plot point, because being a feminist means being able to say, “I deserve better!” in the work place. That’s exactly what happens here. At the end of the film, our favorite attorney is working for an employer who appreciates her, and she’s incredibly happy.

This, to me, is the biggest fail. A PhotoShop disaster, courtesy of New Line Cinema. Guess what? We like how they REALLY look.


-They weren’t fans in the first place. I’ve always been ahead of myself in the maturity department, but I’m starting to feel like I can relate more to 52 year-old Samantha, shown slathering estrogenic yams on her inner arm, than to some of the tween, teen and even college-aged viewers who are flocking to the theaters to see the big screen versions of Sex. Yep, some of them (like my 21 year-old sister) watched the series on DVD or TBS. And they get it. (Well, the TBS viewers get like 85% of it.) But, there are a ton of them who have only seen the films… Of course, lots o’ critics for big media outlets are straight, likely old, white men, who never cared for the show in the first place either. In other words, if you haven’t been aboard the Sex ship for 12 years, you aren’t emotionally invested in the plights of Carrie/Charlotte/Miranda/Samantha and simply do not get it. Much like Twilight, this is a flick made for fans.

A flashback that only a fan could love. (Photo via


They’re mistaking SATC2 for a documentary about women in NYC. Like this great review on Women & Hollywood says: “This movie is not a hard look at reality. It’s a summer escape movie just like all the movies that blow shit up.  You don’t think that guys who go see Iron Man have any expectation of becoming like Iron Man (except in their fantasies), just like I don’t expect to ever be able to fit in or wear a Versace skirt. Women know this is not real, in fact 76% of the people (mostly women) who took a survey on look at the film as a “great escape.”

It’s true. The beauty of the series and its audience was that we loved the friendship among the four leading ladies, and we loved the web of whimsy and reality that the show wove. Yes, there’s escapism and fantasy galore: a first-class “magic carpet ride” to Abu Dhabi (as played by Morocco), a romantic run-in with an ex halfway around the globe, as always over-the-top fashion, a gay wedding featuring Liza Minelli… (All brought to you via creator Michael Patrick King, who said he wanted to take his audience on a vacation you maybe can’t afford right now.) OK, OK, and there are also somewhat cringe-inducing antics, puns and questionable stereotypes. But there were threads of truth, too. Carrie recalls, “I was this girl running around New York City like a crazy person, looking for love…” and I actually teared up. That was me too! When Miranda and Charlotte talk about how hard it is to be a mom, I’ll bet plenty of my pals-who-are-also-mamas can relate! (At least that’s the impression I get from their sleepy Facebook statuses.) When, in the middle of a crowded marketplace in the Middle East, Samantha scrambles to pick up a spilled purse full of condoms, and screams, “YES, I have sex!” the audience I was sitting in leapt up, roared and applauded. Seems to me that a flick that brings women together to celebrate their sexuality and friendships will never really fail. In fact, sign me up for round 3.

Further reading that falls in the non-haters camp here.

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Last night, Jezebel posted a story about Therese Shechter’s new documentary-in-progress called How to Lose Your Virginity. Not only did the topic strike a personal chord with me (in college, I put my ‘still-a-virgin-at-21’ history out there and actually won an award for it), but it’s a hot button social/feminist topic. As Jezebel points out, we’re living in a world of debate on abstinence-only education, obsession with weddings and marriage culture (think Say Yes to the Dress marathons?), pop culture-turned-porn, Disney stars sporting purity rings and the most popular teen book-to-film franchise, Twilightputting the big V-word on a pedestal. And last year, author and exec ed Jessica Valenti wrote a book called The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women. Shechter is taking the discussion to the big screen.

From the film’s website:

The true target is idealized, fetishized virginity: its historical role in U.S. culture, its power to mold and damage a girl’s self-image and self-worth; its commodification as something manufactured, sold, given away, taken. On [her] quest [Shechter] engages abstinence ideologues, hymen specialists, sex educators, porn producers and teenage girls, to dig beneath the no-win double-message of our hook-up culture that cynically encourages virginity but sells promiscuity.

"If you say you haven't, you're a prude. If you say you have you're a slut."


 This is a film that needs to be seen. There’s a huge danger in placing so much value on virginity, as it directly pushes young women into “the trap” that Ally Sheedy’s character describes in The Breakfast Club (basically, you can’t win: you’re a virgin and you’re pure or you do it and you’re a slut). It worries me that young women who “save themselves for marriage” for whatever reason (likely their religion) are putting their emotional, physical and mental well-being directly in the hands of one man…but not until after they have vowed, “’til death do us part.” Even more eerily, how about these girls who attend Purity Balls in order to pledge to their fathers that they’ll remain innocent until another guy is in the picture? For them, “Girl Power,” must be a thing of the distant Spice Girls and Sex & the City-when-it-was-on-TV past.

You can check out the trailer for How to Lose Your Virginity here and below, a clip, featuring Susan Schulz, the former editor-in-chief of CosmoGirl!, as well as high school students, a sex educator and a doctor. 

The project needs support to make it off the ground, so I encourage you to do what you can to help the filmmakers. For more info, you can visit the site.  It would be pretty sweet to let Hollywood execs know that there’s a new chick flick in town, one that really has something to say.

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Whoo! It’s Friday! I can’t believe that it’s a been a week since I attended a media event called Sex. Brain. Body. in Manhattan. I’ve been meaning to do a little bit of reporting on it. Sponsored by the Society for Women’s Health Research, the event featured Dr. Laura Berman, Ph.D., Oprah’s go-to sexpert, Dr. Susan Kellogg-Spadt (co-founder of The Pelvic and Sexual Health Institute of Philadelphia) and actress Lisa Rinna (known her roles on Dancing with the Stars and Melrose Place) who were all on hand to discuss a new educational campaign that focuses on female sexual health and the role the brain is thought to play in desire. There’s a lot to be said on the topic, but a week after the presentation, what keeps ringing in my head is something that Dr. Berman said to me when we sat down one-on-one. I asked her what advice she would most like to give to women who are concerned that their sexual desire is lacking. She replied, “Be your own health advocate. Stand up for yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions that you want the answers to.”

Obviously, this isn’t only applicable to women’s sexual health.

Dr. Berman says, "Be your own health advocate." (Photo via


Yeah, it does seem that a lot of us get especially nervous or feel rushed or flustered when we’re face-to-face with our OB/GYNs, as opposed to a general practitioner or say, dermatologist. But Dr. Berman’s advice is crucial in any case where you’re seeking out info about your personal health.

I’ve faced a handful of medical issues in the past two years—from the extremely painful and serious (an extremely herniated disc in my lumbar spine) to the superficial and benign (an chronic itchy rash all over my upper back and face)—that molded me into a hardened veteran of personal health advocacy.

It’s really been quite educational. I’ve learned that…

…not every drug a doctor prescribes is necessary, helpful and in fact, some may actually cause side effects that are worse than the symptoms I was initially seeking treatment for. (The Pill is one thing. How about being told to take steroids because my hormone levels are slightly elevated? No thanks. Take an acid reducer indefinitely, even if my digestive troubles are just stress-induced? Why?)

Do you really need to take these? (Illustration via


…sadly, not every doctor really has my best interest at heart. (In the thick of my lower back troubles, I saw a neurosurgeon who asserted that I needed a spinal fusion surgery. When I saw another doctor for a second opinion, he said something to the effect of, “No, dear. You’re a candidate for a much less invasive procedure” and implied that the other doctor was probably looking to “ring the cash register” with a more complicated surgery that would throw a bone to medical device manufacturers.)

…some doctors are only treating stand-out symptoms or one blood test result or diagnosis. I’ve heard from doctors themselves that this happens for many reasons: Because a doctor always goes “by the book,” because they’re rushed, because they’re exhausted, because they’re burned out (just like an 80 year-old biology teacher I had in high school who never taught and handed out worksheets every single day), because they’re pressured by drug companies, because they’re underpaid and over-scheduled and generally pissed off.

Please understand, my aim here is not to bash any and every doctor. I’ve happily met quite a few health practitioners lately who are deeply committed to treating their patients holistically, striving to help them feel not just well—but vital. I just want to make a case for why it is so very important to stand up for yourself when it comes to your health.

It really pays to do some digging on your own. (Photo via


A few tricks of the trade I’ve made habits of: Research your symptoms or your diagnosis online or by asking friends or family members who may have had the same issue. Write down what you want to ask your doctor before your appointment, and bring your questions with you. (Sometimes I’ll procrastinate and find myself typing up my Qs or key points using the Notes feature on my iPhone while in the waiting room.) Ask about the side effects and necessity of your prescriptions. Of course, some drugs that you’re prescribed are necessary, but it seems that many prescriptions are written arbitrarily. For instance, why take antibiotics for a viral infection? When doctors use vague terms to describe a condition or a procedure, ask them if they could please clarify. Someone very close to me actually saw a doctor recently who referred to the patient’s anus as “you know, where you go.” True story. That’s when she knew it was time to find another doctor. Don’t wait for multiple red flags to pop up before looking for a compassionate health care provider. Dr. Berman told me that when it comes to finding the right doctor, your search may require that you kiss a few frogs before you find your prince or princess.

"Are you my dream doctor?" (Photo via


Bottom-line: No one else will (or really should) care about your health and well-being as much as you. So, if you must, declare a war, fight a battle or just get a little fired up when talking to someone in a lab coat, because it’ll always be worth it. You owe it to you.

Check out a little further reading here.
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My junior year of high school, I wrote and presented an original oratory on comprehensive sex education. Being that our president at the time was this guy, the reform that I was passionately advocating (you know, like that kids get medically accurate info about getting jiggy with it) was a long shot. Instead, after my little sister began taking health around oh, 2004, she called me and said that a couple of guest speakers said that condoms almost always break and asked everyone in her class to take a vow of abstinence. I was irate. At 15, she was aghast. Who were these guest speakers to tell her that she should wait to swipe her V-card ’til marriage? Isn’t that a religiously-based belief, anyway? Em was just one teen among many who, during the Bush administration, were gypped on the reality of the “birds & bees.” The result: A sharp increase in teen pregnancy and STD rates. Doh.

"Just don't do it, sonny, m'k?" (Photo via


Well, it only took about 10 years, but finally, there’s been some progress on the sex ed front! According to The New York Times: “[New health law] programs, to be financed by $375 million in grants to the states over five years, are meant to encourage teenagers to delay sexual activity but to use protection if they are already active — as half of all high school students are. Lessons on healthy relationships, financial literacy and other life skills are also woven into the program, called PREP for Personal Responsibility Education Program.”

Of course, conservative voices are trying to bring new rise to the Puritan movement, wagging fingers and noting that parents are going to be really ticked off by this change of tide.

For instance, there’s this Mr. Robert Rector, quoted in the NY Times piece who says, “Over 90 percent of parents want kids to be taught to abstain until they at least finish high school, and the comprehensive education curricula don’t do that — they pretty much normalize teen sexual activity.” GASP. They contain very explicit sexual material.”

Remember when Donna waited 'til everyone in the cast had pretty much done one another two times before she lost The Big V in her 20s? Still before her wedding day. (Photo via


Explicit material, like…accurate information about human anatomy and conception?! Or instructions on how to correctly put on a condom? Despite the glaring statistics, some people still believe that kids will fare better with blinders on. 

As former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders said, “Do you go out and wreck your car just because you have insurance on it? Why do we feel that children are so stupid? Just because you talk to them about condoms, does does that mean they’re going to go out and have sex?”

Actually, it just means that when they do it (because you know, sorry for the wake-up call, but most teens are horny enough to do it before walking down the aisle) – they’re going to be educated about their own health and probably…hopefully…opt to have safe sex. (Remember when that was all the rage in the ’90s? Oh, how I miss the sleazy Clinton years!)

When it comes to sex, do you agree that knowledge is power?

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“Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt and live like it’s heaven on Earth.” -Mark Twain

Sounds good to me. A redheaded, pre-adolescent “Little Monster” named Timmy could probably also relate. If you haven’t already seen what I’m referring to, here he is in all of his banana mic glory:

As of late last week, this kid’s become a viral media darling. He’s been talked about on radio morning shows and blogged about on Maybe it’s the musical theater geek in me, but I think we could all learn something from Timmy. How to snap for over four minutes? No, not quite. More like how to how to unleash your inner diva! 

As I’ve mentioned before, one impetus for starting this blog was to put an end to holding back and to worrying about what other people would say or think or do. But, I’ve kinda gotta give myself credit for putting myself out there on a regular basis anyway. For instance, yesterday, despite being in a total “allergies or cold? I don’t know!” fog, I accompanied my boyfriend, Dan to the electronics store for a paper shredder. He got sidetracked by the speakers (one of his many Aquarian electronic fetishes), which were all in the “off” position and quiet until we began messing around with the various display controls. I pressed a glowing blue button next to one set of speakers, and Weezer’s “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” came blasting through. And I started to shake…shimmy…kick up my heels…etc. Yes, think all out Empire Records dancing-in-a-store scene. Why? Cuz I don’t care! Cuz I love that song! Some people may look at the nearest stranger and say, “Err, I’m not with this insane chick!” or try to steer me straight to the book section where I wouldn’t be able to cause any (ok, well, less) trouble. Not my Dan. He laughed and smirked at me, cuz that’s who I am.

"My daydream was always the same - that some day, I was going to get to Chicago, because that's where they make Dance TV..." (photo via


When I hear a song I love, I tend to dance. No, scratch that, I love to dance. (Ooh, here’s another opp for a late 20th century movie reference. Right there, I totally sounded like Sarah Jessica Parker’s goodie two-shoes turned dancing queen, Janie in the underrated classic, Girl Just Want to Have Fun.) Sometimes, I’ll even dance when there’s no music. But I’m realizing lately how completely necessary it is to give into that urge. How imperative it is to turn up the volume and bop around and twirl when “Heaven” by DJ Sammy comes on Pandora—even if, or especially when, I’m cleaning the apartment in my PJs. How crucial it is to accompany Newlywed Friend and Engaged Friend to the city, decked to the nines (even in heels!) to go clubbing because as Newlywed Friend noted, “We’re young, hot and child-less.” And also because dancing feels so good! Because it’s liberating. It makes you feel alive. We all know it’s not easy to be yourself, to not hold back 100% of the time, especially if you’re surrounded by people who would slink away should you spontaneously begin a one-woman show. (And believe me, while I feel so lucky to have a boyfriend of three years who delights in my public shenanigans, in the past, I’ve had close friends who begged me to please stop humming at a restaurant or dates who told me to “Shhh…” in a taxi cab.) One of the only things I’ve done my entire life without holding back and while always being myself has been dancing. Whether it was to James Brown’s “Living in America” in an aerobics class at the Palos Heights recreation department when I was 13, or at a gay club for my best friend Keith’s birthday sophomore year of college…I’ve always been myself on the dance floor. To quote Madonna, “Only when I’m dancing can I feel this free…” So dance I shall.

Thanks for the inspiration, Timmy. I hope you don’t ever stop dancing (and singing into bananas).
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