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I can’t believe it’s already November! Crazy, right? Also – it seems like there has been a body image-related story in the news almost every day! So let’s get caught up …
FIRST OF ALL: Unless you’re just not totally obsessed with lady blogs, there’s no way you haven’t heard about the disaster that went down at Marie Claire last week. Writer Maura Kelly wrote a blog post about “watching fat people on TV” that basically sounded like some of the most superficial, hateful remarks from a junior high slambook. The post itself wracked up almost 1,000 comments, some of which were from Maura herself trying to defend herself. But she soon posted a lame-ass “apology,” saying that she thinks maybe her discomfort with overweight people stems from her own anorexia. (Uh, yeah, ya think?) Then, as if overnight, everyone had an opinion on the situation… I personally loved Dodai’s post at Jezebel, which called fat-phobics out as a bigoted idiots. Some of the comments actually made me tear up. For instance:
“I come to Jezebel nearly every day because it’s one of the only places I know of where I can honestly talk about body image with other people who (for the most part) get it. I’ve been able to talk about my struggles with showing my arms in sleeveless dresses, the hurt I’ve felt from my own parents sometimes, the judgement I feel when I eat in public – you name it. And yes, I’ve done all of this while trying (and succeeding, for the most part) to lose weight. Having a place to actually talk about it where I don’t get shitty platitudes like I do at Weight Watchers (“nothing tastes as good as thin feels”)has been a good thing. Hell, it’s been a great thing. I know it’s not here as a support group, but it certainly makes me feel like there are lots of other fabulous women who struggle too. And the fact that there is one little piece of the world that doesn’t judge me and condemn me for struggling all my life with obesity is glorious, indeed.” –erinfabu
Some thanked Dodai for her shoutout to women with PCOS, while others explain how much they used to hate their bodies when they were overweight, but they were still unhappy even after shedding a few pounds! It was once they learned to not equate their self-worth with the scale that they found themselves happier and healthier.
Reading these comments, I felt like I was surrounded (mostly) by other women who are all in the same boat: At various shapes and sizes, we’re all doing our best to be healthy. But sadly, a few self-hating skinnies with big, really loud media-backed megaphones don’t seem to have any clue what that looks like.
The fact that we’re often faced with their blog posts, advertisements, essays, feature articles, commercials, cover lines, books, etc. doesn’t help, when we’re already struggling with self-acceptance and body love. Hello, MORE news for ya: 40% of us are unhappy with our bodies, says a new survey by Glamour. And 71% of us “feel fat,“ even though only 46% are technically overweight.
Given the vitriol that one lone women’s pub (Marie Claire) seems to think is acceptable to spew about anyone who doesn’t fit into its fashionista definition of beautiful and healthy … is it any wonder that so many of us are paranoid and delusional about our own appearances? I mean, this isn’t exactly news to you, right?
Just look at Demi Lovato … The gorgeous young Disney star went to rehab this week for eating disorders and cutting, triggered by body image issues. This may be an extreme case, but it’s proof that the problem is out of control…
It seems to me every woman could stand to learn something from plus-size model Crystal Renn, who recently said, “I think that, you know, I will never be thin enough or big enough for anybody. So I think through this whole thing I had to just really be happy being who I am, and that’s when I found health.”
It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But I feel like, at least for me, it’s well worth the every pair of jeans, every glimpse of cellulite, every day struggle.
How ’bout you?
When I was 12 and again when I was 18, in the process of losing a significant amount of weight, I’d hear it a lot. “Wow, you’re so thin!” – “Your belly is so flat.” – “Your thighs got so much slimmer!” I’d beam upon hearing those words, but I didn’t know how to respond. I wondered how the person delivering the “compliment” expected me to respond. But I would quickly translate the comment to mean, “You look better / prettier / hotter / more worthy of my attention or affection.” Given that, the only way I could think to reply was with a genuine “Thank you so much!!!”
Every day, interactions like these have young girls and women on the fast-track to associating their weight with their worth. But at least now, there’s a growing conversation about the problem … specifically in Good Girls Don’t Get Fat by Robyn J.A. Silverman, Ph.D. Based on the dissertation she did at Tufts University, the book looks at the various forces that chip away at girls’ body image and explains to adults how they can best influence daughters, nieces, sisters, cousins, students to embrace varied body types and “thrive at any size.” While the book seems to primarily focus on the body image challenges facing adolescent girls and young women aged 16 to 21, I bet — for better or for worse — women of all ages can relate to the “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat” myth.
Below, a powerful trailer for the book that really drives that message home …
I love that Dr. Silverman doesn’t seem to think it’s fair to place the blame solely on anorexic actresses on primetime teen soaps and reality shows; damaging “Be/look/act skinny!” cover lines on magazine covers; Hollywood or even the fashion industry. As she notes, we’re also to blame for our daughters’ and our mothers’, friends’, our sisters’, our daughter-in-laws’ poor body image and low self-esteem. So what can we do?
Today, tell a woman you love why she’s beautiful … inside. Tell her that she’s witty, she’s brave, she’s charming, she’s brilliant. She might just start to feel like a rock star.
“Girls who see themselves in terms of strengths, who feel supported by those they love and have come to a place of acceptance about their bodies, are the ones who flourish,” writes Dr. Silverman.
Are you flourishing?
By Megan Monique, Special Guest Blogger to The Body Logic
“Well, shit.” I thought as I weighed myself this morning. I had gained a pound from the last time I weighed myself two days before.
I knew what the scale was going to tell me before I even stepped on. My monkeys had already talked to me about before I had a chance to pull the covers off myself and get out of bed earlier that morning.
They sounded something like this:
“Really, Megan? You are going to have ANOTHER chocolate covered graham cracker? Are you sure that is the best idea? I think I saw a new indention of cellulite on your thigh yesterday. That one last graham cracker just might be enough to break the seal. The next thing you know it you will be one giant ball of cellulite. Then who will love you?”
I sat in a pool of pity for a moment until I heard the last part. “Who will love me?!”
I will love me, dammit.
It is time for me to do away with the monkeys in every area of my life. They don’t only show up when I gain a pound. They also show up when I make less money than I want, or when I have a big dream I am working toward. (Lately it’s been becoming a life coach.)
But what purpose do these monkeys serve? They only keep me playing a small game.
I decided to create a mental box. When the monkey chatter starts happening, I mentally duct tape the monkeys mouth and put him in the box. I only let him come out if he is saying things that HELP me in my process of creating the life I love.
So what if I have cellulite. The only way I can rid myself of it is by making healthy choices, one by one. Inch by inch. Meal by meal. Listening, and more so BELIEVING the monkey chatter will only keep me in the same place I have been trying to move away from.
Armed With a Roll of Duct Tape,
Megan Monique is a writer & Lovemuffin Extraordinaire for Owning Pink and so much more. Her most prized piece is her personal blog entitled If I Were A Rainbow I Would Be Chocolate where she shares personal revelations and life adventures with her audience. Megan is also a life coach who focuses on living life creatively and abundantly with no limitations.
Just now, I glimpsed over at the wax paper that just 5 minutes ago wrapped around half of a turkey on rosemary foccacia sandwich from Whole Foods. All that remains now is a sliver of avocado and some lone sprouts. I think I’ll eat it … OK, I just did. Mmmm. That was delicious.
I’m a little bit obsessed with avocados right now — more than I think I’ve ever been in my whole life. I refused to eat guacamole as kid. (I called it “Green Slime,” after the gunk that kids would get doused in on Nickelodeon’s You Can’t Do That On Television.) Although I love it now, I’ve always kept it — and its plain counterpart — at an arm’s length.
Why? It has been pounded into my brain since I started “dieting” at the ripe old age of say, 10 or 11 years old, that it’s a big, fat no-no. You want to fit into your jeans? Pass on that nutty trail mix. Not a fan of cellulite? Skip the avocado in your salad. When you’re playing the straight-up, old-school diet numbers game — fat equals fat.
But I’m not playing that game anymore. I’ve learned that I have to focus now on eating healthy foods that mainly promote satiety. The best way to do this is by focusing on eating lean proteins, good fats and complex carbs with all of my meals and snacks.
Unsaturated fats do a particularly good job at increasing satiety, reducing hunger and minimally impacting blood sugar. In turn, eating them will stave off an awful feeling I know all too well: the blood sugar crash. It turns me into a wild-eyed, sugar-craving, brain foggy, eventually overeating and incredibly fatigued freak.
While it doesn’t mean that I’m slathering goat cheese and mayo on all my noshes now, I’ve had to quickly get over some of my fat fears. For instance, I’ve started to become less afraid of that avocado I love so much. Less afraid of a shmear of organic peanut butter on my super-duper healthy wheat and flaxseed toast in the morning. Or the handful of almonds as a snack.
Bonus: These once “scary” foods are actually dense in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can actually lower your cholesterol and risk of heart disease.
I’ve also tended to steer clear of full-fat cheese until now. (Not that I would substitute it for the flavorless, un-meltable fat free kind. Yuck.) That left me in cheese-less limbo … until I realized that a little full-fat or slightly reduced fat cheese in my diet could help my health overall. The truth is, full-fat dairy goes a long way in keeping hunger at bay and even helping with muscle building, thanks to casein protein. Awesome. So, while I won’t be ordering Panera’s Signature Mac ‘n’ Cheese anytime soon (as tempting as it looks), I will throw a slice of sharp cheddar on my turkey sandwich.
Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this diet change feels foreign to me for awhile. A little piece of me wonders if I’m going to regret pairing my apple with a slice of cheese. I’m trying not to wince when I see 17 grams of fat in 2 Tbsp. of almond butter. I know — crazy, right? But I’m also learning to trust myself more and know that I can handle these foods in small, waistline-friendly portions that can speed up my metabolism while keeping me satisfied. For those reasons — and not to mention the taste bud-related benefits — I’m slowly, but gladly devoted to getting over my fear of fat.
What about you — are you afraid of fat?
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Dan and I got back from vacation in San Francisco on Saturday. In addition to the amazing photographs, delicious food (Humphry Slocombe ice cream = nommm), scenic landscapes and unforgettable wine (Gundlach Bundschu = mmm), the trip also delivered serious peace of mind. One reason: I went to the Owning Pink Center as a patient of Dr. Lissa Rankin’s, who you may also know as the author of the book that comes out today (and which you should own ASAP!) What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin’s). See, the thing is, she actually is my very good friend. That’s just one reason why I wanted her to also be my doctor, because last month, I realized that I’ve been grappling with hormone-related symptoms for far too long…
Rewind to two days after my 27th birthday. My regular OB/GYN—who had ben a piece of cake to deal with when I was on the dreaded Pill—began to strike me as standoff-ish. Her in-and-out in 5 minutes flat attitude wasn’t going to cut it. I decided that I needed to sit down with someone wise, compassionate and interested in treating me holistically—as a whole person, not just a handful of acute symptoms. Enter Lissa.
This is one doctor who doesn’t wear a white coat and stand and preach while you sit and listen. On Thursday, Lissa wore a purple dress while we sat in her cozy office’s plush chairs and discussed my sex life, my stress level, my blood work and my fertility. It’s definitely easier to open up about all of these topics when your doctor is your friend. But even if she isn’t, you’d probably feel immediately at ease simply because her office is a warm, welcoming place.
We weren’t more than 20 minutes into our session—Lissa devotes an hour to each patient—when she looked at my labs that I had done in March with my NJ endocrinologist. “Wow, your TSH level!”
I said, “Wait, what?”
In the moment, I was so focused on Nonclassical Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia as the epicenter of all of my ailments that I couldn’t remember what TSH was. Lissa explained that it’s Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone, which the pituitary gland overproduces when the thyroid is sluggish in producing thyroxine, a metabolism-stimulating hormone. And while my levels are in the realm of what clinicians consider “normal,” Lissa noted that most people at my level tend to not feel very well.
Then, she asked me some follow-ups… How is my quality of sleep? I heard myself say, “Bad.” (Whoa, I thought to myself! I never really said that out loud before, but I guess my sleep isn’t really what I want it to be… I want to be able to fall asleep and stay asleep better. I told her this.) How is my skin? Combo/itchy sometimes, too. How is my energy level? Poor. I never met a nap I didn’t want to take. Just about any time of the day. I’m especially tired around 3 p.m. daily. And by the time I get home from work, I just want to throw myself on the couch. I’ve always chalked that up to stress, sitting all day at work, the wrong or nonexistent snacks perhaps. But, no, it’s more than that. Do I wake up feeling energized? Rarely. Have I had a ridiculously hard time trying to lose a small amount of weight? YES! Does anyone in my family have a history of thyroid problems? (It can be genetic.) Yes, yes, YES. My Grandma E, who I am pretty sure I take after biologically, was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at…get this…age 27!
Soon, Lissa concluded that yep, I’m symptomatic of hypothyroidism, or a sluggish, underactive thyroid. Treatment could get the gland chugging like it should, in turn, bolstering my energy. Not to mention the other symptoms… The thyroid and metabolism influence so many other body processes. In fact, hypothyroidism can prevent effective weight loss, cause weight gain, cause thinning of the hair, increased sensitivity to cold, muscle aches, dry skin, etc. I’d been wondering why I had been dealing with various symptoms – I had been wishing and hoping for answers. But none came, until I saw Lissa as a patient.
I read later that many people with thyroid problems don’t have any stand-out symptoms other than feeling “off” overall. So why isn’t it something that most doctors regularly look at or take into consideration more frequently? Why do numbers on lab work have to be astronomically high or deliriously low for them to do anything for us? Lissa explained that “normal” hormone levels are based on a given healthy population; most docs won’t treat you unless you’re in the lower 5th percentile or upper 95th percentile. But she’s found that patients may not feel very well when they’re on one side of the extreme (say, 60th-90th percentile). And they do fantastically with treatment.
I’m the opposite of Rx happy, but when Lissa suggested treating me with bioidentical (meaning the body can actually recognize the drug as identical to what the body produces) thyroid hormones, I could have shouted, “Sign me up!” It was like she found a missing puzzle piece, and I was stepping back to look at the completed masterpiece…
…Well, not quite. There’s still the NCAH, which I plan to work on with Lissa’s naturopath/partner, Lisa Brent, N.D. And other puzzle pieces that are floating out there. But I am confident now that I’ll find them, and that I have the support I need now to feel fully vital.
I’ve said it before, but I feel more strongly than ever now that we all deserve doctors who will will treat us as whole people, not just numbers on a chart. We deserve to be heard and to have our concerns validated. We deserve doctors who will look out for us as if they were our best friend. If that doesn’t describe your doctor, and you have concerns about any aspect of well-being … I strongly encourage you not to settle and to keep searching until you find the right doctor. She or he may help you find answers to questions that you didn’t know you’ve been asking all along.
On Monday night, I watched supertrainer Jackie Warner‘s new Bravo TV show Thintervention. One thing that particularly resonated with me was the situation of 23 year-old client Stacy. She could be me. I kind of was her. Like Stacy, I would chalk up my problematic relationship with food to being Jewish. Like Stacy, I would smirk and think to myself, “Wow, I’m the Queen of Camouflaging my chub!” And like Stacy, I have a hormonal issue that makes it easier for me to gain weight and harder for me to lose.
In the first episode of Thintervention, Stacy discusses one of her major health setbacks with the doc on (casting) call. He says, “You have PCOS, which can make you put on weight… But you can’t let it be an excuse.” For those of you who aren’t familiar, PCOS is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, an endocrine disorder caused by lifestyle and/or genetic factors and typically marked by resistance to insulin (a hormone that governs carbohydrate metabolism). Interestingly, 1 in 27 Ashkenazi Jews (myself included) have an adrenal disorder called Non-Classical Adrenal Hyperplasia, which mimics PCOS. I’d be interested to see if Stacy has been tested for NCAH, since she, like me, is a young Jewish woman.
Either way, PCOS affects as many as 30% of women total. And it clearly has a detrimental effect on weight. From what I can gather from the doctors I’ve seen and the info I’ve read on my own, research on the matter right now is kind of a chicken or the egg situation. Do lifestyle factors make you gain weight and in turn, worsen symptoms of PCOS (or NCAH)? Or does living with these conditions cause you to not as effectively store/burn calories? Based on my own struggles, I tend to think it’s more of the latter.
That’s not to say that women who suffer from either problem can’t lose and keep off excess weight. It’s just incredibly difficult. There are a couple of nutritionists who advocate a low GI diet, which is pretty much just a high fiber/low-fat/lower-carb and limited sugar diet. And some experts recommend women with PCOS work out for at least an hour a day, at least 5x a week. Sure, if you’re being trained by Jackie Warner on a Bravo reality TV show, that time commitment is nothing. But for most mere mortals, that’s a serious chunk of time.
I’m just saying I feel like there’s really not much research and health information/guidance out there for women living with PCOS and especially those with NCAH. Especially when it comes to weight management. And that’s definitely frustrating.
But it was great to see someone on TV come out as dealing with it in her effort to shed pounds, and I can only hope that might drive some awareness about the problem. That way, hopefully more women start asking questions and getting answers about how they can follow a weight-loss program that fits their specific health needs—instead of being told they should just suck it up and struggle to succeed on a One Size Fits All plan.
What do you think?
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I usually get a lot of flack for my unending love of the original, the ultimate ’90s teen primetime soap Beverly Hills, 90210. I can’t help it. I grew up watching Brenda follow her dreams all the way across the pond. I aspired to run the school newspaper like Andrea Zuckerman. I wanted a boyfriend who had sideburns like Brandon’s. (And I found him!) The show lasted an entire decade! And I’ll admit, I ditched it for Dawson’s Creek once Jason Priestley left and it got kind of intolerable. (I mean, really, how many awful things had to happen to poor Kelly Taylor? My friend Elizabeth and I agree that after she had been burned in a fire, sucked into a cult, addicted to coke, almost killed by a mixed-up sociopath, raped twice and shot, the girl must have been from Hell.)
Still, I will always sing the praises of the show’s earlier years, because it was the first hour-long drama to take teens seriously (sorry, Saved By the Bell, that wasn’t you). The story lines of the West Bev crew touched on important, timely issues that applied to ’90s teens—from AIDS to suicide to premarital sex (oh, Donna Martin, you goody-goody) and even the consequences of drinking too much champagne at prom. Where’s that show today? Oh, right, there was nothing but a pile of sugar-coated, Hannah Montana crap—so the CW had to just remake 90210.
At any rate, today is actually 9-02-10! To commemorate, I thought I’d spotlight just a few of the show’s life lessons on body image, love and sex.
Diet pills suck – Remember Kelly Taylor’s friend who came to Brenda’s sleepover but acted way too cool? Well, she was actually just a grumpy ex-chubby girl who was on loads of diet pills. And beautiful but insecure Kelly herself later abused diet pills. The show portrayed pill-popping to stay slim as sad and scary. Maybe this stuck with me, because years later, I found myself trading a bottle of Metabo-Life for a healthy lifestyle change with Weight Watchers.
You don’t have to wait ’til marriage—just ’til you fall in love – Before Brenda and Dylan did it at the Spring Dance, she gushed, “How many girls get to have sex for the first time with someone they love?” That scene likely shaped my own and many other girls’ views of virginity. Why do it with someone I didn’t love? But that didn’t necessarily mean having to wait until marriage. (Besides, it’s not like I’m Catholic, like Donna. Oh, wait, she had eventually did it with David before they got hitched!) Turns out Brenda’s swiping of the V-card was pretty revolutionary, too: According to an article in Slate, “The most shocking part was that she shows no remorse. A teen girl having sex—even if she used a condom—and gloating about it didn’t go unnoticed (or unpunished).” …until of course they wrote in Brenda’s pregnancy scare of season 2. Whatever. Sorry, Jim Walsh, she just wasn’t your little girl anymore.
Andrea Zuckerman was beautiful – She may have started out as the geeky girl with the hopeless crush on Brandon Walsh. And granted, she never got that guy, she was still adored—by Brandon, Steve and many a hot (and often older) dude. In her all of her straight A-earning, editor-in-chief of The Blaze, getting into Yale while wearing high-waisted jeans glory, the Jewish girl from the wrong side of the tracks was truly aspirational.
Put your sisters before misters – Really, what the heck, Brenda and Kelly? Dylan had that sexy James Dean thing going on, but he was also super screwed-up on booze, coke and later, heroin. Not hot. And definitely not worth throwing out your BFF bond.
Being a model is not worth sleeping with some sleazy French guy – That is all.
Be yourself! – This was a running theme, of course—being a teenager is all about figuring out who you are and staying true to that. But the most literal lesson on being yourself may have been when Brenda pretended to be French with hottie-pa-tottie Rick (played by Dean Cain) in Paris. The ruse got her in a lot of hot water back in Bev Hills once “Reek” showed up to attend UCLA—classic! After attempting to enlist mom Cindy and bro Brandon to play along, Brenda quickly learned that she was better off calling the whole thing off and just being herself—the all-American Brenda Walsh from Minnesota. She could save random accents for the stage.
More hilarious life lessons from 90210.
By Carey Purcell, Special Guest Blogger to The Body Logic
In our culture of instant gratification and crash diets, it’s not surprising that reality TV star Bethany Frankel’s post-baby diet secret is to “Taste everything, eat nothing.”
My response can be summed up quite concisely: Ugh.
First, I’d like to address how ridiculous these “post-baby body” stories are. They’re everywhere, and they’re infuriating. Average women shouldn’t hold themselves to these insane standards. They’re just not realistic. And what’s more, they’re not healthy. These movie stars who drop 30 pounds in three weeks have personal chefs, personal trainers, and hours of free time every day to exercise. Who in real life has that luxury? I am not married, have no children and yet, I struggle work an hour of exercise into my life every day. If you don’t have the same resources as these wealthy celebrities, don’t have the same expectations as them.
Second, is it just me, or does Frankel’s advise sound, um, awful, to anyone else? The idea of eating nothing is not my idea of an enjoyable, healthy life, even if it would mean I’d be photographed in a “teeny turquoise two-piece” bathing suit for a trashy tabloid magazine. Why do celebrities, if you consider Frankel to be one, consider food the enemy? Why is it something that has to be avoided at all costs?
Food is not the enemy. As a former Weight Watcher, I struggled with my relationship with food for years and maybe I would have tried Frankel’s method myself. But now, after achieving a healthy weight and maintaining it for six years, I find Frankel’s mantra to be disturbing and dangerous. Food should not avoided and feared. The sensual and nutritional benefits of food should not be hampered by the PhotoShopped covers of grocery store shopping lane tabloids. (Another reason why I love Trader Joe’s! No magazines there!)
One of the crucial lessons I learned while losing weight was that food should be a pleasurable part of life. Food should be enjoyed. Food should be savored. If you want a treat, you can have a treat. You don’t have to run screaming from a piece of chocolate cake. Just work it into your healthy eating plan for the day or even the week by eating a healthy, vegetable-filled meal or add a bit of extra cardio to your workout the next morning. And if you’re going to have that treat, enjoy every bite of it! Don’t feel guilty. Don’t think, “I shouldn’t be eating this.” Take small bites, chew slowly. Savor it. These are “Naturally Thin” rules to live by. It makes me think … if she really wanted to stay true to her healthy living agenda, Bethenny would have been better off saying, “Don’t eat EVERYTHING; just enjoy everything you eat.”
Carey Purcell is self-confessed health junkie with an intense sweet tooth that she satisfies with small pieces of organic dark chocolate and large amounts of fresh fruit. Her workouts vary between yoga, Cuerpaso and simply commuting from the Upper East Side to Tribeca every day. She is the editor of MindBodySanctuary.com and a frequent contributor to the Health and Wellness section of Alternet.org. You can read her writing or contact her at CareyPurcell.com.
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Although I only considered being a Brownie for about a minute and a half in third grade, I always admired The Girl Scouts of the USA. (And not just because I grew up watching Troop Beverly Hills. Oh, how I wished I could have had an awesome ’80s perm and done “The Freddie.”) But twenty years earlier, my mom earned her badges. Whenever one of us kids would need a random object (think a granola bar on a long car ride or a Swiss army knife to cut off itchy clothing tags), Mom would whip it out and say, “See, I’m a good girl scout!” That she is. And so are these ladies representing the organization by raising awareness about girls and body image. Below, the org’s new PSA, featuring Beverly Johnson‘s daughter.
A few more facts for thought, from the GS.org site:
-Although about two-thirds (65%) correctly identify themselves as being either normal weight or overweight, one-third of all girls have a distorted idea about their weight. (Girl Scout Research Institute)
-59% of girls report dissatisfaction with their body shape, and 66% express the desire to lose weight. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Clearly, we have a problem on our hands. But, it’s awesome to see that the Girl Scouts are applying their masterful problem-solving skills to do something about it! They’re also using their mad marketing genius to sell us lots and lots of cookies, which I argue also contribute to overall happiness. Mmm, frozen Thin Mints…
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My mom likes to laugh at me sometimes, when I’m freaking out about something. She’ll tell me that I’m driving myself nuts. I don’t know about nuts, but I certainly do drive myself sick. How? I’ll worry…about everything, either situations that have already occurred or that I am convincing myself will occur. Such as, I didn’t call my friend back when I had hoped to; I want to be two places at once in order to visit with family and also go out with friends; I’m convinced I’ll miss a deadline; I fail Weight Watchers by going a week or two without journaling or exercising, etc., etc. In all of these cases, it boils down to a common theme: I’m afraid of letting others down. I am a social perfectionist, or someone who has really high expectations of herself and her success. I put myself under pressure to achieve this success, which some may argue as a good thing (I’m motivated, right?), but I definitely also believe consciously and subconsciously that my family and friends expect SuperDuperAmazingAndNothingLess! achievement from me.
I’m working on this, by first of all, setting realistic goals. But I still end up really stressed. Then, laid up with back pain, stomach pain, headaches (once, an out-of-the-blue migraine that lasted for approx. 12 hours). There’s no doubt in my mind that emotions are inextricably linked to physical ailments. My friend Carey and I talk about falling down the Stress-Sick rabbit hole all the time — she swears by acupuncture and homeopathic cures. I’m not adverse to trying those, but I’m always looking for nutrition/exercise or 10 minute strategies that I can implement easily throughout my day. That may be why I was drawn immediately to a book called So Stressed: The Ultimate Relief Plan for Women by Stephanie McClellan, M.D. and Beth Hamilton, M.D. with Diane Reverand (Free Press, 2010).
Having read it, I can’t recommend it enough to women who wonder why they’re always tired, why they’ve lost their libido, why they can’t lose weight no matter what they do or even to friends who feel fine—but would like to feel better. Because I’m currently stressed—I’ll take the opportunity to open the floor the authors, who in the below video, explain what their book is all about:
Of the four types represented in the book, I identify the most with “Hypo-S,” which McClellan and Hamilton describe as “the most common type of stress response in women.” Hypo-S is calm on the surface but easily reacts to even a small amount of stress. Hypo-S’s stress manifests in aches and pains, PMS, asthma, weight gain, lethargy. The good news is that there are lifestyle management techniques that help.
For instance, I was thrilled to read that the Exercise recommended for a Hypo-S is low-impact, rhythmically paced exercise like walking or a graduated weight resistance program (which boosts endorphins, which lead to an increased sense of well-being). Not that the Stress Docs are excusing me from high-impact aerobic exercise, but they do explain how lower impact activities may come more naturally to me, reduce pain, boost energy and improve mood and memory. Oh yes, the icing: They recommend that Hypo-S types eat a small piece of dark chocolate (70 percent or more cacao) for pain relief! Score!
Besides the free pass on my chocolate fix, I got a slew of Nutrition advice, which makes a lot of sense—like eating low-glycemic foods (to avoid my arch-nemesis, The Blood Sugar Spike-Then-Crash) and being sure to time meals to a tee (to entrain the rhythm of the stress hormone, cortisol). One piece of advice that stood out in particular: Eating a lunch that is packed with protein and complex carbs. We know that’s just healthy eating anyway, but the So Stressed Docs explain why it’s especially crucial for Hypo-S types like me: Steering clear of a lunch that is too carb-heavy hinders 2-3 p.m. konk-outage. (Used to happen to me all the time my junior year of high school. To this day, I’m amazed that Mr. O’Rourke never shoved me away in the middle of our group reading of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”)
Then, there are “Restoration” techniques for each stress type. As a Hypo-S, I should focus on diaphragmatic breathing, cognitive therapy and aromatherapy (I learned that it’s helpful that I’m already a fan of “parasympathetic activity-boosting” lavender oil).
Overall, So Stressed arms its readers with advice that is tailored, interesting, logical and easy to act on. That’s why I really have to remind myself to refer back to it, as if it’s a genuine prescription. Because taking care of myself in this completely whole way is not just about stress-relief—it’s about avoiding sickness and attaining true vitality. Neither of which are unrealistic goals, if you ask me.