Category Archives: Womens Health

In Which I Explain Catcalling to my Kid

Last week the kid had a dentist appointment, which meant we were done with work and school a little earlier than usual. Left with a couple of extra hours in the day, we headed to the library to return some books and pick out a few more. At which point I found myself in the decidedly irritating position of having to explain catcalling to my six year old.

A group of 20-something guys, 2 or 3 of them, were hanging out in the library parking lot smoking. Whether it was that or something else that set me a little on edge, I don’t know. But the moment I got out of the car it started.

Hey, beautiful.

Smile for me, pretty.

Hey, miss thing.

Hello? Come on mama.

I ignored it, wrapped her in my arms, and carried her into the library. Which isn’t something I’d normally do, but I already didn’t feel safe I guess. We got all the way through the doors before she said anything. She’s a perceptive kid.

Why were they saying that stuff, Mommy? Why didn’t they stop when you didn’t answer them? Why do they think you need to smile?

And there it was. Me, standing in a public library children’s section, explaining catcalling to my daughter. Explaining that it’s not about attraction or kindness, but about power. Explaining that men who can’t or won’t pick up on the cues that you’re uncomfortable are, for better or worse, something we have to be afraid of. Explaining that it’s happened to me for most of my life.

Will boys say things to me too like that?

Yes, honey. Probably.

Should I ignore them?

Mommy? What if they get angry because I won’t answer them?

What if they do? I had to admit it was a possibility. I told her I’ve generally had decent luck with ignoring catcalls, that it’s more than once brought on an onslaught of insults but I’ve been lucky enough to never come to harm.

Find a safe place, I told her. Go into a business. Stay where people are. Get on the phone and call the cops. Call me. Make noise. Be seen.

Protect yourself. You aren’t a prize to be won, an object to be controlled. You don’t owe anyone anything. You don’t owe strangers a smile, and you don’t have to be “polite” or make other people happy, particularly when they’re busy making you uncomfortable.

It was a necessary conversation, I guess, but one I never thought I’d be having with my elementary schooler. I guess it’s good that I did. She hasn’t talked about it again since. She needs to sit with things for a while. I’ll be interested to see, in a few days or weeks, what bubbles up.

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Live & Grow

11. spend/save [LIVE]: Are you richer or poorer this year, compared to last year?

12. toss [GROW]: 2012 was the last time for ________________

I’m going to answer these quickly, because I have something much more important to talk about today. #11 – I make more money now but feel poorer because I have more stress. #12 – 2012 was the last time for treating myself poorly just because I’m not perfect.

Now on to my real post for today. It’s about beauty, power, and strength.

I had an awesome experience last weekend, thanks to a beautiful friend inviting me to her yoga studio’s open house, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

I went to my first ever Pilates reformer session. Physically, it was challenging, eye opening, and awesome. I had no idea how much tension I was holding in my hips and hamstrings, and I was super impressed by how much difference even a short twenty minute session made for me. If I could, I’d do sessions weekly or more just to relieve the tension. It was amazing. The instructor was the same woman whose basic pilates class I took at the beginning of the open house, and while I thought she was an absolutely amazing Pilates teacher, it was in the reformer session that I really began to appreciate her incredible talent and skill. Diane made me feel completely comfortable in front of a pretty intimidating (and vaguely medieval) apparatus. She was patient, but also clearly would take no crap, so pretty much exactly what I need in a fitness professional. My body felt worlds better after those twenty minutes.

But here’s the bigger take away. Diane, when showing me the reformer positions, looked like a fricking goddess. Strong, graceful, poised, utterly in tune with her body… it was transformative to watch. I know it sounds weird. But here’s the thing. It was a lesson in perception for me. When I was watching Diane just hang out, she seemed just like everyone else. Not once did I doubt her knowledge or skill, but I wasn’t expecting anything remarkable. And therein I revealed my own unintentional bias, because when she got onto the reformer and started demonstrating the movements for me? It was like watching a perfect ballet. The way she moved was incredible, so natural and flowing, so foreign to the way I move my body most of the time. It called my personal biases front and center and taught them a stern lesson. As it turns out, people… women with bodies “like mine” can be breathtakingly powerful, graceful, feminine, strong.

Which means? So can I.

So thanks, Diane. I hope I see you again on that god awful and secretly awesome reformer sometime soon. (Find Diane in southern MD at Evolve Yoga. And Evolve, if you’re reading? Feel free to hire me for marketing. How about a barter?)

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Check In

Fit for the gamesI’m almost a week in and still going strong on the new, reduced cal plan. I’ve also made some workout changes in light of this article, which talks about shifting away from certain weight machines in favor of free/body weight workouts.

FOOD: I’m still no hungrier than I have been, and still not seeing any physical issues like headaches, dizziness, weakness, or over-tired. I’m having an increasingly easy time making better and better food choices, since limiting my calories means choosing the most filling, satisfying foods to make up those calories. As such, I’m seeing a HUGE decline in my cravings fro sweets and alcohol. I had a beer the other night and it was awesome, but did not automatically spark the wanting of another one as it had done before this cut back. I had a serving of dark chocolate at lunch today and again, no immediate craving for more. I followed it up with spicy black bean soup too, which helped a lot in terms of resetting my palate. I’m definitely eating a lot more vegetables, fewer carbs, and more protein. I know it’s something I could do without limiting my calories, but at least right now it’s too easy for me to fill up a larger calorie goal with the wrong foods. When I know I have a very limited amount, it’s much easier to choose the foods I know will keep me going.

EXERCISE: I’ve stopped doing the leg press in favor of squats. They don’t feel as effective overall, so I may up the reps there. I’ve switched away from most of the arm machines too, and while on paper it looks like I’m not working as hard since I’m using MUCH lower weights, I’m feeling it a lot more. I’ve also mostly gotten rid of a seriously pesky soreness in my left shoulder that was really bothering me. It took me weeks to figure out that it happened after I used the chest incline press machine. Tossing a medicine ball, which I combine with squats, is working much better without making it feel like my shoulder is broken somehow. Also, despite doing the same number of sets/reps, it’s taking me less time… so I’m able to fit 15-20 minutes of cardio in at the end. To help me stay on track with free weights and the like, I ordered The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises: Four Weeks to a Leaner, Sexier, Healthier YOU!, suggested by a fellow early-morning gymrat.

Speaking of which, I’m doing intervals of 3.5mph and 6mph. I’m only able to do about 15 minutes most mornings, so I’m doing a little over a mile in that time, which is the best consistent speed I’ve ever had. I’m wondering if I could maintain those intervals for a longer time, and I’m considering attempting my first ever treadmill based 5K this weekend.

I’ll get back on the scale and take new measurements on Friday, so we’ll see if this new plan is showing fast results. Even if it’s not, I like the way it’s making me feel, so I’m sticking with it for a while.

What works for you? What makes you feel your best?

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Numbers…

Green Elvis

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Presley

Today’s green monster: 1 medium banana, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, 1 tablespoon PB2, 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup, 5(ish)cups baby spinach. AWESOME. I’m calling it the Green Elvis.

I read THIS POST (go now, I’ll wait) from Zoot this morning, and it really got me thinking. Here was my response to her post, which while not entirely shocking essentially forces me to face and fight my deepest impulses when it comes to healthy living and taking control of my body image:

I am seriously considering throwing out my scale for all of these reasons. I got on the scale the other day, after weeks and weeks of ignoring it (and, by the way, going to the gym 4+ times a week and really focusing on strength) and saw a gain. Despite knowing I was making the right choices, it totally sent me into a funk and I spent the entire day depressed. I am SO trained to read success by the scale. So now? I’m never getting back on that damn thing, since even though I’ve “gained”, my size 12s are getting roomier. And BMI? According to BMI, I’m OBESE. And true or not, that word makes me feel like sh*t, so I choose to ignore it to maintain my pride and barely there, just emerging body confidence.

Then I read THIS GENIUS POST (go on, go!), which I found because Kim linked to it, which pretty much makes me want to leave work immediately and go get a body comp test done. Anyway, I’m just rethinking a lot of things.

Also on that list is rethinking my cardio. Thanks to a suggesting from my little brother, who is also on a recent quest to kick ass and take names on the health front, I tried something new on the treadmill… new for me, atleast. I tend to do a 15min warmup on the bike, then weights, then 20min of treadmill/elliptical. When I found myself with only 10min left this morning, thanks to lots of tired spacing out on the weight machines, I figured I’d stick with my standby plan of going as fast as I could manage on one of those for that ten minutes. I usually choose the elliptical because it burns more calories than the treadmill… but I was tired this morning, so I chose the “easier” treadmill. BUT… instead of plugging away at 4.2mph for that time, this morning I tried my brother’s formula: 1min at 2.5mph, 1min at 6mph. The first fast minute I only did at 5.5mph because the number 6 had me psyched out, but then I amped it up and ended up doing 3mph & 6mph for the rest of the time.

I felt like a superhero! It felt awesome, so much better than just ten minutes of slogging away at the fastest pace I can maintain while still just walking. I am SO doing this from now on. So thanks, little brother!

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Be the change…

rain red woman

source: all4myspace.com

It’s raining today and I’m crying in a coffee shop, thinking deep thoughts about the state of the world.

Yesterday I had a long talk with two different friends about the importance of being an informed patient. Specifically when it comes to young women (middle school through college) there is a sad and frightening lack of understanding. N one is teaching little girls how their bodies work, and without understanding they can’t make the best health decisions.

It’s your body. You should be in charge of the decisions made about what happens to it. But how can you do that if no one ever took the time to explain the basics? How can you make good decisions about birth control and safe sex when no one took the time to explain to you what a period is or how pregnancy happens. How can we expect teenagers to stay safe when no one thinks they’re capable of understanding the consequences of their actions?

Boys and girls should be raised to understand how their bodies work and what choices they have when it comes to safe sex and general health. Patients should be encouraged to ask questions about conditions, medications, and procedures.

I’ve had two laparoscopic surgeries, and I could essentially walk you through doing one now. Is it because I’m smarter or more driven? No. It’s because I sought out the information, and I did that because I was raised with the right resources. I had parents who taught me that knowledge was my right. I had teachers who encouraged my questions. I’ve had doctors who happily narrated every visit, checkup, and surgery. It should be that way for everyone.

And there’s more. It’s about more than physical health. It’s time we focus more on raising kids who have the tools to be their best selves in every way possible. That means supporting amazing things like The Trevor Project and It Gets Better.

Totally unconnected, right? I mean how do gay rights movements or teen sexuality support groups, or even suicide prevention movements relate to informed patients?

Here’s the thing. In my experience, and that of most of the doctors and medical students I talk to, patients aren’t informed because they’re intimidated. They hear a lot of doctor speak and don’t really understand what they’re hearing, but they don’t challenge. They don’t want to admit they don’t understand, or they don’t want to interrupt the doctor, or whatever. Although I hope patients do trust their doctors enough to feel that the doctors will make the best decisions even without patient input, patients should make it their business to know every detail. How else can they be sure they’re receiving the best treatment? Doctors are educated, skilled, specialized practitioners. They’re also just people.

Still don’t see how this links to movements like those I mentioned?

What creates the kind of patient who chooses to be informed? What separates me (who endlessly harasses ALL of my doctors with questions about why, how, what, when, where, who) from the average patient, who asks no questions and is dangerously unaware of their own medical history? (Yesterday a 3rd year med student told me she’d seen a patient who reported never having surgery. A physical exam revealed a massive scar running down his chest, which turned out to be from open heart surgery.)

confidence

source: marvinhimel.com

What makes the difference? Confidence. People who are indoctrinated from day one with the belief that they have rights. They have worth. They have responsibilities to themselves. Kids who believe that they are free to be their own beautiful selves, as flawed and broken as we all are, are kids who grow up convinced of their right to know, to make their own healthcare choices, to be informed and involved. I believe it’s a direct connection. If I had the resources, I’d study it to find out.

I want my own daughter to grow up truly believing that she can be whatever she wants to be. Gay, straight, doctor, bus driver, painter, engineer, astronaut, kindergarten teacher… what matters is that she grows up believing she has rights to her own health and happiness, and that she understands that everyone else deserves the same rights.

It’s bigger than wanting it only for yourself. It’s granting others the same right to know, thus producing doctors anxious to share the information with their patients in a respectful mutual dialogue. It’s believing that every person has the right to their best self, the healthiest version possible, both mentally and physically.

It is my sincere hope that one day soon I’ll be making a difference in this arena, giving young adults the opportunity to understand the world at their level. I’m more than open to suggestions about making that happen. I envision an outreach program that incorporates health and wellness experts and young people in interactive talks and presentations that make kids feel safe, supported, and understood.

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