Thursday, December 22, 2011

The single best thing you can do for you health

Happy Holidays everyone!! As we wrap up a wonderful year, and start thinking about what we would like our 2012 to look like, the question becomes, what is the SINGLE best thing you can do for your health. Thankfully, Dr. Mike Evans has put on this kick ass video to tell us exactly what it is that we can do: 

Hope you all enjoy this video as much as I did. Share it with your loved ones this holiday season - it truly is the best gift you can give them (not to mention, inexpensive!).

Wishing you health and happiness for the new year,


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Painful boobs

Sometimes the girls throw a temper tantrum. Yup, those girls. The twins if you will. They can be achy, sensitive, and annoying. While many of us have hurty boobs around "that time of the month", sometimes they just hurt. The question is, why are my boobs hurting, is this normal, or should I do something about it?

The ladies over at Gyno Gab went over some reasons why your boobs may hurt, and when you should seek out help from your lady parts doctor:

  • Am I knocked up?  Probably not. Although women's websites are always filled with "Am I pregnant" questions. If your boobs hurt, and  you could be pregnant, just go out and get a home pregnancy test so that you know for sure. 
  • Is my latte addiction causing my boobs to hurt? Several studies have shown a connection between the two. Since being a caffeine junkie isn't that great for you anyway, cut back and see if that helps. 
  • Will taking birth control pills help?  Sometimes yes, since steady hormones help boob pain, although starting a new hormone regimen can cause boobs to hurt even more in the beginning. 
  • My boobs are killing me, I need pharmaceutical intervention! If they are that bad, give your lady parts doctor a call. You can also try Advil or Tylenol to see if that helps. 
  • Only one of my boobs hurt! Since most normal boob pain is in both of the girls, if only one of your boobs hurts, call your lady parts doctor. 
  • My partner likes to play rough with my boobs during sex, and now they hurt. While rough sex can cause some discomfort, if they are really hurting and there is bruising, perhaps time to check in with your lady parts doctor. 
  • Can there be some sort of infection? Yup. If the skin on your around your boobs are red, warm, or feels funny, give a call ASAP to your doctor. 
And there you have it folks.  Boob pain can be totally normal, since those girls can be mighty finicky, but if it seems out of the ordinary for YOUR particular boobs, do a little self exam, and give your lady parts doctor a call. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What is the deal with Yaz and Yasmin?

Two popular birth control pills have been making headlines recently - Yaz and Yasmin. Touted for their ability to have lower side effects than other birth controls and ability to help curb PMS symptoms and acne, Yaz and Yasmin have drospirenone, a synthetic form of progesterone (progesterin). Drospirenone is one  of several different types of progestins that are used in birth control.

So what is all the hoopla about? As many of you know, ALL birth control pills come with an increased risk of causing blood clots. This risk is higher if you smoke. In specific medical terms, what you are more at risk for is a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), where a blood clot forms inside a vein and then can travel throughout your body (this is bad if it gets into your lungs or your heart or your brain).

Recently, several studies have found that Yaz and Yasmin put women at a higher risk of blood clots compared to other birth controls. In particular, one study of 835,000 women (which is A LOT of women) commissioned by the FDA found a TWO-fold increase in blood clots in women using Yaz and Yasmin. Yesterday, the FDA had a huge meeting and after hours and hours of debate, finally decided to keep Yaz and Yasmin on the market, by a narrow vote, stating that the benefits of these birth control pills outweigh the risk.

While I am not going to discount the FDA, since clearly they have had a much closer look at the data, for those of you on these two birth controls, make sure you become better informed about them. Perhaps give a shout out to your lady parts doctor and discuss these findings and possible alternative birth control pills. Every medication has benefits and risk associated with it, but is important that you understand what those pros and cons are and make your own informed decision.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The many shapes and sizes of lady parts

Our lady parts come in a variety of flavors. After reading an interesting blog post on Our Bodies Our Blog, and a recent labia post-a-thon on Scarleteen, I realized that many ladies are simply uncomfortable with their lovely lady lips. They think they are weird, or ugly, or abnormal. Since much of what we learn about how lady parts look are distorted by the media and pornography, few women have a realistic view as to the wide range of healthy female genitalia.

Start by taking a look here at Scarleteen, with their I'll Show You Mine series (warning folk, this link is NOT safe for work. Unless you work in the health or porn industries). Take a gander at some of the variety of experiences women have had with their lady parts, and all the different ways they look. There is even a book now called I'll Show You Mine that shows stories and  pictures of unairbrushed, unfiltered women's genitalia.

As Lissa Rankin pointed out in her Love Your Labia post, "Let me just say once and for all that if you’re one of those women (or men) who are wondering why some women have short lips tucked up inside and some women have long lips that hang out, EITHER WAY, YOU’RE NORMAL AND YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL!"

And, unlike the penis, the appearance of our lady parts changes. Sexual arousal, hormones, and bodily changes can affect how your labia looks, causing swelling and color changes. Some labias are smooth, some are frilly (like ruffles). Some are short, some are long. Some are pink, purple, tan, brown, and blue. Some are the same length throughout, and some are short in some places and longer in others.

Bottom line, whatever you got going on down there, embrace it! Accept your lady parts as they are, and learn about how they work, and how they should be treated (with love and respect)!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hand washing: How to NOT get ickers sickers this season

Having a cold is just no fun (trust me, I've been fighting one on and off for the past three weeks). And while this isn't directly related to lady parts, heck, we are ladies, and ladies don't like to get sick. So, today I am blogging about the easy peasiest way to avoid getting sick this winter: washing your hands. Not just rinsing your hands, but properly washing them.

While most people know to washing hands after using the bathroom (yes, even when you pee!!), before eating and after touching raw meat or eggs, you should also wash hands after doing the following:
- before and after cooking or handling food
- before holding a baby
- before and after treating a cut
- after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- after touching animals, their toys, leashes, poo, etc.
- after touching garbage or trash cans
- after having contact with ANY kind of bodily fluid (including saliva).

There are countless others. Always err on the side of washing. You can never wash too much!!

You don't need to use antibacterial soap (they actually contribute to drug-resistant bacteria), any soap will do, as will any temperature water. Wet your hands, lather then up, and was them for 20 seconds. Yes my friends, 20 whole seconds. Sing yourself a little tune (Happy Birthday song twice does the trick) to keep yourself on track. Rinse, dry on a clean towel, air dryer, or paper towel and you are good to go. Hand sanitizers are fine, but aren't as good as soap and water, and should only be used if you aren't near a sink.

Happy hand washing!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The uterus, also known as the oven to bake the bun.

We often hear the phrase, "bun in the oven," but what exactly is the oven?? The oven, my friends, is the uterus. And this uterus of ours is pretty nifty.  It is where we bake the babies. It supports other organs like the bladder and the bowel. It has lots of arteries veins and ligament and is muscular.

So remember that cervix that you now know all about? Well that cervix is at the base of the uterus, kind of like a head is attached to the neck and is pear shaped. When you aren't preggers, the uterus is itty bitty, just a few centimeters in diameter. And when you are baking the bun, well, you see how big bellies get - that is all uterus!

The uterus is made up of several layers, the endometrium being in innermost lining. It is the layer that builds up throughout your cycle, and sheds itself if you do

n't get knocked up (aka, having your period). That endometrium provides a nice cozy spot for a little embryo to settle and all the nourishment it gets comes from the blood vessels that are made just for this purpose.

And, your uterus can orgasm too. Yup. Usually from that elusive g-spot, but can also from vaginal, this shaky shaky contractions are a deeper, longer, and more emotional climax. Yes, now you are all going to try to have one tonight :).

Like I said, the uterus is a pretty nifty organ. Sure, they cause super fun menstrual cramps, but hey, they bake babies and awesome orgasms in there too!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Your Cervix: A wealth of information right at your fingertips

I have so many things to share with you all since my last post! But before I share all the juicy bits I learned at the American Public Health Association conference, I realized I may need to go back to basics and do a little Lady Parts biology 101. Today we will learn all about the cervix!

Your cervix is that thing you hit at the end of your vagina. And no, your vagina isn't endless and doesn't link up to your belly button. The cervix separates your vagina from your uterus. It is in the shape of a cylinder or a cone, and moves around during your cycle depending on your body's needs. Ladies, if you want to know a thing or two about your lady parts, it is time you make friends with your cervix.

For the most part, your cervix hangs out kinda low, and is firm, like the tip of your nose. But right around the time that you are going to ovulate, it becomes a little smushier and higher to allow those spermy swimmies to get to where they need to go.

Also, your cervical mucus can tell you oodles too. Sounds gross, right? Your discharge (that stuff you find in your undies or when you wipe after you pee), is really your cervical mucus, and that too changes throughout the month. When you aren't ovulating it should be kinda thick, whitish in color. Or you can be not really having any discharge at all. Right around when you are about to ovulate, it becomes gooey, almost like an egg white. If you put some on your fingers and try to separate it, it just keeps on stretches. This is when you are uber fertile! That slimy stuff is a perfect sperm taxi to your eggs.

If you are either trying to get preggers or avoiding it all together - get to know your cervix and start paying attention to how it is throughout the month. It truly is a wealth of information right at your finger tips!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

That burning sensation: How to prevent UTIs

Some of us know that feeling all too well: you feel like you need to pee all the time, it burns like a futhermucker when you do, and your pee is looking a little funky. Yup, ladies, you got yourself a urinary tract infection, or UTI for short.

Other than giving your regular doc or lady parts doc a call so you can treat it, you also want to NEVER have to have one again, right? I mean, they are terrible.

Here are some tips for you:
1) Drink plenty of water. Keep your self hydrated and pee often.
2) Pee after sex. Like as soon as you can. Peeing flushes out the nether bacteria that you can get from well, each other's nethers.
3)Wipe front to back. Yes, ladies, you've heard it often, you'll hear it again. Front to back. Not the other way around.
4) Cranberry juice or pills are your friend. I recommend keeping cranberry pills by your bed, so you can easily take one after some nether rubbing. Cranberries keep your urine acidic which makes it unfriendly to bacteria.

Happy urinary tracts make for happy ladies!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Can too much of a good thing be bad for you? The deal with soy

Recently a friend asked for some healthy eating tips, and specifically what to do about eating soy. Is it good for you or is it evil? Since I thought it was an excellent question, I figured I would share my findings on the matter.

First of all, soy is a great yummy source of protein and has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer! Soy has a group of plant estrogens (yes, the hormone. I'll get to that in a bit) called isoflavones. And these isoflavones, namely genestin and daidzen (who comes up with these names?!), are the good stuff that protects your health.

But before you start eating soy with every meal, remember how I said that soy has estrogen? Yeah, well not quite the estrogen that your body produces, but a phytoestrogen, a plant produced compound that mimics the estrogen found in your body. And as you can imagine, pumping your body full of hormones probably isn't the best idea. Animal studies have shown that consuming large quantities of isoflavones develop liver, thyroid and reproductive problems. EEK!

What to do? Asian cultures eat plenty of soy and they are known for their longevity, so what gives? The difference is that they eat WHOLE foods - tofu, edamame, tempeh, and miso - not the super processed stuff that is found in our supermarkets like soy dogs, ice cream, and cookies. These processed foods extract the soy protein isolate and aren't filled with all the good stuff that you can get from soy.

Eating soy in moderation is indeed good for your health. Just make sure it is in whole form, not too much (a serving or two a day), and definitely don't take any isoflavone supplements (again, processed soy is bad). If you are pregnant or at risk for developing estrogen sensitive tumors like breast and ovarian cancer, try not to eat to much soy in any form. In our veggie household, we eat soy (tempeh or tofu) as a staple in our dinner probably twice a week, and I try to buy other "meatless" options that are veggie or gluten based instead of soy. My veggie friend switched from soy milk to almond milk (especially when trying to conceive and pregnant), and for those that are lactarded (such as myself), lactose free milk is a great alternative.

So go ahead, have that edamame with your lunch!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to feel your boobies: The art of the self breast exam

It's October which means cooler weather, pumpkin picking, and boobs. Yes, boobs. October is breast cancer awareness month, and I figured I would remind you lovelies how to check your breasts every month.

First of all, get to know your boobs well. That way, if anything changes, you will notice. Secondly, you should give yourself a good feel up once a month - just after your period ends, on day 6 of your cycle (day 1 is the first day of your period).

Checking yourself out in the shower is probably the easiest since you are in there naked to begin with, hopefully on a regular basis. Use the pads of three fingers to basically "finger walk" up and down your boob like a little lawnmower. Make sure you not only check your boob itself, but also around your boob from your armpit to your collar bone and your underboob, as well as your nipple.

What are you supposed to be feeling for? Any lumps, but also skin puckering, a change in size or shape, redness or swelling, and any liquid from your nipples (this might be best to check out of the shower). You find anything funky - give your lady parts doctor a ring right away.

Lovers of ladies, you too can help with this cause as you are often quite familiar with the breastscape of your lady love. You feel anything weird or unusual - alert your lady and make sure she gets it checked out.

Spread the word - check out for more info!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

icontraception: if we spent as much money and time on contraception as we did on phones

With the frenzy of the new iphone release and the death of Steve Jobs, it has been making me wonder what we could do if we focused our efforts on reproductive health as much as we do on our phones. After reading this great article on RH Reality Check, it made me realize just how far behind we are on contraceptives. 

Truth be told, around 70 percent of women are using contraception methods that have been around since the 1950s. Yes, the Nuvaring and the patch are new additions to the mix, but for the most part the underlying premise is the same. It is as if we were still using this:
as our phone. Technology changes, and people demand more stuff in small packages. So why can't we do the same with our contraception?

How great would it be to have a simple to use birth control method that also protected you from STDs and didn't smell like rubber? What about a birth control that didn't pollute our waterways with estrogen? What if MEN could also take a pill for contraception? Even better, what if you could go into a store and just buy yourself some birth control off the shelf, right next to the condoms and cough medicine? 

And really, why not hope for these things, ask for these things? As Kirsten Moore of RH Reality Check pointed out:it was the synergy of consumer demand and technological innovation that gave us these incredible little devices. Isn’t it about time we did the same for contraception? Why should our smart phones be sexier than sex?"

Just my rambling for the day...would love to hear your thoughts as well!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Just how bad is HPV?

HPV, or Human Papilloma Virus, has been making media headlines for the last few years with the advent of the Gardisil vaccine against it. But just how common is HPV? And how bad is it really?

Now, there are more than 40 strains of HPV and some are more "high risk" than others. HPV strains 16,18,52, and 59  are considered to be linked with abnormal PAP smears and cervical cancers. These strains of HPV are associated with 99% of all cervical cancer cases.

First things first, HPV is a sexually transmitted infection. Despite the vagueness of the television commercials, you get HPV from having sex, either vaginal, anal, or oral. You can even get it by having your nether parts touch an infected nether part.

Most people don't know they have HPV, since in most cases (90%) there are no signs or symptoms. Some people with HPV get genital warts or very rarely throat warts. Since HPV is known to cause abnormal pap smears and is a precursor to cervical cancer (and also cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx) many people associate HPV with cancer.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), about 20 MILLION people are infected with HPV with about 6 million new cases each year. Apparently 50% of sexually active folk will get HPV at some point in their lifetimes. Yup, it is that common. But not all of these HPV infections are the high risk strains. In fact, only 15% of infections were the high risk type, although 24% of women had two different types of HPV detected and 15% had three subtypes.

There is no treatment for HPV itself, and in most cases, your body's immune system will clear up an HPV infection (or at least make it dormant or undetectable) in about two years. So the best thing to do is to prevent it in the first place. If you are between the ages of 11 and 26, go on and get either Cervarix or Gardasil, vaccines that protect against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.Gardasil works for boys and men who are 9 through 26 years old. If you are older, make sure to get regular pap smears which can detect HPV or an HPV DNA test. If you are having sex, make sure you are using condoms from start to finish. Since condoms still only cover a portion of the infected areas they don't fully protect against HPV, so choose your partners wisely.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bleeding after sex: totally normal or worth freaking out about?

Up on various lady part centric websites and boards, you will usually find a whole lot of question on bleeding after sex. So, what gives? And should you be freaking about it?

First, in a large review study (a meta-analysis if you will), around 5-6% of women have post-coital bleeding. Rest assured that you are not alone if you do experience this.

But more importantly, why is it happening? Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news ladies, but there are a range of lady part issues that can be associated with bleeding after sex:

  • Around 25 to 30 percent of bleeding can be caused by having fragile cervical tissue. In case you forgot were your cervix is, it is that spongy tissue at the end of your vagina that separates it from your uterus (see here for more info). Your cervix can be a little sensitive if you are young, on birth control, or are preggers. 
  • About 12 percent of bleeding after sex is associated with cervical polyps (little red growths that can be easily removed during an exam with that plastic duck thing, aka, the speculum), endometrial polyps or uterine fibroids (which can be seen with an ultrasound). 
  • Infections are the culprit in about 5% of the cases of post coital bleeding. Gonorrhea and chlamydia (which is not a flower) can cause cervical bleeding, as can bacterial vaginosis. 
  • Funky hormones can also cause bleeding after sex. About 35% of women that have bleeding are on some form of hormones. Also, conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), thyroid issues, and obesity can all mess around with your hormones that can overly thicken the lining inside your uterus, causing it to bleed after sex.

Basically ladies, if you always bleed after sex (even if you like it on the rougher side), make an appointment with your lady parts doctor to get it checked out. It can be totally nothing, or it can be a sign of something more  serious. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What exactly is Endometriosis??

You hear it in conversation with some girlfriends. You see it discussed when talking about menstrual cramps and what not. But, honestly, you have no idea what the heck it is. Endometriwhat?

Yes, my readers, time to learn a bit about endometriosis - rather common condition that affects 12 to 30 percent of all menstruating woman. Chances are you know someone that has it, or perhaps you have it yourself. Endometriosis is when the lining of the uterus (what you shed every month during your period) ends up in other places in your body (other than your uterus). It can show up on your ovaries, bladder, or your colon for example. And as you can imagine, when you have tissue surfacing in places it shouldn't be, it can be PAINFUL. Heck yeah ladies, we are talking severe inflammation of the tissues, and even bleeding (just like your uterine lining would). Endometriosis can also cause cysts in the ovaries. Good times.

So, how would you know if you have endometriosis? Some scenarios: You are a young lady, you would have miserable horrible periods for years and want-to-crawl-in-a-hole-and-lay-in-the-fetal-position cramps, as well as constipation and lots of peeing during your period - you are pretty much living in chronic pain. You are trying to make babies for over six months, your partner checks out ok, and after doing a pelvic sonogram, your doctor says you have a mass on your ovaries. Or, you are a woman that has had awful cramps, painful sex, weird on and off bleeding during your period, and back and lower ab pain.

Your lady parts doc would probably do full physical and medical history to make sure nothing else could be the culprit, and then do a pelvic sonogram to see what is going on. If it looks like endometriosis is likely, they will start you out with some strong anti-inflammatory pills, and suggest you go on hormonal birth control, which seems to help most women. Some ladies don't seem to respond to this treatment, so they need to take it up a notch and have a laparoscopy done to see exactly what is going on in the pelvis, and have any endometriosis removed that the doctor sees. Removing the endometriosis usually helps in improving fertility and lowering the pain.

 And finally, what causes this? There seems to be some genetic component - you are more like to get endometriosis if you have a first degree relative that has it. Endometriosis is also fueled by estrogen, so if you are diagnosed, try to avoid dairy or animals that have been fed hormones, or soy (a natural occuring estrogen).

Now you are up to speed on what the E word is. Share your knowledge! Or better yet, tell your friends to check out the blog :).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Five questions to ask your partner before things get sexual

Sex is great. It's fun, it releases endorphins, it burns calories, it provides intimacy. All good things. Yet, there are some not so good things that come with sex too - both physically and emotionally. And while it can be a total mood killer to start grilling your partner, your long term wellness should always come first.

Here are five questions you should ask before you start taking of your clothes:
1. Are you married or have a girlfriend? If you are a-ok with being the other woman, that is fine, but you should at least be informed up front. And don't expect your partner to fess up without your prodding - people are very good at leaving out such details. There is a lot of baggage in sleeping with someone who is in a committed relationship, and you should have all the information in order to make your decision.

2. What is your sexual history? Remember in sex ed class when they taught that you not only have sex with your partner, but with everyone that they have had sex with too? Yup, that's true. And in today's day and age, that could be A LOT of people. You should totally ask your partner if they have any nether germs - STDs or HIV - and if they act kind of shady, perhaps pull your panties back up. Feel free to ask them to get tested if they haven't done so recently. On the other end, you also want to know if your partner is new to this sex thing, since that can chance your relationship with them as well.

3. What kind of sex do you like? Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes good sex. Some like it soft and gentle,some like it rough, some like leather, some like lace.It is good to say what you like and what are your boundaries so that you both are comfortable and feeling safe and excited before you start.

4. Are you comfortable with safe sex? While sex is good, safe sex is better. It is important to ask your partner if they are cool with using condoms, if they always do, and if they have ever had super risky sex (like with a sex worker). Remember that while these questions are often awkward in the rush to hook up, they can save your life. You only have one body and one set of lady parts.

5. What kind of birth control should we use? Pull and pray is not a answer unless you are ready to face the consequences of a possible pregnancy. If you aren't on hormonal birth control or have an IUD, condoms or the cervical cap are good options. Ovulation can happen at any point during your cycle (not just around day 14), and sperm do live in your lady parts for up to three days, so ALWAYS take precautions.

And lastly click here for some more information on how to make safe sex fun.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

IUDs protecting against pregnancy and cervical cancer!!

I have said it before, and I'll say it again : IUDs rock. They are uber protective against pregnancy - the most effective form of contraception, short of sterilization.

And now, in a study of nearly 20,000 women, IUDs were found to lower cervical cancer risk by 45! Now, bear in mind, there was no protective effect for IUDS in women that had HPV - so make sure that you either get the vaccine, or get checked out regularly.

 What is kind of interesting about this finding is that the investigators found no difference in the protective effect by years of use. So women who used it for only a short period of time had the same level of protection as those women who have used it for a decade.

Scientists think that the mechanism of protection has something to do with the inflammatory response in the cervix and a long lasting immune response to clear HPV infections and lesions.

Good stuff, right? All together another reason to consider an IUD. If you are looking for a great, safe, longer term birth control option, that also protects against cervical cancer, talk to your lady parts doc about an IUD

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vitamin D is good for you!

As the days are slowly getting longer, we are no longer lounging by the pool or splashing by the beach. And for most of us, that means we probably aren't getting enough vitamin D. Using sunblock also decreases your vitamin D absorption from the sun (and yes keep using sunscreen). Vitamin D insufficiency is all the rage these days in the research world, and it has been linked to everything from heart disease to breast cancer. So, what is the deal with vitamin D?

Ok, first things first, you need the D for strong bones and muscles. Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption which keeps bones from breaking down and improves muscle strength. Think of it as spinach, ala Popeye.

Vitamin D is also good for your heart. Studies have found that not having enough D leads to high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart failure(!). Not good. You also need D to lower your risk for breast cancer, infections, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases.

How much D do you really need? Well you need about 600 IU a day if you are under 70, and for those ladies over 70, you need an extra boost of 800 IU. Don't OD on the stuff though - you should take at most 4000 IU in one day. Try taking D3 as a supplement, since it is easy to absorb and you can take it with or without food.

As for me, I usually take a supplement during the winter, but rely on my multivitamins, walks around NYC and egg/milk consumption during the summer months (all three of them. Sigh).

Friday, September 9, 2011

What to do when you miss your birth control pill

OMG! You totally forgot to take your birth control pill yesterday. You could have sworn you took it, but then the phone rang, or the latest episode of the Bachelor came on, or maybe you popped the pill out of the pack and it went flying, never to be found again. And while some of us are religious about taking their pill - having the equivalent of a three car alarm to remind them to take it at the same time every day (you know who you are) - sometimes life gets a little messy and we forget to take the pill. I would say a large number of posts onVagina Pagina's community page are about ladies freaking out because they missed a pill. 

missing birth control pills
What is one to do (other than call me in a panic)? First, off, don't freak out. It's not going to help. And no, you aren't pregnant because you forgot to take the pill yesterday and you just happened to have sex last night too. For most types of birth control pills, just take one as soon as you realize that your forgot (it is okay to take two in one day), and if you so happened to forget to take it for two days (!!), take two the first day and two the second and you should be golden. If you are still worried about it, use condoms for the rest of the month to give yourself peace of mind, and maybe give a ring into your lady parts doc to run things by them.

This situation happen regularly? Maybe time to switch up your method of contraception. Talk to your lady parts doc about the Nuvaring or IUDs as an alternative to the daily pill taking regimen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reasons to use Birth Control other than controlling birth

Many of us use hormonal birth control (HBC) because we don't want to get knocked up. Some use hormonal birth control because otherwise their periods would be all over the place and anywhere in between.

The gals at Gyno Gab listed 10 other reasons to use hormonal birth control:

1. Control heavy bleeding : yup, you can have much lighter periods when you are on HBC.
2. Control menstrual cramps : tired of being in the fetal position during your period? HBC can help with that too.
3. Control of acne: feel like an awkward teenager going through puberty because your skin hasn't caught up to your age? Hormones may be the culprit, and HBC can help tame those pimplies.
4. Less PMS: HBC can take out the beast in you during that time of the month.
5. Better bones: estrogen helps keeps bones strong and healthy.
6. Lowers risk for uterine cancer: the protective effect increases the longer you are on HBC and continues many years after you stop taking it.
7. Lowers risk for ovarian cancer: After just one year on HBC, you lower your risk for ovarian cancer by 10-12%, and after 5 years you lower your risk by approximately 50 percent.
8. Less pelvic inflammatory disease:it is thought that since HBC thickens cervical mucus it acts as a barrier to infections that cause PID.
9. Lower risk for colon cancer: HBC lowers levels of certain digestive chemicals that are thought to cause cells to become cancerous at high levels.
10.Fewer fibrocystic breast changes: if you get lumpy boobs in relation to your cycle, HBC can help lower the hormones that cause these cystic changes.

There are lots of reasons to take hormonal birth control. Have a discussion with your lady parts doctor on what kind of birth control would be right for you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Time for a skin check!

The air is getting just a tad crisper, the hurricanes are a blowing, and the school year is just about to start. That's right folks, summer is almost over. And while I blogged earlier this summer about taking good care of your skin, perhaps some of you weren't quite as careful as you should have been in the sun.

Time for a little visit to your derm doc to do an annual skin check. Think of it as part of your health maintenance, just like you go to your lady parts doc to make sure your lady parts are in order, you should go to your skin doc to make sure you have nothing funky growing on your skin. Now you may be thinking, oh please, what are the chances?! But for women aged 25-29, melanoma is the most common form of cancer.

What if you have lots of moles and beauty marks? Well the only ones that are of medical concern are those that are new (like you didn't have them before), or that you got after the age of 20, or that look different that your other moles. If one all of a sudden changes it shapes or color, get your ass to a derm doc right away - especially if they start to bleed, itch, ooze, or become painful. 

The following ABCDEs are important signs of moles that could be cancerous. If a mole displays any of the signs listed below, have it checked immediately by a dermatologist:

Asymmetry—One half of the mole does not match the other half.
Border—The border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular.
Color—The mole has different colors, or it has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red.
Diameter—The diameter of the mole is larger than the pencil eraser.
Elevation/Evolution—The mole appears elevated (raised from the skin); or are the moles changing.

Getting your skin checked is totally painless. You basically strip down, put on a super sexy medical gown, and the doctor checks your body all over (even between your toes). If they think something looks funky, they will scrape off the mole and send it to a lab.

And next time, use more sunscreen!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Push-up bras for tweens: The downside of hoochifying our girls

There has been a trend in girls' fashion these days and it is all about making young girls look like their much older counterparts with a dash of hoochiness.

This great article highlights just how awry our idea of what is appropriate for young girls has gone. Apparently it is all the rage these days to get push up bras in the juniors section.

Now none of this is shocking news - we have been over sexualizing our young girls for quite some time now. But check out this commercial for Aeropostale's lingerie line, Aerie : Double Whoa. I mean, really? Fifteen year old prancing around in underwear commercials seems, well, icky to me. And secondly, why oh why do fifteen year olds need to increase their boob size by 2 cups!

Why is this a problem? According to a report to the American Psychological Association, sexualization is different than normal sexual development. Sexualization is when someone is valued only for their sexual appeal or behavior, they are sexually objectified (made into something for other's sexual use), they are held to a standard in which "attractiveness" is equal to sexiness, and sexuality is imposed on a person. Any one of these is a indication of sexualization. We can see why this can be a problem for kids, especially when adult sexuality is being put on them, which is not age appropriate and not chosen by them.

Sexualization has been linked to eating disorders, low self esteem, and depression. It has lead girls to have diminished sexual health and assertiveness. And it places the emphasis on their appearance actually does take away from their ability to focus on what is really important - like math!

For some of us late bloomers, we probably would have done anything to get boobies (or the appearance thereof), when we were 15. But not having them, and not being able to focus on what having them meant, allows girls to continue being children, to continue their sheltered little existence for a couple years longer. And that meant focusing on getting A's, dancing, volunteering, going to DNA camp (yes, some of us were that dorky), and all the other things that young girls should be doing other than buying push up bras.

So, in my humble opinion, I don't think we should be buying push up bras for tweens. It screws with what they think healthy sexuality should be. God knows it is hard enough to balance femininity, sexuality, later on in life. Let girls be girls!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Could it be?! A birth control for men?!

I have always thought that  the bodily hormonal burden that us women face is kinda unfair. Between bleeding out of our crotch, mood swings, breakouts, and pushing a something the size of a watermelon out of your own body, the whole thing seems kind of skewed. Yes, men don't get go enjoy the experience of pregnancy and all that, but really, they have very little to do when it comes to controlling reproduction.

Turns out the folks at my old stomping ground, Columbia, have been working on something that might actually stick when it comes to male contraception. They found that a compound that screws with the receptors of vitamin A metabolites seems to cause reversible sterility in mice, with no affect on libido! The mice were mating away happily, without knocking  up any lady mice, and then once they stopped taking the meds, all was restored. Read more about it here.

This could be very exciting people!! Mind you, this will take years to come out onto the market, if it really does work, but hey, a lady and her lady parts like to have something to look forward to.Fingers crossed that mice and men are equal in this case!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cheaper and Equal?: The Deal with Generic Birth Control

Sometimes things that are on sale are awesome. Me, I follow the eleventh commandment of "Thou shall not pay retail prices." Sometimes though there is a reason things are in the bargain bin, like the pockets stick out funny.Where does generic birth control come into play here?

Many of us don't think twice when we get a script for antibiotics and get the generic stuff. I mean, why pay retail when it is the same thing. But does this logic work when it comes to birth control? There are women that have sworn that they have had terrible side effects when taking the generic brand.

Basically, generics are, according to the FDA, “copies of brand name drugs that have exactly the same dose, intended use, side effects, route of administration, risks, safety, and strength as the original drug.”  But sometimes generic versions may have different colors, or inactive ingredients. The FDA estimates that 50% of generic drug production occurs in the same plants used to manufacture the brand name drugs. Ok, so that sounds pretty good.

Here is where it gets sticky. One study found that 98% of individual generic drugs had absorptions that were less than 10% of the brand name. While that is something to think about, there have been no studies showing that this really makes much of a difference when it comes to the efficacy of birth control. Sometimes the generics are made in subpar manufacturing facilities (often in lower income companies), where they are unable to meet manufacturing standards made by the WHO. Nevertheless, there are instances of goof-ups in brand name drug manufacturing as well.

Bottom line, there have been no studies that have shown that there is a direct link between use of generic birth control and worse side effects or reactions to different fillers. So, if it is cheaper and you are feeling great - use that extra money to get yourself something pretty. If are on a generic brand and you are feeling like ass, try going to the brand name version and see if that helps. If that still doesn't make a difference, there are so many different birth control options these days that you should chat with your lady parts doc and try something else.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hail the the V?!?

Apparently Summer's Eve is thinking that we need to freshen up our lady parts by "Hailing to the V." They put out a series of ad campaigns using hand puppets (each portraying a different ethnicity) that use phrases like "a little love for your vertical smile." 

 They took off the actual videos on You tube. But you can watch Steve Colbert's great response to it to give you a sense of these ads : 

Needless to say, women all over the place are super unhappy about the ridiculous ads. First, as I discussed before, lady parts are supposed to smell just like they do. Not like perfume (unless you are half flower/half human, in which case, you got bigger problems than feminine hygiene).

Lissa Rankin from is particularly peeved - first pointing out the fact that they are using a freaking hand puppet. "Yes, a talking hand, like the kind you hold up against a wall for kids to make animal shadows that moo or oink. "

The racial stereotypes are pretty ridiculous too. Of course the people from Summer's Eve responded:"This campaign is about empowerment, changing the way women may think of the brand, and removing longstanding stigmas: Summer's Eve is not a means to confidence, rather it's a celebration of confidence, of being a woman, and taking care of their bodies." Um, right. Because my newly empowered vagina goes "Ay yi yi!"

Anywho, I'm all for being pro-vagina and all, but really, these products are unnecessary, they also increase the risk of allergic reactions, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and other dermatologic conditions. So even if you aren't creeped out by the ads, don't go out and buy this stuff. Love your lady parts the way they are.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The things we don't talk about

I just finished reading this article and it brought to light a conversation I have been having recently with my girl friends. It seems like there are certain things that us women just do not talk about. We are ridiculously verbose when it comes to some topics, like our menstrual symptoms, our cravings, the latest birth control we've tried, and intimacies of our sex life, but then all of a sudden when we get to talking about actually making some babies we totally clamp up.

I find this very fascinating, and actually quite sad. As a sisterhood of women, we go through some hard times with our bodies, and it makes me sad that there are so many women struggling with the same issues, but they do not talk to each other about it.

Like, for example, did you know that approximately 25%-30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage? Or that when you are 30, your chance of getting knocked up each month is only 20%, and that it takes most people between 6 months to a year to get pregnant? Or that many are using fertility treatments and that twins don't actually run in their  family?

Ladies (and gents), we should be talking about these things between ourselves. Miscarriages happen, they are normal, and they are scary to go through alone. It does take most people more than one drunken night to get pregnant (especially as we get older).  It amazes me that when I ask people about their road to pregnancy they are so willing to open up, but only AFTER all is said and done. Never before.

So, let's start talking about it. Who knows, just discussing it can relief stress, which as we  know makes a huge difference in our reproductive health.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feeling HOT HOT HOT!

People, it is freaking hot out. Like over 100 degrees hot. OMG.

I am officially hibernating, or whatever you call it when you refuse to leave your air conditioned apartment. And I highly recommend you do the same. Heat kills, and not just your nice outfits because of your sweat stains. But really, people die from this heat. Basically your body can't compensate with the heat and you pretty much bake from the inside.

Some tips for not baking from the inside out in this heat:
 1. Do NOT leave the AC unless you have to. Seriously, stay inside where there is AC.
 2. Drink LOTS of water. I'm talking by the gallon here. And no, iced coffee and soda doesn't count, those drinks actually make things worse. Oh, and limit the margaritas for the same reason.
 3. Gatorade or other electrolyte replacement drink is totally necessary if you are sweating. You need to replace the salts and minerals that your body is losing from schvitzing.
  4. Wear little clothing and a big ass hat if you have to go outside. I'm not saying to prance around naked, but look at this as a chance to have an excuse to dress like a hoochie. And of course, use sunscreen.
  5. Have a buddy. The CDC recommends that you tell peeps where you are going so that they can check on you. Also check up on older or sick folk to make sure they are alright. The heat can make you confused or lose consciousness so always good to have people know where you are and for you to check on loved ones.
 6. Sit on your ass. Look at it as a mandatory exercise vacation. It is recommended that you don't exercise or over exert yourself. So take a break from the workout and veg on the couch.
 7. Eat gazpacho and salads. Ok, that is what I am eating, so join me in not eating anything heated (I am also refusing to cook). It's just too damn hot to be adding warmth to the inside of your body.

And of course, if you have any medical problem or are on medication, check in with your doctor to see what you should do. Watch out for older folk and little munchkin children - they are super sensitive to the heat. Read these guidelines from the CDC to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and heat cramps.

Stay cool my friends!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

10 Things You Can Do For Your Sexual Self

I came across this great post at Scarleteen, a sex ed website, and thought I would share. It is about 10 things you can do for your sexual self, and while it is geared towards those that are a wee bit younger than I am (yes, I am going for wee. I mean, I still feel like I am young teenager, so whatever, close enough), there are some good things for us ladies to remember at any age.

My favorites include:
 - Stop hating your body. Most of us fall victim to this at one point or another and it often gets tangled in our sex lives.
- Sex should be fun and pleasurable. I know, shocking right! Yes, it should be something that you enjoy, and if it isn't, try to figure out why.
- Become a sexpert. I am writing this blog for a reason!! We should all be educated about our bodies and what is going on down there.

The whole list is great, and is a wonderful reminder of how to take charge of your sex life by taking care of who you are as a sexy, healthy, educated person.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunscreens: The good, the bad, and the ugly

As some of you may have heard lately, there has been a lot of talk about sunscreen, the chemicals that are used in it, and whether using the chemicals are worse than the sun that the chemicals are protecting you against.

So what is one to do, get cancer from chemical or cancer from the sun? Well to quell your concerns a little, much of the recent rise in melanoma is not due to the chemicals found in sunscreen, but by allowing people to stay in the sun longer, sunscreens have greatly increased exposure to UVA radiation. Also, skin cancer screening and detection has greatly improved over recent decades leading to an increase in cancers found.

As for ingredients here is what to look out for: Derm docs want you to use a micronized titatium or zinc oxide based sunscreen. Watch out for oxybenzone, which may or may not disrupt natural hormones, and retinyl palmitate for women who are preggers since it is converted to a compound that is linked to birth defects. Read the labels carefully, try out some natural sunscreens, and don't be fooled by price - expensive does not equal better when it comes to sunscreen.

Apparently the FDA is also getting rid of labeling such as "waterproof" or "instant protection", since no such thing really exists after a certain amount of time in the water. You get wet, you gotta reapply.

And that whole "I need my vitamin D" thing? Yeah, you pretty much need to be exposed without sunscreen for 10 minutes twice a week to get enough vitamin D. All you even need is your hands to be exposed for that amount of time. And let's face it, you probably aren't doing a super duper extra careful sunscreen application anyway, so you are going to get your vitamin D if you are in the sun with sunscreen.

FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens - (JPG v2)

But mostly, just try to avoid the midday sun, and use hats, umbrellas, and clothing if you can't. Oh, and don't be fooled if it is cloudy!! Clouds do not count as sunscreen, and the rays get to you just the same. Schmear yourself good and often and enjoy the summer!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fun in the Sun

As promised, here is some more info about the sun and how to protect yourself before you wreck yourself (well, your skin that is).

First things first, as many of you already know, there are TWO different types of solar rays, UVA and UVB. Both cause skin cancer, but UVA (which is about 95% of the solar radiation that hits us) causes wrinkles, while UVB causes burning. 

Sunscreen protects our skin by either absorbing or reflecting these rays. Now SPF, or Sun Protective Factor, is the amount of UVB(!!) radiation that will cause sunburn with the sunscreen on. Yes, that's right, SPF only is measured with UVB rays, not at all with UVA. Keep that in the back of your head for later.

Now just so you don't think an SPF of 15 means that you can stay out in the sun for 15 hours without burning, the protection you get from sunscreen varies (despite the SPF) because of your skin type, how much you are applying, how much your skin has absorbed, and what you are doing with the sunscreen on (like swimming).  So you really have to schmear yourself good and often for sunscreen to have any effect.

How strong of an SPF should you use? Personally, I think 30. SPF 30 blocks out 97% of UVB (when used correctly), which sounds pretty good to me. You can go above 30 but that only increases by 1 or 2 percent. And remember how SPF is only measured with UVB rays, although both types cause cancer? Make sure you get a sunscreen that is BROAD SPECTRUM - meaning it protects you against both.

Later this week I will go into the controversies as to the types of chemicals are in sunscreen and what you should look out for...

Monday, July 11, 2011

You and the Sun

There has been quite a bit of chatter about sunscreen lately, mostly about how safe it is and if it is really providing the level of protection that you need. First of all, and I cannot emphasize this enough, protect yourself from the sun. Hats are awesome (you will rarely find me in the sun without one, I am kind of obsessed) - think of them as traveling sun umbrellas. As is the shade - it keeps you cool and keeps off the rays.

Now, why should you care about being exposed to the sun? It makes you nice and tan, and it feels good on your skin. Well, according to the CDC, about 65%–90% of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Yes, melanoma as in skin cancer. And what makes you more at risk for skin cancer you ask? Here is the list:

  • Lighter natural skin color.
  • Family history of skin cancer.
  • A personal history of skin cancer.
  • Exposure to the sun through work and play.
  • A history of sunburns early in life.
  • A history of indoor tanning.
  • Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.
  • Blue or green eyes.
  • Blond or red hair.
  • Certain types and a large number of moles.
If you have one or more of these risk factors, what I am going to share this week is all the more important. 

I learned about being careful in the sun early on, when as a tween I went out in the sun with friends and came back with a sunburn. I believe my mom grounded me for a week. Her wise words about sunburns are, "You forget about the burn, but your skin never forgets." And she was right - you do actually damage your DNA when you burn, and while I have heard from many "it will turn into a tan tomorrow" your skin's DNA is already screwed. 

So, what to make of all the latest studies about sunscreen? Stay tuned  for more about the sun and how to protect yourself as I sift through the findings and tell you what you really need to know....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

10 Exercise Myths

Spot reducing fat is a myth. Unless you tackle your body fat, your ab crunches may not help.

While many of you may have seen this posting on, I thought I would share since I found it quite enlightening.

For example, apparently the calorie thingy on the cardio machine is nonsense. I usually just do intervals and go by the distance, rather than the calories, but good to know that I was right to not pay attention to that number at all.

Also of note, a recent study showed that stretching actually doesn't prevent injuries. Who knew!

Hope this helps you reach your workout goals! Happy exercising!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A reminder about life

This past month while I have been traveling, I have been reminded of what this blog really is about: how we can live our lives to the fullest, not just the healthiest.

During my travels I have jumped over waves, hiked to waterfalls, floated in salty waters, learned history, ate to my belly's delight, and caught up with loved ones, often in a span of a day! Did I stick to my exercise routine? Nope (despite my best intentions - I did pack my gym gear!).  Keep up my healthy eating habits? Not so much.

But as I reflect back on my month (while checking when the next Zumba class is today), I appreciate that sometimes you need to throw caution to the wind and ENJOY life. I am not advocating for being reckless and stupid - you still only have one body and you should take care of it. Yet, while I blog about making sure that women are well informed about their health and their bodies, I don't think that we should only live according to the latest study findings. Rather, make sure that you have the information that you need to make informed choices, and then freaking go out there and grab life by the balls (oh and always use sunscreen while doing so).

More postings to follow....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yet another reason to take your prenatal vitamins

For those of you that are preggers or are thinking of becoming preggers, here is yet another reason to be taking your prenatal vitamins - a study that came out in Epidemiology showed that not taking folate rich vitamins has a seven fold increase in autism risk. This is especially true for women that have a certain genetic variant that affects folate metabolism. Mind you they had a relatively small sample size, and I'm usually pretty suspicious of such small studies, but in this case, I don't really see the down side in taking the vitties so better to just be safe.

Bottom line, take your prenatal vitties. They are good for you and your future munchkin.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Myth vs. Fact: Antibiotics and Birth Control

For those that are using hormonal birth control (HBC), most of you know the drill: you get ickers sickers, the doctor gives you antibiotics, and you are made well aware that your birth control may not be as effective. So out come the condoms. Birth control and antibiotics just don't mix. Or at least that was the message that was sent for many a years.

Well, a new study just came out in the journal Contraception that looked at a contraception failure in two combined databases with over 43,600 women. This was quite the complex study design, and I won't bore you with the details, but it was pretty darn complicated since they only had women that had been pregnant without any non-pregnant controls. Anywhoo, turns out while in the combined data set there was not a significant association between birth control failure and antibiotics. One of the data sets on its own did show an elevated risk (women were 1.5 times more likely to get pregnant while taking antibiotics) of contraception failure, it was still not signficant. But that being said, this was a pretty gosh darn complicated type of study, and quite frankly, I wasn't totally convinced. One thing that this study relied on was pregnant women that carried their pregnancy to term. Yup, so if you got knocked up because you were taking antibiotics and decided not to continue the pregnancy you wouldn't be included in this study. Pretty big gap.

Bottom line, if you REALLY don't want to get preggers and you are given antibiotics, just use condoms to be safe. Chances are that if you are taking your pill exactly like you should be, you will probably be fine. But if you definitely don't want to get knocked up by mistake, just use the condoms for the remainder of the month, and go to sleep with a quiet mind.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Double standards

I recently came across this article on Slate: I was the Harvard Harlot that I thought I would share with you and also share some thoughts on the matter. I remember hearing about this chicky at Harvard that was blogging all about her sex life and being intrigued. Mostly waivering between a "you go girl" and a "good lord that is a terrible idea", but definitely intrigued. Now reading what this girl went through in sharing her sexplorations with the world, I got pissed off.

Let me explain. First, as a public health person, I am totally NOT advocating for having sex nilly willy with whomever you come across - and this goes for both men and women. Sex is fantastic, but STDs are not. And condoms aren't fool proof. But that being said, the feminist sociologist in me is freaking unhappy that there is still such a double standard for men and women when it comes to sex. This girl was harassed into hiding for sharing her sexcapades, and that ain't right. And I just can't imagine this happening if it was a guy. Tucker Max wrote "Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" about his absurd sexual dramas and it becomes a best seller and a movie, everyone merrily laughing at his stories of going through women like they were tissues during allergy season. Yes, tradition has often held that "[w]omen were stigmatized for engaging in any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage, whereas for men such behavior was expected and rewarded. Boys had to "sow their wild oats," but girls were warned that a future husband "won't buy the cow if he can get the milk for free." (source)

Now, I'm probably not telling you anything you don't know, that you aren't bombarded with every day, but heck, it's my blog and I get to vent when I want to.

Being the researcher that I am, I did a little lit search on the topic and found this great review paper sexual double standards research. Several decades of research and it pretty much boils down to this: "Girls learn to look sexy but say no, to be feminine but not sexual, and to attract boys' desire but not to satisfy their own." Le sigh. We are pretty much screwed no matter what we or who we do.

I will probably vent on this more in later posts, but would love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Short periods and fertility?

I recently saw a post up on Vagina Pagina  (yes, that is the name!) of a woman asking whether her short periods were a sign of infertility. Intrigued, I decided to do a little digging on the matter to see what I could come up with, since I have never heard of this association before. 

Turns out, that even if your period is two days or three days, this has no bearing on your fertility! I could not find any studies that linked the two. The length of your period can shift and change, especially with age, and it doesn't have any direct link to your ability to conceive. 

On the other hand, if your CYCLE is very short, meaning the number of days you have between periods, that is something that you may want to see your doctor about if you are interested in making some babies. Studies show that cycles which are too short can cause your body to not produce hormones in the correct amounts to help sustain a successful pregnancy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Woo Hoo! Smoke free NYC!

For those New Yorkers out there, the smoking ban in public parks and beaches started today!
Wonderful news for those of us that like to enjoy the great outdoors that New York City has to offer without inhaling second hand smoke at the same time.

When the smoking ban in restaurants and bars started in 2003, I remember the controversial nature of the ban and how many businesses were afraid that they would no longer have smoking customers. Clearly that didn't happen, and the anti-smoking indoors trend spread throughout the world. It is just lovely to be able to enjoy a yummy meal and a glass of wine and not come back smelling like an ashtray.

The Parks Department in New York City has done SUCH an amazing job of revamping public spaces that it will be even better to enjoy them in all their glory.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

When to ignore the news

I was scanning the latest headlines on to see if there was anything new and interesting in women's health  when this immediately caught my attention : "Are coffee drinkers less prone to aggressive breast cancer?" My first thought was, "Um, awesome news for me and my daily cup of joe!"

Ah, not so fast. As I read on here, I realized that this study was way too preliminary in its findings to really have much of an impact on my health behaviors. This seems to happen often - you come across a headline, you get all excited for this new piece of news that is going to change how you do things in order to prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, lose weight, etc. etc. But like most things in life, you gotta read the small print. Yes, I am that person that will actually find the academic paper and read the study to see how it was conducted and whether it deserves any merit. And most studies, unless they are duplicated and are done with a really large and diverse study sample need to be taken at face value - as an interesting piece of information, but not one that will dictate health guidelines.

The author of this particular coffee and breast cancer study said it himself :"There are one or two other studies that have pointed in the same direction as ours -- but not many, just a few," he cautioned. "So before I would go to tell my neighbors to start drinking more coffee than they already do, I would like to know what is the biological mechanism at work here. And that's not yet clear."

My piece of advice - before changing your life to the latest tidbit on the news, do a little more digging and see what the study was all about. Newspapers are meant to sell news, so they often hype and overplay a study finding, so you need to take much of what is written with a grain of salt. If you aren't sure, you can always ask me!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Skinny Fat

According to the urban dictionary (clearly the most reliable source of definitions on the web), skinny fat is "When someone is thin and looks great in clothes, but is all flabby underneath."

Ladies, in our diet crazed society, we often forget what it actually means to be HEALTHY - not just skinny. I too have suffered from this affliction - have always been on the thin side, but not necessarily healthy, lean, strong, and fit. I became aware of this a couple years ago when I realized that despite fitting into the same clothes, I could barely get up a flight of stairs without being out of breath. My healthy eating and yoga just wasn't cutting it any more, and as the years pass, I was becoming skinny fat!

So what did I do in my battle against skinny fat? Well, first, I got my tush on a elliptical and started doing cardio. That helped in getting my heart in better shape, and now I can actually skip the escalators on the subway and take the stairs.But it didn't seem to be enough to just do cardio - in fact, that is often what happens to many ladies who are regular gym goers - they only do cardio, maybe a couple crunches, and then call it a day. They have burned X amount of calories, but are they fit? Not really.

It is because it isn't just about your weight. It is about your body fat percentage. And in order to get rid of the body fat, you are going to need start including weights and strength training into your regimen. So now, in addition to yoga and the elliptical (or Zumba. I love doing Zumba for cardio), I do weight conditioning classes once or twice a week. And as many of my gym instructors say on a regular basis - exercise is not supposed to be comfortable. If you are comfortable you aren't pushing yourself hard enough.

This is a good example from a write up about skinny fat in the  Wall Street Journal : "Monika Sumpter, a 34-year-old training manager at Equinox Fitness in New York City, says she once weighed 170 pounds and had a body fat percentage of "a little over 30%," a high reading. She says she lost 45 pounds with diet and some aerobic exercises, but reduced her body fat percentage only to about 25%. So, over the past 18 months, Ms. Sumpter says she added strength training and other exercise to her cardio workout. Although she has put 20 pounds back on, her body fat percentage is down to 14%, she says."

Next time you get on the scale, ask yourself if you are not just meeting your weight goals, but if you are actually HEALTHY, and not just skinny fat.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Night munchies

I eat dinner late. Sometimes really late (like last night, around 10:30pm). It's usually something pretty light, always veggie, nevertheless, it's always well past 8pm when we start eating in my house. 

late night eatingBut something I read today is making me think about our eating habits. I am a big fan of the "Really?" column in the New York Times Health section. This week they wrote on :"Does Late Night Eating Cause Weight Gain?" 

Apparently a recent study showed "that eating after 8 p.m. was associated with a higher body mass index, suggesting that late-evening calories are, for some reason, more hazardous to your weight."

Uh-oh. Mind you, one of the reasons we eat so late is that we are both at the gym after work, so I'm going to try to find some sort of evidence that eating late after burning hundreds of calories somehow negates the ill effects of late night eating! Also, The issue of late night eating as been controversial for many years and different studies have lead to differing results, so I'm going to wage that perhaps the jury is still out on this one. So are we going to eat dinner tonight before 8pm? Probably not, but as always, I'll make sure it is healthy, nutritious, and delicious.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The laws of attraction: It's all in the nose

'I'm sure many of you know that smell is a super important part of what makes you attracted to someone. Some interesting new studies came out that show that when women use hormonal contraceptives, it actually screws with their chemical signals, affecting not only who they are attracted to, but who is attracted to them!

"The type of man a woman is drawn to is known to change during her monthly cycle—when a woman is fertile, for instance, she might look for a man with more masculine features. Taking the pill or another type of hormonal contraceptive upends this natural dynamic, making less-masculine men seem more attractive, according to a small but growing body of evidence. The findings have led researchers to wonder about the implications for partner choice, relationship quality and even the health of the children produced by these partnerships."

This is all fascinating stuff - read more about it here in the Wall Street Journal.
Makes you wonder how in these days where most of us are on birth control during the years that we finding and deciding on our mate, whether our choice would be the same if our noses were not affected by hormones.

Love Skews Your Sense Of SmellSome food for thought on this rainy Monday.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Easy thing to do for your health #5: Get a physical

You feel good, so why oh why would you go to the doctor. Who likes doctor's offices, right?!  At some point after we left our pediatrician's office, many among us stopped getting physicals.

But even if you are feeling easy breezy beautiful, you could use a check up every once and a while. You may need a booster on some of your vaccinations (like Pertussis, which is terrible, and I'll write about at another point). You may have high cholesterol or blood pressure and not even know it. Maybe you have a  nagging problem that isn't really a big deal, but you want to ask someone about it.

Remember to make a list of questions that you have been meaning to ask or any random symptoms that you have been experiencing. And most importantly, be honest when answering questions - the only person that you are harming by lying is you!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Easy thing to do for your health #4: Eat veggies

In the days of crazy fad diets and non stop research findings of what to eat and what not to eat, it is hard to figure out what the hell to put on your plate. Personally, I don't believe in diets. I think they are unsustainable, and I love food and think eating should be fun. That doesn't mean I don't watch what I eat, but I try to live by Michael Pollan's mantra: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." (By the way, love this book. Highly recommend). 

 Good philosophy, and quite easy to follow. Eat good stuff - mostly veggies, some lean protein, yummy fresh fruit and nuts for snacks and dessert, all in moderation- and yeah, that's pretty much it. Easy peasy healthy diet, just like that. 

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