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 womenshealth.gov 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. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Easy thing to do for your health #3: Put the cigarette down

Ladies, smoking is so 1997. Really, it is gross and it makes you smell bad. If you are one of the few people that didn't get the memo, smoking is horrendous for your health, and well, super icky. Who wants to be around someone who is coughing up phlegm balls? Save your money on buying fancy healthy stuff at Whole Foods and get yourself some Nicorette first. And the best part is that if you quit smoking you can actually reduce your risk for the bagillion diseases to nearly that of nonsmokers within a couple years. Go ahead, throw those ciggies out - and when you can breathe freely, have pretty glowing skin, smell like roses, and have the energy of a bunny, you can thank me!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Easy thing to do for your health #2: Get off your ass

Yup, while sometimes we wish we didn't have to, getting off your ass is really great for your health. Even if you don't need to lose weight, exercise is good for you. Good for your heart, your mood, your bones, your everything! This should not be surprising to anyone that has not been living under a rock, but I've said it anyway. So go outside, enjoy the weather (or take a zyrtec and then enjoy the weather), and move your ass.  Go get yourself some cute workout outfits for motivation.  I promise the couch will be just as wonderful when you return.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Easy thing to do for your health #1: Wear sunscreen

The sun is starting to shine here in NYC, and immediately as weather warms, ladies clothes start to become just a tad smaller. This means time to whip out the SPF that has been hibernating in your medicine cabinet and actually USE it. Now, many of you are going to say "but my moisturizer has SPF in it!" And yes, this is important too, but in skimpy outfit weather, protecting your face is not enough. If you are going to be in the sun for say, more than 10 minutes (ample time to get your Vitamin D kick), go on and give yourself a little smear.

Sun damage isn't just about burning, it's about long term damage to your skin cells. Tanning is actually damaging the top layer of your skin.  And even if you are dark, you need to lather up.

I mean really, who wants uneven skin, wrinkles, and age spots! Not me!
Avoid looking like this:

and give yourself a nice rubdown with a SPF of 15 or higher next time you head out!

Happy Women's Health Week!

Yes ladies, this week, May 8-14, is National Women's Health Week! Mazel tov to us!

In honor of this year's theme, "It Your Time", I'm going to blog this week about a simple thing you can do for yourself every day to make yourself a little healthier. Stay tuned!

National Women's Health Week - May 8-14, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lady parts need lady hearts

When I said I was going to cover lady parts, I meant all lady parts, including lady hearts. While many people know about breast cancer health, most women underestimate their risk for heart disease, which mind you, in the leading cause of death among woman.

While men's and women's hearts share the same biological structure, heart disease and heart attacks manifest themselves differently in each gender. Most women don't get a sharp pain in their chest when their hearts are having a malfunction. Instead, they usually get neck and jaw pain, indigestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

Because of this, women usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to heart health. Physicians are less likely to be referred to cardiologists, and women who dial 911 for cardiac symptoms are more likely to experience delay in care.

As it is mother's day on Sunday, remind your mom and all your lady friends to take care of their heart, as they have taken care of yours.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A flower by any other name

While I love flowers, I want to point out one thing - lady parts and flowers should not smell the same. That's right ladies, your nethers should smell like what they are, nethers. They should not smell like flowers. In fact, if you are trying to get your lady parts to smell like something else, you are screwing up the delicate pH balance down there. If you have been reading the blog, you know that throwing off the balance leads in itchy vagicky - not good at all! Lady parts don't need to be douched, watered down, spritzed, or sprayed. Just a little gentle soap and water in the shower and they are good to go.

I leave you with this great blog post by Lissa Rankin, M.D. : Owning Pink: Want a raise? Wash your vagina

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Preggers with a short cervix - no problem!

A new study came out showing that a little vaginal schmear of progesterone for the second half of pregnancy can be helpful in preventing preterm births for those ladies whose cervix likes to hang low. 

"Using the progesterone gel, which is relatively easy for women to administer to themselves, led to a 45 percent reduction in the rate of preterm birth before 33 weeks of gestation, and it led to improved outcomes for babies. "

Read more about it here: NY Times article

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sticky Fat

A new study came out showing that fat after liposuction came back, albeit in a different place.

"[F]at came back after it was suctioned out. It took a year, but it all returned" the authors of the study state in the New York Times.

What is really cool about this study was that it was a randomized control trial, so that women with ample tuches and thighs were enrolled, and half underwent lipo while the other half didn't. After a year, there was no difference in the percent of body fat between the two groups. The fat simply relocated, usually in the abdomen. This is the first study of its kind, and I must say, it was very well designed.

The study proves once again that you can't fool mother nature and there is no way to have your cake and eat it too. There are no shortcuts in the war against fat - diet and exercise win every time.

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