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Women's Health

May 06, 2021

How Many Balls Are You Juggling?

Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., author of Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap!, tells a wonderful story, over on his website, Crazy Busy Life, that every parent can appreciate:

"I once interviewed a professional juggler. He told me the greatest number of balls he could juggle was six. The greatest anyone had ever juggled, as far as he knew, was eleven... I asked him if he was working to get to seven balls. He told me he was not because in order to get to seven he would have to give up several hours a day for at least six months, and he didn't have time to spare to do that. 'I'm very good,' he told me. 'I put on a great show with six. No one has ever come up to me and told me they wish I had done seven. I can work many variations with six and make people's jaws drop. Six is enough. I don't need more.'

Hallowell then asks us to consider: "Are you juggling more balls than you NEED to juggle? What do you give up if you are?"

That's a tough one. I love my family. I love my job. I love volunteering at my church and my son's school. What tends to get lost in the shuffle are things like exercise, getting my hair trimmed, shaving my legs — you know, basic physical maintenance. Not good!

So this week I plan to visit the dentist, shave those hairy legs, and get on the treadmill (an actual treadmill, not the treadmill that is sometimes my life!) for some cardio work. (Maybe I'll work out during American Idol tonight. And if Jason Castro wins this thing in a few weeks, it will only be because every 11-year-old girl in America voted for him because of his eyes! My pick? David Cook.)

April 29, 2021

"My Mommy's Having a Boob Job!"

Just not sure how to explain to your child that "Mommy's going to get breast implants"? There's one Florida plastic surgeon who'd like to help.

Michael Salzhauer, M.D., has written a new book for kids ages four to seven: My Beautiful Mommy. He describes the book as "a must-have for any mother with young children considering plastic surgery."

The cover alone makes quite a statement. There's nothing like seeing a little girl, teddy bear in hand, expressing delight over her newly transformed mommy, who now resembles a sexed-up Disney princess, complete with belly top and surrounded by magical sparkles.

Now that's something every little girl should aspire to.

As Newsweek reports: [The book] features a plastic surgeon named Dr. Michael (a musclebound superhero type) and a girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck, a nose job and breast implants. Before her surgery the mom explains that she is getting a smaller tummy: "You see, as I got older, my body stretched and I couldn't fit into my clothes anymore. Dr. Michael is going to help fix that and make me feel better." Mom comes home looking like a slightly bruised Barbie doll with demure bandages on her nose and around her waist... The book doesn't explain exactly why the mother is redoing her nose post-pregnancy. Nonetheless, Mom reassures her little girl that the new nose won't just look "different, my dear — prettier!"

What about the body issues raised here? Will our Ms. Perky Boobs' 6-year-old daughter start worrying that her nose — or stomach, or whatever — isn't good enough? Will she worry that her breasts — still years away from even making the scene — won't measure up?

Here's my alternative book suggestion: I'm Gonna Like Me — Letting Off a Little Self Esteem (HarperCollins; 2002), by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell. It's written for ages four to eight. "Self-esteem is at the core of what is wrong with us and what is right with us," says Curtis. "It’s an absolutely universal issue. I’m Gonna Like Me allows children to explore their own feelings of self-worth."

And you gotta love a first line like "I'm gonna like me when I jump out of bed, from my giant big toe to the braids on my head."

After all, isn't that the message we really want to share with our kids?

P.S. I have to say, Dr. Michael has a killer P.R. person working for him. This book seems to be on the desk of every parenting editor I've spoken with this week. And they all seem to think it's pretty pathetic. Even perezhilton.com got in on the book-review act. Check it out here.

P.S. Oh, by the way... If you click on the link to Dr. Michael's website, you'll get a pop-up "live chat" box, where a "patient coordinator" will ask what surgical procedure you're interested in. I used that as an opportunity to briefly share my thoughts on the book...




April 24, 2021

Knock Yourself Up (No Man? No Problem!)

As a book reviewer, I've had fun carrying this hot (shocking pink!) little number around town with me this week, reading a few pages during my son's piano lesson, taking it along for a solo lunch at a favorite little Mexican restaurant — and never knowing who might see the cover and wonder...

Of course, like the just-too-funny promos for the new movie "Baby Mama" (about a woman who enlists the help of a surrogate), which opens today, the title Knock Yourself Up (Avery), by Louise Sloan, is meant to be an attention grabber.

But once I cracked the cover, I found solid information and lots of real stories about single women over 30 who are trying to make the right decision on this life-altering issue by doing a lot of research, doing a lot of soul searching and enlisting the support of family and friends. Sloan shares her (touching and often really funny) experiences and those of many others who've decided not to let being single stand in the way of becoming a mom. 

Got questions? The book answers these and a lot more: When do I decide it's time to go it alone? How do I choose the right sperm? Is this fair to the kid? Can I afford to do it? How do I tell my parents? How do I tell my dates? Have I gone totally crazy? Will I ever have sex — or a life — again?

For those who want to discuss these juicy questions with their book club, there's a guide with discussion questions. For even more info, stop by knockyourselfup.com.

While I had a man involved when I got pregnant, I can't say Randy and I exactly did it the old-fashioned way. Having gone through in vitro fertilization, I could relate quite a bit to the tales of hormone injections, blood tests and waaay too many doctor appointments involving transvaginal ultrasound and stirrups. Trust me, nobody goes through all this stuff on a lark.

As "Baby Mama," Knock Yourself Up and my own IFV experience will attest, there are lots of ways to bring a baby into the world these days. But one thing remains, and you can surely can see it in this melt-your-heart picture of Sloan and her son, Scott: Women are making these decisions based primarily on something that mothers have had in common through the ages: love.

April 20, 2021

Ugh - Sick Days!

Gotta love days like this: There's no food in the house, the laundry is in piles, I have writing deadlines out the wazoo — and my hubby and I are both sick.

Happily, Matt, our son, seems to have avoided catching either my sinus infection/bronchitis or his dad's upset stomach. So far. We're doing a lot of hand washing!

Schlepping through the past five days makes me realize how much I normally accomplish around here. And it makes me really appreciate my usual good health. But it's still hard not to get down in the dumps when all you want to do is go back to bed for the day...

As a busy parent, how do you handle those days and weeks when you're under the weather, but the demands of home and family continue? I need all the tips I can get this week!

Well, I'm off to go toss a coin with Randy to see who gets to head to the grocery store...

December 19, 2021

Now Here's a Healthy Grocery List

I don’t know about you, but I get a little weary of hearing about all the things my family and I shouldn’t do, health-wise.

That’s why I’m all over a new book, Longevity Made Simple (Williams Clark Publishing; $13.95) by Richard J. Flanigan, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of cardiology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Kate Flanigan Sawyer, M.D., MPH, a medical officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Together, this father-daughter team presents simple strategies that focus on preventing the top 10 diseases that kill more than 75 percent of Americans. The good news: Exercising just 30 minutes a day can help prevent all 10 of them. Try finding a pill that does all that.

Eating healthfully doesn’t have to be all that complicated, either. The authors recommend these “superfoods” for your family:

Almonds and walnuts
Apples
Avocados
Bell peppers
Blueberries
Citrus fruits
Cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and bok choy
Fat-free or 1-percent milk
Garlic and onions
Legumes
Melons
Olive oil
Red wine (no more than one 5-ounce glass per day for women)
Salmon
Spinach
Squash
Sweet potatoes
Tea (green or black)
Tomatoes
Vegetable juice (try reduced-sodium juice or make your own with whole veggies in a blender)
Whole grains

OK, this I can do. Today I’ll grab my son and we'll walk the dog for 15 minutes, I'll do 15 minutes of an aerobics DVD and I'll make a 15-minute family dinner of broiled salmon, spinach salad and microwaved sweet potatoes.

Check out the book for more simple ways to improve your family's health. It's easy, I promise. Even during this crazy-making time of year!

December 11, 2021

Holiday Pig-Out Alert!

As a health and parenting writer, I cover women's health issues frequently. Here's one in an occasional series of posts on health tips for busy moms. — Kathy

It’s the holidays — and we’re all being tempted with fat-loaded dinners and butter cookies. Of course, we want to celebrate a bit. But health experts remind us to keep our eye on the long haul. How much do we really want to pay — in weight gain, potential health problems and just plain sluggishness — for our holiday cheer?

It’s about balance, our experts say, noting that we don’t need to make a Herculean effort. Even moderate changes in what we put in our mouths, and how much we shake a leg, can really add up this holiday season. But there are some simple psychological reasons why so many of us dig in our heels when it comes to building healthy habits. And during the holidays, it’s even tougher to get motivated. Here are some of the most common pitfalls, along with some suggestions for hoisting ourselves over the healthy-holiday hurdles:

°    IGNORING YOUR QUIRKS. So you can’t stand the thought of exercising after a busy day? Well then. Might as well give up, grab some eggnog and rent a few videos, right?

Try this: Work around your likes and dislikes, suggests Lynn Fischer, an author of more than 20 healthy cookbooks who hates to exercise at night. “I work out at 6 a.m.,” she says. “By 7:30, I’m home and I’ve already accomplished the toughest part of my day.” And because she has a sweet tooth, Fischer doesn’t deny herself the occasional holiday goodie, because it helps her say no to other temptations. “But I don’t make it a habit,” she says.

°    FEELING DEPRESSED. Depression occurs, for many people, during the holiday season. “When you’re depressed, exercise is the best medicine, and it has no side effects,” says Scotts Valley, California fitness-motivation consultant Ron Useldinger. But if you’re not feeling good about yourself, it’s tough to get motivated to exercise or eat healthfully. Is depression tied to decreased fitness? “Absolutely,” he says. “If your body isn’t rested, properly fed and exercised, you will feel the effects emotionally.”

Try this: Bundle up and go for a winter walk. The first few times you may have to just trust the experts who say exercise really is good medicine. But have faith. You should start to feel better fairly quickly, says Useldinger. Try to look at those walks as a gift to your well-being. Of course, if your feelings of depression continue, you’ll want to talk with your doctor.

°    BECOMING A REBEL. This is a tough one, because it’s hard to recognize it in ourselves. After all, you love yourself, and exercise is good for you, right? But have you ever heard this little voice in your head? "I have wrap packages. I have to send out all these cards. I have to decorate the house. And now they’re telling me I HAVE TO eat right and exercise, or else something horrible will happen to me? Oh yeah? I think I'll go flop on the couch, watch ‘Survivor’ reruns and have a big slab of fudge. So there.” “It's as if these healthy things become just more pieces of work that we have to do, says Robert Ochs, M.S., LCSW, a Los Angeles exercise physiologist and psychotherapist who specializes in working with clients’ exercise-related issues.

Try this: Make your choices the reward, not the torture. “People have to find things in their life that are soothing,” says Ochs. “None of us can do well if we're just going from chore to chore.” Especially in the early stages of a health-behavior change, try tying the change to a reward, he suggests. Allow yourself a massage after a certain number of workouts. Or exercise while chatting with a friend, reading or listening to music. “Now the new behavior becomes associated with something more pleasurable, and you probably won't dread it,” says Ochs. “Maybe you’ll even look forward to it.”

°    TAKING AN ALL-OR-NOTHING APPROACH. It’s easy to get psyched and start off with great intentions, only to over-do it and quit on day three. “We know that the three biggest days for exercising are January 2, 3 and 4, and then it drops off quickly,” says Useldinger.

Try this: Get the jump on the new year now by making small changes. Then you will be in the groove come January and not so inclined to over-do it — and then drop out. “Your new behavior cannot be so punishing that you give up, so start with baby steps,” suggests Ochs. “One little change at a time.”

After you make fitness a habit, “the exercise itself becomes the thing you look forward to when you have all those other chores to do,” says Ochs. Pretty soon, stepping away from your holiday to-do list and stepping outside for that blood-pumping daily stroll might just become your favorite part of the holidays.



November 07, 2021

Superbugs: How to Protect Your Family From MRSA

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I'm a journalist who often writes about kids' health issues. But I rarely post an entire article as a blog post. I think this new one, however, is important enough to share in its entirety. MRSA is in the news constantly right now, and while experts say parents don't need to freak out, there are important things you can do — and that you can teach your children to do — to help avoid these superbugs.

Copyright 2007 Kathy Sena

Superbugs: How to Protect Your Family From MRSA

By Kathy Sena

If you’re like most parents, recent news reports about temporary school closings, and even deaths, from so-called “superbugs” have probably left you feeling a bit unnerved — and concerned about how to keep your child safe, whether at daycare, school or the football locker room. Here’s the info you need to protect your family.

WHAT ARE THESE “SUPERBUGS”?

Several decades ago, a new strain of staph bacteria showed up in hospitals. It was resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to zap it, according to the Mayo Clinic. Named methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), it was one of the first germs to defeat all but the most powerful drugs.

About 30 percent of the population carries regular staph bacteria on their skin or in their nose, according to Gregory Moran, M.D., a professor of medicine at UCLA School of Medicine in Los Angeles and a physician with the emergency-medicine and the infectious-diseases departments at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. About 1 percent of the population carries the MRSA bacteria, he says.

Continue reading "Superbugs: How to Protect Your Family From MRSA" »

September 19, 2021

Gotta Have My Mom Friends!

I wish I could run out for coffee with my friend Irene Levine this week, in honor of National Women's Friendship Day. But we live a couple thousand miles apart. So instead I'll share her wonderful blog on women's friendships with you.

I know I always feel more energized and just plain happier when I've had a chance to hang out with a girlfriend for an hour or two. My buddy Robi and I live an hour or so apart, but we meet in the middle every few months, where we just happen to both have some doctors, and we plan trips to the Cheesecake Factory around pap-smear and mammogram appointments. (That way, when I'm there with my feet in the stirrups or I'm waiting to get my boobs squished, I can at least look forward to seeing Robi —and stuffing my face — afterward!)

Tomorrow, I'm meeting my buddy Ellen for hot cocoa and a visit after I drop Matthew off at school. And I know I'll be chatting with my friend Mickie soon about all the ups and downs of our kids' first year at middle school. I met Judith and Therese (in the photo) back when our kids were in diapers. In fact, Judith was the first mom I met when Matt and I first ventured out of the house for a mommy-baby exercise class. (I had a diaper-blow-out emergency in class, she came to my rescue with tons of wipes and a great sense of humor — and the rest is history.)

Family, too, can also fill the friendship bill. I hit the jackpot when I married Randy and got Joy as a sister-in-law. She's one of my best friends and if I wasn't related to her I would just have to find another way to have her in my life!

Here are some of Irene's wonderful tips for celebrating our female friendships:

  • Send e-cards to five female friends you haven’t spoken to in a month.
  • Using email or snail mail, send a photo and short note to a faraway friend.
  • Make plans to cruise TJ Maxx with a friend.
  • Go see a movie or make reservations for dinner with a friend.
  • Send flowers to your mother, sister or other relative who has also been a good friend to you.
  • Make plans with a good friend to volunteer at a women's shelter, soup kitchen or child advocacy program.
  • Make a new friend! It's easy - just smile, say hello and follow-up with coffee.
  • Contribute to research on female friendships by filling out the Fractured Friendship Survey.(Note: Irene, a talented journalist, is writing a book on this subject, and this survey will provide valuable research for the book. Plus I found just the act of taking the survey to be quite thought-provoking.)

To Irene, Robi, Ellen, Joy, Mickie, Judith and Theresa... You bring joy to my life in so many ways. Thanks for being my friends!

     

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