Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Balance for Health

The following post is part of the Women's Health Blogfest. Visit the links following the post to read different topics from a variety of Registered Dietitians participating in the Blogfest.

Women are the caretakers, and that’s a good thing for society. However, from time immemorial they have been caretakers while most often receiving the protection and provision of their man or clan. From birthing children to being active in the marketplace and on the farm, women have traditionally been respected and cherished. Fast forward to the 21st century where countless women are no longer protected by man or clan, and often find themselves in the role of caretaker and provider. Hardly respected or cherished, women are rather “glorified” in image only, while in actuality denigrated by a proliferation of pornography. Rather than being protected, they are more commonly assaulted by their own society. From perpetual body image-obsessed advertising to the incessant focus on weight-loss fueled by Oprah’s never-ending quest to get “back on the wagon” and find the right motivation and eating plan with which to lose her next round of weight, a woman cannot wake up to a day without hearing some weight-related message or being reminded to evaluate her body. Coupled with the oft-overwhelming demands on her life, is it any wonder that “emotional eating”, depression, and eating disorders are epidemic among women?

And all of this seems to be taking a toll on the thyroid, further sapping the much-needed energy to the dregs. I am beginning to wonder if the exponential rise in abnormal thyroid diagnoses parallels the overwhelmingly stressful and incredibly imbalanced changing role of women. I’m not sure anyone has looked at it, but it would make sense that the incredibly imbalanced lifestyles women are trying to navigate might have an effect on the thyroid, an organ whose very role is central to regulating the body’s metabolism--sort of like an organ whose central role is one of balance screaming out that things are just too out-of-whack to continue.

Then there is the exercise. The women I do see exercising are often battering their bodies into “shape” in health clubs with the specific purpose of meeting a weight goal. Only very infrequently do I see women out in the beautiful fresh air and sunshine walking the neighborhood or working in the yards of the lawncare service maintained New York suburb in which I live. I doubt if the benefits associated with exercising for weight-loss outweigh the bondage to body image.

So if you are a woman and are fortunate enough to be in a family, be thankful that you can have a central role as family nurturer, shopper and cook. As for any husbands who may be reading this, if you still value the woman’s role as bearer of children and “keeper of the gate” for your children’s dietary habits and well-being, then allow her to focus on these tasks without the ridiculous distraction of trying to be supermom or supermodel. Encourage her for who she is, not who Madison Avenue and Hollywood say she should be.

And for goodness sakes, moms of daughters, make sure your own relationship with food and your body is healthy because, whether you realize it or not, you are a role model for your daughter in a body image obsessed culture. Give her a safe haven, a reason to believe she is not crazy to appreciate her body and to have a healthy relationship with food. It is a tragedy watching girls grow up today in an environment where concerns about weight and body image eclipse their emotional and physical health. Where and when will these girls learn how to feed their families, if not from the short precious time they have with their mothers now? Moms, this is way more than the short-sighted focus of how-to-be-the-best-mom-by-being-good-looking-and-popular. This is about passing on the legacy of nurturing our families and the tradition of feeding them well.

So try to create some balance in your life, even if it means changing only one thing to start. The people around you will be glad you did and our culture will be the better for it.

This post is part of the Women's Health Blogfest. If any of the links provided below don’t work, you can go to Women's Health Blogfest where you can access all the links.

Blogfest Links:

Angela White at Blisstree’s Breastfeeding 1-2-3 – Helpful Skills of Breastfeeding Counselors
Angie Tillman, RD, LDN, CDE – You Are Beautiful Today
Anthony J. Sepe – Women's Health and Migraines
Ashley Colpaart – Women's health through women
Charisse McElwaine – Spending too much time on the "throne?
Danielle Omar – Yoga, Mindful Eating and Food Confidence
Joan Sather A Woman's Healthy Choices Affect More Than Herself
Laura Wittke – Fibro Study Recruits Participants
Liz Marr, MS, RD – Reflecting on Family Food Ways and Women's Work
Marjorie Geiser, MBA, RD, NSCA-CPT – Healthy Women, Healthy Business: How Your Health Impacts a Powerful Business
Marsha Hudnall – Breakfast Protein Helps Light Eaters Feel Full
Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD – A Nutritionista’s Super Foods for Super Skin
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog – How breastfeeding helps you, too
Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RD, LD – Four Keys to Wellness, Just for Women
Renata Mangrum, MPH, RD – The busy busy woman
Robin Plotkin, RD, LD – Feeding the Appetites of the Culinary, Epicurious and Nutrition Worlds-One Bite at a Time
Sharon Salomon, MS, RD – Calories, longevity and do I care
Terri L Mozingo, RD, CDN & D. Milton Stokes, MPH, RD, CDN of One Source Nutrition, LLC – Crossing the Line: From Health to Hurt
Wendy Jo Peterson, RD – Watch Your Garden Grow


  1. Hi Diane,
    Thank you for being part of the blogfest. In our body-obsessed times we live, thank you for providing an enlightening post for all women and men. Have a wonderful day!
    All the best,
    Anthony Sepe

  2. Diane, Thanks for your inspiring post. The Women's Health Blogfest is a great way for dietitians to learn from each other even as we communicate with others.


  3. Hi Diane,

    I'm just now getting through some of the posts. This post and Angie's have made me realize what a blessing my husband is to me. Although my body is showing evidence of neglect (in sleep and physical activity), he still tells me how I am beautiful today. It's not that I want to look good, I want to feel good. I want to have the energy to enjoy life and family. This blogfest has been a great encouragement for me to remain focused on my health.

  4. Excellent post to celebrate our Blogfest, Diane!


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