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10 Steps to a Healthier You

  • Health and Fitness

12/2/10 | Connie Guttersen | 0 Comments

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Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD





A food and flavor renaissance is sweeping across America. It started on the West Coast in California, where fresh, health-inducing ingredients are married to intensely pleasurable flavors, where innovative but simple meal preparation rules, and where the joy of a leisurely meal is embraced.  Embracing the “Sonoma lifestyle,” with an emphasis on enjoying food, leads to a happier, healthier life.  Everyone loves wine country and California, and now we are bringing this to your homes.

It’s vital to think about the healthy mind and its connection to cravings, hunger, mood and the body’s biochemistry.  The idea of 12 power foods is a great way to ensure that the meals are nutrient rich. Whole grains, extra virgin olive oil, almonds, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, spinach, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, beans and citrus all provide essential nutrients and flavor.  Taking advantage of these dream team combinations in meals is key in designing flavorful and appetizing menu plans that make the most of anyone’s calories and their health protective qualities.

However, many of us have a hard time sticking to a healthy diet – largely because unhealthy food tends to taste better (especially around the holidays!). But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are ten things you can do to begin eating healthier TODAY:

  • Eat in a relaxed setting as opposed to eating under stress or on the run, which is when you tend to overeat or eat poorly.
  • Eat without distractions because multitasking, texting, television, and the like interrupt mindfulness, causing you to eat longer and more, even when you’re not hungry.
  • Eat mindfully by paying attention to what and how much you’re eating. You’ll eat better, eat less, and enjoy it more.
  • Eat slowly so you’ll feel more satisfied on less food, so you won’t out-eat the signaling mechanism that takes twenty minutes for your brain to get the message that you’re full, and so you can enjoy your meal more.
  • Eat with others because research shows that when you share meals with family or friends, you are more likely to eat healthier, feel more nourished and connected, and lose weight.
  • Eat with pleasure instead of micromanaging your meal or worrying about its effect on your weight.
  • Eat wholesomely by choosing natural, unprocessed foods. The more a food is processed, the more nutrients and natural flavors are lost.
  • Eat seasonally because the growing seasons can inspire your menus and give you flavorful rewards.
  • Eat locally and sustainably as much as possible. Just knowing where your food comes from and how it’s produced makes you a more mindful eater.
  • Eat with wine because, unless you don’t drink alcohol at all, a glass of wine enhances your enjoyment of a healthy meal, is heart-friendly in-and-of itself, and embodies the Sonoma spirit.

Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD is an internationally bestselling author.  Her new book, The New Sonoma Diet, will be released January 2011. Learn more on www.sonomadiet.com.

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Stay Fit While on the Road

  • Work and Money
  • Health and Fitness

11/18/10 | Carolyn "The Healthy Voyager" Scott | 0 Comments

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Carolyn "The Healthy Voyager" Scott





Sure, it can be tough to stick to a workout regimen if your job takes you out of town, but there are plenty of ways to keep to your fitness routine while also breaking up the monotony of your “business” dealings—and releasing that business trip-induced tension.

Here are a few things you may want to pack so you can get your groove on, whether you’re staying at a 5-star hotel (with a 5-star gym) or your joint has a tiny, or worse, no gym:

  • Athletic shoes – Yep, you can’t do much in your dress shoes.
  • Exercise clothing – A comfy shirt and shorts will do the trick. Nothing fancy or bulky (think suitcase-efficient).
  • Jump rope – It takes up virtually no space, and a few minutes of jumping in your room can really get your heart rate up.
  • Resistance tubing – This is another fabulous exercise tool that takes up no space in your suitcase and can do so much. You can work out every muscle in your body with some simple sets that incorporate your travel bands.
  • Music and headphones – If you opt for the hotel gym, your tunes will help you stay on track and motivated through your workout.
  • Exercise video or DVD – Most business travelers carry a laptop, which makes it easy to do some floor routine or yoga DVDs in the hotel room.
  • Weightlifting gloves – These are easy to pack and very helpful if you choose to hit the gym.
  • Swimsuit – If your hotel has a pool, laps are a great workout for your body and mind.
  • Tennis racket – These may take up some space, but if you want to make your workout social, there’s nothing better than a tennis racket (or golf clubs).

(For a different type of travel workout, you might ask the hotel staff about renting a bicycle.)

Once you’re packed and safely at the airport, kill time (since we need to get there so dang early anyway) by getting some exercise. Wear your walking shoes and store your carry-on bags in a locker (if available). Walk briskly through the terminal while waiting for your flight. Pump your arms to increase your heart rate. Light exercise before a flight will actually help you fly better by oxygenating your blood, relaxing you and helping with jet lag symptoms. During your flight, get up occasionally to stretch and walk.

If you’re traveling by train, walk through the cars every 30 to 60 minutes. Walk outdoors when the train stops to let passengers on and off. If you’re driving, take frequent breaks to get out and stretch. Even a short walk around a rest area can boost your mood and energy level.

No matter where you are going, or for how long, it’s easy to fit in fitness – keeping you healthy, balanced and sharp!

Carolyn Scott is the executive producer, creator, host and writer of The Healthy Voyager brand, www.healthyvoyager.com. Her web series, radio show, site, blog and social network show you how to live, and travel, healthy & green.

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Does Dad Have Alzheimer’s?

  • Family and Friend
  • Health and Fitness

11/8/10 | Dr. Cheryl Mathieu | 1 Comments

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Dr. Cheryl Mathieu





“I’m so worried about my Dad. He is forgetting things lately and seems confused. How can I find out if he has Alzheimer’s? And if he does have it, what do I do?”

As a geriatric care manager, I frequently receive calls just like this. Fear of the unknown can be the most troublesome part of caring for someone you love when they begin to demonstrate changes in behavior. The following information can decrease your stress and help you ensure that mom and dad get the best care possible.

Each year a million people start a mental decline called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) with memory loss somewhere between normal aging and Alzheimer’s. Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the U.S., there are many reasons why someone’s memory can decline. Some of these causes are treatable. Generally, Alzheimer’s disease has a gradual onset of symptoms over months to years and a worsening of cognition. If the memory loss or confusion comes on quickly, this could indicate that something other than Alzheimer’s is going on. You’ll want to ask for a thorough evaluation by someone who specializes in memory impairment as a first step – this could be a psychiatrist, neurologist or a geriatrician.

The evaluation will include testing for conditions that look similar to dementia – but aren’t, such as:

  • Delirium (sudden onset confusion due to infection, medication, acute illness)
  • Depression (which can sometimes include memory problems)
  • Thyroid problems, metabolic abnormalities (abnormal glucose and calcium, kidney and liver failure)
  • Vitamin B 12 deficiency, symptoms of a progressing chronic disease (low oxygenation due to lung disease, anemia or heart disease).
  • Urinary tract infection (the symptoms of which can appear like dementia).


Imaging the brain can also be helpful to check for a tumor, stroke, or increased pressure on the brain. These tests can help determine the cause of memory loss, and if it’s treatable.

Once dementia is confirmed, the next step is to determine whether it is Alzheimer’s. (There are different kinds of dementia, other causes of memory loss and then there are declines that are still considered “normal aging.”) If it is Alzheimer’s, there are medications that might be helpful in slowing the progress of the disease. People with Alzheimer’s may do better in the long term if they have early intervention. And do stay in touch with your loved one. If they exhibit any of the behaviors listed here, it may be time to consider getting them live-in help or moving them to an assisted living facility.

This will be a hard time, but there is information and loving support available for you and your loved ones. There are books, support groups, websites, geriatric care managers and others who have gone through this before you to guide you every step of the way.

Helpful Weblinks:

Cheryl Mathieu, Ph.D., M.S.W. is a geriatric care manager and Alzheimer’s specialist, founder and president of AgingPro.com, the nation’s most comprehensive eldercare resource. She is also the author of “The Essential Caregiver’s Toolbox.” Using education, compassion and humor, “Dr. Cheryl” assists caregivers to gracefully manage the many challenges of their aging loved ones.

More: Alzheimer's: Everything You Need to Know

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My Mother, Her Sisters & Alzheimer’s

  • Family and Friend
  • Health and Fitness

11/2/10 | Rose Russell | 0 Comments

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Rose Russell & family





I am watching the slow demise of my mother’s family. My mother, Irene, currently suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. She is the middle child of a family of 6 children. She is one of only two still alive. Two of her sisters passed away this year (one also having suffered from Alzheimer’s disease). Even though my mother had not seen her sisters on a regular basis for years, and she is suffering from Alzheimer’s herself, she continues to grieve their absence.

I am fascinated by how this disease affects my mother’s memory. Many times she believes that my sisters and I are her sisters, as opposed to her daughters, and frequently calls us by her sisters’ names. But when we must tell her of the passing of one of her sisters, she is very clear on whom we are talking about, and she is determined to see her before it is too late (which it usually is…).

I see how the disease works on my mother’s mind and know what time of her life she is living – when she was young, when her sisters were healthy. To relate to mom we very often have to adjust to that time as best we can – let her think we’re her sisters, play the roles, not rock the boat. It’s an odd thing to have to do, but we find that it keeps her steady and comfortable in a way that constantly reminding her of reality doesn’t.

As I think of my mother’s family and my aunts (the women my sisters and I are now taken for), I think about who they were: strong women who had many children, the youngest having the fewest -- only 3 boys! Proud Irish Catholics! These women led their families to great growth and success - no failure was permitted. And I look at my sisters and see the same type of women: strong women who don’t accept failure.

While my generation has not had as many children as the previous had -- in fact, only two of us have kids, and one had her first at the age of 46! -- the children we have are strong, smart and successful. I watch the respect and love the children have for their mothers and aunts, and I see how these women impact their lives -- similar to the impact our aunts had on us!

I read the death notices of my aunts and am surprised to learn things about them I either did not know or forgot. They were all born during the early 20th century when women were meant to remain at home and raise children -- which they did and did very well, but they were also teachers, office staff, volunteers and homeroom moms. All continued education beyond high school. They were also very devoted to each other. Some of my cousins and sisters believe that my aunt Anita, who passed away earlier in the year, had something to do with my Aunt Kate passing away a few weeks ago -- the power of talking to God and convincing him to bring Aunt Kate home! Wow what influence!

The years pass – but even in the face of disease and death, my aunts’ legacy of strength, influence and devotion does not waiver. I am blessed to be a part of this legacy.

Rosemary Russell, daughter of Irene Russell (currently suffering from Alzheimer disease) is the owner and president of Business Women’s Advisory Council located outside Philadelphia, Pa. Rosemary is a retired Human Resources executive with the passion and  mission to help women succeed in business.

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A Doctor's Perspective: Maria Shriver's Modern House Call

  • Health and Fitness
  • Architects of Change

10/24/10 | Dr. Catherine Begovic | 0 Comments

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Dr. Catherine Begovic

I had the privilege of volunteering at Maria Shriver’s The Modern House Call for Women on Saturday and Sunday.  It was truly a pleasure working with all the other volunteers who shared my passion for helping women withtheir health care needs.  The majority of the women I saw in the health care clinic hadn’t seen a doctor for years and were completely removed from any health care system.  Most of them had no insurance and told me that they didn’t know where to go to see a physician.

I took care of a woman who was in her early 50s who had a very strong family history of breast cancer.  Her maternal aunt and sister both had breast cancer.  She had not had a mammogram in over ten years! Being a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and taking care of many breast cancer patients, I am especially passionate about early breast cancer detection.  To have participated in the emotional and physical struggle of women undergoing surgery and treatment for this disease, I continually stress to women the importance of getting an annual mammogram and physical exam, as well as performing self breast exams. The fact that there was an on-site mammography station at The Modern House Call was truly a blessing for these patients.  The women who attended The Modern House Call were able to get screening mammography immediately.

Similarly, women were able to get cervical cancer screening with the on-site Ob-Gyn physicians and nurses who performed pap-smears.  In developing nations, cervical cancer is the leading cause of death in women – it is early detection that has improved the survival of women in the United States.  Most of the women I saw at The Modern House Call had not had a pap smear for several years.  I spent time educating them on the importance of an annual physical exam and annual pap-smear – something that no one had talked to many of them about before.  The women were also able to get their blood sugar and blood pressure checked.  However, one of the most valuable resources at The Modern House Call was the clinic referral program.  Women were able to find local free clinics and make primary care appointments through the resources at The Modern House call so that they would be able to receive long term health care follow-up.

I truly believe that myself and the other volunteers were able to make a difference in the lives of many women who had no access to even the most basic health care.  I was glad to be able to assist in providing basic health care screening that most of us take for granted.  I feel blessed to have participated in this event and thank all the people who donated resources and time to help women who are truly in need.

Watch our video of Dr. Catherine Begovic & The Modern House Call

Dr. Catherine Huang Begovic is a Plastic & Reconstructive surgeon in Beverly Hills CA and CEO of her cosmetic and plastic surgery practice Make You Perfect, Inc.  She is also a board certified Head & Neck cancer and reconstructive surgeon.  She is on the board of BeautyTV.

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My First Triathlon: What Motivated Me

  • Health and Fitness
  • Architects of Change

10/18/10 | Juju Chang | 0 Comments

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Juju Chang, Good Morning America News Anchor

More than a third of my body was FAT. No joke. That’s what did it. That was the straw that broke this out-of-shape camel’s back.
I’ve been pregnant or nursing for six of the past ten years. I hit my forties. I got a new job last December.
As the new news anchor at Good Morning America, I went to Haiti after the devastating earthquakes. I interviewed a 14-year-old girl named Frangina who’d been trapped in the rubble for 5 days. She’d had a nail puncture her thigh, but it was healing nicely. I met her a week after she’d been pulled from the rubble, and she had yet to receive any medical attention. She complained of a headache. I gave her my ibuprophen.
Hers and the hundreds of other faces of the people I encountered in Haiti stayed with me for months. Mothers nursing in the open air camps; children dragging cars fashioned out of milk bottles….
As news of the earthquake was crowded out by the Gulf oil spill, I was assigned a story about normal weight obesity. The doctor measured my body fat and told me that despite my relatively “NORMAL” weight… my body fat percentage  put me at risk for obesity related diseases.
So I embarked on a mission: train for a triathlon, raise money for Haiti and do it by the end of summer. I enlisted the help of Tom Holland, author of the The 12-Week Tri-athlete and Lucy Danziger, editor-in-chief of Self Magazine. I needed deadline pressure. September 11th in Danbury CT…  ¼ mile swim.  12 miles bike.  3 mile run.  Not crazy, I could do that. Right?
I signed up dozens of my friends and colleagues. UNICEF signed on to give team members their own homepage to get donations. It was the perfect recipe for success 1. a goal. 2. peer pressure and good company 3. the kids of Haiti.
I started out running 1 mile, huffing and puffing.  Then 2 miles. Then THREEE.  Biking was more fun.  I had my “mommy bike” with my 2-year-old on the back. We looped around NYC’s central park. 6.2 miles.  The Harlem hill is HARD with 25 pounds of baby on the back… I biked more and more comfortably. Despite weeks of my protesting, Lucy finally talked me into buying a “road bike”…  she was right. I felt as though I’d sprouted wings and learned to fly on my new bike.
The swimming was the hardest to fit into my schedule, but I managed to use the YMCA pool near work.

And finally there it was.. RACE DAY. I tried to hold back my fear. We all did well, but it was my friend Caroline who inspired us all. She overcame her fear of swimming, got LOST on the bike leg…  and when she got back to transition, Sean, the race director, who didn’t know that she’s of Haitian decent, but saw the steely determination in her eyes…  ran the final leg with her.  She raised 5 thousand dollars for Haiti!!!!

All told, we raised approximately 60k for Haiti and we got fit.

Juju Chang is the news anchor for ABC’s “Good Morning America” and an Emmy Award-winning correspondent for “20/20” and “Nightline.” She also hosts “Moms Get Real,” a digital show for ABC News NOW aimed at cracking the façade of perfect mommyhood.

Juju Chang will be speaking at The Women's Conference 2010. Watch the webcast of the Conference on October 25th and 26th here on www.womensconference.org

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The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's

  • Family and Friend
  • Health and Fitness
  • Architects of Change
  • Maria's Post

10/14/10 | Maria Shriver | 5 Comments

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Maria Shriver





I am a child of Alzheimer’s.

My father, Sargent Shriver, was the smartest person I ever knew. He was sharp and witty, a walking encyclopedia—his mind a beautifully tuned instrument that left people in awe and inspired. That was then. Today he doesn’t know I’m his daughter, and he doesn’t even know my name.

Every minute or so—in fact, before you get to the end of this page—someone in this country will develop Alzheimer’s. It’s an epidemic and a mind-blowing disease—not just for the people who get it, but for everyone around them. No matter who you are, how old you are, what you’ve accomplished, what your financial situation is—when you’re dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, you feel powerless.

A year ago, The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything explored the transformational moment in our nation’s history when women become the majority of the workforce—and the primary or co-breadwinners in almost two-thirds of American families.

Now, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, the second landmark study -- The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s -- finds that women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s epidemic. We make up 65 percent of the people with Alzheimer’s— and up to three-fifths of all Alzheimer caregivers. That’s 3.3 million American women with Alzheimer’s and another 6.7 million women providing care for a friend or loved one. Consider that by mid-century as many as 8 million women will have the disease. We are in the midst of a national emergency, and we’re woefully unprepared.

What we need is a new kind of national conversation about Alzheimer’s and growing old in America—just like the conversations heard around kitchen tables all over the country. My hope is that this Shriver Report triggers that conversation -- focused on this disease and its ramifications. It’s time. We must face up to some big questions: With Americans living longer and with the incidence of Alzheimer’s growing, what’s going to happen to our women, our families, our workplaces, our attitudes, our society, as the Alzheimer wave hits over the next few decades? We’re talking crisis.

My hope is also that as the veil is lifted, as information and funds and support programs are made available, families will see that they’re not alone. As more people, like the ones you’ll meet in The Shriver Report, speak out and share their personal journeys with Alzheimer’s, more families will see that there’s nothing to be ashamed of—that there’s hope out there because, together, we are finally making Alzheimer’s a national issue.

The truth is that we simply must put Alzheimer’s on the front burner because if we don’t, Alzheimer’s will not just devour our memories, it will also break our women, cripple our families, devastate our healthcare system and decimate the legacy of our generation. But if we do, I’m convinced that this Woman’s Nation will be able to say that, believe it or not, there once was a time when there was no cure for Alzheimer’s.

If you want to help defeat this mind-blowing disease, I invite you to join me and thousands of people on Sunday, October 24 for my March on Alzheimer’s to kick off The Women’s Conference 2010 in Long Beach.  If you can’t attend, please consider making a donation.  The march will benefit the Alzheimer's Association, the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research.  You can learn more about the event and sign up or donate here.

Please join us. We are the hope.
You can read the full report at The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s at http://www.shriverreport.com/.

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It’s Time...to End Insurance Discrimination Against People with Autism

  • Health and Fitness
  • Architects of Change

10/13/10 | Holly Robinson Peete | 2 Comments

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Holly Robinson Peete, Actress, Author, Activist, Philanthropist




I think a lot of us assume that “regular” people can’t really make an impact anymore.  The idea of “grassroots movements” can sometimes be written off as idealistic, impotent or inconsequential.  That’s why I want to shine a light on an incredible effort going on right now – led by some remarkable, passionate parents -- to end a terrible form of discrimination against people with autism.  It’s something we can all be a part of, without much effort.

I’ve blogged before about how insanely expensive it is to treat a child with autism – intensive, one-on-one therapies can cost tens of thousands of dollars every year.  That’s obviously beyond the means of most families affected by the fastest growing disorder in America, which is why there are a lot of moms and dads out there – as well as siblings – making incredible sacrifices so that their loved ones can get the therapies they desperately need.  Families are taking out second mortgages and emptying out savings accounts and college funds.  They’re going broke.

Our HollyRod Foundation (www.hollyrod.org)  has a mission to help uninsured disenfranchised families with very limited resources access treatment.  I speak with these families regularly and feel blessed to be able to help alleviate their financial burden in even the smallest way.

But, what’s really crazy is that a lot of families affected by autism actually have perfectly good health insurance.  The problem is, in about half of the states in this country, insurance companies can explicitly exclude coverage of critical, medically-necessary therapies and other medical services for kids with autism.  So if you live in California or West Virginia, for example, you may be paying big bucks for what would seem to be good health insurance.  But if your child has autism, you’re going to have to pay out-of-pocket for things like ABA therapy, the most common treatment for autism.  Most likely, you’re going to cobble together whatever help you can for your child – whatever you can afford, even though it’s probably not as many hours of therapy as your child needs.

My family is among the small minority who can actually manage to pay out of our own pockets for the therapies our son needs -- but with four children, we still feel it, so I share the anger  and empathize with the massive frustration our fellow families feel.  Because our kids have autism – and not diabetes or cancer – they are out of luck.

Parents across the country have banded together and fought to change state insurance laws to end this injustice.  In just four years, they have already won the fight in 23 states, and the battle continues. They’re fighting against some powerful people, including the insurance companies and their lobbyists.  They’re also fighting against ignorance. But these parents are smart, they’re organized and they’re truly inspirational.  That’s why they’re winning.

Autism Speaks has a wonderful advocacy web site, AutismVotes.org (I serve on the organization’s board) with information about the insurance reform effort.  Check the map and see if your state has done the right thing yet.  If not, you’ll find out how you can get involved and help make important change happen for people with autism.

Actress, author, activist and philanthropist, Holly Robinson Peete has been touched by the entertainment industry all of her life.  Her career as an actress dates back more than two decades and has led her to becoming a voice for her father, her son and her community. In 1996, Robinson Peete and her husband, Rodney Peete, formed the HollyRod Foundation, inspired by her father’s inspiring battle with Parkinson’s disease, with the mission to help improve the quality of life of people plagued with devastating life circumstances. In 2005, inspired by their son, hollyrod4kids was formed to focus on children’s causes and improving the lives of children affected by circumstances beyond their control, specifically autism.

Holly Robinson Peete will be speaking at The Women's Conference 2010. Watch the live webcast of the Conference here on www.womensconference.org on Monday, October 25 and Tuesday, October 26.

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I Was a Food Addict...

  • Life Balance
  • Health and Fitness

10/4/10 | Jennifer Joyner | 0 Comments

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Jennifer Joyner, Author, Designated Fat Girl

By the time I was finally able to wear my wedding rings again, nearly sixteen years had passed since my wedding day. A year after I was married in 1993, my fingers were too fat to fit the diamond engagement ring and two gold bands I wore on either side.  I’d gained a hundred pounds in my first year of marriage, and that sent me on a 16-year struggle with obesity and morbid obesity.  I developed hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.  I gave birth to a 12-pound baby because I couldn’t get my gestational diabetes under control.  I broke toilet seats and was unable to bathe properly.  I was killing myself with food.

I was a food addict, but I didn’t know it.  None of the many doctors I saw ever suggested that I was addicted to food, so I didn’t consider it a possibility.  All I knew was that I desperately wanted to lose weight and I couldn’t.  I tried everything, every meal plan, every exercise routine, to no avail.  I thought I was going crazy.

Finally in March of 2008, I took drastic steps to save my life.  At 336 pounds, at 34 years old, I had gastric bypass surgery.  I was reluctant to do so; I thought having the surgery and “not losing weight on my own” was taking the easy way out.  Boy, would that prove to be a stupid thought.  I had terrible complications from the surgery that put me back in the hospital twice and caused me to have two subsequent surgeries.  I was terribly sick for months, and hopelessly depressed, thinking I’d made the worst mistake of my life.

But slowly, the sun started to peek through the clouds.  The weight came off so quickly my head couldn’t keep up with my body, and yes, that was nice, but something more important started to occur to me:  food did not have any power over me.  I was not a slave to the scale, and thoughts of what to eat did not rule over every minute of every day.  I was free.

I can’t remember getting below 300 pounds; I was too sick to really notice or care.  I do remember getting below 200 pounds, and I did celebrate, with a happy naked dance in my bathroom, alone.  And then I simply went about my day.  They were just numbers on a scale, and I didn’t need a scale to tell me how to feel.

But I absolutely remember putting my wedding rings on again.  My daughter Emma, then four and a half years old, had never seen the rings.  She grabbed my hand and exclaimed, “Mommy!  They are so shiny!  You look like a princess!”

I smiled down at her, gazing at my diamonds.  And then I glimpsed myself in the mirror.  Finally, I felt like a princess, too.

Jennifer Joyner is a mother, wife, writer and journalist. She is the author of Designated Fat Girl, a memoir about food addiction. Learn more about Jennifer Joyner on her website.

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Healthy Change Is a Family Affair

  • Family and Friend
  • Health and Fitness
  • Architects of Change

09/28/10 | Latisha Lawson | 0 Comments

Latisha Lawson
Latisha Lawson & Family





By Latisha Lawson, Champion Mom, Sacramento, CA

Today is Family Day in California, and First Lady Maria Shriver has asked families to celebrate by sitting down and sharing a meal together. She’s a mom, and she gets it. Moms know that many important life lessons are learned at the dinner table.

My family’s dinner table is the centerpiece of our home. Eating together is as much about connecting with my kids as it is about teaching them healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Meal time is my chance to learn about their day and share about mine – all over delicious, nutritious food.

Of course, it isn’t always easy. Sometimes things that are good for kids are things they don’t want to eat. But I’ve learned that when kids help choose and cook food, they are more likely to eat it. Younger ones can tear lettuce for salads or rinse fruits and vegetables, and my older kids help me chop and slice.

My kids are also more likely to eat healthy foods when they see my husband and I eat them. That’s why I make a point of eating all kinds of fruits and vegetables. In my house we’ve learned that what we eat affects our health, so every bite counts.

I know all too well what can happen if you don’t take care of yourself and your family – my father died from diabetes at the age of 33. While it’s hard to get loved ones to make healthy choices, it’s much harder to watch them deal with the consequences.

Nothing is more important than the health of my family, and I am doing everything I can to prevent this disease from impacting my children. Even small steps – like having a healthy family dinner at home – can lead to big health improvements. So I changed the way I prepare and serve my family’s food. I make it easy for my kids to snack on fruits and vegetables and to drink plenty of water.  In fact, sugary drinks aren’t allowed.  

Working multiple jobs in a tough economy, I know how hard it is to make ends meet, keep my kids active and put healthy food on the table. But I have the power to make healthy choices for my family.

With the rising prices on just about everything these days, I have learned that eating healthy doesn’t have to cost a lot. You just need to be resourceful. I make a shopping list whenever I go to the store so I don’t buy things we don’t need, and I visit my local farmer’s market to buy produce in season when it costs less.

Lots of families like mine are living on a tight budget and facing issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer that are linked to the growing obesity epidemic in California. I believe everyone deserves a healthier future, so I am speaking up for healthy changes in my community. I even helped bring a farmer’s market to a neighborhood where there were few places to buy produce, and too many places to buy unhealthy foods.  That success inspired me to think about the future.  My vision includes communities where sugary drinks aren’t allowed in schools, where schools provide kids with free drinking water and a place where kids have safe places to play.

I see a future filled with healthy communities where it’s easy for kids and moms to make healthy choices, and where eating more fruits and vegetables and being more physically active will help kids concentrate and do better in school, feel good about themselves, grow and develop strong bodies and live longer, healthier lives. I think that’s something every mom wants for her children. But moms need the support and encouragement of other moms who are overcoming challenges, especially when times are tough.

That’s why I’m thankful for the First Lady’s support of Family Day and this opportunity to share my story with you. If I can do it, you can do it.

Please join the First Lady Maria Shriver, me and millions of other moms to celebrate Family Day.  Healthy change is a family affair so gather your family together tonight. Sit down with your children and connect. Share a healthy meal. You’ll be glad you did.

Latisha Lawson lives in Sacramento with her husband and three children. As a Champion Mom with the Network for a Healthy California, she empowers other moms to be Champions for Change.

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What I Wish I Would Have Known at 13!

  • Life Balance
  • Health and Fitness

09/15/10 | Jess Weiner | 1 Comments

Jess Weiner 200
Jess Weiner, Global Ambassador, Dove Self-Esteem Fund

I'm sure you've done it. Fantasized about going back in time and battling all those teenage woes with the wisdom you've garnered now as an adult.

Maybe you'd tell your thirteen year old self that she is beautiful. Just the way she is. Braces, freckles, acne, frizzy hair, stringy hair, over developed, under developed, lots of friends, no friends, band geek, drama geek, sports geek -- that it all doesn't matter in the end. That finding true self-acceptance is about loving who you are (even in the 'imperfect' moments) and that believing in yourself is one of the best choices she could make.

Maybe you'd tell your thirteen year old self that she really can reach her full potential in life if she follows her dreams, takes good care of herself, and gathers around her a group of people who support her, listen to her, and talk to her. Maybe you'd tell your thirteen year old self that the heartache she feels right now because she feels rejected, alone, ugly, stupid, or defective are really just passing moments of emotion. That they aren't the truth. And that she will get through her hard time. And go on to flourish! Maybe you'd tell her that she is loved. Just because. Just because she is worthy of being loved. Maybe you'd tell her that she should take a risk and try out for that school play or present her science project in front of the class because taking those risks will help her cultivate a sense of confidence that only comes from doing the things that really scare you (and living to tell about it!) Maybe you'd tell her that she isn't alone. That other girls (and adults) feel the same way she does. And that if she can just raise her hand, ask for help, or try to find the right words to express how she feels that there will be someone on the other end more than happy to lend an ear or a hug.

Or maybe your conversation might look a little like mine would - if I could go back in time.....

Jess Now: "13 year old Jess, I promise you -- your hair will grow back."

Jess 13: "Really? You promise? Because this is the worst hair cut ever!"

Jess Now: "Yes, I promise. And one day you'll make peace with your curly hair, too. Do you know people pay a lot of money to get perms?"

Jess 13: "You sound like our mother. She always tells me that."

Jess Now: "Well, don't tell our mom, but she was right. You'll come to love and appreciate all the things you think you hate about your appearance."

Jess 13: "Impossible"

Jess Now: "No, really. You'll soon discover that all the time you spend on hating those things can be spent on appreciating and accepting your own real beauty. You'll even make a career out of sharing this message with others."

Jess 13: "No way."

Jess Now: "Way"

Even if we all can't go back in time to re-do our teenage years, we can do simple small things now to help a girl in our life. Just by spending time having a conversation about self-esteem and confidence you can truly make a difference in the life of a girl. Those minutes you spend can help erase negative messages, confusing relationships, and age appropriate self-doubt by replacing it with a meaningful moment of connection. Don't ever underestimate the power of your words and your time. To you they may be just moments but to her they are the wisdom and moments that change her life. Join us in the vision of the Dove Movement for Self-Esteem where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety and tell us what you wish you would have known at thirteen here!

Considered this generation’s “Go to Girl” for self-esteem, Jess Weiner is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Talk to Jess, LLC and the Actionist® Network. She is also the author of two best-selling books, "A Very Hungry Girl" and "Life Doesn't Begin Five Pounds From Now". She currently serves as the Global Ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Fund and travels the world speaking and hosting workshops on self-confidence.

Jess Weiner will be speaking at The Women's Conference 2010.

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Join Us in Creating a World Where Beauty Is a Source of Confidence

  • Life Balance
  • Health and Fitness

09/15/10 | Jess Weiner | 0 Comments

Jess Weiner 2
Jess Weiner, Global Ambassador, Dove Self-Esteem Fund





As a kid, whenever I would struggle with tackling a new skill (like tying my shoelaces) or learning a new craft (like jazz dancing) my Grandma would always tell me "everything worth doing takes practice." Honestly, at 8 or 9, I had no idea what she really meant. All I knew was that she was my biggest champion, showing up for every school recital or home made art show I put on. But in thinking about that concept now "everything worth doing takes practice" -- I choose to apply it to my own development of self-esteem, self-worth and confidence.  

If you think about it - a musician must practice hours before improving their skill, same for a mathematician or a visual artist. So it would also make sense that if we want to change the level of confidence and esteem that our loved ones (and ourselves) have - we have to practice.

Every moment we spend with our family is a chance to send a positive message of love and esteem. Every word we speak is an opportunity to practice more kindness and less negativity. Every thought we think allows us a chance to practice compassion and forgiveness. When you turn your life into a practice ground for encouraging word, thought, and deed - you are more than likely practicing your way to higher self-confidence.  

The more we practice at developing a positive relationship with our own beauty the more we have to offer the girls in our lives who look to us to help them nurture and reach their full potential. Part of this mentorship is establishing with the next generation that beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. We want the next generation to learn from our own struggles with beauty and self-esteem. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been prompted by Dove to answer, “what do you wish you’d known at 13?” [link to tab] How can we help loved ones navigate the same confidence waters that we did? It’s time to have these conversations with the ones we love.

The more we can all collectively participate in the Dove Movement for Self-Esteem's vision, the more vibrant our community of confidence grows. Now here's what you can do to further practice your commitment to this vision: Join us for the Dove Self-Esteem Weekend October 22nd - 24th. Nationwide, people are committing to spend one hour of time that weekend with a girl (or girls) in their lives. Mark your calendar!

There are a variety of ways you can get involved and get the conversation started:

Remember, one hour with a girl in your life during the Dove Self-Esteem weekend makes a world of difference. It’s time to practice with loved ones on how to reach a positive relationship with beauty this October.

I look forward to seeing our event map grow with registered ideas and inspirations on how you are going to spend time during this important weekend.


Considered this generation’s “Go to Girl” for self-esteem, Jess Weiner is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Talk to Jess, LLC and the Actionist® Network. She is also the author of two best-selling books, "A Very Hungry Girl" and "Life Doesn't Begin Five Pounds From Now". She currently serves as the Global Ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Fund and travels the world speaking and hosting workshops on self-confidence.

Jess Weiner will be speaking at The Women's Conference 2010.

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Announcing The Great August Giveaway Winner

  • Family and Friend
  • Health and Fitness

09/15/10 | The Women's Conference | 2 Comments

minerva head246x8




Food can be a symbol of love. It can create togetherness and warmth. In our Great August Giveaway, we asked you to tell us,

What’s your favorite memory of a meal with friends or family?

Your responses shed light on the power of food – as well as on the power we have to make simple things – like ramen or freezer-burned ice cream sandwiches -- seem like delicious meals.

Below is our winning response, as well as our three honorable mentions. The range in responses reflects the range in how we can approach food, and what food means to us.


Queen Esther

It was just another meal; actually it was the best meal of my life. Ironically, I’m not even sure I remember what I ate. Truth is this meal was what I feasted on the day I said, “No More!” No more starving myself to be thin. No more missing a meal just to fit in. No more hating the image in the mirror. No more!

Soup’n’salad, a hamburger, or spaghetti – it really doesn’t matter what I ate that day. What does matter is that I ate.

Little did I know the meal would represent my launch into years of healing and looking in the mirror and finally loving the woman looking back at me. Little did I know my experiences would be shared with thousands of little girls, teens and young adults as I conduct workshops across the nation about high self-esteem and healthy lifestyle choices. Little did I know that I would break bread with many workshop attendees while sharing both my test of once having low self-esteem and an eating disorder as well as my testimony and platform as a Quintessential Faith-Filled Fabulously-Fierce Full -Figured Female and the reigning Ms. Plus America 2010.

Honorable Mentions

Marissa, 33

Freezer-burned ice cream sandwiches.

Perhaps it’s an unusual choice, but my grandmother’s stash of these chilly treats is a childhood memory so vivid I can almost taste it. On a hot summer day in L.A. (which, in our neck of the woods, stands for “Lower Alabama”), my siblings and cousins and I would run inside, throw open the freezer, and work diligently on peeling the wrappers from the warped bars.

Unlike the stereotypical Southern grandmother, Edwina Morgan Murphy couldn’t cook. At all. She burned rice. “Orange juice” at Grandmama’s house was a glass of water mixed with a spoonful of frozen orange concentrate. She once served my sister cold pizza she’d ordered the night before because Grandmama had heard that’s what college kids eat for breakfast.

Some grandmothers teach how to cook, bake and sew. Grandmama Edwina, on the other hand, taught me to overcome weakness, laugh off mistakes, and make a meal less about the food and more about the company.

Grandmama lost her battle with Alzheimer’s last night. Today, her legacy lives on through those of us whom she publicly and proudly proclaimed as the “best family in the world.”

We miss you, Grandmama.
folsom10, 30s

My favorite memory of a family meal happened over 15 years ago when we celebrated my mother's graduation from nursing school. I do not remember what we ate, or even who helped prepare it. What I do remember was the sense of pride and admiration I had for the woman who not only survived, but who flourished against all odds. I watched after 18 years of marriage, 4 children, zero job skills, my mother pack up her children and leave her abusive husband. We had come full circle from a shelter for abused women and children, to night school, and finally graduation. I am not sure if she knows how her strength and choices have fueled many of my steps into adulthood and a family of my own. She could have done nothing, but she chose to fight. By doing so she set an example that will endure generations. At that very "celebration" dinner I saw not only victory in my mother's eyes...I saw peace. Thanks mom, for all you have done and continue to do. Your actions nourish my soul in so many ways. Oh and your pot roast ROCKS!

On we go     

One of my weekly chores as a little girl was to set the dinner table for my family. There was six of us. My mother every night would make me set an extra place setting. Being only seven I never questioned or understood why. One day a girl from our neighborhood needed some help with math. She was in one of my older sister's classes. She had stopped by for help just minutes before our family was about to sit down for dinner. Without any hesitation my mother said to this little girl "We have been waiting for you, go wash your hands and come sit down for dinner with us". The neighbor girl hurried off and then returned with the biggest smile. We had our dinner that night with even more chatter and laughter. Five little girls all under the age of 12.

When I was helping clear the dinner table, I said to my mom "Were we really waiting for her so we could start dinner?". "Yes" she replied. She then whispered to me, "God knew too. That is why we always set an extra plate at our table. We must always be ready for someone that may need to share a meal and some company. We must not let our guest know that we really had no idea that they were coming. We always want that person to feel welcomed and wanted in our home". I really didn't fully understand until years later. When my father passed in 2005 I heard from the neighbor girl. She told me how grateful she was that my family always invited her to have dinner. She was more amazed that the seventh place setting was always set before she ever showed up. She shared with me that her parents were hardly ever home and she was on her own for dinner most nights. She wanted me to know that she would never forget the kindness my family showed her. My mother taught fourth grade until she was 72. She is now 81. She always knew when a child needed just a little more. Whether it was a meal, a hug, or just a ear to listen. She knew. In my mind, my mother has demonstrated Minerva qualities my entire life. Thanks Mom!

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EmpowHER’s 1000Women Campaign

  • Health and Fitness

09/10/10 | Michelle King Robson | 1 Comments

1000Women logo cut






People, especially women, always ask me how they can make a difference. How can one person make a difference in the lives of many? How can we advocate for the health and wellness of all women?

When I started EmpowHER, I had a mission – to improve women’s health and change their lives…one woman at a time.  Now, I am asking you to do the same. You alone can help thousands even hundreds of thousands of women just by telling your story, sharing the stories of others, and telling other women.

I want to tell all of you about EmpowHER’s 1000Women campaign www.1000women.com:

Through our 1000Women campaign, EmpowHER is recruiting 1,000 women who will then each tell 1,000 women about this campaign. Our goal is to create the biggest movement for women’s health and wellness in recent history!

Here are three easy ways to get involved:

Tell A Friend -- For every woman that participates in 1000Women, 5¢ will go to women's health research.

Vote for A Story -- Stories with the most votes will be featured in major, national promotional efforts. Stories that reach 1,000 votes receive special promotional opportunities.

Inspire Others -- Help other women by sharing your story.

When we have reached our goal of reaching 1,000,000 women, EmpowHER will donate $50,000 towards women’s health research, and YOU will have had everything to do with that! See, just a few seconds of your time and your email address, and 1,000,000 women’s health can be improved and lives changed – just like that.

This is your chance to share your story with the world. This is your chance to change the lives of the women you love. This is your chance to enable friends, family and strangers to advocate for their health and wellbeing. I am calling on you to get involved. We NEED your help! Your involvement may save a life one day.

Michelle King Robson is the founder, chairperson and CEO of EmpowHER.

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Brains on Bikes: Help Us Outsmart Brain Cancer

  • Health and Fitness
  • Architects of Change

04/8/10 | Anne Feeley | 1 Comments

Anne Feeley biking
Anne Feeley & Gundala Hennig





I didn't start long distance cycling, competition rowing, or mountain climbing until after I was diagnosed with brain cancer. Before that I was living a normal life in Prague as a mom, wife and baker, who exercised to keep reasonably fit. My husband and I moved to Prague when our two children were young, figuring if we didn't do it then, we never would. We lived there for fifteen years, and I opened and ran Bakeshop Praha, which remains a popular landmark for locals and tourists.

My name is Anne Feeley and four years ago I was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and deadly form of brain cancer. In San Francisco this Friday I will kick off a journey cycling with my trainer and friend Gundula and my dog Walter across the USA to raise awareness and funds for brain cancer patient support and research. We are Brains on Bikes.

Last spring while attending the American Brain Tumor Association Path to Progress 5K I realized I had to do something to help. With four years under my belt I am now a longterm survivor, but at events like this I didn't meet anyone alive as long as me. We survivors are too few. The grim survival rate of the most common brain cancer hasn’t changed in over 100 years, and only three new drugs have been approved for brain cancer in 35 years.

I started excercising after I got out of hospital following my brain surgery. I was weak but determined. I am lucky to be able to do this because many brain cancer sufferers have balance and coordination problems. I didn’t. People have said that exercising daily through cancer treatment is remarkable, but I think it is what many mothers would do. I didn’t want my daughters' final memories of me to be of their mother giving up. Besides love, our example is all we really have to give.

Training began for the Brains on Bikes effort last fall when I asked Gundy to join me to cycle across the USA. Happily she said yes, as I thought she would. This event is right up her alley. She has taught me that preparation is key in anything you try to achieve. For the journey we have focused on developing my stamina and staying power (she already has it!). We worked up to 90-minute intense cardio bike sessions, training side by side, which really helped us egg each other on. I trained at least once a week in a hypoxic chamber that mimics the air in higher altitudes. I also learned to use clip on bike shoes.

We are now in San Francisco as I write this, doing the final checks and double checks with Gundy, my husband and our mothers. Training here has been wonderful. Cycling in Sausalito is inspiring because it brings home the amazing beauty of natural America we’ll see. We are so excited to see more of California and our country in the coming weeks.

It’s determination and luck that will get Gundy and me to the finish on July 15 in Washington DC. Please join us online - we'll be providing updates on our blog, Facebook and Twitter. We also have an iPhone app and Flash game available at brainsonbikes.org -- check it all out and help us outsmart brain cancer!


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  • Life Balance
  • Health and Fitness

10/27/09 | Astrid Sheil, Blogger | 6 Comments

Sheil Astrid headshot.200x200
Astrid Sheil, Blogger

Coming to you live from The Women's Conference 2009 where an unprecedented 25,000 are gathering for two days of inspiration and transformation.

Day 2: Afternoon Reflections

In the afternoon, the conference turned serious as it focused on the most universal of human feelings—grief.

If you watched the main session on streaming video, you had a chance to hear two extremely moving and powerful speeches about grief, healing and resilience. Katie Couric spoke eloquently about losing her loving husband, Jay, and then four years later, her sister.  Both died from cancer. After her standing ovation, Couric quipped, “Now, if just a third of you would watch the CBS Evening News…where are you guys when I need you?”

After Couric departed from the stage, Maria Shriver walked out slowly, stood at the podium, and delivered the most personal speech of her life. She got through it okay, but many of the rest of us—thousands of women in the arena—quietly wept as Maria described her ongoing and deeply painful walk through grief from the death of her beloved mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, eight weeks ago, followed by the death of her larger-than-life uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy.

When Shriver finished, she introduced the rest of the “grief panel” to the audience.  Susan St. James, actress and entrepreneur, lost her son in a plane accident. He was 14 years old. Elizabeth Edwards, senior fellow, Center for American Progress, lost her son in a car accident. He was 16. And Lisa Niemi, widow of actor Patrick Swayze, recently lost her husband and best friend of 34 years to pancreatic cancer, less than two months ago.

The conversation flowed as each woman offered simple, but profound descriptions of their journey through grief. Susan St. James said she wondered if she would always think of herself as “the mother of a dead child.”  Lisa Niemi described her sadness as being on a cellular level.  Elizabeth Edwards noted that it was important for people to talk about her son and to keep his memory alive. “He didn’t just disappear from the Earth.”

In the audience was another woman who knows a lot about grief. Valerie Sobel’s son Andre died of a brain tumor when he was 19. Valerie cared for her son for 470 days and witnessed helplessly as Andre slowly and painfully lost his battle with cancer. She said, “Caretaking a child that you know is going to die is a completely different experience. The grief is beyond anything you can imagine. “

Within a year, Valerie also lost her mother and her husband. To honor Andre, and to help other families experiencing the debilitating personal effects of a child with a catastrophic illness, Sobel established the Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation (www.andreriveroflife.org). According to the website information, “Seventy-eight percent of families whose child is diagnosed with a critical illness will experience divorce or separation. The ordeal of a child’s grave illness tests these families far beyond their endurance, and they become bankrupt financially, emotionally and physically.”

 Anne Swire, CEO of the Sobel Foundation said they had just received a substantial grant from Genetech to assist families who have children with cancer. “We often receive urgent requests from social workers at our affiliated children’s hospitals to help families in financial crisis due to the illness of the child,” she said. “Genetech’s generous donation will allow us to meet the needs of many more families.”

There was something sobering and cathartic about this afternoon’s session. Yes, it is hard to talk about grief. As Maria Shriver noted in her comments, “In the United States, we are grief illiterate.” Many of us get tongue-tied when we try to offer comfort to someone who has lost a loved one. But through conversation, compassion, and caring, we can help each other through the very darkest of passages that ultimately, each of us will experience.


Day Two: AM Reflections

Another exceptional morning at the Women’s Conference!  Not surprisingly, the energy throughout the convention center is electrifying, but apparently, the energy is pretty darn kinetic through the streaming video on the website! Text messages from friends in Portland, Denver, Houston, and Knoxville who are watching the conference online indicate they are feeling the energy, too!

It’s nearly impossible to capture the power of the conference in an itty-bitty blog. This is definitely one of those “the sum is greater than the parts” kind-of-event.   Instead, here are some of the more memorable quotes of the morning.

Host and Executive Producer, Discovery ID, Paula Zahn: “The Shriver Report has clearly detailed that we’re exhausted and overwhelmed, but we don’t have to keep that secret anymore!”

Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger: “When I have really tough decisions to make, I ask the Almighty…my wife, Maria!” And, “Maria is not only a beautiful woman, she’s smart and determined—she is the female terminator.”

Sheila C. Bair, Chairman of the FDIC: “The key to success is to be yourself and focus on the job at hand.”

Sir Richard Branson, Founder and President of Virgin Group: “We have to get into the mindset of providing more flexible work arrangements for people.”

Robin Roberts, Co-anchor, ABC News’ Good Morning America: “My mama always said, ‘Make your mess your message!’”

Katie Couric, Anchor & Managing Editor, The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric "I love the smell of estrogen in the afternoon."

Cheryl Saban, Author and Founder of the Women’s Self Worth Foundation: “None of us can afford to be muzzled—use the internal compass you were born with.”

Courtney from Oakland, CA: “This conference is teaching me that the only obstacle to success is in here” (she points to her head).

Nick Vujicic, President and Founder, Life Without Limbs: “The greatest disability is fear,” and “If you put your happiness in temporary things, your happiness will be temporary.”

Gayle Haggard, Author, “Why I Stayed”:  “Never write a person off. Whenever possible, choose forgiveness.”

Elizabeth Smart: “We’re never truly left alone.”

Here at the conference, thousands of women are learning that we’re never truly alone because we have each other.  

Stay tuned! More to come.



Day 1: Transformation with Dr. Martha Beck

With tears streaming down their faces, the two women walked arm-in-arm out of this afternoon’s keynote address by Dr. Martha Beck. They didn’t even know each other’s names, but intuitively they knew they had just shared a profound experience.

Beck, a monthly columnist for O and the author of several international bestsellers, began her session by talking about transformation. Square 1 of transformation is the stage where our identity has been taken from us, but we have yet to figure out whom we are and where we’re going.  She compared it to the incredible metamorphosis that a caterpillar goes through in order to become a butterfly. In her description, Beck said that once a caterpillar goes into its cocoon, it literally liquifies—completely changing itself all the way to the molecular level before it can recreate itself into a butterfly.  

In a very real sense, when we begin a cycle of transformation, we have to experience the disintegration of our old self before real change can take place. The meltdown can take many forms, but often it has to be cataclysmic—break up of a marriage, loss of a job, or a deep physical crisis like a diagnosis of cancer or a very sick child. For many of us personal shock sends us into the cocoon.

At this “Day of Transformation” Beck’s words resonated universally through the audience. She said, “Here in square one, we have a tendency to want to become bigger caterpillars.” In other words, we try to hold onto the status quo as long as possible. Maybe if we just work 80 hours a week instead of 75, we won’t get fired. Maybe if we subsume our needs, we can keep a failing marriage from coming apart at the seams. But of course, we are just fooling ourselves. When it is time to begin the transformation process, there is no capitulation or compromise that can divert the process. However, transformation can be delayed if we are unwilling to accept ourselves the way we are. The key to beginning the process is to “totally” accept ourselves and the reality of our situation.  We must surrender to the truth—the old way doesn’t work anymore, we can’t go back, and the future is unclear and unknown.

We have all experienced these dreaded feelings. Limbo is scary.  Not knowing is exhausting. Loss of identity can lead to depression.  Why would anyone choose to go through the process of transformation? According to Beck, we have no choice. This is a cyclical process and we all go through it at different times and for different reasons. But like the caterpillar, when we get through the four stages of (1) crash and burn, (2) expansive imagining, (3) this is harder than I thought, and (4) the promise land—we are forever changed and expanded. 

Back to the women walking out of the auditorium…why were they crying? Recognition and Acceptance. At the end of the standing ovation, one woman turned around and with arms raised over her head she powerfully announced, “I am liquid!!” It was a rallying cry—a recognition that it’s not only okay to be lost—it’s absolutely mandatory if we are going to transform into empowered women. The other woman burst into tears as she felt a huge sigh of relief and acceptance.  All the pain, fear, loss of identity and meaning she had been going through for more than a year was actually normal, which meant that she was normal. Hallelujah!

The two women hugged each other, introduced themselves and furiously began discussing their parallel journeys of transformation. Rita and Marlene exchanged cards and walked out of the session clearly stunned and enlightened by the experience. 


Astrid Sheil, Ph.D. is the Associate Chair of the Communication Studies Dept. at Cal State University San Bernardino. Originally from Washington, DC, she graduated from Georgetown University.

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Getting a Grip

  • Life Balance
  • Health and Fitness

07/20/09 | Monica Seles, Author & Former Tennis Champ | 9 Comments

Monica Seles Headshot

Who knew that so many people cared about my weight? When I decided to go on the TV show, “Dancing with the Stars” last year, it was the first time I was in the public eye after playing my last tennis match in 2003. So many people started asking, “OH MY GOD, how did you lose all this weight?” Book publishers started calling my agent. They wanted me to tell my story about winning the weight battle. 

Weight is such a big component in so many women’s lives – for stay-at-home moms, athletes, businesswomen. It doesn’t matter who you are. Meanwhile, since leaving tennis, I’d given a lot of talks to women’s organizations about eating disorders and how to keep food from controlling your life. So with all of this media attention, and my own interest in sharing this story, I decided to write a book, Getting a Grip on My Body, My Mind, My Self.

Writing the book was almost like therapy. I’d gone through so much. Looking back at myself in 1999 and 2000 – my stabbing in Hamburg, my father’s illness and then his death, and my subsequent weight issues - I wish I had some women to talk to. I was surrounded by men, who didn’t understand my issues with food. They thought, “What’s the big deal? It’s such a little thing to let have so much control over you.” I felt ashamed. I retreated into myself. 

In tennis, you have to be so strong. You can’t let your opponents see your weakness. And in tennis, eating disorders are rampant. My friends & I would go out for dinner. They’d eat nothing. Then they’d go home and binge on potato chips, brownies -- anything. I know, because I did it too.

My eating issues were wrapped up with an identity struggle, with that question – “What do you want to do in life?” All of us want to make some impact. There are so many choices, but my entire identity was wrapped up in tennis. I’d ask myself, “Will anyone even like me if I don’t play tennis?”

At 30, I realized, I’m tired of lying to myself. I had to make this change with food and my weight; I had to do this for me. 

How did I do it? I started to take care of myself first. I was the typical caretaker – worrying about my mother, my father, my coach. I had to be honest with myself, and

I had to do this – lose the weight -- for myself -- not for my job, my ex-boyfriend, my coach. I had to do it for Monica. When I talk to women, I say – “If you are happy being heavy, that is great.” I wasn’t. I wanted to be healthier.

Finding balance with food – and with myself – came with experience. As I got older, I thought, “Gosh, I travel so much – these European women, these Asian women – they eat all this stuff.” I realized I could do it too and still be in good shape. Since that realization, I’ve never restricted myself. I eat everything. I don’t have to stuff myself with pasta because I know this is not my last chance. I can eat it tomorrow, too.

Back when my trainers would tell me I couldn’t touch pasta and I could eat egg whites only, I would think, “Wouldn’t that pasta be so great?” Pasta became the forbidden food – and I wanted it so badly. In the end – I don’t believe in restrictions. To me, life without a piece of bread or pasta – it’s not worth it.

The lesson – for me – is to really be comfortable with who you are. In my profession I was surrounded by women sized 0. I’m 5’9” and I don’t have to be a size 0. I truly believe that in my 20s I would have understood that, had I had more strong, powerful role models.

One woman who did play that role for me was Billie Jean King. I talked to her for the first time when I played in the Federation Cup in 1996. She was remarkable for her sport, but even more for what she did off the court. She stood up for her beliefs. I was a two-handed forehand and backhand; I was a strong, grunting female. Talking to Billie about it, she would say, “Monica, be who you are.” 

Billie, like others, has done so much for this generation. Hopefully I can give back in my own little way, and keep that giving going.

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