One of my "non-resolutions" each year is to do a lot more reading. I'm not talking about blogs, newspapers and magazines (although I seem to be reading more and more of those, too). I mean REAL reading, of books, the kind I used to do when I didn't have all those distractions (um, loving family members) living with me. So when Marjorie and Melissa of MotherTalk put out the call for review bloggers, I signed up. Thus, the year began with an invitation to be part of a blog tour for the book you see below. This is my contribution.
I've been getting serious about my health. Last summer, when a good friend (who is my age) suffered a stroke, I realized that I couldn't continue lying to myself that I was still young, even though I still feel as I did when I was 25.
The problem is, 25 was 27 years ago.
And if I were to be truly honest with myself, I DON'T feel EXACTLY as I did in the days when I could share a pitcher of margaritas with my boss at lunch, go back to work, and sip screwdrivers on the job -- before quitting for the evening and meeting friends at a club for more drinks and dancing. (I worked at a radio station, and vodka and orange juice were the only items in our department fridge. It was a looser time. And I was 25. If I'd tried to keep that up, I don't think I'd be here today to reminisce about it.)
Today, I have other symptoms of aging (besides an inability to consume mass quantities of alcohol). My first inkling that I was getting older occurred in my mid-30's, when I decided I was finally ready to start a family. That's when I got a big fat lesson in the frustration of infertillity.
Around the same time, my metabolism started to slow down. Without changing my diet, I gradually started packing on pounds -- a process that accelerated when I did finally become pregnant and gave birth (just before turning 40).
And don't get me started on the other symptoms of perimenopause! Take the hair that keeps showing up in places it doesn't belong on a woman, or the thinning hair on the top of my head. I've got the makings of a bald spot that gets bigger each year, convincing me that I may soon have to invest in a good piece -- or a wardrobe of hats. There are the menstrual periods that used to arrive like clockwork and now -- well, let's just call them an ever-changing surprise, because there is no longer any predictability to them at all.
Getting old sucks. But chronic illness sucks more. I'm not too crazy about the idea of dying at this time in my life, either. So when I read the blurb on The Natural Superwoman, I was intrigued:
The Scientifically Backed Program for Feeling Great, Looking Younger, and Enjoying Amazing Energy at Any Age.
When I read the name of the authors, I knew I HAD to read this book. You see, Dr. Uzzi Reiss was my OB/Gyn for 15 years. He was the man who treated me for my infertility, and he delivered my daughter.
I loved this gentle, caring, tiny man, who always made me feel confident, secure and safe.
Ironically, the very baby we worked so hard to create and deliver was in part responsible for my parting ways with Dr. Reiss. For two years after her birth, I continued to work full-time outside the home, at a very demanding, high pressure job. I couldn't handle the stress, and the minute it was financially viable to do so, I quit and became a stay-at-home mom.
I lost a good income. More important, I lost a really good health insurance plan. We could no longer afford the services of a "successful, high-profile medical practice that attracts celebrity clients from the worlds of film, television, high fashion and politics" (described on the book jacket).
It was with a heavy heart that I decided to trust my health to my husband's company's HMO. I so disliked the HMO doctors that I eventually stopped seeing them altogether, and went about five years without getting a gynecological exam -- which is pretty risky for a woman my age. (I did finally find a PPO doctor I like, and am now getting regular checkups. But he's not Uzzi Reiss, and I still mourn the circumstances that caused my decision to leave him.)
I knew that this book would probably advocate treatments that the medical establishment might find radical. Dr. Reiss was always unorthodox. He treated women for PMS at a time when premenstrual syndrome wasn't accepted as something that was REAL. In fact, that was my reason to see him in the first place. I was truly suffering from it, to the point where it was hurting me on the job (no one wants an employee who gets on a crying jag and CANNOT STOP). A co-worker slipped me his number. "This man really helped me," she said. He helped me, too, with vitamin therapy (also less accepted back then than it is now).
"Your doctor is a quack," my sister opined after I got pregnant. This was in response to Dr. Reiss' instructions to stay away from tap water during my pregnancy, an instruction she found ridiculous, because her own ob/gyn never told her to drink bottled during her three pregnancies. A couple of years later, I read an item in the paper linking L.A.'s water to a higher incidence of miscarriages.
After the baby was born and I was faced with trying to lose all that weight, Dr. Reiss mapped out a diet plan: No bread. No rice. Little or no grains (whole or otherwise). No sugar.
To me, it sounded a lot like the Atkins diet, which I'd done the first time it was popular, back in the late '70's. After that, the idea of eating low-carb, high-protein had been discredited.
It didn't sound good to me. Besides, it sounded hard. I gave it a half-hearted try, but gave up after about a week.
A few years later, low-carb diets (including Atkins) enjoyed a resurgence of popularity, as people discovered that they WORK (and studies proved that if done right, they are just as healthy as a balanced, low-calorie diet that includes carbohydrates).
In 2005, I thought of Dr. Reiss when I dropped twenty pounds doing South Beach (which is also low-carb). I had discovered what the doctor had already known: my middle-aged body can't process carbohydrates the way it used to.
That lesson was reinforced when I went off South Beach, gained back the weight -- and then some -- and this year, I went on a hard-core diet through a medical weight loss clinic. Low calorie, low fat AND low carb. I've learned that my body has a tougher time with carbs than I'd ever thought possible.
Once again, Dr. Reiss espoused a radical medical idea and turned out to be right.
In The Natural Superwoman, he advocates hormone replacement therapy.
All right. Wasn't that practice discredited? Wasn't it proven that giving women hormones can cause them to die of heart disease? Isn't that dangerous?
If this was coming from anyone else, I'd be the first in line to yell "Quack."
But my history with Dr. Reiss forced me to read his book with an open mind, and he makes a very good case. He explains why the Women's Health Initiative study got the results it did, and why the regimen he advocates would improve a woman's health, not harm it.
Find out why doctors are wrong to conclude that all HRT is dangerous for women, plus Dr. Reiss' advice on preventing breast cancer in part 2 of this review, at SoCalStuff.