Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wonderous Womanhood

Not every woman is going to agree with the following post, and guys might not get it at all.

As a woman, there are those days that you think we were dealt the bad hand in the poker game, the short end of the stick, or the uncomfortable chair on the airplane.... whatever you may call it.

There are those horrid PMS days, those "fat" days, and those hot flash days that make us wonder why we're even here.

For example, most women experience almost all of the so-called "nasty" characteristics of womanhood listed below:

  • Breast development (and stretch marks)
  • PMS (cramps, bloating, mood swings)
  • Menstruation (stained clothing items)
  • Body fat gain... and more body fat gain
  • Pregnancy (and more stretch marks)
  • Labour (woah!)
  • Breast Feeding (super sore nipples)
  • Post-partum weight loss blues
  • Pre-menopause (the start of hot flashes and night sweats)
  • Menopause (IT'S HERE and the body fat keeps piling on)
  • Post-menopause (relief, but now a whole new hormonal challenge)

From this, the guys must think, "Thank Goodness I'm not a woman!" and some women wish they were men instead.

But, despite these unique female challenges, there are many wonderful aspects to being a woman that all women should embrace and cherish.

1) Breasts: When we first developed our little "breast buds" almost every young woman out there probably did their best to hide them. When I first "blossomed" I remember being in ballet practice and not letting my hands down from my chest because I didn't want to let anyone see my little "boobies" showing under my tight pink bodysuit.

Now, women's breasts are sometimes one of their most prized possessions. But yet, women still like to complain: "I wish they were bigger", "I want them smaller", "I want them perkier", etc, etc. And many women take the initiative to enhance their breasts to make them larger, more round, or whatever augmentation you can think of. Blame it on our society that a woman has a hard time loving what is uniquely hers.

I do understand (don't get me wrong) that there are times when breast surgery may be necessary such as very different breast sizes, extremely large breasts or extremely small breasts, but all-in-all, most of those cases are the minority in today's surgery line-up.

One of the women in my boot camp class recently lost both her breasts to breast cancer. But, she still walks around proud and tall showing the world that she beat breast cancer, and still loves her body. She's one of the strongest women I know, and tells all of us to appreciate our breasts no matter what the shape or size, because you never know if you might be without them.

2) Menstruation, "the curse":
There were times in my life that I thought menstruation was a "curse" - a horrid time of agony and discomfort. Also, at one point in time, women were told menstruating women could spoil meat and turn milk, and they should stay away from others for fear of "contaminating" them.

However, when I "lost" my period for over 5 years, I'll honestly say I missed it and knew something wasn't right. Despite countless doctors visits, MRIs, CTs and hormone tests, we still couldn't figure out why it left. Doctors wanted me to go on "the pill" to make it come back, but that wasn't the answer, it was only a cover-up for the true underlying issue.

There are also women out there, due to hormonal alterations such as PCOS, who also can not menstruate and do everything they can to make their periods return. Some are successful, some unfortunately are not.

And now, there is a new birth control pill advertised on T.V. and in magazines telling women that "there's no reason a woman needs to have her period every month". So, she should take this wonder pill and not worry about it anymore. Every time I see this commercial I want to find the makers of this drug (probably men), kick them VERY hard and tell them they're morons.

In truth, menstruation IS a normal healthy process every woman should experience monthly. True, there are reasons why it shouldn't be absolutely agonizing and are natural ways to minimize the pain and suffering, but overall, suppressing your period or losing it on purpose is NOT a good thing.

You don't have to necessarily LOVE your period, but love that it means that you're healthy and not having it could mean that you're not. Having your period allows you to be all that is woman, and in today's world, being a woman is a powerful thing.

3) Pregnancy: When I first found out I was pregnant this past July, I thought my world was over. All I could think about was no time for "me", weight gain, stretch marks, and never looking good again..... how stupid and selfish was I?

Now, I'm ecstatic to be pregnant - I'm pumped to prove that many women CAN stay active throughout their pregnancies, and that they're not "delicate little flowers" or, "poor unfortunate souls". Rather, pregnancy is a strong and empowering time for women and it brings much joy and love into their lives. And, following pregnancy comes many new highs and accomplishments.

I realize more and more every day that it's an amazing gift to be able to create another human being inside of you. Every time I feel my baby girl move within me, I'm amazed that there's actually someone in there growing and becoming stronger every minute. My husband tries to feel the baby move, and does sometimes catch a flutter or a kick, but he really never gets to feel what I feel all day long, and for that I feel incredibly blessed. Especially considering I never thought I'd ever have children or even be able to have children. It's so special.

The other amazing thing about being pregnant is the ability to provide the best nutrition for your baby - you have total control over what goes in your mouth and hence, what your baby receives. For that, your baby is one lucky being, especially if you do all that you can to give him or her the best nutrition possible.

4) Labour: Yes, it can be painful. Yes, it can be uncomfortable, BUT, if you're used to pain (such as kicking your own butt in the gym, on the road, or on the field), you'll realize you can take any type of pain to help your child come into this world. And, you don't need any drugs to do so.

5) Post-partum weight loss blues: Sure, your body isn't going to immediately return to pre-pregnancy state after your baby is born, but, if you know how to eat right and exercise with a purpose even with baby around, you can join the hot mommies club very soon.

6) Women's body fat: It's no secret that women naturally have more body fat than men, and for most women, it's a lot harder to keep that body fat in an "attractive" range. But, IT CAN BE DONE. Look to those women around you that make it happen and learn what you need to do. It takes a bit of effort including being dedicated to healthy nutrition and exercise plan, but remember, eating and exercising in this way (as long as it's not in a disordered kind of way...) is a good thing for your entire life.

7) Pre-menopause/Menopause: I'll admit, this is something I'm not well-experienced in, but I do attend a lot of conferences on the topic and listen to those that know how to manage it. From what I've learned, menopause (like menstruation) is NOT a disease, and can be managed in a natural way.

There are certain environmental factors today (xenoestrogens, toxins, stresses) that make menopause happen much earlier than it's supposed to. But, there are many natural ways to make the transition to menopause happen at the right time, and happen without too many unnecessary side effects. For an example of how this can happen, have read of the article by Dr Desmond Ebanks, entitled, "The Essence of Estrogen"


Overall, women are a unique and special gender. Yes, we have our challenges and pains, but I hope you see that they're all worth it and make us who we are. Embrace your women-power and realize that with every day that passes, being a woman is the best thing that ever happened to you.

In health,



Jaya said...

Wow! Powerful post, Cass! I love this. I couldn't agree more that we need to embrace and celebrate our good health AS beauty, and not as something independent of it. I am certainly not ready for kiddies (I have a stress fracture in my pelvis!) but I have a real sense of privilege in being able to if/when the time is right.
You are going to be an amazing Mom. You already are.

Roland Denzel said...

As a guy, I'll abstain from certain parts of this conversation, but I do have a little bit to say...

Labor -- I think many women have a bad time with the former because they go into pregnancy not being fit to begin with. Not to say you need to train for pregnancy and labor, but historically, women "trained" as part of life, now men and women sit around all the time. Not you, of course, so I'm hoping you'll have a better time of things, come delivery. :)

Post pregnancy fat loss -- Jumping off from above, many women go into pregnancy not overweight, but not necessarily fit, and not living with good training and nutrition habits. Faced with a sudden weight gain, it may be their first time dieting down, EVER. Plus, they are challenged by the "eating for two" myths that abound, plus the "take it easy while recovering" mentality. Easy? No. Insurmountable? No. New, frustrating, and scary? Absolutely. Like I said above, I'm hoping that you will have a better time of it, as will your readers and trainees.

Body fat levels of women -- The fitness community (both the enthusiast and the Pro) has unrealistic views on the body fat levels "required" for hotness (in men, too). Shakira, Catherine Zeta-Jones, the 80's Kathleen Turner, Jessica Alba, 80's Demi Moore, Borderline Madonna, etc are/were all hot and certainly not lean.

I don't find leanness unattractive, either, by the way. I'm an equal opportunity admirer of a physique. As long as she's healthy, there's a wide spectrum.

This is your blog, not mine, so bye!


Cassandra Forsythe said...

Thanks Jaya! You're sweet :)

Roland, I totally agree. You bring up very valid points.

Labour (Canadian spelling btw,,,, :)) - I'll obviously share my experiences with this and hopefully prove I'm on the right track training like I do.

PP Fat loss - again, I'll be on this soon.

Body fat - some women just use their gender as an excuse, but you don't have to be anorexic thin to look fabulous. I love your examples of women to look uo to. I also prefer 80s Madonna to the Skelator she is now.

Bio said...

Well, some biologists would argue that we are not adapted to have regular monthly hormone and menstruation cycles 12 times a year for 35 years like modern women do.
In an evolutionary sense our bodies began menstruating later, and we spent a lot more time either pregnant, or breastfeeding (or not fertile at all in times of famine), and would only have a handful of periods in a (comparatively short) lifetime.
I'm not convinced that having a period every single month is "natural" (not that the word "natural" actually means anything).
I love your post about being accepting of our bodies, and I love that I can make informed choices about some of the functions of mine, and that other women can make different choices according to their needs and lives.

varsha said...

Aa a woman who has given birth to two,battled with weightgain and period problems and then discovered nirvana through weight training and reduced carb eating;I saw my problems biting dust and now feel very fit at forty(is that perimenopause?).I wholeheartedly agree-the machinery is there for a purpose,when it malfunctions,we should attend to the root cause(poor food habits and inactivity) and not try to tune out the biological signals with chemical clouds of pills so that our dialogue with our bodies is lost.
PMS and weight gain are our bodies anguished cry for proper nutritional support, I believe.When I started eating lot's of fat+protein rich stuff and my fish oil,PMS slinked away quietly.Ditto for weight gain.
And labour pain is not such a boogey.The first time when I was induced pre-term it hurt.Second time I allowed it to accelerate naturally and had much more breathing space.Having a sense of control on the way birthing is progressing makes a *HUGE* difference to the whole experience.
You will definitely have a GREAT birthing.Looking forward to reading all about it!

aelith said...

I agree with bio about what's "natural" being a complicated question. And believe me, some of the people exploring women's health (and potential applications of birth control pills) are women who like being women (and present at Midwifery conferences). But I am completely with you in terms of attitude!

Unknown said...

I ran across this post on Street Anatomy, featuring some impressive and fantastical paintings of the pregnant female - I thought they'd be of interest to you and other readers :)

Anonymous said...

FYI not all women give a crap about having kids. Actually, I hate them and never want to have one.

Cassandra Forsythe said...

Anon: yep, you're right. That's why I made the very first statement at the beginning of this post.

But... thank you for your warm and glowing comment.

rkiller said...

Cassandra- I was just stopping by and can really relate to your period problems. I have not had a period in 4 yrs, have had multiple tests with no answers also- and am scared for my fertility. How did you finally resolve the problem?

Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Cassandra Forsythe said...

Hi Rkiller

Time finally solved the problem along with learning how to de-stress, eating more liberally and less controlling, how to actually enjoy life, gaining a bit of body weight (not a lot... just a bit) and realizing that there's more to life than looking like a figure competitor 24/7. You can email me if you like and we can chat more on this topic - it took 7 years for me to get my period back and then it still wasn't that great, but I learned how to make it better.

Best, Cass