Posts made in November, 2010

Wednesday Bubble: Good Girls & Inner Hags – A Woman’s Journey to the Self by Amy Palko

Posted by on Nov 17, 2010 in Inspiration | 7 comments

I  first discovered the gorgeous Amy Palko on Twitter. And it was not too long before we began to exchange quips. Then, I had the privilege of meeting Amy at a small pub last year on her home turf and I knew that Amy was an inspiration to women, an artistic, creative lovely soul with a purpose, a connector, supporter and a goddess in her own right. Thank you Amy, for sharing ways that women can love their entire selves and discover their inner goddess.

At the start of this year, I took a risk.  I did something that perhaps only a few short months before, I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing.  I bought a ticket for the overnight train to London, and booked myself a place on Vena Ramphal’s workshop Tearing Up the Good Girl Script.

Because, you see, I have always tried to be that good girl.  It was always my endeavour to find a way of being myself in such a way that I would stay acceptable, attractive even, to those that I met.  I have always tried to ensure that my femininity was primped, polished & painted.

I was attempting to tame the untameable – and I was exhausted with trying.

It was the realization that I was engaged in a futile attempt that led me to London.  When I arrived at the venue, my feet frozen were numb from the cold, and my eyes were heavy from lack of sleep on the crowded carriage.  My body felt slow and sleepy, my mind was dulled, my senses sluggish.  I had shut down.  My soul had closed itself up tight like one of those frosted rosebuds I’d just seen in Regent’s Park.

Because we atrophy when we try to craft ourselves into some cultural ideal of femininity.  Like the Classical Greek and Roman sculptures of the female form with their smooth limbs, their passive smiles, we render ourselves impermeable, fixed, numb.  A beautiful, cold surface with none of the wonder of womanhood.  None of the earthy, creative, sumptuous feminine spirit that makes us feel whole, grounded, conscious, and alive.

During the workshop, Vena asked us the question, “Where in your life are you trying to be good instead of being happy?”  And I was struck with the realization that it was in every area of my life.  Every single aspect of my life had become a carefully choreographed gender performance of what I knew others found acceptable, manageable, approachable, feminine.

As my northbound train left the station Vena’s question still echoed through my consciousness.  And I no longer felt slow or sleepy, dull or sluggish.  Instead I felt a bit raw, a bit tender, and maybe even just a bit vulnerable.  Just a little bit.  A chink in my carefully constructed veneer now scored the patina of pleasantness and passivity… and it felt good.  I felt alive.

Now it is the end of the year.  A year when I learned to say no.  When I learned to reveal those parts of me that aren’t nice but are authentic and true.  When I learned that revealing those parts, that side of me which I had always assumed was not acceptable, actually made me more, not less.  More of a woman, more of myself.  Me in the raw.

So, it is perhaps unsurprising that 11 months on I find myself reading Emma Restall Orr’s book Kissing the Hag: The Dark Goddess and the Unacceptable Nature of Women.  It seems fitting – almost a way of bracketing my experience of 2010.

As I turn the pages I am reminded of my awakening, my tearing up of my good girl script, and I know my journey is just beginning.  I still have lessons to learn in embracing my inner hag – that dark goddess that resides in us all and who refuses to be plastered in cosmetics, refuses to be aestheticized.

As Emma Restall Orr says so evocatively, “womankind is not often sunlight upon soft ripples, spring dew upon petals, the smiling and gentle ease of mothering comfort; grace, silence and obedience are not qualities that the average woman can sustain for any length of time.  Sugar and spice and all things nice isn’t the whole recipe: we too have snips of string and apple cores, bugs and slugs, tails, snouts, conkers, splinters and mud in the mix.  Gloriously, it is not our failings but our very nature that is constituted of black clouds, cacophony, sudden storms and wild, treacherous mire.  Here, in the muddy, bloody, raw essence of woman, we glimpse the face of the hag, the pith and fibre of woman that is just not nice.”

My good girl script is torn to shreds and my inner hag dares to show her face, her heart and her soul.

Is yours?

About the author…Amy Palko is a writer, photographer, academic, teacher, spiritual seeker, home-educating mother of 3.  She plays many roles in life, but the thread that runs through each is the sacred feminine.

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Aging and wrinkles and menopause. Oh my.

Posted by on Nov 15, 2010 in appearance, women's health | 10 comments

In my weekly research, I ran across the following headline:

White women’s skin may show wrinkles sooner

The story? That after menopause, white women develop wrinkles more quickly than their black peers — not as a result of differing levels of estrogen and its decline — but because of aging.

Okay. Um. So what?  Is this really news deserving Google search result after search result? And why does it matter? Is this yet another racial divide we need to concern ourselves with, that is, that my black female friends are going to look better than me in 10 years time? Moreover, do I care?

In all fairness, the news was based on a study of 21 black and 65 white women in their 50s who had gone through menopause. The study’s goal was to evaluate skin elasticity and facial wrinkles. And while skin elasticity, which was found to be equivalent among all women despite race, is thought to be related to estrogen levels, wrinkling, which is at the skin’s surface, is believed to be subject to aging and the environment. This is not conclusive but merely speculation.

The overall message is that younger white women might want to limit sun exposure to stave off some of this wrinkling. Good advice. For black women in particular, it’s not that they won’t wrinkle but that they may not wrinkle as soon as their white friends.

Of note, this small study is part of a larger trial that is examining the effects of hormone therapy on heart disease. And as a substudy, the researchers will be collecting information on how hormones might affect (or benefit) skin aging. However, data have already shown that the reality is inconclusive when it comes to hormones and aging skin.

That’s the scientific part. Now, let’s get the larger issue.

Another wrinkle has developed in the story of discrimination (sorry for the pun): how we can add race to the “aging sucks” equation.

As women, we are already guaranteed the disappearing mirror, invisibility dilemma as we age. It interferes with our self-esteem, our relationships and our careers. So we botox and implant and lift and smooth to keep the ‘dream’ alive. Now, researchers have not even provided another reason to hate ourselves but also, to abhor friends who are racially different than we are and may have an advantage when it comes to their appearance.

Want to hear something really ironic? Research shows that as women, we possess the ultimate weapon against aging: our friends. Black, white, hispanic, asian,  native, round, thin, tall, short…yup, all flavours, all sizes, all colors. Our friends will keep us young and they will keep us healthy too.

So can we spend a bit more money, time and energy on issues that really matter to our health? Wrinkles? They just are.


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Omega-3s and depression

Posted by on Nov 12, 2010 in depression | 4 comments

According to recent estimates, more than 20% of women undergoing menopause have major depressive disorder. In fact, mood disorders and depression affect a disproportionate amount of women in the peri- and postmenopausal stages compared to women in pre-menopause. Moreover, these mood disorders tend to occur in conjunction with hot flashes.

While researchers have yet to discover the cause of the depression/mood surge during menopause, they continue to explore therapeutic strategies that might help to take the edge off. And surprisingly, numerous studies actually point to the value of omega-3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — for alleviating depression. Besides wellbeing, one of the reasons this is so important is that research has linked depression with other serious conditions including heart disease and stroke. The one thing that all these conditions have in common is that they are believed to be caused, at least in part, by an inflammatory response by the body. One particular action of omega-3 fatty acids is that they have been shown to lower inflammation, which makes them potentially useful in treating disease.

So, can omega-3s help stave off depression in menopausal women? In a very small study published in the online edition of Menopause, peri- or postmenopausal taking daily omega-3 fatty acids  (Lovaza, 2 g daily) for 8 weeks had significant declines in depression scores, number of daily hot flashes and hot flash interference scores.  During the course of the study, 70% of women responded, and those whose depressive symptoms declined also experienced declines in hot flashes, indicating both a connection between the two and a possible role for omega-3s in menopause.

However, this study was very small, enrolling only 20 women and more evidence is needed with larger numbers of women before omega-3s can be recommended as a treatment for mood and hot flashes during menopause. Moreover, it’s essential to note that a thorough analysis of scientifically sound studies has recently pointed to the EPA component as driving as much as a 56% reduction in depressive symptoms, that is, if the supplements used contain more than 50% of standardized EPA or pure EPA. Therefore, when it comes to fish oils, the ratio of EPA to DHA may play an important role.

I’m excited because this study brings us another step closer towards demonstrating that menopausal symptoms can indeed, be effectively alleviated without hormonal therapy.

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Wednesday Bubble: Playing Russian Roulette – Hormone Replacement & Ovarian Cancer

Posted by on Nov 10, 2010 in HRT | 6 comments


Do we really need to burst another hormone therapy bubble? Or have you heard enough yet? If you are anything like me, I remain puzzled by those in the pro-HRT camp that keep on insisting that the data are incorrect and that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is safe. Just last week I received a press release stating the following:

“Medical Experts Report Reduced Risk of Life-Threatening Diseases in Women Who Undergo Menopause Hormone Therapy…Menopause experts Drs. Lovera W. Miller and David C. Miller, claim in their new book, Womenopause: Stop Pausing and Start Living (O Books 2010), that Menopausal Hormone Therapy, or MHT, can help reduce the risk of serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, diabetes, and even depression and dementia. The Millers present new evidence that puts to rest the controversial statement by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) in 2002 that declared MHT (formerly known as Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT) was harmful and could lead to the same health risks that the doctors say it now helps prevent.”

The Miller present new evidence that puts to rest the contention that HRT is harmful. Really?!

Ironically, the very same day, I received word of data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference this week demonstrating that both combination hormone replacement therapy (estrogen plus progestin) and estrogen-only hormone therapy increases the risk for developing ovarian cancer. Previous studies have linked the use of estrogen only hormone therapy to ovarian cancer so these findings are important.

This latest bit of information comes out of a European study of almost 127,000 women, 424 of whom developed ovarian cancer after 9 years of followup. Among current users of hormones during the start of the study, 69% used combination HRT and 18%, estrogen-only hormone therapy. Key findings included:

  • Increasing duration of use of any hormones was linked to an increased risk for ovarian cancer; women who used hormone therapy for 5 years or more had a 45% increased risk compared to women who had never used any hormones.
  • Current use of any types of hormones was associated with an overall 29% increased risk for ovarian cancer.
  • Type of hormone (combination versus estrogen only, regimens, how administered, as well as body-mass-index, smoking, oral contraceptive use and pregnancy history did not significantly affect risk.

In an accompanying news release, the lead investigator is quoted as suggesting that the link to ovarian cancer is consistent with recommendations that if women are going to choose to take hormones, that they take them for the shortest period of time possible.

This study joins the evolving database of evidence demonstrating that hormone replacement therapy, whether it’s combination estrogen/progestin or estrogen-only, can be a risky proposition in certain women. Want to read more trigger pulling data?

I don’t know about you but this woman is staying clear of HRT, hot flashes or not.

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The Roundup – Guest posts you don’t want to miss

Posted by on Nov 8, 2010 in women's health | 0 comments

[Credit: Special thanks to artist Darryl Willison of Please visit his site and support his work!]

Time to go outside the Roundup box. This month, I’ve decided to feature guest posts from 2010 that you don’t want to miss. These authors deserve your attention and your feedback. And my sincerest thanks to these beautiful women for adorning the pages of this blog and taking the time to share their thoughts, ideals and passions.

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