Measuring Up! Making Health and Self-Worth our Standards
Measuring Up! Making Health and Self-Worth our Standards Women of all ages attend Life, Unexpected symposium
By Goldie Kacev
Infertility, miscarriage, post-partum depression. Sandwich generation. Mental health. These topics are not for the faint-hearted. They are usually not broached in everyday conversation. But they are subjects that dramatically impact women of our community, and their families. In 2014, Rebecca Bassman, Rivki Pisem and Shira Winner, the newly appointed presidium of Daughters of Israel, envisioned an annual forum where important subject matter would be addressed, by women, for women. And thus Life, Unexpected was established. In partnership with Refuah-311, a division of Chicago Center for Torah & Chesed, and represented by this writer, the first seminar was launched in January 2015, spotlighting challenges connected with infertility, miscarriage, and post-partum depression. Overflow attendance spilled into the hall and feedback was tremendous. It was evident that women of our community hungered for presentations like these. Life, Unexpected was filling a void–providing attention to real challenges faced by real women in real life. On January 28, 2018, two hundred women converged to participate in Measuring Up! Making Health and Self-Worth our Standards – the 4th annual presentation of Life, Unexpected. Participants enjoyed a delicious assortment of healthy refreshments including soups, fruits, and crudités before the presentation. The attractive displays and elegant table décor that graced the Yeshurun Social Room were beautifully coordinated by Chaya Leah Carlsen and Chani Goldman, assisted by other talented women. Shira and Rivki, current DOI presidents, warmly welcomed the crowd, delineating goals of the evening: to internalize that our bodies are precious gifts from Hashem and that caring for our health is crucial. But they stressed that unlike secular society, we view our bodies as conduits for our neshamos, and we need to treasure each other for the inherent holiness of our souls, rather than judging each other based on appearance. Mara Tesler Stein, PsyD, who has provided her knowledge, experience, and expertise to Life, Unexpected since its inception, served as moderator once again. In her opening address she noted, “Tonight, as always with Life, Unexpected, we’re here to help make sense of life’s most complicated challenges, to start conversations that we hope you continue after you leave here tonight, and to make sure you know – you’re not alone.”Exploring the history of our attitudes toward the food we eat and the shape we are in, she poignantly relayed “By the time girls are in elementary school, they are already worried about what they eat and how much they weigh. Before they enter middle school, what was once a simple matter of fueling the body or eating meals that taste good with people you enjoy, has turned into all-out war. Food has become the enemy – and our bodies – the battleground.
“We become tangled in knots of ever-changing and conflicting advice -until we forget how to be natural and joyful about good nutrition and fitness.”Inbar Kirson, MD, FACOG, Diplomate ABOM, and founder of Physicians for Weight Loss, a medical weight-loss practice dedicated to optimizing metabolism and health, demonstrated why she is such a popular educator, as she opened the professional section of the symposium. She began with an historical assessment of the fallacies that have promulgated nutrition beliefs in the past century, and the faulty studies that created them. She discussed why thin does not mean healthy, and assured the audience: “If you eat well 90% of the time, don’t worry about the 10%!”Strongly encouraging 30 grams of protein for breakfast to jumpstart metabolism, and advocating a plate that consists of 50/50 protein and veggies, she advised viewing carbs at meals as a small side or dessert. She explained why 7+ hours of sleep per night is crucial, for its effect on cortisol level, weight, and overall health. Discussing exercise, she emphasized the value of small physical activities throughout the day, and stressed the importance for women to build muscle to speed up metabolism slowed by the aging process. “If you make health your priority, weight loss will follow!” was a crucial theme of Dr. Kirson’s outstanding presentation.”She explained that complicated signals in our bodies regulate energy balance, and that willpower has very little to do with weight gain. And she defined ideal weight: “Your ideal weight is the weight where you feel best, have good energy, sleep well, have optimal levels of blood sugar – and which is easy to maintain.”Inbar was followed by Rachel Zimmerman, LCPC, founder of Healthy Habits Chicago, who with humor and empathy, discussed her cognitive approach to creating, fostering and strengthening healthy habits. She emphasized the need to create a positive and compassionate internal voice for self-motivation, explaining, “If you truly view your quest towards positive healthy habits in your life as a journey- you understand that every journey has setbacks, stalls, and wrong turns- but that being on a journey means you learn from those, take a deep breath, and keep going.”She recommended looking in the mirror every day for several months, and advising the face looking back at you (as silly as it might initially feel)–“You are beautiful!” She highlighted the importance of being kind to yourself, of never comparing yourself to another, and establishing small changes that are sustainable to impact your health. Potential mine fields at simchas can be avoided, by planning ahead what to eat, and perhaps mindfully choosing one treat. Following a brief intermission, three remarkable women of our community joined Mara, Inbar and Rachel at the makeshift stage/living room, sharing their personal experiences on the road to better health. Magenta Boutique owner Yaffa Crandall, dynamic Chayala Glenner, and licensed cosmetologist/small business owner Chava Sara Siebzener discussed the realities in facing challenges many of us encounter, surrounding body image, self-worth, attitude towards weight, exercise and self-care. With honesty, sensitivity and humor, they shared experiences everyone in the room could relate to. They delved into their own personal journeys, delineating what worked – and what didn’t work for them. They each found value in a support system, overcoming obstacles on the path to
eating well; exercising; and understanding and respecting their inherent value. Yaffa shared childhood memories that shaped her attitudes, and how she turned them around. Chayala was a staunch proponent of not allowing societal stigmas to define you, the importance of positive attitude and discovering the joys of exercise. Chava Sara demonstrated a change in attitude she found essential in her path: “I am choosing not to eat that cake,” replaced “I can’t eat that cake!” Attesting to crucial insights presented by Inbar and Rachel, the panelists concurred that the path to health is a lifelong goal, and highlighted the importance of investing in yourself and treasuring your health. As Yaffa asserted: “This is a lifetime journey. You will have ups and downs – but accept yourself, and embrace the struggle. Most of all, always say, I AM WORTH IT!” Their courage and integrity inspired participants with tangible examples of how to achieve success – and equally important – how to redefine success: as achievable goals, with health and self-respect as criteria. “This was an amazing event. I loved it!”“Inbar and Rachel were fantastic!”“Such funny, intelligent women in our midst! They could host a talk show anytime!”These were just a sampling of comments from audience members, women of all ages, who left with a wealth of information and practical tips on how to begin/continue their personal journey to health and self-worth. Each participant also received a resource booklet to accompany her home; replete with insightful articles like “A Letter to my Body” and “Don’t Despair over Donuts!”; guidelines for optimal sleep; “At the Table with our Professional Panel”; recipes; print resources; and more. And consistent with past years’ symposiums – participants left with the reassurance of knowing they are not alone in addressing challenges we B’’H face in our personal development – in our own Life-Unexpected.
Women who would like a link to this year’s filmed presentation, or prior Life, Unexpected events, may email: email@example.com. Women may also request digital copies of the resource booklets from this year’s symposium.