Editor's Note: This article was written for Los Altos Patch as part of a San Jose State University journalism class assignment. The writer welcomes your feedback and comments.
By Kellie Miller
Sitting with notepads on their laps, and pens in hand, hundreds of women gathered in one of The Women's Hospital building's conference rooms at El Camino Hospital this month.
They had come to the Women's Health Forum on April 20 to learn from health experts, receive screenings, and listen to lectures about health concerns of particular interest to women.
Topics included breast health and new legislation, diet and nutrition, sleep issues and disorders, bone health and sports medicine, pelvic health and stress management.
The day even started with a stretching session, followed by low-impact exercises, to get blood pumping and underscore the importance of exercise in a healthy routine.
El Camino rolled out its new High-Risk Breast Assessment tool, which it has been recommending, since so many women have dense breast tissue are at risk for breast cancer. The tools gives more information about their breast health.
One topic that was really a crowd pleaser—and also came with surprises—was the diet and nutrition session.
El Camino Hospital dietician Jodi Bjurman called it, "Give yourself a gift: The power of nutrition."
Her goal, she said, was "to get each participant to be able to maximize their health and disease prevention through a lifestyle of excellent nutrition."
The audience gasped when Bjurman started with this single fact: "Children born in the year 2002 or later are expected to live shorter lives that their parents, due to these adapted eating habits."
Living in the United States means we are experiencing what is called the "Western Dietary Pattern," Bjurman said. That means too many of us are eating unnecessary amounts of red meat, refined grains, sugar, high fat foods, potatoes, and sweetened soft drinks. Having too many of these "bad" foods is leading to obesity, slow digestive systems, diseases, and shorter lifespans.
So what can we do to start changing our bad habits?
Go back to the basics, she urged. Eat real foods, not overly processed foods!
Bjurman suggested women to look to Asia and the Mediterranean to change their eating habits. Those have some of the world's oldest cuisines and are dietary patterns that promote the longest living people.
They eat well and they eat small portions, she said.
"The foods that are best to bring into our lives to make a change include large amounts of plant foods, whole grains, legumes, produce, and nuts," Bjurman said. "Again, think real foods."
Bjurman also took the time to remind the audience that nobody is perfect. Every now and then we are going to want that dessert or drink and for that we can look to healthier alternatives, she acknowledged. Go ahead and have a little dark chocolate, she said. (But remember though that each ounce had about 150 calories!) A square or two is even a good source of antioxidants, which helps clear your arteries, she said.
A little red wine won't hurt you either, Bjurman said. Women actually benefit from red wine daily—but no more than five ounces. (Think little wine glasses—like when you go wine tasting, she suggested).
The women scribbled away on their notepads, and applauded loudly at the end of the presentation. All questions were welcomed and Bjurman stuck around afterwards to answer any personal questions.
The takeaways? Be realistic. Try to plan ahead, and make good choices, but do not beat yourself up if you make a slip-up, Bjurman stressed. Try one or two new things a month and learn to stick to those. Be adventurous with cooking, and most importantly be sensible. Don't cut out whole food groups, and take the time to enjoy and savor your meals.
You hold the power to create a healthy lifestyle for yourself, she said.
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