May 10, 2022
Neha Jayaram, Communications and Marketing Assistant
Today, March 8th, the world is celebrating International Women’s Day. The campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is #EachforEqual. An equal world is an enabled world, and together each of us can help create a gender equal world. Gender equality doesn’t just advance the well-being of women, but benefits people of all genders through peace and security, economic prosperity, health, and happiness.
March is also Nutrition Month and here at SCHC our vision is healthy women everywhere, capable of anything.
Research shows that as girls approach adolescence the advantages of early childhood quickly get overshadowed by high rates of sexual assault and other violence, a sharp decline in mental health and confidence, and negative stereotyping and sexualization.
Body image is how we view our bodies. Negative stereotyping and sexualization results in distorted body image and unrealistic expectations of what a “healthy” body looks like. A distorted body image often leads to other issues such as eating disorders and mental health problems. Research shows that women with healthy body image are more likely to be physically and mentally healthy.
So, What Is a Healthy Body?
First, it is NOT numbers on a scale. How much you weigh is not an accurate indication of your health. Recent research has shown that despite being “overweight” or “underweight”, not everyone has the health problems associated with it.
The goal for each of us, gender notwithstanding, should be to practice healthy lifestyle habits. These include, not smoking or drinking, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise.
What is Healthy Eating?
Healthy eating means choosing foods that improve your health and help prevent diseases. It means choosing healthy food from all of the food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and proteins), most of the time, in the correct amounts for you. Healthy eating also means not eating a lot of foods with added sugar, sodium (salt), and saturated and trans fats.
Healthy eating also means getting your nutrients primarily from food rather than from supplements. Of course, at different types in your life, like before or during pregnancy, and depending on your lifestyle choices (vegetarians may not get enough Omega 3 from their diet), you may need supplements. And that’s okay too.
What you eat and drink is influenced by where you live, the types of foods available in your community and in your budget, your culture and background, and your personal preferences. Often, healthy eating is affected by things that are not directly under your control, like how close the grocery store is to your house or job. Focusing on the choices you can control will help you make small changes in your daily life to eat healthier. Planning your meals ahead of time will help improve your grocery shopping experience too. It reduces food waste and makes meal prep a lot less stressful.
We are what we eat. What you eat and drink become the building blocks for all of the cells in your body. Over time, your food and drink choices make a difference in your health.
Health Issues Unique to Women
Women experience unique health conditions like pregnancy, menopause, menstrual irregularities and other gynecological disorders.
- Calories: Most times, women need fewer calories. That’s because women naturally have less muscle, more body fat, and are usually smaller. On average, adult women need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day. Women who are more physically active may need more calories. Find out how many calories you need each day, based on your age, height, weight, and activity level.
- Vitamins and minerals: Calcium, iron, and folic acid are particularly important for women.
- Reproductive health: Women have different nutritional needs during different stages of life, such as during pregnancy and breastfeeding or after menopause.
- Health problems: Women are more likely to have some health problems related to nutrition, such as celiac disease and lactose intolerance, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as iron-deficiency anemia.
- Metabolism: Women process some substances differently and burn fewer calories at rest and during exercise than men do.
This means that our nutritional needs change throughout our lives and we need to feed ourselves accordingly. We may need more or less of certain vitamins and minerals depending on our age and stage of life.
- During the teen years: Girls ages 9 to 18 need more calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones and help prevent osteoporosis later in life. Girls need 1,300 mg of calcium and 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D every day. During menstruation girls lose a lot of blood and consequently need more iron than boys (15 mg compared to 11 mg).
- Young adults:After about age 25, a woman’s resting metabolism (the number of calories her body needs to sustain itself at rest) goes down. We can slowly reduce the number of calories consumed and keep up a physically active lifestyle.
- Before and during pregnancy.We need more of certain nutrients than usual to support our health and our baby’s development. These nutrients include protein, calcium, iron, and folic acid. Many doctors recommend prenatal vitamins or a folic acid supplement during this time. You may also need to avoid some foods, such as certain kinds of fish. Every woman’s pregnancy is different, and your doctor will accurately suggest a diet for you.
- During breastfeeding: Nursing mothers should continue eating healthy and drinking a lot of water. You may need about 13 cups of water a day to avoid dehydration.
- After menopause: Post-menopause our bodies produce lower levels of estrogen, putting us at risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, strokes, diabetes and osteoporosis. Paying special attention to your nutrition is crucial at this stage. Talk to your doctor about healthy eating plans and whether you need more calcium and vitamin D to protect your bones.
This Women’s Day let us strive to uphold and celebrate the women in our life. Let us together decide to eat better and take better care of our mental and physical health. At SCHC, we have teams of incredible women that work together to improve the overall health of the Scarborough community.
Call our clinic today to see a healthcare professional, who will support you on your journey to be the healthiest version of yourself.