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Speak Well Being

Serving hospitals, healthcare and women's groups

For Your Well Being: Know Your Body Shape?

Feb. 19, 2010, Vol. 8 Issue 1

Dear Friends,

If you get as many e-news, blog-posts, etc. as we do, you may not have missed us. Due to technical difficulties, imagined and real, we have had a lapse in publication. That said, we’re back.

So, where to start?  I’ve added a quite a few speakers to our roster and website, so we’ll be highlighting them in upcoming issues. Hot dates right now are Nurses Week, May 6-12, Cancer Survivor’s Day, June 6, and fall women’s events, particularly the first couple of weeks of October.  Speakers and I have all noticed shortened lead times for event planning. To give you an idea, in January, we booked three February heart health events.  Still, for those wanting a specific speaker for a specific date, it’s best to plan ahead.

Dr. Marie Savard
The Body Shape Solution to Heart Health

Of course, it is American Heart Month, and I had the pleasure early this month of attending a heart health event sponsored by Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, WA, featuring Marie Savard, M.D.  In “The Body Shape Solution to Heart Health,” Dr. Marie, as she likes to be called, explained to the 440 women in the audience, that there’s more to women’s heart health than age, blood pressure, cholesterol, and risks caused by smoking.

A women’s health specialist and patients’ rights activist, Dr. Marie looks at women’s heart health issues from the perspective of body shape and the latest heart health guidelines.  Although most women understand intuitively whether their bodies tend to store fat around their waists (forming an apple shape) or lower down around their hips, thighs, and buttocks (forming a pear shape), few women understand the dramatic impact body shape has on their cardiovascular health and risk of future disease. She has gathered decades of research to demonstrate that these two categories of women—apple-shaped and pear-shaped—are physiologically different and the differences are key components of a heart risk assessment and the optimal treatment plan.

Every aspect of a woman’s life is affected by her shape, including her ability to lose weight, her fertility, her menopausal symptoms, response to birth control pills and hormone replacement, emotional volatility, body image, and long-term risks of breast cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, osteoporosis, and eating disorders.

That is one of the things I especially enjoyed about Dr. Marie’s program.  While the focus was on heart health,  almost every facet of women’s health was addressed. She says your body shape is the single most powerful predictor of future health. “Body shape is the closest thing we have to a medical crystal ball. This one simple piece of information is more important than weight for predicting your risk of heart disease or stroke. A tape measure can be the most powerful tool a woman and her doctor have to identify the woman’s risk of heart disease and to begin taking appropriate preventive steps,” she said.

She explained how to calculate your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR).  With a flexible tape measure, measure around your waist. If you have a visible waist, measure the narrowest part. If you don’t have a waist, measure around the widest part of your middle, usually about one inch above your navel. The tape measure should be held loosely, while you stand straight, but relaxed — and no sucking in the gut.  That number is your waist circumference.

The next measurement is around your hips — not where the bones of your pelvis jut out, but about 3 or 4 inches lower. You should be measuring around your buttocks, not above or below. If you have any doubt, take the measurement at the widest point of your lower body, which may include your saddlebags if you are pear-shaped. Now divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement to get your WHR.  If your WHR is 8.0 or lower, your body is classified as pear-shaped. If your WHR is higher than 8.0, your body is classified as apple-shaped.

The essential difference between apple and pear shapes is fat — where it is, what type it is, and how it affects health. Apple-shaped women have more visceral fat, which gathers around the internal organs and is generally more harmful to the body than subcutaneous fat, which appends itself to the buttocks and thighs. Visceral fat creates a physical environment that is primed for heart disease and stroke. The more abdominal fat a woman has (the greater her waist is in proportion to her hips) the more dangerous the situation becomes.

“Once you understand what body shape means, how it is formed, how it changes, and how it relates to your health, the effect is like ripping off a blindfold. Finally our stomach and thighs make sense. Finally you know what you have to do to lose weight more easily. Finally you can put medical problems in context and really know what to do to improve them. Finally you can appreciate and understand your body as it is, while still nurturing it to become stronger and healthier than ever before. No matter what body shape you have, how old you are, or how much you weigh, there are many things you can do to decrease your personal disease risk,” she explained. “Diet and exercise are only part of the equation. Medical monitoring is critical, as is a change in mindset. We need to stop thinking of our weight problems, and learn to accept ourselves as women with figures. Every woman can become stronger, look better and feel healthier.”  Dr. Marie put her listeners at ease about body image and health issues as she sprinkled her presentation with plenty of cartoons that helped us laugh at ourselves.

If you’d like to get some really quick and nifty lifestyle tips for both apple and pear shapes, reply to this email and write Apples and Pears in the subject line and we’ll send you the link. For more in-depth information about these concepts, get the book, “The Body Shape Solution to Weight Loss and Wellness,” (Atria Books, 2005) where you’ll find specific risk assessment tools, medical monitoring, optimal hormone choices, nutritional and exercise recommendations based on body shape and individualized health goals.

Marie Savard, M.D., is an internal medicine physician, expert on wellness and champion for patient rights. She is the author of three nationally acclaimed books. Her most recent book, “Ask Dr. Marie,” was named by The Wall Street Journal as a top health book for 2009. Dr. Marie is a frequent speaker and spokesperson on behalf of a wide array of women’s health issues, featured in print, radio and television. Her recent appearances include: ABC News/Good Morning America and Healthy Life, The Oprah Show, The Today Show (both weekdays and weekend shows) and The Early Show.

You can learn more about Dr. Savard and her topics on our website, or give us a call at 503-699-5031 to check availability.

Zumba for Zillions
Women Model Fun and Fundraising

Some girls really know how to have fun — and raise money doing it.  I spent a Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago here in Portland, in a gym full of joyful women, Zumba dancing — my first time.  Called Zumba for Zillions, the dancing benefited Esther’s Pantry, a community group that provides food and personal care items to those living with HIV/AIDS. The price of admission was a $25 donation, and, for the participants, an appetizer for six or a bottle of champagne.  Of course, that yielded one very long table full of a plentititude of goodies — fuel for the dancers. This fundraiser was the brainchild of Wendy Mitchell and four other women (spanning three generations) who all met working in women’s health.  This was their third event, under the umbrella of The Joy Adventure Club (JAC).  The first, Hula for Moola, raised over $1,000 for the Oregon Food Bank, and the second, Bellydancing for Bucks, benefited Sisters of the Road Cafe.

The model for JAC came out of Wendy’s 64th Mamma Mia! birthday party.  She rented a dance studio and 50 of her closest friends came in their 60‘s best, with food or champagne to share, and they jived the night away, singing, “See that girl, watch that scene, digging the Dancing Queen!”

And the fun continues . . . JAC events are all about women celebrating themselves, sharing the joy of coming together for fun and purpose. They are movement themed and execution is organic and easy. The core group does the brainstorming and planning, and they keep the logistics simple, simple, simple.  Sharing their contact lists, they use Evite to get the word out. It’s easy, efficient and environmentally friendly. They also make sure that the fundraising aspect is never a deterrent to entry, so if someone wants to come and can’t afford to pay, they’re asked to give whatever they can. 100% of the proceeds go directly to the charity.

Keep moving and have fun, for your well being and those you love.

Yours truly,


About Our Services

You’ll find many of our speakers on our website,

The Speak Well Being Group specializes in exceptional speakers for women’s health and wellness, community and healthcare-oriented special events, including cancer survivor, breast health awareness, heart health and nurses appreciation programs. Our goal is to make it effortless to connect clients with the talent and expertise that will make speaker selection easy and ensure a successful event. We’ve been co-creating health and wellness through connections since 1998.

To learn more about our fabulous speakers and satisfied clients, visit our website at or call Barbara Christenson at 503-699-5031.

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