Body for Life for Women

By Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Live Events Transcript
Event Date: June 29, 2005

We only get one body, so take good care of it! Are you giving your body the nutrition, exercise, and attention it needs? What steps can you take to improve long-term health and vitality? Pamela Peeke, MD, shared information on nutrition, exercise, and healthy living for women on June 29, 2005.

If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR: Welcome to WebMD live, thank you for joining us today.

PEEKE: This is great. I'm really looking forward to the discussion.

MODERATOR: Could you tell us how your program is different from Body for Life by Bill Phillips? What needed to be changed to make this program work specifically for women?

PEEKE: Bill wrote the book, the original book, in the mid-'90s. Much has changed since then, especially the emergence of gender-specific medicine. Therefore, my book, Body for Life for Women , is customized and individualized for the specific needs of a woman, which includes her hormonal milestones as well as her specific and very unique hardwiring, psychologically and physically.

MODERATOR: Can you explain that a little bit more -- what do you mean by a woman's hardwiring?

PEEKE: Scientists have now found that women have specific tendencies, for instance, psychologically. Women are ruminators; not all women clearly, but we're looking at the bulk of women. Women tend towards rumination, perfectionism, stress-overeating as well as a need to caregive, oftentimes without boundaries. Therefore, they have the tendency to drop off their own radar with regard to self-care. Men are excellent at compartmentalizing. But women tend to blur many of those boundaries and therefore continue to caregive 24/7 and forget their own self-care. These things are specific to women and need to be taken into consideration when developing programs.

Finally, during a woman's hormonal milestones -- which includes the onset of her menses, pregnancy, perimenopause, menopause and beyond -- a woman's psychological hardwiring may also be directly and oftentimes significantly impacted. This too must be honored as one develops programs for women's self-care.

MODERATOR: Dr. Peeke, women, normally are the caregivers and we don't take care of ourselves. How do you get past that hurdle?

PEEKE: What I normally do is, tell women that it's wonderful that they are excellent caregivers but the best caregiver is a healthy caregiver. I also remind them of the science which now clearly shows that women who do not take care of themselves actually end up being sicker and sometimes die before the very people who they are trying to caregive. Therefore, it's like investing in themselves and their caregiving by incorporating balance into their lives -- a little for you and a little for the people you care about. When women hear the "balance" word, I find that it really resonates with them, and they get it.

MODERATOR: You take a holistic approach to a woman's health, stressing not only the physical but also the mental health. What are the key elements to this?

PEEKE: The template involves three elements -- mind, mouth and muscle. Mind obviously also involves a sense of spirituality, so it's sort of mind spirit. I'm trying to do something somewhat revolutionary here. I'm asking people to stop doing things like just looking at their eating or just looking at their exercise or just looking at their psychology. Instead what I'm trying to do is to have people incorporate all three elements.

For each individual, it turns out that certain elements resonate better than others and are easier to incorporate and that's all right. You're not expected to get it all at one time that way. However, when I do it this way, I'm able to show how all three elements are essentially interconnected for life. All must be honored and the greatest benefit is gotten when they are honored.

MODERATOR: You say mind, mouth and muscle. What do you propose we do with the mouth?

PEEKE: Use it well. What I'm asking you to do is to learn to nourish yourself physically by eating smarter, and by doing so you also remember that interconnection, nourish your mind as well as your body.

When it comes to mouth template, I'm looking at three essential points -- quality, quantity and frequency:

  • Quality addresses the issue of what I refer to as the smart foods. The smart foods are those foods in each category of fat, protein and carbohydrate which allow you to be able to optimize nourishment.
  • Quantity clearly addresses the issue of portion and serving size which is what I consider the greatest challenge. Many people say they eat high-quality foods, but eating mountains of it is not helpful.
  • Frequency is a new concept for many people. We have found in science that to be able to optimize your body composition -- that is to minimize body fat and maximize lean mass or muscle mass -- it is very important to eat roughly every 3-4 hours. You would have breakfast, midmorning, lunch, midafternoon and dinner. And if they are up for a very long period of time, potentially a small feeding prior to retiring at nighttime.