Category Archives: Health

The story of Violet’s heart. #CHDAwarenessWeek

The story of Violet's heart. #CHDAwarenessWeek

I’ve written about writing this piece before, so I won’t go into all that back story again. But I wanted to share the essay once again, since it’s the last day of Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week. Already, since I first published this piece last August, several more states have passed laws requiring the pulse oximetry screening — which is truly terrific news. But it’s still not required in all 50 states. And even states that have the law on the books may be slow to enforce it — as was the case for us. So if you’re a new or expecting parent, it’s worth asking (and then double-checking) to be sure this life-saving test is performed.

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We often heard “no baby will starve herself!” But it’s not that simple. #FeedingTubeAwarenessWeek

We often heard "no baby will starve herself!" But it's not that simple. #FeedingTubeAwarenessWeek

In fact, some babies and young children will starve themselves — because eating is too difficult, painful, or traumatizing. And too often, parents face judgment instead of support. For a full list of conditions that can necessitate tube-feeding, check out the Feeding Tube Awareness Association’s list. (So many other good resources there!)

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The Legacy of Campus Rape [More, February 2015]

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming (aka, the things you’d expect me to write about): Campus rape!

I’ve been following the current campaign to address this issue for quite awhile now. Emma Sulkowicz, Ariel Koren and the other women leading the fight on this are doing such brave, important work. They’re dealing with the immediate aftermath: What to do about frat parties, and less-than-proactive university administrators and all of the other factors that contribute to rape culture on our college campuses, right now. But I’ve also wondered: What about the (far too many) women who were raped in college a decade ago? Or four decades ago? What are the ripple effects of this experience on their adult lives, especially since these attacks happened long before colleges were prepared to protect and empower victims?

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The Energizer Body [Real Simple, February 2015]

The Energizer Body Real Simple February 2015 Cover Virginia Sole-Smith

Initially, I was a bit trepidatious about taking on the February cover story for Real Simple (even though they are one of my most favorite clients!). They wanted 2000 words on the science of metabolism; I couldn’t quite figure out how that wouldn’t end up being yet another New Year, New You weight loss story. Which — not that I never write those (plumber writer, remember?) — are not my favorite. All that obsessing we do over metabolisms and how to boost them or torch them or otherwise set ourselves on fire in some way seems to me to be entirely at odds with Health At Every Size.

(Refresher: HAES is a school of thought developed by a subset of obesity and health experts, which says it makes more sense to prioritize healthy lifestyle choices than weight loss at any cost. It doesn’t say that everyone can be healthy at every size — but rather, acknowledges that healthy people come in a range of shapes and sizes. So if you make healthy choices, you will be healthier, even if you don’t lose a ton of weight in the process.)

The Energizer Body Real Simple February 2015 Virginia Sole-Smith First Spread

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The $15 Test That Could Save Your Baby [YAHOO Parenting]

After my article about Violet was published in Parade this summer, I received so many amazing letters from parents of CCHD children and from several adult CCHD survivors. I read and saved every email (yes, even if I didn’t have time to respond to you personally) because it meant so much to have these total strangers reaching out to say “I’ve been where you are.”

Then I got an email from Annie Kersch, who was writing to say “I’m there, right now.” And also: “How can we make sure this stops happening?” Because her daughter Ari also did not receive a pulse ox test at birth — which meant she became dangerously and horrifically ill before her heart defect was discovered. Annie is committed to raising awareness about the importance of pulse oximetry screening (as well as improving prenatal detection of congenital heart defects), so I knew I had to tell her story. I’m so pleased that this piece is now live on the new (and very cool!) Yahoo Parenting.

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Saving The Smallest Hearts [Parade, August 2014]

I wrote the first draft of this essay quite soon after we came home from Violet’s first (22 day) hospital admission. Our life had just exploded, everything was raw, and I was filled with questions. My (excellent, patient, compassionate) midwife and Violet’s (excellent, patient, compassionate) team of doctors were endlessly kind about my questions. But they didn’t have all the answers. And during a time like that, people are quick to tell you when there’s no fruit there — you need to focus on moving forward, on being strong for what is and what’s next. They are right and I have tried hard to do that. But trying to understand why your baby’s heart didn’t develop correctly isn’t like trying to understand why your ex-boyfriend stopped calling. It’s a big, never-ending question with a million answers (depending on your faith or lack thereof) and also no answers — at least not scientific ones, at least not yet.

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Heavy & Healthy [Marie Claire, August 2014]

Getting back to my roots here, with a new feature for the August issue of Marie Claire that asks: Can you be heavy and healthy?

Longtime blog readers know that my gut response on this would be yes — but it turns out there is a decent amount of science to support that idea. Of course this is a pretty controversial claim, so let’s go over some ground rules right now:

  • No, I am not saying that every overweight person is healthy (or vice versa).
  • No, I am not saying that every thin person is unhealthy (or vice versa).
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Breathing Lessons [Prevention, June 2014]

A lot of the time, as a writer, my job is to tell stories. But sometimes, in ways that are forever surprising me, I realize that my stories are kind of telling me. So here’s a story that I started telling over a year ago, when two assignments inspired me to learn to swim. Yes, at age 32, yes, while seven months pregnant.

And today, I’m sharing a new story, which I wrote for this month’s issue of Prevention, about how swimming has sort of saved my life. The article is part of a wonderful package on “extreme healing.” There are pieces on how to turn your home into a healing oasis, the best healing destinations in the world, and fancy healing spas. Then there are two essays that weave together the science of healing with personal narratives. One is by the utterly fabulous Judith Newman, about the road trip nobody wanted to go on.

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Wonder Drug [ELLE, November 2013]

This is one of those very tricky stories that made me think very hard about stuff that I’ve long taken as gospel. Specifically: That The Pill is the best thing that ever happened to women’s healthcare and maybe to women, period.

I know. As a good feminist and generally responsible human being, I have long assumed that being on the Pill was more or less my civic duty. I thought I had to be on it the same way I have to vote because, you know, Susan B. Anthony and Seneca Falls.

But you guys already know a lot of my back story here: Migrainesendometriosis, what have you.* And at some point along my merry way, I started wondering about the Pill. It was clear that all of my health issues were hormonal. And the Pill — which I had been taking faithfully since the age of 14 — is nothing but (synthetic) hormones. I tried lots of different kinds and ultimately got to this catch-22 situation where I couldn’t stay healthy off the Pill but I also couldn’t find one that worked for one problem without making the other one worse. In talking casually with girlfriends and many readers of this blog, I realized that lots of women struggle to find a good fit with the Pill… yet we also all take it for granted that it’s The Best Thing Ever For Women’s Health. Because choice and responsibility and empowerment, right? 

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Exercise: Learning To Love It [Elle, June 2013]

Elle Magazine Virginia Sole-Smith June 2013

The June 2013 issue of Elle is “The Body Issue,” and I contributed this essay on the science of exercise motivation and my personal quest to stop thinking of my workouts as yet another chore (to be avoided at all costs) and start being one of those people who actually craves physical activity and gets grouchy when they can’t do it.

Elle "Exercise Learn To Love It," June 2013 by Virginia Sole-Smith

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