When it came to health, it took me years to trust my intuition. You know: that voice in your head that you should have listened to when it came to buying that lottery ticket/taking that job/dating that man. At first my misgivings were locked on my “ideal” weight. Though I felt pressured to drop pounds, I suspected that my body could be fit, happy and healthy at my existing weight, even if it exceeded BMI standards. After years of fruitless dieting and a month-long, last-hope stint at a highly renowned weight loss clinic where spent almost $10,000 and lost only two pounds (that’s right, $5000 a pound!), I realized my intuition was correct: my body could, and did, find a healthy set point.

When treating a rare autoimmune disease called Wegener’s granulomatosis, I had to call on my intuition once again. After years on prednisone and chemo drugs, I lost over forty pounds in about two months. I was sick to my stomach and the same color as a yellow sticky pad. My liver enzymes were dangerously high. A hepatologist diagnosed me with autoimmune hepatitis, and directed me to increase the already astounding dose of steroids I was taking.

My gut told me he was wrong.

I tried to tune out the doc’s diplomas and listen to my body. To “talk” to my liver, as a healer had once advised (ergo, “listening to your gut”). The doctor had years of expertise in treating liver disease. But I had expertise in knowing how my body responded to drugs. Finally I decided the doctor was wrong, and it was the medication that was making me sick.

I was right.

I discontinued the meds. Within days, my liver enzymes had dropped 50%. Months later, I was correctly diagnosed. It wasn’t autoimmune hepatitis, but hepatitis C, exacerbated by prednisone.

What I believe is that each one of us walks into the doctor’s office with an essential diagnostic tool: intuition. It’s important to assess all available diagnostics, but pay attention to the voice in your head, the message from your gut. Because your doctor might be the expert in your disease, but you are the expert on you.


by Wendy Shanker

You can imagine my delight the first time I saw a commercial for the Always Maximum Protection Maxipad.  I was pumping up and down on the elliptical trainer at the gym when I first caught it.  A big beautiful blond woman cooed about Always Maximum Protection with Flexi-Wings, a maxipad designed especially for women sizes 14 and up.  She wondered if I knew that most maxipads are designed for a size 6 or below.

I stopped pumping and started thinking.  First: “Cool!  Finally a company understands that I belong to a special market with special needs!”

Then:  “Do my special needs really include a plus-size maxipad?”

There’s no biological connection between the size of my body and the heaviness of my menstrual flow.  So I have to think that Always Maximum Protection must not be designed for a heavier flow, but for a wider diameter of protection.  In other words, Always is selling me an extra-large pad for my extra-large underwear.  Ah.

It definitely looks different than the other pads.  You know the Always Maximum Protection when you see it in the drugstore.  You’ll find the pantiliners, and the minipads, and the maxipads, and then you’ll wonder why someone left a box of Huggies on the shelf.  Hon, those aren’t Huggies.  That’s the Always Maximum Protection Maxipad.

Can you say offensive?  Just because I wear a size 14 or up, I don’t run around in a giant pair of granny panties.  That lame image has been the punchline of one too many adolescent comedy flicks.  I wear sexy, fitted panties in a wide variety of colors and styles.  Sure, my skivvies have a wider waistband than that of the size 6 girl, but the strip of cloth that is pad-coverable is pretty much the same minimal width in any pair of panties (except the thong – but that’s a different torture for a different day).  It doesn’t matter if you wear a size 2 or a size 22; the strip is the strip.  There ain’t a lot of give there.

A press rep at Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Always, assured me that the product was created in response to demand from a plus-size consumer website.  It has sold so well that other companies are going to knock it off.  So maybe there are some of you out there who want or need a wider product like this one.  But can you say uncomfortable?  I felt like I had a throw pillow stuffed down my pants when I walked around wearing the Maximum Protection Maxipad in a road test.

I’m curious: if Always assumes that a bigger girl needs a bigger pad, what about petite women?  Like Sarah Jessica Parker’s size 0 body?  Will Always be creating some little Q-tip looking minipad that she can delicately stick in her ultra-narrow panty strip to accommodate her teeny-weeny vageeny?

I don’t mean to knock the great strides that have been made in pantiliner technology.  For example, you can now buy black pantiliners.  But they are made for black underwear, not for black women.

There’s no correlation between dress size/body size and genitalia size.  You’d never assume that all plus-size men need plus-size condoms for their plus-size penises – though I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you did.

Putting the general size issue side, I’m insulted by the very creation of this product because it screams, “Hey, you Fat Girl!  Here’s a plus-size pad for your plus-size vagina!”

The truth is, while I am a definitely a plus-size woman, I do not have a plus-size vagina.  I have a regular-size vagina.  I may wear bigger pants than other women do, but our internal organs are all pretty much the same size.

It’s not like you gain and lose weight in your vagina.  Like, some women carry weight in their thighs, and others carry weight in their butts, and some women carry their weight in their vaginas?  No.  Do you think Carnie Wilson had some great big Grand Canyon-like vagina, and now, after gastric bypass surgery, she’s got some itty-bitty little slice of vagina?  Nuh-uh.

See, I have enough problems without Procter & Gamble implying that I’ve got some sort of big, fat, crazy vagina down there that’s going to swallow you up if you get too close.  Fat Girls have worked too hard to get beautiful, sexy clothes designed to fit our beautiful, sexy bodies.  When we dress stylishly, and walk proudly, and speak loudly, we affirm that we wear a bigger size.  But sexually, we’re just like other women.  We have the same parts, pleasures, concerns, and needs. So please, don’t sell me an extra-large spoon, because I don’t have an extra-large mouth.  Don’t invent an extra-thick stick of deodorant, because my armpit acreage is perfectly average.  I don’t need extra-wide Charmin to wipe my extra-fat ass.  And I won’t buy an extra-wide maxipad, because I have a perfectly normal vagina.  Don’t get me wrong, my vagina is fabulous.  It does cool stuff.  But size-wise, it’s just a regular, old, standard-issue vagina.

Thanks, but no thanks.