Start the Conversation: An Interview with Marilu Henner

by Holly Osterman

Marilu HennerWe recently had an opportunity to chat with Marilu Henner.  While you probably recognize Marilu as Elaine Nardo from the classic TV sitcom Taxi, she’s also an author, health guru, talk show host, producer, entrepreneur, director, dancer, singer, comedienne, and model. Her most important role, though, is as a wife and mom. With the energy of a teenager, the wisdom of a sage, and the memory of a super hero, Marilu Henner is today’s best example of a woman who does it all. And as a spokesperson for Always Discreet, Marilu’s newest mission is getting women to open up about a very taboo topic.

As if you weren’t already busy enough juggling your responsibilities as a radio show host, author and mother, you’ve decided to partner with Always Discreet. Why does helping women with sensitive bladders matter so much to you?

When it comes to sensitive bladders or any taboo aging topic, women need to know that they’re not alone. Women need to know that the things that happen to our bodies as we age are happening to all of us! When I heard that 33 percent of women have a sensitive bladder and that it keeps many of them from doing what they love, like dancing, traveling, or even having sex, I wanted to get this topic out in the open. Women shouldn’t feel self-conscious, isolated or alone. They should be open about it with their doctors, family and friends, and not let it hold them back. With the right protection and support from their physician, friends, family and now, new Always Discreet liners, pads and underwear, managing leaks can absolutely be no big deal.

Marilu, you’ve admitted that you’re a “girl who’s not afraid to talk about anything.” Can you share any personal stories or experiences with bladder leaks?

That’s right – I am a girl who’s not afraid to talk about anything. I even had my baby on national television! And while I don’t personally experience bladder leaks, I know a lot of women who do. When Always Discreet came to me with this opportunity, I thought to myself, what an important topic to put a voice behind. Women aren’t talking about it, but they should be, particularly with their doctors. On average, it takes six and half years to diagnosis an underlying issue causing bladder leaks, and that’s mainly because too many people are embarrassed to talk about their symptoms, even with their doctors. That needs to change.

It’s hard to imagine that over 40 million American women experience bladder leaks. But as much as women love to talk, most of us are still uncomfortable having conversations about sensitive topics, like our bladders. Or menopause. How can we change that?

It’s true – so many women are afraid to start the conversation. But what I’ve learned is that like any other taboo topic, once someone starts the conversation, everyone else starts to join in and share. That’s what I hope to do – open up the floor and get women talking. Women need to remember that over 40 million American women live with this too! They need to talk to their doctors and their loved ones, who are there to help them. Women often forget that their partners, and loved ones who are closest to them, want to know what’s affecting them. They’ll sense you’re holding something back. Often times, the fear of talking about something is far worse than the actual conversation.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is obviously important to you. You experimented with different plans before losing over 50 pounds and launching your Total Health Makeover program. Where did you find the inspiration to transform your life so dramatically?

I lost my parents at a very early age. When I was 17, my father died of a heart attack. He was only 52. I had been a teenage yo-yo dieter, but after he died I “ate my feelings” and gained a lot of weight. A few years later, my mother developed severe Rheumatoid Arthritis from the stress of losing my dad. She was teaching dancing in December, went to bed with the flu in January, went into the hospital in February, had her leg amputated in April, and she died in May. While she was in the hospital, I watched her body try to make sense of everything they were doing to her. I made a vow that if she got out of there alive I would learn everything about the human body and save her life. If she passed away I would still learn everything and save my brothers and sisters and me. When she died, I read everything I could get my hands on. I interviewed doctors, nutritionists; I went to medical libraries and health food stores, and I even took human anatomy classes at UCLA.

It took me eight years to put the information together, and I’ve lived this way for over 35 years now, losing 54 pounds and lowering my cholesterol over 100 points. That’s why I could change my life so dramatically and never look back. I had to do whatever I could to make sense of my parents’ deaths.

Many of the women in our forum share some common symptoms as they transition through menopause, including weight gain and lack of energy. You’ve made it clear that food, exercise, and sleep are three key parts of any health program. But making those changes can be a little overwhelming. Where do you start?

First of all, you have to remember it’s about progress not perfection. We are all at different stages of our health journey, so it doesn’t do any good to compare yourself to anyone else. YOU are in the laboratory of your life and every day is an experiment. Some experiments work and some don’t. That’s why I believe that there’s no such thing as cheating; you are merely collecting data. Pick one healthy habit (drinking more water, breaking a sweat each day for ten minutes, getting rid of a health robber like diet soda, processed food, sugar, etc.), and try it for a week or two to see how you feel. You can then continue to add another one each week until you look and feel the way you’ve always wanted to. As I’m always saying, “You’re never too old or too young to feel better than you do right now!”

We find that all women can experience menopause differently. In an interview, you once said that you flew through menopause without many of the typical symptoms. What advice would you give to women who might not be so lucky?

When it comes to my menopause experience, I was very lucky – I didn’t experience the typical symptoms that I know many of my friends definitely struggled with.

I think that the message that Always Discreet and Menopause ChitChat have in common is actually the most important thing to keep in mind – speak to other women who are experiencing what you’re going through. Talking about your issues, receiving sound advice and knowing you are not alone is a huge part of managing and coping with menopause.

When it comes to sensitive bladder topics specifically, I think the forum on is a great place to talk about your experiences and issues with other women, and it’s anonymous for your privacy. And when it comes to other menopause topics, forums such as Menopause ChitChat serve as a great place for discussion. It is important to know you are not alone and that we’re all in this together.

Visit Marilu at her website, where she shares her empowering information and teaches online classes on maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.

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