Martha Stewart’s Health Flaws


Ever wondered if Martha Stewart struggles with some of the same health
issues we mere mortals do? So did WebMD.

So when we talked to her for our March/April WebMD the Magazine’s
cover story, we quizzed her on some of the things we all go through — finding
time for yourself, recovering from injury, and coping with grief. (Martha’s beloved mom, “Big Martha”
Kostyra, passed away last November.)

We also talked to Stewart about the visionary new center for senior health
at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York she recently opened, inspired by her
mother — and what she’s learned about herself along the way.

1. Health Flaw: Sleep

Stewart confesses there’s one thing she probably neglects: “Sleep.
It’s an exhausting lifestyle, and I always say sleep can go. It’s not important
to me right now,” she says. “I never stay in bed late — I can’t! In my
house, the first people arrive at about 6:30, and I have to be up well before
that.” Breakfast for her household menagerie alone — three dogs, four
cats, about 30 birds, 200 chickens, eight turkeys, five horses, and three
donkeys — could take hours.

Could she perhaps turn in a little earlier at night? Not with the pile of 35
books she bought while in Seattle over Thanksgiving waiting on her night table.
And besides — “I like watching David Letterman!”

2. Health Flaw: Stress

How does Stewart really relax? She admits she has yet to find the perfect
way to wind down from her hectic lifestyle. “I wish I had one!” she
laments. She’s stressed by the way today’s high-tech world has cut people off
from one another, and laments the fact that her daily phone conversation with
her daughter has now turned into a daily email. “Just simply talking to
somebody makes things better. A three-word email doesn’t do that,” she

“Although … when I get on my horse and go out into the woods, the
thing I always say is, ‘It doesn’t get any better than this.’ That’s a good
little motto. We all need to look for those moments when we can say

3. Health Feat: Personalizing Her Grief

Stewart’s loss of her mom last December was fairly sudden; she’d been in
good health up until a stroke
in early November. An unexpected loss requires a specific approach to grieving,
says Pamela Sollenberger, MS, a certified grief counselor who serves on the
advisory board for the American Academy of Grief Counseling.

“When someone has been very ill for a long time, we’re a lot further
along in our grieving when that person dies,” she says. “But if it’s a
relatively sudden loss, we have no time to prepare.” And just because
Stewart isn’t wearing her grief on her crisply ironed sleeve doesn’t mean she
isn’t struggling in private. “Your grief is unique only to you. Yours is
different than mine, Martha Stewart’s is different than ours,” Sollenberger

One way of grappling with loss is to channel energies into something that
honors that person and creates a legacy. For Stewart, this could mean deepening
her involvement with her Mount Sinai Martha Stewart Center for Living, which
opened last fall in New York thanks to a $5 million investment from Stewart,
and which mattered so much to her mother.

The 7,800-foot center introduces a unique approach to elder care, bringing
together under one roof specialists in geriatric medicine wellness, and
activities such as yoga, stress inward and use it as an excuse to give up,
“adaptive” or positive perfectionists such as Stewart “use that
stress as kind of a motivating or energizing factor to move toward their
goals,” he says.

Other experts see a potential upside as well. Psychologists Joachim Stoeber,
PhD, from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom and Kathleen Otto, PhD,
from the University of Leipzig in Germany reviewed 35 studies of perfectionists
and found a healthy benefit to perfectionism. Compared with less exacting
people, perfectionists tend to be higher achievers, more satisfied with their
lives, and better able to cope with setbacks.

Hmm, does that sound like anyone you’ve heard of?

Just like Stewart, we all have our health failings — and feats. Her goal,
with her new senior center and an in-the-works health-oriented makeover for
much of her media empire (yes, even Martha Stewart Weddings), is to get
us to focus more on the feats, and make the most of them. “We have to find
the path to wellness, and that means making plans now for how to live healthily
well into the future,” Stewart tells WebMD.

For the full story on Martha Stewart’s best and worst health habits and her
visionary new center for senior health care, look in your doctor’s office for
WebMD the Magazine’s cover story on her in the March/April 2008 issue.
Or read
the story online now