Days have passed. I have missed so many opportunities to blog. So I will instead spread the word about this very interesting article:
“A standardized table of average weights and heights for women was developed for the first time in 1908, when life insurance companies began looking for ways to charge higher premiums to applicants based on pre-screening by their own medical examiners. Though previous weight tables allowed for increasing weight with age (which naturally occurs), this new table was the first to deem an increase in weight after age 25 as undesirable and unhealthy. Thus, by setting the thresholds for “ideal weight” and “overweight” lower than what mortality data showed as the actual healthy weight ranges, they were able to collect more money for those they deemed ‘overweight.'” (http://www.beautyredefined.net/the-lies-we-buy-defining-health-at-womens-expense)
Beauty Redefined looks into the shift in cultural perceptions from the turn of the 20th century until now, and in doing so, discovers just exactly as to what the root of the problem of “female obesity” is. The root, of course, is money. Just follow the money, you will always find the cause of all ills.
Except in terms of my not blogging. That, very simply put, has to do with my inability to focus. As I have stated in previous blog posts, one of the reasons why I still believe in weight-loss for me and for others is because I am sure our bodies tell us when things are not doing well. That said, I also know there are people whose bodies are functioning just fine! That’s the problem with turning weight and health into a false dichotomy. You end up with people screaming that all fat people are unhealthy, or all fat people are absolutely perfectly healthy, at the expense of actual individual health.
Health itself is a scale, like so much else in our lives, between these two diametrically opposed ideas of health and not-health. The most shameful things I have ever seen is the assertion that if one fat person is perfectly healthy, we all must be, because that shows just as much bias as the alternative.
It’s because I perceive health as a scale that I realized that everyone should have a health manifesto. So I guess now is as good a time as any to explain what I mean by that.
Basically, you can sit down and write a proper manifesto, and make it as verbose and eloquent as you like, but what I truly mean can be boiled down (and probably should be boiled down) into four columns. And trust me, I know that I’m not the first person to come up with this. I am probably not the first person to even call it a manifesto. A quick glance at the links that wordpress is offering up to me in conjunction to my own blog is proof enough that so many of us are discussing health, weight loss, obesity, and related topics that surely, not a single idea which is put forward is “new.” However, I’m not here to be new. I’m here to be supportive of you, and, ultimately, to be supportive of myself. I share my stories because I think I have something to offer to the discussion, that my personal experiences connect me to others who have shared those experiences. And in writing this, I hope that it helps just one person think about themselves or their health in a way that is positive and adaptive, not negative and maladaptive.
The four columns are this
1. Know yourself. In this column, identify those aspects of your life/health/well being that you feel are holding you back from having the quality of life that you really want. Knowing yourself is identifying how you actually FEEL. Do you hurt in any place, like your back or knees? Do you have problems sleeping, breathing, moving around. Does eating certain types of food make you feel sick, make you extra gassy, cause constipation or diarrhea? In other words, use this column to put down those aspects of your health that you think really need to be addressed, not because someone else tells you to address them, but because that issue is holding you back from having the quality of life that you want.
For example, the first column of my personal manifesto would list these health problems: Back pain/peripheral neuropathy/nerve impingement and anemia. For my boyfriend, this first column would be lack of energy in general, but more directly, becoming too easily tired when he does any sort of physical activity.
2. Identify the symptoms and or causes. In the case of me and my boyfriend, we would use column two to identify causes. For me, the main cause of my back issues is congenital, and there’s just not much I can do about it. My anemia is caused by the fact that I do not take supplements as often as I should. Because of the gastric bypass, I really should take iron every day. However, I hate the way it sits so heavily in my stomach, often causing it to ache. My boyfriend, on the other hand, has gone to the doctor to determine if his tiredness was a symptom of some health issue, like anemia or a glandular problem. A battery of tests did not show any particular conditions that would cause his lack of energy.
If, in the first column, you list something that needs to be broken down into symptoms to help you identify what exactly it is that is going on, such as you are having intestinal issues, then you can use the second column to help better define what these intestinal problems are. After all, there are a lot of conditions that can cause indigestion and intestinal issues, and they have different sets of symptoms. You might even go so far as to try to use the first and second columns to identify foods that disagree with you. After all, a lot of people have problems with lactose or gluten, but don’t really realize this until they cut diary or wheat products out of their diet and see what happens. The more you can figure out on your own, the better off you will be when you go in to see the doctor, which is a part of the journey through column two. After all, just because you say, have pain in your back, and know where it is, doesn’t mean you know whether it is caused by a bulging disc or some other condition.
So, now that you’ve got your symptoms or an actual diagnosis, you can move on to column 3. Barriers, either real or perceived.
This is where things get tricky. After all, in my first column, I have listed back pain, and in my second, spinal stenosis (the condition I was born with). Inevitably, in my third column, I am definitely going to have to list weight as a barrier to improving my back problems as I know for sure that the heavier I am, the more pressure is on my back, and the more likely I am to either injury myself, or if I have injured myself, it is highly likely that it will take me forever to heal. This barrier is complicated in many ways. One, a person like me, in this circumstance, might easily find themselves being told by a doctor to lose weight without the doctor trying to actually identify other causes of the pain. Doctors have a funny way of assuming that conditions like a bad back are caused SOLELY by the amount of fat one carries around and not, in fact, by other conditions, many of them congenital. Two, a lot of the potential treatments for my condition are not available to me because I am fat. I have literally been told in the past that I am too fat for a surgeon to even try to attempt to repair my back (I have a bulging disc, and because of the spinal stenosis, I suffer from pinched nerve problems almost constantly… without the spinal stenosis, the bulging disc would probably not be that big of a deal). Three, other treatments, such as yoga or exercise, are going to be harder to adopt because I am afraid of injuring myself further. I’m also afraid of being mistreated by a personal trainer because I am so fat, or pushed harder than I should be, because my fat is so critical and must come off quickly! In other words, I have BOTH real and perceived barriers in obtaining my health goal of having a better back. Not only is my weight a real issue, but the fear I hold in my heart in regards to everyone else’s perception of my weight and how seriously they take my problem and the pain I’m in (I am pretty sure that most people assume my pain is minimal and I think that’s directly because I’m fat… for some reason, the amount of weight I carry does not allow them to perceive my pain as being as immediate or intense as others… instead, I often get the feeling that I must be faking it or at least, exaggerating) is definitely a perception problem and potentially a real issue. After all, the reason why people like me perceive that the world will treat us harshly is because we are constantly sent that message. Anyone who disagrees only needs to watch The Biggest Loser. I’m definitely not a good candidate for that sort of treatment, and yet, that’s the sort of treatment a personal trainer would want to give me. It’s “motivating.”
My boyfriend’s column three is a little complex as well. Mostly because of what his column two ended up saying, once he ruled out any health problems: He’s not active enough. He gets tired easily because he’s become too sedentary. His job keeps him sitting all day, and he doesn’t force himself to exercise as much as he should to maintain the energy he had when he was younger and spent more time involved in sports. Though his doctor didn’t say it in so many words, Richard (my boyfriend’s) diagnosis was “laziness.” And his barriers, then, are much like mine, twisted up with both real and perceived. One of his very real barriers is the way in which his work situation isn’t so settled that he can fully plan out every hour of every day beforehand. There are days when he works out of home and days when he goes in to work. So yes, that is a real issue with scheduling. But his perception of this problem exacerbates it. He feels it’s a futile endeavor to try to set up an exercise regiment because he’s too attached to the idea of doing such a regiment at the same time of day every day, preferably in the morning. But because he is not sure if his morning will see him leaving the house or not, he doesn’t want to set himself up on a routine that he won’t be doing every day at the same time. Then, when rolls around to the night time, he is tired from work and doesn’t want to do anything but relax. Also, the common perception that people have that exercising at night will interrupt your ability to sleep can only confirm his desire to not exercise once he gets home.
The great thing about column three is that when you are able to break down your barriers, and actually identify those that are real or are just in your mind, you are better able to understand yourself and call yourself out on your own crap and move on to column 4. The plan of action.
For me, I have to admit that there are a number of different types of exercises that I can start on my own, from stretching to water aerobics, to work my way up to the point where my back will feel better, and I will probably lose weight (as I do when I become more active, without really trying to “diet” per say) before jumping in to harder exercises guided by professionals, like yoga. Because my parents own a spa, my main plan of action at this point is to get into it and use it to do as much in the way of water aerobics as I can, considering its size. Getting started in the water is the main way I can tackle my barriers, because it is low impact so it will, more than likely, not exacerbate my condition, while also allowing me to tackle this issue without having to worry about what others think of me.
And for my boyfriend, the conclusion is pretty much the same. And I’ve told him this: Make time! Regardless of whether you have to go in to work or not, make time each morning, right when you wake up, to at least stretch.
The reason why column four is most important, however, is because in the act of writing down our plan, we are also making an agreement with ourselves to implement the plan. At the end of the day, our biggest barrier to our own health is ourselves. Our fears, or the things we find distasteful or tedious are what really hold us back in life. The only way to change is to act. It’s a lot harder to not act when you have a plan for how you are going to act. It’s much easier to continue to sit on your hands when you haven’t put any work into thinking about what you can and should do to improve the quality of your own life.
Okay, so there’s my health manifesto. Wow, definitely a manifesto in terms of the length of this post. Hopefully it makes sense, isn’t filled with glaring amounts of typos and grammar problems and is interesting to read.
So this is me, illfitted, signing off for the night. I hadn’t intended to manifesto you, but hell, better now than never. And the excuses I keep on making to not write this blog (mostly in the form of “my thumb hurts” because I did something to it that pinched a nerve in it and so its gone numb) would have gone on for days and days if I didn’t just do it.
And now its done. There is probably some moral that has to do with personal barriers here, but it’s 2 a.m. and its getting way too close to the “everything is stupidly funny” hour.