Healthy Respect

Obesity epidemic, painfully thin, too fat. They are just descriptions with a judgment attached.  It’s just like any other assumption that you make by looking at someone (ditzy blonde, dumb jock)  Judgments about body size aren’t where the true conversation is at. Here’s why:

First, let’s agree that health is not a moral, societal or personal obligation.  People are allowed to smoke, drink, cross the street without looking both ways, bungee jump, paraglide, jump their motorcycle over a series of busses, compete in skeleton and luge, lead incredibly stressful lives, not get enough sleep, cliff dive, eat a diet of fast food, and be sedentary.  People are allowed to prioritize things other than their health.  If you’re about to make an argument that includes the phrase “my tax dollars”, head over here.

Now, consider that health is multi-dimensional and includes genetics, access to healthcare (including money, distance, time, hours of operation, and the ability to get a doctor who will give you appropriate care etc.), stress, environment, and behaviors (which also includes the ability to acquire, store and afford the kinds of foods that you want, as well as access to safe movement options that you enjoy).

Once I wrapped my head around all of that, and made the decision that health was a priority for me, I looked at my options for health:

a.  practice healthy habits

b.  try to increase my access to health care

c.  Try to reduce my stress

d.  Try to improve my environment

e.  Try to make my body smaller

You get to decide for you, but in my case I went with “all but e.”

Once I really looked at health it became crystal clear the the old adage is, at least in this case, true: Size doesn’t matter.  There are people who practice healthy habits who are fat. There are people who eat poorly and are sedentary and thin.  In my experience weight loss and thinness are simply a possible, but definitely not guaranteed, often short-term, side effect of healthy habits. Due to the multi-dimensional nature of health, healthy habits are not guaranteed to produce health, but I think that they have a much better chance of leading to health then doing the unhealthy things  that the diet industry recommends to make my body smaller.

Somewhat inexplicably, some cannot accept that this is the plan at which I arrived after extensive research and they speak to me about it in a way that is completely disrespectful which I find unacceptable.

I suggest a three step plan:

1.  Stop trying to figure out anything about someone’s size except what size they are

2. Make choices for yourself

3.  Respect other people’s choices, even if they aren’t the choices that you would make

Voila – Healthy Respect!

Published in: on July 22, 2011 at 9:08 am  Comments (14)  

14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Excellent post – well said. Thank you.

  2. This is so true. I recently saw a comment on a blog announcing the death of a thin, healthy, athlete from a massive heart attack at a relatively young age. A commenter responded “I can’t believe that this happened, this person was thin!” Other than the obvious insensitivity that this showed, it also brought to light how mainstream it is to blame one factor for a person’s health. It frightens me that instead of providing sick people with love and support, people try to find something to blame. It may make some people feel better to believe that they have 100% control over their health, but as you stated, there are so many factors (including plain luck) that contribute to a person’s health, there is really nothing you can do but make the best decisions you can for yourself and allow others to do the same.

  3. Whenever people talk about how important rigorous exercise is and how it saves your life and and and…I always just say two words: Jim Fixx.

    My hubby is about 160 pounds naked and dripping wet, about 5’10”. He is on statins, has a funky heartbeat, and has to donate blood to lower the iron levels. I am considerably heavier and have none of these problems. My main problems are hypothryroidism and PCOS, none of which have stopped me from doing anything and are genetic, not environmental.

    I hate this whole Healthy At A Glance. It’s like the fat version of Gaydar. Maybe we should call it Fatdar. Or Diabetedar. You’d never say to a person with a cane, Hey Gimpy, hope you trip and fall into a manhole! So why is it okay say to a fat person, You useless sack of diabetes…YOU’RE the reason MY health care premiums are so high! ??

    • I wish there was a “like” button so I could like this comment. Because I like this comment.

      • There is, though, this very familiar and unconstructive bit at the end about the Oppression olympics: “You’d never say to a person with a cane […] so why is it okay to say to a fat person”. Not helping. Considered “okay” or not, disabled people ARE exposed to a lot of superdickery. Some of the disabled people are also fat people. Making a hierarchy of your suffering to another marginalized group’s suffering does not a valid point make.

    • Actually, I think she makes a valid point. Although physically disabled people and non-white people do get assholishness thrown their way, it is NOT generally acceptable to be rude to a physically disabled person or a non-white person. It is still acceptable to a great degree to be incredibly rude to large people (and to extremely skinny people) and persons exhibiting signs of obvious mental illness. As someone who is a real bag of unacceptable, I know full well. I am fat, mentally ill, and have some physical problems.
      I am white (mostly, and I look completely white) but I have experienced discrimination from other races (dumb Gringa) and it feels bad. But that’s another story. I also live with a trifecta of mental illnesses: bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and OCD. But one couldn’t tell it by looking at me.
      Plus, I have fibromyalgia, sciatica, and hypothyroidism, which no-one can discern by looking at me. What people can see is that my left foot turns out and I limp a bit when I walk.
      People never say anything about the way I walk although I know some of them look at me strangely. What–y’all have never seen someone with a hitch in their git-along before? But nobody brings it up. However, I have been concern-trolled more than once about my “health” due to my weight. I tend to avoid walking on public streets because I don’t like having “hey, fat-ass” and “thar she blows!” shouted at me.
      I also endure rude commentary about “crazy” people whenever someone acts in an outrageous manner. Most mentally ill people are in fact invisible and marginalized. We tend to suffer in silence. I suffered in silence when I was first diagnosed but now I bring it up when people are rude about mental illness. “Those bipolar people are so outrageous! Ha ha ha!” When I say, well, you’re looking at one, it tends to shut them right up.
      My (long-winded) point being that Yorkie does have a valid point. There are jackasses who will be nasty to physically disabled people, but it does not tend to be acceptable in society as a whole.

  4. Hi Ragen :) I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and have always been impressed by your conviction when talking about HAES. And, while I don’t always agree with you, I respect that you’re living your experience and doing what’s right for you. A few years ago I started trying to include more healthy habits in my own life and started researching healthy foods/ recipes/ etc. And, I’ve noticed a trend… Suddenly all healthy foods come with the label ‘fights obesity’. I guess that’s the new way to say ‘good for you.’ I’m really annoyed by this, but it’s also kind of fun to imagine ninja almonds and superhero vegetables attacking the fat… Sort of chomping away at it like little pac mans :) I just think it’s rediculous to say that any food fights fat. So, I considered getting up on my soapbox, but I’m not a great writer and I thought it would be much more entertaining coming from you :) Any thoughts?
    Lacey

    • LOL, I love that you envisioned them fighting the fat by eating it. I pictured them hitting the fat with cartoon fists (pow! bang! biff!). And yes, the buzz words. “Heart healthy” is my favorite. also: “Wholesome” and light or “lite”. and anything that claims to be “naturally flavored” with anything.

    • Funny idea, but of course it’s pretty much just marketing to get us to buy the stuff. They’re called structure/function claims: “supports a healthy immune system!”, “lowers your risk of heart disease!” made legal back in the nineties. They can make claims like these with very little evidence to support them. Things get even more dicey when they get endorsements from organizations like the American Heart Association. These groups sell their endorsement logos for a hefty price, and the standards they use to approve them are often not very strict. Take cheerios for an example. They have so heavily promoted them as “heart healthy” that most people probably think they should eat them to prevent heart disease/lower cholesterol. But the next time you see a box, check out the asterisk by those health claims and read the fine print: it says(from what I remember) that 3g of soluble fiber eaten with a healthy diet low in saturated fat may prevent heart disease. In other words, if you eat healthy already, cheerios can be part of that, but if you don’t, they are not little life preservers and they won’t do much to help. Also note the “may” part. So they might be good for you, but no one really knows! So I’m very skeptical of health claims on food packages. It’s just window dressing.

      • Window-dressing…hmmm – does that come in low-fat? It sounds so…clear….and lacking substance!

  5. Yes, there are many “so-called” healthy people who are thin due to eating disorders. IMO, better to be overweight than consumed with being thin and using unhealthy habits in order to stay thin. Appearances can be very deceiving.

    Grace

  6. Again so eloquently written. Love it

  7. I just have to add a healty habit story here. After twenty years of paralyzing fear I finally managed to go to the dentist (free health care, thanks to the fear of socialism *g*) to get the disaster area that my teeth have become cleaned of rubble and fixed. Three years into the project, still work to do. But I consider it a major accomplishment that I’m actually get it done!

    Did heaps of good to my immune system, my blood test values and my liver (less pain pills). Not to mention my mood and overall well-being.

  8. Wow. Yes. As for the dangerous behaviors list…I was at a gig last night (Godspeed You Black Emperor, in case anyone’s familiar with them), and it struck me afterwards how vanishingly unlikely it is that anyone would judge me or anyone else in the room morally for having subjected my ears to a stupid number of decibels. Because it’s one of the choices we’re allowed to make in having a fun time. And yet body size gets the judgement, when it’s way less of a choice than whether or not to wear earplugs.

    Oh, and Inge, well done. I’m also on that trying-not-to-avoid-the-dentist journey after a major gum infection a couple of years back. Checkup tomorrow, my old, extremely good dentist has just been replaced and I’m about to meet the new guy for the first time…wish me luck.


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