Over the last few days I haven’t been feeling very well. I’m not saying this because I want you to feel bad for me and try to make me feel better. (Well, okay maybe a little.) After all I don’t have a man flu. But as I was trying to get a little rest yesterday, I found myself thinking in a familiar pattern.
I started thinking, “Well maybe I’m not eating the right stuff and that’s why I’m sick. Or maybe I’m not feeling well because I have too much repressed anger. Maybe this is because I didn’t get enough sleep.” And in my rambling way, I went on to think, “Maybe it’s nobody’s fault I’m sick. Maybe I just AM.”
I remember now that I used to often think that if I lost weight I wouldn’t be sick any more. I used to think that no matter why I was ill, it was my fault because I was fat. And then for a while (like a minute) I got thin. And you know what? I still got sick. And so did all of the rest of the thin people I know.
And you know what else? While it’s a great idea to do everything you can to be healthy there are no guarantees. You will still get sick from time to time. While it can be tempting to believe that we can control whether or not we get ill we can’t. We can give ourselves a good chance of being healthy by doing healthy things–but we are still likely to feel lousy from time to time. And unless you’re talking about a hangover, or going without sleep for four days, you aren’t going to know exactly why and there isn’t much point worrying about whether or not it’s your fault.
It’s especially important to get this straight in our own heads because there are plenty of people out there ready and waiting to tell us that it’s our own fault for being sick or even that we deserve to be sick because we’re fat. They rail about the costs we “add” to their health insurance. Doctors do the slow, sad head shake and tell us that we wouldn’t “have this problem” (whether it’s strep throat or carpal tunnel syndrome) if we weren’t so darn big. Our friends and family seize on every illness as “proof” that they are “right” about the fact we need to lose weight. And before you completely lose your Zen and want to stop talking to these folks, let me remind you of something. Remember when I said, it’s tempting to believe we can control whether or not we get ill? Well it is. It’s comforting to think that if we don’t drink too much and we don’t smoke and we don’t get fat and we eat our broccoli that we will never get sick and we will live forever. We know intellectually and rationally that this isn’t true. But who the heck is going around being intellectual and rational all the time?
The truth is that people get sick and while there are certain issues that make certain populations more likely and less likely to be sick, nobody knows for sure why we get sick when we do. After all, one of the greatest risk factors for illness is getting older but I’m not sure the alternative is a health path I want to follow.
So my little chickadees, by all means eat your broccoli. Sleep well and go out and play with your friends. Do your best to manage stress and anger even when your friends and family drive you crazy trying to “help you lose weight”. But when you get sick, and you will get sick at some point, my prescription is to stop worrying about who’s fault it is and just worry about feeling better.
The Fat Chick
Perfect timing! I’ve just come down with a rotten cold and all too easily fell into thinking that it was because I haven’t been eating and exercising as well as I should have. So insidious was that thinking that until I read this blog I hadn’t even realized. So from this moment I’ll stop the self criticism and focus on getting well instead. Thanks x
Perfect timing. I’ve just come down with a rotten cold & without even realising had been beating myself up for not eating & exercising as well as I should have been lately. As of now I’ll put the self criticism aside and focus on getting well. Thanks x
I’m glad you made this connection and published it for everyone to read, because it’s so easy to fall into this way of thinking (especially, since we’re bombarded by messages telling us that the world would be completely perfect if we were all a size 2 or whatever the current perception of ‘ideal’ is).
Everybody gets sick. No one is immune (no pun intended) from illness, be it mental, physical or influenced by genetics, environment, some combination thereof, or plain old bad luck (since we don’t know why some people develop some illnesses while other do not).
I used to tease my father in a morbid way, before any of us knew that anything was wrong with him, about participating in fad diets that I knew were more likely to cause weight cycling than sustained weight loss or derive any health benefit. I would say to him, “Great, you lost weight eating only meats and fats, so on your epitaph, would you like it to read: ‘Here lies Leo. He died thin.’?” … to which he would usually quip some similar tongue-in-cheek response.
When he was diagnosed with ALS, after having no family history and no known reason why he would be affected by such a horrible illness, we learned the tragic and humbling lesson that while there are some things we can do to try and be healthier (dieting for weight loss NOT being one of them), we really need to focus on LIVING as well as we can while we still have life in us.
Stress and anxiety are some of the worst culprits that affect my health negatively. It’s impossible to eliminate all of my stress and anxiety, but I really have to put in an effort to manage them as best I can so that I don’t succumb to every psychosomatic, stress-induced sickness that’s out there.
Amy, I think you are SO right about that. I think quality of life is so important and that means living the heck out of every single day we walk this earth. Thanks for helping to bring perspective.
Ya know, I’ve never blamed my being fat for getting the flu the couple of times I’ve had it, nor have I blamed being fat for getting colds or sinus infections or any other illness like that that I’ve ever had because everyone gets those illnesses at one time or another in their lives, no matter what their size is, no matter how “healthfully” they live their lives. And I’ve finally reached the point where I can say that while my weight might aggravate my arthritis, it didn’t cause it, and while it doesn’t help my fibromyalgia, it didn’t cause it, and while it sure doesn’t help my back pain, it didn’t cause it. Since there isn’t a way for me to lose that weight and keep it off forever, I have to find ways of coping of with arthritis, fibro, and back pain so that I can keep living the life I want to live the way I want to live it and leave the shame and blame behind. Easier said than done sometimes, and it’s something that I’ll be working on for a long time.
Yup abstinence from shame is a real challenge, but I think it does make life so much better! Glad to hear you’re on your way!