Well we’ve survived another U.S. “tax day”, so I thought I’d share a little post about inevitability. Most of us have heard this quote, “In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes.” And while most of us understand the notion that taxes are inevitable (well at least unless you are a multi-billion dollar corporation) we have a little harder time with the whole death thing. We know on an intellectual level that everybody, including us, will die. Yet on an emotional level, many of us believe that if we eat enough fiber, do enough exercise, and stay thin, we won’t die.
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s perfectly reasonable to want to make choices that can potentially extend our lives or improve the quality of our lives. That makes sense. But I’ve often wondered at the emotional response to my acceptance of my own size. I understand that not everybody agrees with me. Some people think I should do anything and everything that just conceivably might help me at least for a short time to lose weight. But it’s the emotional involvement with this disagreement, the hatred and anger and spitting vitriol that comes with it, that sometimes throws me for a loop.
I recall sitting in a crappy and inadequate paper gown in a medical center where a doctor was nearly frantic in telling me that since I was fat, I was going to die. He wasn’t offering me any statistics or research indicating increased risk for mortality or morbidity. He was simply doing that finger wagging, nagging, since you’re fat, you’re going to die speech. And I replied, “well you know, I don’t have an M.D. after my name, but I’m pretty sure we’re all going to die.” Which gave me at least 10 seconds of respite before he started in on me again.
If you want to talk to me about increased risks for morbidity and mortality that may or many not be attributable to being fat, well okay. I’m armed. I’ve got data. Let’s rumble. But if you want to argue that all fat people are going to die, guess what. You’re right! All people, everywhere are going to die. Even if they eat whole grains, and their chi is perfectly aligned and they run a marathon every day-even if they are thin, they are still going to die.
I think this is at least a small part of what freaks people out so much about my decision not to actively pursue weight loss. Because at least in a small way, I’m not buying into their emotional fantasy, that if they do all the right things, they just won’t die. Here’s the thing. I’ve lost many who are close to me. And some of these folks did everything “right”. They ate well, they slept eight hours per day, they managed their stress, they went to the doctor and they simply got sick and died–sometimes quite young.
Am I suggesting that we should just ignore our health? Absolutely not! I am suggesting that there is no day in our life that is guaranteed. And I for one refuse to spend so much of my life trying to change one potential (and questionable) risk factor for mortality that I don’t have time to really live. If my days are limited on this earth, and they are limited, I want to do what makes me feel good and allows me to experience wonder and contentment and joy. Sometimes that’s taking the dog for a walk. Sometimes it’s eating ice cream. Because I’m grown up enough to understand that both walking the dog and eating ice cream are wonderful. And even giving up ice cream won’t allow me to live forever.
The Fat Chick
P.S. If you’d like to hear more about that story in the doctor’s office, you might want to check out this episode of the Right Now Show. And I’m pleased to let you know that the deadline for the RESOLVED project has been extended. So it’s not too late to create and share your video about your experiences with health care.
And if you’re interested in learning a little more about the joy of exercise, don’t forget to check out my book and DVD!
Wow, thanks for sharing your perspective! I also subscribe to the fish every day philosophy “carp diem”!
Oh so true! One of the odder aspects of my work is that I bury a fair number of people. I stand on the edge of the grave to lead prayers and comfort mourners. Every time I do a funeral, I look down into that hole and think to myself, “Someday it’s going to be over.” I am a cheerful person, but I think that a healthy awareness that I will not live forever is part of what makes me careful to live a happy life. I don’t want to waste any time on optional misery like crazy weight loss diets (or the people who nag me to go on them!)
Second item, from the clergy point of view: it is possible to live too long. I once attended the 104th birthday party of a woman who was miserable and angry. Her body was wearing out: her eyesight was gone, her hearing nearly gone, her joints were creaky, and she couldn’t taste or smell food anymore. Her friends had all died, her children had all died, some of her grandchildren were dead. She was furious to still be alive; the joy had gone out of living.
Even were it possible, I don’t want to “live forever.” I don’t want my last years to be spent in optional misery, either, which is part of why I try to take care of myself, eat more or less well, exercise, and I hope for the best. I know that I cannot guarantee the right length of life, or good health – all I can do is do my best to be happy and healthy. To me, that’s enough.