Tag Archives: sick

How Long Do We Have to Hate Our Bodies?

It’s not new, but it recently surfaced in my Facebook feed–an article on CNN.com called What the Dying Really Regret.  In this article Kerry Egan, a hospice chaplain who has spent a lot of time consoling those with little time left on this earth, states:

There are many regrets and unfulfilled wishes that patients have shared with me in the months before they die. But the stories about the time they waste hating their bodies, abusing it or letting it be abused — the years people spend not appreciating their body until they are close to leaving it — are some of the saddest.

In this article, the chaplain talks about how, even as they are in hospice, nearing the end of their lives people have not learned to make peace with their bodies.  And how many people, close to losing or actively losing many of the wonderful things about their bodies regret that they never truly appreciated their bodies until they were nearly gone.  She talks about the sadness of it and the waste of it.

I have absolutely no doubt that this is true.  I’ve talked to quite a few women in their seventh and even eight decade that have never learned to make peace with their hips or their thighs or their bellies–hips that have shaken to music of many eras, bellies that have borne babies and thighs that have propelled them inevitably forward to a ripe old age.  And I see the part of them that has been carefully educated to be smaller, to be less than, to show no excess warring with the part of them that wants to stop worrying about it all and just eat the damn cookie.  And it makes me sad.

I say carefully educated, because this body hatred–this need to make ourselves smaller and less than–is something we learn.  In her brilliant piece, Egan states:

…unlike the foolish or best-intentioned mishaps, the terrible accidents, the slip-ups that irrevocably change a life, this regret is not a tragic mistake. It’s intentional. It’s something other people teach them to feel about their bodies; it’s something other people want them to believe.

But in this sad story, there is some good news.  Behavior that can be learned can be unlearned.  We can choose to love our bodies before it is too late.  We can choose not to spend years or decades or a lifetime not hating something so precious, so finite, so personal and so wondrous.  We can chose not to squander our lives and resources on something so unproductive.  We can choose to spend that time, loving ourselves, making ourselves bigger, making our lives better and making things better for everyone around us.

When people ask me why I do what I do, I tell them that this, this is why I do what I do.  Because we are all so precious and life is so precious we simply can’t waste any more of it agonizing about cellulite.  We need to be dancing with our children and our spouses.  We need to be writing our poems and righting the world’s wrongs.  We need to be teaching our children and our parents and everybody how to share this wonderful world before we lose our wonderful world.  And if I, in some tiny, tiny way can help a person get to that place–to the writing and righting a little bit sooner–even by one single day, then I am doing something worthwhile.  Because while one single day may not seem like much to me now, it can seem like forever to someone facing the end of their days.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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The Health Continuum

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The day before I woke up in excruciating back pain, I gave a keynote address at a health conference.  And during that keynote I talked a lot about how we need to make the ideas of health and wellness more inclusive.  We need to have a bigger tent where every BODY can participate.  We need to imagine a spectrum where we can all experience health.

I asked people in the audience to close their eyes and envision health.  What does a healthy person look like?  Then I asked them, if by any chance, their vision of health looked like a skinny white woman eating yogurt?  How about salad?  Does she look like she’s feeling orgasmic over these food choices?  Several people in the audience smiled or laughed.  Yup, that was exactly what their vision of health looked like.  But I told them they shouldn’t be surprised.  As a culture we are taught by marketing and advertising and Photoshop that this is what health looks like.  But what happens, I asked, if you are not white, or a man, or not thin, or not conventionally beautiful? What if you really, really hate yogurt?  Do you not get to be well?  Do you not get to experience health?

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At this point, I took some time to define health and wellness.  I suggested that there is no particular state that a person achieves that call be called healthy or well.  While tons of money is spent convincing us that if we just buy this thing, use this product or service or spend money in a particular way, we will arrive at the ultimate hereafter picture.  There is a place that is nirvana.  We call this place perfectly healthy.  Except there is no such place.  If we are alive, we are aging.  If we are aging we are headed towards our ultimate demise.  No matter what product or service we use, we are still, in the end, mortal.

So I went on to describe health as a continuum.  Or you can call it a spectrum.  (I like continuum because it’s one of the only words in the English language that has to letter “u”s back to back, and like the word banana, it’s nearly impossible to stop saying once you have started.  You know, like continuuinuuum…)  A continuum is a scale.  It is a line with no beginning and no end.  The scale increases in a particular value as we go one direction and decreases in a particular value as we go the other direction.  As we move along the scale towards healthy or well, we get more capacity and energy to do the things we need to do as well as the things we enjoy.  We feel better.  We have more energy.  We sleep better.  We are able to relax sometimes and experience peace.  As we move down the continuum away from health and wellness these things (like energy, enjoyment, peace, sleep) are more difficult for us to access, or we experience them less often.  But again, the line has no beginning and no end.  There is no destination called perfect health where we get to arrive.  And there is also no perfect place which we cannot access.

This is important for a lot of reasons.  One reason is that we are all born at different points on the continuum.  Based on genetics and parenting and socioeconomic status and friends and other family and cultural values and lots and lots of other stuff, we all land at different points on this continuum.  And as we go along and live, circumstances will change our location on the continuum.  We will experience stress.  We will get sick.  We might win the lottery.  We might lose our jobs.  We might get married or be in a car crash or fall down the steps.  Stuff happens.  Sometimes that stuff is wonderful and eases the way towards increased health on the spectrum.  Sometimes stuff is downright catastrophic and vaults us towards decreased health on the spectrum.  Were we to look at health and wellness as a state of being or as a location, most of us just wouldn’t be able to get there, let alone stay there.  Most of us would be on the outside looking in.  And most of us have been taught that we should be consumed with guilt and self-loathing for not being there or staying there.  But if we look at health and wellness as a continuum, there is a sane and guilt-free place for everybody.

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No matter where you land on the continuum, there are things you can do to help ease the way towards better health.  Those things you can do might be wildly different from what somebody else can do.  You might be creeping along towards health at a very different point on the spectrum than somebody else.  But everybody can play.  And we can play with the knowledge and understanding that sometimes fate rolls the freakin’ dice and we land in a different spot on the continuum that we neither desired nor planned for.  But from every place, we can strive.  We can move towards the healthy/well side of the continuum with whatever resources we have at the moment.  This is with the understanding that sometimes those resources will be very low.  Sometimes the movement will be very slow or even imperceptible.  And sometimes, it’s okay to just rest there at our spot on the continuum until we have the resources and/or the desire to strive again.  Sometimes we can be there and just breathe out and in for a while.

You know it’s funny, in a physician heal thyself sort of way, how I gave this talk the day before I found myself tossed violently to a very different spot on my own continuum.  As I woke up, dazed and in pain, I looked around.  Oh, so I’m here now?  This is my spot on the spectrum today?  Okay.  I’ll just have to see what I can do.  Maybe tomorrow.  After I take a pain killer and watch some telly and gather my forces.  It has made all of this a lot easier to bear.  And I offer this in the hopes that it will be a useful visualization tool for you as well.  Or not.  Because we’re all different.  And just as there is no place called health, there is no single immutable path towards wellness either.  There’s just all of us, muddling along in our own way, as best we can.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. Want to book me to speak to YOUR group about the wellness continuum?  Click HERE!

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What are the odds?

Hey there!  Sorry I haven’t blogged in a few days.  I’ve been on the roller coaster and hanging on for dear life.  Seems like that’s the way of it, doesn’t it?  First you’re on top of the world, and then BOOM, sick in bed with a terrible, nasty, icky head cold.

It’s not like I haven’t taken prophylactic measures.  I’ve been taking lots of vitamin C, drinking lots of water, washing my hands raw and all of that good stuff.  I’ve been doing my very best to get good sleep and trying my best to manage stress.

Ever since I felt a sniffle, I’ve been rubbing menthol on my feet and sucking a zinc lozenge every few hours and drinking massive quantities of tea.

I’m doing everything that statistics suggest I should to prevent and minimize colds.  So why am I still sick?

I got sick because I got sick. No matter how many steps you take, you can stick get sick at any time.  Does that mean I shouldn’t have taken those steps to try to minimize my risk and minimize my symptoms?  Well no.  The steps didn’t have many potentially negative side effects and weren’t too difficult.  And they might have worked.  And who knows, things might have been worse had I not taken those steps.

But this is the thing about statistics and health.  If there’s a 1% chance of getting sick, that means that out of every 100 people, about 1 will get sick.  And no matter how many remedies you try, no matter how strong your immune system may be, that one person might be you.  And as tempting as it might be to believe you didn’t get sick because of the mouthwash you used, or the special ritual you followed, you might not have gotten sick because of dumb luck.

So as much as we may wish to believe that we are “healthy” because we are virtuous people who eat whole grain cereal and do yoga, I think we need to give at least a passing nod to all the other stuff that goes into it.  As Fall Ferguson writes in her post on the ASDAH blog: there are many, many factors that go into whether or not a person is healthy.  Doing healthy stuff is just one of those things.  So where does this leave us?

We may wish to do stuff that increases our odds of being healthy.  How much stuff we are able to do may well be decided by our socioeconomic status or access to good healthcare.  How effective those healthy behaviors are may well be decided by our genetic makeup.  How much stuff we choose to do is up to each and every one of us.  It’s time we give up the notion that being healthy is “virtuous” and being sick is a sign that we are “weak, lazy, undisciplined or unconcerned”.  Sometimes we just got sneezed on by the wrong person at the wrong time.  There are no guarantees.

So even though I feel tired, and cranky and stuffed up and sneezy and sick, I choose not to bother feeling guilty.

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S. Still waiting to hear when our Katie Couric episode will air.  Will keep you posted!  oxoxoxoxox

 

Death and Taxes

deathandtaxesWell 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.

Love,

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!

Right Now Show–Episode 003: Healthcare and YOU

In episode 003 of the Right Now show, we explore the new initiative by the Association for Size Diversity And Health (ASDAH) called RESOLVED: addressing weight bias in health care.  Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick) shares some stories about her journey in healthcare and shares details about the RESOLVED project with the viewers.

For more information about the RESOLVED project, go to the ASDAH website.  And to read another story about a truly frightening misdiagnosis of a fat person, click on THIS LINK.

And finally, if you’re enjoying the show, don’t forget to subscribe at: http://www.youtube.com/jeanettedepatie.

Thanks so much!

Love,
Jeanette
AKA The Fat Chick
http://www.thefatchick.com

P.S. This marks my 365th blog post!  (One whole YEAR of blog posts=YAY!)

Don’t forget to enter your miles in the Fit Fatties Across America page on the Fit Fatties Forum.  Let’s see if we can get out of Colorado and a little further down the road!

And if you’d like more information about how to pick a doctor that’s right for you, there’s a whole CHAPTER on that subject in my book The Fat Chick Works Out!  You can buy a hard copy or an e-book, whichever you like!

Feeling Poopy without Feeling Guilty

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.

Love,

The Fat Chick