OMG y’all! Redefining Body Image is doing a survey. Go take it!
I found some of my answers to the questions useful, and thought I’d post them here. It’s really striking to me how much WORK my health is. No wonder I feel so busy!
What does “good health” look like to you? How do you define it for yourself? What does it entail? What do you avoid and why?
I have several chronic conditions (fibromyalgia, migraine, carpal tunnel syndrome, mild tremor) so that makes a difference. :)
For me, health looks like:
– My daily fibro pain is about a 2 on a 1-10 scale
– My carpal tunnel syndrome isn’t acting up, and I’m not getting migraines (migraines are a sign for me that I’m not taking care of myself)
– I’m happy and relaxed more than I’m not.
– I can jog up stairs a flight of stairs and not get out of breath.
– I can ride a bike at a reasonable speed and walk briskly on flat ground, both more or less indefinitely.
– Taking all my meds and supplements (3 prescriptions, 5 supplements) every day.
– Avoiding the foods I’m sensitive to (dairy, chocolate, citrus fruit, corn). I can have ’em sometimes in varying amounts (orange icing on a cake, ok. An orange? never okay. A latte is ok, but a latte every day is not okay. Etc.)
– Avoiding artificial sweeteners (they make my fibro act up)
– Exercising daily (brisk walking most days, martial arts class 1-2x/week, yoga 2-3x/week)
– Getting 8-9hrs sleep every night. 9 is the ideal, but doing that 7 days a week is really, really hard when you have a full time job! :)
– Drinking 2-3L of water every day
– Doing my knee physical therapy exercises every day (I had knee surgery a few years ago to correct a congenital issue, but will have to do the PT forever).
I guess I define “good health” in others as a baseline of cardiovascular fitness similar to what I listed above (within ability limits, obv) and good lab results for things like cholesterol and vitamins. But mostly I try not to judge people’s health. It’s none of my business unless they feel like discussing it with me, you know?
Do other people in your life define “health” in a different way that you do? If so, how? If not, how are your definitions similar?
Hoo boy. For sure. A LOT of people in my life define “health” as “looking healthy” which means “being thin.” GAH. I’m a big believer in Health at Every Size, so this (unsurprisingly) makes me really aggro.
Where we overlap is in terms of fitness. Someone who isn’t able to be active in SOME way isn’t healthy, according to most of my family, and I pretty much agree. I get kind of uncomfortable judging other folks’ fitness, though, especially folks who are disabled or chronically ill in ways different from my own.
Do you think it is your responsibility to define “good health” and “bad health” for yourself, or to let a doctor/health professional determine it for you? Why or why not?
It is most definitely my responsibility to define it. Doctors and other health professionals are vitally important advisors for me, but my health is MY job, not their job. I hire them and fire them as necessary. They work for ME, I’m not a good little sheep who does what she’s told.
I spend a LOT of time in health pro offices (I have six standing appointments a month, and go in as needed for other specialists), and have off and on for most of my life, so I’ve met a lot who had NO IDEA what they were talking about. I saw so many orthopedists for my knees, it’s not even funny, and they almost all disagreed about what the issue was and what to do about it. It’s very easy to take doctors down off that pedestal when you see a lot of them in a short succession.
I do respect them, for sure — they have to work really hard to get their degrees and they know a lot I don’t, but one thing I know infinitely more about than they do is what it’s like to be in my body.
That’s why I don’t let them weigh me. That’s why I have kept hunting til I found ones I could work with, who took me seriously even though I have chronic illnesses and want to be physically active. I know my body a billion times better than they ever will because I’m in it all the damn time.
What has generally been your experience with doctors? Do they seem to understand your unique situation and personal definition of health, or expect you to conform to their own?
Well, mine grok my own personal definition of health or at least agree with me for the most part — because otherwise I train them until they get it or I find new ones. This is at times exhausting and incredibly frustrating, but it is SO WORTH IT. SO SO SO worth it.
What do you perceive to be society’s overall acknowledged, accepted, and encouraged definition of “good health”?
UGH. Society’s overall definition is “thin, tan, eating organic (or veg*an), exercising all the time, super-athletic.” It’s awful.
Do you think society’s definition applies to you, or takes your unique experience into account?
It definitely does not apply to me.
I’m a big gal. I’ve been tubby pretty much since puberty. Even when I was on the high school swim team I was tubby, and I was incredibly healthy and fit back then! I had a resting heart rate of 60, for crying out loud. But society takes one look at me and assumes I’m a lazy couch potato who’s about to get diabetes.
Think about what you perceive to be society’s definition of health. Has it ever helped you or harmed you in some way?
It’s definitely harmed me. I was put in Weight Watchers at a young age (middle school) and that started a cycle of self-loathing and body hating that I still haven’t escaped. When I dropped 60lbs in under a year without trying, I thought it was just a little stress getting to me and was EXCITED that I was finally thin (I could see my ribs, yayy! /sarcasm). It turned out I had a huge cyst pressing on my stomach and needed surgery. If it had twisted inside me, it could have killed various organs. It had the potential to be cancerous (thankfully, it wasn’t). It required major surgery to remove because it had been growing for so long. If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have gone straight to my docs. Weight loss when you’re not doing it on purpose is a symptom, not a benefit. ARGH!