Thursday, August 30, 2007

She's Lost Control

I'd remark on the raging debate over whether fat is unhealthy or not, but it doesn't exist. The voices of the opposition are screaming as hard as they can, but we're drowned out by the overwhelming majority who have sucked down the bait and are denying the hooks lodged in their bleeding throats.

Instead, I want to discuss what this is REALLY about: Fear of death. We've come a long way, and we're so technologically advanced that we can prevent untimely demise in ways that were never before dreamed possible. We're healthier than ever before, having smited hunger, disease, and acute health threats (like appendicitis). We're protected by laws and safety regulations. We have fire-resistant pajamas.

So when someone raises a spectre of early demise in the form of adipose tissue, of course we want to "do something" about it. We have become accustomed to control, having a choice in our destinies--so much so, that people are very threatened by the idea of those of us who have untreatable chronic illnesses, because we shake their faith in modern medicine.

So, you're worried, right? You want to reduce your chances of dying early, and that's understandable. However, not only is the link between fat and early death almost completely fabricated by thindustry propaganda, even if it WERE a risk factor for early death (and, I need to again stress that it is not), the evidence is pretty clear that there isn't a whole hell of a lot you can do about it: Weight you lose comes back (plus some extra) within about five years, unless you're really pushing yourself, and weight loss by itself seems to raise your risk of dying early (and it's worse if you've yo-yo'd throughout your life). Junkfood Science has all the info on that subject, so I'm not going to repeat her stuff here.

So, now that we've established that your fat isn't going to kill you, and even if it did, you're kind of stuck with it, let's look at some things you CAN control that are actually known to have a direct effect on extending your lifespan. Please understand that these are NOT commandments that I'm giving you, just descriptions of actions (or inactions) that you have a choice in taking:

- Wear your seat belt. They save lives, and if you don't believe me, ask an EMT or ER doc.

- Don't smoke. Your control over this is debateable--if you don't already smoke, this is pretty easy.

- Don't do hard drugs. Marijuana is not going to kill you, but heroin and cocaine can be lethal, and fairly readily so.

- Practice good food safety handling. It's amazing how many people worry about the calories in their food, but don't worry one bit about microbes that can cause severe illness and death.

- Get treatment for depression. Depression can kill, if the sufferer becomes suicidal.

- Live in a low-crime area (your control over this is questionable, but it's easier than losing weight, haha)

- Work in a relatively safe job (again, you may not have complete control, but you have some)

- Drive defensively--and SOBER--and try to choose a safe car.

- Don't commit violent crime. The police can shoot you, or the government can execute you.

- Observe good safety practices for all activities. Don't plug stuff in while standing in a puddle of water, don't dive into shallow pools, that kind of thing.

- Get some sun and adequate nutrition.

- Have safe hobbies. I guarantee that I'm safer playing with my nonvenomous snakes than you are skydiving!

- Learn first aid, and clean & disinfect all cuts and wounds (antibiotic resistant bacteria are on the rise)

- Try to be on medical insurance, and get adequate medical care. Don't leave that lump unchecked until it's the size of your head.

MORE important than any of these things, however, is to enjoy what you have right now. You never know, hence the phrase, "Eat dessert first; life is uncertain!"


Andee said...

I love what Anne Lamott said once about how she used to make regular visits to a nursing home with members of her church, and how she used to see all those old sick people and beg God not to let her wind up like that: "But God is not a short-order cook, and many of those people were once like me."

Nobody wants to believe they have only limited control over their hour or method of death. Nobody ever thinks, "Boy, it would be great to spend the last five years of my life battling cancer!" Nobody ever relishes winding up in that nursing home. I sure don't.

But I also don't believe that struggling with all my might to shrink my fat cells as small as possible for the rest of my life is the wisest use of my time and energy. That doesn't mean I'm going to live on doughnuts and guzzle soda all day in my hammock, because that would probably make me really sick in more ways than one. It's rather stunning, though, how many people think they would do that if they gave themselves permission to eat what they like and do what they long to do.

And I think it's a helluva lot more of a moral issue whether your behavior screws up someone else's health (for real, not according to some trumped-up study) than whether it screws up your own. Those people who are growing all the spinach with E. coli and salmonella, for instance, have hella 'splainin to do, IMHO.

RioIriri said...

I agree, I also feel that my time is better spent doing something other than counting calories and freaking out about my fat.

Since I don't feel I need permission to eat what I like, I don't eat donuts and guzzle soda, I eat a variety of stuff and have the occasional donut or soda here and there (not forbidden, just not something I want all the time, you know?).

My mother was never a bitch about making me eat stuff, and therefore, I never had issues about trying different things (except later, when I gave up meat for humane reasons). We weren't forced to finish our plate of food, and we weren't forced to eat stuff we didn't like. So I like LOTS of stuff, and would be bored with nothing but sweets. Ramble ramble, this got off topic :)

And it's funny how we don't take people to task for using the same cutting board for the salad veggies as they did to cut up raw meat, but my being fat is somehow harmful to everyone around me. YAY PRIORITIES!