writing

How To Be Healthier*

*Spoiler alert, it involves people having more resources.

Unless your mother was some kind of kitchen Goddess who didn’t work, if you are poor, chances are fairly good that you have pretty limited access to healthy food. Unless you somehow attended a really great school or maybe if you were lucky enough to live in a major city, chances are also fairly decent you didn’t have the ability to exercise either (those of you who think walking is “free” and “easy” have never been a young teen girl in the hood). The end result of these two conditions being that there is a high risk of obesity. Now, if on top of those two things you also had a physical disability like I do, it’d be pretty easy to understand how I gained so much weight after I got injured and was no longer teaching. And gain weight I did. I won’t be posting any numbers of how much I weighed and lost because 1) this isn’t about that and 2) I haven’t owned a scale but in the intervening time between this year and the last I went from a size 16 to a 6 bordering on a 4. Considering that a year and half ago, I was in a wheel-chair this is somewhat miraculous so I wanted to talk about how I did it because the context matters.

I’m physically healthier and in less pain, which was my goal but I’m not going to pretend I’m not vain and a saint and don’t appreciate the side benefit of how much better I’m treated when I’m thin. So how did I do it?

The answer all people will tell you is hard work, discipline and routine and those are all true in my case. I built an exercise routine that I am now in the habit of that was safe for me and I watched what, how much and where I was eating.

But this oversimplifies and obscures the discussion, making it easy to dismiss things like “food deserts” and “access to resources” with lectures about trying super hard.

What I did anyone could do with enough time and money, but I would never have been able to do it, if I didn’t get out of teaching and North Highlands.

Why?

1) I had to have access to good food and transportation. The nearest grocery store with lots of produce is several miles away and I was too sick to manage the shopping and cooking, making me reliant on others and what was available, which was mostly processed food.

2) I literally did not have anywhere to really maintain yoga or walk to in North Highlands

3) My stress levels needed to decrease for my pain to decrease for me to exercise, which wasn’t going to happen with the way I was living.

4) I didn’t have access to pain management and medical care that allowed me to exercise.

5) I now have access to medical marijuana, which allowed me to get off the opiates, which has allowed me to exercise and eat better as well as solving most of my stomach issues. 

Now that I’m able to actually “take a break” (thanks to the socialism of marriage) and have access to all the food and medical care I need, I’m able to be healthier, in less pain, and happier with myself. But we never talk about the context that is required to achieve that goal or the fact that it’s a collosal waste to have people like me suffering when they could be functional and healthy. And it’s also a very costly one, because so many of my catastrophic injuries and problems could have been avoided with access to resources, thereby decreasing the burden of my medical costs.

And here’s the fun secret: there’s really no reason we can’t all have these things. We just choose not to evaluate how we design out cities, provide medical care or distribute food. 

Or we can keep shaming people on the Internet. That seems to be working.

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