No One Is Required To Pursue Health

Posted: August 7, 2014 in Problems
Tags: , , ,

Was thinking today about what it means to do things to be physically healthy (as much as possible for each of us, knowing much is out of our control).

For some reason people boil this down to exercise, and what we eat.

Which is ridiculous. There is so much more to being physically healthy than that.

Including mental health because mental and physical are not as separate as the way we talk about them would imply.

I think health is a good and important goal. And you will hear me say I’m not healthy, because overall- I’m not. I have a number of chronic health conditions that require regular doctor appointments, medical tests to monitor, and have a significant impact on my daily life and abilities. Though in a way because of that health becomes more important to me. Everyday there are things I have to remember to do to manage my health that a generally healthy person wouldn’t. Starting with the simplest- I take medication everyday and have to remember to take it or my health will get worse. I also have to pay attention to my diet and what I eat because there are certain things I cannot eat and certain things I need to limit due to my health conditions. I get comments a lot because I often carry around a 2.2 liter water bottle and it stands out. Drinking water is great and healthy for a lot of reasons, it’s extra important for health for me because drinking water helps offset the side effect of one of my medications- kidney stones. (Which aside from being incredibly painful can be pretty bad since I’ve had a kidney stone before that caused a blockage that lead to a kidney infection, which I was then given medication to treat that actually ended up causing further kidney damage- tiny little stone set off a huge domino effect of health issues and was a total mess. That’s when I found out that the medication I was on and had been on can cause kidney stones. Don’t you just love when medications have these serious possible side effects that are known about the medication but you don’t know it? Which reminds me of another way I have to be on top of my health in ways generally healthy folks don’t- making sure I do my own research on medications I’m prescribed and checking interactions, because I know from experience that stuff can fall through the cracks if you expect doctors and pharmacists to catch it all for you.)

I’m also very big on being as proactive about having the best health I can in the future too.  Alzheimer’s runs in my family. I hope I live well past 80 and am still mentally well, but looking at my family history the odds seem against that. There are genetic links for Alzheimer’s and I haven’t been tested yet to see if I have any but I know a lot of that is not within my control. But to me, that just means that I’m doing the best I can with what I can control because I need all I can get in the reducing risks of Alzheimer’s camp. I try to keep up on research and what it shows as correlated with less Alzheimer’s- and correlation doesn’t equal causation, but when talking about simple things like drinking lots of green tea being correlated with lower Alzheimer’s rates, well it doesn’t prove green tea is the cause but I’m still drinking the green tea! Staying active is definitely part of this too.

That said, health is a pretty broad category, there are a lot of things that can fall under “trying to be healthy”, and in a lot of cases they will vary based on different characteristics about us, and what we prioritize. You will see this a lot in terms of what is “healthy” in terms of diets. Based on health conditions two people can have completely opposite recommendations regarding something in their diet. Similarly, we often prioritize certain aspects of health over others, and have to- often they compete against each other. Sometimes it’s impossible to follow two health recommendations. For example, I previously mentioned the example of things that might help prevent Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown a correlation between moderate drinking and lower rates of Alzheimer’s. And so not only do I enjoy alcoholic beverages, I consider moderate drinking to be part of trying to help do what I can to hopefully avoid Alzheimer’s in my future. On the other hand, I also have a significant family history of alcoholism. I know a lot of folks who have a family history of alcoholism who choose not to drink at all, as one of the things they do to be healthy, to avoid the risk of the becoming an alcoholic. Well, I can’t drink moderately to maybe reduce my risk of Alzheimer’s, while also abstaining from alcohol to avoid the risk of alcoholism. I made a choice about which was more important to me. Another person will decide differently. All equally valid.


I was thinking about this recently, and I started getting angry thinking about lot of folks who are very into fitness, bodybuilding, and the like who like to complain about how unhealthy they think being fat is, and how people have an obligation to be healthy. Yet how many unhealthy behaviors do these people engage in? Including sometimes unhealthy behaviors in order to maintain their fitness routine.

I hear for example, often, how there is no excuse for not working out- anyone could wake up earlier and workout, you just need to do it and care to do it! But again, this goes back to the fact that we all play a balancing act with healthy behaviors, and we all have to make choices with limited resources. One of those is time. For many people, with only so many hours in the day, the choice may be either get as much sleep as they need, or fit in a workout. Both sleep and fitness are healthy behaviors. Choosing less sleep to fit in your workout is fine- everyone has the right to decide that if it’s what they want. But sleep deprivation is detrimental to your overall health. One way or another, a person in this situation is not doing something that is healthy. Yet for some reason, many people think they are morally superior if they place a higher value on the health importance of a workout compared to the health importance of getting enough sleep.

And even beyond situation like this with two competing healthy behaviors, there are also situations where people actively choose things that are simply not healthy due to personal preferences and desires. This happens a LOT with bodybuilders and people who are very into having a “ripped” physique. Very low body fat is actually not healthy! And the things people do to force their bodies down to very low body fat percentages are often not healthy- especially if done long term (this is why bodybuilders don’t maintain competition body fat percentages all the time- it would be very unhealthy and dangerous. And yet, it is more acceptable to pursue this unhealthy ideal than it is to simply accept or be happy with an overweight body. And yet, the arguments still get framed as if health were the issue.

And let me be clear, I’m not saying people should be shamed, or looked down on for wanting to have very low body fat and pursuing that. The point, rather, is that these are personal decisions we all make. Don’t hold up one physique as ideal despite being unhealthy to maintain, while also shaming other people for their bodies and hiding behind claims of “health”.

And don’t even get me started on people who want to chide me about how I must have obesity related illnesses like high blood pressure and just don’t know, am in denial, or I’m lying, meanwhile they have no health insurance and haven’t even seen a doctor in many years. If you haven’t been to a doctor recently, or had these tested, body size is irrelevant, chances are much higher that you have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or high cholesterol and just don’t know it, than me because you actually don’t know for sure that you currently fall in the safe range for those. I see doctors regularly and every visit includes checking my blood pressure and I have blood work done regularly. So I know where I fall on those (which is that they are all within the healthy ranges).

I also notice a large number of folks who will complain about how unhealthy being fat is, yet not a word about things like binge drinking. Including folks who engage in binge drinking themselves. Newsflash- binge drinking is very unhealthy!

I’m fairly certain every person on this earth makes unhealthy choices sometimes, because we have wants and desires that conflict with what is healthy, along with having to forgo health in one area to pursue health in another. Health isn’t not as simply as being reduced to being active or eating certain things/not eating certain things.

As well, different individuals will make healthy/unhealthy choices differently and with different frequency due to what we like, what we want, and how highly we value certain aspects of health. And that’s fine! Everyone not being exactly the same is actually a good thing I think. We are all allowed to have different priorities. We are all allowed to make unhealthy choices regarding our lives and habits (and we all do, at least sometimes).

There is not, and should not, be some kind of moral obligation toward healthy behaviors- and especially not when what is really being done is prioritizing certain healthy behaviors over and at the expense of other unhealthy behaviors.


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