NOTE: The Health Equity Task Force is a local group in which I participate. We are newly formed with the purpose of addressing health disparities in this area (if you would like to join in the fun, message me for details.) The following blog grew from a “homework” assignment made after our last meeting. As we began looking at the barriers to healthy living for people in this region, the topic of obesity kept coming up, so we were challenged to examine what keeps each of us from making healthy choices. These are my random thoughts, but I would pose the same question to you – what keeps you from making healthy choices?
That is such a tough question. Not tough in the sense that I don’t know how to answer it but tough because I don’t want to admit the answer. The thing that keeps me from being healthier is simple.
I have plenty of them. My job keeps me busy. I am a mother of three small kids. Being a Girl Scout troop leader requires a good measure of my time. The girls have cheer practice, church choir, birthday parties and a million other social things that create far-too-busy calendars for a six-year-old and a three-year-old. Our budget is tight so it’s tough to always buy fresh fruits and vegetables and make sure everything is organically grown. If I try to quit drinking Cokes, I’ll have a caffeine-withdrawal headache, and I don’t have time to be slowed down.
Geez, Louise. Excuses, excuses.
The reality is that if I don’t start making time for healthier lifestyle choices and begin making a concerted effort to get myself in order, I may not be here to deal with any of those things that keep me so busy.
My uncle was relatively healthy – reasonable weight, active lifestyle, etc. – and dropped dead at age 42 of heart disease, which he didn’t even know he had. I made changes in my life when that happened. I lost a lot of weight and joined a gym, which I went to at least three days a week for two or more hours. I purged unhealthy foods from my life, gave up soft drinks and parked further from the door at stores so I had to take extra steps. I was the healthiest I have ever been in my adult life and was able to stop taking six medications a day for various, obesity-related problems.
But then my oldest daughter came along, and I let my standards drop. I told myself fast food was easier. I didn’t have extra money for a gym membership, and who had time to go there anyway? As a single mom to a high-maintenance little princess and as someone who was spending quite a bit of time in the court system fighting the biological donor of said princess, I turned to comfort eating as a coping mechanism and started choosing the easy way out. When everything in life feels hard, food can feel easy, and easy feels good. I won’t deny it.
Food makes me feel good.
It does. I can’t help that. People who say, “No food tastes as good as skinny feels” have obviously never had such a horrible day that the only thing that goes right in the whole day is that bite of French fries you ate in the car on the way home after picking up your daughter because you knew when you got home there wouldn’t be a chance to eat until much, much later, and once you finally got her to sleep you were going to have to fight with her father who is banging on your door at 3 a.m. or deal with her night terrors brought on by his constant harassment and scare tactics or…well…anyway…maybe that’s just me.
But it’s not just me.
There are many people in situations that make them feel out of control. Whether it’s financial or emotional stress or pressure from work or a bad family situation, there is always something that makes you feel like taking the easy way out in other parts of your Life. Often, that means taking care of everyone and everything else and neglecting to take care of yourself. It means eating fattening foods because in a world where you have no control over anything else, eating makes you feel good and is something you can do to entertain yourself and feel soothed.
It sounds ridiculous. I know it does. There are many other ways to combat depression and anxiety. Pray. Talk to friends. Get out of the house and get active. Find a charitable group with which you can volunteer. Take your kids to the park. Sit on your back porch and enjoy a quiet moment. Do yoga. Meditate. Go to a walking track and go around and around until you walk away the stress.
I know that. Of course I do. I am a relatively intelligent, clear-thinking person. And yet there I sat so many nights with my pint of ice cream or my fast food or my bag of chips.
In fact, as I type this, I am relishing every sip of my $1.08 large Coke from Sonic. It has cherry flavoring and a handful of real cherries added. I rationalize it by saying I can’t quit caffeine cold turkey because I can’t afford to slow down long enough to have a headache. I tell myself there are real cherries in there, so that’s a serving of fruit, right?
Ugh. I’m so ridiculous.
I can tell others what to do, and I know what I need to do. I just need to do it. But taking the easier path seems so great in the short-term. I talk about “if” I decide to lose weight and “when” I am going to return to a healthier Life. I grimace at myself in the mirror and complain that they don’t make attractive, stylish clothes for people my size. But I don’t want to be this size. So what do I do?
I stop at Sweet Frog and load up on Pistachio and Cake Batter frozen yogurt, top it off with Teddy Grahams and pecans and let my spoon soothe me into complacency once again.
I know I need to make a change, but there are so many obstacles in the way. Unfortunately, my main obstacle is the hardest one to overcome and it is the same one that has plagued me for nearly 39 years.