a long, frustrated blog in the aftermath of my dad's stroke.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I think my earliest memory of any kind of nutritional lesson is from like 4th grade. We had this little session on the Food Guide Pyramid and why it was important to eat a balanced diet. I didn't know what "grains" or "carbs" meant, and I was bummed that sweets were on top of the pyramid, which meant I shouldn't have a lot.

They taught us about the importance of eating healthy; after all, you 9-year-olds don't want high blood pressure, do you? You don't want to have a heart attack some day. Diabetes isn't fun, kiddos.

Of course, none of that resonated. Even though it was only 1 year after my dad's first heart attack, the idea that the food we eat affects our overall health and livelihood just didn't click with me, or if it did, it didn't matter. What DID matter was that my babysitter said she was going on a diet and that seemed like something grown-ups do, so I wanted to do it too. Around the same time we listened to a story in class about a girl who was anorexic and how she got help. The only thing I remember was the girl saying something like "more than a handful of food is a waste."

I regularly ate more than a handful of food - oh no. I must be fat.

The body image issues resonated - the threats of high blood pressure or diabetes or stroke didn't. And so, from 9 years old or so, my relationship with food became a question not of "Will this keep my body healthy and strong?", but rather, "Will this food make me fat or not?"

Since then, I've watched my dad have at least 6 heart attacks and now, a stroke. I've heard doctors and my mom whispering about diabetes. I've watched two uncles and a cousin die from obesity-related illnesses. I've watched my aunt eat herself into disability. And all this time, my view of diet and exercise was "What will make me look good?"

But for goodness sakes, it is SO MUCH MORE than what we look like. I've lost weight and I've accomplished something significant and I look good - yayyyyyyy me. But if I don't work to maintain this kind of diet and exercise my whole life, none of that matters at all.

I refuse to do to my future husband and kids what my family has been doing to me since I was a child. The hospital visits and the waiting and the guessing and the bargaining? it's MISERABLE and I'm not going to let that happen to my family in the future. Not over something that's ENTIRELY within my power to prevent, at least. When I was younger I was foolish enough to really be hurt by this idea of "Doesn't my dad love us enough to quit smoking? Doesn't he love us enough to NOT eat McDonalds?" ....and I know that's not fair. But I've finally gotten myself out of a lifestyle that would have sent me headed in the exact same direction as the rest of my family, and I'm going to say yes, I love my family enough to never go back to that stuff. It's POISON.

I also used to think that you can't just live your life based on what's good for you and what's not. My argument was, "Well, if even the SUNSHINE will give you cancer, there's no point trying to run from every little threat."

But yeah, actually, there is. Eating well and exercising are not so great an inconvenience that they can be just disregarded and forgotten because they're not fun or enjoyable to you. I had a roommate this past year who would sometimes condescendingly treat my fitness like it was a hobby or a vanity thing (which yeah, sometimes it was vain), and once or twice mentioned how she didn't care for exercise because she wasn't too worried about what her body looked like. UH, SORRY GURL, YOU'RE NOT ABOVE THIS JUST BECAUSE YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOUR BODY, K?

I don't know what I'm trying to say here. I'm tired and I'm emotional and I'm pissed that even after allllllllll the obesity-related illness in my family, nobody ever tried to teach me or my sister what healthy eating looked like. I'm mad that my family's choices have put me at higher risk for heart attack, stroke, and diabetes and that research suggests I'll just end up the same place they all are. I'm frustrated that we just do damage control on this stuff and don't stop shoving the poison down our throats. I'm appalled at the 50-something ingredients I counted on a nutritional label in my home today, on a packaged piece of garbage that SOMEHOW is culturally classified as "food," even though I'm pretty sure no piece of it has ever seen a farm or a grove. I'm even more upset that all of this back-and-forth between Baltimore and home means no time to prepare meals for myself or my family, so while I drive to the hospital to watch and wait while my dad suffers, I have to pull up to the same drive-thrus that helped put him there in the first place.

Watching my dad in the hospital, looking around at all of my obese relatives... it's like looking into my future through a crystal ball and I want NONE of it. And I KNOW that it's within my power to prevent it, but it's scary as all hell because when my age, they were all young and fit and healthy, too. And if THEY let stuff get out of hand, what about me? Am I so arrogant to say that I won't fall into the same traps? Studies suggest that nearly ALL people who lose a significant amount of weight (uh, that'd be me) gain it back and then some.

So studies suggest I'll be obese again soon. And that's just one strike against me - my family history? that's 2, 3, 4 strikes. I can't do this. I can't end up the same place they are.

I really intended for this to be a more eloquent, put together, thoughtful blog and it turned into a rant about all my greatest fears. Oh well. that's what you get after ordeals like this, I suppose.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    943 days ago
    I'm sorry to hear about your dad's stroke; let me know (seriously) if there's anything I can do, even cooking and bringing food up there for you.

    Some of the same issues run in my family: heart disease will probably kill me first, if it's not Alzheimer's or anything obesity-related, should I let myself go. My mom suffers from way too many problems to count, and some of it is because she carries extra weight (even after stomach/gallbladder removal). She tries and tries, but fails to learn the lessons I've learned (and still struggle with): move your body, eat fewer calories, and eat fewer processed foods.

    You can beat your family history, though. You're going to be at risk, forever, due to the past with your family and due to your past with obesity, just like I will be at risk. But we've seen the dangers up close and personal, and now WE KNOW. And that knowledge will spur us into action to treat ourselves and our bodies better.
    2129 days ago
    Well written. I really admire you.

    I was in a weight loss challenge that started in January, right before my car accident. But after the car accident, I didn't care anymore about counting calories and things like that. I just wanted to live. Be healthy, yes, but live.

    I think there's a combination between being comfortable with your body and wanting to be healthy that needs to be achieved. I don't do this diet stuff because I want to look better now. I do it because I want to feel better and run better. I notice things when I don't eat well, even if I don't gain weight. For example, greasy food makes me break out.

    I also know that it's hard to be around obese people because you start eating like you are obese, too. I saw this first hand when I went up on vacation. Even though I was exercising a lot while I was gone, my diet was awful. When I had come home after just one week, I had gained six pounds.

    It's a fight. It really is. Hang there and take a deep breath. I've really been grateful for your friendship, and I"m glad I got to know you through Spark.
    2132 days ago
    Aw honey first off I am so sorry to hear about your Dad. I hope that this is the thing that catapults your Dad to take better care of himself. What it sounds like you have taken from it is that your motivation to maintain your wellness is to protect your health rather than just to look good.

    As bad as it sounds, there is a disconnect for many people between seeing other people live a healthy lifestyle and actually taking the action to do it themselves. It is not easier for you or me to eat a sweat potato with lunch instead of bread and butter (which I ate massive amounts of this weekend on my vacation and am still feeling the effects. I digress), we just know that it is worth it to take care of ourselves.

    I will be thinking about you and will keep your family in my prayers.
    2132 days ago
    Hi, lady. I'm just going to copy and paste from your last blog, okay?

    YOU ARE:
    - body fat percentage at approx. 19%
    - my ‘body age’ is 19, which is great because I’m actually 23
    - my flexibility needs some work
    - strength is ‘excellent’
    - nutrition is right between ‘good’ and ‘excellent’
    Also, the fact that you're thinking about your future family and what you want to give to them by way of your good health and self-understanding guarantees that you'll fight to give them that your whole life.

    You got this, girl. emoticon
    2132 days ago
    Even though this blog might not have been what it was intended, I think it came out great.

    First off, I am sorry to hear about your father and I hope he has a speedy recovery. My grandfather had a stoke last August.. he is now able to walk again :) I hope your fathers wasn't as serious as that.

    The stats are scary, but you are the one who can control it. This blog will be a great reminder that you don't want to be one of those statistics and prove them wrong!

    It certainly appears you have the will power to do so. You can beat the odds!

    Best of luck with everything..
    2132 days ago
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