Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Free to Be You and Me

I went to the doctor last week and among other things got my cholesterol checked. I'd sort of forgotten what she'd told me the year before - the part about the changes I could or should make to see if those high cholesterol numbers could be brought down. After all, she'd been so encouraging: How great that you're exercising - that's the best thing you can do! Blood pressure is wonderful! 125 pounds? You're TEENY! You look so young! 

When the roommate went on a serious, must-lose-weight diet, I joined her in some parts of it. I made the move to skim or 1% milk, "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter," more whole grains, and exploring all the high-fat things one can replace with a good dollop of Greek yogurt (seriously - it's yummy!). I could have done much more, but I wasn't sick, or overweight, or fighting allergies. I was just... 40. And my cholesterol was high.

Well, the numbers didn't go down. So I want to make some changes. Mostly things to add to my life, or substitutions, rather than any major overhaul.

This brings me into the boulder-strewn rapids of "healthy eating." I have to tell you, I'm a little itchy and skeptical about this. Less because I don't want to change, more because I hate to see people use their health fears and problems to judge other people and push them away. I don't want to one of those kind of people who does that, and I see it in myself to become one.

It's bad enough how often I say, "I don't want to be one of those people who...." Do you hear yourself talking like that? Oh, maybe you aren't one of those people! Yikes.

While I can change what I put in my body, I don't want to tell everybody else they need to do the same, or even suggest that they should. Food can be such an emotional thing. If marriage is in my future, I may try to woo my family to enjoy fresh, simple, homemade foods. But I don't want to say: just 'cause I'm not having butter, or salad dressing, or pop, they're off the grocery list. You can't have them either.

Not long ago I spent the night at the home of some friends who are facing very serious and inexplicable health problems. The combination of the forcefulness with which they declared how other people eat "terrible!" and the freedom with which they criticized other things that people do or like or have, it scared me. I don't want to get close to them. Which is really too bad because they are my nearest coworkers. But I want to keep my distance rather than risking their judgment. And I don't want to be like that. But... it's hard to avoid all together, isn't it? 

So, here's one principle I think will help. I'm going to avoid talking about lifestyle choices in the second person. I'll try not to say, "that's really bad for you!" and "that's really good for you!" I'll be cautious about labeling carbohydrates, meat, or other food "good" and "bad," and even use the term "healthy" with caution. Maybe I need to watch out for saturated fats, but you are right on track. Maybe you have to be careful about sodium, but that doesn't mean I can't ask you to pass the salt.

What do you think? Any other principles that have helped you balance grace, gratitude, and freedom with discipline, restraint, and helping others?


Megan Noel said...

I am going through this same thing now. And there are 5 different people in my life at the moment who have very strong ideas about what is good or bad, right or wrong. just being told i "need" to do something a different way makes me want to rebel.

well you know i have some control issues around food after having been misdiagnosed w/ an eating disorder. i have a much worse relationship w/ food now than i did before all that. and these people in my life don't agree on what they thing is good or bad.

i do think though, if you look at all the various research out there, and look at how people used to eat versus how they eat now (huge lifestyle change across a short time period, a few generations), there are some things that stand out. obviously your body does not treat all food the same. most people seem to agree that limiting processed carbs and simple sugar is important. some people think it has to be eliminated but i think i like the idea of balance and moderation! i don't like the idea of deprivation, especially since i already have food allergies. and everyone agrees that fruits and vegetables have lots of good things in them. most people would probably agree you should not eat lard straight from the can. most people seem to agree that plant fats offer some benefits that dairy fats do not but again i am not interested in eliminating a food i am not allergic to that does have some nutritional merits! then comes the meat issue which is a personal choice.

i don't think there is 1 diet that is right for everyone. we are all different! but i do think if you slow down and pay attention to how you feel your body will tell you what works for you. although, you have to listen pretty hard to get past the part that just wants MOAR ICECREAM NOW!

Dave Hackett said...

Body image is a powerful concept, and bad body self-image can be destructive. The latter, I think, isn't a physical problem so much as a psychological / spiritual problem that we need to work out with God. The other day at the clothiers the gent helping me picked up on my negative comment on my size, and he gracefully said, "Your size says you're PROSPEROUS." What an attitude changer! That reminds me that shame is a terrible motivator; much better is being at peace with our bodies and then wanting to improve from where we are. I see so many either proud of their body or ashamed of it, and that's a huge clue to what our society has injected into us on what is the desirable body size. But aren't people incredibly varied in our bodies? We are! Random thoughts from a prosperous, I guess, man.

Marti said...

Meg, you make me laugh: I'm just gonna have to eat lard straight out of the can. (Can lard come in a can?) MORE ICE CREAM NOW! Well, I guess like Mom there are certain things I just don't want to have in the house. I just threw away the chocolate chip cookies left over from our camping trip, and stashed the tempting brownie-bite things in the freezer for another day.

You make a good point about huge lifestyle changes in a few generations. My friends in Central Asia still celebrate good food by calling it "yogli," which means oily or fat, and say "you've gotten fat!" as a compliment when someone comes back from vacation - but they also walk everywhere and in many cases work very hard, physically. Whereas few of us do. So adjustments must be made somewhere.

Happens that I prefer simple and homemade over processed and packaged, for all kinds of reasons. But some people can be awfully snooty about their advocacy of such practices, eh?

Love to see us all keep learning how to honor and respect one another and one another's choices, whether they are made from ignorance, weaknesses, or wisdom. It may be hard to diagnose the difference when we're not inside their skin. As I said, free to be you and me.

I'll pray for your ability to filter and interpret the messages coming toward you as you decide what changes to make and attempt to carry them out. Me, too.

Marti said...

Dave, I think you're right: much of what we see when we look into the mirror or into other people's eyes has to do with psychology and spirituality. How easily we believe the lies that tells us we don't "measure" up right because of our measurements, large or small. I recently wrote about the role modernization has played in all this. There's was a push for efficiency, for cranking things out in standard sizes rather than making things by hand for the person or situation where they will be used... and one day we wake up and everything has "sizes" and standards. Something was gained, but something was lost.

I like your story about the gentleman who said you were "prosperous"! Certainly, you are blessed. And a blessing. Thanks for writing.

Megan Noel said...

i have been considering your situation and i think since you are not trying to lose weight you might replace some of the "bad" fat in your diet with "good" fat. good fat would mean things like avocados, almonds, peanut butter, etc. my knowledge of you, which you will admit is extensive, suggests you might like for breakfast:
1) peanut or almond butter on toast
2) breakfast burrito w/ beans and not eggs. maybe some salsa, etc. beans are such a good source of protein and fiber too!