Fool’s Paradise

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Back when my classmates were playing with blocks, I was stacking cartons. The glove compartment, as far as I know, might as well have been called the smokes compartment, because that’s all we kept in ours. I can visualize the plastic sealed, blanched white bodies, stacked in rows; I can still smell the unmistakeable insult of the ash that used to cling, like velcro on the lace of my shoes. He was going through two, three packs a day, habitually pounding cigarette after cigarette as if each puff was giving him life… when in fact, it was doing the opposite.

So, I’d draw family caricatures and bold, arching, colorful print that read something along the lines of “Please Stop Smoking DAD” and variations of. I’d sneak letters into his travel bag, and on the occasion I’d get to see him, I would beg him to quit. For us. For a healthier life. For, at only six years old, I was already afraid that the next time I’d see a plastic sealed, blanched white body, it’d be his.

What I had yet to learn was that the success of behavior change is determined by adherence, which can only be cultivated intrinsically. My father continued to smoke for many, many years, and despite positive behavior changes that renovated different aspects of his life, he could never fulfill the intricate web of physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, and social health. Because wellness is a cumulative interaction between these six dimensions of health, behavior change that hinders the maintenance of this balance may –in consequence– be fleeting, inefficient, and even detrimental.

The film, “Fat Chance,” portrays the journey of behavior change intended for weight loss that is later redirected to self acceptance. Rick Zakowich is first introduced, thirty pounds lighter but not much happier since the start of his plan to lose weight. Feeling pressured by cultural standards of beauty and acceptance, he uses appearance-based motivation to take on behavior change involving diet and exercise. It is no surprise, considering how heavily our society weighs the significance of body image, to hear a even medical professional deviate from motivational interviewing. The physician advises, “Best way to make yourself feel better about yourself… is to lose weight so that your blood pressure improves, so that you look better.” Inherent in modern American thinking is that looking better equates to happiness.

As Rick finds support from those who are content with their obesity, he adapts to a new perspective that directly antagonizes fat shaming culture; he ends the documentary by saying, “The way you are is fine. Walk through this world in that way.” On a superficial perspective, one could argue that Rick achieves a step towards wellness by coming to self acceptance, increasing his self confidence, and joining an empowered community. However, despite it being a step in the right direction, Rick fails to recognize the danger of extremes. By orienting behavior change strictly towards emotional and social health, he completely neglects the other essential components, such as physical health. There is no doubt that self love, in the right context, is deserving of praise, but the fact that he is happier does not eliminate the risks of being overweight. By the summer of 2008, my father ended up in the ICU. If he, then, had settled on self acceptance and placed another cigarette between his lips, would you have applauded him, too?

Fat shaming and fat acceptance fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, and through understanding the crucial interplay of the six components of wellness, we unveil the importance of moderation. Had the medical professional taken a different approach, like educating the benefits of exercise, rather than implying blame or demonizing Rick’s body image, perhaps Rick would not have fallen victim to an illusory state of happiness that is likely evanescent. Increasing studies now indicate that cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity can improve multiple aspects of wellness and reduce the comorbidities tied to obesity, with or without weight loss (Dallow). This outlook on exercise may be a better approach towards positive behavior change, than one that is based on appearance. Furthermore, it would be of a greater benefit to implement behavior change that caters to both fitness, confidence, community, and other aspects of wellness. With Dr. Lerner’s medical knowledge and morale amongst Rick’s new connections, the support group could potentially be the perfect medium for a wellness program. With less emphasis on weight loss, they could tackle multiple obstacles at once and find a more permanent solution. In contrast of what they have been told by others –they can have their cake and eat it too.

To ensure safety, longevity, and efficacy of such program, professional advisement to promote adherence is crucial. Though the responsibility of wellness falls on the shoulders of each individual, it is equally important to have health care providers take the lead on public education. Patients are more likely to adhere to behavior change if they understand risk and the gravity of their conditions, so medical professionals can play a key role here (Stonerock). Proper motivational interviewing along with professional, objective, and evidence-based opinions is essential to assist others, particularly in the transition from earlier to later stages of the Transtheoretical Model. In “Fat Chance,” Dr. Moe Lerner highlights that obesity is caused by metabolism and dieting. Not once does he mention the importance of physical health. Despite his sensible attitude, his perspective holds a very narrow, almost defensive, focus to justify obesity. By relying on rationalizations and believing his physical state is not a problem, he, along with Rick and the others in the support group, regress and sink deeper into the precontemplative stage (Dallow).

In a society that strongly antagonizes fat and with a disproportionately increasing prevalence of obesity, there is a strong need for leadership towards fitness in all populations, especially obese individuals. The fact that Dr. Lerner’s personal stake in the issue does not take a backseat to his obligation to the public, and that another medical provider advises Rick “just do it” as a plan for losing weight reveal how the medical care system has ample room for improvement. Physical therapists, and all medical providers, can and should “provide key elements of effective behavioral change interventions” so that the general public can adhere to wholesome decisions about wellness (Rhodes). Even the most effective interventions whittle down to scraps, in the absence of patient adherence.

It is easy to believe a person is well when one aspect of wellness has been satisfied. One might say being fat and happy is better than being skinny and unhappy; one might argue the opposite. During an interview, supermodel Kate Moss was quoted saying, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” When we fall victim to such paradigms that cater to one aspect of wellness, such as emotional health, we neglect all else. The temporary contentment that follows blinds us from seeing the short-lived nature of it, and the resulting imbalance may put an us in a worse position than we started from. Fooling ourselves about our well-being is like sipping on a pina colada, floating comfortably above a circle of sharks. In shallow waters, it becomes more clear that a fool’s paradise –though paradise– thrives only in the minds of fools.

 

References

Bezner JR. Promoting health and wellness: implications for physical therapist practice. Phys Ther. 2015;95:1433-1444.

Dallow CB, Anderson J. Using self-efficacy and a transtheoretical model to develop a physical activity intervention for obese women. American Journal of Health Promotion, 2003;17(6):373-381.

Fat Chance. Dir. Jeff McKay. Perf. Rick Zakowich. YouTube. NFB, 17 May 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

Rhodes RE, Fiala B. Building motivation and sustainability into the prescription and recommendations for physical activity and exercise therapy: the evidence. Physiother Theory Pract. 2009;25:424- 441.

Stonerock GL., Blumenthal JA. Role of Counseling to Promote Adherence in Healthy Lifestyle Medicine: Strategies to Improve Exercise Adherence and Enhance Physical Activity. Prog Cardiovasc Dis (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2016.09.003

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Sick as a Dog (in the early 1700s)

The first word that came to mind this morning was “fuck.”

No, I didn’t wake up beside a strange face, and no, it is a Saturday, so surely I wasn’t late for work. What got me to begin my day with a profane outburst were beads of cold sweat and a throbbing ache in my throat. It seemed all too familiar.

I rolled to the foot of the bed (I don’t move around when I sleep but can fall asleep in strange positions, so today, I awoke horizontal to the bed frame because I was up watching Family Guy the night prior). Then, I drunkenly stumbled into the bathroom. I opened my mouth wide and tip-toed closer to the mirror to find that my reflection, despite being dangerously attractive (I’m in a sarcastic mood today), had a throat swollen and red enough to be deemed… well, sick. “Fuck” was totally appropriate, then.

I cancelled my plans for the day, ate a big breakfast, and returned to bed.

***

As ironic as it is, sleeping when I’m sick always makes me feel sicker. So, eventually, after several hours of napping, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was overheating. I threw on a couple layers and left the apartment. I walked about a mile or so, feeling better as the atmospheric chill brushed against my heated cheeks; I slowly sipped on some fresh, outdoor air and let it soothe my aching throat. A second place alternative for Ricola, imo.

When I got to Cunningham Park, I felt fairly dizzy, so I laid down for a pit-stop in the grass.

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And all I saw was this.

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The sky seemed so empty and grey that I thought I was looking at one large cloud. I let my eyes lose focus, and suddenly, I could see tiny, clear moving particles (called Floaters) drifting in the sky above me.

Floaters
simulated image of Floaters, from Wikipedia

It came accompanied with hundreds, maybe thousands, of small sparkles rapidly moving and bouncing off one another. It was hypnotizing. Captivated, I let “Before the Beginning” rip through my headphones and watched the atoms in the sky pour down on my face. I guess this is what people mean by “seeing stars.”

I went home, popped 2 nyquils, and soaked in a bubble bath while indulging in After Hours’ jazz tracks on repeat. I started the first chapter of High Fidelity — no spoilers, please. So far, it’s fantastic.

Half floating (cheating because my tub isn’t large enough for me to stretch out my legs), I let my ears dip into the warm soak and left my face exposed. Listening to a distant jazz through a layer of water made me feel detached from the world around me, as if this sickness could be put on pause.

The bubbles tickled my knees as I remained still, breathing in the warm fumes evaporating from the surface of the bath. I brushed my teeth, gargled with salt water, conditioned my hair, lathered my skin in coconut oil, and ate several hot, hearty meals as well.

The point of it all is: I, like many busy working people, rarely find time to take care of myself until I am forced to. It wouldn’t hurt to do this more often. I feel so much better already; my throat and sinus aren’t nearly as pissed off at me as they were this morning.

Ladies and gentlemen, take a weekend and treat yourself. I promise you it’s worth it. Good day.

 

 

The Doctors Are Sick

For those of you who do not know:

just before my last finals week as a college senior, I got hit by a bus. Except there was no bus.

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I was overloading courses and taking on night/weekend shifts at the time, so I thought the sudden pain and fatigue was sourced from overexertion, or perhaps too much caffeine. I slept for days at a time — I honestly don’t know how I managed to pass any of my exams. But I did. Nevertheless, this sensation was nothing like what I had felt before: stemming from deep within, an unnerving discomfort drilling into the core of my bones. I remember feeling completely, helplessly, broken.

After graduation, I continued to work long shifts, struggling to fake a bubbly attitude. One afternoon, I was hit with a wave of disorientation, as blisters appeared on the side of my neck. Go to the hospital, my boss said. I ignored her. Later that night, I collapsed, so I had to take a trip home. Luckily, Sally was driving back to Queens that week.

After we crossed into recognizable Jersey, I started feeling a numbness coursing through my neck and face. A thick hotness embedded into my jaw; an itching burn slapped me on the side of the neck. My arms screamed in pain. I’m fine, I initially told Sally, as if reassuring her would convince myself to, at all costs, avoid another hospital visit.

I ignored it until my hands and chest began tingling, when I suggested, OK, Sally, I think I need help. Buckling into best friend gear, she googled for a respectable hospital in Manhattan and sped over to the emergency room. Hours later, I walked out with a heavy dose of medication, a swollen upper extremity, and an instructive sheet of care for shingles. They missed the lyme disease, but so did everyone else (I went to my ex-primary care physician that week, who told me it was “growing pains”).

I was prescribed anti-virals, which made the blisters go away, but the excruciating pain remained. I rode back up to Binghamton, where I worked and lived with an ex-boyfriend for the summer, struggling with hot flashes, severe fatigue, and anxiety. I’m sure it was hard on him, too. I remember crying myself to sleep on multiple occasions, thinking the pain would never end. My thyroid levels were off, and my weight continued to fluctuate, so the quack of a doctor (the one who said I was having growing pains at the impressive age of 23) misinterpreted my lab results and misdiagnosed me with hypothyroidism. This inevitably created more issues (because treatment for it is the opposite for what I actually had: hyPERthyroidism). In the meantime, I got into a bike accident on Vestal Parkway and suffered a concussion and another broken nose, which at this point was almost humorous. With all that salt in the wound, I could have seasoned my steaks for the whole damn month.

I hit my all time low, then rolled off a cliff to discover there is always more room to fall. I quit my job, gained more weight, struggled with dating, and lost some friends. It wasn’t until nearly 5 months later that I switched to a new primary care provider (a keen and exemplary man) who uncovered the buried jackpot, lyme disease being the diamond of the bunch. I was put on antibiotics for 3 weeks; however, it was too late. It would not leave my system, and the pain raged harder than ever. At times, I daydreamed of amputating a limb or two, so that maybe, I could have a moment of peace.

In this time, I saw more doctors than I have in my entire life. An infectious disease specialist forced another round of antibiotics, three times a day for another month. I was prescribed antibiotics 3 more times over the course of the next several months. Pill after pill after pill, I felt weaker. If we eliminated one symptom, another would appear because my immune system was shit. Frustrating to say the least.

And to top it all off, I developed an allergy to a specific antibiotic, and gluten as well. You know what that’s like when bread and cake are your two favorite foods? It felt like a shitstorm hit me in the face. The more I restricted my diet, the more I wanted to shove poptarts down my throat. I actually, swear to god, had a phase where I would have cold-sweat nightmares about eating and dying from delicious, dancing bagels.

Eventually, this extended use of various antibiotics wiped all of the good bacteria from my abdomen, creating a safe haven for c. diff, a dangerous infection that is treated through… you guessed it, another cleansing round of antibiotics. I refused it, but was intimidated into taking another round.

Which brings me to my main point: the issue of over-medication concerns me. The side effects of the pills were at times, worse than the illnesses themselves. I would experience blurred vision, stomach cramps, migraines, persistent nausea — but I was pushed to take more. Aegrescit medendoIt is latin for Do not burn the house to get rid of the mouse.

I understand that there is concern for liability and habitual protocol amongst doctors, but what I wish is that they would assess us more as patients rather than risks and statistics. In a study released by The Journal of American Medical Association, a whopping 73% of a adult sample population presenting with sore throats were prescribed antibiotics. Only 5-17% actually had GABHS, “the only common cause of sore throat warranting antibiotics”. Doctors were and are over-prescribing to cover their own asses. Better safe than sorry, right? But only at the cost of the patient.

I got lucky. Yeah, believe it or not, I’m convinced that I am the LUCKY one. I am now relatively healthy (with manageable pain, made possible through self meditation, and a little help from my friend THC), back on the grind with frequent yoga and pilates, and happier than ever to have experienced and overcome this year of low blows. But I am aware of how this issue continues to remain prevalent across the globe, creating antibiotic resistance and long term effects in circumstances that could be avoided. I am aware of the incredible danger in entrusting people solely based on the two letters that follow their name. An incompetent doctor holding a license bears resemblance to an unstable mind holding a gun. It reminds me of Dr. Fata, the oncologist who was able to misdiagnose and manipulate his caseload of 1,200 patients without as much as a second guess or question of his judgment. The medical field is where we are most vulnerable and where we issue immediate trust, when maybe, it may not be justified.

I urge you to be aware that authority only reflects accomplishment; it does not grant accuracy.

05/11/12 Don’t Be Angry.

Anger has never found a cure.

It provides no relief for those in pain and no guidance for those lost in troubles. Anger has never calmed a child, has never ended an argument, and has never stopped a fist from striking. It has never been a foundation for happiness nor has it been capable of producing something permanently beautiful.

Anger is not patient. Anger is not kind. It has never heard the other side of the story, or even cared to. It has never cared about feelings; it has never acted rationally. It has also never brought upon positive feelings or brought peace to one’s heart.

More bad news today, another one to pile on top of the mountain top. But I took time to reflect on what this putrid anger has never done, and can never accomplish in its short, pitiful life. Why dwell in emotional poison, like an uncivilized beast, when it can do nothing for me?

01/20/12 You are So Fat-tastic

ImageMany people believe that fat cannot be beautiful.

These days people work out at home, just so they can look good enough to work out at the gym, just so they can look good enough to run in public, just so they can look good enough to… look good. What kind of twisted logic is that?

Our world places so much emphasis on size and shape, rather than quality and content. I guarantee that 99% of the time, we will immediately form a first impression of a person solely based on observing his or her appearance. You can’t deny it.

Usually it’s the bigger women that say “I’m big and beautiful and proud!” but you never see a skinny girl saying “I wish I could be big so I could be beautiful.” No matter what people say to feel better about themselves, we all have wished for another, better body, a better face, a better booty… We live in a corrupt society where success can often be measured by who you know and how you look, rather than what you do and how you are. It is not by coincidence that models have similar bodies; flip through any men’s or women’s magazine and most –if not all– of them are exceptionally good looking and fit. Now imagine that same magazine’s pages being replaced with models that are 300+ pounds. Would you still flip through it? Would you still want to buy the clothes and take their advice? Would you even bother to pick it up off the waiting room coffee table? I doubt it.

So I think it is safe to say that no one can deny that society’s desired beauty has been molded years ago, into a slim, cut figure. As we grow up, we become brainwashed with propaganda. The ideal “beautiful” men and women can step over others and skip their tight asses all the way to the top, to become rich and famous. We watch them on TV and advertisements, with a mixed concoction of jealousy and admiration. But you can’t blame us… our physical attraction is mental, and we’ve been programmed to be turned on by muscles and tight curves, rather than Ms. Jiggly Puff or Mr. Rolls Royce.

Although physical attraction is important, and necessary in a relationship, it can be changed. What once was ugly could be pretty, and what once was sexy could be disgusting. Our mentalities change, but only if we are willing to accept new things and let go of the old. If you are trying to find a nice man in your life –a keeper, that is– then you need to understand that your choices must revolve around sacrifice, compromise, and balance. Maybe it’s worth looking past his 4 chins if you really dig his sense of humor and kindness. Maybe it’s alright that he’s skinnier than you if you find yourself happily lost in conversation all the time. Maybe it’s cool that he’s got a little jiggle to his step, because hey, he treats you like a lady. Rihanna went for looks, and look where that got her. (oooh… too soon?)

I’m never here to shit on you guys. I’m at fault, too. I’m shallow, and I can’t help myself if I ogle at some beautiful man with pecs I can hang off of and abs I can do my laundry on. It’s in my nature. But I take a good look at myself and realize I’m no Jessica Alba, and sometimes we have to face reality. Bitch, wake up, you can’t be a 6/10, looking for a 10/10, complaining how men suck and break hearts…. when all you had to do was open your eyes and maybe give that 4/10 nice guy a chance.

Big boys, don’t be ashamed. I’m not saying you guys shouldn’t work out; God forbid, you should work out and try to be healthier for your own sake, BUT it’s not impossible to find a girl just because you look like Drew Carey’s left butt cheek. If your personality is bomb, it really can make appearance seem that less significant. You got it, dude. Just remember “30% of all women think their ass is too fat, 10% of all women think their ass is too skinny, and the remaining 60% say they don’t care… they love him, he’s a good man, and they wouldn’t trade him for the world!”

06/11/11 Sex, Beer, Chapstick

If you were to be a masochist, I guess the college campus would be the ideal place for you.
Campus, aka the breeding grounds of STD’s.

Not saying that every college student is a horny irresponsible sex fiend–though secretly they probably are–but the chances of contagious diseases spreading are ridiculous!

Alright, so let’s say, Barbara has herpes (had to randomly select a name that no one I know has, because this is how rumors start. I’d be like “let’s say John had crabs” then everyone will take that out of context and John will probably be pissed at me).

Soooo yeah, Barbara, my imaginary friend, has herpes. Despite her well-mannered name, she’s a slut. She sleeps with 3 guys in one night, so it passes to the poor fellas. One of them is named Bob. He has a fuck buddy named Sally, who shares her chapstick with Mary, who is dating Chang. Chang breaks up with Mary and kisses 10 girls, and those 10 end up infecting 10 other guys each. Those guys play beer pong, and Peter, who has not had any sexual relations, drinks from the cup at a party and gets herpes. Peter sucks at beer pong so he and his partner lose the game (his partner has the stomach flu, so he has to drink all 10), and everyone that plays beer pong that night gets herpes as well. Cassie, who was at the party, gives a *woohoo to her boyfriend Steve, who is cheating on her with Ling Ling, who shares her Coke can with Jamal. You get the pattern.

Before you know it, Barbara just infected the entire campus.

Maybe it’s a little far fetched, and my imagination is running wild, but it’s possible and something to think about. Be careful who you touch, you horndogs. And this concludes my little public service announcement =)