Healthism

1) (Healthism is) the belief system that sees health as the property and responsibility of the individual and ranks the personal pursuit of health above anything else.

2) It (healthism) ignores the impact of poverty, oppression, war, violence, luck, historical atrocities, abuse, and the environment (which includes traffic pollution, clean water, etc.).

3) It protects the status quo, leads to victim blaming and privilege, increases health inequalities, and fosters internalized oppression.

4) It judges people’s worth according to their health.

I woke up this morning, rolled over to grab my phone, and then started playing a 45 minute body scan meditation.

Wait…let’s back up. I should start by saying that I am taking Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stressed Reduction series. I’m looking to get certified as a facilitator and offer the class to those in my community.

Now…because I am a very conscientious student, I am hellbent on getting in my daily meditation practice because it’s part of the homework. I do not NOT do homework. Obviously. Who would dare do that?

Once I get out of bed, I’m a bit of a steam engine. I just GO. Hence the rolling over and playing the meditation recording. If I let myself get out of bed, there’s no chance I’ll be able to beat my ambitious achievement oriented brain into meditative submission.

So basically, my routine, this morning, looked like this:

7:00am: 45 minute body scan meditation

7:45am: feed the dog (because otherwise she will explode with frustration. She’s already pawing at my door)

8:00am 20 minute yoga therapy exercise

8:20am 15 minute sitting meditation

8:35am weigh myself (I do this every morning at around the same time. It’s up a smidge. Damn. Apparently I need to back off the chocolate and sea salt covered almonds.

8:35am Run out to the kitchen to grab a laser pointer (for Remi…my dog) and run back into my little office where there is an elliptical. I get on the elliptical and then I let Remi chase a laser pointer. You, of course, are probably wondering why I don’t just…like…walk the damn dog. But I don’t have time in the mornings for a legitimate walk for her. Laser pointer exercise is like the dog equivalent of HIIT training. Laugh all you want. It’s a thing. She sprints after that little dot with the same enthusiasm she chases squirrels. I get way more bang for my buck this way. Plus I get to get in 10 minutes on the elliptical. Everybody wins.

8:50am: Get a text message from the restoration company that is still in the process of fixing my house. Because it’s still kind of a disaster. Because life. He wants to come and do some sketches for repairs. He will be there around 9:30am. I can’t wait until this is all done. I really miss walls. Walls are pretty great.

9:03am: Run to the kitchen and get a cup of tea ready to steep. Because I’m way too elitist for coffee. Coffee is for those poor shmucks who haven’t figured out that tea is better. (Actually…I love coffee. I just can’t drink too much of it because my HSP brain starts short circuiting and acting like it’s on a distilled form of methamphetamines. But I digress)….I grab my blender and put in my unsweetened almond milk (because sugar is the devil), some vegan protein powder (because whey is disgusting. Anyone who tries to convince me otherwise is just wrong), a cup of frozen spinach, a cup of frozen cauliflower, a cup of frozen berries, a scoop of powdered greens and a scoop of mushroom metabolic goodness (it has a real name, I just can’t remember it right now). Blend until it is a pile of brownish tinged goop. Put in a to-go container. Grab my salad mix, an apple, and a couple of protein bars to throw into my lunch box.

Damn….I’m feeling REALLY smug, right now.

9:22am I am getting out of the shower and hear a knock at the door. It’s not the restoration guy. It’s the plumbers. Ooooohhhh yeeeeeah. THEY are coming over today, TOO. Because they need to repipe my house. Because the pipes in my home (the ones that formed a small leak that lead to the construction zone I am now living in) are apparently ALL on their last limb and therefore ALL need to be replaced. Because life.

I am feeling just a smidge less smug.

9:30am drive to work, sipping my properly elitist chocolate mint tea (which is delicious BTW. All people should always be drinking chocolate mint tea).

10:00am walk into work just in time for a huddle. Yes…judge me all you want for getting to work at 10am. I teach in the evenings. That’s why my colleagues don’t scorn me for the late-ish arrival time.

I’m writing this blog at 11:14am. Before the day is done, I will eat my salad. I will drink 3 liters of water. I will get in 15,000 steps (I’m only 3500 steps in, though. I better get a move on.) I will get all of my emails done. I will lesson plan. I will create a time slot for a cooking class I am doing. I will catch up on my text messages. I will walk the dog (she does get a real walk eventually…just in the evening time). I will shower. I will read. I will call my boyfriend (who…may I just say…is awesome. I am sure that if you are partnered, you think your partner is great. But you’re wrong. Mine is better.) I will go to bed (and aim to be there for 8 -9 hours). Then, tomorrow morning, I will start the whole thing over again.

Somewhere, in some stolen moment, I will do something superfluous. Somewhere in my schedule, I will make time to do nothing. Maybe.

See? Staying healthy in today’s time while also holding a full-time job and also getting a business up and running is super reasonable and doable. I mean…True – I don’t have anyone I need to take care of but myself. True – I have a master’s degree in holistic health and have spent the last decade figuring out how to knock out all these health to-do’s each day while also navigating adulting. True – I don’t have much time left over for such superfluous activities as staring at grass and watching it grow or (horror upon horrors…a Netflix binge!) But it’s still definitely doable…ish.

Okay…now seriously…

I cannot tell you how often I hear people play the shame game as it relates to their health. I hear from individuals who shame themselves for “letting themselves go.” They berate themselves for “getting fat” or “allowing themselves to get diabetes” or “letting their blood pressure go unchecked” or “not getting into bed soon enough to get enough sleep.”

When I’m not hearing people shame themselves, I am hearing people shame others. Oh…you say there are a lot of people who are dying from Covid? Oh well. Those people were old/fat/sick/less-than-human anyway. Who cares about them? Obviously they got what was coming to them. People may not come right out and say those words…but it’s written between the lines. It’s what they mean when they say “well if you just exercised more” or “if you just lost a little bit of weight…”

NOW….Obviously….as evidence by my absurd routine from just this morning…I live and breathe health.

A big part of the reason is because I was a sickly kid. I got all the weird stuff. I didn’t just get chicken pox, I got Fifth’s disease. I didn’t just get colds, I got Bells Palsy. Sleep? what’s that? From the ages of 15 – 28 I had an abusive relationship with sleep. Or rather….a neglectful one. Sleep abandoned me like a strung out single parent who forgot she had a kid to take care of. And yes….I was a chunker. I loved food. Food was reliable. Food was delicious. Food was pleasure. Food never judged me. Food was one moment in time where I could just be. ALLLL of those things were true.

At a certain point, I was sick and tired of being sick, tired and wired all the time. So I got busy trying to fix it. I now get sick less often, don’t battle anxiety and sleep regularly. It’s pretty great.

But the thing to remember in all this is that health is also a top-of-the-mountain value of mine. My experience with its lack left me VERY motivated to keep it intact once I had a taste of what it felt like to feel good. And even with alllll my motivation and love of good health…it still takes up a TON of bandwidth to cross every T and dot every I in my healthcare routines. And I would venture to argue that there are a fair number of people who, if you even got this far into this article, would argue that my routines are not …entirely….healthy. There is at least a smidge of neuroticism involved. You know neuroticism is a feature when you’re dealing with someone who wears more than one fitness tracker each day. Yes. that’s a thing. I’m not even kidding you.

At least part of the reason I take such good “care” of myself is because I’m afraid. While it may be true that I don’t have to care for other family members right now…it’s also true that I’m the only one really taking care of me. If I get sick and can’t work…that’s it. If I get sick and don’t have health insurance? Boom! Bankruptcy. Add a pandemic to the mix and holy shitballs but we have chaos going on, here. I don’t have a second income rolling into my household. I don’t have some offshore bank account that will catch me every time I fall. I have me, myself, and I. I need to be productive. I need to be strategic about how much energy I have and where I spend it. If I screw up and end up benched, I not only don’t get to play. It’s game over. I think that may be part of the reason I am so maddeningly focused on keeping a community for my fellow HSP’s. I want to create a space for people to come to and feel less alone. I want a space for people to come and remember that we are all only doing the best we can. Partially because I want to help others…but also selfishly because I want to remind myself that I am not alone.

True – By all accounts, at least as it relates to my biometrics, I am a healthy person. My cholesterol scores are in line. My blood sugar is managed. My weight is in a “healthy range”, my blood pressure is super low (seriously – it’s brag worthy).

But look at what goes IN to all that to make it possible. I am healthy not because of where I live. I am healthy in spite of it. I’m not trying to poo-poo America and say it is the place where dreams go to die. But I will say this…staying healthy in America is HARD. We don’t have a comprehensive social safety net that gives people room to stumble. We also have a culture that drills into our heads on a daily basis that we are never doing enough, buying enough, or working enough. We demand perfection. Machine-like productivity.

Do you feel sad? Tired? Sick? Anxious? Get a job. Get health insurance. Go to the doctor. Get a prescription.

Are you overweight? Eat less and move more (nevermind that you are sleep deprived and stressed out – making exercise challenging to do…and nevermind the primal urge you have to eat in order to recoup the energy you would otherwise have gotten by sleeping.

I guess what I’m really saying is that the next time you find yourself shaming yourself for not having done all the self-care to-do’s…maybe cut yourself some slack. Life is hard right now. Take a breath (that one breath you take will probably be worth all the powdered greens you forgot to put into your smoothie).

Meanwhile, if you find yourself judging OTHER people because of their lack of health? Maybe try using a mirror instead of a magnifying glass. Maybe you’re just judging them because you secretly wish YOU could be given a break and you secretly wish YOU didn’t have an internal tyrant demanding more from yourself. Or maybe you’re just a jerk with an inability to accept that not everyone holds health as their top priority.

As for your own practices? Sure I would recommend doing things for your health. Drink water. It’s good for you. Eat vegetables. They are tasty. And also good for you. Move your body. Because that feels nice. Hold up a boundary for your work and set aside time to take care of yourself. You’re totally worth it. But do NOT make it another excuse to shame yourself. Self care is supposed to be about exactly that…care.

And if you’re feeling alone? Feeling like you’re having to do EVERYTHING by yourself? You are SOOOOO not alone. Join a community. You can join mine…or join a meetup group…or join a club for people who like to watch grass grow….whatever you like! Anything that reminds you that you are not perfect and neither is anyone else.

And if you don’t know where to start? Just email me. Seriously. You’ll be doing me a favor and be giving me something to think about outside of my step count.

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