Five years ago, my writing partner’s diet consisted almost entirely of diet coke, potato chips and mini-chocolate bars. (I’m exaggerating, but not as much as you might think.) Still, to my eternal envy, WP’s always been skinny— even in high school when, as I’ve mentioned, we chowed down on McDonald’s every day. And I think it’s fair to say that five years ago WP knew about as much about nutrition as I did, which is approximately zilch.
Then WP was diagnosed with diabetes. Suddenly she had to monitor every single thing she ate. She had to learn about carbohydrates and proteins, and why they should be eaten together, and that milk is good because it raises blood sugar in an even-keeled way, and taking a walk (even a short one) after a meal really does lower blood sugar, and a bunch of other stuff that I’m learning by osmosis but still don’t quite get. (So, WP, correct me if I’m getting it wrong.)
Since her diagnosis WP has realized that, despite being an insulin dependent Type One diabetic, she is incredibly fortunate. She has one of the best endocrinologists in the country. She sees a nutritionist. She can afford the extra expense of eating healthy. Our job is flexible enough that she can take the time to exercise. And, most importantly, she has health insurance.
Yesterday I told you about the conversation that WP had with the Judgy folks. The Judgies were specifically looking down their noses at overweight Type 2 diabetics who, said the Judgies, have more ability to control their disease than Type 1 diabetics, whose pancreases have simply stopped producing insulin.
They are, at least superficially, correct. In a perfect world, people with Type 2 diabetes (or, for that matter, just regular old fat people) would get over their food issues, start eating healthy, exercise their butts off, lose a bunch of weight, bye-bye diabetes (or regular old fatness), and that’s that.
But, for the reasons I talked about yesterday and more, this isn’t a perfect world. This is, in fact, a highly imperfect world. 46 million Americans have no health insurance. That’s not perfect. Many people can’t afford a doctor at all, much less one of the best. And a nutritionist? Be real. This is a world where some grocery stores in poor neighborhoods don’t even carry skim milk. Perfect? Not even close.
What I have found is that to be healthy, I have had to make health my first priority. I have given it much of my time, and a boat load of my money. For most people, this is entirely unrealistic. How unrealistic? Well, here's a breakdown of what I spend every month to be healthy-- and I'm not including doctor visits, or the nutritionist, because those are inconsistent expenses. Here goes:
Personal trainer every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. On those days, because my commute is so heinous, I am about half an hour late to work (of course I stay late almost every night). $500-$550/month.
Pilates every Saturday morning. $120-$150/month.
Hiking on Sundays. Free! But now that’s it’s too hot to hike (I'm a wimp about heat), I’m considering going to a spinning/yoga class. That’ll be about $100-$150/month.
Food delivery—for about five months, I had three meals and three snacks a day delivered from a really great company called NutriFit. Now that my job is ramping up into mid-season craziness, it's a matter of time until I start having them deliver again. Great, healthy food, but it costs about $1400/month.
Now, Judgy folks, say you don’t have a couple thousand dollars a month to spend on food and fitness. Most people really, really don’t. For a long time, I certainly didn’t. And say you can’t be half an hour late three times a week, no matter how late you stay. Most people can’t. What it comes down to is this: for many, many people, being healthy is HARD AS HELL. On every level—psychologically, emotionally, financially, logistically—there are massive challenges. Which doesn’t mean it’s not worth it—but it does mean, at least to me, that there’s no room for judgment.
Earlier I pointed out how incredibly fortunate WP is. I know I am too. If I weren’t, integrating these changes into my life would be utterly impossible.
And these changes are crucially important. If I’m going to be a mom—especially if I’m going to be a mom by myself—I have to be healthy. Not just right now, but for… well, forever.
So, Judgy folks, now you know what I wish I'd said. Next time you want to harsh on the fatties, don't do it around me. My argument's all ready now, and I can feel my conflict aversion fading fast...
Forbes magazine had an interesting article on this topic in March: Healthy Foods Harder to Find in Poor Neighborhoods
It's a fascinating and complicated subject-- let me know what you think. What can we do, as a culture, to make getting healthy and staying healthy easier?