Friday, May 29, 2009

Staying Honest without Being Critical

As many of you know, I have been working on being kind during my interactions with others.  It might seem simple to be kind on the surface, just don't do mean or rude things!  In reality, it is much more complicated than that.  One of the keys to being kind is knowing those whom one is interacting with.  What might be seen as kind by one individual might be perceived as rude by another.

One duality I think of a lot is being both honest and non-critical.   Now I know that many think that criticism can be kind.  Tell someone everything that is wrong with them (in your opinion), and then they will become a better person, right?  Well that has not been my experience.  Most people don't really change because of criticism.  Criticism just makes people resentful and defensive.   

So what do you do when someone really does something that not just annoys you, but that you believe is really detrimental to their life.  How can you not point it out?  How can you not try to save them from themselves?  Perhaps they are always negative.  Perhaps they smoke.  Perhaps they don't treat their children respectfully.  

First, remember that you are not perfect and have problems too.  They probably look at you and think that there are a host of things that they need to correct you on.  This thought should breed empathy.

Second, evaluate the relationship.  Is this person an acquaintance or even someone who may not like you?  Is this person someone you don't really like?  Perhaps the kindest thing you can do is to limit your interactions with the person.  If your choices don't mesh, and you are very different people, separation not criticism is probably the answer.

Next, learn the art of modeling and planting seeds.  If someone is always negative, model positivity.  If someone talks down their children, talk as equals with your own children (and with theirs too!)  Talk about the good things in your life that have been the results of your choices.  Are you happier?  Is your family life for the most part good?  Do your kids make good choices?  Are you healthy?  If they complain, you can advise but watch for their response and temper your comments appropriatelly.

What if they ask for advice?  Well all of us know people who do not really mean it when they ask for advice on something.  They really just want to someone to listen.  Know your audience and provide advice only to the extent that they want to take it.  Those who are close to you may want more extensive help than those on the fringes of your life.

Is it dishonest to not point out the errors of others' ways?  To not provide as much help and advice as possible when requested?  No!  You can remain honest and true to yourself while keeping a nonjudgmental attitude.  Know when to leave.  Know when to remain silent.  Cultivate the ability to change the subject and to know when and how to plant seeds of truth, leaving them to germinate when the time is right.

Forget criticism as a kindness.  Remember how you have felt when you have been criticized, and when you can't be honest, be quiet.  Listen.  You might learn something!  I have always believed that if you can't say something nice, you shouldn't say anything at all!

Monday, May 25, 2009

An Aside

Our family is participating in a 5km Aids Walk/Run at Beaver Lake Nature Center here in Central New York.  It is to benefit Aids Community Resources, and you can read more about it and sponsor us if you choose here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

My Struggles

When I decided to become a person who didn't care about her weight, in many ways my life got better.  I no longer obsessed about food.  I didn't waste time weighing myself and analyzing my weight and working on the next great plan that would get me thin and keep me thin once and for all.  I also let go of some of the guilt and shame that comes in our society from being overweight.

That doesn't mean that I don't struggle though.  I like riding rollercoasters.  Right now, I weigh too much to ride any rollercoasters that I know of.  In the past, I have several times focused on upcoming amusement park trips to get the weight off.  It has never worked.  Right now, it seems rather unfair to me that there isn't a rollercoaster that a bigger person can go on.  Maybe there is somewhere, but I don't know about it.  There is a part of me that wants to focus on my weight just so that I can ride rollercoasters.  But I have done that for years, and it has not worked!  Now, I enjoy all the things that I couldn't enjoy when I was so busy worrying about my weight.  That makes up for any rollercoaster rides that I might miss.

Clothing is another issue.  This is only partly a weight issue because I am also short and proportioned oddly.  I had trouble finding clothes that looked right when I only weighed 115.  Now it is nearly impossible.  Especially the kind of clothing that I find comfortable.  I like short flowy skirts.  (Long ones are nearly always too long and just make me look shorter.)  I like shirts that fit right.  Small arm holes.  Shorter length.  Big enough for my stomach but not huge and baggy over my breasts.  I am tempted to try to lose weight one more time so that I will have access to more popular clothing sizes.  Deep inside, I know it isn't worth it!  It doesn't matter.  Living richly now, matters so much more than striving for some ideal look later.  

On the food front, I do still struggle with feeding my family as healthy a diet as possible.  My girlfriend has diabetes, and I know that it is very important that she eats right.  I strive to make changes that will be right for her, and that usually means healthier for the rest of us too. 

Tomorrow I will write about some of the dietary changes that we are considering in the future.

Friday, May 15, 2009

One More Thing...

Continuing on with the theme of prejudice and discrimination against those who have more body fat, two recent stories in the media caught my attention.  The first involved Michelle Obama.  While talking about how important it is for her family to eat healthy foods, she mentions that they switched their whole diet to one that was more healthy because one of her daughters was getting chubby.  I have no problem with people eating healthy!  I think everyone should.  I don't think it is wise for anyone to change their whole family's diet only because one of their children is not the size that they'd prefer.  First of all, if the whole family was eating an unhealthy diet, it would have been important to switch for all of them!  There was no reason for her to single out one of her daughters like that.  What if her daughter continues to be of a larger size as she gets older?  What if she gets even fatter?  She is sure to feel that it is all her fault!  Obviously if the whole family switched its diet, and she's still not the "right" weight, she must be less of a person.  Of course, we all know that it is not that simple.  I do not judge Michelle Obama for saying what she did.  It is the viewpoint that is most common in our society.  Most are probably applauding her attack on childhood obesity.  That is why I think it important to point out another point of view.

The second story was one about Oprah Winfrey apologizing to her fans and talk show viewers for all of the weight swings that she has had over the course of her career!  This is terrible.  Here is a woman who has built up an extremely successful business.  Here is a women who for the most part seems happy and fulfilled.  What is gnawing away at her conscious?  She isn't some idealized size.  Obviously she has tried really hard.  She hasn't succeeded!  Oprah of all people should show society that size really doesn't matter.  She eats healthy.  She exercises.  She should not be wasting one moment of her life worrying about her size.  To add another dimension to the story, I do not think that if she was an overweight man in her same position that "he" would be apologizing about anything.

That is enough of this topic for me for now.  I will continue with my regularly scheduled blogging in the next couple of days. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sharing

I read an article today that tied in with what I am saying here.

The Illuminated Mind is a blog about fulfulling your dreams that I read on occasion.  Today I read an article about giving up to solve a problem.  When you give up on your obsession with having some ideal body then the problem of your weight is solved.  You can put your focus and concentration where it belongs, with eating a nutritious diet that feels good to you, and moving and playing in ways that are fun and work with your life.  You can live in the present and apply your passion to the big dreams that matter most to you.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Who Benefits When People Worry about Their Weight?

I have been talking a lot about the dangers of spending too much time worrying about your weight.  There is the lost time that could be better spent.  There is the loss of joy, for worrying and joy do not usually go together.  There is the obsessing about food and exercise.  There may even be health concerns.  

All of that seems obvious to me when I think outside the box.  The question to me is who created the box?  Well the media for one.  The obesity epidemic makes a good story.  The fashion in celebrities continues to lean towards the underweight.  It is easy to take a headline and run with it, and ratings tend to rise with sensationalism more than with balanced reporting.  (When I talk to acquaintances about the obesity paradox (the fact that the obesity actually helps health in some ways) most have never even heard the term, but everyone knows about the obesity epidemic.)

I don't really think that the media directly benefits from people worrying about their weight.  The weight loss industry is another story.  It would be nice if the days of the snake oil dealers were truly past, but it seems that the weight loss industry is filling that niche.  It is odd to me that in the 21st century, a time with more access to information than any other time in the history of the human race on earth, people still use their hard earned cash to invest in products and services that have a lower that 5% success rate!  I know.  You can say that maybe you'll be one of the lucky few.  Maybe those "unsightly" pounds will come off if you just try this one last thing!  Your life is at risk, right?  That is what they want to have you believe.

I just want everyone to think twice before squelching their joy and emptying their pockets books.  It is time to take back you life!  Live each day with positivity, passion, and joy and become the person that you were meant to be.  Even if my life was extended by a few years, it would not make up for all of the time that I wasted worrying about my weight.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Risks of Being Underweight

Here is the U.S., it is really hard to be classified by the general public as too thin.  For a public figure, gaining five pounds can be disasterous in terms of negative publicity.  Occasionally concern will be expressed about someone being underweight, but not usually until they look rather skeletal, and there is a thin line between the point someone is said to look great and the point where they are declared anorexic.  Being underweight is celebrated.

This is unfortunate because there are many health risks associated with being underweight.  First, the general mortality for those who are underweight is higher than for those who are normal weight or overweight.  Those who are underweight are more likely to suffer from nutritional deficiencies such as anemia.  The underweight are also more likely to succumb to viral illnesses like colds and the flu, and when they get sick, they tend to get sicker and have illnesses that last longer than those who are heavier.

The same holds true for injuries.  Injuries are slower to heal in the underweight, and they are more likely to develop infections in wounds.  Being underweight is also a risk factor for infertility.

As one ages, being underweight seems to be an even greater disadvantage.  Those who are too thin are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those in the normal/overweight range.  Osteoporosis is another condition listing being underweight as a risk factor, and if you develop cancer, heart disease, or a kidney problem, having extra body fat increases your risk of pulling through alive and healthy.

My point with this is that it is unfair of the public to criticize, ostracize, and penalize those who are overweight for their body size while actually praising those who are underweight.  We should accept all regardless of body size while encouraging healthy eating and movement for all.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Are There Any Benefits to Being Overweight?

Two recent studies that analyzed data surrounding deaths found that those who are overweight (not obese, but overweight with a body mass index of 25-30) had a lower mortality rate than those who are normal weight or underweight.  There was no increased risk of death from heart disease or cancer in this group and a decreased mortality rate for many other conditions including pneumonia, emphysema, injuries, and infections.

It appears that having 20 to 30 extra pounds provides some extra protection against illness and can help you recover from injuries and infections.

Does this mean that you should try to gain weight or to eat unhealthy?  No, of course not!  What it does show is that there is some exaggeration in the aforementioned health crisis involving those who are overweight.  Everyone should do their best to eat a nutritious diet focusing on foods that make them feel great.  Everyone should move to the best of their ability.  The benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise are well proven.  What we shouldn't do is worry about our weight.  What we shouldn't do is judge others for the shape of their bodies.  What we shouldn't do is fail at doing what is best for us because of an obsession with reaching a size or shape that is not only perhaps unattainable but also may be unhealthier than the shape that we naturally fall into!