Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

Not long ago, I wrote about choice. I wrote about how each of us must make our own choices about our bodies, and about our health. We need to choose how much time and effort we will put into self-care, and decide how many of the “convenience” and “comfort” products we will consume and use, how much we will educate ourselves about nutrition and exercise, and how often we will act on that knowledge.

I also said it shouldn’t be any of my business what choices you make. We should each be allowed to make our own choices about our habits of self-care.

I suppose you won’t be surprised to learn that drew a lot of responses. One of the most touching came from a reader who calls herself Jonquil, and with her permission, I’ll quote her response:

“There is plenty of “awareness” out there, and yet people continue to abuse their minds and bodies in myriad ways. Surrounded by healthier choices, even people who “know better” choose to abuse themselves in the grip of habits they can’t or won’t break.

“But maybe if they thought a little more about the consequences of their actions, the material and psychic cost to everyone around them, they might have just that little bit of extra push to put down that Krispy Kreme or that cigarette. Or the bottle or the needle.

“This is not about hate, but it’s also not about giving people blanket permission to engage in self-destruction, because individual actions affect the happiness of all. Maybe people can’t think of these things in abstract political terms, so I’ll make it personal.

“If my relatives had put down the chicken-fried steak, heeding their doctors’ advice, they might not have died so young of diabetes and heart disease. My brothers and I might still have aunts, uncles, grandparents. My mother, a registered nurse and chain smoker, was fully aware of the consequences of her habit. She might have quit. Instead, she made her children orphans.

“Millions of people choose self-destructive paths like these every day. They know better, because we argue with them, we yell and plead and beg them, on our knees. But they do it anyway. Then they get sick, and then they die.

“We loved them, now they are dead. Their choice. Why couldn’t they love us enough to stay alive?”

I should let this note stand for itself. But of course, I can’t. The last line bears repeating… “Why couldn’t they love us enough to stay alive?”

I meet people every day who choose to devote every waking hour, every minute to their jobs and families and communities and causes. The pressure to perform this way comes from inside and outside. From their culture and from themselves, from family, from friends, from work, from church, from deep inside themselves. The same person who can’t find time to eat well or exercise will multi-task by eating fast food on the way to the next committee meeting. The over-extended woman will come home from work and without sitting for a moment to catch her breath, begin preparing the family meal, under pressures she feels coming from her family, her ancestors, her beliefs about herself and her identity and purpose. Under pressure to get a meal on the table quickly, of course she uses packaged foods that are high in calories and sodium and trans-fats, but low in fiber and nutrients. She’s in a hurry and pressured to produce.

As the pressure builds, so does the anger. So does frustration. So does despair. So does a sense that you really are not worth the effort or time to care for yourself.

Why do people engage in self-destructive behavior? One theory is, they don’t have selves they want to save. Even at the pleading of others, even at the pleading of friends and family, even with your children begging you to take care of yourself, if you don’t think you’re worth the effort, you’ll never make the best choices for you. And you’ll never make the connection that making the best choices for you is the same thing as making the best choices for them.

So. If you’re in that place, where you don’t think you’re worth the effort of making good choices, it’s time to get help. You need good counsel. Ask your doctor for a referral. Get help from a community counseling center. Use the counseling services offered by your employer. And please know, you can fix this. It’s possible to feel worthy. You can fix it. You can.

10 thoughts on “Saving Yourself? Why?

  1. jappy says:

    Thank you for bringing this up. It’s perhaps the most important thing – to feel we’re worth it. How else can we truly take care of ourselves?

    Looks like we need to develop a “Nike-Loreal” syndrome or philosphy: “Just Do It – You’re Worth It”.

  2. Elaine says:

    “If you donít think youíre worth the effort, youíll never make the best choices for you.”

    That’s it right there in a nutshell.
    (wanders off to Google assertiveness-training)

  3. Jonathan says:

    This morning as we were pulling out of the garage, my partner, who is naturally thin (i.e. he works out a lot and never overeats) was pondering how our neighbor had become so obese in the past two years. I had to patiently explain to him that no-one gains 100 pounds from hunger, we gain that kind of weight when we are trying to fix something with food that can’t be fixed with food. When I was 50 pounds overweight, part of it was due to poor habits, but most of it was due to using food as an anaesthetic for the pain in my life. Self-esteem is such a crucial step in weight management, but it sure is a doozy.

  4. Constance says:

    Wellness is a concept of choices. These choices become habits. As we all know, habits seem to be easy to form, and so very difficult to change!

    Sites like this one, postings and feedback from folks with sincere empathy are the beginning of the solution. Thank you, JuJu!

  5. Quinn says:

    What JuJu said. Yes, Ma’am.

    Some time ago it dawned on me that keeping myself healthy involved learning to say “No.” Say “No” to other people wanting me to do things for them or with them that would undermine my own efforts to keep healthy. And I’m not just talking about drug use or eating or drinking habits, but also filling my day with activities that will keep me from doing the laundry, or getting enough rest, or going grocery shopping. No one else is doing those things for me, so I have to do them for myself.

    There have been plenty of people around (clergy, friends, family, co-workers) who have labeled me selfish because I do not routinely put their priorities before mine. Those people can all go jump in a lake for all I care, because there are many, many more who truly appreciate the higher quality work I do because I keep myself healthy and know my limits.

    Acknowledge your limits and work within them. That way you will accomplish much more and live a happier and more fruitful life.

  6. Ericka says:

    Great post as always. This reminds me of an article I read in the Washington Post (Lean Plate Club) about a doctor who lost over 200 pounds. He said something really profound, that really stuck with me:

    “Being healthy for me is a deliberate act of love for the people in my life that I care about the most.” Nick Yphantides

  7. Marie says:

    Quinn you really hit it on the nose, I can sooo relate. I have a tendency to over commit to things others want me to do, and I’ll run myself into the ground doing these things if I don’t watch myself. It seems too that people have a hard time just accepting a simple “no I can’t”, or an “I need time to catchup/sleep/chill/couple time” whatever. Everyone seems to expect a long list of reasons why you can’t..specific unchangeable “important” ones preferably.

    Another thing I run into is I’ll plan something well in advance, something very important to me, something that helps me achieve my goals, and someone else will expect me to change or drop these plans w/3 or 4 days notice, and get quite unpleasant when I won’t. And yes, then they call you selfish if you won’t.

    So its nice to know someone else goes through this and was thinkng this too. It IS important to take time for yourself to achieve YOUR goals so you can be better to be around when you are with the others. What is that they say in the Covey stuff, feed the golden goose? Yeah…

    And the more you take care of yourself so you get enough sleep, exercise, take care of the essentials, etc, the less likely I think that you are to indulge in bad habits that are a bit destructive.

  8. Quinn says:

    Yeah, Marie! YOU are the Golden Goose, so feed yourself good food, and take yourself out for fun walks or dancing or whatever, and give yourself enough rest.

    Especially now that flu season is upon us and there isn’t enough vaccine to go around! Not the time to let ourselves get run into the ground.

    Isn’t here a Billy Joel song in which the refrain goes “Do what’s good for you, or you’re no good for anybody …”

  9. Ginny in NJ says:

    In spite of having lost 80 lbs. and being at goal for over 2 years now, I’ve been having trouble making the right choices lately. I recently came up with a reason that works when the “I’m worth it” fails. Okay, so it’s partly guilt-based, but it works for me…

    I have a brother who received a kidney + pancreas transplant back in 1995. Out of the 5 of us siblings, he & I are the only ones w/ matching blood types (we are O-, the others are all A+/O+). If his donor kidney should later be rejected, he will need one of mine, most likely. I just tell myself, “if you won’t do it for you, do it for Steve–take care of his ‘next’ kidney!”

    This works well enough, until I can get out of my blue funk & decide that I’m worth the effort, too.

  10. Barbara says:

    JuJu, I was profoundly touched by this topic. My husband joined AA 25 years ago, and hasn’t looked back. We are all better because he chose to say “no more”.

    I joined Weight Watchers last New Year’s Eve, and still occasionally “glance” back, but not enough to truly go back to the way I used to be eat.

    Sometimes it is so hard to stop myself from running up to people who exhibit self-destructive behavior and say “WHAT are you doing to yourself and your family!?” But that is not my place…only my wish for them.

    We all must make the choice for ourselves, and THEN for our loved ones. Thanks for the insight, from you and from Jonquil.

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