Sunday, October 21, 2012

Reprise of the Open Letter about Health

I had a very different blog post planned for today, but I have had such an astonishing response to last week’s post that I am writing again on the subject of keeping our health as we age. Although I had hoped that my words might have some positive impact, might have nudged some friends to wake up, I’m surprised and pleased by how much they were taken to heart (or taken to heart health, as it were). This reminds me that we are not always doing our friends a favor by not mentioning to them that they are letting their health deteriorate, just assuming that they know and that it’s a personal issue and we have no business speaking up about it. Surely we have no business nagging, haranguing, shaming. But perhaps we do have some business finding the words to compassionately express concern, show support, extend love.

To my delight, my words inspired people to hit the gym. Hard words to hear. Harder to take action. But it really happened. Small changes, that lead to bigger changes, that, step by step, turn around someone’s health and chances of living longer. I have had a couple of conversations with friends who know that my words were written with them in mind. They are well aware of the issues and the stakes. They just need motivation to make a change and they found some of it in my words. Hallelujah. Renews my belief in the power of words and also in the ability of people to change their lives. And change, transformation, has been much on my mind in recent months as I have been working furiously on the sequel to The Call to Shakabaz, in which change is a major theme. The title of the sequel is, in fact, Changing the Prophecy. I believe in the possibility of making changes, of thwarting seeming destiny and taking it all in a different direction.

So let me share a few thoughts that have surfaced several times for me this week as this discussion about health and aging continues to swirl around me. One thing I have said to several people is that I am battling this beast as well. I am not perfect. I struggle to eat less and maintain my exercise schedule. I am not putting myself out there as the model to measure against. Another thing is that there is no shame in being overweight. It is a challenge like any other and a lot of us must overcome it. Unfortunately, we have no way of hiding our challenge, it’s there for all to see. But that doesn’t mean we are not making an effort to deal with it. Weight control is extremely difficult and complex, and tied up with many deep psychological connections to food, sustenance, nurturing, and feeling well-cared-for. Finally, judgment does not belong in this equation. Support and encouragement matter here. This is about looking after the people we love and nurturing them with something other than high-calorie, salty, fatty food. So here I am, back to the ban on potato chips. This week, I feel more hopeful that my friends might go the distance with me down the road into old age.

If you have someone dear to you who needs to hear the words in last week’s open letter, please forward it to them. It could get someone started on the path to better health and longer life. 

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