Tag Archives: Health

A Simple Claim, A Major Assumption

My ears perked up and I set my coffee mug down when I heard the following claim thrown into a discussion  over the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare):

Young people don’t need insurance.  Barring an accident like skiing or being attacked by a panda, they don’t get sick.

Normally, my coffee and I are inseparable especially in the morning.  This means the comment not only alarmed me intellectually but also got in the way of me enjoying my coffee and that is just annoying.

I don’t wish to indulge in the debate itself; however I would like to bracket this claim.  I’ve heard the comment about three times now and it forces my eyebrows to knit my forehead into premature wrinkling.  Rather than reach for the anti-aging moisturizer I’ve decided to blog.

There is something missing and assumed in the claim.  Do you see it?

In the 1940’s, philosopher Simone de Beauvoir rocked the establishment with her publication The Second Sex.  The central thread to this work evolved around the notion that normal and human were equated with man.  Woman, in contrast, was “other.”  I dare not delve into a lengthy thesis here, but I would be remiss to not mention that her writings delighted me and forged an impression that underscores some of my views.  She is my “Spidey-sense,” if you will: my “Beauvoirian-sense.”

Back to the claim that elicited my Beauvoirian-sense: Who are these “young people” not needing insurance?  Who are the youth involved in dangerous activity that might rush them to hospital?  Close your eyes and try to envision the “young” person of which the naysayers speak?

Do you picture a young man?

Again, my intention is not to debate the pros and cons of Obamacare, but only to examine the implication of this claim, for I believe it thoughtlessly casts aside the realities of women’s health.  The unsaid assumption is that the “young” are men, and it reeks of the very sort of thinking Beauvoir tackled in the 1940’s.  Women are not part of the equation in the claim.  They are “other.”  The “norm” is the young man who never gets sick.

It is quite possible that women’s health, upkeep, exams, and everything that has to do with her “parts” is simply unfamiliar.  Women themselves don’t exactly share stories about doctor visits.  It’s all hush hush.  One doesn’t announce, “I need the afternoon off because I’m going for my pap” quite the same way one freely says “I’m going to the dentist for a cleaning.”

Women do go to the doctor and not necessarily because they are sick.  From the age of 21 to 30, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend a woman sees a doctor every year for an exam (pap smear and pelvic).  These exams detect the early stages of cervical cancer.

Aside from these exams, do you notice anything else about young women with respect to seeing a doctor?

If women are pregnant then they usually seek medical attention.  If women do not want to get pregnant then they visit a doctor for birth control which requires a prescription and regular examinations.  In addition, birth control is sometimes prescribed for other health reasons such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

Gentlemen, maybe you did not see a doctor in your youth but that cannot be the standard of measurement for all people.  If we view “youth” to include young women, then the answer is a resounding “Yes” to the question of whether or not they see a doctor.

Where are women’s voices in this debate?  The medical community?  The Gynecologists? Please feel free to comment and share below.

The Teacher Becomes the Student

“Focus,” he said. “Stop talking.  Breathe.  Now, push that bar up.”

Eyes closed, face scrunched, forehead veins popping, I sucked in a breath and pushed the bar up summoning all of my might.  When I let it back down I opened my eyes with relief.

“You’re stronger than you think,” he said.  “Next time we’ll put more weight on.”


Three months ago hubs noticed a Crossfit gym open across the street from us.  Rather nonchalantly he suggested  we give it a try. Why not?  I phoned and scheduled a time for us to come in.  Keep in mind, I did this with only the vaguest of vague notions about class workouts such as Sweatin’ to the Oldies by Richard Simmons or Jane Fonda videos.    Yay for group exercise!

Hubs couldn’t make it that first day so I wandered into the gym solo.  The first thing the coach went over were squats.  Sure, I could bend my knees.  No probs.

“Good, but you need to go further than your legs parallel.”

I tried again.

“Get your butt below your knees.  Then drive back up.” He then demonstrated the movement with grace and an apparent immunity to gravity.

The bending wasn’t too bad, however standing up from that position (and quickly) was a different story.  Whew!  So, what’s next?

“Give me 20.”

“I’m sorry?  How do you mean?” I asked.

“Do 20 of those squats.”

I was going to kill hubs for this.

And the rest of the session didn’t get much better.  There was rowing, push ups, and an awkward attempt at a pull-up that left me swinging from the bar squealing, pretty much offering empirical evidence to the theory of evolution.  I came home exhausted, shaky, and sweaty.  I needed wine.  It didn’t matter that it was 10:30 am.  “I’m drinkin’ the good stuff!”

For the next few days I shuffled rather than walked.  Even the simplest of movements like turning the key in the ignition caused pain.  A few of my students asked me if I was okay.  “Crossfit,” I said.  They nodded sympathetically.  Limping and saying “Crossfit,” around youth, it turns out, gets them to hold doors for you and assist carrying books.  During a class break, one student who does Crossfit handed me a little list of recovery activities and smoothies.  He gave me hope that things would get better.

My sessions at Crossfit continued.  In all honesty I felt like Sisyphus with each new set of exercises because it didn’t seem to get any easier for me.  I was the runt of the litter, perpetually out of breath and the last to finish.  As a professor, I spend my days walking into a classroom being an expert, but now I was entering a situation where I found myself the dullard of the group.  The challenge humbled me.  I needed to follow, not lead.  I needed to listen, not instruct.  I needed to embrace the fact that I had a lot to learn.  I needed to trust.

Then one day in the midst of a set of exercises my mind silenced.  Huffing, puffing, and sweating, my body continued to go through the movements.  I experienced a strange sort of numbness, not in my body but in my mind.  The voice in my head usually counting-down and praying for the end suddenly stilled.  I just kept going.  My muscles took charge and I surrendered to them.

Much to my surprise, my gradual increase in strength and endurance has prompted a rather emotional inquiry.  I can do more.  But accepting this means coming to terms with a buried long held habit of turning attention away from my body.  As a child, I was brutally teased by boys for being chubby.  My solution to the problem involved wearing excessively baggy clothes, and in Catholic school I spent a few afternoons in detention for not tucking my shirt in all the way; however, I preferred the baggy look and detention administered by Sister Jean to tucking my shirt in and showing any sort of form to my body.

This mentality stayed with me but not in an obvious manifestation, more in terms of an absence.  My attention over most of my life has been almost exclusively directed to the development of my mind.  I read.  I write.  I go for walks to ponder what I have read and what I need to write.

A relationship to my body has been virtually non-existent.

It’s not “me.”

“Me” = devoting afternoons to unraveling Hegel (with coffee and snacks).

Jumping into the grueling exercise program that is Crossfit forced me to confront the source and the perpetuation of my feelings towards my physical self.  I absorbed the taunts of the boys even though I put on quite a front with my hands on hips yelling sharp come-backs like, “Oh, yeah, well you’re a stupid-head!”

This has me thinking about the power of buying into others’ beliefs, consciously or not.  I accepted as true that my body was subpar.  I therefore set a definition of myself as if that were static and couldn’t waver.

How much do we hold ourselves back because someone somewhere said, “This isn’t for you,” or “You’re not capable.”?

The boys are long gone now, and I’ve surrounded myself with people who encourage and push me to do more.  At the moment I’m learning how to improve this area of my life.  There is still more work to be done and goals to set.  Most importantly, I’ve learned to shift my thinking from “I can’t” to “I’m getting there.”

*My deepest gratitude to the coaches and crossfitters at CrossFit Madre.

Holiday Health Tips: How to Keep Your Fat Jeans in the Closet

*This is a guest blog by Elizabeth McQuitty. 

Elizabeth McQuitty is from Dallas and currently lives in Southern California. Her undergraduate degree is in Kinesiology from Texas A&M. She is a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness.  (I highly recommend her.  She tortured trained me 🙂  Elizabeth knows how to create a workout plan to inspire you, keep you healthy, and on track towards your fitness goals.)  

Elizabeth is also graduating from Fuller Theological Seminary in June 2013 with a Master of Divinity.    

Holiday Health Tips:

You might be feeling like staving off unwanted weight gain is a lost cause because between the Halloween candy and the Thanksgiving 4500[1], you have already pulled out your fat jeans for the season.  You have concluded that you might as well let loose and be happy because come January 1, the elliptical at the gym is going to slap you in the not-so-jolly-anymore-gut when you begin your New Year’s resolution to be slim enough to shelve your fat jeans until the next holiday season.

But what if you could avoid such unpleasantries?  The reality: Christmas is four weeks away and a lot more damage can be done.   So why not do what you can to stay in the jeans you actually like and enjoy the season as it comes?  Here are a few things you can do:

1.  Be strategic.  Magical holiday foods served at a plethora of the season’s parties become our temptress.  Especially the cookies!  Oh, those scrumptious, devilish little cookies!  Before you go to a party, make sure to eat a snack so that you are less likely to eat everything in sight when you get there.

Some snack ideas pre-party: shoot for about 200 calories, and choose foods that have a high volume for the fewest calories such as carrots, tomatoes, celery dipped in hummus, 1/2 serving of nuts with a piece of fruit, apple with 1tbsp of peanut butter, 100 calorie bag of popcorn, protein bar.

Also, do not hang out by the food table at the party.  If you do, you will graze, and grazing will force me to have to coin the term “the Holiday Party 4500.”  Don’t make me do that.

2.  Stay active.  Even if you can’t make it to the gym, know that shopping, cleaning, cooking, and a host of other holiday related tasks actually burn calories.  Think of those calories when you sit down to eat.  Just like a work out, you don’t want to off set your hard work by over consuming at mealtime.  So don’t let all of those hard burned calories from vacuuming and running up and down the aisles at target go to waist (pun intended) either.  If this doesn’t apply to you because you aren’t active in the first place, see number three.

3.  Get active.  Moving is a good thing! Try parking in the far lot at the mall, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, doing lunges in your living room during commercial breaks, or taking a walk on your lunch break at work.   Be creative in finding ways to get active.  Your waistline will thank you later.

4.  Get in the mental game.  Studies show that most people only gain about 1 pound during the holidays, as opposed to the 7-10 pounds we have been hearing in years past.  Therefore, you have no excuse to gain a ton of weight during the holidays because you think, “that’s just what people do.”  No.  In fact, people don’t do that, and neither should you.

5.  Enjoy yourself.  The holidays are often stressful and induce sleepless nights.  This kind of stress also promotes weight gain.  If you let yourself enjoy the food (in moderation), stay active, and do your best to get enough sleep and enjoy the people you are (theoretically) excited to be with this Christmas season, that elliptical might not be so evil come 2013 after all.

[1] I once heard that Americans consume an average of 4500 calories on Thanksgiving Day.  That’s right, 4500.  I didn’t bother to fact check that, but let’s be honest, we all know most of us over eat on Thanksgiving to some degree.

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