Thursday, 7 January 2010

Happy New Year!

So it's the time of New Year's resolutions (and if you live in Wellington grumbling about the weather).* The newspapers didn't have much copy over the last couple of weeks, so they were full of: "50 ways to be healthier in 2010."

So I was delighted to see this post on The Fat Nutritionist calledDon't be Poor (and other New Year's Resolutions):
The traditional 10 Tips for Better Health
* 1. Don’t smoke. If you can, stop. If you can’t, cut down.
* 2. Follow a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
* 3. Keep physically active.
* 4. Manage stress by, for example, talking things through and making time to relax.
* 5. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
* 6. Cover up in the sun, and protect children from sunburn.
* 7. Practice safer sex.
* 8. Take up cancer-screening opportunities.
* 9. Be safe on the roads: follow the Highway Code.
* 10. Learn the First Aid ABCs: airways, breathing, circulation.

The social determinants 10 Tips for Better Health
* 1. Don’t be poor. If you can, stop. If you can’t, try not to be poor for long.
* 2. Don’t have poor parents.
* 3. Own a car.
* 4. Don’t work in a stressful, low-paid manual job.
* 5. Don’t live in damp, low-quality housing.
* 6. Be able to afford to go on a foreign holiday and sunbathe.
* 7. Practice not losing your job and don’t become unemployed.
* 8. Take up all benefits you are entitled to, if you are unemployed, retired or sick or disabled.
* 9. Don’t live next to a busy major road or near a polluting factory.
* 10. Learn how to fill in the complex housing benefit/asylum application forms before you become homeless and destitute.** [these are quoted from a wikipedia article]

There's a visual illustration of the same idea at the food for thought pyramid. I disagree with the proportions, but I think it's kind of beautiful. I particularly appreciate the large space given over to luck.

Oh and if you obsess over what you eat and exercise and still get cancer - it must be your attitude. "Healthy living" has to be a goal that is always out of reach, a set of behaviours that can always be added to.

The endless health tips and New Year's advice are about policing, and making people feel bad so they will buy products (if you stop drinking one soda a day I will gratitously link to a Sarah Haskins Video). But that's not the only purpose they serve.

The reason for repeating over and over again that we can individually control our own health, is to hide the fact that we can't. It is to hide the fact that collectively, societally we could do heaps to improve people's longevity and quality of life and we don't.

I'd make a New Year's resolution to write more about that, but I probably wouldn't keep it.

* For the record my New Year's resolution is to keep up with what Joss Whedon is doing. I'm setting myself up for success.

** It's a great, but obviously incomplete list - don't have ancestors who were colonised, be selective about the country you were born in... we could go on and on.


Tui said...

Awesome post, Maia.

Deborah said...

Fantastic post. Especially, "Don't be poor."

Hugh said...

Spirituality and contact with nature cause weight loss, huh?

Maia said...

Hugh - were you referring to the missing hte point spammer whose comment I deleted or the food for thought pyramind? I disagreed with the idea that either spirituality or connectedness with nature was important, but I do think purpose and meaning are important.

Hugh said...

Maia, I'm disagreeing with the pyramid. It's rather disappointing to me. I think the point that exercise and diet are secondary to genetics, good luck and living in the first world is extremely important and worth making, and that's part of why it's so frustrating that the people diffusing this myth then go on to create a completely new myth which is, IMHO, just as dangerous. Maybe you can disregard it, but I can't.

Maia said...

Hugh - I don't understand where you got the weight loss bit from. It's nothing to do with weight loss. I think there's something true about "Purpose and Meaning" being important, but don't agree that the examples given are the only (or necessarily particularly trouble free) ways of getting purpose and meaning (and it's clear that the examples weren't supposed to be exhaustive.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Maia, it comes as no surprise to me to see the equating of "better health" with "losing weight".

Of course, that's usually what the mainstream media *mean* when they talk about "better health"!

Hugh said...

Hmm, my apologies Maia, it seems I did read something into this that isn't there. I'd still quibble with connecting something as vague as 'purpose and meaning' to health generally, but probably not to the point that I would have felt the need to speak up. So consider my objection withdrawn.