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Chicken of Tomorrow —

May 2, 2014

When I was around 10 years old, I remember going to my Uncle Ray’s house for the weekend. Uncle Ray worked in an auto-body shop, but in his free time he was a weightlifter and an avid “coach” to each of his sons who wrestled, two of whom went to State Championships in the 1980s.

Staying at Uncle Ray’s was always a little awkward because the only other people there beside him and my aunt were two of their kids who were in their late teens/early 20s and weren’t often home. I Flaming Heartspent most of my time in the basement watching movies from a papasan chair because they had cable and our house didn’t. I vividly remember watching Three O’Clock High, nestled snugly in the overstuffed baseball glove and loving every minute of that gratifying underdog story about standing up to bullies.

Some 25 years later, I don’t remember what triggered him, but at one point during that weekend, I pissed off Uncle Ray. It may have been something minor, it may have been major, I don’t recall. I only recall his blazing face, his throbbing veins, and his ear-piercing screams. My Dad was a screamer as well, but he paled in comparison to Uncle Ray’s fury. I felt both afraid and angry. What a jerk!

Three days later, Uncle Ray had a heart attack and died.

This wasn’t the first family death I had been through. Two years previously, my Grandpa Ray died of colon cancer. But at the age of eight, I had only known of him as fairly sick man. Over the many times I spent the night at Grandma Kate’s, I mostly remember Grandpa on his death bed.

So Grandpa’s death didn’t really hit me hard, a fact my parents remember quite distinctly when compared to my two brothers. I just remember playing in the parking lot of the funeral home with my siblings and cousins.

Uncle Ray’s funeral was different. Uncle Ray wasn’t supposed to die. He was too young. He was only 46. While Grandma Kate remained relatively stoic at the funeral of her husband, her grief overwhelmed the room at the funeral of her son.

Uncle Ray’s death triggered my first adolescent panic over the possibility that my parents could spontaneously die. They came to my bedside and reassured me that Uncle Ray’s death was unexpected, but was not going to happen to them. I remember hearing a lot about Uncle Ray’s temper and the stress he was under as the culprit. Physique didn’t exactly explain his death — he was solid as a rock. It was something in his personality, in his behavior that explained his sudden and tragic passing.

While that fact orbited my fixation with his death, it was the frailty of life and the unpredictability of death that left the deepest scar. Starting in my teens, I began feeling absolutely convinced that I would not live to be 18; I harbored intense feelings of impending death. Of course, 18 passed and I was fine, so all was well… until I became convinced that I was going to die at 21. It was (and is) irrational, but obsessive thoughts don’t exactly work on a rational level.

Because my Uncle Ray died from a heart attack, any weirdness in my chest immediately induced anxiety. There have been times where I’ve had a pain when I breathed too deeply, like a needle in the chest. It would persist for a few days, then disappear. Despite reassurances that it wasn’t heart related, I remained convinced each time that I was about to have a Red Sanford moment.

My morbid narcissism and cardio-hypochondria persists to this day, which is why research on weight, fitness and cardiovascular disease interests me so much. Grandma Kate had a heart attack in her 80s and my dad had one in his 50s. This is the family history I’ve been dealt, along with colon cancer.

So, as I turned 35 this week, I couldn’t help but begin to countdown to 46. One benefit of fearing an early death most of my life is that I resigned myself to investing in each day as though it were damn near my last. I have very few regrets in my life, and the ones I do have are born of difficult circumstances and Sophie’s choices. I have no regrets of omission. If I die at 46, I will have poured as much of my soul into living as I possibly could. But obviously I don’t want to die at 46. I have a wife and three young kids I want to spend as much of every day with as I can.

In the past, I have felt a kind of resignation about my health because my Uncle Ray was in such great shape, so I spent much of my formative years equating fitness with futility. I was saddled with a damning genetic inheritance, so there isn’t much I can do about my impending heart attack. I felt like my energies were better suited to controlled the family temper, which long-time readers have seen flare up from time to time. I also focused on being as low stress as I could, although driving near dumbasses often bends my resolve. But exercise? Pah, that was pointless. I mean, have you seen the startling mortality rate of professional wrestlers?

But over the past few years I have reclaimed control of my fate. What ultimately brought me around, what ultimately shook me out of my complacency, was Health at Every Size® (HAES). I always saw exercise as either something you do to get ripped or something you do to get thin. You can even hear a bit of my ambivalence toward exercise in this interview I did with my wife, Veronica, back in 2009, when I first started blogging. It was V who reminded me that what really mattered were the health benefits of exercise.

So, when I began practicing HAES, when I began exercising and improving my diet, I felt like I was reclaiming control of a part of my life that felt already written. But there was something else that both my Grandpa and Uncle neglected to do, which I later learned was a major contributing factor in the development of their respective diseases: they feared doctors. When Uncle Ray had chest pains or felt inexplicably fatigued, he refused his wife’s insistence that he visit a doctor. That may have saved his life.

As with exercise during my apathetic phase, I only went to a doctor if I needed an antibiotic or some other acute care. Check-ups? Pah. Waste of time. I felt fine.

But after learning about HAES, I made the first appointment in my adult life with a primary care physician (PCP), who I clashed with immediately. V recommended I try her doctor. I wouldn’t be able to see her for several months, but once I did I found her far more understanding and accepting of my views on HAES. She drew my bloodwork, compared it to the bloodwork from my first PCP nine months previous, and congratulated me on my improved numbers. She told me to just keep doing what I was doing and to check back in later. I’m due for another checkup, especially since my high risk of colon cancer means it’s time for my first colonoscopy.

So for the first time in my life, I actually have some semblance of control over my health. And yet, this approach that I have adopted, which has led me to take on healthy behaviors and improve my metabolic health in quantifiable amounts is still so offensive, so heretical, that trolls and douchebags are openly boasting about that heart attack I have feared my whole life.

Last weekend, Shaunta courageously led an AMA (ask me anything) on reddit about HAES and body acceptance — talk about a lion’s den! The result was basically a bunch of shouty dipshits downvoting all of Shaunta’s answers into oblivion. Among the (mostly) respectful critiques, was this question, which I decided to respond to with a wealth of resources to counter his skepticism. Of course, I was downvoted into oblivion, but the guy I was responding to said I did a good job answering his question.

And that’s what I notice in a lot of these forums: there are people who are skeptical and want to debate me, but there are so, so, so many others who just want me to SHUTUP! SHUTUP! SHUTUP!

For example, there was this person who claimed to be an ER nurse, who absolutely flipped their shit when I said that I wasn’t that heavy at 5’7″, 265 pounds. For those who don’t want to visit the cesspool of reddit, I’ve captured it for posterity:

I Hate You

There’s nothing I can do but laugh at these comments. This person is gloating over my death. And they’re not the first. I’ve seen quite a few comments in the various toxic subreddits talking about how awesome it will be when I die of a heart attack. The whole thing makes me think of this:

As Crow says near the end, “Dear God, I hate you! I hope you die!”

It’s just so odd to think that for the first time in my life, I’m actually trying to make positive healthy changes in my own life, as well as encourage others to do the same, the response is this unbridled contempt and hatred for me and all that I stand for.

This experience just feeds into my theory that for the people out there sending hateful messages, trolling Lindsey, disrupting Shaunta’s AMA, and wishing me a happy heart attack, this is all just a game. They can hide behind anonymous accounts and spout whatever rhetoric and “common sense” they’ve gleaned off the internet because they have no real skin in the game. After all, we’re the ones who end up pissed and stressed and pulling out our hair at the stupidity of it all.

For me, writing about my health and my weight is not a game. This is something that has very real life or death consequences for me, personally, yet these anonymous internet assholes act like I’m playing the same game they are. I’m not. The research I do, the writing I share, is almost entirely about asking questions I desperately need answered. And if the haters don’t like the answers I have to share, they can just keep playing with themselves, for all I care.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Kala permalink
    May 2, 2014 1:12 pm

    Did you hear that Atchka? You’re a Class III Obese, you literally “can’t be more obese than you are”. Because there’s no clinical difference between 250lbs and 350lbs or 450lbs or 550lbs at 5’7 and obesity is only measured by BMI categories! Categorizing a numeric variable makes the analysis easier and often gives it a more understandable interpretation from the analysis, but it isn’t written on a gold tablet somewhere as a law. The category boundaries are ultimately somewhat arbitrary with a bit of clinical guidance. There’s still debate as to where they should be but ultimately stay the same because it makes newer work comparable to older work. If that woman is a nurse, she’s a stupid fucking nurse.

    • May 2, 2014 1:31 pm

      Yup… I’d hate to be the fat person walking into her ER. What a delightful, thoughtful, kind and considerate human being. By screaming at me over and over, she’s convinced me to see the error of my ways. Thank you anonymous ER nurse!

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • Kala permalink
        May 2, 2014 1:40 pm

        I’m sure someone as pleasant as that person has a problem with more than just fat people. She’s a misanthrope, plain and simple. No worthwhile health care provider, whether they are on the clock or off of it, is going to call you a delusional fat fuck and a dumb prick in a conversation about health.

      • May 3, 2014 12:23 pm

        Her shtick is a virtual cut-and-paste of every other fat-hating troll out there. I think there’s about as much chance that she’s a bona fide health professional as there is of me being Helen Mirren.

        Not saying that health professionals can’t be jerks, but in my experience most of them are anxious to trot out tons of medical jargon to make themselves look better in an argument. Not much of that in your excerpt, just more of the same old thing.

  2. May 2, 2014 1:27 pm

    Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    I can be a bit of a hypochondriac. Vascular problems run in my family. I have hypertension, which at this point is under control. I also have a mitral valve prolapse, so I tend to be prone to palpitations and have to avoid extremely intense exercise. Not like my bad back and knees allow me to do that anyway–hah!
    I’m a nurse, and I’m ashamed as hell at some people in my profession. I honestly doubt that cow (actually, why am I insulting cows? They’re perfectly nice animals) who wished for your death is a nurse. Or maybe I just want to doubt that because I’m really tired of all the awful people in the medical profession.
    This is probably a bit incoherent and rambling, but I’m exhausted and can’t sleep. Always a great combination.

    • venuspluto67 permalink
      September 18, 2014 1:25 pm

      I read her comment history, and she is subscribed to a nurse’s “subreddit” on the site. That proves nothing, of course, but her claim of being nurse clearly wasn’t something she coughed up then and there in order to giver herself undeserved street-cred. See my comment below for more insight.

  3. May 2, 2014 3:51 pm

    Don’t worry about the colonoscopy, it’s a everyday procedure (my dad assists with them several times a day). It’s a really good thing that you are checking on these things preventative care is very important and something I’ve been neglecting. What some of these doctors and nurses fail to realize is that if they didn’t talk down to us or treat us like shit then maybe we’d go to the doctor more. They see people like me when things get bad enough for us to go and then blame it on our weight.

  4. May 3, 2014 12:17 pm

    “Red Sanford”? :p

    One thing I don’t really understand: Why do you and Shaunta put so much work into pieces and comments when trolls can just make them disappear with downvotes? Seems like you’re giving Reddit lots of extra traffic and positive mojo without getting much for yourselves in return. Do the genuinely curious and interesting people you run into over there make up a significant portion of the clientele?

  5. May 11, 2014 9:41 am

    I discovered this blog through Shaunta’s AMA and was similarly awestruck by the “ER nurse.” “I care so much about your health that I’m going to call you a fat fuck on the Internet!” I think one of the problems most fat-hating trolls have with HAES is not that they think you’re unhealthy. It’s that you’re a fat person who has decided to live a healthy life without focusing on being a thin person. There’s privilege in being thin, and if that privilege isn’t protected (by bullying HAES supporters into thinking they really should lose weight and WANT to be thin), where does their power go? Minus the ER nurse bullshit, I thought you were very direct and informative in your responses. But I won’t be spending any more time on Reddit after reading through all that.
    Good on your for being proactive about your health care, by the way! I had a colonoscopy a few years ago, and it wasn’t a big deal. You’re put under, wake up with some gas for a few hours, and on you go! Good luck to you!

  6. venuspluto67 permalink
    September 18, 2014 1:21 pm

    I was going to say this here four months ago, but then it totally skipped my mind. I read the ER nurse’s comment history, and she (the screen-name is derived from the name of an ancient Irish river Goddess, so the gender assumption is not entirely untoward) admitted to being among the heavy-set herself at some point. So her shrieking vitriol would appear to be a manifestation of her own deep and serious psychological problems with her weight.

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