Don’t be poor (and other New Year’s resolutions.)

Diabetes death rate drops — primarily among rich people.

This is my SURPRISED FACE. Especially since, in 1995, the World Health Organization identified poverty as “the biggest single underlying cause of death, disease and suffering worldwide.”

In a hilarious-because-it’s-sadly-true list posted to the Wikipedia article on the social determinants of health, a typical list of “lifestyle” tips for better health is contrasted with a list of socially determined tips for better health:

The traditional 10 Tips for Better Health [69]

    * 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[70]

    * 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.

So I guess we can all revise our New Year’s resolutions somewhat.

Now, of course, I’m not trying to be fatalistic, and I wouldn’t ever want to take away someone’s feelings of hope of what they can achieve, nor their sense of bodily autonomy — but the trick here is to remember, whenever you’re making “lifestyle” changes for the sake of improved health, keep the bigger context in mind.

Do a sound cost-benefit analysis before embarking on something you don’t enjoy, solely “for the sake of your health.” Keep in mind that certain changes represent only a drop in the bucket of your overall health, and that if something isn’t worth doing for its own sake (intrinsic motivation, remember?), then maybe it’s not worth doing at all.

That said, I’ve made a few…let’s call them “atypical” resolutions of my own — to work hard in therapy, to get better at understanding my limits and boundaries, to speak up when I need help, to work hard on the business-thing, to deliberately build pleasure into my daily life, and to remember that doing all of the drudgy housework-things is part of taking care of myself.

If I had the money and time, I’d add “take a ballet class” to that list, but since that’s not possible for me right now (don’t be poor!), I’ll work on figuring out some alternative. I know it sounds weird for a fat (and fat-accepting) person — particularly one who says “fuck” as often as I do — to be interested in ballet, but I’ve always been a study in contrasts and ballet has always appealed to me.

The idea that it might also be subversive for me now, given my fattitude, only enhances the appeal.

A fat ballet dancer from The Big Ballet

a fat ballet dancer from The Big Ballet

Any atypical resolutions to share?

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38 Comments

  1. Posted January 4, 2010 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    The last few years instead of making resolutions I’ve chosen a word for the year the first year Self Care the second Love and somehow they had more impact on my year.

    By the way I too have been very interested in the history of ballent and when reading a history came across a fantastic photograph of two ballet dancer in the Bolshoi at the end of the 19th c who were frankly quite hefty. The waife like ballet dancer is a fairly recent thing.

    • Posted January 4, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if the photograph you mention is available online anywhere? I’d love to read and look at some history of ballet stuff. Don’t have time to research it now, but when I get back home maybe I will!

  2. Posted January 4, 2010 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Last month, I realized that resolutions were for the birds. I have been feeling really stressed out and in need of a direction change in my life. Thing is, I am really good at following the social determinants of health better tips and I therefore don’t want to leave my lucrative, but increasingly frustrating, profession.

    So–though it’s a really small thing–I’ve started doing yoga breathing every day. Just 5-6 minutes, but every day. I’m hoping that I will learn to put my frustration in perspective and hopefully make some gradual changes to help me feel more fulfilled in life.

    • Posted January 4, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      It’ s hard to balance making money with the frustration that’s often a part of it. I’ve had jobs that paid very well, but also were so annoying that it almost wasn’t worth it. For now, I’m on the other side of that equation, where most of my frustrations come from not having much money. It’s hard to figure out where the happy medium is — where you have just enough without having to sell your entire life and soul to get it.

  3. Michellers
    Posted January 4, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Great post as always, very thought-provoking. It puts my own difficulties, health and otherwise, in perspective.

    I’m not normally a NY Res kind of girl but this year I am resolved to make one positive change in my life: get more sleep.

    As the mother of a toddler who often wakes up in the middle of the night, I have been running on 5-6 hours a night for too many years. If I went to bed when she does I would be fine, but I use the time after she goes to bed to have “me” time that usually involves TV, reading, and many many projects late into the night. So this year I resolve to go to bed by 10:30 on work nights so I can get 7-8 hours of sleep no matter what, even if she wakes me up at 4 a.m.

    This resolution will probably result in a little less TV, reading, and projects and frankly that would be a good thing, too.

    • Posted January 4, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      This is one I need to work on, too. My sleeping patterns have been majorly effed-up in the past six months, due to medication woes and illness and more medication woes and then stress insomnia. I feel really, really great when I’m able to keep to a regular sleep pattern.

      I once read a great book on sleep hygiene that maybe I should look into again. I think it was No More Sleepless Nights (I borrowed it from the library.) It’s not just about insomnia, but also about how to improve you sleep habits, and how to get into a regular sleep routine. Really, really helpful stuff. But over the intervening years, I’ve totally gotten off track.

      • Posted January 4, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

        I’ve been focused on getting enough sleep for several years, but some things that I didn’t expect to help were:

        * Getting more exercise during the day.
        * Strength training and/or stretching before bed.
        * Watching less TV before bed.

        This is in addition to the “normal” suggestions of avoiding caffeine in the evening, sticking to a regular schedule, use bedroom only for sleep and sex, and so on.

        • Posted January 5, 2010 at 4:45 am | Permalink

          Yes, I find these help too — especially the exercise one.

  4. Posted January 4, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I’ve resolved to stand up for myself better. I’m sick and tired of feeling like a doormat in certain relationships.

    For instance, I was happy to help out when my brother needed to move in for ‘a month or two’ while he was out of a job. He moved out last month after five and a half freaking years, and I’m only now really seeing how much he had me tied up in knots. He spent much of his time letting me know how insignificant and useless and talentless I am. He flat out said my cooking was nearly inedible. The worst of it is I PUT UP WITH THAT SHIT FOR MORE THAN FIVE YEARS IN MY OWN HOUSE FROM SOMEONE LIVING ON MY CHARITY! When he left he didn’t even say goodbye, let alone thanks. Oh, he thanked Mr. Twistie. Apparently our house only belongs to him and he would let someone else’s brother live in his house for five years without some stronger relationship.

    No more. The next time he comes over, he’s giving me back the key or I’m changing the locks. He does not get to abuse me that way. This is my house and I get to live in it any damn way I please.

    Also, everyone who has heard his attack on my cooking has had to spend several minutes scraping their jaws up off the ground. I’m that good.

    • Posted January 4, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      WOW. Holy crap, what a story.

      But just think — it’s almost like you’ve got a springboard for turning over a new leaf after five and a half years. And right at the beginning of a new decade, too.

      I think this is a really great thing to work on. And I think you should consider changing the locks anyway, key or no key!

      • Posted January 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

        It’s become a serious consideration. The only reason it isn’t a given is the fact that he moved to another city and allowed his driver’s license to lapse about four years ago.

        I never thought I would say this, but I’m done with my brother. Good thing I’ve got two great ones left who really never would treat me the way he did.

  5. Posted January 4, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to try Flamenco dancing. I know I have a passionate Spanish woman living somewhere inside me…
    It seems subversive as a mother (don’t we women often put our own needs last) to spend money on shoes, classes, maybe even a swirly skirt (hee hee) when I don’t bat an eyelid for my own daughter’s tap shoes, swim lessons etc… It was the tap shoes that did it. I had serious shoe envy for the first time in my life!!!
    My resolution then I suppose is not to feel guilty doing things just for me!

    • Posted January 4, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Flamenco sounds AWESOME. I have a friend who does a bit of it (I didn’t know until I saw her dresses in her closet on NYE) and it sounds really, really lovely.

      And tap shoes always give me shoe envy. I had tap shoes from when I was like 4 years old, and I was still trying to squeeze into those things when I was 10. I LOVE them.

      • Jex
        Posted January 5, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        I reccomend any dancing that gets your hips moving. I’ve done bellydancing and salsa off and on for years and now I can’t not move when rhythmic music comes on!
        This year I’m getting into burlesque dancing, which also has fancy costumes, but, like, 1000% more sparkles than any other kind of dance. Also- limited nudity, but I’m pretty confident that I can wiggle my jiggles in a way that doesn’t get me booed off the stage.

  6. Melanie Reap
    Posted January 4, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    At the turn of the century (I love to say that), I resolved to never again make resolutions. It’s the only one I’ve ever kept.

  7. Posted January 5, 2010 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    I have several New Year’s Resolutions, and all involve food – but in a non-dieting, self-loving way. #1, I resolve to be more adventurous in my cooking by seeking out unfamiliar cuisines and ingredients. #2, I resolve to eat more foods that will raise my levels of good cholesterol, especially fish, wine, and whole grains. #3, I resolve to use at least 1 restaurant coupon per week from my local Attractions coupon book. Normally I just pick the restaurants I’m already familiar with, and when those coupons are gone, the book gathers dust for the rest of the year. This year I want to use it as a tool to discover new tastes…

    • Posted January 5, 2010 at 4:46 am | Permalink

      I think the coupon one is especially brilliant.

  8. Posted January 5, 2010 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    Okay, so, have you seen this:
    http://www.food-for-thought-pyramid.com/

    It’s a similar concept, but it puts into context the amount those things our of our control have on our health compared to things like “diet and exercise.” (for most people — not those whose health is tremendously impacted by diet and exercise.)

    Also, you might like this picture, not of a classical ballet dancer, but an amazing dancer nonetheless, who inspires me:
    http://www.alexandrabellerdances.org/

    I’m hoping to add another night of dance to my weekly schedule as the year goes on… at least until the summer, when I can dance again on Sunday mornings. But I am so loving dancing 5 Rhythms, if you have a chance to check it out, you might like it. Or not. It’s not for everyone. But I think of it as size friendly, although that surely depends on the teacher.

    • Posted January 5, 2010 at 4:46 am | Permalink

      Now that you mention it, I have seen that food for thought pyramid, but kinda forgot about it! I think I ordered a poster of it from her, and I have it somewhere. Obviously needs to be hung up.

  9. Ann
    Posted January 5, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    I gave up New Year’s resolutions as well. Instead, I have been trying to do things that scare me. After 20 years as a stay home mom, I went back to school last year to finish my bachelors. I got accepted to graduate school and next week I start on my masters. I’m scared shitless, but I’m doing it.

    • Posted January 6, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      That is so awesome. Congratulations!

  10. Posted January 5, 2010 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Resolution to identify the characteristics of a “good mom” and do those things. Seriously. I think my kids are amazing humans I desperately do not want to screw them up.

    • Posted January 5, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Suzanne,
      There’s one common characteristic of a good mom (or good dad for that matter) and it’s this: have a desire to be a good mom (or good dad for that matter).

      Because, honestly, really giving a shit is half the battle, isn’t it?

      Peace,
      Shannon

  11. Posted January 5, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I think if you had the money you’d be a fucking awesome ballerina. Fuck yeah!

    Personally, I’m going to work on not being so stupid this year. Granted, genetics have failed me on many different levels in this area, but I’ve decided genetics-be-damned, I’m taking a seven pill Ginseng cocktail to improve my brain and it’s a never-ending regiment of Sudoku until I’m smarter than average. I want to make myself so smart that they’ll put me on the cover of “The Economist.” Sometimes it seems like those bastards are featuring people with unattainable intelligence ideals. But nonetheless, I’ve set my goal for this year.

    Good luck with yours!

    Peace,
    Shannon

  12. shyvixen
    Posted January 5, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Talk about timing! I just finsihed reading an article on a local news website bemoaning how the poor economy leads people to “unhealthy eating”. Just because you’re poor, it’s no excuse to be fat! I feel like this society is completely insane.

    I should send them that social determinants Tips for Better Health List.

  13. Maggie
    Posted January 5, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Not a resolution, because I think they’re silly (and any positive changes I’ve made in life were not restricted to any time of the year!).

    However, I am going to try to run 10k this year. I just took up running last year, and I kind of enjoy it, much to my surprise! I never thought I’d do 5k, but I showed me!

    I also just bought cold-weather running stuff; much cheaper than joining a gym for the winter (I am in debt a lot, but I feel so much better now when I can go run). Also also, I will try to get in a lot more skating than last year, if the canal will ever open.

    (Lastly, I just discovered you’re in the January issue of Chatelaine!)

  14. Carolyn
    Posted January 6, 2010 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    My resolution for this year:

    DON’T PANIC

    It sounds simple, but really most of the agony and stress in my life comes from feeling like I must have a solution right fucking now! So I am trying to keep in mind this year that when I start to feel that overwhelming anxiety, to take a breathe and do it one step at a time (whatever it is).

  15. Marnie
    Posted January 6, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Your first couple sentences remind me of my reaction when I read the SHOCKING report from Statistics Canada a couple years ago that said single parent households had, on average, only 50% the income of two-parent households. Arithmetic! It’s a scary thing.

    • Posted January 6, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Oh dear lord. Seriously?

    • deeleigh
      Posted January 8, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      That’s actually higher than I would have expected, given that men make more money than women and most single parent households are female-headed. It must be because some two-parent household are single income.

  16. Posted January 7, 2010 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Don’t be poor . . . That’s a good tip. I’m gonna work on that!

    Anyway, my thoughts on New Year’s resolutions can be found at my blog, here: http://sayhealth.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/resolution-schmesolution/

  17. Kaija
    Posted January 7, 2010 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Excellent post and good practical thinking points for REAL new year’s resolutions. I have resolved to keep up/accelerate the pace of a process that I began last year: making choices/efforts to increase my peace…by meditating, deciding what is worth getting worked up about and what I should just let go (and learning to just let it go), ridding myself of toxic/vampire-like relationships (friends, co-workers, family), and appreciating more of the things that I have.

    As for the ballet thing…do it! There are more and more adult beginner classes offered at studios and community centers that cater to people who want to try it out, learn something new, indulge a curiosity, and they are very warm and welcoming and positive vs. cruel and competitive. I did it a year ago and I love it! There were women (and men) of all ages, shapes, and sized in my first class and one of the best natural movers was a woman who was the exact opposite of the “ballet body”…and she was absolutely stunning!

    • Kaija
      Posted January 7, 2010 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      Oh, and I was always a tomboy/jock girl…really tall, strong, aggressive and played sports/didn’t do girly things. So taking ballet in my adulthood is VERY subversive for me…and something I could have NEVER dreamed of doing until now. At some point I just said “fuck it…I want to try this” and it was definitely a bit out of my comfort zone, but I think that is GOOD for me…and I love it! Seriously…see if you can find a class near you and just do it :)

  18. Kristin
    Posted January 7, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for posting the picture from the Big Ballet. I hadn’t ever heard of them before – how marvelous!!!

    My resolution re: food this year is to eat more locally and ethically, whenever possible/to the best of my ability. I’ve got the organic vegetable delivery happening, all local (which means I am getting kale and squash by the bucketload right now).

    Which means a secondary resolution is to learn how to enjoy kale, because I’m having trouble with that :)

    My non-food resolution was travel related. I travel a lot, and I’m also a rather reserved person, so I resolved to talk to at least 1 person on any trip I take in 2010. In a bar, at a restaurant, at the hotel, whatever. Just interact more, see where it leads :)

  19. elicantdie
    Posted January 10, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this. I can’t remember where I heard about your blog, but I’m really into it, and have been coming by every once in a while for some relief.
    I’ve never been big into new years resolutions, but I really like your “and to remember that doing all of the drudgy housework-things is part of taking care of myself.” So I might actually make that one.

  20. Lyndsay
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    Maybe writing it here will make it more likely to happen. I resolve to go to bed by midnight as often as possible. For my sanity and productiveness. I’ve wondered do young people actually like going to bed late more than older people and if so, is that because we’re younger or a different generation?
    I also resolve to plan in more time for fun with friends. I also resolve to focus better on school stuff so I have more time for fun with friends.

  21. Posted January 14, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    A little late, but my resolution is about dealing with my knee problems consistently by

    1) Going for a walk every single day.
    2) Do some sort of strength training for my legs every day.

    14 days so far. :)

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