Depending on how spiteful I feel by the end of this blog entry, my creative project for March 2015 may well be a bracket contest pitting different types of privileged suburban bloggers against one another. Who hasn't dreamed of an arena in which recipe bloggers can be pitted against what-I-wore bloggers? Or of an epic matchup between armchair politicos and "green" lifestylers? I'm getting excited just thinking about it. Leave your suggestions for who would be in the Annoyingly Privileged Bloggers tourney in the comments.
But the one category that has me sputtering in contempt? Healthy living bloggers -- especially if they come with a side of self-righteous healthyvangelism. You know the type: Someone decides that carbs are the devil, makes the time to exercise, then begins "researching" about nutrition and health. From there, it's a hop, skip and a jump to blog posts where overweight people are belittled and it's all wrapped in a stychnine coating of "I'm just concerned about everyone's health! There's an obesity epidemic, you know!"
(Would that these people were half as concerned about the actual contagious epidemics sweeping through North America. I'd love to see some Lululemon-wearing blogger redirect her ire away from corn syrup and gluten and toward, say, the massive media conglomerates that continue treating Jenny McCarthy like she's someone who deserves to have unfettered access to a mainstream media platform.)
The thing that gets my goat about these bloggers is how blithely they skip over the innate privilege in their own lives and refuse to even look at the obstacles in anyone else's. Oh, they say, anyone can run! Or anyone can make the time to exercise! Or anyone can afford the paleo diet. Maybe poor people wouldn't be so fat if they just kept a garden and learned how to live on rice and beans!
There is a huge link between poverty and poor health. There is also a huge link between poverty and impaired cognitive function (meaning that when you're under continuous financial stress, you're not exactly thinking in top form), one that's been measured by up to 13 IQ points. There is a link between poverty and poor-quality sleep, which also affects your health, your cognitive functions and your ability to regulate your emotions. Poor people live in food deserts; they have tiny food budgets; they have massive food insecurity and often skip meals; they live in chronic pain because they don't have the kind of health coverage that can head off conditions before they become chronic.
But remember: Poor people are fat and unhealthy because they just don't get how easy it is to be "healthy." Even more risibly, when someone does try to get the word out that there are ways to eat well when you're existing on food subsidies, the first thing people will do is cluck, "What is she doing with seven kids on public assistance?"
So here's the thing. Operation Live Like A Showrunner is going quite well. I feel great -- sustained energy for the usual 17-hour days I have, a notable reduction of aches at the end of the day, I'm feeling calmer and less stressed. But let's look at every privilege I have that helps me get there:
1. I have a partner at home in the mornings so I can swim without having to set up childcare.
2. I live in a very walkable little city, so I can get in plenty of incidental exercise just by running errands.
3. Also, our weather is great, so I don't have "blizzards" or "scorching heat" as a legitimate reason not to be outside.
4. I have access to a pool 365 days a year, on my own schedule, for about a dollar a day ...
5. ... And I have the discretionary income to spend on that pool membership, plus the CPR class that's required for access, plus the eight-suits-a-year habit.
6. And that economic privilege extends to food, because I can subscribe to my fish CSA for healthy protein, I can shop the farmers' markets for cheap produce, I can prepare ahead and freeze things, and I don't ever have to really have a hard think about whether or not I can afford the organic no-fat greek yogurt that adds body and protein to my spinach smoothies, the case of organic roasted red pepper bisque that I have delivered to my office every month courtesy of Amazon Prime, or the convenience of a eight-pack of Umpqua Oats.
7. I have a fantastic amount of control over my time, so I am able to fit in exercise and food preparation without it presenting logistical hardships for my family or complications at work.
8. I have fantastic health insurance through work, so if I do get hurt, I'm not likely to pay anything out of pocket for care. (I am not kidding. My brain surgery cost me $0, as did the C-section by which I delivered my daughter. I have really good insurance.)
9. Now that my daughter is sleeping through the night, I am well rested, which means I have ample cognitive reserves to draw upon for short- and long-term decision making.
10. Because my life is a cushy middle-class one, I have the resources I needed -- including supportive relatives and friends -- when I said, "You know what? I think I need to improve my health. Let's do this thing."
I'm grateful and I'm guilty. Because the things I listed -- access to walkable streets, fresh organic produce at reasonable prices, control over one's time, great healthcare, a good night's sleep -- those things should not be privileges. Those should be what we want for the least of the people in our country. "Well fed, well rested and safe" should be the goddamned baseline for what life in this country is like.
I won't lie, it's fun to revel in feeling healthy. I get why people want to write things like, "Just stop eating dessert -- breaking the sugar addiction will change your life." But why be content with changing just your life?