The Toronto Star today calls the Canadian diet a “dog’s breakfast.” Citing toxic foods and a sedentary lifestyle as the causes of obesity, it looks into how one Québec doctor, Dr. Jean-Pierre Després, is developing a program to counter this trend. I saw two problems with his work: all male — why in the 21st century are researchers still ignoring half the population?! — and with a 65% success rate, still doesn’t counter the kind of attitude that pretends “we’re all right Jack.” And, of course, it only addresses the issues of obesity in the otherwise-healthy population.
When my GP diagnosed me with Type 2 Diabetes, we had a moment where he was complaining I wasn’t listening to him, and I was complaining he wasn’t listening to me. He was talking to me as if I didn’t get it; whereas, though I was expecting this day, I was complaining this was all too much on top of everything else I had to deal with (brain injury being the primary issue). Yet I shouldn’t have been surprised at his complaint — being immersed in the medical community growing up, I’ve often heard doctors complain about patients continuing to do that which is bad for them despite their repeated warnings, so in some ways him talking to me like I didn’t get it was to be expected.
What really got me upset though was how others spoke to me as if I didn’t get it. I was spoken to in stern tones like a child, given warnings of death and told I just had to make changes, just had to drop chocolate and cookies. At least one of these people knew perfectly well I had tackled a far bigger, far more intransigent problem on my own, facing the reality of brain injury when all the others around me pretended nothing had happened and exhausting myself with various years-long treatments. So why would I suddenly be incapable of not facing reality, the reality of diabetes?
Well, perhaps because so many are. After my diagnosis, I spoke to one gent I’ve known for years. He said he had it. It runs in his family too. Yet that ubiquitous male health-sucking “beer belly” remains, and he still munches on potato chips. Does he find it too difficult to eat the way one should? Does he not think it’s any big deal? He has loads of energy, so perhaps he doesn’t feel the need to make the diabetes change. Perhaps that’s the key to the puzzle of why people don’t change: they feel well.
I have a friend who has steadily gained weight every year. She is obese but not diabetic. She has loads of energy too, though these last couple of years have been challenging emotionally. Perhaps that’s why she didn’t buy The GI Diet by Rick Gallop and start following it when advised to a few years ago. She says she doesn’t eat white flour or white sugar. Like Margaret Webb, the author of The Star story today, she says she eats healthy, except she makes omelettes with whipping cream, brews tea to the point of bitterness then puts loads of sugar and milk in it, drowns potatoes in salt, slathers butter on toast to a nice shiny, thick sheen. At that point, it doesn’t matter that she toasts her whole wheat bread, the amount of butter will slather on the poundage. She’s starting to get short of breath — which I find alarming but clearly she does not — yet says she doesn’t need the added stress of buying the GI Diet. Well, that wasn’t the excuse when it was first suggested to her; she’s always asserted that she eats healthy. And so I wonder how she resolves the cognitive dissonance of being quite obese while supposedly eating healthy. She’s not alone either; even Webb was shocked to discover that her healthy diet wasn’t actually all that different from the average “dog’s breakfast.” And I know/have known loads of overweight people who claim to be on this diet or that, who claim to be eating healthy, while steadily gaining or at best not losing poundage and who flat out refuse to eat like I did pre-brain injury and like I’m trying to return to but in a more stricter way because of the diabetes. So why is it people are completely unable to face the reality of their size and their health? Why do they claim that what they’re doing is working when their girth and their blood tests — assuming they consent to the latter — say otherwise? Even people who are at a good weight are obsessed with their diets, while being inattentive to their health.
I think what Dr. Després is doing is a good start. He has confirmed what Oprah has said for years — one needs support and a good plan to succeed. But he is missing that part of the equation of why people hear their doctor say they have diabetes, they are obese, but do not accept it and continue on their merry way. I really wish someone would find the magic key to that so that people like me who want to have a bitchin’ session before getting down to brass tacks don’t get dumped on for not listening.
I have to say, it totally sucks. I sure as heck didn’t need the added stress of this diagnosis. And I didn’t need the extra drain on my energy of having to count calories to retrain my brain, of having to check the fibre grams on every cereal, every bread, every cracker I buy, of having to reduce my fat grams down further than they already are. Trying to get closer to what my GP wants, what my trainer advises, what the GI Diet book suggests, has absolutely exhausted me this weekend. Instead of writing and working on my photos, I’ve been expending energy on this crap the last few days. What’s worse is that since 2005 I’ve recognized that not writing for too many days puts me in a bad mood. Some people have to run to maintain their emotional equilibrium; I have to write. So when people look at me and say they don’t need the added stress and say their GP agrees with them (more like the GP is exhausted with arguing with them), I just shut up cause otherwise I’d bark their head off.