Thursday, April 05, 2007

Embrace the Greys

During the course of conversation with someone recently, I mentioned I was on my way to the gym.

"Oh, you're going to the gym? You're so good."

No, I'm not so good. I'm not even "being good." What I'm doing, at best, is something that will make me feel good (I knew my 160-page thesis on the psychological effects of exercise would come in useful somewhere!)

Way too often, we're confronted with "good" and "bad" in this area. "I had a good day." "I was bad." Good foods, bad foods, good behaviors, bad. There is no good and bad. These are arbitrary distinctions designed to make us feel "good" or "bad," while simultaneously allowing us to avoid what may really be helping or hurting us. Every action, every relationship, every morsel of food contains both good and bad. Considering both sides of the equation may help us eventually discontinue those which aren't ultimately that helpful and increase the frequency of those that are.


Icie said...

I think of good and bad as being context dependant... in the realm of weight loss/management/body issues I think that you've hit the nail on the head. For a person who eats pizza and never gains weight, there is no such connotation. Food never used to have positive or negative valence before I hit puberty, when what I ate affected how my body changed and what I looked like on the outside. I used to eat french fries at lunch all the time in highschool, and it was good because it contained potatoes and I never saw any consequences. Then I stopped sports after highschool and then french fries every day became "bad".

I get that all the time at work if someone asks me if I still go to the gym after work. When I say "Yeah. I try to" I get told I am "good" too. When I say "Nah, having been feeling like it lately" no one knows what to say.
What if I hit my target weight or don't obsess over it? (Not that that's actually the case). It makes me uncomfortable to talk about with my co-workers.

Boobook said...

I found this great ad. on the net - it's about eating disorders. The ad finishes with:
"being thin and not eating are signs of true willpower and success - you can never be too thin"

littlem said...

You know, Dr. S., I'll bet I'm not the only one that would like to see at least some paraphrases from that thesis.

B/c my physiology and metabolism are such that the pull of going to the gym to "feel better" isn't strong enough -- even when I ran varsity letter track I never got a runner's high, hideously.

And when I think I ought to go I start go get mad (the thought process tends to go, "oh, great, I can go so I can get smaller and get sexually harassed more regularly on the street? NO THANKS").

So I think a more reasoned, health-centered (instead of other-centered) analysis of why it's "good" to go would be welcomed by those of us who struggle with the cultural imperatives.

/big unsubtle hint :D

PalmTreeChick said...

It's also interesting how good and bad take on the complete opposite meaning in an eating disordered brain. For a person with an eating disorder "good" to them is usually "bad" to a normal person, and vice versa. I'm trying to think of an example...Ah, got one...

"Moving to NYC would be "good" for me because I wouldn't have to eat and I'd be getting so much more exercise." Where other people would look at that and see it is a bad thing because it wouldn't be good for my health. Where I see it as a "good" thing because it would help aid in my weightloss. Make sense?

Sarah said...

recently I saw an abstract for a paper about how seniors who exercised had a better uptake rate for seasonal influenza vaccination. I wish I'd kept it!

HaileySqueek said...

I had to comment because this is one of my biggest pet peeves. How can food or exercise make someone good or bad? My father in law went so far as to call me virtous for turning down dessert. Um no, I just don't like sugar.

drstaceyny said...

icie--guess it does happen pretty frequently!

bb--wow. Thanks for sharing.

lm--you may not have ever gotten the runner's high, but do you feel any better after going--a little less stress, more relaxed, energized, etc.? Research has documented this for exercise programs (over the long-run) and even for a single session of exericse (like my thesis did). How about the many health benefits--lowered BP, better cardiovascular functioning, reduced risk for osteoporosis, etc.?

ptc--it does.

sarah--interesting. . .

hs--great example.