Where is the ‘Me” in Health? — After all, it is all about ‘Moi’!

The Da Vinci ManLet Others Define “Health” For You?

In my last post “What is Health?” I showed you, my dear readers, all four of you who are reading this, how to search the web to find out how other people define “health.”  Many of those definitions are reliable and offered by experts in their fields.  You could, of course chose your definition of “health and fitness” from among them.

Or, one could, I suppose, rely upon the reactions of others around you to let you know that you’re fit and healthy.  Hmmmm…  I can envision it now, months from now having finished my journey and living a lifestyle of health, I strut, *ahem*, stride down the streets of Oaklawn……

[ Cue the music for the fantasy sequence … ]

Model with awesome bodyBeing Fit and Healthy means having pecs of death.  It means having biceps and triceps of steel that send shivers of desire up the spine of every red-blooded gay man who sees me.  It means having a set of abs that will stop traffic.  Gay men will look at me and drool.  Straight men will look at me and feel insecure.  Straight women will weep because they can only look but not touch.  Butch biker lesbians will nod their heads in approval.  Being fit and healthy means I will have a body like the guy in the photo to the left.

When people me see me they will…

. . . kinda grunt like they’ve just been punched and softly say “Mer-say!”  while fanning their face with their palm.

Folks will…

. . . turn to their friends and whisper “There ought to be laws,” accompanied by a slight shake of the head and followed by a soft sigh of longing while craning their neck for another glimpse of my perfect physique…

And, some, sadly, will be envious of my success; those poor souls who have been starving themselves silly and have been sweating their ass off in a gym for weeks will glare and mumble…

. . . “Let’s tie the bitch down and stuff Twinkies down her throat! She’s obviously had work done.”

[The music fades as the fantasy sequence ends & we return to reality, kinda, mostly….]

Only to hear my Inner Diva shouting at me:   “Well now, that’s all fine and dandy but…

What does that have to do with “Moi”!?

Good point.

Find Your Own Definition of “Fit & Healthy”

Yoga 02 (CC)My definition is “Health = your mind and body operating smoothly.” But what does that mean on a practical level?  “What concrete things tell me that I’m healthy?”  Or to expand the question just a bit, “How do I know when I’m fit and healthy?” “How do I know when I’m out of shape and unhealthy?”

Of course, there are some obvious answers to the question: Being healthy means (1) not sick;  (2) no terminal illnesses; (3) not being drug away by guys in white coats to a room with nice padded walls and a limited view.

Beyond the obvious indicators of health there are, of course, those pesky numbers we could use like blood pressure, and cholesterol levels and oxygen carrying capacity of the red blood cells, and many many more.  But my undergraduate degree is in drama, not math darn it! (It explains a lot doesn’t it?)  LOL

Handsome Doctor (CC)And there is the matter of how the data to calculate those numbers is collected.  Doctors offices and needles are involved!  My “Inner Diva” does not like wearing white paper smocks and needles make her faint.   It must be noted that when my Inner Diva faints, she does so with grace and style.  And it must be pointed out that those smocks they give you at the doctor’s office are so unfashionable.  They are ever so drafty; they clash with the diamonds in the tiara, and the color makes my Diva’s alabaster skin look pasty.  Now if a buffed, hunky, beefy, sweaty, sexy, orderly with furry arms and piercing eyes were to be *ahem* taking the measurements, then my Diva might consider waiting patiently in one of those tiny rooms at the doctor’s office.  Oh my!

But I digress…

So what I’m really getting at here is that each and every person should make their own list of “What Health Means To Me”. 

My list is down below.  Way down below.  I mean really wwwwwwaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy down at the bottom of the page.  It has three columns: (1) Healthy (2) Unhealthy and (3) “Action”  The action column is where I’ve listed the behaviors I’m going to either change or start that will get me from where I am now, “unhealthy,” to where I want to be, “healthy”.

This is my list and unique to me.  If you give it some thought I’m sure you can come up with your own list answering “What does healthy mean to you?”  There will probably be a lot of things that anyone would put on such a list.  However, everybody’s list will also have some unique things on it because each of us are unique.  Give it some thought.  Really take the time to envision what a “healthy you” would look like and make your own list.

Separating “Health” and “Weight”

Weight and Health-NOT ©2011I’ve touched on this several times since I started this blog.  Mainly because a good friend of mine, who I respect and admire, and who blogs over at Dances With Fat, introduced me to this concept and got me thinking about it — a lot.  Check out my post Health at Every Size” for some of my early thoughts on the subject.   There is a growing recognition that looking at someone’s “weight” has been overused as a quick, easy, and inaccurate method of determining someone’s “health.”  I completely agree.

There is a movement called HAES “Health At Every Size” which professes, well, that is possible to be healthy any every size.  Skinny through Fat.  By the same token it is possible to be UNhealthy at every size.  Let’s look at the THIN end of the spectrum.  Have you seen photos of famine victims?  How about absurdly thin fashion models?  Folks in both those groups have single digit body fat and they are definitely NOT overweight.  But are they healthy?

Ok, how about the other end of the weight spectrum: the BIG end?  What about Olympic weight lifters, shot putters, sumo wrestlers, and professional football players?  None of those folks are lightweights.  For example, at the beginning of the 2010 season 532 NFL players weighed more than 300 lbs!  Are they healthy?  The honest answer, whether we are looking at the thin models or the NFL lineman is “We don’t know just by looking at their size.”  Weight alone is not a good indicator of health.  To determine someone’s health, we need to use other measurements, not just weight.

Health ∞ Weight / What it means for ‘Moi

I’ve really been giving this a lot of thought and here is my take on HAES and how it relates to my own situation.   Caution, dear reader, yer ’bout to get an earful… …so fasten yer seatbelts and remain seated until the blog comes to a complete and total stop.  [Sccccccccrrrrrrrrrape, oh that?  It’s me dragging over the soapbox]  For me, it comes down to these two simple statements:

INCORRECT: I am unhealthy because I am fat.

CORRECT: I am fat because I am unhealthy.

Me at the Hotter than Hell 100 ©2011Me at the Hotter than Hell 100 ©2011It is as simple as that.  I have been fit and healthy before so I know what fit and healthy looks like on me. I know what being fit and healthy feels like on me.  I know this because when I was at my fittest and healthiest I was thin.

In complete candor, at my peak athletic form, when I was riding centuries, friends often told me I looked too thin.  Yes, I was on the thin side, but thin or not there was no doubt I was healthy.  I could have had more muscle mass on me, of course, but even so, I was fit and I was healthy.

I knew this not because of some arbitrary measurement scale that I was given, but because of how I felt and how good my body was performing.   Drum roll please:

An active, healthy, fit, athletic, Tony, is a Tony with a low body fat percentage.

My body fat at the time was around 12-14%.  (An aside: I’ve got the spreadsheets somewhere–I’ll try to find them the next time I go to the storage unit and put the exact number on this page.)

Not only did I feel awesome physically, I felt great mentally.  I was proud of my accomplishment and I was happy with my body; the way it looked, the way it felt, the way it moved.  I liked the me I saw in the mirror.

At The Journey’s End is Health → My Health

Journey of a Thousand Miles Has BegunMy goal is to be healthy.  So, while some people may be both fat and healthy, I know from experience that I am not one of those people.  I know without a doubt that I will lose weight on my journey to a healthy me.  I will be thinner at the end of my journey.

As I change my lifestyle and start making healthy choices and start making healthy behaviors so ingrained that they become habits, the weight will come off me.  Being thinner is NOT the goal, being healthy is the goal. Did you guys catch that?  😉  It is IMPORTANT!  I’ll say it again:

Being thinner is NOT the goal, being healthy is the goal!

For me, being thinner was, and will be, a byproduct of being healthy.  Right now, with the year 2011 quickly drawing to a close, indeed, at this very moment as I type this, there is no doubt that the image that reflects back at me from the bathroom mirror is NOT the image of what my body looks like when it is healthy.  And right now, my body is a big body.

Man - Self Image (CC)I recognize that there is a whole discussion to be had about how body image is to a large degree a product or construct of a society.  And, that our society dictates an unrealistic and unachievable standard of beauty.  But we’re not talking about beauty or what other people think of me.  This is about how I feel, how my body feels.  This is about my own health and fitness.

I recognize, also, that there is a movement to accept people for who they are and that beauty can come in all sizes, big, medium, and small.  I know that there are whole libraries that have been written on how to “accept yourself and be happy.”

Well folks that is awesome.  I agree.  If you are big, medium, or small, happy and healthy…  Then you go!  You so Rock!  Bravo!  *thunderous applause*  But I’m not happy.  I’m not healthy.  And because I’m living an unhealthy lifestyle, I’m big.  My size is a symptom; it is not the cause.

Ballet on the Beach (CC)One final note before getting to my list below.  Back in the day when I was at my fittest, I was quite a bit younger.  So what I expect to happen as I get healthier is that I will lose weight as a byproduct of my journey to health, but I know and

I accept that I won’t be as skinny as the guy in my photos from days gone by.  I’m a bit older now and that is a factor in the final size I’ll be.  So whatever size I end up, that’s great.  Health is the goal, not being skinny. That having been said, here are some of the things I like about being healthy (which for me also means thinner) rather than unhealthy (which for me also means bigger.)

Tony’s List of Healthy vs Un-Healthy

I bet you didn’t think we were every going to get here did you?  LOL  Hey, I did warn you up above.  And this blog post is the culmination of a whole lot of thinking on the subject.  So, without further ado, here is my list:




High Blood Pressure: I have to take a daily dose of medication to control it. Blood Pressure in the Normal Range Possible factors which are under my control:

  • Being overweight or obese — lose weight
  • Lack of physical activity — exercise more
  • Too much salt in the diet — lower salt intake
  • Stress — OMG! CAN WE TALK?!  Too much to discuss and way too long of a topic to cover here, but the short version is “Identify the sources of stress” then “Do what I can to eliminate or reduce those stress inducers.”
  • Take a Tai-Chi Class then practice Tai-Chi regularly

Not flexible: simple things like tying my shoes, putting on socks, bending over to pick something off the floor are no longer “simple things!” Flexible enough so that normal, simple, daily activities become easy again. Also, I want to increase my flexibility so that my dancing improves as a result.
  1. Institute a morning schedule of “basic stretches.”
  2. Stretch and warm up the muscles before any dance practice, lesson, competition, or performance.

Difficulty of movement:If I need to get something from under the bed, or get down on the floor to mess with computer cables behind the desk, it is a major production. Sitting down on the floor and then getting back up requires a multi-stage process, with hand on bended knee or hand on desk or bed or chair to lever myself onto my feet.Another example is getting in and out of my truck.  I really hate having to lever myself into place in my seat by using my forearm on the center console and hanging onto the steering wheel.  Sheesh! Ease of movement: I’d like to be able to fold up on the floor and unfold then stand without groans, grunts or using a chair and my arms to pull myself up.  I’d like to be able to slide into my truck without making a production of it or get in and out of a booth at a restaurant gracefully.
  1. Improve flexibility (see above) by stretching more...\
  2. Improve muscle strength (see below)
  3. Take a Tai-Chi Class and then practice Tai-Chi regularly

Lack of muscle strength & tone: See above note.  Also there are some dance movements that while I know how to do them, I simply don’t have the muscle strength to execute them. When I climb stairs I can feel the strain that my extra weight puts on my joints; strengthening my muscles would improve the load bearing capability of my body and lessen the strain put on the joint. More muscle mass and increased strength in specific muscles.  Improved ratio of lean muscle mass to body fat percentage.
  1. First do muscle-building exercises/ lifts using my own body weight.
  2. When appropriate, add in free weights and/or weight machine exercises.

Lack of a good night’s sleep; snoring; sleep apnea.  My sleep apnea and snoring have two causes:(1) weight gain and (2) allergies  Most of the cause is the weight gain.  I never snored when I was thin.  In 2010 when I lost 37, my sleep dramatically improved and the volume and frequency of my snoring reduced.  A contributing factor to the snoring is my allergies: being allergic to dust and dust mites but only to a minor degree. Simply put:  I want a good night’s sleep!!  After having 7-8 hours, I want to awake rested and refreshed.  I want to be able to sleep throughout the night without waking up repeatedly. I want to be able to sleep with my mouth closed and breathe through my nose again.
  1. Do everything I can to minimize the dust and dust mites in my bedroom.
  2. Continue to use Patanase and Allegra-D to treat the remaining symptoms that exist after efforts to minimize the allergens are in place.
  3. Lose weight.
  4. Possibly purchase a dental appliance that will assist in keeping my airways open.

Poor cardiovascular health / low stamina:climbing a flight of stairs leaves me out of breath.Walking rapidly from my
truck to the back door of the library leaves me winded.Dancing two minutes of Polka leaves me about to pass out.  Dancing two competition heats of Polka back to back makes me want to give up dancing and wonder if the Marquis de Sade was in on the creation of the heat sheets.When out dancing socially, dancing more than a couple of dances leaves me winded,
sweating, and flushed.
I want to be able to engage in brief bursts of physical activity without feeling that I just ran a marathon.  I want to improve my resting heart rate.  I want to increase the amount of time at which I can exercise at 60% max or more.I want to be able to do three Polka heats back to back.  I want to be able to dance all night long on a Friday or Saturday night without needing a hot tub, pain relievers and Icy Hot the next day.  I want to be able to do a non-stop line dance set of 10-12 songs.
  1. Increase amount of aerobic activity by (a) dancing more, especially line dance sets at the studio, and (b) by riding my mountain bike.
  2. Sign up to take the Ballet Fitness for Adults class at the Texas Ballet Theatre Academy.
  3. Go out social dancing more.

Because when I become healthier I will also be thinner, I’ve included the following “likes / dislikes.”

Dislikes about being bigger

  • Clothes that fit are harder to find and more expensive.
  • The clothes that are designed for “Big & Tall” guys are not the kind of styles that I’d wear given the choice, for example, I’m so tired
    of wearing dark colors!
  • My feet hurt, especially my arches from the excess weight.
  • My knees hurt when I climb stairs.
  • My body sense is distorted. My body sense is definitely geared to a thinner me; I’ll be walking down a hallway and then through a door and brush against the door frame because I “forget” that there is more of me than there used to be!
  • My thighs rub together when I walk.  Do you know how embarrassing it is to have shiny spots on the inside of your pants legs?
  • I hate being able to use my tummy as a book or arm rest.
  • No disrespect to the Bear movement, but I am not a bear.  I don’t like being a bear.  I want to be an otter.
  • I’d like to be able to wear some of my rings which are now stored in the jewelry box in my storage unit.
Likes about being thinner

  • I enjoy the psychological lift that comes from knowing that I am doing good things for my body.
  • I have more clothing choices and the styles are those that I would prefer to wear.
  • I enjoy the sensuous feeling of having a fit body.
  • I look better when I’m dancing.  (I’m the judging panel on this
    one…and I believe it to be true, so it is.)
  • I move more easily, fluidly, and gracefully.
  • My body is better able to handle the occasional “bad food” choices.
  • My body is better able to handle the occasional beer or glass of wine.

Cowboy with a Saddle (CC)For the record, yes this post sets the record for the longest post on my blog to date.

For those who made all the way to the bottom of the page, there is a reward, whether you read everything or just scrolled down.  Either way here is one final gratuitous image of hunky male.  Enjoy!  YeeHaw!

See ya on the dance floor!

Related Links / Articles


About TxCowboyDancer

Professional Dance Instructor teaching Country, Ballroom, Swing, Latin and Line Dance. Eleven time Country Dance World Champion.

Posted on Sat, Dec 31, 2011, in Misc and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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