enforced wellness

I’m not going to say I’m immune to media, because nobody in America is, but I’ve never really been one for dieting or anything crazy. In high school I once managed to stay on the Special K diet for two weeks before prom (I wanted to fit into my first designer dress that my mother had bought for me, because it was a size 0) and lose the weight I wanted to, but telling me to eat cereal is not a hardship, and the irony was that I lost the weight, but my skin was so pale looking that I ended up not looking good in the dress anyway, so I didn’t wear it.

Anyway. Then college happened, and I gained like 20 pounds and barely exercised and had steadily worsening breathing problems compounded by the wrong medication and bad stomach problems. When I was 21 1/2, I realized I was a pound away from having an officially overweight BMI, and that’s when I decided things had to change. Now, two years later, wellness is like a full-time job that never stops being challenging, but at least it’s now become more or less routine. But it easily gets boring, so I’m always looking for new recipes to make me excited about not eating potato chips, and new exercises and fitness magazines to make sure I’m never too bored to be healthy.

I have to be honest, though, and say that I need a lot of outside stimulation to make me excited about not eating out and not taking 24/7 advantage of my Hulu plus account. Much as I hate how dependent we all are on tiny computers that fit in our pockets, and much as I still have ZERO interest in owning a smartphone, one of the biggest things that helped me on my way was keeping a food and exercise diary on Self.com so that I could keep track of how I was doing. I think most of us can be tempted into doing a lot of things if it allows us to play with buttons and typing. Also, quite frankly, and I know this makes me seem more like a communist than the socialist I am, but I totally support any place of employment that requires some sort of commitment to wellness (and I also support those that require their employees–or highly encourage them–to be involved in volunteer or social justice work), because I think when it comes down to it, we all know that we need outside forces to get us to do anything that’s not X-Box or alcohol.

So I read this article about geeks who came up with a start-up app to help increase wellness in the workplace, and I thought it was sadly genius–sad because it’s a mark of how crap of a society we 21st century Americans are that we live in a place that actively teaches us not to be healthy and then demonizes us for it, while the rest of the world seems to not have quite such a hard time being healthy, so long as they have access to food and water, and genius because it acknowledges that we are who we are, and it works with that to use our bad habits–constant phone attachment–to create a good one.

I am a big fan of meeting people where they stand as the key to getting any engagement at all. The more time I spend in library school, the more I become convinced that I don’t belong in a library. I will happily work in one and be more than qualified to do so, but I’d much rather take my skills in reader’s advisory, youth development, special populations, literacy, and social justice and do something more interdisciplinary, working with other social work/behavioral health/counseling/teaching professionals and reaching at-risk youth in all areas, from reading to academic achievement to wellness to civic engagement. I don’t know where that will take me, but I know that I have the interest and skills, and I know people like the dudes who created that app are the types of people who are going to provide people like me with the tools and incentives today’s people need to do stuff that we’ve lost interest in. Obviously it will never be acceptable to say that we should sit on our computers all day and lose all of the humanity we used to have, but these sorts of apps and programs don’t do that. They just start where we already are, because they acknowledge that the most sustainable kind of change is one that works naturally with how people already function.

So even though I know I essentially waste money on subscriptions to Self AND Shape, and that I have more cookbooks and bits of paper with recipes than I’ll ever need to cook, and that the last thing I need is more Internets to be committed to, I’ll always support new innovations, and I’ll try a lot of them, at least for a bit. I don’t need a food and exercise diary anymore, and now I’m onto mini workouts in magazines. Later, who knows? But small changes based on my comfort zone are so much more effective than overhauls.

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