Why invest in your health? My experiences

 

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“They are killing us with the things we don’t even know are coming into our hands.  You see a Popsicle, that shit is diabetes” – Immortal Technique

Whilst I am pretty critical of Immortal Technique’s occasional pushing of conspiracy theory BS, at times I see truth in his comments.  Instead of a government that wants to kill us however I see a food industry and government that do not give a shit about us and want to make money by any means; even if that means sacrificing our health.

You see we allow this to happen as we do not take our health seriously enough.  We do not think hard enough about what we are eating.  Food is a means to survive instead of being an investment.  I believe our body is a temple and it should only be the purest of foods that we allow into that temple.  My approach is probably different to that of average Joe and Jane.

When average Joe and Jane on the street are forced to name a few things we will invest in though our lifetime we have the usual suspects such as cars and houses and even increasingly a university degree.  What is often missing is health (I decided not to bore people with statistics in this blog post because they will mean nothing for the majority of people).

Why isn’t making investments in our health up there?  Why isn’t that the most important investment we make in our lives.  We can always buy another car and we can always move house or go into the rental sector even.  We are stuck with the body we have for life.

In the mainstream media I have witnessed a lot of reports regarding the shambolic state of the UK’s housing market and how there is a decline in young people (people below the age of 40) investing in housing, especially in big UK cities such as London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, etc. There are many factors to take into account as to why home ownership has fallen amongst my generation especially, but may I suggest though to my generation and all before and after that maybe we should invest in our health before we even think about investing in a house?  Especially with the state the NHS is in and the likeliness of further privatisation under the Tory government we are under seems pretty likely, ensuring we don’t have to use NHS services becomes more essential.

In my experience this is quite often a new concept, especially with the older generation.  You see I live in a society that lives for today.  This is a society that constantly preaches to me that “you could be dead tomorrow” when in reality there is an incredibly high chance that I will make it to the next week and the week after.  This possibly in the area of South Yorkshire where I am based has roots in the dominant industries of the past; the fact that I live in a village that was set up solely for the purpose to house miners and their families.  Mining was an incredibly dangerous profession that gave the people who went down the pits the constant possibility that they could die down there.  Even the housing situation for many people working in these industries was very uncertain as the colliery company often owned your house and had the power to throw you out at any time if they wanted to.

Today the majority of the population here works in relatively low risk (of death anyway) occupations, though the attitude of ‘living for today’ has been passed on and continues to be, though there are signs of a decline in this mentality.  Health however continues to not been seen as an investment.

Initially achieving a state of good health for me was purely for aesthetic reasons and also to get attention from the ladies (admit is guys, we all dream of looking so good we turn heads when we walk down the street or prance around a bar).   I was always the chubby and fat black kid who lacked any female interaction closer than a friend relationship up until university (when I felt the area).  Obviously as a young uneducated man with a lack of a father figure who was incredibly insecure with his masculinity getting ‘hench’ was the solution to my problems.  While there is nothing wrong with being motivated by female attention and having aesthetic goals it took me a while to find out that these cannot be the sole motivators.

I got a kick in the balls by reality as I got older and I noticed the declining health of my peers and noticing as others were getting older their health appeared to be worsening.  This really intrigued me.  These people I looked up to before as being the guys so damn good looking they could get any girl in the school started to look like shit, but hey, that’s what discovering the club scene and having as a result a diet of lager, takeaway and staying up late does.  As I was basically an outcast and pushed away from that particular scene all I did was get out the popcorn, watch and reflect on my life.  What would I look like in the future, what would I like my health to be like?

I am not even thinking about starting a family at the moment.  At the moment do not wish to have one (to put it bluntly I hate children and want to live a life free of the weight of parental responsibility at the moment), but if one day I decide I want to settle down, meet the woman who I want to spend my life with and start a family do I really want to be out of breath when I’m playing football, basketball or even running around with a boomerang or something with my children?

Health became more than looking good for the ladies and being ‘hench’.  I genuinely wanted to look good and at the same time sustain a great level of health.  This meant a long period of research and reflection regarding my diet.

I started digging through the confusing wealth of resources on the internet regarding diet.  I learned about macros (carbs, protein and fats) and micros, the basic lifts from the Starting Strength programme I need to master.  I made the decision not to touch any processed food and to eat as purely as I can.  I actually saved money through all the savings I made through planning my meals not buying junk food, using my local market to buy vegetables and buying lean meats in bulk.

I won’t lie.  Buying healthy food might actually cost you more, but the cost of not taking care of your health will cost way more.  With the high presence of discount superstores, local markets (which arguably have higher quality and cheaper produce than the big 4 supermarkets) there is no excuse.  Starting your cutting diet might cost you even less than the trash you was forking out for in the past.

As I work part-time now in the health sector I meet so many people who I believe could do more to take care of their health.  So many people who do not even drink enough water in a day (which to me is the most overlooked aspect of our diets) or eat even a spoonful of nutritious veggies or fruit.  I think about how they could change their lives whilst support workers give them what they wish for and further fuel their declining health.

What if instead of medication Doctors actually prescribed vegetables, lean meats (or vegetarian / vegan friendly sources of protein) and water?

I am aware that sales of protein bars and shakes in the UK have had a rapid increase lately amongst particularly younger consumers.  The media have suggested that this is a generation that has become more conscious of their health, though I am very sceptical as to whether these people are taking the correct actions.  Is the food and health industry now increasingly accepting fat as part of a healthy diet and instead demonising carbohydrates (I think declining sales of bread and pasta products might speak for themselves)?

I’m not trying to shake my finger at people regarding their food choices and lifestyle and dictate what people should be doing with their lives.  What I suggest is that people should be more critical, reflective and look towards the future regarding the way they see themselves.

I am also not telling people to stop eating things like cake.  Life wouldn’t be worth living without the occasional chocolate and cake 🙂

The elephant in the room – Macklemore’s”Same Love”

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Yeah, yeah yeah…. I will address the ‘elephant in the room’ before I finish my article on homophobia in hip-hop.  I don’t want to talk about this track again.

Some would assume I would be praising this track as a milestone in progressive discussion regarding homosexuality.

I actually hate this track.  It’s an absolute failure of a track.

While I believe that the track comes from positive intentions and did indeed fuel more discussion on homophobia in hip-hop, it absolutely fails at what it was intended to achieve.  Homophobia in hip-hop is a very complex issue and one that needs to be handled with care.  The track to me comes across as incredibly preachy and borderline racist.

If the track inspired you then more power to you.  But in my honest opinion it’s a mess of a track.

The response from a large majority of the older members of the hip-hop community was negative as Macklemore himself fails to address his privilege as a straight white man in the music industry.  Some criticism was definitely racist and homophobic (criticism from professional has-been big mouth Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian being the most infamous), though there were definitely a fair number of legitimate concerns (though sometimes covered in ignorance and lack of care for the gay community).  There is a massive problem with tarring all members of the hip-hop community with the same brush as there are many rappers who are pro-gay rights and it can be safely assumed there are many rappers in the closet; afraid to come out.

Whilst there are huge issues regarding attitudes to homosexuality in hip-hop and indeed in the black community (I disagree with Kelly Fox at Guerilla Feminism on her suggestions that homophobia in the black community is a “myth”), the main problem with the track is that it simplifies the problem and directly points the finger at hip-hop.  He looks for a scapegoat rather than analyse society as a whole.  This is a move that can be perceived as pointing the finger at black people. Macklemore washes his hands of any privilege and doesn’t include himself in any critiques. Regardless of how fucked up homophobia in hip-hop is, the question is that “is Macklemore really in a position to start wagging his finger at black people?” The whole track feels like a middle class white man from the suburbs approaching a group of random black people whilst tutting his head in shame and screaming out “us white people are more moral than you animals.  Shame on you”.

A massive issue also is his reckless use of the word “faggot”.  He ignores that as a straight white man he is in no position to decide whether using those words is ok.  It has a total disregard for the feelings of the people he is talking about in the first place!   It reminds me of RA the Rugged Man’s (who I like to call RA the Republican Man) use of the word “nigga” in some of his tracks.  What really gives him the right to use that word (another topic for another day)?

Regardless of all this I believe Macklemore’s actions were well intended, but poorly thought out. Same Love was a track that could have been an amazing critique and analysis of homophobia in the culture, but instead it fails.

How about the inclusion of gay rappers on the track?  Giving them a voice?  People who  actually probably have first hand experience of homophobia and have a total lack of a voice in mainstream hip-hop media?  Revolutionary idea eh?

Also I am unsure of how gay people will feel about the collab with Melle Mel in 2015.  A man whose lyrics in the famous track The Message included: “Got sent up for a eight year bit. Now your manhood is took and you’re a Maytag. Spend the next two years as a undercover fag”.  Whilst I see what he was trying to achieve (giving ‘legends’ the recognition and attention they deserve), it really is a case of practice what you preach.  Is Macklemore really concerned about the gay struggle?