Archive for May, 2013

Third "Diet" Update Post

Post’s 1 & 2 are here & here respectively. TW’s for diet & weight loss.

I’ve been back to the dieticians today to talk about how over the last week I’ve been sleeping an extra 4-6 hours a day and falling asleep mid conversation. When I’m not sleeping then I’m so fatigued all I can think about is going back to bed. I went swimming and could only manage 300m before I was so tired I started loosing my stroke and then promptly popped my shoulder out of it’s socket. I’m also blacking out when I stand/sit up more.

She says I should try adding an extra 200 calories in daily to see if it helps & to come back in a week. Understandably I’ve lost quite a bit of weight and that’s been lauded to me as a reason to keep on enduring all this rubbish. I’m not feeling the “woo! lighter!” thing currently. I’m just feeling sleepy and a bit resentful that I need to try to stay out of my bed for as long as possible during the day time. It’s funny how when you don’t hate the way you look (most of the time) suddenly all the tactics that would normally be used to re-enforce the “aiming for the societal ideal of a body should be your primary goal” idea just don’t work. What’s proving a little harder is trying to stay positive about your appearance people around you are telling you that it needs to change/looks better changed. That’s the message that gets sent every time I hear “Just think how good you’ll look” or “You’re looking better already”. I kind of want to grump at them all and tell them to either tell me straight they think I’m ugly as I am or to just STFU on the subject.

I might feel a bit better when  I might be after I’ve had my extra calories. Say, isn’t a bag of malteasers only 187? One of those a day would make me feel better… *grins*

Belated BADD Post – What’s Your Excuse?

In any week I’ll see at least one picture of a disabled person doing ‘something’, often exercising, emblazoned with the caption “What’s your excuse?” or something similar. Here are some examples;

A picture of a quadruple amputee lifting weights with the caption “No excuses”
A before and after becoming a body builder picture of an amputee with the caption “Excuses. Let’s hear yours again”
Young boy, a double above the knee amputee with running blades, running with the caption “Your excuse is invalid”
This one has been doing the rounds again recently on facebook. A picture  of a double just below the knee amputee  using prosthetics rock-climbing. Normally shared with the caption “What’s your excuse?”

I hate, hate, hate these memes and I think you should have a problem with them too. “Why?” I hear you cry! “These pictures celebrate the achievement of overcoming disability/adversity! They are a force for good!”. Well I don’t agree, and because this is my blog and I’m writing this post I’m going to tell you exactly why I don’t agree.

They assume people reading are non-disabled.
These messages all seem aimed at non disabled people which is an issue in itself. It shows that on some level they are “othering” disabled people. Here disabled people are inspiration, not audience. If you want to build a world where disabled people are treated as equals then that’s not the way to do it.
If, on the other-hand, it’s not assuming that it’s audience is non-disabled then that’s also a issue. These things are really insulting to disabled people who for one reason or another can’t just pop out and climb a mountain and they place undue pressure on disabled people to conform to some heroic ideal. I’m going to talk more about these things in the rest of the post.

They forget there are many vaild reasons people can’t do those things.
Money. All of us have to grapple with the cost of getting to venues, paying entrance fees/membership and buying equipment which is often prohibitively expensive. If you are disabled then extra costs like adapted prosthetics  mobility equipment  care also cost a lot of money. A decent all terrain electric wheelchair is at least £15,000, then you need a specialist car or a trailer to move it in… It all adds up to quite a lot before you factor in the costs of powerful, safe to use grappling hooks and strong rope so you can try your hand at mountain climbing.
Time. Turns out disabled people work and have social commitments, go figure. Finding the time to train to a high level isn’t easy.
Location. I’m telling you now that even from a UK perspective a disabled person in London has a better chance of finding a local accessible gym than a disabled person living in the rural Scottish highlands.
Opportunity. It’s great that some people know the right people or get lucky with charity support, but they are the exception to the rule.
Disability, yeah I went there. An amputee with running blades may well be able to run 200m. I, as a non-amputee with chronic pain who cannot walk 30m without being sick simply cannot run 200m, and as it stands will not be able to run 200m in the foreseeable future. I could do it in my wheelchair but that’s not the message. The message is that just using a wheelchair isn’t good enough, you need to go beyond that to be “normal” and to fully overcome disability.

These pictures often forget that disability is a social not medical construct.
Most of us, the UN included subscribe to the social model of disability or a variant of that. The social model states that disability is the result of having an impairment in an inaccessible society. In simpler terms it says being an amputee isn’t what disables a person, it’s not being able to access good prosthetics, wheelchairs, aids, adaptations, education, employment and health care. It’s living in a society that on a institutional level thinks disabled people aren’t as capable, moral, ‘normal’ as the rest of us. These pictures forget that to be in the position the young boy is, running on a good track, with expensive running blades one has to have a certain amount of social privilege.  As this article explains, blade running isn’t the reality for most amputees.

Disabled people are not there to inspire you.
It may surprise you but when I personally go down to the gym, swimming pool or even supermarket I’m not doing it to inspire non-disabled onlookers and to send a message that disabled people who aren’t doing the same just aren’t trying. I’m just living my life and doing what I want to. The same way you taking a trip to the shops isn’t a statement other than “Hey, I need some milk so I’m going to buy some.”

These just feed the “super-crip” stereotype.
The “super-crip” stereotype is fairly well known in disability circles, but if you don’t know it I’ll quickly explain. When disabled people are not being held up as objects of pity (see messages like “this poor girl suffers hourly with her impairment, sending £5 will help us do what we can to put a smile back on her face”) they are often held up as “hero’s” who strive to overcome their disability. Those that “overcome” their disability by doing something that disabled people aren’t supposed to do – like sport, high level exercise, having a high powered job, smiling daily, sometimes just going outside and talking to people – are lauded as super-beings. Of course disability isn’t that simple. It’s not a case that we are all hero’s nor are we all objects of pity. We can be both or neither or, frequently, a huge mix of everything in between. Just like non-disabled people. Yes we have access issues, yes sometimes our lives have more challenges than non-disabled peoples but that doesn’t make us hero’s for just getting on with our lives. In fact by assuming it does it either suggests that you buy into the myth disability is miserable or that disabled people just aren’t as good as non-disabled people. Which brings me onto my final point…

They assume non-disabled people are better than disabled people.
The basic message is “If a disabled person can do it then anyone (and I mean anyone) can!”. Do you see people putting up pictures of Usain Bolt saying if one non-disabled person can win an Olympic gold then any non-disabled person can? No. Why? Because it would be a stupid statement to make. Clearly, given all the people who fail to win an Olympic gold every year it’s not that easy. We, as an audience, allow Bolt to have personal skill, talent and dedication to his sport above and beyond the levels the majority of us have and we celebrate him for that. We don’t feel the need to use him as inspiration porn in the same manner we do disabled athletes. Why? Because it’s hard to believe we could be better than Usain Bolt if we tried. Whilst apparently it’s not hard to imagine we could be better than a disabled athlete, because at the end of the day, on some level we simply don’t think disabled people are as good as non-disabled people.

That is why I don’t like these things. They are insulting, ignorant and they prop up damaging myths about disability.

Second "Diet" Update Post

TW: talk of diet & weight loss

I wrote last week about having caved under pressure from my doctors and agreed to go on a special NHS diet.

So, how’s it going?

It’s crappy. The first few days were hard because I craved carbohydrates pretty much constantly. Some one cooked a Rustlers microwave burger (one of the most grim and soul destroying food stuffs ever invented) and I actually started salivating. As that anecdote hopefully clarifies, last week was a very dark period in my life.

This week I’ve gotten over the worst of the cravings which is a relief. I was getting scared I’d sleepwalk into the 24 hour Tesco and start working my way through the Krispy Kreme doughnut display, cardboard and all. I’m not sure if my stomach is shrinking or if I’m a bit lactose intolerant and all the milk is just filling my voids with gas but regardless, I’m not missing food that much. Every now and then I’ll think that I want some mashed potato or a bowl of pasta then I drink something and I’m ok. I am however absolutely shattered. I can’t remember feeling this fatigued before. I am sleeping for over 10 hours (on nights when I’m not woken by my body) & waking up knackered. I’ve fainted twice so far, and started loosing vision at least twice a day because my blood pressure issues seem to have been kicked into overdrive by this. I fell asleep whilst moving my wheelchair along the street two days ago. I don’t have the energy to exercise, I hardly have the energy for prolonged thinking. Today I went swimming I could only manage half the distance I’d normally do. In part that’s because I partially dislocated my shoulder but I was so exhausted at that point I was thinking about asking them to get the hoist ready anyway.

Right now all I can think is “If this is what health feels like then it can fuck off”.

On top of this I’ve noticed well meaning friends have taken to telling me I look thinner and better already. I am not thinner, my clothes attest to that. I also do not look healthier, I look like a spotty zombie this week. This leads me to believe that they are trying to be supportive & encouraging.

The thing is this encouragement serves to push the idea that loosing weight or as I think of it, changing your body to better fit societies ideals, is a positive thing. I personally am struggling to see anything positive about what I’m doing right now. It’s also a bit sucky hearing all those (mostly female) people who said “You’re beautiful as you are!” saying how much better I look only a week and a half into this diet. I start asking myself questions like “were they lying?” and “what were they saying about me behind my back?”

Actually, it’s just another sign of how we are all socialised, women especially, to judge peoples value on how well they match up with an idealised body shape. It’s also a sign of how we, inadvertently at times, work to keep up the idea of an ideal body shape. When we cheer peoples diets on and applaud how much better they look when they are closer to the “ideal” we create an environment that makes pressurising people to conform ok.

Well, I don’t think that’s ok so in the future I plan to check myself before I (out of politeness) cheer on a dieter or praise weight loss. We all hear enough of that message from everyone else. It’s time to do my part to try to improve the dialogue around weight.

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