Human beings get sick and we die. It is in our nature. Science has proven that we may have a little bit of sway over when and how this happens. Science has also proven that societal factors of health — and random chance — holds a much bigger sway. This means that despite our best efforts, we will still eventually, at some point, and maybe sooner than anyone expects… get sick and die. It also means that, despite our best efforts, we may actually live healthier and longer than anyone expected.
And yet… diet culture has us so brainwashed that our health and longevity is 100% within our control that… when someone gets sick and/or dies, we immediately blame them. We blame their “lifestyle.” We blame the size of their body. If they live/d a “healthy” life and lived in a thin body, we come up with other reasons… maybe they ate too much fish out of polluted lakes and rivers; maybe they ate too much soy; maybe they sat too much at work; maybe they didn’t take their multi-vitamin consistently enough. I’ve even heard others say that people’s families are “cursed” when folks die.
It is so seductive. We eagerly consume the message that we can do something… anything… to protect ourselves from ending up like that sick person we know and maybe even love. We want so badly to not die “before our time” when really, only the most incredibly lucky people get to live long and healthy enough to be “ready” to die peacefully. I hope to be one of those people. Chances are, so do you. Most of us want that. And because we (alone) can’t control the entire history of human existence and evolution that has culminated to create our current societal health factors, what feels safest is to believe — deeply, with an almost religious fervor — that we can CONTROL our health and longevity. And that deeply personal belief turns into our offensive, societal practice of blaming the sick and the dead for what is or has happened to them.
When we focus on blaming the sick and the dead, we miss out on the chance to practice empathy, grace, connectedness, and compassion for those who are sick and those left behind by the dead as well as for ourselves. Additionally, we create more stress and more fear within ourselves and our communities that leads to worse health. We also further disconnect from our own bodies, creating an atmosphere of fear and desperation around food and movement. This fear and desperation greatly benefits the $70,000,000,000+ diet culture industry and keeps the machine churning.
Seeking “health” out of fear and desperation: 1) won’t lead to lasting behavioral change; 2) will lead to further stress and anxiety and; 3) won’t lead to everlasting wellness or life. Practicing the health behaviors that feel good to you in this moment so you can live your life as fully as you’d like right now is a much more practical and sustainable option. Refusing to blame the sick and the dead is one piece of this positive paradigm shift.
JodiAnn Stevenson lives in the U.S., in the Northwest Corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, on The Big Lake. Her writing has appeared in numerous venues since 1996. She is the author of three published chapbooks of poetry: The Procedure (March Street Press, 2006); Houses Don’t Float (Habernicht Press, 2010); and Diving Headlong Into A Cliff of Our Own Delusion (Saucebox, 2011). Her mixed-genre work Marina Abramovic Is My Mother is available in the form of a short-run podcast. She has also produced eight chapbooks of poetry for The Broken Nose Collective which she co-founded in 2013. JodiAnn was founder and co-managing editor of the feminist micro-press, Binge Press and its sister journal, 27 rue de fleures, from 2004 until 2017.
A (more or less) complete list of publications and appearances: