Laurie Toby Edison

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Insults Will Kill You If You Don’t Watch Out

Laurie and Debbie say:

We are all vulnerable to barrages of insults. This extremely important New York Times article provides a very clear analysis of early scientific findings which strongly indicate that

“Rigorous studies are now showing that seeing, or hearing, gloomy nostrums about what it is like to be old can make people walk more slowly, hear and remember less well, and even affect their cardiovascular systems. Positive images of aging have the opposite effects. “

(Kudos to the Times for making this one permanently available without registration.)

Ronni Bennett really nails this on As Time Goes By.

We only wish the article had covered more topics than just aging. We’ve been saying for decades that many of the diseases of “fat” are in fact caused by that same constant barrage of insults floating just below the cultural radar.

If you look at the health statistics for African-Americans and other oppressed groups in the Western world, you see the same patterns.

Color us not at all surprised.

If you hear over and over again that you are slow, forgetful, and frail, or ugly, clumsy, and stupid, your body (which is you) will believe it. In contrast, if you hear over and over again that you are beautiful, fit, smart, and capable, guess what is more likely to happen?

The good news is that the stereotypes can be resisted. As the Times acknowledges, understanding this can easily be turned into blaming the victim. Frailty, like other physical conditions, is real, and can have objective causes (and sometimes medical treatments).

The message is clear: resisting negative stereotypes, not letting insults go unchallenged, and remembering to compliment frequently are good for everyone’s health.

Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will really kill you.

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6 Responses to “Insults Will Kill You If You Don’t Watch Out”

  1. Patia Says:

    Totally cool. Thanks.

  2. Stef Says:

    The other articles in the same series are also really good – “Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isn’t Just in Genes” and “So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn’t Even Know You”. A sample from the first:

    Dr. Paul Lichtenstein of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and his colleagues analyzed cancer rates in 44,788 pairs of Nordic twins. They found that only a few cancers — breast, prostate and colorectal — had a noticeable genetic component. And it was not much. If one identical twin got one of those cancers, the chance that the other twin would get it was generally less than 15 percent, about five times the risk for the average person but not a very big risk over all.

    In general the way they’re talking about health risks in that article is refreshingly and surprisingly different from how such things are usually discussed. In the second article, there’s a graphic showing the size changes in the average US adult male since the 1850s—note the weight trend is extremely similar to the height trend, which you wouldn’t know from reading other articles about weight trends.

  3. Patsy Nevins Says:

    It’s good that someone is finally acknowledging this fact. I have spent much of my life, my childhood in particular, surviving a great deal of abuse, much of it verbal. It left huge scars & has had a tremendous impact on me, on my confidence & self-esteem, my overall image of myself, my sexuality & my ability to permit myself to accept love. That old saying about “stick & stones” could not be MORE wrong…words CAN & DO hurt us, &, yes, even kill us. I think it has been well demonstrated that the differences in health between fat & thin people are overall very small overall, & that the differences which do exist can be accounted for by the abuse & discrimination endured by fat people. It only makes sense, in the same way it makes sense that people of color are more likely to have hypertension, etc.

  4. Laurie Says:

    When I hear someone saying they are having a “senior moment”, I usually point out that the older we are the fuller our mental filing cabinets are with information.

    It makes perfect sense to me that they would take a little longer to sort.

  5. Patsy Nevins Says:

    Good point, Laurie, & one I will file away for future reference, since I am getting closer & closer to those “senior moments” every day. With age comes wisdom…even if it does sometimes take a minute to recall where we stored a particular piece of wisdom.

    I did neglect to mention that most reliable studies also indicate that whatever OTHER health differences can be found for fat people can be accounted by medical neglect/mistreatment, the reluctance to go near medical people until a situation is very serious, &, of course, the history of self-starvation, repeated weight loss & regain, which is part of most fat people’s life story. In cultures where fat is accepted & fat people are well-treated & not living on diets or having their stomachs butchered, there seems to be little if any increase in the so-called “obesity-related” diseases, & indeed, particularly in many Polynesian cultures, there are records of people of 400, 500, 600 pounds or more living well into their 80′s & 90′s. That should tell us a great deal about the role verbal abuse & discrimination play in our health & well-being.

  6. belledame222 Says:

    really interesting, thanks.

    yeah, the mind-body connection is way more complicated than i think a lot of people realize. if indeed there even is a split (“bodymind”)

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