Tag Archives: Health

New cancer screening recommendations suck

I’m not even going to try to link this to living life laid off.  It’s my blog, and I’m going to use the space to vent.

Maybe if the new recommendations for the frequency of mammograms and pap smears hadn’t come on the heels of the Stupak Amendment, or if I weren’t a feminist or if I weren’t a black female, I wouldn’t feel like women, and especially black women, were under attack, but that is the order of things, and that’s my feeling.  Limit women’s access to abortion, have them cut back on the frequency of tests that could save their lives and send the over all message that they should pay less attention to their own bodies.

The message is archaic and ridiculous, and its juxtaposition against the health care debate is highly suspect.  A report on Good Morning America Friday morning said that insurance companies have already received a barrage of calls from women concerned that their insurance providers will no longer pay for the tests they’ve been used to getting annually.  For now, insurance companies have said they will follow the old guidelines and keep covering the tests every year.  But what about a year or two from now?  The cost of health care keeps going up in the U.S., and if you’ve ever had a pre-existing condition or been dropped from your insurance coverage after you get sick, you know insurance companies are looking for ways to cut costs.  But if prevention costs less than treatment, cutting the costs by cutting measures used to detect disease in its earliest stages doesn’t make sense to me.

For women in general, the new guidelines are dangerous because they narrow the gate by which we enter the doctor’s office.  I don’t see my doctor very often.  I have a pap smear every year, and unless something else is wrong within the year, I don’t see her in between pap smears.  But as she talks to me before I strip and put my feet in the stirrups, other issues come up.  They could be about my physical, emotional or sexual health.   The issues could be about fatigue, diet, relationships, exercise, vitamins, unusual patterns in urination or problems that I’m having with other health care providers who aren’t as informative as she is.  When I saw her in 2008, just before I lost my job, she and the billing department in her office were able to tell me what they knew about what to do for insurance while unemployed.  Each year, we cover a lot of ground in about 15 minutes, and if there is anything unusual, I get tested for it.

The problems I bring up to her are usually minor and easily traced to changes in circumstances or diet.  But the point is I bring them up.  If I follow the guidelines released last week on getting pap smears, I probably won’t see her but once every three years.  And those minor concerns that come and go and that are probably nothing but that could very well be something that will slip through the cracks.

For black women in particular, the new guidelines are dangerous because we’re more likely to die.  Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society estimated that about 192,370 new cases of breast cancer would be diagnosed in American women in 2009.  There’s a higher rate of breast cancer among white women over age 40, but a higher incidence of the disease among younger black women and a higher rate of death from breast cancer among black women, which may be because black women tend to get more aggressive forms of breast cancer.

Also, black women tend to be poorer, have less access to affordable health care, go to the doctor less often and have higher incidents or death rates of almost every disease than white women.  To now have guidelines that instruct black women to wait even longer to see their doctors makes it too easy for us to put our health on the back burner.  How many times does, “I’ll do it next week,” turn into next month, next year, and finally never?  How easily can not until you’re 21, not until you’re 50, every three years, every other year, I don’t have to do that until, or I’m too young to be worried about that, turn into death?

My issues with the new recommendations continue in a related article.

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© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Is living life laid off making you fat?

by Mariam Williams

is that my weight?  you'll never know ...

is that my weight? you'll never know ...

Today I inhaled a regular-sized, chocolate milk shake from Steak-n-Shake, which I purchased for half price during the chain’s weekday “Milk Shake Happy Hour.” And it made me happy indeed.

This was a rare treat for me. Even before I was laid off, 10-dollar lunches with or without coworkers were isolated incidents rather than the norm. I saw more value in group cycling or muscle conditioning classes at noon, followed by anything I could scarf at my desk. That being my habit, cutting off dining out in favor of greater financial stability demands no great sacrifice. The treat, then, is the milkshake itself: real ice cream, measured out with a scoop, mixed with milk I wouldn’t dare delude myself into thinking is fat free, topped with whipped cream and a cherry, and served to me – the Pink-Slipped Girl suddenly craving comfort food as both fulfilling full-time work and her Zumba instructor’s six pack look increasingly unattainable.

I blame my recent diet recklessness on the desire to quickly pacify bouts of doubt and anxiety, but many newly unemployed or underemployed workers could fault the economy for the same behavior. The correlation between poverty and health is well documented; the poorer your zip code, the shorter your life expectancy, and the more likely you are to be overweight, diabetic, or have life-threatening illnesses. Poor people make poor food choices, sometimes because good food isn’t readily available within a reasonable radius accessible by foot or by public transportation, and other times, because the healthy stuff just costs too damn much.

On a recent episode of Oprah in which Dr. Oz and Men’s Health editor David Zinczenko counseled obese teens and their parents on better food choices, the mother of one such teenager voiced concerns that her family couldn’t afford the Swiss cheese over the cheddar. Dr. Oz thought it was a good point. He said something like, “The best way to gain weight? Take about $20,000 off your income.” He went on to note that people who purchase their food with food stamps tend to choose cheap, unhealthy alternatives.

When I heard Dr. Oz’s observations, then ran into a post about putting on recession pounds on reuters.com, I decided to do a little experiment. How much would I spend if I went to the grocery store and filled my cart with natural whole grains, fish, poultry, and fresh organic produce? How much would I spend if I filled it with high-calorie, low-nutrient items?

Total cost for items in cart full of healthy stuff: $157.60 (See the cart by clicking total cost)

Total cost for items in cart full of not so healthy stuff: $83.26 (See the cart by clicking total cost)

Difference: $74.34

I should note that since I would never fill my grocery cart with the latter, the easiest course of action was to shop for the items online. THIS IS NOT THE WAY I NORMALLY SHOP FOR GROCERIES. I’ve previously noted my coupon obsession, and I try to always use the coupons when the items I have coupons for are also on sale, thereby saving myself even more money. (That’s how I can get a box of Multi-Grain Cheerios for less than one dollar when the regular price for one box ranges between $3.50 and $4.86.) Some of the items I chose were on sale, but most were not, and shopping online prevented the use of coupons. I should also note that I was thinking about a family of four, with at least two heavy eaters, and that I have no idea how long the amount of food I picked out would actually last for such a family. I also couldn’t take Dr. Oz’s suggestion to save money, support the local economy, and buy fresh by shopping at local farmer’s markets, although I remember organic strawberries costing about $4 per pint at the outdoor markets available in St. Matthews (Louisville) from May to September. And no, that’s not cheaper than the grocery or mega-store chains.

In keeping with experts’ findings that energy dense foods are less expensive – and in paying homage to the food from my chunkier childhood – I didn’t just replace “natural” or “organic” items from the healthy cart with non-organic or “regular” items. I made it as unhealthy as possible. I eliminated fresh produce completely, opting for the canned variety. Yogurt was replaced with another popular source of calcium: ice cream. Instead of almonds and organic pretzels for snacks, I chose potato chips, regular pretzels, and cookies. Soda and that gallon-size jug of punch (also known as grape, lemon, or orange drink) with about 10% juice, 50% water, and 40% sugar stepped in for 100% apple or orange juice. There’s no fish in the junk cart, and breakfast items include sugary cereal targeted to children, white bread, and donuts. I forgot the can of pork and beans, but I did add Ramen noodles to the unhealthy cart. I don’t mean the good ramen that my American roommate born to Korean immigrants bought at a specialty store and made for me and our third roommate our freshman year in college. I mean the stuff that has no nutritional value, costs 25 cents per package, and that I swore to myself years ago that I would never eat, no matter how bad things got.

I still refuse to eat Ramen, and I probably do better than most in my situation for food. I’m fortunate enough to not live in an area in which subsisting off of food found solely in and around that area could kill me (here’s the story of one brave soul who did it); I walk less than a mile and run into two chain grocery stores, one natural market, an Asian restaurant with at least 20 vegetarian entrees, and an Indian restaurant with the same option. Yes, I pass at least six fast food restaurants and one popular bakery on my way to the healthier options, but at least I have choices. And for now, the choices I make aren’t bankrupting me. (If I swear off comfort food, I’m sure I’ll be even more frugal.) I’m tempted to try the fast food chains instead of the grocery store for two weeks, just to see what how much money I would spend — or save — by living like the bachelorette that I am instead of a housewife in training.  But I’m too accustomed to healthy living, I’m a little to vain to force that much of a setback on the body I’ve worked so hard to get, and as it is, I just don’t feel like I’m spending that much money.

I’ll be posting real grocery receipts soon. Until then, look for coupons, remember that there’s nothing wrong with the store’s brand as long as the ingredients are healthy, be good to yourself, and try not to get fat while you’re living life laid off.

Related links:

McDonald’s is playing on your weaknesses. http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2009/jan/27/mcdonalds-posts-profit-low-prices-menu-cited/

Food Security in Louisville, KY

http://leoweekly.com/news-features/major-stories/features/eating-ourselves-death

http://leoweekly.com/news/fruit-their-efforts

http://leoweekly.com/arts-entertainment/food-drink/full-it

Will American’s Put on Recession Pounds?

http://www.reuters.com/article/email/idUSTRE50805W20090109?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0

Louisville Free Public Library

www.lfpl.org

I searched magazines and academic journals under Research Tools for the “well-documented” facts about obesity and poverty. I can’t give you the links to all the info I found because it’s saved under my account, but you can find and read tons of full-text articles yourself from your own local library.

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Diet & Nutrition, Economy, Food, Health, Lifestyles, Unemployment