DIY Math Learning

How Self-Care and Self-Shame Become Barriers to Health

The impulse to do it yourself is strong – even in healthcare. Self-care can be essential for good health, but because it has its limits, it can easily feed into self-shame. In an essay for the New York Times, pediatrician Aaron Carroll shares his own experience with this:

“Despite all the advances in science, we don’t know why some people, even when they try desperately, can’t seem to lose weight. Because of that, we often assume it must be a lack of willpower. I begged my father, who was also a physician, to lose weight, and he never could. In the back of my mind, I, like many others, blamed him for his failures and considered it a lack of resolve.

“I blamed myself, too. I became so disheartened at my inability to affect my weight that it harmed my mental health; I felt like a failure, which led to self-hatred and anger.”

I’ve Got This

Carroll draws parallels between two types of health concerns that carry a lot of stigma with them – mental health and obesity. The implicit message from our culture of self-care, fitness, and wellness all too often becomes a message of self-shame. People who can benefit from medicines to correct a biological problem that underlies their health condition come to believe that they’ve failed their DIY assignment if they use those medicines. Carroll takes a GLP-1 medicine and explains that “on some level, I still feel shame.” Even though it’s benefitting him tremendously.

The same goes for metabolic surgery. People frequently hear from friends and family that they’re taking the easy way out.

We’ve been there. The truth is that all of us have health issues sooner or later. It does not feel good to have diagnoses like pre-diabetes, hypertension, obesity, depression, or any number of other diagnoses added to our medical records.

But ignoring them or pretending that we can overcome them without medical care is an exercise in self-deception that undermines our health. Worse, it is a surrender to ignorant social stigma.

Click here for Carroll’s essay and here for further perspective.

DIY Math Learning, photograph by Ladytuarach, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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September 10, 2023