Let Their Voices Be Heard - Physical Activity
Five years ago Fred Vanden Heede, Suzy Pelican, and I had a vision for a qualitative research project for Wellness IN the Rockies (WIN the Rockies). The research team would collect narratives (or life stories) from adults in the areas of physical activity, food and eating, and body image. Could the narratives offer glimpses of clarity into complex and often conflictual human behaviors? Why do some people carve out time every day to be physically active while others find that impossible? Why are some people prone to emotional eating? Can excessive weight be a form of a protective shield? While working on the narrative research project, I had a dream to capture many of the quotations from the transcripts into a book that could be shared broadly. Two and half years later and more hurdles than I care to discuss, the book is now published. David Buchanan, University of Massachusetts, wrote the foreword for the book and stated, “We now seem to be in the midst of an ‘epidemic’ of obesity that is as troubling as it is difficult to comprehend. . . . One of the great contributions of Let Their Voices Be Heard is that it allows us to see that we are not alone, and if many people are struggling with the same problem, then perhaps there is something more to the picture than the sum of individual failings.” For this month’s thought bullets, I share with you some of my favorite passages from the book in the area of physical activity.
“[Inactivity] kind of sneaked up on me. . . . You sit with your feet up and you do that for a while and, gee, it feels so good, you want to do it some more.” Female in her 60's
“When I was at college, . . . I really liked to run. It was so fun to run. But now I’m heavier. I’m so big up top that when I try running, it jogs at different times than the rest of me. So I can’t run anymore.” Female, mid 40's
“I think . . . [in the] earlier part of my life . . . I related [physical activity] with being good at it, with being athletic. And I just did not get a single gene of coordination in my whole entire body. And . . . that’s very hard when you’re not athletic to think that’s the only thing that there is [to physical activity].” Female, early 40's.
“[I don’t like that] regimented kind of physical activity. I’d rather have my physical activity actually accomplishing something . . . sheet rocking, carpentry, . . . stacking hay bales, that kind of work as opposed to going to the gym and pumping iron. . . . I think that is why the [exercise] machine is sitting there inactive.” Male, mid 50's
I’m almost at the threshold of an unhealthy body. . . . I look at my mother and she is a complete . . . prisoner in her body. . . . I can foresee if I do not do something at some point in the near future, I’m going to be that [prisoner] also.” Female, mid to late 40's
“[Physical activity is] stuff I don’t do a lot of. . . . It’s one of those things that I have good intentions of doing, and see myself doing, and it’s so easy not to do it.” Female in her 30's
“It’s amazing when you’re financially just beaten down, . . . financially struggling, it’s amazing how you can let other things [like physical activity] go.” Male, early 30's
“[An inactive lifestyle is] kind of like the story of the frog that’s in the pot. If you turn the heat up fast, he jumps out. . . . He notices the change quickly. But if you turn [the heat] up slowly, he’ll stay in and boil. So, a lot of that’s how life is. Your life changes slowly. So if you have an unhealthy habit, . . . you are not going to notice it until you are having problems with your health.” Male in his 30's
“I do like physical activity . . . but it’s just I think we get caught up in our own little world that we’re always too busy. We say, ‘Well, we’re gonna do it,’ but we never get to it. It’s like, ‘Let’s put it off until tomorrow.’ Then you put it off tomorrow.” Female, early 30's
“My husband is on his feet all day. . . . I sit at my desk eight hours. . . . His day is more balanced, mine is more sedentary. And then I get home and I’m less [active] than I was at work. I think mine is more mental [work], where his is more physical, . . . but we have different kinds of exhaustion when we get home.” Female in her 30's
“[I’ve never sustained physical activities in the past.] I wanted to get skinnier. . . . I didn’t see results after a month or so, and so it . . . didn’t encourage me to keep going.” Female in her 30's
“At my house, . . . when we were old enough to work, we had to go find a job. And so in our house growing up, work was more important than the physical [activity]. . . . And I think that’s what I still play in my head today is I first have to take care of my family and my job and if I have time to do . . . physical activity, that’s great. But these other things are much, much higher on the priority list.” Female in her 30's
“I had a hideous gym coach. . . . He was not a nice fellow. He hated fat people. He thought it was purely self-inflicted even though it turns out I actually had a . . . thyroid disorder. . . . He really hated fat people. And that was when I quit going to PE class all together. . . . He was too hard on people and . . . I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t compete in anything. Going somewhere and failing every day, that’s not fun. . . . And so I just decided to quit going, which didn’t fix the [failing grade], but at least I wasn’t getting an F and being miserable.” Male, late 30's
“And then I started running with [my sister] . . . probably because I saw the change in her, not only physically, but also I know that it made her happy and emotionally it made her focus.” Female in her 20's
Holmes B, Pelican S, Vanden Heede F. Let Their Voices Be Heard - Quotations from life stories related to physical activity, food and eating, and body image. Discovery Association Publishing House. Chicago, IL. 2005.
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
to Thought Bullets--main page.
Return to home page.