This I Believe

Magin - Monroe, Louisiana
Entered on June 15, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe I can rewrite history. At 1:00 p.m. each day, I return to my office with aching muscles and sweat-coated hair. I pick up a fork and chow down on a spinach salad, loaded with blueberries, walnuts and salmon. My colleagues say I have “willpower.” That’s their word to describe my near-constant refusal of ubiquitous office goodies: candy, cookies and cakes. They marvel at my “discipline.” That is a code that means I go to the gym at lunch.

I don’t go to lose weight. That’s not the point, because I have reached a healthy weight. At 26, my metabolism is relatively spry and my muscles are generally pliable. My incessant weight lifting and habitual stair-master climbing look silly to those who don’t know me well. If they did, they would know that I am the daughter of an overweight alcoholic father and a brittle diabetic mother, who died of kidney failure. They would know that my identical twin sister battles two autoimmune disorders. Then they’d understand that in my immediate family, I am the only person that a doctor would classify as “healthy.” I believe in staying that way.

My discerning tastes mean that people have made anorexia jokes at my expense; although I have never, thankfully, had to suffer from an eating disorder. My muscles don’t bulge and I’m not rail thin, but my blood pressure and cholesterol levels regularly amaze my doctor.

“You are going to live a long life,” she told me, at my last check-up.

I relished that comment because my diabetic mother lacked the muscle strength to hold me when I was a toddler. Too many hospital visits clouded my childhood, and instilled me with an adult phobia of health care facilities. Diabetes of every form plagues my relatives; the disease showed me what true evil looks like: a blood-sugar reaction.

As a child, I never saw my parents ride a bike, go hiking or swim laps, activities that regularly occupy my weekends. My friends laugh at me, but each time I pedal just a bit farther on my mountain bike, I feel like I am living a miracle. I feel like I am as strong as Xena.

You could say that I’m battling genes. Or that I’m embracing the culture of wellness that defines my generation. Still, I’d rather think of myself as rewriting history. My DNA says that I should be weak, sick and overweight. But I am healthier now than I was as a teenager.

I’m in charge of my body. Not fate. To borrow from Spiderman, with power comes responsibility. That means I turn down Friday morning doughnuts. That means, “No, I won’t have fries with that.” That means I sit down at my desk each afternoon smelling like a locker-room, but thankful for the masking effects of deodorant.

For better and worse, I’m a tofu-munching, Pilates-practicing health nut. I believe that is saving my life.