The Disclaimer stuff: I'm not a health professional, the information on here is just that. It's not advice. It's what I've learned and that I found helpful in my own health journey. I've tried to use trusted, peer reviewed, sources. But please remember, things change, new findings occur. I've not made this site for me, or anyone, to be dragged down some Interweb alternative facts reality. Thanks
Getting Bearly Healthy
What I learned reversing my type 2 diabetes*
The reason I've made this site is to share the learning and insights I've managed to make which have enabled me to become Bearly Healthy.
What I mean by being Bearly Healthy is to be healthy and happy in my own body.
I've become bearly healthy only by fully understanding:
the massive negative impact that body shaming, as a child, as a teen and on the gay scene, had on me and my perceptions of self-worth.
how my body actually works, despite me, to keep me healthy and alive.
that the extraordinarily inconsistent health messaging in regard to diet and exercise has skewed my response to weight management in such a way as to ensure, until recently, a deteriorating health and well-being profile.
that the bear scene culture, for me, is something of a two-edged sword. Great for body-affirming and bad for my weight-related health issues.
I've set out below something of a timeline for me and my health and accompanied it with what I've learned.
* Nearly all the health, exercise and nutrition advice I'd been given for 40 years was either hopelessly out of date, or just plain wrong, and If I'd been told it 20 years ago I'd have been a much happier and healthier man.
On to the gay scene
Early to late 60's
I was a chubby little kid, more interested in books than sports in primary school. In secondary school, I was spectacularly ill-equipped for the appalling sports lessons. Ritualy humiliated by successive P.E. teachers for being 'Fat', 'Lazy', 'Slow' and 'Useless' at anything athletic.
Compounded by the sneering classmates, desperately trying to avoid ending up being on the same team as me.
Whilst there were others in the same position it was of no comfort, the impact of this on my self-esteem and body image would impact my well-being for decades.
What I learned from the research
Boys with poor body image are more likely to experience:
Anxiety, Depression, Eating disorders, Low self-esteem, Social isolation, Suicidal thoughts or behaviours,
Boys with poor body image are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours, such as:
Dieting, Overexercising, Substance abuse, Self-harm
Boys with poor body image are more likely to:
Avoid social situations, Have difficulty making friends, Feel self-conscious about their appearance, Be bullied or teased. (See this blog)
Mid 70's to 2019
I finally found my way to the gay scene in the mid 70's.
I was soon put in my place in this time of "no Fats',Fems' or 'Freaks'". It was made quite clear to me that being short and fat would not be attributes seen as attractive or sexy by many. This played back into, and further reinforced, my body shape insecurities.
Further yo-yo dieting ensued as well as the development of, what I would come to learn as, body envy.
I was forced to navigate the no man's land between body shame and body envy with varying degrees of success through to the mid 90's when I realised that many others like me existed. Bears and Chubs were out there and I set about making a safe place for me to socialise - The Bear scene.
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes around 2008. Lose weight I was told by my GP. I knew from years of dieting that I would find that really hard. I also worried that losing weight would mean I'd stop being a bear, stop being attractive. The internal debate I had about a positive sexual identity versus negative health impacts started and continues to this day.
What I learned about myself and the scene
Apart from learning to dress inconspicuously, in dark and concealing clothing, I quickly learned to stay out of the way of any of the many queens who might comment about my size or dress sense.
I didn't know how to relate to the guys I envied, the attractive confident ones.
The arrival of Clones gave me some camouflage opportunities. Checked shirts, blue jeans and short hair I could do.
A semblance of confidence started to emerge.
I would come to realise I needed to have a real sense of a gay identity if I were to flourish. Clones started something that would, for me, evolve into the bear scene. I was a bear, I was sexy and attractive and I became confident (sort of LOL)
For many of us, that battle to really be ourselves can be hard fought and really difficult to retain.
Late 60's to mid-'70s
Freed of school and starting work I was just finding my way towards my sexuality, the absence of any information, or role models hadn't helped give me the road map I desperately needed to understand who I was and what I needed.
I had a small group of straight friends and we'd be out every Fri, Sat and Sunday in a pub somewhere swilling down pints. The rest of the time was filled with escapist reading, tv, movies and comfort eating.
Pilling on weight I eventually started my dieting career. Weight Watchers helped me lose a couple of stones, which I proceeded to put back on over subsequent months.
This reinforced my internalised sense of being 'lazy', and having no willpower. etc. I did have a sporadic gym career but was never comfortable in the 'gym fit body' blokey environment (see my growing up section)
I would go on, over the coming decades, to try current fad diets and Yo-Yoing weight gain and loss would become a fixture in my life.
What I learned from the research
Rapid weight loss triggers a Set Weight response from our body's homeostasis mechanism, which has evolved to keep us alive and healthy. Sensing weight loss it triggers responses to regain the weight. This results in the yo-yo dieting. (See this blog)
Exercise for weight loss. The Calories In- Calories Out theory is deeply flawed when applied to human bodies. It is based on the laws of thermodynamics and those you propound it compare our bodies to that of a combustion engine, which we are clearly not. The way our body obtains and uses energy is vastly more complex than igniting fuel in a chamber and harnessing it to turn an engine.
Exercise is really important for good health, our joints, muscles and other systems depend on movement and sometimes explosive actions to help them stay flexible and strong. Exercise for weight loss, whilst burning some calories, isn't as effective as working with your body to give it the 'fuel' it has evolved to use and allowing it to regulate our weight appropriately. (See this blog)
2019 to date
Just before I retired I realised I had to do something about my health if I was to be fit enough to enjoy it. I managed to reverse my diabetes by going on a strict Keto (Low Carb diet). It was very hard work but doable while I was in a busy work schedule. I retired just before Covid and ended up doing little but sedentary stuff, all the while comfort eating.
My weight piled on, my blood sugars spiralled out of control and I found myself back on medication.
I was lucky to be put on a pilot course run by the Public Health Collaboration.
Within 3 months, I'd lost 20 kgs and my blood sugars were normal, all without having to go on a calorie controlled diet or spend hours in a gym each week.
All I had to do was understand how my body actually functions and work with it, not against it as I had been doing for the last 50 years.
What I learned from the course
I AM NOT IN CONTROL OF MY BODY.
My body is in control. It manages my temp it makes me sweat if I'm hot or shiver when I'm cold. It manages my breathing, blood pressure, digestion, and energy use. Think about it. We are only in charge of the external stuff. Get food (fuel), Find somewhere safe to sleep and don't get killed along the way. Leave everything else to your body, it's how we evolved. Complex biomechanical mechanisms are balanced finely to optimise our health for survival. 3 million years of evolution resulted in our bodies. It's clear that in evolutionary terms our bodies haven't changed significantly over the 200,000 years that Homo Sapiens (Us) emerged onto the African savannah. It's only been 10,000 years or so since we settled to grow crops and a couple of hundred since we started to develop mass production techniques. Crucially, it's only been in the last hundred years that the mass produced carbohydrates and seed oils have flooded into our stores and fuelled the explosion of cheap convenience foodstuffs. Our bodies, try as they will to make the best of what is now being recognised as poor nutritional foods, struggle and eventually fail to cope resulting in metabolic health issues. In my case type 2 diabetes.