Let's Get Physical

It’s that time of year again - time to fill out the health assessment so employers can find out personal things about their co-workers’ private lives and use them to make judgements about people’s livelihoods. The Tea Baggers can just shut up about the Obama White House sticking its nose into our personal health decisions: This has been going on long before the liberals snapped on a pair of rubber gloves.

I was surprised to see the reminder in my inbox. Didn’t I just take the health assessment? Yup, I just took it in January. And I took it the September before that. It seems for every continent’s new year and possibly Rosh Hashana, we have to re-take the health assessment, just so everyone can be cleared of having slipped into a state of risky and unhealthy behaviors.

Because I’m married to whom I’m married to, the health assessment is another competition in our house.

“What did you score?” my husband asked me after the first time we took the health assessment.

“I don’t know, but I think I did pretty good,” I answered.

What? You didn’t look at your score?” He couldn’t believe that I hadn’t even tried to nudge my numbers up by exaggerating how much sweat I generate when I do yard work. (A lot of the time it’s water from the hose, let’s be honest.)

So I looked back at my score and it was in the 90s. I thought that was good. Better than his, anyway.

But I couldn’t help but try to gain a few points in subsequent tests. I knew he would be working hard to get his score up and I knew that if he did better than me, the result would be constant taunting that could be hazardous to someone’s health, ironically causing a dip in scores.

Eventually I did score a 100. This year, I’m at 98, but I think I have a couple of things working against me.

Some of the questions are no brainers. I floss Every day, I wear sunscreen or adequate clothing All the time, I am Completely satisfied with my life, and I have Very strong social ties with my family and/or friends. I sleep Well and I feel Completely refreshed half an hour after getting up in the morning. I get all possible screenings and tests every single year, but I haven’t spent any time in the ER in the past 12 months. All those questions I’m sure added to my pointage.

But others are trickier.  “What is the highest level of education you have achieved?” Are blue-collar workers unhealthier than white-collar? Did we learn some health tips at college graduation that people with some college didn’t get?  And what about income level? Does that matter? Are the rich healthier than the poor? Even now, with health care reform, where we’re all equal and the death panels are disposing of all the sick old people as fast as they can?

I’d love to go back and change some answers and reconfigure, just to see what makes the difference in my health assessment score. But I’m afraid of screwing around with this test like I’ve done with other online surveys. When I took the Real Age test I kept retaking it, entering more outrageous lifestyle choices to see what it would take to be a 50-year-old whose Real Age is 25. Turns out I would have to eat my body weight in pure fiber, whole grains and raw vegetables, exercise both weight-bearing and cardio for 6 hours a day, and listen to a better radio station.

The health assessment competition between my husband and me is secondary to the one he has going with one of his co-workers. She’s always throwing her 100s in his face. However, I know for a fact that she jumped out of an airplane a few months ago, so I wonder how she’ll score this year. As long as she wore her seat belt on the drive to the air strip, I think she’ll be OK.

You can reach Diane Laney Fitzpatrick at diane.fitzpatrick@mac.com.

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