Ye Olde Healthe Faire

The giant building I work in put on a free Health Fair today, where you could get your cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar, body fat, posture, and bone density checked for free, plus get a free neck massage. I sat down at the cholesterol and blood-sugar table with my coworker, where we were each told to clean a middle finger and draw our own blood. The woman behind the table (technician? I have no idea who she was) used a lecturing tone to rush us through this process. “Look at the red letters on that poster. Look at this red plastic container. That is the color your blood should be. Look at your blood. What color is your blood?” she snapped.
“Um… I guess my blood looks a little dark?” I said, looking back and forth and trying to compare the colors of synthetic things with my own living fluid that I was pressing out of my own poor abused little fingertip.
“That’s right. Have you drank any water today? Have you had any coffee?” Supposedly my blood would have been a different color if I’d drank more water. And my total cholesterol was 200. “You’re too young for that!” she lectured. “Drink some water and that will go down within three hours!”
Yeah, right. “How about HDL and LDL?” I asked. No, she wasn’t able to break it down. And I know from my last doctor visit that my HDL is in the high 60s, which makes my 200 total count actually good and not borderline high, according to my doctor.
The next lecture was about exercise and nutrition: “Drink lots of water. You should drink half your body weight in ounces every day.” (Er, what? Sixty-five ounces? How will I know when I’ve drunk 65 ounces?) “Get plenty of fiber. Eat apples. Apples have absolutely NO food value–no vitamins, even–but the reason they are good for you is the FIBER.” Riiiight.
As I stepped away from her table, a woman standing nearby stopped me. “Excuse me–did I just hear her tell you apples have no nutritional value?” she asked.
“Yes,” I whispered. “But I think she’s wrong.”
“Well, I’m a dietician and I can tell you that apples are good for you. She doesn’t know I’m a dietician, but I am.” Okay, the apple part makes sense, but … an undercover dietician? I should have stuck around for the sting.
I gave the whole health fair little credibility for several reasons: the blood-analyzer/lecturer talked like an impatient know-it-all and had no visible credentials of any kind (plus we had to draw our own blood!); the whole “fair” was disorganized and staffed by people with no visible credentials and people who were selling health-club memberships and other things; and most of the credentialless and salesy people staffing the fair were more than a little overweight. I know that with the processed foods that are the most available in our world and with the long hours people work, odds are good that we will all end up overweight, but still, it seems like people working in the health business should set a better example. They’d boost their credibility. But I saw two people sign up to join the health club regardless of the beefiness of the health-club guys, so what do I know.
Next I had my body-fat percentage and blood pressure checked. My blood pressure was nice and low and my “resting” pulse (so-called by the health club guy, though really a resting pulse is not what you get when you’ve been up and about and standing in line for fifteen minutes while he watched someone sign up for his gym and then took his break) was “awesome,” he said, at 63. The next step was to check my supposed body fat percentage with some magic thing that I had to hold out in front of me with a good grip on the handles, like a tricorder. I asked what this method was called–as opposed to calipers or water displacement, which it obviously wasn’t. Neither of the health club guys knew the name. I think I just remembered that this magic method is called electrical impedance.
“It’s pretty accurate,” said the guy. “I check my body fat once a week with calipers and it matches pretty closely.” Once a week! Jeez. So anyway, my body fat was in the recommended range for my age and height. “Do you exercise?” he asked. I was thinking, oh please, don’t let him start touting his plastic gym to me. To his credit he didn’t.
I left without getting the free neck massage or the bone density check. Maybe I’ll go back down later.