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Stick to It

Whatever method you choose to stay healthy — dance, meditation, hiking, stretching — it only works if you keep at it.



CELEBRATING THE TOPIC of health this month, our cover features the graceful Annie Rosenthal Parr of RoCo Dance and Fitness floating effortlessly amid Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture.

Most of us think of pint-size tutu-wearing toddlers when it comes to dance classes — and yet thousands of tiny and not-so-tiny dancers find their way to the Marin Center stage every year as part of productions by RoCo, Happy Feet and other local studios. I’ve often thought of these performances as a rite of passage for our young people, and of sitting through hours of performances and paying for single-use costumes as a parallel parental “right.” Yet the rewards of this ancient art form don’t all come from having an audience. There are few things that give me as much joy as just dancing with friends. Years ago, I wrote an essay called “Solid Gold” in which I shared my unfulfilled dream of being one of those sleek dancers on the classic TV dance show. For hundreds in our community, as Kier Holmes makes clear in her Subcultures article, that dream is realized through dance classes catering to adults.

Also in this month’s issue, in what could be taken as a macabre match-up of topics, we are running a raw, in-depth narrative by Melanie Haiken on how eating disorders have affected not only her daughter but many families here in Marin, a county often maligned for promoting a culture of perfection. I’d like to thank those mentioned in the article for sharing their own stories so others might be able to seek help.

Fronting our Top Doctors section this month is a story by Carrie Kirby on back pain. If you think about it, given that the human spine is composed of 33 separate bones supported by disks filled with fluid protecting miles of nerves and veins sending messages and pumping blood throughout the body, it’s no wonder that all too often something goes wrong.

For me, it happened a few years ago, after a car accident followed by a rather intense and bloody head butt with a sailboat boom. A quick look at our Top Docs list led me to the office of Dr. Brian Su, and a sepia image of my neck. Su used polite language to tell me that at my age, I should expect a bit of degradation and wear and tear, but we had some work to do. Luckily, my injury was pretty common and after a few months of physical therapy at Presidio Sports Medicine, I finally started to feel good again. The information in Kirby’s back pain article meshed with what I discovered in my own experience. She interviewed Su and pointed out that the problem most people have with physical therapy is that they just don’t stick with it.

Speaking of which, the fact that 50 percent of patients with serious medical conditions don’t take their medications is baffling to me. Do we just like to wallow? Are we too busy? When I turned 50, I figured it was time to evaluate my health. Medical tests yielded a few vague diagnoses of excessive mercury, something about thyroid and possible Epstein-Barr virus. It was suggested I go off gluten for six weeks. I did that, and 42 miserable days later I reported to my doctor proposing my own self-diagnosis of Roseanne Barr virus. I had gained weight, was extremely cranky and had developed a propensity for wearing baggy sweatshirts.

My road to recovery involved no magic pill. I finally found a meditation practice I could stay with, resumed my moderate exercise routine and doubled my gluten intake. I’m not sure if there is an easier county in the country to be healthy in, given our open space, locally sourced organic food and various health care modalities. In fact, at the risk of being too corny, I will say that being healthy is contagious here in Marin.

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