spring cleaning and the NBA Finals

I recently decided to revisit some of my old posts, brush them off and bring them out for some fresh air–a kind of spring cleaning. I found a few that I have now fluffed up or polished, but this one is screaming for immediate attention.

As I write, I am sitting and watching Game 5 of the NBA finals–Cleveland Cavaliers v Golden State Warriors. The post season with the advance of Cleveland and LeBron James has necessitated this post script to “dominique et moi”. There, I wrote about my meeting with NBA legend and diabetes ambassador Dominique Wilkins on his visit to the health center where I worked. (Yes, really! Did you miss that one?)Curry Powder in India, Chronic Kidney Disease

In that meeting I asked Dominique how he felt about famous athletes using their celebrity to market unhealthy products–making reference to LeBron’s Pepsi ads which were running at that time. Though not to single out LeBron, I do find certain celebrity endorsements particularly troubling. During this year’s final rounds, LeBron has been featured in an ad for Kia automobiles. The spot starts out with him sitting alone in his kitchen, eating a bowl of cereal with a box of Fruity Pebbles prominently displayed. The milk is in a plain, round, unmarked glass bottle. Just as he raises the spoon to his mouth, his zen moment is interrupted by a maintenance worker outside the window wielding a noisy leaf blower. LeBron leaves the table, miffed that his quiet moment has been disturbed–but not before five camera shots feature the Fruity Pebbles. A few more distractions pursue him until he finally finds solace in the quiet, obviously roomy and reclining back seat of his Kia.

I have been catching up on recent seasons of Mad Men so I know how these pitches are made by ad companies. But, please can someone please tell me what marketing seduction was intended here? Does Kia own Post Foods or are they just sleeping together?  What demographic is eating kids’ cereals and buying fancy-ish cars–long legged adolescents saving their lawn mowing money? And, why is LeBron party to it all?

Ironically, recently as I watched LeBron on the court, I noticed he seemed more lean and lithe than I remembered. I turned to Pete, my source for all things sport and nutrition related. Concerned he may have missed something, I implored him to get me some scoop on LeBron’s diet. Thirty seconds later he was back to me with a report that sure enough, this incredible sport’s phenomenon was adhering to a lower carbohydrate diet and was playing minus fifteen to twenty pounds this season. I was not surprised. I knew it! No Fruity Pebbles for King James. And, I am also going to venture that he’s likely lactose intolerant and not much of a milk drinker.

Well, I do hope that these athletes heed some warning from Dominique. Not even the creme de la creme are immune from negative dietary impacts and diabetic consequences. Well, except maybe LeBron–because the way he plays, he likely is immortal. And, they should be mindful of the messages they embody through their endorsements. But, hey, what food is that his nemesis is hawking on his jersey? Curry? You mean that anti-inflammatory spice blend that may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and that contributes to some spectacular shooting?  I wonder who is marketing that.

For a look at what LeBron is really fueling on, and what he actually drives, see here.

In health, Elyn

OH, DEAR ME. After writing this whole thing, I went to look up the ingredients of Fruity Pebbles for a link, only to find out that Fruity Pebbles is also a LeBron James endorsed Nike Air Foamposite One sneaker!! Wow. Your thoughts?

photo (2)dominique et moi

November was Diabetes Awareness month. Or, so I am told. For me, every month is diabetes month and every day is diabetes day, as nary an hour goes by without my sharing sacred space with someone who has diabetes. Sometimes this is the shell-shocked newly diagnosed, other times, it is the weary veteran of the disease. Read more.

the tables turned

Or, how I was outed at Trader Joe’s.

So you know how the employees at Trader Joe’s are all chipper and friendly? Well, my checkout clerk on that Friday afternoon was no exception. It was the end of a long work week, and though I was tired and anxious just to get home, there was still the shopping to get done. I wove my way quickly through the store, stocking my cart well. As I rounded the final corner from the far aisle, I was glad to see that there was an open checkout lane. With the late hour and the subsiding commuter traffic, this was likely to be my last stop for the day.  refreshment-768743__180

The checkout set up at Trader Joe’s is unusual. Your cart goes one way, while you go the other. Rather than allowing for the often awkward and yet inward zen task of unloading your own groceries, here, by receiving your full cart, the clerk both unloads and scans for you. Here you come face to face with your clerk more immediately and this results in your connection unfolding both more quickly and more intimately–and usually quite cheerfully. They maintain greater contact with your food–that which you have selectively chosen to feed yourself and maybe your family–than at most regular markets.

Having just turned over custody of my cart, I suddenly found myself in a conversation about cats. Apparently, if not for her mother’s allergy, my adorable, young clerk would have a cat because she loves them. I quickly realized that the cat food I was purchasing had prompted the comment and suddenly I was revealing that I had two cats. Most people I work with everyday don’t know that about me.

I tried to bring the topic back to groceries by offering to help bag, but that resulted in a friendly argument. She counseled that I take the checkout experience as an opportunity to relax while I insisted that I did not find bagging to be stressful and that my help would expedite matters and could get me home sooner. I won that one, but clearly in the process our professional/client relationship had deepened. While I usually conduct my nutritional assessments and evaluations in the privacy of an office, this dedicated professional offered her services right in the checkout lane. As my purchases transferred rhythmically from her hands to mine, she hesitated and looked me in the eyes, and said, “Oh, I thought you were a vegetarian.”  I looked down as she passed me the plastic wrapped piece of salmon that was swimming along solo in the long queue of plant-based products.

I stuttered and stammered. Believe you me. I have stood on many a grocery style line with a keen eye going through the contents of the carts around me. I am a nutritionist so I am apt to assess for the number of essential amino acids, calculate the percentage of the daily value for manganese and vanadium–and to make judgments. But, here, the tables were turned. The little punk of a young woman had my number. The words fell clumsily from my mouth as they tried to follow orders from command central. I could have just said it was for my cats. But, instead I explained that I was a vegetarian, but that on occasion I do eat some fish. “Oh”, she corrected, “A pescetarian.” I balked as I felt I was being assigned to the wrong religion, maybe like being called a Methodist when you were in fact a Lutheran.

The arena of eating patterns does not make easy allowances for any gray areas. You either are or you aren’t. But still I doth protested. The date of this encounter coincided with my 40th anniversary of becoming a vegetarian. It was a long time ago–I was a teenager– but I am pretty certain that it was in the month of May. During these forty years, I have only once eaten meat when I chose to have a few bites of turkey at a NOFA conference in Vermont. And, a spoonful of times I have had a chicken stock soup when feeling in need of some extra fortitude.

But it is true that I have eaten fish and seafood. I have had years where I did not eat any, and in recent years have largely avoided it due to myriad reasons, but more than not it has been there as a backup. Some of these were times of surrender like when I needed to appease my mom; or when travelling made vegetarian options hard to find. But, more often it was a conscious choice–albeit a choice of exception. I mainly choose “pesce” when eating out–especially when at a seaside location; when I feel like my body needs a more dense or “yang” protein; when I think that I might benefit from a dose of fish nutrients; or when it will just be nicely satisfying. A fish-based soup on a cold winter’s night might fit this bill. I eat fish maybe once per month. That piece of salmon that I just put into my shopping bag was likely to find itself shelved in my freezer for a while and might eventually be consumed by Pete–a 41-year long vegetarian who also just occasionally eats fish.

There is no arguable rationale, but I still clamor to consider myself a vegetarian. I carry identity with this definition and it guides my ethical and social compass. In some ways it does serve as my religion and it begs many questions regarding behavior as religion is apt to do. It is most certainly my favorite cuisine and I bask in nature’s brilliance and creativity of plant offerings. Nutritionally, it seems to serve me though I have little data for comparison. Forty years of many types of beans, kernels of grains, colors of vegetables, with nary a need for a table knife most certainly buys me membership in the club–maybe within an “essentially vegetarian” or “low pescetarian” category. At least, I should not have to be explaining myself or justifying this to a random check out clerk, right?  Even if her parents are vegan and she’s been vegan her entire life as she then did go on to share with me at the end of my babbling. I would peg her at twenty two years at best, so I still have a few nuts and seeds on her.

Still, the encounter did make me ponder my attachment to this aspect of my life and what it represents. Though maintaining a non-carnivorous diet is a lot easier than it was forty years ago, with vegetarian and vegan options now more widely available and even commonplace, the whole matter of who we are as eaters has become way more complicated with many different belief systems to be an adherent to. What did I need to defend and what else would I defend so stridently?

As I finished up my bagging duties, she said, “Oh, I see you didn’t purchase many dairy products”, further assessing the plant-based percentage of my diet. She actually got a good glimpse and did a pretty good analysis. Such work is much easier from that platform instead of relying on diet recalls or scribbled and food stained dietary records as I traditionally have had to do.

I paid for the consult, I mean groceries, and loaded the bags back into the cart. I started for the exit thinking we were done. But, there was one more thing. “Oh”, she giddily exclaimed as I walked away, “I love your socks!” Once again she had surprised me. I realized I was wearing a funky yellow paisley pair that were peeking out from the bottom of my skirt and through the top of my shoes. I smiled. Maybe we could just be friends.

In health, Elyn

MyPlate Plate

MyPlate Plate

My Plate Haiku

Do you carrot all for me?

My heart beets for you, with your turnip nose and your radish face,

You are a peach. If we cantaloupe, lettuce marry.

Weed make a swell pear.

Author unknown

holistic, intuitive eating, community nutritionist seeking michael pollan

Originally posted on the nutritionist's dilemma:

A listless child, one of many kwashiorkor case... Image via Wikipedia

The time has come for me to pay homage to the food and environmental journalist and writer Michael Pollan, whose book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, partially served as the inspiration for my blog’s name. I say partially, because I am fully aware that I have been waist deep in food dilemmas way before his book came to be.

Many years ago, when I was a mere neophyte in this work, way before food and eating was the omnipresent topic that it is today, I was simultaneously working my first nutrition job with a WIC-Women, Infant and Children Program in some small town communities while also serving at a hip vegetarian cafe in a cool college town–all the while trying desperately to figure out how to feed myself. By day, I talked the language of subsidized foods; by evening I enjoyed  brown rice and salads with sunflower seeds, sprouts and lemon tahini dressing; and, by night, I chowed down more than my share of the wonderful cookies we…

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Nourish Thyself Well Day

Despite its lack of a full complement of days, the tiny month of February (from the Roman februarius or Latin februum–to purify or atone) so kindly embraces Valentine’s Day as well as Eating Disorder Awareness Week–both emotionally-laden events. The two are not ordinarily associated and their purposes may seem disparate, but, with a little tweaking, I think that each celebration might find a friend in the other or a rationale for their coincidence.

February from my window

February from my window

To sort this out a little, let’s acknowledge that Valentine’s Day is a veritable Hallmark Card hootenanny, with messages cloyingly sweet and with a power so strong that it provokes the panicked purchase of chocolates and roses in hopes of successfully and sufficiently demonstrating one’s love for the “other”. While we celebrate Valentine’s Day’s High Middle Ages Chaucerian and 18th-century traditions of courtly love, the holiday has deeper, darker and rather confusing origins. It aligns on the Roman calendar with the celebration of Lupercallia and on the Christian liturgical calendar with the honoring of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus for whom several martyrdom stories were associated–only some of which were tinged with elements of romantic love (Wikipedia).

Eating Disorder Awareness Week commands no shelf space in the greeting card aisle, passes without widespread recognition–and certainly has no such reckless exchange of confections. However, in bringing forth awareness of the prevalence of eating disorders and avenues for treatment and healing, it does have cause for celebration as well. It shines light on these complex and misdirected eating behaviors which thrive in the vampire-esque darkness of secrecy and shame. It serves to bring support to the many who struggle alone–those who battle too in martyr-like fashion against these soul and life-threatening conditions.

Both our desire for romance and the rigid control (and lack thereof) of eating disorders express the longings of the fragile little hearts that beat within all of us. They share opposite sides of the same coin of our need for love. While Valentine’s sentiments relate to one’s love for the “other”, eating disorders expose the imbalance manifested when we lack capacity to love the “self”. Apparently, we cannot quite master one without the other. Eating Disorder Awareness Week provides hope that one can nurture successfully and sufficiently such requisite self-love, while Valentine’s Day might (and should) remind that we can love ourselves as well as others.

A number of years ago, while I was working on a college campus–an environment where eating disorders are more widely acknowledged–I created an activity which was part of a series of events being held during Eating Disorder Awareness Week. By means of various campus communications and a distributed flyer with a banner stating, “Life is too short to waste time hating our bodies”, I brought forth “Nourish Thyself Well Day”. The name implied a broader sense of nourishment and did not distinguish between “well” as an adverb or adjective. The concept was to present a challenge to the self-limiting thoughts and behaviors regarding our diets and our bodies that rob us of our health and well-being. Believing that most of us carry around at least a handful of these, I asked people (anyone and everyone) for just one day to choose a body-affirming or nourishment-providing action that held meaning for one’s personal issues or struggles.

Recently, I came upon the flyer and the list of the suggestions I proposed at that time. They included:

I will not weigh myself today * I will eat when I feel hungry * I will not use food to cover my emotions * I will not diet today * I will not eat/use nutrient-deficient diet foods * I will ask a friend for support if I need it * I will not associate guilt or shame with eating certain foods * I will listen to my body and respond to its needs * I will enjoy hot cooked foods * I will welcome foods with fats * I will honor my right to be an eater * I will have dessert * I will eat slowly and stop when full * I will not entertain starvation throughout the day*  I will not say anything negative about my body or my eating * I will not say anything negative about anyone else’s body or diet * I will not judge my value based on the scale * I will acknowledge my true value.

In revisiting this list, I recognize it has some limitations and does not fully capture the possibilities and alternatives available to us in redirecting or re-imagining how we behave around or think about these issues. At the time, I could only fit so many ideas on the page and I had no mechanism for receiving any feedback. I only released it as an intention that it would seep its way through some crack or crevice and find its way to someone who might find some meaning in it for themselves. I hope it did.

And, so now, in this time between Valentine’s Day and Eating Disorder Awareness Week (which falls this year from February 22nd through 28th–with the theme, “I Had No Idea”), I send the intention of “Nourish Thyself Well Day” out on its own once again. I hope dear little February can handle another event–albeit, a made up one–and one that is really just an extension of the others. Besides, it has been a really frigid winter, and we can all use an excuse for anything that may warm the heart–and lighten the burden.

With hand on heart, feel free to choose your own day to celebrate “Nourish Thyself Well Day”, pick from the above suggestions or create your own, and welcome the experience of shifting old embedded patterns and beliefs.

In health and with much love, Elyn

Heidi's Plate

Heidi’s Plate

My Plate Haiku (or any other poetic form)

Love is a deeper season

Than reason

My Sweet One.

by e.e. cummings

where has all the produce gone?

Perhaps it is due to the recent one year anniversary of the passing of Pete Seeger that has this title coming to mind–but this is something I have been thinking about for a while.

I have had a few experiences lately, where a brilliant idea of mine that I have kept gestating in some corner of my mind, waiting for just the right labor to bring forth, is birthed by someone else–and I read about it somewhere. I hate when that happens, especially as brilliance is not my forte and such ideas are few and far between. And, so now I must act quicker to share–and thus take credit–for these rare flashes of genius. 

As you may know, I have been swimming around in this primordial soup for many years–somewhat akin to, um, yes, let me see, ah yes, the great Soviet biologist Alexander Oparin–father of the primordial soup theory–seeking answers to some of life’s most pressing questions. While Mr. Oparin had been searching for the origin of life on Earth, I am anxious to find solution to this little problem of sanely feeding the carbon-ignited populace of whom he divined the spark.

I was already concocting my own brilliant idea when a friend sent me this article, Can America Learn to Love Misshapen Veggies? by Elizabeth Segran. It is about the vision of Doug Rauch–the former president of Trader Joe’s– to create markets for oft misshapen produce and other food that might otherwise be headed prematurely and unnecessarily into the waste stream. Having seen the high degree of such waste and the exorbitant cost of such a loss while hunger is rampant in our country, he is experimenting with opening grocery stores that would sell such abandoned produce at low-cost in high-need neighborhoods. He seems to know a thing or two about the grocery business, and I am glad to learn of his concern and his efforts. Maybe he’ll like my idea–it is along the same lines.

You see, kind of like Sisyphus, I am among those dedicated to rolling a giant Hubbard squash up to the top of a mountain, only to have it roll back down again–ceaselessly repeating the effort. Sisyphus’ fate “as much through his passions as through his torture”–is similar to the plight of the modern-day nutritionist. “Eat your vegetables!”, we implore. “Three cups a day!” “Eat all the colors of the rainbow!”  We beg, we cajole, we try to be cute. We strive mightily to bring the veggies to the people, but we can’t make them eat. (Horses on the other hand accept them rather well.) Undaunted, like Sisyphus, we perforce keep trying.

Albert Camus, in The Myth of Sisyphus states that the gods had condemned Sisyphus to his labor, reasoning that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor. But, he continues, “If one believes Homer, Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of mortals.” Ah! My personal interpretation of the text provides some vindication for our insanity.

Vegetables can be daunting to buy, prepare and cook. They can be expensive. When they go bad they look quite sad. Certain vegetables require strong muscles, a good set of sharp knives, and a certain finesse to commandeer properly. As a food group they are complex and complicated, and many times a relationship with them must be carefully nurtured. Some challenge the taste buds with a propensity to be bitter or earthy. Plus,they often carry baggage from our collective childhoods.

But, they are so gooooood! And, rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, Omega-3s, enzymes and phytonutrients to help our hearts, bones, skin, hydration and mood–they are good for us! The benefits of a plant-rich diet are well established, and with so many different types, including what I might like to think of as starter kit vegetables for the disinclined, there are plenty for all to enjoy and benefit from–in spite of early experiences. But, with so many real and perceived obstacles, to the chagrin of Mr. Rauch and myself–many march needlessly to their unconsumed demise, after much time, love, care and commitment was dedicated to their growth by hard-working farmers. Some, just because they do not meet the standard definition of beauty.

So, my basic idea is this: In an effort funded and supported by health care collaborations, corporate and/or governmental subsidies–grocery stores, and other appropriate establishments should create space for the preparation of freshly made, nutrient-blessed vegetable-based juice–oh, and yes, soup–for sale to the public at an affordable cost. Incentives for purchase by SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps) recipients could be implemented, similar to those being offered at Farmer’s Markets. These products can be available year-round in frequented food environments.

Vegetable juices and soups (made with well-prepared broths that can also utilize other ingredients that might otherwise be wasted–such as meat bones) are perhaps the simplest health-promoting and disease-preventing foods available. Increasing the exposure to and ease of access and consumption of these may be a powerful antidote to the scourges of our chronic health ills. Call me naive, but my experience informs me that many appreciate the taste of health–particularly when health has become an elusive concept. Returning health to our food establishments is mildly becoming a not so foreign idea. In my nearby city, a local health insurer and the YMCA has partnered with a food chain–and health classes and services are offered right in the grocery store. And golly, our supermarkets often house pharmacies–so, why not grandma’s penicillin?

The benefits of my little “Primordial Soup and Juice” Program include opportunities to expand vegetable education, improve the visibility of nutrition specialists, eliminate barriers to vegetable purchasing and intake, and affirm the age-old wisdom of food as medicine. Plus, it can contribute to the reduction of food waste and spare the feelings of those poor misshapen vegetables. What well-intentioned juice or soup maker would not warmly welcome them? Right, Mr. Rauch?

Oh, and Pete, Where has all the produce gone? Thirty-one percent of it into the waste stream, everyone. When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn. New verse: Assimilated well into our cells, everyone.

Please drop in and say hello. Any thoughts to help embellish this vision? Send word.

In health, Elyn 

Addendum–March 8, 2015. Just elaborating by suggesting that this idea can be implemented in our schools as well as in all of our subsidized food programs serving both young children and adults in group care facilities.

my plate

My Plate Haiku       Did you really think That you could hide fish in rice?              Oh, the green paste burns!   By a cat            from I Could Pee on This and other poems by cats collected by Francesco Marciuliano

beatific untrodden twelvemonth

Beatific untrodden twelvemonth! This is my alternative greeting for the advent of the new year. Besides doubling the number of syllables, I think it also increases the intensity of possibility, suggests that we can go somewhere never before ventured, and adds a sprinkle of Shakespearean flavor.

As we reckon time in yearly increments, here are a few basic numbers as concerns annual dietary matters. At minimum, given a structure of three basic meals per day, or two and a snack, we eat 1,095 times between the beginning of January and the end of December. If we bring that up to five times per day, influenced by a meal plus snack pattern or a small frequent meal philosophy, we are up to 1,825 intimate interactions with placing food in our mouths as we are buckled in for our celestial journey. Add in the multiple nibbles that usually enhance our existence, and the number grows even higher.

Each food encounter also reflects a commitment of time in regard to food procurement, preparation, consumption, digestion and usually some clean up. Hmmm, let’s see. If I take an estimated average of 1,500 feeding encounters per year and multiply that by some unscientific number of minutes per encounter of sixty-four, we spend 79,500 minutes, 1600 hours, 66 days or 2.4 lunar orbits per year keeping ourselves alive (or killing ourselves) with food.

This of course does not take into account how much time we spend thinking about food and thinking about what we think about food. To figure that out would require some advanced calculus, but I can tentatively say it even exceeds the amount of time men are purported to think about sex. My recent inquiry into the matter seems to debunk the every seven seconds or 7,200 times per day oft quoted in scientific or urban myth circles with newer research suggesting that it may be as low as one time per day. Whether there is a direct or inverse relationship with food thoughts is still open for investigation.

In my own role as homo sapiens eater blessed with options and plenitude, I have to acknowledge my own challenges, decide which I wish to or can address, and stop and make adjustments to my own way and style of eating as well. My decisions are based largely on environmental or sustainability concerns and maintaining health. Not everyone need be inclined toward putting their attentions to matters of diet, but it seems like many are ultimately forced to do so when our mortal coils doth protest too much.

As I remain vigilant observing the cultural messages about food and eating that bombard us, the food environments that surround us, the toxic insults to our planet, the stressful eating habits of the masses, the angst and agita that accompany us and the consequences associated with the whole gestalt, my dilemma that is sensitive to the complexities of human behavior and the realities that define our lives, feels an increased compunction to guide towards increasing the capacity to nourish in a way that we all deserve and that serves us individually and as a society.

In the spirit of the beatific untrodden twelvemonth, I would like to give you an opportunity to share a glimpse of your internal dialogue. This is not an exercise in divulging deep secrets, but more of an inventory of the challenges, barriers, that confront us or positive intentions or actions that may be available to us all. May it be a chance to shed an ounce of the burden of our thoughts which often goes unspoken and becomes an insidious mantra that gnaws away at our nexus of well-being; or to be a way to gain a pound of insight to inspire personal (or community) action for change. Might it just make one of those 1,500 feeding encounters or 79,500 food-related minutes a little better for you, and maybe for those you love too, in this new year.

Here is one for me. (There are no formatting rules.) I give myself permission to sit and smell the (matcha) tea as a reminder to hydrate more, inhale and ingest the gifts of the plant world, worry less and allow for grace to happen with more trust and less force.

Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for sharing.

I give you good morrow, and well be with you.

Vous souhaiter une bonne et heureuse annee remplie de peche et une bonne sante.

Wishes for a happy new year filled with peace and good health, Elyn

my plate

my plate

 My Plate Haiku 

Deep scarlet red beets

Reveal your sweetness to me

Slip out of your skins. by Elyn

the cookies are coming, the cookies are coming!

I did not consider that the setting would be more than nutritionally neutral. It was a required training on a non-nutritional topic at an off-site setting dedicated to health. Though it was an all day event, I did not know it included lunch, so I had my own packed in my bag. If anything, I supposed it would include the perfunctory coffee and some offering of basic breakfast carbohydrates to start the day and amuse the attendees, but that would be it. My, was I in for a surprise.

have your peeps call my peeps

have your peeps call my peeps

It was a cold morning so I was glad for the tea bag and hot water. But, as I found myself in line with the others waiting for their morning jolt, I of course noticed what was available, and reflected on how nutritional awareness now means lets serve some fruit along with the wide array of pasty pastries. I am more disheartened about such food offerings in my professional settings where health and nutrition are purported to matter. Still, having a day out of the office, to learn about the proper design of research studies, I thought I would pass the day imagining myself as research scientist, rather than nutritionist. Increasingly, I find myself interested in matters of investigation and evaluation, and though I lean strongly toward the qualitative, I like to unveil that quantitative data as well.

The presenters were all quite knowledgeable and held my attention with their touches of humor and accessibility, despite the somewhat dry subject matter. At the end of the morning we were ushered across the hallway for the lunch–which apparently was provided– and consisted of a selection of sandwiches and wraps, bags of chips, cans of soda and bottles of water. As I looked down the three long lines of tables where we were sitting, my clearly not quieted nutritionist mind acted up. I was tempted to count how many people had chosen a soda and what kind, and to then count the total number of people and begin some analysis.

Just as I reminded myself to not play probing, annoying nutritionist, the facilitator took to the microphone and informed the group about the schedule for the afternoon sessions. He then apologized that the cookies had not arrived but that they would be coming soon. The group emitted a palpable response. And, when at break time he did announce the advent of the cookies, as promised, the audience broke into applause. Really, the previously lackluster assemblage of folk, mainly there due to the mandatory nature of the event, responded with animated cheering. Forget the soda study. Where was my neurobiology team when I needed them to measure the excited brainwaves in the prefrontal cortex when exposed to just the anticipation of a sugary surge? I observed the same sparks in the eyeballs of those three-year-olds who just the week before had come to my door disguised as pirates demanding candy. Wow. But, there was still one more twist to come.

As the group got up to dive into and divvy up the cookie bounty, I headed down to the bathroom. On my way back, a woman was heading in my direction. My own brain flipped into one of its pre-programmed reactions. Young, attractive, stylish–I suddenly feel quite badly about myself. As we got closer, she held up a cookie to me and said, “Yeah, I know I am so bad.”

Shocked out of my own internal self-admonishment, I asked, surprised, “What?” She said,”I know I shouldn’t be eating this, but I can’t help myself. I am sure this is emotional eating. I should be better tomorrow. This was a tough week.”  Confused and concerned, I said, “I am sorry, but why are you telling me this?” She reminded me that she knew I was a nutritionist because we had come upon each other while walking near my office the month before, and I had told her what division I worked in. We had talked together for about five minutes before we went our separate ways. Now, here, out of context, it took me a moment to recognize her.

Stupidly grasping for something to say, I stuttered, “Then, if I have any power granted in me as a nutritionist in this very moment, please do not feel guilty and bad about yourself because of a cookie.” “Thank you, Elyn”, she said, sounding relieved as she walked away. She had only just shared a common feeling that many suppress. But her conflict makes her a potential subject for this big human study of who we are as eaters–along with all the rest of us. We are tasked with needing to be cognizant of our food choices, in a toxic food environment, while mysterious uncontrollable drives often control our behaviors. Pretty complicated stuff, this eating thing, aye matey?

Well, I really am quite aware that any situation can present me with a nutritional conundrum. This one concerned how a little cookie can magnify our longing, our regret and all the places in-between. In response, may I suggest that as best you can, nourish yourself in many ways, observe what lights up your prefrontal cortex, avoid long boring meetings, and most of all be gentle and loving with yourself.

In health, Elyn

By my own personal accounting, this is the 100th post of the Nutritionist’s Dilemma, and as you can see, the dilemmas persist. To help me embark on the next hundred, if you are a subscriber, regular reader, occasional visitor, or someone who has just stumbled upon my blog, I would greatly appreciate your taking a moment to: write a comment (below) to let me know how my writings resonate (cogent, amusing, inspiring, galvanizing) or just that you were here (Hi El, Yes, I DO read your blog); share one of my posts (forward to a friend or share on Facebook); click an available like button; subscribe (on side); or invite me on some interesting joint venture to change the world, near or far. 

(I would also love some new haikus as I am now relying on ones written by a cat.)

A deep thank you to those of you who have supported my humble efforts to give voice to my experience and to feed my quiet muse.

Blessings to all and Happy Thanksgiving!

My Plate

My Plate

 My Plate Haiku

I lick your nose, I lick your nose again

I drag my claws down your eyelids

Oh, you’re up? Feed me.

By a cat

from I Could Pee on This and other poems by cats collected by Francesco Marciuliano