Archive by Author | lifeseedsnutrition

a winning goal

I would feel a little remiss were I to not make mention this year of World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). In previous years I have always made a point to do so. But, it is late. I should already be in bed. Besides, I have to get to work early tomorrow in order to partake in a webinar that is celebrating the week and its important mission. So, I will be more brief than usual. wbw2014-logo-hd

Perhaps after tomorrow’s webinar, I will have something more inspiring or informational to offer with a larger perspective. Tonight, I sit quietly with only my personal experience–the one that reminds me that twenty-six years ago at this very time I was deeply in labor, nestled in my midwife’s quiet birthing room in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. On the other side of midnight, in the dark of night of the day of my own birthday, my son would make his way into the world. Our breastfeeding relationship would begin immediately thereafter.

But, during that time, the practice of breastfeeding on a larger global scale was diminishing with serious consequences for maternal and child health, with societal and environmental implications as well. In 1981, the World Health Assembly adopted the International Code of the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, to remediate the malnutrition suffered by infants and young children due to the inappropriate marketing of commercial formula.  And, then in 1990, exactly two years after my own bond was formed in connection with the dying art of breastfeeding, the Innocenti Declaration was signed by government policymakers, WHO, UNICEF and other organizations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. It designated the first week of August as World Breastfeeding Week.

Twenty-four years later, though there have been significant gains made in reversing the declining trend, there is still work to be done. There are also newer nutritional impacts of breastfeeding being investigated as we begin to better understand the myriad functions of the gut microbiome.

This year’s WBW slogan is Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life. I suppose it relates to this year’s Football World Cup. Could that be? That’s a little funny to me because my son has been a soccer player and is a devoted fan of the sport. Though no longer on the field much he is hoping to be working in the field of professional soccer someday. May I also parenthetically add, that throughout and since the World Cup games, I’ve noticed that I have had an almost daily blog reader from Brazil–so apparently not everyone in the country was focused on the sport. A special hello to that reader(s).

The objectives of WBW 2014 are strongly linked to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set by governments and the United Nations to fight poverty and promote healthy and sustainable development in a comprehensive way by 2015. A description of how breastfeeding is linked to the MDGs can be found here. The connections are quite profound.

I am interested to see what I will learn in the course of tomorrow’s session. I will let you know if there is anything particularly interesting. In the meantime, please take a moment if you will and have a look at these powerful photos. They will say much more than my usual thousand words.

In health, Elyn

P.S. The webinar session was yesterday. It was sponsored by the SUNY School of Public Health and entitled, International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and Promoting and Supporting Exclusive Breastfeeding. I applaud the school’s long term commitment to this topic, and recommend the session highly. I believe it will be available soon for viewing online. Dr. Ruth Lawrence, an international breastfeeding authority, and author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, whose pioneering work and advocacy for breastfeeding dates back to the 1950s, is on the panel.

In the session I learned about some examples of successful applications as well as egregious violations of the International Code of Marketing.  I also was informed about some exciting outcomes in regard to increasing initiation and exclusivity of breastfeeding in some NYC hospitals and in the Vermont WIC Program due to some dedicated efforts. And, I also learned the term commerciogenic malnutrition. In this context it referred to the marketing of breastmilk substitutes and its impacts on babies, but I may ponder some wider implications as well.

As always, send word, share your thoughts, subscribe and pass along. Thanks.

Today’s MyPlate photo is of the beautiful watermelon cake my office “birthday angel”  made for me to celebrate my birthday! Go make one soon. Send me your MyPlate photo.

Related Posts: Blessed Feeding; To She Who Loves Us Before She Meets Us; Breastfeeding Redux; Oh Mother

photo (3)

Cathy’s Plate

  My Plate Haiku

Are we what we eat

Or do we eat what we are

Are they the same thing?  by Julie

you feed her what?

I asked and have received. In my post, Coming Full Circle, I invited guest writers to my blog. Hillary Savoie has kindly offered this story that deeply reminds how profound, intimate and powerful is the act of feeding ourselves and others. Thank-you, Hillary.

 

The hospital dietitian looks at me surprised, a vague air of concern crossing her face. She’s been called in because the nurse didn’t understand my answer to his question about what Esmé eats.
“Esmé gets a blenderized diet through her g-tube.” I say, slowly. This isn’t my first rodeo, and I know what’s coming.
 “You mean hypoallergenic formula?” Skeptically…
 “No, she’s allergic to the elemental formulas. She gets ablenderized diet. You know, regular food, just blended.”
Hillary and Esme

Hillary and Esmé

 “Ok. But, what’s in it?” Yeah, now she’s clearly nervous.
This is the point at which I get annoyed. I want to say “Food. Food is what’s in it.” I want to ask if she asks every parent what they feed their child or just those of us who feed our kids through a tube. I want to ask if she understands how much time my husband and I spend obsessing over establishing the perfect balance of nutrients…and if we could talk about something substantive instead. Really, I sort of want to ask her to leave, but I know that this might be helpful if I can hang on a bit longer.
Instead I look her square in the face and say, deadpan: “We blend a mixture of Oreos, Doritos, and Happy Meals, that should be ok right?” Because most three-year olds have consumed those things. Mine hasn’t. My child eats a textbook healthy diet: good fats, organic foods, lots of veggies, no sugar…balanced beautifully–for her–everyday.
Now that I have passive-aggressively made my point, I say, “I have a spreadsheet outlining her diet and all of the nutritional components. Would you like me to email it to you so you can review it?”
“Yes, I will look it over and we can talk in a bit about it.”
An hour later she is back, “This is actually very good, can we discuss a few items in more detail?”
Now I know we’ve reached the point where we might get somewhere…where I might be able to gather some more information about how best to fine-tune her diet and keep Ez healthy. I know the dietician didn’t mean any harm. She probably had no idea that I am the sort of compulsive and nerdy mom that keeps excel spreadsheets monitoring not only Esmé’s nutrition, but also her seizures, meds, input and output. (Although, had she read our chart it would likely have been clear).
Here’s the thing, though, having a child who is medically fragile and developmentally delayed involves letting people into all aspects of your parenting. My interactions with Esmé have been obsessively monitored and analyzed almost from the first time I held her. And it gets exhausting…nowhere more so than with regard to her food. Because it still feels like an assault on my very ability to care for my child–to nourish her properly and safely.
And I get it, my daughter is tiny–like below the first percentile tiny. And she’s medically fragile. She obviously needs optimal nutrition…but she is, first and foremost, my daughter. Feeding her properly is one of the most fundamental things I can do to care for her…and over three years of having our feeding choices questioned by people who do not understand the whole picture has just worn me down.
It seems that at some point everyone has had an opinion. But it is rare that someone can actually grasp all of the elements that come into play regarding how we feed Esmé and why we feed her the way we do. The tube part is easy–she was aspirating her food, likely since birth. She developed severe aspiration pneumonia and had cardio-respiratory arrest as a result. There was no choice but to use a feeding tube for Esmé. It saved her life, plain and simple.
Where it gets more complicated is when we discuss what goes into her tube. The majority of children with feeding tubes are fed some form of commercial formula–in our case originally it was a prescription hypo-allergenic elemental formula. I have nothing but gratitude that these life-sustaining formulas exist…they keep so many children healthy and alive. But they are absolutely not the answer for every child with a feeding tube. In Esmé’s case, these formulas make her ill, causing terrible vomiting, retching, and unhealthy weight gain. Unfortunately, no one could have predicted this–and by the time we had sorted it out I no longer had my stockpile of frozen breast milk. So we started looking for alternatives and found that a number of people who are tube-fed eat a blenderized diet. Blenderized diets can include almost any food you can think of–just blended up so that it can pass through the tiny opening in Esmé’s feeding tube.
When we started giving Esmé puréed fruit in her formula as a trial, we immediately noticed a change in her demeanor, frequency of vomiting/reflux, and strength. When brought our findings to our (then) new gastroenterologist at Boston Children’s, I was worried we would be told that we weren’t allowed to do this. That it was a bad idea. And that we should go back to status quo.
However, fortunately for us, our doctor not only saw the change we saw in Esmé, but she had experience with blenderized diets and she was completely supportive–helping us find resources on how to approach Ezzy’s diet, encouraging us to experiment with mixing in new foods that Ez might be eating by mouth if she was developing typically, brainstorming with us.
But more than that, she was the first doctor who helped us feel as though WE were driving Esmé’s nutrition, that we were the experts in Esmé and that the doctor’s job was to support us. She handed us back control over what went into our child’s body. She helped us feel like Esmé’s parents, rather than medical assistants carrying out doctor’s orders. And, thankfully, it was a fantastic answer for Esmé’s overall health and well-being.
We love making Esmé’s food. It feels like such a basic and caring thing that we can do for her. We wouldn’t do it if she was healthier on formula. But since she is thriving in this way, we truly relish in it, mixing it up every night with love, monitoring how changes affect her.
I’m actually sort of jealous of Esmé’s diet. It’s filled with high quality veggies, meat, oils, grains, and in pretty astounding variety. And, who knows, maybe an Oreo or two.
Hillary Savoie is Esmé’s mom, the founder of The Cute Syndrome Foundation (www.thecutesyndrome.com), Chief Communication Maman at the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation, and a recent PhD in Communication and Rhetoric. She also write a blog about life with Esmé: thecutesyndrome.blogspot.com.  Please check out her important work that is striving to save lives.

In health, Elyn

my plate

my plate

My Plate Haiku

The farmers’ market

Each egg at the dairy stand

A different color.   by Enki

coming full circle (a blog tour)

stones, dirt, labor and love–the making of a labyrinth

When my friend Kat came meowing at my door last week and asked if I wanted to be part of a blog tour for writers on writing, I responded affirmatively. Mainly, I think I was trying to impress her–or at least not disappoint. Other possible invites from Kat might result in me kayaking down frightening rapids or stumbling behind in one of those extreme obstacle course races like Tough Mudder. No way would I have the courage for what those odysseys entail. I am not sure I am endowed with that many lives. But for this request, I so wished to appear brave and was actually quite humbled to find that she might consider me a fellow wordsmith. For you see, when Kat is not physically competing with the big boys, she is doing some serious kick ass and beautiful writing.

http://katadventures.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/my-writing-process-blog-tour/

What this blog tour entails is that bloggers write about their process on writing, and then pass the baton on to two other bloggers. I see it as kind of one of those old school chain letters which I was always a sucker for, though in truth they never brought me much beyond some postcards from remote strangers and some dish towels. But, hey, what’s wrong with that? Who doesn’t love receiving some nice mail and who doesn’t need extra dish towels?

So, here I am on the blog tour, though feeling I could still use a life jacket and some oars. Because, really, on a good day, rather than being a writer who writes about nutrition, I am a nutritionist who manages to do some writing. But, here I am. So, if you would do me a favor and not tell Kat that I am faking it, I will proceed and answer the requisite questions.

1. What are you working on?

Well, I am working on coming full circle in some way by reaching 100 posts on this blog–a long-held intention. I am hovering in the high nineties, but I have to be honest with myself and push a little harder because I did re-post some older pieces a few times. My blogging has been hindered significantly this year due to two things. The first was finishing a master’s degree–which I did!  And, the second is that these days I am writing a seemingly simple curriculum for preschoolers (and their parents) that has managed to rub all the words right out of me. I am hoping that upon the upcoming completion of that, my musings here will again flow more freely. I would also like to attract some guest writers who may also help me reach my goal (hint). With that, I am trying to figure out what new directions to take with my blog. Make it a little more sexy or just cease and desist.

2. How does my writing differ from others’ work in the same genre?

After having worked in what I call the “trenches” of nutrition for many years, I climbed out one day in the early to mid-oughts to find that the entire field had actually exploded–figuratively. Nutrition had become a huge topic that everyone was talking about. The food pyramid was beginning to crumble and there was much rebuilding to be done. Suddenly, there seemed to be new foods and ways of preparing them, uncovered connections between health and nutrition, and a myriad of environmental impacts related to food choices. These topics were on everyone’s mind and being addressed and expressed in powerful and creative ways. Oh yeah, and the “obesity crisis” was looming large. In this new order, there was action and reaction–lots being said and more being felt. What may, if anything, make my writing unique is its attempt to reflect the experience of the individual against the backdrop of this overwhelming modern cultural milieu of food and eating.

3. Why do you write what you do?

One day, while munching on some kale chips, it dawned on me that I had been privileged to be privy to thousands of people’s stories of being eaters.  The “Jane the Eaters” so to speak. Rather unplanned, a career had unfolded that found me sitting in small, private rooms in various settings listening to tales of confusion, pain, self-berating, and guilt about the love of food, all in response to the care and feeding of the human body. And, I was hearing the stories that were spilling out onto the street as well. This week, while  getting my hair cut, I discerned through the whir of the blow dryer that  the client in the next chair was telling her stylist that her daughter was struggling with an eating disorder. The stylist responded matter-of-factly that when she goes out to eat, she pours water on her food to stop herself from overeating. The next day, I passed a huge semi-truck. It had a picture of thick slabs of meat plastered on its side. The truck asked, “Have I had my Tyson’s today?” Well, I don’t know if that answers the question, but  bearing witness to such juxtaposed experiences, somehow compels me to write what I write about– with some hope that it can help people to be a little kinder and gentler with themselves.

4. How does my process work?

Not well, I suppose.  I wish I had a process. Instead, the stories just stay trapped in my head and keep banging, until I find a precious moment to sit and let them free.

I am glad to let you know that the next stop on the tour is the blog, Inching2Wisdom written by J. Eva Nagel.  Eva tells stories and shares her perspective of a rich life led both close to home and through world-wide travels. The truth is, she is already quite wise.

And, while I determine the other blog stop, I just invite you to visit the writings of Hillary Savoie at The Cute Syndrome.

In health,

Elyn (that’s me sitting in the labyrinth circle)

Addendum: The blog tour has arrived at Inching2Wisdom!

my plate

my plate

 

My Plate Haiku

Hearts are not just

Reserved for romance

Every living thing is in love.  by Kat

 

serenity now

In my last post, Peepin’ Out, I described my encounter with  some  test bags of Doritos Jacked.  Since then, I realized that the incident was still bothering me.  I am reluctant to write anything more about it because I do not wish to bring any attention to the product.  Neither do I wish to linger in its wake.  I am sensitive to being in the proximity of things that have bad energy.

I also worry that I drone on too much regarding matters related to junk food.  There are so many more interesting things to focus on and write about in this big world of food and eating to which I devote my attention.  Should I not be promoting positive messaging and discussing new and wonderful ways to nourish the body and soul?  Can’t I just be perky and progressive?  I find and follow so many adorable and inspiring blogs.  It seems however, that I have been assigned to the night shift, enlisted to cover the underbelly of the nutritional world.  My beat is often in the neighborhoods of the most vulnerable.  So, forgive me this further investigation of the matter.

a summer day at uncle bob's

a summer day at uncle bob’s

My mission is to help the masses achieve both physical harmony and emotional bliss as it relates to what we put in our mouths.  Teach people to eat right states my job description.  Restore the order of things.  Ensure that each generation attains a longer lifespan than the previous one.  Put back “adult-onset”  into the description of Type 2 Diabetes.  Decrease health care expenditures on lifestyle related chronic diseases and save our economy.  Oh, and make us all be sleek and slim.

OK, I say as I don my kale green robe and  lemony yellow gloves as part of my requisite super nutritionist uniform.   How hard can it be?  Humankind has achieved many miraculous things. Solutions to myriad problems have been creatively achieved.  Hearing and sight have been restored, outer space has been explored, cars will soon no longer require drivers.  All I have to do is make people eat more fruits and vegetables.  Onward. And then, damn, I am brought to my knees by my arch nemesis–a bag of chips.

Throughout the past few weeks,I have been swimming in the usual news–efforts by some members of Congress to roll back the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act which set higher standards for school lunches, increases in global obesity, the recent opening of the film Fed Up, and gun violence.  Amid these stories, I realized I had not gotten over the chip thing.

Initially, I had presumed that  the promotion of those test bags was being carried out only in the convenience store where I was–another strategic plan just to annoy me.  It then dawned on me that maybe it was actually part of a larger effort and perhaps there was something more I could learn about it.  A quick search led me to an online discussion of these new test flavors.  Apparently, Frito-Lay/PepsiCo charges customers to help them develop new sensory stimulating ingredient formulations.  I also learned that this jacked variety already existed.  Yikes.  It was already too late then to intervene with a large-scale letter writing campaign.  The chips were already jacked.

What did jacked even mean?   None of the definitions I have found seemed really applicable to a snack food.  Is it market speak for GMO corn laden with MSG, seven artificial colors, and 140 calories per six chips? Does it refer to the bigger, bolder, and thicker attributes that the angry-looking packaging boasts?  Are regular Doritos tiny, meek and scrawny by comparison?  I really have no clue about the answers to any of those questions, but I am certain we have  been jacked enough–and certainly hijacked when it comes to feeding the citizenry health-sustaining food.

Recently, Olivier de Schutter, the  United Nations’ Special Rapporteur (cool title), submitted his final report to the UN Human Rights Council on the right to food.  Mark Bittman summarized the report which “analyzes  a food crisis that is international and systemic.  It maintains  that the will of the citizens and countries of the world can be powerful tools in making a new food system, one that is smart and sustainable and fair and describes that all over the world food systems are being rebuilt from the bottom up.  And, it argues for statutory regulation on the marketing of food products.”

It is worth a look at the company link above to see the extreme global reach of these ill-devised products that find their way into the mouths of babes.  An article in the recent issue of periodiCALS (the magazine of Cornell University’s college of Agriculture and Life Sciences) discussed current efforts in India to address malnutrition and growth stunting (which affects an estimated 341 million children worldwide).  A researcher described the work being done in an extremely remote village that cannot be reached by land transport for three months a year during the rainy season.  There, where such problems are endemic, young children are observed buying shining packets of cheese puffs and potato chips.  The infiltration of this junk into this far corner of the world is noted.  I am not shocked, though I am disturbed.

What motivates the continued development and insidious promotion of these adulterated and manipulated food stuffs?  When do their makers say, enough already?  Let’s lay down our guns and claim our pyrrhic victory for the damage has been done and enough money made at the expense of others.  I believe it is time to act upon de Schutter’s assessment that, “Many of us have arrived at the conviction that junk food and sugary drinks are like tobacco and deserve to be treated in the same way.”

There are so many wonderful people promoting incredible efforts to nourish the earth and its inhabitants in a kind and gentle manner, intelligently and respectfully.  Their work is beginning to make a difference.  No jacking required.  I hope to highlight some of the amazing, loving and creative initiatives that have come to my attention in some upcoming posts.  I am humbled by and grateful for what they are doing.  They are making my job easier.

Well, thanks for letting me get this off my chest.  As always, your thoughts are welcomed.  Let’s welcome summer,  its bounty and those who grace us with its goodness.

In health,

Elyn 

P.S.  Your MyPlate Photo or Haiku can be right here when you send them to me!

Rose's Plate

Rose’s Plate

MyPlate Haiku

Pick your own today,

Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats,

Sweet summertime fruit.   by Nan

 

 

 

 

peepin’ out

Boy, it has been awhile since I have last posted.  Something happened in mid-April or right before Easter that might have affected this. Somehow, word got through to me, that Peeps would now be sold year round.   I can’t say if I was aware or not that Peeps, those brightly colored marshmallow bunnies and chicks, only appeared on the market for a relatively short period of time each year in order to celebrate the Resurrection.  Truth be told, I am really naive and poorly informed on certain things, like candy and religion.  I have been confused for decades between Cabbage Patch Dolls and Sour Patch candies–I think that is what they are called.  During nutritional consults, I confess that I have uttered the words, ” Do you eat like Cabbage Patch Doll candies?”  Not just randomly of course, but in the context of an assessment when I am trying to demurely and professionally interpret someone’s intake.

Somewhere halfway between childhood and deciding to become a nutritionist, I managed to wean myself off of my predilection for sugar woven into various seductive forms.  Maybe the end of my relationship with Peeps coincided with my commitment to a vegetarian diet. Eating anything with a face became more distasteful, even if it was just an adorable ball of fluff.  I have managed to avoid the things for a long while except for a time where a co-worker enjoyed flaunting her love of them in front of me like the Adoration.

But, upon hearing the news that Peeps would be popping up in stores on a daily basis, I reacted like Puxatawny Phil seeing his shadow on that fateful Groundhog’s Day.  Down into the burrow, I hastily fled. Just when I thought that maybe things were getting a little better regarding our capacity to ameliorate incoming incarnations of sugar, this information startled me.  To soften the blinding light of  blatant commercialism, I had no choice but to go into the dark place below.

By candlelight, I read the small print.  Peeps are stewarded by the Just Born Company in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. According to the website, the wonderful combination of sweet colored sugar and fluffy marshmallow creates an unforgettable taste experience.   And, furthermore, it states a great candy isn’t made, it’s just born. Jesus!  Don’t these guys realize how bunnies multiply and that chicks are no slackers either when it comes to population growth?  I guess they do.  Apparently, 5.5 million Peeps are born each day!

This pronouncement of  a seemingly immaculate conception in Bethlehem, rather than some sticky mess, presented a whole new ball of carnauba wax–one of the ingredients in Peeps along with sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, potassium sorbate, natural flavors and red 3, blue 1, yellow 6, or yellow 5 depending on the color.  With 6.8 grams of sugar, each Peep is endowed with 1.5 (rounding down) teaspoons of essentially pure sugar–the kind that sends our bodies into metabolic-altering, insulin-demanding, fat-storing sugar shock.

In my quest to find out more about this situation, I was forced back above ground.  Donning sunglasses, my research led me to my local national chain drug store where I made a few laps around the multi-aisle candy section disguised as a normal sugar craving person.  I was forced to blow my cover by asking the clerk where the Peeps were.  She reacted as if I must be from another planet.  I did not bother to defend my citizenship as an earthling and neither did I explain the whole groundhog thing.   But I did say my query had scientific purpose–or something like that.  Obviously, Peeps were not to be found after Easter.  I was six weeks too late.

But, I said, I thought they were available all year now, in a widening array of flavors.  She had not gotten that memo.  She instructed me to go to the company website if I wanted more information.  I thought that was funny.  She did add though that this year she had gotten her little daughter some watermelon ones, so maybe I was right.  I  stiffened like a stale Peep.

Like Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield who deemed himself the protector of childhood innocence,  perhaps I take my influence as a nutritionist of the people and for the people a bit too seriously.  In my head, I am charged on a daily basis to personally obliterate obesity, or on a larger scale to clean up this whole nutritional mess and its adherent ills.   I liked the care and assistance the drug store clerk had given me despite her initial recoil, and now by association, I cared about her daughter.  Could I not issue a global recall of these wolves in chicks’ clothing candies due to salmonella poisoning, avian flu or something to save the children?  My usual quandary about how to reconcile the intentions of capitalist markets and the public health smacked me in the face along with another more subtle underlying dilemma–who am I to take sugar from a baby?  Don’t they need some sweetness in this cruel harsh world?

Well, I figured it was time to move back up.  As by now spring had finally arrived in these parts after the long, extended rodent-predicted winter,  I decided it should be safe to step back into the sunlight.  Besides, another holiday was upon us– Memorial Day.  This one, should actually quell our insatiable appetites, right?  But, alas, like Holden, I was once again in for some surprises.

A little weekend travel led me into a highway rest stop convenience store.  There, upon the laden Frito-Lay chip rack I noticed two different generic bags labeled, Doritos Jacked–Test Flavors 404 and 2658. Jesus. I am not positive, but I  think the deal is that if you buy a bag you get to let someone know how jacked you were.  Have you ever encountered such a thing?  The ingredients list was complete with all of the usual suspects that entice and entwine us.  I had a sudden urge to barricade the rack to prevent the innocents from getting their hands on these  hyperactivity-inducing substances.  But, then I thought, hey, don’t those good folk down there at Frito-Lay and PepsiCo deserve to make a little profit?  Just look at all those flavor scientists they are providing work for.  And, aren’t our kids maybe just a little too mellow?  Besides, I have read the Frito-Lay Promise.  Apparently I can relax, it is all good.

Oh well.  Send word.  Let me know what you think or just say hi.  I miss you.

In health, Elyn

P.S.  News Flash–3 D Printers are now producing sugary confections (and spinach quiche).

P.P.S.  For fun Peep art check  this out.

027 My Plate Haiku

Lagoon watercress

Peppers my tongue

With spring joy.

by Roxanne

My Plate

 

 

meditation v medication march madness rerun

This is a slight revision of one of my earliest posts.   I present this older one while I am busy meditating this week on matters such as the recent break through news about saturated fats and heart disease; 24/7 automated cupcake dispensaries; and, the myriad of nutritional dilemmas that cross my path daily.  

Once upon a time, I was walking down the hall of the Health Center. Passing a closed exam room, I heard the doctor who was inside with a patient say, “Here’s a meditation for you”.  Ah, meditation. Instantaneously, I felt my spine lengthen, my breath deepen and my third eye got a nice little buzz.

Anne-Marie’s eggs

But wait. Which of the Young Living Essential Oils that I frequently use had I just inhaled? Was it the oil blend Hope or Dreamcatcher? I must have been hoping or dreaming. By the time my foot that was in back had overstepped the other one and placed itself in front on the cold, hard and very clean commercial tile, I realized she hadn’t said meditation. She said medication. Of course, silly of me. Where did I think i was?

I must digress for a moment.  The floors in the Health Center are incredibly shiny.  Everyday, they are cleaned in Zen-like fashion by a woman named Pam.  After dancing with the waxing machine,  she traces every seam with a long stick with a tennis ball attached to the end, and then with tiny little tools she meticulously erases every scuff mark with the hands of a surgeon.  The place glistens.

Perhaps my momentary delusion was fueled by the fact that the night before I had seen this amazing film called, May I Be Frank.  It is the true tale of transformation on the physical, emotional and spiritual planes of an overweight, lonely, ill, middle-aged ex-addict named Frank, living in San Francisco.  His soul yearning unexpectedly leads him into a raw food restaurant named Cafe Gratitude and the story begins. Through the use of whole foods, affirmations, holistic health modalities, and the receiving of love, true and profound healing ensues. In the film, there is a scene where he goes to a massage therapist. The massage unleashes a deep emotional release in Frank that simultaneously relieves his chronic back pain. I noticed that on the table in the massage room was a collection of Young Living Essential Oils that I am sure were used.  I tell you, these oils are powerful.

How many times a day is the word medication used in the Health Center?  I even say it about eleven times — and  I am mainly talking about green beans and sardines. Venturing a guess–seven hundred and nine times. No, I don’t think I am exaggerating. If anything, I am underestimating.  There is a lot of medication going down.  (Just today I saw a statistic that said 70% of Americans are on at least one prescription medication.)

Imagine if we could subliminally say meditation instead of medication this many times. What meditation are you taking? I am going to prescribe you some meditation. What’s that? You are calling for a refill on your meditation? Which one? You can pick it up at the sanctuary–along with your wheat grass. That would simply and certainly alter the medical paradigm.

We would do well to consider our health facilities more so like holy temples with acolytes arriving for sustenance and to promote meditation as a veritable ally in the healing of ills.  Though the practice of integrative medicine is growing in acceptance and availability–my yearning is to see it accessible and as a model of care–particularly in high risk communities. This film is one of many these days that provide witness to inspiration, possibility and even necessity.  Pam’s devotion to her task has prepared the sacred ground.  When the time comes, may we be ready.

In health, Elyn

In honor of the egg–its promise of rebirth, its seasonal symbolic representations and its role as an example of dietary dithering–for the month of April I will gladly accept submissions of MyPlate Eggs of your own inspiration.  Thanks to my multi-talented friend Anne-Marie for her beautiful  Ukranian pysanky eggs.  Please submit in comments or at zimcat@verizon.net).

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Emma’s My Egg

 

My Plate Haikus

The farmers’ market/Each egg at the dairy stand/A different color.  by Enki

Food made joyfully/As a gift of time and self/Feeds body and soul.  by Anne-Marie

Sid Caesar Salad

It happened again–my finding a nutrition-related story (or it finding me) where I least expected it.  This time it was not “not a laughing matter”–but actually rather amusing.

Always appreciative of those who have made the world a funnier place, the recent passing of the comedian Sid Caesar led Pete and me to look for some footage of this icon of American humor.   I sat nearby as he clicked here and there on his computer.  He immediately started laughing, listening to the “double talk” for which Caesar was particularly famous.   

Soon I was giggling with him.  A few minutes later, he told me to come look at what he just found.  I leaned over as he played a sketch for me from Caesar’s long running TV show, Your Show of Shows, called  Health Food Restaurant .  This piece dates to the early 1950s.   Caesar and Imogene Coca play a married couple out to dinner at a fancy New York City restaurant.  Yet instead of the steak, sausage, snails and hot tamales that Caesar craves, here at the Vitality Health Food Kitchen where Coca has taken him, there is only pala  paka plant blossoms; the Vitamin B1 B2 B3 C D and H Dinner for Two; homogenized bone meal and wheat germ with a side of cructose; and, spaghutti, made from a cabbage extract and a cauliflower derivative.  Caesar of course mocks, whines, pleads and gags his way through the menu as described by the waiter, played by Carl Reiner–who you may recall, I once met. But, impressed by the youthfulness and vitality of the other diners, and in an earnest attempt to appease his wife, he forgoes his personal desires and literally digs in to the dinner salad served with a set of gardening tools for silverware.

Although “health food” and “plant-based” proponents and movements have probably been around since our Paleo beginnings,  there was just something very surprising about seeing this sketch which was made during a period after which we seemed to have left vegetables behind on rural farms and before the Back to Nature movements of the 1970s.  It was a time maybe of boiled potatoes and  blanched green beans at best which also coincided with the peak years for deaths from heart disease.  As this interesting history details, it was also a  time marked by an increase in the use of hydrogenated fats and vegetable oils and the advent of pasteurized milk.

I am not sure we can pinpoint the nadir of the American diet.   Though the 1950’s can be critiqued for its focus on meat and dairy along with the increased use of processed foods, plasticized fats and high smoking rates, things seem to have gotten a whole lot worse since then.  I don’t think we have  hit bottom but there are some signs we are beginning to emerge from the Dark Ages.

Perhaps I am just being a little naive.  Just as we don’t believe that people in the “old days” ever had sex, maybe I can’t imagine the nature of health food consciousness before my own time and the dietary context in which it existed.   Though the use of refined sugar is presented as a modern-day scourge, its grip took hold long ago.  A brief look into biographical information about health and fitness guru Jack LaLanne who was born in 1914–ages ago–interestingly states that he described himself as a sugarholic and junk food addict as a young boy with associated  behavioral problems.   His early education about natural foods changed the course of his life.  Of course, attention to the attainment of physical, emotional and spiritual health has coursed through human history, the admonishment of gluttony is a big theme in the Bible, and there have always been grandmas telling us to eat our vegetables.

Nonetheless, Health Food Restaurant seems quite anachronistic for its day–at least six years before Jack LaLanne’s pioneering fitness show began airing nationally in 1959.  Although it was just a spoof, it  seemed rather prescient addressing  current anti-aging and food toxicity issues.  One of the dishes is mentioned to be good for the ankles.  The edema of the lower extremities is a common symptom of poor heart, kidney or liver function.  Interestingly, Sid Caesar who seriously battled alcohol  addiction and depression eventually became a devoted natural food and fitness adherent to which he credited his healing–and maybe his longevity, being 91 at the time of his passing.

The sketch touched on a few things that I think about.   It reveals the intensity of our food attachments and belief systems and even their influence on relationships.  Though we usually reference money, sex and religion as divisive issues, food and eating habits probably belong somewhere on that list.

Additionally, it looks at the  center of a society’s dietary culture at any given time and how far out is its fringe.  How and why did the standard American diet evolve and deteriorate in such a relatively short period of time compared to other cultures?  What was sacred and what was sacrilege as we shifted from rabbit stew and acorns, to beef and potatoes, to chicken nuggets and french fries?   Nature, economics, politics, biology, capitalism, and science all drove this complicated national trajectory.  For all that was good and bad, it seems that we did not slow down and smell the pala paka blossoms and those that did were either ignored or derided.  It is interesting now to see how the tide is turning as we confront current health and environmental crises.  It is those who were on the fringe who may be forging our new direction.

Mockery is an innate  behavior with evolutionary purposes that makes us defensively joke before we proceed.  Some from the tribe must be brave enough to venture out while the others sit back and have a good laugh at their expense.  Thank God laughter seems to be good for our health.  I am particularly grateful to  those who bless us with their humor because as I look down as I stomp around in the primordial swamp of  our food culture,  I see far too many swollen ankles–enough to break my heart.  RIP Mr. Caesar.

Well, as they say at the Vitality Health Food Kitchen, “Good Health To You and Good Health To Everybody”.

Please drop in for a virtual cup of tea and say hello.

In health,  Elyn

susan's plate

susan’s plate

My Plate Haiku

Hearts are not just

Reserved for romance

Every living thing is in love.   By, Kat

(This post is dedicated to my friend Susan who is heading out to join the Peace Corps.  May her plate and heart be filled with good things.)