In health, Elyn
My Plate Haiku
The farmers’ market
Each egg at the dairy stand
A different color. by Enki
In health, Elyn
My Plate Haiku
The farmers’ market
Each egg at the dairy stand
A different color. by Enki
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.
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.
P.S. Your MyPlate Photo or Haiku can be right here when you send them to me!
Pick your own today,
Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats,
Sweet summertime fruit. by Nan
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.P.S. For fun Peep art check this out.
Peppers my tongue
With spring joy.
This is about confluence–where different streams of my life seem to flow together. One stream is that I began to nurse my young exactly 25 years ago today, on the day that my first child was born–on my birthday. That is one of the stories of my life–giving birth to my son on my birthday. That was pretty cool and only imagined at about 7 pm the evening before, after returning home from seeing the movie, “A Fish Called Wanda”.
Another stream is that it is World Breastfeeding Week. As a nutritionist concerned with the feeding of the species and maternal and child health issues, I think a lot about breastfeeding and spend time advocating and educating about it in my work. I like to honor the annually appointed World Breastfeeding Week that occurs during the first week in August– as does my birthday. This year, I am using some of the well-produced materials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health’s It’s Only Natural campaign as part of my activities at the Health Center and am continuing to address it in my writings.
Today, my birthday and World Breastfeeding Week found my husband Pete and I in Seneca Falls, New York for Empire Farm Days, the largest, agricultural trade show in the Northeast– which for eighty summers has also taken place on this date. Given the role that food plays in both my personal and professional life, it was a gift to be in the midst of the farmers whose business it is to grow and raise the amazing stuff and to be mindful of their concerns. Food off the farm has a very abstract quality, quite remote from its actual origins. But, being at this event, one can see that farming matters such as soil health, pest management, plant hardiness, marketing and the raising of animals are quite real.
It was no surprise for me to find that my alma mater, Cornell University, had a large presence at Empire Farm Days. Both reside upon the shores of Cayuga Lake, and Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences plays a large role in the state’s agricultural initiatives. My nutrition studies took place inches from what is referred to as the Ag School. I walked miles through its vast acreage, bought college-made ice cream at its Dairy Barn, spent hours studying in its Mann Library, barely survived its microbiology course– and, it was where I met Pete. That of course contributed to the having of my above mentioned young.
But, then there was this stream too. At the Cornell exhibit, a video was playing called Birth on the Farm. It opened by showing bluebird babies hatching from their eggs, and barn swallows being fed by their parents, but then it moved quickly on to mammals. One after another I watched a sheep, a horse, a dog and a cow give birth, each baby emerging with amniotic sac intact. Once licked clean by their mama–with a little help from the farmer–these newborns quickly found their way to nipple or utter and began to feed. Human babies, like their mammalian cohort, will find their way to the breast as well, when placed on their mama’s tummies.
Witnessing the wildly innate behavior of the mother/infant nursing dyad in the animal world heightened my wonder about how that behavior has become so disrupted among humans. I just finished a big research project on breastfeeding. My research served to scratch my perpetual itch to understand the modern-day hindrances to feeding our infants in the biologically prescribed way that has sustained humanity for millennia. How has something that a still unseeing and non-hearing puppy can figure out within minutes of birth become something that is culturally perceived as more difficult than rocket science and as contentious as climate change? How has the concept of species-specific milk become so foreign?
I do know a lot of the answers to these questions, and I do appreciate that there are various circumstances where alternative methods of feeding are necessary or that choice is to be respected. Even at the farming event I met a thirteen day old baby goat, the runt of its litter, that required supported bottle feeding by its human mama–but, still, it was receiving goat’s milk. Nonetheless, clinical outcomes and scientific research has led all of the leading health organizations to strongly recommend that human babies in both the non-industrialized and industrialized world exclusively receive human milk for the first six months of life for maximum immunological protection and neurological development. However, after about seven decades of the promotion of artificial milk substitutes (formula), there is still a collective refrain that formula is as good as breast milk–and that breastfeeding is oft not worth the bother.
The truth is that there are significant health and economic costs associated with not breastfeeding. There are societal and environmental costs as well. It is just that the consequences are not as directly obvious as not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle; or as prevalent and publicized as the risks of cigarette smoking. Also, many of the challenges ascribed to breastfeeding, and some of the difficulties that individual women encounter, are really attributable to the lack of proper breastfeeding policies and supports on many levels.
Still in the flow of the day’s happenings, I excitedly headed over by myself to the Women’s Rights National Park and Museum and Women’s Hall of Fame. This was the icing on my cake. The exhibits were awe inspiring and gave me a really deep appreciation of how arduous the fight for women’s rights was–and is still. Immersed in this incredible history, I mused over the sometimes expressed contention that breastfeeding further chains women to their domestic duties and inhibits their participation in the workplace and in society where they may wish or need to be. Walking in the footsteps of these courageous women, I was bolstered in my feeling that this argument misses the point. It is not breastfeeding, but instead, the lack of mandated maternity leaves, workplace supports and other inequalities in this country that are prohibitive. The exhibits themselves provided some proof.
For example, I learned that Norway, the country with the highest breastfeeding rates in the world, also leads in regard to the number of women in parliamentary positions, and that this year, Ina May Gaskin is being inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame. Ina May, is the modern “mother of authentic midwifery”. Though midwives had assisted with childbirth since ancient times, their role had been essentially obliterated with the professionalization of male-dominated obstetrics in the early twentieth century. Her efforts sparked a revolutionary movement which not only opened the way for the re-emergence and popularization of midwifery-guided and women-empowered birth but also contributed to the re-establishment of some breastfeeding practice in this country. Interestingly, Ina May perfected her motherly arts at a commune community called The Farm, and her grandmother was an avid admirer of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the suffragettes.
At the end of the afternoon, Pete rejoined me and we went for dinner. As we sat at the restaurant overlooking the water where the Cayuga-Seneca Canal comes into Seneca Lake, I thought about how the streams of my day all flowed together– birthday, college, nutritional work, food and farming, women’s rights, birth and breastfeeding. These are all pretty big themes in my life. Considering this confluence, I contemplated its meaning. Could it be, that if when enough babies are born welcomed and sustained by mother’s touch, natural nipple and warm nutritionally complete milk; when women’s capacity to nurture and nourish is deeply valued and protected; and, when our farmers are supported to grow healthy food and to protect the land–that the world may be a safer, healthier and softer place?
Please, let me know what you think and do send greetings!
In health, Elyn
My Plate Haiku
Thanks to our farmer
Blueberries kissed by the sun
So much to enjoy!
I got an email from one of my nutrition information feeds. It informed me that the way one can eat carbohydrates more efficiently and prevent insulin resistance–which is associated with diabetes–is to take Cinnamomum Burmannii, Berberine, Pterocarpus Marsupium, 4-hydroxyisoleucine, #5 – R-Alpha Lipoic Acid (R-ALA)–which you can buy in a pill form.
I did not attend the bariatric conference that I went to and wrote about this time last year–How Can You Say No to a Brownie–and therefore missed the session on Diet Strategies: Which work and which don’t. I guess I will have to wait, along with the rest of the world, on that breaking news.
I culled through the medical records of a number of clients at the Health Center, collecting data for a project I am working on. Stories of lives weathered by poverty through the literature of lab results, vitals, hospital discharge papers and consult notes. Lives marked by the chronic health problems of diabetes, hypertension, pain, extreme weight and hospitalizations. Conditions tended to by a boat load of pharmaceuticals, prescribed in an oft crap shoot manner.
I was brought to my knees.
I wondered how I can get the inefficiently carbohydrate-eating, diabetes prone poor some Pterocarpus Marsupium.
I wished nutritional supplements were available to my clients. I’d settle for some R-Alpha Lipoic Acid.
I realized I missed the webinar I had registered for with Renegade Chef Ann Cooper. Without an ounce of rocket science she is feeding kids healthy foods in schools. I was disappointed. Click here
I received an e-health report that 50% of people with hypertension do not have it controlled. I thought about all the records I had just pored over. Most of those with uncontrolled hypertension are on one to three hypertensive medications. Click here
I wished again–this time for stress reduction programs for my clients.
I left my office near tears.
I dreamed about a new line of work.
On my way home I heard a news story that stopped me in my tracks. The US Army had declared a service-wide stand down this day to bring attention to the problem of suicide in the military. Army bases around the world were shut down for mandatory suicide prevention training. Click here
I took a walk.
I thought about processed food. I use tweezers to extricate it from my clients’ lives though I could use something a bit stronger–like a Jaws of Life.
I wondered about a stand down calling for a moratorium on garbage food.
I decided that we need a National Day of Nurturing and Nourishment.
My amazing, earth-moving niece Shanti shared some stories about the beautiful and remarkable greening, gardening and food work she does with the Clinton Housing Development Company and Cultivate HKNY in the midst of New York City. Click here
Going to pick up my daughter, I drove along a quiet road with the sun setting spectacularly on one side while the harvest moon rose beautifully over the other.
I read the paperwork asking me to sell David’s Cheesecakes, Grandma’s Pies and cookie dough for a fundraiser. My heart sank. My inability to broker in sugar will cost me some bucks as I will have to choose the buyout.
I wrote this blog.
As I was calling it a day, my childhood friend Amy posted information about an organization doing wonderful work. I am glad to learn about One.org that is working with women to address childhood malnutrition and putting nutrition on the global agenda. Please, check it out. Click here
I shut out the light, deciding I would do a new little campaign at the Health Center. I will call it One Day One Way encouraging people to take back their own health.
By the light of the moon, Good night
In health, Elyn
My Plate Haiku
What’s with my tummy
Expanding and contracting
Like the moon above
If only we could
Change the world on that one day
By feeding our hearts by Julie
This is a slight revision of a previously published post.
It seems that we spend a lot of time fixing things that should not have ever become so broken. Not only time is wasted but a lot of resources– that seem to be rather scarce these days.
As this relates to the care and feeding on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels of human beings, we certainly have been drawn off course. Some significant digressions from what should have been a rather intuitive matter or a natural symbiotic relationship with the natural and nurturing environment have occurred.
Though early humans expended much of their energy trying to procure food for survival, they still seemed to have had time for other endeavors as well–like discovering fire, inventing the wheel and designing clothes. Nomadic cultures certainly had to find to go or take out food solutions. One would think that at this stage of the game, we too should be able to both nourish and progress.
Listening to the persistent conversation about the problem of obesity one might think evolution-wise we were still inventing the wheel. The top experts in the field are engaged in the mandate to ferret out the problem and find solutions, huge research projects are undertaken, big monies are allocated, programs are created, public health campaigns are rampant. The hunt is on and it has been going on for decades. This time its pursuit is not roaming bison or wild turkey but the reclaiming of our natural homo sapien form and functioning. So far, we seem to have only snagged the primordial beast of eat less and exercise more.
I wonder if this all has to be so difficult. Where and how did we stray so far off course? How did we allow the school food situation to get so bad? Other nations with way fewer resources than ours have maintained a large degree of nutritional integrity,even if in the form of some hearty gruel. Jamie Oliver, a simple lad from England, has managed to bring nourishing food into kids’ cafeterias.
Today, sadly aware that September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, I venture into the childhood obesity debacle to suggest that maybe we can shift the focus, listen to our inherent wisdom, reclaim our cultural connectedness and tweak the approach, to save some on the expended resources that we are currently draining. I know these are complicated matters but perhaps there really are more holistic solutions.
Here are some possibilities:
ð Mandate paid maternity leave of a valuable length. The United States is one of only three countries in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave. The other two are Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. Most countries provide paid leave of between 14-22 weeks. Norway allows 44 weeks, while Canada allows 50. Most mothers here who do get to stay home for a meager six weeks after the birth of their babies generally are those whose jobs provide disability insurance. Wow. What a warped difference in consciousness. We are also quite stingy in terms of annual vacation time. Without time for parents to establish healthy routines, many important aspects related to family and child health are neglected. Additionally, one cannot even begin to discuss weight matters without considering the role of stress on our eating and metabolism. maternity leave comparison maternity leave petition
ð Revisit infant feeding recommendations. Our early feeding practices rely on the introduction of cow milk and soy-based proteins, processed grain cereals and juices as babies’ first foods. Infant feeding recommendations promulgated by physicians professionally under-educated on nutritional matters and baby food manufacturers seem almost sacrosanct in our society. The digestive imprinting and physiological adaptations to our first foods provide important clues as to children’s feeding inclinations. Ignoring this stage is short-sighted.
ð Teach our Children to Eat like the French (and other food conscious cultures). This article by Karen Le Billon highlights this important issue. I might call this Nurture Children’s Developing Food Palates Appropriately. This means we should not be catering to children’s unformed palates. Doing so dwarfs the development required to appreciate more sophisticated and healthier foods, tastes and textures. Overexposing children early to an onslaught of sweet and chemically-produced tastes inhibits acceptance of the wide variety of foods required for a balanced diet. This is a major problem. how the french feed their children
ð Stop advertising and marketing food to children. Over thirty-five years ago Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Action for Chidren’s Television petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to restrict advertising aimed at children–in large part due its effects on children’s dietary preferences and intake. The FTC agreed that such practices were inappropriate. However, the food, toy and advertising industries pushed back and unfortunately pressured Congress to halt taking action. Today,17 to 20 billion dollars are spent annually on the marketing of non-nutrient foods to children. Additionally, while our FDA continues to hold to its stance that artificial food dyes and preservatives in our food are safe, other countries have begun to take progressive action to remove these substances from their products–even in foods made by American manufacturers–for their children’s sakes.
ð Likewise, redesign supermarket and drug store layouts so that they do not cater to 4- year-olds’ sensibilities. Next time you shop, pay attention to how many cartoon character endorsed products are populating the food aisles, especially at the eye-catching “end caps” and checkout counters.
ð Respect recess. Put it back in the school if it has been taken away. Provide it daily and preferably before lunch.
ð Integrate relaxation/yoga/resilience training and cooking/gardening curriculum at all grade levels.
ð Protect farmers and subsidize fruits and vegetables.
Well, using agricultural measurement, I think that is enough for now. If we truly and intelligently wish to address this matter– and to heal what should have never become so broken– we have to restore the capacity of those best equipped to nourish and protect our children–the parents, farmers,cooks, teachers and schools. And yes, it may require the creation and implementation of policies on a larger-scale which will facilitate that as a culture we are prepared to do so.
Regarding the Let’s Move initiative, my contention is that children innately know how to move–it is not them who need to get their butts in gear. May we love our children a bushel and a peck.
In health, with a hug around the neck, Elyn
please share your thoughts or additional ideas on this matter. thanks.
My Plate Haiku
Smooth peanut butter
Spread on a peeled banana
Snack time perfection.
I was hoping not to have to work today. It is Sunday and I promised myself a little repose. So there I was actually lounging on the couch this morning when the news of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement of the Latch on NYC breastfeeding initiative filtered into my airspace from a NPR podcast.
Clearly, the launch of this voluntary program for New York City’s hospitals was timed to coincide with World Breast Feeding Week. The story started off nicely enough with rational presentation of the benefits of breastfeeding and informed that 27 out of 40 New York City hospitals have already signed on to the recommended policy. But, it then whacked me with a tirade of the backlash to the initiative–bemoaning that women do not want to have their parenting decisions enforced, especially by a man–and specifically not by health policy promoting Bloomberg.
I rolled over and groaned into the cushions. My hopes for a relaxing day were shattered. I intended to glue my attention to the Olympics–one of the rare times I surrender to watching TV– but this report was going to interfere. Having just discussed the topic of breastfeeding a few days ago in Blessed Feeding Summer Rerun, I had no choice but to respond to this in a timely manner. Water polo and volleyball could wait, but this must be addressed before track and field and gymnastics takes to the screen.
In brief, Michael Bloomberg did not make up these policies, and in fact, they are not mandates. These are recommendations consistent with the guidelines of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Other larger jurisdictions have already implemented these policies. The intention is not to take choice away from women or to impound life-giving nourishment. It will not send women back into the kitchen chained to the stove with babes pulling on the teat as some editorials that I read implied. Instead, it is a long overdue remediation of a situation that separated the human species from their species specific milk and compromised in both subtle and profound ways the health of many moms and babes. The superiority of human milk, as compared to artificial milk or formula, for human babies is not disputed and its immuno-protective properties are well established. There are many other benefits as well of mother’s milk as substance and breastfeeding as method.
What is not as well-known is that formula companies have participated in the disruption of this mother and child feeding relationship for many years and that this has promoted a cultural ignorance about the benefits of breast milk and a communal lack of wisdom regarding supporting women in this most natural of human behaviors. Big corporations have been the beneficiaries of immeasurable profits by influencing infant feeding through using extreme measures by literally getting invited right into the hospital.
Pregnant woman are wooed with coupons, samples and free merchandise. New moms are given goodie bags with loyalty promoting formula brands. What formula a baby is started on has nothing to do with the baby or the doctor, but by whatever company got their hands on those tiny sucking lips first. Where else does this marketing intrusion occur so blatantly in matters related to health?
Women’s efforts to nurse have been sabotaged in hospitals for decades by babies being given sugar-water or formula without consent. Birth attendants including doctors and nurses not educated in lactation have also impeded the mother’s success at nursing. The result is a society that for decades has been led to believe that nursing is difficult, inconvenient and an impediment to maternal freedom. What has created barriers for mothers choosing to nurse is not nursing, but a lack of education, limited support, pathetic maternity leave policies, lack of comfortable places for nursing and pumping and a prudish culture that has turned feeding at the breast into a lascvicious act aggravated by laws that even make nursing in public illegal in some places.
If you wish to discuss enslaving factors as regards women’s choices, this is what people should be concerned with–not the new policies. Of course everyone knows that some moms and babies will require formula and that some women will continue to choose it for a multitude of reasons. I am pretty sure the locked cabinet that the policy suggests will not be in the hospital basement by the janitors’ supplies and that women won’t be found dragging their IV poles down the hall in desperate search of contraband formula to sate their starving babies. And, I strongly doubt that nursing staff will be utilizing methods of intimidation to enforce breastfeeding.
This is just an opportunity to fully educate and inform and to take the profits out of our babies bellies. It is one of a long series of efforts by many health care professionals to enhance the health of women and children in both the short and long-term. This is not rocket science nor is it evidence of a nanny state. If we as mothers have to choose our battles–this is not the one to wage.
In health, Elyn
http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/ benefits of breastfeeding
Related post: Breastfeeding Redux
My Plate Haiku
Three children with empty pails
Pluck, pluck, crunch, exhale.
This week, August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week. World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year in more than 170 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policy-makers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/
In celebration, and because I have been busy and have not written recently, I offer a previous post. I dedicate it to my son, born on my birthday on August 7th–an incredible gift. He was a happy nurser, deeply committed to the cause. I honor that his deliverance occurred during this important week. To happy births and blessed feedings.
It was one of those mornings. One minute I am simply getting dressed for work, the next I am hopping around with only one leg in my tights, trying to find pen and paper to grab what I can from another nutrition-related radio story. On that particular day, it was an NPR story entitled, Some Baby Formulas May Cause Faster Weight Gain.
The story which ran on January 24, 2011, starts out by saying that breastfeeding can be challenging, so most babies are on formula. It was about a small study comparing cow’s milk formula and predigested protein formulas– which are very expensive and used mainly for babies with significant digestive issues including cow’s milk allergies. The research suggested that at 7 months of age, the cow’s milk formula babies weighed two pounds more than breastfed and predigested formula babies. The study only observed that the babies drinking the cow’s milk formula took a longer time to be satiated and therefore drank more. There was no explanation given for this.
Interviewed for the story was a Dr. Nicholas Stettler, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. He starts out by saying that formulas have been proven safe and effective, and if infants like them and eat them, they’ll maintain their health and weight. He then goes on to say that babies who gain too much weight in the first weeks and months of life are 5 times more prone to obesity and its inherent health risks by age 20–and that formula babies often gain too much. He concludes by advising that, “Parents should work closely with their pediatricians to make sure their babies don’t gain too much or too little. In this case, average is best.”
All in all, it wasn’t worth the hopping. None of this was exactly news to me and if anything I was surprised at the limited analysis of the results. However, it touched on an issue that I feel quite strongly about–the dismal state of affairs regarding breastfeeding in this country and its many implications.
Ironically, on January 20th, just four days before, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin announced the “Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding“. Outlined clearly in the announcement and its accompanying report are the many benefits of breastfeeding and the attendant health risks of not doing so. Clearly known in the medical and nursing community is that there are many physical and emotional benefits for both nursing moms and their babies, and that babies who are not breastfed are at increased risk for diarrhea, ear infections, more serious lower respiratory infections, SIDS, childhood leukemias, asthma, diabetes and obesity. Lactation experts and women who do breastfeed understand that human milk is species specific for human babies, and its composition perfectly designed for proper and progressive growth. Mother’s milk changes composition during each feeding as well due to differences in the foremilk and hindmilk and naturally provides nutritional, immunological and satiety factors.
In the introduction to the report, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius writes, “For much of the last century, America’s mothers were given poor advice and were discouraged from breastfeeding to the point that breastfeeding became an unusual choice in this country.” I appreciated the admission. Tucked in the report amongst the many reasons for our pathetically low breastfeeding rates was this paragraph: “A recent survey of pediatricians showed that many believe the benefits of breastfeeding don’t outweigh the challenges that may be associated with it and report various reasons to recommend against it.”
This seems pretty shocking given the following. Comparing formula fed babies to those who were breastfed exclusively for four months, the rates of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections are 250% greater; for GI infections including diarrhea are 178% greater; and, for necrotizing enterocolitis in premature babies 138% greater for the formula fed babies. The economic impact of just these three illnesses that breastfeeding can prevent, costs this country 3.6 billion dollars per year. In cultures where babies have unlimited access to the breast and constant maternal contact, the prevalence of psycho and sociopathic behaviors are very low. What is the economic cost of those disorders?
Though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, this recommendation does not translate into proper education, promotion and support. Hindering the promotion of breastfeeding in this country is the perpetuation of the idea that the decision to breastfeed is a personal one and we should not make women feel guilty for not breastfeeding. Also, as a non-breastfeeding society for a few generations now, the cultural belief system is that most babies are raised on formula and they are fine. Additionally, like nutrition, obstetricians and pediatricians– who are best poised to promote this clearly biologically superior milk–may not receive much training on breastfeeding and there is an awkwardness about women and breasts–even in the medical community.
The moment that baby opens it little mouth and receives an artificial milk, it is unwittingly committed to a different path than its breastfed nursery mate. Immediately, that baby becomes a consumer of a highly and often deceitfully marketed corporate product; is more vulnerable to various illnesses and diseases with short or long term health implications; compromises its innate ability to self regulate feedings, and now in this weighted world, must work with its pediatrician to strive for average.
The health center where I work serves a large and diverse international clientele. I feel very fortunate to encounter daily a multi-cultural perspective. Last week, as I was walking past the main waiting area, two young women were nursing their babies. One woman was Mexican and the other was Burmese. This was not shy, covered up nursing. Both, were one breast exposed unabashedly doing what women have been doing for thousands and thousands of years. Confidently nourishing their young. How challenging can it be?
In health, Elyn
Related Post: Breastfeeding Redux
My Plate Haiku
Pick your own today
Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats
Sweet summertime fruit.
by Nan (my dear friend–whose once happily nursing son is getting married tomorrow. many blessings.)
My dilemma was really excited. We hadn’t been to a conference in a while. Usually I try to keep my nutritional dilemma quiet and out of sight. But, last week as I was heading to a meeting of the New York State Public Health Association I figured nothing would be too controversial, so I relaxed my grip on it a bit as we headed out. It was an unusually warm morning and as I let down the car windows, my dilemma, riding shotgun, stuck its head out into the fresh air, giddily taking in all the sights and smells like a golden retriever.
We arrived at the hotel, easily found a parking space and the right room, and settled in. I applauded the availability of Tazo Tea and forgave the choice of bad white bagels. I knew there was some consciousness on the part of the Association to be mindful of the food so I appreciated that there was an alternative to the usual sugary breakfast pastries.
The title of the conference was “Transforming Communities through Public Health Practice”. The keynote speaker was Michelle Davis, Deputy Regional Health Administrator for the US Department of Health and Human Services.
As I sat through the morning, I checked the program to remind myself of the focus of the day and why I had chosen to apply my limited continuing education benefits here. Though I mainly do my nutrition and health thing privately within the confines of my small offices, working with one member of the public at a time, I also try to promote health messages to a larger audience as well. I practice what I term stealth health–introducing information or programs that enhance well-being in both supportive and unsuspecting ways. Here was an opportunity to listen and learn from others who are out there doing community transformation. This is what motivated my choice–to be with my peeps–like-minded people doing great things in this arena.
As an attendee I learned of the new goals of the Healthy People 2020 initiative; I heard about some worthy activities happening on the local scene; and, I sat in on an interesting session that reviewed a relatively well-funded menu labeling education campaign that encouraged consumers to choose fast food meals containing 600 calories or less. The initial results were apparently somewhat disappointing though the evaluation data was limited. The research ironically showed that those who did not receive the message curtailed calories more than those who did.
I thought I had my dilemma well-leashed at this point, but in retrospect I realize it was already starting to whimper and whine. However, it was not until I attended the first afternoon session, “Development and Implementation of Formal Policies and/or Local Legislation to Increase the Availability of Non-Sugar Sweetened Beverages in Public Buildings: Reports from the Field” that its bark became disruptively loud. The session was facilitated by two women who had overseen a project of the NY State Association of County Health officials wherein monies and other resources were allocated to a handful of county health departments to assist their county governments in achieving this goal.
They effectively reviewed how the different counties applied their efforts–which really were intended to decrease the availability of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs). They described media campaigns, seltzer water promotion activities, revenue concerns, working with government officials from the top down and with procurement managers from the bottom up. They discussed vending contracts and how these are virtually impossible to change until the contract runs out. They explained the challenges, push back and resistance that each county encountered and the small changes that were made. This was absolutely positive action, but it required that they had to play nice politics with these good public dollars.
I suppose I know this is how the process works but the cumulative view of the public health community working so hard for such small gains–even in the public sector–turned my dilemma rabid. It circled wildly, foamed at the mouth and even raised its hand and expressed its opinion. To calm it back down, I had to go get it a fruit kabob at the next break.
Who do we still have to convince at this stage of the game that vending machine revenues will not outpace health care spending? Who do I need to invite into my office to hear the daily stories of health compromised by tepid health care policies and timid action? How many cases of people addicted to Mountain Dew, Pepsi and other such SSBs must I detail as evidence to show how they suffer from rotted teeth that cannot be repaired; ravaged digestive systems bandaged with a plethora of damaging antacid medications; excessive weight that has literally brought them to their knees; anxiety propelled by excessive caffeine; and, destroyed glucose control that relegates them to a life with diabetes? Is it not tragic how many are children and young adults are already affected?
I always say that if I was the ruler of the food planet, I would remove sodas immediately. There is a heavy toll on health from such irresponsibly marketed products available for consumption with the clink of just a few coins in most public places–not only here but around the globe. And, though soda addiction knows no boundaries, as usual, the poor, are disproportionately affected. Recently, a client of mine told me that the school bus company that he works for removed soda vending from the employee break room. Cannot our own government agencies venture such a commitment? Bearing such witness, I am perforce required to display the amount of sweeteners in various SSB bottles wherever I may be. Right now in the lobby of the health center I have such a display with associated handouts. People truly gasp when they see the load of sugary stuff that otherwise stays dissolved in the highly acidic medium.
This week, just a few days after the episode at the hotel, a fifteen-year-old boy who has lived a large part of his life in a home for trouble youth was brought to see me–ostensibly for his high weight problems. He was accompanied by a case manager–and another boy who came along. We had a pretty good chat and among other things, we talked about his soda drinking. I told him I really felt sodas were toxic substances that deserved some type of poison label. He asked me if I had a Sharpie. I said of course, dug it out for him–and he drew me a page full of well-executed skulls and crossbones. I thanked him profusely for his contribution to my crusade. Who knows, perhaps through this experience of participation he will become a stealth health advocate. When we were done, I gave him and his little buddy two water bottles that I had actually picked up at the conference.
Afterwards, I realized my dilemma had been watching the whole encounter from under my desk. It pawed at me and looked me squarely in the eye. It bemoaned that private health is truly a deeply public health matter and visa versa, and with its tail between its legs it quietly crawled away.
Let me know what you think about this issue. Thanks.
In health, Elyn
http://www.nplanonline.org/sites/phlpnet.org/files/Beverage_Industry_Report-FINAL_20110907.pdf an in depth look at the soft drink industry by the National Policy and Legal Analysis Network
My Plate Haiku
Peppers my tongue
With spring joy.
Linsanity. I am all over it. Jeremy Lin–Harvard graduate, undrafted player, turned New York Knicks phenomenon. Like I just learned that he’s a point guard. And, no, I haven’t seen him play yet–but that’s due to us not having much accessible TV in my home and something about a broadcasting contract between MSG Sports and the local cable company. So then, what do I know? I know he grew up playing basketball at his local YMCA; his other favorite sport was soccer; he does yoga; he has a charitable foundation; and, most importantly– what he eats per day to meet his protein requirements. Oh, and that he has a weakness for In-N-Out Burgers.
This 6-foot-3 and 205-lb rookie player has come charging onto the scene fueled with 205 grams of protein per day–as recommended by his personal trainer. Regular humans need about .4 to .7 grams of protein per pound depending on a variety of factors which include activity, age, state of health and a degree of imprecision in calculating optimal protein requirements. However, superlative athletes can extend their intake higher, and Lin’s 1.0 gram of protein per pound is probably both generous and acceptable. Sports that involve a lot of impact and pounding necessitate a large degree of repair nutrients which protein delivers–and with the compacted NBA season this year resulting in less rest between games, it seems like the players are taking quite a beating.
This means that to start him on his way each day, Lin aims for 50 grams of protein at breakfast. To reach this amount, he eats five eggs along with a serving of another protein like ham or turkey. The rest of his daily diet includes lean proteins from chicken, fish and milk-based protein powder, lots and lots of vegetables which he derives often from big salads, and a modicum of starchy carbohydrates. I was surprised at the lack of more carbs but I think they were just not clearly described in the plan that I saw.
I did not really intend to write about what Mr. Lin is chowing down–despite my being very interested in athletes’ diets. I enjoy hearing about those who credit their success or long, injury-free careers to their attention to nutrition–and will gladly delve into any Sports Illustrated Magazine that makes me privy to some piece of information about a sport celebrity’s care and feeding of their body. And, with professional sports’ fierce competition, more athletes are turning to such measures to improve their edge. I am also a champion of such stars who use their celebrity to promote healthy behaviors and give back to their communities.
I would love to be a sports nutritionist for a professional organization. I did once serve in that role for a college women’s basketball team. When I joined them for a team building day–which included games and a high ropes course– my life felt a bit endangered. These tall amazon women felt entitled to some payback for my moderating their carefree college eating experiences. They were only Division 3. Maybe, if they were more assured of a high paying basketball contract they would have better appreciated my input and might have caught me in that game where you stand in the middle of a circle, lean back with your eyes closed and trust that the others will gently receive and carry your weight.
I digress. Anyway, since I am not a highly paid sports nutritionist, my attentions go to the more pedestrian aspects of how the mere mortals are eating. The little tidbit that really led me into this linsanity was a NY Times article this week about Jeremy’s grandmother, 85-year old Lin Chu A Muen. Though she lives in Taiwan, when Jeremy was a baby and young child, she came here and cared for him in the California home where he was raised. Apparently, one of the budding basketball star’s favorite dishes that she prepared for him was fried rice with egg and dried turnip. For me, right there was the story.
I extrapolated from this one sentence mention a whole message about childhood feeding–and grandmothers. I thought I would just use it to advance my personal theory that the whole ruckus about feeding kids is overblown and that kids will just eat good healthy food if that is what is presented to them–without a myriad of choice and being catered to and if served with love–just as Lin Chu did for little Jeremy–dried turnip and all.
This seemed like a good way to present my adopt a grandmother feeding initiative. I have long observed that there are many from the older generations who really know how to cook–but no longer have anyone to cook for. Connecting these grandmothers (and grandfathers) with households that lack such important know-how would be a brilliant solution to the current childhood culinary and nutritional crisis.
My thesis was advanced when quick research revealed that Lin’s family doesn’t cook much and so he eats out for most of his meals. I assume that this describes the situation when living at home with his parents–after Grandma returned to Taiwan. It seems like once Lin Chu left, this family of ninth-generation descendents of immigrants from the Fujian province in southeast China, like many other American families, became clueless in the kitchen and In-N-Out Burger replaced the dried turnip dish.
One could probably argue that little Jeremy might not have grown so tall without the addition of such burgers to his diet and that a continued dietary of dried root vegetables, starch and a touch of egg protein could have deprived the New York Knicks of the divine lintervention he seems to be providing. His current protein intake far exceeds that of his ancestors. However, that raises other philosophical, ecological and nutritional issues.
I suppose he is living on his own now somewhere in the vicinity of New York City. Though he can probably afford it, his new-found fame probably makes it difficult for him to frequent the local burger joint, and besides, I don’t think we have In-N-Out Burgers here in New York. Jeremy might just have to take his eating back into the home and to find a grandmother who can prepare for him the sustenance he requires. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s too late for him to draft his own grandma for the program. Apparently, Lin Chu is too busy hanging out in sports bars in Taipei watching her grandson play basketball.
Knicks fans and Michelle Obama, what do you think?
Sunday’s stats: Knicks 104–Mavericks 97 Jeremy Lin: 28 points; 14 assists (7 turnovers–and that doesn’t mean apple)
In health, Elyn
http://truthonhealth.org/ Boston Celtic Paul Pierce’s Child Health Initiative