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eye of the newt–the halloween report

The week of Halloween is usually the busiest one of the year for me. I have described before the antics of my next door neighbors Amy and Eric and the going ons in my little village, but this year things were truly larger than life with the celebration of the Day of the Dead and all whom that invites. So, this past week was crazier than usual with many attendant dilemmas.

It all started out with my newt. I wrote about Everest, a few years back in Feeding Things. Recently, Everest has not been doing well. He became quite bloated, and was eating less and moving less than even usual. After thirteen years with us, I thought maybe his time had come. On several occasions, I declared and bemoaned with certainty that he was dead, and each time I did, he’d surprise me by appearing in a different part of his tank. I was actually pretty upset, because thirteen years with anything, including a pretty little amphibian involves some emotional attachment. But, what was I to do?

Zena intervened by finding a nearby reptile and amphibian veterinarian. Yikes! Just when I thought I should let nature take its course, I found myself at the beginning of the week, on Zena’s birthday, at the vet. I figured I should do it for her and besides, the newt had never needed much of anything before. It was her wish to get a newt when she was in first grade, and here she was in college, asking me to please do something. Well, that was a rather surreal experience. They brought in big heat lamps, and that vet whisked dear Everest up out of his tank for a full physical examination. His eyes were declared clear, his will forces strong–as he would not open his mouth, but his prognosis poor.

Though I was anxious to get home to get ready for Zena’s birthday dinner, I waited as a few remedies were prescribed including a highly nutritious food powder that I need just mix with water and get down his throat. I drove home wondering if I had done the right thing. But, I knew this was going to be a crazy week with lots happening, so I set Everest up in a new spot with a new light, and decided to accept whatever was to be without much more intervention. Still, I was aware that it was interesting that my newt story was transpiring just in time for Halloween. Even Leah’s Cakery, the incredible bakery (and more) in the village was serving up Eye of the Newt Soup in the spirit of the upcoming holiday.

We had a lovely dinner with Zena, but that was just the beginning. When you live next door to people whose Halloween display is so elaborate that the mayor decrees that the street gets blocked off, you cannot just sit by and do nothing. None of that, “Oh, no, we don’t get many trick-or-treaters.” Only the pressure I feel to impress the “Joneses” by making some humble effort to make my house look spooky–one year it was a little Snoopy cut out that said “BOO”–allows me to preoccupy myself and forget that this holiday is a nutritionist’s nightmare.

I did not go and buy any candy, but neither did I have time to go figure out a substitute. Last year I gave out little adorable fruit and vegetable stickers (big hit) but this year my source was dried up. I dragged a huge tree limb out of the woods for my Edgar Allen Poe inspired decorative theme, I dug out the pumpkin and skull lights, I found the stuffed crows and owls and, I went in search of pumpkins–which are hard to come by when you wait till the end. Then mid-week, I remembered it was my turn to be the birthday “bunny” at work which means I had to prepare a little celebration for the person’s whose birthday it was in my unit, which in this case turned out to be my boss. Yikes. That involved some agita and concern whether my low sugar baking would be enough to impress.

In the midst of this, I did try to go find something to humor the little children enough that they wouldn’t notice that they were not receiving any candy. I arrived at a local dollar store only to find that they were closing in a few days and that the shelves were pretty bare. However, I managed to gather up a few packs of some type of crayon markers–and a new cat poop scooper.

When Peter arrived home from being out-of-town, he found the measly amount of markers in a box by the door. He looked at me and said he would go buy some candy. Still, even what you think might be enough is never enough and always exceeds what my conscience can abide.

Friday morning, Halloween Day, arrived. Though I had wedged the big tree limb onto my porch, there was still some decorating to do. And, while the pumpkins had been eviscerated they still needed to be carved. On top of everything, the next day was Peter’s birthday, and I hoped to celebrate it with the guests who were coming for Halloween which included Zena and some of her college friends, and Peter’s sister and brother-in-law.

I checked on the newt. Amazingly as the days had passed his bloating had decreased and he seemed a little more active than he had in weeks. I looked him in the eye and wished him a Happy Halloween. He gave me a little wink. Heading out to work, I ran into Leah’s. Leah is truly a wizardess and had conjured up the most adorable little Halloween chocolate cakes. I described the situation and she magically added the words Happy Birthday above the frosting skeleton.

I got to work and begged for a slightly early release, which was granted. I raced home. My street was blocked with those orange cones reminding me that I could not even park in front of my house. The clock was ticking as I walked over from where I was able to leave my car, carrying the cake and finalizing my game plan. The little kiddies would start arriving any minute. I put up the butternut squash, sweet potato and pumpkin soup in the cauldron, my witches beta carotene brew antidote for too much candy. I stood above the pumpkins, wielded a knife and recited the spell for quick inspiration for carving ideas.  And, I stuck Zena’s stuffed sloth as the final touch on the tree limb. I responded to the first rings of the door bell and ran outside to watch as the first visitors took in the wonder of it all. Peter then arrived home, just in time to become official greeter and dispenser while I hung back in the kitchen. The onslaught was intense.

So, here is this year’s report from the field. As the monsters, princesses, zombies, pirates, dice, skeletons and lions arrived at the door, the orifices of their candy collecting devices agape, Peter asked, “Which would you prefer?” “You can either have some chocolate or candy just like at every other house, OR, you can have some (state of the art) markers.” Well, though I am not sure the survey would meet the rigors of the scientific method, the results suggest about a thirty percent response rate for the markers. Really! Amid the din of shrieks for chocolate, I heard, “Wow! Markers are great! I love markers. Yeah, cool, thanks.” In fact, the response rate was so high that we had to start breaking down the four packs and handing out individual ones. That was just about the time that we ran out of candy too. Emergency measures were put in place temporarily until the situation could be resolved–which was when I ran to my other neighbor, Carrie Woerner who is running for State Assembly, and she handed over to me some of her reserves.

So, along with the spirits, many questions floated in the air.  What is it that we are truly seeking and craving?  What other tokens of love and fun can we share? When is enough enough? When do we saturate? What are the deeper implications? And, should you force feed a newt?

Well, maybe I am a party pooper (and a kitty poop scooper) but it is complicated. When the night finally quieted down and the goblins returned to their homes, Peter and I wandered over to Amy and Eric’s to see how they were doing. The candy quandary question arose. Amy, always creative even when utterly exhausted gave me an idea. Next year, I will honor the holiday by giving out some nice little bags of herbs tied up with a sweet little greeting. Perhaps some chamomile, yarrow or mugwort. Ah, yes–mugwort. The makings of a gentle potion to put the children peacefully to sleep. No sugar crash and good for parents too.

Oh, well. It’s over. The squirrels have already eaten away at the pumpkins, the newt is still alive, and tomorrow is Election Day. If you live in my district, please vote for Carrie!

In health, Elyn

Any related Halloween anecdotes to share? Please do.

Related Posts: Post Halloween Post and The Nightmare Before Halloween

P.S. Carrie did win the Assembly seat!

My Plate Haiku: What’s with my tummy/Expanding and contracting/Like the moon above.  by David

photo 3 - Edited

Leah’s Plate

brought to tears

I actually found it in a garbage can at the health department where I now work. I’d been trying to get my little fingers on one of these for awhile, so I was not totally put off by its lowly circumstances. It really should have been in the recycling bin at least, but there it lay, abandoned, thankfully right on top. I gingerly lifted it from its resting place of refuse and walked it right over to a nearby sink.

not a photo of a Coke bottle

I unscrewed the cap which I was about to discard until I noticed that it too was an artifact of interest to me– but that was secondary to the bottle, at least for starters. The bottle was still half full or half empty, so my next quasi-distasteful act was to pour the hazardous saliva mixed remains down the drain despite my uncertainty regarding proper disposal procedures for what might be considered a toxic substance.

A few months back I had become aware of some new Coca Cola campaign entitled Share A Coke. Cans and bottles of the ubiquitous beverage now have one of about 250 first names, like Debbie, along with other emotionally tinged monikers like Bestie, Grillmaster, Wingman, Mom and Dad prominently displayed on the label under the directive to Share a Coke with the dearly imprinted. Just hearing about this manipulation of the human psyche triggered my shivers down the spine reflex. But, when I began to see the bottles for sale in my local convenience store and in the cafeteria in my office building it was downright spooky. But, here I was now, up close and personal with one.

Things must have been getting pretty bad over there at Coca Cola. Previous promises of perpetual happiness associated with imbibing the sugar-laden, highly acidic, caffeine-laced, teeth-rotting, gut-deteriorating, illness-promoting fizzy elixir must have begun to go flat. Were sales lagging? Was the logo no longer recognizable the world over? What else could have initiated a marketing blitz that reeks of malevolence as it strives to ensnare our fragile egos and enslave our purchasing behaviors.

I remember being excited when those little mini license plates with names on them that you could attach to your bike seat first came out. But, I also recall the immediate chagrin when you could not find your own name hanging from the metal display rack. Suddenly you felt second-rate, not worthy of a plate. I am not certain of all of the psychological underpinnings that are attached to this probably billion dollar campaign, but I am sure they are many. Does seeing our name emblazoned in such a public way make us feel validated, loved, powerful and more connected in this alienated world?

I don’t really get the campaign. I am sure most of the time, you have to buy a bottle with someone else’s name on it. How much can you bother to search for a bottle that idolizes yourself or a loved one? Must you settle for John when you are really seeking Mario? And then, what if you don’t have a person to share it with? That is probably what happened to my bottle, Nicole. Half finished and tossed aside, unshared and hopes dashed. Even the reward points offered on the cap were left unclaimed and discarded. Reward points? Really?

I don’t want to go any further on this except to say that this unbridled assault on our health through such methods of aggressive advertising can and does bring me to tears. I’ve written about this before. One does not have to look too hard to see the real rewards of such consumption, but you have to care to be looking and looking to care. I am too verklempt even thinking about needing to reiterate the effects of these substances anymore. Originally, the reason I wanted to get a bottle without purchase was to be able to include it as a photo for this post–but now I don’t even wish to give it any publicity or visibility. We are clearly easy targets for seduction even when clearly it is not in our best interest. So, Nicole will now go directly into my recycling bin and I am posting instead a beautiful photo of yesterday’s sunset. My only hope is that an unexpected outcome of the campaign will be that with all that sharing of cans and bottles, per capita consumption will actually shrink by at least half.

Anyway, while there are sad tears there are also happy ones. I specialize in both. Recently, while also at work–it may have even been the same day that I retrieved the Coke bottle, I received an email from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. It included a video that spotlighted healthy and healing practices being undertaken at the West Side High School for at risk students in New York City through a powerful investment in a gardening program, real food, and intensive physical activity– by a dedicated and devoted principal and staff.

Thirty-six seconds in and there I was bawling (yes) in my little oh not so private cubicle. In my last post, I wrote about my reservations about the bulk of nutrition and health activities being directed at obesity prevention efforts whereas I believe the implications and consequences of our cultural dietary and health insults are so much greater. I did not get much response on that so I would still be interested in hearing your thoughts. But, in this video, simply and beautifully, a young woman named Tenia expresses why eating proper foods is important for both emotional and physical well-being–aside from weight-based associations.

This glimpse of transformation that occurs when the birthright of health is granted, when it is given priority and nurtured, and not compromised by those so willing to sacrifice our young in endless pursuit of profit is worth viewing. I highly recommend it. Here is the link.

Note to self. Don’t forget the tissues.

Just a mention that my own recent favorite brew has been matcha, a fine green tea powder. I enjoy it as a tea or mixed in smoothies. It is fuller or richer than regular green tea and it gently provides a touch of focus and energy. I was initiated with a gift of a package of Matcha from Kiss Me Organics that was exceptionally pleasant and which has become a welcomed part of my day and my diet. There are many benefits of matcha to explore and it can be incorporated into many recipes. Give it a peek.

Na area da saude, Elyn

Related Posts: Private Health, So-Duh

My Plate Sunset Photo by Ken

Nirinjan’s Plate

My Plate Haiku

It is easier

To reprimand the sinner

Than change the system.  by Julie

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

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

 

 

confluence

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.

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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.

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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.

imagejpeg_2 (11)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

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Thanks to our farmer

Blueberries kissed by the sun

So much to enjoy!

by Crystal