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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

 

 

summer’s end

Before summer goes leaping into fall, as it can tend to do in these parts, I want to offer homage to it and to those who tend its landscape.

In early June, before the sun had reached its northernmost point in the sky and summer’s arrival in this hemisphere had not quite yet been heralded, I was lamenting in “Obesity, oh wait a minute“, about the “collective abdication” of societal nourishment due to the blurry division between culture and corporation.  This was written in response to my learning about a local community sacrificing its citizenry for some petty reward from Arby’s–the fast food roast beef chain.  The insidious mutiny of our taste buds and natural hungers by corporations who have invested deeply in behavioral psychology, flavor and gene manipulation and marketing in order to usurp our birthright of health, always makes me feel pretty yukky .   

susan fowler's friendship garden

susan fowler’s friendship garden

I quoted Dr. David Katz who asked, “If you know it’s important to control your weight and attend to your health, but almost everything in your environment and your culture conspires against such efforts- how responsible are you, personally?  Are you truly personally irresponsible if you go with the prevailing flow?“   Julie, my dear friend and a wonderful teacher, provided an apt My Plate haiku in response–see below.

When one is swirling about in the prevailing flow, it is hard to either remember or to imagine a different current of possibility.  For context, I remind that my work entails helping those who have not just gone with the flow, but who are drowning in it.   While much about  our modern food situation lurks in shadow, thankfully the enlightening sun continues on its ecliptic journey along the celestial sphere in spite of ourselves.  When it reaches the right ascension: 6 hours; declination: 23.5 degrees on June 21st–the longest day of the year, the light shifts, the air warms, and we are blessed with the advent of summer. This is the season that offers the opportunity to paddle over to the river bank and to rest for a while.

At the solstice, the denizens of summer appear.  Having spent months in preparation for this precious moment, this is when the sowers and reapers take to the fields, playing midwife to the earth’s fertile bounty that the warm sun beckons forth.   One must move slowly and sit quietly to see them.  Like little gnomes, hunched low to the ground or up in the trees, they are busy with their work, often in the early hours of the day. They tend to be weary and shy of the noise and bustle of the big cities and crowded highways.   Sometimes they commune better with their animals than with people.

But, they are gentle and caring folk, and eventually they step through the veil of the misty morning and come forth with their beautiful harvest–raspberries, blueberries, currants, peaches and plums, big bunches of leafy chard, heads of tender bibb lettuce, peas and beans, luscious tomatoes, beets and carrots pulled from the dirt, melons of many varieties, eggs laid from happy chickens, cheeses curdled from the milk of frolicking goats and tiny bundles of fragrant herbs.

As if awakening from a midsummer’s night dream, when we behold these offerings we are a bit uncertain at first about what is real–are we truly enamored of the jackass or are we brought to our senses by being reminded of what is truly beautiful and deeply nourishing?  Can we actually claim this amazing food for ourselves and for our children as well?  May we feel more resolute to decry the fodder that misrepresents itself by masquerading as food?  It is possible.

Summertime provides me with many wonderful examples that creating new paradigms of food and feeding exist.  Two urban, youth focused programs include the Student Produce Project run by my friends at the Capital District Community Gardens; and the magical school-based Friendship Garden fertilized by many years of hard work and the amazing love of another dear friend, Susan Fowler.  Susan is also a wonderful teacher and a whole lot more.  With her corps of elementary students in her heart and at her side tending the crops, she has been an early crusader in the school gardening movement.

CDCG Produce Project

CDCG Produce Project

front side gmo display

front side gmo display

Farmer’s markets also always inspire.  This summer, a day trip led me to the Saugerties Farmer’s Market in the beautiful Hudson Valley.  There, beside the wonderful assemblage of growers, bakers and jelly makers I came upon an educational and artistic display about the health effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food.  Afterward, I kept wondering how did science meet such creative expression, so I traced my way to the work of the person responsible, Claudia McNulty. Claudia is a painter, designer, sculptor and seemingly, environmental activist as well.  Her work is beautiful and thought-provoking.  Claudia has provided some links to very important information through her Corn Porn GMO project.  These include the Seralini GMO Rat Study and a video interview with an MIT scientist on the effects of the increased use of the herbicide RoundUp required by GMO crops.  To appreciate our current health crises, it is essential to understand the influence of GMOs.

But, the earth tenders who most personally influenced my own summer, were my friends Justine and Brian Denison, and their crew, the farmers at Denison Farm, providers of my Community Supported Agriculture share, who not only grew, but also delivered weekly, the amazing produce that graced my own table and fed my family.  There is a film, Radical Roots: Reawakening the Local Food Movement, by Patricia Lane, that features their farm.  It was something captured in this story, that really colored my thoughts  and inspired me through these long sunny days.  I hope it may do the same for you.

So, to all of summer’s tenders who work so hard as stewards of the land and take care to feed us all,  I offer deep and profound thanks, and hope that the fall provides some well deserved rest.  And to summer itself, it is always sad to see you go, but thanks for giving respite from our busy year and for illuminating the ways we can re-route the prevailing flow that permits corporate control of our health and environment.

In health, Elyn

As always, likes, shares, comments, subscriptions, haikus, plates and watering of my blog are welcomed with opened arms.

PS.  I am realizing I would be remiss, if I did not mention (my pretend) new friend, Tess Beatrice and her unbelievably conceived and beautifully presented Sow Good Bakery‘s delicious morsels.  I met Tess while at the Saugerties Farmer’s Market where I also got a hula hoop!  All of the offerings are gluten-free, refined sugar-free, sometimes raw confections laced with unusual spices and topped with tender flower petals.  They were truly amazing, gorgeous and quite unique.  Worth checking out to see if she will be your friend too.

Susan's My Plate

Susan M’s Fall My Plate

My Plate Haiku

It is easier                                                                                                                                             

to reprimand the sinner

than change the system.

By, Julie 

obesity, oh wait a minute

I have something to get off my chest.   Well, really off my dresser.  I’ve had this scrap of newspaper lying there for two months.   It’s an article headlined, “Town renamed for sandwich”.  I hope I don’t embarrass myself here because this is about Arby’s and Reuben sandwiches, two things I know hardly anything about.  Apparently,  the Town Board of the somewhat  nearby town of Coeymans, rechristened itself Reubenville as part of an Arby’s Reubenville Challenge.  By tacking a red and white banner that said “Welcome to Reubenville”over the regular town sign, the town received 5,000 free coupons redeemable for a Reuben sandwich at an Arby’s in another town fifteen miles away.

The Three Graces

The Three Graces by Peter Paul Rubens   (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is Arby’s famous for Reubens?  Last I knew I thought they made roast beef sandwiches.  I suppose they could make Reubens as well–doesn’t seem that far a stretch–but I am pretty sure they didn’t invent them.  Though I have been rather ignorant of meaty matters for about forty years now, I once did know my way around a good corned beef sandwich–and was vaguely aware of its non-kosher cousin.

A perfunctory visit to the “Welcome to Arby’s” website has just revealed to me a picture of the Reuben, embedded in what is supposedly a marble rye.  It doesn’t look like a New York marble rye to me, if you know what I mean.  Anyway, I am now hip to the 640 calories, 30 grams of fat and 1,610 milligrams of sodium that this town name changing sandwich contains–as well as its plethora of both real and hard to even imagine ingredients.  I must commend Arby’s for listing the nutritional information for its complete menu in a very clear and accessible way.  If you would like a quick lesson in fast food gastronomy I suggest you take a peek yourself.  I only wish the town council members would have bothered to do the same before getting that banner made.

I am still pretty bewildered.  Does Coeymans have anything to do with Reuben sandwiches or with Arby’s for that matter?  Named after its early settler, Barent Pieteres Koijeman, Coeymans’ roots are strongly Dutch.  Is there some confusion in the town between the possible German origins of the sandwich and the German-Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens, known for his beautiful paintings of voluptuous Rubenesque women?  Rubens apparently died from heart failure related to chronic gout.  Is that what this is all about?  My bigger question is, why would any municipality waste its time and efforts responding to such a bogus challenge which serves only to promote the purposes of a corporate food giant and does nothing to protect or promote the lives of its citizens?

Interestingly, physician David Katz,  Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and a prolific writer on many things of nutritional interest just happened to speak  to my burning questions and larger perpetual conundrum about personal health in the context of culture in a piece he posted this week titled “Culture, Power and Responsibility“.  This piece is part of his Personal Responsibility for Health (PRH) Chronicles.

Katz writes, “I think we know what it is, and it’s all about power-and culture. Culture is a powerful influence on us all. When personal responsibility involves defiance of the prevailing forces of one’s culture, it becomes a very tall order indeed.  Unfortunately, that is just the order associated with personal responsibility for health.

In a commentary published in the Lancet in February of this year, a group of scholars made the very point that the power of culture, and profit, is all too often oriented in opposition to health rather than in support of it. We might ask people to take responsibility in spite of it all, but that’s a bit like pitching someone off our boat and assigning them responsibility for keeping afloat- whether or not they’ve ever learned how to swim. Relevant power is prerequisite to responsibility.”

If you know it’s important to control your weight and attend to your health, but almost everything in your environment and your culture conspires against such efforts- how responsible are you, personally?  Are you truly personally irresponsible if you go with the prevailing flow?

How can the whole of our collective responsibility for health be so much less than the sum of what we expect from its parts? Do we truly expect every individual- adult and child alike- to compensate with personal responsibility for the collective abdications at the level of culture, and corporation?

Oh, blessed be.  I could not agree more.  Yes, I believe that it is the cultural, corporate and governmental abdication of responsibility that displaces much of the onus on an unwitting and poorly equipped populace.   And, this is why the actions of both the Coeymans Town Board and the Arby’s Corporation drive me insane.  This is also why I feel the ubiquitous conversation about obesity must be redirected.

The collective chatter about obesity is still amplifying.  Travelling widely around this nutritional universe as I do, I am bombarded with meteoric messages about fighting, fixing, flagellating, and fracking obesity.  The mandate is to leave no obesity behind–neither its grown-up or childhood varieties–adorable pudgy babies and grandmas included.    Millions are being spent on the ammunition to obliterate this planetary scourge.  The aims appear community-based, but individuals are the intended targets.  The drones attack both bodies and psyches alike , unable to discern the difference.  For my own safety I have taken to wearing a helmet–well, at least when I am biking.

The increased prevalence of obesity is a physically evident symptom of a culture whose motives ignored or overrode its responsibility to protect the  birthright of health for its citizenry.  However, generalizing obesity as a health crisis is complicated by the fact that its definition is too broadly applied, its prevalence poorly defined, its detriment still debatable and its cure misunderstood.  There are many other equally important markers of compromised health and well-being.  However, by focusing only on the obvious, the approach has been to throw massive resources at obesity programs with uncertain outcomes while abiding the cultural insults.

Rebuilding or restoring our country’s health will necessitate more than these bombastic approaches that seem similar to our political mindset of problem solving.  It will require some deep introspection regarding the constructs upon which we structure personal and public life.  It will beg that our corporate and political leaders as well as our policy makers take a serious and sensitive look in attending to the environments that either foster or hinder health.  There is much to be undone and redone.  I have a few ideas of my own that I will share soon.

But while we continue to work toward meaningful change, I will think about the dear people down there in Coeymans in the aftermath of their brief moment of irrelevant fame.  I wonder how many of the 7418 citizens even cared if they were one of the 5000 somehow chosen to drive thirty miles for a sandwich.  My sincere wish is that those folks may have either a large dose of relevant power or access to good affordable health coverage, because neither their council members nor Arby’s is going to pick up the real bill for that Reuben.

Do you know what I mean?  I would love to hear from you.

In health, Elyn 

erin's plate

erin’s plate

My Plate Haiku

Lagoon watercress

Peppers my tongue

With spring joy.

by Roxanne

(Gratitude to Roxanne, who provided a beautiful dinner of field greens with a maple vinaigrette dressing, and brown rice with wild mushrooms and tofu during my Memorial Day weekend bike trip to Martha’s Vineyard.)

Offering: I always appreciate (love) receiving  My Plate Haikus and My Plate Photos–personal expressions of one’s experience regarding nourishment.   I will send a sample bottle of lovely Lavender Young Living Essential Oil to the first ten people who fill my plate with new haikus or photos–or to those who take a moment to subscribe to my blog or to send it forward to others.  Please send or inform me via the comment box or zimcat@verizon.net.  (include your address!)

reporting from the rim of the sinkhole

At about 4 PM, a few months ago, Pete sent me an email saying something about soul food.  I was rushing to end my day so I overlooked the attachment that would have filled me in on the details and why he thought this might be of interest to me.  I dismissed the message quickly.

That evening though as fate would have it, I got another message on my email informing me that I had a new follower on Twitter.  This was big news given that it is a rare occurrence.  As Pete assures me that I am right behind Lady Gaga in terms of followers, I must assume that she might have like twenty-eight.  So, I decided to check out my ignored little bird account and see who my new follower might be.  Once there, I stumbled upon a flurry of activity on the feed from someone I follow–chef and food activist Bryant Terry, author of Vegan Soul Kitchen and Urban Grub.  The excited conversation was about a PBS documentary Soul Food Junkies which was apparently being aired right then.  The praise was pouring in for this film by Byron Hurt, about his exploration of the historical and cultural roots of soul food cuisine and its relationship to the current health crisis with its impact on the African-American community.  

Ah, now I got it.  I ran upstairs to the TV room and grappled with the remote.  Mastering its controls I pushed that channel button frantically.  I must mention that I have about as limited a relationship with the television as I do with my Twitter account–and relying on an old antenna like apparatus, have access to about seven channels.  Still, I knew I did get PBS.  Round and round I cycled through those seven channels, three PBS stations and still could not find the show I was looking for. It seems PBS offers a few different channels these days, and I don’t get the one on which the program was aired.   Instead, what I did find on was a program about a guinea worm eradication program sponsored by Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center in Africa.  It was rather fascinating though quite gruesome to watch.  Apparently, water-borne guinea worm disease which has plagued a wide swath of Africa and Asia for thousands of years is poised to be eradicated.  In 1986 when the Carter Center began its campaign with the partner countries, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases in 21 countries.  By 2012 there were 542 cases left in just four African countries.

Guinea worm disease is contracted from ingesting drinking water contaminated with larvae that once inside the human abdomen grow into worms up to three feet long.  These worms eventually emerge from the body through excruciatingly painful blisters on the skin.  I guardedly watched as health workers painstakingly exorcised these worms from the legs of screaming children and stoic adults, wrapping the worms around little sticks which were slowly turned.  One worm, one person at a time.  The success of this amazing eradication program has been due to water treatment and filtration programs and community education at a very grass-roots level.

A few days later I was able to watch Soul Food Junkies on pbs.org.  It is an excellent film and I have been talking it up with a lot of my clients–and others as well.  Many of my clients are African-American and my daily consults revolve around discussing this interface between food as cultural identity and health.  Soul food is not the only problem area.  Many cultural cuisines that have sustained people for millenia are causing problems in the context of our modern existence.  This is due to various reasons including agricultural alterations in the actual foodstuffs that form the basis of these cuisines, more processed versions of these dietary staples being substituted for the real foods, traditional diets being padded with the excess of sugars, concentrated carbohydrates and other addictive substances that infiltrate our beings and a massive increase in sedentary lifestyles and stress.  The vulnerable communities that are more exposed to poverty and its attendant health disparities are experiencing greater discord between their food and their health.

This is multi-layered stuff that claws at the core of who we are as eaters and which reveals how deeply connected we are to our heritage.  Food is clearly not just extrinsic matter.  It communicates intimately with our cellular makeup.  And, it is a heavenly sacrament.    I remember as a child listening to my mother and my aunties trying to sever the relationship between my hypertensive grandfather and the heavily salt-cured foods of his Russian roots.  Little did I know I would one day be standing between an African-American man and his beloved fried chicken or an Asian woman and her dear little grains of rice.

But yes, there I am.  Standing tall at five feet one, holding firm with my big professional tweezers before every diabetic who sits in my office. With exact precision, I try to extract each granule of sugar  that has gone rogue in the bloodstream, wreaking havoc on the body–sort of like a guinea worm.  Just as guinea worm disease takes hold in unsuspecting individuals so does diabetes.  Persons consuming available foods for the  purpose of sustaining survival and attaining some pleasure, awaken one day to learn that they are infested with massive globs of excess glucose.

I have been doing this work for a long time and I can tell you that the diabetic epidemic is getting worse.  My daily roster is full of newly diagnosed cases of diabetes.  This morning I woke up to some crazy NPR story about the woes of candy makers due to the relative high price of sugar–the price regulated by the Farm Bill.  Apparently, the makers of Dum Dum lollipops require 100,000 pounds of sugar for the daily manufacture of ten million Dum Dums–and they are having a hard time affording it.  Can those numbers be for real?  Well, please don’t tell Dum Dum  that I have some sugar stockpiled in my office–mounds of the stuff that I have removed from my clients.  I know they will just try to recycle it right back into the very folk I took it from.

Diabetes might not seem to be as bad as guinea worm–but one can actually make many metaphorical if not actual comparisons.  Diabetes leaves many physical and emotional scars.   My clients look at me through eyes that plead to spare them from this scary disease–that comes complete with implements that stab and jab and symptoms that pain and worry–depleting the soul.  I scurry furiously to help pull them out of the sinkhole of this very complicated condition.  If a disease caused by a swarm of microscopic larvae can be eradicated from the planet, it is hard to believe we can’t do better to minimize the incidence or increase the reversal of diabetes.  The methods employed essentially would seem to be the same–clean food, governmental responsibility, education and cultural adaptation.

And so, that is why the work of Bryant Terry and the film of Byron Hurt is so important–and why folk should watch Soul Food Junkies and align it with their own food foundation.  And, why you should quickly sign on to the Food Summit Revolution 2013--a series of incredible interviews on these urgent food and health matters that will be aired between April 27th and May 5th.  Time is of the essence and Jimmy Carter deserves a rest.

Thank you for reading, really.  As always, thoughts, tweezers and twitter followers welcomed.

In health, Elyn

My Plate Haiku

Food made joyfully

As a gift of time and self

Feeds body and soul.

by Anne-Marie

My Plate Photo by Nirinjan

so-duh

I have a confession to make.  I recently had a soda.  Yes, I did.  That means, of my own volition, I purchased the vibrantly colored 12 oz can, pulled up on that little flip top, and brought that fizzy, bubbly nectar–rife with all its high fructose corn syrup–up to my own lips…and swallowed.  Then I swallowed again.  And, I did all of this under the bright lights of the  public eye.  I tell ya.  That little burst of Sunkist Orange Soda was quite satisfying.

It was a cold winter’s night.  Pete and I had gone to our little local community-run movie theater where nice volunteers staff a humble concession stand.  I don’t really know how it happened.  I was thirsty.  Ordinarily, I would have just purchased a water–which was what I was assuming I was about to do again as I approached the counter.  However, uncharacteristically, my thirst informed me right then and there that it would not be humored this time by just plain water and it insisted that I consider the offerings stocked in the small glass-front refrigerator.  

I was stunned.  I did not know what to do.  Healthy-oriented me does really enjoy a few lines of lightly sweetened specialized iced teas but there were none of those to be found in that bastion of freon-cooled fare.  Instead, there were just waters, sodas and those pouches of Capri Suns that you stick  little straws into.  I panicked.  The cloyingly sweet fruit juice concoctions aroused a mild nausea, the sodas provoked my usual disgust and disdain and the concession people were beginning to look at me funny.  Suddenly, the sun logo on the little orange can seemed to wink at me and I found myself saying, “Yes, I’ll have an orange soda.”  When I went back to sit in my chair, Pete turned to tell me that the seat was saved…for me.  He really did not recognize me with that can in my hand.  The last time he saw me with a can of soda was about 1981 when we were parched and poor living in Dallas, Texas.

Now, you might not think this was such a big deal without appreciating that I have about the lowest per capita soda consumption and am kind of like the Carrie Nation of the soda-drinking world.  I tote around soda bottles emptied of their original content and refilled with their hidden sugar equivalency.  I  paste pictures of skulls and cross-bones on these bottles.  I make my victims hold those bottles while I read them the insidious list of ingredients that their beloved brands contain.  I make them weep as they promise to not ever imbibe again.  When forced on rare occasions to empty the bottles of their original contents so I can use them for my own devices, I don plastic gloves and a face mask.  That is how corrosive I consider these substances to be.  And, if anyone had ever dared offer my own kids a soda in my presence, who knows what their fate may have been.

So, imagine my inner confusion as I leaned over and whispered to Pete during the movie, “This is pretty good.”  Now, don’t get me wrong.  It is not like I never had the stuff.  I was raised on soda.  The only thing that had stopped me from having a relationship with it long ago was an early adoption of a whole foods/crunchy granola lifestyle, an understanding of the depleting aspects of white sugar and a resistance to large multi-national corporations.  If I had not had such a strong philosophical position on such matters way back, I might have just gone along enjoying these nice little fizzies with the rest of the masses.  Especially the innocent flavors like orange, black cherry and ginger ale.  Sometimes they do just hit the spot like nothing else can.  If not bolstered by my iron-clad conviction that soda should be a banned substance, I could easily imagine getting another one of these little cans of sunshine the next time I go to the movies.  And then, maybe when I go to a restaurant or if I am on a trip.  I could then just keep a few in my own fridge.

Maybe I should have relaxed a little last week with my lovely 35-year-old-client–300 plus pounds, diagnosed with diabetes a year ago whose blood sugars are better but still not in good control.  He is drinking way less Pepsi than he used to.  Now,he only has one or two cans a day, sometimes none, while on the job during the day as a building maintenance supervisor.  Should the fact that he is the father of five– the youngest of which was with him during our consult and who was the cutest thing ever–matter?  Is it just a coincidence that he sees a connection between his blood sugar levels and his soda consumption?

Maybe I shouldn’t have tried so hard last week to figure out what was up with my 34-year-old pregnant client.  Prior to this pregnancy, her chart indicated that there was evidence of high blood sugar–hyperglycemia–without a full diagnosis of diabetes.  She came in bemoaning her foul moods, agitation and lack of both patience and energy.  Came to find out she has been consuming 2 to 3 liters of Cherry Coke for a long while.  Imagine her surprise when I pulled out a sugar-filled bottle of her favorite blend from under my desk.

Once again, there is new hoopla in the divisive soda world as Coca-Cola is releasing these commercial spots touting their supposed corporate responsibility in the fight against obesity while at the same time ignoring the true effects of their confectionery concoctions.  You can watch one of them here.  My peeps, Mark Bittman, Marion Nestle, CSPI and others  are thankfully responding to this deceptive campaign accordingly.  This is good because I am busy in the trenches.   These little stories I cite above are just examples of situations I really encounter over and over, even in the course of a day.  Corroded teeth, eroded stomachs, poor mood regulation, extreme belly fat and of course, diabetes lie in the wake of soda consumption and its adherent addiction.  It is this that fuels my manic reaction to the stuff–and will continue to do so.

Being diagnosed with diabetes is like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole.  Every day, I meet the people who have unfortunately fallen into the hole chasing some elusive White Rabbit.  Reality changes mighty quickly and quite extremely.  Simply awakening from a strange dream will not make it go away.  Eating cake will certainly not help and the Red Queen is apt to yell, “Off with her toes!”   And, Coca Cola and Pepsico   will have nothing to offer except a Cheshire Cat smug grin.

So, though I enjoyed that little refreshment, it will be a long time until my next one.  In the meantime, I leave you with a link to some powerful stories.  A Widow’s Story and Simply Raw.

As always, I look forward to your thoughtful comments and warm hellos.

In health, Elyn

I am so glad to introduce the new My Plates.  Thanks to those who have submitted their beautiful plate photos.  Photos and haikus always welcome.

erin's plate

erin’s plate

My Plate Haiku

Food is medicine

Farmers are doctors, Cooks priests

Eat, pray, eat, pray, love.

by Gordon

of poverty and light

Amid all of the celebrations of the holiday season it sure is easy to over indulge and to gain those few–oh excuse me for a moment–my dilemma is tugging at my sleeve.  Sorry, it seems to be interrupting me to say something about property.  Property?  Puberty?  You know, despite its omnipresence in my life, I often don’t even understand my own dilemma sometimes.

It is like when my son was little and (prematurely) learning to talk, he would get so frustrated when his word was misinterpreted.  When I would repeat the statement to make sure I had heard it correctly, like, “You want some bed?”  he could only surmise that his mother must be severely limited and he would implore the heavens for some relief.  Who on earth he would beg says, “I want some bed”  and even if they did, why would they say that when standing in the kitchen after nap time?  What part of “bread” does my mother not get?027

My dilemma is reacting the same way now.  So, with a deep breath, I will take its sweet little face between my hands and ask it to calm down and try to tell me again.  Oh, I get it now.  Poverty.  My dilemma is asking me if I could please not write about holiday eating, but instead about poverty

Oh, poverty.  “Right now?” I ask, in the midst of this season of tinsel-tinged holiday cheer?  Yes, it replies.  Write about it on this darkest day of the year when we most crave the light to illuminate all that should be revealed.  “Can you just try?” it says in that adorable little voice.  “About poverty and nutrition?”

What do I know about this topic and what credentials do I have to write about it?  Well, I do work in a Health Center that serves the poor–the uninsured, the under insured, those whom sit at the bottom of the economic ladder, those lacking in many of the resources that others easily possess.  And, I do educate on nutrition.  Yet, I am still nervous to presume that I have the right to tread here.  My own perceptions are actually a bit blurry.  Though every day I am deeply privileged to have my clients share the stories–somewhat intimate–of some parts of the realities of their lives, I cannot claim to really know what their impoverishment feels like.  And, though yes, the majority of my clients are poor, some poorer than others–they all mainly go to sleep with some roof over their head and some food in their tummies–even the homeless ones.  Furthermore, they possess a richness that nourishes and inspires me as well–whether it be of spirit, honesty, feeling, fortitude, resilience, wisdom, story-telling, family and community connection, self-reflection, humility or appreciation.

Yet, I am still perplexed, so I look back at my dilemma and ask, “But, don’t people already know about poverty and nutrition?  That it is complicated but it has something to do with the cheapest (hunger slaying) food often being the least healthy; the battered economy; governmental food subsidies; food deserts; reliance on convenience and processed foods; income inequality; the history of supplemental and commodity food programs and the lack of a just and sustainable food program?  And, haven’t I already discussed things like food addiction and the impact of excessive sugar sweetened beverages on emotional and physical health?  And, I probably have already ranted about even bigger, more amorphous issues like lack of breastfeeding, TV advertising, health disparities, a stress-based society and may I now even add environmental toxins and gun violence which disproportionately affects our poorer neighborhoods–and how I believe all these things affect our bodies and who we are as eaters.

My dilemma nods and whispers, “Well, is there anything else you’d like to add?”  I sigh. Maybe it is on to something.  There are many disparaging assumptions made regarding how the poor feed themselves.  Maybe what I can do for today is to shed some light on how poverty in modern-day America infringes upon the hunting, gathering, and metabolic fundamentals required for normal human nutrition–a process that has become quite enigmatic for many, but more profoundly for those who must often do with very limited resources.  In the daily conversations that I have about this elusive, ill-defined quest for proper eating–oft imagined as being as simple to prescribe as popping a pill–I am perpetually filtering many realities that are probably rather obscure.

So, here it is.  Most of my clients would like to eat better.  They would–but there are numerous hindrances.  Many are tired.  Very tired.  Those who work, often work very exhausting types of jobs.  Many of them–the home health aides, the certified nursing assistants, the truck drivers, the cleaners, the warehouse stockers and even the retail workers–work variable hours, often with overnight shifts which distress the natural circadian rhythms and thereby the sleep and eating patterns.   Those who don’t work are often depressed or in chronic pain.  Food provides easy relief.  They live in neighborhoods where people get shot and murdered.  They forget how to use and move their bodies.  Many over their lifetimes have cared for so many others that self-care is just an amusing oxymoron.  Often, just the physical requirements that cooking entails become difficult.

Additionally, when money is tight for food, so commonly it is for all the things associated with food preparation and eating.  This includes appliances like stoves, ovens, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers–and even the kitchen table and chairs.  Some of my clients live in accommodations where not all of these are provided or where they are not properly working.   Some only have a microwave to cook their food.  Some live in settings where they have to share a kitchen with random roommates.  Some people keep food in their bedrooms to prevent others from eating it.   Those who live in group programs have no control over the type of food that is provided.

And, then there are the even smaller things like a set of good knives, measuring cups and spoons, pots and pans, a blender, a cutting board, a steamer or a food processor.  For many a modern cook, one could not imagine even basic food preparation without most of these accouterments, if not even more.  Yet, for some these are downright luxuries.  Just recently, I did a display on winter squashes to promote these nutritionally blessed, fiber-dense and delicious denizens of the food kingdom–but even so, I was cognizant that unless one buys them pre-cut and frozen these pretty gourds demand a whack of a proper, well-sharpened knife to reveal their inner gifts.

Each person has their own circumstances.  Though I must serve my clients quickly and effectively I have to obtain some information before I venture in with suggestions.  I cannot assess for all of the above.  I must pry for information with the utmost gentleness and respect to get a quick sense of where we are starting from.  Depending on the person, sometimes it is obvious, sometimes not.  The foods that are now commonly touted to be required for a healthy diet, I sometimes must ask permission to utter.  I say things like olive oil, brown rice, walnuts, almond milk, and on a good day, quinoa, preceded by “may I?” and followed by “thank-you.”  What might seem like a mole hill of a price differential could quite truly be a mountain.

Thankfully, there is usually space for an appropriate conversation about food and eating when the context is understood and appreciated.  And, fortunately too, the realm of health-giving foods contains some low-cost and readily available options.  My clients are glad to be reminded of them.  Usually, they learned of them from their grandmothers as well.  But, most importantly is when that light goes on that says that they are worthy of nourishing themselves in the best way that they possibly can.  That they matter.  Then this abstract matter of nutrition  begins to make some sense.

So, I guess, my main observation is that bottom line, despite our economic differences, we are first most eaters–doing the best we can with what we know and what we have in the moment.  And, that somewhere, somehow, it is always about love.   I look back at my dilemma for some confirmation.  Oh well.  It has fallen fast asleep.

Please share your thoughts and comments.  I welcome your feedback.

Read below on the new My Plate Invitational

Blessings and light.

In health, Elyn

http://the2x2project.org/health-gap-wealth-gap/

my plate

my plate

My Plate:  In honor of the New Year, I invite you to submit a photo of your own beautiful plate to be placed in rotation along with the My Plate Haikus.  My My Plate is  the prettier and more personal representation of the My Plate put forth by the USDA as a model of how Americans should feed themselves–which replaced the food pyramid.  I can’t wait to see yours.  Haikus always welcome too.  Thank you.

Submit to zimcat@verizon.net   Subject:  My Plate Photo

faur faur away liquidated

With the story in today’s news of Hostess Brands threatening liquidation of its company and the future of the 500 million Twinkies that are baked–I mean manufactured–each year at stake, I present this piece about our snack food lives again.  I wrote this piece in January 2012 when Hostess filed in bankruptcy court for Chapter 11 protection.  On the surface the story is about labor costs, unions, workers rights and the economy,  but mixed into the batter are issues about our health care costs (once again) and  changes in American food consciousness and its effects on the industry and the economy.  However, it still remains to be seen if Ding Dong, the Twinkie is truly dead.  I dare to say I doubt it, but as you will read below, Carlos Barrios’ interpretations on the 2012 Mayan prophesies deserve heeding as the calendar is shortly set to begin its next cycle.

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/twinkies-maker-hostess-vows-liquidate-company-strikes-persist/story?id=17725053#.UKZJzORfCSo

Recently, I read about someone who was working on an environmental project in the Maldives.  After a day of difficult field work, the writer said the group enjoyed kicking back by relaxing on a boat and enjoying a snack of faur.  Ah yes, faur, that local favorite made from betel leaves, cloves and nuts.

Now, of course we here–here being the US of A–do snack on some natural foods like fruits and nuts, but in thinking about the Maldivians floating in those beautiful turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean and about other cultures as well, I got to wondering, what would be our native snack if one day all of the giant snack food manufacturers just got so sick of themselves they just fell down belly up.

What soothed and satisfied us before a certain Mr. Herman W. Lay began hawking his wares?  Around here, I suppose we had products made of maple syrup like maple cream which is yummy; and, had apples and pumpkins made in to pie–and beef made into jerky.  And, what about the potato chip?  A nice tuber scrubbed clean of its earthen sod, sliced thinly and cooked to a crisp in a pot of oil.  Could that not count as native fare?

Legend has it that the potato was first chipped by a Native American chef quite close to where I live.  I could bike to that sacred ground–or walk there in pilgrimage  if really gastronomically inspired.  The story goes that George Crum, annoyed by a customer’s complaint about the dinner potatoes being cut too thick, responded with a plate of very thinly sliced, translucent, barely there taters.  The rest is history.

It turns out that the first product Mr. Lay began to sell was the potato chip–about sixty years after that restaurant mishap.  So, one could argue that the potato chip–along with the corn chip–were indigenous snacks until they were co-opted by Frito-Lay.  They may in fact have originally had some nutritional benefits as might faur– though my brief research suggests that betel leaves in excess are not without their own set of problems as well.

Somehow, with the mass introduction of packaged snack foods we began to seriously stray from our more nut, seed and fruit-eating behaviors.  While families in Afghanistan still relax–if they can–with pistachio nuts and dried apricots, things here have never been the same since the arrival of  Bugles.  I remember seeing my first bag of Bugles at my childhood friend Susan’s house.  Once trumpeted onto the communal palate it seemed there was no turning back.  I suppose the same could be said for all of our modern snacks including the once seemingly indomitable Twinkie which is eighty years old already.

Surprisingly, I actually don’t encounter the Twinkie much on my nutritional beat.  It is either so ubiquitous that it doesn’t register on my radar screen or it does not command valuable prime shelf placement anymore.  And, amid the thousands of diet recalls I demand from my clients, I hardly ever hear mention of them.  Little Debbies seem the more popular portable snack cake these days.  Now that I think about it, the Twinkie despite its iconic reputation, is rather tame and boring in comparison to more obscene or more seductively marketed snack newbies.  I guess this explains why it may be on the smush-ing block–and not because it has 37 artificial ingredients.

The Mayans Correctly Predicted the End of the World in 2012:  Hostess Twinkies RIP

However, it is the chemically-laden nature of most of our snack foods that have granted them predominance and permanence in our lives.  If you doubt  this issue of purposeful manipulation by the food industry, take a look at this 60 Minutes segment   http://blackgirlsguidetoweightloss.com/video-clips/video-vault-inside-a-lab-that-creates-chemical-flavorings/  or, at this dissection of a twinkie at http://blog.fooducate.com/2010/06/11/a-visual-of-twinkies-37-ingredients/

But, getting back to my original query, if just say, Bugles, Twinkies and all the other thousands of products that dominate the snack manufacturing world were suddenly to go extinct, what would we do?  What could we reach for that would be grown from our regional environments and get the dietary industry’s seal of approval?  Could a chomp on some Eastern White Pine needles substitute for pretzel sticks?  They are an excellent source of Vitamin C and can be made into a tea as well.  Would we dig our teeth into some bark which was actually a food source for the native tribe for whom the glorious Adirondacks that tower nearby were named.  Actually, the name Adirondack literally means bark eater for the sustaining dietary practice the tribe was known for.

It turns out my musing about what we are munching on is not without some precedence.  There is a wild foods movement, that promotes the preservation, tasting and enjoyment of  indigenous foods and that is dedicated to sustainable foraging and harvesting methods.  Assortments of  micro-nutrient rich foods including preserves, jellies, syrups, mushrooms, teas, vegetables and vinegars may made from some familiar and many unfamiliar but common vegetation.   There are various possibilities in how we could be deliciously nourishing ourselves with nature’s natural snack foods.

Neither is it without some prescience.  I just received some writings of Mayan elder, Carlos Barrios, a ceremonial priest and spiritual guide who is learned in the interpretation of the Mayan calendar.  In his clarification of the 2012 prophecy, he states it portends a time of transformation rather than an end of the world– and that we need to be prepared for this by focusing on acts of unity.   Amid his recitation of a few required actions, I was a bit surprised to see him advise, “Eat wisely–a lot of food is corrupt in either subtle or gross ways.  Pay attention to what you are taking into your body.”

http://www.seri-worldwide.org/id435.htm

Sounds wise to me.  I wonder– like peak oil– when we will reach peak adulterated food.   How will we find our way back to what the native Hawaiian’s call Aloha ‘Aina—love of the land that feeds us?

In health, Elyn

my plate

My Plate Haiku
Lagoon Watercress
Peppers my tongue
With spring joy.  
 By Roxanne

 

Related Post:  The Twinkie Affair

a bushel and a peck of ways to address childhood obesity

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.

Healthy Children

Healthy Children (Photo credit: Korean Resource Center 민족학교) drawing by 13 yo Suzy An, Irvine, California

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.

Michael jacobson   television food advertising      elimination of food dyes

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

My Plate Haiku

Smooth peanut butter

Spread on a peeled banana

Snack time perfection.

by Gretchen

oh mother

 

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.

breastfeeding

breastfeeding (Photo credit: sdminor81)

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.

Comments?

In health, Elyn

http://www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org

http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/  benefits of breastfeeding

http://blogtobabyfriendly.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/bloomberg-under-fire/

http://www.babyfriendlyusa.org/eng/docs/2010_Guidelines_Criteria_Rev%2011_28_11.pdf

http://www.npr.org/2012/08/03/158097386/new-york-officials-breast-milk-may-be-best-formula

Related post:  Breastfeeding Redux

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by Michael