I hope someday

Well, the storm that prevented my presenting on the panel as described in A Meteorological Change of Plans has moved out to sea–not without causing some serious ruckus. But another strong one is moving in right now, rerouting regular daily trajectories, thus providing me another opportunity to curl up and explore the thorny business of eating disorders on college campuses.


The Eating Disorder Notebook I created and distributed on campus.

Eating disorders are very complicated–and at their crux, are not about food. They have long been, and continue to be, the cornerstone of study for many a scientist and mental health clinician, in terms of the identification of their etiologies and appropriate treatment. Underlying biological genetic-based factors seem to seed the predisposition for the development of one of these conditions that take root by substituting out healthy development and replacing it with one which has a laser-like focus on the control of body weight and shape–and the feeding behaviors that determine such. While advances are being made, these are hard nuts to crack from a mechanistic standpoint.

However, this should not mean that we ignore the evidence that sociocultural and psycho-social variables also play a causal, and not merely triggering role in eating disorders, and thus should be considered as potent avenues of prevention. And while each and every person exists in relationship to the social and cultural environments with which they interact, college campuses constitute a unique microcosm providing a unique breeding ground for the germination of these disorders. (Today, I discovered the term ‘culture-reactive’ which I think is relevant to this issue.)

I worked at a small liberal arts, predominantly white, self-contained campus in a non-urban community. While there, I would remind my students that this 4-year college experience was just a stage they were going through. It is temporary and somewhat illusionary. Even working only part-time, I could get sucked into seeing life through a campus-view lens and would have to remind myself that this was not ‘the real world’.

Within this world, everyone is–well, young, with all the usual archetypes that youth is associated with. Like some mythical island, it seems like all the inhabitants (aside from the few attending groundskeepers) possess beauty, vigor, vitality–and unbridled brilliance and talent. Each attribute is defined by the normative cultural standard (including thinness) established by no fault of one’s own. Such concentrated energy is pulsating, exhilarating, intoxicating–as well as deceiving, and potentially health diminishing or downright dangerous. Here, often impossible standards present themselves as expectations that should be assumed with ease–forcing any self-perceived failure or deviation from the norm to greatly magnify.

The maintenance or pursuit of this idealized persona and its requisite body weight and shape is challenged on college campuses by a few particulars. Firstly, there are the potent triggers that come from living day-by-day, night-by-night in close proximity to only one’s peers. At this vulnerable developmental stage there is much peer pressure, exposure to all types of media–including unregulated body-focused content, vocalized body shaming of self and others, unending body comparison opportunities, and a multitude of ways to feel “different than”.

Then, there are the academic, social (and athletic) pressures that college students have and the hungers such pressures activate. The non-stop studying, paper writing, exam taking (and sports training)–and attendant lack of sleep, make for long days and extra hungry brains and bodies. These hungers may be physical, “emotional” or stress related–but even stress-related hunger is physiologically driven. This hunger is potent and real, and  involves late night eating associated with studying or socializing. Stir this together with the stress of high personal standards, perfectionism and anxiety and you have all that contribute to uncontrolled feeding impulses, or to advancing control behaviors and starvation.

The college eating experience is also an exception. Many colleges now market their dining venues and meal plans to lure students their way.  Access to a college dining hall is like being on a never-ending cruise. Loads of offerings served from different specialty sections available from early morning to late into the evening. Standard meal plans may limit access to three meals a day, while premium ones allow unlimited visits. Many plans also allow use at other campus food venues.

Being exposed to so much food with no limits, and having to make so many choices at every meal, can be very overwhelming with various responses. Eating (or not eating) amid the clamor of hundreds of other students also makes for challenging circumstances. Enticements also seem to be everywhere on campus. Various clubs and campus activities promise candy, pizza, or doughnuts in exchange for attendance–all within walking distance. Food, its embrace or avoidance, becomes a constant obsession.

On the flip side, students living on or off-campus without a meal plan often have difficulty accessing food or preparing meals. This precipitates and perpetuates other unhealthy feeding behaviors. Students in these settings can isolate themselves more easily; and can both yield to or hide their behaviors more–but students on campus can do so as well.

Finally, I might add the lack of parental/familial supports and/or constraints; heightened attention on ‘healthy’ foods; and increased alcohol or drug use behaviors are additional contributors to the development, unleashing or exacerbation of eating disorders in the college setting. Oh, maybe I will also include easy unlimited access to an indoor gym as another risk factor.

Given the high prevalence of such disorders on campuses, I will assume that most colleges have charged themselves with developing or strengthening approaches to care–though perhaps with continued difficulty. But, it has also been ten years since I worked on campus. Is there new information or have there been shifts in paradigms that have infiltrated and influenced changed consciousness and constructive activity on campuses? Is the explosion of people sharing photos of thinning bodies on social media exacerbating the problem or are movements like Body Positive finally exposing and mitigating this insidious epidemic of body hating? I suspect the former and am aware that men and certain minority groups are becoming increasingly affected.

Still, I believe something is changing and that we can begin to shape shift our perceptions of beauty. And, I believe the collective wisdom of dedicated activists and this current generation of emerging and young adults are going to demand and provide the solutions. They have already witnessed enough in too many ways. The statistics are staggering, sickening and sobering.

My humble little suggestions for colleges (and every place) include the following: create Body Shame Free Campuses; further media literacy as a prevention tool; include and support the parents/families of college-age students with eating disorders and provide resources;  stop the demonizing of all dietary fats as agents of weight gain, and appreciate their vital importance in maintaining body functions; and, educate and inform all campus personnel about eating disorders and maintain trained staff to help students.

And, I strongly invite you to read this article by Laurie Penny, that my dear friend Chris just happened to send me this morning, that defines Eating Disorders as a social crisis and political issue–and explains why we really must care.

What might you add?


Most Sincerely Yours, Elyn

my plate

MyPlate Plate

MyPlate Expression: I hope someday to look back on this time in our history and only read about the curious phenomenon of anorexia and bulimia to be touched by it, not have to witness its destruction and ruin on the bodies and faces I pass on the street. Excerpted from individual’s stories of recovery from the book, The Secret Language of Eating Disorders by Peggy Claude-Pierre.





a meteorological change of plans

A few weeks ago, I received a call from a student at the college where I had once worked. I had been referred to her as a possible presenter for one of the college’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week activities that the campus group Active Minds was organizing. They asked if I would sit on a panel of professionals on the topic.                                                                                      Butterflies, Tree, Colorful, Color, Ease

I reacted with hesitancy. This stemmed from both my reluctance at public speaking and the fact that I had not done much eating disorder counseling in recent years. And besides, it had been a decade since I served as the Campus Nutritionist.

Still, the chance to participate did call to me. I had dedicated much energy to eating disorder support and other nutritional matters while I was there, and still was invested in the cause. After clearing a few details, I offered and agreed to come to the front of the room, not to proffer any specific nutritional strategies, but rather to share my perspectives gleaned from my particular role during four years at this small liberal arts college. I still cherish the time I spent there holding space with so many impressive young adults as they figuratively shifted their seats from the kids’ table to the grown ups’ one–some more easily than others. The college years are a very vulnerable time for many who pass through them–and, not coincidentally, span the ages when most eating disorders begin.

In preparation for the event, I gathered my thoughts and made some notes for my talking points. Various students I worked with came to mind. They represented the collective of all the forms of eating disorders and disordered types of eating–anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, exercise bulimia, binge eating disorders, stress-induced eating, and orthorexia–an obsession with healthy eating. I tried to recall if orthorexia had even been recognized by the early 2000’s–apparently it was only coined in 1998–but I encountered it frequently.

I remembered the athletes, the dancers, the student leaders, the artists, and the none of the above. Mainly they were female, with just a handful of males seeking help. Many, ready for graduation while I was there, graduated–and I attended a number of end of year ceremonies. Some did not. There were those who required leaves of absence–from which a few did not return. And, if they did, a close eye on their progress was necessary. Though no cases of eating disorders are easy to manage, I recalled the “really difficult” ones–those which forced immediate hospitalization, panicked roommates and friends, and challenged the health providers (and administrators) trying to keep a declining student on campus so they could just finish their education. This was messy. And, the more remote campus bathrooms known to be frequented by those that purged were messy too.

While it was presumed that students would stay active in their physical and emotional care by making and keeping appointments, there was sometimes little to prevent them from elusively slipping out of reach. And, with the prevalence of eating disorders on college campuses estimated to be between about 10-20% for females and 4-10% for males (if not higher), it was certain that there were many who did have disorders that were not receiving any treatment. Eating disorders are masters of disguise.

Despite significant degree of infirmity, I was continuously amazed at how these high achieving students pushed through at high levels of academic, athletic and/or creative performance. Such success did not equate with health. While everyone does their best, and there are models of care, colleges are not fully equipped to handle these serious disorders, medical illnesses, which breed on their campuses–the mental health conditions with the highest level of mortality.

Remembering both the intensity and tenderness of my time with these students helped me to shape what I would want to share with this current cohort, this next in line generation capable of making some serious change in our world. Nothing necessarily earth-shaking or profoundly professional–just the observations of someone who was up close and personal. Could I possibly impart some, dare I say, wisdom or reflection that might resonate or maybe have some impact for this vulnerable cohort? Well, I was prepared to give it a shot and looked forward to the event.

However, first thing yesterday morning, the day of the event, my phone rang. A monster nor’easter was pummeling the East Coast, dropping a fair amount of snow in our area. The panel would be cancelled. Though there was a small touch of relief that I would not have to contend with treacherous roads, I had to process the loss of this opportunity. Not only had I readied myself, but I was eager to hear what the other professionals–mental health clinicians–had to say, and what the audience of students, and possibly faculty or other staff members, wished to ask, as well as to expose or express.

Left alone with my floating ideas, I realized I could deposit them here in my little blog which has been suffering its own neglect. And, I will do so, in a follow-up post. (In the meantime you can visit my previous related posts: Stopping Traffic, Dolls with Faith, Muse of the Girl and Nourish Thyself Well Day.)

In reminiscing, I realized that those who I strove to help nourish during my years at the college, would now be in their early to mid-thirties. Recovery from eating disorders is definitely achievable, and relative to various factors, but not all who suffer are successful. I hope those whose lives touched mine, and who that campus had nurtured in various ways, did emerge from their chrysalis to become the beautiful butterflies they were meant to be. I pray they are doing OK.

Thanks to those who continue to carry the flame.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

my plate

MyPlate Plate

MyPlate Expression: My great fortune was in meeting people who understood my strange interior life, without judgment and who, at a time when I didn’t feel there was anything to live for, were there to lend me their vision and pull me through the grueling journey of recovery. I’d never been afraid of hard work and perhaps it’s that work ethic that finally worked for me rather than against me.–Excerpted from individuals’ stories of recovery from the book, The Secret Language of Eating Disorders by Peggy Claude-Pierre.


size me down

I am not much of a shopper. And, much to my late mother’s chagrin this is true even when it comes to clothing. However, clothes are one of those commodities that need to be replaced and updated at least once a decade or thereabouts, so I do occasionally have to take to the stores and wrangle with the racks of hangers hawking their formless wares.

I have a whole little narrative about my relationship with clothes–and a good and deep relationship it certainly is. Because once I find a cozy item–since I essentially dress for comfort–we are in for the long haul. I will spare you the hoary details and instead share what happened on a recent outing.

National Eating Disorders Association

Zena and I had gone into town to get something I needed for a class I am taking and were then going to head to the farmer’s market. Back in the car between the two errands, just chatting about life, it did come up that I really could use a pair of jeans–given that I didn’t have any.

A few minutes later, we were passing by a small strip of clothing stores. Zena, making particular mention of one of them, said, “Mom, I think that would be a good place for you to find jeans.” And wouldn’t you know, there were a number of parking spots easily available right in front. The next thing I knew, we were in the store.

Apparently, a love of shopping, along with the refined ability to dress oneself and others in exquisite good style, skips a generation. Having Zena with you while hunting for attire is like having the best in a game hunter–I mean personal shopper. She is really good. Except for one thing. She insists that I must try things on. Left to my own devices, I never try things on in stores. I generally know my size and feel confident that by holding the item up before me, I can determine if it will fit well enough–maybe not perfectly–but that’s OK by my gene-lacking standards. The onerous act of dragging one’s body along with a forearm laden assortment of clothes into a tiny dressing room with an enormous mirror is not how I wish to expend my physical or emotional energy.

Given my dogged determination to stop the madness and to help others make peace with their bodies, I purport to have a ‘relatively’ healthy relationship with my own–though gauging relativity is rather vague in this regard. However, I admit that some of this is achieved by having infrequent encounters with its distorted reflection under bright lights in quasi-public places. I would prefer skinny dipping at a sunny beach if bright light and public places are in the offer.

As it turned out, it was a good thing that I was trying things on. Since the last time I shopped, or maybe it is dependent upon the type of store, sizing seems to have changed more than I was aware. This is either a case of new math, or given the placement of multiple zeros on some tags, a result of some computer coding process replacing real numbers. In the name of I am not sure what–we are not our mothers’ clothing sizes. We are increasingly being resized to a lower number. Zena had to forcibly take from me some of the items I had chosen that were based on my belief in an antiquated sizing system.

Into the dressing room we trudged. This step thus engaged the unsolicited assistance of the kind store clerk. I do know these attendants are there to be helpful, but I still prefer to ignore such attention–and besides, I had Zena to help me. Apparently though, my case was complicated, and required the two of them to seek out for me what would best fit. The sizing and styling of jeans is nuanced. Ultimately, I would have to determine if I was curvy straight or modern straight and the style would influence the size. Zena and the clerk each ably navigated the floor and the dressing room bringing me different options, which I compliantly tried on.

At one point, the sales clerk poked her head in and asked me how I was doing. I was not exactly sure, but said I was OK. Eyeing the tag on the pair of jeans I was then donning, she said, “Oh, that is good. You went down a size.” Apparently, it was time for me to have another one of my stunned moments in a retail setting.

I could have responded enthusiastically, that in the six minutes since she had last seen me in the two digit greater-sized pant, I had in the 4 x 4 space taken to a program of calisthenics including jumping jacks and sit ups while wearing one of those fat burning sweat suits– and was glad that my efforts had paid off. Instead, I asked, “What?” She replied by saying, “Isn’t that what every woman wants, to be a smaller size?” Oh dear, I sighed. With Zena out on the floor, at least my daughter would not have to see her mom (gently) trip out this well-meaning woman. She already knows how I feel about such things.

Quietly, I explained where I was coming from and why I was sensitive to her comment. I shared why believing and voicing such assumptions can be misguided and problematic–if not downright dangerous. (Not to mention, how in this case, absurd.) Such common banter ascribing value to diminished size–especially with no knowledge of an individual’s personal experience–belies the realities of those who may be contending with an illness or emotional stress; needing or wanting to gain weight; actually comfortable with their body size; just changing from an adolescent to adult body shape; or struggling with a psychologically and physically disabling eating disorder. Such entrenched beliefs, can trigger reactions ranging from a shaming emotion to a dangerous feeding behavior. Now, how about those new spring colors?


Cat and Flowers

The clerk’s cheerful countenance dimmed a tad, but she acknowledged what I was saying. She said she had not ever really thought about it. Understandably, it is one of those things we don’t think about unless we have to. But, with 30 million Americans struggling with some form of an eating disorder and many more at risk, (and a zillion just wishing to hate their bodies a little less) I tell this little story in honor of  Eating Disorder Awareness Week which is observed this year from February 26th through March 4th. This year’s theme is, “It’s Time to Talk About It”.

The insidious nature of eating disorders keeps them hidden in bedrooms, dressing rooms, locker rooms and emergency rooms. To shine light on the seriousness of these disorders, an incredible event has been coordinated by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). Large iconic landmarks throughout the country will be lit with the blue and green colors of the organization. Please check this out and look for a location near you. Otherwise, you might even see these lights but not understand their significance.

In the end, all was well. I purchased one pair of jeans of some size and style along with a few other attractive items that should keep me well-attired for a few years. I think my mom would be pleased. The clerk and I were all smiles as she handed me the large shopping bag over the counter, and I was feeling smug about the 60% savings. We had actually had a somewhat intimate encounter. Thinking about it, I recognize that dressing room attendants play a big role in helping women of all sizes to find clothing that makes them feel good. Cheers to them! Zena and I headed back out into the great outdoors feeling quite accomplished. Though we never made it to the farmer’s market we’d had a good catch.

Please drop in, say hello, share an experience, subscribe and/or pass my writings along. Thank you.

In health, Elyn

my plate

MyPlate Plate

MyPlate Haiku: In the dark places/I ask courage to believe/I am beautiful. by Anne-Marie

what to eat in troubled times

A friend, an indefatigable defender of human rights and environmental causes, writes to me and asks what to eat in troubled times.

I reply,

You should eat the foods of the people from around the world who now need your strength of resistance.

Rice and beans, collard greens
Tzimmes, hummus, dahl
Fatteh, dolma, kibbeh
Chicken soup with tortilla or matzoh ball.







Figs, plantains, chiles, dates                           Guacamole, and holy mole

Spooned upon the plates.

Of course, some xocolati
I mean chocolate, dark
Lots of tea, a handful of nuts
All strengthening for the heart.

And, don’t forget the grits. You will need them for the soul.

Please click on the links in the captions of each food photo. These will lead you to the amazing food blogs of three incredible women who are not only very talented cooks with fascinating (and mouth-watering) recipes, but also writers, photographers, educators and cultivators of cultural cuisines and relationships. Also, explore some of the other foods mentioned here if you are not familiar with them. This will take you to both far off lands and perhaps kitchens right in your own neighborhood!

Stay strong. Say hi.

In health, Elyn

my plate

MyPlate Plate

MyPlate Poem

The world’s spinning madly, it drifts in the dark

Swings through a hollow of haze

A race around the stars, a journey through

The universe ablaze with changes. by Phil (Ochs)

let them eat styrofoam

Not even two weeks in, it might seem a little early to consider the nutritional impacts of the new administration. However, while maybe lost among the more pressing issues, there among the flotsam and jetsam of the post-inaugural news was a story that caught my eye. A story that might begin to inform. But first, let me back up a little.


Michelle Obama’s White House Organic Garden. Photo by John Shinkle.

My antenna is usually positioned to pick up the bits of information associated with food and nutrition as it relates to the personal or the political–and it beeps especially loudly when there is an atmospheric collision of the two.

As regards presidential matters, examples from prior administrations–beginning with my own nascent awareness of such things–include the following:

  • Ronald Reagan’s affection for Jelly Beans. And, his administration’s declaration of ketchup as vegetable in an attempt to allow flexibility in school lunch planning. This was a nutritionally-depleted response to maintaining nutritional requirements in the face of budget cuts to the Federal School Lunch Program. (It was actually pickle relish that was used as an example in the original regulations.)
  • George H. W. Bush’s anti-broccoli proclamation–and while broccoli took the whipping, apparently his distaste of vegetables was non-discriminatory. It was during his time in office that the USDA Food Guide Pyramid took to the streets, so to speak, a cavalcade of refined carbohydrates–bagels, baguettes, rolls, and pasta–marching in stride.
  • Bill Clinton’s propensity for Big Macs and Philly Cheese Steaks with onions and Cheez Whiz, his post-presidency quadruple heart bypass surgery, and the subsequent radical changes to his lifestyle and diet. In the wake of his own health epiphany, his Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association founded the The Alliance for a Healthier Generation. However, while in office, Clinton’s 1996 welfare reforms resulted in deep cuts to the Food Stamp Program, thus limiting the ability for working families to obtain benefits.
  • George W. Bush’s eating habits were healthier than those of his father. Better, after experiencing a pretzel-induced near fatal choking incident in the White House, he acknowledged his mother’s advice to chew one’s food carefully. While he attended to his physical activity by jogging his way through many a national crisis, it was during his years in office that the nation’s health and obesity crisis could no longer be ignored. Bush did support some well-meaning nutrition legislation, but during his second term, the USDA Food Pyramid morphed into the MyPyramid. This chaotic appearing icon further fueled confusion concerning governmental nutritional recommendations, leaving everyone to just throw up their hands to reach for the closest bag of Doritos. Oh, and then there was the recession.
  • Barack Obama’s nutritional legacy is really attributable to First Lady Michelle’s devoted efforts. Along with appointing a White House chef dedicated to healthy menus and growing an organic garden on the South Lawn, she promoted the Let’s Move initiative. Attendant legislation included the signing of the The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Despite this presidency’s strong commitment to our nutritional well being, it faced resistance from its own Congress–which passed a bill allowing pizza with two tablespoons of tomato paste to qualify as a vegetable in the USDA School Lunch Program. Sound familiar? And, it was downright thwarted by Big Food. Also, while the president’s support for the cause was irrefutable, his own dietary habits were less than aligned, as I previously detailed during his bid for re-election.

And so, that brings us up to the present. I have gleaned a tiny bit about the dietary and culinary inclinations of the new commander-in-chief. For now, let’s just say I am not surprised. I am also remembering the ridiculousness of his pizza parlor outing in NYC with Sarah Palin. And, I have now found this–his alternative facts explanation.

While for now I can ignore the personal, I am still quite worried about the political. I am concerned about the fate of Michelle’s beautiful organic garden at the White House. And, the myriad initiatives that germinated under her tender care, yielding amazing gardening programs and healthier food systems in schools and preschools as well. Not to mention the attention given to facilitate women’s ability to breastfeed their babies, optimizing children’s health from birth. What is going to happen to all of that?

Well, the details are still scant, but here’s what I have so far that may give us a clue. It comes from that one story I mentioned above. It was the story about the Inaugural Cake. Here are the basics of what happened, in case you missed it. The setting was the Inauguration’s Armed Services Ball. The cake was a nine-tiered tower whose design was blatantly plagiarized from one made for Obama’s Commander in Chief Ball in 2013. The baker, merely following orders, was not aware of the plagiarism until after the fact. At the Ball, the cake’s bottom layer was sliced by means of a military saber wielded jointly by Trump and Pence. And the real kicker? Apparently, only that lowly layer was actually real cake–the rest of it was made out of styrofoam. It was a styrofoam cake!?

Oh, dear fellow plebeians–and members of the military–prepare to heed the call of the new administration’s both obesity prevention and anti-hunger programs. It may in fact be, “Let them eat styrofoam!”

Well, that is it for now. Please take care and make sure to eat your greens. Drop in, say hi, and for those of you who have been marching around in the cold of winter, let’s share a virtual cup of tea or some hot Golden Milk to warm us up. Thank you.

In health, Elyn

My Plate Haiku by Gretchen: Smooth peanut butter/Spread on a peeled banana/Snack time perfection.


My Plate Cup

There are lots of links in this post. Please take a moment to check them out.

By the way, have you heard of the Styrofoam Ban?

to life, to life, l’chaim!

I recall as a child enjoying a series of historical novels called, We Were There. Each book carried the reader to a particular event such as the Boston Tea Party or the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which strangely are the two I particularly remember, along with thirty four other momentous happenings.


Thanks Giving

How long ago and far away I felt I was transported, to ‘be there’ in what we consider to be pivotal moments that changed the course of history, and in effect the course of our own lives. But, while that was imaginary, my own real life experience has provided me reflection back to places in time which have impacted our current lives where actually ‘I was there’.

What has led me to think about this, is that I was recently asked to provide my readers with some information about probiotics. Bear with me as I make the connection.

Evidence of the benefits of probiotics for an expanding list of health conditions is increasingly presenting itself. In fact, these purported nice little bacteria are becoming as well discussed as amoxycillin–as in, “yes, Johnny is on another round of amoxycillin”–the commonly prescribed antibiotic that many have been raised on. Unfortunately, not quickly enough or significantly enough to stave off antibiotic resistance— declared by the World Health Organization and national health organizations as one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development of our time. Wow.

Antibiotic resistance is due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals–which has enabled the bacteria that cause infection to change themselves so that they are not killed off by the drugs targeted to obliterate them. This makes many types of infections harder, and in some cases impossible, to treat. While the impact of this may seem a bit difficult to fathom, according to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013, over 2 million people in the US were infected by these resistant bacteria, resulting in at least 23,ooo deaths.

Also, there are other consequences of antibiotic use related to its effect upon our internal gut environment and the vast community of microorganisms that dwell within. The mechanism of these effects is becoming increasingly understood as science explores the new and fragile frontier of this human microbiome; and studies how insults to this precise and balanced environment mediate many immunological, metabolic–as well as emotional/behavioral–changes.

Understanding the benefits of probiotics–favored in fermented foods– is not really that new. The Neolithic people of Central Asia apparently became hip to this around 6000 BC according to this little article on the history of yogurt. The Dannon Yogurt Company, also seemed to be onto the power of probiotics, traveling from the motherland to set up shop in a small factory in the Bronx in the 1940’s–just at the same time the use of antibiotics became widespread. This was only the beginning.

This timeline on the development of antibiotics, detailing when new types became available for prescription is worth a peek. Note the vast proliferation of these medications in the 1980’s–because, you see, that is when ‘I was there’. Beginning in the late 1980’s, working in clinical and community settings I began to notice women presenting with symptoms of candida overgrowth who had histories of significant antibiotic use; and I saw that babies and young children treated with repeated doses of antibiotics seemed the rule rather than the exception. Also, in 1993 I was quite aware when the FDA approved the use of genetically modified bovine growth hormone (rGBH) to increase milk production in cattle. This resulted in an increased incidence of mastitis and concomitant antibiotic use in herds–whose milk then entered our food supply.

During that window of time, I also was there, sittings witness to an emergence of autism spectrum disorders and premature puberty, the explosion in rates of childhood obesity and the rapid climb in cesarean section deliveries. In WIC clinics I first saw young autistic children wearing protective helmets– and learned of Asperger’s Syndrome from a mother whose child had recently been diagnosed. There too, I watched the mandated vaccination requirements for children expand. In clinical settings I encountered nine year old girls who had begun menstruating and young teens with Type 2 Diabetes. Shocked and alarmed I wrote to my own family physician, Dr. Philip Incao–a leader in protecting the health of children from the impacts of modern experience–to both share my observations and to appreciate his wisdom about approaching healing through supporting the body.

The preservation and promotion of health and the practice of medicine has been around since the beginning of humankind. All exist in the context of place and time, and are dependent upon previous knowledge, expanding technologies, changing cultural,social and physical environments and the influence of economic forces. Extremes of conditions must present and mistakes uncovered before new solutions can be found. Newer approaches can lead to both life sustaining miracles as well as compromising catastrophes. And, some ancient healing agents and practices are still profoundly relevant today.

Of course, antibiotics are a modern medical miracle, major agents in the mitigation of the morbidity and mortality associated with many illnesses that had previously ravaged large swaths of humanity. I am not suggesting that they are the only contributor to the many conditions that currently plague us. But, they serve as an example of how the inappropriate use of and reliance on drugs, coupled with a lack of a holistic view of the body and healing can result in questionable if not outright harmful outcomes.

I have ‘also been there’ for a number of other health related setbacks and breakthroughs –some of whose impacts may have already sat before the jury while others still await the perspective of hindsight. However, in the now, the spotlight is shining on the importance of maintaining our gut health and providing our bodies with the very good bacteria probiotics can provide through the proper foods or supplements. They restore the balance sometimes disrupted by antibiotics–the balance that may be essential to both prevent and address a myriad of health conditions we are only beginning to imagine.

I recommend a read of this comprehensive and helpful primer on understanding and choosing the best probiotic supplements by the good folk at Reviews.com. They have sorted through a lot of information and reviewed many products–doing the work, so that you may be able to say, ‘I am here’ on a new pathway towards improved wellness.

Oh, but don’t forget to eat these great probiotic rich foods that you can make with these really nice recipes provided by Nutritionist, Yuri Elkaim. Some may beautifully grace your Thanksgiving table.

In health, Elyn

My Plate Haiku:

Are we what we eat? Or do we eat what we are? Are they the same thing?  by Julie


My Plate Plate

weight, weight, please tell me

This is a post about weight–weighty matters, the weight of the world, mainly the ongoing conundrum of there being too much of it. It is a topic I think about sometimes–trying to wrap my arms around it to contain it properly.

Actually, you will see that I don’t have much to say about it, but am sharing the brilliant voices of others who do. It seems these stories have recently, coincidentally collected in my little basket of big dilemmas.

Before I proceed, and attempt to offer something up on this largely considered nutritional–but so much greater– matter, let me digress for a moment to share something about me and my nutrition work and my nutritionist status. I have a little explaining to do. IMG_0309

I have experienced a lot of changes in the past few years. Some of these are profoundly personal while others are professional. I will stick to the latter and how they have influenced what I write about–perhaps some of you who follow me have noticed–but they are both intertwined.

When I began writing this blog in the fall of 2010-wow-I was perched in a clinical setting that continued to make me privy to the upfront and personal stories of individuals’ eating lives. I had been doing nutritional counseling for many years at that point in time. My clients’ issues strongly reflected, what I refer to in My Story, the massive changes in our food culture and highlighted the intimate art of eating in response to the personal and cultural milieu. The nutritional crises of our time, including the obesity crisis and its shadowed sister–eating disorders–were about twenty plus years deep in the making.

Professionally, I had been riding this unforeseen wave since its onset in the early 1990’s and felt I had something to say to personalize and humanize what was projected as a faceless statistical trend. Having worked with so many people, I was able to synthesize the common experiences that were impacting us all. I could also relate some true experiences of my clients in my writings. I would juxtapose these experiences alongside the larger impacts of poverty, trauma, environmental changes, food adulteration, community access, societal messaging, etc.

But, what I never stopped to share, was that two and a half years ago, I stepped out of direct care. I began doing nutritional program development and administration for a statewide program serving childcare centers–the preschoolers, families and educators. It is a good program. Though its implied mission is to prevent childhood obesity, I strongly prefer a redirection of intention to support the full health potential of all our children and mitigate the effects of what I am wont to refer to as nutritional violence and size stigmatization. Anyway, at that time, the nature of my posts changed and their frequency decreased. I had less material and more other things to tend to.

And now, I have just begun a new position. I am working for a breastfeeding support organization. This is a nutritional and health issue I am passionate about, but for essentially the first time in my career, I am not carrying the title of Nutritionist. I seem to be welcoming this change– it is a natural extension of my life work and public health orientation that fits well with my current circumstances. But it also stirs some emotion. Due to a combination of my personal experiences and the fact that I have not done direct care for a few years now, I no longer feel I can assist others with the acute health challenges of our time and the precise nutritional approaches they demand. So, along with other big changes I am now facing, I think it may be that I am no longer a Nutritionist.

So, my dilemma asks me, “Then what’s with the name of your blog?” For now, I will answer that until I have time to reconsider it, it will stay the same. I am still deeply interested in nutrition and how it relates to our individual and collective health. I am still paying deep attention and I still want to be part of the larger conversation. And, I still want to help people. I may present more concise offerings on my Instagram page which is now called, Lifeseedlings: Budding perspectives and occasional haikus on food politics, nourishment, body respect, eating and cooking. Join me there.

And so, back to the issue of weight which I raised as the focus of this post. I wish it wasn’t all that it was and is. I wish it didn’t dominate the headlines and pervade our thoughts. I am bothered by my own sometimes prejudiced assumptions and that despite my somewhat larger awareness of its complicated nature, I still conflate weight with health and want to help ease and prevent the physical and emotional burdens it encumbers. But it is about time for all of us, those with or without the business to do so, to stop believing that banishing this weight, this unruly fat, is similar to scrubbing dirt and grit off a coal miner’s body–some effort no doubt, some soaps better than others, but once undertaken, the job would be done.

From my observations, I think MAYBE things are changing. We may finally be realizing that plain out calorically restrictive diets of any ilk and fat shaming just don’t seem to be working to solve the problem in the long run nor are they doing anyone much good.

And, while not entirely new, more voices–powerful, angry and/or tender voices, are emerging that challenge the once firmly held ideas and attitudes held by our scientific and medical communities, our society and even our personal selves about the ‘weight problem’. Their words and advocacy may be shifting our perspectives, sharpening our sensitivities, and providing new approaches to care.

Here is a short little syllabus of what I consider to be very interesting insights on the topic. It includes:

  1. Where the story often begins. A post by Your Fat Friend, a personal story about the implications and consequences of early childhood weight interventions; and a discussion on What Harping on A Child’s Weight Looks Like 20 Years Later about the importance of fostering body appreciation for everyone, by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen on her website, Raise Healthy Eaters.
  2. What No One Ever Tells You About Weight Loss. A powerful and personal look at how expectations about ways to lose weight imply a process that is both isolating and not sustainable, by Nick Eckhart in What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Losing a Lot of Weight.
  3. How Even Well-Meaning Assumptions about Fat Athletes Can Be Misguided. Here, Ragen Chastain (whose blog Dances With Fat I have written about before) deconstructs such assumptions in her post, What Fat Olympians Prove (and What They Don’t).
  4. Really? Just five amazing stories from an episode of This American Life, entitled, Tell Me I’m Fat. (Transcript or Audio).

This is not required reading, but I hope you find something thought-provoking, attitude- adjusting or maybe even life-changing within. And, though I don’t have Carl Kasell to answer my phone, you can leave me a message here.

Thanks for listening, following/subscribing, sharing and supporting my writing.




MyPlate Plate

MyPlate Haiku

Pick your own today

Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats

Sweet summertime fruit. by Nan (Blessings on her new little grandson, Orion!)