Last week was a rather discouraging one for this persevering nutritionist. I knew it was bad, as on Friday I found myself contemplating stopping at a Dunkin Donuts and just drowning myself in one of those massive confectionery pond-sized drinks, weighted down with heavy donut shoes.
The final straw so to speak had occurred just moments before. On Fridays, I work in some elementary schools. As I was packing up my Mary Poppins basket musing on the students I had spent my day with, an announcement came over the loud-speaker. The principal was congratulating a boy for his lack of tardiness or absenteeism for the month of February. His reward was that he got to share a Burger King lunch with some school-level celebrity.
Really? Why don’t you just shoot me in the foot? Well, maybe this boy was being given his fair reward. All the other slackers who had managed to show up on this day got a thick greasy piece of pizza, a cellophane-wrapped bag of carrots (which is more appealing than most of the veggie offerings) a blob of half-frozen mushy blueberries–the ice crystals were visible– and a chocolate milk on their non-recyclable styrofoam tray. That should teach them not to miss school.
The night before I had been at a charter elementary school. I was a presenter with two other speakers on healthy choices for school success. I had been excited that the school had focused a parent meeting on this important topic and was glad to have been invited. Despite good intentions on behalf of the school, only six parents out of a student body of 300 attended. Still, we did our thing.
Out of my Mary Poppins basket, I passed around, along with some other nutrition shockers, a well-worn packet of Pop-Tarts with an attached baggie filled with the eight and a quarter teaspoons of sugar that it contains. I asked the participants to look at the long list of gruesome ingredients as I talked about nutrition and brain health. After the talk, a staff person approached me. She meekly told me, that if kids get to school late, and miss the provided breakfast, they are given Pop-Tarts. Given the rewarding of non-tardy behavior to only one recipient at the other school, I surmise that no small number of kids are getting their brains doused with such artificial intelligence here. I felt like I was going to cry. (We did come up with some alternative ideas for the school though.)
Oh well, no biggie. Maybe I was just sensitive because the day before that I had a new eating disordered client who was restricting herself to three hundred calories a day. Or, maybe it was the young diabetic who I had spent many teaching moments with, who came in the day before that with a high blood sugar of 227 and told me that she had a beef patty, some pringle like potato chip I had never heard of, three Oreos and a large-sized can of Arizona Green Tea for breakfast.
Perhaps, most disheartening though was the doctor who totally ignored my concerns about the severe dietary deficiencies of a patient we shared–whose support I really needed to facilitate her care. Like the scenarios I described above, this is really nothing new to me. Doctors untrained in nutrition, give short shrift to diet, except for some lip service when it comes to blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol. I am rather used to being ignored by physicians.
I do not expect my clients, my students, and even school administrators to fully get this whole food and nutrition thing given current conditions. Those with eating struggles would not have them if they were easily understood. Individual schools are not easily able to remedy foodservice limitations. Teachers have many other matters to attend to.
But, I do really expect that by now, even conventionally trained medical providers would appreciate the connection between diet and health and would give attention to meaningful dietary assessments in supporting the treatment of their patients. It is recognized that patients whose doctors inquire about their smoking habits and are told to quit have higher smoking cessation success. To help turn the tide on the nation’s health crisis, doctors’ true embracing of dietary health is essential. Last week, I really needed that doctor to express to our patient who was in the office, concern about her eating and to provide to her some basic nutritional supplements. Instead, out the door, the patient went, with a prescription for one more drug in hand and no mention of my recommendations. I slumped in my chair.
Usually, I can handle situations like this with more aplomb. Maybe I am just a bit depleted in B-vitamins which lowered my resilience. Never mind. Time to re-fortify. Onward.
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In health, Elyn