i surmise with my little eyes

A few years ago, I worked at a college full of bright and creative students. While there, I was invited to serve on a panel for a discussion on “Food: Society and the Environment”. During the event, one young woman in the audience asked me to describe the conditions I encounter in my practice as a nutritionist. Then, and still, I consider this a very insightful and important question, relevant to the issue of how we are feeding ourselves–on the personal and societal level– and what are its implications.

I have worked in medical and community environments as a nutritionist for many years, during a period marked by an increasingly modified and aggressively marketed food supply. At the time of that panel presentation, I was working at both that small, predominantly female college and a large Ob/Gyn office– so my clients were mainly women, ranging in age from about eighteen to forty. And, at the Ob/Gyn office, many of them were pregnant.

A history of poor dietary habits exerts its influence on the health of a society in more subtle ways than the common indicators of end-stage problems like diabetes, stroke and heart disease—but those are the conditions that get the ink. However, increasingly and alarmingly, I see many health issues with dietary or nutritional antecedents affecting young and middle-aged adults. Likewise, I see conditions once only ascribed to aging, presenting in younger people. Perhaps to best appreciate this– if you are more fully ripened– imagine yourself sitting in a college campus student union or going to a Lil Wayne concert. You are not having lunch at the senior center.

I would rather present this in a more artistic format, but for now, I must submit to a mundane bulleted list–along with this lovely painting of Summer by Cezanne. It consists of the conditions that I encountered while serving this young adult population–and only those which knocked on my door with at least occasional frequency–not rare occurrences. 

  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance
  • Heartburn and reflux  (GERD)
  • Constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and digestive disorders
  • Gall bladder conditions
  • Moderate to severe obesity
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Food allergies
  • Behavioral disorders
  • History of frequent illness in childhood
  • Eating Disorders
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Toxemia of Pregnancy—a syndrome associated with high blood pressure and kidney involvement
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Recurrent yeast infections
  • Severe skin inflammations
  • Orthopedic Problems

Bouncing between the two work settings, on most days I had at least one client starving and struggling with an eating disorder and one who weighed more than 250 lbs—who may also have been struggling with an eating disorder. As the numbers on the scale were both decreasing and increasing, so was the volume of the diatribe against the body. Both were distressing to witness–as was considering young, diseased gall bladders.

Some of these conditions are interrelated; and many are exacerbated by stress–another marker of dis-ease affecting our youth. The prevalence of these conditions also means that many of this millennium generation is on at least one medication, including those that treat depression, anxiety, blood pressure, heartburn, inflammation, behavior, and hormones. The use of these medications will result in increased prescriptions for erectile dysfunction and osteoporosis medications for this generation as well.

My contention is that young children who are exposed to processed foods, do not develop the ability to appreciate the more distinct and varied flavorings of more natural foods—especially those of the plant kingdom. Therefore, these more healthful foods are not incorporated into their food vocabularies. These young children grow into big kids and young adults, quickly accumulating the years that their bodies are exposed to altered, nutrient and enzyme-deficient foods.

Craving the whole foods that our bodies and brains require by design in order to function, an underlying “true” hunger festers and grows. The hunger is either pursued voraciously or feared and denied. Even in the middle ground, before too long, this compromised nutritional state can take its toll and the above conditions can manifest.

One of the difficulties of inspiring behavioral change in regard to eating and nutrition, and in explaining how food matters, is that it is not very easy to show direct cause and effect between food choices and health outcomes. Many might argue that they would prefer to just eat happily and without dictates—even at the cost of a possible slightly premature end.

Could considering the consequences that physically and emotionally damage us decades before the final blow serve to amend such an attitude? Attention to dietary change has become essential. Through positive food experiences may we begin to show that nutrition can prevent not only life-threatening conditions but life-limiting ones as well.

Any thoughts on this? Any reflections of how you eat/ate at this phase of your life? Please let me know.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

2 thoughts on “i surmise with my little eyes

  1. I came upon this post today, and it perfectly fit my current circumstances. I have had weight issues most of my adult life, and in the past few years various factors contributed to my hitting an all-time high weight. What worried me most was the joint pain and shortness of breath, though I wasn’t sure if that was from weight or some underlying medical conditions. But I suspected all of my issues were connected to my diet, and I made a New Years resolution to take charge of my eating. I settled on a diet that was void of processed foods, low in carbs (specifically wheat and other grains) and high in non-starchy veggies and protein. I have lost significant weight during the past weeks, but the most dramatic effect was in the very first week, before any weight loss would’ve made a significant difference. Within a few days of cutting carbs, my joint pain disappeared and I started to lose my shortness of breath. I could pick things up from the floor again, and stairs were no longer a problem. For me, the carbs were key (or perhaps just cutting out wheat; time will tell as I reintroduce starchy veggies and non-wheat whole grains). I doubt there’s one solution that fits all, but my dietary change, including keeping a record of my food intake and keeping my caloric intake much lower than before, has been of immense assistance. Your post, with its focus on the problems of processed foods, spoke loud and clear to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul, I am so glad you found dear little ‘I surmise with my little eye.” An oldie and lost in the saucie. Thanks so much for sharing your amazing and helpful story. It shocks me that ‘we’ are still investigating processed foods to confirm their negative impacts. That is not rocket science. You will be a great documentarian of your experience. I will look forward to your continued findings. Thanks for reading. Elyn

      Like

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