Dietary Haiku

japanese maple

Image by cskk via Flickr

Here are a few things that happened in my nutritional life this past week. First, I had a client come into my office bummed out about being fat. She sat down and immediately pointed to different parts of her body that she deemed fat. Of utmost disgust were her arms and her big belly. They definitely had to go. She quieted a little as she said she didn’t mind being big in the thighs and butt, and she thinks her hubby actually likes her like that. I asked about her eating habits. A number of issues presented, including the fact that her husband is incarcerated.

I asked how she felt about my making some suggestions. Without skipping a beat, she replied that she would think it was none of my business and I should leave her alone. Despite her distress, she was not ready for change–a common human experience. Most often I find some traction, but I did not try too hard in this instance and gave her space. (She did eventually come back and see me again.)

Next, my very own brother, in a comment on my last post, “Diet for a Small Caterpillar” informed me that only a small percentage of people actually care about nutrition. I wanted to protest, but he is my big brother and he does seem to know about a lot of things.

And, then, like the very next day, the United States Government, without giving me very much notice, obliterated the Food Pyramid and issued the newest expression of the most up to date dietary guidelines–the USDA My Plate.

Briefly, here is my initial response to the Plate. Though I appreciate the challenge and consider it an improvement, its teaching concept has been around for a while now, so I am surprised it is being touted as something unique and innovative. While hailed for its message to eat more fruits and vegetables, I think that is also old news. It is overly simplistic as our national food icon. It does not realistically relate to how people eat breakfast and lunch, and is not relevant to how many even eat dinner. It does not align with most cultural cuisines and supposes a basic meat and potatoes dietary structure. My dinner plate rarely resembles it. It evades many deeper nutritional questions about protein, dairy, fats and digestion. Disconcertingly, right under the plate it says “Balancing Calories: Enjoy your food but eat less.” This makes a broad assumption about all eaters and ignores the serious issues of those who may need to eat more for various reasons.

Essentially, this model has convinced me that it is time to abandon such efforts. If what my brother says is true, that few people even care; or as my client suggests, that not everyone wants to hear it, why do we keep trying to promote this short shelf life, stale message with such a stagnant image. Maybe it is time to try something new to spread meaningful dietary practice.

I sometimes enjoy a line of iced teas from a Japanese company called Ito En. On their bottles, they offer a nice little haiku. The bottle I have now says: ten heron heads blow as pampas grass in the morning fog. Lovely, even though it doesn’t stick to the 5–7–5 traditional haiku structure. Perhaps that’s because the tea is distributed in Brooklyn–who knows. Anyway, I am thinking that we should develop haikus with various themes to promote nutritional messages with greater nuance. Or, perhaps it would be more American to create some jingles. This could give employ to many creative artists, and I am sure their output would be funnier or more beautiful than anything produced by our governmental agencies. Michael Pollan’s missive, Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants, could be turned into a catchy dance number.

Just as I was about to declare the week a washout, one other thing happened. On Friday, I was at one of the three schools where I work. It was my last visit before summer vacation. I prepared a little healthy snack for the kids I had met with during the year and called them down individually to say good-bye. The message I try to instill in these young children is that they each have an amazing and wonderful body. They are all smart enough to choose to care for their body in various ways and can make many decisions for themselves about what and how they choose to eat.

In this closing session, I asked these adorable nine to thirteen-year-olds, what have they been paying attention to based on things we had previously talked about. Without explanation, they each understood this vague question and all had at least a small answer. Some had big impressive answers. My dimming faith was ignited once again. So, maybe this is the relevant dietary inquiry–What are we paying attention to? There is a lot to choose from in this crazy nutty nutrition world.

What message would inspire you or what do you think we need to hear? Is the truth of the matter that our governments’ policies are incongruent with appropriate dietary promotion or our personal experience as eaters? What are you paying attention to?

Please allow yourself a creative moment to pen your own dietary haiku or jingle and send it along. Let’s see what emerges.

In health, Elyn

Related Posts: Your Pyramid; Diet for a Small Caterpillar; Accepting Haikus

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14 thoughts on “Dietary Haiku

  1. You inspired me, Elyn, to write a Haiku. Nice blog.

    Spread peanut butter
    on whole grain sweet dark brown bread,
    raspberry jam – yum.

    Thanks to your friend Gretchen for her blog on their trip east and link to your blog..

    Barbara Clark, Eureka, CA

    Like

    • dear barbara, a cross country haiku! thank you so much. what a naturally sweet offering. yes, it was wonderful seeing gretchen and barb. today i see they are in the rockies. thanks for reading. elyn

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  2. Love the hunch blog – so many biting comments come to mind, but I’ll hold my tongue 😉

    Hurray for Haiku! The egg haiku is really beautiful

    Food made joyfully
    As a gift of time and self
    Feeds body and soul

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    • dear anne marie, i love this haiku! thank you so much. it expands the message so beautifully from the limited context of food to the much more important issue of nourishment. this is the piece that is missing as we stab around in the dark trying to fix this food problem. haiku lends itself so nicely to this sweeter idea. elyn

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      • It also addresses for me somewhat the quality of ingredients issue – not everyone can afford to buy the best possible ingredients (i.e. organic, fresh, local), but intention seems like such an important part of food. I believe it adds a quite ineffable quality to the food we eat.

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      • dear friend, i agree fully. intention (and perhaps attitude) is a very important component in the essence of feeding. there are many intangibles and unknowns in regard to the feeding of us humans, and outside of gross deficiency and abuse, various paths seems to sustain us. perfection, if ever even attainable, does not seem to be the common denominator.

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  3. Barbara and Elyn: I’m glad to see the California/New York connection here. I love the food haiku’s, but haven’t come up with one myself yet. Will let it simmer as we tour Capitol Gorge. 🙂 Gretchen

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  4. My haiku contribution, from the heart. It is the truth, plain and simply. But, please, tell me what it means. I only know it is true.

    Blueberry bushes,
    Three children with empty pails,
    Pluck, pluck, crunch. Exhale.

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