Mark Bittman’s and my path have crossed at the library once again. In So, What’s the Dilemma?, I wrote about how the food writer, chef, and columnist threw his tome, “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” in my way, blocking the entire 640-680 non-fiction aisle–just to get my attention. This time he was a little more subtle. He knew I needed something simpler for my new client, a 32-year-old guy who had been a vegetarian since his early teenage years, but despite his recent attainment of fatherhood was still eating like a teenager. His wife had called me frantically seeking help.
This time as I perused the library shelf looking for some inspiration, his similarly titled, How to Cook Everything: Vegetarian Cooking stuck out conspicuously from the other offerings. It was just what I was looking for. Weighing only about eight ounces with a mere 123 pages, I thought it would be the right serving size to present to the residual adolescent.
I was glad to see that Mark had my back. Not only did he help me with my client that day. His more recent work, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating (2008) and the follow-up companion piece, The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living (2010) has helped to spread my message about personal health and the politics of food to a vast and appreciative audience. Through his books, NY Times column, and television appearances, he is raising awareness about global food issues while providing people with the ability to make a change–that tastes really good–right in their own kitchens. In his own words, he has committed himself for decades to “battling the ascendance of convenient processed food and a general decline in quality” which has contributed to the big pickle we now find ourselves in.
While waiting to check out my books, I realized he is not the only Mark to have left his mark on me. The others are Dr. Mark Hyman and Marc David. I have not merely figuratively crossed paths with them. I have the pleasure of knowing them both.
I have literally sat in Mark Hyman’s bed–it was a long time ago. Back then, he was my college housemate and friend–a doe-eyed, gentle and sensitive spiritual seeker pursuing Asian Studies. Such interest and the influence of another housemate–a nutrition graduate student-led him to both medical school and the study of Chinese medicine. Today, he is one of the leading voices in the field of alternative medicine. Not only is he a deeply caring physician, but he is also a prolific writer and a leading proponent regarding the creation of a new health care paradigm.
Mark’s practice of medicine involves a whole systems approach described by a model called Functional Medicine, which of course includes nutrition and lifestyle support. Approaching health from this point of view and really understanding that food is medicine, changes the conversation I have with my clients every day. Presenting health care from this angle is challenging in the climate that defines our practice of medicine. We are programmed to be patients, essentially dependent on a pharmaceutical-based promise of healing. Though it is endemic on all levels, this thinking is especially entrenched in the low-income communities like the one where I serve, because options are not available and the stressors are exacerbated.
Every day I hear the pain and strain of being stuck in this prescribed role. People limp into my office with plastic bags filled with myriad medications. In spite of this, they still ache, they are often depressed, and they feel helpless and confused. But, I see the fire in their eyes and the longing in their souls as they suggest that they do not want to take an additional pill. Acknowledging that, I can remind them that they are capable of being an active participant in their own care and feeding. This is the consciousness shift that is happening through the work of people like Mark.
And then, there is Marc David, who is actually a good friend of Mark Hyman. He is less well-known than the “k” Marks, but his message is phenomenally powerful and equally important at this juncture. Marc is a nutritional psychologist, deeply learned in the areas of the physiology of eating, metabolism, and digestion. He is the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. His books, Nourishing Wisdom: A Mind-Body Approach to Nutrition and Well Being and The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy and Weight Loss are both revolutionary in their understanding of nutrition.
As most of the cultural chatter focuses on what we eat, Marc explores the more primal questions of who we are as eaters and why and how we eat. He writes that we can no longer separate the science of nutrition from the psychology of eating. I agree. His institute is training professionals to counsel from this perspective and his message is increasingly permeating the field. His ideas are very prescient and worthy to explore. He is a scientist, a Buddhist, a healer, and a wonderful writer–but as I once told him, I think he is mainly channeling his grandmother.
So, as I continue to walk among the eaters of the world, assisting where I can, I am glad to have these three good Mark (c) s beside me. These guys, along with some other wonderfully knowledgeable and visionary people are not only informing my work but are opening new doors to the understanding of human nourishment.
I’d be interested to know which piece of the nutritional puzzle you feel you most need to address, advance or heal your eating or health status. Is it informational, structural, shopping/cooking or emotional/behavioral support? Please drop me a comment. I would love to hear from you.
In health, Elyn
My Plate Haiku
Spread peanut butter
On whole grain, sweet dark brown bread
Raspberry jam–yum! by Barbara