michelle, my first lady

Dear Michelle,

I have been worried about your husband Barack’s eating habits. From following him on the campaign trail during these very arduous times, it seems that news items abound about him chowing down on ribs,  chili dogs, pizza and pastries. Yes,  I know  that  he needs to go meet and greet his constituents and that he is eager to support small business owners around the country. This does mean that he must go and find where the people gather–and that is often in settings that involve the communal act of the serving and eating of food. I deeply appreciate that he is of the people and can get down and chow down with the common folk. I also I know he is a very generous guy and stories have reported that he is sometimes buying goodies to bring back to his hard-cranking campaign workers or public servants in the numerous locations where he has touched down.

pumpkins grown by farmers, carved by zena and tomas

I do not mean to undermine his profound need for nourishment to keep him going, but it seems that a lot of yellow and red light foods are speeding their way down his own gullet–with obvious gusto–and with no traffic infractions being incurred.  Just for those of my readers who don’t live in the world of childhood nutrition education, the traffic light metaphor refers to a system of identifying foods as either green, yellow or red light signifying always, sometimes or rarely ever to be eaten.

I am reminded that when Barack’s friend and mentor, former President Bill Clinton was in office, his legendary appetites were the subject of much attention and downright mockery.  I believe he lusted for Philly Cheese Steaks. So, why are your husband’s eating habits not garnering the same scrutiny?  Unfortunately, unlike pudgy Bill, it is because he is thin–actually, it is worse than that.  He is skinny. I say unfortunately, because being skinny can sneak up and bite ya.  I imagine it must have been a bit disconcerting for you when that burly pizza parlor owner, came right over and just picked poor Barack right up off the ground with that big bear hug.

With all the attention on obesity, we forget that the non-obese can suffer health consequences as well and are equally vulnerable to the effects of poor diet, smoking and stress–which I know are issues your husband contends with. These can be more detrimental than just extra pounds alone. I think I heard that he has quit smoking–so that is good.

I will assume that when at home, our dear President consumes lots of White House grown organic vegetables, and grass-fed, hormone-free animal products prepared by some of the best chefs in the land. And, that he plays basketball and does other activities to stay fit. Hopefully, he also has a team of massage therapists and other holistically-oriented practitioners to assist with his well-being. Maybe he just eats these red light foods when he is on the road–like kids who go crazy for sweets at other people’s homes when such foods are forbidden in their own.

Believe you me, I do know that it is  impossible to control our husbands’ behaviors. Here I am a nutritionist, and my own hubby has quite the pedestrian sweet tooth. No amount of my homemade kale chips can keep him from occasionally going out and finding a bag of Cheeze Doodles and the perfect dish of ice cream. I bet Hilary knows what I mean. Still, I am wondering, if given your highly touted platform and efforts regarding the urgency of improving nutritional status and decreasing the burden of illness on our nation, whether Barack could and should be modeling more healthful eating behaviors.

I was troubled by a story I heard on the radio just last week. NPR reported on what Obama and Romney were doing to sustain their non-stop high-energy requirements on the final leg of the campaign. This was right before Hurricane Sandy changed the agenda. They  interviewed some campaign assistant who started out by saying that when Barack got off the plane that morning, he headed right over to get some Krispy Kreme doughnuts. You probably don’t know that I have a little, shall we say, vendetta against Krispy Kreme, so you may want to read my posts, Kicking Butt with Krispy Kreme and Magic Doughnuts–The Nutritionist’s Nemesis. So, upon hearing that, I was all ears.

It got worse. I was shocked to then hear Barack himself saying something to the effect that all that nutrition stuff is your thing, but he doesn’t care. It is an election year and the White House will be giving out lots of candy for Halloween. My, I don’t know how you felt about that, but I was disappointed to hear such an off the cuff remark that indicated to me a disregard of the real importance of proper nutrition in improving the health of our citizenry. To really turn the tide on the dire consequences attributable to the standard American diet  (SAD) will take more than lip service. It will take courage to exhibit true leadership in this matter–and leading by example. Sugary sweets are not a substitute for the relief this electorate truly seeks; and perpetuating good-natured excuses and exceptions for our food behaviors will not reduce our massive health costs and its drain on our economy. That quick sugary fix will ultimately lead to a massive crash in mood and energy.

Never you mind. Your husband still has my vote. Yet, I am writing this with trepidation as the election is still a few days away. I do wish for him to have four more years–healthy years– in office. I hope it will not take a quadruple bypass surgery for him to appreciate and attend to the benefits of a healthful and vegan diet as it did his friend Bill. It would have been nice if while stumping in North Carolina he had stopped in at that wonderful restaurant, The Laughing Seed Cafe that I mentioned in Forks on the Road.

Though Barack might not need them, the future of health care, Medicare and Social Security are seriously on the line right now–and we need him to make sure that those programs are there for those of us who will. Perhaps too, with a second term, he can work to integrate some more holistic preventive health measures into Health Care reform.  Please, keep up your good work and see if you can get Barack to eat his beets. I read that he does not like them. Do let him know that betalain-rich beets are blessed with many healthy benefits. Great for the cardiovascular system and the lowering of high blood pressure. And, that makes those beautiful red gems a nice little aphrodisiac food too–wink wink.

Respectfully,

In health, Elyn

PS.  As you ready to advance your agenda for the upcoming term I hope you consider the work of chef, food justice activist and author Bryant Terry whose inspiring work is focused on opening the doors to a future where everyone in this country has access to tasty and healthful food.  http://www.bryant-terry.com/

Trick or treat?  Thoughts or comments?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/01/obama-doctor-president-st_n_480450.html

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20121010160411-203080237-x-ray-vision-carrots-changing-how-our-children-eat

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/09/11/pizza-shop-owner-scott-van-duzer-on-bear-hugging-president-obama.html

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/president_barack_obama_diet_7PxbdwfaMCyEKla9ZEc8HO?photo_num=14

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Are we what we eat

Or do we eat what we are

Are they the same thing?

by Julie

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12 thoughts on “michelle, my first lady

  1. So honored to have my haiku featured on such a stately post, Points well taken. Thank you.
    Let’s hope that these issues enter and remain in the presidential limelight for 4 more years!
    BTW, Are you sending Mrs. Obama the post, or just hoping that the intern whose job it is to google her name stumbles upon it and passes it on.

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    • julie, in the final moments before i went to print i almost nixed your haiku in favor of my beet one, but i got the message to keep yours in. maybe so that when michelle does read this she’ll say find out who this julie is…and then barack will learn that you are an amazing teacher and he will bring you into his administration on education reform. so, how does one contact the first lady?

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  2. Elyn, I loved this post! As a candidate for public office this year, I confess to a serious over-indulgence in red-light foods during this campaign. And pledge to eat more beets starting November 7.

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    • dear carrie woerner for state assembly, when you are elected the entire state assembly as well as governor cuomo will be celebrating seasonal vegan week along with the round lake veganistas. and, when you ascend to positions of higher power i am sure you will be writing the feminine leadership cookbook.

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  3. Good reply my dear sister. However, until such time as our industrial food industry finds a way to make more profit from healthy foods you will continue to fight your uphill battle. We can’t even make a dent in school food because kids have grown up on fast food and have very little taste for healthy foods. And let’s face it, convenience plays a very big part in people’s eating habits. You can’t find a single drive thru or fast food restaurant where you can quickly pick up some healthy grub fast and cheap. The art of cooking is also out the window. Today with so many household having both husbands and wives working, take out or microwave prepared foods are de rigor. So, unfortunately your mission will always be difficult until you can somehow find a solution for the entire food industry from farm to factory to home. Don’t mean to be a downer but I know you realize the truth.

    Best regards, Richard Zimmerman Vice President Capital Markets Hartman Income REIT (818) 620-1932

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    • dear richard, well, it may be time for a new reality in the national dialogue on food–especially in light of current economic and climate realities. i am envisioning a campaign for a new version of a chicken in every pot and something akin to the old victory gardens. i think it is time for a new national gruel–with a few tasty variations. served in schools and prepared in homes everywhere. time to send in the chefs of grub. love, elyn

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  4. Elyn, You nailed it once again! Might there also be a grain of sexism in there with his downplaying his wife’s cause? Well , I know he can’t do everything but maybe he will take heed of your warning once he is re-elected TONIGHT!!!

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