Search Results for: childhood awareness

childhood awareness month obesity

Before the month is out, I’d like to report and thereby release my annual reticence about focusing attention so directly on childhood obesity. If I could, I would turn the matter inside out or upside down, but since my typing options are limited, I am just mixing the whole thing around–and hence the title.

Chances are you don’t even know that this is the month that deems we bring special attention to childhood obesity, albeit with good intention. Hopefully, fat kids don’t know it is either. Fat kids are not clambering for any special attention–their weight brings them more than they should ever have to bear every month of the year. Perhaps we should celebrate Childhood Obesity Lack of Attention Month and lighten up on those whose bodies bear our national shame.

Prevalence of Self-Reported Obesity Among U.S. Adults by State and Territory, BRFSS, 2018. See map details in table below.

Fall Colors

I have written about my feelings on this before, and in a personal exercise of trying to write a short post, I will keep things brief by referring to those previous ones. But why I continue to be peeved is partly because I thought that awareness months were for concerns and conditions that would not otherwise garner attention. For example, September is also National Sickle Cell Month and Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month. Yet, obesity–for both young and old has not gone unnoticed. Since we realized there was a problem there has been a very public outcry and assault on the situation. The fight against it has been on heralding the call to eat less and move more. Master the equation.

But more so, I see the focus on obesity as missing the larger point. Yes, there has clearly been a marked increase in the prevalence of obesity in this country, and globally since the 1980s, according to the indicators that are used to measure such things. And, yes there are associated health concerns and consequences for some (though not all) of those who have turned their states from blue to orange and red on those troubling maps presented by the Center for Disease Control. The reasons for this are complex, confusing and multi-factorial. The obvious villains of eating more and moving less get the brunt of the blame but there are other nefarious players as well.

While we strive to figure out how to get a handle on the situation and direct many resources to worthy intervention and prevention efforts, my point is that the aspects of the problem that we decry for contributing to obesity, also have impacted other facets of our society’s health and that of its children. It is pretty obvious that we are suffering from lousy food, excessive intake and inadequate physical activity, but if we put those forces in a prisoner lineup, then we must also charge and convict them for not only contributing to weight gain but to behavior and learning problems, depression, anxiety, immune system disorders, allergies, and other maladies as well. It is not only the many who are vulnerable to weight gain who are affected. However, those who aren’t, are also being held hostage by the environmental and social influences that define our lives.

While it is true that our economy is burdened by health conditions related to weight for which the bell has been mightily tolled, so it is by these other impacts on our children. Gather together teachers, behavioral specialists, pediatricians, nutritionists and all those who tend to our young, and I am sure they will describe concerns broader than just children’s Body Mass Index (BMI). Dietary and activity level influences may be involved there as well.

I must perforce explain that I get the gravity of the weight situation. But I cynically bemoan the multitude of poor policies that fostered the crisis and the policymakers who then woke up screaming, hey, let’s do something about those obese children. If we want a month, then may I suggest we rename it, “Tending to Our Children’s Birthright of Health Awareness Month” and stop just focusing on obesity. I believe all children will benefit from such a shift in attention and it may actually prevent some harm.

For those who are interested in mindful approaches to specific childhood feeding issues and raising competent eaters, I guide you to the wise work of Ellyn Satter, Dr. Katja Rowell, and Dina Rose. (Update: Also, to the Guidelines for Media Portrayal of Individuals Affected by Obesity which addresses matters associated with weight bias, stigma, and discrimination.)

What are your thoughts?

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

Related (directly and indirectly) Posts: A Bushel and A Peck of Ways to Address Childhood Obesity; The Humanist Imperative to Nourish and Care for Our Children; The Tempted Temperament; Skinny Boys

Rose's Plate

Rose’s My Plate

 

 

 

 

 

My Plate Haiku

Peach baskets brimming

Raspberries ripe on the bush

Apples soon to come.

by Crystal

(Summer sped by and fall is upon us. Apples are here!)

Happy Birthday to Rose’s wonderful Daddy. Healing prayers for friend Jodi who has nourished so many with her wonderful cooking and abundant love. Blessings to Crystal on her wedding to Oliver next week!

a bushel and a peck of ways to address childhood obesity

It seems that we spend a lot of time fixing things that should not have ever become so broken. Not only time is wasted but a lot of resources– that seem to be rather scarce these days.

As this relates to the care and feeding on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels of human beings, we certainly have been drawn off course. Some significant digressions from what should have been a rather intuitive matter or a natural symbiotic relationship with the natural and nurturing environment have occurred.

Healthy Children

Healthy Children (Photo credit: Korean Resource Center 민족학교) drawing by 13 yo Suzy An, Irvine, California

Though early humans expended much of their energy trying to procure food for survival, they still seemed to have had time for other endeavors as well–like discovering fire, inventing the wheel and designing clothes. Nomadic cultures certainly had to find to go or take out food solutions. One would think that at this stage of the game, we too should be able to both nourish and progress.

Listening to the persistent conversation about the problem of obesity one might think evolution-wise we were still inventing the wheel. The top experts in the field are engaged in the mandate to ferret out the problem and find solutions, huge research projects are undertaken, big monies are allocated, programs are created, public health campaigns are rampant. The hunt is on and it has been going on for decades. This time its pursuit is not roaming bison or wild turkey but the reclaiming of our natural homo sapien form and functioning. So far, we seem to have only snagged the primordial beast of ‘eat less and exercise more’.

I wonder if this all has to be so difficult. Where and how did we stray so far off course? How did we allow the school food situation to get so bad? Other nations with way fewer resources have maintained a large degree of nutritional integrity, even if in the form of some hearty gruel. Jamie Oliver, a simple lad from England, has managed to bring nourishing food into kids’ cafeterias.

Today, sadly aware that September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, I venture into the childhood obesity debacle to suggest that maybe we can shift the focus, listen to our inherent wisdom, reclaim our cultural connectedness and tweak the approach, to save some of the expended resources that we are currently draining. I know these are complicated matters but perhaps there really are more holistic solutions.

Here are some possibilities:

ð  Legislate paid maternity leave of a valuable length. The United States is one of only three countries in the world that do not offer paid maternity leave. The other two are Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. Most countries provide paid leave of between 14-22 weeks. Norway allows 44 weeks, while Canada allows 50. Mothers here who do get to stay home for a meager six weeks after the birth of their babies generally are those whose jobs provide disability insurance. Wow. What a warped difference in consciousness. maternity leave comparison

ð Implement more generous, equitable and flexible time-off policies. Without time for parents to establish healthy routines, many important aspects related to family and child health are neglected. Additionally, one cannot even begin to discuss weight matters without acknowledging the role of stress on our eating and metabolism.

ð Promote and normalize breastfeeding. It is important to understand the nutritional, metabolic, digestive, and immune implications of replacing human breastmilk with artificially manufactured milk substitutes. Updated 2020: Infant Feeding History Revised

ð  Revisit infant feeding recommendations. Our early feeding practices rely on the introduction of cow milk and soy-based proteins, processed grain cereals and juices as babies’ first foods. Infant feeding recommendations promulgated by physicians professionally under-educated on nutritional matters and baby food manufacturers seem almost sacrosanct in our society. Decades-long infant feeding guidelines are based on often misguided attempts to compensate for and mitigate the negative effects of depriving infants of species-specific breastmilk. The digestive imprinting and physiological adaptations to our first foods provide important clues as to children’s feeding inclinations. Ignoring this stage is short-sighted.

Update 2020: Somehow I missed the memo. While I had known the American Academy of Pediatrics had through the years strengthened their stance on promoting breastmilk as babies’ first food, I did not realize that in 2017 they updated their 2008 guidelines on starting solid foods. Notable changes are recommendations for extended breastfeeding, no juice during the first year, and an increased variety of introductory solid foods instead of just iron-fortified cereals. First foods to give your baby.

ð  Appropriately nurture children’s developing food palates–like other food-conscious cultures do). This means we should not be catering to children’s unformed palates. Doing so dwarfs the development required to appreciate more sophisticated and healthier foods, tastes and textures. Overexposing children early to an onslaught of sweet and chemically-produced tastes inhibits acceptance of the wide variety of foods required for a balanced diet and predisposes them to serious health problems. How the french feed their children;

ð   Stop advertising and marketing food to children. Over thirty-five years ago, Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Action for Children’s Television petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to restrict advertising aimed at children–in large part due to its effects on children’s dietary preferences and intake. The FTC agreed that such practices were inappropriate. However, the food, toy, and advertising industries pushed back and unfortunately pressured Congress to halt taking action. Today, 17 to 20 billion dollars are spent annually on the marketing of non-nutrient foods to children.

ð Remove unsavory ingredients from the food system. While our FDA continues to hold to its stance that artificial food dyes and preservatives in our food are safe, other countries have begun to take progressive action to remove these substances from their products–even those made by American manufacturers–for the sake of their young citizens.

ð  Redesign supermarket and drug store layouts so that they do not cater to 4- year-olds’ sensibilities. Next time you shop, pay attention to how many cartoon character endorsed products are populating the food aisles, especially at the eye-catching “end caps” and checkout counters.

ð  Direct adequate funding to school meal programs. School lunch in Japan.

ð  Respect recess. Put it back in the schools if it has been taken away. Provide it daily and preferably before lunch. Children innately know how to move. We just have to ensure that they have the appropriate time and space to do so.

ð  Integrate relaxation/yoga/resilience training and cooking/gardening/movement curriculum at all grade levels.  

ð  Protect farmers and subsidize fruits and vegetables.

Well, using agricultural measurement, I think that is enough for now. If we truly and intelligently wish to address this matter–and to heal what should have never become so broken–we have to restore the capacity of those best equipped to nourish and protect our children–the parents, farmers, cooks, teachers and schools. And yes, it may require the funding, creation, and implementation of policies on a larger-scale which will facilitate that as a nation we are prepared to do so.

May we love our children a bushel and a peck.

In health, with a hug around the neck, Elyn

Please share your thoughts or additional ideas on this matter. Thanks.

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Smooth peanut butter

Spread on a peeled banana

Snack time perfection.

by Gretchen

brought to tears

I actually found it in a garbage can at the Health Department where I now work. I’d been trying to get my little fingers on one of these for a while, so I was not totally put off by its lowly circumstances. It really should have been in the recycling bin at least, but there it lay, abandoned, thankfully right on top. I gingerly lifted it from its resting place of refuse and walked it right over to a nearby sink. tissues-1000849_1920

I unscrewed the cap which I was about to discard until I noticed that it too was an artifact of interest to me– but that was secondary to the bottle, at least for starters. The bottle was still half full or half empty, so my next quasi-distasteful act was to pour the hazardous saliva-mixed remains down the drain despite my uncertainty regarding proper disposal procedures for what might be considered a toxic substance.

A few months back I had become aware of some new Coca-Cola campaign entitled Share A Coke. Cans and bottles of the ubiquitous beverage now have one of about 250 first names, like Debbie, along with other emotionally tinged monikers like Bestie, Grillmaster, Wingman, Mom and Dad prominently displayed on the label under the directive to Share a Coke with the dearly imprinted. Just hearing about this manipulation of the human psyche triggered my shivers down the spinal reflex. But, when I began to see the bottles for sale in my local convenience store and in the cafeteria in my office building it was downright spooky. But, here I was now, up close and personal with one.

Things must have been getting pretty bad over there at Coca-Cola. Previous promises of perpetual happiness associated with imbibing the sugar-laden, highly acidic, caffeine-laced, teeth-rotting, gut-deteriorating, illness-promoting fizzy elixir must have begun to go flat. Were sales lagging? Was the logo no longer recognizable the world over? What else could have initiated a marketing blitz that reeks of malevolence as it strives to ensnare our fragile egos and enslave our purchasing behaviors?

I remember being excited when those little mini license plates with names on them that you could attach to your bike seat first came out. But, I also recall the immediate chagrin when you could not find your own name hanging from the metal display rack. Suddenly you felt second-rate, not worthy of a plate. I am not certain of all of the psychological underpinnings that are attached to this probably billion-dollar campaign, but I am sure they are many. Does seeing our name emblazoned in such a public way make us feel validated, loved, powerful and more connected in this alienated world?

I don’t really get the campaign. I am sure, most of the time, you have to buy a bottle with someone else’s name on it. How much can you bother to search for a bottle that idolizes yourself or a loved one? Must you settle for John when you are really seeking Mario? And then, what if you don’t have a person to share it with? That is probably what happened to my bottle, Nicole. Half-finished and tossed aside, unshared and hopes dashed. Even the reward points offered on the cap were left unclaimed and discarded. Reward points? Really?

I don’t want to go any further on this except to say that this unbridled assault on our health through such methods of aggressive advertising can and does bring me to tears. I’ve written about this before. One does not have to look too hard to see the real rewards of such consumption, but you have to care to be looking and looking to care. I am too verklempt even thinking about needing to reiterate the effects of these substances anymore.

Originally, the reason I wanted to get a bottle without purchase was to be able to include it as a photo for this post–but now I don’t even wish to give it any publicity or visibility. We are clearly easy targets for seduction even when clearly it is not in our best interest. So, Nicole will now go directly into my recycling bin and instead, I am posting a photo of a box of tissues. My only hope is that an unexpected outcome of the campaign will be that with all that sharing of cans and bottles, per capita consumption will actually shrink by at least half.

Anyway, while there are sad tears there are also happy ones. I specialize in both. Recently, while also at work–it may have even been the same day that I retrieved the Coke bottle, I received an email from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. It included a video that spotlighted healthy and healing practices being undertaken at the West Side High School for at-risk students in New York City through a powerful investment in a gardening program, real food, and intensive physical activity– by a dedicated and devoted principal and staff.

Thirty-six seconds in and there I was bawling (yes) in my little, oh not so private cubicle. In my last post, Childhood Awareness Month Obesity, I wrote about my reservations about the bulk of nutrition and health activities being directed at obesity prevention efforts whereas I believe the implications and consequences of our cultural dietary and health insults are so much greater. I did not get much response on that so I would still be interested in hearing your thoughts. But, in this video, simply and beautifully, a young woman named Tenia expresses why eating proper foods is important for both emotional and physical well-being–aside from weight-based associations.

This glimpse of transformation that occurs when the birthright of health is granted, when it is given priority and nurtured, and not compromised by those so willing to sacrifice our young in an endless pursuit of profit is worth viewing. I highly recommend it. Here is the link. Note, don’t forget the tissues.

Just a mention that my own recent favorite brew has been matcha, a fine green tea powder. I enjoy it as a tea or mixed in smoothies. It is fuller or richer than regular green tea and it gently provides a touch of focus and energy. I was initiated with a gift of a package of Matcha from Kiss Me Organics that was exceptionally pleasant and which has become a welcomed part of my day and my diet. There are many benefits of matcha to explore and it can be incorporated into many recipes. Give it a peek.

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.

Na area da saude, Elyn

Related Posts: Private Health, Childhood Awareness Month Obesity, So-Duh

Nirinjan's Plate

Nirinjan’s My Plate

My Plate Haiku

It is easier

To reprimand the sinner

Than change the system.

by Julie

weight, weight, please tell me

This is a post about weight–weighty matters, the weight of the world, mainly the ongoing conundrum of there being too much of it. It is a topic I think about sometimes–trying to wrap my arms around it to contain it properly.

Actually, you will see that I don’t have much to say about it, but instead am sharing the brilliant voices of others who do. It seems these stories have recently, coincidentally collected in my little basket of big dilemmas.

Before I proceed and attempt to offer something up on this largely considered nutritional–but so much greater– matter, let me digress for a moment to share something about me and my nutrition work and my nutritionist status. I have a little explaining to do.

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I have experienced a lot of changes in the past few years. Some of these are profoundly personal while others are professional. I will stick to the latter and how they have influenced what I write about–perhaps some of you who follow me have noticed–but they are both intertwined.

When I began writing this blog in the fall of 2010-wow-I was perched in a clinical setting that continued to make me privy to the upfront and personal stories of individuals’ eating lives. I had been doing nutritional counseling for many years at that point in time. My clients’ issues strongly reflected, what I refer to in My Story, the massive changes in our food culture and highlighted the intimate art of eating in response to the personal and cultural milieu. The nutritional crises of our time, including the obesity crisis and its shadowed sister–eating disorders–were about twenty plus years deep in the making.

Professionally, I had been riding this unforeseen wave since its onset in the early 1990s and felt I had something to say to personalize and humanize what was projected as a faceless statistical trend. Having worked with so many people, I was able to synthesize the common experiences that were impacting us all. I could also relate some true experiences of my clients in my writings. I would juxtapose these experiences alongside the larger impacts of poverty, trauma, environmental changes, food adulteration, community access, societal messaging, etc.

What I never stopped to share, was that two and a half years ago, I stepped out of direct care. I began doing nutritional program development and administration for a statewide program serving childcare centers–the preschoolers, families, and educators. It is a good program. Though its implied mission is to prevent childhood obesity, I strongly prefer a redirection of intention to support the full health potential of all our children and mitigate the effects of what I am wont to refer to as nutritional violence and size stigmatization. Anyway, at that time, the nature of my posts changed and their frequency decreased. I had less material and more other things to tend to.

And now, I have just begun a new position. I am working for a breastfeeding support organization. This is a nutritional and health issue I am passionate about, but for the first time in my career, I am not carrying the title of Nutritionist. I seem to be welcoming this change–it is a natural extension of my life work and public health orientation that fits well with my current circumstances. But it also stirs some emotion. Due to a combination of my personal experiences and the fact that I have not done direct care for a few years now, I no longer feel I can assist others with the acute health challenges of our time and the precise nutritional approaches they demand. So, along with other big changes I am now facing, I think it may be that I am no longer a Nutritionist.

So, my dilemma asks me, “Then what’s with the name of your blog?” For now, I will answer that until I have time to reconsider it, it will stay the same. I am still deeply interested in nutrition and how it relates to our individual and collective health. I am still paying deep attention and I still want to be part of the larger conversation. And, I still want to help people. I may present more concise offerings on my Lifeseedlings Instagram page which are budding perspectives and occasional haikus on food politics, nourishment, body respect, eating, and cooking. Join me there.

And so, back to the issue of weight which I raised as the focus of this post. I wish it wasn’t all that it was and is. I wish it didn’t dominate the headlines and pervade our thoughts. I am bothered by my own sometimes prejudiced assumptions and that despite my somewhat larger awareness of its complicated nature, I still conflate weight with health and want to help ease and prevent the physical and emotional burdens it encumbers. But it is about time for all of us, those with or without the business to do so, to stop believing that banishing this weight, this unruly fat, is similar to scrubbing dirt and grit off of a coal miner’s body–some effort no doubt, some soaps better than others, but once undertaken, the job would be done.

From my observations, I think MAYBE things are changing. We may finally be realizing that plain out calorically restrictive diets of any ilk and fat-shaming just don’t seem to be working to solve the problem in the long run nor are they doing anyone much good.

And, while not entirely new, more voices–powerful, angry and/or tender voices, are emerging that challenge the once firmly held ideas and attitudes held by our scientific and medical communities, our society and even our personal selves about the ‘weight problem’. Their words and advocacy may be shifting our perspectives, sharpening our sensitivities, and providing new approaches to care.

Here is a short little syllabus of what I consider to be very interesting insights on the topic. It includes:

  1. Where the story often begins. A post by Your Fat Friend, a personal story about the implications and consequences of early childhood weight interventions; and a discussion on What Harping on A Child’s Weight Looks Like 20 Years Later about the importance of fostering body appreciation for everyone, by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen on her website, Raise Healthy Eaters.
  2. What No One Ever Tells You About Weight Loss. A powerful and personal look at how expectations about ways to lose weight imply a process that is both isolating and not sustainable, by Nick Eckhart in What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Losing a Lot of Weight.
  3. How Even Well-Meaning Assumptions about Fat Athletes Can Be Misguided. Here, Ragen Chastain (whose blog Dances With Fat I have written about before) deconstructs such assumptions in her post, What Fat Olympians Prove (and What They Don’t).
  4. Really? Just five amazing stories from an episode of This American Life, entitled, Tell Me I’m Fat. (Transcript or Audio).

This is not required reading, but I hope you find something thought-provoking, attitude- adjusting or maybe even life-changing within. And, though I don’t have Carl Kasell to answer my phone, you can leave me a message here.

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

(Update 2019: After a year and a half working for the breastfeeding organization, I moved forward to work for Wholesome Wave, a national organization dedicated to food access and affordability and a leader in programmatic and policy changes related to addressing food insecurity. My work here reunites me with my previous efforts of developing Produce Prescription programs as I described in Inventive Incentive. This work certainly has brought me back into the food and nutrition space, and gives me new types of stories to think about.)

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Wholesome Wave’s My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Pick your own today

Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats

Sweet summertime fruit.

by Nan (Blessings on her new little grandson, Orion!)

 

 

 

 

dolls with faith

Moth by Sandy Mudge

The other day I took a walk around my picturesque village. I was thinking about it being Eating Disorder Awareness Week and wondering what I would write about. I knew I wished to offer something for this annual recognition week that starts in the last week of February–but I wasn’t sure what. Passing the old Victorian houses that line the narrow lanes of this old place, I was feeling perhaps more like a gothic romantic than a modern nutritionist.

This year, the theme that informs the week is “Everybody Knows Somebody”. This speaks to the fact that given the high prevalence of eating disorders in our society, chances are everybody most likely does know someone–whether they realize it or not. Eating disorders are intangible in their essence. They share many elements of an old gothic novel–a vampire story perhaps.

When eating disorders tighten their grip on an individual–as undernourishment and starvation deepen–they can figuratively and literally suck out the lifeblood. But, outward appearances usually do not identify those with any of the different complex types of eating disorders which we simplistically categorize as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Related and variant disorders exist as well. And unfortunately, just as with vampires, we may not realize until it is too late, that we actually know someone who is affected. Recognition of these conditions and resources dedicated to their treatment are abysmally low and this is why Eating Disorder Awareness Week is extremely important.

Though my job is to help people re-nourish, balance intake and make peace with food and eating, I recognize that sustenance needs to occur on many levels. Working with those who suffer, I get to be privy to the underside of these debilitating conditions. When I am up close and personal with my clients, I more easily see that they are not fully embodied, as their illness has detached them from their physical form. It is subtle of course, but they have a fragile, ethereal quality. This does not dismiss the fact that people with eating disorders tend to be extremely intelligent, highly productive, deeply empathic and exceedingly capable.

What is most painful for me to witness is the profound isolation, loneliness, and secrecy that these disorders engender. This cruel disease finds its oft very lovely victims scrounging for food at markets alone late at night; avoiding the pleasure of sharing satisfying meals with friends; preparing meals for their children yet not partaking themselves; and, loathing self so profoundly that they apologize for the space they inhabit. The survival of these disorders depends ferociously on the preservation of deep and dark secrets.

Frustrated by my knowing that there are many right in my little community who suffer alone and invisibly and that there is a serious dearth in services–even more so since New York State cut funding to eating disorder programming a few years ago–I recently formed a small program in conjunction with a local holistic health center. I forced myself through my own usual hesitation and trepidation led by one strong intention–to see if I could create a space where people could find a place for a moment of peace, where they could allow themselves to be safely seen–and to share in a cup of tea. The first session was attended by seven courageous people who came out of the woodwork where they usually hide.

The work of two women inspired me to even consider this. One is Shannon Cutts, a survivor of her own 15 year-long battle with anorexia and bulimia, who wrote the book Beating Ana and started the program MentorConnect. She brought to the table the healing component that emphasizes the importance of social relationships as an antidote to the pervasiveness of these illnesses. I recommend her work highly as a complement to other care.

The other is Mary Ellen Clausen (and her husband Dan) whose own lives were touched by their daughters’ eating disorders. On a wing and a prayer, they created a welcoming space called Ophelia’s Place, where people can just come for some coffee, chocolate, comfort, and care. From the ‘Our Journey’ page on their website, “We are learning to listen harder, “fixing” less, and believing that the struggle is where the healing begins. We are learning to “model” healthy behaviors and challenge the “norm”. We are learning to replace blame and judgment with love and unconditional support. We are learning forgiveness. We are learning that recovery is a process and part of that process is an understanding that living life can and must co-exist through the eating disorder.”

This message is important for me to touch base with as I continually try to anchor my own work in this area. Today, with a client of mine I tried to fix too much. This is a frequent challenge for me–meeting the mandate of reaching for adequate nourishment with some sense of urgency and being prescriptive–while also trying to provide that crucial piece of support and mirroring forgiveness. I find this work very humbling and it demands leaps of faith for all involved.

When I returned home from my walk, I happened to check my little Facebook page. Someone I know had posted a link to the website of my old friend, Sandra Mudge. who I had not been in touch with for many years. One click led me to her fantastic, whimsical, provocative and sacred artistic creations.

With a portfolio of paintings, collages and photographs–and some other media–Sandra’s heavenly work seems to captures the delicate and ethereal essence of eating disorders–exactly that which I was trying to express–something more representational than descriptive. In her fine art section are a series of pieces of beautiful dresses–doll clothes of taffeta, silk, and lace adorned with fragile firefly and butterfly wings–but they are empty of the little girls who should be wearing them –who should be fleshing them out with life, vitality and childhood innocence.

As Sandra, Mary Ellen, Shannon, and many others continue with their powerful talents to ‘transform helplessness to hopefulness’; and, when faith is summoned, and stories of recovery are shared, more ‘dolls’ can be restored to their full life potential–and they can then take flight.

So this week, stop for a moment to think about the somebody who you may know. If this is you, please seek help, have faith and never give up hope.

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

Related Posts: Stopping Traffic, Muse of the Girl, Nourish Thyself Well Day, A Meteorological Change of Plans, Size Me Down

Related Resources: National Eating Disorders Association, Bulimia.com, The Representation Project

 

Empty My Plate

 

My Plate Haiku

In the dark places

I ask courage to believe

I am beautiful.

by Anne-Marie

you ain’t necessarily misbehavin’– part 2

A while back, in my post You Ain’t Necessarily Misbehavin’, I began to explore the topic of how we arrive at being the eaters we are today, and how we berate ourselves for so many things that we had little control over.

The last week of February marks the observation of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week–which also has been expanded to reach out to the many who live in daily distress from hating their bodies. I have not been sure what to add to the conversation which is so ably cradled by many wise people. However, as this struggle is so relevant to the story, and such a part of the fabric that we are all woven into, I offer a continuation of the examination of how our relationship with food and eating gets shaped. Last time, I left off, just as we were being born.

After we slide out or are plucked from our mothers’ tummies, the messages regarding food and security are profound. Influencing this stage are many factors: how our cries of hunger were responded to; if food was used to placate other needs; whether our cues of satiety were observed; or if we were encouraged to keep feeding according to some external measurement.Image result for crying babies images free download

The emotional state of our caregivers also colors our early feedings. A premature or reluctant feeding infant whose parent anxiously counts every milliliter consumed is having a different sentient experience than the content babe who nuzzles and guzzles while mother hums dreamily.

Whether we are breastfed or formula-fed also may affect us. A breastfed baby exposed to a wider palette of flavors based on mom’s diet may develop greater food acceptability than the formula-fed baby who gets the same recipe with each feeding. Also, fullness (and growth) may be appreciated differently, due to the difference in the composition of human and artificial milk.

Other subtleties influence this early feeding stage. Our innate temperaments reveal if we eat to live or live to eat. Some babies internalize the joy of clutching the breast or bottle as core to their being; others see the business of feeding as a mere requisite to the more important work of exploring the larger world. Certainly, much is anchored when we are merely minutes, days and months old.

Then, soon enough, we are small children. By the age of four, by my calculations, we have already had at least eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty eating encounters–and we are already pretty savvy little humans. We have begun to glean that food serves a greater purpose than fueling our bodies for play. It is somehow powerfully linked with love and affection and has powers way beyond its nutrient content. Candy can mend a hurt, ice cream can cool our heated outbursts of emotion and creamy, warm, familiar foods will bring comfort in a heartbeat. We know if food is abundant or if it is scarce.

Another message we receive at this time is that our own bodily sensations are secondary to behaving according to the rules. This ensues when we are told we must wait until mealtime to eat and that we must clean our plates; or, that we are eating too much or too little. These common parenting practices can serve to teach us that our own feelings are not valid and can begin to detach us from natural signals of hunger and fullness. Age-appropriate feeding should match and support the normal physiological and growth needs of young children. (An understanding of the principles of feeding dynamics are best gleaned by reading the work of Ellyn Satter, social worker and dietitian who pioneered research in this area. Her Division of Responsibility in Feeding should be the crux of all childhood nutrition education.)

When we are a little older we may begin to experience disconnects regarding food and our bodies. As little children, we do not differentiate ourselves from our environment. This sense of separation–and its attendant self-awareness–does not occur until a child reaches the age of eight or nine. But, with the early introduction of media and abstract reasoning in both schooling and socialization, this change is happening at an earlier age. I believe this is why eating disorders now manifest in younger kids.

Exposure to a barrage of images with distorted messages about feeding, body image, and personal values affects everyone, but it is particularly detrimental to at-risk individuals. Unfortunately, we cannot identify who is at risk. Interestingly, non-industrialized cultures only begin to show eating disordered behaviors after television becomes available.

With self-awakening, we are catapulted into self-reflection. Girls navigating through this time yearn to be let into the “club”. We enter the kitchen; we sidle up to our mothers, their friends, the aunties, and the older sisters. We listen to their rich stories and are sensitive to their attitudes and judgments. Often we hear women dissect and belittle their bodies, and the chant of the societal and personal mantra “I’m so fat” begins to penetrate our beings. We take all of this and figuratively stuff it into our new training bras and bikini underpants as our bodies begin to take on form and shape.

This is a very vulnerable period in the evolution of feeding behaviors. As a girl’s body begins to change rapidly, and she experiences the emotional and physical hunger that accompanies that growth, any chaos, fear, abuse or significant uncertainty in the outer environment can cause the body to become the battlefield for unexpressed emotions. We can stuff emotions down by overeating or we can deaden them by starvation. For some, negative comments from important male figures can solidify maladaptive behaviors that might have otherwise remained transient. Though girls may be more susceptible to this change, boys are by no means immune when they begin their maturation.

By adolescence, the stage is essentially set as the cascade of sex hormones takes up residence, settles in and rounds out the edges of our physical and emotional beings. After this huge developmental landmark, barring a few other components like what we eat, we just ride the waves, responding to food based on the summation of our earlier nature and nurture experiences.

Does this resonate with you? In honor of this week, please take a moment to think about your own story. No judgment, no blame, just acknowledge it. There may be much to actually appreciate. Practice replacing bitter feelings about your body with kind thoughts. Refrain from all trash talk about other people’s size as well as your own. If you suffer, or if you know someone who does, or if you just care about this subject, please find appropriate and supportive resources including the National Eating Disorder Association. Any sharings here will be deeply honored.

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.

Related Posts: You Ain’t Necessarily Misbehaving, Part 1; The Tempted Temperament

In health, Elyn