Search Results for: still feeding things

still feeding things

One snowy, frigid day this past winter, in Feeding ThingsI wrote about how the birds at my bird feeder were complaining about the milo, millet, cracked seed with oil sunflower seed food that I had given them, squawking that they only liked plain oil sunflower seed. Ingrates, I called them. Who were they to turn up their beaks at my offering in those difficult days when food was scarce?  

Still, I relented. I donned my boots and gloves, precariously positioned the ladder and refilled the feeder with only the plain oil sunflower seed. I should have insisted that they at least try it, which is what you must do with young children who are refusing their vegetables, but instead I chose to view them as lovely guests and extended my hospitality without arguing.

Recently though, the bag of the plain oil sunflower seed was running low, so I decided to blend the milo mix in, kind of like disguising vegetables in sauces for those picky types. For the first few days, the feeder sat sadly unattended. It seemed that my fine feathered friends were not amused by my ruse. Now, however, the temperature was hovering near 100 degrees. Even the mere thought of lugging the ladder back out in the heat was too draining, so I ignored the situation.

A few days later, I did see a bird or two come by, but they did not linger. Imagine then my surprise when the next day, I returned home to find the feeder entirely empty. I thought maybe a non-discriminating crow had discovered and devoured the contents or that some other fluke-like occurrence explained the disappearance of the food–so I took the effort to refill the feeder with my carefully proportioned blend once again. Sure enough, this time I saw the birds actively feeding, and the food was once more quickly gone.

In avian fashion, I puffed out my breast and congratulated myself on my nutritional success–even if it was just for the birds. Unfortunately, my contentment at establishing peace and harmony in the eating world was to be short-lived.

Before my own feathers had even neatly realigned themselves, I came out onto the porch to find teal niblets of plastic scattered all about. A squirrel had managed to eat its way through the bin that I keep the bird feed in and had feasted with abandon. Scoundrel. This was not the first time I have been one-upped by the squirrel squad. In the past, they have actually chewed their way through my screens, entered into my house and unearthed stashes of chocolate.

While I was still contemplating the mess on the porch, Chico, the cat, was meowing fiercely. He was displeased with my decision to only offer him wet food in the evening.   Without even leaving home, I was reminded again of the perplexities and complexities of species feeding. What awaited me when I next headed out into the world of humans would only add to the story.

Over the course of the next few days, I had a few experiences that deepened my ponderings. Firstly, I came face to lips with a caffeinated water marketed locally called element. Apparently, its 50 mg of caffeine per 17 oz bottle–equivalent to a Coca Cola–sets one aloft, focused and refined at any time of day without sugars and chemicals. It is not the first caffeinated water on the market, but the newest; and the latest that has me contemplating the consequences of its extending reach. Though I am sensitive to caffeine and thus avoid it, I did take a few sips. Given its propensity for flight, I thought it might be relevant to my work in bird nutrition.

I then had a mind-blowing moment in a nearby new frozen yogurt establishment. I had observed that this place was frequently “spilling onto to the sidewalk” mobbed and sane people I knew were screaming its praises. With out-of-town guests in tow, I ventured in to meet my newest nutritional nemesis.

This was not your grandpa’s frozen yogurt shoppe. With its electric pink walls, I felt like I was in a bar scene from Star Wars. The aliens around me all seemed to think it was quite ordinary to find lightly sweetened tapioca pearls floating in their shaken Bubble Tea with royal creations named Purple Oreo, Yellow Cupcake, Marshmallow Puff, and Chocolate Stout.  Likewise, they seemed confident, sensuously dispensing their own yogurt and slathering it with a myriad of toppings, some of which I had never seen before–such as little roe-like jelly balls filled with various flavors which pop in one’s mouth. Here, the seduction of food had been elevated to an even higher level. It was jaw-dropping, or should I say jaw-filling, to say the least–and not cheap.

Bubbled up, I stumbled back to the mothership. There, in a cramped coffee shop, on the inaugural day of World Breastfeeding Week, I watched a woman struggle to fit some contraption around her shoulders so that she could nurse her baby. Nothing seems straightforward or simple anymore–even the feeding of our young.

So, as I observed in Feeding Things, this is complicated stuff. I can’t even guess what the food world will look like by the time that little nursing baby comes of age or even starts school. Will the challenges for eaters become easier or more difficult? Will we be assisted in working better with our inherited biology or led further away? What do you think?

But, what about the newt, Everest, you ask? He’s still working his way through the same little containers of flakes and pellets.

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

IMG_3279 (1)

Squirrel My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Blueberry bushes

Three children with empty pails

Pluck, pluck, crunch.  Exhale.

By Michael

Oh, Some of the Things I Have Done

A few years ago, while serving as a resource person for a national food security organization, I responded to an inquiry. It was from a woman doing related work for a small non-profit. Though I was then staying and working out of state, she was from a community very close to my home–so there was a welcomed familiarity in connecting with her.

When I returned home, I made the lovely thirty-five minute drive down beautiful back roads to meet with her. Sitting together in her office–a large warehouse space–she described her programs related to food access, nutrition education, and Produce Prescription Programs. Having done the same work myself, I was impressed with her sophisticated and creative approach, and the success of her efforts. She had been in this job for four years and had accomplished a lot in a rural area with limited resources. And, though her face was largely hidden behind a Covid mask, I realized that she had obtained this professional maturity by, at best, her mid-thirties.

We stayed in touch, and a few months later she informed me she was moving on to pursue an unrelated opportunity, and I wished her well. Having become linked on LinkedIn, I noticed that she identified herself as a Public Health Innovator. This intrigued me. While I did not doubt her right to ascribe that title to herself, I wondered what being such an innovator would entail, and might I, with a few decades on her, have any claim as such. And so, I began an inventory of my own path.

Let me acknowledge that by all measures, and certainly by today’s standards, my efforts were itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, tiny. I have been a very small fish, in a very small pond, with little personal agency to swim out into larger waters. I had no funds, grants, or extra supports. Maybe just some supervisors who let me do some things–or didn’t stop me. I just wanted to help those I was serving. My reach was small, and the sustainability of my projects limited, but I did possess some type of fins and gills, impelled to create something to fill a need that had lacked attention or address in its time.

What turned into my career began in the early 1980s, a period when the government, still in the wake of the ‘War on Poverty’, was crafting its national nutrition programs to bluntly address abject hunger, the effects of a few decades of corporate interests controlling the American diet were seriously taking their toll but had not yet reached full crisis level, and the folks in the natural foods movement were making the connection between diet quality and personal and societal health–but they were quite marginalized.

Margarine was still cool, soda drinks were just starting to supersize, the term ‘wellness’ was not yet coined, and no one knew were were a mere decade away from an obesity and chronic disease red-alert. Likewise, mimeograph machines were just surrendering to Xerox, typewriters to word processors, and print materials knew not of the worldwide web.

Arriving at this cusp of nutritional awakening, I began to work my way through a number of different community and clinical settings, propelled by geographic moves related to early adulthood and marriage. At each stop, I was witness to emerging issues, and being in unchartered waters I had a modicum of freedom to make things up–or should I say, find some innovative solutions.

I first stepped out of the box in 1980, when as a WIC Nutritionist in the federal program that was then only about five years old, I arranged to walk a group of moms down the street from the WIC clinic site to a little whole-grain bakery for a tour–certainly this was not within normal operating procedures. This was before there was any widespread, soon-to-be earth shattering news about the ills of Wonder Bread. But I had gotten the memo, and I guess thought this was an opportunity for an interesting, educational outing. Though my intention seemed rather innocent or naive, I guess something deeper was rising within me that would inform my future endeavors.

And so I swam forth through the next four decades, trying some innovative things largely within various work settings but beyond the requisite duties of my role. Here are just some of them:

The Nineteen Eighties

Presented a paper I had written entitled, The Role of Nutritional Services in Prenatal Care, to the medical team in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at a large, prestigious university medical center. (Yes, young me!). This forwarded the integration of nutritional assessment and counseling into prenatal care within that practice and enabled me to later provide specialized nutrition support to pregnant women in other settings. (1984)

Presented workshops on nutritional approaches to women’s health concerns in various workshop settings. Many of these concerns had not been properly understood until the mid-1900s and were only gaining wider recognition and support around the 1970s due to the visionaries and feminists of that period. (1985-1987)

The Nineteen Nineties

Developed a cooking class for pregnant teenagers while working for another WIC Program and observing the demise of home-prepared meals in a peak period of teen pregnancies. I enjoined the collaboration of a local Cornell Cooperative Extension agency and a community food pantry. Participants received a free bag of groceries at each class. (1994)

Implemented the following at a Community Health Center to provide greater options for well being to a low-resourced community: (1997-2001)

Physician-Nurse Team-led walking program and nutrition classes for staff and patients

Center-based Yoga Class Series taught by certified Yoga Teachers–there was a waiting list for the class

Coupon Program and Cooking Demonstrations with the local food-coop

The Two Thousand Aughts

Invited one of the nation’s first mobile produce vans intended to bring quality, discount-priced produce to underserved neighborhoods to make a weekly stop at a Community Health Center to reinforce the notion of ‘food as medicine’. This popular stop served a wide-range of clients, staff, and medical providers and raised awareness about food insecurity. (2008)

Provided to my clients (on a very small scale) low-cost, non-perishable nutritious food samples boxed in cardboard Chinese Food containers. They included sardines, beans, oatmeal, teas, spices–along with cooking instructions. These were essentially a precursor to healthy meal boxes available today. (Back then I wished I had a way to get funding to expand that idea.) (2010)

Expanded eating disorder services and resources at a college. Also, helped initiate changes to support more sustainable practices and local food sourcing for the college’s Dining Services. (2007)

The Twenty Teens

Developed and administered the clinical component of one of the nation’s earliest Produce Prescription Programs. Conducted a Program Evaluation and the Program’s results were published in a Public Health Journal. (2011-2013)

Designed a Diabetes Education Program that had included a diabetes-friendly meal that was prepared together by some of my patients in the Program who were experienced cooks–mainly elderly black ladies who had each fed countless mouths and who could serve an army or at least a filled church. The program also included a dance segment led by a local Latin Dance teacher. (One of the program attendees became a member of the teacher’s traveling dance troupe.) (2012)

Solicited local businesses to donate breastfeeding supplies to a Community Health Center for nursing mothers in honor of National Breastfeeding Month. (2013)

In the mid-Twenty Teens my work took me out of direct care environments and into more Program Management roles. By this point, innovation was largely being measured by technology-based advances where I was less well-equipped–though I still pushed my grassroots efforts where I could. My inspirations and innovations grew out of having sat with thousands of eaters from around the globe and from all walks of life, a plethora of pregnant moms, a couple of hundred college students eating their way from adolescence to adulthood, and a few dozen elementary-aged school children who knew more about food and life than you might think. I looked for every available resource to support them all as best I could, created partnerships when possible, and came up with new solutions when necessary.

Surreptitiously I removed infant formula promotional materials from the ‘free’ gift bags and magazines targeted to pregnant women and quietly encouraged vending machine vendors to replace the most nefarious offerings with others less harmful to the human organism. I produced lots of nutrition education materials and wrote many newsletter articles. And then, I embarked on documenting in 125+ blog posts ‘the intimate art of eating in response to the personal and cultural milieu’. From my work chairs to my pitter-patterings about, I bore witness to much of the difficulties we are now experiencing in even more extreme ways–demanding a more robust and urgent response. My writings presaged much of what we are confronting and I invite you to to search my site for my insights on any number of nutritional matters including breastfeeding, eating disorders, toxic food systems, child health, obesity, racism, health inequities, nutrition insecurity and food marketing. Gosh, things got a lot more complicated than just whole wheat bread.

Looking back, I acknowledge that I did a lot for a small fish. I used to say that one thing I would not do was to dress up like a fruit or vegetable, but I will don the Public Health Innovator Hat, at least for a moment. I still have a list of things that I would love to see be done, so as I ease out of this work, I’d be glad to share my ideas. Also, feel free to build upon my efforts if you can appreciate their value. Finally, fellow innovators, keep up the good work. If I catch sight of your schemes, I will be glad to celebrate them.

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.

Be well. Take care. Stay safe. Let’s heal.

In health, Elyn

P.S. OK. Here is one of my ideas. Let’s implement a program for vulnerable senior citizens similar to the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Program. Maybe just an add-on program called WICS.

And, here are some other important insights and innovative ideas shared by Food Bank News regarding collaborative efforts working with underserved populations with globally-based examples.

My Plate Haiku

Craving for pickles

And German Chocolate Cake

My friend is pregnant. by Gretchen

feeding things

Sunflower Seed Kaleidoscope

Sunflower Seed Kaleidoscope Image by Tobyotter via Flickr

Why are the birds at my feeder giving me attitude about the milo, millet, cracked seed with oil sunflower seed food, squawking that they will only eat plain oil sunflower seed? Picky, picky, juvenile, ungrateful little peckers. Sure, I’ll get out the ladder in the freezing cold and go change it–which I did.

Chico, the cat, is never satisfied. How can it be that after so many years together, his humans cannot understand his hearty appetites and food preferences? Why must he always settle for such mundane fare as cat food? He knows that I know he enjoys cantaloupe served diced on a plate at the table, so what’s up with this dry crap in the cracked bowl on the floor?

Last week, after our usual morning argument about breakfast, I left the kitchen in a huff, saying, sorry, Chico, this is not a restaurant, and that is what I am serving today. He followed me into the living room, and as I bent over to put my shoes on, he head-butted me in the butt. Lucky for him he is the most amazing, adorable and hysterical cat in the world.

dmc-g1 015

Chico

Luna, the other cat, will only drink out of the bathroom sink. A trip to the toilet is never a solitary experience. If you’ve not tripped over her as she comes careening out of nowhere to leap onto the sink from the toilet bowl, you must then negotiate the faucet flow, your own flow, and the toilet paper roll, all simultaneously as she tends to her hydration.

My daughter scoffs at the most important meal of the day and today, I watched as my dear husband tried to mix his whey protein powder into his bowl of oatmeal–trying to kill two dietary imperatives with one spoon. Why must this all be so difficult?

Meanwhile, the fire belly newt, Everest, that we have had for nine years is without complaint, happily chowing down on his Freshwater Flakes from the first and only 2.2-ounce container that we ever bought. I am trying to read from the label but some of it has already faded. It contains a natural something or other formula and is made ONLY with Fresh Seafood. Seriously, he is only two-thirds through this small canister–in nine years! The price sticker is still on it. The bottle cost $5.89. Every few days I say, “Oh, the newt!”, and sprinkle a few flakes into his grungy tank. Don’t misread this. He and I have a very special bond. Today as a treat, I gave him a couple of Newt and Salamander Bites. My he loves those. That 1.2 oz container is only half empty and says on the label–soft sinking pellet diet.

There is just so much meowing, barking, whining, chirping, oinking, mooing, hissing and howling going on these days about all this food and eating stuff. Can’t all species just get over it and agree to this simple amphibian flake and pellet diet?

Ah, well. Time to go make myself some lunch. Please comment if you love Chico (he does have quite the following) or any other finicky mammal.

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 Post: Still Feeding Things

Could Not Afford Balanced Meal

I am a little embarrassed to admit this. Here it goes. I came late to the term Food Insecurity. This terms is so ubiquitous now in the light of the tragic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Everyday, reports about food insecurity are rolling off the presses and plastered everywhere, shocking us into disbelief as we equate it with images of endless lines of cars and people awaiting offerings of food donations. Though the immensity of the problem came on with a vengeance, we seem to have assumed that describing it in this way, long had a place and an understanding of meaning among the general populace. The experience is not new.

I am often, if not always, late to catch on to new trends, including those in our vocabulary. When I do eventually gain awareness, sometimes by use of blunt force, the new words or phrases do not roll easily off my tongue or out through my typing fingers. So, while I may have lagged behind on ‘cancel culture’ or ‘on fleek’–but, food insecurity? C’mon. Really? AYFKM!!!!!?

Percentage of households reporting indicators of adult food insecurity in 2019
Indicators of Adult Food Insecurity–2019 USDA

Just so we are all on the same page here, the definition of food insecurity has many variations. These include the lack of consistent access to sufficient food for an active healthy life; a lack of available financial resources for food at the household level; a lack of access by all household members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life, which includes as a minimum the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods; and, assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies); and the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of nutritious food. While similar, the nuanced differences may contain some significance.

In an attempt to capture the degree of food insecurity and ideally, but imprecisely, the extent of hunger, the USDA established two sub-categories: Low food security–the reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet with little or no indication of reduced food intake; and, Very low food security–multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake. (See chart.) (Hmm, should ‘Gained weight’ also be listed?) However one wishes to slice it, it is not pretty. In 2018, an estimated 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure, equating to over 37 million Americans, including more than 11 million children.[1] It is a lot worse now. Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, tracks this data, with information on current impacts documented here.

As a Nutritionist who has concerned herself with food insecurity issues for almost half a century, not only should I have been hip to the term sooner, I should have been way ahead of the curve–like one of the first to know. Apparently, which means I just learned, the USDA began collecting and measuring data on food insecure households in 1995. That year, I was working for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children or WIC-administered by the USDA. Clearly, I missed the internal memo of what they were up to.

My own ignorance came to stare at me with incredulity when in late 2018 my work found me supporting recipients of FINI Program Grants. I understood the program, and it was easy to casually throw around the acronym, but I would hesitate each time I had to recall what FINI stood for. FINI was shorthand for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program. FINI Grants were established and written into the 2014 Farm Bill to ‘incentivize’ the purchase of fruits and vegetables by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.

In 2019, just as I had cemented the name of the program into my prefrontal cortex, it was changed to the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program or GusNIP, in memory of the former Undersecretary of Agriculture. He was instrumental in visioning and implementing early models of expanding produce purchasing power through vouchers for low-income consumers and advancing the legislation that authorized the Farm Bill funding. The new name retained the nutrition incentive part but snipped away the food insecurity part. I appreciate the intention of the program and have championed its cause and those who lovingly administer it, but I actually have an issue with the use of the word ‘incentive’. I prefer ‘support’. And, I think “Nutrition Insecurity’ better informs the matter.

I also came to learn that there was a Food Insecurity Screening Tool. Developed by the USDA’s Economic Research Service when they began measuring such things, the original version contained 18 questions. That has had different iterations through the years with variations of ten, six and even down to the Hunger Vital Sign’s validated two questions which are:

“Within the past 12 months, we worried whether our food would run out before we had money to buy more.”

“Within the past 12 months, the food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have money to get more.” 

Yikes, how did I miss that? Though I find the statement phrasings and category listings a bit odd, and wonder what they fully capture, I appreciate the availability and need for such a tool. It is useful for data collection as well as to ascertain in certain settings someone’s vulnerabilities in order to provide resources and solutions. But why had it taken me so long, just a mere year or two before the pandemic flashed Food Insecurity before us all like a neon sign, to find familiarity with these terms? Was insecurity a word I used only in describing myself? What had I been doing with my many hundreds of clients to figure out what I needed to know to help them and had I missed something big?

To make sure I hadn’t just forgotten, I searched all of my 125 blog posts dating from 2010 to check. Before 2018, I used the term twice. I am pretty sure that means that a year ago when I did a big blog cleanup, I inserted it to make it appear that I was appropriately informed back then. But, this has made me really stop to wonder, how I had functioned without the use of the term and the screening tool.

The answer may be relatively simple. With my work in low income communities, there was not usually much to discern in the way of food insecurity–it was the norm. Regarding distinctions between low or very low levels, I definitely saw both–though I rarely encountered abject hunger as one might in other environments. Hunger in its most pure form is sadly more prevalent now in the wake of Covid-19. Most of the folx who had the capacity to find their way to a nutritionist appointment, had some resources. Once there with me, I had the time to sit and have real conversations about the intimate details of their feeding lives. Sometimes, I employed my own screening tools to glean what I needed to know. Any nutrition consult necessitates some calculation of financial means and available food dollars. There is a big chunky space between peanut butter and almond butter.

Using this food insecurity framework, I know that many details of people’s circumstances have slipped through my cracks. I have discussed my limitations here. However, I think my assessments regarding my clients’ food resources were somewhat near the mark, though I still feel badly about the time I did recommend wild rice to a man who expressed to me his dismay. But, that misstep highlights a distinction between nourishment for the still generally well and the oh-not-so-good. This marks how the differences mentioned above in defining food insecurity in relation to ‘nutritious’ may matter. Also, if active lifestyle means caring for families, young children, elders, the ill or disabled–one’s own or other’s–or doing low wage service work or manual labor, then my clients were quite active. Healthy was often not up for debate. Through it all, my office desk drawer was well stocked with referrals to every food and health support resource and program around–including some I created. And, yet my efforts could not surmount the magnitude of the underlying problems.

So then, what terms were I using if not food insecurity? A whole bunch, including: poverty, exhaustion, trauma, nutritional violence, food deserts, malnutrition, restrictive and confusing SNAP regulations and bureaucracy, social services system overload, toxic food culture, exclusions for immigrants, disparities, inequality, high food costs, inadequate wages and a sad story to name a few. I guess I got by.

In closing, I share this telling by Jadon-Maurice Forbes, I Didn’t Drink Water At Dinner as a Poor, Black Kid. Start here. You may then be able to skip all the above.

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.

Be well. Take care. Stay safe. Let’s heal.

In health, Elyn

My Plate Haiku

Food bought did not last

Could not afford balanced meal

Food Insecurity

by 37 million Americans

size me down

I am not much of a shopper. And, much to my late mother’s chagrin this is true even when it comes to clothing. However, clothes are one of those commodities that need to be replaced and updated at least once a decade or thereabouts, so I do occasionally have to take to the stores and wrangle with the racks of hangers hawking their formless wares.

I have a whole little narrative about my relationship with clothes–and a good and deep relationship it certainly is. Because once I find a cozy item–since I essentially dress for comfort–we are in for the long haul. I will spare you the hoary details and instead share what happened on a recent outing.

National Eating Disorders Association

Zena and I had gone into town to get something I needed for a class I am taking and were then going to head to the farmer’s market. Back in the car between the two errands, just chatting about life, it did come up that I really could use a pair of jeans–given that I didn’t have any.

A few minutes later, we were passing by a small strip of clothing stores. Zena, making particular mention of one of them, said, “Mom, I think that would be a good place for you to find jeans.” And wouldn’t you know, there were a number of parking spots easily available right in front. The next thing I knew, we were in the store.

Apparently, a love of shopping, along with the refined ability to dress oneself and others in exquisite good style, skips a generation. Having Zena with you while hunting for attire is like having the best in a game hunter–I mean personal shopper. She is really good. Except for one thing. She insists that I must try things on. Left to my own devices, I never try things on in stores. I generally know my size and feel confident that by holding the item up before me, I can determine if it will fit well enough–maybe not perfectly–but that’s OK by my gene-lacking standards. The onerous act of dragging one’s body along with a forearm laden assortment of clothes into a tiny dressing room with an enormous mirror is not how I wish to expend my physical or emotional energy.

Given my dogged determination to stop the madness and to help others make peace with their bodies, I purport to have a ‘relatively’ healthy relationship with my own–though gauging relativity is rather vague in this regard. However, I admit that some of this is achieved by having infrequent encounters with its distorted reflection under bright lights in quasi-public places. I would prefer skinny dipping at a sunny beach if bright light and public places are in the offer.

As it turned out, it was a good thing that I was trying things on. Since the last time I shopped, or maybe it is dependent upon the type of store, sizing seems to have changed more than I was aware. This is either a case of new math or given the placement of multiple zeros on some tags, a result of some computer coding process replacing real numbers. In the name of I am not sure what, we are not our mothers’ clothing sizes. We are increasingly being resized to a lower number. Zena had to forcibly take from me some of the items I had chosen that were based on my belief in an antiquated sizing system.

Into the dressing room we trudged. This step thus engaged the unsolicited assistance of the kind store clerk. I do know these attendants are there to be helpful, but I still prefer to ignore such attention–and besides, I had Zena to help me. Apparently, though, my case was complicated and required the two of them to seek out for me what would best fit. The sizing and styling of jeans are nuanced. Ultimately, I would have to determine if I was curvy straight or modern straight and the style would influence the size. Zena and the clerk each ably navigated the floor and the dressing room bringing me different options, which I compliantly tried on.

At one point, the sales clerk poked her head in and asked me how I was doing. I was not exactly sure but said I was OK. Eyeing the tag on the pair of jeans I was then donning, she said, “Oh, that is good. You went down a size.” Apparently, it was time for me to have another one of my stunned moments in a retail setting.

I could have responded enthusiastically, that in the six minutes since she had last seen me in the two-digit greater-sized pant, I had in the 4 x 4 space taken to a program of calisthenics including jumping jacks and sit-ups while wearing one of those fat burning sweatsuits– and was glad that my efforts had paid off. Instead, I asked, “What?” She replied by saying, “Isn’t that what every woman wants, to be a smaller size?” Oh dear, I sighed. With Zena out on the floor, at least my daughter would not have to see her mom (gently) trip out this well-meaning woman. She already knows how I feel about such things.

Quietly, I explained where I was coming from and why I was sensitive to her comment. I shared why believing and voicing such assumptions can be misguided and problematic–if not downright dangerous. (Not to mention, how in this case, absurd.) Such common banter ascribing value to diminished size–especially with no knowledge of an individual’s personal experience–belies the realities of those who may be contending with an illness or emotional stress; needing or wanting to gain weight; actually comfortable with their body size; just changing from an adolescent to adult body shape, or struggling with a psychologically and physically disabling eating disorder. Such entrenched beliefs can trigger reactions ranging from a shaming emotion to dangerous feeding behavior. Now, how about those new spring colors?

The clerk’s cheerful countenance dimmed a tad, but she acknowledged what I was saying. She said she had not ever really thought about it. Understandably, it is one of those things we don’t think about unless we have to. But, with 30 million Americans struggling with some form of an eating disorder and many more at risk, (and a zillion just wishing to hate their bodies a little less) I tell this little story in honor of  Eating Disorder Awareness Week which is observed this year from February 26th through March 4th. This year’s theme is, “It’s Time to Talk About It”.

The insidious nature of eating disorders keeps them hidden in bedrooms, dressing rooms, locker rooms, and emergency rooms. To shine a light on the seriousness of these disorders, an incredible event has been coordinated by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). Large iconic landmarks throughout the country will be lit with the blue and green colors of the organization. Please check this out and look for a location near you. Otherwise, you might even see these lights but not understand their significance.

In the end, all was well. I purchased one pair of jeans of some size and style along with a few other attractive items that should keep me well-attired for a few years. I think my mom would be pleased. The clerk and I were all smiles as she handed me the large shopping bag over the counter, and I was feeling smug about the 60% savings. We had actually had a somewhat intimate encounter. Thinking about it, I recognize that dressing room attendants play a big role in helping women of all sizes to find clothing that makes them feel good. Cheers to them! Zena and I headed back out into the great outdoors feeling quite accomplished. Though we never made it to the farmer’s market we’d had a good catch.

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

011

Zena’s T-shirt My Plate

MyPlate Haiku 

In the dark places

I ask courage to believe

I am beautiful.

by Anne-Marie

let them eat styrofoam

Not even two weeks in, it might seem a little early to consider the nutritional impacts of the new administration. However, while maybe lost among the more pressing issues, there among the flotsam and jetsam of the post-inaugural news was a story that caught my eye. A story that might begin to inform. But first, let me back up a little.

My antenna is usually positioned to pick up the bits of information associated with food and nutrition as it relates to the personal or the political–and it beeps especially loudly when there is an atmospheric collision of the two.Third White House Kitchen Garden Harvest

As regards presidential matters, examples from prior administrations–beginning with my own nascent awareness of such things–include the following:

  • Ronald Reagan’s affection for Jelly Beans. And, his administration’s declaration of ketchup as vegetable in an attempt to allow flexibility in school lunch planning. This was a nutritionally-depleted response to maintaining nutritional requirements in the face of budget cuts to the Federal School Lunch Program. (It was actually pickle relish that was used as an example in the original regulations.)
  • George H. W. Bush’s anti-broccoli proclamation–and while broccoli took the whipping, apparently his distaste of vegetables was non-discriminatory. It was during his time in office that the USDA Food Guide Pyramid took to the streets, so to speak, a cavalcade of refined carbohydrates–bagels, baguettes, rolls, and pasta–marching in stride.
  • Bill Clinton’s propensity for Big Macs and Philly Cheese Steaks with onions and Cheez Whiz, his post-presidency quadruple heart bypass surgery, and the subsequent radical changes to his lifestyle and diet. In the wake of his own health epiphany, his Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association founded The Alliance for a Healthier Generation. However, while in office, Clinton’s 1996 welfare reforms resulted in deep cuts to the Food Stamp Program, thus limiting the ability for working families to obtain benefits.
  • George W. Bush’s eating habits were healthier than those of his father. Better, after experiencing a pretzel-induced near-fatal choking incident in the White House, he acknowledged his mother’s advice to chew one’s food carefully. While he attended to his physical activity by jogging his way through many a national crisis, it was during his years in office that the nation’s health and obesity crisis could no longer be ignored. Bush did support some well-meaning nutrition legislation, but during his second term, the USDA Food Pyramid morphed into the MyPyramid. This chaotic appearing icon further fueled confusion concerning governmental nutritional recommendations, leaving everyone to just throw up their hands to reach for the closest bag of Doritos. Oh, and then there was the recession.
  • Barack Obama’s nutritional legacy is really attributable to First Lady Michelle’s devoted efforts. Along with appointing a White House chef dedicated to healthy menus and growing an organic garden on the South Lawn, she promoted the Let’s Move initiative. Attendant legislation included the signing of The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Despite this presidency’s strong commitment to our nutritional well being, it faced resistance from its own Congress–which passed a bill allowing pizza with two tablespoons of tomato paste to qualify as a vegetable in the USDA School Lunch Program. Sound familiar? And, it was downright thwarted by Big Food. Also, while the president’s support for the cause was irrefutable, his own dietary habits were less than aligned, as I previously detailed during his bid for re-election.

And so, that brings us up to the present. I have gleaned a tiny bit about the dietary and culinary inclinations of the new commander-in-chief. For now, let’s just say I am not surprised. I am also remembering the ridiculousness of his pizza parlor outing in NYC with Sarah Palin. And, I have now found this–his alternative facts explanation.

While for now I can ignore the personal, I am still quite worried about the political. I am concerned about the fate of Michelle’s beautiful organic garden at the White House. And, the myriad initiatives that germinated under her tender care, yielding amazing gardening programs and healthier food systems in schools and preschools as well. Not to mention the attention that is given to facilitate women’s ability to breastfeed their babies, optimizing children’s health from birth. What is going to happen to all of that?

Well, the details are still scant, but here’s what I have so far that may give us a clue. It comes from that one story I mentioned above. It was the story about the Inaugural Cake. Here are the basics of what happened, in case you missed it. The setting was the Inauguration’s Armed Services Ball. The cake was a nine-tiered tower whose design was blatantly plagiarized from one made for Obama’s Commander in Chief Ball in 2013. The baker, merely following orders, was not aware of the plagiarism until after the fact. At the Ball, the cake’s bottom layer was sliced by means of a military saber wielded jointly by Trump and Pence. And the real kicker? Apparently, only that lowly layer was actually real cake–the rest of it was made out of styrofoam. It was a styrofoam cake!? Don’t they know about the styrofoam bans?

Oh, dear fellow plebeians–and members of the military–prepare to heed the call of the new administration’s both obesity prevention and anti-hunger programs. It may, in fact, be, “Let them eat styrofoam!”

Well, that is it for now. Please take care and make sure to eat your greens. For those of you who have been marching around in the cold of winter, let’s share a virtual cup of tea or some hot Golden Milk to warm us up. And curl up to read the many links on this post.

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 Recipe: Golden Tumeric Milk from Downshiftology

Update March 2021: Signs of life in the new Biden Administration White House Garden. Jill Biden sends Michelle Obama some of the garden’s bounty.

shutterstock_607784159

Golden Milk My Plate

My Plate Haiku

If only we could

Change the world on that one day

By feeding our hearts.

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.

IMG_0309

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.)

IMG_2086

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!)

 

 

 

 

eye of the newt–the halloween report

The week of Halloween is usually the busiest one of the year for me. I have described before the antics of my next-door neighbors, Amy and Eric, and the going-ons in my little village. But this year things were truly larger than life with the celebration of the Day of the Dead and all whom that invites. So, this past week was crazier than usual with many attendant dilemmas.

It all started out with my fire belly newt. I wrote about Everest, a few years back in Feeding Things. Recently, Everest has not been doing well. He became quite bloated and was eating less and moving less than even usual. After thirteen years with us, I thought maybe his time had come. On several occasions, I declared and bemoaned with certainty that he was dead, and each time I did, he’d surprise me by appearing in a different part of his tank. I was actually pretty upset because thirteen years with anything, including a pretty little amphibian involves some emotional attachment. But, what was I to do?

Zena intervened by finding a nearby reptile and amphibian veterinarian. Yikes! Just when I thought I should let nature take its course, I found myself at the beginning of the week, on Zena’s birthday, at the vet. I figured I should do it for her and besides, the newt had never needed much of anything before. It was her wish to get a newt when she was in first grade, and here she was in college, asking me to please do something. Well, that was a rather surreal experience. They brought in big heat lamps, and that vet whisked dear Everest up out of his tank for a full physical examination. His eyes were declared clear, his will forces strong–as he would not open his mouth, but his prognosis poor.

Though I was anxious to get home to get ready for Zena’s birthday dinner, I waited as a few remedies were prescribed including a highly nutritious food powder that I need just mix with water and get down his throat. I drove home wondering if I had done the right thing. But, I knew this was going to be a crazy week with lots happening, so I set Everest up in a new spot with a new light, and decided to accept whatever was to be without much more intervention. Still, I was aware that it was interesting that my newt story was transpiring just in time for Halloween. Even Leah’s Cakery, the incredible bakery (and more) in the village was serving up Eye of the Newt Soup in the spirit of the upcoming holiday.

We had a lovely dinner with Zena, but that was just the beginning. When you live next door to people whose Halloween display is so elaborate that the mayor decrees that the street gets blocked off, you cannot just sit by and do nothing. None of that, “Oh, no, we don’t get many trick-or-treaters.” Only the pressure I feel to impress the “Joneses” by making some humble effort to make my house look spooky–one year it was a little Snoopy cut out that said “BOO”–allows me to preoccupy myself and forget that this holiday is a nutritionist’s nightmare.

I did not go and buy any candy, but neither did I have time to go figure out a substitute. Last year I gave out little adorable fruit and vegetable stickers (big hit) but this year my source was dried up. I dragged a huge tree limb out of the woods for my Edgar Allen Poe inspired decorative theme, I dug out the pumpkin and skull lights, I found the stuffed crows and owls and, I went in search of pumpkins–which are hard to come by when you wait till the end. Then mid-week, I remembered it was my turn to be the birthday “bunny” at work which means I had to prepare a little celebration for the person whose birthday it was in my unit, which in this case turned out to be my boss. That involved some agita and concern whether my low sugar baking would be enough to impress.

In the midst of this, I did try to go find something to humor the little children enough that they wouldn’t notice that they were not receiving any candy. I arrived at a local dollar store only to find that they were closing in a few days and that the shelves were pretty bare. However, I managed to gather up a few packs of some type of crayon markers–and a new cat poop scooper.

When Pete arrived home from being out-of-town, he found the measly amount of markers in a box by the door. He looked at me and said he would go buy some candy. Still, even what you think might be enough is never enough and always exceeds what my conscience can abide.

Friday morning, Halloween Day arrived. Though I had wedged the big tree limb onto my porch, there was still some decorating to do. And, while the pumpkins had been eviscerated, they still needed to be carved. On top of everything, the next day was Pete’s birthday, and I hoped to celebrate it with the guests who were coming for Halloween which included Zena and some of her college friends, and Pete’s sister and brother-in-law.

I checked on the newt. Amazingly as the days had passed his bloating had decreased and he seemed a little more active than he had in weeks. I looked him in the eye and wished him a Happy Halloween. He gave me a little wink. Heading out to work, I ran into Leah’s. Leah is truly a wizardess and had conjured up the most adorable little Halloween chocolate cakes. I described the situation and she magically added the words Happy Birthday above the frosting skeleton.

I got to work and begged for a slightly early release, which was granted. I raced home. My street was blocked with those orange cones reminding me that I could not even park in front of my house. The clock was ticking as I walked over from where I was able to leave my car, carrying the cake and finalizing my game plan. The little kiddies would start arriving any minute. I put up the butternut squash, sweet potato and pumpkin soup in the cauldron, my witches beta-carotene brew antidote for too much candy. I stood above the pumpkins, wielded a knife and recited the spell for quick inspiration for carving ideas. And, I stuck Zena’s stuffed sloth as the final touch on the tree limb. I responded to the first rings of the doorbell and ran outside to watch as the first visitors took in the wonder of it all. Pete then arrived home, just in time to become the official greeter and dispenser while I hung back in the kitchen. The onslaught was intense.

So, here is this year’s report from the field. As the monsters, princesses, zombies, pirates, dice, skeletons and lions arrived at the door, the orifices of their candy collecting devices agape, Pete asked, “Which would you prefer?” “You can either have some chocolate or candy just like at every other house, OR, you can have some (state of the art) markers.” Well, though I am not sure the survey would meet the rigors of the scientific method, the results suggest about a thirty percent response rate for the markers. Really! Amid the din of shrieks for chocolate, I heard, “Wow! Markers are great! I love markers. Yeah, cool, thanks.” In fact, the response rate was so high that we had to start breaking down the four packs and handing out individual ones. That was just about the time that we ran out of candy too. Emergency measures were put in place temporarily until the situation could be resolved–which was when I ran to my other neighbor, Carrie Woerner who is running for State Assembly, and she handed over to me some of her reserves.

So, along with the spirits, many questions floated in the air. What is it that we are truly seeking and craving? What other tokens of love and fun can we share? When is enough enough? When do we saturate? What are the deeper implications? And, should you force-feed a newt?

Well, maybe I am a party pooper (and a kitty poop scooper) but it is complicated. When the night finally quieted down and the goblins returned to their homes, Pete and I wandered over to Amy and Eric’s to see how they were doing. The candy quandary question arose. Amy, always creative even when utterly exhausted gave me an idea. Next year, I will honor the holiday by giving out some nice little bags of herbs tied up with a sweet little greeting. Perhaps some chamomile, yarrow or mugwort. Ah, yes–mugwort. The makings of a gentle potion to put the children peacefully to sleep. No sugar crash and good for parents too.

Oh, well. It’s over. The squirrels have already eaten away at the pumpkins, the newt is still alive, and tomorrow is Election Day. If you live in my district, please vote for Carrie!

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

Any related Halloween anecdotes to share? Please do.

Related Posts: Post Halloween Post and The Nightmare Before Halloween

P.S. Carrie did win the Assembly seat.

photo 3 - Edited

Leah’s My Plate

My Plate Haiku

What’s with my tummy

Expanding and contracting

Like the moon above.

by David

 

you feed her what?

I asked and have received. In my post, Coming Full Circle, I invited guest writers to my blog. Hillary Savoie has kindly offered this story that deeply reminds how profound, intimate and powerful is the act of feeding ourselves and others. Thank you, Hillary.
The hospital dietitian looks at me surprised, a vague air of concern crossing her face. She’s been called in because the nurse didn’t understand my answer to his question about what Esmé eats.
“Esmé gets a blenderized diet through her g-tube,” I say, slowly. This isn’t my first rodeo, and I know what’s coming.
 “You mean hypoallergenic formula?” Skeptically…
“No, she’s allergic to the elemental formulas. She gets a blenderized diet. You know, regular food, just blended.”

Hillary and Esme

Hillary and Esmé

“Ok. But, what’s in it?” Yeah, now she’s clearly nervous.
This is the point at which I get annoyed. I want to say “Food. Food is what’s in it.”
I want to ask if she asks every parent what they feed their child or just those of us who feed our kids through a tube. I want to ask if she understands how much time my husband and I spend obsessing over establishing the perfect balance of nutrients…and if we could talk about something substantive instead. Really, I sort of want to ask her to leave, but I know that this might be helpful if I can hang on a bit longer.
Instead, I look her square in the face and say, deadpan: “We blend a mixture of Oreos, Doritos, and Happy Meals, that should be ok right?” Because most three-year-olds have consumed those things. Mine hasn’t. My child eats a textbook healthy diet: good fats, organic foods, lots of veggies, no sugar…balanced beautifully–for her– every day.
Now that I have passive-aggressively made my point, I say, “I have a spreadsheet outlining her diet and all of the nutritional components. Would you like me to email it to you so you can review it?”
“Yes, I will look it over and we can talk in a bit about it.”
An hour later she is back, “This is actually very good, can we discuss a few items in more detail?”
Now I know we’ve reached the point where we might get somewhere…where I might be able to gather some more information about how best to fine-tune her diet and keep Ez healthy. I know the dietician didn’t mean any harm. She probably had no idea that I am the sort of compulsive and nerdy mom that keeps excel spreadsheets monitoring not only Esmé’s nutrition but also her seizures, meds, input, and output. (Although had she read our chart it would likely have been clear).
Here’s the thing, though, having a child who is medically fragile and developmentally delayed involves letting people into all aspects of your parenting. My interactions with Esmé have been obsessively monitored and analyzed almost from the first time I held her. And it gets exhausting…nowhere more so than with regard to her food. Because it still feels like an assault on my very ability to care for my child–to nourish her properly and safely.
And I get it, my daughter is tiny–like below the first percentile tiny. And she’s medically fragile. She obviously needs optimal nutrition…but she is, first and foremost, my daughter. Feeding her properly is one of the most fundamental things I can do to care for her…and over three years of having our feeding choices questioned by people who do not understand the whole picture has just worn me down.
It seems that at some point everyone has had an opinion. But it is rare that someone can actually grasp all of the elements that come into play regarding how we feed Esmé and why we feed her the way we do. The tube part is easy–she was aspirating her food, likely since birth. She developed severe aspiration pneumonia and had cardio-respiratory arrest as a result. There was no choice but to use a feeding tube for Esmé. It saved her life, plain and simple.
Where it gets more complicated is when we discuss what goes into her tube. The majority of children with feeding tubes are fed some form of commercial formula–in our case originally it was a prescription hypo-allergenic elemental formula. I have nothing but gratitude that these life-sustaining formulas exist…they keep so many children healthy and alive. But they are absolutely not the answer for every child with a feeding tube. In Esmé’s case, these formulas make her ill, causing terrible vomiting, retching, and unhealthy weight gain. Unfortunately, no one could have predicted this–and by the time we had sorted it out I no longer had my stockpile of frozen breast milk. So we started looking for alternatives and found that a number of people who are tube-fed eat a blenderized diet. Blenderized diets can include almost any food you can think of–just blended up so that it can pass through the tiny opening in Esmé’s feeding tube.
When we started giving Esmé puréed fruit in her formula as a trial, we immediately noticed a change in her demeanor, frequency of vomiting/reflux, and strength. When we brought our findings to our (then) new gastroenterologist at Boston Children’s, I was worried we would be told that we weren’t allowed to do this. That it was a bad idea. And that we should go back to the status quo.
However, fortunately for us, our doctor not only saw the change we saw in Esmé, but she had experience with blenderized diets and she was completely supportive–helping us find resources on how to approach Ezzy’s diet, encouraging us to experiment with mixing in new foods that Ez might be eating by mouth if she was developing typically, brainstorming with us.
But more than that, she was the first doctor who helped us feel as though WE were driving Esmé’s nutrition, that we were the experts in Esmé and that the doctor’s job was to support us. She handed us back control over what went into our child’s body. She helped us feel like Esmé’s parents, rather than medical assistants carrying out doctor’s orders. And, thankfully, it was a fantastic answer for Esmé’s overall health and well-being.
We love making Esmé’s food. It feels like such a basic and caring thing that we can do for her. We wouldn’t do it if she was healthier on formula. But since she is thriving in this way, we truly relish in it, mixing it up every night with love, monitoring how changes affect her. I’m actually sort of jealous of Esmé’s diet. It’s filled with high-quality veggies, meat, oils, grains, and in pretty astounding variety. And, who knows, maybe an Oreo or two.
Hillary Savoie is Esmé’s mom, the founder of The Cute Syndrome Foundation, Chief Communication Maman at the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation, and a recent Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric. She also writes a blog about life with Esmé: thecutesyndrome.blogspot.com. Please check out her important work that is striving to save lives.
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

my plate

My Plate Plate

My Plate Haiku

Food made joyfully

As a gift of time and self

Feeds body and soul.

by Anne-Marie

coming full circle (a blog tour)

When my friend Kat came meowing at my door last week and asked if I wanted to be part of a blog tour for writers on writing, I responded affirmatively. Mainly, I think I was trying to impress her–or at least not disappoint. Other possible invites from Kat might result in me kayaking down frightening rapids or stumbling behind in one of those extreme obstacle course races like Tough Mudder. No way would I have the courage for what those odysseys entail. I am not sure I am endowed with that many lives. But for this request, I so wished to appear brave and was actually quite humbled to find that she might consider me a fellow wordsmith. For you see, when Kat is not physically competing with the big boys, she is doing some serious kickass and beautiful writing.

What this blog tour entails is that bloggers write about their process on writing, and then pass the baton on to two other bloggers. I see it as kind of one of those old school chain letters which I was always a sucker for, though in truth they never brought me much beyond some postcards from remote strangers and some dish towels. But, hey, what’s wrong with that? Who doesn’t love receiving some nice mail and who doesn’t need extra dish towels?

So, here I am on the blog tour, though feeling I could still use a life jacket and some oars. Because, really, on a good day, rather than being a writer who writes about nutrition, I am a nutritionist who manages to do some writing. But, here I am. So, if you would do me a favor and not tell Kat that I am faking it, I will proceed and answer the requisite questions.

1. What are you working on?

Well, I am working on coming full circle in some way by reaching 100 posts on this blog–a long-held intention. I am hovering in the high nineties, but I have to be honest with myself and push a little harder because I did re-post some older pieces a few times. My blogging has been hindered significantly this year due to two things. The first was finishing a master’s degree–which I did! And, the second is that I am writing a seemingly simple curriculum for preschoolers (and their parents) that has managed to rub all the words right out of me. I am hoping that upon the upcoming completion of that, my musings here will again flow more freely. I would also like to attract some guest writers who may also help me reach my goal (hint). With that, I am trying to figure out what new directions to take with my blog. Make it a little sexier or just cease and desist.

2. How does my writing differ from others’ work in the same genre?

After having worked in what I call the “trenches” of nutrition for many years, I climbed out one day in the early to mid-oughts to find that the entire field had actually exploded–figuratively. Nutrition had become a huge topic that everyone was talking about. The food pyramid was beginning to crumble and there was much rebuilding to be done. Suddenly, there seemed to be new foods and ways of preparing them, uncovered connections between health and nutrition, and a myriad of environmental impacts related to food choices. These topics were on everyone’s mind and being addressed and expressed in powerful and creative ways. Oh yeah, and the “obesity crisis” was looming large. In this new order, there was action and reaction–lots being said and more being felt. What may, if anything, make my writing unique is its attempt to reflect the experience of the individual against the backdrop of this overwhelming modern cultural milieu of food and eating.

3. Why do you write what you do?

One day, while munching on some kale chips, it dawned on me that I had been privileged to be privy to thousands of people’s stories of being eaters. The “Jane the Eaters” so to speak. Rather unplanned, a career had unfolded that found me sitting in small, private rooms in various settings listening to tales of confusion, pain, self-berating, and guilt about the love of food, all in response to the care and feeding of the human body. And, I was hearing the stories that were spilling out onto the street as well. This week, while getting my hair cut, I discerned through the whir of the blow dryer that the client in the next chair was telling her stylist that her daughter was struggling with an eating disorder. The stylist responded matter-of-factly that when she goes out to eat, she pours water on her food to stop herself from overeating. The next day, I passed a huge semi-truck. It had a picture of thick slabs of meat plastered on its side. The truck asked, “Have I had my Tyson’s today?” Well, I don’t know if that answers the question, but bearing witness to such juxtaposed experiences, somehow compels me to write what I write about– with some hope that it can help people to be a little kinder and gentler with themselves.

4. How does my process work?

Not well, I suppose. I wish I had a process. Instead, the stories just stay trapped in my head and keep banging, until I find a precious moment to sit and let them free.

I am glad to let you know that the next stop on the tour is the blog, Inching2Wisdom written by J. Eva Nagel. Eva tells stories and shares her perspective of a rich life led both close to home and through world-wide travels. The truth is, she is already quite wise.

And, while I determine the other blog stop, I just invite you to visit the writings of Hillary Savoie at The Cute Syndrome.

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

img_3545

Koko’s My Plate

My Plate Haiku

I lick your nose, I lick your nose again,

I drag my claws down your eyelids

Oh, you’re up? Feed me.

by A Cat

(from I Could Pee on This and other poems by cats collected by Francesco Marciuliano)