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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 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 1990’s 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.

But, 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 essentially 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 Instagram page which is now called, Lifeseedlings: 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 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.

Thanks for listening, following/subscribing, sharing and supporting my writing.

Elyn

 

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MyPlate Plate

MyPlate Haiku

Pick your own today

Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats

Sweet summertime fruit. by Nan (Blessings on her new little grandson, Orion!)

 

 

 

 

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 awhile, 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.sunset-288531_1280

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 spine 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 I am posting instead a beautiful photo of a sunset. 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, 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 endless pursuit of profit is worth viewing. I highly recommend it. Here is the link.

Note to self. 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.

Na area da saude, Elyn

Related Posts: Private Health, So-Duh

Nirinjan's Plate

Nirinjan’s Plate

My Plate Haiku

It is easier

To reprimand the sinner

Than change the system.  by Julie

peepin’ out

Boy, it has been awhile since I have last posted. Something happened in mid-April or right before Easter that might have affected this. Somehow, word got through to me, that Peeps would now be sold year round. I can’t say if I was aware or not that Peeps, those brightly colored marshmallow bunnies and chicks, only appeared on the market for a relatively short period of time each year in order to celebrate the Resurrection. Truth be told, I am really naive and poorly informed on certain things, like candy and religion. I have been confused for decades between Cabbage Patch Dolls and Sour Patch candies–I think that is what they are called. During nutritional consults, I confess that I have uttered the words, “Do you eat like Cabbage Patch Doll candies?”  Not just randomly of course, but in the context of an assessment when I am trying to demurely and professionally interpret someone’s intake.

Somewhere halfway between childhood and deciding to become a nutritionist, I managed to wean myself off of my predilection for sugar woven into various seductive forms. Maybe the end of my relationship with Peeps coincided with my commitment to a vegetarian diet. Eating anything with a face became more distasteful, even if it was just an adorable ball of fluff. I have managed to avoid the things for a long while except for a time where a co-worker enjoyed flaunting her love of them in front of me like the Adoration.

But, upon hearing the news that Peeps would be popping up in stores on a daily basis, I reacted like Puxatawny Phil seeing his shadow on that fateful Groundhog’s Day. Down into the burrow, I hastily fled. Just when I thought that maybe things were getting a little better regarding our capacity to ameliorate incoming incarnations of sugar, this information startled me. To soften the blinding light of  blatant commercialism, I had no choice but to go into the dark place below.

By candlelight, I read the small print. Peeps are stewarded by the Just Born Company in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. According to the website, the wonderful combination of sweet colored sugar and fluffy marshmallow creates an unforgettable taste experience.  And, furthermore, it states a great candy isn’t made, it’s just born. Jesus!  Don’t these guys realize how bunnies multiply and that chicks are no slackers either when it comes to population growth?  I guess they do. Apparently, 5.5 million Peeps are born each day!

This pronouncement of a seemingly immaculate conception in Bethlehem, rather than some sticky mess, presented a whole new ball of carnauba wax–one of the ingredients in Peeps along with sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, potassium sorbate, natural flavors and red 3, blue 1, yellow 6, or yellow 5 depending on the color. With 6.8 grams of sugar, each Peep is endowed with 1.5 (rounding down) teaspoons of essentially pure sugar–the kind that sends our bodies into metabolic-altering, insulin-demanding, fat-storing sugar shock.

In my quest to find out more about this situation, I was forced back above ground. Donning sunglasses, my research led me to my local national chain drug store where I made a few laps around the multi-aisle candy section disguised as a normal sugar craving person. I was forced to blow my cover by asking the clerk where the Peeps were. She reacted as if I must be from another planet. I did not bother to defend my citizenship as an earthling and neither did I explain the whole groundhog thing. But I did say my query had scientific purpose–or something like that. Obviously, Peeps were not to be found after Easter.  I was six weeks too late.

But, I said, I thought they were available all year now, in a widening array of flavors. She had not gotten that memo. She instructed me to go to the company website if I wanted more information. I thought that was funny. She did add though that this year she had gotten her little daughter some watermelon ones, so maybe I was right. I  stiffened like a stale Peep.

Like Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield who deemed himself the protector of childhood innocence, perhaps I take my influence as a nutritionist of the people and for the people a bit too seriously. In my head, I am charged on a daily basis to personally obliterate obesity, or on a larger scale to clean up this whole nutritional mess and its adherent ills. I liked the care and assistance the drug store clerk had given me despite her initial recoil, and now by association, I cared about her daughter. Could I not issue a global recall of these wolves in chicks’ clothing candies due to salmonella poisoning, avian flu or something to save the children?  My usual quandary about how to reconcile the intentions of capitalist markets and the public health smacked me in the face along with another more subtle underlying dilemma–who am I to take sugar from a baby? Don’t they need some sweetness in this cruel harsh world?

Well, I figured it was time to move back up. As by now spring had finally arrived in these parts after the long, extended rodent-predicted winter, I decided it should be safe to step back into the sunlight. Besides, another holiday was upon us– Memorial Day.  This one, should actually quell our insatiable appetites, right?  But, alas, like Holden, I was once again in for some surprises.

A little weekend travel led me into a highway rest stop convenience store. There, upon the laden Frito-Lay chip rack I noticed two different generic bags labeled, Doritos Jacked–Test Flavors 404 and 2658. Jesus. I am not positive, but I  think the deal is that if you buy a bag you get to let someone know how jacked you were. Have you ever encountered such a thing?  The ingredients list was complete with all of the usual suspects that entice and entwine us. I had a sudden urge to barricade the rack to prevent the innocents from getting their hands on these  hyperactivity-inducing substances. But, then I thought, hey, don’t those good folk down there at Frito-Lay and PepsiCo deserve to make a little profit? Just look at all those flavor scientists they are providing work for. And, aren’t our kids maybe just a little too mellow?  Besides, I have read the Frito-Lay Promise.  Apparently I can relax, it is all good.

Oh well.  Send word.  Let me know what you think or just say hi.  I miss you.

In health, Elyn

P.S.  News Flash–3 D Printers are now producing sugary confections (and spinach quiche).

P.P.S.  For fun Peep art check  this out.

027 My Plate Haiku

Lagoon watercress

Peppers my tongue

With spring joy.

by Roxanne

My Plate

 

 

a bushel and a peck of ways to address childhood obesity

This is a slight revision of a previously published post.

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 than ours 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 on 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  Mandate paid maternity leave of a valuable length. The United States is one of only three countries in the world that does 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. Most 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. We are also quite stingy in terms of annual vacation time. 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 considering the role of stress on our eating and metabolism. maternity leave comparison   maternity leave petition

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. 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.

ð  Teach our Children to Eat like the French (and other food conscious cultures). This article by Karen Le Billon highlights this important issue. I might call this Nurture Children’s Developing Food Palates Appropriately. 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. This is a major problem.  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 Chidren’s Television petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to restrict advertising aimed at children–in large part due 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. Additionally, 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 in foods made by American manufacturers–for their children’s sakes.

Michael jacobson   television food advertising      elimination of food dyes

ð  Likewise, 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  Respect recess. Put it back in the school if it has been taken away. Provide it daily and preferably before lunch.

ð  Integrate relaxation/yoga/resilience training and cooking/gardening 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 creation and implementation of policies on a larger-scale which will facilitate that as a culture we are prepared to do so.

Regarding the Let’s Move initiative, my contention is that children innately know how to move–it is not them who need to get their butts in gear. 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

oh mother

I was hoping not to have to work today. It is Sunday and I promised myself a little repose. So there I was actually lounging on the couch this morning when the news of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement of the Latch on NYC breastfeeding initiative filtered into my airspace from an NPR podcast.

breastfeeding

breastfeeding (Photo credit: sdminor81)

Clearly, the launch of this voluntary program for New York City’s hospitals was timed to coincide with World Breast Feeding Week. The story started off nicely enough with rational presentation of the benefits of breastfeeding and informed that 27 out of 40 New York City hospitals have already signed on to the recommended policy. But, it then whacked me with a tirade of the backlash to the initiative–bemoaning that women do not want to have their parenting decisions enforced, especially by a man–and specifically not by health policy promoting Bloomberg.

I rolled over and groaned into the cushions. My hopes for a relaxing day were shattered. I intended to glue my attention to the Olympics–one of the rare times I surrender to watching TV– but this report was going to interfere. Having just discussed the topic of breastfeeding a few days ago in Blessed Feeding Summer Rerun, I had no choice but to respond to this in a timely manner. Water polo and volleyball could wait, but this must be addressed before track and field and gymnastics takes to the screen.

In brief, Michael Bloomberg did not make up these policies, and in fact, they are not mandates. These are recommendations consistent with the guidelines of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Other larger jurisdictions have already implemented these policies. The intention is not to take choice away from women or to impound life-giving nourishment. It will not send women back into the kitchen chained to the stove with babes pulling on the teat as some editorials that I read implied. Instead, it is a long overdue remediation of a situation that separated the human species from their species specific milk and compromised in both subtle and profound ways the health of many moms and babes. The superiority of human milk, as compared to artificial milk or formula, for human babies is not disputed and its immuno-protective properties are well established. There are many other benefits as well of mother’s milk as substance and breastfeeding as method.

What is not as well-known is that formula companies have participated in the disruption of this mother and child feeding relationship for many years and that this has promoted a cultural ignorance about the benefits of breast milk and a communal lack of wisdom regarding supporting women in this most natural of human behaviors. Big corporations have been the beneficiaries of immeasurable profits by influencing infant feeding through using extreme measures by literally getting invited right into the hospital.

Pregnant woman are wooed with coupons, samples and free merchandise. New moms are given goodie bags with loyalty promoting formula brands. What formula a baby is started on has nothing to do with the baby or the doctor, but by whatever company got their hands on those tiny sucking lips first. Where else does this marketing intrusion occur so blatantly in matters related to health?

Women’s efforts to nurse have been sabotaged in hospitals for decades by babies being given sugar-water or formula without consent. Birth attendants including doctors and nurses not educated in lactation have also impeded the mother’s success at nursing. The result is a society that for decades has been led to believe that nursing is difficult, inconvenient and an impediment to maternal freedom. What has created barriers for mothers choosing to nurse is not nursing, but a lack of education, limited support, pathetic maternity leave policies, lack of comfortable places for nursing and pumping and a prudish culture that has turned feeding at the breast into a lascvicious act aggravated by laws that even make nursing in public illegal in some places.

If you wish to discuss enslaving factors as regards women’s choices, this is what people should be concerned with–not the new policies. Of course, there will be some situations where babies will require formula; and there will be women who will choose formula feeding for a multitude of reasons. But, I am pretty sure the locked cabinet that the policy suggests will not be in the hospital basement by the janitors’ supplies and that women won’t be found dragging their IV poles down the hall in desperate search of contraband formula to sate their starving babies. And, I strongly doubt that nursing staff will be utilizing methods of intimidation to enforce breastfeeding.

This is just an opportunity to fully educate and inform and to take the profits out of our babies bellies. It is one of a long series of efforts by many health care professionals to enhance the health of women and children in both the short and long-term. This is not rocket science nor is it evidence of a nanny state. If we as mothers have to choose our battles–this is not the one to wage.

Comments?

In health, Elyn

http://www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org

http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/  benefits of breastfeeding

http://blogtobabyfriendly.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/bloomberg-under-fire/

http://www.babyfriendlyusa.org/eng/docs/2010_Guidelines_Criteria_Rev%2011_28_11.pdf

http://www.npr.org/2012/08/03/158097386/new-york-officials-breast-milk-may-be-best-formula

Related post:  Breastfeeding Redux

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Blueberry bushes

Three children with empty pails

Pluck, pluck, crunch, exhale.

by Michael

blessed feeding summer rerun

 

This week, August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week.  World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year in more than 170 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policy-makers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.    http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/

In celebration, and because I have been busy and have not written recently, I offer a previous post.  I dedicate it to my son, born on my  birthday on August 7th–an incredible gift.    He was a happy nurser, deeply committed to the cause.   I honor that his deliverance occurred during this important week.  To happy births and blessed feedings.

It was one of those mornings.  One minute I am simply getting dressed for work, the next I am hopping around with only one leg in my tights, trying to find pen and paper to grab what I can from another nutrition-related radio story.  On that particular day, it was an NPR story entitled, Some Baby Formulas May Cause Faster Weight Gain.

English: Breastfeeding an infant Português: Um...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The story which ran on January 24, 2011, starts out by saying that breastfeeding can be challenging, so most babies are on formula.  It was about a small study comparing cow’s milk formula and predigested protein formulas– which are very expensive and used mainly for babies with significant digestive issues including cow’s milk allergies.  The research suggested that at 7 months of age, the cow’s milk formula babies weighed two pounds more than breastfed and predigested formula babies.  The study only observed that the babies drinking the cow’s milk formula took a longer time to be satiated and therefore drank more. There was no explanation given for this.

Interviewed for the story was a Dr. Nicholas Stettler, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.  He starts out by saying that formulas have been proven safe and effective, and if infants like them and eat them, they’ll maintain their health and weight.  He then goes on to say that babies who gain too much weight in the first weeks and months of life are 5 times more prone to obesity and its inherent health risks by age 20–and that formula babies often gain too much.   He concludes by advising that, “Parents should work closely with their pediatricians to make sure their babies don’t gain too much or too little.  In this case, average is best.”

All in all, it wasn’t worth the hopping.  None of this was exactly news to me and if anything I was surprised at the limited analysis of the results.    However,  it touched on an issue that I feel quite strongly about–the dismal state of affairs regarding breastfeeding in this country and its many implications.

Ironically, on January 20th, just four days before, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin announced the “Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding“.  Outlined clearly in the announcement and its accompanying report are the many benefits of breastfeeding and the attendant health risks of not doing so.  Clearly known in the medical and nursing community is that there are many physical and emotional benefits for both nursing moms and their babies, and that babies who are not breastfed are at  increased risk for diarrhea, ear infections, more serious lower respiratory infections, SIDS, childhood leukemias, asthma, diabetes and obesity.    Lactation experts and women who do breastfeed understand that human milk is species specific for human babies, and its composition perfectly designed for proper and progressive growth.  Mother’s milk changes composition during each feeding as well due to differences in the foremilk and hindmilk and naturally provides nutritional, immunological and satiety factors.

In the introduction to the report, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius writes, “For much of the last century, America’s mothers were given poor advice and were discouraged from breastfeeding to the point that breastfeeding became an unusual choice in this country.”  I appreciated the admission.  Tucked in the report amongst the many reasons for our pathetically low breastfeeding rates  was this paragraph:  “A recent survey of pediatricians showed that many believe the benefits of breastfeeding don’t outweigh the challenges that may be associated with it and report various reasons to recommend against it.”

This seems pretty shocking given the following.  Comparing formula fed babies to those who were breastfed exclusively for four months, the rates of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections are 250% greater; for GI infections including diarrhea are 178% greater; and, for necrotizing enterocolitis in premature babies 138% greater for the formula fed babies.  The economic impact of just these three illnesses that breastfeeding can prevent, costs this country 3.6 billion dollars per year.   In cultures where babies have unlimited access to the breast and constant maternal contact, the prevalence of psycho and sociopathic behaviors are very low.  What is the economic cost of  those disorders?

Though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, this recommendation does not translate into proper education, promotion and support. Hindering the promotion of breastfeeding in this country is the perpetuation of the idea that the decision to breastfeed is a personal one and we should not make women feel guilty for not breastfeeding.  Also, as a non-breastfeeding society for a few generations now, the cultural belief system is that most babies are raised on formula and they are fine.  Additionally, like nutrition, obstetricians and pediatricians– who are best poised to promote this clearly biologically superior milk–may not receive much training on breastfeeding and there is an awkwardness about women and breasts–even in the medical community.

The moment that baby opens it little mouth and receives an artificial milk, it is unwittingly committed to a different path than its breastfed nursery mate.  Immediately, that baby becomes a consumer of a highly and often deceitfully marketed corporate product; is more vulnerable to various illnesses and diseases with short or long term health implications; compromises its innate ability to self regulate feedings, and now in this weighted world, must work with its pediatrician to strive for average.

The health center where I work serves a large and diverse international clientele.  I feel very fortunate to encounter daily a multi-cultural perspective.  Last week, as I was walking past the main waiting area, two young women were nursing their babies.  One woman was Mexican and the other was Burmese.  This was not shy, covered up nursing.  Both, were one breast exposed unabashedly doing what women have been doing for thousands and thousands of years.  Confidently nourishing their young.  How challenging can it be?

In health, Elyn

Related Post:  Breastfeeding Redux

http://www.npr.org/2011/01/24/133110606/some-baby-formulas-may-cause-faster-weight-gain

http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/breastfeeding/calltoactiontosupportbreastfeeding.pdf

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Pick your own today

Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats

Sweet summertime fruit.

by Nan (my dear friend–whose once happily nursing son is getting married tomorrow.  many blessings.)

 

private health

My dilemma was really excited. We hadn’t been to a conference in a while. Usually I try to keep my nutritional dilemma quiet and out of sight. But, last week as I was heading to a meeting of the New York State Public Health Association I figured nothing would be too controversial, so I relaxed my grip on it a bit as we headed out. It was an unusually warm morning and as I let down the car windows, my dilemma, riding shotgun, stuck its head out into the fresh air, giddily taking in all the sights and smells like a golden retriever.

golden retriever

We arrived at the hotel, easily found a parking space and the right room, and settled in. I applauded the availability of Tazo Tea and forgave the choice of bad white bagels. I knew there was some consciousness on the part of the Association to be mindful of the food so I appreciated that there was an alternative to the usual sugary breakfast pastries.

The title of the conference was “Transforming Communities through Public Health Practice”.  The keynote speaker was  Michelle Davis, Deputy Regional Health Administrator for the  US Department of Health and Human Services.

As I sat through the morning, I checked the program to remind myself of the focus of the day and why I had chosen to apply my limited continuing education benefits here. Though I mainly do my nutrition and health thing privately within the confines of my small offices, working with one member of the public at a time, I also try to promote health messages to a larger audience as well. I practice what I term stealth health–introducing information or programs that enhance well-being in both supportive and unsuspecting ways. Here was an opportunity to listen and learn  from others who are out there doing community transformation. This is what motivated my choice–to be with my peeps–like-minded people doing great things in this arena.

As an attendee I learned of the new goals of the Healthy People 2020 initiative; I heard about some worthy activities happening on the local scene; and, I sat in on an interesting session that reviewed a relatively well-funded menu labeling education campaign that encouraged consumers to choose fast food meals containing 600 calories or less. The initial results were apparently somewhat disappointing though the evaluation data was limited. The research ironically showed that those who did not receive the message curtailed calories more than those who did.

I thought I had my dilemma well-leashed at this point, but in retrospect I realize it was already starting to whimper and whine. However, it was not until I attended the first afternoon session, “Development and Implementation of  Formal Policies and/or Local Legislation to Increase the Availability of Non-Sugar Sweetened Beverages in Public Buildings:Reports from the Field” that its bark became disruptively loud. The session was facilitated by two women who had overseen a project of the NY State Association of County Health officials wherein monies and other resources were allocated to a handful of county health departments to assist  their county governments in achieving this goal.

They effectively reviewed how the different counties applied their efforts–which really were intended to decrease the availability of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs). They described media campaigns, seltzer water promotion activities, revenue concerns, working with government officials from the top down and with procurement managers from the bottom up. They discussed vending contracts and how these are virtually impossible to change until the contract runs out. They explained the challenges, push back and resistance that each county encountered and the small changes that were made. This was absolutely positive action, but it required that they had to play nice politics with these good public dollars.

I suppose I know this is how the process works but the cumulative view of the public health community working so hard for such small gains–even in the public sector–turned my dilemma rabid. It circled wildly, foamed at the mouth and even raised its hand and expressed its opinion. To calm it back down, I had to go get it a fruit kabob at the next break.

Who do we still have to convince at this stage of the game that vending machine revenues will not outpace health care spending?  Who do I need to invite into my office to hear the daily stories of health compromised by tepid health care policies and timid action?  How many cases of people addicted to Mountain Dew, Pepsi and other such SSBs must I detail as evidence to show how they suffer from rotted teeth that cannot be repaired; ravaged digestive systems bandaged with a plethora of damaging antacid medications; excessive weight that has literally brought them to their knees; anxiety propelled by excessive caffeine; and, destroyed glucose control that relegates them to a life with diabetes? Is it not tragic how many are children and young adults are already affected?

I always say that if I was the ruler of the food planet, I would remove sodas immediately. There is a heavy toll on health from such irresponsibly marketed products available for consumption with the clink of just a few coins in most public places–not only here but around the globe. And, though soda addiction knows no boundaries, as usual, the economically poor, are disproportionately affected. Recently, a client of mine told me that the school bus company that he works for removed soda vending from the employee break room. Cannot our own government agencies venture such a commitment? Bearing such witness, I am perforce required to display the amount of sweeteners in various SSB bottles wherever I may be. Right now in the lobby of the health center I have such a display with associated handouts. People truly gasp when they see the load of sugary stuff that otherwise stays dissolved in the highly acidic medium.

This week, just a few days after the episode at the hotel, a fifteen-year-old boy who has lived a large part of his life in a home for trouble youth was brought to see me–ostensibly for his high weight problems. He was accompanied by a case manager–and another boy who came along. We had a pretty good chat and among other things, we talked about his soda drinking. I told him I really felt sodas were toxic substances that deserved some type of poison label. He asked me if I had a Sharpie. I said of course, dug it out for him–and he drew me a page full of well-executed  skulls and crossbones. I thanked him profusely for his contribution to my crusade. Who knows, perhaps through this experience of participation he will become a stealth health advocate. When we were done, I gave him and his little buddy two water bottles that I had actually picked up at the conference.

Afterwards, I realized my dilemma had been watching the whole encounter from under my desk. It pawed at me and looked me squarely in the eye. It bemoaned that private health is truly a deeply public health matter and visa versa, and with its tail between its legs it quietly crawled away.

Let me know what you think about this issue. Thanks.

In health, Elyn

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-1282/How-a-Sip-of-Soda-Affects-Your-Health-Image.html

http://www.nplanonline.org/sites/phlpnet.org/files/Beverage_Industry_Report-FINAL_20110907.pdf  an in depth look at the soft drink industry by the National Policy and Legal Analysis Network

http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/default.aspx

http://nyspha.roundtablelive.org/Default.aspx?pageId=447049&eventId=406624&EventViewMode=EventDetails

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Lagoon watercress

Peppers my tongue

With spring joy.

by Roxanne