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What to Eat in Still Troubled Times

June 2020. This is a revision of a blog I posted on February 9, 2017. Though the struggles don’t seem to cease, this year, our experience during the Covid-19 Pandemic and the fight for black lives, racial justice and an end to police brutality, demands some extra nutritional fortification and strengthened immunity.

A friend, an indefatigable defender of human rights and environmental causes, writes to me and asks what to eat in troubled times. I reply,

You should eat the foods of the people from around the world who now need your strength of resistance

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Beans, collard greens,

Tzimmes, hummus, dahl,

Fatteh, dolma, kibbeh,

Chicken soup with tortilla or matzoh ball.

Figs, plantains, chiles, dates,

Guacamole, and holy mole, spooned upon the plates.

Of course, some xocolati, I mean chocolate, dark,
Lots of tea, a handful of nuts 

All strengthening for the heart.

And, don’t forget the grits. (Basic or Savory) You will need them for the soul.

The concurrence of both the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement has shone a bright light on the social and health disparities in our country, and the dire consequences for black and brown communities of color. As such, the topics of diet, nutrition, food systems, and food access, which I have previously written about, have been reverberating more loudly of late.

An appreciation of the factors which have contributed to this maleficent situation need include an understanding of the history of the African-American diet–from its African continent roots, the insults of slavery and oppression, to the implications of its modern-day corruption. A discussion of this can be found in An Illustrated History of Soul Food, by Adrian Miller.

Along the continuum from past to present, through the generations, are two African-American women notable for their contributions to the food, nutrition, culture, and community narrative. One is chef, teacher, political activist, and author, Edna Lewis, (1916-2006). “Lewis cooked and Picture 1 of 1wrote as a means to explore her memories of childhood on a farm in Freetown, Virginia founded by her grandfather and other black families freed from slavery. Long before the natural-food movement gained popularity, Edna Lewis championed purity of ingredients, regional cuisine and farm-to-table eating.”

“She was a chef when female chefs–let alone African American female chefs working in restaurants–were few and far between. She authored what are considered some of America’s most resonant, lyrical and significant cookbooks” including The Taste of Country Cooking*, The Edna Lewis Cookbook*, and, In Pursuit of Flavor*. Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You A Pie*, is a children’s book/cookbook about Ms. Lewis by Robbin Gourley; and, At the Table with an American Original*, is a collection of others’ essays about her life, edited by Sara B. Franklin.

The other is Haile Thomas. At just 19 years of age, this remarkable young woman is a “youth health activist, vegan food and lifestyle influencer, cookbook author, speaker, founder/CEO of the nonprofit organization HAPPY-Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth, and a Wellness and Compassion Activist”. A Wellness and Compassion Activist–so needed. I will let her own words speak for her.

Questlove and Haile Thomas Bring Nutrition Activism to All Communities

Haile Thomas: The Happy Organization/Keynote Speaker–FoodTank

Haile Thomas: Living Lively: 80 Plant-Based Recipes to Activate Your Power and Feed Your Potential (due to be released end of July 2020)*

* Please check out these black-owned bookstores for purchase of any of these books: @marcus.books@esowonbooks@peoplegetreadybooks, and @unclebobbies.

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

Related Posts: Morose Meals and Human Bites; Of Poverty and Light; A Cinderella Story; Love Is Love

Living Lively

Haile’s My Plate

My Plate Reflection-The American Stew of Privilege 

Every immigrant group could look down on them. There was always a bottom that you could be hostile to and that was useful in bringing the country together into the melting pot. What was the basis, the cauldron, the pot? Well, Black people were the pot. Everyone else was melted together, and American.

by Toni (Morrison)

Photo Credit: Grits and Collard Greens–Kim Daniels on Upsplash

 

 

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The excerpts below are taken from, Our daily lives have to be a satisfaction in themselves; 40 Years of Bloodroot, a collection of essays from the writings of Selma Miriam & Noel Furie, published by Emily Larned.

Bloodroot. Each flower and each leaf of this plant grow separately from the others. But the leaves touch and the roots are interconnected. Individual yet interconnected (p.35). A perennial which dies down to the ground each winter and then returns to life in the spring, the roots being the maintaining force of life (p.91). When cut, the root and stem of this plant, native to eastern North America, seep a bright red substance.

Bloodroot. A feminist, lesbian, collectively-run restaurant and bookstore ‘with a seasonal vegetarian menu’ that sits unassumingly by the Long Island Sound in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, CT. The name inspired by the qualities of the plant. Has survived…winters (since 1977), sustaining her owners’ feminist vision as well as keeping minds and bodies fed (p.91).

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Bloodroot Restaurant Bridgeport, Connecticut

Bloodroot would have to be vegetarian. Only by refusing to use the flesh of other creatures and therefore economizing on the earth’s riches so that more might eat could we call our food feminist (p.92). It is important to explain once again why we, as feminists, are ethical vegetarians. It is amazing to us that so many human animals don’t want to know that other thinking and feeling creatures (the overwhelming majority of them female–poultry) are tortured and killed so that we may eat meat or consume “safely” tested drugs and cosmetics (p.62).

Our vegetarianism stems from a broader base of reasoning than that of personal health. It comes from a foundation of thoughts based on feminist ethics: a consciousness of our connection with other species and with the survival of the earth. Of course, we know that a diet based on grains and legumes, vegetables and fruits is personally healthy. But regardless of how much is learned about food combining, vitamins, basic food group needs, or about problems with pollution or chemical additives to meat, the fact remains that dependence on a meat and poultry diet is cruel and destructive to creatures more like ourselves than we are willing to admit–whether we mean turkeys and cows or the humans starved by land wasted for animal farming purposes to feed the privileged few (p.65).

Bloodroot. The beautiful red-orange color of my dear friend Jodi’s tresses. Jodi was an ethical vegetarian in the deepest sense. She not only expressed her compassion for animals by not eating them, but by loving them, watching out for them and by advocating for them.

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Jodi was an ardent supporter and defender of all the feathered and furry. Every living thing, the cats in her home, the birds in her yard, all the plants in her garden, or on her table, she so cherished and protected. Profoundly pained by cruelty, she scanned the news to inform others of injustices against wildlife around the globe or of lost dogs in the neighborhood.

Sadly, Jodi passed away this summer. Her last labor of love was holding a large garage sale to benefit her local animal rescue shelter.

Jodi was the caring mother, wife, sister, daughter, and friend; the one who fed everyone with nourishing meals; and provided the safe harbor for lost waifs and little kitties. She was warm-hearted and light-spirited, though she could be fierce in defense of those more vulnerable. Like the women at Bloodroot, Jodi also served in both formal (and informal) collective restaurants for many years of her life–and too, was an insatiable lover of books. A community of hearts has been broken by the loss of this caring, compassionate, wise, witty, unique and elegant woman–with a twinkle in her beautiful eyes.

I wish I could have taken Jodi to eat at Bloodroot. She would have loved it and felt right at home–though perhaps best if she could be in the kitchen. Not to mention the resident cats who comfortably contribute to and partake in the local ecology. One of them took the empty seat at the table I shared there in the beautiful garden with my co-workers just last week.

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Bloodroot Cat

Everything alive changes. It either grows or fades. Perennials spread; sometimes they die out in the center and need to be divided. Sometimes they die and their seeds continue their race. …Those of us who treasure diversity try to keep as many kinds of life going as possible, and that is how we try to live our lives: encouraging growth and life, a spirit and way of living that is perennial life (p.114).       

To have known Jodi, was to be touched by her grace and her gifts. Those of us who did, know we are each a little better because of her, her spirit and her way of living. And, for exemplifying that a vegetarian way of life does not reside in its potential capacity to protect our own lives, but the lives of many others.

For those who may be interested, it is worth learning more about the living her-story and radical feminist foundations of Bloodroot. It is quite fascinating and has been captured by the collective’s various cookbooks and prolific writings. Its papers are archived within Manuscripts & Archives at the Yale University Library. Emily Larned’s beautiful hand-stitched book that I have used for my references is also a great resource. And incidentally, a documentary about its founders, Selma and Noel, has just been newly released.

Lastly, if so inspired, please consider a donation in Jodi’s memory to her local animal shelter, Free to Be Me Animal Rescue.

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.

Peace and Blessings, Elyn (Yes, it has been a long while.)

Original sources: Bloodroot: Brewing Visions, Lesbian Ethics Vol. 3 No.1 (Albuquerque, NM, edited by Jeanette Silviera)
The Bloodroot Collective. The Second Seasonal Political Palate. (Bridgeport, CT: Sanguinaria Press, 1984)
The Bloodroot Collective. Perennial Political Palate. (Bridgeport, CT,: Sanguinaria Press, 1993)
Bloodroot

Bloodroot My Plate

My Plate Song                                                                             

Call any vegetable Pick up your phone Think of a vegetable Lonely at home / Call any vegetable And the chances are good / That a vegetable will respond to you.

Call and they’ll come to you Covered with dew / Vegetables dream of responding to you / Standing there shiny and proud by your side / Holding your hand while the neighbors decide / Why is a vegetable something to hide?

by Frank (Zappa)

Love Is Love

The dog days of summer barked outside, but inside was chill at Juices for Life, in the Bronx, where Love is Love.

Yes, it was hot. The day when summer first reminds us what really hot is after initially just gloriously warming us up. But, I was on a mission and was not to be deterred. It had already been a year or more since I learned that two hip-hop musicians had opened some juice bars in low-resourced neighborhoods–in Yonkers, the Bronx, and most recently in Brooklyn.

Music coupled with a healthy eating initiative ignited by love sings to my soul. So when this came to my awareness, I was determined to pay a visit to one of their Juices for Life businesses, and an opportunity had finally presented itself.

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Juices for Life

Styles P with Jada’s Kiss, cool inflammation’s heat with nature’s nectars. 

To start with, I had to know who were these guys, Styles P, and Jadakiss? To find out meant calling my son. Once again, he would need to rescue his unhip mother. Apparently, these two Yonker’s natives were founding bandmembers of The Lox. Their hip-hop careers began back in 1994–who knew–while they were still in their teens. Along the way, Styles P abandoned the smoked salmon with a bagel and cream cheese and ascribed to a vegan lifestyle–including the preparation of vegetable juices. This he credits for a transformative change in his health and mindset. Jada Kiss was thus also inspired.

In this must-see video, the artists explain that they are constantly asked to invest in various ventures and why they chose to bring healthy food to the hood, committing themselves to access and education. In other interviews, Style P’s message is also infused with his concern for families–with an emphasis on children and elders. And, he urges people to begin finding ways to juice and blend at home.

Finally, the time had come. In the video, a man says that if you don’t know who Styles P and Jadakiss are, then you must be living under a rock. So, a few weeks ago I shoved my rock aside and headed down to Manhattan to visit my son. I’d forewarned him that on the agenda was an outing to the juice bar in the Castle Hill neighborhood in the Bronx. While we’d discussed this before, he was a little surprised that I was really serious.

Off we went and headed deep into the subterranean underbelly of the sweltering city to catch the first subway. Whatever air there was down there was thick and heavy, and the wait for the train on the crowded platform was trying. But things got better as we transferred to the Uptown 6, which would carry us to our destination. Miraculously, it was an express train, adequately air-conditioned and without too many passengers. The train streamed along, and at the far reaches of its tentacled line, it emerged from underground and rose to its elevated height. I looked out the windows as we crossed the Bronx River and was afforded wide views of the urban industrial landscape.

Exiting the station, we found ourselves in the glaring light and searing heat of the early afternoon. As we walked the few blocks down a commercial corridor, the streets were pretty deserted either due to the heat, or that it was a Sunday and many of the businesses were closed.

Filling the cracks of lack, helping people to feel good.

However, once we found ourselves inside Juices for Life things were chill and there was some good energy. The set up was simple. A counter, a cooler filled with produce, shelves filled with protein and nutritional powders, and some stool seating. Initially, there were just a handful of customers, so we were able to take our time reviewing the varied menu of juice, smoothie, and shot options and placing our order. The counter person, Akil, was very friendly, and gladly abided my many questions. I was pretty hip to everything on the menu except for its offerings of sea moss and bark.

Our juices came quickly, and we sat to sip. Suddenly the place filled with a wave of people, including a street detective. There were obvious regulars and newbies alike. A woman told us that the place is usually busy and attributed the lull to the heat. I watched as the juicing staff of three plus the veggie prepper who kept the cooler stocked, choreographed their steps, spinning, and dosey-doeing with each other. They moved quickly to fill the orders, loading the whirring juicer and blenders, and gracefully catching and pouring the colorful elixirs. Their Juices for Life company T-shirts reminded that Love Is Love. img_4404.jpg

We stayed for about an hour talking with both staff and customers and sampling some shot concoctions. We learned that both rappers visit the store, but Styles P is there more regularly. A wall plaque honors him for his contribution to the community. The Juices for Life website explains its mission of bringing health to ‘poorer communities’ by ‘letting food be its medicine and medicine be its food’. This is a worthy and deeply profound mission. Freshly prepared juices from a bounty of different vegetables and fruits provide our bodies with an easily assimilated and powerful source of essential nutrients. They are a balm to the nutritional needs of our cells required for optimal health, and a salve to the nutritional abuse and violence these cells have been prey to. It was really beautiful to witness the communal toast of good health that each cup of juice provided to all who were there that day.

Training back, I wondered how viable could such enterprises be. Could juice bars become as ubiquitous as the fast-food joints, liquor stores and bodegas that are known to populate such communities? Is the five to six dollar price per glass–which is cheaper than at many similar places–still too much for many to make for a sustainable habit? Or is that cost actually cheaper than many other commonly purchased unhealthy products?

I believe that such initiatives contribute to sowing the seeds of change. And, that education and empowerment will promote changes in disease prevention and the delivery of healthcare. For now, I would love for there to be the opportunity to allow persons who receive SNAP Benefits to be able to redeem them for juices, similar to their expanded acceptance at Farmer’s Markets. Next, I’d like to see juicing kiosks in more places–such as community markets, health clinics, and hospitals. And, and for more cultural icons to use their celebrity to endorse and support health-promoting activities.

To Styles P, Jadakiss, and all those who are making this happen, I thank you. Just one thing, if I may–it looks like you could use an additional juice machine.

And stay posted, my next trip to the city may include a visit to Brooklyn, to check out Francesca Chaney’s Sol Sips.

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.

Love Is Love, Elyn

Related Posts: Nutritional Violins, Dance of Diabetes, Where Has All The Produce Gone?

Related Song: Jadakiss–Why

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M & E’s My Plate

My Plate Rap

The dog days of summer barked outside, But inside was chill at Juices for Life, in the Bronx where Love is Love.

And Styles P with Jada’s Kiss, Cool inflammation’s heat with Nature’s nectars, Filling the cracks of lack, Helping people to feel good.

by Elyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

is that an experience you’re drinking?

My dilemma and I were minding our own business at home, when suddenly an image of a Coca-Cola bottle, or what I thought was a Coca-Cola bottle appeared in the sidebar on my computer.

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Coca-Cola global campaign executives

However, the accompanying words said, “This is not a Coca-Cola. It is an experience.” Really? It certainly looked like a Coca-Cola. While still confused, I was also informed that for Coca-Cola, experience goes far beyond the first sip and that I should make ‘experience’ my business.

With a little click, I found myself face-to-face with Coca-Cola’s VP of Global Design. He told me that they sell almost two billion, (2,000,000,000) servings, excuse me, ‘experiences’ a day. And thus, on a digital platform, he would like to have two billion conversations a day, because brands need to listen to their consumers who are all apparently craving choice and innovation.

If so, I hope he is fluent in Twi, one of the Kwa sub-groups of Niger-Congo languages, spoken in Ghana. In 2016, Coca-Cola launched a major initiative in Accra, called Taste the Feeling. It seems they were feeling bad for the millions there who had maybe not been privileged to enjoy the ‘experience’. Interestingly, a group of public health researchers has already done a little study accessing the marketing of non-alcoholic beverages in outdoor ads (visible signs) in a small section of Accra. Of seventy-seven ads, sixty percent featured sugar-sweetened Coca-Cola products–some fraction of which are near schools and feature children–I mean consumers, or soon to be ones–begging for conversation.

My dilemma caught my eye, knowing that this Mr. James Sommerville, would most likely not wish to hear from me. Given that it has been about forty-something years since my last sip, I could certainly not claim to be a consumer, thus depriving the company of that 2,000,000,001 serving. Ah, but he had certainly provoked my ire with this seductive, manipulative, alluring message about the right friends, the right time, the right glass–and the tingle.

Might I suggest that he is high fructose corn syrup coating the ‘experience’ or seeing it through caramel colored glasses–with a blast of phosphoric acid and caffeine. Or, that he has drunk too much of the figurative Koolaid– aka the company’s addictive secret syrupy recipe.

While it is certainly possible he may have already seen my anti-Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) rants, it is not likely. If not, maybe, because like me, he’s recently been watching the 9-Part Docuseries, iThrive, Rising from the Depths of Diabetes and Obesity. But, I don’t think so.

If anything, back when I was writing more about this topic, he may have been concerned with the efforts of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), a Coca-Cola funded non-profit, engaging scientists in the promotion of energy balance and exercise as the solution to obesity, thus underplaying the evidence on the impact of SSB’s. While founded in 2014, the GEBN was disbanded by the end of 2015, after a New York Times article brought attention to public health authorities’ concerns about its corporate influence. A recently published essay provides some greater insight into the company’s intentions by shedding light on some of its internal documents.

Or, I don’t know. Maybe lately he’s just been busy globally designing alcopop drinks in Japan. (My dilemma, just gave me its ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ look. No, I am not kidding.) But, whatever, he is up to something–and I don’t get it. Even though he was looking right at me, he lost me at “physical analog world” and “push work out to the market”. I know this is nothing new, but call me naive. What’s up here? Does Coca-Cola have to weasel its way into every mouth on the planet–ruining perfectly good teeth, or worsening not so great ones? Not to mention incurring potentially more harm. Why such deliberate cunning? Is this not loca?

A few years ago, I wrote about my dismay regarding Coca-Cola’s marketing ploy of placing common names on their labels. Interestingly, as I was delving into the Ghana campaign, I came upon a story that there was a proposed boycott of the brand in the country. I had a touch of health promotion optimism upon seeing the headline. But, apparently, the boycott was due to the fact that the names that the company had placed on the labels in Ghana, were names more predominantly found in the southern part of the country, and did not include the more common (and Muslim) names of its northern reaches. Oh, dear lord.

Well, here is my solution to that problem. Why not put only the names of the executives, such as James, on the labels? This way, consumers will know whom to contact directly should they need any assistance with their health or dental issues or geopolitical concerns.

It may be tempting to say, for god’s sake, it is just a soda! Let us just ‘experience’ that feeling of happiness, let us ‘taste the feeling’ if nothing else–is a soft drink in hard times asking too much? But unfortunately, it is far from that simple. I ponder these matters about profound insults to population health and where lies responsibility. Coca-Cola and its products are certainly not only to blame, but considering their tactics, neither are they blameless. To say they are a big player is a big understatement. (I am linking to one more article of interest here about the relationship between Coca-Cola and the Ghana health system. I invite you to take a look and let me know what’s going on.)

It is most obvious to look at the rapid increases in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes around the globe as indicators of our health crises influenced by our dietary behaviors. And, yes, according to the latest survey data (published just last week), here in the US, we are still getting fatter, while the food industry giants continue to fight hard against public health measures.

But, there are also other implications of the manipulations of our dietary environment by corporate interests. In recognition of this weekend’s global marches against gun violence in our society, I had wanted to explore the topic of nutritional violence, but this guy cut into the front of the line. Bully. But, I will get to that next. They may be related.

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.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

Update July 2018: In Town with Little Water, Coca-Cola is Everywhere

Related Posts: Reporting from the Rim of the Sinkhole; So-duh; Brought to Tears; Nutritional Violence

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The Lives Taken Broken My Plates

 

My Plate Haiku

In school, I should be concerned

About my Health Class topics

Serving life not death.

by Elyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope someday

Well, the storm that prevented my presenting on the panel as described in A Meteorological Change of Plans has moved out to sea–not without causing some serious ruckus. But another strong one is moving in right now, rerouting regular daily trajectories, thus providing me another opportunity to curl up and explore the thorny business of eating disorders on college campuses.

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Campus Eating Disorder Notebook

Eating disorders are very complicated–and at their crux, are not about food. They have long been, and continue to be, the cornerstone of study for many a scientist and mental health clinician, in terms of the identification of their etiologies and appropriate treatment. Underlying biological genetic-based factors seem to seed the predisposition for the development of one of these conditions that take root by substituting out healthy development and replacing it with one which has a laser-like focus on the control of body weight and shape–and the feeding behaviors that determine such. While advances are being made, these are hard nuts to crack from a mechanistic standpoint.

However, this should not mean that we ignore the evidence that socio-cultural and psycho-social variables also play a causal, and not merely triggering role in eating disorders, and thus should be considered as potent avenues of prevention. And while each and every person exists in relationship to the social and cultural environments with which they interact, college campuses constitute a unique microcosm providing a unique breeding ground for the germination of these disorders. (Today, I discovered the term ‘culture-reactive’ which I think is relevant to this issue.)

I worked at a small liberal arts, predominantly white, self-contained campus in a non-urban community. While there, I would remind my students that this 4-year college experience was just a stage they were going through. It is temporary and somewhat illusionary. Even working there only part-time, I could get sucked into seeing life through a campus-view lens and would have to remind myself that this was not ‘the real world’.

Within this world, everyone is–well, young, with all the usual archetypes that youth is associated with. Like some mythical island, it seems like all the inhabitants possess beauty, vigor, vitality–and unbridled brilliance and talent. Each attribute is defined by the normative cultural standard (including thinness) established by no fault of one’s own. Such concentrated energy is pulsating, exhilarating, intoxicating–as well as deceiving, and potentially health diminishing or downright dangerous. Here, often impossible standards present themselves as expectations that should be assumed with ease–forcing any self-perceived failure or deviation from the norm to greatly magnify.

The maintenance or pursuit of this idealized persona and its requisite body weight and shape are challenged on college campuses by a few particulars. Firstly, there are the potent triggers that come from living day-by-day, night-by-night in close proximity to only one’s peers. At this vulnerable developmental stage there is much peer pressure, exposure to all types of media–including unregulated body-focused content, vocalized body shaming of self and others, unending body comparison opportunities, and a multitude of ways to feel “different than”.

Then, there are the academic, social (and athletic) pressures that college students have and the hungers such pressures activate. The non-stop studying, paper writing, exam-taking (and sports training)–and attendant lack of sleep, make for long days and extra hungry brains and bodies. These hungers may be physical, “emotional” or stress-related. But even stress-related hunger is physiologically driven. This hunger is powerful and real and involves late-night eating associated with studying or socializing. Stir this together with the stress of high personal standards, perfectionism, and anxiety and you have all that contribute to uncontrolled feeding impulses, or to advancing control behaviors and starvation.

The college eating experience is also an exception. Many colleges now market their dining venues and meal plans to lure students their way. Access to a college dining hall is like being on a never-ending cruise. Loads of offerings served from different specialty sections available from early morning to late into the evening. Standard meal plans may limit access to three meals a day, while premium ones allow unlimited visits. Many plans also allow for use at other campus food venues.

Being exposed to so much food with no limits, and having to make so many choices at every meal, can be very overwhelming with various responses. Eating (or not eating) amid the clamor of hundreds of other students also makes for challenging circumstances. Enticements also seem to be everywhere on campus. Various clubs and campus activities promise candy, pizza, or doughnuts in exchange for attendance–all within walking distance. Food, its embrace or avoidance, becomes a constant obsession.

On the flip side, students living on or off-campus without a meal plan often have difficulty accessing food or preparing meals. This precipitates and perpetuates other unhealthy feeding behaviors. Students in these settings can isolate themselves more easily, and can both yield to or hide their behaviors more–but students on campus can do so as well.

Finally, I might add the lack of parental/familial supports and/or constraints; heightened attention on ‘healthy’ foods; and increased alcohol or drug use behaviors are additional contributors to the development, unleashing or exacerbation of eating disorders in the college setting. Oh, maybe I will also include easy unlimited access to an indoor gym as another risk factor.

Given the high prevalence of such disorders on campuses, I will assume that most colleges have charged themselves with developing or strengthening approaches to care–though perhaps with continued difficulty. But, it has also been ten years since I worked on campus. Is there new information or have there been shifts in paradigms that have infiltrated and influenced changed consciousness and constructive activity on campuses? Is the explosion of people sharing photos of thinning bodies on social media exacerbating the problem or are movements like Body Positive finally exposing and mitigating this insidious epidemic of body-hating? I suspect the former and am aware that men and certain minority groups are becoming increasingly affected.

Still, I believe something is changing and that we can begin to shapeshift our perceptions of beauty. And, I believe the collective wisdom of dedicated activists and this current generation of emerging and young adults are going to demand and provide the solutions. They have already witnessed enough in too many ways. The statistics are staggering, sickening and sobering.

My humble little suggestions for colleges (and every place) include the following: create Body Shame Free Campuses; further media literacy as a prevention tool; include and support the parents/families of college-age students with eating disorders and provide resources;  stop the demonizing of all dietary fats as agents of weight gain, and appreciate their vital importance in maintaining body functions; and, educate and inform all campus personnel about eating disorders and maintain trained staff to help students.

And, I strongly invite you to read the article, A Generation of Shrinking Girls by Laurie Penny, that my dear friend Chris just happened to send me this morning, that defines Eating Disorders as a social crisis and political issue–and explains why we really must care.

What might you add?

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.

Most Sincerely Yours, Elyn

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John Lennon’s My Plate

 

My Plate Expression

I hope someday to look back on this time in our history and only read about the curious phenomenon of anorexia and bulimia to be touched by it, not have to witness its destruction and ruin on the bodies and faces I pass on the street. 

Excerpted from individuals’ stories of recovery from the book, The Secret Language of Eating Disorders by Peggy Claude-Pierre.

 

 

 

a meteorological change of plans

A few weeks ago, I received a call from a student at the college where I had once worked. I had been referred to her as a possible presenter for one of the college’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week activities that the campus group Active Minds was organizing. They asked if I would sit on a panel of professionals on the topic.                                                                                      Butterflies, Tree, Colorful, Color, Ease

I reacted with hesitancy. This stemmed from both my reluctance at public speaking and the fact that I had not done much eating disorder counseling in recent years. And besides, it had been a decade since I served as the Campus Nutritionist.

Still, the chance to participate did call to me. I had dedicated much energy to eating disorder support and other nutritional matters while I was there and still was invested in the cause. After clearing a few details, I offered and agreed to come to the front of the room, not to proffer any specific nutritional strategies, but rather to share my perspectives gleaned from my particular role during four years at this small liberal arts college. I still cherish the time I spent there holding space with so many impressive young adults as they figuratively shifted their seats from the kids’ table to the grown-ups’ one–some more easily than others. The college years are a very vulnerable time for many who pass through them–and, not coincidentally, span the ages when most eating disorders begin.

In preparation for the event, I gathered my thoughts and made some notes for my talking points. Various students I worked with came to mind. They represented the collective of all the forms of eating disorders and disordered types of eating–anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, exercise bulimia, binge eating disorders, stress-induced eating, and orthorexia–an obsession with healthy eating. I tried to recall if orthorexia had even been recognized by the early 2000’s–apparently, it was only coined in 1998–but I encountered it frequently.

I remembered the athletes, the dancers, the student leaders, the artists, and the none of the above. Mainly they were female, with just a handful of males seeking help. Many, ready for graduation while I was there, graduated–and I attended a number of end of year ceremonies. Some did not. There were those who required leaves of absence–from which a few did not return. And, if they did, a close eye on their progress was necessary. Though no cases of eating disorders are easy to manage, I recalled the “really difficult” ones–those which forced immediate hospitalization, panicked roommates and friends, and challenged the health providers (and administrators) trying to keep a declining student on campus so they could just finish their education. This was messy. And, the more remote campus bathrooms known to be frequented by those that purged were messy too.

While it was presumed that students would stay active in their physical and emotional care by making and keeping appointments, there was sometimes little to prevent them from elusively slipping out of reach. And, with the prevalence of eating disorders on college campuses estimated to be between about 10-20% for females and 4-10% for males (if not higher), it was certain that there were many who did have disorders that were not receiving any treatment. Eating disorders are masters of disguise.

Despite a significant degree of infirmity, I was continuously amazed at how these high achieving students pushed through at high levels of academic, athletic and/or creative performance. Such success did not equate with health. While everyone does their best, and there are models of care, colleges are not fully equipped to handle these serious disorders, medical illnesses, which breed on their campuses–the mental health conditions with the highest level of mortality.

Remembering both the intensity and tenderness of my time with these students helped me to shape what I would want to share with this current cohort, this next in line generation capable of making some serious change in our world. Nothing necessarily earth-shaking or profoundly professional–just the observations of someone who was up close and personal. Could I possibly impart some, dare I say, wisdom or reflection that might resonate or maybe have some impact on this vulnerable cohort? Well, I was prepared to give it a shot and looked forward to the event.

However, first thing yesterday morning, the day of the event, my phone rang. A monster nor’easter was pummeling the East Coast, dropping a fair amount of snow in our area. The panel would be canceled. Though there was a small touch of relief that I would not have to contend with treacherous roads, I had to process the loss of this opportunity. Not only had I readied myself, but I was eager to hear what the other professionals–mental health clinicians–had to say, and what the audience of students, and possibly faculty or other staff members, wished to ask, as well as to expose or express.

Left alone with my floating ideas, I realized I could deposit them here in my little blog which has been suffering its own neglect. And, I will do so, in a follow-up post. (In the meantime you can visit my previous related posts: Stopping Traffic, Dolls with Faith, Muse of the Girl and Nourish Thyself Well Day.)

In reminiscing, I realized that those who I strove to help nourish during my years at the college, would now be in their early to mid-thirties. Recovery from eating disorders is definitely achievable, and relative to various factors, but not all who suffer are successful. I hope those whose lives touched mine, and who that campus had nurtured in various ways, did emerge from their chrysalis to become the beautiful butterflies they were meant to be. I pray they are doing OK.

Thanks to those who continue to carry the flame.

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.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

my plate

My Plate Plate

My Plate Expression

My great fortune was in meeting people who understood my strange interior life, without judgment and who, at a time when I didn’t feel there was anything to live for, were there to lend me their vision and pull me through the grueling journey of recovery. I’d never been afraid of hard work and perhaps it’s that work ethic that finally worked for me rather than against me.

Excerpted from individuals’ stories of recovery from the book, The Secret Language of Eating Disorders by Peggy Claude-Pierre.

 

 

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

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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.

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Michelle Obama’s White House Organic Garden. Photo by John Shinkle.

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.

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

 

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Golden Milk My Plate

My Plate Haiku

If only we could

Change the world on that one day

By feeding our hearts.

by Julie

to life, to life, l’chaim!

I recall as a child enjoying a series of historical novels called, We Were There. Each book carried the reader to a particular event such as the Boston Tea Party or the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which strangely are the two I particularly remember, along with thirty-four other momentous happenings.

How long ago and far away I felt I was transported, to ‘be there’ in what we consider to be pivotal moments that changed the course of history, and in effect the course of our own lives. But, while that was imaginary, my own real-life experience has provided me reflection back to places in time that have impacted our current lives where actually ‘I was there’.

What has led me to think about this, is that I was recently asked to provide my readers with some information about probiotics. Bear with me as I make the connection.

Evidence of the benefits of probiotics for an expanding list of health conditions is increasingly presenting itself. In fact, these purported nice little bacteria are becoming as well discussed as amoxicillin–as in, “yes, Johnny is on another round of amoxicillin”–the commonly prescribed antibiotic that many have been raised on. Unfortunately, not quickly enough or significant enough to stave off antibiotic resistance— declared by the World Health Organization and national health organizations as one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development of our time. Wow.

Antibiotic resistance is due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals–which has enabled the bacteria that cause infection to change themselves so that they are not killed off by the drugs targeted to obliterate them. This makes many types of infections harder, and in some cases impossible, to treat. While the impact of this may seem a bit difficult to fathom, according to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013, over 2 million people in the US were infected by these resistant bacteria, resulting in at least 23,000 deaths.

Also, there are other consequences of antibiotic use related to its effect upon our internal gut environment and the vast community of microorganisms that dwell within. The mechanism of these effects is becoming increasingly understood as science explores the new and fragile frontier of this human microbiome; and studies how insults to this precise and balanced environment mediate many immunological, metabolic–as well as emotional/behavioral–changes.

Understanding the benefits of probiotics–favored in fermented foods– is not really that new. The Neolithic people of Central Asia apparently became hip to this around 6000 BC according to this little article on the history of yogurt. The Dannon Yogurt Company also seemed to be onto the power of probiotics, traveling from the motherland to set up shop in a small factory in the Bronx in the 1940s–just at the same time the use of antibiotics became widespread. This was only the beginning.

This timeline on the development of antibiotics, detailing when new types became available by prescription is worth a peek. Note the vast proliferation of these medications in the 1980s–because, you see, that is when ‘I was there’. Beginning in the late 1980s, working in clinical and community settings I began to notice women presenting with symptoms of candida overgrowth who had histories of significant antibiotic use; and I saw that babies and young children treated with repeated doses of antibiotics seemed the rule rather than the exception. Also, in 1993 I was quite aware when the FDA approved the use of genetically modified bovine growth hormone (rGBH) to increase milk production in cattle. This resulted in an increased incidence of mastitis and concomitant antibiotic use in herds–whose milk then entered our food supply.

During that window of time, I also was there sitting witness to an emergence of autism spectrum disorders and premature puberty, the explosion in rates of childhood obesity and the rapid climb in cesarean section deliveries. In WIC clinics I first saw young autistic children wearing protective helmets– and learned of Asperger’s Syndrome from a mother whose child had recently been diagnosed. There too, I watched the mandated vaccination requirements for children expand. In clinical settings, I encountered nine-year-old girls who had begun menstruating and young teens with Type 2 Diabetes.

The preservation and promotion of health and the practice of medicine have been around since the beginning of humankind. All exist in the context of place and time, and are dependent upon previous knowledge, expanding technologies, changing cultural, social and physical environments and the influence of economic forces. Extremes of conditions must present and mistakes uncovered before new solutions can be found. Newer approaches can lead to both life-sustaining miracles as well as compromising catastrophes. And, some ancient healing agents and practices are still profoundly relevant today.

Of course, antibiotics are a modern medical miracle, major agents in the mitigation of the morbidity and mortality associated with many illnesses that had previously ravaged large swaths of humanity. I am not suggesting that they are the only contributor to the many conditions that currently plague us. But, they serve as an example of how the inappropriate use of and reliance on drugs, coupled with a lack of a holistic view of the body and healing can result in questionable if not outright harmful outcomes.

I have ‘also been there’ for a number of other health-related setbacks and breakthroughs –some of whose impacts may have already sat before the jury while others still await the perspective of hindsight. However, in the now, the spotlight is shining on the importance of maintaining our gut health and providing our bodies with the very good bacteria probiotics can provide through the proper foods or supplements. They restore the balance sometimes disrupted by antibiotics–the balance that may be essential to both prevent and address a myriad of health conditions we are only beginning to imagine.

I recommend a read of this comprehensive and helpful primer on understanding and choosing the best probiotic supplements by the good folk at Reviews.com. They have sorted through a lot of information and reviewed many products–doing the work, so that you may be able to say, ‘I am here’ on a new pathway towards improved wellness.

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 Recipes: 17 Recipes Full of Probiotic-Rich Foods from Nutritionist Yuri Elkaim

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My Plate Plate

My Plate Haiku

Are we what we eat?

Or do we eat what we are?

Are they the same thing?

by Julie

The Google Drool

The Google Drool. This is the reaction we may have upon learning about the employee perks at companies like Google, Facebook, and other big startup or tech companies. We may find spit running down our chins when hearing about such things as barista-staffed coffee bars, top-level chef-prepared fare at various campus restaurants, snack bars arranged to foster healthy choices–not to mention arcade games, bowling, and ping-pong rooms, mid-day yoga and fitness classes, shower rooms with provided towels, lava lamp decor, and even the ability to bring one’s dog to work!                                                       Orange, Office, Fruit, Juicy, Food, Ripe

Tucked behind the big and small amenities that these large and hip companies are able to provide is a strong employer commitment to employee well- being. Clearly, these business-savvy entrepreneurs have recognized the value of recruiting and having happy and healthy workers–and while floating in the tech bubble–have taken time to figure out what promotes such benefit.

For those of us living outside the Google Universe, we may consider ourselves lucky just to have a coffee maker, a vending machine, and maybe a water dispenser; and are giddy when someone brings in a box of donuts to start the day. That’s OK we say. We’ll trudge into work daily loaded down with our necessary sustenance carried in various totes, or use our precious lunch breaks–which we are not paid for–to frantically run out for a sandwich or slice of pizza. We’ll rush to the gym before or after work, if at all, and stuff that soggy or soaked towel back in our bag. We’ll come to work sick because we don’t have sufficient–if any–health care benefits or sick days.

While it may be unrealistic to presume that every business, workplace or employer could even provide a modicum of the level of benefits and types of environments like the Google-type giants, it can still be an important exercise to step back and consider what changes could be implemented in one’s specific setting to enhance the well-being of those who work there–dedicating a big chunk of both their lifetime and energy on another’s behalf.

With the serious state of health care in our nation, and the associated high costs of health insurance premiums burdening both the business sector and individuals, governmental and private entities are trying to find solutions to the problems associated with an increasingly unhealthy populace. While we sit and wait for that to happen, what are some ways employment sites can, on their own, support the health and well-being of the hard-working masses with some small homeopathic doses of supportive care?

If you are responsible for or can affect workplace environments, here are a few little ideas that may just spark the imagination of possibility. They are intended to be relatively easy and hopefully cost permitting. However, each is certainly not applicable or realistic for all settings, in which case, consider them a starting point for what may be for yours.

The Food Culture: The bane of our society. While we seem to understand that what and how we eat really matters, we continuously create apologies for ignoring this, and the workplace is no exception. Foods offered in workplace settings are classically “happy foods”–those which compromise health but which feed the mentality of rewarding everyone for the drudgery at hand. The assumption is that we need these sugary and junk food enticements. But, what if we thought about workplace food as replenishment–and maybe even increased productivity–rather than reward?

  • Beyond the coffee machine, offer a station with a variety of healing teas, good quality water (perhaps an infused water dispenser), a bowl of seasonal fruit or a vegetable platter when possible.
  • Institute Healthy Vending and Healthy Meetings practices. These can send a powerful message to employees, clients and business partners alike.
  • Investigate being a drop-off site for a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, where local produce boxes are delivered to participants on a weekly basis.
  • Establish relationships with health food vendors and establishments. Hire them to cater any workplace events and see if they can offer an employee discount in return.
  • Model healthy eating behaviors to inspire others.

The Physical Environment: Take a walk around the physical space and look and listen. Well-being can be depleted by a flickering fluorescent bulb, a slamming door, or a moldy carpet. And, it can be enhanced by simple attention.

  • Check to ensure that where possible, the walls are nicely painted, there is nice artwork, and the flooring is comfortable and clean.
  • Soften the internal environment with good lighting, some plants, and relaxing sounds. Consider diffusing essential oils. Create some room to provide employees with a quiet area, and make sure you can accommodate nursing moms with a private lactation area–this is the law in many states.
  • Enhance any outdoor areas so employees can take a walk, do some stretching, take breaks or even do their work.
  • Install a bike rack, a ping-pong table, provide a few pieces of fitness equipment and some yoga mats, and display signage encouraging stair climbing and other health-promoting activities.
  • Make sure that No Smoking policies are strictly enforced and restricted areas are fiercely protected.

The Work Day: Here is where it can get fun to elevate the workday to something a little more special for everyone.

  • Create a “quiet hour” encouraging work in silence to mitigate background noise and foster creative thinking.
  • Create a “movement time” encouraging walking or stretching. Promote a “tag” system where a five-minute movement activity, such as a lap around the building is passed from one employee to the next. There can be “playtime” as well.
  • Review human resources policies. Can any “rules” be re-visited to ensure they promote caring for all rather than preventing abuse by a few? Can flexible leave time replace specified allocations? Are there ways to promote stress reduction simply by reducing punitive leaning policies or by making up your own nice ones?
  • Take advantage of the array of healing arts practitioners and health educators in your community. Create a monthly wellness schedule bringing in various specialists for some mini-sessions. These specialists might be glad to provide discounted pricing to your employees. Reward dedicated (and lousy) employees with a healing art or healthy food gift certificate.
  • Offer in-house chair massages. Many local massage schools have students eager to practice their skills for free.

Essentially, once you begin to look at the workplace as an environment for health, the possibilities are many. Become your own Google when it comes to employee perks. Even a small investment might yield some large or unexpected returns. The bottom line: let your employees know that your business is committed to health promotion because you care about them.

I would love to hear your ideas. What workplace health perks have you provided or received? What do you wish for?  Can you bring your dog to work? Please leave me a comment. Oh, and Happy Mother’s Day. Here’s to a kinder and gentler world.

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: Chickpea Quinoa Burgers  by Hench Herbivore

quinoa cake

Hench’s My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Chickpea Quinoa Cakes

Served at two local restaurants

How ubiquitous.

by Elyn