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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.

bottle container cream creamy

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

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

IMG_1797

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

 

 

 

 

peacock feathers

Recently, I received an inquiry from a writer named Mel D., asking to share a piece of her own story on my blog–to impart her experience and shed light on an eating disorder related condition that is not commonly appreciated or understood–body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). As I give space to a compassionate discussion of eating disorders, I was glad to honor the request.

In considering the manifestations of BDD, I was drawn to the image of a peacock–such a splendid, mysterious and almost mythical creature–and thus named this post. Not surprisingly, peacocks and their resplendent feathers are rich in the symbolism of many cultures, and interestingly, their symbolic and spiritual meanings represent compassion, kindness, patience, all-seeing knowledge, resurrection, renewal, and the reminder to show our true colors. I wonder if perhaps the peacock asks, How stunning must we be to honor our beauty; how much self-compassion required to accept our flaws; and how not show our true and lovely colors?

Prior to becoming a writer, I had a career working in finance. It was a job that naturally came with a lot of stress and time pressures. During my teens and twenties, I had suffered with what I now know to be classified as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified or EDNOS, but at the time I had little idea what was affecting me.

The symptoms of my eating problems developed when I was studying at university and straddled the anorexic spectrum. Anxiety and high stress from being in school prevented me from eating properly and I began to calorie count to gain control over my life. Unlike many other anorexics, I knew I was too thin, but felt powerless to stop what I was doing. I began to also develop symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) alongside my eating issues.

BDD is a disorder wherein a person becomes obsessively preoccupied with how some aspect(s) of their body looks and is fixated on trying to correct or cover up the perceived flaw. There’s a clear link between poor body image and eating disorders, although the relationship between the two becomes a vicious circle rather than a linear development.

When poor body image leads to a strong desire to change the appearance, and often this focuses on losing weight, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia can either become triggered or more entrenched. Those who suffer lose sight of the connection between the food they eat, their body, and their physical and mental well being. Although on the surface eating disorders seem to be about losing weight, the weight loss and other physical effects are really just symptoms of the underlying issue, which is rarely about weight at all.

As with all eating disorders and associated BDD, the key to regaining mental and physical health almost always requires professional help—a residential or outpatient treatment program offering multiple therapies.  It’s also often useful to learn to think of food in new ways, to allow the person to start focusing more on nutrition and health, rather than on weight and appearance. Thinking of food in terms of nutrients, rather than calories, and acknowledging all the amazing things that our bodies do with the nutrients we feed them can be a useful tool in recovery.

It was only when I left the world of finance– after a period of time out sick from stress–that my illness was properly addressed. I can’t claim to be fully well, but after time spent in therapy and rehab, I now understand what my triggers are and can better control my behaviors. Having walked away from my job, instead choosing to become a freelance writer, I now try and to write on the topics that are important to me and that may hopefully help others. 

For more information on eating disorders and BDD, check out this article at Bulimia.com. As these are very serious health conditions, please seek appropriate care promptly. You deserve to heal and be well.

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

Antiques 2 027

Susan’s My Plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Plate Haiku

In the dark places

I ask courage to believe

I am beautiful.

by Anne-Marie

holistic, intuitive eating, community nutritionist seeking michael pollan

the nutritionist's dilemma

A listless child, one of many kwashiorkor case... Image via Wikipedia

The time has come for me to pay homage to the food and environmental journalist and writer Michael Pollan, whose book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, partially served as the inspiration for my blog’s name. I say partially, because I am fully aware that I have been waist deep in food dilemmas way before his book came to be.

Many years ago, when I was a mere neophyte in this work, way before food and eating was the omnipresent topic that it is today, I was simultaneously working my first nutrition job with a WIC-Women, Infant and Children Program in some small town communities while also serving at a hip vegetarian cafe in a cool college town–all the while trying desperately to figure out how to feed myself. By day, I talked the language of subsidized foods; by evening I enjoyed  brown rice and salads with sunflower seeds, sprouts and lemon tahini dressing; and, by night, I chowed down more than my share of the wonderful cookies we…

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childhood awareness month obesity

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

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

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

Fall Colors

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your thoughts?

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

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

Rose's Plate

Rose’s My Plate

 

 

 

 

 

My Plate Haiku

Peach baskets brimming

Raspberries ripe on the bush

Apples soon to come.

by Crystal

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

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

you feed her what?

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

Hillary and Esmé

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

 

In health, Elyn

my plate

My Plate Plate

My Plate Haiku

Food made joyfully

As a gift of time and self

Feeds body and soul.

by Anne-Marie

serenity now

In my last post, Peepin’ Out, I described my encounter with some test bags of Doritos Jacked. Since then, I realized that the incident was still bothering me. I am reluctant to write anything more about it because I do not wish to bring any attention to the product. Neither do I wish to linger in its wake. I am sensitive to being in the proximity of things that have bad energy.

I also worry that I drone on too much regarding matters related to junk food. There are so many more interesting things to focus on and write about in this big world of food and eating to which I devote my attention. Should I not be promoting positive messaging and discussing new and wonderful ways to nourish the body and soul? Can’t I just be perky and progressive? I find and follow so many adorable and inspiring blogs. It seems, however, that I have been assigned to the night shift, enlisted to cover the underbelly of the nutritional world. My beat is often in the neighborhoods of the most vulnerable. So, forgive me this further investigation of the matter.

a summer day at uncle bob's

A serene summer day at Uncle Bob’s

My mission is to help the masses achieve both physical harmony and emotional bliss as it relates to what we put in our mouths. Teach people to eat right states my job description. Restore the order of things. Ensure that each generation attains a longer lifespan than the previous one. Put back “adult-onset” into the description of Type 2 Diabetes. Decrease health care expenditures on lifestyle-related chronic diseases and save our economy. Oh, and make us all be sleek and slim.

OK, I say as I don my kale green robe and lemony yellow gloves as part of my requisite super nutritionist uniform. How hard can it be? Humankind has achieved many miraculous things. Solutions to myriad problems have been creatively achieved. Hearing and sight have been restored, outer space has been explored, cars will soon no longer require drivers. All I have to do is make people eat more fruits and vegetables. Onward. And then, damn, I am brought to my knees by my arch-nemesis–a bag of chips.

Throughout the past few weeks, I have been swimming in the usual news–efforts by some members of Congress to roll back the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act which set higher standards for school lunches, increases in global obesity, the recent opening of the film Fed Up, and gun violence. Amid these stories, I realized I had not gotten over the chip thing.

Initially, I had presumed that the promotion of those test bags was being carried out only in the convenience store where I was–another strategic plan just to annoy me. It then dawned on me that maybe it was actually part of a larger effort and perhaps there was something more I could learn about it. A quick search led me to an online discussion of these new test flavors. Apparently, Frito-Lay/PepsiCo charges customers to help them develop new sensory-stimulating ingredient formulations. I also learned that this jacked variety already existed. Yikes. It was already too late then to intervene with a large-scale letter-writing campaign. The chips were already jacked.

What did jacked even mean? None of the definitions I have found seemed really applicable to snack food. Is it market speak for GMO corn laden with MSG, seven artificial colors, and 140 calories per six chips? Does it refer to the bigger, bolder, and thicker attributes that the angry-looking packaging boasts? Are regular Doritos tiny, meek and scrawny by comparison? I really have no clue about the answers to any of those questions, but I am certain we have been jacked enough–and certainly hijacked when it comes to feeding the citizenry health-sustaining food.

Recently, Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur (cool title), submitted his final report to the UN Human Rights Council on the right to food. Mark Bittman summarized the report which “analyzes a food crisis that is international and systemic. It maintains that the will of the citizens and countries of the world can be powerful tools in making a new food system, one that is smart and sustainable and fair and describes that all over the world food systems are being rebuilt from the bottom up. And, it argues for statutory regulation on the marketing of food products.”

It is worth a look at the company link above to see the extreme global reach of these ill-devised products that find their way into the mouths of babes. An article in the recent issue of periodiCALS (the magazine of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) discussed current efforts in India to address malnutrition and growth stunting (which affects an estimated 341 million children worldwide). A researcher described the work being done in an extremely remote village that cannot be reached by land transport for three months a year during the rainy season. There, where such problems are endemic, young children are observed buying shining packets of cheese puffs and potato chips. The infiltration of this junk into this far corner of the world is noted. I am not shocked, though I am disturbed.

What motivates the continued development and insidious promotion of these adulterated and manipulated foodstuffs? When do their makers say, enough already? Let’s lay down our guns and claim our pyrrhic victory for the damage has been done and enough money made at the expense of others. I believe it is time to act upon de Schutter’s assessment that, “Many of us have arrived at the conviction that junk food and sugary drinks are like tobacco and deserve to be treated in the same way.”

There are so many wonderful people promoting incredible efforts to nourish the earth and its inhabitants in a kind and gentle manner, intelligently and respectfully. Their work is beginning to make a difference. No jacking required. I hope to highlight some of the amazing, loving and creative initiatives that have come to my attention in some upcoming posts. I am humbled by and grateful for what they are doing. They are making my job easier.

Well, thanks for letting me get this off my chest. Let’s welcome summer,  its bounty and those who grace us with its goodness.

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 

P.S.  Your My Plate Photo or Haiku can be right here when you send them to me!

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My (Jacked) Plate

My Plate Haiku

Pick your own today,

Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats,

Sweet summertime fruit.

by Nan

 

 

 

 

meditation v medication march madness rerun

This is a slight revision of one of my earliest posts.   I present this older one while I am busy meditating this week on matters such as the recent break through news about saturated fats and heart disease; 24/7 automated cupcake dispensaries; and, the myriad of nutritional dilemmas that cross my path daily.  

Once upon a time, I was walking down the hall of the Health Center. Passing a closed exam room, I heard the doctor who was inside with a patient say, “Here’s a meditation for you”.  Ah, meditation. Instantaneously, I felt my spine lengthen, my breath deepen and my third eye got a nice little buzz.

Anne-Marie’s eggs

But wait. Which of the Young Living Essential Oils that I frequently use had I just inhaled? Was it the oil blend Hope or Dreamcatcher? I must have been hoping or dreaming. By the time my foot that was in back had overstepped the other one and placed itself in front on the cold, hard and very clean commercial tile, I realized she hadn’t said meditation. She said medication. Of course, silly of me. Where did I think i was?

I must digress for a moment.  The floors in the Health Center are incredibly shiny.  Everyday, they are cleaned in Zen-like fashion by a woman named Pam.  After dancing with the waxing machine,  she traces every seam with a long stick with a tennis ball attached to the end, and then with tiny little tools she meticulously erases every scuff mark with the hands of a surgeon.  The place glistens.

Perhaps my momentary delusion was fueled by the fact that the night before I had seen this amazing film called, May I Be Frank.  It is the true tale of transformation on the physical, emotional and spiritual planes of an overweight, lonely, ill, middle-aged ex-addict named Frank, living in San Francisco.  His soul yearning unexpectedly leads him into a raw food restaurant named Cafe Gratitude and the story begins. Through the use of whole foods, affirmations, holistic health modalities, and the receiving of love, true and profound healing ensues. In the film, there is a scene where he goes to a massage therapist. The massage unleashes a deep emotional release in Frank that simultaneously relieves his chronic back pain. I noticed that on the table in the massage room was a collection of Young Living Essential Oils that I am sure were used.  I tell you, these oils are powerful.

How many times a day is the word medication used in the Health Center?  I even say it about eleven times — and  I am mainly talking about green beans and sardines. Venturing a guess–seven hundred and nine times. No, I don’t think I am exaggerating. If anything, I am underestimating.  There is a lot of medication going down.  (Just today I saw a statistic that said 70% of Americans are on at least one prescription medication.)

Imagine if we could subliminally say meditation instead of medication this many times. What meditation are you taking? I am going to prescribe you some meditation. What’s that? You are calling for a refill on your meditation? Which one? You can pick it up at the sanctuary–along with your wheat grass. That would simply and certainly alter the medical paradigm.

We would do well to consider our health facilities more so like holy temples with acolytes arriving for sustenance and to promote meditation as a veritable ally in the healing of ills.  Though the practice of integrative medicine is growing in acceptance and availability–my yearning is to see it accessible and as a model of care–particularly in high risk communities. This film is one of many these days that provide witness to inspiration, possibility and even necessity.  Pam’s devotion to her task has prepared the sacred ground.  When the time comes, may we be ready.

In health, Elyn

In honor of the egg–its promise of rebirth, its seasonal symbolic representations and its role as an example of dietary dithering–for the month of April I will gladly accept submissions of MyPlate Eggs of your own inspiration.  Thanks to my multi-talented friend Anne-Marie for her beautiful  Ukranian pysanky eggs.  Please submit in comments or at zimcat@verizon.net).

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Emma’s My Egg

 

My Plate Haikus

The farmers’ market/Each egg at the dairy stand/A different color.  by Enki

Food made joyfully/As a gift of time and self/Feeds body and soul.  by Anne-Marie

confluence

This is about confluence–where different streams of my life all flowed together in one special day–today. To start with, it is my birthday. And, twenty-five years ago today, my first child, Morgan, was born and I had my first experience of nursing a baby. Giving birth on my birthday was pretty special, and a big enough confluence in itself, one which was only considered at about 7 pm the evening before, after returning home from seeing the movie, “A Fish Called Wanda” and realizing I was in labor.

But there is more. Today is also part of World Breastfeeding Week which is celebrated during the first week of August. As a nutritionist concerned with the feeding of the species and maternal and child health issues, I do like to honor the week and spend time advocating and educating about breastfeeding in my work. I like that my birthday and nursing day coincide with this annual event. This year, I am using some of the well-produced materials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health’s It’s Only Natural campaign as part of my activities at the Health Center and I am continuing to address it as I have done in my previous writings.

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World Breastfeeding Week Display

Also today, Pete and I are in Seneca Falls, New York for Empire Farm Days, the largest agricultural trade show in the Northeast. This show has also taken place during these same dog days of summer for the past eighty years. It is a nice birthday gift to be in the midst of these many farmers whose business it is to grow and raise amazing foodstuff for the masses and for me to have a chance to more fully appreciate their concerns. Food off the farm has a very abstract quality, quite remote from its actual origins. But, being at this show, one can see that farming matters such as soil health, pest management, plant hardiness, marketing and the raising of animals are quite real.

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Yep, me driving the big tractor. Empire Farm Days

As today unfolded, it was no surprise to find my alma mater, Cornell University, with a large presence here. Both Cornell and Seneca Falls sit upon the shores of Cayuga Lake, and Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences plays a large role in the state’s agricultural initiatives. My nutrition studies took place inches from the ‘Ag School’. I walked miles through its vast acreage, bought college-made ice cream at its Dairy Barn, spent hours studying in its Mann Library, barely survived its microbiology course– and, it was where I met Pete.

The Cornell exhibit was displaying a video called Birth on the Farm. Starting with birds, it shows bluebird babies hatching from their eggs, barn swallows being fed by their parents, and then it moves on to mammals. A sheep, a horse, a dog, and a cow give birth, each baby emerging with amniotic sac intact. Once licked clean by their mama–with a little help from the farmer–these newborns quickly find their way to the nipple or utter and begin to feed.

Witnessing the wildly innate behavior of the mother/infant nursing dyad in the animal world heightened my wonder about how that behavior has become so disrupted among humans. Human babies, like their mammalian cohort, will find their way to the breast as well, when placed on their mama’s tummies. I just finished a research project on breastfeeding, scratching my perpetual itch to understand the modern-day hindrances to feed our infants in the biologically prescribed way that has sustained humanity for millennia. How has something that a puppy can figure out within minutes of birth become something that is culturally perceived as more difficult than rocket science and as contentious as climate change? How has the concept of species-specific milk become so foreign?

I put those questions aside in order to make sure I had time to head over to the nearby Women’s Rights National Park and Museum and Women’s Hall of Fame. This was the icing on my birthday cake. The exhibits are awe-inspiring and provide a really deep appreciation of how arduous the fight for women’s rights has been. Immersed in this incredible history, I picked up my previous thoughts again and mused over the sometimes expressed contention that breastfeeding further chains women to their domestic duties and inhibits their participation in the workplace and in the larger society where they may wish or need to be. Walking in the footsteps of these courageous women bolstered by my feeling that this argument misses the point. It is not breastfeeding, but instead, the lack of mandated maternity leaves, workplace supports and other inequalities in this country that are prohibitive. The exhibits themselves provided some proof.

For example, Norway, the country with the highest breastfeeding rates in the world, also leads in regard to the number of women in parliamentary positions. And this year, Ina May Gaskin is being inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame. Ina May is the modern “mother of authentic midwifery”. Though midwives had assisted with childbirth since ancient times, their role had been essentially obliterated with the professionalization of male-dominated obstetrics in the early twentieth century. Her efforts sparked a revolutionary movement which not only opened the way for the re-emergence and popularization of midwifery-guided and women-empowered birth but also contributed to the re-establishment of some breastfeeding practice in this country. Interestingly, Ina May perfected her motherly arts at a commune community called The Farm, and her grandmother was an avid admirer of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the suffragettes.

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Declaration of Sentiments Seneca Falls Women’s Convention 1848

At the end of the afternoon, Pete rejoined me and we went for dinner. A nice end to a very special day. As we sat at the restaurant overlooking the water where the Cayuga-Seneca Canal flows into Seneca Lake, I thought about how my day all flowed together–birthday, college, nutritional work, food and farming, women’s rights, birth, and breastfeeding. All pretty big themes in my life.

Considering this confluence, I contemplated its meaning. Could it be, that if when enough babies are born welcomed and sustained by the mother’s touch, natural nipple, and warm nutritionally complete milk; when women’s capacity to nurture and nourish is deeply valued and protected; and, when our farmers are supported to grow healthy food and to protect the land–that the world may be a safer, healthier and softer place? I hope someday.

Please, let me know what you think and do send greetings! Happy Birthday, Morgan. Love, Mom.

In health, Elyn

My Plate

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course. by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, et. al.

 

 

who do i love?

Happy Valentine’s Day. My day started out with a visit from Ms. Henry. Now, if she is not the true expression of this global love fest, I don’t know who is. One might almost expect for her to leave a trail of rose petals behind as she spreads love wherever she goes. Ms. Henry always has some story that both surprises and delights.

Today, she told me that she had informed everyone, that in no way were they to get her any chocolate this holiday. If they wished to get her anything, she would gladly accept red foods. And, wouldn’t you know it, her six-year-old godson and his mom gifted her with apples and pomegranates. And, the little boy told her that they had shopped for the fruits at the food coop. It was only 9:15 in the morning and I felt my heart open wide.

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The rest of my workday was filled with more touching moments as I had some other clients tell of their own personal blossomings and awakenings on this lifetime eating adventure. I was feeling light in spirit as I raced out of the office to tend to some mothering duties–and the late afternoon sun granted me enough warmth that I shed my dark winter coat and threw it in the back seat of the car.

Come evening, I was grateful to join a circle of friends who were gathering for a cozy showing of the movie Moonstruck, thanks to the abundant and incredible hospitality of Heidi, whose love flows out through her wonderful culinary gifts and the pouring of the perfect glass of wine. Tonight’s Italian theme-based dinner was baked ziti, (meatballs on the side) and rapini. Rapini is a green and Brassica rapa vegetable, rich in Vitamins A, C, and E, folate, potassium and detoxifying indole-3-carbinol compounds dear to my heart–of course. Oh, and beautiful, homemade individual heart-shaped flavanoid-blessed chocolate cakes. How sweet is that?

So, though my main squeeze was out of town, and all cuddling was reserved for Chico the cat, it was still a special Valentine’s Day. In its honor, I want to take a moment to share a list of some of the (not previously referenced) amazing people I love whose work informs and supports my own and who inspire me by the generous sharing of their wisdom, wit, intelligence, passion and pure love for keeping us all a little healthier and happier.

Nutritional Wisdom: Andrea Nakayama: AnFunctional Nutrition Alliance; JJ Virgin: Exercise Physiologist and Holistic Nutritionist; Paula Owens: Holistic Nutritionist and Functional Health Practitioner; Lisa Nelson: Heart Health Made Easy

Gentle Approaches to Dietary Self-Management and Body Acceptance: Angela Minelli: Stop Emotional Eating and Compulsive Overeating; Deah Schwartz:  Resources for Every Body Every Size

Environmental Toxins and our Personal Health: Lara Adler: Environmental Toxin Education

Parental Amusement: Honest Toddler: (I just love when Zena reads me these tweets!) (Updated 2020: Twitter feed was taken over by their mom.)

Please take a moment to check these out. I hope they will lead you somewhere helpful. Share with me anyone you love whose message is also along these lines.

With full heart, I call it a day–loving you. Like this post or forward me some love by way of comment, subscription or sharing. Or, a My Plate Haiku (or other expressions) or My Plate Plate.

In health, Elyn

Honest Toddler My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Do not tell someone that you love them

And then six hours later

Make them quinoa.

by Honest Toddler