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weight, weight, please tell me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In health, Elyn

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

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Wholesome Wave’s My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Pick your own today

Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats

Sweet summertime fruit.

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

 

 

 

 

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

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Susan’s My Plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Plate Haiku

In the dark places

I ask courage to believe

I am beautiful.

by Anne-Marie

I Speak for the Fat People

Although I’ve taken a little writing hiatus, the nutritional discourse continues unabated. The stories of our communal incarnate experience resonate with frustration, guilt, and misunderstandings. This is an older piece that I published previously in three parts. I hope offers some response with a bit of healing balm. Some of its points have been raised and debated among those in the scientific community rather recently. Here it is mended back together. It is longer than my other posts but I think it reads best together.

I speak for the fat people. Like Dr. Seuss’ Lorax who spoke for the trees, someone must speak for the fat people. Unlike the trees who needed a spokesperson because they had no tongues, you would think that the fat people would be able to speak for themselves. Of course, fat people have tongues. If they did not have that taste bud-laden sensory organ, they would not be fat. Given the current weight of the world, this group should not be particularly hard to hear. However, in the huge public dialogue about weight and obesity, the fat people are merely statistics. There are no real people behind the statistics, and this is where they have lost their voice. Therefore, they are stripped of any ability to speak with authority on the topic.

I am not a statistic. Though I have had some years where I toed the chubby line, for the most part, I have done my part in tipping the scales toward societal svelteness. Besides my obligation as a citizen to keep the fat numbers down, as a nutritionist, it is my professional responsibility to pull people out of the fat pool and to keep them from falling in at all.

It is no big secret that the medical and nutritional community has not done a great job in their role as bariatric (the science of obesity) lifeguards. I myself do not have a great track record of turning people into mere shadows of their former selves. But, I have spent my career as a nutritionist hearing the stories and struggles of the fat people and observing the ways of food and eating that define this turn of the century. I am a spy in the house of girth.

The fat community does, in fact, have some spokespeople. There are magazines, journals, books, and websites–written mainly by women–who have spent one day too many in the deprived and depraved world of dieting. There are individuals who are doing incredible and poetic work about re-informing and re-educating on misconceptions about weight and health and respectful self-care. Still, many of these efforts are marginalized or featured in venues that only topic-obsessed people like myself pay attention to. Even Roseanne Barr once said, “It’s OK to be fat. So you’re fat. Just be fat and shut up about it.” For every undertaking that sings the praises of body love and acceptance, there are thousands of counter-voices screaming the imperative to whip this fat away.

Therefore, I believe I must use my credentials to speak out. I hope that the fat people can accept me, a thin person–who is often cold and prone to osteoporosis–and an ex-stress and emotional eater to be their voice. Born of thin mother and fat father, I will try to do the cause justice.

Let’s begin by putting the issue of overweight into perspective. If we look at weight historically, I’m pretty certain that from the beginning of time, there have been fat people. We have all seen the pictures of early Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal men. Even those quintessential hunters and gatherers seemed capable of packing on a few pounds. After them came Confucius, King Henry the Eighth, Mamie in Gone with the Wind, Jackie Gleason, Pavarotti, Aunt Bea, and my grandmother. Chances are your grandmother was fat, too.

English: Luciano Pavarotti in Vélodrome Stadiu...

Luciano Pavarotti in Vélodrome Stadium, Marseille, France, le 15 juin 2002. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since our early beginnings, human beings have come in varying shapes and sizes and large-size was not necessarily an aberration of medium-size. It is good that there are large-sized people. A world without them would mean a world with fewer great opera singers, chefs, women of ample bosom, football players, construction workers, and cuddly grandmothers.

It is not very difficult to become fat. You do not have to go out of your way to try. If Chinese youth can become fat, then anyone can. Only about 4% of the population has naturally model-thin bodies. That means that many models are starving themselves in order to be models. It also means that the rest of the Size 2 wannabes are expending a lot of physical and mental energy in the pursuit of thinness. Carolyn Knapp, in her book, Appetites, tells the story of a woman who describes the angst she feels putting on her stockings every morning. She wonders what she could have accomplished in her life with the time she has spent worrying about her weight.

There are the naturally skinny–and then there are the neurotically and pathologically skinny; and the metabolically hyper-activated skinny–those who sustain themselves on a steady diet of excessive caffeine and nicotine—or maybe extensive exercise. For the rest of us, the possibility of becoming overweight is just around the corner. We are physiologically and neurologically wired to pack it on. The ability to store fat came in pretty handy a time or two during our multi-millenial evolution. We have about 107 compensatory mechanisms that prevent us from starving to death. A bunch of those certainly kicked in to save our forefathers when they were unable to kill a bison. In people who attempt to starve themselves toward thinness, the body fights back–it regains the lost weight plus more, and then absolutely refuses to budge.

In addition, we are wired for comfort. Research shows that the food habits that sustain us are those that we developed while still wrapped in the loving veil of early childhood. Whether that happened to be gazelle, chicken soup, mashed potatoes or cheeseburgers, you will probably turn to those foods as an adult. Believe me, the corporate world certainly knows this. The Happy Meal ensures that today’s toddlers will become tomorrow’s adult fast-food consumers. The concept of comfort foods is one I hear a lot about during my spy missions. Women have confessed to me that they would choose a good loaf of bread over sex. The quality of the sex is not indicated in this context.

Then, of course, there are our natural temperaments as well as good old genetics. I listened once to the tender story of a woman who was adopted as a child. She never met her birth mother, but she possessed a very old, poor quality home movie that she believes is of her mother. Though she struggles to see the face better in search of subtle resemblances, it is the woman’s thighs that confirm her finding. She states, “Look at the thighs. Those are my thighs.”

On top of all this, let’s sprinkle on a life change, or just daily, chronic stress. Take your pick. Break-ups, abuse, graduate school, poverty, working long hours, caregiving, illness, depression or menopause are possible choices. And, God forbid you should simply possess a deep sensuous life-affirming passion for cooking and eating. Throw any of these on your plate and if your primal wiring wasn’t enough to enlist you, then current circumstances will. Even the once-thins can become the now-fat–especially in this current milieu where food is literally out to get ya. Not even the high school cheerleader is immune. Any emotional state that is heightened, increases for many the desire to seek food for reward. When one is working their way up the weight chart, it is because they are possessed by physical or emotional hunger, or physiological changes that they can neither understand nor control.

I can hear you begin to protest that it has to be more than just this. Aren’t we soooo bad? We ate the piece of chocolate cake (and we loved it). How could we? How dare we? That translates into four hours of floor mopping according to the calorie expenditure charts.  That must be fair penance for the crime. As a spy, my days are peppered with the monologues and dialogues of self-hate and recrimination that people utter like a mantra before and/or after each foray into eating. The guilt is palpable. We must have all been ____________ in a previous lifetime. (insert your own response.)

I was heartened once to hear a man describe his joy-spreading tactic. Essentially, he spends half of his time acquiring special little chocolates and the other half gifting them to people as morsels of universal love. I am either becoming a very cynical nutritionist or a very empathic human being. The collective psyche is longing for the morsel of joy even at the expense of the perfect waistline. The truth is that we have appetites and hungers because we are merely human, not because we are bad people. However, when all of these human tendencies accumulate into extra pounds, getting rid of that weight is very difficult.

A few years ago, I attended a conference on an obesity-related topic. As a group, we were to brainstorm how to counsel a postpartum woman with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30. The exercise had me squirming from the get-go. As the attendees were getting rather dead-ended in their attempts to master this case-study, the presenter, a physician and researcher at a major university said, “Let me offer this idea. I am often in my office at my desk and on the phone. I could just sit there and talk on the phone, but instead, I stand and pace as I am talking.” My agitated brain said, “Yes, let’s file that idea to use.” 3889254107_2383b9acea_cNot with my clients but in this article. I could picture Homer Simpson stuffing one more donut in his face while muttering “Ah, vigorous pacing. That’s the ticket.” I wondered when was the last time this guy got out of his office and realized the experiences of real people, real fat people.

Hardly are all defined cases of overweight problematic. Some in the field maintain that the goal is for all individuals to attain an “appropriate” BMI.  Short of that, they will be at risk for various health problems. My intuition and much science beg to differ. Many people are fine–if not perhaps better off–with a little extra weight on them. Pavarotti once said, “The reason fat people are happy is that their nerves are well protected.” My own observations reveal that the neurotically thin tend to be more frayed than their rounder counterparts. Besides, BMI is just a tool. At times it is a cruel tool—or at least a not very nice one. It makes no allowance for age, fitness, or even natural body type. Whether we like it or not, our bodies will shift and change as we age. Nature, with no ill intent, seems to want to round us out a bit as we mature. That is how we get to be grandpas and grandmas. Appropriate BMI does not necessarily confer lack of health risks–only ones of a particular nature. Last long enough, and we tend to eventually shrink back down.

Do not get me wrong. I am not undermining the seriousness of the obesity crisis that we are facing. I understand its consequences perhaps more than most. I see the implications of excessive weight that people struggle with on a daily basis and I strive to alleviate the challenges through educational, lifestyle, and nutritional support. I bemoan the forces that are propelling our society into ever-expanding levels of girth, especially those that are now affecting our children.

Still, I feel a need to call TIME OUT! To stop the madness that makes those who are the statistics speechless. To stop pointing the finger merely at the individual without an understanding of the deeper forces that are at play. There are multi-factorial causes that lie at the root of the weight gain epidemic. Many are so abstract or insidious that it is very difficult for the experts—let alone an ordinary individual–to understand what is going on. Though overeating, bad eating, food addiction, and poor lifestyle choices are definitely a part of it, the magnitude of the communal weight gain doesn’t seem to make sense based on calories alone. In the causative mix lie politics, hormones, pharmaceuticals, poverty, nutrition misinformation, abuse, dieting, food sensitivities, sensory science, profits, changes in the components of our food, environmental toxins, personal and spiritual alienation and lifestyles spinning out of control. There are strange bedfellows in each and every fat cell.

Now, back to our friend the Lorax. For the record, the Lorax, our venerable spokesperson, was rather portly himself. Based on his picture, I’d put him at a BMI of about 29. I’d describe him as neither apple nor pear-shaped but rather pickle-shaped. According to Dr. Seuss, “He was shortish. And oldish. And brownish and mossy.” The final message of the Lorax in his plea to save the environment was UNLESS. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

I too am rather shortish. Oldish, brownish, and mossy may someday also describe me. For now, my intention is not to imply an ultimatum. It is, however, to bring a greater sense of compassion and understanding–and a broader lens to the discussion and to the approaches to care.

I do not intend to deny the role of personal responsibility—be that for everyone. It is a big piece of the puzzle. Though it is critical that we address the current weight epidemic–we should not do it with an assault on the fat people. We must not slap everyone silly in an attempt to squeeze them into a size six dress or Speedo swimsuit. Besides, who would be left to sing the blues? And though I’d have been happy to find my grandmother at the gym, it could not replace the experience of cuddling up on her big, warm lap with wonderful smells wafting in from the kitchen.

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 Resources (2010): Women Afraid to Eat (Frances M. Berg); Intuitive Eating (Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch); Health at Every Size (Dr. Bacon); Dances with Fat (Ragen Chastain)

The end of overeating. Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite (David A. Kessler, MD); Born Round:  A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite (Frank Bruni)

erin's plate

Erin’s My Plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Plate Haiku

Adirondack lake

Soothes us  from the heat–weightless

We float like feathers.

By Elyn

 

obesity, oh wait a minute

I have something to get off my chest. Well, really off my dresser. I’ve had this scrap of newspaper lying there for two months. It’s an article headlined, “Town Renamed for Sandwich”.  I hope I don’t embarrass myself here because this is about Arby’s and Reuben sandwiches, two things I know hardly anything about. Apparently, the Town Board of the somewhat nearby town of Coeymans, rechristened itself Reubenville as part of an Arby’s Reubenville Challenge. By tacking a red and white banner that said “Welcome to Reubenville” over the regular town sign, the town received 5,000 free coupons redeemable for a Reuben sandwich at an Arby’s in another town fifteen miles away.

The Three Graces

The Three Graces by Peter Paul Rubens   (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is Arby’s famous for Reubens? Last I knew I thought they made roast beef sandwiches. I suppose they could make Reubens as well–doesn’t seem that far a stretch–but I am pretty sure they didn’t invent them. Though I have been rather ignorant of meaty matters for about forty years now, I once did know my way around a good corned beef sandwich–and was vaguely aware of its non-kosher cousin.

A perfunctory visit to the “Welcome to Arby’s” website has just revealed to me a picture of the Reuben, embedded in what is supposedly a marble rye. It doesn’t look like a New York marble rye to me if you know what I mean. Anyway, I am now hip to the 640 calories, 30 grams of fat and 1,610 milligrams of sodium that this town name changing sandwich contains–as well as its plethora of both real and hard to even imagine ingredients. I must commend Arby’s for listing the nutritional information for its complete menu in a very clear and accessible way. If you would like a quick lesson in fast-food gastronomy I suggest you take a peek yourself. I only wish the town council members would have bothered to do the same before getting that banner made.

I am still pretty bewildered. Does Coeymans have anything to do with Reuben sandwiches or with Arby’s for that matter? Named after its early settler, Barent Pieteres Koijeman, Coeymans’ roots are strongly Dutch. Is there some confusion in the town between the possible German origins of the sandwich and the German-Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens, known for his beautiful paintings of voluptuous Rubenesque women? Rubens apparently died from heart failure related to chronic gout. Is that what this is all about? My bigger question is, why would any municipality waste its time and efforts responding to such a bogus challenge which serves only to promote the purposes of a corporate food giant and does nothing to protect or promote the lives of its citizens?

Interestingly, physician David Katz, Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and a prolific writer on many things of nutritional interest, just happened to speak to my burning questions and larger perpetual conundrum about personal health in the context of culture in a piece he posted this week titled “Culture, Power and Responsibility“. This piece is part of his Personal Responsibility for Health (PRH) Chronicles.

Katz writes, “I think we know what it is, and it’s all about power-and culture. Culture is a powerful influence on us all. When personal responsibility involves defiance of the prevailing forces of one’s culture, it becomes a very tall order indeed. Unfortunately, that is just the order associated with personal responsibility for health.

In a commentary published in The Lancet in February of this year, a group of scholars made the very point that the power of culture, and profit, is all too often oriented in opposition to health rather than in support of it. We might ask people to take responsibility in spite of it all, but that’s a bit like pitching someone off our boat and assigning them responsibility for keeping afloat- whether or not they’ve ever learned how to swim. Relevant power is prerequisite to responsibility.”

If you know it’s important to control your weight and attend to your health, but almost everything in your environment and your culture conspires against such efforts- how responsible are you, personally? Are you truly personally irresponsible if you go with the prevailing flow?

How can the whole of our collective responsibility for health be so much less than the sum of what we expect from its parts? Do we truly expect every individual- adult and child alike- to compensate with personal responsibility for the collective abdications at the level of culture and corporation?

Oh, blessed be. I could not agree more. Yes, I believe that it is the cultural, corporate and governmental abdication of responsibility that displaces much of the onus on an unwitting and poorly equipped populace. And, this is why the actions of both the Coeymans Town Board and the Arby’s Corporation drive me insane. This is also why I feel the ubiquitous conversation about obesity must be redirected.

The collective chatter about obesity is still amplifying. Traveling widely around this nutritional universe as I do, I am bombarded with meteoric messages about fighting, fixing, flagellating, and fracking obesity. The mandate is to leave no obesity behind–neither it’s grown-up or childhood varieties–adorable pudgy babies and grandmas included. Millions are being spent on the ammunition to obliterate this planetary scourge. The aims appear community-based, but individuals are the intended targets. The drones attack both bodies and psyches alike, unable to discern the difference. For my own safety I have taken to wearing a helmet–well, at least when I am biking.

The increased prevalence of obesity is a physically evident symptom of a culture whose motives ignored or overrode its responsibility to protect the birthright of health for its citizenry. However, generalizing obesity as a health crisis is complicated by the fact that its definition is too broadly applied, its prevalence poorly defined, its detriment still debatable and its cure misunderstood. There are many other equally important markers of compromised health and well-being. However, by focusing only on the obvious, the approach has been to throw massive resources at obesity programs with uncertain outcomes while abiding the cultural insults.

Rebuilding or restoring our country’s health will necessitate more than these bombastic approaches that seem similar to our political mindset of problem-solving. It will require some deep introspection regarding the constructs upon which we structure personal and public life. It will beg that our corporate and political leaders, as well as our policymakers, take a serious and sensitive look in attending to the environments that either foster or hinder health. There is much to be undone and redone. I have a few ideas of my own.

But while we continue to work toward meaningful change, I will think about the dear people down there in Coeymans in the aftermath of their brief moment of irrelevant fame. I wonder how many of the 7418 citizens even cared if they were one of the 5000 somehow chosen to drive thirty miles for a sandwich. My sincere wish is that those folks may have either a large dose of relevant power or access to good affordable health coverage because neither their council members nor Arby’s is going to pick up the real bill for that Reuben.

Do you know what I mean?

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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Nirinjan’s Plate

MyPlate Haiku

Lagoon watercress

Peppers my tongue

With spring joy.

by Roxanne

(Gratitude to Roxanne, who provided a beautiful dinner of field greens with a maple vinaigrette dressing, and brown rice with wild mushrooms and tofu during my Memorial Day weekend bike trip to Martha’s Vineyard.)

under the waning gibbous moon

Tonight, as sleep calls to me, while the waning gibbous moon that illuminates the night sky is 88% full, I take an excerpt from a previous post, Muse of the Girl, in recognition of Eating Disorder Awareness Week. A gibbous moon is one of the phases of the Moon when the size of the illuminated portion is greater than half but not a full Moon.

Waning gibbous moon. Français : Lune gibbeuse ...

Waning Gibbous Moon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to discuss the war that doesn’t get covered, that wages within many girls and women–of all ages and sizes–who hate their bodies and therefore deny a large part of their selves. Or, who, by not loving themselves, direct a lot of abuse toward their physical temples in both thought and action. Though they often wish they were invisible, we see them walking around in all sizes– including those we deem acceptable and those we envy. Persons, whose self-worth has long been determined by the numbers on a scale or by an image in a mirror.

The war, where the collective pain and problems are as profound as those we ascribe to obesity–and the physical consequences are often more severe or deadly. Here, confusion and dictates about food and eating scar the bountiful landscape. Here, much potential is lost and much love is denied. I think we all have wandered into and many have lingered in this place where reality is distorted and self-flagellation and deprivation seem deserved.

This is the ignored epidemic. Not many resources are designated, but I have apparently been assigned to cover this front. My field notebooks are filled with stories and quotes that are usually too intimate for me to share. But, they reflect the reality that too many females (and increasingly, males) believe that without perfection they cannot be whole and should not take up much space on this generous planet. It is heartbreaking to witness this.

Having been touched by the lives of so many amazing, intelligent, gorgeous, creative, warm, gentle, caring and funny individuals who have been broken in this battle of self and body, these are some things I wish would receive front-page headlines:

Bodies change, contours soften, bellies round, babies fill, bloat happens, hunger informs, weight is not absolute, judgmental words injure, beauty shines, food nourishes, wisdom evolves, body protects, hormones ebb and flow, pleasure is permissible, fat is often just a feeling in one’s head and restriction revolts.

If you are living this, put down the staunch resistance, begin the surrender and trust your inner feminine voice. Please know you are all so beautiful and you possess that which really matters. Take a moment to put your hand on your heart and belly and send love to yourself. Take a deep slow breath and be thankful to your body. Send a healing thought out to other women, because I assure you, you are so not alone. Hold the daughters and ask to be held. Reclaim your place. Change the internal tapes. Know there are many paths to healing available. The world needs everything you have to offer.

How fully illuminated is your feminine moon? What else might you wish for others to know and trust? Any sharings will be welcomed and respected.

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 love and health, Elyn

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

my plate

My Plate Plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Plate Haiku

Deep scarlet red beets

Reveal your sweetness to me

Slip out of your skins

by Elyn

by the time i got to woodstock

There I was having a mindful eating moment. Though I teach others the importance of this technique frequently, I rarely slow down enough to practice it myself. What it took for me to have my own blissful experience–where you sit in total oneness with a food or a meal fully attuned to the multi-sensory act of eating–was the result of a harmonic convergence between my teenage daughter and not one, but two teenage boys.  

It was a beautiful warm Friday in April when Zena and I found ourselves perfectly aligned to spend the afternoon together on the last day of her school spring break. Easily, the legendary village of Woodstock presented itself as the mecca for our little excursion. Morning obligations tended to, we hopped in the car and headed out. About a third of the way there, Zena decided to see if she could reach her summer camp friends, Ethan and Josh, who live there. Despite the fact that the two had school that day, and were actually in it when she contacted them, in vague teenage boy fashion they arranged that they would meet her somewhere after track practice.

It was the kind of day where you celebrate shedding the cumbersome clothing of winter and first drive with the car windows down. Whenever I go to Woodstock, the songs of The Band drift easily into mind, as I was once fortunate to see them perform there–in their adopted hometown. Little did I know that just a few days later, word of band member and Woodstock resident Levon Helm‘s death would pass a cloud over this sunny musical epicenter. But that day, it was all sunshine as Zena and I browsed the little shops, bought T-shirts and sunglasses and walked our way into that wonderful space where appetite is earned and asks to be rewarded with something special. We checked out a few little spots, yet in Goldilock fashion, it was not until we came to the Garden on the Green did we find the cafe that was just right.

Though the beautiful outdoor garden area was closing down for the afternoon, inside provided just as warm and welcoming a place to please my palate. Every inch was aesthetically charming. Ah, but there was more. The menu consisted of purely vegan offerings created from local provisions. We were giddy. Though I am no stranger to vegan and vegetarian restaurants when available, eating out in most places usually entails rapid eyeball movement over the menu to find the few non-meat selections. Here, every choice was seductively available.

We sat at the table by the large front window overlooking Woodstock’s little village green and ultimately decided to share a warm lentil pecan pate with sage, Tuscan arugula, and white bean salad and a wonderful black bean and roasted corn quesadilla. We settled in looking at all the pretty things that surrounded us. However, just as the food arrived, Zena said, “Oh, there’s Ethan!”  and went running out the door to greet him. I turned to find her in that kind of exuberant silly hug that teenagers enjoy with one of those Skinny Boys. She ran back in and asked if I would mind that she go hang out with him, concerned about leaving me alone to eat. I said I didn’t mind. We asked the waitress for a to-go container and I packed up a little picnic box for her to take outside–complete with the nice silverware–which we returned later.

So there I was, alone with this beautiful food. Right away, I knew what I needed to do to fill my time. I had already embraced my surroundings–taking in the other diners, the waitresses and trying to interpret the Spanish conversation coming from the kitchen. I now needed only to address all of my attention to this amazing meal. With each sense engaged, I looked at, smelled, and lingered over every single bite. I considered the textures–the creaminess of the pate along with with the crunchy crust of the bread it spread itself upon, the lovely bitterness of the arugula mixed with the tender softness of the white beans. I chewed incredibly slowly, which is not something I ordinarily do and really appreciated the unique meal. And, yes, as I tell my clients is apt to happen, I sensed my satiety rather quickly. I was actually a little bummed. I could have easily eaten all of the food that was before me while I waited for Zena to return, but with careful listening, my body said it had enough. I was determined to honor it.

Right about then, I looked out to the window and my maternal lens caught a view of Ethan loping away in one direction while Josh came bounding in from another. Zena came heading back into the cafe. She asked for more time, mentioning something about guitar lessons. On most other days or in some other place, my patience might have waned, but not there and not then. As she skipped out again I perused the very vegan dessert offerings and extensive tea listing and chose a Chinese Sencha Tea with which to extend my experience. I had recently read about specially harvested Sencha teas and was excited to try one. I stayed committed to my mindful intention and inhaled the pleasant aroma with each tiny sip.

Not too long after, a parent-propelled car pulled up in front of the cafe and whisked Josh away–and Zena rejoined me. Though the teenage boys had vanished with a cinematic flourish, my satisfaction lingered. Since then, I have been more conscious to calm myself and to eat more slowly when I bring myself to the table.

Time and again in my work I am reminded how important mindfulness is in regard to eating. Mindfulness, or simple but exercised awareness, is essential for a balanced relationship with food. In the big dietary gestalt, we tend to focus the problem on what we are eating and to seek answers in changing dietary content. I myself am apt to tend and mend in this way as well. However, commonly what is revealed in the real story of eaters, is that a deeper conflict exists. Even in those whom I assume must have their inner compasses precisely calibrated and their plates all balanced, I eventually divine the agita, angst, stress, and shame that accompanies how people feel about how, why and how much they eat. This is often more so the problem that is seeking attention and assuaging. These principles are ably addressed and applied at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Slowing it down and paying profound attention ultimately can change the patterns, often dysfunctional, that repeatedly dictate our feeding relationship. From thoughts to actions, mindful eating can be a powerful tool for increasing compassion towards ourselves, helping to reassign food to its proper place and for improving physical health. In its most simple sense, it will increase the ability to truly taste and savor food. More profoundly, it can provide more information than most diets do; affords permission to eat and decreases deprivation feeding behaviors that usually backfire. Ultimately, it allows one to derive more pleasure with less intake. It can be practiced with one tiny piece of chocolate or with an entire meal. It can be explored casually or studied diligently.

Two books that are in my midst these days that address mindful eating are, Eat, Drink and Be Mindful a workbook by Susan Albers; and Peaceful Weight Loss Through Yoga by Brandt Bhanu Passalacqua. I recommend them both. I also invite you to choose a moment this week to eat mindfully. I would love to hear about your experience if you care to share it in a comment. Who knows, you may find that you shall be released and or that you begin to know better the shape you’re in.

Enough with the obtuse song references.

In health,

Elyn

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Spread peanut butter

On whole grain sweet dark bread

Raspberry jam-yum.    by Barb

yesterday

BEATLES MANZANA

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, the big nutritional and societal issues that trouble me did not seem so far away. It was an unusual day as my afternoon was devoted to working with children as part of a new project I am involved in.

In the morning I saw a client who at age 42 weighs 371 pounds and requires a cane. She had recently come to me with uncontrolled diabetes and pending renal failure. Surprisingly, she had made some pretty profound changes in the time since I had last seen her and had greatly improved her blood sugar levels. When I asked her what explained the change, she said being spoken to about her kidney damage; and her love for her nine-year-old daughter made her face that big mighty river that flows through all of us.

I encounter many common themes in my work, and often the same ones coincidentally present themselves repeatedly in the course of a month, a week or even a day. One of my current recurrent themes, represented by that client, has been women in their early forties with way too much pain and far, far too many pounds and medications to bear. I always wonder, where did this story start, how did it get so extreme, how was it not prevented?

These questions often leave deep indentations as I press my fingertips into my forehead while bowing over my desk. On some days, the pressure is so deep I can almost feel my prefrontal cortex. But, yesterday, I knew I needed to ready myself for the children, so I yanked my hand down away from my head and put on my happy face. Little did I know the answers to my rhetorical questions lay in these young kids who awaited me.

First, was a pretty, very precociously developed, thirteen-year-old girl who hates her body and by association herself. As I was speaking with her she picked up her cell phone, pushed a button and brought it to her ear almost as unconsciously as brushing a hair behind one’s ear. As I asked her to put the phone away, I fumbled looking to offer her a better connection with me. I asked her and her mom a few of the perfunctory questions but my words sounded hollow. Even at her age, I could tell there were already too many chapters to her story and too few cutesy nutritional clichés that could assuage her experience of being fat.

Next, was a six-year-old boy. He is a big boy at 100 lbs. He was accompanied by both of his very big parents who were eager to help their son as well as themselves. With the boy quickly picking his way through the things in my crowded office I needed a distraction fast. I passed the dad these fun picture cards I have where different scenes are creatively constructed out of fruits and vegetables–while asking the mom for some history.

Dad did successfully engage the boy while Mom described to me that he started on whole milk as a one-month-old infant because her WIC checks for formula were stolen. Since then he has always drunk a lot of milk at will without limit–until very recently. How much milk did she say he drank a day? Why had she not gotten new WIC checks? Already, six years of details had passed me by due to my split attentions. What else was already missed in this young boy’s story and by how many people? Done looking at the cards, the child slid off his dad’s lap and came and stood right in front of me. He asked me the hardest question to answer simply–Is milk good for you?

And then, a lovely, smart and very insightful thirteen-year-old came and placed her presence before me. Within the passing of our first few shared sentences, she told me that she doesn’t eat breakfast or lunch at school because she does not want the other kids to make fun of her. At 271 pounds she has lost the right to eat in peace. A right so assumed we don’t even define it–has already been denied this child–and who knows what else has accompanied this loss. And dinner, she eats in her bedroom in front of the television.

Her mom, full of appropriate concern then joined us. She assumed responsibility for a household with much dysfunction in regard to structure and care associated with food and eating but she was more guilty of love than neglect. Still, her daughter now has abnormal glucose and insulin levels, has had to undergo an ultrasound for an ovarian cyst related to hormonal imbalance, suffers from depression and has already been on a number of medications for various issues.

Though the session was over, I apologized for having to go. I felt a shadow hanging over me–the connection between these children’s stories and those of the women who I described above. Is it already too late for these kids? Is their situation already too extreme? Was too much already missed and not prevented? And, is twenty the new forty?

But, I had to rush out to go pick up my own daughter. It was her birthday–my, seventeen came suddenly.

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

In health, Elyn

Related Posts: She Weighs How Much; Of Poverty and Light; Some Big Feet to Fit

IMG_1775

Broken My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Hunger tiptoes in

From bellies, hearts or minds

Feed me now she calls.

By Eva

some big feet to fit

My first pair

Image by deshanta via Flickr

Yesterday, my first patient, Harry, was late and my second patient, Dan, was early. As I went out to the waiting room to call Dan, I saw Harry checking in with the receptionist. I had worked with him a few years back and remembered him well. He greeted me warmly and said he understood that he would have to wait. He assured me that this was not a problem.

This is a story about these two men. It probably should be two different stories. But, since the lines of their lives intersected on that morning, and since they share many commonalities–though Harry is black and Dan is white–merged, for now, they will be.

Harry and Dan are both 52-years-old. They are both over six feet tall and over three hundred pounds, though Dan dwarfs Harry in height and weight. They both are caring fathers. Harry has some older boys while Dan has an adorable non-biological three-year-old son he is raising. They are unemployed and poor, have had difficult lives and confront stress on a daily basis. They have diabetes and the usual laundry list of related issues. Impressively, and not commonly seen, they have both successfully and proudly quit 35 year-long cigarette addictions–Harry in the past two years, Dan about three months ago. You can see they were both once very handsome. Harry’s good looks are better preserved. Dan’s are more difficult to perceive due to his lack of teeth, long dirty stringy hair and enormous belly, but his pretty blue eyes and sculpted face tell me he once broke a few hearts. Oh, and they both like ginger ale.

I started working with Dan a few months ago. The loud-talking, heavy-walking, gentle giant stomped into my office in June feeling lousy. He had just been diagnosed with diabetes. He described to me a life marked by serious fatigue and inertia. He spent most of his day splayed on the couch watching television while keeping an eye on his preschool son. He started his day with coffee containing a mountain of sugar, drank iced tea throughout the afternoon and despite his lack of teeth, mainly ate an enormous dinner of starchy, fatty food which he said could probably feed five. At 380 pounds and smoking at least a pack a day, he could barely climb a flight of stairs. His ability to do the odd jobs he got paid for like mowing lawns and shoveling snow was becoming too difficult.

He presented with the common combination of desperation and despair but with a twinkle in his eye. I am always looking for some sign of the life force because making change necessitates pulling something out from the inside. Being illiterate and impoverished as Dan is, can profoundly dampen if not obliterate that inner will, but an eye twinkle is a good indicator that there is still fire within. Illiteracy and diabetes education are not a great combination but he has persevered and has made some amazing changes for someone who has only known mainly one path for half a century. He has literally and figuratively awakened recently and expresses his gratitude for the wake-up call. Though some of his work has been championed from my wonderful little office support team, he actually greatly surprised me by undertaking to quit smoking essentially from his own initiative.

At this week’s visit, he told me that his son just started a daycare program at a local YMCA. He and I had discussed his getting a Y membership which would now be great since he has to take his son there every day. He told me that he had tried to apply for a scholarship as I suggested, but that required bringing in some documentation and filling out some forms. Even as I handed him some free trial membership coupons I have for my clients, I knew that even this simple step requires filling out some paperwork at the other end.

At the end of our meeting, I brought him to the scale. I asked him to remove his old, worn-out heavy steel-toed boots that barely had a lace left between them. I weighed him and I weighed his boots at 4.2 pounds. Cumulatively, that is a lot of weight to drag around. Knowing the answer, I asked if he had sneakers.

With my steps already weary, I then walked back out to the waiting room to call Harry who I knew was waiting. I was still thinking about Dan–wondering how much a pair of good, supportive sneakers for his very large feet would cost. Being able to read and write and having some good sneakers sure would help this man to get moving.

I was abruptly brought back to the moment upon encountering Harry. There he was sitting at an empty table usually reserved for insurance representatives–about to dive into a take-out container of eggs, bacon, home fries, and toast. Though just last week I had to confiscate the bag of Swedish Fish a patient had brought into my office, in all my years I had never experienced catching anyone with a full-blown meal. “Where did you get that?” I asked in shock. “From the diner,” he replied. “How did you get it since I last saw you just a few minutes ago?” “I called them and they delivered it,” he explained somewhat surprised by my reaction and naiveté. “Am I busted?” he asked. No wonder he hadn’t minded earlier if I took my time. I dragged him and the breakfast into my office.

Harry actually has a lot more personal and community resources than Dan, but right now his blood sugar and health markers are much worse–and his situation had deteriorated since I had last worked with him a few years ago. I expressed my concern. He said that he had a lot of personal and family problems recently–though he was not making excuses. He lives alone and barely cooks at home. He is a personable guy and when I asked if there are a lot of local restaurants that know him by name–he confirmed my suspicion. Though he still has his teeth, he could soon not have working kidneys.

We looked at pictures from an old Parade Magazine about the comic Drew Carey’s diet and weight transformation. I told him the story of the film “May I Be Frank” that I discussed in Meditation v Medication. He put down the bacon and he told me he wanted his health.

I suppose I tell these tales to give a face and a fake name to the real people behind the current health crisis. Sometimes, I am hoping to inspire with stories of how people do overcome serious health and dietary challenges. Today though, I am wondering how to really help  Harry and Dan a little more. I can assist Dan with the Y application and can call Literacy Volunteers of America; I will loan Harry my DVD copy of the film. But what would those who dream, think and act big do? Who should I call? Oprah, Shaquille O’Neal, Michelle Obama, Drew Carey, the Tom Shoes guy? What do NBA players do with their Nike’s and and1’s after they have worn them on the courts a few times? Is there a healthy food delivery service for patients left languishing while waiting in doctors’ and hospital waiting rooms?

If you have any ideas let me know. Besides, these guys deserve something. They have taken the biggest step to health by quitting smoking. I am thinking of lauding them by posting their photos in the Health Center. Maybe we could write them a Haiku? What do you think?

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

In health, Elyn

Related Posts: Meditation v. Medication; Inventive Incentive

Update 2020: The 2018 Farm Bill allotted $25 million dollars in funding to Produce Prescription Programs. These dollars have ferried in an increase in the number and types of programs designed to provide food as medicine. They are an extension of the pilot program I developed and managed beginning in 2012 at the Health Center where I worked and described in Inventive Incentive. These programs have evolved over time, becoming increasingly sophisticated, supported by additional dollars, research confirming savings in health care spending, and new technologies. Programs increasingly do include the provision of medically tailored meals for specific health conditions and home delivery. Harry certainly had the right idea, just the wrong food.

My Plate Haiku

We serve the fruit of the Spirit

At the deli. Why not ask?

The Yellow Deli

Are you the 1 in 4?

Some serious news has crossed this nutritionist’s desk. A new study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology and reported by Science Daily shows that 25% of overweight women do not know that they are overweight! C’mon. I can see maybe not knowing if you have high blood pressure or an obnoxious personality, but I am pretty sure overweight women are not walking around too delusional.

Image from Pinterest

Of course, once again it is those Black and Hispanic women who seem to be most in the dark about their weight status, along with women who hang with other fat women. But, it could happen to anyone–even you. Do you know your body mass index (BMI)? If not, it is quite possible that you too are a misinformed blob.

This type of media messaging drives me insane. The study involved asking childbearing-aged women aged 18-25 some objective and out of context multiple choice type questions about a very subjective issue. The responses were matched to the (once again) imperfect BMI and the results were interpreted to show that 25% of overweight and obese women didn’t realize they were fat. The study authors conclude from this that this misperception will “lead women to continue to eat poorly, to gain more weight and to eventually develop the complications of obesity”. As opposed to those who are fully aware of their corpulence? If you didn’t deem your body ugly and problematic and its BMI was any higher than a 25–the threshold of gluttony–you clearly have had your head in the ice cream freezer for too long. Tell me, who gets these research dollars? I want some.

The study authors say that they were not surprised by the results based on their belief system that “as the nation’s obesity rate grows, it becomes more socially acceptable to be overweight and the truth becomes obscured.” Those who can no longer see their toes must now be mightily perplexed.

The lead study author goes on to say “people compare themselves to those closest to themselves”. I am not really sure what that means. I presume she is reiterating this other new belief, that if all your friends are fat, and if you are fat, you think that is normal. I thought I was a “normal” weight woman, but, now I’m wondering if maybe I just think I’m “normal” because I spend my days with high weight people–and can no longer assess my own size.

I work with some real heavyweights. My clients have BMIs in the thirties, forties, and fifties. I realize the privilege and responsibility I have in talking to people about the very intimate topic of weight and body size. Having done this work for many years, I think I have a deep respect for the territory, but on occasion, I too may overstep the boundaries. Sometimes, I am compelled to inform someone that their health may be at risk when it is my conjecture and not their truth.

My days are filled having very insightful and meaningful conversations with very reality-based individuals (not numbers)–each with their own profound story about eating, diet and self-care. And all that has influenced these. Most usually, my clients seem to appreciate having an opportunity to safely talk about these sensitive issues. Most are interested in change not because they suddenly realized they were fat, but because something else is impacting their physical or emotional experience. Some have had previous efforts trying to melt away their fat–others, are trying to figure out where to even start.

When they are with me, my clients are very nice, but for all I know, behind my back, they are probably calling me skinny, undernourished or bony. Perhaps it is time for fat people to reclaim normal and to expand the derogatory language used to describe skinny people. I offer hyperactive, self-absorbed, or neurotic. However, mind you, many are just genetically under-endowed. Overlooked in the dialogue about appropriate weight is that the vigilance, self-scrutinizing. attaining and maintenance required is much more of a privilege than we presume.

I would like to advance the Peter Paul Rubens standard of sensual Rubenesque beauty and health. A standard that allows for people to feel comfortable in our bodies in the way that much classical art portrays. I actually think that when we were created in the great creator’s own image, a little pudge was part of the package.

The correlation between weight and health is not a black and white issue as we have been led to believe. Some fat reserves may even be protective. Of particular note, some of the subjects included in the study were indicated to be postpartum, a particularly interesting and specific metabolic period which I believe is not fully understood or appreciated. Also, “normal weight misperceivers”, or those whose BMI fell within the normal range but perceived that they were overweight, were more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors including dieting, meal skipping, smoking, and carbohydrate restricting.

I am not dismissing the serious health issues associated with excessive weight and obesity. I see them, feel them and single-handedly try to warn against and prevent them every day of my life. I imagine these researchers were well-intentioned. But, at this point in the game, I would expect a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the situation such as that presented by Cara Kulciwki in The Curvature. Based on studies like these, I am just praying that car mechanics don’t start handing out a questionnaire to childbearing-aged women about auto maintenance beliefs and behaviors. When that happens, watch out suburban white women for we will be royally humiliated. I bet at least 1 in 4 of us mistakenly believes that our tires are properly inflated and that our batteries are fully charged.

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

meditation v. medication

Once upon a time, like this past Monday, I was walking down the hall of the Health Center where I work. 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.

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 the 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?  cafegratitude

I must digress for a moment. The floors in the Health Center are incredibly shiny. Every day, 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 saw 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 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.

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 wheatgrass. 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 in high-risk communities. I encourage everyone to take a look at the film, May I Be Frank. You will be inspired by being witness to possibility. Pam’s devotion to her task has prepared the sacred ground. When the time comes, may we be ready.

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