size me down

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

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

National Eating Disorders Association

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In health, Elyn

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Zena’s T-shirt My Plate

MyPlate Haiku 

In the dark places

I ask courage to believe

I am beautiful.

by Anne-Marie

what to eat in troubled times

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

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

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Figs Image by Couleur at Pixabay

Rice and beans, collard greens,

Tzimmes, hummus, dahl
Fatteh, dolma, kibbeh, Chicken soup with tortilla or matzoh ball.

Figs, plantains, chiles, dates, Guacamole, and holy mole, spooned upon the plates.

Of course, some xocolati, I mean chocolate, dark
Lots of tea, a handful of nuts  All strengthening for the heart.

And, don’t forget the grits. You will need them for the soul.

Please click on the links in the captions of the My Plate photos. These will lead you to the amazing food blogs of incredible women who are not only very talented cooks with fascinating (and mouth-watering) recipes, but also writers, photographers, educators and cultivators of cultural cuisines and relationships. Also, explore some of the other foods mentioned here if you are not familiar with them. This will take you to both far off lands and perhaps kitchens right in your own neighborhood!

Stay strong.

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 Plates

My Plate Song

The world’s spinning madly, it drifts in the dark, Swings through a hollow of haze

A race around the stars, a journey through the universe, ablaze with changes.

by Phil (Ochs) 

let them eat styrofoam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In health, Elyn

Related Recipe: Golden Tumeric Milk from Downshiftology

 

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Golden Milk My Plate

My Plate Haiku

If only we could

Change the world on that one day

By feeding our hearts.

by Julie

to life, to life, l’chaim!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In health, Elyn

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

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My Plate Plate

My Plate Haiku

Are we what we eat?

Or do we eat what we are?

Are they the same thing?

by Julie

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!)

 

 

 

 

Far from Home

Well, here I am. Right now I am on retreat in beautiful California, far from home. While my orientation to space is altered due to this coastal exchange from east to west, my orientation to date and time has been altered as well. I have experienced a profound loss.

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The beautiful California Coast

As I search for some renewed serenity and some solid ground-albeit in this land of shaky earth-I do try to stay somewhat aware of the prevailing events of these times that still swirl around me. Likewise, as I reconnect with the calendar structure that patterns the days before me, I turn the page onto August just in time to remember to honor the annual celebration of World Breastfeeding Week.

As I consider the support of breastfeeding babes, moms and families an essential component of improving the collective health of communities around the globe, I do always try to write something about World Breastfeeding Week and its annually appointed theme.

Forgive me this year, that as my tears still flow more readily than my words. In lieu of my own thoughts, I share this interesting article by the journalist (and my dear friend) Ellen Wulfhorst. Ellen provides a look at the very real consequences of compromised attention to the timely initiation of breastfeeding. This highlights how powerful are the immunoprotective properties of breast milk and how greatly breastfeeding serves as an antidote to infant mortality.

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.

Thank you to all who continue to support me, my blog, and my work. Gratitude to those who have nourished me on this visit–Julie, Gordon, Debbie, Michael, Ben, Lois and Richard.

To healthy birth and rebirth, Elyn

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Julie’s My Plate

My Plate Food for Thought

Breastfeeding is not only the cornerstone of a child’s healthy development;

it is also the foundation of a country’s development.

UNICEF and the World Health Organization’s World Breastfeeding Week Message

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

first food

Yesterday, while I was leaving work, my friends wished me a nice weekend, acknowledging that I was taking today off in honor of my birthday. Happy Birthday they chimed while sweetly presenting me with a sunflower plant. As I have for the past twenty-seven years when asked about birthday plans, I am apt to explain that it is also my son’s birthday. Though my day’s celebration is no longer actively intertwined with his as it was when he was young, I cannot extricate my birth from his.

When I mentioned this, Josie commented on how for every parent, the birthday (or receiving day) of their first child marks their own re-birth as well, no matter the confluence of dates. It is the day that changes profoundly everything that may have preceded it. This is quite true. Cathy added that she birthed her first child exactly at the moment Mount St. Helena’s volcano erupted in 1980! While distanced by an entire continent, for her the event was no less spectacular.

Image result for midsummer night's dream images

Midsummer Night’s Dream

Still, I remain as tickled and surprised by my calendrical coincidence of blazing glory incarnation as I was the mid-summer night it occurred. And, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I enjoy that the date I first brought babe to breast coincides with World Breastfeeding Week/Breastfeeding Awareness Month. As a matter with so many implications for health, nutrition, and societal well being, and one rife with dilemmas, I try to bring attention to this important activism each year. Thanks to Mary Ellen, here’s a nice little video from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation about Growing a First Food Movement Naturally that helps give perspective to the story of infant feeding.

This year’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week is Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work. Its focus is on furthering support for nursing women working in formal, non-formal or home settings so as they can continue to breastfeed their babies and maintain their right to breastfeed. The need to return to work–exacerbated by the lack of mandated and satisfactory maternity leave policies–is one of the main factors why women stop nursing. The initiatives associated with this year’s campaign highlight and advocate for improved national and state labor laws and practices; employer awareness and compliance with existing laws; and ways to create clean, comfortable, private and safe areas for women to nurse or to express breast milk in the workplace.

It is encouraging to witness that some real strides are being made. Government agencies, global health organizations, national groups, and local coalitions have been working hard so that women do not have to stop nursing their babies in order to keep food on the table for themselves and their families. Lactation spaces are becoming available in various public and private settings. Closets and storage areas in offices, factory buildings, schools, and daycare centers are being transformed into comfy lactation rooms; and creative and caring entrepreneurs are designing nursing pods for women working, recreating, or relaxing in various field and outdoor settings.

In the fall of 2013, I attended a Nets basketball game at the then newly anointed and crazily crowded Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Navigating the many corridors along with throngs of people was not easy. Having made it up to our seats in the nosebleed section, the female contingent of my party had to then descend back down a few levels to find a bathroom. Literally relieved to find the facilities, we were also quite surprised to find a door marked ‘lactation room’. A burly guard stood by the entrance. Our supportive interest piqued, we asked him about the room. As though protecting a highly paid all-star, he tersely informed us that there was someone in there. Though I probably wouldn’t bring my baby to such a noisy environment–unless it was a nursing toddles or if a family member was playing in the game or singing the national anthem–but if I did, I’d be nursing in my own seat, jumbotron cameras and all. But, for those mamas and babies who deserve a modicum of privacy and quiet dining, having such an option in such an incongruous setting is quite incredible. I wonder who there is to thank for that.

My own awareness of the many aspects of this year’s Let’s Make It Work campaign was heightened yesterday as well, when I was fortunate, as in previous years, to watch SUNY Albany’s School of Public Health/New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Supplemental Foods annual webcast presentation of Breastfeeding Grand Rounds. This was, as always, an excellent program and it highlighted many great examples of breastfeeding-friendly environments. Though it left me feeling inspired, it also reminded me how amazing women are and how damn hard they work.

Stories and images of women shlepping breast pumps and accessories to work, utilizing break and lunchtime to sit in secluded rooms listening to the whir of mechanical pumps, rushing into daycare centers in the middle of the workday to nurse a baby, sequestering into hidden spaces to feed their young, and negotiating with employers individually for their own rights–god bless them all.

My mixed reaction to the situation also was evident as I attempted to find an image for my new Lifeseeds Nutrition Instagram post to honor the week and encountered some difficulties. The breastfeeding photos I most easily found depicted either beatific, blissed-out industrialized world mothers posed in pristine settings or somber-faced traditional world mothers huddled in sparse environments. Though I appreciate the beauty of both, neither captured what I was looking for– a reflection of how working mothers often feel in our modern society–weary from its many demands and yet comforted in the respite of feeding their child. I hope the one I finally chose came close.

As for my birthday, I wished really only for a little quiet me time. Though no longer tending daily to my children’s needs, with one child still in college I am still a working mom. The memories of running from babysitter to job to various activities with a baby in tow are still pretty fresh and my plate continues to feel pretty full. Thankfully, I got what I wished for. It is a perfect sunny day and my little village is exquisitely tranquil. My front porch cradles me, and I have some time to write. Soon I will have the phone conversation with my son where we simultaneously say, Happy Birthday.

Until then, wishing all the hard-working mommas, and all who support them, good nourishment of both body and soul.

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: Blessed Feeding; To She Who Loves Us Before She Meets Us; Breastfeeding Redux; Oh MotherA Winning Goal

My Plate Plate

Momma’s My Plate

 

My Plate Haiku

Hard toiling mamas

Hear their hungry babies cry

Breastfeeding and work–let’s make it work

by Elyn

Instanutrition

I scurried around the kitchen. There was dinner to be made. I peeled, chopped, sauteed and simmered. I sweated as the hot summer air mingled with the heat from the stove. I held an icy glass of water against my cheek. I ran the compost out back. I let the cat out. I let the cat in.

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Lifeseedlings Posting

My daughter sat calm and cool at the table. She asked me a few questions. She danced her fingers around a little. She called me over to look at some things. Way sooner than the time it took for the meal to be ready and without barely moving a muscle, she created a new portal into the universe for me–by opening an Instagram account for The Nutritionist’s Dilemma. She turned the first MyPlate Haikus into little lovely portraits. She chose nice hashtags and linked this to that. She set the table. She let the cat out.

I am excited about my new Instagram account. There, I hope to highlight the little morsels of collective poetic wisdom that illuminate the experiences of self-nourishment that many have contributed to my blog along with other pearls that I have gathered along the way. The concept is to cobble together a creative and meaningful expression of how feeding ourselves may look and feel. It is a conceptual revisioning of the dietary constructs of the USDA MyPlate model of nutrition. (These messages can also be seen at the bottom of the blog’s sidebar.)

New My Plate Haikus or any other poetic expressions and My Plate Plates are always welcome and will be necessary for me to hold my space in this new environment. For general instructions and examples, please see Accepting Haikus. We will see how this goes. It could be fun.

I’d also like to highlight some of the ongoing work of Michelle Obama to brighten the futures of the nation’s children through nutrition and health initiatives. For the past four years, the First Lady has sponsored a rather competitive Children’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cooking Contest. Winners are chosen from each state and U.S. Territory and are treated to a Kids’ “State Dinner’ at the White House. This year’s event was held a few weeks ago and (spoiler alert) included a surprise guest. The impressive recipes of these culinary kids are also compiled in the Epicurious Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cookbook. Maybe a child you know can participate.

The Kids’ State Dinner gathering also provided a platform for the First Lady to announce her new anti-big food advertising campaign, FNV Prepare to Be Marketed To which employs the efforts of celebrities and famous athletes to redirect their messaging power toward healthy eating. Coincidentally, this is what I wrote about in my last post, Spring Cleaning, and the NBA Finals.

I am off to start following Michelle on Instagram. And who knows, maybe she might follow me. And you can follow me on Instagram @lifeseedlings, and on Twitter @lifeseedsnutrit.

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 2017: Jason Brown of First Fruits Farm was the highest-paid Center in NFL history, but he walked away from a 35 million dollar contract with the St. Louis Rams to grow food for others.)

(Update 2020: Today, as I reviewed this post, the world learned of the tragic loss of basketball legend Kobe Bryant. To honor his spirit, his fatherhood, how he inspired others, his dietary consciousness, and how he used his celebrity, it is quite apt that I just found this article Kobe wrote for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move blog on Five Healthy Habits.)

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My Plate Haiku

Did you really think

That you could hide fish in rice?

Oh, the green paste burns! by Francesco\

by A Cat

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