Tag Archive | alliance for a healthier generation

brought to tears

I actually found it in a garbage can at the health department where I now work. I’d been trying to get my little fingers on one of these for a while, so I was not totally put off by its lowly circumstances. It really should have been in the recycling bin at least, but there it lay, abandoned, thankfully right on top. I gingerly lifted it from its resting place of refuse and walked it right over to a nearby sink.sunset-288531_1280

I unscrewed the cap which I was about to discard until I noticed that it too was an artifact of interest to me– but that was secondary to the bottle, at least for starters. The bottle was still half full or half empty, so my next quasi-distasteful act was to pour the hazardous saliva-mixed remains down the drain despite my uncertainty regarding proper disposal procedures for what might be considered a toxic substance.

A few months back I had become aware of some new Coca-Cola campaign entitled Share A Coke. Cans and bottles of the ubiquitous beverage now have one of about 250 first names, like Debbie, along with other emotionally tinged monikers like Bestie, Grillmaster, Wingman, Mom and Dad prominently displayed on the label under the directive to Share a Coke with the dearly imprinted. Just hearing about this manipulation of the human psyche triggered my shivers down the spinal reflex. But, when I began to see the bottles for sale in my local convenience store and in the cafeteria in my office building it was downright spooky. But, here I was now, up close and personal with one.

Things must have been getting pretty bad over there at Coca-Cola. Previous promises of perpetual happiness associated with imbibing the sugar-laden, highly acidic, caffeine-laced, teeth-rotting, gut-deteriorating, illness-promoting fizzy elixir must have begun to go flat. Were sales lagging? Was the logo no longer recognizable the world over? What else could have initiated a marketing blitz that reeks of malevolence as it strives to ensnare our fragile egos and enslave our purchasing behaviors?

I remember being excited when those little mini license plates with names on them that you could attach to your bike seat first came out. But, I also recall the immediate chagrin when you could not find your own name hanging from the metal display rack. Suddenly you felt second-rate, not worthy of a plate. I am not certain of all of the psychological underpinnings that are attached to this probably billion dollar campaign, but I am sure they are many. Does seeing our name emblazoned in such a public way make us feel validated, loved, powerful and more connected in this alienated world?

I don’t really get the campaign. I am sure, most of the time, you have to buy a bottle with someone else’s name on it. How much can you bother to search for a bottle that idolizes yourself or a loved one? Must you settle for John when you are really seeking Mario? And then, what if you don’t have a person to share it with? That is probably what happened to my bottle, Nicole. Half finished and tossed aside, unshared and hopes dashed. Even the reward points offered on the cap were left unclaimed and discarded. Reward points? Really?

I don’t want to go any further on this except to say that this unbridled assault on our health through such methods of aggressive advertising can and does bring me to tears. I’ve written about this before. One does not have to look too hard to see the real rewards of such consumption, but you have to care to be looking and looking to care. I am too verklempt even thinking about needing to reiterate the effects of these substances anymore. Originally, the reason I wanted to get a bottle without purchase was to be able to include it as a photo for this post–but now I don’t even wish to give it any publicity or visibility. We are clearly easy targets for seduction even when clearly it is not in our best interest. So, Nicole will now go directly into my recycling bin and I am posting instead a beautiful photo of a sunset. My only hope is that an unexpected outcome of the campaign will be that with all that sharing of cans and bottles, per capita consumption will actually shrink by at least half.

Anyway, while there are sad tears there are also happy ones. I specialize in both. Recently, while also at work–it may have even been the same day that I retrieved the Coke bottle, I received an email from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. It included a video that spotlighted healthy and healing practices being undertaken at the West Side High School for at-risk students in New York City through a powerful investment in a gardening program, real food, and intensive physical activity– by a dedicated and devoted principal and staff.

Thirty-six seconds in and there I was bawling (yes) in my little, oh not so private cubicle. In my last post, I wrote about my reservations about the bulk of nutrition and health activities being directed at obesity prevention efforts whereas I believe the implications and consequences of our cultural dietary and health insults are so much greater. I did not get much response on that so I would still be interested in hearing your thoughts. But, in this video, simply and beautifully, a young woman named Tenia expresses why eating proper foods is important for both emotional and physical well-being–aside from weight-based associations.

This glimpse of transformation that occurs when the birthright of health is granted, when it is given priority and nurtured, and not compromised by those so willing to sacrifice our young in endless pursuit of profit is worth viewing. I highly recommend it. Here is the link. Note, don’t forget the tissues.

Just a mention that my own recent favorite brew has been matcha, a fine green tea powder. I enjoy it as a tea or mixed in smoothies. It is fuller or richer than regular green tea and it gently provides a touch of focus and energy. I was initiated with a gift of a package of Matcha from Kiss Me Organics that was exceptionally pleasant and which has become a welcomed part of my day and my diet. There are many benefits of matcha to explore and it can be incorporated into many recipes. Give it a peek.

Na area da saude, Elyn

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diet for a small caterpillar

Eric Carle and his Caterpillar by Eric Carle 

What reading materials are on my bedside table? I am honored you asked. Right now, I have the catalog for the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle–the story of one caterpillar’s journey to butterflyhood. Though they both relate to personal development, their shared placement is causing me a moral dilemma. You see, I am rereading the Very Hungry Caterpillar because 17,000 copies have been distributed to pediatricians across the country. This is a joint campaign of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Penguin Young Readers Group and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

The cynic in me is ready to rant on this initiative, but with a photo of Thich Nhat Hanh looking at me from the back cover of the catalogue, and Omega’s plethora of courses with titles like Embodying Conscious Femininity, Gravity and Grace and Freeing Ourselves from Negative Patterns oozing out from the inside pages, I am trying to temper my response.

My higher self is saying if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all; offer only constructive criticism; and asking, are you a compassionate, empowering new-tritionist or just a curmudgeonly old one? Well, I will try to open myself up and see what emerges.

Positively, let me say I love children’s literature and its illustration. Not too long ago I spent a wonderful day at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. To see the originals of Mr. Carle’s tissue paper art was wonderful. The colors and intricacies of his pictures are even more amazing than they appear in his books. I am grateful that he has created a space to exhibit the collections of the many incredible artists in this genre.

Also, I respect the myriad efforts of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. A collaboration between the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, its mission is to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and to empower kids to make healthy lifestyle choices. Their projects, which include the Healthy Schools Program, are far-reaching, community-based, and creative and colorful in their own way. I use their great materials in my work.

So, what’s my issue with this sweet little book-sharing promotion which is intended to encourage pediatricians to talk with their patients to help families learn about healthy eating habits? To be frank, I am on my thirty-fourth reading of this fourteen-page cardboard book and I am still not sure about its efficacy for teaching healthy eating.

For those of you who may not know the story, briefly, a caterpillar hatches out of an egg.  It is hungry, and through its first five days of life, it eats increasing amounts of different fruits, one on each day. On its sixth day, it eats a hole through a piece of watermelon (another fruit) and eight human-produced high fat, high sodium, and high sugar foodstuffs and gets a stomach ache. On the seventh day, a Sunday, he eats through one nice green leaf and feels better. On my most recent reading, I suddenly realize this is really a religious allegory about sin, redemption, and resurrection, because right after that, all fattened up, he builds a cocoon, stays there for two weeks and emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

Regarding caterpillar growth and nutrition, here is what I know. The caterpillar increases its body mass several thousand times in a matter of weeks and each species has mainly one and on occasion a few, host plants from which it must eat to survive. Predominantly, they eat only leaves–like from the milkweed family, but a few species can eat flowers and aphids. Analyzing the very hungry caterpillar’s eating behaviors, he has responded to his hunger and high growth needs in a manner similar to that of teenage boys; problematically, he has partaken in eating foods not specific to its own species and a lot of them. The messaging here between fruits and junk food is a bit confusing.

The promotional materials for this campaign instruct the parent to: teach your child that the fruits are fruits; talk about how fruits are good for the body; discuss how overeating causes stomach aches; expound upon the concept of “sometime” foods; instruct how green leaves are good for the body; and reinforce that it is important to eat healthy foods so that one can grow up healthy and active like a butterfly.

Maybe I have forgotten a bit about early childhood development, but I think I read this book to my kids when they were about eighteen months old. Certainly, prior to the stage where we were discussing abstract concepts like hunger and health. Even prior to the stage where they might imaginatively embrace the idea that they would grow up and turn into a butterfly. There are many wonderful age-appropriate stories about food, gardening, nature, eating etc. for young children, and though I am fine with metaphor, I don’t think this is what Mr. Carle had in mind. Now I must worry about children going out and plucking hemlock leaves for a little nibble.

I am glad to report that kids seem to know about and do eat their fruits, though vegetable education still needs a little more work–even for adults. I hope that we do not need to be spoon-feeding parents on such basic concepts; and, additionally, that pediatricians are opening to engaging parents on more specialized and sophisticated aspects of feeding our young than these simplistic measures. They are in a potent position to influence policy, to really support breastfeeding measures, to evaluate infant and early childhood feeding practices and to instruct on the principles of childhood nutrition and appropriate activity.

Might I respectfully suggest providing all parents with a copy of Ellyn Satter’s Parent and Child Division of Feeding Responsibilities–a clear and concise document that addresses the foundations of family eating.  And, symbolically, a retreat at the Omega Institute. Their Omega Food Works Dining Hall consciously serves 300,000  vegetarian meals a year using local and organic ingredients. I can attest to the incredible nourishment of their food because I have eaten there. One delicious, proper meal like the ones offered there, can speak louder than a thousand words.

In health, Elyn

http://www.ellynsatter.com/ellyn-satters-division-of-responsibility-in-feeding-i-80.html

http://www.healthiergeneration.org/