Tag Archive | Eating

forks on the road

I am just back from a motoring vacation with my college roommate Julie, down through the Shenandoah, Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains with extra stops in Asheville and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As a sign of a good vacation, I successfully left my work responsibilities and chronic nutritional thoughts behind. I mainly needed to be concerned about not feeding the bears in exchange for them not feeding upon me. We were blessed with an unfettered and peaceful journey. Our path was not heavily trodden while we were there, and seeing relatively few people I did not have to stop and consider how and what they were all eating. Personally, I was being nourished with a lot of fresh air, incredibly beautiful scenery and the contents of our coolers–plus the loving offerings of our hosts along the way.    

Often when I am trying to be “off duty”, like a NYC taxi cab, someone or something stops me and commands or demands my food or feeding attention. Like recently, when I went to volunteer at an early morning shift during the fund drive of my local public radio station. I had been positioned at my phone station for no more than seven minutes, when the lovely octogenarian volunteer seated to my right, leaned over to inform me that there was an obesity problem in this country. As evidence of this, he pointed out to me a large-bodied woman seated across the room. I would ordinarily still be asleep, but here I was explaining kindly that you cannot superimpose a societal condition or criticism upon an individual. One must be careful to not make assumptions about another’s corporeal experience. Thankfully, I did not have to reveal my identity as a heavily dilemma-ed nutritionist. He understood my point and graciously thanked me for this broader and more sympathetic understanding.

But, on this trip, I avoided such common encounters. If I had ventured out a little differently in search of southern hospitality I probably would have had some interesting observations and conversations. Under different circumstances I would have been open to considering the trip more of an anthropological study in regard to cuisine and culture, but not this time. The only incursion into my personal space was when omnipresent McDonald’s found me once again like I described in Morose Meals and Human Bites–even far from home. This time they taunted me with a billboard of gargantuan iced drinks in bright colors with the words “Global Chilling”. I swallowed my disgust, feigned benign disinterest and sped by.

Food-wise, one of the main intentions of my trip was to visit Asheville, North Carolina. About twenty years ago, in an issue of  Vegetarian Times, I read an article describing the city as one of the top vegetarian-oriented places in the country. Against a backdrop of the mountains and art deco architecture, the photos of this beautiful city enchanted me. Though the food culture in this country has changed radically since that time, and natural food and vegetarian options are available in many, even unexpected locations, I still considered Asheville a sort of mecca that I needed to make a pilgrimage to.

Though my time in Asheville was very short, I walked its grounds, smelled its aromas, and ate of its bounty. I even gave my leftovers to a street kid who asked me if I had any food to offer as I walked by clutching the compostable to-go container. I was really reluctant because it was the best tofu enchilada with mole and black beans that I had ever had. After a quick internal struggle, my vegetarian heart fluttered and I gave that baby over. As promised, the city was overflowing with quinoa, tempeh, seitan, shiitake mushrooms, jicama, and locally-sourced herbal blends.

It had been recommended to me to eat at a restaurant called the Laughing Seed Cafe. Some details of time, place and meeting a friend shifted my loci a few blocks over which resulted in us eating at a relatively new restaurant called Boca, which was wonderfully delicious. But later, I did pass by the Laughing Seed, which describes itself as ‘Revolutionary Vegetarian’ and got a copy of its Take-Out Menu.

Now, back home, I am curled up on my couch with the menu. Each of its many offerings sings to my soul as does the small print explanation of its name. Apparently, legend has it, that the Indonesian Laughing Seed plant was sacred to the people of the Spice Islands. When eaten, the people were intoxicated with laughter and were able to speak with the gods. This wondrous food satisfied the appetite, creating a sense of fullness and well-being which lasted for many days.

We did not enter a highway rest stop with its fast-food offerings until the very end of our trip just after we crossed back into the Empire State. After being accosted by the blasting of the hand dryers in the bathroom, I stood amidst the throngs waiting in line at the various concessions. Back in my jurisdiction, I was apparently back on duty. I watched the people rush by with their coffee drinks, fries, candies, and hamburgers. I don’t really go back to work till tomorrow, so I will leave this just as an observation.

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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Amy’s My Plate Tree Cookie

My Plate Haiku

Smooth peanut butter

Spread on a peeled banana

Snack time perfection. by Gretchen

 

i surmise with my little eyes

A few years ago, I worked at a college full of bright and creative students. While there, I was invited to serve on a panel for a discussion on “Food: Society and the Environment”. During the event, one young woman in the audience asked me to describe the conditions I encounter in my practice as a nutritionist. Then, and still, I consider this a very insightful and important question, relevant to the issue of how we are feeding ourselves–on the personal and societal level– and what are its implications.

I have worked in medical and community environments as a nutritionist for many years, during a period marked by an increasingly modified and aggressively marketed food supply. At the time of that panel presentation, I was working at both that small, predominantly female college and a large Ob/Gyn office– so my clients were mainly women, ranging in age from about eighteen to forty. And, at the Ob/Gyn office, many of them were pregnant.

A history of poor dietary habits exerts its influence on the health of a society in more subtle ways than the common indicators of end-stage problems like diabetes, stroke and heart disease—but those are the conditions that get the ink. However, increasingly and alarmingly, I see many health issues with dietary or nutritional antecedents affecting young and middle-aged adults. Likewise, I see conditions once only ascribed to aging, presenting in younger people. Perhaps to best appreciate this– if you are more fully ripened– imagine yourself sitting in a college campus student union or going to a Lil Wayne concert. You are not having lunch at the senior center.

I would rather present this in a more artistic format, but for now, I must submit to a mundane bulleted list–along with this lovely painting of Summer by Cezanne. It consists of the conditions that I encountered while serving this young adult population–and only those which knocked on my door with at least occasional frequency–not rare occurrences. 

  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance
  • Heartburn and reflux  (GERD)
  • Constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and digestive disorders
  • Gall bladder conditions
  • Moderate to severe obesity
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Food allergies
  • Behavioral disorders
  • History of frequent illness in childhood
  • Eating Disorders
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Toxemia of Pregnancy—a syndrome associated with high blood pressure and kidney involvement
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Recurrent yeast infections
  • Severe skin inflammations
  • Orthopedic Problems

Bouncing between the two work settings, on most days I had at least one client starving and struggling with an eating disorder and one who weighed more than 250 lbs—who may also have been struggling with an eating disorder. As the numbers on the scale were both decreasing and increasing, so was the volume of the diatribe against the body. Both were distressing to witness–as was considering young, diseased gall bladders.

Some of these conditions are interrelated; and many are exacerbated by stress–another marker of dis-ease affecting our youth. The prevalence of these conditions also means that many of this millennium generation is on at least one medication, including those that treat depression, anxiety, blood pressure, heartburn, inflammation, behavior, and hormones. The use of these medications will result in increased prescriptions for erectile dysfunction and osteoporosis medications for this generation as well.

My contention is that young children who are exposed to processed foods, do not develop the ability to appreciate the more distinct and varied flavorings of more natural foods—especially those of the plant kingdom. Therefore, these more healthful foods are not incorporated into their food vocabularies. These young children grow into big kids and young adults, quickly accumulating the years that their bodies are exposed to altered, nutrient and enzyme-deficient foods.

Craving the whole foods that our bodies and brains require by design in order to function, an underlying “true” hunger festers and grows. The hunger is either pursued voraciously or feared and denied. Even in the middle ground, before too long, this compromised nutritional state can take its toll and the above conditions can manifest.

One of the difficulties of inspiring behavioral change in regard to eating and nutrition, and in explaining how food matters, is that it is not very easy to show direct cause and effect between food choices and health outcomes. Many might argue that they would prefer to just eat happily and without dictates—even at the cost of a possible slightly premature end.

Could considering the consequences that physically and emotionally damage us decades before the final blow serve to amend such an attitude? Attention to dietary change has become essential. Through positive food experiences may we begin to show that nutrition can prevent not only life-threatening conditions but life-limiting ones as well.

Any thoughts on this? Any reflections of how you eat/ate at this phase of your life? Please let me know.

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

feeding things

Sunflower Seed Kaleidoscope

Sunflower Seed Kaleidoscope Image by Tobyotter via Flickr

Why are the birds at my feeder giving me attitude about the milo, millet, cracked seed with oil sunflower seed food, squawking that they will only eat plain oil sunflower seed? Picky, picky, juvenile, ungrateful little peckers. Sure, I’ll get out the ladder in the freezing cold and go change it–which I did.

Chico, the cat, is never satisfied. How can it be that after so many years together, his humans cannot understand his hearty appetites and food preferences? Why must he always settle for such mundane fare as cat food? He knows that I know he enjoys cantaloupe served diced on a plate at the table, so what’s up with this dry crap in the cracked bowl on the floor?

Last week, after our usual morning argument about breakfast, I left the kitchen in a huff, saying, sorry, Chico, this is not a restaurant, and that is what I am serving today. He followed me into the living room, and as I bent over to put my shoes on, he head-butted me in the butt. Lucky for him he is the most amazing, adorable and hysterical cat in the world.

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Chico

Luna, the other cat, will only drink out of the bathroom sink. A trip to the toilet is never a solitary experience. If you’ve not tripped over her as she comes careening out of nowhere to leap onto the sink from the toilet bowl, you must then negotiate the faucet flow, your own flow, and the toilet paper roll, all simultaneously as she tends to her hydration.

My daughter scoffs at the most important meal of the day and today, I watched as my dear husband tried to mix his whey protein powder into his bowl of oatmeal–trying to kill two dietary imperatives with one spoon. Why must this all be so difficult?

Meanwhile, the fire belly newt, Everest, that we have had for nine years is without complaint, happily chowing down on his Freshwater Flakes from the first and only 2.2-ounce container that we ever bought. I am trying to read from the label but some of it has already faded. It contains a natural something or other formula and is made ONLY with Fresh Seafood. Seriously, he is only two-thirds through this small canister–in nine years! The price sticker is still on it. The bottle cost $5.89. Every few days I say, “Oh, the newt!”, and sprinkle a few flakes into his grungy tank. Don’t misread this. He and I have a very special bond. Today as a treat, I gave him a couple of Newt and Salamander Bites. My he loves those. That 1.2 oz container is only half empty and says on the label–soft sinking pellet diet.

There is just so much meowing, barking, whining, chirping, oinking, mooing, hissing and howling going on these days about all this food and eating stuff. Can’t all species just get over it and agree to this simple amphibian flake and pellet diet?

Ah, well. Time to go make myself some lunch. Please comment if you love Chico (he does have quite the following) or any other finicky mammal.

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 Post: Still Feeding Things