Tag Archive | Jamie Oliver

attacking the causes of obesity, really?

I have been having what I suppose you could call a blog clog lately, or maybe a blogade. Lots of stuff and stories going around in the brain but they are experiencing a log jam while trying to get out in some type of orderly fashion.

Howard Johnson's Restaurant

Howard Johnson’s Restaurant

This seems to have started when Pete showed me a Jane Brody article from the New York Times a few weeks back called, “Attacking the Obesity Epidemic by First Figuring Out Its Cause”. I should probably just have considered it a moot subject and ignored it, but it wrapped its little serifs around me and wouldn’t let go. You mean we haven’t already figured this out? Apparently not. And, this is the missing piece that has still been feeding the epidemic so to speak?

According to Ms. Brody, an impressive team of experts spent the last two years investigating the big O and published their conclusions in a series of reports in The Lancet. I will assume that what she goes on to describe is a reflection of their findings and not a cover-up for some obscure but shocking discoveries that will remain hidden in a boring medical journal.

Apparently, the impressive experts determined that the demise of the following is responsible for the puddle of fat we now find ourselves in. From the 1940’s through the 1970’s more or less– the years that preceded the epidemic–we played, walked and biked more; watched less TV, ate meals prepared at home by moms who mainly did not work, ate out only for special events, downed mainly hot or cold cereal for breakfast, had fewer mass-produced convenience foods, and consumed fewer refined carbohydrates as well as fewer calories.

I will try to keep my cynicism to a minimum but remember I did warn you about this side of me in Diet for a Small Caterpillar. Maybe this is breaking news or perhaps fascinating ancient history to those born after those more svelte decades, but two years of research, really? Those impressive experts could have just come and asked me, or better yet could have paid me. I’d love to be a paid impressive expert. I was actually one of those referenced skinny, cereal eating, hop-scotching kids on a bike, who occasionally ate out at Howard Johnson’s with my family when my non-working mother was too tired to cook. Wait, how old are those exalted researchers, anyway?

With all due respect to Drs. Gortmaker and Swinburn, et al who were cited in the article– unless I am remiss for not reading the source material, this is superficial and obvious stuff. A lot has changed since that time and the changes have had many effects on the human experience besides causing obesity. I think it is myopic to put the attack and hence the shame and blame only on those walking around with the visible consequences of our societal shifts or imbalances. Many things have increased since the 1970s besides weight like rates of divorce, cancer, childhood poverty, autism, learning disabilities, alcoholism, underage drinking, the perverse pursuit of thinness and high school dropout rates–and all carry a high cost as well–but these conditions are invisible in the rising tide of humanity. Still, even if we are to keep our attention just on the problem of obesity, one could identify other significant and more profound influences.

One of my impressive experts, Marc David, who I introduced previously in Three Good Mark(c)s, meaningfully and sensitively addresses this topic in his article, ‘A New Way to Lose Weight–Listen to It’. Moving beyond the easily observed poor food choices that plague us, he explores causes of the emotional hunger we face these days that propel people to overuse or abuse food. These are very important, and when personified, they are what present in my office every day–repressed feelings, unmet needs, self-doubt, chronic stress, disconnection from one’s body and loneliness.

These are associated as well with the larger cultural issues that he dares expose. These are not new, but the ramifications are coming to a head, perhaps similar to global warming. He speaks of a nation that has valued excess and overconsumption; a culture that values speed and ease; a world filled with fear, anxiety, and mistrust; and, a people separated from their spiritual source.

Though I don’t fit their demographic, I have come to enjoy reading the magazine, Outside. It is for those who live the active life–in a rather bold way–and is a tad less dry than The Lancet. In a recent issue, there was an article, Jamie Oliver Will Work 4 Food about renegade British chef, Jamie Oliver, who is sincerely trying to clean up our country’s food mess. I admire Oliver’s means and message. I share his penchant for crying. The author, Jeff Gordinier, describes the obstacles Oliver is facing here in America. He writes, “As one wag put it, Oliver “just doesn’t get the fact that excessive consumption is woven into our national DNA.” This concurs with some of what Marc David is saying.

If a lack of identifying causes is impeding solving the problem, then acknowledging our national and personal constitutional makeups is as important as looking at what we are eating for breakfast now, well, compared to in my day. Doing so would help to explain why we lay down reason in the feeding of ourselves and our children.

My own causative list would go even further. It implicates the usurping of the practice of medicine by the pharmaceutical industry, unethical corporate practices and the disempowerment of women in pregnancy and birth for starters. I’ll leave it there for now. As I’ve hopefully unclogged the blog, I will be able to pick up on those topics soon.

Stay posted. I promise that will be fun. And tell me what would be on your list.

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

In health, Elyn

my plate

My Plate Haiku

Hunger tiptoes in

From bellies, hearts or minds

Feed me now she calls.

By, Eva

a shmear campaign

I really wish I didn’t have to write about this. Other more pressing issues in my brain are asking to be brought forward. However, it was another day in the schools for me, and checking out the cafeteria scene has become one of my pastimes. Here is what I stumbled upon today that I just can’t readily dismiss.

As usual, I approached the lunch line as the little kiddies were lining up, trays in hand.  The black styrofoam mystery boxes stood in formation on the big metal trays coming out of the warmers. I approached the lunch ladies with my pseudo-smile and asked–So what’s for lunch today? The response was, it is not lunch, it is brunch. I was a little taken aback. I admit it was one of the earlier lunch periods, but a quick glance at my surroundings confirmed that this was not Sunday morning at The Four Seasons.

I backed off and decided to see what the kids could tell me. I positioned myself near the little machine where they punch in their assigned lunch number, and then grab their chocolate milk container from the insulated fabric cooler. Really, Jamie Oliver, the cooler carried fifty containers of chocolate milk and two of white, plain, unflavored milk. (I am never sure what is the politically correct name for that milk. )

Image result for bagel-fuls


I asked the kids what’s for lunch. As the meal was still hidden under its patterned plastic wrap, they too were still pretty clueless. All I could see was that there was something wrapped in cellophane with writing on it under the plastic wrap. I soon learned that brunch consisted of two turkey sausages lying on the bottom, appearing quite naked or a tad underdressed if you ask me, a hash brown square, and on top a squished Bagel-ful. Do you have the full picture–or are you stumped because like me you have no idea what a Bagel-ful is?

A Bagel-ful? I did not make this up. Subsequent investigation revealed that apparently Kraft has been marketing this for a few years now and I think you can actually buy these in stores. If you don’t know what a Bagel-ful is, it is a processed rectangular dough product injected with Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

Blasphemy! Is there not some standard of identity for a bagel? Is not a bagel by definition a boiled heavenly dough formed into a circle thereby having a hole in the middle blessed by some senior rabbi and ordained by God? Is a claim of propriety by a food manufacturer not something akin to idol worship? And, isn’t there some omniscient understanding that we should not be serving such meshuggah to children in our schools? How is this for product placement Morgan Spurlock? Is this an example of cost containment in our school lunch programs? Not to mention that the Bagel-ful got heated up in plastic?

Pondering the composition of this meal, I wandered the lunchroom. I think the kids are on to me. Some may be a little suspicious but very deep down I think they know I have their best interests at heart–so they are usually pretty friendly and quite adorable when I stop to chat with them about what they are eating. Today, a kid who chose a turkey sandwich instead of a hot meal asked me to help him to free the sandwich from its plastic bag. It was a good thing I was there. The tie thingy was the kind you can’t undo and you just have to brutally tear the plastic from its tight grip.

My market research showed that a number of kids thought the Bagel-fuls were nasty and did not eat them. However, other kids then asked those kids if they could have it instead. Oh well. The good news is the apples looked good and seemed to get a 100% approval rating. I wonder who made them.

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

breast feeding redux

Poster advertisement for Nestle's Milk by Théo...

Image via Wikipedia

So, here is what happened. Last week I wrote about breastfeeding. On one level I was addressing the possible connection between most babies’ first food and the increased incidence of weight issues in children. On another, I was speaking to the very low rates of breastfeeding in this country and the implications of that as well.

Right after I posted, my friend who is a wonderful adoptive new father responded that breastfeeding was not a viable option for his baby. I felt bad. I know a lot of adoptive parents. And, having worked in maternal and child health for many years,  I know there are some real situations that make breastfeeding not possible for some. There are many women who have really tried but for different reasons have not been able to nurse. I hope I did not appear insensitive. As a health counselor, I am very sympathetic to one’s personal experience– but I also know that our low breastfeeding rates are not caused by these exceptional types of cases.

In my discussion, I had decided to not make apologies or to outline the contraindications to nursing in the limited words I afford my writings. Most materials related to breastfeeding already do so. I had wanted to challenge the oft-repeated message that breastfeeding is challenging, but mainly I wanted to bring the topic of breastfeeding to the table. As a nutritionist, I consider breast milk a quintessential component of the human diet. Once I did, I  thought  I was ready to move on–but as I lingered in the post post aftermath and received some thoughtful responses, I considered that how we feed our babies is a way too overlooked issue in this huge conversation about food, culture, and weight. Breastfeeding is discussed in breastfeeding circles among women who are nursing. Beyond that, not many people ever think about this very important topic–even some parents to be. Most people in our culture have never really seen a baby nursing at the breast. I am highly attuned to watching for nursing babies–and I rarely get a sighting (except for my multi-cultural workplace that offers pre and postnatal care.)

I worry about what a world would look like that really no longer knew how to instinctually nurse its young. So, during the past week, I thought a lot about recent natural disasters where water and food supplies are not available–what happened to the formula-fed babies in the wake of Hurricane Katrina;  I considered the tragedy of the melamine-tainted formula in China that affected 300,000 babies; I wondered about the plastics that every formula feed involves through either bottle or artificial nipple; and, I lingered on antibiotic resistance and even genetic modification of formula. As I was doing all this a few things happened.

Firstly, quite coincidentally, I came upon an article called Cows Genetically Modified to Produce Human Milk. Writer Erika Nicole Kendall in her blog, the Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss does not seem to miss much regarding our confusing cultural cuisine–and one need be neither black, young, female or overweight to appreciate the topics she very thoughtfully explores and exposes. Here, she tells about a recent exhibition in China where technical achievements are touted as part of the country’s five-year plan.  Fascinatingly, in ancient China, emperors and empresses drank human milk throughout their lives. Apparently, presented at the exhibition were a herd of cows that have been genetically modified to produce human milk–which apparently contains the anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory agents and the hormones and digestive enzymes particular to the real stuff.  The milk purportedly will preserve and improve the immune systems and central nervous systems of children and will address decreasing breastfeeding rates in that country. Must I explain the irony here?  http://blackgirlsguidetoweightloss.com/news-feed/cows-genetically-modified-to-produce-human-milk/

Then, mon cher French ami who is always on topic in spite of mothering three young children–who she nursed in succession–sent me an article on breastfeeding in France. I learned that France has the lowest breastfeeding rate in the Western world. Mon Dieu. I was shocked and rather nauseated by the story. The nationwide gist is that breasts are for your husband–not your baby. French doctors apparently are in collusion with this imperative of preserving the sexual function of its countrywomen rather than supporting their maternal inclinations. Accompanying comments mocked those who promote breastfeeding as the breast police. Really? Does fighting tobacco advertising and helping people to quit smoking make one the lung police?  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/apr/01/france-breast-breastfed-baby-death

And, lastly, just Tuesday night, I watched the first episode of Jamie Oliver‘s second season of the Food Revolution. As he was stymied by the Los Angeles City School District to get into their schools for filming, he invited the public to bring him samples of the foods that the kids are being served there. In the opening scene, he is shown surrounded by a group of people who are presenting to him all types of horrific-looking junk that is splayed out on a table. A woman in the group is carrying a few month old beautiful baby girl. He reaches for the baby who gently accepts his arms. He reminds us how totally pure and perfect our babies come into this life. Seeing this gorgeous little being surrounded by this landscape of low-quality food was a powerful juxtaposition–it is the way I also see the situation.

Before school food, infant formula is the ingredient template that constitutes most of a child’s diet for most of its first year. Aside from added vitamins and minerals, the following are what milk and soy formulas are made of in some variation:  non-fat milk, lactose, vegetable oil, whey protein, high oleic safflower oil, soy oil, corn syrup solids, soy protein isolate, sugar, and coconut oil.  Interestingly, as most formulas now try to mimic the beneficial lipid profile naturally found in breastmilk–mortierella alpina oil and crythecodimium coluni oil are what are used to make them closer than ever to breast milk.

So, I decided, it was a worthwhile effort to pursue this conversation a little more–in the name of restoring, reviving, encouraging a resurgence–a redux of what I consider to be our natural birthright. The right of babies under most circumstances to be sustained on the foodstuff designed for their biology, presented in a form supportive of their neurological wiring and physiologically and hormonally consistent with that of the other member of the feeding dyad–their mother. The rest of the population may benefit as well–even the men.

And, in case some shared wisdom on this motherly art is sought, please check out this very thorough Breastfeeding Tips and Guide lovingly prepared by Sara Spencer. It contains some nice videos including a great one on feeding twins.

I am just wondering, were you breastfed?

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; Oh MotherA Winning Goal; First Food