Tag Archive | Let’s Move

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 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 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 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!?

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. Drop in, say hi, and 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. Thank you.

In health, Elyn

My Plate Haiku by Gretchen: Smooth peanut butter/Spread on a peeled banana/Snack time perfection.

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My Plate Cup

There are lots of links in this post. Please take a moment to check them out.

By the way, have you heard of the Styrofoam Ban?

a bushel and a peck of ways to address childhood obesity

This is a slight revision of a previously published post.

It seems that we spend a lot of time fixing things that should not have ever become so broken. Not only time is wasted but a lot of resources– that seem to be rather scarce these days.

As this relates to the care and feeding on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels of  human beings, we certainly have been drawn off course. Some significant digressions from what should have been a rather intuitive  matter or a natural symbiotic relationship with the natural and nurturing environment have occurred.

Healthy Children

Healthy Children (Photo credit: Korean Resource Center 민족학교) drawing by 13 yo Suzy An, Irvine, California

Though early humans expended much of their energy trying to procure food for survival, they still seemed to have had time for other endeavors as well–like discovering fire, inventing the wheel and designing clothes. Nomadic cultures certainly had to find to go or take out food solutions. One would think that at this stage of the game, we too should be able to both nourish and progress.

Listening to the persistent conversation about the problem of obesity one might think evolution-wise we were still inventing the wheel. The top experts in the field are engaged in the mandate to ferret out the problem and find solutions, huge research projects are undertaken, big monies are allocated, programs are created, public health campaigns are rampant. The hunt is on and it has been going on for decades. This time its pursuit is not roaming bison or wild turkey but the reclaiming of our natural homo sapien form and functioning. So far, we seem to have only snagged the primordial beast of eat less and exercise more.

I wonder if this all has to be so difficult. Where and how did we stray so far off course?  How did we allow the school food situation to get so bad? Other nations with way fewer resources than ours have maintained a large degree of nutritional integrity,even if  in the form of some hearty gruel. Jamie Oliver, a simple lad from England, has managed to bring nourishing food into kids’ cafeterias.

Today, sadly aware that September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, I venture into the childhood obesity debacle to suggest that maybe we can shift the focus, listen to our inherent wisdom, reclaim our cultural connectedness and tweak the approach, to save some on the expended resources that we are currently draining. I know these are complicated matters but perhaps there really are more holistic solutions.

Here are some possibilities:

ð  Mandate paid maternity leave of a valuable length. The United States is one of only three countries in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave. The other two are Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. Most countries provide paid leave of between 14-22 weeks. Norway allows 44 weeks, while Canada allows 50. Most mothers here who do get to stay home for a meager six weeks after the birth of their babies generally are those whose jobs provide disability insurance. Wow. What a warped difference in consciousness. We are also quite stingy in terms of annual vacation time. Without time for parents to establish healthy routines, many important aspects related to family and child health are neglected. Additionally, one cannot even begin to discuss weight matters without considering the role of stress on our eating and metabolism. maternity leave comparison   maternity leave petition

ð  Revisit infant feeding recommendations. Our early feeding practices rely on the introduction of cow milk and soy-based proteins, processed grain cereals and juices as babies’ first foods. Infant feeding recommendations promulgated by physicians professionally under-educated on nutritional matters and baby food manufacturers seem almost sacrosanct in our society. The digestive imprinting and physiological adaptations to our first foods provide important clues as to children’s feeding inclinations. Ignoring this stage is short-sighted.

ð  Teach our Children to Eat like the French (and other food conscious cultures). This article by Karen Le Billon highlights this important issue. I might call this Nurture Children’s Developing Food Palates Appropriately. This means we should not be catering to children’s unformed palates. Doing so dwarfs the development required to appreciate more sophisticated and healthier foods, tastes and textures. Overexposing children early to an onslaught of sweet and chemically-produced tastes inhibits acceptance of the wide variety of foods required for a balanced diet. This is a major problem.  how the french feed their children

ð   Stop advertising and marketing food to children. Over thirty-five years ago Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Action for Chidren’s Television petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to restrict advertising aimed at children–in large part due its effects on children’s dietary preferences and intake. The FTC agreed that such practices were inappropriate. However, the food, toy and advertising industries pushed back and unfortunately pressured Congress to halt taking action. Today,17 to 20 billion dollars are spent annually on the marketing of non-nutrient foods to children. Additionally, while our FDA continues to hold to its stance that artificial food dyes and preservatives in our food are safe, other countries have begun to take progressive action to remove these substances from their products–even in foods made by American manufacturers–for their children’s sakes.

Michael jacobson   television food advertising      elimination of food dyes

ð  Likewise, redesign supermarket and drug store layouts so that they do not cater to 4- year-olds’ sensibilities.  Next time you shop, pay attention to how many cartoon character endorsed products are populating the food aisles, especially at the eye-catching “end caps” and checkout counters.

ð  Respect recess. Put it back in the school if it has been taken away. Provide it daily and preferably before lunch.

ð  Integrate relaxation/yoga/resilience training and cooking/gardening curriculum at all grade levels.  

ð  Protect farmers and subsidize fruits and vegetables.

Well, using agricultural measurement, I think that is enough for now.  If we truly and intelligently wish to address this matter– and to heal what should have never become so broken– we have to restore the capacity of those best equipped to nourish and protect our children–the parents, farmers,cooks, teachers and schools. And yes, it may require the creation and implementation of policies on a larger-scale which will facilitate that as a culture we are prepared to do so.

Regarding the Let’s Move initiative, my contention is that children innately know how to move–it is not them who need to get their butts in gear. May we love our children a bushel and a peck.

In health, with a hug around the neck, Elyn

please share your thoughts or additional ideas on this matter.  thanks.

My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Smooth peanut butter

Spread on a peeled banana

Snack time perfection.

by Gretchen

skinny boys

Skinny boys.  Now there is a group who could use some love.  Skinny boys usually, though not always, start out as skinny little kids and stay that way into their teens and young adulthood .  You see them everywhere.  In spite of this obesity epidemic, these poor boys far outnumber the fat kids everyone is clamoring about, but still they get no attention.

It was not too long ago that skinny boys had their pants buckled up under their armpits for the protection of their private parts or they were required to wear corny suspenders.  Nowadays, it is quite common for their pants to fall below the level of their BVDs even with the use of securing devices like belts and drawstrings–so they are often walking around with their undies showing.  How embarrassing.  If they do have a belt, they have to force a homemade hole into the leather or hemp, whatever, and the non-buckle end goes wrapping around them like a snake, in order to fit.  

Then, their ribs stick out something terrible.  Even nicely developed abdominal six packs cannot cover up those ribs.  Ouch.  It must be hard for them to sleep–their bones jabbing into even soft forgiving mattresses.  When they walk down the street, even strangers like Italian and Jewish grandmothers, are apt to want to take them home and feed them.  What is up?  Are their parents not feeding them?

Despite these emotional and physical challenges, there are no programs, whatsoever, designed to help them.  There is no foundation for the Prevention of Adolescent Scrawniness, nor a Let”s Chill! initiative coming from the White House. Teachers, mothers and fathers everywhere need assistance in just getting these kids to sit still.  Instead, they are flying off concrete ramps on skateboards, incessantly shooting basketballs, playing guitars and drums with manic enthusiasm, and turning everyday household items into objects d’sport.  TVs, video games and writing angst-ridden poetry are the only way to get these kids to stay in one place for any decent amount of time.

One might assume that these skinny boys, when they do eat, are eating carrot sticks and turkey rolled in lettuce leaves.  How else could they be so skinny?  But, what’s that?  They are eating sugar and junk food just like those fat kids?  How can that be?

A few months ago, I saw two teen-aged skinny boys walking.  One of them carried a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew, the other a big box of Cap’n Crunch cereal.  I say carried, but it was more like they were cradling these products, like a young child might cuddle their favorite stuffed animal.  As there had been rumors circulating wildly then that the Cap’n might be retiring from the high seas as well as supermarket shelves, their procured box might have generated even additional testosterone excitement and desperate attachment for the two.

And, just the other day, as I was doing my usual investigative journalism in the local supermarket, I came upon two young, lanky, twenty-somethings crouched down in the cereal aisle, doing some serious nutrition label and ingredient reading.  I was touched.  After serious deliberation, they stood up and strode confidently away–a box of Frosted Flakes in hand.

Liquid, syrupy, intense, colored sugar, seems to be the lifeblood of skinny boys as coffee is to adults.  As many rational grown-ups swear that they cannot survive without their daily Joe, keeping the skinny boys from their sugar would be akin to blood-letting.  How else would they  thrive?  With their powerful internal engines burning high and hot enough to power a jet plane, what else could better serve as jet fuel?

So, that is where skinny boys are at a serious disadvantage in this whole weight war.  We direct a societal finger wagging at fat kids and their parents, preaching of the pain and woe that awaits them should they continue their wanton eating behaviors–but no one has given these skinny kids even a glimpse of what could just as easily be in store for them–that even their propelled metabolisms could be headed for a serious nosedive.

Because, when those adolescent male hormones finally begin to mellow out, even the best of the metabolically privileged, can find themselves in trouble.  Tushies sink deeper into the couch in front of the TV, remote glued to hand; the zillion hours of organized sport become a thing of the past once that diploma is received and such play at best becomes an occasional weekend past time; all the pints of beer downed in solidarity or solitude accumulate in the expanding bladder of the belly and a gut begins to cover those once nicely sculpted abs; and the stress and worry of the real world turn acquired food from active fuel into evil, disease-producing stored fat.  Excessive sugar intake is detrimental to everyone, and, I have never seen Mt. Dew, do a body good.  A pair of true skinny genes or a life pursuit that includes significant physical activity or hard labor are required to stave off the accumulation of pounds in this current climate.

Whereas only 12.7 percent of 15-24 year old males are obese as defined by BMI, 22.2 percent of 25-34 year olds fit that classification.  That could be a pretty big shock for the unsuspecting ten percent who suddenly find themselves in the holes at the other end of their belts.  Their husky elementary school classmates, once the brunt of jokes, have been way better prepared for their  impending corpulence and may in fact get the last laugh.

Essentially, we need  to provide all our children with the template of the basics of a healthy lifestyle and to have a society that ensures fundamental support so they can take better care of themselves throughout their lives.

So be kind to the thinnest amongst us.  They have a hard road ahead of them. Chances are, you were once a skinny boy too. The next time you see a skinny boy, hold the judgment, give them a big hug and a prayer for a healthy life–but remember to be gentle, for they are pretty fragile creatures.

In health, Elyn

http://healthland.time.com/2011/03/10/capn-crunch-will-not-retire-but-he-probably-should/

my plate

 

Haiku:

Smooth peanut butter

Spread on a peeled banana

Snack time perfection.

By Gretchen