Tag Archive | Michael Pollan

dear you, the readers

It has been one year since I first birthed my blog.  One intention, many fears, countless hours and fifty posts.

Having mothered my blog through its infancy, I now must ponder its future as a toddler-staged blog which I call a blogger. My little bloggler is learning to stand on its own and is getting fed some nice comments and words of support. But, mothering a bloggler raises new developmental issues and it is important to have a philosophy of care. Sometimes, one must look for support and feedback from others in order to persevere.

Honest Tea Cap

Honest Tea cap

So, my dear subscribers and readers, as the days grow shorter and as those of us up here in the northern climes prepare to go inward and grow pensive, I ask you for a moment of your time in the form of a click on the “like” box, a few words in the “comment” box, a share of a post, a decision to subscribe or to follow me on Twitter, a submission of a haiku, or a message in an email to let me know what you think.

Are my writings of interest, is there a resonance in the stories, is my exploration of the experiences of real eaters meaningful for you? Are my musings too long or convoluted in their message; do they not offer the hands-on suggestions and answers that we so often seek in this vast landscape, or, are they, as my brother recently told me, intriguing but rather depressing? And if they are, might they also be, as I hope, a bit funny.

Are there topics you would like me to address more, was I remiss in not discussing National Food Daylike Michael Pollan did, should I post more photos of my cat Chico? Have I not discussed menopause enough– which really, I still plan to do?  Am I too cutesy or not cutesy enough? Would you care to know that today I ate a nice nori roll for lunch and that I tried a new flavor of Honest Tea that I really liked called Heavenly Lemon Tulsi–tulsi being another name for Holy Basil which you should really check out? And, while sitting outside on this unusually warm November day, I ventured some deep gulps of the mineral spring waters that flow freely from the fountains that immortalize my nearby town? Would it be good if I included some recipes like many other food bloggers do? Should I change my template or alter the background color? Am I too pink or does my cynicism tinge the blog a light shade of tan?

Should it matter to you that this week I worked with a 41-year-old woman who weighed 78 pounds? And, then, immediately following, a 39-year-old woman who weighed 310 pounds? That a woman at my daughter’s crew event told me that getting her house ready for the real estate agent to show was so stressful, that she needed three scoops of ice cream at Friendly’s? That yesterday, a nine-year-old told me that she feels different from everyone else, and trying on clothes that say Plus Size in the store is very embarrassing? That next week I will see a two-year-old who weighs 65 pounds? Or, that a mere few hours ago, a beautiful 18-year-old college student shared with me that being thinner than 100 pounds would make her less ugly than she already is and that she has never loved her body?

It has been a number of years now since I ended my subscription to Mothering Magazine and I am certainly feeling a little lost without it. So, any input, advice or inspiration would be greatly appreciated. Gotta run. Time to put the little bloggler to bed.

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

Grasses, grain, fruit, wine

Garden flowers produce joy

Kitchen flours bread.

By Gordon

Dietary Haiku

japanese maple

Japanese Bonsai Plant      Image by cskk via Flickr

Here are a few things that happened in my nutritional life this past week. First, I had a client come into my office bummed out about being fat. She sat down and immediately pointed to different parts of her body that she deemed fat. Of utmost disgust were her arms and her big belly. They definitely had to go. She quieted a little as she said she didn’t mind being big in the thighs and butt, and she thinks her hubby actually likes her like that. I asked about her eating habits. A number of issues presented, including the fact that her husband is incarcerated.

I asked how she felt about me making some suggestions. Without skipping a beat, she replied that she would think it was none of my business and I should leave her alone. Despite her distress, she was not ready for a change–a common human experience. Most often I find some traction, but I did not try too hard in this instance and gave her space. (She did eventually come back and see me again.)

Next, my very own brother, in a comment on my recent post, Diet for a Small Caterpillar informed me that only a small percentage of people actually care about nutrition. I wanted to protest, but he is my big brother and he does seem to know about a lot of things.

And, then, the very next day, the United States Government, without giving me very much notice, obliterated the Food Pyramid and issued the newest expression of the most up to date dietary guidelines–the USDA MyPlate.

Briefly, here is my initial response to the MyPlate. Though I appreciate the challenge and consider it an improvement, its teaching concept has been around for a while now, so I am surprised it is being touted as something unique and innovative. While hailed for its message to eat more fruits and vegetables, I think that is also old news. It is overly simplistic as our national food icon.

It does not really relate to how people eat breakfast and lunch and is not relevant to how many even eat dinner. It does not align with most cultural cuisines and supposes a basic meat and potatoes dietary structure. My dinner plate rarely resembles it. It evades many deeper nutritional questions about protein, dairy, fats, and digestion. Disconcertingly, right under the plate, it says, “Balancing Calories: Enjoy your food but eat less.” This makes a broad assumption about all eaters and ignores the serious issues of those who may need to eat more for various reasons.

Essentially, this model has convinced me that it is time to abandon such efforts. If what my brother says is true, that few people even care; or as my client suggests, that not everyone wants to hear it, why do we keep trying to promote this short shelf life, stale message with such a stagnant image? Maybe it is time to try something new to spread meaningful dietary practice.

I sometimes enjoy a line of iced teas from a Japanese company called Ito En. On their bottles, they offer a nice little haiku. Haiku is a Japanese form of provocative poetry that provides a sense of sudden enlightenment simply, intensely and directly. The bottle I now hold says: ten heron heads blow as pampas grass in the morning fog. Lovely, even though it doesn’t stick to the 5–7–5 traditional haiku structure. Maybe because the tea is distributed in Brooklyn or because it is a form that is flexible. Gazing at this bottle, I am inspired to suggest that we should develop Haikus with various themes to promote nutritional messages with greater nuance. Or, perhaps it would be more American to create some jingles. This could employ many creative artists, and I am sure their output would be funnier or more beautiful than anything produced by our governmental agencies. Michael Pollan’s missive, Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants, could be turned into a catchy dance number.

Just as I was about to declare the week a washout, one other thing happened. On Friday, I was at one of the three schools where I work with the School-Based Health Program. It was my last visit before summer vacation. I prepared a little healthy snack for the kids I had met with during the year and called them down individually to say good-bye. The message I try to instill in these young children is that they each have an amazing and wonderful body. They are all smart enough to choose to care for their bodies in various ways and can make many decisions for themselves about what and how they choose to eat.

In this closing session, I asked these adorable nine to thirteen-year-olds, what have they been paying attention to based on things we had previously talked about. Without much explanation, they each understood this vague question and all had at least a small answer. Some had big impressive answers. My dimming faith was ignited once again. So, maybe this is the relevant dietary inquiry–What are we paying attention to? There is a lot to choose from in this crazy, nutty, nutrition world.

What message would inspire you or what do you think we need to hear? Is the truth of the matter that our governments’ policies are incongruent with an appropriate dietary promotion or our personal experience as eaters? What are you paying attention to?

Please allow yourself a creative moment to pen your own dietary haiku, jingle or other poetic expression and send it along in a comment. Let’s see what emerges.

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: Your Pyramid; Diet for a Small Caterpillar; Haiku for You; Accepting Haikus

My Plate Haiku

Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants. by Michael (Pollan)

wait wait michael pollan

American science journalist and author Michael...

Michael Pollan Image via Wikipedia

Oh, dear Michael Pollan. You got schooled–and on National Public Radio no less. I am so sorry. You must realize that nutritionists and comedians are not a good mix–even if you are really just a journalist. You should have known better. I hope you will be more careful the next time.

Here’s where I was when this public humiliation happened. In my kitchen concentrating fiercely on grout. Yes, grout. For the past few months, I have been held hostage by a kitchen renovation project. My release was imminent, but not until I finished grouting the backsplash tile. My contractor guy left me home alone equipped with a grout float, a grout sponge, a bucket and a milk carton-like container of powder with indecipherable directions.

Normally, my husband, Pete, provides me a task and temperament appropriate playlist of music before I undertake such projects–but not then. I just turned the radio on to find the weekly broadcast of the NPR game show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. I hear it occasionally, but I am not a regular listener. Just as I was trying to decide if I could really grout and listen to an inane game show at the same time, they announced the guest of the day–food and food economics guru, proponent of the sustainable food movement, and my blog name inspirationeven though he won’t admit that we are from the same once big potato farm–Michael Pollan. I now had no choice but to turn up the radio and begin mixing the grout powder with water.

The host touted Pollan’s accomplishments, listed The Omnivore’s Dilemma as one of his landmark works and asked him to describe some of the basic tenets of his nutritional philosophy. That is where the pounding began by none other than Paula Poundstone. Ouch. It pains me to recall the situation.

All serious-like, Pollan started out by saying we need to distinguish between food and edible food-like substances. Right off, Ms. Poundstone managed to get her mouth in. She announced to Mr. Pollan, that Ring Dings are one of her reasons for living. Were they not considered food? She informed him that they only have three ingredients–devil’s food cake, a creamy filling, and a rich chocolate outer coating. Pollan pathetically informed her that the creamy filling is not real cream. She retorted that it is C-R-E-M-E-Y and asked him, “What the hell’s the matter with you?”

Pollan stammered and began to comfort her that it is ok to have such a treat once in a while. She interrupted to remind him that she said they constituted a role in her reason for living and asked if he was suggesting that she save it for one day a year. Meekly, he said that he would not want to deprive her of that. This “Battle in Berkeley” as the show was called, taped in Pollan’s adopted hometown, was now calling for my attention at the risk of hardening my grout mixture. Poundstone, now ready to fully devour her prey, attacked with, “You may know a lot about food, but you don’t know the first thing about living, buddy.”

The host intercepted, trying to save his guest, and asked Pollan another question. This led Pollan to tell a little story about shopping at ‘The Berkeley Bowl’. The local crowd went crazy at the mention of this Berkeley food oasis. For the wider radio audience, he had to describe the large grocery store as full of all sorts of wonderful produce, grass raised beef, etc. He jabbed at Poundstone, that the store would be like her idea of hell, but the comment fell flat and got no response. The indignity finally ended only after Pollan was made to answer three questions about electronic Japanese Supertoilets. Forget the backsplash. At this, I felt the sclerosis of my own inner being.

This may have all been in the name of fun and games, but to us real nutritional professionals, this is the substance of what we do. The Paula Poundstones of the world are who fill the cracks and crevices of the story behind the dogma–though most are not nearly as funny. Right now, I am considering using a photo of Ring Dings as the graphic for my post. But, I know that mere visual suggestions of such foods can cue unhealthy feeding behaviors. I’d prefer not to feed into that so to speak. But, I will be torn. I am sure they will be more colorful and enticing than any stock photo I may find of Mr. Pollan.

If Ms. Poundstone was my client, we might explore such issues as food addiction, what role food is playing in her life, comfort eating, insulin resistance, effects of sugar, menopausal weight gain, food sensitivities, the seduction of chocolate and motivation for dietary change. Inside, I’d be grappling with the question of what do I know about living and the sacrifice of putting down the beloved Ring Ding and stepping away.

These are the things I muse about daily. The crossroads of food, health, the environment, and pleasure. I am an adherent to the pathways that Mr. Pollan promotes as essential for increased sustainability and to rescue our birthright of health. I am grateful for how his writings have advanced this work. However, I hope he has gleaned that it is one thing to write about this stuff, another to work it in the wild. Throughout my career, I have often joked that after a long day at the office, I am grateful to go out to the parking lot and find that there is still air in my tires. That I have not pissed off the Ms. Poundstones in my role as the messenger and that I have still maintained my sense of humor in this work.

Well, by now, the renovation is done. Fortunately, I have now added grouting and caulking to my resume. By my professional assessment, I think there will always be work to do in the proverbial kitchen.

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

The closest I come to comedians is that I keep an article about Drew Carey’s transformational weight loss on the bulletin board in my office. With that, I can trust that he can be solely a source of inspiration rather than nervous perspiration.

Related Post: Holistic, Intuitive Eating, Community-Based Nutritionist Seeking Michael Pollan

My Plate Haiku

Drink tea and nourish life.  With the first sip joy.

With the second, satisfaction.

With the third, danish.

by Jewish Grandpa

community-based nutritionist seeking michael pollan

The time has come for me to pay homage to the food and environmental journalist and writer Michael Pollan, whose book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, partially served as the inspiration for my blog’s name. I say partially because I am fully aware that I have been waist-deep in food dilemmas way before his book came to be.

Many years ago, when I was a mere neophyte in this work, way before food and eating was the omnipresent topic that it is today, I was simultaneously working my first nutrition job with a WIC-Women, Infant and Children Program in some small-town communities while also serving at a hip vegetarian cafe in a cool college town–all the while trying desperately to figure out how to feed myself. By day, I talked the language of subsidized foods; by evening I enjoyed brown rice and salads with sunflower seeds, sprouts, and lemon tahini dressing; and, by night, I chowed down more than my share of the wonderful cookies we baked at the cafe.

Though I knew how to address pellagra and beriberi, I could barely identify, let alone address, my own anxious eating. Back then, in the late 1970s, I also had friends who were struggling with serious eating disorders–but the terms anorexia and bulimia were barely widely recognized. And, I still thought that the main problem with nutrition was hunger in remote places on the globe. Starving children in Biafra fueled my imagination and passion for helping when I was a kid and inspired my decision to become a nutritionist. Today, I don’t even know where Biafra is. Are there no longer starving children in the world or have they just gotten lost and forgotten in this modern feeding frenzy?

In 1981, my husband, Peter and I found ourselves seemingly teleported to Dallas, Texas in my Oldsmobile Cutlass with our total life belongings and two cats–for the purpose of a new job. For us, it was a strange new world. Though I still held strong to my Frances Moore Lappe-inspired vegetarian lifestyle and its accouterments of grains and legumes, my heady purist beliefs were no match for that southern heat. One day while staggering around the city looking for an apartment, we stumbled into a Mexican restaurant. Suffering from heatstroke, we feebly ordered some food. I slipped back into consciousness just in time to see Pete about to dig into some dish covered in carne. Honey, I managed to say, we don’t eat meat. Though we did preserve our herbivorous habits in that cattle raising land, we dove headfirst into 7 Eleven’s newly christened, enormous 32-oz. Big Gulp in order to quench our super-sized thirst. It was just the beginning of the marketing of many super-sized offerings, and it was then that I began to realize that the food universe was shifting.

Within just four years of finishing my nutrition studies, I was working in a clinic addressing eating disorders; and only six years later, I found myself in another clinical setting witnessing the cusp of the obesity epidemic. Neither of these issues was ever addressed in my schooling. My nutrition education taught me about the functions of macro and micronutrients; gross deficiency states; approaches to some diseases and food chemistry–but it never really talked about food–where it comes from, how it itself is nourished, or about the importance of quality and vitality. Nor, how to eat it. Thankfully, by then, I had figured out for the most part how to separate my emotions from my eating, so I was a little better equipped to tend to the cares of others–just in time, for the food and eating tornado had really begun to swirl.

I am grateful then for the prolific body of work and its attendant context that Michael Pollan has so poetically brought to us–rounding out the story of understanding food. However, as it clarifies, it adds to the complexity of my work–and so too, to my dilemmas. Trying to translate this information for the folk I speak with on a daily basis is not easy.

Just the other day, I had a chat with my adorable new friend, Tomazeo, a kid in one of the schools where I work. At just eight-years-old, he is really smart and has good penmanship. He told me his teacher says he is a role model. When I told him that nutrition was a big word, and we were going to write it on his folder, he told me that he knows lots of big words, including especially, absolutely and scrumptious. I agreed that those were quite big words. I asked him if he knew what scrumptious meant and he said, “Especially yummy in the tummy”. I said, “Absolutely.” His big brown eyes then asked me, “Are hot dogs healthy?” Oh my, tracing a hamburger from bull to bun, is one thing–a hot dog is yet another. How do I break the news to this innocent child that scrumptious may actually not be so easy to define.

I am guessing that Michael Pollan got stuck in this quandary as well, which led him to publish his elementary primer, “Food Rules-An Eater’s Manual” which he describes as ‘samizdat’ nutrition. I am not familiar with that big word, and I doubt Tomazeo is either, but Pollan uses it to promote a cultural reference point “as an informal and unsanctioned way of negotiating our eating lives.”

If anyone sees or knows Michael, please let him know I am out here and I could use a big chunk of samizdat. To get his attention, tell him that I think he and I have sprung from the same natural island habitat. A vague mention on his website supports but does not confirm, my suspicion that we are from the same exit off of the big native walking path. We may have hunted the same forests, foraged the same fields–and maybe attended the same high school. Emphasize that I am down here in the trenches and need reinforcements to help me with those who are not yet in the choir. Just today, from Stephen Colbert, I learned that those 32-oz. Big Gulps had actually increased to 44-oz. since my last swallow so many years ago. Yikes!

But, mainly thank him for me. He has truly helped to change and widen our understanding of food and nutrition by leading us to understand what we are eating, where it has come from and its many implications for our health and environment. His investigations have accelerated the positive redirection of policies and practices that we are beginning to finally see come to fruition. And, I bet his writings are now included in most nutrition curricula.

And, just one more thing if I may. While only a few know this about me–and have now probably forgotten–I was a (junior) high school cheerleader–yes. Though I have certainly lost the school spirit thing, this may be a reason to revive my hometown pride along with some perky and breath-draining chants. So when you do speak to him on my behalf, can you add in a little — Goooo Michael!!!!– to help cheer him on? Thanks so much.

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,


Related Post: Wait, Wait, Michael Pollan

my plate

my plate

My Plate Haiku

Don’t eat anything

Your great grandmother wouldn’t

Recognize as food.

by Michael (Pollan)