Tag Archive | Michelle Obama

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.

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.Third White House Kitchen Garden Harvest

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 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 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 that is 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!? Don’t they know about the styrofoam bans?

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. 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. And curl up to read the many links on this post.

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 Recipe: Golden Tumeric Milk from Downshiftology

Update March 2021: Signs of life in the new Biden Administration White House Garden. Jill Biden sends Michelle Obama some of the garden’s bounty.


Golden Milk My Plate

My Plate Haiku

If only we could

Change the world on that one day

By feeding our hearts.

by Julie


I scurried around the kitchen. There was dinner to be made. I peeled, chopped, sauteed and simmered. I sweated as the hot summer air mingled with the heat from the stove. I held an icy glass of water against my cheek. I ran the compost out back. I let the cat out. I let the cat in.


Lifeseedlings Posting

My daughter sat calm and cool at the table. She asked me a few questions. She danced her fingers around a little. She called me over to look at some things. Way sooner than the time it took for the meal to be ready and without barely moving a muscle, she created a new portal into the universe for me–by opening an Instagram account for The Nutritionist’s Dilemma. She turned the first MyPlate Haikus into little lovely portraits. She chose nice hashtags and linked this to that. She set the table. She let the cat out.

I am excited about my new Instagram account. There, I hope to highlight the little morsels of collective poetic wisdom that illuminate the experiences of self-nourishment that many have contributed to my blog along with other pearls that I have gathered along the way. The concept is to cobble together a creative and meaningful expression of how feeding ourselves may look and feel. It is a conceptual revisioning of the dietary constructs of the USDA MyPlate model of nutrition. (These messages can also be seen at the bottom of the blog’s sidebar.)

New My Plate Haikus or any other poetic expressions and My Plate Plates are always welcome and will be necessary for me to hold my space in this new environment. For general instructions and examples, please see Accepting Haikus. We will see how this goes. It could be fun.

I’d also like to highlight some of the ongoing work of Michelle Obama to brighten the futures of the nation’s children through nutrition and health initiatives. For the past four years, the First Lady has sponsored a rather competitive Children’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cooking Contest. Winners are chosen from each state and U.S. Territory and are treated to a Kids’ “State Dinner’ at the White House. This year’s event was held a few weeks ago and (spoiler alert) included a surprise guest. The impressive recipes of these culinary kids are also compiled in the Epicurious Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cookbook. Maybe a child you know can participate.

The Kids’ State Dinner gathering also provided a platform for the First Lady to announce her new anti-big food advertising campaign, FNV Prepare to Be Marketed To which employs the efforts of celebrities and famous athletes to redirect their messaging power toward healthy eating. Coincidentally, this is what I wrote about in my last post, Spring Cleaning, and the NBA Finals.

I am off to start following Michelle on Instagram. And who knows, maybe she might follow me. And you can follow me on Instagram @lifeseedlings, and on Twitter @lifeseedsnutrit.

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

(Update 2017: Jason Brown of First Fruits Farm was the highest-paid Center in NFL history, but he walked away from a 35 million dollar contract with the St. Louis Rams to grow food for others.)

(Update 2020: Today, as I reviewed this post, the world learned of the tragic loss of basketball legend Kobe Bryant. To honor his spirit, his fatherhood, how he inspired others, his dietary consciousness, and how he used his celebrity, it is quite apt that I just found this article Kobe wrote for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move blog on Five Healthy Habits.)

20150614_173007 (1)






My Plate Haiku

Did you really think

That you could hide fish in rice?

Oh, the green paste burns! by Francesco\

by A Cat

(from I Could Pee on This and other poems by cats collected by Francesco Marciuliano)

the humanist imperative to nourish and care for our children accordingly

Wednesday morning, upon logging in, I was greeted by the juxtaposition of the following subject line messages in my inbox:

Race to Fight Childhood Obesity from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation;

Censored: Michelle Obama‘s Biggest Mistake from Ragen Chastain’s blog Dances with Fat; and,

Lock-In Drill from my daughter’s high school.

Where shall I start? To begin with, on Wednesdays, I am not at the Health Center, and on that particular morning, my private client needed to reschedule. So, though I receive an onslaught of topic-related information constantly, I had on that day more time than usual to slowly digest these matters that are so relevant to what I do.

receiving the 2008 Humanitarian Award from the...

Frances Moore Lappe receiving the 2008 Humanitarian Award from the James Beard Foundation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ragen’s offering attracted my attention first. I have referenced her work previously. She is a committed activist and a powerful voice in distinguishing the difference between health and weight issues, preventing fat-shaming, and, shining light on the lies and manipulations of the weight loss industry. I can always count on her to keep me informed of something meaningful. Here, I learned that Michelle Obama was planning to go on the show The Biggest Loser to thank the contestants for being role models. Ragen’s reaction was quite pointed and the story of what happened when she and filmmaker Darryl Roberts (America the Beautiful) tried to field a response to the media is quite interesting. However, it was this comment that contributed to the theme of my day.

The worst thing is that all this focus on the weight of individuals is distracting us from the systemic issue of lack of access. Many people do not have access to the healthy foods that they would choose to eat–including foods that are not genetically modified or full of hormones or government-subsidized high fructose corn syrup. Many people do not have access to safe movement options that they enjoy, or to affordable evidence-based health care. But as long as we focus on little Johnny’s BMI, we don’t have to address the real problems here and we can just keep shaming and blaming fat kids and adults and misinforming them and everyone else about the odds of becoming permanently thin.

I strongly share these sentiments and it took only a few clicks on the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s website to confirm this dismissal of the larger issues. The articles in their In the News column included, Schools Find Active Kids Make Smarter Students and Virginia Legislation Calls for School PE Guidelines. Both are sad statements about the current state of affairs on such seemingly obvious matters. I applaud the work of the Alliance which I have discussed before in Diet for a Small Caterpillar, but I am often sad to see their amazing talents and resources going toward efforts to repair an intuitive intelligence that was broken by bad policymaking and vested interests disenfranchising the well-being of our citizens.

I also have a visceral reaction to the term the fight against childhood obesity. Obesity is not the only consequence our children are suffering–it is just one of the manifestations of poor nutrition and the ignoring of all the ingredients that contribute to both physical and emotional well-being in the early stages of development. If this were only about obesity, my daughter would not have had to, unfortunately, participate in a lock-in drill. Furthermore, fierce language is not what is needed even when details may make us wish to brandish our childhood obesity-fighting swords.

Thankfully, on that Wednesday morning, I was also fortunate to hear a really beautiful interview with Frances Moore Lappe, who has certainly had a strong influence on my own path. I will leave you with her words.

We don’t have a shortage of food, we have a shortage of justice. As we shift to focus on our relationships with each other, and with the earth, as we align our lives and our economy with what is true about our nature and is harmonious with the wellbeing of nature, we find answers to so many of the questions we face today. Hope is not what we find in evidence, it’s what we become in action.

So, I hope the connections make some sense and perhaps my title of this piece suggests such a shift of intention toward the task at hand.

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: Childhood Awareness Month Obesity; A Bushel and a Peck of Ways to Address Childhood Obesity; Nutritional Violins


Earth’s My Plate

My Plate Haiku

Are we what we eat

Or do we eat what we are

Are they the same thing?  by Julie

dietary linfluences

Linsanity. I am all over it. Jeremy Lin–Harvard graduate, undrafted player, turned New York Knicks phenomenon. Like I just learned that he’s a point guard. And, no, I haven’t seen him play yet–but that’s due to us not having much accessible TV in my home and something about a broadcasting contract between MSG Sports and the local cable company. So then, what do I know? I know he grew up playing basketball at his local YMCA; his other favorite sport was soccer; he does yoga; he has a charitable foundation; and, most importantly–what he eats per day to meet his protein requirements. Oh, and that he has a weakness for In-N-Out Burgers.

English: Turnips (Brassica rapa) Français : Na...

This 6-foot-3 and 205-lb rookie player has come charging onto the scene fueled with 205 grams of protein per day–as recommended by his personal trainer. Regular humans need about .4 to .7 grams of protein per pound depending on a variety of factors which include activity, age, state of health and a degree of imprecision in calculating optimal protein requirements. However, superlative athletes can extend their intake higher, and Lin’s 1.0 gram of protein per pound is probably both generous and acceptable. Sports that involve a lot of impact and pounding necessitate a large degree of repair nutrients which protein delivers–and with the compacted NBA season this year resulting in less rest between games, it seems like the players are taking quite a beating.

This means that to start him on his way each day, Lin aims for 50 grams of protein at breakfast. To reach this amount, he eats five eggs along with a serving of another protein like ham or turkey. The rest of his daily diet includes lean proteins from chicken, fish and milk-based protein powder, lots and lots of vegetables which he derives often from big salads, and a modicum of starchy carbohydrates. I was surprised at the lack of more carbs but I think they were just not clearly described in the plan that I saw.

I did not really intend to write about what Mr. Lin is chowing down–despite my being very interested in athletes’ diets. I enjoy hearing about those who credit their success or long, injury-free careers to their attention to nutrition–and will gladly delve into any Sports Illustrated Magazine that makes me privy to some piece of information about a sports celebrity’s care and feeding of their body. And, with professional sports’  fierce competition, more athletes are turning to such measures to improve their edge. I am also a champion of such stars who use their celebrity to promote healthy behaviors and give back to their communities such as Celtic’s Paul Pierce’s Truth on Health Fund.

I would love to be a sports nutritionist for a professional organization. I did once serve in that role for a college women’s basketball team. When I joined them for a team-building day–which included games and a high ropes course–my life felt a bit endangered. These tall amazon women felt entitled to some payback for my moderating their carefree college eating experiences. They were only Division 3.  Maybe, if they were more assured of a high paying basketball contract they would have better appreciated my input and might have caught me in that game where you stand in the middle of a circle, lean back with your eyes closed and trust that the others will gently receive and carry your weight.

I digress. Anyway, since I am not a highly paid sports nutritionist, my attentions go to the more pedestrian aspects of how the mere mortals are eating. The little tidbit that really led me into this Linsanity was a NY Times article this week about Jeremy’s grandmother, 85-year old Lin Chu A Muen. Though she lives in Taiwan, when Jeremy was a baby and young child, she came here and cared for him in the California home where he was raised. Apparently, one of the budding basketball star’s favorite dishes that she prepared for him was fried rice with egg and dried turnip. For me, right there was the story.

I extrapolated from this one sentence mention a whole message about childhood feeding–and grandmothers. I thought I would just use it to advance my personal theory that the whole ruckus about feeding kids is overblown and that kids will just eat good healthy food if that is what is presented to them–without a myriad of choice and being catered to and if served with love–just as Lin Chu did for little Jeremy–dried turnip and all.

This seemed like a good way to present my adopt a grandmother feeding initiative. I have long observed that there are many from the older generations who really know how to cook–but no longer have anyone to cook for. Connecting these grandmothers (and grandfathers) with households that lack such important know-how would be a brilliant solution to the current childhood culinary and nutritional crisis.

My thesis was advanced when quick research revealed that Lin’s family doesn’t cook much and so he eats out for most of his meals. I assume that this describes the situation when living at home with his parents–after Grandma returned to Taiwan. It seems like once Lin Chu left,  this family of ninth-generation descendants of immigrants from the Fujian province in southeast China, like many other American families, became clueless in the kitchen and In-N-Out Burger replaced the dried turnip dish.

One could probably argue that little Jeremy might not have grown so tall without the addition of such burgers to his diet and that a continued dietary of dried root vegetables, starch and a touch of egg protein could have deprived the New York Knicks of the divine lintervention he seems to be providing. His current protein intake far exceeds that of his ancestors. However, that raises other philosophical, ecological and nutritional issues.

I suppose he is living on his own now somewhere in the vicinity of New York City. Though he can probably afford it, his new-found fame probably makes it difficult for him to frequent the local burger joint, and besides, I don’t think we have In-N-Out Burgers here in New York. Jeremy might just have to take his eating back into the home and to find a grandmother who can prepare for him the sustenance he requires. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s too late for him to draft his own grandma for the program. Apparently, Lin Chu is too busy hanging out in sports bars in Taipei watching her grandson play basketball.

Knicks fans and Michelle Obama, what do you think?

Sunday’s stats: Knicks 104–Mavericks 97; Jeremy Lin 28 points and 14 assists  (7 turnovers–and that doesn’t mean apple)

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

(Update 2020–The Real-Life Diet of Jeremy Lin 2017)


some big feet to fit

My first pair Image by deshanta via Flickr

Yesterday, my first patient, Harry, was late and my second patient, Dan, was early. As I went out to the waiting room to call Dan, I saw Harry checking in with the receptionist. I had worked with him a few years back and remembered him well. He greeted me warmly and said he understood that he would have to wait. He assured me that this was not a problem.

This is a story about these two men. It probably should be two different stories. But, since the lines of their lives intersected on that morning, and since they share many commonalities–though Harry is black and Dan is white–merged, for now, they will be.

Harry and Dan are both 52-years-old. They are both over six feet tall and over three hundred pounds, though Dan dwarfs Harry in height and weight. They both are caring fathers. Harry has some older boys while Dan has an adorable non-biological three-year-old son he is raising. They are unemployed and poor, have had difficult lives and confront stress on a daily basis. They have diabetes and the usual laundry list of related issues. Impressively, and not commonly seen, they have both successfully and proudly quit 35 year-long cigarette addictions–Harry in the past two years, Dan about three months ago. You can see they were both once very handsome. Harry’s good looks are better preserved. Dan’s are more difficult to perceive due to his lack of teeth, long dirty stringy hair and enormous belly, but his pretty blue eyes and sculpted face tell me he once broke a few hearts. Oh, and they both like ginger ale.

I started working with Dan a few months ago. The loud-talking, heavy-walking, gentle giant stomped into my office in June feeling lousy. He had just been diagnosed with diabetes. He described to me a life marked by serious fatigue and inertia. He spent most of his day splayed on the couch watching television while keeping an eye on his preschool son. He started his day with coffee containing a mountain of sugar, drank iced tea throughout the afternoon and despite his lack of teeth, mainly ate an enormous dinner of starchy, fatty food which he said could probably feed five. At 380 pounds and smoking at least a pack a day, he could barely climb a flight of stairs. His ability to do the odd jobs he got paid for like mowing lawns and shoveling snow was becoming too difficult.

He presented with the common combination of desperation and despair but with a twinkle in his eye. I am always looking for some sign of the life force because making change necessitates pulling something out from the inside. Being illiterate and impoverished as Dan is, can profoundly dampen if not obliterate that inner will, but an eye twinkle is a good indicator that there is still fire within. Illiteracy and diabetes education are not a great combination but he has persevered and has made some amazing changes for someone who has only known mainly one path for half a century. He has literally and figuratively awakened recently and expresses his gratitude for the wake-up call. Though some of his work has been championed from my wonderful little office support team, he actually greatly surprised me by undertaking to quit smoking essentially from his own initiative.

At this week’s visit, he told me that his son just started a daycare program at a local YMCA. He and I had discussed his getting a Y membership which would now be great since he has to take his son there every day. He told me that he had tried to apply for a scholarship as I suggested, but that required bringing in some documentation and filling out some forms. Even as I handed him some free trial membership coupons I have for my clients, I knew that even this simple step requires filling out some paperwork at the other end.

At the end of our meeting, I brought him to the scale. I asked him to remove his old, worn-out heavy steel-toed boots that barely had a lace left between them. I weighed him and I weighed his boots at 4.2 pounds. Cumulatively, that is a lot of weight to drag around. Knowing the answer, I asked if he had sneakers.

With my steps already weary, I then walked back out to the waiting room to call Harry who I knew was waiting. I was still thinking about Dan–wondering how much a pair of good, supportive sneakers for his very large feet would cost. Being able to read and write and having some good sneakers sure would help this man to get moving.

I was abruptly brought back to the moment upon encountering Harry. There he was sitting at an empty table usually reserved for insurance representatives–about to dive into a take-out container of eggs, bacon, home fries, and toast. Though just last week I had to confiscate the bag of Swedish Fish a patient had brought into my office, in all my years I had never experienced catching anyone with a full-blown meal. “Where did you get that?” I asked in shock. “From the diner,” he replied. “How did you get it since I last saw you just a few minutes ago?” “I called them and they delivered it,” he explained somewhat surprised by my reaction and naiveté. “Am I busted?” he asked. No wonder he hadn’t minded earlier if I took my time. I dragged him and the breakfast into my office.

Harry actually has a lot more personal and community resources than Dan, but right now his blood sugar and health markers are much worse–and his situation had deteriorated since I had last worked with him a few years ago. I expressed my concern. He said that he had a lot of personal and family problems recently–though he was not making excuses. He lives alone and barely cooks at home. He is a personable guy and when I asked if there are a lot of local restaurants that know him by name–he confirmed my suspicion. Though he still has his teeth, he could soon not have working kidneys.

We looked at pictures from an old Parade Magazine about the comic Drew Carey’s diet and weight transformation. I told him the story of the film “May I Be Frank” that I discussed in Meditation v Medication. He put down the bacon and he told me he wanted his health.

I suppose I tell these tales to give a face and a fake name to the real people behind the current health crisis. Sometimes, I am hoping to inspire with stories of how people do overcome serious health and dietary challenges. Today though, I am wondering how to really help  Harry and Dan a little more. I can assist Dan with the Y application and can call Literacy Volunteers of America; I will loan Harry my DVD copy of the film. But what would those who dream, think and act big do? Who should I call? Oprah, Shaquille O’Neal, Michelle Obama, Drew Carey, the Tom Shoes guy? What do NBA players do with their Nike’s and and1’s after they have worn them on the courts a few times? Is there a healthy food delivery service for patients left languishing while waiting in doctors’ and hospital waiting rooms?

If you have any ideas let me know. Besides, these guys deserve something. They have taken the biggest step to health by quitting smoking. I am thinking of lauding them by posting their photos in the Health Center. Maybe we could write them a Haiku? What do you think?

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: Meditation v. Medication; Inventive Incentive

Update 2020: The 2018 Farm Bill allotted $25 million dollars in funding to Produce Prescription Programs. These dollars have ferried in an increase in the number and types of programs designed to provide food as medicine. They are an extension of the pilot program I developed and managed beginning in 2012 at the Health Center where I worked and described in Inventive Incentive. These programs have evolved over time, becoming increasingly sophisticated, supported by additional dollars, research confirming savings in health care spending, and new technologies. Programs increasingly do include the provision of medically tailored meals for specific health conditions and home delivery. Harry certainly had the right idea, just the wrong food.

My Plate Haiku

We serve the fruit of the Spirit

At the deli. Why not ask?

The Yellow Deli