Thursday, March 25, 2010

Quality Over Quantity

I'm not going to use the F word or anything but I totally agree with the illegal-pizza-guy on the whole "family farm–killing, exploited illegal immigrant–built, fake cheese–laden, nutritionally void, race-to-the-bottom" food thing. And while he is discussing the value of his product I'd like to highlight the nutritionally void part. Michael Pollan says that you should eat as much junk food as you want as long as you make it yourself.

Again, the problem is the way we talk about the issue. Americans are obsessed with moving as quickly as we can for as cheaply as we can to the detriment of our health. Rather than spend time in the kitchen with our entire family we spend time rushing our family around from place to place and spend a minute with the microwave so our families can eat quickly before we shuttle them somewhere else.

I realize that as a childless adult I can't know all the details. Mothers work their tails off to keep their kids lives moving forward at all let alone making sure their kids eat perfectly all the time. Not that school lunch isn't also to blame for poor child nutrition. I wont discount the work of fathers either. But again, the problem is the way we talk about what we eat, how we eat and when we eat and the fact that we just accept the corporate line about this conversation. The illegal pizza guy highlights a problem that just furthers what I've said in the past. We have to stop supporting food that supports exploiting our farms and our people, even if they are illegal immigrants.

I've never understood Americans who don't live their life in a way that allows their values to shine right through their actions. And, no it isn't possible only because I live in a dual income household and it isn't always easy but damned if I'm going to be one of those people who will shove whatever comes past my nose into my mouth just because. And I agree, if you're willing to let your values stop at the oven door, you deserve your nutritionally void food.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why We Don't Have the Number One Health Care System in America

This story begins a few days after we left off in the story of the stumped cholesterol patient.

"Hello. Doctor's office."

"Hi. I came in a few weeks ago and had some blood taken and got conflicting information on the results. One letter I got said my blood work was fine and one said my cholesterol was off."

"That's weird. The doctor will call you."


Later that day.


"Hi. This is Doctor _______. I got a message that you don't understand your test results."

"Um. It isn't that I don't understand them. I got one letter from you saying they were fine and another letter saying my cholesterol was off."

This back and forth continues while she gets more and more angry and intimates that I am clearly stupid and was raised by apes.

"Well I guess I will just have to go look at your chart."

Stunned silence while I think about the fact that she hadn't actually been using facts throughout this conversation.

"Okay, your results say your urine is fine." Didn't give you any of that but whatever. "Your Vitamin D is fine, you aren't anemic . . . oh. Um. Hmmm. It looks like this cholesterol test is not part of your results."

"I'm sorry, what do you mean?"

"Uh, I think someone in the lab stapled another patients results to yours. Sorry. No reason to worry. Glad everything checked out."

"Great. Thanks."


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What Goes In and Out the Mouth

Marion Nestle of Food Politics did a fantastic job of highlighting Michelle Obama's speech to the Grocery Manufacturers on Tuesday. What Mrs. Obama said is essentially that these producers need to stop acting like they aren't part of the problem and start providing more healthful food to children as well as packaging and advertising their food differently. I think there is a ground swell of attention in the media on nutrition and fitness although that could be because it is something I pay attention to but we can't deny the fact that almost two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. Even if you aren't so sure about the ground swell the proof is in the pudding (or on our thighs).

While I think Mrs. Obama should be commended for speaking to (pointing the finger at) part of the corporate problem, I think she has failed to highlight the root of the problem of obesity in America. Our country's problem with obesity is only partially what we choose to put in our mouth. The problem is also what comes out of our mouths (or what is in our media). The way Americans talk about obesity and health is not productive. We live in a society where the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic admits he discriminates against overweight people and doctors across the country avoid the topic entirely.

Our country is great at sensationalism. We live in a world where reality television reigns and cable news personalities are more than just journalists. Beyond just the way we package and consume information there is a whole new world of food blogs out there (I love them too, don't get me wrong) and every major news source has a restaurant list of some kind. You could say this points to the fact that we live in an information age where we can know exactly what we want to hear when we want to hear it. Replace 'information' with 'food' and 'know' and 'hear' with 'eat' in that last sentence and you've explained the true problem of obesity in America: a total lack of reality.

We live in a food age where we can eat exactly what we want to eat when we want to eat it.

The Washington Post commentary on weight gain during pregnancy is a great example of the lack of reality. Jennifer Larue Huget (a journalist, not a doctor or scientist) published an online article where an actual gynecologist said, "I realize that all of this information is super-depressing. I'm basically telling you that if you're already heavy, you're just going to get heavier when you're preggers, and then stay that way forever" in response to a new book on eating when pregnant.

The comments are even more telling. For instance, sigmagrrl wrote, "Jesus. We're never going to get a break, are we? WHAT DOES IT MATTER THAT SOMEONE IS FAT?!?! Criminy, stop JUDGING each other!!!" Lets look past the fact that sigmagrrl seems to have been blinded by rage and forgot to make a legitimate factual point and note that first of all, a physician used incredibly demeening language when discussing pregnant women. Preggers? This person is allowed to use a speculum. (At one point she refers to overweight women as, 'bigger gals'.) I'm guessing that this particular gynecologist did not take Bed Side Manner 101 or is one of the doctors discussed in the Times article on doctors who avoid the topic of weight with patients because its awkward.

Moving away from the medical community and its break from reality in terms of obesity - our schools are also giving our children a skewed view of reality when it comes to eating. Mrs. Obama is right that children get the impression that dessert is an everyday food and that we need to entirely change the way corporations advertise for food but we also need to start talking differently about the entire world of nutrition, obesity and even how we treat one another with regard to these issues.

Yes, people discriminate against the overweight but the answer is not to condition our society to stop this behavior but to think critically about ourselves and our habits. Leave everyone else to their own problems and start taking action in your own life to support healthy habits. I don't just mean eat salad from Subway instead of McDonald's cheeseburgers for lunch. I mean that we all have to think critically about what we buy at the grocery store and what grocery store (or farmer's market if you can). Think about the foods you buy when you go there. Don't just buy some meat because it is on sale. I wont even bother to say that I think Americans need to start fighting big-ag or that everyone should buy CAFOs free meat because honestly every consumer needs to go out and educate themselves on what they want to eat and how they want to live. It isn't because I feel bad for the piglets or the farmers but that we live in an age of information NOW and food NOW and it is killing us. Slowly but surely our kids are getting fatter and our life expectancy is getting shorter.

We like to pride ourselves on being a country that clings to our beliefs and we like to talk a big game about freedom. Want to be really free? Stop falling in line with the corporate BS and be free of what corn and beef subsidies are shoving down your throat and start thinking for yourselves.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


A while back I went to the doctor because I was fatigued. I wasn't tired as in I needed to go to bed but tired as in I felt sluggish or lethargic. I have a horrible primary care doctor. I know she is horrible but there are so few doctors in DC that are taking new patients that I just ignore this problem and do my best to manage my health in spite of her crappy bed-side manner and inability to communicate with humans.

After the nurse took a bunch of blood I waited a few days and got no response. So I called their office. The response was, "Oh we ordered more tests can't tell you anything else", CLICK. Thanks for the info, really, very helpful. The nurse who answered must have the same lack-of-communication disease that afflicts my doctor. A few days later I get a call from another nurse telling me that all my blood work is fine. I had to work pretty hard to get her to answer more questions. She was itching to hang up on me too. I asked for the report on my blood work and got some half-assed scribbled note in the mail a few weeks later that says "Blood work normal. Dr. X". Gee, thanks, very helpful.

Fast forward a month or so and I get something in the mail that I assume is a bill for their amazingly helpful work. No, it is a form that tells me my cholesterol is not super. One of the reasons I haven't written here in a few days is I've been mulling this over and I just don't know what to do with this information. First, the form swears up and down that all my other tests are fine (including urine, which they didn't take, but whatever, I'm sure their smart and could see through my bladder or something) but that my good cholesterol is low and my bad cholesterol is slightly high although my over all cholesterol is normal. Accompanying this form is a note scribbled about getting aerobic exercise and taking fish oil. I really appreciate these tips since you know, I totally don't do those things already. So really, no advice given.

So, really, I'm just stumped. It is bizarre that all my tests are fine except my cholesterol. It is bizarre that I'm apparently the picture of health except for this one thing to do with my blood and heart (not important, clearly). But what is really bizarre, nay, TOTALLY RIDICULOUS, is three-fold: my initial complaint has been ignored, my doctor has not once called me since I saw her and her suggestions were things I told her I already did in my appointment.

Really, thank you medical community. I can't see why anyone blames you for at least part of the health care crisis.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Food PRODUCTS v. Food

"Here’s one idea: subsidize farmers markets and green grocers, i.e. places that tend not to sell lots of cheap, calorically dense foods. Any other suggestions?"

Also, this is why I don't eat processed food. Besides that I'm mildly allergic to some additives. The bagel chips I ate today don't count, thanks.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


The Consumerist has a nice summary of why I want to go to law school.

To fight Big Ag. Do you think I can get a free ride though? I like vegetables.

Oh, Right. Hi, Me.

I had to write myself a letter. This time I needed to recommit. Last time I was setting the ground rules. The contents of the new letter were a bit different but the goals and the tone were the same. Really what I had forgotten was this key piece:

"First, stop eating when you aren't hungry. This is the root of almost every problem you have. You go to the fridge when you're bored, tired, stressed or pretty much anything else. This makes you unhappy. So basically all your emotions go in your mouth and when they come out you are unhappy. Essentially you're making yourself unhappy for simply having feelings. Stop it. You love yourself more than that."

I haven't been taking care of myself. I mean I've been showering and eating meals but I haven't been actively loving myself. The irony of eating my feelings is that I actually like the feeling of hunger. I get great satisfaction from eating a tasty meal, digesting and then becoming hungry again.

The other thing I did was remind me that I needed to move forward rather than beat myself up. Wasting emotion on feeling bad about the poor choices I made wont make them disappear. In fact, it'll probably cause me to eat those feelings too.

I'm also choosing to look at through another positive lens. That is, this could have become a wagon jump like the two times I gave up Weight Watchers and spent 3 years coming back each time. This time I stopped myself right away, just when I was starting to feel really gross. Rather than wallow I chose to remind myself of the choices I prefer to make and recommitted.

I sound like a cult leader and dammit I'm thrilled.