Fed Up

Just back from a preview showing of the movie I mentioned last week, Fed Up.

So much damning information about the PFIC (Processed Food Industrial Complex).  And I may need to revise the title I’ve given, to include the US Government’s role in this horror story.

Honestly, I can’t think right now.  My head is swimming with factoids and my heart is churning with emotional reactions.

So, for now, I am going to say, go see this film.  Here is a link to the trailer.  Here is a link to the list of theaters where it will be showing, starting in the couple of weeks.

On another topic:  I’ve been writing about corners.  More next time.

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Re-view

brocFor more than six months I’ve been ingesting and digesting thoughts from many disparate sources, regarding shame, body image, addiction and fat stigma.  Chewing and pondering these various bits of information and insight, sometimes semi-publicly on the blog and also in private writing, has helped me move toward shame reduction. At moments when I feel most ‘out of body’ (which is a hysterical turn of phrase when talking about body size), I feel ‘shame-less’ or shame free.

That is, without shame, in a positive way.bana

This reminds me of my desire to re-frame the words self-ish and self-less, which desperately need to have their connotations expanded. To be self-less is actually not always positive.  It can mean not acknowledging or valuing the self. In fact, it can indicate blatantly negating the existence and value of self, as if others – people & things – are of greater importance, to the point where there is no room for self. Oh yes, there are positive meanings of self-less, but for women, I dare to say that being without self, as part of serving others, is far too common and self-destructive. Of course, destroying the self  implies having a self and, to speak for my self, the insubstantial and mightily distorted sense of self with which I came of age didn’t require much effort to destruct. Addiction is a speedy tool of destruction.

clemmySelfish, of course, has virtually nothing but a negative connotation. Greedy, not caring for others… It is thus a perfect word to use when accusing a woman of not taking sufficient care of others. In fact, any lapse in care taking, of spouse, children, parents, friends, colleagues, who-ever, is a spot-lit, glaring event. Over the course of centuries, patriarchy has inscribed the edict quite deeply, (like the Harry Potter character writing, scarring his own skin, as punishment), that females exist to service males.

This invisible writing, the tattoos of the established female role, has been diluted bit by bit, over the last century or so. And there were always exceptional women, (the exceptions) who were not, for whatever reason – and I would love to understand the hows and whys – fully oppressed by the code, the cultural norms. But for a woman to elevate self-care, even to the level of other-care is still a radical notion.

Mothers, particularly, speak of needing ‘me time’. It is a commodity, marketed now, of grapishcourse. (I think of those intensely sexual television ads for chocolate, where a woman swoons while nibbling a small square of chocolate while in the background a man stirs & pours sensuous vats of molten chocolate…)  ‘Me time’ for a woman is promoted as if it is something apart from ‘normal’ life.  On the other hand, with the exception of ads showing men driving cars or drinking alcohol and watching sports (since cigarette ads have been banned for many years), one rarely sees males yearning for ‘me time’.  They freely ‘indulge’ in these pastimes as a matter of course, every day.

It is the ‘norm’.

Okay, I went off on a bit of a tangent.  I drifted into this diatribe on self-less and self-ish rhub(behavior) due to their similarity to the expression shame-less. Another generally negative expression, with the implication that some wrong is being done and one ought to ‘be ashamed’ of the behavior. In fact, this connotation is not inaccurate for some situations. When I think of particularly obscene avarice or bigoted behavior, I wonder:

‘Do they have no shame?”

But this is a far cry from the shame of which I have been writing: the inlaid shame which hobbled me for so many years.  I feel tremendous gratitude that I walk comparatively unencumbered today.

 

“Should.” “Don’ Wanna.”

Everything seems to be taking a little longer today.  I am out-of-sorts and easily irritated. “Should, Don’ Wanna” is my theme song.

Is there a pressing should?  Well, I could do X, Y or Z. Yeah. I could.  I try to remember to say ‘could’ instead of ‘should’.  It’s definitely a less violent word than should, but still triggers an apathetic “but I don’ wanna”.

Where am I going with this?  Into a dark, self-defeating hole.  Think I’ll stop now.  I’ll come back to this negative chant – which can be viewed from a more positive angle in terms of choice – some other day.

I do have a piece of (potentially exciting) news to share. Here is some information about a new movie called FED UP, that’s coming out in May. It’s clearly promotional hype, but there is one sentence, which I have highlighted below, lest you miss it (grin) that speaks directly to so much I have been trying to say in this blog. I am so, so eager to find out the veracity and the source of this statistic.

Thirty years ago the U.S. Government issued its first ever dietary guidelines and with it one of the greatest health epidemics of our time ensued. In her documentary feature debut, executive producer and narrator Katie Couric joins Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth), Regina Scully (The Invisible War) and Stephanie Soechtig (Tapped) to explore why, despite media attention and government policies to combat childhood obesity, generations of kids will now live shorter lives than their parents.

Upending the conventional wisdom of why we gain weight and how to lose it, FED UP unearths the dirty little secret the food industry doesn’t want you to know — far more of us are sick from what we are eating than anyone has ever realized.

The truth is, only 30% of people suffering from diet-related diseases are actually obese; while 70% of us — even those of us who look thin and trim on the outside — are facing the same consequences, fighting the same medical battles as the obese among us.

Following a group of children for more than two years, director Stephanie Soechtig achieves a profound intimacy with them as they document their uphill battles to follow the conventional wisdom, ‘diet and exercise’, in order to live healthier, fuller lives. They are undertaking a mission impossible. In riveting interviews with the country’s leading experts, FED UP lays bare a decades-long misinformation campaign orchestrated by Big Food and aided and abetted by the U.S. Government.

Here is a link to the trailer, which doesn’t address the 30% and 70% statistic, but it’s worth a look.  Sugars

 

 

Poetry & tiny beads

Last Wednesday, a writer friend unexpectedly took me to a poetry reading.  As it happened, she also gave me a belated holiday gift, a collection of poems by the same poet, her favorite, Billy Collins.  If you don’t know his work, please check it out…

I thanked her the next day, for taking me ‘to another realm’.   Laughter, beauty and inspiration, I told her, were the things that I dis- or re- covered there.  Like fresh air, water or an open, silent vista.  What I needed, when I needed it, but didn’t know that I did.  I presume and hope you have sometime had that experience.  The reading was at Symphony Hall, an elegant setting, although I had never been quite so far from a reading poet before… I actually watched him on the ‘Jumbo-tron-style’ screen!  His generous gifts of story and poem were not at all diminished by the distance.  5171172_f260

That simple and most excellent evening was the cause of my delay, posting here on Thursday morning, instead of my self-imposed deadline of Wednesday evening.  Thursday passed by as many days do, filled with tasks and such.  Risking TMI, I will share that a nasty GI bug or food poisoning (my own cooking?) awoke me overnight and I spent Friday and Saturday abed.  Weak, tired and bored, I had the opportunity to read his poems (and others) and to think in the manner only stretches of un-busy-ness allow.  That is to say, deeply, which I believe implies calmly.  To be ‘relieved’ of even the brain power to plan “what I will do when I feel better” was at first frustrating, then allowed a deeper sinking into self.

Please know that I have no idea what courage, stamina and spirit it must take to survive a truly lengthy recovery from serious accident or illness.  I only wish to say how this string of events has unfolded for me, from a seat in the second balcony in Symphony Hall, to physical distress to bed rest.

There are on-topic things that I could write about and post today.  Mark Bittman had an excellent Op-Ed in the NY Times last week, which I want to discuss.   Here’s the first paragraph, for a taste.  There are so many reasons to admire this man: a chef with a global view.

In the last few years, it’s become increasingly clear that food companies engineer hyper-processed foods in ways precisely geared to most appeal to our tastes. This technologically advanced engineering is done, of course, with the goal of maximizing profits, regardless of the effects of the resulting foods on consumer health, natural resources, the environment or anything else.

Among other things, his piece led me to a new book called Lethal, but Legal, whose author discusses the ‘Corporate Consumption Complex’.  What a delightful surprise to encounter unknown kin of my ‘Processed Food Industrial Complex’!  Written by an academician, the book contains the results of mountains of research that I barely dreamed of attempting.  Many thanks to Professor Nicholas Freudenberg, whose words I will surely be sharing here, as I read about the Triple C.

In conclusion, however, here is what I wanted to share with you today.  The aforementioned string of events in my personal life has become a simple necklace, with four tiny, hand-molded beads.  In the past few days, I have written drafts of four small poems.  They are not especially good; in fact they are not yet poems, really and they may never reach that goal.  There are a few nice images and a nice ‘turn of phrase’ or two.  But the thing is – I wrote them.  A little fissure into the inner world of image and emotion, wrought by chance.  images-4

Sugar and fat

Another article in the newspaper this morning about the sugar being pumped into processed foods:  A little extra sugar tied to fatal heart disease in study, says the headline by Lindsey Tanner of the Associated Press.Sugars

CHICAGO — The biggest study of its kind suggests that sugar can be deadly, at least when it comes to fatal heart problems.  It doesn’t take all that much extra sugar, hidden in many processed foods, to substantially raise the risk, the researchers found, and most Americans eat more than the safest amount.  … in the new study, obesity didn’t explain the link between sugary diets and death. That link was found even in normal-weight people who ate lots of added sugar.

“Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick,” said Laura Schmidt, a health policy specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

The researchers focused on sugar added to processed foods or drinks, or sprinkled in coffee or cereal. Even foods that don’t taste sweet have added sugar, including many brands of packaged bread, tomato sauce, and salad dressing.”

Why does this seem so obvious to me?  I guess the scientific world needs studies to prove things.  Prove them to whom?  The politicians who could work to regulate the processed food industry?  Or could ‘facts’ like these encourage the PFIC (processed food industrial complex) to modify their own profit-driven choices?  How can our addiction to sugar possibly be broken?  Surprisingly, the answer might include adding more healthy fats to our diet.  WHAT?

Here are some thoughts about fats from the blog of the well-known Ayurvedic practitioner and teacher, Dr John Douillard.  He notes that ancient humans

“… ate tons of fiber and didn’t eat sugar. We eat way too much sugar and have insufficient amounts of fiber to block its absorption into the blood, leaving us with raging blood sugar issues.

“As the population grew, foods were processed so they could sit on a shelf longer. This was accomplished by processing good healthy fats, rendering them unhealthy. As a result, our dietary intake of good healthy fats has dramatically declined, leaving us searching for satiety elsewhere.

Remember, that feeling of satiety and satisfaction we get after a meal is due to the fats that stick to the ribs and make us feel full.

“Without sugar in their diet, hunter-gatherers were satisfied primarily by fats, while we have been deprived of such satisfying good fats in comparison.

“To [meet] this need to feel full and satisfied, we have gravitated to a diet of carbs and sugars, which deliver a more temporary version of satiety. The feel-good, satisfied sensation is delivered much quicker – and modern humans have become addicted to it. When the food industry began using processed fats in foods that we don’t digest well, the carb content in the American diet began to soar. Foods have to be pleasing and tasty, and this was accomplished with starchier foods with less digestible or usable fats.

“The more good fats you put in your diet, the less you will crave, want or need sugar and sweets.”

To borrow, and flip on its head, a phrase from the show Iron Chef America, I am engaged in ‘Battle Sugar’.  And I know I’m not alone.  There are two major ways that the desire, the craving for sweets seems to be hard wired.  One is more biochemical, which is an addiction habit and the other is more psychological, an emotional habit.  Together they have a powerful impact, particularly if visual or olfactory stimulation is present.  See a box of chocolates?  Want it.  Smell cookies baking?  Want them.  Watch someone eating ice cream?  Where did they get it?

With many thanks (not) to the advertising industry, we are bombarded with images of sweets, real or artificial, everywhere we look.  And painstakingly created chemical scents (and sometimes tastes) that mimic the delicious natural chemistry of butter and sugar attract us like little wavy cartoon lines.  Sensuous sells.  I love to share pet peeves here… the TV ads for Lindt chocolate truffles, where the image of a male chef, dripping molten chocolate from a large whisk, is followed by the picture of a woman swooning. Another candy maker has an ad showing a woman nibbling on a tiny corner of a small piece of chocolate also swooning.  Really?  Women are so easily satisfied…

Anyway, with a major chocolate holiday approaching next week, here is an early Eating Art Work drawing of a Valentine heart.

Choc heart

In My Humble Opinion

You may remember a post I wrote about a month ago, about Maria King’s ‘fat-bashing’ Facebook post.  Well, this week in the Boston Globe there was an Op-Ed piece championing Ms. King’s viewpoint.  The headline reads:  “Pro-fat is an unhealthy status quo”.   I must say, Globe editors, unless the author, Cathy Young chose that title, it seems like a provocative choice of words. The Globe is fairly consistent about presenting both sides of political issues, but there was no balancing opinion piece on this topic.  Which raises the question of whether the American attitude toward fat people is a political concern…

Ms. Young’s point appears to be that the ‘fat acceptance’ movement is dangerous.  As she critiques the promotion of ‘fat pride’ and the normalization and celebration of body size acceptance, I would ask Ms. Young to consider three questions.

First and most importantly, as she references the ‘rise in childhood obesity’, I ask, does she mean to say that it is better for children to grow up obese and filled with shame and self-loathing?  Does she really believe that it is irresponsible to present children with models of self-acceptance, regardless of body size?  She states that fat-bullying is not okay, but in the absence of any positive role models, the fat-bashers (adult & child) would seem to have cultural approval for expressing their negative opinions.keylime

Ms. Young quotes several studies, some which support her p.o.v and another, which she disparages as flawed, which is invoked by ‘pro-fat activists.’  Her reasoning is confusing and frankly, insults the intelligence of the participants in the study.  Plus, we all know how easily one can find studies to support or debunk any point of view.

My second question for Ms. Young is whether she has done any research into the role of processed foods in childhood (and adult) obesity?  For more than half a century, the processed food industry (with near-silence – or complicity – on the part of our government) has knowingly sold/fed the American public ‘food products’ that contain heavy loads of salt, sugar and fat.  These addictive substances have fueled billions of dollars in profits for the processed food and diet industries.  I would suggest that Ms. Young read Michael Moss’s Salt Sugar Fat, or at least the opening chapters, and educate herself.

Lastly, Young disparages the ‘the left wing notion that anti-obesity stigma equals bigotry (and patriarchal oppression, when directed at women)’.  I’m sorry, but seeing the words ‘left wing’ in this argument made me chuckle.  However, I guess in a way she’s right – it is a human rights issue – albeit one that the average progressive individual may not be comfortable espousing.  Be that as it may, I ask Ms. Young:  do you really, honestly contend that sexism/patriarchal oppression is not a factor in fat stigma?  There are thousands of studies that confirm that girls and women are judged on their appearance.  They know it, from a terrifyingly young age, and they strive to meet unhealthy standards of ‘beauty’.  Yes, fat is a feminist issue, (with a nod to Susie Orbach).

Young closes by likening obesity to alcoholism.  There may be parallels, but I would say that to call either ‘condition’ a ‘self-inflicted’ one demonstrates a lack of sensitivity and insight on her part.  She is simply incorrect when she closes with the accusation that promoting self-acceptance is ‘assist[ing] in denial’.  In my opinion, health, in every meaning of the word, requires a foundation of self-acceptance and pride, not shame.

On healthy & bodies

Writing is going well.  More connections keep sprouting, from my little head, the newspaper, the Internet and books.  I’m going to offer a couple of things for you to watch/read & consider.  Here is something worth watching:

Beautiful, heartbreaking, and ‘moving’ as the friend who posted it on FB said.  Because who is perfect?   Accepting and honoring the body we each have, our vehicle in this lifetime, that’s the goal.  I thank the Gods and Goddesses for artists, humanitarians, Europeans…

And here is a link to a wordpress blogger who caught my attention with a post called ‘Bikini Body’, back in April.  Here is what she posted today.   She says it very well!             I’ll keep on reading her blog…

I’ve been reading a cookbook, called True Food from Dr. Andrew Weil’s restaurants of the same name, that I found at the library.  Always resisted the hype around this man, but some of what he (and the other authors) has to say is spot-on in terms of healthy food vs. PPFIC food products. I’ll definitely be trying some of the recipes.

And finally, here is an excerpt from a book that will be published in a couple of days, called  The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight, and Live Better, by Jonathan Bailor.  I’m not keen on the subtitle; I have visceral reaction to  words like:  “Lose Weight”, but what he has to say in this scrap is interesting. (Emphases mine)

Calorie Myth #3: All Foods Are Fine in Moderation

Most diets suggest that we can eat whatever we want and be fine as long as we monitor our portion sizes and don’t eat too many calories. But as we’ve discussed, calories are not all that matter. What comes along with calories can disrupt our fundamental biology for generations. So why do we hear so much about calories and eating “everything” in moderation? One reason is that many of the institutions perpetuating this myth are funded by companies that produce processed foods. These institutions can keep their corporate benefactors happy and appear reasonable by preaching a message of moderation.(The “foods” aren’t bad—your willpower is!  It’s your “personal responsibility”to resist them!) Now anyone can sell anything and everyone is happy—except for the consumers whose biology is being broken.

Why Hormones Matter More than Moderation

When we are told to focus on calories and moderation instead of food and biology, “healthy” quickly becomes a highly relative term. For example, a popular fast food chain celebrates the health benefits of its offerings that contain less than 400 calories. Never mind the high fructose corn syrup, refined flour, trans fats, and pink slime in these edible products we collectively refer to as “food,” they’re low calorie and therefore “smart” choices.

We know this is absurd. We know that the nutritional and hormonal impact of calories matters immensely. But we can see why the calorie craze is perpetuated. Want to sell anything and call it healthy?  Convince people calories are all that matter. Then mix together the cheapest and most shelf-stable ingredients you can find and call it edible. Finally, shrink the serving size until you can call it low calorie and therefore“healthy.” One-hundred-calorie snack packs for everyone!

Misguided recommendations around moderation are not new. Just a few decades ago we were given a message of smoking in moderation, but then the science linking smoking to addiction and disease became clear. The link between inSANE foods addiction and disease is now clear.

As Yale University’s Kelly Brownell puts it, “By 1964, there was sufficient scientific evidence . . . [but] many years passed and many millions died before decisive action was taken to [turn the tide against smoking]…. Repeating this history with food and obesity would be tragic.”

Will a single soda or candy bar every once in awhile kill us? Of course not. But neither will a single cigarette every once in a while. The question is what we should be recommending. The message of moderation and calories is rooted in money, not science. Accurate recommendations would revolve around food quality and hormones, not calorie count and moderation…

Again, I haven’t read this guy Bailor’s book, so I’m not recommending it or endorsing his theories… but I do appreciate his take on the PPFIC and it’s food products.

Happy New Year.  Next post will be on 1-1-14

Numbing

Some new thoughts about addiction arising first from the writings of Brené Brown; the concept of ‘numbing’.  We humans tend to seek – and find – ways to numb ourselves, to avoid feelings.  Technologies developed in the last half century, from TV on, up to and including video games, FB, Pinterest, Twitter and many others, have been added to the traditional list of alcohol, drugs, food and work. A wealth of options.

Addiction as numbing.seeds1peg                          [Radish for color–>]

Numbing and sleep.  A new line of thought.  Ideas from the book Healing Night by Rubin R Naiman, PhD.  In my humble opinion, he’s right on point about the incessant activity in our daily lives and why we ‘struggle with rest’, that is, resist and “… fear slowing down and stopping… If we do ‘hit the brakes‘, unwanted thoughts and feelings stashed in the back of our vehicle might come flying forward.  All the shadowy stuff we have been too busy to deal with…”

Some folks think of rest as an activity “… tennis, golf, swimming, hiking, biking” or reading or watching a movie.  For others, being tired has become a cue to alter one’s consciousness with alcohol or other substances.”  (pp. 37-39)

The same thing, Naiman asserts, is happening with night time sleep.  “… many of us do not apply the brakes until we are in the garage; we fail to slow sufficiently before getting into bed… Some… just roll along until they run out of gas… others… knock themselves out with the help of chemical emergency brakes.” (pp.49)

“… evening appears to be the most common period of substance abuse.  [It] is generally about applying chemical brakes to help slow down the bullet train of our waking lives and to buffer our encounter with darkness.  The most common substances used at night are alcohol, marijuana, [sleeping pills] …and for those of us averse to using substances, overeating can do the trick.” (pp. 51)

So, numbing as another element of addiction; the less (but not totally separate from) physical part of addiction. We acquire numbing habits to fend off thoughts and feelings.  Feelings of shame, for example.  Perhaps anger at those who/a culture which stigmatize(s) and mock(s).

Process notes

Thank you NaBloPoMo.

I have learned so much, or shall I say I’m learning so much.  My evaluation of yesterday’s post, on a scale of 1 – 10, was zero.  Okay, maybe one.  (After all, I did include my old sketch of Oreos – actually the Newman knock-off sandwich cookies.)

I do believe that one of the ‘reasons’ why I gave myself such a low score was the topic…not only difficult, but also gigantic.  And there were other factors at play:  a busy day and fatigue… In truth I didn’t want to write or post anything, but… I am stubborn and I’ve made a commitment to do NaBloPoMo, so, even though I didn’t like what I was posting, I hit publish and went to bed.

In the night (so much happens then, ‘intelligence gathering’, I call it, except that it’s intelligence of the unconscious, not the thinking mind) I realized that what I posted (published still seems like a different thing altogether) were simply my preliminary notes on the subject.  Which is fine, actually.  Yes, I sort of wish I had known, or seen, that that’s what they were at the time,  but hey…so be it.

When I hurried down here to write this morning, the Brené Brown book from which I have been quoting arose from the chaos of my desk.  Subtitle:  “Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are”.         Oh.       Yeah.

For decades, in my work as a writing coach and teacher, I have been telling students & clients the wisdom of the writing sages. They all say it in one way or another.  “Basically it’s about practice (like everything).  You have to do some lame, lousy, crappy  ‘bad’ writing to get to the good writing.”   Well, coach, listen to thyself.

So, in fact I’m glad that I did (wrote & posted) what I did yesterday.  Woke me up, in a way.  Yes, this challenge to my self, to push and begin wrangling with the more dense elements of my topic has been/is really great.  I’m much further along that I was 24 days ago.  But “progress not perfection” has long been a mantra of mine and I am invoking it again on this cold November morning.    purpear

Adding up

Addiction is scary to write about.  I am no expert; I am quoting experts; I am sharing my reflections and welcome feedback.  Addiction is a word that carries a pretty big charge.  Mostly people use it either somewhat lightly, as in “I am totally addicted to Mad Men or knitting or sports talk radio…”  Alternatively it is used with a darker, ominous tone, as in “I’m worried she may be addicted to pain killers…”

I am going to repeat a couple of things.  First is this definition of addiction I posted yesterday.

“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.”

Then a link to the Connecticut College write up about the Oreo study.oreos
The language is uncannily similar, is it not?

“Brain reward” = Sugar/fat activates more pleasure neurons than heroin.

“Motivation, memory & related circuitry” = Rats hang out in the part of the maze where they got dosed with narcotics or sugar/fat.

“Environmental factors interact with the person’s biology and affect the extent to which genetic factors exert their influence” = The food products consumed can shift the balance, increasing likelihood of processed food addiction.  Repeated caloric deprivation can alter biological factors such as metabolic set point, leading to inevitable weight gain.

“Resiliencies the individual acquires (through parenting or later life experiences) can affect the extent to which genetic predispositions lead to the behavioral and other manifestations of addiction” = Social stigma, particularly if it is reinforced  by parenting choices, can lead to experiencing shame, greatly reduced resilience and addictive behavior.

“Culture also plays a role in how addiction becomes actualized in persons with biological vulnerabilities to the development of addiction” = Cultural biases re:  body image & appearance can isolate the individual, exacerbating shame.

Sentences in quotes are from same source as yesterday.  The link is here.