Speaking up

When I was younger, I protested.  As I became aware of the ‘wrongs’ in the world, I marched, picketed, rallied and performed civil disobedience.  I was mostly inarticulate, but I put my body out there and let it speak for me.  “Count me” as against the Vietnam war, U.S. interference in Central America and the perils of nuclear power plants.  “I am one of many” supporting civil rights, women’s liberation, workers rights, gay rights, environmental causes and reproductive rights.

When I look back now, I can see that my activism protesting injustice was partially fueled by the indignities and unfairness that I had experienced as a child and adolescent.  My drive to protest was largely unconscious, that is, I just knew what was ‘wrong’ and I acted.  In many ways the pattern of my life can be seen in that way; my instinctive reaction to a situation informs my response.  And I am perfectly okay with that.

Nowadays, in my later middle age, that ‘gut reaction’ is still my primary motivator and I rarely question my perceptions and instincts.  However, there is another element that has come to the fore.  In a much broader way, facts have joined with instinct to inform my opinions and actions.  And what is personally most significant – I am using my voice.

Often it is in my writing; sometimes in person.  Call it the confidence of age, if you will, but I am quite comfortable speaking my piece.  I am angry.  For decades I reacted with indignation and outrage on behalf of others.  Now I feel free to express fury on my own behalf as well.  The movie I have been urging you to go see next week, Fed Up, eloquently presents the case against the PFIC pushers I began writing about last fall.  It exposes the food industry and their governmental lackeys.

Did you know that the World Health Organization proposed guidelines (for at least the second time) more than ten years ago, limiting the amount of sugar recommended in our daily diet?  Did you know that the American Sugar Association and our government (led at the time by G.W. Bush) actually threatened to withhold U.S. funding ($406 million) for the WHO unless the recommendation was changed?  If you need proof that the bullying was effective, look at a nutrition label.  You will see that although sugar is listed under ‘Amount Per Serving’, there is nothing listed under ‘Percentage Daily Value’.  What?  The pushers won.  Outrageous.  In case you want to know more or I have been unclear, here are a couple of links to articles, in Mother Jones and the British paper, The Guardian.

Veering away from the PFIC for a moment, I want to bring your attention to an eerily parallel story regarding our public schools.  Here’s a link to a magazine article I read.  The early section entitled The beginning of “reform” really stunned me.  When the author says “Corporations recognized privatization as a euphemism for profits”, my feelings went from misery to rage. Add in the fact that something like 80% of our public schools have contracts with the PFIC to provide food products (not real food) for children…

To quote my beloved grandmother Inez Lewis Johnson, “It makes me mad enough to spit!”  Which was strong language for a lady born in 1895…

Until next time, be well.

 

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.

“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

 

 

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.

Happiness, joy, habit and shame

I love sticky rice.  I love making it and I love eating it and I just plain love the look of it.
Stickyrice

Although this drawing hasn’t ‘made it’ onto a towel or tote bag with EAW designs, it’s still a favorite.  Certainly the color makes me happy.

And how does this relate to the topic of this blog?  Well, I’ve been reading in Brené Brown‘s book about the difference between happiness and joy.  One way that she defines them:

Happiness is tied to circumstance and joy is tied to spirit and gratitude.

When I make sticky rice for my family, I have created circumstances that make me happy.  I enjoy the soaking and the rinsing and sight of the rice cooker steaming away.  I love the dousing with rice vinegar and the mixing with the wide, flat bamboo spoon that I brought home from Kyoto.  So I have made myself happy.

The beauty and simplicity of the cooked rice and the memory of the little side-street bamboo shop in Kyoto awaken my gratitude.  Those pearlescent grains remind me of the joy of cooking whole foods and connect me to all that I have en-joyed in this life.  That’s an especially wonderful thing when I’ve been raking muck, about PPFIC and personal shame history, as I have been so often lately.

So what about Oreos?  Am I happy when eating Oreos?  Not an Oreo; Oreos.  Me and the rats.  What circumstances take me to the Oreos?  None of the sensory pleasure that I’ve been extolling about the rice, that’s for sure.  In fact an Oreo eaten whole can be a bit dry.  I’m not a ‘dunker’; although tea or water does help.  But it’s that creamy white center: sugar and fat whipped up together to seduce my bliss point.  Pleasure centers in my brain start ringing and singing and, as I understand it, producing a spurt of happiness chemicals.

But memories? Nothing but shame.  No gratitude or joy to be found.  Sneaking cookies, hiding cookies, eating cookies when I wasn’t hungry.  All for that unbelievably brief illusion of happiness.  How did I respond to that flush of shame?  How did my body respond to the shot of sugarfatbliss?  I would reach for another Oreo.

But to repeat the question:  What circumstances take me to the Oreos?  I believe another important piece of the puzzle is habit.  Okay, maybe that seems ridiculously obvious, but the thing is that while the pleasure centers are being zinged by the creamy filling, neurological patterns are being reinforced in my brain.  Every time I would reach for that Oreo, the habit became a bit stronger.  Again, that may seem too obvious, but understanding the process has been eye-opening for me.  It’s all part of the same show.

I read Charles Duhigg‘s book, The Power of Habit almost as soon as it was published in 2012.  I am rereading now, along with the other sources I’ve been writing about, because it so clearly dovetails with my explorations.  I want to make sense of the connections between the PPFIC’s push toward producing addictive food products and personal habit and shame.  It’s all there, it’s all of a piece, I am sure of it.

A final note about getting the car into position for jump-starting.  It has taken years of sweating and pushing to turn the vehicle of my life around, so that a jump start was even  possible.  So that this writing exploration could begin.  And as you know, you can’t push a car by yourself, even a 1960’s VW beetle.  Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me, believing in me when I have not, reminding me I am not alone no matter how hard it gets and helping me onward by sharing her own courage, I am ever grateful to my dear friend and writing ally, jc.  Tea and toast for two.

Jump start

The end is in sight.  The end of NaBloPoMo raises a question…what shall I do on December 1st?  Right now, I think the answer is:  keep writing.  In fact, I know that’s the answer.  The jump-start I was looking for has taken effect; engine is humming and I am off down the road.  I supposed the general understanding of a jump-start is hooking cables from the battery of a running car to the battery posts of a car that is out of juice.  That image works a bit.  But what I’m really remembering is the jump-start that was possible before cars had computers, automatic transmissions and all that.

Indulge me.  A car with a standard transmission, circa 1966.  A Volkswagen beetle or my old 122S Volvo.  Dead battery.  Get that car pointed down hill on an incline.  Doesn’t even need to be a hill.  Release the hand brake and start rolling.  Pop the clutch and shift into first gear.  The engine kicks in.  Give it a little gas, and go.  Bee-U-ti-full, every time.  That purring sound, forward motion and an exhilarating sense of power, control & freedom.  Yep, that’s what this month of blogging has done for me.  Took a while to get the car into the proper position, but now…

I know what I need to do next, how to approach the ideas I want to express and I’m more ready than I’ve ever been.  I think my blog postings will go down to twice a week for the time being, so that I can put daily writing time into the larger piece.  Truth is, some of what I need to write is exploratory and personal in a way that isn’t ready to be shared.  Some of it can be, but I see now that the major work is to be done privately for a while.

My writing allies in W3 ‘uttched’ (nudged, pushed) me toward clarity yesterday, with their thoughtful, caring questions.  Thank you E, L & L for all that we share.  And while I’m at it, thank you to the (one or two) regular readers of this month’s EAW blog.  Your support means a lot to me.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve done an awful lot of writing over the years that has never been shared.  Hitting that ‘Publish‘ button every day this month has eased me over that roadblock to public writing.  Actually, the image is more like a wind-up car or toy that makes its way into a corner and gets stuck there.  The whining noise continues, the wheels or legs keep moving, but the nose is stuck against the wall and stays there till the spring runs down.  Hmm, writing with my nose in a corner.  Interesting.

Real cars and toy cars; not what I expected to be writing about today, but it’s always satisfying to find metaphors that really feel accurate.  As my local food pantry preps to hand out turkeys and trimmings tomorrow evening; grocery stores and kitchens overflow with (mostly) real food for the food-focused holiday this week;  I find that I have less appetite for spitting nails at and about the PPFIC.  I’m not done with that, but for now I more drawn to a compassionate consideration of food and addiction.  Here’s an old drawing of a sweet potato chip to close this post.

SwtPot         Sweet Potato = autumnal harvest.   Chip = addictive food loaded with S S & F.

Cooking Light

cooking lightI like Cooking Light magazine.  I even enjoy the regular note from the editor, Scott Mowbray.  Now, it’s also true that I like to read the letter that Christopher Kimball writes in each issue of Cook’s Illustrated and I’ve heard that not everyone enjoys his stories about Vermont so much…  So you can draw your own conclusions about my reading tastes.  They are, in truth, quite broad.
Anyway, back to Cooking Light.  I find the articles to be informative and I’ve made a good many tasty and healthy meals using their recipes.  They have a reasonable policy toward day-to-day cooking.  Meals can be relatively simple to prepare, but include a range of food-based nutrients and flavors.  Their ‘recipe make-overs’ are healthy without being ridiculously stripped down.
After discussing the loss of cheese in Cheez Whiz yesterday, I decided to take a closer look at the ads in the current (November) issue of CL.  I wondered how closely their advertising policies mirrored their sensible food philosophy.  In general, they do pretty well, with a few exceptions.  A Special Report on Sugar in this issue almost makes up for those problematic advertisers.
As you can imagine, I loved this opening in Kimberly Holland’s report:
“… Sugar … [is] everywhere in the American diet, though largely invisible.  … added to all kinds of processed foods, even those we don’t think of as sweet, such as salad dressing and marinara sauce.  Sugar, along with fat, is one of the key contributors to the caloric density of many packaged foods – the bulking up that happens when whole foods are refined, processed, flavored, and boxed.”  (pp. 39)
What follows is a lot of interesting, and some surprising, info about refined white sugar and alternative sweeteners.  For the most part their conclusions are in line with the research I’ve been reading.  You might want to take a look at the article in the library or on a magazine rack in the store.
But back to those ads…  One ‘offender‘ (in my opinion) appears right alongside some of the Sugar Special Report:  Kellogg’s “To Go” protein drink.
“…it boasts 5 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein.   It forgets to boast 4.5 teaspoons of sugar though… [this] highly processed… product… [is] very cheap to make, utilizing commodity soy and whey to bump up protein, and using polydextrose and cellulose to bump up the fiber count. Polydextrose is a synthetic source of soluble fiber… And as if the product is not sweet enough with 4.5 teaspoons worth of sugar, artificial sucralose and acesulfame potassium are thrown into the mix… what is canola oil doing in the drink? Or trans fat heirs-apparent mono and di-glycerides?”  This quote is taken from the blog Fooducate; read full commentary here.  Very disappointing to see this fine, health-focused cooking mag promoting a product that scarcely contains real food ingredients.
I am even more alarmed that the November issue of CL has a three page ad for BELVIQ, a weight loss drug recently approved by the FDA. You know, it’s the the sort of pharmacological ad that needs two extra pages just to list the risks and possible side effects of the advertised drug.  Now I realize that it’s good advertising income for the magazine, but not a responsible choice of advertiser, in my humble opinion.
Consumer Reports says “skip it”.  They note that “ … the European Medicines Agency was so concerned about the drug’s safety that it rejected the drug. The drug’s manufacturer, Arena Pharmaceuticals, recently withdrew its application for the drug’s use in Europe.”    Here’s a link if you want to check out the rest of their report.
There are ads for several Campbell’s products.  Only two days ago there was a report on WBZ-TV about the possible collusion of Campbell’s and the American Heart Association. It is claimed that they have misled customers by putting the AHA’s “Heart Check of Approval” on some soups that contain questionable amounts of sodium (salt).  A lawsuit has been filed that “suggests the AHA benefits financially from awarding these seals of approval. Last year, it collected $2.7 million from food manufacturers. The association maintains this was to cover the costs of the Heart Check program.”  Here’s the link to the WBZ report.
Does it all go back to money, money, money?  Hmm.
Okay, tomorrow I will try to be more upbeat, but for now I will say that despite these questionable advertising choices, this is a great issue – a 276 page Thanksgiving Double Issue.  Now that I have finished raking muck, I can go back and enjoy reading the recipes.