Of/By/4; The Belly Belatedly Understood

Of/By/4 in 18 minutes By Lawrence Lessig

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Dearest Mommy and my natural father . . .

I apologize.  My belly, my bloated body, only belatedly do I understand.  It never was in the genes.  The abundant meat that weighed heavily on my bones was not caused by my chromosomal structure; it was piled on by Congressional and corporately funded campaigns.  Mommy and the husband who helped make me, much to my embarrassment, today I acknowledge my error. I was spoon-fed, and not by the two of you.  Legislators, Lobbyists, and big businesses that place misleading labels on chemically cooked up cuisines put corn fillers on my every plate. I chowed down.  My little body bulged out.  From the inside out, I grew bigger and wider.

I am so sorry.  I did not realize.  Sugar and high fructose corn syrup made me other than pleasingly plump.  I thought it was you, the givers of my DNA, Deoxyribonucleic acid.  I believed that genetic material was my doom.  Oh my parents, trans fats and trans fatty acids made me do it, blow up like a balloon.  

I know I blamed you. Now I understand.  Only your votes could have prevented my childhood obesity.  

Perhaps, the chemicals that clung to the frozen foods we were all fed persuaded you as well.  I remember the ample advertisements that tempted us to indulge.  TV dinners. Yum!  Soda to sip on. Sensational. Potpies and popped corn all cooked in a jiffy.  Delicious!  It seems, in retrospect, our preferred diet did us in.  Fast foods, we thought, bought us time.  Indeed,  these processed products only purchased candidates and ensured greater corporate profits.  

Oh yes; the junk we ate also added pounds, advanced poor health, and did I  mention, help promote people whose claim to fame was the desire for absolute power.  We were appeased and deceived, Corporations and Congressional candidates achieved.  

My dear parents, today, I accept what I was unaware of for the many years I gluttonously gulped on boosted beverages, or swallowed all the overly salty, starchy, sweetened fare. My fat was not yours or mine.  It was theirs. Big businesses gained on my back and yours.

Your apologetic, loving and lumpy daughter . . .


References for reflection, food for thought . . .


Meet the Meatrix

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

As you gobble that fine food, be it steak, a frankfurter, roasted chicken, or an omelet, please, sit back relax. Put your feet up and stay a while.  I will furnish the entertainment in the form of a film. Meatrix is fun, fascinating, and far from folly.  This presentation is playful; the message profound.  

You may recall the fairy tales you loved as a child.  The plots varied, although all had elements of mystery.  Adventures were abundant.  Tots were often so engrossed in the tales, they barely noticed that the themes taught a life lesson.  Meatrix is as the fables you once anxiously awaited and even asked others to read aloud to you.

The main characters move you through the story.  Moopheus leads Leo through the world of rolling hills, the family farm, and into . . . Well, I do not wish to tell you the ending.  Please travel with the pair as they stroll along.  Follow them into the meadows and fields.  Allow yourself to suspend disbelief, or embrace mistrust.  Just as Leo, you and I, and the person who shares a meal with you, have a choice.  We can take the blue pill or the red one.  Fantasy or reality; either may be hard to swallow.  Nonetheless, let us indulge. The travel could be delicious . .  . or dreadful.  Are you ready to explore?  If so, let us go.  Let us meet Meatrix.  He will show you the way.  The decision to travel is yours.

If you choose, to meet The Meatrix and Learn About the Issues, you may want to Take Action.  What can you do?  If you wish to, Spread the word.  At least, consider what you eat, where it came from, and what sacrifices were made for your breakfast, lunch, snack(s), or dinner.  Perchance, the “Happy Meal” is not such a bargain or worth the price we pay.

Fragrances and Food; The Way to a Heart is Through the Stomach and Nose

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

We met in December.  The year was 2007.  He was a friend of my cousin’s.  The two were best of buds; they still are.  Cousin Paul has known James for decades.  Jim moved to my hometown only months earlier.  He felt alone.  James longed for a friend, locally.  Paul introduced us on the Internet.  After my relative played the mediator, the man in the middle, the means for a message, he asked if he might share our electronic mail addresses.  James and I each consented, and from then on, we exchanged epistles directly.  

In letters, we liked each other.  Admittedly, for us, the electronic medium was limited.  We decided to share a drink together; although I let him know, I only imbibe water.  James said that was not a problem.  We arranged to get together at Starbucks.  The coffee shop was near to his home and mine.  Neither of us wished to share where we lived exactly.  We were hesitant, cautious, or just not willing to chance the unknown.

Today, speed dates are popular.  For some, a minute or two is more than enough to determine whether he or she is the “one.”  Some believe in love at first sight.  They know immediately when Miss or Mister Right walks through the door.  From across a crowded room eyes meet, sparks fly; for many providence steps in.  Cupid’s arrows are manifest destiny.  

A gallant gent may meet a genteel girl and the two will gallivant forever.  If a lady were to encounter a extraordinary lad in the last month of the year, by Valentine’s Day, perchance the two would be wed.  That is unless she eats garlic onions, or spicy foods.  

James enjoyed our first encounter.  He took pleasure in our later luncheon.  My cousin’s best friend looked forward to our every conversation.  The more we chatted the more he longed to converse, connect, and commune in every way possible.  This fine fellow spoke of copulation often.  While he had been with others at the time of our introduction, he did not feel as close to them as he did to me.  James spoke of our shared energy, enthusiasm, interests, and the excitement he felt in my presence.  Nonetheless, one day, as he readied to rally at my home he decided he could not do it.

The smell of my well-seasoned skin was just too much for this lovable man.  James diet is bland in comparison to mine.  He did not wish to tell me I could not dine as I do.  He did not wish to end our relationship per se; James just needed to create a physical distance.  All the while, he reminded me of how much he loved me and always will.  Certain he did not want to think of a time when we would not be emotionally together, James concluded, at least for a time, he needed to occupy a separate physical space.  Perhaps, we could see each other and just not share a repast.

In the Twenty-First Century, the dynamics of dating are more complex.  People are sensitive.  The personal preferences of one person may offend another.  Individuals are vocal.

Sharing meals has always been an important courtship ritual and a metaphor for love.  But in an age when many people define themselves by what they will eat and what they won’t, dietary differences can put a strain on a romantic relationship.  The culinary camps have become so balkanized that some factions consider interdietary dating taboo.

No-holds-barred carnivores, for example, may share the view of Anthony Bourdain, who wrote in his book “Kitchen Confidential” that “vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”

Returning the compliment, many vegetarians say they cannot date anyone who eats meat.  Vegans, who avoid eating not just animals but animal-derived products, take it further, shivering at the thought of kissing someone who has even sipped honey-sweetened tea.

Ben Abdalla, 42, a real estate agent in Boca Raton, Fla., said he preferred to date fellow vegetarians because meat eaters smell bad and have low energy.

No matter how delightful a mate may be, if she eats meat, or finds a meal of fish repugnant a male suitor may not pursue her.  If a woman thinks a man prefers a menu that is ethically loathsome, she will say so.  Even those trained to understand, may not empathize at all.

Lisa Romano, 31, a vegan and school psychologist in Belleville, N.Y., said she recently ended a relationship with a man who enjoyed backyard grilling.  He had no problem searing her vegan burgers alongside his beef patties, but she found the practice unenlightened and disturbing.

Her disapproval “would have become an issue later even if it wasn’t in the beginning,” Ms. Romano said.  “I need someone who is ethically on the same page.”

While some eaters may elevate morality above hedonism, others are suspicious of anyone who does not give in to the pleasure principle.


James did not quibble with my decision to avoid caffeine or alcohol.  He did not question my desire to shun sugars.  It made sense to this sweet man that I do not dine on meat, fish, chicken, or potatoes.  James did not find fault with my wish to preclude processed foods from my diet.  I did not consider his choices flawed.  For me, people eat as they do.  I delight in my entrees and worry not of what others consume.  I understand change comes from within.  I have no desire to transform another; nor do I wish to be converted.  

As with other differences couples face, tolerance and compromise are essential at the dinner table, marital therapists said.  “If you can’t allow your partner to have latitude in what he or she eats, then maybe your problem isn’t about food,” said Susan Jaffe, a psychiatrist in Manhattan.

Dynise Balcavage, 42, an associate creative director at an advertising agency and vegan who lives in Philadelphia, said she has been happily married to her omnivorous husband, John Gatti, 53, for seven years.

“We have this little dance we’ve choreographed in the kitchen,” she said.  She prepares vegan meals and averts her eyes when he adds anchovies or cheese.  And she does not show disapproval when he orders meat in a restaurant.

“I’m not a vegangelical,” she said.  “He’s an adult and I respect his choices just as he respects mine.”

In a former relationship, Eric and I were as Dynise Balcavage and John Gatti are.  Never once was food an issue.  I cooked meat for Eric with little hesitation.  Admittedly, I would pay more for chicken parts.  I could not bring myself to cut into the flesh and bone of one of G-d’s creatures.  When liver was prepared, I could not season the slices.  In truth, my eyes could not gaze upon the bloody organ.  Eric would place the animal protein in the bag I prepared with flour and spices.  Then, he would lay the organ into the heated pan.  Only after the meat was seared, could I continue to cook the “delicacy.”

However, while I do not define myself by what I eat, I can no longer look at animal flesh on a plate and feel  the same emotional distance I once did.  While I still do not struggle with what another ingests, I do not believe that I would be so willing to bake, broil, or boil a bird, cook or carve a piece of beef, slice or dice a chop of pork.  Perhaps, I have changed, even if ever so slightly.

I cannot be certain whether trends transform a person, age alters an individual, or if experience hardens hearts.  Perhaps, ancient hurts hinder us.  In an era where divorce defines the population, people have become more discriminating. James was married twice.  I am the daughter of divorced parents.  In America today, our experiences are common and likely shape us.  The subtle nuances of companionship possibly affect the stomach and the nose..

Children watch Mom and Dad coo, only to see them separate.  The pain of parents parting can cause a stomachache.  Teens remember when their parents were romantic, rather than full of rage when together.  As an adolescent reflects on unity he or she ponders, ‘This stinks!’  Adults cannot forget the one who broke his or her spirit.  Habits of lover were appreciated.  Slowly, but surely, all that seemed beautiful left a lover nauseous.  The scent of one who was adorned becomes a reminder of all that was lost.  Closeness can be sickening.  Smells and tastes are no longer savored.

Nonetheless, people wish to believe passion is pure, adoration is in the air, and that special someone is just around the corner.  Hence, we look, and look, and hope to find our Valentine.  Restaurateurs rely on the human desire to love and be loved.

Valentine’s Day ranks second only to Mother’s Day at restaurants.

“It’s something that restaurants all over the country . . . look forward to,” said Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association.

Thirty-five percent of Americans dine out on Valentine’s Day, close to the 38 percent on Mother’s Day.

Of those who dine out, 80 percent pay an average bill of $62. The remaining 20 percent spent more than $100 in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, according to Sherry Gillespie, the association’s marketing manager.

Those spending $62 are paying $20 or $25 more than usual, Chucri said.

“I think people go out and spend more because they enjoy the day,” he said. “They might get that bottle of wine instead of a glass of wine. Or they might get an appetizer and a dessert.”

Pleasure or the want of it can be blissful.  James and I experienced that from the first.  The conversation, started and stayed interesting.  We were authentically animated.  He thinks I am saucy and sweet, but perhaps a bit too spicy.  Like or unlike millions, James does not revel in the smell of natural seasoning.  At one point he explained, “I think you are great.  I enjoy your company. I yearn to be with you and would be if only  you would stop eating garlic, onions, and spicy foods for three days.”  

While intellectually James does not object to my nutritional regime or my being as I am, his stomach and nose struggle to follow his fondness.  Delicate scents do not disguise the aroma of peppers.  A bouquet of cologne does not cover the odor of onions.  From food to fragrances, friendships are fragile.

Perfume has long been an aphrodisiac decanted sparingly from an iconic glass bottle.  But for Leslie Ware, a fashion editor at a quarterly magazine in Huntsville, Ala., fragrance has worked its magic in the opposite direction, as a romantic deal breaker.

Several years ago, Ms. Ware was engaged to a gentleman who did not like Trish McEvoy 9, the fruity vanilla blend she had been wearing for seven years.

“He thought I smelled like a traveling carnival, the kind where they sell corn dogs, because I guess the smell was reminiscent of cotton candy,” Ms. Ware, 28, said. “This was the demise of Trish No. 9.”

It was a bad omen.

Soon after, Ms. Ware said she broke up with the perfume-averse boyfriend. She has not worn fragrance since.

A more recent boyfriend fared no better after he bought Ms. Ware what she called “an old-lady perfume” against her wishes.

“It made me mad,” she said. “I told him not to bother buying me fragrance since I am picky, and now I have a $125 bottle of perfume sitting in a closet.”

Just as stomachs lead many men, and women, noses help navigate these same individuals through the maze of ardor.  When we wish to give to one we love, money is no object.  The cost of the gift does not deter a admirer.  Nor does the price impress the person who receives a present.  There is much to love, and more to learn if we wish to create a bond that lasts.

This Valentine’s eve women will not douse themselves in fragrances and men will be reminded not to buy perfumes as they did in the past.  Colognes and toilette water are not collected as they were years ago.

[M]ore women are forgoing scent altogether.  Last year, about 15 percent of women said they did not wear fragrance, up from 13 percent in 2003, according to a survey of 9,800 women conducted by NPD.

“That may sound like a small number, but nationally that translates into two million more women who are saying ‘I don’t wear fragrance,’ ” said Karen Grant, the senior beauty industry analyst at NPD. “Eighty-five percent of women are still buying fragrance, but an increasing number tell us they are wearing fewer scents, less frequently or not at all.”

Fragrance fatigue is probably inevitable, with heavily fruited scents wafting out of everything from dishwashing liquids to hotel linens to candle displays at the mall. But perfume aversion seems to be tapping into a larger societal phenomenon that may have its origins in bans on cellphones and cigarettes: the idea that the collective demands of the public space trump one’s personal space.

“People are shying away from fragrances not for the traditional reasons that you’d expect, that it is too expensive or that they are wearing alternative products like body sprays or lotions,” Ms. Grant said. “Many people said it bothers them that fragrance has an effect on other people, that they are trying to be considerate by not overcoming others with scent.”

Indeed, Rochelle R. Bloom, the president of the Fragrance Foundation, an industry trade group, said that people who worry that their fragrance may offend others simply may be wearing perfume improperly.

It is not difficult to hurt the feelings of another. People are sensitive souls.  Stomachs ache.  Noses run.  Hearts hurt.  Cupid’s arrows are curved; however, they can be straightened.

But sometimes couples can reach olfactory accord.  Last fall, Robert Flood, a retired technology platform tester in Allen, Tex., worried how to tell his wife of 25 years, Amy, that he could not abide her new perfume, Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion.

“It was very atrocious, at least to me,” Mr. Flood, 52, said in a phone interview last week.

The couple later worked out a compromise so that he would not be discomfited should her scent again stray into his air space. Henceforth, each will choose a fragrance for the other to wear.

“On Valentine’s Day, we will go to one of her favorite stores and she will buy me English Leather and I will buy her Jean Naté, which is the fragrance she was wearing when we had just met and she was 17 going on 18,” Mr. Flood said. “We are not smelling the perfume so much as the memories.”

Indeed, for the Floods, fragrance brings with it the Proustian power of recall. One could argue that those who forgo perfume now may inadvertently diminish at some future date the textural memories of relationships past.

Perchance, passion is more than a perfume or a pound of flesh.  Spice may not be the cumin poured into the curried dish.  The flavors that create true fondness are not found in the pantry or the powder room.  The zest and zing that brings zeal into a relationship does not originate during a meal.  A scent will not make heartstrings sing.  

If two are to enjoy as one they must be responsive and receptive to what is not visible to the eye or smelled by the snout. Memories made and remembered satiate more than a stomach and flood more than a muzzle.  This Valentine’s Day may be the time to steam sweet nothings and sniff a bit of fresh air.  Hugs, kisses, and Happy Valentine’s Day.

Sweetness and Spice Sources . . .  

Americans Have No Choice; A Diet of Fats, Salts, Sugars

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

‘Tis the season to be jolly.  From Thanksgiving Day to the dawn of the New Year, Americans are encouraged to eat.  He, she, you, and I are expected to fritter our fears away.  We will worry not of weight gain, heart attacks, coronary artery disease, strokes, or diabetes.  Citizens in celebration will gorge on and gulp down millions of morsels.  Americans will eat, drink, and be merry with reckless abandon.  There are some expressed concerns for food safety, especially after a year of scares; however, for the most part we will dine with delight.  

Then, come the First of January we will do as we did last year and the year before, we work to munch more wisely.  Most of us will make a conscious effort to decrease the fats, salts, and sugars in our daily diet.  Individuals throughout the country will convince themselves it is only a matter of self-control.  We can eat well if we decide to.  Citizens in the USA believe what they ingest, how, and when is a choice.  In the land of the free, and home of the brave, we boldly do, as we desire.  Here, in America, there are food choices galore, or so we are led to believe.

However, since the late twentieth century Americans have actually had a very limited selection.  They, we, are not free to dine as we might.  Our menu is extremely restricted.  We can chew on Acidulants, enriched Baking Aids and Mixes, luscious Cocoa and Chocolate, chemical Emulsifiers, Texturants, and Stabilizers, refined Flours, “organic” Nutrition Ingredients, [meager when available], processed Oils and Fats, palatable Protein Products, and “naturally” Sweeteners.  If we wish to ingest more wisely, we can; that is, if we are up to the challenge.  In the States, the Recommended Daily Allowance is wrought with ruse.  

The public professes they want no government in their lives, or more importantly, on our dinner plates.  Yet, Americans accept that administrative authorities must regulate to ensure that what we eat is truly safe.  Federal Officials are necessary and tolerated in moderation.  Indeed, Americans actually appreciate the Food and Drug Administration.

According to a survey of 30 federal agencies being released today, consumers asked about the FDA’s performance believe that food labeling is useful, clear and understandable, that consumer alerts of food safety issues are useful, and that customers trust FDA to ensure food safety in the future . . .

The survey asked about the usefulness and clarity of food labeling; customer awareness and the effectiveness of inspecting, testing, and labeling efforts; and the usefulness of consumer alerts; meats and poultry are regulated by USDA.

In addition to consumers’ positive views of the food label and FDA’s ability to ensure that food is safe, the survey also indicated that the FDA should increase public awareness of actions to ensure food safety and focus on awareness efforts during consumer alerts.

Despite the claims of contentment, for the most part Americans resent government influence in their daily lives.  Americans are independent minded mavericks.  Granted, we are grateful for the small favors the Food and Drug Administration affords us; however, we want no more assistance than we deem suitable.  Citizens in this country are selectively scrupulous.

Americans prize and advocate a free enterprise system.  We want the freedom to decide for ourselves what is best.  Where food is concerned, citizens of this civilized nation want to preserve their right to choose.  We welcome the rise of an innovative industrialist who might introduce an ingredient into the mix.  A crunchier cookie, a sweeter soda, tastier tenderloins, a savory sauce, and a flavorful fondue, all are appreciated in abundance.

Cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, bread, potato chips, corn chips, popcorn, salad dressing, breakfast cereal, margarine, and animal products all taste good to the average American..  Regardless of the warnings, that each of these manufactured or mechanically prepared foods contain trans-fatty acids, are high in sodium, and are filled with high fructose corn syrup, those in the Western World continue to consume these tidbits with fervor.

Intellectually, we may know trans-fatty acids, salts, and sugars are hazardous to our health.  We sacrifice some.  Nonetheless, we do so slightly or on occasion.  Mostly we gorge, gulp, guzzle and stuff our gullet with these gems and then die.  

Clogged arteries might cause our demise.  A heart attack could end our life.  Obesity may do us in.  Still we say, we rather eat fats and be happy.

Scientific evidence shows that consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad cholesterol,” levels, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).  According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, more than 12.5 million Americans have CHD, and more than 500,000 die each year.  That makes CHD one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

People say they might as well enjoy now.  After all, we will all pass eventually.  An additional year or two will not make a difference.  The quality of our life is what matters.  Besides, any true danger is moderated by the system.  

In this agri-industrialist nation, we trust that if a corporation wishes to make a profit, they must  and will keep the consumer in mind.  That construct alone will guarantee quality.  When it does not, then, the government will step in to preserve safety . . . well sort of.

Years ago, Josh joyfully ingested his early morning Egg McMuffin ™ in a Fifth Avenue McDonalds.  As he ate, he read the news.  An article in The New York Times, screamed for his attention.  Hold That Fat, New York Asks Its Restaurants.  He thought of how much he loves his partially hydrogenated oil filled foods.  Joshua would not wish to be deprived of the greasy flavors that warm his belly.  The young gent contemplated what might this announcement mean to him.  Then, Joshua concluded, he need not worry.  At least Gotham City officials give restaurateurs a choice.  Proprietors will cater to what the their customers crave; thus, the world will continue to turn as it has.

Months later, a content Joshua sat in his overstuffed chair and snacked on a bag of Doritios®.  He could not imagine a life more complete.  Suddenly, that tranquil sense of calm disappeared.  A radio announcer declared our democratic right to choose would be constrained.  The broadcaster bellowed,  New York City Plans Limits on Restaurants’ Use of Trans Fats.  The earlier “request” had done nothing to reduce usage of the hazardous oils.

The Board of Health vote comes a year after it conducted an unsuccessful campaign to persuade restaurants to eliminate trans fats from their recipes voluntarily.  It said yesterday that despite mass mailings about the hazards of trans fats and training programs for 7,800 restaurant operators, about half the city’s restaurants continued to serve trans fats, about the same as before the campaign.

Trans fats, derived from partially hydrogenated oils, became popular in the 1950’s as an alternative to the saturated fats in butter.  They allow fast-food restaurants to use frying oil for longer periods and make crunchier cookies and flakier piecrust.  They also have a longer shelf life than butter, olive oil, corn oil or other alternatives.

Joshua became extremely concerned.  He exclaimed aloud, “What is this a Police State?”  Eatery entrepreneurs have a right to serve what they believe is best.  Customers can digest what they think delicious, or at least they could in some municipalities.  In time, concern for the health of a crowded community increased.  Last year, during the holiday season, a peaceful Josh took in the decorations in his favorite restaurant.  He dined with delight.  After he ate, Joshua released his belt buckle.  A friend seated across from a full and sleepy Josh inquired, had he heard, New York Bans Most Trans Fats in Restaurants.

The usually quiet chap was aghast.  Now officials in this cosmopolitan metropolis had gone too far.  How and why would a municipality choose to restrict what the people consume?  Josh began to ponder how all this change might affect him personally.  He thought of the mashed potatoes and gravy, he consumed only moments ago.  Would he be deprived of such tasty fare in the future?  

Certainly, the potatoes would not taste as sumptuous if they were prepared differently.  Joshua reveled in the delicacy just as he had been for decades.  The recipe as is, is wonderful, this fit fellow thought.  Joshua belched.  Then he pondered; the dozen or so doughy delights he digested moments earlier.  These goodies would never be the same.  Joshua dreamt of the cookies, cakes, and creams he just ordered for desert.  The word “Ridiculous!” rolled trippingly off his tongue,

“No one has the right to tell me what I can consume.  It is my life, my body, and I will take care of it as I see fit.”  In a huff he continued,  “I eat a little bit of everything; it is called a well-balanced diet.”  “No matter what we gulp down or scarf up, it all turns into sugar once in our blood stream.”  “All food is natural.”  This news is preposterous.”  “Who has the authority to tell us what to eat or drink?”  The government is already too involved in our lives.  “Let them eat what they like and I will munch on what brings me pleasure.”  Does the Constitution not grant us  liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  “I want to be left alone, to be free to be me.”

Joshua grappled with what seemed inevitable change in his diet.  He wondered, “What is all the fuss about trans-fatty acids?  Are there not more important issues of concern?”  Almost immediately, he received an answer.  Another blow brought Joshua to his knees.  A condiment that he was certain could cause no harm was listed as injurious to his health.

It was not an e coli spinach scare that altered his awareness.  Salt shocked his sensibilities.  What could be more safe than salt?  For goodness sake, this savory substance sits on his dinner table.

A hulk of a man, Josh knew, to spill salt is an ominous sign.  He understood, since the beginning of time, people believed if they were to waste the commodity considered as valuable as gold, certain misfortune would follow them into the future.  Still, this gent never thought there was anything to fear from the sodium substance.  Such mythical legends have lived long.  As Joshua mulled over the latest revelation, he laughed, he acted as though he believed if he were to carry salt, or throw the small white crystals over his shoulder, he would be assured the best of luck.

A jovial Josh has long assumed the want of good will was the reason we poured the crystalline element on every entrée.  Good flavor or good fortune; both together might be wondrous.  This healthy man was aware the traditional use of this prized substance is in question.  However, he never imagined, the Food and Drug Administration would contemplate a serious and severe crackdown on the zesty zinger of a spice.  Yet, as Joshua perused the paper and listened to radio and television reports he learned . . .

Putting the Pinch on Salt, Medical Groups at Odds Over Proper Solution to Sodium Problems

By Carla Williams?

ABC News Medical Unit

Nov. 29, 2007

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is holding a public hearing today to determine whether to place federal limits on the salt content of processed foods, such as canned soups and breakfast cereals.

The hearing comes at a time when medical experts are becoming increasingly concerned over the amount of salt contained in many foods on grocery store shelves, including products not normally associated with salt.

For example, said Dr. Randall Zusman, associate professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, a bowl of one popular cereal brand may pack more of a sodium punch than many consumers realize.

“One cup of Cheerios — frequently advertised as heart healthy — has 300 milligrams of salt,” he explained.

“No one eats only one cup, so two to three cups each morning would be nearly 50 percent of your daily allotment.  Yet, the FDA allows Cheerios to be advertised as a healthy alternative.”

But while most agree that the excess salt in the diets of many Americans poses significant health risks, experts in the medical community remain divided over what should actually be done to address the problem.

Some agree with advocacy groups and believe that the FDA should require stricter labeling for manufactured foods.  Such labeling could take the form of warnings placed prominently on the packaging of high-sodium foods.

But others think the focus on salt regulation is misdirected and say that the FDA should address more harmful elements of the American diet and lifestyle, such as obesity.

The American Dietetic Association, for one, has spoken out in favor of stricter product labeling to tackle the problem.

My goodness; Cheerios, a food that Americans such as Josh ate to protect themselves from a coronary crisis may actually place them at risk for a heart attack.  What, and whom, can we trust.  Do we do as we are told or as the specialists do?

Physicians often gobble just as regular folk do.  We have seen stout surgeons, rotund nurses, hefty dieticians, and even a lean doctor dine on junk.  Our spouse may insist we eat healthy; yet, he or she does not.  Acquaintances swig and swallow whatever they wish.  No one seems to suffer serious repercussions at less not while in our range of vision.  Thus, we conclude there is little reason to change.  People are just overly cautious.  Certainly, federal, state, and city officials are wary without cause.

A mild mannered Joshua was familiar with the cautionary tone of doctors.  He heard his wife whisper her concerns.  For years, medical professionals and his Mom expressed their angst when they discussed his fervent application of this sour, yet sharp, condiment.  Josh reduced his use; although admittedly he wondered whether there was reason to do so.  Oh, sure, Joshua saw the advice columns.  Caveats called him, or at least those who love him suggested he read the literature.

University of Maryland Medical Center, expert on hypertension, Dr. Stephen Havas, states, high-salt diets cause 150,000 premature deaths in the United States each year. Heart attacks, coronary artery disease, and strokes are the frequently result from obesity, high blood pressure, and the perilous pre-hypertension.  Each of these afflictions can be traced to the intake of salt.  Havas declared there is an imperative need for the Federal Health authorities to reduce sodium consumption.  

However, contrary to what this and other physicians think wise, most persons in this civilized country retain the attitudes of their ancestors.  Americans are as the rugged individualists, or at least, Joshua was and is.  Our countrymen can take whatever is dished out.  Salty, sweet, or saturated in oils, citizens of this wild and western nation have the stomach for it.

Americans are independent and we like it that way.  No government agency, guy, or gal in a white lab coat will tell US what to eat.  They certainly will not dictate to Joshua what he eats.  In truth, the Food and Drug Administration does not tell us what is best to consume.  Nor do they closely monitor corporate claims; although they would wish us to believe they do.  Joshua trusted that his food was safe with thanks to this industry watchdog.

Fake Food Fight

by Paula Kurtzweil

“It is true that you may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

–Abraham Lincoln

When it comes to fraudulent food in the marketplace, Lincoln’s sage observation has certainly rung true. In the Food and Drug Administration’s experience, when hucksters try to cheat Americans out of millions of dollars of genuine foods, their schemes are ultimately exposed by a sharp-eyed consumer, a competitive industry, or FDA itself.

Known as economic adulteration of food, this practice involves using inferior, cheaper ingredients to cheat consumers and undercut the competition.  And even though the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act specifically bans it, economic adulteration persists, challenging FDA’s resourcefulness to remain vigilant against it.

In recent years, FDA has sought and won convictions against companies and individuals engaged in making and selling bogus orange juice, apple juice, maple syrup, honey, cream, olive oil, and seafood.

According to Martin Stutsman, a consumer safety officer in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA relies heavily on industry and consumers to help identify instances of economic fraud.

What businesses will not do for money.  Artificial adulterants put much dough in many a breadbox.  The Food and Drug Administration discovered some producers sold, what they said was pure orange juice; however, the beverage was loaded with corn syrup or beet sugar.  Dairy cream was, in fact, corn oil.   Corn syrup passed for honey.  Bottles of horseradish were actually containers of potato starch.  Salt mixed into water was advertised as milk.  Scallops, an expensive delicacy on occasion was found to be water worked into sodium tripolyphosphate (STP).

The fake foods, [mixtures of trans fatty acids, salts, and sugars] may yield temporary financial benefits.  However, what qualifies for natural, and approved, fodder feeds fills more pockets than the illegal imitations ever did.  Corn syrup found in a product labeled pure orange juice is considered an adulterant.  However, when the same sweetener is listed on a can of orange flavored juice the Food and Drug administration thinks that fine.  

There is a delicate balance between healthy and harmful sustenance.  Equilibrium is difficult to maintain when the scales are tipped in favor of corporate influences.  For many in the Food and Drug Administration dough is more flavorful than moral fiber might be.

Former FDA Investigator Exposes Aspartame As Deadly Neurotoxin That Never Should Have Been Approved

Can Republish, Namaste, Vol 6, Issue 1,UK

Many policies, I found out, were not made to protect the public health, but rather, to provide leverage at appropriation time before Congress, and to protect the industry and their political government.  This is especially true when they were paid for their ‘services’ by the pharmaceutical or chemical industries.  This is what I call ‘social cancer’.

Many systems for protecting the public health are (were) less than effective . . . making very little difference on public health issues.  Much of it was for ‘show’ and for funding.  It was the folks in Rockville and Washington who made the final decisions on how to play most of these issues out.  Unfortunately for us, it was not to favor the public health processes.  The entire process reeks of political and corporate influence.

If Americans had the time or energy to do more than eat what is easily available they might notice how ubiquitous industry is in our diets.  Advertisers have captured our attention.  

“Shouldn’t your baby be a Gerber baby?” “Trix are for kids.” “Keebler. Uncommonly Made, Uncommonly Good.” “Mmm Mmm good. That’s what Campbell’s Soup is; Mmm good.”  “Subway. Eat fresh.”  “Taco Bell. Think Outside the Bun.”  “McDonalds.  I’m lovin’ it,” and you do, we do.  We are trained to eat prepared foods from birth.  At Burger King, we can have it our way.  At Kentucky Fried Chicken, we can trust it is finger lickin’ good.  At Subway, we can “Eat fresh.”  If only we knew what that was.

Manufacturers and marketers choose what we consume.  High fructose corn syrup is an ingredient is most  American food.  Many Americans, sadly, a vast majority, do not even know what unprocessed fruits and vegetables truly taste like.  Apples?  That is the crisp, wet fare under the caramel.  Tomatoes top pizza.  Strawberries and cherries await your bite when you sink your teeth into that piece of bittersweet chocolate.  Squash and pumpkins grace the doorstep during the Fall holidays.  Spinach is for cartoon characters.  Potatoes, yum-yum.  This starchy crop, when deep-fried is absolutely ambrosia.  

Even when we think we are ingesting only wholesome fare, surprise, we discover, there is more to the meal than meets the eye.  The local bakery still creates healthy doughy fare.  The smell of fresh baked flour and yeast reminds us that quality food does exist.  Have you read the ingredients on baked goods?  Let us consider the plainest of plain preparations, a bagel.  The elements that go into this not so enticing ring of dough are numerous. Unbleached flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour), water, dough conditioner (sugar, salt, malted barley flour, molasses, mono & diglycerides, ascorbic acid, L-cysteine, azodicarbonamide, enzyme, ammonium chloride, DATEM, potassium iodate, brown sugar, yeast.

As we study the marketplace we realize, what satisfies our senses is not so sensible.

In the 1980s, manufacturing methods improved, prompting a boost in production of high-fructose corn syrup and a drop in price to just pennies below that of refined sugar. “While that may not sound like much to the average consumer, when you consider how many pounds [the soft drink industry buys], it was millions of dollars if not hundreds of millions of dollars in savings,” says Drew Davis, NSDA’s vice president for federal affairs.

The switch made economic sense and, as Davis notes, “back then, there was no suggestion that high-fructose corn syrup was metabolized differently” than other sugars. More recent research suggests, however, that there may be some unexpected nutritional consequences of using the syrup. “Fructose is absorbed differently” than other sugars, says Bray. “It doesn’t register in the body metabolically the same way that glucose does.”

For example, consumption of glucose kicks off a cascade of biochemical reactions. It increases production of insulin by the pancreas, which enables sugar in the blood to be transported into cells, where it can be used for energy. It increases production of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite and fat storage, and it suppresses production of another hormone made by the stomach, ghrelin, that helps regulate food intake. It has been theorized that when ghrelin levels drop, as they do after eating carbohydrates composed of glucose, hunger declines.

Fructose is a different story. It “appears to behave more like fat with respect to the hormones involved in body weight regulation,” explains Peter Havel, associate professor of nutrition at the University of California, Davis. “Fructose doesn’t stimulate insulin secretion. It doesn’t increase leptin production or suppress production of ghrelin. That suggests that consuming a lot of fructose, like consuming too much fat, could contribute to weight gain.” Whether it actually does do this is not known “because the studies have not been conducted,” said Havel.

Another concern is the action of fructose in the liver, where it is converted into the chemical backbone of trigylcerides more efficiently than glucose. Like low-density lipoprotein — the most damaging form of cholesterol — elevated levels of trigylcerides are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. A University of Minnesota study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2000 found that in men, but not in women, fructose “produced significantly higher [blood] levels” than did glucose. The researchers, led by J.P Bantle, concluded that “diets high in added fructose may be undesirable, particularly for men.”

Other recent research suggests that fructose may alter the magnesium balance in the body. That could, in turn, accelerate bone loss, according to a USDA study published in 2000 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

We can thank the Food and Drug Administration for our fodder, and we can express our gratitude to Archers Daniel Midland, the mother or father of invention.  A financial crisis in the parent company led the this corporation to merge and grow beyond their wildest dreams and ours.

In 1971 [Archer Daniels Midland] purchased Corn Sweeteners, Inc., producer of high-fructose syrups, glutens, oil, and caramel color. Corn Sweeteners brought good returns for Archer Daniels Midland and increased the company’s finished-food capabilities.

Currently we can find Archer Daniels in most every “finished-food” option.  Bread and brews are loaded with high fructose corn syrup.  Cereals, before the flakes are frosted, are filled with the fluid.  Spaghetti sauce is supplemented.  The sugary additive makes up a substantial portion of this tomato-based product.  Sodas are essentially high fructose corn syrup, as is . . . [name your food of choice.]  While high fructose corn syrup is good for earnings, it endangers human health.

Loading high fructose corn syrup into increasingly larger portions of soda and processed food has packed more calories into us and more money into food processing companies, say nutritionists and food activists. But some health experts argue that the issue is bigger than mere calories. The theory goes like this: The body processes the fructose in high fructose corn syrup differently than it does old-fashioned cane or beet sugar, which in turn alters the way metabolic-regulating hormones function.  It also forces the liver to kick more fat out into the bloodstream.

The end result is that our bodies are essentially tricked into wanting to eat more and at the same time, we are storing more fat.

Sheer will power must be our guide, for certainly the Food and Drug Administration does not point us in the direction of good health.  Nor do the conglomerates have our best interests at heart.  Most Americans believe given a choice, people buy what they sense their body craves.  Unfortunately, few acknowledge that certain foods create a chemical reaction that fools the physiology and the psyche.

No mysterious ingredient. The Cadbury’s secret is out. Chocolate is drug-like in its effect. Artificial taste explodes in the mouth with crunchy, smooth, sweet flavors, supplying intense pleasure. Every texture and nuance of taste contrived to stimulate your 9,000 taste buds into sending pleasure signals to the brain.  The intensified pleasure effect is addictive.  We don’t care about the additives or empty calories.  Chocolate junkies crave a fix, driven by the desire for that chocolate pleasure.  Pleasure for which we will pay any price, even our health.

Chocolate bars are loaded with salt, sugar, caffeine and fat, up to 300 calories per bar.  Like a body demanding heroin for its balance, the body will crave sugar, salt and fat.  Take candy from a sugar junkie, and look out! Quitting causes withdrawals.  Remove sugar, processed fat or salt from your diet, and you will crave them.  You will go through the discomfort of facing withdrawal similar to the withdrawal from drugs.

Humans hunger for sweets.  We are extremely fond of fats.  Salt is savory.  Eons ago, our bodies learned to love what would help us survive in the wild.  We needed the weight and the energy.  The habits of our ancient ancestors now seem innate.  Food and chemical industry leaders know this.  They exploit our obsession for the flavors that excites the palette and satisfy the electrical impulses within our gray matter; thus, expanding their profits.

Physiologically we cannot resist.  Psychologically, we are easily swayed.  Financially, we turn our fate over, and fortunes are made.  Most of us forget what we once knew before our brains and bellies were filled with trans-fats, salts, and sugars.

The story of how the most basic questions about what to eat ever got so complicated reveals a great deal about the institutional imperatives of the food industry, nutritional science and – ahem – journalism, three parties that stand to gain much from widespread confusion surrounding what is, after all, the most elemental question an omnivore confronts.

Humans deciding what to eat without expert help – something they have been doing with notable success since coming down out of the trees – is seriously unprofitable if you’re a food company, distinctly risky if you’re a nutritionist and just plain boring if you’re a newspaper editor or journalist.  (Or, for that matter, an eater.  Who wants to hear, yet again, “Eat more fruits and vegetables”?)  And so, like a large gray fog, a great Conspiracy of Confusion has gathered around the simplest questions of nutrition – much to the advantage of everybody involved.  Except perhaps the ostensible beneficiary of all this nutritional expertise and advice: us, and our health and happiness as eaters.

Hence, dear Josh, if you do not wish to be controlled by the government or the corporate kings and queens, if you wish to eat well, remember, to look beyond what seems to be your freedom to choose.  Do not travel to the eateries that serve only what they know will leave you yearning for more.  Do not frequent food pantries that prefer you be fat.  Venture not into the aisles of processed ambrosia.  If you wish to be free from the thought police and those that place temptation on the plate, carefully consider foods that are not fake. You can enjoy real foods, unprocessed provisions, and your health if you truly peruse the labels, make meals from scratch, and ask for more than just the menu when you dine out.

Bon appetite Josh.  A happy and healthy holiday, every day to all, and to all a good night.

Satiated, Satisfied, and Sources . . .

Bulimia; Science of the Holiday Season and Food

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

The holiday season is the best and worst of times.  It always was.  The food is phenomenal.  The feelings that fill a heart, mind, or is it my stomach can cause enormous misery.  For a person immersed in the rituals of bulimia the latter weeks of the year are better than all others.  Opportunities to indulge are ample during the holy days.  The selection of food fare is far superior.  Scientific research on food reaps ample rewards.  The secretive practice of self-imposed solitary confinement causes much angst, or could, if one were not able to find an escape in food.

Fortunately, a bulimic can and does take flight.  She or he can sprint to the stores.  There selves are filled with cashew nougat cookies.  Boxes of these white wonders melted in her mouth.  Delicate doughy dinner rolls lined every end display.  These delicious buns were strategically placed in case a customer forgot to grab them when in the bread aisle.  Buns sold for pennies.  Christians, Jews, Gentiles, those who worship Jehovah, Muslims, Agnostics, Atheists, and more must love these doughy delights.  While stuffing was a staple, in the winter, the cost was nominal, and the supply was grand.  She could fill her shopping cart with boxes a plenty.

In the dairy section, sweet and savory eggnog was available.  This liquid ambrosia did not appear before or after the national celebrations.  She could hardly wait for the New Year.  Grocers would reduce the price on this stock and she would buy all she could.  She would place the excess in the freezer and save these for another day.  As America celebrated, so too did she.  However, her festivity was a bit less conventional.

She needed no lights, no tinsel, or tree.  A menorah, or a Kinara were not necessary.  An image of the crescent moon, or the five-pointed star, was not important parts of her ceremonial gala.  All she needed was food.  She no longer required family to enjoy.  Food was her kin, her kind of company.

When Bethany was a child, Thanksgiving Day brought songs of the good cheer.  Merriment filled the house.  Mommy and the little lass would sing all the traditional carols.  Dradle, dradle, dradle, I made it out of clay.  O Tannenbaum, oh Christmas tree, Sleigh bells ring on a silent night.  As December 25th approached, the family dashed through the snow, roasted chestnuts, and pa rum pum pum pumed with the Little Drummer Boy.  Her Daddy said the gaiety made no sense to him.  Yet, he laughed aloud and reveled in the expressions of glee.  Daddy tried not to croon and carol; however, at times he joined in the caroling.

Times were good.  The late November dinner was usually turkey.  Mashed potatoes and gravy made from scratch graced the table.  Home-baked breads also adorned the setting.  Daddy carved the meat with studied finesse.  Mom dished out the stuffing.  Homemade pies and cookies sat in wait.  There were many choices.  Mommy baked for days on end.  Lemon meringue was for Lisa.  Bethany preferred pecan pie.  Dad did not decide until he was ready for desert.  Would he dive into a traditional pumpkin pie or save that slice for another occasion?

In her family, food was considered the means to celebrate life.  Mom, Lisa, and Bethany ate when they were happy, dined when they were sad.  Each of the ladies filled lonely days and nights with chow.  Fodder brought thought; it stimulated reflection.  Realizations occurred over a bowl of soup, cereal, salad, or stew.  Daddy was not as dependent on victuals.  However, Bethany’s first father was a glutton, for punishment and pleasure over a plate of steak, veal, lamb, or lobster.  That man customarily consumed as though there was no tomorrow.

Bethany recalled every New Years Day, Michael sat on the bathroom floor slumped over the toilet bowl.  He puked and purged until he could do no more.  When his stomach was empty, then he would stop, only to await the time when he would fill up again.

For Michael, bingeing and ridding himself of all he ingested was not habitual.  However, it occurred often enough.  The activity was a vivid memory for Bethany.  Perhaps she learned to adopt bulimic behaviors.  After all, aspects of the conduct were part of her experience.

For her natural father Michael, life was an adventure.  He thought it fun to be spontaneous.  Bethany was more of a scientist just as her Grandfather had been and as her Dad trained her to be.  The little bit of a girl questioned everything.  Studious as she was she researched the minutia.  There was nothing in her life that did not involve great thought.

When she first chose to relieve herself of food, it was a calculated decision.  Early one evening, during dinner Bethany ate so much.  After the meal she could barely move.  Consumed with a sense of discomfort she sought relief.  It occurred to her, if she simply flushed out the food, all would be well.  However, she discovered as all scientists do, it is never possible to truly control the environment, or the outcome of any experiment.  Indeed, in an investigation, what seemed a solution to a problem, could, and did control the researcher.

Physiology and psychological components are more powerful than mere mortals might wish themselves to be.  Addictions may begin with a conscious decision as all actions do.  Nonetheless, there are forces that preclude logic and rational thinking.  The body is more than a reasonable brain.

Quickly, what was meant to be a moment became a lifestyle.  Hence, Bethany concluded she must learn to cope.  To survive this young being would have to learn the science of intake and surrender.  She measured her moves.  What edibles went down smoothly, and which released themselves from the stomach walls smoothly.

While cottage cheese is often considered the finest pabulum for those who wish to lose weight, for a bulimic, this provision is a nightmare.  The tiny curds stick to the innards.  The amount of acidic bile needed to breakdown this dairy product is ample.  It seems a single soul cannot produce enough enzymes to eliminate this compound within a reasonable amount of time.  Most cheeses clump once in the digestive system.  

All through the holidays, cups of cheese spreads fill the grocers delicatessen cases.  Spreads are smooth to the taste, and smoother on the tongue as they slide in and out of the most central orifice.

Milk will cuddle if it sits on the kitchen counter for too long.  It does the same if left for any length of time in the stomach.  Eggnog, however, glides through the system.  She knows not if the egg, sugar, or other additives make the difference.  Bethany only understands that this is a delight.

Summer potato salads may be flavorful.  However, a boiled and particularly pulverized tuber does not travel as well as the mashed perennial plant does.  The moist breadcrumbs that we call stuffing are an interesting delicacy.  The ingredients within the mixture matter more than the actual entrée.

Hard cookies can crumble into bits in the outside world.  They do the same once digested.  Miniscule particles spilled on the floor can be difficult to clean up.  When in the body cavity these small pieces scatter.  The fragments of food do not gather in as a group, and exit as one.  Flat crisp baked goods do not easily escape; yet, the holiday goodies cashew nuggets, goes down and comes up as a silk scarf might.

Indeed, the holidays are wondrous.  The food is more fun than time with family might be, or so Bethany hoped as another year approached.  Sadly, in truth, during the winter solstice she felt more alone than she ever did.  No matter the trials and tribulations, the gift of a shared experience means more than any other event might.

Science and food could not, did not, and would never suffice for what she sacrificed.  Those the little bit of a being was closest to were a greater source of solace than what she, a bulimic labeled nourishment.  Nature, in the form of ingested plant or animal products, does not nurture a starved soul.  A satiated stomach could not compare to a heart filled with joy.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, a Joyous Kwanzaa, a regal Ramadan, none would be as long as Bethany remained bulimic.  If only emotions, epidemiology, and the effects of these could be as easily understood as the study of food.

Enough Good

copyright © 2007 Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

In a recent diary of mine at the Big Orange a commenter used the phrase, “enough good.”  As the comment came across the screen I was reading an article in the local newspaper about hunger.  With the rising costs of food increasing numbers of people are finding themselves unable to feed not only themselves but their children, too.  In a nation rich as America this is beyond egregious.

I have written about hunger in America as an effect of poverty in diary in the past.  Poverty is a serious issue in the world let alone in America today.  Food should be a basic human right in the world today.  No person should be forced to sleep hungry or suffer through a day without enough food.  Note, I did not say people should have all the food they may wish to consume, but that they deserve enough food to avoid hunger as a life issue.  I am guilty as anyone else of overeating sometimes but that is a privilege and not a human right.

Enough good extends to every measure of our lives.  Each person we meet along life’s pathways deserves to be treated with the respect we wish for ourselves.  Each person we meet deserves the most good thoughts and good treatment we have to offer.  Maybe in time that will spread to become “enough good” around the country.

Too many today are consumed by the material life.  I have no objection to having pretty things or fine things in life, but there should be some limit for everyone.  There comes a point when the accumulation becomes the goal and no real good is done.  What if people began to accumulate just enough for themselves and then let the rest go to help some less privileged person?  What a fine world we might find after a time.

Enough good means giving our children the educational opportunity they deserve.  Enough good leaves no limits on that opportunity and puts no restrictions on the learning.  Teachers are allowed to teach to their best and to lead students to a lifetime of learning.

Enough good means we look after our environment.  We begin to conserve our resources and to look to the health of our planet as conservators instead of users and consumers.  In the end we are led to a better world for all.

Enough good means giving to all those of lesser means.  All of humankind must begin to recognize the basic rights of every being.  We cannot continue to allow the strong or the rich to take from others.  Enough good requires equal opportunity for one and all.

Enough good enriches all the lives that are touched by the principle.  Like Gandhi once said, one must live the life he wishes to see in others.  Living “enough good” embodies that thought.  Now if we all take responsibility for our personal actions we can change the world. 

As I have said so many times before, we can stand together or fall apart.  We have the choice before us today.  We can continue to accumulate or we can live for “enough good.”  The choice is ours to make every day of our lives.

Overweight Children – Adults Face Widespread Stigma and Strain

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

In America and the European Union Overweight Kids Face [a] Widespread Stigma.  Only days ago, I contemplated this truth.  As I watched a family shop, I was struck.  She was young, perhaps ten years old.  She was very heavy.  I wondered how could one little girl carry so much weight on such a small frame. 

The lass was sweet, quite petite, although clearly troubled.  She had been shopping with her Mom, her grandmother, and her younger brother.  From appearances, it seemed this family was in Target gathering wares for Grandmamma.  They did not give the impression of being poor; nor did they look to be wealthy.  They were average folks; they could have been you or me. 

This family did not dress well.  Their clothes were clean, just not stylish.  Were this group more fashion conscious pants, shirts, and shoes would have been color-coordinated.  Patterns might have blended in a manner that was more appealing.  However, I guess they were comfortable in casual apparel.  After all, making purchases in a discount department store does not require a person to dress with finesse.  Simply covering your body is sufficient for such a chore.

The family of four entered the checkout line.  I was standing behind them.  Their exchanges were pleasant.  The children each chose to purchase an item for themselves.  Grandmother and Mom paid for their goods, as did the boy.  Then the young woman did her transaction.  The cashier rang up the sale.  Dollars passed from one hand to another.  There was change.  The school age girl went to place her pennies, nickels, quarters, and dimes into her tiny purse.  A single nickel fell to the ground.  The coin made a sound as it plunked to the floor.  The girl heard the noise and saw the shiny nickel.

She looked at the currency longingly.  Then, this lass turned and glanced at her family.  They were walking away.  Her brother, mother, and grandmother had not noticed what occurred.  The group was not far and yet, not near to the girl.  It would only take a moment to pick up the coin and move towards the others.  Pensively, the female child considered the nickel.  She looked down and then up and down again.  Finally, she fled in haste, leaving the lonely coin behind.  She never bothered to pick it up, although she did think too.

It did not seem to me that this little lady thought a five-cent piece was not worth much.  From appearances, or perhaps I am projecting, recalling my own struggle with excessive weight, her greater concern was the effort involved in bending over to retrieve a small piece of anything.  I remember the days, and not too fondly.  My heart went out to this child.  There, but for the grace of G-d, go I.

I am reminded of the time when I was obese, not pleasing plump, chubby, or fat; I was corpulent.  I grew into a size that was twice that of normal quickly.  I did not consume gross quantities of food.  The portions on my plate, or in hand were not large.  It was actually quite startling to see the weight pile on.  Pound after pound was added to my body mass.  There was no index to guide me.  Indeed, I was eating less than I had for years before this gain.

However, my weight gain was not an anomaly.  For me, fighting with my body mass was normal.  My family was substantial mentally and physically.  Many of my relatives are big people, not tall, just wide.  The little girl and I seem to share a family shaping, or might I say out of shape.  Her mother and Grandmother were large.  Her brother was not as rotund; however, he seemed to be ready to tip the scale.

In my family, some were fit.  My Grandpop walked for miles, each and every day.  He was active and agile; a  few relatives are.  However, it seems on average, the propensity toward plump was prominent in my world.  The younger generations in my own family might have mirrored their elders, or perhaps more accurately did as their parents had.  This is true in most families, even the thin ones.  However, patterns change.  In recent years, Americans are shorter and more stout.  For generations, Americans were taller than those in other nations; however, this is changing.

[H]eight has been stagnating in the US for a decade, and Americans are now shorter on average than many Europeans, including not only the very tall Dutch and Scandinavians, but even the citizens of the former East Germany, see John Komlos and Marieluise Baur (2004).

While Americans are not expanding upwards, they continue to expand outwards, and the average American, like the average Briton, is now heavier than the weight that would minimize mortality risk given average height.

This is troubling for many reasons.  Not only is our health and life expectancy effected, so too is our income.  For years, Economists told us tall persons earn more money than the diminutive do.  An inch can increase your net worth by at least a thousand dollars per year.  However, recent research reveals the height you achieve in adulthood may not determine your income.  Stature may not be the key to financial success.

Tall men who were short in high school earn like short men, while short men who were tall in high school earn like tall men.

That pretty much rules out discrimination.  It’s hard to imagine how or why employers could discriminate in favor of past height.  If tall adolescents?even those who stop growing prematurely?grow up to be highly paid workers, it’s got to be because they’ve got some other trait that employers value.  [Nicola Persico, Andy Postlewaite, and Dan Silverman of the University of Pennsylvania] believe that trait is self-esteem.  Tall high-school kids learn to think of themselves as leaders, and that habit of thought persists even when the kids stop growing.

If, during our younger years we do not think we are worthy, excellent, brilliant, or outstanding than likely we will not believe we are the best later in life.  Often, we trust we are admirable when others act as if we are. 

For the fatter child, the need for approval weighs on their minds.  Much embarrassment is felt, and experienced early on.

Overweight children are stigmatized by their peers as early as age 3 and even face bias from their parents and teachers, giving them a quality of life comparable to people with cancer, a new analysis concludes.

At the age of two, nearly three, I recall sitting in the den with a ballpoint pen in hand.  I drew lines on my thighs designating exactly where I wanted the excess meat removed.  I do not recall being ridiculed at home; nor do I remember peers speaking of my weight. 

I did attend summer camp at that age.  At two and one half years, I was the youngest camper.  Perhaps, being four years younger than all other campers had an effect on me.  Indeed, I was left out of much.  The counselors were not willing to teach me to swim.  My bunkmates did not wish to include me in games.  Being a person that loathes and avoids competition, and always did, I had no desire to participate.  I was somewhat sedentary. 

Possibly the situation demanded it.  I could not go off and play on my own.  I needed to stay with the group.  Yet, I was separate.  I sat still for hours while my bunkmates engaged in recreational activities.  My situation, although different, mirrors much of what occurs today.

Lack of exercise is a major factor in the growing problem of obesity, both for children and adults, according to Dennis Styne, a UC Davis Medical Center pediatric endocrinologist who is a recognized authority on issues of childhood obesity.  “Obesity has become a serious health risk in America, and it is reaching epidemic proportions, even in the pediatric population,” Styne says. “Close to 25 percent of America’s children and adolescents are now considered overweight, and the numbers are increasing.”

I developed habits that hurt my already hurting heart.  The children ran, jumped, laughed, and enjoyed each other’s company.  I could not join in.  They thought me too young.  At an early age, my less active life took its toll.  The pounds piled on.  Later, as the years passed, I was just lethargic.

They say obese children are victim to teasing, rejection, bullying, and other types of abuse because of their weight.  I was fortunate, I did not experience much, if any of this in my youth.  However, when I reached the age of sixteen, and added a few more pounds, a phrase was used by a loved one to describe me, “butterball.”  To this day, every year from Thanksgiving to Easter when the company with the same name advertises their turkeys, I cringe.

“The stigmatization directed at obese children by their peers, parents, educators and others is pervasive and often unrelenting,” researchers with Yale University and the University of Hawaii at Manatoa wrote in the July issue of Psychological Bulletin.

The paper was based on a review of all research on youth weight bias over the past 40 years, said lead author Rebecca M. Puhl of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Research determined the heavier child exposed to such pressure is two to three times more likely to report suicidal thoughts.  Frequently, the young and hefty suffer from other health issues.  High blood pressure and eating disorders are not uncommon.  Yikes, there I am.  I was anorexic, then bulimic.  My eating was out of order.

I have long been certain that my bingeing and purging was not related to my weight.  Indeed, doing as I did, did not help me maintain a stable mass.  The process stressed my body and my mind.  Anorexia and bulimia are burdensome.  They are as obesity in many ways.  There is great shame associated with starving oneself.  Over-eating and puking do not leave one feeling proud.  People judge those that do not appear perfect or act in a manner that pleases others.  We all criticize ourselves.

“The quality of life for kids who are obese is comparable to the quality of life of kids who have cancer,” Puhl said, citing one study.  “These kids are facing stigma from everywhere they look in society, whether it’s media, school or at home.”

Even with a growing percentage of overweight people, the stigma shows no signs of subsiding, according to Puhl.  She said television and other media continue to reinforce negative stereotypes.

“This is a form of bias that is very socially acceptable,” Puhl said.  “It is rarely challenged; it’s often ignored.”

In a time when children are growing fatter, we can no longer avoid an issue that is pervasive.  We must consider that they way people treat us when we are young has an effect throughout our lives.  Height and weight evoke a response.  That reaction stays with us.  At a time when childhood obesity overwhelms the planet, we must consider the effect of this epidemic.

By 2010, almost 50 percent of children in North America and 38 percent of children in the European Union will be overweight, the researchers said.

While programs to prevent childhood obesity are growing, more efforts are needed to protect overweight children from abuse, Puhl said.

At times, we as a society must shield children from those that love them most, us.  Sadly, parents, teachers, and friends do not realize how they hurt a fragile heart and soul.  Teasing is thought to be just in fun.  Expecting less of a fat child is considered realistic.  Reacting to personal guilt for not caring for a child as you thought best, in a moment, might seem reasonable.  However, the harm we do is immeasurable.  Children internalize their pain.

A growing body of research shows that parents and educators are also biased against heavy children.  In a 1999 study of 115 middle and high school teachers, 20 percent said they believed obese people are untidy, less likely to succeed and more emotional.

“Perhaps the most surprising source of weight stigma toward youths is parents,” the report says.

Several studies showed that overweight girls got less college financial support from their parents than average weight girls.  Other studies showed teasing by parents was common.

“It is possible that parents may take out their frustration, anger and guilt on their overweight child by adopting stigmatizing attitudes and behavior, such as making critical and negative comments toward their child,” the authors wrote, suggesting further research is needed.

Lynn McAfee, 58, of Stowe, Pa., said that as an overweight child she faced troubles on all fronts.

“It was constantly impressed upon me that I wasn’t going to get anywhere in the world if I was fat,” McAfee said. “You hear it so often, it becomes the truth.”

Her mother, who also was overweight, offered to buy her a mink coat when she was 8 to try to get her to lose weight even though her family was poor.

“I felt I was letting everybody down,” she said.

Other children would try to run her down on bikes to see if she would bounce. She had a hard time getting on teams in the playground.

“Teachers did not stand up for me when I was teased,” McAfee said.

A study in 2003 found that obese children had much lower quality of life scores on issues such as health, emotional and social well-being, and school functioning.

“An alarming finding of this research was that obese children had (quality of life) scores comparable with those of children with cancer,” the researchers reported.

Sylvia Rimm, author of “Rescuing the Emotional Lives of Overweight Children,” said her surveys of more than 5,000 middle school children reached similar conclusions.

“The overweight children felt less intelligent,” Rimm said.  “They felt less popular. They struggled from early on.  They feel they are a different species.”

Fat children are distinct.  They stand out in a crowd.  Actually, in their own mind they are often larger than life.  I know I was.  I was so surprised years later when I saw photographs of myself as a camper.  I was not obese then.  I only thought I was.  For me, it was as Lynn McAfee stated, “You hear it so often; it becomes the truth.”  Even if the words were heard only in my head, they were repeated routinely.  The belief that I was fat became my reality.  In my teens I grew into the person I long thought I was.  I became obese.

Anyone that has ever struggled with their weight knows, trying to take off a few pounds can be a challenge.  Eliminating the weight of years of mistreatment takes more effort than most can imagine.

Heavy children are insulted, ignored, rejected, and ultimately resent themselves.  They misuse food.  The weighty wonders may not appear malnourished; however, they are.  The obese do not eat well.

[P]oor nutrition remains an impediment to health in much of the world today, Much less obvious is the idea that nutritional deficits are an important part of the health story in the rich world today.  Yet there is a good deal of evidence, even?and in some cases particularly?in populations whose most obvious nutrition-related problem is obesity and over nutrition.

Such mass consumption does not serve our children well.  Nor do our eating patterns benefit us as we age.

“Obesity rates are increasing fastest among children, and they will carry obesity-related health risks throughout their lives,” Ludwig says.  “An adult who gains a pound or 2 a year through middle age will be at increased risk.  But that is much less dire than the overweight 4- to 6-year-old who gets diabetes at age 14 or 16 and has a heart attack before age 30.”

Ludwig — director of the obesity program at Children’s Hospital, Boston — says the childhood obesity epidemic has three phases. The first came in the last decade, when child obesity became common but the public health effects weren’t yet felt. Phase two is right now, as we begin to see serious complications such as type 2 diabetes in very young people.  Phase three, Ludwig predicts, is coming soon.

“But we still have a little time before these children become young adults with diabetes and start to have heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, and increased mortality,” he says. “It is a massive tsunami headed for the United States. One can know it is coming. But if we wait until we see the ocean level rising over the shore, it will be too late to take action.”

Sadly, some of those that were heavy as children are already adults.  Older persons, for the most part, do as they did in their childhood.  Even if individuals lose the “baby fat,” the feelings and ill effects associated with obesity often linger.  Lifestyle, habits, health problems are more difficult and daunting than poundage.  There are infinite influences on our body and mind.  The marketplace matters. 

The advent of processed foods altered the physique and psyche.  Motor vehicles and machines have an effect,  A commuter and computer culture counts.  The number of calories we consume and do not burn off as earlier generations did effects our overall well-being.  There is ample cause for concern.

  • Poor nutrition and lack of physical activity are responsible for an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 preventable deaths each year.

  • An estimated one third of all cancers are attributable to poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and being overweight.
  • Today, we stunt our growth upward and expand our girth outward.  Perhaps, we need to advance our awareness for what motivates us.  Why do we torment the portly?  How easy it is to ridicule and judge.  Frequently, the tall, the thin, those that appear healthy blame the obviously wounded one.  These saintly souls think obesity is a choice.  People are not born fat.  Perchance that is, in part, true.

    It was once thought diabetes or the tendency for this illness was inherited; however, there is ample to reason to believe that is not always true.  Might we imagine that nothing occurs in isolation.  If we are to cure what ails us, we must be open to options that are not easily observed.

    Might we assess why those that gain so easily gravitate to food.  I believe for too long we have presumed the answers are simple.  It is often claimed obesity runs in families.  The genes prime the pump.  Numerous researchers prefer placing the blame on parents.  Habits are learned.  Mothers and fathers are our primary teachers.  Schools receive their fair share of culpability.  Surely if educational institutions supplied more nutritious fodder children would not eat as they do.  Restaurants, food manufacturers all can claim an ounce of responsibility. 

    We too bear a burden; each of us decides what we will eat and enjoy.  We believe we can easily forego exercise.  We all are as the little girl.  Bending down to pick up the nickel is not a simple task.  Our mind may wish to do what we think wise; yet our body says we cannot.  The two work in unison.

    I believe, too often we do not honor the mind body connection.  Possibly, we all are vulnerable to whatever affliction inhabits our bodies.  In recent years, we are realizing that many ailments, once thought to be the result of natural causes are related to diet.  What we eat has power; it effects the brain and bulk.  Might we consider victuals feed us in ways we rarely explore.

    To learn how to work with your appetite center, you must first understand it.  It’s time for you and your brain to become better acquainted.

    As soon as you bite into any food, sensory stimulation of nerve endings on the tongue leads to the release of a number of chemicals, including opioids, into the bloodstream.  You release more opioids — the body’s natural versions of drugs like morphine — when you consume foods high in sugar and fat, creating a powerful, neurochemical drive to overeat those foods. 

    These opioids and other chemicals enter the bloodstream and carry their messages to the hypothalamus, which sends out yet another set of chemicals to regulate appetite.  The more flavors your taste buds register, the more stimulated the hypothalamus becomes, releasing the hunger-promoting hormone neuropeptide Y.  When you taste a lot of flavors at once, the brain releases a lot of neuropeptide Y.

    Meanwhile, in response to the smell and taste of food, your stomach produces the hormone ghrelin, which also stimulates appetite.  It continues to produce this hormone until you eat enough food to literally fill your stomach and stretch the stomach wall.  Farther down the line, in your intestines, levels of several hormones rise to varying degrees — depending on the nature of your meal — either inducing more hunger or turning off hunger..

    Perchance, we might empathize with the chunky little lass.  She is you and me.  Might we consider that our culture provides us with foodfare that harms us.  Society teaches us habits that hurt us.  Some lessons are learned subliminally.  Others are fashioned at the dinner table.  Possibly, we all would be wise to teach and treat the children well.  If we do not attend to the biological, physiological, intellectual, and emotional needs of our progeny, they will suffer as will we all.  If one man, woman, or child is diminished, we all are.  Little girl, may I help you reach for more than a nickel.

    The thick of it . . .

  • Why We Overeat, By David L. Katz, MD, MPH, with Catherine S. Katz, PhD., Authors of The Flavor Point Diet: The Delicious, Breakthrough Plan to Turn Off Your Hunger and Lose the Weight for Good
  • Overweight Kids Face Widespread Stigma By John Christoffersen.  The Associated Press.  The Washington Post. Thursday, July 12, 2007; 3:54 AM
  • pdf Overweight Kids Face Widespread Stigma By John Christoffersen. The Associated Press.  The Washington Post. Thursday, July 12, 2007; 3:54 AM
  • Poor Nutrition and a Sedentary Lifestyle. The 21st Century Plague. 2001 Community Health Needs Assessment
  • The Great Escape: A Review Essay on Fogel’s The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700?2100.  By Angus Deaton. Princeton University. April 2005
  • Hey, Gorgeous, Here’s a Raise! As For You Fatties, We’re Cutting Your Salaries. By Steven E. Landsburg.  Slate. Monday, July 9, 2001, at 9:00 PM ET
  • Sedentary children Less active kids a weighty problem, UC Davis Health System. October 2000
  • Will Obesity Shorten the American Life Span? Study: without action on child obesity, U.S. life span to get shorter.  By Daniel J. DeNoon. WebMD Medical New. March 16, 2005
  • Bulimia. “Control,” Not the Means Nor the Mission [Chapter Seven]

    Carousel of Romance? Top Revolving Carousel Musical Globe

    Copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    She heard it said every time the topic was brought up.  The words flow from their mouths as the food did from hers.  Terminology spills into the sink of the uninformed and ignorant just as her fare did almost immediately after she swallowed it.  Resembling her refusal to digest what she ate, they reject what is offered to them.  Bulimics do not do as they do so that they might feel in control.  While marinating in a myriad of feelings and flavors, a binger that purges is not exerting his or her desire to control.  She cannot.  She knows this all too well. 

    In the same way an athlete understands, muscles have memory she recognizes a little practice goes a long way.  The first time might have been a choice.  The second was a consideration, followed quickly by an almost unexpected upheaval.  After that, there was no need for a prompt.  The cycle was complete.  She was on a carousel cemented in concrete.  She could not get off this ride.  Oh, how she tried.

    For her physiology, neurology, and biology were forces to be reckoned with.  Psychology played a part, particularly on that first day.  There were so many feelings she wanted to avoid.  That evening she stuffed her face, inhaled her meal.  Surely, food would relieve the pain. 

    Her stomach was bloated.  She felt sick.  Fingers were not necessary.  She just threw up.  After, she felt better, temporarily.  In those moments, she was not thinking ‘this would be gratifying or great.’  She only wanted the ache to end.  It did.  The throbbing in her head, her heart, and her body went away for an instant. 

    She could not and did not control the hurt coming on; certainly, she was not controlling its egress.  In actuality, the anguish only increased.  Her life became a series, a sequel of events, repeated over and over again.

    She awakes and thinks of food as she goes about the day.  Thankfully, since transitioning from anorexia to bulimia the thoughts are not as overwhelming.  Puking allows her to eat, and eat, and eat again and again.  Indeed, she has become an eating apparatus.  She consumes and is consumed. 

    Each day she must make time for her doings.  She purchases her provisions.  She buys enough to feed a few, perhaps, throngs of people.  Preparing the fare will be full-filling for as she cooks she chomps on those condiments that need no roasting, toasting, baking, boiling, or frying.  She controls nothing more than the temperature of the comestibles.

    However, much must be done before she can fully engage.  She has to drive or walk hauling her heavy load, pabulum for the voracious.  As she strolls or struggles to maneuver the curves on the road, she begins her antics.  Bananas are best for this part of the process.  Should there be an accident she will be less worried if only fruit sits in her stomach.  The long yellow crop exits the system easily.  Some foods do; others do not.

    Knowing what will settle in the belly too deeply to be retrieved and what is pliable enough to take leave on command is important.  A scientist such as she is never able to fully control the chaos that is life.  There is much to consider and manage.  She learned long ago, nothing is truly manageable.  Control is but a myth and she has no illusions.

    In those early days, she choose to chew nuts while in transit.  Cashews are beyond delicious.  Brazil nuts are not bad.  Peanuts are good-a plenty.  Nevertheless, she learned.  Too many of these, if the travel is long, or if the unexpected occurs, will not sit well.  She might worry.  Bulk gnaws at her.  What if she cannot relieve herself in time?  Besides, teeth crumble under the pressure.  This delicacy is too hard on the enamel.  After a fracture, a fissure, and the final falling out of dentine she forfeited the practice.

    Once home was in sight, the excitement increases.  Still there was much to do before she might genuinely begin.  The groceries needed to brought in.  Imagine taking bag after bag into the house, then the kitchen.  She is a clean person and prefers to avoid chaos at all costs.  The items must be put away.  Some went directly into the stomach.  Others filled cabinets. 

    The cupboards were never bare.  She back-stocked.  The idea of withdrawal, not having what she craved haunted her, even when not at home and not indulging or ingesting.  This young woman would never suffer; it was contrary to her every belief.  Yet, in truth she knew.  She was agonizing.  Nothing was in her control, not her thoughts, her actions, her feelings, and certainly, not her life.

    After all was ready for her attention, there was more to be done before she could focus.  She needed to dress in her throw-up clothes.  She had a full wardrobe just for this purpose.  As a fabric lost its resiliency, it was placed in an honored bin, a treasure trove.  Shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, tee shirts, and pantaloons graced her body before the ceremony began.  She cleaned these fibers each evening.  She is a traditional soul and cherishes rituals.

    Next, though she revels in sunshine and light, she needed to seal herself off from intruders.  She did not wish to be discovered.  Doors and windows were locked and sealed.  Drapes and shutters were closed.  Blankets, sheets, cardboard, and planks of wood were used to bar peekers from seeing beyond the shade.  She wanted no one to view what was within. 

    Heaven knows what others might think if they knew what was going on inside the house, in her mind, heart, body, or soul.  There are gaps between the wall and the window frame you know.  She must eliminate these, close herself off.  Try to control the uncontrollable, the unruly, herself, her life, her feelings, most importantly her hurt.

    That did not happen.  With each passing day, she was more distressed.  The agony deepened.  The doings had more power over her than she had over them.

    The only consolation was, bingeing and purging were far easier than not eating.  When she was an anorexic, she had less control or so it seemed.  Starving a body starves a mind.  Without nutrients or nourishment, growth and learning were less possible.  She loves learning.  She always has.

    The lesson she now  comprehends to her core is bulimia has nothing to do with a need to control or be in control.  There is in reality no such possibility.  Probabilities are chance.  Any scientist will tell you we can only control for what we can predict.  We can never fully understand the chaos of the universe.  She certainly did not grasp hers.  All that she was sure of was she was out of control.

    She recognizes that she has no power.  She tries to flee from her feelings.  That is her deepest desire.  Weight is not the issue.  It is a derivative, a diversion.  She longs to take flight.  At last, she is organized.  The great escape can begin!

    Bulimia Builds Bitterness and Bridges

    Copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    As we stood face-to-face and quietly discussed my years of anorexia and bulimia, I was reminded of what I always knew and yet, was too distracted to acknowledge aloud.  It was not that I never spoke of it before, I had on many occasions.  However, this conversation helped me to realize the heartache my illness [and I unintentionally] caused more deeply.

    A sweet and sensitive soul stood tall, looked at me directly and said, “My sister struggles with bulimia.  I would really like to speak with you about your experience.”  Moments before this utterance, we were discussing teeth and toothbrushes.  I shared my history of stains and offered my theories.  I mentioned my concern; had years of bingeing and purging damaged the enamel.  Perhaps, my dentine was more porous than they had been before I began traveling down the path of bulimia.  I did not know with certainty; I hypothesized.  Then Douglas spoke.  A minor musing evolved.  My hope is I have as well.

    Over the next few days, Douglas and I chatted often.  I shared three missives I penned on the subject.  Surprisingly to me, he read them immediately.  He wanted to understand his sister.  She is his very close and lifetime friend.  We talked a bit more.  I provided three more pondering prose.  The wondrous man quickly read these as well.  It seemed he was devouring information.  He was searching for answers.  Too much had been left unsaid for too long.  Sarah had been ridding herself of fodder, denying herself nourishment for a few years now. 

    Douglas and his sister Sarah struggled to discuss the unspeakable.  This empathetic gentle giant of a man did not understand; why would she wish to eliminate all the food from her body.  He feared for her; yet, he acknowledges, he did not express himself well when bulimia was the subject.  Douglas was frightened.  He felt powerless.  Unbeknownst to me, my words gave him strength.  He trusted I was open to discussing the topic, or at least he knew that I said I was.  However, I wonder.  Until I asked him of his thoughts, he said nothing.

    Then, upon inquiry, Douglas spoke of how he never imagined that she might felt separate from herself as I had.  This feeling fellow could not comprehend that his sibling was not as concerned with her weight as she might be about other situations, those that are far more serious. 

    I cannot be certain what troubles Sarah.  She may fear adult responsibilities; I did.  Graduating from high school or college can be a challenge.  Fitting in or fearing not is quite an experience.  It might be . . . ?

    Douglas offered, he wondered why she did not just stop.  As we exchanged tales of woe, his, hers, and mine, I could see that he was contemplating.  Every thought I expressed traveled within him.  There were many chords struck.  The causes, the effects, all touched his tender heart.  Douglas decided to present my letters to his sister.  Possibly, she would know that he cared; that might be meaningful.  His desire to help was palpable.  I could see it in his face, hear it in his voice, I felt it.

    This healthy hardy, fellow that stood before me knew he would never do as she was and is doing.  As he read early on, as he reflected further, as we chatted, he realized that perchance, the physiological, the physical influences might be more powerful than he ever considered.  Neurology might matter.  I expressed my realization; bulimia is not purely a psychological problem, oh, that it were.

    Upon reflection, as profound as our exchange was, I did not realize the depth or intensity.  I had no idea that this encounter would change me.  I long ago concluded I had worked through all that was during those trying years.  I was wrong. 

    I never realized how fully my relationships with family, and friends, was affected.  Might my acquaintances also have tales to tell of their trying times with me?  When I was immersed in an enigmatic illness, I was, as all human beings are involved with many individuals, those at work, at school, on the streets and in the stores.  Discussing with Douglas helped me to learn, to grow, to resolve some of sorrowful details, and to realize there was more I need to work through.

    Among the quandaries still left to resolve is my relationship with my cousin Alexander.  After, Douglas first revealed his situation, and his gratitude for our conversation, I was elated.  I telephoned my Mom’s first cousin, my close friend, Alexander.  I was excited and wanted to share the story.  Might my history assist another?  Would that not be wondrous?  My cousin took a deep breath and paused.

    Alexander and I rarely authentically discuss this part of the past.  He lingers, as it looms large in the background.  I understand that just as it was and perchance still is difficult for Douglas to discuss the doings, the dilemma, and the festering feelings that Sarah’s situation fosters, Alex struggles.  His stomach churns.  Communication, when dealing with bulimia is a challenge.  Alexander and I chat freely and often.  We have for decades.  Yet, this topic is too tender to touch.  The scars are subterranean.  The scabs sit delicately on the surface.  No one wants to pick at these.  Bloodletting is not our pleasure.  Alexander stammered.

    Then my sweet, caring cousin began to reflect on his reality.  As I listened, I heard a somewhat protective cadence in his voice.  It took time for me to remember that just as that period profoundly altered my ability to be free fun, silly, and stay on the surface, my affliction affected others abundantly.  Even today, there is bitterness.  What was not communicated then continues to have its effect.  Perhaps, my family can build bridges now.  However, first we must break down the barriers.  Alexander begins to speak and I realize the wall is wickedly thick. 

    Years, and years ago, my Mom in desperation, turned to him requesting his assistance.  Alexander and Mommy were close.  They were raised together as siblings might be.  The two had a loving history, and Alexander is a man of ample means.  Mommy hoped for a financial favor.  There was no one else she could turn to.  No other family member or friend had funds for such a venture.  She thought it might be best to hospitalize me, not for a day or two, not to stabilize my physical imbalance, but to place me in a treatment program that would work with me as a whole. 

    My Mom thought it wise to put me in close and constant proximity with physicians that specialize in bulimia.  Although my Mom is a psychotherapist or perhaps because she is, she feared, she might be part of the problem.  She could not help me as much as she longed to.  This hurt her heart; it scarred her soul, and I only wish she truly knew.  It was never her fault.

    Alexander offered no cash.  From across the country, cousin Alex, alone consulted with a doctor that someone recommended to him.  The reference practiced many hundreds of miles from Mommy and me; he was considered a specialist.  This physician is a psychiatrist.  Since Alexander lives on the East coast, and the Doctor on the North West shore, the two talked by telephone.  Alexander took copious notes.  He jotted down pages and pages of data.  Ultimately, this Doctor stated, since my Mom is a professional she likely is as knowledgeable as he.

    Berenice Barbara certainly had knowledge of the dilemma.  She lived with it daily.  Yet, she could not continue to do so.  Mommy remembered.

    There was a time, years earlier, I resided in my parents’ home.  Each day, I would walk to the grocery store, buy bags and bags full of food.  I had my own shopping cart and could crate much home.  Once settled in the sanctity of the abode, I prepared for the afternoon and evening delight.  The experience or entrées  were delicious, or might have been had I ever bothered to taste the delicacies I prepared.  Culinary escapades come in many sizes and shapes.  Mine was huge and it took on many horrific forms.  My adventure was interesting to say the least. 

    I placed newspapers on the floor in front of the television.  I would travel between the kitchen and living room.  I never bothered with the bathroom.  I cooked, cleaned as I prepared my mega-meals, sat down  ate, and then threw-up.  All my food fell into a basin neatly placed in my palms for just this purpose.  There was no time to travel to the toilet.  Besides, that seemed so inefficient.  I was busy, productive, bingeing, purging.  Leave me alone!

    My parents let me be.  Possibly, they hoped it was a phase.  Probably they knew they could not stop me from doing as I did.  My brother was quite young at the time, not more than five years of age.  I am certain he was curious, though he never said a word.  Now, he barely remembers any part of his childhood.  My routine went on for a while.  Finally, I secured employment.  I moved out.

    Money was tight and became increasingly tighter.  Try to feed a food frenzy that never ends.  Imagine paying for twelve, fourteen, or sixteen hours of provisions everyday.  I could no longer afford an apartment.  I returned to my parents abode, for ten minutes.  I walked into the entryway and was about to prepare for “my day.”  My Mom turned to my father and said , “No, I cannot do this.”

    My father, an extremely loving man was not willing to give up on me; nor was my Mom.  It was only that Mommy could not watch as I wasted away and destroyed my body, again, and again.  My condition affected my parents differently.  They are , as are we all uniquely individual. 

    Mommy thought herself responsible.  It hurt her heart so much to see my body bend, twist, and turn herself inside out.  She saw her child wither away and feared I would pass.  Even when the weight stabilized, she did not feel at ease.  Berenice Barbara knew too well, what I was doing.

    Bodily functions were precarious.  I was depleting my electrolytes.  Potassium, needed to sustain the blood flow was barely available.  It was flushed out with the bile.  The muscular organ that beats life into a human being was threatened.  Mommy feared what was yet to occur.  There is ample literature on the hazards of bulimia.  None of the symptoms or effects of bingeing and purging are promising.

    My father Barry, was equally familiar with the folly.  Perhaps, although we were and are best friends, my antics did not affect him as they did my Mom.  After all, he is not biologically related to me.  Perchance, our bloodline had no bearing on his feelings.  Barry only wanted to help and actively make known he loved [loves] me and believed in me. 

    Of course, Mommy did too.  We were always very close.  Possibly, that is why we were fine, as long as I was not throwing up in her home.  I often say, “Home is where the heart is; mine is wherever my mom lives.”  Mommy wanted my heart to thrive.  It could not, if in her home she accepted its suffering.  I understood.  I did not say a word when she asked me to leave her house.  I could not.  I hurt her so much.  Harming me caused her much pain.  Hurting my Mom heightened my sorrow, my grief, and my anguish.

    Barry spoke instantly.  He told me not to worry; he would help.  Minutes after my Mom expressed her exasperation and left the room, Barry and I drove to a lodging inn not too far from my parents’ dwelling.  Barry rented an efficiency apartment for me.  This man, my father secured my rent for a month, then the next.  Of course, there was the following.  Eventually, I worked my way out of that living situation.  However, the bulimia did not transition as easily. 

    While in the hotel apartment, I invoked a newer pattern.  I began “proceedings” at 1:00 Post Meridian.  I cooked, cleaned, ate, and eliminated until usually one or two ante meridian.  Nonetheless . . .

    As Alexander spoke and shared his version of the anecdote, my mind wandered.  Actually, I wondered.  It was obvious to me.  He believed he had done all he could.  He saw no reason to involve himself further.  Alexander was certain that Mommy had everything under control.  I knew she wished she had.

    For Berenice Barbara, it was not the undelivered dollars that did her in; it was the sense that Alexander did not care.  He and Mommy are first cousins; as children, they were together always.  My Mom felt she turned to him as a confidant, a brother, and he did not bother to talk with her.  Actually, they never spoke again.

    Mommy and my father Barry did much to assist me, as did Grandpa.  Alexander believes that Grandpa loaned Mommy a bundle and she never re-paid the promissory note.  Cousin Alex thinks my Mom frittered the dollars always, or tucked them into a mattress perhaps.  She never sent me to a treatment center. 

    Alexander knows me now, or thinks he does, decades after that time.  He sees me as healthy, happy, and I suspect feels certain my affliction was never all that serious.  Yes, he has heard me speak of it, though rarely in depth and detail.  It seems he is not truly interested.  He often does not recall or realize the severity of what I say.  He does remind me often that Grandpa wrote checks to me.  Indeed he did. 

    Full of sorrow, and understanding my predicament, Grandpa saw the financial strain and the emotional toll.  He connected to my struggle through my writings.  I was stuck in a dead-end job.  I hated the work.  My employment had an effect on my health.  I was grinding my teeth among other things.  I could not afford to complete my degree.  The duties in this mailroom were simple.  I could complete the work with ease.  I was often told the sorting station was never as clean and efficient.  Still, I had to stay, sit for a nine-hour day. 

    To pass the time I penned my feelings, my frustration to Grandpa.  Writing was then as it is now, my release.  If I could not escape through food, and certainly while at work I could not, I wrote.  My grandfather, after a time, I know not why for I would not ask, decided he would pay for my last year of college.  He wanted me to have a degree, a piece of parchment, and a better sense of myself.  Grandpa felt badly that Mommy, his daughter could not afford to assist me with my education.  He did.

    Years before that Grandpa gave much to me, Alexander is correct, although the giving was not cash.  What grandfather Mitchell shared was of far greater value.  My Grandfather came to visit Mommy, my father, and me.  As a pharmacist, a scientist Mitchell trusted he could teach me how to better care for myself.  Barry arranged for the transportation, and Grandpa with me in tow strolled into the American Association for Retired Persons pharmacy. 

    Together, for over an hour, we read every bottle.  Grandpa  Mitchell, my mentor explained the differences between one vitamin, mineral, or another.  He discussed bonding agents and the pressure used to produce a pill.  Capsules were considered, oils as well.  A regime of supplements was created for me.  I promised to take these nutrients when I awoke and before I lay my head to sleep.  The pledge I made was to me.  I was living with the benefits[consequences?] of bulimia.  I longed to survive.

    My hair was extremely thin and brittle.  What was once thick and wavy was now thin and straight.  The teeth that once glistened turned gray.  Smooth skin was cracked and dry.  Fingernails were brittle.  When I scratched the dry surface of my flesh, bumps would rise.  These tiny welts filled with blood; it took days before they disappeared.  My young face was weathered and aging quickly.  While I dressed well, I truly cared for and about my clothes, a close evaluation would reveal, I was not a pretty sight.

    Nonetheless, Alexander never knew this.  He did not see me, feel me, or understand my pain.  Nor did he converse or come to spend a moment with Mommy.  Alexander only heard of what is easier to speak of, the money.  Grandpa shared stories of woe, not mine per se, his own.  That is what we all do.  We only know what is within us.

    Alexander trusted my grandfather was concerned; however, Mitchell did not mention what he observed or understood.  That would be too difficult.  Much like Douglas, Grandpa Mitchell expressed his fear, not his love.  Caring was too painful.

    My cousin only related to the cute little girl I once was.  That was his knowledge and understanding.  Sadly, it still is.

    Over the years, much to my Mom’s dismay, I developed a relationship with Alexander.  He never knew that I was hospitalized for days at a time.  He was certain I was not placed in a program.  Cousin Alex did not sense I was near death on more than one occasion.  I was placed on a machine.  Feeding was intravenous.

    Alexander was [and is today] unaware.  He did not [and does not] understand how Mommy felt.  He could not comprehend nor will he.  As we spoke, after my conversation with Douglas, Alexander declared he knows what he knows.  My cousin refused to listen to my narrative. 

    My cousin did not and does not experience my Mom as she was.  When I was detained in  a medical facility, Mommy was never able to visit me.  Physically she was capable; emotionally, she could not endure the pain. She tried once.  I happened to be in a hospital affiliated with her work.  She was there to meet with a patient and felt she could not leave without seeing me. 

    Mommy entered the room, sat on my bed, and we chatted.  Each of us tried to communicate as we always had and did when I was not expelling food before I digested it.  However, it was too hard for her.  I could see the tears forming and before they gently fell down her face.  She excused herself.  She was flooded with emotions.  Oh, Mommy, I am sooooooo sorry. 

    Alexander assumed much and apparently still does.  He knows that he and Grandpa lived a block away from each other.  They were friends; although I often wonder.  When one, or both persons in a relationship share some information, and never fully deliberate, how intimate and whole might the rapport be.  Nonetheless, the two were “close.” 

    Each time my grandfather spoke of gifting money to my Mom or me, Alexander decided the sums were large and an unwanted load for my Mom’s father.  Cousin Alex does not recall what my Grandpa taught me, or does not make the connection for I shared the parable many times.  “No one does something they do not really want to do.” 

    After a time when Grandpa gave me two hundred and eighty nine dollars to travel, I thanked him profusely, for months.  I could not resolve within myself how generous a gift he bestowed.  Then, one-day grandfather Mitchell said to me, I would not have given you the money had I not wanted to.  You need not continually thank me.  He shared his now famous adage.  Slowly, I learned.  This lesson is about far more than money.

    Nonetheless, Alexander remains stalwart, doing diligence over the dollars.  I discovered this only days ago.  As much as Alexander cherishes my Mom and I, he resents us.  Alexander believes he has the specifics.  For him there is nothing further to discuss. 

    My cousin believes my bulimia was a financial burden far beyond what it was.  He thinks my Mom borrowed money and never repaid it.  Grandpa disinherited his own daughter and sacrificed for his granddaughter.  He brusquely said to me, “Ask your sister.”  I did.  I discovered that my elder sibling understands as I do.  The details of that I will save for another time.  I told Alexander, in part of the exchange with my sister.  Alexander refuses to hear the rest of the story.  Bitterness becomes him.  It must, for he has chosen to live with it for all these years.

    Perhaps, that is the truer crisis.  Bulimia breeds contempt.  As the person afflicted purges in an attempt to escape feeling, the feelings flourish.  They envelop everyone.  Authentic communication ends.  At times, we cannot be sure it will come again.  The illness has a profound effect on the individual.  It is as a heavy stone falling into a pond.  The ripples travel.  All are touched. 

    So much is shoved out of sight.  Embarrassment causes the bulimic and her family to hide their emotions.  There is much harm done to every one.  People do not speak; they do not wish to see what is painful and true.  Tales are told.  Everyone wishes to appear excellent, exalted, and above it all.  Yet, friends, family, familiars are all brought down.  The spiral spins out of control.

    Thankfully, it need not be.  Douglas shared my writings with his sister.  They had a lengthy conversation.  Tears and fears were placed out in the open.  Until, I told my truth, Douglas never understood how his sister Sarah struggles.  He thought his sibling was concerned about her weight.  This brilliant and munificent gentle man could not imagine why the healthy woman he knows and loves would do as she does. 

    It was only days ago he discovered, each night she cries herself to sleep thinking tomorrow, I will not do this.  Yes, I remember; I did the same.  This evening I told my father what Douglas shared.  Barry asked was that true?  He never knew.  My father did not imagine my daily distress.  I can barely phantom his sorrow. 

    As we reflected, Barry avowed, “Ultimately I  trusted your sense of yourself and your evolving being.  Mommy and I often talked about what we could do.  Your health and well being was on our minds.”  I trust it still is.  I feel it in Barry’s musings.  I sense it in my soul. 

    Each day and evening I think about Mommy’s anguish.  The despair my Mom felt, and may still feel, fills my heart.  She has passed and I cannot inquire, Yet, I accept I cannot experience a fraction of the pain as she did, has, and sadly, may still . 

    Alexander, oh were he to speak of the unspeakable; what might we resolve.

    Douglas and Sarah, I love you both.  You give me hope.  I wish to bequeath to you both hugs, kisses, and pleasant dreams.  I have faith; tomorrow will come and good health will be yours.

    Dear reader, you may wish to peruse Chapters One through Six.  Please do. These reflective diaries discuss my life as an anorexic, bulimic, a person.

  • The Beginning. Bulimia and Becoming [Chapter One] By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • Bulimia. A Bit Becomes a Binge  [Chapter Two] By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • Binges Build A Being, Separate From Self  [Chapter Three] By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • Hiding the Food. Hiding The Feelings, Hiding Me  [Chapter Four] By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • The Satiated Stomach. The Study Of Food [Chapter Five] By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • Bulimia. Wait! It is Not My Weight  [Chapter Six] By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
    Or Similar Discussions . . .

  • I Am An Anorexic, Bulimic, A Person! By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • When Will I Be Right? Is It Ever Okay To Be Me? By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • Weight. Balancing Fat with Feelings, Habits With Health. By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

    Other References . . .

  • The Effects of Bulimia.  RecoverYourLife.com.
  • Bulimia Nervosa. The National Women’s Health Information Center.
  • What are the effects of bulimia?  Tina deBenedictis, Ph.D., Jaelline Jaffe, Ph.D., Robert Segal, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.  Helpguide.org.
  • Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most, By: Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen.  The Harvard Negotiation Project.
  • There’s Possum for Dinner, Children

    (Another wondrous Possum Tale. The author shares the origin of his name.
    Thank you Possum for this and all your sharings. You and your tales are wondrous teachers. – promoted by Betsy L. Angert

    copyright © 2007 Possum Tales.  Sedalia Tales

    Childhood is such a marvelous time.  A time of great wonders when nearly every experience is new.  A time when food is an exploration.  We all have memories of those times past.  In today’s life my friends and I are real foodies.  We love fine food and the stories that go along with such adventures.  Today’s recollection is of a childhood time when food was on the table but the experience was somewhat different.  Follow down the yellow brick road, around the curve, and over the bridge for another of the possum’s tales.

    As a child I enjoyed the benefits of hunting wild game both in the field and on the table.  By age six or seven my brothers and I were taught the care and handling of a shotgun.  Christmas at nine years old brought the first shotgun of my own, a 20-gage, Remington, semi-automatic, with a stock shortened to fit the arm length of a child.  The gun had quite a recoil and left a bruised shoulder behind after each day of hunting.

    My family hunted rabbits and doves with regularity.  When we were young my father loaded the car with people and dogs (if we were rabbit hunting) and off we went.  Dad always knew a farmer where we could hunt with full permission of the landowner.  Sometimes we stopped at the owner’s house, but most times we had blanket permission and just went to the fields.  Many times we took along my father’s friend, Bud.  I never did discover how the two of them came to be friends as they were very opposite in so many ways. 

    Far from the privileged childhood that was mine, Bud’s existence gave new meaning to the word, poor.  Bud was retired when we first met at about my 6th birthday.  He scrambled for every bite of food on the table.  His very living was always in peril from most any adverse event.  Still Bud took life as it came his way without complaint.  Whatever he had always seemed to be enough for his satisfaction.

    Bud was a crack shot since shotgun shells in those days cost as much as 10 cents.  He could not afford to miss even a single effort to kill his target or he would be both poorer and hungry.  Many days my dad gave Bud shells for the hunt as there were not always enough in Bud’s house to accomplish much. 

    Poor as Bud may have been in economic terms, he was a treasure trove of natural wisdom and folk tales.  He knew the ways of the animals and could always find his way back to the car no matter how far we wandered through either fields or woods.  He delighted in telling stories to show a child the ways of the world.  If or not the stories were true I do not know to this day.  I still remember just how tall Bud stood in the eyes of a little boy.  In fact Bud stood tall in his own ways by most any measure of men.

    One special winter day we were hunting rabbits.  My father, my brother, Bud, and myself were in the hunting party as we were on so many occasions.  For his own reasons Bud had dropped back behind the group.  I followed him to see what was about to happen as Bud had a way of finding interesting things along the way.  One just never knew what to expect in his company. 

    Seems he had seen a nest high in a tree.  With no leaves on the trees the nest was easy enough to see  with a structure of leaves and twigs in the high fork of the tree.  Bud, with his keen eye for nature, somehow knew the nest belonged to a possum and that the owner was in the nest.  A 10-year-old boy is easy prey for a man who he worships and so convincing me to shoot at the nest was pretty easy for Bud. 

    Lo and behold, not only was Mr. Possum in residence, he was killed by a single shot aimed only at the nest.  Somehow the eyes of a boy were not good enough to actually see the animal in the nest.  Remembering the sound of that possum’s falling to the ground with a heavy thud shocks me to this day.  The shot brought by father and brother back to see what happened.  Father reminded me of the family rule, “Whatever you kill, you eat.”  No exceptions were allowed.  My brother already had a cardinal served for dinner when he mistook the song bird for a dove.  Mr. Possum was duly loaded inside the game jacket I wore for the trek home.  Mother was not entirely pleased to hear we had bagged a possum, but Dad convinced her that the lesson was important.  Dad dressed Mr. Possum and presented him to Mother for cooking.

    Mother boiled the possum for what seemed like 4 days, but was more likely only a few hours.  The smell permeated the entire house since the weather was cold and the windows were all shut down tight.  After boiling to remove a large portion of the fat which possums accumulate just from living a possum life, the carcass was baked for dinner.  I remember mashed potatoes (a staple of family dining in our home) along with the meat.  In addition we had green beans (green in name only as they were always cooked in fat and sugar into a shapeless, dark brown mass before eating) and most likely had jello in addition to desert (Mother really made a mean pie or cake in those days).

    Dinner in our household was almost always served on a back porch that was converted to a dining area when I was about 6-years-old.  We ate on a formica topped, 1950’s table the same as did most of our friends and neighbors.  Meals in the dining room were reserved for special occasions such as times when our relatives were visiting or the occasional Sunday dinner.  Just imagine the family’s surprise when Mr. Possum landed on the dining room table.  We used our everyday dishes and silverware but the room was otherwise decorated just as though we were having company for dinner. 

    My father served the meat from a platter in front of his plate.  Each person got a fair share and somehow my share seemed bigger than others.  Having already smelled dinner in preparation we were all suspicious of our fare.  Our worst suspicions were confirmed by the very first bite.  Not only did the meat taste pretty strong, gamy, and to our minds, purely foul, but the fatty texture lent a degree of sliminess that defies adequate description even though the memory is crystal clear even today.  We each and every one were entirely cured of our possum dinner desires.  Never again did we kill or eat a possum in my home.  My father’s lesson was a good one, well applied so we learned right then and there not to kill what we did not wish to have for dinner.