‘Pregorexia’ and Postpartum Priorities

What does it say about a culture if when a baby’s born, the mom’s tummy size gets as much attention as the baby?

The British magazine OK! came under fire earlier this summer for running a feature story on Kate Middleton’s “post-baby weight loss regime.” Even as moms around the world tweeted and blogged their appreciation of Kate’s post-baby appearance, in which she seemed not to make any attempt to disguise her postpartum tummy, OK! magazine, like any good tabloid, tried to appeal to readers’ venality by promising details of her “diet and shape-up plan” and a (supposed) interview with Kate’s trainer, quoted on the cover, saying, “She’s super-fit—her stomach will shrink straight back.”

Another British tabloid, The Daily Star, recently reported the story of a London woman, Holly Griffiths, who gave birth to a healthy baby after a frighteningly thin pregnancy; Griffiths, who was diagnosed with anorexia at age 13, posted pictures of herself online weighing just 114 pounds at 8 months pregnant. Several years ago, an American woman, Maggie Baumann, restricted her weight gain so severely that her baby suffered intrauterine growth restriction and, after birth, seizures and attention deficit problems, which her doctor suggested “may have been linked with poor fetal nutrition.”

[...]

It’s impossible for me to reflect on the cultural phenomenon of ‘skinny pregnant’ without reflecting on the place I currently live: Malawi, Africa. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to visit a maternity clinic not far from my home. As I toured the small but well-equipped facility, I noticed, as I always do, how the women looked. Nearly always, they look too thin, and even the ones who gave birth just that morning have barely a belly to show for it. I stepped in close to peek at one woman’s freshly-born baby; we caught eyes and she grinned. I was stunned at the whiteness of her gums: a sign of severe anemia. Because a woman’s need for iron doubles during pregnancy—and because getting enough iron in the diet is a constant problem for most women in Malawi—she was depleted. Health experts have identified anemia as a major risk factor for maternal mortality, so it’s really no wonder that here it’s a compliment to tell a pregnant woman that she’s looking good and fat.

I’m not sharing this as a guilt trip; the grown-up pregnancy version of “Clean your plate because kids are starving around the world.” (“Gain lots of weight because pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa can’t!”) I tell this because here, the reality that life is short and often difficult is rarely varnished over with distractions.

Several months ago I sat with a group of women on the floor with a mother who had buried her newborn baby that morning; it was a ritual they were all too familiar with. At home, my own children ran around the yard, playing and laughing, and I realized with a start how quickly the time had passed since they were babies. Any time I spent worrying about what having them would do to my body was wasted time, I realized.

Life—the baby’s life, the mother’s life—is too good a gift to be frittered away fretting over the shape of the body that so miraculously brings it forth. Care for the body, but celebrate that life.

{Read the post in full where it first appeared at Christianity Today}

The Food Companies Own You

Did you hear a bit of buzz about potatoes being banned from school lunches and tomato paste on pizza counting as a vegetable?

That was part of Congress’ push-back against new regulations proposed by the Department of Agriculture, which administers the National School Lunch Program.

Instead, Congress wrote a spending bill that has done the following:

~refuses to allow the USDA guidelines to limit starchy vegetables–including corn, potatoes, and peas–to two servings per week. (The goal here was to cut down on french fries, which many schools serve daily.)

~allows the USDA to continue to count two tablespoons of tomato paste as a vegetable, as it does now. The USDA wanted to require that only a half-cup of tomato paste could be considered a vegetable–but that’s much more than goes on pizza.

~requires “further study” on USDA sodium-reduction requirements. (seriously.)

OK. So why would Congress block measures to make school lunches healthier?

Quite simply, because Big Food Companies make big money from processing food. As Lucy Komisar wrote in the New York Times this weekend:

“Schools get the food free; some cook it on site, but more and more pay processors to turn these healthy ingredients into fried chicken nuggets, fruit pastries, pizza and the like. Some $445 million worth of commodities are sent for processing each year, a nearly 50 percent increase since 2006.”

So let’s say a district gets a box of chicken worth $10 for free as part of the USDA commodities program, and it’s up to them to prepare the stuff. Or they can contract with Sodexho, or Aramark, or some other multinational, who gets the free box of chicken and turns it into a box of chicken nuggets that costs over $30. There are big profits to be made in processing.

I think Jamie Oliver said it most clearly on Jimmy Kimmel:

the food companies of America own you…these moron frozen food companies — pizza industry, french-fry industry — have basically bought, bribed, bullied Congress, who have completely let everyone down, into basically making it okay to feed [students] french fries every day.”

Any wonder childhood obesity continues to rise?

And let’s not forget: it’s the poorest kids who most depend on school food for their nutrition.

Our kids deserve better than this.

 

 

100 Posts!

Yesterday’s post on Plumpy’nut marked 100 posts here on Eat With Joy. I thought of doing some version of the ‘100 things about whatever’ meme, but I think I’m too lazy and/or busy for that.

Besides, I thought it might be more fun to highlight the top 10 posts from Eat With Joy‘s brief Internet life. And so without further ado…

(Click on each title to read the full post; italicized text represents excerpts)

#10 Film Review: “The Help” and the Supper of the Lamb

“Living the gospel acknowledges our shared humanity and need for reconciliation with God and with each other. When we sit to eat together, we acknowledge our physical needs and that shared humanity (we all eat; we all excrete) while tasting just a bit of God’s graciousness. The Help reminds me again just how countercultural that Supper of the Lamb really is…”

#9 Fake Gluten-Free Girl

“Can food preferences–not just gluten-free, not just Paleo–be a way of couching disordered eating in more socially acceptable forms?”

#8 Should Healthy Living be a Spiritual Discipline?

“We DON’T need “spiritual” reasons to pursue a “healthy” diet.

We DO need a new food culture, and there’s plenty of wisdom–in the Bible and elsewhere–that’s ready to help us shape one.”

#7 Breastfeeding and Justice

“Our ability to make choices about parenting styles is a direct result of our relative economic security and privilege. But that doesn’t mean that this ability is trivial or unimportant in light of extreme suffering. In fact, I think that how we choose to live–including how we spend our money and our time (and eating’s a big part of that)–is organically connected to suffering and justice both here and elsewhere. It’s also connected to how we view ourselves in relationship to the Creator and the rest of creation.

#6 I’m 30! (30 things about a 30 year old on the 30th)

“3. Once, when I lived in Brooklyn, our house was broken into and our VCR was stolen, with my Winnie-the-Pooh tape inside. This was extremely distressing.

4. Another time, when I lived in Middle Village, our apartment was broken into and I could hear our German landlord, who lived downstairs, screaming, “I have a knife! I’m going to kill you!” Even more distressing.

#5 Am I too thin to say “accept your body”?

“…all the ads for weight loss products and programs and gym memberships and everything else. They always carry with them the promise (the lie) that YOU YOU YOU can change your body–that it’s raw material for shaping any way you desire–if only you’ll buy this, do that, have enough control, pray enough, or whatever.

#4 Injustice of Biblical Proportions

“Alabama’s new immigration law makes it a crime to appear in public without proof of your immigration status, and requires law enforcement officers to stop anyone who “appears illegal.” If you don’t have proof of legal residency when you go to pay your utility bill, they can cut off the water to your house.

#3 Revolutionary Joy…and Basil

“Finding joy in basil grown from seed returns me to a place of joyful creativity that’s not (I imagine) unlike the Creator’s joy. It reassures me that even black specks of nothing can turn into something beautiful and delicious, something that brings three generations to the table and gives them delight.”

#2 White Collar’s Woman Problem

Gina Dalfonzo’s Guest Post:

“White Collar is showing an unhealthy obsession with the current Hollywood ideal of the skin-and-bones woman. And it’s especially saddening because White Collar is so strong a show in other ways—my friend Kim Moreland writes here about how well it handles themes like justice, order, and goodness —that slick Hollywood trappings, such as anorexic-looking women, stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.”

and the #1 post?

My Audrey Hepburn Problem

“…although I admired Audrey’s humanitarian legacy and reputed grace and kindness, I was most inspired by her thinness. In the days of my Audrey obsession, her brilliant film performances were less important than the visibility of her long, lovely bones in her various stunning Givenchy and Edith Head designs.

Do YOU have a favorite post–or a topic you’d like to see more posts about? Leave a comment!

Sunday Recipe: Ratatouille, Like the Movie

Chef Thomas Keller created this special version of ratatouille when he consulted with Pixar studios on the film Ratatouille. I shamelessly capitalized on the appeal of the rat-chef, Remy, to get my 5 year old to eat lots of vegetables by cooking ratatouille in a much-simplified version of Keller’s recipe so that it would look like the dish in the film.

(Just so we’re clear, I’m not recommending the film for young viewers. My young boy knew about Remy from a library book he found that was a movie tie-in—it’s got some really scary sequences.)

{Of course, this dish is best with very fresh, seasonal vegetables. And right now’s the season here in the northeast US!}

For the sauce (piperade)–

1 and ½ peppers (red, yellow, orange, or purple, seeded, ribbed, and chopped finely)
½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 tsp. minced garlic.
1 sprig each of thyme and parsley (or pinch each of the dried herbs)
1 bay leaf

Cook all slowly over medium heat in

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil until the onions are beginning to caramelize; then add 3 finely chopped tomatoes

Cook down for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt to taste, the spread the sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof dish (about a 9” by 13” size), reserving about 1 tablespoon of the sauce.

Slice into very thin rounds (you may want to try and select vegetables of similar diameter—this is for visual appeal only.

1 long zucchini
1 Japanese (skinny!) eggplant
1 yellow squash similar in diameter and length to the zucchini
4 Roma tomatoes (or other dense, smallish tomatoes; I used Amish Paste)

Arrange the vegetables in the pan on top of the sauce, alternating 1 slice of zucchini, 1 slice eggplant, 1 slice yellow squash, 1 slice tomato—repeat, going back and forth or around and around in the dish, overlapping the vegetables so that each just peeks out behind the other. Don’t be too anxious about this part! Just do the best you can to layer the vegetables evenly.

see? mine's not perfect-looking. It was still really delicious, though.

Bake, covered with a lid or with foil, in a pre-heated 275 degree oven for 2 hours, then uncover and bake 30 minutes more. There should not be much liquid in the pan after the last 30 minutes of baking; if there is, put it on the stove on low heat to reduce the liquid. (This long, slow baking really develops the flavor of the vegetables and gives them a great texture.)

Meanwhile, combine the tablespoon of reserved sauce with:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Some fresh herbs (like chervil, thyme, basil, or parsley), minced

Season with Salt and Pepper to taste, and use as a vinagrette drizzle over the warm ratatouille. Couscous, quinoa cooked in broth, or plain steamed rice is delicious alongside; a fresh baguette would also be delicious!

Enjoy, folks!

Why You Can Eat Anything You Want

(as long as you make it yourself.)

for the record, I happen to love me some good North Fork Potato Chips--a locally produced brand. But I don't pretend they're healthy. They're just yummy, and a sometime treat.

Last week, Michael Pollan tweeted a paper on nutrition by Carlos Monteiro entitled “There is No Such Thing as a Healthy Ultra-Processed Product.” Food companies, the paper argues, promote their products as ‘healthy’ based on either of two things:

1. The absence of perceived “bad” ingredients (0g trans fats! NO High Fructose Corn Syrup!)

2. Reduced levels of (X “bad” component: fat, salt, sugar) as compared to comparable products

and

3. The addition of nutrients (“enriched” or “fortified”)

notice how they use 'earth' tones on the packaging to give you a greener, healthier feeling?

The paper is not very interesting reading, but overall, it makes a good point, which is this: stuff that comes out of the package “ready-to-eat” is probably not good for you. Yet it is precisely the ingredients that get processed into foods like that–cereals, granola bars, powdered flavored drinks, chips–that receive the HIGHEST government subsidies (think corn and soybeans, which get processed into literally thousands of different unpronounceable food ingredients.) And precisely those products are the ones backed by enormous advertising budgets to convince people that they are HEALTHY.

Let me put some flesh on those bones: once, I sat in one of the very nicest restaurants in Philadelphia and was served a delicious, handmade dessert–something involving chocolate and whipped cream, I don’t remember what, exactly–and one of the people at my table, instead of eating that, pulled out some kind of chocolate-flavored protein bar and ate that instead, explaining that he was on a diet and that this was ‘healthier’ because it had X number of grams of protein with only X amount of carbs. His perception was clearly that this bar (which, as very nearly all such bars are, was an ultra-processed, partially artificial THING made in some New Jersey industrial ‘park’) was “superior” to the cake.


Here’s another example: breakfast cereal. The companies that make ready-to-eat cereals have done a fabulous job of convincing people that there’s something special about cereal that makes it a right and proper (if not THE right and proper) thing to eat for breakfast. In recent years, we’ve seen them all scramble to put a bit of WHOLE GRAINS! in there and then shout about it on the package. But you know what? Most of the time, a few slices of whole grain bread with butter and jam (or some cheese) is a far superior breakfast, nutritionally speaking. Most cereals qualify as “ultra-processed” foods.

don't be fooled by the health claims! even the healthy looking ones are little better than vitamin-enhanced cookies...

Maybe these things don’t seem like such a big deal. But they kind of are a big deal. In developing countries, ultra-processed products (Monteiro uses Tang as an example) are viewed as modern and ‘healthier’ than the traditional diets. As such, even though products like these are comparably expensive, people will spring for them–with disastrous long-term effects on public and environmental health. In our own country, the lobbying pull of food producers prevents the likes of Michelle Obama from saying clearly “don’t eat stuff that comes ready to eat from a package” and allows pledges by Wal-Mart to reduce X number of “bad” ingredients as part of Let’s Move.


Monteiro isn’t saying never eat anything that comes from a package, and neither am I. But I think what we’re both saying is this: REAL food–and thus REAL wellness–doesn’t come from a package loaded with health claims and advertisements of “fortification,” or, indeed, of “reduced” whatever.

In a nutshell?

EAT THE CHOCOLATE CAKE! (not a flavored ‘energy’ bar)

EAT THE WHIPPED CREAM! (not the fat-free whipped ‘topping.’)