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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Translate What The Experts Know To What People Do

Dan Glickman, a former Secretary of the USDA said at the 1998 Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) conference: Childhood Obesity, Causes and Prevention, " Our greatest challenge as policy makers and public health advocates remains to translate what the experts know in(to) what people do." That succinct, but packed statement had a profound affect on me. I think I based the graduate thesis that I wrote a couple years later, and the rest of my career goals, objectives, pursuits, and actions, on that statement. As a registered dietitian and clinical nutritionist with a foot in the door of public health epidemiology, especially re: obesity in the pediatric population, I KNOW that all the research, theories, recommendations, programs, publications, and even modifications to the environment don't mean a thing unless people UNDERSTAND what to do and how to change and then actually DO change. The best win-win scenario is one when people will WANT/crave health and will DEMAND healthy options/lifestyles, for themselves and their children, more so over the 'junk foods' and sedentary lifestyles. THEN, companies, industry, governments, communities, counties, nations, and the world will need to supply these demands.

I lived in Russia for a few years. Most Russians do not speak English and I had a rudimentary understanding of the language. Nevertheless, I was always impressed by how articulate, resourceful, and intelligent the Russian people were. Now, intuitively, I sensed all of this about the Russians, but, I truly would never had KNOWN the depths of the Russian intellect and 'soul' had it not been for the omnipresence of interpreters. Interpreters in Russia are held in very high regard and, indeed, are ALWAYS present at every important, and even, many mundane events. Life and successful exchange of business, commerce, and understanding at every level and in every sphere of society and living just can't happen without them. People 'do' what they 'do' there because of (and sometimes, in spite of) the translations of interpreters.
Thus, I see myself as an interpreter of nutrition and diet. I am passionate about the knowledge of nutrition and foods and seek out, daily, all the newest research, technologies, and information. But, it's not enough for me to know all of it, to practice it, or even for me and my colleagues to know it all, benefit from it, exchange ideas, and practice what we know. We need to decipher and communicate to others. We need to make the knowledge relevant and 'do-able' to people. We need to do whatever it takes to translate what we know to what people can, will, and WANT to do and do it with JOY and enthusiasm. Maybe, just maybe, THEN, an obesity-free world can become a reality. At this point, I can only re-print the excerpt from the poem by Miller Williams -- another inspiration for me, personally, as I strive to find ways to become the best 'interpreter' I can to continue to work hard to reverse the travesty of burgeoning childhood obesity:

".....But where are we going to be, and why, and who?
The disenfranchised dead want to know.
We mean to be the people we meant to be,
to keep on going where we meant to go.
But how do we fashion the future? Who can say how
except in the minds of those who will call it Now?
The children. The children...

All this in the hands of children, eyes
already set on a land we can never visit --
it isn't there yet---
but looking through their eyes, we can see
what our long gift to them may come to be.
If we can truly remember, they will not forget"

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


Let's face it -- losing unwanted fat, building and toning muscle tissue, and more importantly, adapting a healthy lifestyle, requires good old-fashioned discipline added to the mix of balanced diet and a necessary physical activity level.
What's even harder is to UNLEARN poor cognitions and habits and RETEACH yourself new and better ways of thinking and behaving when it comes to your food choices and activity/exercise habits.
This brings me to the notion of 'Sacrifices'. This is a concept that, actually, seems to be forgotten in today's environment of people wanting what they want and wanting it 'yesterday'; of looking out for number one and not stopping till 'no. 1' gets it all and just the way he/she likes it; of instant gratification, at all costs.
I grew up Catholic and 'sacrifices' was an important part of practicing our faith tradition. The tradition especially condoned and encouraged 'discreet' sacrificial actions -- giving up something or doing something kind or extra, without announcing it to the world or telling anyone. We were taught that God's grace would be bestowed on you or others, through your sacrifice. You know what -- I really believed that and I still do. Exercising a bit of sacrificial restraint or, on the other hand, pro-action, while getting yourself healthier is a very constructive concept and practice. Offer your discomfort, or for some folks, it may be downright pain and suffering, for people or for some purpose that needs grace. Make your actions count for the good of humanity. Certainly, as you, yourself, become more the person you want to be -- you will become that much more a positive presence in the world. Ask God to strengthen you as you strive to achieve your goals and as you practice sacrifices and offer them up to Him, for the grace and good of His world, His people, and His purpose.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Not Just Food For All!

In the past week, a few things I did and said got me thinking.

Firstly, I cooked meals for a youth hostel and for a family in need. I made a point of thinking carefully about the recipients of my meal and shopped, prepared, cooked, and delivered the food, accordingly. I didn't just make something that was cheap and filling. In fact, I spent much more on these meals than I usually do to feed my picky family.

Then, someone posted on Twitter that at his workplace, a meal was offered and shared by bosses and colleagues, respectively. I found myself 'tweeting' back that I had hoped the meal was of high quality (nutritionally) as Maslow was no fool. This thought just popped into my head, and in true Twitter free form, I almost reflexively, quickly, posted the comment.

Remember Maslow?! You know, the 'hierarchy of needs' guy? The 'how can we self-actualize' without first things first? Food is one of those firsts. But, to me, all food for all, is not the point. To me, high-quality, nutritious food is a basic human need and right. This is contrary to what some of my colleagues think (especially those in the food industry)that any and all food is fine, especially when we are talking about feeding the poor and the masses. Ergo, we find the preposterous and scandalous, IMO, situation of peddling soft drinks and fast foods and junk foods, in poorer neighborhoods and countries. 'They' say -- 'well, it's better to get them cheap kcalories and nutrients than none at all!'. I say, 'rubbish'! In the end, this results in populations in these places getting mostly kcalories and fat and sugar and sodium and not too much of anything else. And we 'experts' know it!!! To encourage the palates of the kids in poor neighborhoods and nations to be exposed and constantly reinfoced to the point that they 'prefer' high-sugar, high-fat, high-sodium, high-starch foods and probably seek them for the rest of their lives, even if they emerge out of their lower SES, is appalling.

I shall say it again: High quality food is a basic need and human right. I know Maslow didn't specify this, but that's what he meant. You and I both know it!!!

Friday, 9 April 2010

A Happy Heart!

Strive to make those around you happy. You don't need money or connections or even to be deliriously happy yourself. Just be kind. Be caring. Take time to notice people around you and do what you can to make them feel cared for and noticed. There's so much pain, strife, and heartache in the world. So, when you are blessed to be in a position/opportunity to beget blessings -- DO IT!!!
The other day I was walking back from my grocery 'run'. There was an elderly lady, with a walker, who was making her way slowly and gingerly next to me. She had the most gorgeous earrings on! They were obviously costume quality, but old-fashioned and quite intricate and interesting. I noticed them and that, despite her condition and age, she had made an effort that morning to get herself smartly put together, down to her sparklng, 'special' earrings. I imagined that alot of stories went with those earrings and I should have loved to hear them, but, of course, I was in a hurry, running from one deadline to my next, and knew there was no way I could engage with her. But I DID look over and comment to her that I loved her earrings!! Well, the sparkle on her lobes was nothing compared to the gleam in her gorgeous eyes!! She smiled broadly back at me and simply said "Bless you, child!". She made my day SO happy!!!

'A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.' Proverbs 15:13

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Getting older can be a fantastic experience

I love that I'm aging!! I enjoy so much all the blessings that come with getting older! I feel more experienced, I feel more 'me', and even with all the unknowns that lie ahead, I know that i've made it this far and I'm still smiling, so the chances of getting through what comes up next are that much greater and will give me even more to smile about. BUT, the biggest reason(s) why getting older means getting better is that I'm constantly doing my best to take care that I choose healthy living -- I make a point of eating a balanced, fresh, varied diet low in saturated fats, refined sugars, and salt. I exercise daily (or at least 5 times a week) and I really really have to push myself to do this as I'm not naturally athletic or pre-wired to include this as part of my 'norm'. After about a month, though, of consciously engaging in active exercise (mix of cardio and weight-training), it DOES become more 'normal' and less 'virtuous' or annoying/obtrusive. I also don't stress about the wrinkles -- they are laugh lines, worry lines that I've earned -- ie -- nice reminders of all the trials and tribulations that I've weathered and come out of just fine, thank you, and the signs and emblems of wisdom gained. Oh, I've got still so much more yet to experience and learn, but it feels good. Take care of yourself. Getting older -- aging -- is a blessing you don't want to miss!!