food


A while ago I wrote a list of things that almost always make me happy, so I thought I should make a list of things that almost always make me unhappy. For symmetry, you know? In no particular order:

All things “scented”: soaps, lotions, deodorants, colognes, candles, cleaning products etc. I like the smell of roses, hate the smell of rose-scented soap.

Small talk: Please do not talk to me about things that you are not actually interested in.

Unripe fruit: I would much rather not eat a banana than eat a green banana.

Unsalted butter and peanut butter: In these cases, unsalted is often better than nothing, but generally disappointing.

Buying airline tickets. Or, really, buying any pretty expensive item that might not work out as I’d hoped.

Shoes that are the slightest bit uncomfortable in any way. Don’t tell me that they will break in. That’s the line of a lazy and/or evil shoe salesman.

The hard sell. This is the only real downside to being nice–you become a target.

Unpleasant sensations, especially pain, nausea, and cold feet.

Injuries that do not heal or that take a long time to heal.

Bigotry.

Spots on my camera lens that I cannot remove.

Not being able to see the stars for man-made reasons.

Packaging of most kinds.

Dust jackets for books. They are supposed to protect the book from dust? All they do for me is give me another, more fragile, thing to try to keep nice looking.

Being helpless in the face of injustice on any scale.

Bad food, especially Amtrak, airline cuisine.

Almost made the list: mild and sharp cheddar.

This is a version of the old “stranded on a desert island” game. I’m pretty sure it was my friends Tilke Elkins and Kyla Wetherell who invented it. It was a popular conversation for a while back at Suntop.

If you could eat only five species for the rest of your life, which would they be? You get spices, salt and water for free. You get the species that you choose in unlimited quantities, fresh, good quality–perfectly ripe, if applicable. You also get everything that species makes. If you choose cow, for example, you get the dairy products that come from cows, their meat, and whatever else from them you might want to eat. (Brains? Some folks eat cow brains, right?)

Here’s the list I made back when we first played it. I’m considering revisions, but I still think it’s a good list. What’s your list?

oats

salmon

porphyra (the kind of seawead nori is made out of)

cherries

blueberries

There are two official DSM diagnoses for eating disorders, with two variations each. This gives us four options: Anorexia Nervosa, Restricting Type; Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating/Purging Type; Bulimia Nervosa, Purging Type; Bulimia Nervosa, Nonpurging Type.

This is are direct direct quotes from the DSM-IV-TR. “Postmenarcheal” means after the onset of the menstrual cycle. In addition to Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, there is a category with no diagnostic criteria called Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified that clinician can give to someone “for disorders of eating that do not meet the criteria for any specific Eating Disorder.” People diagnosed with EDNOS are even more likely to die from their conditions than those in AN or BN.

Diagnostic criteria for 307.1 Anorexia Nervosa

A. Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (e.g., weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected; or failure to make expected weight gain during a period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected).

B. Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.

C. Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.

D. In postmenarcheal females, amenorrhea, i.e., the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles. (A woman is considered to have amenorrhea if her periods occur only following hormone, e.g., estrogen, administration.)

Specify type:

Restricting Type: during the current episode of Anorexia Nervosa, the person has not regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)

Binge-Eating/Purging Type: during the current episode of Anorexia Nervosa, the person has regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)

Diagnostic criteria for 307.51 Bulimia Nervosa

A. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:

(1) eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances

(2) a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)

B. Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxative, diuretics, enemas, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise.

C. The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behavior both occur, on average, at least twice a week for 3 months.

D. Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.

E. The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of Anorexia Nervosa.

Specify type:

Purging Type: during the current episode of Bulimia Nervosa, the person has regularly engaged in self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas

Nonpurging Type: during the current episode of Bulimia Nervosa, the person has used other inappropriate compensatory behaviors, such as fasting or excessive exercise, but has not regularly engaged in self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas

This is a handout I got in my Medical Family Therapy class. The copyright at the bottom says “(c) 2005 National Eating Disorders Association. Permission is granted to copy and reprint materials for educational purposes only. National Eating Disorders Association must be cited and web address listed. www.NationalEatingDisorders.org Information and Referral Helpline: 800.931.2237.” I think that covers me. I’m willing to take the risk, anyway, because eating disorders are a huge problem. The most conservative estimates, using the most strict definitions, are that six million people in the US struggle with disordered eating. Estimates using less strict definitions (including Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified in the DSM-IV-TR), but still very realistic, are at about 20 million. And eating disorders are the most deadly mental disorder. If not treated, 20-25% of those with serious eating disorders die from them. You won’t find that statistic in many official sources, though, because for some very strange reason, coroners will not list Anorexia or Bulimia Nervosa as a cause of death. They prefer “Cause of death unknown” in those cases. Plus, eating disorders are learned behavior. Don’t let your kids learn the values that encourage disordered eating from you!

OK, here it is. It’s by Michael Levine, PhD:

1. Consider your thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors toward your own body and the way that these beliefs have been shaped by the forces of weightism and sexism. Then educate your children about (a) the genetic basis for the natural diversity of human body shapes and sizes and (b) the nature and ugliness of prejudice.

*Make an effort to maintain positive attitudes and health behaviors. Children learn from the things you say and do!

2. Examine closely your dreams and goals for your children and other loved ones. Are you overemphasizing beauty and body shape, particularly for girls?

*Avoid conveying an attitude which says in effect, “I will like you more if you lose weight, don’t eat so much, look more like the slender models in ads, fit into smaller clothes, etc.”

*Decide what you can do and what you can stop doing to reduce the teasing, criticism, blaming, staring, etc. that reinforce the idea that larger or fatter is “bad” and smaller or thinner is “good.”

3. Learn about and discuss with your sons and daughters (a) the dangers of trying to alter one’s body shape through dieting, (b) the value of moderate exercise for health, and (c) the importance of eating a variety of foods in well-balanced meals consumed at least three times a day.

*Avoid categorizing and labeling foods (e.g. good/bad or safe/dangerous). All foods can be eaten in moderation.

*Be a good role model in regard to sensible eating, exercise, and self-acceptance.

4. Make a commitment not to avoid activities (such as swimming, sunbathing, dancing, etc.) simply because they call attention to your weight and shape. Refuse to wear clothes that are uncomfortable or that you don’t like but wear simply because they divert attention from your weight or shape.

5. Make a commitment to exercise for the joy of feeling your body move and grow stronger, not to purge fat from you body or to compensate for calories, power, excitement, popularity, or perfection.

6. Practice taking people seriously for what they say, feel, and do, not for how slender or “well put together” they appear.

7. Help children appreciate and resist the ways in which television, magazines, and other media distort the true diversity of human body types and imply that a slender body means power, excitement, popularity, or perfection.

8. Educate boys and girls about various forms of prejudice, including weightism, and help them understand their responsibilities for preventing them.

9. Encourage your children to be active and to enjoy what their bodies can do and feel like. Do not limit their caloric intake unless a physician requests that you do this because of a medical problem.

10. Do whatever you can to promote the self-esteem and self- respect of all of your children in intellectual, athletic , and social endeavors. Give boys and girls the same opportunities and encouragement. Be careful not to suggest that females are less important than males, e.g., by exempting males form housework or childcare. A well-rounded sense of self and solid self-esteem are perhaps the best antidotes to dieting and disordered eating.

In In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan recommends eating a variety of species. It’s not one of his banner recommendations, which are 1. Eat food (would your great-grandparents recognize it as food?), 2. Not too much, 3. Mostly vegetables. (And I think he later added 4. Nothing that gets advertised.) His sub-banner recommendations are things like eat from an old cuisine and eat a variety of species.

I thought it would be fun to count the species I eat for a period of time, and do-able because since I rarely buy prepared food, I know what’s in everything I eat. I just carried a 3×5 card with me for five days and wrote things down as I ate them. It was fun. It got me a good compliment and gave me an outlandish truth for “two truths and a lie,” which was the check-in for my Crisis Center meeting this week.

It was interesting, too. When I think about food variety, I usually think about a variety of meals, or maybe stealing a meal from a different cuisine than usual, not number of species. The species  really added up fast. I had 58 at the end of day two. I did not go out of my way to make my list longer, either. Note that I have not thoroughly researched this list–I just wrote things down as I ate them. I am not well-schooled in which plants are different species and which are just different cultivars. I discovered, for example, in On Food and Cooking (a wonderful book, if you haven’t seen it), that two plants I wrote down, garnet yam and jewel yam, are not different species, and are not even really yams. They are kinds of sweet potato. They will appear below as “sweet potato” but other, similar instances have probably eluded me. It’s the end of my term and I’m too busy to look them all up. Please correct me if you catch anything!

alfalfa

apple

arugula

asparagus

avocado

banana

barley

basil

bay

bean, black

beets (root & greens)

bell pepper

blueberry

broccoli

buckwheat

cabbage, red

cacao

carrot

celery

chard

chicken (egg)

chive

cinnamon

corn

cow (meat, milk)

dill

eggplant

endive, Frisee

fennel

garbanzo bean

garlic

ginger

goat (milk)

grape, Sultana

grape, wine

herring

honey bee (honey)

kelp

kiwi

kumquat

lavender

lemon

lentil (Red Chief)

lettuce (Boston, red leaf, sentry)

mango

marjoram

mint

mushroom, common

nutritional yeast

oat

olive (fruit, oil)

onion, yellow

orange

oregano

oyster

parsley

peanut

pepper

pig

pineapple

pistachio

plum

potato, red

quinoa

raspberry

rice

rosemary

sage

salmon

sesame

sheep (meat)

soy

spinach

squash (summer, zuchini)

strawberry

sugar

summer savory

sweet potato (jewel, garnet)

tea

thyme

tomato

turmeric

walnut

wheat

I just had my last Medical Family Therapy lecture. It was on eating disorders. My professor, Deanna Linville, is a specialist. One of the questions she recommended asking clients dealing with eating disorders was “What’s a good food day for you?” Also, “What’s a bad food day?”

I think those are good questions for anyone. Here are my answers:

A good food day is when I eat plenty and take the time to really enjoy the food. It usually means I’ve eaten real meals, not just snacked through the day. It means I wait long enough to feel hungry and then eat enough to feel full. It means I haven’t fixated on any food to the point where I ate it until I didn’t feel good.

A bad food day usually means I didn’t eat enough, or enough variety, usually because I let myself get too busy. It’s easy to eat nuts and raisins instead of a meal, or sometimes just forget to eat a meal, and I always regret it. I get weak, irritable, and stupid. If I eat too much on a bad food day, it’s most often because I fixated on a food (usually sugar, sometimes bread and/or cheese, occasionally meat at a BBQ or something) and ate it until I was uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s because I didn’t space my meals out enough and piled new food on top of old. Sometimes it’s a bad food combination, at a potluck or something, that gets me feeling uncomfortable. A random, moldy raisin made yesterday a bad food day.

How about you?

I’m keeping track of what species I’m eating this week, for a blog post. Michael Pollan says in In Defense of Food that it’s probably a good idea to eat a large variety of species. So I thought I’d keep track and see.

Tonight I ate dinner as I often do with my friend Seth Rydmark. He lives in a Christian dormitory that offers free dinners to guests of dormees. It’s a nice bunch of kids. (And beautiful singers–ever notice that Christians can mostly sing? They know the harmonies for “Happy Birthday”–stuff like that.) Seth and I get geeky about psychology (and sometimes theology) and are usually by far the last to leave the table, deep in some obscure conversation. Tonight, the salad was made of one of those baby-green mixes and I was trying to identify the species. I asked Seth if he knew the name of that pale, frizzy stuff. He said no and asked the girl next to him, and explained my project. She said, “Why would anyone want to do that?”

Seth said, “Well, you know, whatever there is in life, there’s a nerd for that. And Nathen is a nerd’s nerd.”

I’ve been working my whole life to deserve a compliment like that!

And by the way, does anyone out there know the name of that pale, frizzy salad green?

My friend Grace is flying to Ethiopia today to meet her adopted son, Yared, for the first time. What a journey to make! My thoughts are with her. Last Sunday I was at her baby shower, a moving ritual arranged by our friend, Kyla. There were lots of flowers and food, but instead of presents, we each brought a story–something we loved about how our parents were with us. We told them to Grace and wrote them down for a book for her to keep. It was lovely. I cried, off and on, hearing all of those beautiful, funny, endearing stories. Here’s what I wrote:

Hi Grace. Off the top of my head, I love how my parents sang a lot. My mom sang around the house, washing dishes or whatever, whatever song was in her head. I remember her singing the Oompaloompa song from the other room after we’d recently watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I remember thinking that she sounded so good–just right. My dad sang to us every night at bedtime. He’d come up  to me and Ely’s room after we were tucked in and sing us a few songs with his guitar. I had no idea how special that was–it was just something that happened, but it’s such a warm memory now. They were usually the same songs but I never got tired of them. One of them was Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Pony Man.” That was my favorite. One was “I Been Working on the Railroad.” He also sang an odd little song I’ve never heard anywhere else that went “What do you do in a case like that?/What do you do but stamp on your hat?/And your nail file and your toothbrush/And anything else that’s helpless.” Hilarious!

But writing about my bedtime made me think of a larger story about how I was parented. My days and weeks–my life–as a kid were punctuated with so many fun, comforting rituals. Bedtime was the best. My dad’s singing was the last part of a great time. My mom read to us from a chapter book every night. I could count on it. I could anticipate it with total safety. I loved it. And yes, sometimes I cried when she was ready to stop, because I wasn’t ready for her to stop, but I also looked forward to it the next night. We brushed our teeth together in our tiny bathroom, and my dad would call out the checklist of things we might need to do before bed, “OK, pee, poop, throw up, brush your teeth, go to bed,” and then, while brushing, the dental geography, “Bottoms of the tops, tops of the bottoms….” My mom would tuck us in, and gave us our choice of a back or head scratch.

That was just bedtime. We ate all of our meals together as a family. Each kind of meal had its own ritual. My dad’s dishes all had names that he announced with triumph: “Lentissimo Magnifico!” was one of his lentil dishes. He could be counted on (and still can, now that I think of it) to remind us that broccoli were miniature trees and that beans were miniature potatoes. On Saturday mornings we baked bread and Saturday nights we ate pizza on the homemade pizza crusts. On Sunday mornings we had pancakes. Every two weeks we’d all go out to the local dairy and watch the cows get milked. My parents bought the milk before they pasteurized it. We’d sit around the living room, shaking quart jars of fresh, whole milk until it separated. We made butter from the cream and (usually chocolate, s0metimes tapioca) pudding from the whey. We had regular nights with foot rides or crazy eights or The Muppet Show. There were great wrestling matches, the brothers against my dad. We’d apparently pin him every once in a while and he’d say “Now any normal person wouldn’t be able to move right now…” and that meant we were about to get (gently) tossed around the room.

I think I was an extra-sensitive kid, so maybe I was a special case–I mean, I don’t know that this will apply to Yared–but I’m so grateful to my parents for all of the regular, predictable, fun, comforting moments. They created structure for my days, gave me things to look forward to, cushioned the blows when things didn’t go my way. They also created a culture for the family: This is what life is like for us. This is what it feels like to be a Lester. There were exciting times, too, of course.  Like ice cream once a year or so. Or Disneyland, or relatives visiting. Or the couple times that we moved. That kind of stuff made vivid memories, being so rare, but it is the predictable stuff that I feel so warmly about.

As I’m thinking about all that, too, I’m reminded of the communication theory I’ve been learning in my Couples and Family Therapy program. In it, human communication exists on two levels. One is the obvious, content level–what the words mean. The other is a higher level communication, a non-verbal assertion about the nature of the relationship. The non-verbal sets the context for all of the other communication, colors it. One thing about non-verbal communication is that there’s no negative term. You can’t say, for example, “I will not hurt you” with non-verbal behavior. All you can do is put yourself in a position where you could hurt someone, and then not do it. One book, Pragmatics of Human Communication uses the image of an animal communicating to another that it will not hurt them by taking their throat in its jaws and not biting down. It seems like being a parent (and maybe part of any relationship) is to be constantly in that position. It seems to me that love is like that. The words “I love you” do not convey love by themselves. I appreciate so much how my parents showed me their love–rather than telling me about it–in all of these little, regular, predictable ways, making me feel comfortable and cared for, giving me a safe physical and emotional space to explore myself and the world in.

Love,

Nathen

I turned 38 this morning, so I’m starting my 39th year. Here are my new goals and intentions:

Be as open-hearted as I can be in every interaction I have.

Rock my first year of grad school.

Continue to master being kind to myself.

Engage in my long distance relationship with Reanna in a way that is mutually supportive and minimally stressful.

Buy ingredients instead of prepared food 95% of the time.

Take opportunities for leadership when I see them.

Expect the best.

Make music with Abandon Ship and other collaborators.

Commercial food that is preserved for room-temperature storage spends a lot of time in warehouses crawling with rats and cockroaches before you buy it. And any bug-and-rodent-free warehouses that might exist out there probably stay that way through regular and generous distribution of rat and roach poison. If you saw it, you would wash or at least wipe off that can of beans or tetra-pak of rice milk before you open it.

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