Friday, August 30, 2013

August Foodie Pen Pals "Reveal"

The Lean Green Bean

I took a month off from the exchange because of travel but I couldn't wait to return to Foodie Pen Pals, that time I get to share oddball things I find around town and I food in the mail!

Overall, I've had great FPP packages come my way, with only one no-show. This month, I was paired a "first-timer" who seemed very eager. We exchanged info and all systems were go.

Until I didn't receive a package or any updates. No e-mails were answered. I e-mailed Lindsay, the tireless RD coordinator for this (and tireless is true...I get worn out just reading her blog), who graciously checked up on my FPP. They did write back after that saying they sent it but didn't have the tracking # and would send another. A few more e-mail follow-ups from me with no response happened.

So, here we are today....

Wahh, wahh, wahhhhhh

Well, 2 no shows out of 6 is still a good average.

Meanwhile, I sent my package to Nicole, a NJ girl who works for the M&M company! Hmmm....regionally nearby and works surrounded by candy? This would be a challenge. Nicole said she liked salsa (cool!) and peanut butter (yeah!) but hated licorice (awww!). So, she got some local salsa, some Indian salsa, assorted peanut butter candies, wasabi peanuts and just for good measure, local pickle relish and chili-gooseberries.

What did she think?

Well, thank YOU, Nicole for being a good Foodie Pen Pal! Glad you enjoyed it. And I do hope the person who was supposed to send me something did at least get a nice package from their other FPP.

I still have faith that my average actually receiving something will remain high, so I will continue.

Free food hopes spring eternal!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The fluffy call....of evil!!!

I've talked before about my binge eating issues and things that may trigger them. I also mentioned incredibly out-of-place cravings: things I want to gorge on that I've never wanted most of the time. Like tubs of icing. Or jelly.

And then one day I was reading some completely non-food related article and there it was. A single word:


And after 4 decades, all of a sudden I wanted one.

When I was very small, my brother and sister and I acted like all young children did and woke up at some ungodly early hour on Saturdays. While waiting between cartoons, my brother and I would wreak havoc around the house and my sister, the eldest and the wisest, would try to keep us calm by providing us with breakfast. A breakfast of fluffernutters on hamburger buns. With enough filling to be bigger than our hands could easily hold.

via Parade Magazine
(No, that's not on a hamburger bun, but that didn't exist online and I was NOT going to make on just for this post!)

I suppose the gooeyness of the peanut butter and marshmallow creme kept our mouths too full to scream, although all that sugar in our systems was probably the cause of much household damage.

But my health conscious, Julia Child-emulating parents soon stopped buying the stuff so my fluffernutter days were very short lived. And, as I got older, I sort of moved away from any marshmallow sort of snack. Not a big fan of Mallowmars. And never one to go crazy over s'mores. I don't like marshmallows.

So why did this word just trigger a craving for something I haven't eaten in years?

We can say that fluffernutters are an embedded pop artifact of the Northeast. There was even a call (somewhat not seriously) to make it the official sandwich of Massachusetts. It certainly has it's supporters. Could it be something that reminded me of those simpler, more sugar laden times?

I don't think that's it. My childhood does not hold those Proustian memories. It doesn't take me back as much as say stuffed cabbage or an egg cream.

No, I think it's more likely some craving for sweet reward in my body. I think my brain is trying to get things I don't want my body to have. A recent study showed how obese and overweight men given a high glycemic-index meal (or milkshake thing, really) showed marked decrease in plasma glucose and a greater increases in hunger more often than those fed the lower GI meal. I think we all knew high GI foods wreak havoc with us, but this study was interesting because it showed which parts of the brain it affects. It works on those areas that control reward and cravings. All that sweet stuff causes us to feel good and then makes us want more.   

And now that I'm rounding into 2 full years of maintaining this Streamlined Ska Librarian body, I'm seeing it still hasn't gotten easier. There are still moments when it feels like fighting an addiction. And like addictions, it's not necessarily the specific product that you want, but rather the effect that type of product will cause in your body and psyche. And like addictions, I know that even attempting something sweet in moderation often leads me to fall down a slippery slope.

In the back of my head, I'm still fighting these issues. And seeing that word...that word that represents some gooey childhood treat...doesn't call to me for youngster memories, but rather because my body knows what eating one will do. It knows what reward my brain will feel.

So, I'm sorry, fluffernutter. I don't really want you. You don't make me feel like a happy kid. You're just the bad kid on the corner giving out freebies, so I get sucked into being a regular customer.

I'm gonna have to just say no.


Lennerz, B. S., Alsop, D. C., Holsen, L. M., Stern, E., Rojas, R., Ebbeling, C. B., … Ludwig, D. S. (2013). Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.064113

liesener, katie. (2009). Marshmallow Fluff. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, 9(2), 51–56. doi:10.1525/gfc.2009.9.2.51

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Scares, trends and history

Many people assume I get all my books for free because of my profession. I imagine that if such a statement was true, I would be debt-free. My personal book collection has cost me much over the years, although it was all worth it.

However, I do get one sort of perk. Many of my colleagues are on various award committees for assorted Library Associations, as well as reviewers for national publications. As such, they do get a lot of material to review. And by "a lot" I mean boxes and boxes, sometimes several a month. And my colleagues often find those who might be interested in specific subject who could offer a specialist review. Or, other times, they have have extra copies they give away. And naturally this past year or so, they've been throwing food, diet and nutrition books my way:

So....binge eat in heels?

OK, OK, not that one, but I think I could give that fine review. No, instead I was offered Fear of Food: A History of Why We Worry About What We Eat by Harvey Levenstein. And I need to give a review here on this blog, because I heartily recommend this book.

It's a slim volume, and an easy read, but also a nicely cited history of various aspects of food "scares", issues and the intertwining of both government, scientific and popular influence on consumer choices. Chapters cover different issues such as vitamins, beef, milk, fat and so on. Levenstein is a food historian and, to me, the mark of good piece of historical reading is the eagerness to flit through the end notes and bibliography to see just where the author found his citations. And this book delivers!

It's fascinating as well to see some of the nascent attempts at food science and public health in our country. And it drives home another one of my usual tropes about the female oriented dietitian/librarian professions. Much of this book addresses the push of governments and food companies towards the main food purchaser: women. And it was women who were beginning to become involved in Home Economics and Family Science, from which it seems Dietetics rose as a profession. Early librarianship was often referred to as Library Economy, based on providing children with proper educational and popular reading material. 

Hmmm...large corporate sponsors working through "women's professions" to market a message about food purchasing and educational material...sure, that doesn't happen anymore!

There was a lot of these "not so new facts" in the books. That old nugget about yogurt-eater in Eastern Europe lived for over 100 years, is actually even older than I thought. It goes back to the first years of the 20th Century, as it was thought that it could combat the "autointoxication" we suffered from in our waste filled intestines.

One of the medical experts who tried to alleviate autointoxication was UK physician Sir William Arbuthnot-Lane. His solution for chronic constipation was to remove the colon. He also wrote books such as this one:

I really hope she's not wearing that to the colon removal....tacky tacky.

The big takeaway for me (aside from the now large list of primary sources and references I have on my "to read" list), is the amazing permeability of how both the general public and the scientific world views healthy eating and nutrition. The take we have on "slow food" from the "old days" seems pretty ridiculous when you see that a century ago they thought fresh fruit was not as nutritious as canned, prepared fruit. And that additives have been fought about for longer than we've been alive.

We're not in a new era of dieting and food appreciation. We're just continuing on in a long line of trends that tend to repeat. And in the end is probably all is just about moderation in what we do eat.

So, the next time someone you know is declaring a specific "new way of eating," I recommend you give them a copy of this book. That new way may not be so very new and it probably will be debunked soon enough.


Levenstein, H. A. (2012). Fear of food: A history of why we worry about what we eat. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Monday, August 12, 2013

One apology at a time

I was skimming through the weekly links at the Lean Green Bean website (home of Foodie Pen Pals) and I came across this one: An Open Apology to My Weight Loss Clients.

I suggest you read the whole thing. Is it possible for something to make me feel angry and satisfied at the same time?

"I am sorry because many of you walked in healthy and walked out with disordered eating, disordered body image, and the feeling that you were a 'failure.' None of you ever failed. Ever. I failed you. The weight loss company failed you. Our society is failing you." 

I never joined a diet program such as this, but I certainly know about yo-yo diets, the starvation periods, the endless feelings of not "doing well enough" at it from family and "experts." I am glad this person has taken some accountability in this but it will not change the bigger picture. Even the comments section of her post are filled with the usual, "Well, this worked for me, you all are doing it wrong! Only xxxx calories and such." And I think, "Seriously? You can't just accept that we're enforcing serious body issues on men and women with this crap? You have to call out others?"

It makes me mad because even in my Streamlined present-day self, I still feel and see fatness on me. I do not always see the successful way I changed my life and health. There's enough media and diet industry folks out there to make me feel it's not good enough.

So thank you to this person for at least admitting that a lot of damage gets done to people who really just want to feel better about themselves.

You don't have to be Streamlined to have a hot body and feel good about it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Pilates Peg in a Yoga Hole with a Side of Biceps

Back in 2000, I was hit by a car. The gruesome details were on a much earlier iteration of my blog. (I'm sure it's out there somewhere. Nothing disappears from the internet). Suffice to say it was not fun. Luckily nothing was broken but I was pretty banged up. My health insurance did not cover much more than a cane, so after limping along unevenly for a while, I developed scoliosis. My insurance company then provided me with only 10 physical therapy sessions, barely enough just to scratch the surface of my uneven body.

My physical therapist suggested yoga and pilates. The former was pretty much already embedded around NYC, but Pilates was still something just about to burst big time on the scene.

I scoped out a few yoga classes (easy enough to find) and let's just say it wasn't for me. It was incredibly unwelcoming, which was sort of surprising. If one is  clearly a newbie, one needs to feel like that's not a bad thing.The instructors also really pushed me into positions which were obviously not going to happen if I was that uneven. That doesn't mean that there were no good and welcoming yoga places in NYC, but I was not feeling it. Years later, I saw this article and, of course, felt vindicated. 

Pilates, perhaps because it was still relatively new to the non-dancer public, was much more welcoming. And while I've had a few not-so-great instructors, for the most part they've been pretty excellent. I will say there was one instructor, Jesse,  who tried to have me banished after I asked about her tattoos (being fairly covered myself, it was sort of general question, not sexual), but she soon became my teacher for several years. See, no one is infallible. And it was Jesse who was there when my pelvis actually aligned for the first time in years. An awesome moment. And I am still going to Pilates to this day.

I should point out that I prefer the one-on-one sessions, rather than group. And I'm just as picky on my Pilates instructors as I am with my gym trainers. No exercising fools do I suffer!

I think the reason I also took better to Pilates is that it is a much more regimented set of exercises. It was developed by a boxer for the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, so maybe that very concentrated sets on building your core appeals to me more than yoga's more....undefined...self. But I also have seen Pilates classes where the instructor is not paying attention to form and treating it more like "feel your body move this way". And I've seen yoga classes that seem more like boot camp. 

It seems to have become an mashup of all exercise without too much accountability. Especially as Pilates has now fallen in with yoga as a "mind-body" form of exercise. This I find odd, as, to me, Pilates really is a purely physical endeavor. 

And (here's where I'll get into some trouble), Pilates is often treated as a "women's exercise." And women tend to view exercise as a more social endeavor. There was a time when I did Pilates with only male clients in the room and all the instructors kept exclaiming how quiet it was. Because women clients do often see time with their instructors as more of a time to interact. I will say my current Pilates guy, Jeremy, and I never chat until after each session. The time of the session is kept to just the exercise.To me, it's the same as a workout with my gym trainer, just with different equipment and perhaps nicer decor.

But getting to my point: The reason I looked into both of these regimens was to help my alignment and balance, not as a workout regimen. They definitely help to get your muscles and body more aware, but it's not like one should expect six pack abs and mega biceps from either Pilates or yoga. Which is why it's odd the hear people doing "power pilates", "super abs yoga" and the like. 

I'm not sure how people see this as the sole source of exercise and then get displeased when the results do not gibe with what we see in fitness/fashion magazines. One such study showed that young women and men who did yoga or Pilates still had the same amount of body image issues compared to those who did not participate. In fact, women who did yoga had a slightly higher incidence of body image issues. Not terribly surprising when the most popular manufacturer of designer yoga clothes and cultish devotion declines to sell anything larger than a size 12 and doesn't display anything larger than a size 8 in their stores. What sort of "total mind-body experience" are we trying to push, aside from body shaming. 

And yet this move towards seeing them as hardcore exercising was continued this week in the NY Times. Which is better for strengthening? Even with these 2.0 versions, yoga and Pilates are two completely different forms of workout and, in my eyes, neither should be considered for overall bodywork strengthening.

I've now practiced Pilates longer than anyone I know who hasn't been involved in the dance world. While I am so much more aligned and have a better balance and more stable core, it did not change my body into Streamlined Ska Librarian. Rather, I think it prepared me to be ready to train, but to be very honest, my Pilates has gotten better because of my current years of weight training and cardio. 

Pilates made me the Aligned Yet Retro Ska Librarian and for that I'm thankful. But it is not yoga, nor is it cardio.

To put in Ska Librarian Logic:

Pilates ≠ Weight Training ≠ Yoga

And in diversity there is strength. 


“Ask Well: Pilates Vs. Yoga.” Well. Accessed August 10, 2013.

Bhasin, Kim. “Lululemon Admits Plus-Size Clothing Is Not Part Of Its ‘Formula’.” Huffington Post. Accessed August 12, 2013.

Broad, William J. “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” The New York Times, January 5, 2012, sec. Magazine.

Neumark-Sztainer, Dianne, Marla E. Eisenberg, Melanie Wall, and Katie A. Loth. “Yoga and Pilates: Associations with Body Image and Disordered-eating Behaviors in a Population-based Sample of Young Adults.” International Journal of Eating Disorders 44, no. 3 (2011): 276–280. doi:10.1002/eat.20858.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dietitians vs. Librarians: And Now a Word from Our Sponsor

Ah, another day of pleasure reading during these summer hours:

It sure beats some of the more work related material:

(In full disclosure I wrote a chapter in that book).

I admit it is the librarian in me that gets drawn to new research topics like a moth to a flame. In fact, I don't quite understand other librarians who are not eager to learn about unfamiliar topics. Isn't that kind of what we're all about? Bastions of the gateway to information and knowledge? Or even just somewhat annoying know-it-alls?

To me, learning about something new is the best part of the job. There's nothing more exciting to me than that burst of synapses when I come across something of which I was unaware. Art, Finance, Law, Philosophy, all gets me going. 

And I admit that sometimes being drawn into a new subject makes me wonder, "what if I took a different career path?" Although I think, fundamentally, even if it was a completely new type of job, it would somehow end up involving research. Because that's how I roll.

So I think a lot of my pondering other occupations might be just a "grass is greener" sort of thought process, but on the other hand, it's also an opportunity to stretch one's abilities. And then on yet another hand, that may not always be a better place.

As much as I delve into the dietietic world in my own librarian fashion, I realize that no matter where one looks, any profession may contain aspects of turmoil. I've written before about how librarians and dietitians seem to follow some similar foibles in their professions. One of those issues I touched upon was having issues with our professional organizations.

I've been following the postings and tweets from Dietitians for Professional Integrity, a group concerned with how the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics uses big food sponsors that "pose a serious conflict of interest for a nutrition organization, and harm our credential and reputation." 

And I get this frustration on their part. The Library world is very similar. The biggest sponsors of our organizations, conferences and continuing education events are our corporate sponsors who own and/or distribute the material we need to have a functioning library. It can be frustrating to sit through a conference session on discovery tools in social science research when one of the sponsors of the program makes one such product. Is it then unbiased?

But for all the feelings of altruism and independence, I also understand that you cannot effectively do your job while being completely removed from corporate influence, especially if you want to effectively play in the same field that they have basically enmeshed themselves. 

So let me add a new bullet point to my comparison of these professions:

  • Librarian and Dietitian Bloggers both tend to not represent their entire professions. 
 WARNING: Vast generalizations to follow!!

If you look at librarian blogs (if you're a good researcher, you can find them easily), the majority of these folks are librarians in either academic or public libraries, MLS students or freelance researchers/library spokespeople. You rarely if ever see librarians from the corporate, government or not-for-profit sectors writing blogs. And that's for a number of reasons:

  • Most business environments prefer that you don't talk about your job in public forums (I follow that rule even today).
  • The work done in these environments usually requires a more intense and frequent relationship with the vendors/sponsors.
  • The balance of power between parties is more equal.
As a corporate librarian I had a lot more direct interaction with vendors/potential sponsors. It was more important to negotiate and work with them then to publicly denounce them. And they were willing to do that. It was a B2B relationship. I was even able to convince some of them to become sponsors of our conferences.

I've noticed the power definitely shifts to vendors/sponsors when one goes to the academic or public side. It was an eye-opener, and to be honest, very frustrating. It makes me appreciate both the channeling of that frustration and the freedom to publicly discuss it.

Dietitian blogs that I've found skew towards community dietitians, private practice/consultants and dietetics/nutrition spokespeople. You don't find many blogs from clinical dietitians or those in food management. Or if you do, you'll find (like me) that they don't talk about their actual job at all. And I believe that is for the same reason we only see certain types of librarian blogs. Food management and hospital work means that vendor relations is a major focus of your job. Would you aggressively work with a food manufacturer to ensure you got the best deal and top results for your patients? Of course. Would you write about how frustrating that can be in a public forum? I hope not.

I'm not saying that either side is better, but I am saying that neither side gives the entire picture. It's just that one side of each profession is the one we see in public. 

But some dietitian blogs review and promote products from the big food companies. And some librarian blogs do that with library items. So this commentary can be positive or negative, but it's still from one segment.

In a Streamlined Ska Librarian twist, my past life as a agricultural/finance librarian meant I was working with the library/info peers from the exact companies that Dietitians for Professional Integrity are rallying against. I was also doing research on some of the very same issues we see being addressed by nutritionists. It wasn't the nascent seed that made me start blog-stalking dietitians, but I certainly was reading the same literature. 

But it also shows me once again that there is a disconnect between our professions where there should be a profound partnership. What better way to find more information on food business than by asking the information professionals associated with it? I'm not saying private secured information, but rather someone who knows how to access the research you might need. And more of a connection means a more equal power interaction.

And for us librarians....well, we should just be doing that with EVERY other organization.

As I've said before, we seem to be remarkably similar professions in many ways. Why aren't we leveraging each other for better results? We can handle both public and private issues.

I started this post with the theme that I'll always stay a librarian But I guess I'm going to just have to get that RD accreditation. Someone's got to be the solution! And double the sponsorships!