You gotta LUV the Squirrel People

Darlings,

I have really mScreen Shot 2014-11-05 at 3.19.37 PMissed you.

There is a new business is town, Corporate Wellness and I’m gettin’ me some of the cash.  However, it comes with traps such as, let’s work a million hours and not keep up on blog.  It also leads to questions such as, are the pearls of wisdom coming out of my mouth making any difference?

For the last few months I have been a Health Educator for one of these companies.  The pay is okay, but the work can be grinding.  Some company pays our company to come in and do “health screenings” for their employees.  Sometimes there is a cash incentive for the employee to have the screening done and sometimes not.  Sometimes the cash is only for the salaried employees.  Sometimes the company just raffles off something to screening participants not cash oriented like a small backpack with a company logo.  This does not appear to generate the enthusiasm conceived by the corporate head honchos.

Screenings consists of height, weight, waist circumference, finger stick for cholesterol, HDL [happy cholesterol], LDL [lousy cholesterol], triglycerides and glucose levels.

Then, I, the illustrious Health Educator, reveal all the meanings of life or at least the meanings of your results in less than 5 minutes.  Move’em in, move’em out.  For some companies, the employees are fairly well educated and understand my Readers’ Digest version of how to turn a lousy result into wellness nirvana.  Then, there are the Squirrel People.

I’ve spent a lot of time in rural areas, and I really respect the people I’ve met, but I realized how sheltered I am not having cable TV, watching ads about food, drink and pharmaceuticals and sitting doctors offices reading back issues of People or Prevention magazines.

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Squirrel unimpeded by flashy food ads. Still fits on tree branch.

In contrast, many of the wage-earning folks of these companies located off Highway to Nowhere, America buy into everything on Dr. Oz and the Cartoon Network.  The amount of medication taken is astounding, especially from folks extremely cautious about owning a cell phone or having an email address.  Astounding because the drugs have so little effect and are peddled out with so little education of how they actually work and how you can take care of yourself.  This is where the squirrels come in.

I cannot remember the percentage of folks in the obese weight range who denied they were anything other than”Big Boned”.  Everyone told me, “I eat bad”, like I had put up a confessional when I set up the table and chairs, but resolved to continue with their current regime  and swallow the pills.  When asked about physical activity the answer was, “hunting”.  There was no understanding that sitting in a tree or blind for hours on end really didn’t consist of much activity and there was no cognitive connection with their “kill” and gout flaring up.  Here’s a sample discussion-

What do you eat or drink after you wake up?

“Coffee”

Then what happens?

“I go to work.”

Do you eat anything there?

“Cereal.”

What kind?

“Healthy.”

What does that mean?

“What?”

Healthy.

“You know Honey Nut Cheerios.”

What makes it healthy?

Blank stare.  “I don’t know.”

Anything to drink with that?

“Gatorade.”

What’s the point to the gatorade?

“What do you mean?”

If you are doing heavy work in a hot environment you can lose some minerals and stuff from your body that is really important, but you can replace it fairly easily.  Are you working that hard?

“Gatorade is good for you. . . or that’s what everyone says.”

Pause.

Then, what happens?

“Lunch”

What’s for lunch today?

“Ham and cheese sandwich.”

Anything on it?

“No.”

Anything else?

“Maybe an apple.”

Anything for a snack?

“Maybe a bag of chips.  Sometimes.”

Then what happens?

“I go home.”

Do you have dinner?

“Yes, pork chops.”

Anything else on the plate?

“Vegetables.  I don’t eat carbs.”

How many vegetables?  Is it like this? Make small bowl with hands. Or this?  Spread arms apart like a casserole dish.

“Like this.”  Hands scooped like 1/4 cup.

Any dessert?

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Same size as vegetables eaten for entire day.

“No”

Do you know that every vegetable is mainly carbs?

“No.”

Did anyone explain to you the connect between gout and game meats?

“No.”

Has anyone explained to you the use of fiber foods and whole grains to help with your high cholesterol?

“No.”

How long have you been on Lipitor?  Crestor?

“Five years.”

Fiber can help with cholesterol and also constipation, if that is ever a problem.

“Oh, I take Metamucil every day.”

Did anyone tell you that by having more fruits during the day you may not need Metamucil?

“Really?”

Gatorade is high in sodium.  Not having enough water in your system can also make you constipated.  Do you think you could swap out half the gatorade for just water?

This person is WAY into the obese category.  Their cholesterol is fairly high, and according to them, they eat about 800 calories a day.  That’s when I ask if they drink alcohol.  Of course, 90% only have, maybe one or two drinks a week.  I am amazed at the hundreds of people defying biochemistry and gaining weight on 800 calories a day and being at least 5 feet 7 inches.  I’m around 5 feet 5 inches and can’t make it through the day on less than 1200.

Here’s another problem.

When is the first thing you eat or drink?

“That depends.  I do swing shift.”

Swing shift means you work all the shifts for about one week each.  So your schedule is constantly changing.   This week you start work at 7am, in 12 days you will start work at 5pm, then in another two weeks you may be back at 7am or onto nights and start at 11pm.  This wreaks havoc on sleep, gastrointestinal health and the cohesion of a family.  But these are the only jobs in town that have benefits.  No one is going anywhere.

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At least squirrel can see the trap.

There I am counseling a few hundred people at 5 minutes each on how to turn around these trends that are the heart of our national state of disease.  What am I really doing to help them and their families?

They need an onsite program that changes the entire community’s dynamic. We need to support time parents need with their kids, support long term health and educate on basic nutrition needs even if it includes squirrel stew.  It needs to be around for at least 5 years to make any long term impact.

Of course, there was one gentleman who was explaining how he dealt with his rotundity.  As he was sitting in the chair next to me, he explained.

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Couldn’t leave you with just the “kneading” image. Here is nice, healthy squirrel.

“I get into my bathtub in some nice hot water.  Then, I massage my fat.”  He began to demonstrate on his stomach.  “I massage the fat so it breaks down.”  He is slowly kneading fat through his fingers.

” That’s how I am getting rid of it.  But, I don’t know if it scientific or anything.”

Just thought you might want to know what I’ve been up to.

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You don’t know me, but take my money anyway

patient with weird mdsMy new insurance allows me to get a full scale medical run down.  Great!  I get the joy of having every orifice poked, prodded and radiated.  What a lucky girl!

So, I make a date with a new Nurse Practitioner.  I LUV nurses.  They actually do the care at facilities.  And she is my age.  This is FAB.

We meet.  She asks me about my parents, grandparents and sibling health.  She does not ask me where I get my hair done.  THAT she could have used.  My vitals are excellent.  They tell me I have shrunk 2 inches.  Hmm, my pants haven’t lengthened in the last 5 years.  Okay.  Sometimes people just get things wrong.

“You’re a dietitian?”, she asks me.

“Yes.”

“Do you actually help people?”

[pause]

“Because I send people to dietitians and they don’t do anything.  These people never lose any weight.”

That Irish Whiskey for Teacakes

Maybe you should give them this instead of meds.

“Yes, i have helped people.”  I do not ram her stethoscope down her throat, nor do I

I refrained from my first answer – “yes, how about you?”  Or do they just keep coming back for more meds?”

We do an EKG.  Normal.  However, since I did have some oddities happen when I was finishing and launching the DVD, FAB Fruit Festival and I have this insurance, we are going to do cardiology, and other fun medical procedures.  Oh, and here’s your prescription.

But, wait a minute.  Couldn’t I do mediation and be more aware of my stress level.  My new medical buddy looks me straight in the eye and says, “Really, could you really do that?” as if the idea of me taking responsibility of my health was crazy.  Could you imagine someone explaining how much money you could save by incorporating a few lifestyle strategies?  Could you imagine someone caring enough about themselves to actually try that instead of running to the pharmacy?

“What is your pharmacy of choice?”

WHAT??!  Oh, I didn’t realize that everyone takes medication and has a pharmacy of choice.  Except me.

I actually did have something evil happen to me.  There was a positive test result that showed I have to do some annoying things for a short time and then be done.  So I do them.  When I return for the PAP smear, she asks if I am following her directions.  When I say yes, she is a little surprised.  Couldn’t be that because you don’t make a connection with your patients so they don’t care about what you say?

Oops, before all these other procedures, I have to go back for test results.  Can’t wait.

I’m FAB.  She is shocked.  I actually have the lipid and blood panel of someone decades younger.

Now, goofy, nosy, weird little fact-wonk me would ask, “how do you get numbers like this?”  Or maybe, “You’re a dietitian, is there anything I can tell my patients?”  But not my specula warming friend. [I AM grateful for that]

I stare up at her teaching materials in a cabinet – sugar free sweetener, MiraLax and fish oil.  Yep, that covers diabetes, constipation and cardiology.  Well, that plus a bunch of meds costing more than $10 grand a year.  Let’s not add in the cost of surgery.

Hmm, why don't patients care?

Hmm, why don’t patients care?

In during these 15 minute meetings, she doesn’t even get my name straight.  But, she’s seen all my best parts.

The stress test was not measuring what was stressed.  The cardiologist, again who doesn’t know my name, tells me, I’m fine.  He asks if I walk a lot at the end of the test when I am talking and walking uphill.  We end up chatting about where his kids live in Manhattan versus where I lived.  I get to pay $400 to see him for 10 minutes and give his overweight assistant, who had a triple bypass instead of vacation, free dietetic advice.  I left thinking I should have billed the assistant and ask the cardiologist, Pal, do you have anything else to help people long term who don’t pass this test?  Or is this it?

Ditto for the other “healthcare professionals” I saw.

No one knows why I have these great test results.  No one asked.  No one thinks what you eat is important.  No one thinks lifestyle is important.  My BFF says, why are you going back to this person?  I agree, but I also want to get through all the tests and blah, blah, then move on.

However, I work in the medical field.  I see what insurance pays for.

Welcome to the world of healt . . . Insurance care- I mean insurance payment codes.

Sparring to Tears

boxing-gloves-mdHello Darlings,

I’m here at the North American Vegetarian Society’s Summerfest.  I only have a few minutes to write this so I will get right to the chase.  My BFF, Marty Davey told me this story and I had to share.

My esteemed colleague, Guy-whose name I won’t use, MS, RD, alphabet soup and I have become friends and one liner sparring partners.  Like two bad comedians fired from the Borscht Belt.  We usually agree on nutrition aspects, but have had head to head parsing of dietetic hair splitting.  We both are giving presentations at Summerfest.

Guy’s presentation was about well-known vegans going back to eating animals.  He was making a point about a celebrity’s diet and I made an astute comment, but one that would be more of a question from a dietitian and somewhat over the heads of the audience.  It dealt with the positive aspects of eating nuts and seeds.  So, Guy, in taking back control of the room, humorously referred to me as Nut Woman.  We all laughed.  Well, when the shoe fits . . .

The next morning I sat at a table of friends and new folks, including Guy who was in a semi-heated discussion about the previous night’s keynote speaker.  Many of us were not impressed with Mr. Keynote, and Guy’s counterpoint in the breakfast discussion was singing Mr. Keynote’s praises.  Because I have studied conflict resolution, I found the third side of the argument – “Girls, girls, you’re both pretty.”  I tried to show where both parties were correct and had agreement.  Then, cleared away the egos and blandly showed where there was a parting of the ways. An agreement to disagree.  We did end up having a semi-pleasant breakfast.

At one point of this discussion of diet and chronic disease, Guy and I both brought up dead relatives who may have been helped by what we now know.  Guy said it was his deceased mother’s birthday.  We quipped about how you can NEVER help your parents.  They are your parents.  You will always be their child.

At my presentation, Guy was in the audience and shot me a barb or two in the beginning of my spiel.  They were fun and short and didn’t distract.  My presentation was some of the info contained in the book I’m writing, You’re Not Dead, Yet: Nutrition for the over 50 crowd.

It covers different nutrition aspects and then we go into what you need to do as a vegan or vegetarian should you go into a hospital or long term care facility.  I start with talking about some dead people – My great aunts, my grandmother and how they died of chronic diseases.  I come from a large Irish Catholic family with 13 great aunts and uncles on one side.  You name the disease, I’ll name the relative.

Life was good.  I was making jokes, people were attentive.  Then, I got to my last 3 slides.  The first is a photo of a woman in her late 50’s-60’s with a dog.  I begin to talk to this group of older folks about how they have made a choice for themselves and the planet deciding to have a compassionate eating pattern and give themselves the best health.  The next slide are photos of my sisters.

I got welled up and couldn’t speak.  I ran through this part of the presentation about 10 times the night before just fine.  Now, the words couldn’t make it out of my throat.

The audience waited.  Then, told me to take my time.

Finally somewhat composed, I said, “My sisters’ are all widows.”  Using the laser pointer I indicated each sister and the ages of their husbands’ death and cause. Heart attack, liver failure, heart attack. All under the age of 60.

The next slide had the names of all my first cousins who never made it to age 53.  Heart attack, kidney failure, heart attack, lung cancer, lung and breast cancer. Then, a photo of me crossing the finish line of a marathon at age 53.

I wound up the presentation requesting that the audience, when speaking with friends whose lives revolve around doctor appointments, medications and old useless health ideas and diets that maintain the pharmaceutical industry to say, “You’re Not Dead, Yet, so why are you filling your head and you grocery cart with dead ideas and dead products?”

We are the first generation of vegetarians and vegan that will end up in some facility and I am honored to be among these vanguards.

At the next event, 10 minutes later, Guy told me that he had never seen me like that.  I was always a funny, satirical, esteemed opponent.  I was trying not to be embarrassed about losing it at a presentation, nodded and sat to watch the speaker at this event.

Dinner was to be all of the dietitians at Summerfest eating together and picking eat other’s OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbrains.  I grabbed tables for us since I couldn’t reserve any in advance and saw Guy.   I showed him the tables.  He put his food down and dropped his head.  With tears, he said, “Today is my mother’s birthday.”  She had been an obese, uncontrolled diabetic.”  She died before Guy was out of college.

It was a familiar familial pain.  I gave Guy a big hug and we shared some tears over family members who we could or never can help.  We just have to accept them wherever they are in their life.

Guy is now my long lost Jewish brother, or so he told me.  Oy, the qveching I’ll hear at the next Summerfest breakfast debate.  But, then my father did always buy bagels for  our eggs and bacon brunch after Mass.

Just the Facts, PLEASE!

You should know this stuff for your health AND Girl-ish figure

Dear Friends,

Please come to this if you are in town or share with friends and family who can use the info. Also, I am presenting this information at conferences. If you know of any where this would be appropriate, I’d appreciate you contacting me.

Of course, we will have fun . . . and actually learn something.

Thanks!

Mark your calendars
October 13 – Just the facts, please! – Latest Diabetes, Cholesterol & Weight loss research. As a dietitian and weight loss researcher for 8 years, Marty Davey, MS, RD, LDN will dish out the skinny on the latest results from the GEICO weight loss study conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. As a researcher on this study she turns scientific outcomes into practical strategies for your kitchen.