Thursday, May 6, 2010

My daughter spent much of the week suffering from an E. Coli intestinal infection. Two phone calls with the doctor's office, three visits to the doctor and one emergency room visit later, I was amazed by how much conflicting information we received. The advice of each healthcare provider was invariably contradicted by the advice of the next healthcare provider. I was able to filter the advice and make sense of it but it was truly amazing to see the extent of the variation on something as simple as dietary treatment for diarrhea.

My daughter survived the chaos just fine but it left an impression on me. There is a quote over my desk that states "People don't want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith - faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell"*. That quote came to mind when I realized that where I thought I was filtering the advice based on my nutrition expertise, I was really having a gut reaction of "do I trust this person?" "Do I have faith in them?" I was probably listening for an indication that they understood my daughter's situation and that my description of symptoms had truly been heard. If I didn't think that the provider had listened then it was easy to decide not to hold on to their advice.

Just something I figured I should pay attention to as I work my weight-management clients. Although I have a lot of information at my finger tips, it is humbling to acknowledge I can blow it all if I don't really listen and understand first.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Christy, Adelle & Helen

A short article about a famous super-model seems such an unlikely trigger for my recent dilemma over my professional focus. Christy Turlington is well-known for her perfect features and glamorous, lithe body more than she is known for her intellect, depth or public health work. So it is odd that reading the Beauty and Soul column about Christy's second career, during a casual flick through an old Vogue magazine, soon had me scrambling for the words to articulate my own passion for working in the field of obesity and weight management.

Christy's perspective about her new career in public health, focusing specifically in maternal health in developing countries, was intriguing. She mentioned the tipping point for her new focus being the complicated birth of her daughter. When she learned that the same complication would've been fatal in a developing country, Christy became committed to improving maternal health world-wide. She became passionate about the endless complexities of public health --"Maternal deaths mean there are very serious things going on under the radar about women's status". Along with obtaining her master's degree in public health, Christy is leading a film project following mothers and the people who care for them in Bangladesh, Tanzania and Guatemala.

Knowing that if I was similarly interviewed I would likely be at a loss to articulate why I've been working for the past 20 years in weight management and obesity was a little depressing. Looking back, my own tipping point was probably reading Adelle Davis' book "Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit" when I was 16. Adelle was clear: our choices can either optimize or be detrimental to health and well-being. And these choices are not usually big and momentous decisions but the culmination of many small, frequent daily decisions. Good health is not bestowed on us but something that we can impact ourselves. Over the years, I've become more fascinated by the endless complexities of food choice decisions and eating routines, as well as their interplay with good health. When talking about focusing on the fundamentals -- birth and death --Christy states "I am fascinated by those transitions that are so important and that we completely numb ourselves to" . I believe we are also chronically numbed to the day-to-day fundamentals of eating routines, food choices and our relationship to food.

So if Vogue magazine comes calling for an exclusive, in-depth interview with me, maybe I will have something to say about my professional focus. Obesity rates are reflective of our daily routines and choices. Unraveling the complexities controlling those choices and routines is the most satisfying aspect of my work. Of course, I might just have to do something interview-worthy while waiting for the call.