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.


  1. Great to see that you've finally posted!! Good on you! I liked your article but have the following comment:
    I know you say that it is about personal choices every day, and I agree with that. However, in relation to food how much of a choice is it now really? I watched some of Food Inc. during the week and was appalled to see the extent to which corn is now in our lives. They are feeding it to the fish and to the cows and making it into all sorts of things in our food chain. So, yes personal choices but it may be that whatever we choose we are still just eating corn!

  2. It is sort of the daily decisions we make at both the personal level but also the societal level. Our food industry has made some really dumb decisions that obviously impact the population's health.