Thanksgiving Thoughts

As SGA reminded us earlier this week, Thanksgiving is indeed complicated. Thanksgiving might be a warm, connected, reflective celebration for you, which is wonderful, and I truly hope you enjoy this break. But around the holiday there are also destructive meanings and difficult experiences that I feel should be recognized as well as the positive aspects. Some of these realities erased from the mainstream narrative of the “First Thanksgiving” include the holiday’s links to genocide of indigenous people, as SGA pointed out. Thanksgiving can also feel very difficult if you are not able for whatever reason to go to a place you consider home, if you go home but don’t find it all that safe or relaxing, or if you have other concerns stirred up around this time. These aspects are real and valid.

But even though it’s not the only meaning or feeling associated with the day, there can be some really positive effects from “giving thanks,” whenever you choose to do so.  Research has demonstrated that reflecting on and expressing gratitude “has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others,” according to a New York Times article with suggestions on how to make gratitude a practice extending beyond one day. I would urge you to be gentle with yourself in this pursuit, especially if you are down, when this can feel very difficult. Everything is a process…and I am grateful for moments when I can take my own advice and remember this.

Best wishes for this break. The office will re-open Monday afternoon if you want a place to decompress, seek support, or just get some delicious tea.

-Mel

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Condom Contest Produces 812 Ideas for Improvement

It is so interesting to imagine what male condoms of the future might look like! The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded contest winners $100,000 each, with a potential for more if winners further develop their ideas. Check out the link to see the changes contest participants presented.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/21/health/condom-contest-produces-812-ideas-for-improvement.html?hp&_r=0Image

 

Vegan Restaurant Review: Candle 79

 
 
     
            I know most of us rarely make the trek to the upper east side, but let me tell you, Candle 79 makes it worth the trip. My dad and I were at the Guggenheim so I decided to look up vegan restaurants in the area and found this one, located on 79th street and Lexington. Candle 79 has the best vegan food I have ever tasted! And trust me, I’ve had a lot of great vegan food. While it is not inexpensive, so definitely for special occasions (rated $$ in terms of expensiveness on Yelp), to me it signifies an exciting cultural integration of vegan food. I think that the fact that vegan food is officially entering the mainstream and the surge of vegan restaurants, along with the public endorsement of vegan eating by leaders like Bill Clinton (for health reasons) and Bill Gates (for sustainability) demonstrates a movement towards more thoughtful eating. I want to recognize that a vegan diet definitely doesn’t work for everyone, and we can all eat more thoughtfully in many other ways (local, organic, unprocessed etc.). In NYC, my experience has been that a lot of vegan restaurants are in a similar price range to non-vegan food, making it more accessible to everyone. While I agree that veganism has definitely been a trendy fad for some people, I think it will stay around because of the importance of the ethical and environmental implications of what we choose to eat.
 

 

 

Epistemologies of Healthy Eating

This may turn out to be more of a rant than I’m intending, but bear with me.

Today, I was in a discussion section for anthropology in which we were discussing sugar. The book we’re reading, Sweetness and Power, focuses on the history of sugar and the way that it has been an indicator of social class from its conception to the present. Anyway, I won’t focus too much on the book itself. Basically, the TA made it relevant to the modern day by asking about types of sugar people put in their coffee, like Sugar in the Raw, the non-descript white sugar, sugar syrup, Sweet’N Low, etc., and what types of people we associated with each kind of sugar.

People were going around, saying their opinions of each, and a common theme was the word “education”. Apparently, if you are highly educated, you are taught what is “healthy” and what isn’t. Sugar in the Raw is, apparently, healthy, while plain white sugar is not. Diet soda is healthy while regular soda is not. Gluten-free is healthy and gluten is not. Unprocessed foods are healthy while processed foods are not. And the difference between people who eat healthy and people who don’t? Education.

This was so infuriating to listen to.

While I’m certainly not saying unprocessed foods are unhealthy, or even that they aren’t more healthy than processed foods, the reason people are attracted to unprocessed foods isn’t education surrounding what defines health–it’s money and status. While people in the room claimed that unprocessed food was the healthier kind, they were unable to define the difference between processed and unprocessed. They’re vague terms that are often thrown around, with people claiming that unprocessed sugar is so healthy while processed sugar is not. If you’re lucky enough to have a Whole Foods in your neighborhood and can afford to shop there, great, buy your Sugar in the Raw and claim to be significantly healthier than the population that may not even be aware of what Whole Foods is and certainly can’t afford it. It has nothing to do with health education. By that logic, “education” has also taught us that people should avoid carbs at all costs, eat granola bars or shakes in place of meals, and do regular juice cleanses–diet fads marketed to the rich, who are privileged enough to cut meals rather than settling for what they can afford. While any or all of these may be the secret to healthy living (which is unlikely, but I’m not ruling anything out), they typically aren’t focused on health as much as the popular idea of health at the time (which generally includes weight loss.) Again, I’m definitely not saying that unprocessed foods aren’t significantly healthier than processed foods, but let’s think about the demographic to which health foods are marketed. Typically, the person shopping at Whole Foods isn’t living below the poverty line, and I’m certain there are people who eat well, feel great, and don’t buy all organic, all the time.

Basically, all I’m saying is that the ways in which “healthy” is portrayed by the people selling the food or encouraging the weight loss should be viewed critically. Nutrition, while important to living well, is, in today’s society, heavily linked to weight loss and the need to sell a product. Diet fads and perceptions of health by the media are typically targeted to rich, white females–health isn’t a word that belongs to the poor.

It’s a class thing, it’s a privilege thing, it’s a gender thing, but it’s certainly not an education thing.

 

Flu Fair TODAY (Monday) from 3 to 6!

Hi all! Come on down to the Diana Event Oval from 3-6 PM today (Monday, November 18) for your flu shot! Shots are free with Aetna student insurance and $15 with other insurances. Some wonderful Well-Woman peer educators will be tabling in the lobby of the Diana center, so if you have any questions they are there to help. 

The flu fair got a shout-out in Dean Hinkson’s latest edition of the Office Minute! Check out MJ Murphy in it! We promise she is much less scary (and not gray) in real life. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tbe8v8LOmCQ&feature=youtu.be

Enjoy your Monday!

Love Rachel Katz

MORE LEAVES AND NATURE

So these are some more pictures. The flowers were in a garden on the upper east side of central park, around 105th I would say. It’s a lovely walk. If you were ever feeling overwhelmed from midterms/school/anything/ just wanted a walk… I suggest wandering around upper central park. If you live in CG, super easy to get to. Happy Exploring.

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