Let’s Talk About Health …..

My senior year of high school, one of my teachers showed the class Food, IncI was fascinated by the story and at the same time, I was intrigued by the obscurity and the bureaucracy in the food industry.  It amazed me how many secrets were being kept from the general public about their food.

Then, a few months ago, I watched Super Size MeThat particular documentary, I believe, should be shown in school health classes; it’s that powerful.  It showcases the horribly detrimental effects of fast food and poor diet on the body.

Tonight, on a rare Saturday off work, I watched What the HealthThis show, released this year, focuses on the correlation between meat and diary, and the increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  This show, like the others, tried to present the audience with an idea of how shady big, governmentally endorsed food companies are.  It also began to stress the power of a plant-based diet.

Now.  I generally take documentaries like this with a grain of salt.  I know that such documentaries generally have some type of agenda, or maybe even a political aim.  But I always like that these shows make me think.  I think it’s really important to think about what I’m eating, particularly if it has the potential to have a very negative effect on my long term health.  And I think shows that expose some type of ugly truth about the food industry, even in a small way, should be viewed.

As someone interested in conducting research, I had a few issues with this show.  The narrator used Google a lot, and relied on the studies that fit his confirmation bias.  I never quite got the sense that he had a good understanding of the study he was quoting.  And at times, he used only one study to make a ridiculous claim.  At one point, the president of the American Diabetes Association called him out on the studies he was using, questioning whether they had been truly peer reviewed.  Like I said, however, I like this show because it made me think about food, and the impact it has on my health.

I’m going to be real here. Being healthy is my goal.  I strive to be the healthiest I can be.  Naturally, my diet tends to lean more vegetarian.  It’s not a conscious choice, just what my body naturally tends to enjoy the most.  I’m not lactose intolerant, but my body doesn’t really like diary products.  (I’ve been having issues with my stomach for some time.  It’s rather complicated, but I know for sure diary causes issues.). When I’m buying food, I tend to gravitate towards food that I know have a significantly decreased chance of hurting my stomach, and these foods tend to be organic, gluten-free, and diary free products.  I really enjoying detoxing my body, and re-starting it’s natural ability to function well.  My mom and I are getting ready to do a second round of the Whole 30 diet, because we really liked how we felt during the first round.

I could never ever go completely vegan or vegetarian.  Don’t get me wrong; I have a lot of issues with the food industry.  But, honestly, I like Five Guys and homemade ice cream too much.  However, I feel I could comfortably go four or five days out of seven vegetarian.  I feel powerful and strong when my body feels healthy.  And for me, with my genetics and biology, healthy is when I’m eating less meat, less diary, less carb and less sugar.  Plus, even prior to watching this documentary, I had decided I was going to be as self-sufficient as possible when I have my own place.  I plan on having a garden full of my own, home-grown, fruits and veggies and herbs.  I plan on making my own bread on a regular basis, and eating healthy as much as possible.

If it’s true the food we eat has an impact on our genetics, then I want to do all I can to decrease the certain diseases and illnesses in my genetics.  There is a chance for heart issues, and five women in my family have battled cancer.  They have survived, but the risk is still present.  And if I’m already having issues with my stomach, I don’t want to make it worse by making poor food choices.  It’s important to me that I take care of myself, both for my present and my past.

This documentary does bring up some interesting point, and things I would like to further investigate.  Is there truly a connection between meat and diary, and cancer/diabetes/heart issues?  Why are major food companies so secretive?  Why is the health of our food, and the impact it has on our bodies, not a bigger concern? 

Ciao for now,

Julia

Observations on Food Stamps

580_6_access_card_frontAs a budding psychologist, I’m interested in the world.  I want to understand the how’s, what’s and why’s of people and their minds.  I’m constantly thinking of studies I would love to conduct, and surveys topics I want to explore.

Last week, I finished an observation.  I’m a cashier/ self-checkout attendant at a grocery store, and I see a lot of different people of all walks of life.  It was at work that I experienced a family using an EBT card for the first time.

A while ago, I somehow immersed a statistic stating that 40% of all EBT users were white.  I can’t cite this source because I don’t know where I saw it, when I saw it, or why I saw it.  But somehow that statistic was planted in my mind.

That really interested me, and I wondered if it was actually true.  I figured it would be fun to observe EBT users at my work, to see if the statistic would hold up.

*Note: I am only a sophomore in college.  This was my first ever try at a study, or observation.  The process was very rudimentary, and is littered with errors.  I do not claim the results are valid.  Instead, I simply look at the findings as a chance for further study.*

In order to gather as much information as possible, I figured 300 hours would be an appropriate amount of time.  I started observing March 2nd, 2016 and finished June 7th, 2016.  I observed a total of 378 people, 250 of which were ‘white’ (as defined by observable characteristics, such as skin color, accent, etc.).  This produced a result of 66.14% of EBT users that were white.  I would like to add that I had no way of making note of returning EBT customers.  Because of this, I simply observed the customers day to day.  I know this inflates my results greatly.

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My notes

As seen in my notes, I also observed the food that was bought. If a food item was present more than once in a particular order, it was marked down.  For example, if there was only one fruit item in an order, I wouldn’t mark ‘fruit’ down.  Now, this was dependent on the size of the order.  If the order had only a couple of items, all the items were recorded.  However, if there was a large order, I marked those items that were repeated, or was a prevalent category (such a meat or fruit).  After I had summerized each order, I then further summerized each day of notes in an Excel spreadsheet.

I am predominately the self-checkout attendant.  Through this observation, I noticed that more EBT users go through self-checkout, regardless of the size of the order.  That is not to say that I didn’t have big EBT orders when I wasn’t on register; it was just wasn’t nearly as often.

During this study, I noticed some interesting patterns:

1. A lot of EBT users appeared to be unmarried with children.  Also, EBT and WIC tended to go hand in hand.

2.  A lot of elderly couples used EBT.

3.  A lot of customers who use EBT also had nice clothes, good phones, and a clean appearance.  Only once or twice did I see a customer use EBT who appeared to be truly living in poverty (for example: dirty, unbrushed hair; dirty clothes; children without shoes; etc.)

4.  The statement that ‘Food stamp users only buy junk’ is somewhat true. I categorized junk as ‘cookies, soda, ice cream, candy, pre-made unhealthy meals, etc.’.  These items were bought quite frequently, but meat and large cases of water were bought nearly as often.

5.  Organic food was very rarely bought with EBT.

I do not look at this study, or the results as a definitive study.  I know the process and results are flawed.  But now I have a better understadning of how to conduct an obserevation, and the world in which I live.  In trying my hand at an observation, my mind was opened to a group of people I knew little about.  And frankly, I am more excited about that than the fact I completed an observation.

I hope this gave you something to think about, and maybe prompt independent research into Food Stamps.  I think there is a lot still to be done and observed and understood about the people using Food Stamps, and the people who actually need the help.

Ciao for now,

Julia