Tag Archives: awareness

Leading The Food Revolution

9 May

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

Today’s story starts with Megan, the 15-year-old daughter of my friend Michelle.

In many respects, Megan is a typical teenage girl. There are celebrities she loves and those she cannot bear the thought of. She enjoys going to the movies, has dreams about the future, and when the time comes, she would like to wear a pretty dress to her senior prom.

Except that if things don’t change for Megan soon, there may not be a senior prom. Because in order to go to senior prom, you have to go to high school. And Megan is too sick to go to school.

When Megan started experiencing severe dizziness a couple of years ago, her mom took her to a string of doctors who were not able to identify the cause. Even a week of tests in hospital did not reveal why this young girl was so off-kilter that she had to rely on a wheelchair.

The dizziness was not Megan’s only problem. She had a prolonged bout of respiratory illness, her periods were problematic from the very first day, and she became unable to sleep for more than two or three hours a night, in spite of being constantly exhausted.

Eventually, doctors were able to determine that Megan had Fatty Liver Disease. It became clear to her mom, Michelle, that poor nutritional choices had led to this outcome.

But Michelle, who has endured a lot of hardship in her life, is not one to be beaten down. Instead of simply accepting Megan’s condition, she decided to do something about it, not only for her own family, but for her entire community. She started by setting up a Facebook group for people suffering from Fatty Liver Disease.

Then she started making radical changes to her own and her daughter’s lifestyles.

While Michelle acknowledges her role in making less-than-ideal food choices for Megan, she points out that many parents simply do not understand the implications of the foods that they and their families consume. As a society, we are so caught-up in healthy-sounding labels like sugar-free this-thing or low-fat that-thing.

There is no denying the fact that food manufacturers hire very smart marketing companies who can successfully deceive entire segments of the population into believing that something is good for you when it’s actually leading you to an earlier grave.

Michelle decided that it was time for this to change, and so she has spearheaded the organization of an event in her community that will teach children and adults about healthy eating habits in a fun and engaging way. The Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Day is a global event being held in communities everywhere on Saturday, May 19th.

Michelle is organizing the event in London, Ontario. This day promises to provide entertainment and enlightenment for the whole family. Kids will enjoy such activities as making fruit or vegetable characters , while adults will learn how to make sense of those confusing nutrition labels and how to easily incorporate healthy eating into our busy lifestyles.

If you live anywhere near London, Ontario,  it is well worth attending this event. For details give Michelle a call at +1 226 234 4006.

And if you don’t live in London? Check out the Food Revolution website to see if there’s an event near you. It is going to be a global phenomenon on May 19th, with hundreds of public events and dinner parties in more than 300 cities worldwide.

Today’s children are the first generation who, on average, will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Michelle is determined to do what she can to turn the tide not only for Megan, but for other kids in the community.

Let’s all support the Food Revolution on May 19th. Together, we can truly change the world for our children.

(Photo credit: Denise Testa, JD Communication and Design)

Social uncommunication

1 Nov

Today is a big day for the autism community.  It is the day of the global communication shutdown, in support of individuals who spend their lives on the autism spectrum.  Those participating in the shutdown are voluntarily doing without Facebook and Twitter for a day. The idea behind this is for us to experience for one day what our loved ones with autism go through as part of their daily lives – the frustration and feeling of lostness that comes with not being able to communicate.

For all intents and purposes, Facebook and Twitter do not exist for me today.  The only thing that will be posted under my name to my Facebook wall will be the auto-publish of this post.  If anyone tags me in comments or pictures today, I will not know it. If anyone messages me – either privately or to my wall – they will have to wait until tomorrow for a response.  I will not find out until tomorrow morning whether anyone helped me win Fast Money in the Facebook Family Feud app.  I have not gotten to see anyone’s Halloween pictures, I don’t know how my Scottish friend’s job interview went, I don’t know what anyone’s up to today. Much of what happens today I will probably never know about, because by the time I get back onto Facebook tomorrow, it will be old news.  Same with Twitter.  If anyone is waiting on the edge of their seats for tweets from me, they’d better settle in for the long haul.

It’s an interesting experience, partly just because of the habit of it. Giving up Facebook for a day is a bit like giving up smoking for a day (actually, there’s an idea: a global non-smoking day in support of those affected by cancer). I remember what it was like when I gave up smoking fourteen years ago. One of the hardest aspects of it was simply breaking the habit of physically picking up and lighting a cigarette after a meal, or as an accompaniment to my morning coffee.  Similarly, it is now my custom in the mornings to pour myself a coffee and drink it while first reading emails, and then seeing what’s going on in Facebook Land. I almost clicked the Facebook icon today just because it’s what I always do.

So what I am I learning from this experience? Do I feel a better sense of understanding for what my son lives with?

To be honest, probably not. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I do feel the frustration of non-communication. I do feel that I am cut off from a part of my life that I have grown to be dependant on, and in a sense, I am feeling a sense of what it is like for George. But I am mindful of the fact that I am doing this by choice.  I know that it is a one-day thing, and that tomorrow I will be able to catch up on much of what I am missing today.

George lives with his social communication difficulties day in and day out. He has not chosen to separate himself from the world. He cannot make the choice to wake up tomorrow and be fully verbal and socially conversant.  Tomorrow, when I return to the world of social media, George will still have autism.

I am still glad that I and thousands of other people have done this. Maybe, in some small way, this global effort will make the world a better place for George and people like him.  Maybe the people who have chosen to be a part of this shutdown will, in the future, be a little more tolerant of children they see having meltdowns in public. Maybe someone will give a job to someone with autism. Maybe a politician, somewhere in the world, will vote in favour of a bill to help special needs individuals.  If a child has trouble getting a point across in a classroom, maybe the teacher will recognize the possibility of autism instead of dismissing the child as “stupid”. Maybe a doctor will finally listen to a mom who has been begging for an evaluation referral for her child. Maybe this shutdown will lead to a lot of little good deeds that will have a ripple effect throughout the world.

Today will not enable me to know what it is like to be autistic. But it does give me hope for a future in which people with autism are recognized as valuable, integral parts of the fabric of human society.