Along with some other writers, I was invited to lunch one day in July with a woman named Robyn O’Brien, founder of AllergyKids, for an event sponsored by Stonyfield Yogurt — which, to its credit, seemed mostly interested in getting Robyn’s word out and not so much in promoting its product.
I had no idea who Robyn was, but I can tell you that she rocked my world.
If you’ve read my last two food-related posts, you know that I was ripe for Robyn’s message. I had already decided to eat for my ayurvedic dosha and eat cleaner food (meaning reduce my intake of processed/refined foods). But what I learned that day gave my efforts some urgency — not just for my own health but for that of my children, my parents, and my loved ones (you included!).
The invitees were given Robyn’s book, The Unhealthy Truth, and many of us are participating in this blog hop, probably with differing views. So after you’re finished here, please hop around for others’ perspectives (links at bottom). Thanks to Stonyfield, there is a giveaway basket being offered on each participating blog.
Mom and overachiever Robyn O’Brien unleashed her inner Erin Brockovich several years ago when a routine breakfast served to her four children (toasted waffles with syrup, tubes of blueberry yogurt and some scrambled egg) ended with her youngest, in a high chair, enduring full-blown anaphylactic shock.
Once the crisis was over (the daughter is fine but has some severe food allergies), Robyn, trained as an equity analyst, put her research skills to work. She found that from 1997-2002, the number of children with peanut allergies doubled. She explains that food allergies happen when a person’s immune system sees a protein as something foreign and it launches an inflammatory response to drive out the foreign matter.
Her next question was, is there something foreign in our food that wasn’t there when we were kids? She learned that yes, beginning in the 199os new proteins were engineered into our food supply.
Robyn found that in 1994, scientists created a synthetic growth hormone that helped cows make more milk. No problem there — societies have always tried to get more output for the input, especially when it comes to keeping their people fed. Unfortunately the growth hormone also mad the cows sick, which required the use of antibiotics.
When faced with imports of engineered US milk products, governments around the world erred on the side of caution. Because the new science had not yet been proven SAFE, these governments would not allow US dairy products into their food supplies. The US, on the other hand, said that since it hadn’t yet been proven DANGEROUS, well, belly on up to the frankendairy, everyone.
“How many sippy cups have I filled with this milk?” thought Robyn. “How many bowls of cereal have I poured it on for my husband, not knowing that Canada, the UK, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and all 27 countries in Europe didn’t allow it?”
Other tidbits Robyn shared:
- Scientists engineered soy in 1996, used primarily to fatten livestock. This engineering allowed soy to withstand higher doses of weed-killer. Once again, other governments decided that safety had not been proven so our soy products were banned. And once again the US agencies responsible for keeping our food supply safe took the approach, “We don’t need no stinkin’ proof it’s safe!” Not yet having proof of danger was sufficient.
- Scientists then engineered into the DNA of corn its own insecticide. Consequently, that corn is now regulated by the EPA. Big Ag found a loophole, pioneered by the tobacco industry, that allowed such foods to be deemed safe even though no human trials were ever done. We are all guinea pigs in this experiment.
- One of the concerns about these growth hormones, these synthetic proteins, is that they also elevate hormone levels that are linked to breast, prostate and colon cancer. Sure enough, the US has the highest rates of cancer in the world.
- Robyn wondered how major US food companies like Kraft and WalMart were able to export their products if other countries don’t allow such engineered ingredients. She found that these companies offer formulations that DON’T include frankenfoods. The shelves of our supermarkets, though, have hidden and scary toxins in them that wreak havoc on our digestion and health.
Find 18 minutes in the coming week to watch and listen to Robyn on your own. Here is her TEDxAustin speech earlier this year.
While I was alarmed about what I’ve been feeding myself and my children, I also had reservations about making changes.
But healthy eating is SO expensive!
Robyn put is this way: You can manage your health at the grocery store or you can manage your disease at the hospital.
Or, in the words of that old oil filter commercial, Pay me now or pay me later.
Later is almost always more expensive. I vote for paying more at the grocery store (or farmer’s market). The costs of working it out at the hospital go beyond the financial.
It’s just too much to take on.
Robyn said repeatedly, Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.
Some of you have mentioned the discipline and willpower I must have in abundance regarding my new eating habits. Really, I have neither. What I do have is mindfulness. I’m paying more attention to what nourishes me.
And Robyn’s quote above rings true. At one time, the Perfectionist Lori would never have undertaken such a dramatic set of changes because, well, taken together they are simply too dramatic.
But as any athlete will tell you (and it’s only been 3 years that I consider myself any sort of athlete, of the yoga variety) a steady force will bring change. Water droplets will carve a canyon. Poses that were impossible to me just a year ago are now in my practice. All because I finally realized that steady effort and aim is so much more effective than all-or-nothing.
So what can I do?
If you’re called to action, as I am, consider these ideas.
- Become aware of what you feed yourself and your family. Begin reading labels and ask, “Do I want that in our systems?” Beware of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), GMO (genetically modified organisms) and “artificial,” as in flavors and colors (oh, not, not the fluorescent mac & cheese!).
- Begin shopping at markets that offer organic food. The more demand we create for healthy food, especially at the expense of frankenfood, the more available and cheaper healthy food will become.
- Every time you go to the grocery store, ask the grocer and the butcher to show you the organic section. If you’re snarky like me, pooh-pooh how few offerings they have and ask if they intend to get more soon.
- Watch for bills that would require labeling of foods. (I’ll report here if one comes to life.) At that time, mobilize to get your representative and senators to vote for such a measure. Ask your representatives to stop subsidizing frankenfood. If anything is to be subsidized, it should be healthy food.
- For a demonstration on just how much trusted food companies rely on you to NOT read labels, see this video from the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center. You’ll never buy blueberry products the same way again.
- Do one thing.
To see what other bloggers thought of our lunch with Robyn, check out the entries on LinkyTools, below.
Comments here are to discuss this post. If you’d like to enter a giveaway (Stonyfield is offering a package that includes The Unhealthy Truth, The Stonyfield Yogurt Cookbook, 5 coupons for Stonyfield Oikos Greek yogurt and 5 coupons for Stonyfield YoBaby yogurt) click over to my giveaway blog, AllThumbsReviews.