In Search of CEU's: Portion Size and a Day Misspent

I spent much of today at a mediocre workshop.

Mediocre?  How mediocre?  It was provided by a for-profit machine of professional development opportunities for social service and medical field folks, wherein the presenter was different than the author of the Powerpoint presentation who was yet different than the developer of the extensive, well-cited but poorly formatted syllabus.  This arrangement does not bode well.  One might even use the word, “shoddy,” and if not “shoddy,” then at least “disjointed.”

It is a wholly different approach to producing and facilitating workshops than my own.  I take pride in this because developing and delivering workshops is my primary form of income these days.  What, you didn’t know that?  You thought I was just a seminarian?  Check it out: my website!  Spread the word.  Okay, enough of that shameless self promotion…where was I?  Right…

How mediocre?  The last ninety minutes, if not longer, as I was crafting this post, I was surrounded by multiple, ongoing side conversations by others at adjacent tables; someone was playing blackjack on their smartphone for no less than an hour, I kid you not; increasingly less subtle glances at wristwatches from multiple locations; someone surveying their Pinterest board on their ipad; and the presenter herself offering ever more of her dissenting opinion of the Powerpoint slides’ content.

(AFP, Brendan Smialowski)

(AFP, Brendan Smialowski)

Mediocre might be generous.

The workshop was titled, “Food Cravings, Habits, and Emotions,” which is only somewhat connected to the actual verbal presentation.  The topic was coincidentally apropos because today FLOTUS announced new nutritional labeling by the FDA.

The questionable connection between content and delivery was apropos as well, since my purpose there was mostly tangential.  I had signed up because I am in need of Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) to renew my clinical license for social work.  I thought (definitely past tense) the topic sounded interesting, and might have some gems of insight into my own issues with food (of which I have none, but just in case I did….) I fully acknowledge that the topic is barely connected to the kind of social work I have practiced or intend to practice.  It was affordable, close to where I live, and I am only a quarter way towards the number of CEUs I need by October 1.

During one of those sections when the delivered content matched the intended content, there was information about the epidemic of obesity in the United States.  How since 1980, obesity is crazy-on-the-rise in this country especially.  Of course, this is due to a multitude of factors, one of which is portion size.  The presenter told a story to exemplify her point about the increase in portion size, relating it as if it was a conversation she had had with someone who had attended one of her earlier workshops.

Weird thing was, I had already heard that story before and my guess it had been told to me by my friend, The Internet.  In it, someone acquires a beautiful collection of dishes, including dinner plates, but can’t fit them in the cupboards of the kitchen, because the house had been built in the 1940s, when dinner plates, and thus cupboards, were much smaller.

I didn’t raise my hand to tell this story.  I had already given up. But I could have.  Instead, I decided to write it here, for you all, in case you haven’t heard it before.  In May, 2010, the International Journal of Obesity published an article about a survey of the last thousand years of artistic (and serious) depictions of the Last Supper.

Brian and Craig Wansink teamed up to analyze the amount of food depicted in 52 of the best-known paintings of the Last Supper (Phaidon Press 2000). After indexing the sizes of the foods by the sizes of the average disciple’s head, they found that portion size, plate size, and bread size increased dramatically over the last one thousand years. Overall, the main courses depicted in the paintings grew by 69%, plate size by 66%, and bread size by 23%. (

Once, I included this in a sermon on communion.  It seemed relevant.  And if it’s not particularly relevant to your life right now, I hope you can use it at least as some small talk at your cocktail party or inspiration for a particularly devious Cards Against Humanity response.

Image(Reflection after sleeping: So why engage in this post, which largely amounts to a rant about a less-than-stellar workshop at which I got exactly what I wanted (those elusive CEUs)?  I have slept on it and it comes down to this: authenticity.  I am not always real, but I try, and when people hold me to account because I am not, I welcome it (even if I might pout a bit).  Inauthenticity without a legit reason bugs me.  Big time.  And inauthenticity for profit pisses me off.  And inauthenticity in teachers: through the roof.)

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