What the Fluff?! A Health Coach Serves People WHAT?! at Somerville's Annual Fluff Fest

  Each year for the past nine years, the city of Somerville has hosted the Fluff Fest. It's a celebration of Marshmallow creme Fluff, created in Somerville (the city of my current residence and office location) by Archibald Query in 1917. During WW1, sugar became scarce and he sold the recipe to two guys, H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower. There's a really great article with more information here, feel free to read it.


Instead of capturing the festival like any other reporter may have, commenting on the sights and sounds and various Fluff flavors to be found, I wanted to share my personal experience of three gifts I received from volunteering for Fluff Fest.


“What the Fluff?”, the brainchild of Mimi Graney, executive director of  Union Square Main Streets, is part of ArtsUnion, an initiative shepherded by the Somerville Arts Council and funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the City of Somerville. The event is made possible thanks to generous sponsors, local business support, talented team leaders and a magnificent group of volunteers.

-from the Union Square Main Streets website

According to Mimi, "everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood. Whether born in the 1940’s or ’50s, or ’60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it.”

And that includes this health coach, right here. I may come from New Jersey, and not New England, but I grew up eating Fluff on triple-decker sandwiches. Oh yes, I took the fluffernutter one step further by adding grape jelly. No, I'm not kidding.

So, it's safe to say I had a particular interest in this event. I am a newbie, this year was actually my first Fluff Fest even though I moved to this "side of the river" in 2009. I know. Shame, shame. I've either been working, traveling or doing goodness knows what else all these years but this year, THIS YEAR, I decided I wasn't going to miss it. In fact, I wanted to be a part of the whole ordeal. Earlier in the week, I received an emailing looking for last-minute volunteers and I replied. An enthusiastic and grateful reply came right back to me, telling me to show up at 6pm. As with most days in my life, I learned some great lessons too good not to share.

It was a long, humid day but by the time 6pm rolled around, I was really looking forward to going. I had no idea what to expect. Life is really, really fun the more I live from this place!

I strolled around Union Square, carefully walking through and around the thousands of Fluff Fest attendees. There were tables and music and people all over the place. I managed to find the table for volunteers and was given my assignment: Fluff Fear Factor.



Dodging fluff fanatics left and right, I made my way to the Fear Factor table. I saw a few folks behind the table with a myriad of containers around them. My mouth gaped in (slight) horror as I watched them pile the ingredients onto saltines and hand them to people.

I jumped right in when I was asked to cut up a can of Vienna sausages. I had not known Vienna sausages prior to this moment. From that point on, things just got weirder and even better.

Our ingredients on the table included:

Vienna sausages. SPAM. Canned green beans. Hot sauce. PEanut butter. Nutella. Gummy worms. Coco-puffs. Fruit Loops. Canned clams. Marshmallows.

I think that's it.

Oh, yeah. And molasses.

ff3 copy
ff3 copy

It was my job to ask people what they wanted, put the assortment together on a cracker and hand it to them to eat. It took me a few minutes to overcome my own judgments and hesitations but what a lesson in non-attachment for this practicing Buddhist! As I greeted one person after another with a huge smile and "what can I get you?", I realized how little my opinion mattered. Did these people care if I was giving them food with ingredients on my gloves from the previous customer's cracker concoction? NO! Did they think about cross-contamination? Nope. Did they worry about the food dyes and ingredient lists of each and every ingredient? No, sir.

ff2 copy
ff2 copy
ff1 copy
ff1 copy

They were just having fun being daring and adventurous and trying something new and scary and thrilling and weird! They were living with reckless abandon! I know there's a theory out there that says our bodies metabolize food we enjoy (no matter what it is) better than that which we don't, so I couldn't help but toss my own opinions aside and get caught up in the sheer joy of the whole thing.

OK, I will admit that after years of focusing on good nutrition and lifestyle habits with my clients (and myself), it took me a few minutes to adjust. And maybe a few mutterings to my colleagues of, "how are they doing this? Won't they get sick?" to which my fellow Fear Factor friends simply replied, "not our problem!"


It was truly refreshing and transformative for me to stand there piling stuff onto crackers and giving it away with all the joy and love my heart could hold. And more than a few prayers that people wouldn't end up praying to the porcelain gods later that night.

All in all, my Fluff Fest experience was one I'll remember forever.

I met new, fun friends within moments from just jumping in to help and throwing caution to the wind.

I stood behind a table and made horrendous concoctions of ingredients whilst managing a huge smile for the sake of the folks who were actively choosing to ingest said horrendous concoctions. My opinion didn't matter, their happiness DID!

Once the Fear Factor ingredients ran out, I was left with the task of working with several folks to roll up two massive bounce houses. It was hot. We were tired. We had probably consumed one too many Fluffernutters. But, within a very short amount of time, 10 complete and total strangers of varied identities successfully collaborated to roll-up hundreds of pounds of vinyl (? what the heck are those things made of, anyway) and using a tiny hand truck and our own brute strength, managed to transport the houses about five miles (ok, it was probably 200 feet?) to a shed for safe-keeping until next year. For anyone who has ever logged hours of committee-work like I have, I will say this was a case-study in how to "do it right and well". High-fives to my fellow team members for working quickly and efficiently!

Can't wait to go back next year!

Is There Any Food In Your Food? How To Be a Nutritarian


This topic has been getting more airtime lately: how calories aren't created equal. So make them count! I dug up an old-ass blog post when I wrote about this SAME topic, oh about 5 years ago. And here I am, 6 years later, still working on this with my own nutrition. It's a lifelong thing. I remember hearing for the first time that we should shoot for nutrient-dense foods as often as possible, and that all calories weren't created equal. I immediately though about my eating disorder back in high school. Thinking I was being such a conscious calorie-counter, I made sure to ingest ~600 calories a day.

And I never once considered that the calories I DID consume all came from one source: carbohydrates.

Do you know what carbs do if you don't use them up via exercise? They turn to stored fat.


So I was effectively defeating the whole purpose of counting calories to lose weight or be thinner--if that was really my true motivation. I have thoughts to share about my eating disorder which I'll cover in my book. Thankfully, I eventually healed on my own but not before that experience forever changed my relationship to food. That relationship continued to be problematic for another 10 years before I became a certified health coach. Now, I still have some old habits that need work from time to time, but I'm not acting them out in complete ignorance like I was before.

I think some people struggle with food not because they don't have a passionate desire to be more healthy or change their relationship to food but more because they don't know what else to do. There are SO many conflicting messages in our culture, it's hard to make sense of it all. That's a small piece of what I do with my clients and in my workshops and business meetings: we talk about food in a clear and honest way.

What are the habits? What are the questions? What are the fears?

What are some simple tweaks one could make that would add up over time to real, sustainable change in lifestyle?

One good place to start is assessing how much food is actually in your food. How much nutrition are you consuming compared to mere calories? Are you eating something, thinking you're doing well by yourself only to realize, dang! You just ate 300 calories worth of refined sugar and simple carbs in that "nutrition snack bar".

How about your smoothie? What's in it and how much of the calories are packed with nutrients? Check out my blog post on the anatomy of the smoothie to read more about that.

How To Be a Nutritarian

I have a client who loves carrots and hummus. Carrots and hummus is a nutritious snack, for sure. It doesn't make a meal, though, because it really isn't very comprehensive as far as nutrients go. You may have heard about Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I feel sorta cool because his wife was a regular customer at a store I worked for in New Jersey 10 years ago. I got to talk to her about once a week. Dr. Fuhrman has coined this term "nutritarian". While I don't agree with everything Dr. Fuhrman says, I DO love this term. It really seems to be the "diet identity" that would work well for many if not most people.

Nutritarians focus on the nutrient-density of their daily food intake. They ingest food not just because it's what they want to eat or because it tastes good (although it often does) or because it was convenient (even though it can be) but based on this one very simple distinction: how many vitamins, minerals, macro and micronutrients does it contain?

Got that?

You're eating to consume nutrients, not just to consume (or avoid) calories.

I consider myself a nutritarian, albeit an imperfect one. When I plan my day of eating, I scan through ideas in my head and make sure I have a plan to consume as many nutrients as possible--not just what I feel like eating. My goal is to eat because of what food contains, not just because it sounds like a good idea or because someone told me I should eat it according to the latest diet craze (ever notice the shelf-life on those fads, by the way? In one day, out the next.)

It's all about being intentional and mindful. It's where my Buddhism shows up in my everyday life, so it informs everything I do--not just those 10 minutes on a meditation cushion.

These are some ideas for what you can do on the run, but obviously you see why cooking at home makes this much easier--you can buy real food as much as you want and you don't have to try to pick from limited options available at restaurants, etc. It makes the case for cooking at home more often. 

Was this article helpful for you? What questions do you have?