Food, food, food

May 30, 2013
Tagged with: Food, food, food

The best nutrition advice that I have ever read comes from a book by Michael Pollan called In Defense of Food. The phrase is actually right on the front cover, printed on the twisty tie around a head of Romaine lettuce. It says “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” He, of course, elaborates on this idea throughout the book, defining “food” as items that your grandmother (or in my case, great-grandmother) would recognize as food, with ingredient labels that contain food items, not chemicals, dyes, and words that some college professors can’t pronounce. He says eat! Eat this food!……..but not too much. I’ve always told people who ask me, that there are no such things as bad foods, just bad portions. For instance, in case of a candy craving, a fun sized Snickers bar is a good choice….a king sized Snickers bar is not. And mostly plants…..ah what a lovely idea, to live somewhere with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables readily available, prepared in tasty sauces like ginger teriyaki, my mouth is watering at the thought of it…….

But where is this food that is mostly plants that I can eat not too much of? In Pollan’s other best-seller The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he visits a place called Poly-face farms. He sees a sustainable farm where the cow poop fertilizes the fields because the chickens scrape through it for worms and spread it out, no human hands needed, there is essentially no such thing as waste at this place. And the people know how to use the foods in such a way that they have year-round, healthy, seasonal foods. But what about the rest of us? What about me. I stop at a produce stand, in search of fresh local ingredients, only to find tomatoes from Mexico and bananas from who-knows-where (since there are no banana farms in the US). I have to study what’s in season, I have never grown anything other than herbs and cherry tomatoes.

We have a pervasive presence of high-calorie, low-nutrition Franken-foods. It has taken me the better part of my 26 years to learn to say “no” to this junk, and to say “no” to food in general when I know I’ve had enough for the day. But it’s HARD! Of course I want some tater tots or popcorn at 9:00 pm when I’ve gone out for a beer with friends. But the beer is probably enough, especially when I already had breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack…especially if there’s been very little physical activity that day. We are conditioned to always having food around, but we are not conditioned to saying “no.” Sometimes its about being polite, having a slice of homemade banana bread someone made just for you. But why is it so hard to say “no” to a pack of Oreos during a meeting? There are so many fake ingredients on the label I should want to throw them as far away from me as I can…but I don’t….usually :-)

So how do we train ourselves to use food as fuel, to chose quality fuels and indulge in treats less frequently and in smaller quantities? For me, knowledge is power. I know better, I’ve read the books, I have the tips and tricks in my back pocket. But I know there’s something more, because I’ve known the facts for a long time, and I’m finding just in the past few months I’m really getting better at saying “no.” I’m not a psychologist so I can’t help you out there, but I think it comes down to our environment. Just like I’ve said about physical activity, we have a world set up for us that wants us to sit still and eat junk, a lot. How do we start to shift this environment to a more healthy set-up? It seems so daunting I dare not even propose a plan. But I’m always willing to start a conversation.

Author: Susan Silverman