I was routing around the archives tonight when I came across an old post I wrote back in January 2008 after reading Michael Pollan‘s book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. It’s hard to believe that was more than seven years ago.
Have you heard of Michael Pollan? Or read his books? I think they are invaluable for anyone who eats or struggles with the question of what to eat.
He is a respected journalist who has devoted more than a decade to delving into the US industrial food complex to understand why America eats the way it does. It’s a topic I find fascinating.
The more he dug into the question of “What should I eat?” the clearer it became. He was able to distill what has become a ridiculously complicated contentious topic into 7 simple words:
Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.
This is all you probably need to know to feed yourself if you are able to recognize food and have a healthy relationship with it. Unfortunately in the US today, many of us can’t distinguish between food (potato) and overly processed food-like substances (Pringles). And if you’re a Weight Watcher, like me, there’s a good chance you have the ability to overeat ALL FOOD.
That’s why I think Weight Watchers + Michael Pollan’s Food Rules = Lasting Weight Loss Success!
The takeaways from In Defense of Food that have stuck with me these past 7 years:
- Most of the stuff in grocery stores today is NOT FOOD, but overly processed, artificially flavored, dyed and chemically infused ‘food like products.’
- We eat TOO MUCH processed food, meat, added fat and sugar and NOT ENOUGH vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- We have become alienated and confused and no longer think in terms of eating food (meat, grains, vegetables, etc) but rather in terms of their chemical components (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, saturated fats, omega 3s, trans-fats, etc.)
- We are overfed and undernourished for the first time in history.
- Four of the top ten causes of death today are chronic diseases with well-established links to diet: coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.
A Few of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules:
He further defines his seven word eating food philosophy with guidelines. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
- Avoid food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than five in number or that include high fructose corn syrup.
- Avoid products that make health claims.
- Avoid foods you see advertised on television.
- If it came from a plant eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
- Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle. (A concept I first learned at Weight Watchers.)
- Eat lots of plants in the form of fruits, vegetables (especially leafy greens) and whole grains. (Weight Watchers 0 points fruits and vegetables, anyone?)
- Eat small amounts of meat, treating it more as a flavoring or condiment for the plants.
- It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.
- Eat like the French or the Italians of the Japanese, or the Indians or the Greeks…a traditional diet of real foods.
- Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.
- Don’t look for the magic bullet. Eat a wide variety of foods. (WW conquers. This from the introduction of a 1990s WW Cookbook: The key to healthy eating-and to safe and healthy weight loss – is to eat a variety of nutritious foods in moderation.)
- Pay more and eat less. Eat food of a higher quality and in less quantity.
- Eat meals at the table not at the desk or in front of television.
- Stop eating before you’re full.
- Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored.
- Eat from smaller plates and glasses.
- Try not to eat alone.
- Eat slowly and enjoy your food–it should be pleasurable.
- Serve a proper portion and don’t go back for seconds.
- Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts).
- Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
- Treat treats as treats. There’s nothing wrong with special occasion foods once in a while.
- Leave something on your plate.
- Cook. It is the only way to control what you’re eating.
- Break the rules once in a while. All things in moderation, including moderation.
I feel that combining everything I have learned from Weight Watchers about managing my relationship with food and Michael Pollan’s approach to eating REAL FOOD has been a winning strategy for me. It hasn’t been quick or easy, but it has been worth it.
And it makes me realize it’s time for another pantry/fridge purge. Over the past few years I’ve let some overly processed stuff creep back into my kitchen. Things my inner lazy girl encourages me to buy that I know deep down aren’t good for me.
What do you think?
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*PointsPlus® and SmartPoints® calculated by Simple Nourished Living; Not endorsed by Weight Watchers International, Inc. All recipe ingredients except optional items included in determining nutritional estimates. SmartPoints® values calculated WITHOUT Weight Watchers Zero Points fruits and vegetables using the WW Recipe Builder.
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