“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Those seven words form the basis of Michael Pollan’s little book, Food Rules. It’s one of my favorite books about a simple fact of life, that we all must eat. However, something about this basic fact of life has gone seriously awry in our Western culture. Our Western diet is killing us.
I’ve been on the search for the perfect diet since I was about fifteen. Seeking individuation, refusing to eat what my mother put on the table became a means of rebellion. No compensation was ever made for my dietary decisions. The fact that I would not eat the lamb that came from my grandfather’s herd of sheep because I knew some of those sheep intimately was ignored. I’ve been a vegetarian, a vegan, a macrobiotic, and for a time ate only raw foods. Now I eat just about everything, in moderation, though I’ve learned to listen to my body, as it tells me very clearly what to avoid. As Pollan states in his book: “…nutrition science, is to put it charitably, a very young science. It’s still trying to figure out exactly what happens in your body when you sip a soda, or what is going on deep in the soul of a carrot to make it so good for you, or why in the world you have so many neurons—brains cells!—in your stomach of all places.”
Studies of how the human body reacts to trauma reveal the presence of these brain cells as well, as during trauma the brain is the last part of the body to receive the message that something is happening. If we start paying attention to the messages from our stomach-brain we might just survive. Chuck wrote in his blog the other day about the serious state of the earth due to our modern world’s dependence on petroleum. We’ve destroyed the environment, and continue to do so, even though we are fully aware of our gross neglect. Greed is more powerful than truth. Greed is also inextricably linked to our Western diet—corporations are growing fat while our bodies are suffering. We take pills to correct what our diet has done to us, and somebody else makes a lot of money in that area too.
We’ve stopped thinking for ourselves. We aren’t using our brains or our stomach-brains. I laugh at the sign in the vegetable section of the grocery store that proudly states: Our organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical additives! That simple statement clearly states the other truth, that what is not organic is grown with pesticides, herbicides and chemical additives.
A lot of people start off the New Year with the classic resolution to lose weight and get fit. In order to really do so we have to change not only our diets but how we think about food and how we treat the environment—the health of our planet is just as important as the health of our bodies. There’s a lot of information out there about food and diet, but as Pollan suggests, the science of nutrition is very young. I propose that no one really knows what they’re talking about. We’ve made some serious blunders, a lot of them connected to money. Crisco, corn syrup, and margarine have destroyed our bodies, but fattened a lot of wallets.
We must learn to go easy on our bodies, to not overtax or wear them out. It’s our vehicle through life, but a lot of people treat their cars better than they treat themselves. We must learn to love ourselves as much as we love material things; treat our bodies kindly by eating real food. “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t,” Pollan states. Wise words. Something to think about as we head into this New Year with our resolutions to get fit and healthy. Time to listen to our other brain perhaps?
Here are some basic food rules from Pollan: Eat fresh food. Eat leaves. Eat wild foods and plants. Stick to the small fish; herring, sardines and anchovies. (They can’t be farmed and their oils are good for us.) Eat animal food that is free range, raised without hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals. Eat fermented foods. Buy as much local and in-season as possible; this cuts down on the amount of petroleum products that are needed to get things into the stores from great distances but is far fresher and more nutritional as well. Plan to start a garden this spring. It’s healthy in more ways than one!
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year,