7 words and 7 rules

My life began to change when I moved out on my own-- away from a family that didn't know how to be healthy, and away from a university with fast food in its food court (as well as ridiculous portion sizes).  The biggest change was living with my now friend Katie.  I originally met her when I was listing a room in my apartment to be rented.  She responded and we instantly hit it off (mainly because my cat really liked her). But I didn't realize how much she would change my life until we began to cook together, and she taught me one of the biggest lessons I can ever impress upon anyone:  Beans!

Okay, it wasn't just about beans, it was about so much more than that.  Before Katie, the only beans I had ever eaten were Campbell's Pork & Beans (my mom would add maple syrup, butter, marshmallows, onions, bacon, or pineapple depending on her mood).  With Katie, I learned the simplicity of a bean.  The garbanzo, the kidney bean, and even non-bean ingredients such as lentils. The lesson was more than the bean, it was about exploring food, honoring ingredients and honoring the body I was putting the food in. Before Katie, I had never eaten Indian or Thai cuisines, and now I'm infatuated with them.

Stephen Sondheim wrote in Into the Woods "The difference between a cow and a bean is a bean can begin an adventure."   And in my case that was so true.

Over the years I've become more comfortable with trying foods that I had never tried before (just think, I was 17 before ever having a non-maraschino cherry, and I didn't even know what it was). I'm also more confident that the food I create from scratch is much healthier than something that has been pre-packaged.  I even started venturing out to farmer's markets on a regular basis to see what they had (among my discoveries, I love buffalo meat, eggs from chickens that live as chickens should, unhomogenized milk, mache, etc and so on.

Recently, one author has really summed up much of what I feel about food -- and that's Michael Pollan.   He's not a doctor or a nutritionist but a journalist.  In his books ( The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Food Rules, for example) he often reiterates the same points (so while I love his message, it's not necessary to read everything he's written unless you want to know the back story behind everything). On the cover of "In Defense of Food," he sums it up all very nicely in 7 words:  "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."  The largest part his books have been about describing what he means by "food."  He began his journey, I believe, with the premise that "food" isn't as intuitive as it used to be because of the industrialization of food and the distance each person has from the origins of the food they eat.  In Food Rules, he explains to the reader what he considers to be food.   Here's the Reader's Digest version: 
  1. Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. "When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can't pronounce, ask yourself, "What are those things doing there?" Pollan says.
  2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce.
  3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
  4.  Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot. "There are exceptions -- honey -- but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren't food," Pollan says.
  5. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. "Always leave the table a little hungry," Pollan says. "Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, 'Tie off the sack before it's full.'"
  6. Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It's a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love. "Remember when eating between meals felt wrong?" Pollan asks.
  7. Don't buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.
Not bad, eh?

I firmly believe that the key to success when it comes to either losing weight or gaining health (they sometimes go hand-in-hand) is by eating actual food -- and tuning out what the Food Industry has to say about what you have to eat.  Yes, there are guilty pleasures that we all succumb to (cheetos!), but the reason why they're a guilty pleasure is that despite wanting something we know what's better.  We know what is better and yet the Food Industry has a louder voice.  Why is this so? 

What if we lived in a world where we walked into a grocery store or food market and 90% of the food there was truly good for us, and only 10% were the guilty pleasures.  What if those guilty pleasures cost three or four times the cost of the good things for us? 

Seriously, read this (and the numbers are marginally increasing, not decreasing--and I think the reason for the numbers not increasing at such a great rate is because the number of obesity-related deaths have increased):  

Among Americans age 20 and older, 145.0 million are overweight or obese (BMI of 25.0
kg/m2 and higher):
⎯ 76.9 million men. 
⎯ 68.1 million women.
Of these, 74.1 million are obese (BMI of 30.0 kg/m2 and higher):
⎯ 34.7 million men. 
⎯ 39.4 million women.  

(NHANES [2003-2006], NCHS and NHLBI.)
Also good info: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/index.html

Seems to me that the Food Industry, despite all their claims, are part of the problem, not the cure. 

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<3 Robby