I’ve been on a book-buying frenzy lately, picking up new and older books about healthy eating that I haven’t had a chance to review yet. In coming weeks, I plan to present my non-diet two cents about what’s said in these books — particularly how they fit with the idea of intuitive eating and mindful eating and giving ourselves permission to eat.
It would be easy to read some of the books with a diet mentality outlook and misinterpret them as being more of the same — restrictive rules about what we can and can’t eat. But if we view them with a different eye — one that’s looking closely at how foods make us feel — the real essence of intuitive eating — I think we can find some useful nuggets of information to help us choose and eat foods for life.
I’ll start with Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, not only because it’s a short book that can be read in a very short time, but because it almost epitomizes what I’m talking about. It’s full of words like “avoid” and “don’t,” words that can be anathema to a recovering dieter. Yet if we get below the surface, which isn’t hard because it’s so simple, we can see the truth in the rules and how valuable they can be to helping us live well.
Take rule #2: Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Clearly, Pollan is getting at our over-industrialized food supply. A take-away he doesn’t mention in his discussion of that rule, however, is how it can contribute so greatly to ensuring we eat food that truly tastes good. And that’s something any recovering dieter can probably appreciate.
Then there’s rule #20: It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car. Pollan doesn’t even discuss this one. Does he need to? I mean, do any of us truly feel well after eating fast food? If the thought of giving it up sends you into throes of worry, however, think about changing what you define as fast food. Think nuts, fresh and dried fruits, hummus and fresh veggies, artisan cheese and crackers and more. All things we can easily purchase, consume without a lot of prep time and which serve to get us through those hectic times when we don’t have much of it to devote to food prep. Bonus: This kind of eating often includes foods we’ve felt nervous about eating because of their calorie/fat content — think nuts again. Plus, we feel great after eating!
As the coup de grace for today’s post, I offer rule #39: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. Pollan starts his discussion of this rule with “There is nothing wrong with eating sweets, fried foods, pastries, even drinking a soda now and then….” He goes on to point out the problem: food manufacturing has made these foods so cheap and easy to get, we’re overindulging in them. If we make them ourselves — which requires more time and effort — we won’t be eating them so often.
For example, consider reserving your enjoyment of ice cream to only homemade versions. That takes me back to my childhood where I lived on a farm. We regularly made ice cream with our abundance of fresh milk. But regular really was only on special occasions. It just took too much time and work with hand crank churns. Much easier to make our own ice cream today but still more time-consuming than buying it at the grocery store. And oh, the taste!
One of the criticisms of — or fears about — following rules like Pollan’s is that they will add up to us spending much more money on food. Lee Greene of The Scrumptious Pantry is taking on “the widespread prejudice that eating organic/sustainable/real food is too expensive.” For 90 days, she’s tracking online how much her meals cost. So far, it’s looking good! And I mean good in more ways than one.
Do you have any food rules that serve you well? Instead of ones that have created problems for you?