I really, really enjoyed hearing Michael Pollan last night. Having been an ardent fan of his for many years now, much of what he said I knew or was familiar with, but listening to him update some of his work, remind us of the stark disconnect between the food service industry and our health, and present and analyze statistics and findings new to me really made for an inspiring evening. In my pilates class this morning, a number of us stayed around afterwards talking about MP and the state of eating in America today. Some women said it was positively baffling to make good food choices, others felt confused by years of conflicting nutritional claims: "eggs are the devil", "no they're great"; "eat low- and no-fat and you can ignore calorie counts"; "red meat is evil;" "no you need it"; "eat full fat but eat less overall"..... And so forth and so on. As Pollan suggested and I agree, it seems people have forgotten how to eat in a way that nourishes. MP talked about the cultish ideology of nutritionism, a reductive perspective that views food as simply a means of nutrient delivery. This ignores the pleasures of eating, the sociality that is lost when people stop eating together, the trust in your/ourselves to eat what we want and feel our bodies need. Instead, we look to "experts" to tell us what's good, we take tons of supplements even though evidence of their benefits is scant or actually non-existent, we subconsciously or consciously divide foods into good and evil, eating some with abandon and avoiding others wholesale.
Did you know that other countries actually include the positive social aspects of eating in their dietary guidelines? That others speak of hunger in terms of being satisfied rather than of being full? As Pollan said, feeling satisfied comes many bites before feeling full. Recognizing satiety requires us to pay attention to our bodies, requires us to slow down and respect what they can tell us if we listen. By taking food out of food, by making the entire point of eating simply health (a sole emphasis on nutrients) or fuel, we divorce it from identity, from culture, from history and from its many inherent pleasures. As he concluded, we might be wise to consider food "not as a product but as a set of relationships;" between others, ourselves, the world and environment and animals and plants that provide.
I thought this was a particularly sobering statistic: it used to take 1 calorie of energy to produce 2.5 calories of food. It now takes 10 calories of energy (mostly now from fossil fuels) to produce 1 calorie of food. How unsustainable is that?! Wow.
The monocultural agriculture that our government now subsidizes is both unsustainable and seriously unhealthy. Americans are sicker and fatter, and we also see that everywhere the Standard American Diet is exported, those communities begin to suffer from increased rates of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and diet-based cancers too...Not to mention that the tonnage of pesticides, herbicides and nitrogen-intense fertilizers that are used in these "farming" communities strip the land of its nutrients and are passed on to us directly through our chemicalized water supply, tainted meat, sickly vegetables and fruits.
Serious food for thought, yes? For some reason, I'm now starving so am going to chow- on something whole and healthy of course. :)