Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Using the Blog as a Form of Willpower

I recently read Michael Pollan's new book, Food Rules: An Eater's Manual.  Unlike some of Pollan's other books, which focus more on the history of food and agriculture, or the economic and environmental impact of our food choices, this book is more about the individual and making better food choices for a healthier you.  It can be summed up in just seven of Pollan's own words, "Eat food.  Mostly plants.  Not too much."  For someone like me, who is already kind of a follower of Michael Pollan, there was nothing new or earth-shattering in this book, but that is okay - I was completely expecting that to be the case.  I purposely bought this five dollar book knowing that it would only reinforce ideas relating to food that I'm already well aware of.  Sometimes we all just need a little reminder, and this book did a great job of boiling down Pollan's wisdom (or, the wisdom of the ages, as the case may be) into easily digestible one-liners.  The type of thing you can scribble on a post-it note, stick on your computer monitor, and hopefully remember to follow when hunger or boredom next strikes.

Which brings me to the point of why I'm writing this blog post at the moment.  I'm sitting here feeling like breaking one of my newly self-imposed "rules," and I thought maybe if I made a public pronouncement of it here, I'd be more likely to stay on course for more than one day, which is how long I've made it so far.

Pollan suggests picking a handful of the rules that jump out at you (because some are repetitive - the same tidbit of advice phrased in a number of different ways), and trying to consciously follow those few rules.  The one I've picked is:  Do not eat snacks that are not a fruit, a vegetable, or nuts.  (I don't have the book in front of me at the moment, so I'm not sure if that's exactly how he put it, but you get the idea.)  

This rule seemed like a great one for me, because I'm prone to making bad snacking choices for lack of a better alternative - grabbing Doritos from the vending machine because I didn't pack a pear.  I'm also prone to eating snacks out of boredom more than hunger.  I'm also prone to convincing myself that something is a healthy choice just because there are worse choices out there - like eating pretzels instead of those Doritos, when really I didn't even need to be eating pretzels. 

Another way to remember this rule is:  If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, you're not hungry enough to eat. 

So, who's with me?  Anyone?  (And no, "fruit snacks" and "vegetable chips" do not count as fruits and veggies!)  I'll make room for plenty of occasional exceptions, but I'm wondering if I can kind of make a real change and keep this practice up so that the exceptions do not overtake the rule. 

On a related note, I found this really cute poster from persimmon & pink that I would love to hang in my office or kitchen.  Or maybe both.  Birthday's coming up in April...hint, hint...

Okay, whew!  I think it worked.  Now that that's written, I'm off to eat that apple.  Bye!


Danni said...

That's a great rule to follow. Unfortunately, all my worst transgressions are followed by a few brews and I'm not sure I'm ready to rule out beer. . . but maybe your rule would be a good one for me to start with. Except string cheese is my favorite snack.

Kelly said...

We've really been working on making better food choices too. Greg has somewhat recently read all of Pollan's books as well, which has further encouraged us to eat better. I do find this snacking rule one of the more difficult ones to follow. Glad to know I'm not the only one! I'll email or call you when a pretzel or cookie is calling my name... just tell me to slowly put it aside and reach for that apple or banana instead :)

Gregory said...

Hi Kate, Greg Della Rocca here. I liked your post. Michael Pollan's books have been fun to read; Kelly got me "Food Rules" for Valentine's Day. We had been trying to be better about our food sources prior to the Pollan-ization of our household (so to speak): grass-fed beef, free-range chicken (and eggs), fish from sustainable sources, and more veggies.

Pollan's writings have reinforced some of what we do. It's interesting that he makes many comments which might not actually be correct, and some of the things that he states don't really have a scientific basis. But, science's method of breaking things down to their most basic parts is what has gotten nutrition into the situation it is in today...food is more than the sum of its parts, despite what the companies marketing processed, packaged foods might say.

Science has created serious issues when it comes to food. Margarine is one of the absolute worst things to hit the planet from a food standpoint. Omega-6 fatty acids may contribute to heart disease more than they fight against it (omega-3s, however, are probably rather good). It's really too bad. I particularly like the rule about not eating anything my great-grandmother wouldn't eat.

We are eating lots of organic food, especially when we make food for Evelyn (Kelly deserves most of the credit for that, mind you). I know that the definition of "organic", once adopted and regulated by the feds, became a minimum standard and no longer necessarily means what we all think it means. However, the restriction on pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, etc is probably better for us. No scientific basis for that statement...just a feeling. Although organic may come from far away (Chile) and it's not great for the environment to transport across those great distances, I still feel better about what Evelyn is putting into her belly.

And, we try to stay local as much as possible. Not always feasible, though.

Most of what Pollan has written is informed opinion and not fact. However, it makes sense to me. I like and agree with his opinions, and I'm sticking by them.

Good luck! Tell Joe I said hello. I hope the kids are great!


Maggie said...

But what if I'm hungry all the time? Do you know how much fruit I would be consuming? Cheddar bunnies make up a serious portion of my snacking diet.

jessica said...

Maggie-what are Cheddar Bunnies? Also, does this mean air-popped popcorn is not allowed?
Good luck! (I feel like the most unhealthy person ever reading this blog post but at least I am eating carrots as I type this!)

Kate said...

Danni - I'm sure there's room for beer in this rule. I mean, that's usually with meals, right? And plus, it's a beverage - different category. Life is too short for you to cut out beer! : )

Greg - whatever parts may be opinion rather than fact are certainly opinions based on an awful lot of research. Or if they're not, then I guess they're just the type of gut instict logic that I tend to agree with in most cases. Or maybe I'm just in love with Michael Pollan and blind to any possible flaws. : ) I'm sure you guys are doing a GREAT job, considering how much you love to cook. Certainly better than most Americans.

Maggie - funny you said that, because so far I have found that the adage "if you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, you're not hungry enough to eat" has only caused me to eat a LOT more apples, not to stop snacking! At least I'm getting some nutrients and fiber and stuff, though, right? Georgia's still eating plenty of "rabbits" around me, though, which makes this all even harder.

Kate said...

Hi, Jessica -just saw your comment. Yeah, I think that while one could argue that the corn of popcorn is a vegetable, that's violating the spirit of the rule. So for me (for now, anyway), popcorn's out as a snack food.
munch munch munch those carrots, my friend. and by the way, you are not a horrible eater! you have your own blog about food, which you know, kinda shows that you are making an effort to think about what you eat. that's something, right?

Beth said...

Is your husband joining you in that 7 word rule? When I think of Joe, I think his 7 words would be, "Eat. More Food. Yummmmm Meat. Exercise More!" But that's just my impression.

One thing I've heard a lot about lately is how a lot of our eating habits are tradition - how we were brought up eating is how we continue to (unconsciously) feed ourselves as adults. So even if YOU sometimes cheat, or bend the rules, think of how many great principles you might be instilling in your children!!! (or my children!? perhaps you could start doing my shopping?)

Lastly, does Michael Pollan live in Berkeley or somewhere annoying that has fresh organic produce available year round? Here we have to make the very real choice between a "fresh" apple that was picked How long ago? Where? And shipped How many miles? to be available in my store in early March.... Or I suppose we could all be snacking on root vegetables through the winter. Unfair! My environment is not keeping up with my intentions!

Kate said...

Beth - your comment re: Joe and eating cracked me up. Also thanks for reminding me of another reason to always try harder (kids). And I agree with you -- the desire to fufill certain food goals often clashes with others, like eating locally. I try not to go buy raspberries in the dead of winter, etc., but overall we are doing better so far considering what food we're eating and how it was made/grown than we are at paying attention to how far it traveled to get to us.