As I write this I’m sitting in the lounge car of the Empire Builder Express, cruising through the middle of rural Montana. It’s pretty sweet.
Everyone I told that I was taking a train from Portland to Chicago had either this reaction “wow, that’s awesome!” or “you’re insane.”
I must be in the camp that feels it’s awesome.
There’s no cellphone connection in the middle of nowhere, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to upload this. (note, finally posted after I got to Chicago.)
I’ve been reading An Omnivore’s Dilemma, and though I’m not even half way through the book, I can say for certain that it’s definitely a book worth reading. Michael Pollan, like he did in In Defense of Food, dives into the problems facing our country’s food system head-on.
The first stop: Cornucopia.
You might not realize just how much corn you’re consuming in your average diet, but the quantity is astounding. A full quarter of the products in the supermarket have some form of corn in them. Coke and Pepsi is basically reduced corn juice (high fructose corn syrup). Most common-denominator meat consists of cows that are force-fed corn, which they aren’t able to digest properly, making them sick and depressed.
This makes me sad.
Reading about this subject reminded me of the dramatic change I’ve made in the way that I eat. Over the last six months, since I read Pollan’sIn Defense of Food, I took his advice and started eating real food.
True food, if you will. Food that is made out of food.
There is a startling amount of “food” in the supermarket that didn’t exist fifty years ago. Most of this food exists in the isles in the middle of the grocery store filled with boxes and in freezers.
I stopped eating anything that came in a package, anything that had been processed, anything that won’t spoil. This includes veggie supplements such as soy hotdogs, veggie burgers, cereals, gogurts, etc.
I decided to abandon all of these foods. I started eating true food.
The result is that I’m an additional 10 pounds lighter than I was when I left New York. I finally don’t have a disgusting little belly anymore. It’s great. I haven’t weighed myself lately, but I estimate that I’m somewhere around 160-165 lbs. (I’m 5’11″) I had to poke a new hole in the belt that I’ve had since I was 16. When I was a teenager I weighed more than I do now, crazy!
Here’s how I did it. I promise you, if you follow these instructions you will lose weight naturally. You will also reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. But keep in mind I’m not a nutritional expert. I’m just a common sense expert who reads books on food.
If this sounds extreme, take it slow. If you’re hooked on what the food industry wants you to eat, it’s hard to get off. Start by eating one meal a week with these instructions, and gradually work your way up.
He’s made the brave decision of choosing to change his life. Go read about what he’s doing. Drop him a note of encouragement, it would warm my heart and his!
The Seven Rules of the True Food Diet
- Eat mostly fresh vegetables. Make this your top priority. Buy organic vegetables (and mushrooms) from a farmer’s market, or if you can’t get to one of those a place like Wholefoods, Trader Joe’s, or whatever local organic store is near. Make 80% of your meals contain a large portion and a variety of vegetables. Not frozen, not canned. Real live actual vegetables from the produce section. If you’re feeling really brave you can get vegetables from an organic CSA (community supported agriculture–basically a direct shipment of mixed vegetables from an organic permaculture farm near you, so you avoid supporting industrial organic farming and all of the transporting that goes with it.) When I figure out where I want to live for awhile, I’m definitely joining a CSA.
- Eat those vegetables that are actually good for you. Kale is in, Carrots are in. Chard, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Spinach, Onions, etc. There are lots of vegetables that are good for you. Avoid things that are grown in mass by the food industry, such as Soybeans, Corn (which is a grain), and Peas. Also, who gives a crap about iceberg lettuce, or even leafy spring mix? You can eat that stuff, but it’s the true healthy vegetables that rock. You’re already getting plenty of corn from sources you don’t even know you’re consuming. Just stop eating corn.
- Eat only free-range grass-fed beef. Cage free chickens, etc. Make sure they’re not being pumped full of antibiotics to stay alive. This will mean that the meat you buy WILL COST MORE. There’s a reason that a steak at whole foods is 150% more expensive than a steak at C-Town. It’s because the cow wasn’t force-fed corn, living in it’s own vomit and shit, until it prematurely reached adulthood and was slaughtered days later. Cheap meat is so terrible for you, we have no idea. You are what you eat, and if you’re eating meat full of antibiotics from sad cows, those meds and that sadness will be in your system too.
- Don’t eat in restaurants, unless they’re expensive. I only go out to eat at places that are serving good food, in a great environment. This means avoiding takeout, and after eating this diet I’d probably die if I ate fast food. Subway sandwiches are bad for you too. If you eat at quality restaurants they will feed you quality food. You will enjoy it more, there will be smaller portions, and it will come from sources that aren’t sketchy.
- Actually, in general try to pay more money for what you eat.If you’re buying organic food, it’s going to cost more. This is because it’s not being sprayed by chemicals and industrial fertilizers. Chemicals are in these plants, and after you eat them they will be in you. Industrial fertilizers allow plants to grow in soil that’s been depleted of all nutrients. So you’re basically just eating depleted soil and fertilizer. Yuck! That’s not food. By paying more you’re casting your vote for a food system that’s not corrupt.
- Prepare every meal at home from raw ingredients. When you cook yourself, it’s almost impossible to cook an unhealthy meal. You simply aren’t going to make the decision to season with monosodium glutamate or to roast your vegetables in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. If you’ve never cooked before, don’t worry. This is how you do it: get a large frying pan. Pour two-three teaspoons of olive oil in it. Put on medium heat. Chop vegetables. (Onions, Mushrooms, Chard, and Brussel Sprouts perhaps?) Put vegetables in pan. Flavor with a little pepper. Good, now you know how to make a stir-fry. If that sounds gross, there are a million other ways to cook. Just ask the internet.
- Eat slowly, appreciate every bite. Did you know it can take up to twenty minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full? No wonder we’re so fat. Most Americans gulp down a meal in less than 15 minutes, while driving, talking on the cellphone, and watching television simultaneously. Stop everything, this is madness. Give yourself an hour for dinner and prepare your food with love and care. When you’re done cooking, sit down at the table with yourself, or with your family, and enjoy the food. Just eat, slowly. Talk about how good it is. Because it is good, isn’t it? This way you avoid overeating by not cramming your face.
That’s it, so simple right? No quick fixes, just eating like humans are supposed to eat: a diverse diet rich in vegetables. No frozen garbage, no packaged garbage, just vegetables and some meat. I eat whole grain bread, pasta, and rice too, but in small amounts.
I prepare almost all of my meals in my kitchen out of raw ingredients. This makes me feel great, because I’m eating great and healthy. You should try it!
What I’ve said here is just the beginning. To learn more about how to eat right read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, and for some history of our crazy food culture, try his An Omnivore’s Dilemma.