Beware of Pollanization


I’m just a little worried that my February 2 blog post may be taken as a license to eat “everything in moderation” – as Pig in PEARLS BEFORE SWINE opines.  I hope it doesn’t do that.

I’m keenly and painfully aware of the impact of wildly popular eating journalist Michael Pollan.  He’s the one that, against all anatomical evidence, calls humans omnivores!

He has a nice, soft, entertaining way of writing about food and how you should think about it.  His readers believe that his journalism raises their awareness about food:  where it comes from, how it’s processed, what to be conscious of, what to be wary of, and how to navigate the dizzying contradictions of modern nutritional advice.

I think the masterful thing about Pollan’s journalism is that it leaves most everyone comfortable with how they are eating today.  And, unfortunately, that is not a healthful message.  Americans suffer catastrophically from the diseases of poor food choices – of eating junk: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, colitis, chronic indigestion, impaired mobility, etc.  And, yes, Pollan does urge us to eat less, mostly plants – but this has about the same effect as the admonition to eat “everything in moderation.”  It means something different to everyone.  And therefore it means nothing.

I could be sitting here with a large plate of salad in front of me, with a small portion of meat on the side, and conclude that I am now eating less and eating mostly plants.  That’s the way it looks.  But if I’ve added olive oil to my salad, then most of my calories are coming from fat – and that’s just those from the “salad.”  By the time I’ve devoured that small piece of meat, I am getting most of my calories from animal fat and animal protein, and very few from complex carbohydrates.

Pollan urges us to slow down, think about our food, and enjoy it.  I applaud that admonition.  But most of us need to slow down, think about our food, substantially change what we are currently eating, and then enjoy it.  Eat consciously; eat healthy.