Michael Pollan on why intentional eating can help eliminate food guilt

Michael Pollan sees food as a source of power and choice, not stress and guilt. The environmental journalist and New York Times The best-selling author has extensively explored the relationship between food, agriculture, the mind, and the natural world over the past few decades. Notable among his works were, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Eating Rules: A Guide to Eatingand The Botany of Desire: Looking at the World from a Plant Perspective.

In a new master class debuting Tuesday on Intentional Eating, Pollan distills his years of research into 13 tangible lessons, including rethinking your relationship with food, confronting barriers to intentional eating, how to spark a passion for cooking, and the power of shared meals .

Food matters. This is a sentiment Pollan begins his lesson with, where he outlines that not only is food integral to our health, but also to belonging to community, our connections with family, and our role in the environment. Therefore, it would be a shame to always eat recklessly, on the go, or pass the time. Eating with intention doesn’t come with a complicated set of rules, contrary to popular belief, Pollan says Condition in an exclusive interview ahead of the release of his MasterClass. Nor does intentional eating describe what you should or shouldn’t eat. It’s actually very individualized. For many, it’s about going back to basics and learning from the ancestors.

“If someone tells you there’s one right way to eat for your health, that’s clearly not true,” he tells his class. “There is so much cultural wisdom encoded in traditional dishes and food combinations. I’m always amazed by the fact that we have nutrition science and very often they come up with things that the culture came up with a long time ago.”

What is Intentional Eating?

There is no gold standard for healthy eating. After all, most diets fail because they require completely unrealistic changes in daily life.

Intentional eating instead begins by outlining the values ​​you hold around food: such as sustainability, ethics, pleasure, social justice, cost, health, or community. With value at the fore, you can structure the operation of your supermarket in a different way.

“[People] they think they have to revolutionize everything and go vegan or just take some radical new approach,” Pollen says Condition. “I’m a big believer in gradual change. Habits don’t change overnight,” who starts his class with a burger—whole wheat bread (because one of his goals is to limit refined grains) with plant-based protein (another goal is to eat more sustainably).

In general, mindful eating starts with being mindful and aware of what interests you about food, when you’re hungry and when you’re not. While not the goal, intentional eating can lead people to eat healthier and potentially lose weight, Pollan says. But more importantly, it doesn’t restrict your intake of certain foods and can reduce some of the stress that restriction inevitably brings.

In his class, Pollan explains how he sticks to certain personal nutrition goals that align with his values. Some people have vegan before 6 rule where they limit their meat intake to the evening hours to be more sustainable while not making a drastic change that they may not be able to maintain long term. Others prioritize quality over quantity in the food they eat.

For someone focusing on sustainability, it might be eating less meat or buying local produce. Or if someone longs for community in their family, eating around the table helps instill important lessons from sharing to how to argue. For someone who wants to focus on health or spending, they can cook meals more often at home with whole ingredients. Many people have the misguided fear that they’re not good enough to cook at home, and Pollan hopes to empower people to put on the chef’s hat if they want to – even if it’s just on a Sunday to prepare food for the week with chili or stew.

“We’ve been intimidated by food culture into thinking that cooking is like rocket science and that you have to be professional, knives have to fly and there’s a clock,” he says. “No watch.”

We are tricked into eating certain foods

It’s no shock that we have collectively succumbed to the food marketing industry. Highly processed foods entice us by sticking out in the middle aisles of supermarkets, forcing us to slide past them on the way to the checkout. Understanding where food comes from can empower us to make food choices when faced with abundance. Pollan coined the simple motto, eat food, not much, mostly plantsand learns how to observe it in his class.

Although Pollan has found that the level of processing a food goes through can matter more than the number of nutrients it contains, he doesn’t want people to focus on food labels. If we know that processed foods can lead to an increased risk of diabetes and other chronic health problems, we simply need to limit our intake of these foods. A simple rule of thumb for spotting ultra-processed food is to look at the label and see an ingredient you’ve never heard of or would never find in your pantry.

“Being more mindful means letting you and your body decide what you need, not some corporation with its marketing messages,” he says. “It’s about taking back control from all these forces that tell us how much to eat.”

Moving beyond food culture and pushing towards pleasure

As the holidays approach, food continues to be a key tenant that brings families together—which is inherently more intentional and instills the value of community, as many enjoy mealtime traditions often passed down through generations. Shared meals can reduce stress and give more meaning and comfort around food.

But the holidays can also lead to guilt and stress about what and how much we eat. Every year, indulging during the holidays can lead to pangs of conscience in the New Year and a push to get healthier or fitter. Then we see gym memberships going up like clockwork and health and nutrition books being published – to appeal to consumers who hate the holidays and think they need to somehow change to feel better. good. But the pendulum shouldn’t swing, says Pollan, who says shame and guilt stand as the antithesis of intentional eating.

“Food is one of the greatest pleasures and we have this very censorious attitude about it. It is indulgence followed by guilt. I think there’s room for indulgence and no room for guilt,” he says, adding that he’s “a big fan of special occasions.”

While not overindulging in highly processed or sugary foods is important to our health, completely removing the pleasure or cultural connection to holiday or New Year’s food can make us feel ashamed—especially when we label foods as good or bad. As for Pollan, he plans to eat turkey on Thanksgiving because it will satisfy his family and traditional food value, even though it instantly contradicts his sustainable food value.

As our brains become oversaturated with content about food, bodies and diets, Pollen hopes his class reminds people of the choices they have and how they can be exercised in countless ways.

“We have these three voices every day about what we’re going to eat, and those voices affect what happens to animals, what happens to the environment, [and] what happens to our bodies,” he says. “It’s a great thing. That is a great power.”

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