Recently, I read one of Michael Pollan’s books, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. Super fast read, totally logical and common sense, only… sort of. I picked it up after having returned from Italy, which meant my mind was already abuzz with the revolution that Italy has dropped into my life.
In the book, Michael Pollan lays out 64 rules for being a food eater. Sounds like a lot, but it’s not. Most of them are super simple, and leave you nodding your head in an Aha of recognition, because you know most of these rules, but you don’t… really.
One of those rules bowled me over. I had already picked up on it in Italy, especially having attended the 2014 Slow Food Terra Madre conference in Turin. I had sensed this rule in action while there. I had started to re-membered that part of my deep intuition that sprung from my bones and came from a wisdom that had nothing to do with all of the nutrition books I’d read in my life or all of the fad diets I had studied and tried. It was primordial. The rule?
Eat real food.
No… really. Eat real food.
I think it’s so easy to gloss over those three little words. Because initially we nod and say, “Yes yes… nothing processed, no fast foods, maybe even no carbs or saturated fats and blah blah blah.” I really believe we have a tendency to recite an amalgamation of all the platitudes we have been fed for the last half century by commercial media. Just think of all the food fads we have all grown up through? Without trying I can come up with 5 off the top of my head right now.
So we have all these details swimming in our head about what healthy eating has been defined as over the last 50 years, all mushed together in our brains. We read this simple rule, and our initial understanding of this triggers all these details that have at times actually contradicted themselves and were born out of a drive to sell product.
But here’s the thing:
When I sat with these words a few things began to fall into place for me. Real food as it manifests originally. Food as in meat, or vegetables, fruit or grains. Food that hasn’t been broken down, added to, dyed in some way and then placed in plastic or cardboard. Michael Pollan identifies them as the foods you find in the outer parameter of a grocery store and food that your great grandmother would actually recognize. Something like GoGurt? NOT real food. Crackers and cookies? Not real food either. Look at the ingredients. We are better off making our own with the 2-5 real food ingredients each one requires.
It made me look deeper into what I put in my body.
I love coffee. Coffee is a real food – water, roasted coffee beans. Amazing. But I love it with cream, and I’ve been using vanilla flavored “creamer” for years. Have you ever looked at the ingredients of this stuff? It’s NOT food. It’s a chemical composition created to add flavor. And where that sounds like a lovely purpose, perhaps even an effective one, it’s not a substance my body was made to consume and it adds nothing to my nutritional intake.
I stopped buying this stuff when I returned from Italy. I use actual cream now and depending on my mood that day, I’ll either sprinkle cinnamon in my coffee, or ground vanilla beans. Totally amazing, and totally real.
As well, realize that all of these different types of fake foods, so easily at our disposal and pushed on us daily by advertisements, disconnect us from our common, bone deep and ancestral connection to food and the land that provides it for us. We actually have to work at re-membering what real food actually is. It speaks to a much deeper spiritual illness I believe we all suffer from in most Western or developed countries. There is an oxymoron there none of us should miss.
Eat real food.