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Pollanation

(article, Kim Carlson)

While it's not exactly billed as a self-help book, Michael Pollan's new In Defense of Food, subtitled "An Eater's Manifesto," is chock-full of advice, starting with the now-famous statement "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." (This catchy maxim has even sprouted its own look-alike contest. The cheeky winner? "Ate plants. A big heap. Still hungry.")

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A professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, Pollan does not write about food exclusively, but in recent years he's focused his efforts in that direction, both with The Omnivore's Dilemma and a series of articles on food. He's thus helped galvanize a social movement of individuals who are eager to know more about where their food originates. 

Through his food writing, Pollan has popularized the term "eater," which — although it may seem overly blunt when you first hear it — nicely puts food in a place of priority in our lives (and helps us avoid the clinical and over-used term "consumer").

Pollan concludes his newest book with a chapter entitled "Not too much; how to eat," in which he suggests ways — eight ways, in fact — we can be better eaters. Here's a much-condensed version of his suggestions. (For more detail, read the book.)

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#(n1). Pay more, eat less. Like many people, Pollan wishes that more people in the United States could afford better food, whether measured by taste, nutritional quality, or both. Nevertheless, he argues that those who can afford to pay more for sustainably grown food should do so. The benefits are widespread in terms of our physical health and the planet's overall environmental health: to us as eaters, to the people who grow the food, and to others in the area where it is grown. Plus, paying more for food may compel us to buy less and therefore to eat less. Eating fewer calories slows aging and prevents the rapid growth of cancer. Simply put, quality over quantity is the way to go.

#(n2). Eat meals. Stop sipping and snacking, and sit down to dinner! "Shared meals are about much more than fueling bodies; they are uniquely human institutions where our species developed language and this thing called culture. Do I need to go on?" Pollan is adamant on this point, and in fact the next several items are related to it:

#(n3). Do all of your eating at a table. As he says, "No, a desk is not a table." Nor is a car a table, for that matter.

#(n4). Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does. In other words, don't buy the highly processed food products offered at gas stations. Even better, don't eat them.

#(n5). Try not to eat alone. Eating by yourself can be an act of mere fueling, while eating with others can be a ritual of family and community — again, a good thing in Pollan's view.

#(n6). Consult your gut. Use all your senses when you eat, not just sight. Serve smaller portions; don't let marketers tell you what a portion size should be.

#(n7). Eat slowly. As your mother said, "Chew your food." As Pollan writes, to eat more slowly is to "eat with a fuller knowledge of all that is involved in bringing food out of the earth and to the table." Deliberate eating, he believes, helps connect us with the sources of our food.

#(n8). Cook and, if you can, plant a garden. Says Pollan, "The work of growing food contributes to your health long before you sit down to eat it, of course, but there is something particularly fitting about enlisting your body in its own sustenance." So what are you waiting for? Order seeds today.

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