Thursday, January 21, 2010

Food Fight

Let me begin by saying that I am the world's worst dieter.

Yes, I am. I am a diet slut - I'll try any diet that I see promoted on talk shows, in a bookstore, or especially any diet that my friend Bev is on. You would think that after all the time I have spent dieting I would be wispy thin by now, but of course I'm not. It's because I'm the world's worst dieter. Oh, I diet, and ferociously - but only for very short periods of time. I'm back to my old comfy but unhealthy eating habits quick as you can say, "Gimme a large Blizzard with extra Heath and Butterfinger."

I have stacks of diet books, all of which I have read cover-to-cover. For a period of about one week after reading one of these books, I'm enthusiastically living whatever food lifestyle is promoted in said book. I'm so enthusiastic that I shop endlessly for whatever  foods are in the all-important allowed list. All good diet books have an allowed list. As well as the dreaded forbidden list. Foods on the forbidden list are methodically cleaned out from my pantry and given away to food banks or my children. Usually I begin replenishing my stores of forbidden foods at week three.

I also enthusiastically blab to anyone within earshot about the diet flavor of the month, why it's fabulous, and how much I intend to lose on this diet. I offer to loan the book to anyone who listens to me for ten seconds.

Funny how I've never been able to give one of those books away....

I inflict the allowed foods on anyone eating anything in my house. Like the time I served an entirely low-carb meal including faux mashed potatoes (cauliflower mushed up with butter and cream) and a low-carb artificially sweetened cheesecake - ewwwww - to a rather large dinner party. Including Father L., our priest.

I fed diet food to our PRIEST. I have no shame. None.

I'm amazed that these people return to my house and let me cook meals for them. Silly folks.

Given my previous diet habits, it's amazing that one diet book published in 2008 escaped my attention until recently. The book is called In Defense of Food and is written by Michael Pollan. Pollan's recipe for eating healthily is simply stated by three short phrases:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

He goes on to elaborate further on each of those phrases, but really, that's the gist of the whole book.

So what does he mean by food? Well, there's the big question. I really enjoy his definition of what food is (who knew we needed a definition?). According to Pollan, food is edible stuff that our great-grandmothers would recognize. And it never comes to us through our driver-side car window, or packaged in plastic and cardboard and plucked from a supermarket freezer section.

In Defense of Food is an enjoyable read that encourages us to eat foods in their least-processed state, grown in healthy soils, and prepared in our own kitchens.

What? Cook? At home? With.....fruits and vegetables and raw stuff??

I like his perspective on the whole eating healthy thing, I really do. But there's something about this book that is unsettling. He doesn't include a forbidden and allowed list. The book simply describes the benefits of eating real food, and turns readers loose.

I.....I....prefer something more regimented. So that I can feel as though I am on a diet. And then when I'm ready, I can bail. I can rebel. I can say, "take this diet and shove it!" I don't want to think for myself. I need lists. I don't waaaaaannnnnaaaaaa be a responsible eater.

A Butterfinger Blizzard tastes so much better if it's on the forbidden list.

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