Escaping Reality with Diets

Michael Pollan, a professor at Berkeley and author of several food and health books focuses his essay, “Escape from the Western Diet” on simplicity. Pollan gives a brief background on the many types of nutrition science. For example, whether the focus is on fats, carbs. Or antioxidants. Pollan mentions how these studies are valid on their own but also have a tragic flaw. “Yet it’s one thing to entertain such explanations and quite another to mistake them for the whole truth or let any of them dictate the way you eat.” What he means by this is that while each study is qualified they also tent to cut each other out, which leads to health issues- thus making the diet not much of a success. He then goes into a larger perspective and looks at cultural differences in diets. Which summed up “People eating Western diets prone to a complex of chronic diseases that seldom strike people eating more traditional diets.” Pollen, broadening his view over dissection the parts of a diet to find a solution the solution is much easier. Of the western die is the problem – then stop eating a western diet. He then begins to explain how that as new food theories (like antioxidants being healthy_ surface- the process of how food is processed adapts. Which doesn’t necessarily ensure that the food is healthier, just that it is higher in antioxidants. His solution for this almost mal practice is that we look back in time. That we should be more focused on food production that is close to home and that we should all realize that for out food to take care of us, we need to take care of our food. That being said to, make sure that our food gets the same simpler treatment that we are looking for. his insight into a more traditional lifestyle also brings him to the conclusion. Pollen lists three steps to end the western diet and eat more healthily. “eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”

Now while the bulk of his essay was very convincing my biggest problem is how he ends the essay. He does go into some detail, but does not elaborate his ideas further, making you feel like a sock without a pair. What are you supposed to do with that? Going back on his theory about taking equal care of our food as we would ourselves, while I absolutely agree that this kind of lifestyle would benefit anyone, I also think that it is highly impractical. While he does mention that our food needs to be more natural, not eating processed things- free range etc. one thing he does not acknowledge is that those ranges and valleys were mostly destroyed to build our current food industry. Which is exactly that, an industry that grows with the population. So, finding the space and the coin to provide for this healthier lifestyle, while still maintaining some degree of supply for the demand is second to impossible. Let’s also think about how that would change our lives individually. Now you no longer have fast food, groceries are more expensive and don’t last as long. You now must make the time to prepare every meal you and your family needs, and as for self-sustainment- someone must learn to garden properly and keep up with the maintenance of it. On top of we as people eating the healthier food, we also need to supply the same for whatever meat we intend to harvest. I also think that his credit no nutrition science is unfair as well. Yes, while totally cutting out some sort of vitamin or fat can be unhealthy- that’s not what any medical professional would say, that’s what a fad diet magazine would list. My doctor has told me that carbs are my enemy, because I used to live off bread, but has never told me to completely cut it out of my diet. This takes two things into account: one, that your peak level of health is something that is case sensitive- general rules are good to follow but everyone’s body is different. And two, that completely cutting out something from your diet- unless specifically advised per condition- is not a solution for being healthy. Pollen also mentioned something I highly related with. “Food consist not just in piles of chemicals; it also comprises a set of social and ecological relationships, reaching back to the land and outward to other people.” There might be many ways to take this into account but this brought a very important new idea to the light. Our health is not only what food we put into our body and how much we exercise. As human’s isolation, can also have several detrimental health effects. In other words, our social life is also a part of a healthy lifestyle. Once again this is a case sensitive since no one is the same. But making sure you get the proper intake and output of a healthy social environment can make the biggest difference in your life. Stress is another component, when your body starts getting stressed out not only can if affect the choices of what kinds of food you put into your body, but your body also adjusts itself to the condition and can negatively affect your health. Migraines, depression, constipation, dizziness, etc. might seem funny to list but these all affect your motor skills and coherentness. For a short essay Pollan brought many great facts to the tablet, while some might be idealistic, he really struck home that a broader view should be taken when thinking about how to improve your own health. Another example that would have helped support him is from Radley Balko, an editor and author. Balko states “We are becoming less responsible for our own health, and more responsible for everyone else’s.” I think that if Pollan were to incorporate this into his idea of simplicity more, that we should be responsible for our own actions, then he would have come up with a better solution.


Works Cited

  1. Balko, Radley. “What You Eat Is Your Business”. Cato Institute. May 23, 2004.
  2. Pollan, Michael. “Escape from the Western Diet”. 2008