Rules, Regarding Food and Similar Substances

I said I was going to blog my way through Michael Pollan’s Food Rules this summer, and so far I have only written about Rule #1: “Eat food.” This is because I haven’t mastered Rule 1 yet. I figure I should have some success with the first step before taking the second.

Eat food, he says, not processed substances. I thought that sounded like a fine idea. I gave myself one task. Quit Diet Cokes. I failed.

I did give them up for about four days. I was at home mostly during those days. I had a pitcher of tea in the refrigerator. I was fine. I didn’t miss the Diet Cokes at all.

Then I had to leave town for a meeting where I got thirsty on the drive and thirsty in the meeting. I caved to the call of the Diet Coke. Of course I did.

I thought I might easily get back on track to drink tea instead when I came home, but I’ve barely been home, and when I did come home it was to stressful circumstances. Circumstances happen. They aren’t really an excuse. If I’ve made promises, even to no one in particular, I ought to keep them regardless.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I’ve decided not to bother beating myself up with that lousy line of logic. If I consider the whole array of substances I might have turned to in times of stress, Diet Coke is not so bad. Drink up, I say, and enjoy.

But try again to follow at least one rule tomorrow. Sometimes that’s just the best you can do.

1. Eat Food

I’ve decided to blog my way through Michael Pollan’s food rules. There are sixty-something of them, and I only plan to do two or three a week, so this could take some time. That’s okay.

I believe that the biggest problem with my own diet is that I don’t pay enough attention to what I’m eating. I get busy, and I eat while I’m thinking about something else. I eat junk. I eat processed foods. I cafeteria pizza and what passes for cheese sauce at Taco Bell.

And so it seems appropriate that Pollan’s first rule is Eat Food. Eat food as opposed to processed junk. Eat cheese instead of what passes for cheese sauce in a fast food drive-through. Eat rice instead of processed rice cakes that look more like cork board than anything you might be pleased to scoop up with chopsticks.

Eat food, not chemically designed substances. That sounds simple enough, and I believe anyone who starts there is bound to become a little healthier.

In that spirit, the most obvious rule I could make for myself to start my path to better health is no more Diet Cokes. Assuming we include drinks with food, Diet Cokes aren’t food. They provide no nutritional value. They fill the body with added chemicals. They aren’t good for you even if to you they’re so good.

Coffee and tea are much healthier sources of caffeine, or at least much less damaging sources. Their labels are free of a whole bunch of chemical additives. Plus, used coffee grounds and tea leaves can be spread around in the garden to nourish plants. I haven’t found a gardening book yet that recommends giving your tomatoes a Diet Coke, but even my great-grandmother fed tea leaves to her garden.

So there you have Michael’s rule 1 and Sharon’s rule 1. I’m not sure how I’ll get through all sixty-something. I’m starting huge. Huge, I tell you. If I really give up Diet Cokes, we’ll know the world is changing for sure.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Meanwhile, today I plan to make sweet potato chili. I don’t know if this will satisfy all of the food rules or not since I’m going to take them on one at a time, but at least it counts as food. Delicious food at that.