Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. — Michael Pollan
These seven words sum up the basic concept behind "Food Rules". It's remarkably simple advice, and it's an approach that has been attracting the interest of the fitness community. This week is my first week on this project, so I'm still feeling my way a bit. Today I'm pondering a bit how to distill the three concepts that Pollan focuses on.
Eat food. Real food that can be quickly identified as such. No strange random processed lumps of chicken parts smushed together into a chicken flavored patty. No products containing Yellow #5 and requiring a major in chemistry to decipher the bag.
For trainers, this recommendation has turned into the general, "cut back on processed crap," suggestion. I take it one step further. In my case eat food means cutting out protein powders and meal replacement shakes. Now I'd taken to cutting back on commercial meal replacement shakes over the last 18 months. I discovered that they didn't let me feel full long enough. I burn through them pretty quick. I found that switching from shakes to whole foods resulted in eating more, yet still losing weight.
I happen to enjoy eating, so this was a nice deal.
Not too much. For many Americans this is a big deal. Between liquid calories and increasing portion sizes, the Center for Disease Control shows the average American diet increasing 200-300 calories a day. That rapidly adds up to extra pounds. When you consider that a single visit to McBurger chain for a deluxe burger, large fries, and large drink can add up to 1500 calories in a single sitting, there's a problem. So you need to learn how to rework portion size, and start working to watch how much food you consume.
Not too much is not an easy concept to figure out. It's taken me 5 years of eating using calorie counting, portion control, and spending way too much time playing with numbers to identify what "too much" is for me. Pollan emphasizes a simpler approach. Slow down with your eating, leave food on the plate, and walk away just a little bit hungry.
This is a different approach from scarfing down prepackaged and preportioned foods in 15 minutes or less.
Mostly plants. You can find an increasing number of trainers shifting to plant based eating. Fitness expert Craig Ballantyne has gone vegan. John Berardi's Precision Nutrition system has a whole section on going plant based. Heck, even the guys at local Austin Fire Department Engine 2 have gotten on the plant bandwagon!
Now you can go all plant based for your eats. That particular eating modality is what we call vegan eating. No animal product at all in your food. Pure vegans eliminate any product which comes from an animal source. So no meat, milk, or even honey.
Pollan isn't talking about that. He's discussing shifting away from an animal protein based diet to a plant based one. There's no elimination of animal protein, merely a reduction. For me personally, I started to shift to plant based after realizing a) I could cut back on animal protein sources and still build an impressive physique and b) the discovery that going plant based made a big impact on my food budget. I save about $50 a month by eating critter protein at one meal a day.
So there's the basics. I guess the big question is how did I get here from where I was? But I think that's a question for another day.