Drinking the ‘Pollan-Aid’

Denial is a powerful tool. When Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore Dilemma hit the shelves a few years back, I was one of those people who insisted that I did not need to read a four hundred plus page homily about how screwed up our food system was and for years I refused to read it. But when a dear friend who had been a dedicated vegetarian for over fifteen years announced (after reading two of Pollan’s books: the above mentioned and In Defense of Food) that she would resume eating meat as long as it was local and responsibly grown, I was speechless. Really, I mean speechless. And when my words returned, all I said was, “Okay, I guess I have to read this book.” And now that I have, I understand the hype.

Pollan constructs a brilliant image of our food system. Not only does he offer an incredibly detailed response to the “What should we have for dinner?” question, but cleverly and without judgment creates a space for the reader to explore their own social, sociopolitical and socioeconomic beliefs and practices about food and its merchandising. Nice Work.

I remember the first time I read Yearning: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics by ‘bell hooks’ I thought my brain would explode. I had never thought about myself as ‘political’ let alone as a ‘political statement.’ Hooks’ theories were interesting but slightly beyond my sophomoric grasp, but when Sisters of the Yam crossed my path a half dozen years or so later, I would gain (and one that continues to grow) a great appreciation and respect for hooks’ contributions and cultural reporting. It is funny how you can grow with a book. When I first read Sisters of the Yam, it was the chapter, “Seeking Truth” that resonated the loudness but these days it is “Knowing Peace: An End to Stress,” that seems to speak to my current life situation.

When hooks declares that we (Black Women – and I’ll include brown, red and burgundy too) have ‘to not only believe that we deserve to live well, but that we must claim it as a birthright’ she wasn’t talking about Gucci and Prada and insurmountable debt. She was talking about an internal sense of self worth that allows us to actualize our resiliencies without becoming emotionally crippled. She further explains that “Knowing when to quit is linked to knowing one’s value” and that “unless black women begin to make our health, and our well-being, a central priority, we cannot begin to develop lifestyles that enhance our lives.” She acknowledges that “This is not a simple task; but [that] it is a rewarding one.” Ironically, Michael Pollan takes a similar stand on food.

He suggests that we have to believe that healthy food is a right and make it a priority to access that right. However, when two out of three Americans or 66% percent of the overall population is overweight and half of that number is obese and the larger percentage struggles with hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes can we really ‘just’ blame the individual? Granted, the responsibility ultimately falls on the individual but when income and education start to become criteria for sourcing wholesome healthy food, that is not just an individual, that is systematic irresponsibility. Particularly when the money available to pay for public education is being chopped and scattered like mulch. So how is it that we access our right to ‘real’ food?

I know that this is an ongoing discussion and as a recovering fast-food addict, I also know how easy it is to make the quick and convenient choice. It took years to break old habits but it really has made a world of difference. And the truth of the matter is that the more I learn about all of the crap that is in processed foods, the easier it is to make a healthier choice. Now, if only I could be so disciplined with my workout.

For three weeks straight I only made it to the gym once a week. Generally, I go twice and believe it or not, missing my sessions made me feel guilty. Odd, I know, but because I felt guilty I started going three times a week and boy was that a commitment. A good one, though.

With less than three weeks to ‘the big day’ I have realized that this process has only begun. And although I am completely committed, I have days when I am seriously low energy. I need more sleep than ever and I am either not hungry at all or immediately starving. There is absolutely no warning and because I am now conditioned to only eat when I am hungry, I walk around with snacks like a little kid. Odd.

And my favorite snacks right now: 1) mixed nuts with dried cherries and cranberries; 2) crackers: salty & sweet; 3) banana and oranges.

That’s all for now . . . must get back on track. Cross your fingers!

Any suggestions for the party?

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