May 6, 2008

Lonely Road

I'm feeling like I'm at that moment In Mister Roger's neighborhood when Mister Roger's finishes feeding the fish and visiting the land of make believe, he sits back down and sings a song of farewell. Similarly, it has come time for me to bid adieu as well.

It seems like such a long time ago when I decided to conform my life to Pollan's ideals about healthy eating. I look back at my first blog post and see a youthful me, earnestly trying to fit each and every Pollan rule into my dietary habits. Months past and I become more and more lax about what would be considered edible in Pollan's eyes, and it gets to a point (the Chinese bakery) where I am almost at odds against the health diet, inciting a mini rebellion within myself to not conform.

I have had my good weeks (like when I ate only Vietnamese sandwiches) and my bad (don't really want to talk about how many Little Caesar's pepperoni and sausage pizzas I have eaten to date), but at least I can be proud of myself for keeping the healthy eating idea alive within me. I have to admit, if it weren't for this blog, I probably wouldn't have been so diligent in trying to keep up to standards.

What's really astounded me is how much of an activist I've become. Seriously. Prior to this food craze, I didn't do anything good for the myself or for the world. After starting up on the Pollan diet, I've found my energy levels continuing to increase and my weight continuing to decrease, but most importantly, I've started doing things that the pre-Pollan me wouldn't have done. I started volunteering at a homeless shelter, working as a peer tutor, and even advocating for safer cosmetics (and I don't even use makeup). Maybe these things don't have anything to do with my change in diet, but as the saying goes, you are what you eat. I hope that the Pollan ideals that I have been consuming have been the impetus to the actions I have taken.

Lonely Road

I'm feeling like I'm at that moment In Mister Roger's neighborhood when Mister Roger's finishes feeding the fish and visiting the land of make believe, he sits back down and sings a song of farewell. Similarly, it has come time for me to bid adieu as well.

It seems like such a long time ago when I decided to conform my life to Pollan's ideals about healthy eating. I look back at my first blog post and see a youthful me, earnestly trying to fit each and every Pollan rule into my dietary habits. Months past and I become more and more lax about what would be considered edible in Pollan's eyes, and it gets to a point (the Chinese bakery) where I am almost at odds against the health diet, inciting a mini rebellion within myself to not conform.

I have had my good weeks (like when I ate only Vietnamese sandwiches) and my bad (don't really want to talk about how many Little Caesar's pepperoni and sausage pizzas I have eaten to date), but at least I can be proud of myself for keeping the healthy eating idea alive within me. I have to admit, if it weren't for this blog, I probably wouldn't have been so diligent in trying to keep up to standards.

What's really astounded me is how much I think I change the world. Seriously. Prior to this food craze, I didn't do anything good for the myself or for the world. After starting up on the Pollan diet, I've found my energy levels continuing to increase and my weight continuing to decrease, but most importantly, I've started doing things that the pre-Pollan me wouldn't have done. I started volunteering at a homeless shelter, working as a peer tutor, and even advocating for safer cosmetics (and I don't even use makeup). Maybe these things don't have anything to do with my change in diet, but as the saying goes, you are what you eat. I hope that the Pollan ideals that I have been consuming have been the impetus to the actions I have taken.

May 5, 2008

Homecoming

All this talk about Pollan made me wonder what he's up to these days. Pondering this, I went out on a search for him. Turns out he's currently a journalism professor at Berkeley, so I've got no chance of seeing him anytime soon. Oh well, I doubt Pollan's good looking in real life anyway, though I suppose he should be healthy and vibrant consuming his self-made diet. Skipping the tangible, I google-newsed his name and lo-and-behold, he had just made an appearance on the Sydney Morning Herald. That's Sydney as in Sydney, Australia dear readers. That's right. Pollan's message has traveled across seas and flipped hemispheres.

The article is called "Eat, think, and be wary", and follows the usual guidelines about Pollan's views on food and the books that he's written about it. What I found especially interesting were the accompanying pictures. One showed a birds-eye view of Pollan's vegetable garden at his California abode. Pollan is pictured in it, wearing dirty jeans and a long, green tee (haha, I get it, green for the "green movement"), merrily hoeing or racking around some tender lettuce shoots. The whole scene is so idyllic of the Pollan revolution, that is, moving from a fast-paced, fast food world back to an era of slow consumption and working for your next meal.

Pollan says, and many would agree, that one feels better about something if he labors a lot to accomplish it. That's what I really want to get out of this whole Pollan diet experience; the pleasure of eating. Part of that comes from knowing all the ingredients of my meal and feeling good about where they came. Another part comes from that internal giddiness of having made something by yourself. Above all, I just want to enjoy my food.

May 4, 2008

Not exactly apple pie

All along, I've been doing this thing to the Pollan healthy diet by twisting it to fulfill my ethnic needs. Ethnic needs? Am I trying to destroy America by smothering it in the red flag of communism and devour the world's rice supply? Not really. I just want to eat something to tastes like home. To that end, I've been hitting up the chinese bakery, Kaefer Court, on west bank a lot these days.

It's a cute, little place, barely visible to the eye but for the little window showcasing imaginary deserts. Once inside, it resembles a warmer, happier version of Starbucks, except instead of coffee highlights, it's all about the food. Behind a double-thick glass enclave and under yellow-tinted fluorescent lights set rows upon rows of baked goods from wintermelon cakes to sticky rice balls.

Everything costs around $1, so the last time I went, I grabbed four yummy items totaling $5. The owner of the place made everything from scratch so there was little chance I would be chewing on xanthum gum or red #4. Other than that, the entire affair is thoroughly UNhealthy. Even as I sit writing this, the box of delectable treats is leaving grease stains on my table.

Pollan might be a little conflicted about what do with these Chinese delicacies, but I have no doubt. In fact, I'm swallowing a sesame ball right now.

May 3, 2008

The Food of Makeup

I just got my mind blown. You heard me, dear reader, my brain actually detonated and parts are currently orbiting earth as we speak. OK, maybe not that intense, but it sure felt like it. I went to this beauty seminar, and I don't mean one of those, "Are you a spring or summer girl? Summer? OK, I'm going to show you in 5 easy steps how to brighten up your face and rejuvenate your look", it was actually more like a health thing. My friend needed extra credit for her bio class and pulled me along because she didn't want to get bored by herself.

I think she was still bored in the end, but I, like I said, was blown away. The whole thing was sponsored by the U's health and spirituality department, and it was held at the Moo's tower auditorium, which automatically made it seem more credible. The master of ceremonies (or whatever you call the intro person) asked the audience if they had put 5 or more different types of chemicals on their body that day. A few people raised their hands, but then the woman started listing off everything that had chemicals in it, like shampoos, body lotion, perfume, face cleanser, soap, etc. and soon everybody had their hands raised.

She followed up her question with the statement that while the chemicals in individual items are insignificant, after applying 5 or more items, that amount is no longer so small, and can cause major problems such as skin cancer down the line. She let the audience soak up that thought for a moment before introducing a woman who wrote a book on the subject, a women's health advocate and the founder and CEO of Aveda. While the introduction was whatever, her first statement hit me hard. I've always prided myself in not wearing makeup or doing my hair with sprays and mousses because I thought those were the things that were going to ruin my health. Turns out, ordinary items used for cleanliness are actually harming me too.

I sat in silent agony and completely zoned out all the other people talking and asking questions until my friend bumped me to listen to the Aveda guy (because she likes Aveda, not the guy, she doesn't know the guy). What he said sucked my brainy bits back from the troposphere and recoagulated it into one piece. He said, "why not make products that go on your skin out of food? If your body can handle and digest food on the inside, isn't food the safest choice to put on the outside?"

Genius. This is natural living at its peak. From now on, I'll make cucumber and tomato salad, and whatever is left over will be used to wash my face.

OK, not trying to be sarcastic. I think what he said makes sense. From now on, the ingredients list for the food and skincare products I buy will be the same so that I can keep myself healthy, inside and out.

April 29, 2008

The Bottom Line

All this talk about food and health and blah blah blah must have the reader wondering, "why is she doing this?" Good question reader, good question. I'm really not just eating healthy to lose weight or because it's a cool fad. Seriously. If I were that type of person, I would have died 2 years ago in the Atkin's diet meat-raffle-athon.

In all reality, my desire for healthy food and an overall healthy living came after reading a string of muck-racking books (more notably Omnivore's Dilemma and Fast Food Nation) and subsequently hearing about tainted food in grocery stores on the news. I think that's what really sealed the deal.

What I learned from Omnivore's Dilemma was that my consumption was not just hurting my health, but the health of the farming industry, the American economy, and spilling over to the rest of the world. I'm not just against the trans fat and high fructose corn syrup; I'm against the entire agri-military complex. The way that nutrients are sucked dry from the earth and pesticides are drained into lakes are really big issues for a tree-hugger like myself. And although I'm not an animal rights activist, after reading Fast Food Nation's account about what happens in a slaughterhouse, I just feel disgusted thinking about what goes into a mcchicken or a nacho belle grande.

So, dear reader, in short (and diatribe-ish way), this is why I eat healthy, natural food.

April 28, 2008

Chipotle Revisted

So nix everything I said about Chipotle. Soon after my last blog, a Chipotle brand manager came to my marketing class to talk about his company and his job. First off, I need to correct an error; Chipotle has not been a part of McDonald's since 2007. In fact, prior to that, McDonald's was just a venture capitalist with a majority stake in the company, and it never made any management decisions.

And to clarify about Chipotle's food sources. Turns out their suppliers for raw materials from meat and vegetables all the way down to their paper napkins are all natural. Nowadays, the term "natural" is slapped on any company, even Roundy's potato chips say they have all natural flavorings (which is crap-they just keep extracting chemicals from natural sources until there's nothing "natural" left). But Chipotle actually goes to all of its suppliers and does routine checks to make sure no hormones are thrown in chicken feed and no pesticides are sprayed on the avocados. Their napkins are a dirty brown because they refuse to bleach them due to the environmental degradation that causes.

But all this information should be taken with a grain of salt because it is the brand manager of Chipotle telling me all this afterall, and he's the giant burrito in the advertising field. Still, I've changed my mind regarding the healthy-eatability of Chipotle's food. I think that Pollan would approve of their fajitas, although he'd probably only eat half and save the rest for dinner.

April 21, 2008

Have it your way?

Another week, another diet. Now I'm starting up on Subway. I figure I'm not really breaking from Pollan's guidelines because I'm still (a) eating unprocessed food that are (b) mostly plants. Problem is, I'm buying from a franchise which is automatically not local and even though the food is alright, the business model is all wrong.

On a side note, all this healthy food is really getting to me. Yesterday, I went to McDonald's, got a Big n' Tasty and large fries, and my stomach felt like crap literally 20 seconds after swallowing.

Speaking of McDonald's, at least I'm not eating at its subsidiary, Chipotle. It might fit the bill of having local, non-prescriptioned-up chicken, but it's definitely violating the "Not too much food" part of Pollan's mantra. Seriously. Each burrito has over 3,500 calories. Can you get more ridiculous? Plus, when compared to McDonald's business, at least Subway is owned by an association of supposed "Doctors". McDonalds was born out of a failing salesman who basically stole the idea of creating fast hamburgers and ran with it.

So all in all, Subway isn't that bad. Watch out Jared. Here I Come.

Continue reading "Have it your way?" »

March 28, 2008

An Apple a Day

After a month of not-so fastidious adherence to the Pollan mantra of food consumption, I have become sick. I'm not sick of what I am eating (whole foods are still just as delicious), I've actually gotten a series of virus or bacterial diseases. So excuse this entry as I am still in a state of stuffy-nosed, pressurized cranium surliness. My question of the month is why am I getting sick?

I just assumed upon beginning my journey into healthy feeding that I would also develop a healthy life, as in, little to no sickness. The funny thing is, I haven't been this ill so many times in such a short period of time in my entire life. Besides my different choices of food, nothing else has changed. I still live in the same apartment, study the same amount of hours, etc. This problem seemed just too coincidental, but could my healthy eating actually lead to sickness, disease, and mortality?! (Okay, maybe not mortality. That's just my surliness kicking in.)

I set out to solve this mystery, and the first place I stopped was at the scene of the crime, the refrigerator.

First shelf: spinach leaves, iceberg lettuce, carrots;
Second shelf: milk, eggs, ketchup, hotdogs
Fridge: Chicken patties, chicken fingers, espresso coffee ice cream, corndogs

Hmmm...maybe I haven't been so conscientious of my food intake after all. The fridge was full of rehydrogenated crap. Thinking back to last weekend (which is very tiring when your brain is melting at 103 degrees), I remembered the alluring 3 for 1 deal at Cub Foods which inevitably got me to buy a lot of microwavable junk food.

Wait of minute...there's always recalls of microwavable meat; it's either contaminated or has already gone bad...maybe this was Cub Food's diabolical plot to sell off all of its bad inventory. Yeah, probably.

OK, sickness mystery solved. I'm not ill from wonderfully nice, healthy food. I just ate too much tainted meat.

February 5, 2008

A turn of fortune

Eating healthy has not gone as horribly as I thought it would. I’ve begun to realize that it’s not about what you’re eating and more about what you like to eat. Of course, what you like to eat had better fit into Pollan’s rules for eating. So far, this has not been as hard as it might seem. I’m not a junk food person, though I will eat if I see it. Luckily, my penny-pincher ways have saved me from buying any such items. Instead, I went for foods that I’ve enjoyed eating, but am not eating a lot of (for whatever reason).

I’ve recently realized my affinity for yogurt. Crazy as it might sound, I really like plain yogurt. Even crazier, I spent 30 minutes in the dairy section trying to find “real yogurt?. If this had been me last year, I would have picked up the cheapest yogurt and that would be that. But the new me, with my Pollan rules for living, had to find the yogurt with less than five ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup, and still be as cheap as possible. This took the shape of a 32 Fl. Oz. tub of Dannon vanilla yogurt (it was still over $3).

As expected, I got sick of eating turkey, cheese, and lettuce sandwiches pretty quickly. After a while, I would find excuses to throw chunks of it away so that I wouldn’t have to eat anymore of it. That’s when I decided I had to find something better, yet still portable. That got me thinking about Vietnamese sandwiches. (On a sidenote, Quangs on Eat Street is the best Vietnamese restaurant in town) These delicious sandwiches are loaded with carrots, cilantro, pickled daikons, and pork all squished into a loaf of French bread. With some creative thinking, I bought 3 bags of carrots and cilantro, substituted Asian salad dressing for pickled daikons, used ham deli meat for sliced pork, and hot dog buns (made in the Cub Food bakery) to fit everything in. All in all, I spent just over $7 for everything, and best yet, I bought enough to last me at least 2 weeks!

So in a total reversal from last week, I’m starting to think that healthy eating isn’t so hard (or expensive) after all.

January 27, 2008

Grocery Woes

I’m on a diet. The Michael Pollan diet. In his new book, In Defense of Food, Pollan encourages his readers (including me) to “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.? These are the words that I hope to live by, if not for life, at least for this semester.

Last week I went grocery shopping. I think I already violated some hidden Pollan taboo by not shopping at a Trader Joe’s or an outdoor market. Minor setback and not one without excuses. It was freezing, I didn’t have a car, and I’m poor. Hopping the 16 bus, skipping past Wal-Mart and Rainbows, I stop in front of Cub Foods (it’s kind of local). On my abysmally short grocery list I had scribbled bread, milk, cereal, and deli meat. At least there wouldn’t be much room for error. Or so I thought.

Heading into Cub, I refreshed Pollan’s food policies in my head.
Number one, shop the perimeter of the market. This one didn’t seem too bad, until I realized that everything around the perimeter required cooking of some sort. Now readers beware, I am neither lazy nor incompetent in the culinary arts. I merely do not have the physical devices needed for cooking. Namely, I don’t have any pots or pans. With some quick thinking, I pulled down two bags of lettuce and some carrots. Just rinse and eat. Plus, they’re plants.

Onto food policy number two; don’t buy anything with more than five ingredients. Crap. I had just reached the cereal aisle. The ingredients lists were at least 20 items long. I compensated by choosing the most healthy-looking cereal with multi-grain flakes and vanilla clusters. It can even reduce my cholesterol. Crap. Forgot about policy number three; don’t buy food that makes health claims.

After grabbing some whole grain bread (I know its enriched flour, but wheat tastes horrible) and some milk (it’s not organic, but it’s local…I think), I’m finally almost done. The only thing left is deli meat. Heeding Pollan’s words, I bypass the meat in boxes and head for the deli counter. One look at the price, and I’m tempted to go back to the Lunchables. $6.99 for a pound of turkey meat? I suck it up and buy it, along with all my over items for a grand total of $45.

Wait a minute. Let’s recap. I bought milk, meat, bread, cereal, 2 heads of lettuce, and bag of baby carrots. That’s 7 things for $45 that will be gone in one week. In a month, I will be spending more than $135 on food, and that’s not taking into account whether I can stand eating sandwiches everyday for that long.

Not exactly a great start to my dietary planning. Pollan’s diet better be leading me to a healthy and revitalized body to account for the gash in my wallet. We’ll see soon enough.