Conscious Eating: Oprah’s Interview with Michael Pollan
Recently I watched an interview with Michael Pollan, Oprah and Bestselling Author Michael Pollan: Mindful Eating (Ep. 606, 29 March, 2015).
The information shared was philosophical, insightful and worth writing down. Pollen demonstrates a kind and thoughtful approach to healthy eating, one that aims to help the planet, treat animals and farm workers more humanely, and ultimately to improve our health and wellness.
Below, I have transcribed the parts of the interview that made the greatest impression on me. It’s absolutely worth sitting down to give your full attention to watching this video.
Note: I’ve done my best to transcribe word-for-word. I’ve put anything Pollan said inside quotation marks, even if not a perfect transcription, including where I chose to shorten and paraphrase. I’ve used italics for my own notes.
- Eat food
- Not too much
- Mostly plants
On mindful or consciousness eating
“We affect nature more through our eating choices than anything else we do”
“We know too much in one sense about food, from anti-nutrients to omega-3 fatty acids. We don’t need to be biochemists in order to eat. People have eaten for thousands of years without knowing anything about nutritional science.”
“Eating is our most profound engagement with the natural world and it happens on our plate. When we eat we’re taking nature into our bodies. We are changed by what we eat, and in turn we change what we have eaten.”
“Food creates relationships between us, the plants and animals that we eat, and the people who grow and harvest our food, to the slaughterhouse and butcher who cuts up our meets.”
“This is what is invisible to many of us because our eating is often a thoughtless process.”
“Three times per day we get to express our values through food. What we choose to eat and what not to eat is one of the ways we get to embody what we care about. This is a great power.”
“Do you chose to eat animals or not? Do you want to eat in a way that supports the environment, i.e. for clean air and water, etc., do you case about labour and the people who feed us and how they are treated?”
“All this begs a very important question, Where does our food come from? This may seem silly, but less than a hundred years ago people knew where their food came from. They probably walked by the farm that grew the crops they ate, or bought meat direct from the farmer.”
Why do kids eat differently than adults?
“There was never a separate kids menu. This is a recent invention which is usually not healthy. Kids used to eat the same meals as adults.”
Pollan isn’t pushing a prescription for how to eat. He says that would be arrogant of him because he doesn’t know enough to tell every person how they should eat. Instead, he offers the open question:
“Just think about (what you’re eating). Be conscious of that. Realize that it’s a momentous decision. It’s also an incredibly empowering decision.”
Everything we do affects the planet
“We all make a carbon footprint whether we want to or not.”
“This is an empowering decision because you can decide to support one kind of a world or another. This depends on what you value, e.g. the environment or the welfare of animals, the livelihood of farmers, not using pesticides, etc. We now opportunities to express these values when we shop at the grocery store, whether for example we choose, organic, local, or humane.”
On Cooking and his new book, Cooked
“Home cooking is not happening the way it used to. On average we only cook 27 minutes per day (with 4 minutes cleaning up). We’re letting corporations cook our food. This is at the heart of many of the health issues we’re facing today: the obesity epidemic, and type II diabetes.”
“These things are the result of letting industry cook for us because they don’t cook very well. They use way too much, salt, fat and sugar. And they engineer the food to get you to eat too much of it. That’s how they make more money; the more they can get you to eat. They’re not interested in your satisfaction at the table, they’re interested in your cravings.”
“Sugar, salt, and fat layered together is an irresistible combination, with the potato chip being a great example.”
“The meal is a kind of communion; a spiritual gathering. Food brings people together; friends, family, enemies. Love is at the heart of cooking.”
“Think back to your grandparents. How much of their love was expressed to you in what they cooked for you.”
“Any act of cooking is a gift; and act of giving.”
On being Zen in the kitchen
“Just be while cooking. Be in the moment. Don’t worry about the future or the past. Be present and enjoy the experience. In the kitchen you can reclaim the present. Let yourself enjoy it. Let the world slip away. No need to be rushed in the kitchen.”
“This sense of panic about time is part of what’s driven us from the kitchen.”
Meals are sacred occasions and we should take them more seriously. We find meaning in our food, but we’re giving this up. We’re eating at the gas station, on the run, at the fast food restaurant, or by ourselves. Pollan says that close to 46% of meals are eaten alone in America today.
By eating in this way we’re giving up the social component, and we’re giving up the connection with nature.
“So many good things come from cooking your own meals. If you’re cooking your own food, you don’t have to count calories. You don’t have to read ingredient labels because you’ll know what you’re eating.”
“People who eat home cooked food eat a healthy diet.”
“There’s a lot of research to support this, i.e. we would never cook with as much salt or sugar as a company would. Nor would we make the labour intensive but irresistible foods like french fries every day. You won’t bake or made dessert every night; maybe once a week.”
“There is something build into the nature of cooking that will take care of your health.”
Pollan’s Top Food Rules
- Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans.
- Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
- Eat only foods that will eventually rot.
- don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
What does it take to become a more conscious eater?
“Cook. When you cook you’re forced to be conscious of the food you’re working with. For example, the time it took to grow the vegetables, the piece of meat you’re handling is actually the muscle from an animal that was killed for you.”
“Think about your food when eating. Where did it come from? Who grew those vegetables? The animal you’re eating died for you. Some will call this grace, I will call it conscious reflection.”
On the humane treatment of animals
“Animals that are stressed at the slaughter house release all sorts of stress hormones which make the meat taste bad. Animals (and the slaughter-house workers) that have been treated humanely will taste much better.”
“We need to rethink our relationship with the natural world. We are seeing what’s wrong with our world right now, based on how we have lost our connection with nature.”
The biggest wound in the world
“Cruelty is based on a failure of empathy. Cruelty is based on putting up filters in the forms of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.”
I highly recommend that you make the time in your schedule to watch this video. It will open your mind, your consciousness, about the power you express with every food choice you make.
Eat healthy to be well.
Title image credit: Oprah.com