Gullible’s Travels: Our Puritan Dilemma

Americans obsess about food, and marketers feed off that obsession. It’s an unhealthy cycle that needs to end, Michael Pollan says.

By Denise Gee

Photography by Spencer J. Eggers


In the meantime, he offers these survival tips, proven effective over the centuries, known the world over to be true, learned from families and communities: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” he says. “And have a relaxed attitude about food. Don’t be a fanatic.” Oscar Wilde had a wonderful amendment to the saying about all things in moderation, he says: “ ‘All things in moderation, including moderation.’ That’s the sum total of food wisdom.”

Pollan's Food Rules

• “Avoid products containing ingredients a third-grader can’t pronounce.”

• “Don’t buy any foods you’ve ever seen advertised on television.”

• “Just imagine your grandmother, or your great-grandmother depending on your age, as you’re rolling down the aisle in the supermarket. If she would not recognize something as a food, it’s not a food.”

• “Shop the perimeter of the store. That’s where the live food lives.”

• “Don’t eat until you’re full. Eat until you’re satisfied. The Japanese have a rule called hara hachi bu, which means, “eat until you’re 80 percent full.” That’s a radically un-American idea. But if we adopted this, and had our children do the same, the positive results would be profound.”

• “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not really hungry.”

• “Do all your eating at a table. And no, a desk is not a table.”