Not too much. The last of Michael Pollan’s rules for health and happiness is probably the least welcome. Truth be told, I’m greedy, and food is a crutch I use when I’m sad, frustrated, flat, bored, tired….
Eating food, mostly plants will set you on a path to good health and wellbeing, but there are many documented health benefits of also eating less. Eating too much is linked to an increase in cell division (most dramatically in cancer cells), increases production of free radicals and promotes inflammation. Eating less has also been shown to slow ageing and prolong life.
Michael Pollan talks a lot about traditional eating, and he’s not just referring to what people in traditional cultures eat, but also, how they eat. The French are renowned for their slim waistlines, and the reason for this is the relationship they have to their food. They eat most of their meals with other people, take longer to eat meals and seldom snack. They eat smaller portions and never have seconds. So despite eating meals that are fatty and rich, French people are generally slim and healthy.
Eating together at the table bestows many important benefits besides helping to moderate our food intake. It is a way that we socialize our children, share stories from our day and enjoy each other’s company uninterrupted. Chatting over dinner helps us to slow our eating, and give our bodies a chance to register when we’re fully satiated.
As a child I was expected to eat everything on my plate, and now as an adult I find it difficult to leave anything at mealtimes. Even when I’m bursting at the seams I will still shovel in the last few spoonfuls. I’ve learnt to ignore my body’s cues to stop (“I feel sick” “Please, no more”) and power on regardless. By taking more time over my meals, and being more mindful of each bite, I’m trying to retrain myself to listen to my body.
A few other suggestions to help:
~ Do all your eating at a table. (No, a desk is not a table)
~ Try not to eat alone
~ Serve smaller portions on smaller plates
~ Eat slowly
“In Defence of Food” is an inspiring read and has dramatically altered the way I approach food. “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much” is a mantra I return to when I find myself hungry in the supermarket and reaching for junk food. Michael Pollan is an eloquent and witty writer, and I strongly recommend you grab a copy.