In the essay “Escape from the Western Diet”, an excerpt from the book “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto”, Michael Pollan pitches in on the debate regarding the dietary regime of Western culture. Pollan brings into equation various theories on how the Western diet has led to our society becoming one of the unhealthiest countries in the world. He also asserts his own position on the topic while briefly responding to each individual theory. So what is the principal blame for the diseases and illnesses associated with consuming a Westernized diet?
Theories are wide and lasting: overabundances or deficiencies of certain nutrients; industrial processing; environmental issues; the Western world’s implementation on the raising of crops and cattle; just to name a few. In the end however, as Pollan put it, “they are only theories…of an empirical phenomenon” and thus, should be viewed as such. Whatever the reason for our diet being as insalubrious as it may be, one thing is clear, at least in Pollan’s mind: we need to “stop eating a Western diet.”
When it comes to the topic of nutrition and eating habits, most of us will readily agree with Pollan in the instance that we as Americans are perhaps the worst offenders. To be honest, it’s quite hard to disagree with him here. Whether stereotypical or not, staples of the Western diet emit a worldwide assumption that we are a burger-eating, soda-drinking, donut-devouring nation; all unhealthy foods might I add. Is this the case for everyone? Of course not, but that’s one of the ways citizens of the United States are negatively perceived.
It’s also difficult to argue with Pollan’s desire for wanting to escape the Western diet. We are after all, a nation succumbed by a great many diseases, and our diet is a major contributor to such. While I agree with Pollan up to a certain extent, this agreement ends on the solution he believes we should take in order to secure a more salubrious lifestyle.
Pollan makes reference to Dr. Denis Burkitt and the theory of how we should return “back to the bush” in order to cure disease. In other words, this essentially means that we should return to “the diet and lifestyle of our ancestors.” While Pollan states that this is an unattractive strategy for combating the Western diet—and I support that claim—I would say that his own intentions aren’t far off from Burkitt’s theory. Pollan sums up his plan in just seven short words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” This sounds relatively simple, but how hands-on is...