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Flow Dojo book review and summary: Food Rules by Michael Pollan

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

I must admit my bias up front - ever since reading the Botany of Desire I have been a big Michael Pollan fan. His book In Defense of Food was a deep dive into the confusion and failures of nutrition science. Specifically, the giant misstep that we took when we began talking about food in terms of nutrients - the reductionist approach. Mr. Pollan summarizes his nutritional advice in 7 words, "Eat food, mostly plants, not too much". Food Rules is a very short (the audio book is less than 90 minutes) expansion of those 7 words with 64 different 'rules' regarding how to: 1. Eat Food, 2. Mostly Plants, and 3. Not Too Much.

Top takeaways for me - summary notes of the Book:

- The simplicity of the book is the point. We have made our diet complicated. Start with the Professor Pollan's first section - 1. Eat Food. Eating processed foods is what is killing us. The author refers to 'Food' as something that your Grandmother would recognize. So in the first section of the book the rules are around how to reduce processed food in your diet. Examples include:

- avoid foods with more than 5 ingredients

- stay out of the middle of the super market

- don't eat anything advertised on TV

- avoid foods with ingredients that a 3rd grader can't pronounce

- don't eat anything that makes health claims (because those claims must be on a package!)

apple vs doughnut
What are ultra-processed foods and are they bad for our health?

The second section of the book - 2. Mostly Plants - suggests that we eat too much meat. Mr. Pollan doesn't push for us to be vegetarians but rather 'flexitarians'. I thought that Michael Pollan came up with 'flexitarian' but it turns out that it was awarded 'the most useful' term in 2004 by the American Dialect Society. The 'flex' refers to occasional eating of meat rather than eating meat as a main course meal. Examples include:

- Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasional food

- Milk is a food, not a beverage

- Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of your milk

- The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead

Junk food
Why do we feed children junk like this?

The third section of the book - 3. Not too much - almost seems un-American! Everything about us is too much - like this most American 'sport'. Examples include:

- Eat when you're hungry, not when you're bored

- Don't get your fuel from the same place that your car does

- Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper

- Its OK to be a little hungry

Overall, the book is cute and the simplicity of it is the point. If you want the 'meatier' version then check out In Defense of Food by the same author. Complex nutritional advice has made a lot of people rich and a lot more people sick. The route to health is not some new supplement or energy powder - just real, unprocessed foods.

This is where I make my pitch to help you. I started Flow Dojo fitness and training because I love empowering people to feel healthy and happy. Let's work together to achieve your wellness goals. I'm a certified behavior change specialist as well as a personal trainer and instructor of martial arts, pilates, yoga, and meditation. Let me help you find your Flow.

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