Ok, so this falls under the embarrassing category of, “Well, if Oprah says it, I should pay attention…”  A while back, the daytime diva interviewed Michael Pollan, journalist, activist, professor and author of In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and most recently, Food Rules. The show focused, in part, on the documentary film Food, Inc. which was released in 2008.

It’s not that the concept of examining what we eat is new; it’s more that many of us (me included) are uncomfortable examining it too closely. It’s kind of like knowing that body lice & dust mites exist and just not really wanting to know about them at all. It’s sometimes easier to live in willful ignorance. Well, after cracking the spine on my copy of In Defense of Food and watching parts of Food, Inc. I’m finding it increasingly challenging to ignore the message. The question is what to do about it?

The movie explores (exposes?) the dark side of the American food industry but having a Canadian address doesn’t mean we’re off the hook. The American model of food production is exported and copied all over the world.

Michael Pollan’s message can be summed up in a few key quotes:

“Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”
“Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
“Eat only foods that will eventually rot” (He’s looking at you, Twinkie!).

It’s empowering to “vote with our forks”, Pollan says. “We get three votes a day. You don’t need to get every one of them right, but if you do get one right a day (by choosing sustainable or humanely grown food) you will change the food system.”

Pollan articulates one of his central arguments and one I find compelling to use against the “organic food is more expensive” argument: “I think we need to recognize that cheap food has a very high cost, in terms of health and the environment. That cost is getting paid by other people, by the public health system. That’s part of the problem and the disconnect. I think that’s where there’s a disconnect, between what you pay for a cheap, fast-food meal, and the ultimate price of eating that way.”

What can you do now?

  • Get informed & involved (read and view other documentaries on the subject, like the powerful Our Daily Bread).
  • Buy organic or sustainable food
  • Go without meat at least once a week (and when you do eat meat, be picky about finding “grass-fed beef”)
  • Read labels, carefully and know where your food comes from
  • Drink more water, less soda
  • Support companies that treat workers, animals and the environment with respect

The bottom line is that we need to be more conscious of what we’re eating and how it reaches our grocery stores. As well, changes will need to be made at a national level in how we support our farmers. It needs to become a mainstream issue and not just a concern of activists and “foodies”. It’s all about transparency and education. What you don’t know can affect you.

The same attitude can certainly be applied to the beauty industry. Cheap cosmetics are cheap for a reason – generally because the ingredients are cheap (and hence ineffective if not highly questionable) and/or the manufacturing is cheap (and hence employees could be getting the shaft).

It is all connected isn’t it?

Here’s to being mindful of what we put in & on our bodies.

Be beautiful. Feel good about it.

Sources: oprah.com | Mark Bittman | Michael Pollan | gremolata.com | certifiedhumane.org