New Rules

The Gist:

  • For a year of my life I lived by some pretty helpful rules.
  • I’m reviving the experiment in preparation for my next marathon and to apply what some of my students are learning about food.
  • Once a week, I’ll be writing about my progress here.
  • Many of the rules this time around are from Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.

The Whole Deal:

When I turned 27, I set some rules for myself.

I’d moved to Philly in a whirlwind the Fall before and still hadn’t regained my bearings in life. The rules were social and wellness based. I eliminated high-fructose corn syrup, I pledged to run 27 races within one calendar year, I worked to cut my use of plastics as much as possible, etc.

It worked. I felt better and life gained some semblance of order.

That year, I ran both the Philadelphia and Chicago marathons within a few weeks of each other. That was a mistake.
Chicago was one of the sunniest, hottest races I’ve run. In Philadelphia, we had to be careful at the water stops because the spilt water had created ice patches on the course. I didn’t really run for a year after.

Now, I’m signed up for the Ocean Drive Marathon in my attempt to get to 10 marathons in 10 years.
Add to that the disjointedness of my eating habits since returning from Africa, and it’s time for new rules.

Not one to do anything boring, I’m adopting Michael Pollan’s rules from In Defense of Food:

  1. Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  2. Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar, B) unpronounceable, C) more than five in number, or that include D) high-fructose corn syrup.
  3. Avoid products that make health claims.
  4. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay our of the middle.
  5. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.

I’ll also be running every other day w/ the ole Nike+ attached to my iPod to keep track of my ramp up to the race (and those that follow).

As of right now, that’s all I’m working with. I’m open to any suggestions.

The plan is to blog once a week on how it’s all working out. I realized it’s going to be a bit of an adjustment when I couldn’t put the pre-shredded cheese on my eggs this morning.

Tim Best and Matt VanK worked with our seniors on a food unit throughout most of the first quarter. I’m hoping to pick up where they left off and explore the applications of what they learned.

3 thoughts on “New Rules

  1. Good luck. I’ll be following your progress.

    I have decided to set some similar goals for my food intake/activity as well. My goal is to get on my bike more, hitting the century mark by Labor Day 2010. I’ve never done this before, especially paying such close attention to my food, and I’m sure it will prove to be very challenging at the onset.

    I’m not sure if you’ve checked out the social aspect of, but it allows you to publish goals, research, and connect with others trying to accomplish similar things.

    Best of luck.

  2. I love rules, and I think your rules are awesome. I would also like to encourage you to eat locally and seasonally. Perhaps look into a food co-op or a CSA in your area. Eating organically, while more expensive than eating conventionally, is 100% worth it in the end. It’s easy to eat local and organic if you find a CSA that fits both. Following the seasons is foreign to Americans.

    I don’t have babies yet, but I think to myself, “Would I give my perfect, untarnished baby something with chemicals in it when I DON’T HAVE TO?” (We have so much knowledge and so many options now!) The answer: never,never, ever. So, why would I want to put those chemicals in my own body? I got all upset talking about this with Buck the other day on the El. =) Yep- the El.

  3. I haven’t read that book, but those seem like some pretty stringent rules! Despite our home-cooked nightly family dinners, one week on even one of those would probably spell failure for me.

    Overall, I think #1 and #5 are the most doable. As for #2, a strict interpretation would rule out even homemade bread and vegetable stew or stir-fry made from scratch! I get the point on #3, but even pork – which has one ingredient and which your grandmother would almost certainly have recognized – makes health claims (think of the effectiveness of “The Other White Meat” campaign). Not all health claims are necessarily false.

    Similarly, not sure how effective following #4 hard and fast would be. Again, I get the supposed point that much of the processed junk is in the middle (except for the deli which is LOADED with ick). But in the lean winter months in Ohio, we eat lots of store brand low-sodium canned corn (for example). At 30 to 50 cents a can, it’s way cheaper and easier than buying corn on the cob and freezing or canning it myself (which my mom used to do). Nutritionally, it has very little sodium, sugar, or fat plus a decent amount of dietary fiber. Sure, eating fresh is better and tastier – and we make whole meals of mouth-watering corn on the cob in August and September! – but fresh fare grown in Ohio is non-existent from December through March.

    Rules certainly have their place, especially to heighten awareness of bad habits and promote change. But I think label reading, nutritional education, and balance, along with sustained efforts toward healthy eating which do NOT make you feel deprived are all key to life-long healthy habits.

    I’ll be following your progress and cheering you on – and angst-ing over what the heck to cook for you if you get back to Ohio for a visit! (-;

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