A subtle change in emphasis, you might say, but a world of difference just the same. First, the stark message to "eat less" of a particular food has been deep-sixed; don’t look for it ever again in any official U.S. dietary pronouncement. Second, notice how distinctions between entities as different as fish and beef and chicken have collapsed; those three venerable foods, each representing an entirely different taxonomic class, are now lumped together as delivery systems for a single nutrient. Notice too how the new language exonerates the foods themselves; now the culprit is an obscure, invisible, tasteless — and politically unconnected — substance that may or may not lurk in them called "saturated fat."Pollan adds that the head of the Committee, George McGovern lost his next Senate election:
[T]he beef lobby helped rusticate the three-term senator, sending an unmistakable warning to anyone who would challenge the American diet, and in particular the big chunk of animal protein sitting in the middle of its plate. Henceforth, government dietary guidelines would shun plain talk about whole foods, each of which has its trade association on Capitol Hill, and would instead arrive clothed in scientific euphemism and speaking of nutrients, entities that few Americans really understood but that lack powerful lobbies in Washington. This was precisely the tack taken by the National Academy of Sciences when it issued its landmark report on diet and cancer in 1982. Organized nutrient by nutrient in a way guaranteed to offend no food group, it codified the official new dietary language. Industry and media followed suit, and terms like polyunsaturated, cholesterol, monounsaturated, carbohydrate, fiber, polyphenols, amino acids and carotenes soon colonized much of the cultural space previously occupied by the tangible substance formerly known as food. The Age of Nutritionism had arrived.Did you know the politics of why we're so fat and sickly? It's McGovern's fault! Everyone started scarfing down Snackwell’s and pasta. Later, reacting to that disaster, everyone freaked out about carbohydrates and went on the Atkins diet.
By framing dietary advice in terms of good and bad nutrients, and by burying the recommendation that we should eat less of any particular food, it was easy for the take-home message of the 1977 and 1982 dietary guidelines to be simplified as follows: Eat more low-fat foods. And that is what we did. We’re always happy to receive a dispensation to eat more of something (with the possible exception of oat bran), and one of the things nutritionism reliably gives us is some such dispensation: low-fat cookies then, low-carb beer now.In the end, the advice is to eat real food and to eat less. Actually, he's got 9 points of advice at the end -- well worth reading -- but it's mainly eat real food and eat less.
Interesting idea: "the Okinawans practiced a principle they called 'Hara Hachi Bu': eat until you are 80 percent full." Funny! I don't think Americans could even grasp the concept of identifying the 80 percent point. It's hard enough for us to notice the point at which we are full. We don't even know how to be put off by the gross portions that are set down in front of us in restaurants.
When I go to steakhouses here in Madison, I always order the smallest size -- "petite" -- and it's 6 ounces. I never want to eat the whole thing, and then I feel silly bringing home a 3 ounce portion. But, you know, 3 ounces is considered -- by some official standard -- to be one portion of meat. So I go to a restaurant, order the dinky size, and it's a double portion. It's very hard to develop common sense about how much to eat under such conditions. If you pay $30 for a steak, you don't want to leave $15 worth of it! You push yourself to eat even though you aren't hungry, and it becomes second nature.