There are many dilemmas to the Western* way of life and mindset, and to me, a primary problem is the desire to neatly break-down and categorize things that are interconnected. Another issue of the “Western way,” if you will, is the desire for quick and easy fixes – instant gratification. For example, if someone is struggling with depression, often they will be prescribed an anti-depressant rather than addressing the issue from a holistic approach that examines mind, body, and spirit.
Therefore, I value Michael Pollan’s integrated approach to food. He offers no quick fixes or outrageous promises (“Lose 15lbs in 15 days!”) but he does make a strong case against the Western diet and the food industry and so-called science that supports it. And, thankfully, he offers an alternative to the Western diet other than subsisting off hunting and gathering.
Pollan emphasizes the need to not only examine what nutrients (vitamins, minerals, calories, grams of fat, sugar, etc) one consumes, but also in what form they are consumed (whole foods, processed foods, canned, peeled, etc), how they are consumed (three main meals, small samplings throughout the day, what order, what speed, etc) and even who they are consumed with (alone, friends, the TV). Then, of course, to examine one’s health we must also take into account their levels of physical activity, role in a community, mental state, spirituality and heredity.
So it’s easy to see why issues of food and health become difficult to study. There are countless variables. Pollan argues that the reductionist scientific method (a prime example of Western modernity) used by many nutritionists have come to erroneous conclusions because of their focus on only one aspect of something as complex as food and health.