I picked up In Defense of Food because I had heard a lot about Michael Pollan, the book’s author, and his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I think what sucked me in about the book was that it’s not just about the problems we face with food production and nutrition in the United States, but it’s about the process of how we got to where we are today, and a look at where we came from in the past. He provides a background of how industrialization and politics have shaped what we produce and consume, but he also talks about what can be learned from anthropological studies of people all over the world from all types of consumption models and even dental studies that demonstrate how food impacts our health. As a former anthropology student, I absolutely loved that open, cross-cultural perspective. I never felt like the book was about proving some particular point or pushing people towards a particular decision about the way they eat or consume in general, but about awareness of where we are and where we came from.
In Defense of Food changed the way that I see food. Today, I don’t always make wise decisions about my own eating and consumption, but in general I definitely think more about the impact to my body, my health, my abilities, in terms of what I put in it.
I read this book at a time when I was trying to figure out if life was just what I saw happening around me. Not to sound dramatic, but I think reading and considering this book was for me a beginning step in reframing the way I saw my life, what are options in the society I live in, and how I could take control of what I will or will not be a part of. Reframing how I saw food, which was sort of big for me as someone who has always loved eating and cooking, and shifting my diet accordingly, taught me that change was possible. That taking care of yourself and pursuing the type of life you want is possible. In learning to eat healthier and seeing and feeling changes that resulted, I felt more motivated to push myself in my physical endeavors. Seeing successes there helped me feel better physically and feel mentally tougher — strong enough to take other steps to push for more control of my personal/social life, my career, my happiness. So for me, it was life changing. It’s not a self-help book, and it doesn’t read like one. But like most good books, it has the potential to help you see things a little differently. And sometimes that’s all it takes.