This one is a pleasure to review. And to read as well. Darya Pino Rose, “PhDork” (neuroscience), is the blogger-proprietor of Summer Tomato, which over a few years now has been the only foodist blog I check out anymore. She does science well, spurns “Conventional Wisdom” (hint: saturated fat and cholesterol), and simply has a true and abiding love of good, real food.
…A cool, sassy sense of humor, too—and she let’s a dirty word slip in now & then.
Plus, she’s up in San Francisco, so I often get to read of familiar references, like to certain restaurants, the most awesomest in the whole world Farmers Market at the Ferry Building, and of local producers of quality meats, seafood, and produce. Plenty of wonderful pictures of various arrays of colorful, in-season, local organic fruits and vegetables too—which almost makes me want to try one, some day.
She’s the only PhD scientist who addresses me “dude,” or “homie.” I first came across her work just over three years ago when she was still working on finishing up that dork degree and she took just a bit of a swipe at Paleo on her blog. If you check out the comments you’ll see a number of familiar names & faces defending Paleo, including myself. You’ll also see appreciation for what most everyone regarded as a pretty balanced & fair piece, and she handled it all well.
Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting carries into book form what Darya has emphasized and promoted on her blog all along. Most simply? Ya gotta enjoy yur life, dude! So rather than a restrictive diet and exercise plan of any sort, how about falling in love with stellar real food, become competent in its preparation, enjoy the hell out of it and just move around a lot more because you’ve got the energy?
Of course, sentences are sentences and a whole book is a whole book. There will probably be a number of foodist types of reviews when this is all said and done, so for my part, I thought I’d compare and contrast it with what’s generally though of as “Paleo.”
She really hits all of the most important Paleo elements well, including:
- No need to count calories when you’re eating real food (do I really need to explain what that means?) and being sensible about it.
- It’s not a “diet” to say that you avoid industrial processed crap loaded with refined grains, refined sugar and machinery lubricant. It’s called “eating real food.”
- We’re omnivores, and there’s no one-size-fits-all mix because humans migrated to different places, evolved under different conditions, environments, sources of food.
- Food is social: in the hunting and gathering, and in the preparation and enjoyment.
- Processed “food” is in quotes for a reason.
A few comparison/contrasts:
- Paleos shun all grains, with allowances given by some for rice (“safe starches”). The foodist shuns all ground flours and their baked goods, and is skeptical of wheat and other gluten grains. Whole grains means whole, not ground.
- Paleos shun all beans & lentils. The foodist insists they are good for you but should always be prepared in the traditional manner of soaking.
- Paleos shun some dairy but the vast majority are fine with the fat faction (butter/ghee, cheese, cream, etc.) and/or fermented derivatives (yogurt, kefir). The foodist is pretty similar on this one.
- Paleos are primarily about nutritionally dense spoils of the hunt: animals—both land and sea—their meat, organs, fat. Plant matter is either to bide time and slow energy loss until the next successful hunt or, a way to enhance the enjoyment of animals. The foodist is afraid of none of the foregoing, but is more about the gathering of plant sources of food, and where the animals are to enhance the enjoyment of those.
- Both are often passionately into excellent quality, eating in season, eating locally, organic practices, humaine practices for animals (including pasture, free range, grass feeding, wild caught, etc.) and knowing from whom and from where your food is coming.
Those familiar with the Weston A. Price Foundation and its work might be familiar with many similar comparisons and contrasts between them and Paleo, and is a primary reason we all get along pretty well.
The book is divided into three parts:
- Healthstyle (the theory or philosophy of it all). This is the sort of manifesto where Darya lays out her first principles, including: don’t diet, so “willpower” is not an issue, so you can eat this way sustainably for the rest of your life, so you can improve your body composition naturally…because it’s all just natural common sense and so easy a caveman could do it.
- Getting Started (practice follows theory). This is the nuts & bolts practical where the reader would do things like assess themselves for a couple of weeks, learn what real food is, learn how to shop and prepare it, learn how to eat it mindfully, develop simple and elegant habits, be active and move around, and troubleshoot problems along the way.
- The Daily Foodist (practice in a social context). This is where you deal with things like the office, restaurants, social events, winning friends and family over to a foodist healthstyle. The final chapter is a very nice touch on simply developing the values or convictions within yourself that renders your new way of life fulfilling, satisfying, healthful.
The book is arranged with dozens of sidebars featuring everything from a recipe here and there, to various lists of things you can do to….better achieve some desired step along the way. Two I particularly liked were lists of the most overrated foods (processed yogurt, soy, egg whites, margarine, bananas, processed meat, protein bars, whole-grain flour, low-fat salad dressing, and fruit juice), and the most underrated foods (oysters, sauerkraut & kimchi, dark organ meats, seaweed, egg yolks, beans & lentils, root vegetables, coffee, hard cheese, mushrooms). Pretty damn fine, I’d say.
OK, here’s a few quibbles:
- I found some of the tips & tricks here and there to be a bit eye rolling; perhaps just me, but as I’ve blogged many times, I don’t do “The 10 Ways to X” posts because you invariably end up looking somewhat like a nursery school teacher. On the other hand…
- There’s a chapter on getting out and moving, including hitting the gym. I love half of it, hate the other half. I love the NEAT (nonexercise activity thermogenesis—just do stuff) part and the walking part (get a pedometer, make a fun challenge out of it). I hate the aerobics and weightlifting parts. If you NEAT and walk a lot, aerobics (including running) are unnecessary for one, fucking boring for two, and potentially harmful for three—and especially at the rates suggested and especially as you get older. A sprint or a short run occasionally is plenty. The weightlifting is just all wrong. Get Starting Strength or Body By Science. That said, this is a food book and so this is a minor quibble on that contextual score alone.
- I noticed one instance of an f-bomb in the book and was dismayed to see that it wasn’t indexed, a gross oversight.
As a final thought and with all respect to Michael Pollan, whose two books I have on my Kindle but have not gotten around to reading, I have the sense that I no longer need to.
If you want a fun, sassy read about the love of food and a life that makes it a celebrated centerpiece rather than a drug, burden, or taboo, then grab yourself a copy of Foodist and consider recommending or gifting copies to those you feel would be more attracted to this than to Paleo.