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You Are What You Eat

Essay by   •  January 3, 2011  •  2,319 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,084 Views

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When reading the article entitled “Unhappy Meals” by Michael Pollan, the reader is presented with various types of claims about the food that we, as the general public, eat. He asserts that we are now presented with so many options pertaining to our food that we no longer know what to eat. He further states that as society has progressed, along with making great technological advances, we are now presented with “other edible food-like substances”(par 2) that greatly cloud the knowledge of what the average consumer knows to be “real food.” The average consumer no longer can meander into the supermarket and pick up anything off the shelves and know for a fact that it is real food. Pollan states that even since our downward spiral into the pit of ignorance about what our food is and what it went through to get to us we have allowed ourselves to be swayed by the never-ending barrage o nutritional claims made by health scientists and nutritionists alike. New вЂ?cures’ and вЂ?preventative’ diets are constantly being discovered and then disproven. Through these nutrition trends the general public has been made aware of individual nutrients and has riveted their attention upon them rather than the meal as a whole. Pollan points out that the “most basic question about what to eat”(par 6) has become so unnecessarily complicated and offers to a solution to the problem. That solution is basically the title of his article, just a little more in depth. His answer to this nation-wide dilemma is to “eat more food, not too much, and mostly plants”(par 2).

According to Pollan, this transition from food to nutrients is a fairly recent one. This precarious change began in the 1980s and has only gained momentum as time has progressed. The shelves in our supermarkets that used to be full of “recognizable comestible(s)”(par 7) have now been quite thoroughly replaced with “brightly colored packages…(that bring into play) new terms like вЂ?fiber,вЂ™Ð²Ð‚¦Ð²Ð‚™cholesterol’ and вЂ?saturated fatsвЂ™Ð²Ð‚Ñœ(par 7). Seeing the bright new packaging has thrown consumers for a loop as they try to filer through the fog of confusion that the government and nutritionist s have created. He states that while there is no “single event (that) marked the shift from eating food to eating nutrients (par 8), there have been several events that have largely contributed to this change. An example of one of these previously mentioned events is when a Senate Select Committee on Nutrition observed that “ traditional diets based largely on plants had strikingly low rates of chronic disease”(par 8) while that rate of coronary heart disease in America “soared since World War II”(par 9). In an attempt to educate the general public and to stifle this upsetting trend, the committee issued a document entitled “Dietary Goals for the United States.” Throughout these guidelines the committee urged the public to “’reduce their consummation of meatвЂ™Ð²Ð‚Ñœ(par 9). This, however, was not taken well by the red-meat and dairy industries and it was later altered to read; “choose meats, poultry and fish that will reduce saturated-fat intake”(par 9). This, according to Pollan was a pivotal turning point in the history of our nation that is a part of the beginning of an era he likes to call “The Age Of Nutritionism”(par 12).

Throughout this article, Pollan uses several different claims to establish his philosophy about the dilemma we are facing as a country and to provide the reader with a solution to this dilemma. Pollan first defines the problem that we, as a country, are facing. He states that we are now facing a dilemma of what to eat because we now have too many choices. “Once food was all (we) could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances”(par 2) that span the shelves in our supermarkets and are vying for our attention. This presents a major problem because the consumer now no longer knows what is the best food choice to make. When defining the problem in this light Pollan is a very powerful persuader. He defines the problem as not being the consumer’s fault. The underlying theme in what he is saying is that the nationwide dilemma we face today about eating unhealthy and not being satisfied is not caused by the consumer but by the people in charge of major corporation food industries. Therefore, the reader is not burdened by any guilt that would be the result of Pollan presenting this problem in a different light as to say that the consumer is at fault due to their poor food choices. He instead lays the blame at the doorstep of the major food industries and distributors. In doing so, he provokes the reader to view them in the same light as an unjust tyrant that uses them for the profit he can gather unto himself. The consumer is then appalled by that fact and indignant that that “great Conspiracy of Confusion” (par 6) could so unfairly keep the truth of how their food is prepared in the dark so to speak and be content to leave them so blissfully ignorant of such important knowledge. It is in this way that Pollan makes good use of the definitional claim type and subtly tweaks the way the reader thinks about the subject as a whole. For the reader who many have been biased at the start of the article, their skepticism has long been vanquished by the confidence Pollan’s claim so effectively displays.

Now that Pollan has assured the reader that he has so correctly assigned the blame, the stage is set for use of the next type of claim. He attempts to pinpoint the cause of our dilemma. One of things he names as a cause is the gradual replacement of food by nutrients (par 7). Pollan claims that we are now in the “Age of Nutritionism” (par 13). He labels this as one major cause of this dilemma that we now face. Since Pollan has already so effectively convinced the reader about who is at fault it is now relatively easy for him to also convince the reader that Nutritionism is one major factor in this problem. He very thoroughly explains that Nutritionism is “not a scientific subject but an ideology” (par 14) that has taken over our country. Pollan counts on the reader knowing quite a few people who have indeed fallen captive to this new trend in order to convince them of his point. Since many people are now caught up in the whirlwind of taking pills and supplements for everything imaginable Pollan merely has to label this as one of the

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