Friday, May 11, 2012
New York Times writer Mark Bittman urges better diet at Dallas talk
He counseled a congregation of 600 to consider a more conscious approach to eating.
DALLAS New York Times writer Mark Bittman came to Dallas on Thursday to talk about how Food Matters -- the name of his new book about a concept called "conscious eating" -- to a congregation of about 600 at Temple Emanu-El.
The book is an extension of the work he's done for the Times over the past five years, covering the negative effects of eating junk food and animal products. His message: Skip sodas and other processed foods, and eat more fruits and vegetables.
He acknowledged up front that his 45-minute talk would be a complicated one, as it covered broad topics such as the role of government in our diet, and how climate change, our energy policy, and agriculture are inter-related. "They're all so big, and if you change one, you've gotta change them all," he said.
He said that capitalism is facing a crisis because it relies on the idea that resources are unlimited, when they're really not. "Corporations aren't evil, but their mission is to maximize profit now," he said.
His first villain was soda, which he called a "nonfood," a "sugar delivery system." He mocked "Vitamin Water," calling it an "unbearably cynical" label, then showed a slide with the "Vitamin Water" replaced by the more forthright "Sugar Water."
"Why do we consume bad foods even when they cause disease?" he asked. "Because $1 trillion has been spent getting us to eat it."
He pointed out that by subsidizing corn, we're supporting industries who make food that's bad for us, when we should support small farmers who are growing foods that are nutritious.
He shared the path he took which helped him lose 35 pounds, made his knees stop hurting, and lowered his cholesterol.
"I grew up eating bad food, but I'm someone who does well with rules, so I started by saying I would eat vegan all day until 6 o'clock, then after that, I could eat whatever I wanted," he said. "I did that for a while, and lost 15 pounds. That seemed pretty good, so I kept doing it, and eventually I lost 35 pounds."
He said that it seemed unlikely an entire population would shift to a vegan diet, and that he wasn't urging that. But he encouraged everyone to shift in that direction, because they would reap personal benefits and benefits for the planet.
He said it can seem impossible to create change but cited the recent uproar over "pink slime" -- an additive in ground beef that provoked a viral campaign and has spurred closures of beef processing plants -- as one example of the effect consumers can have. He said he believed in "incremental change," but offered a list of potential action items:
- Make it illegal to sell or market soda to kids.
- Eliminate vending machines in schools.
- Tax soda like cigarettes.
- Demonize bad food.
- Subsidize production, sale, and purchase of fruits and vegetables.
- Improve your own diet.
The talk was followed by a reception where attendees lined up to get books signed, and Empire Baking Co. provided bread with fruit and cheese from Mozzarella Co.
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