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Whistler Reads: FOOD RULES by Michael Pollan

abstract:The next Whistler Reads meeting is SATURDAY May 1st, 4:00pm at the Whistler Public Library, in the community room. The book under discussion is FOOD RULES by Michael Pollan. Panelists are: Andrée Janyk (Olympic mom of Michael and Britt Janyk and a leader in health and fitness), Cat Smiley (Fitness Trainer and founder of the Whistler Boot Camp), Craig MacKenzie (Youth Director of WORCA) passionate about community initiatives for youth, Irene Gutteridge (Kinesiologist with a Masters in Biomedical Science) trained in Moshe Feldenkrais method of rehabilitation. Chris Shackleton, MD (former Professor of Surgery, UCLA School of Medicine) who is helping to shape health care policy to reverse obesity trends. And last but not least Anna Helmer (Whistler-Pemberton's SLOW FOOD movement) who will connect us to the local food chain. This covers all the angles and pulls local experts who, as it turns out, are also national experts from the eduction, fitness, community, health and food supply sectors. We invite you to join in and tell us your food rules, your thoughts on these trends.

How on earth did Whistler Reads pick this skinny little book? What's it got to teach (we health-conscious, fitness-obsessed) Whistlerites?

Like you I was impressed by our nation's response to the 2010 Olympics - not just in the host cities of Vancouver and Whistler but from coast to coast. Our athletes, their parents and coaches, and the people who helped fund the athletics are to be congratulated. Canada won an unprecedented number of medals. Regardless of your thoughts on the "own the podium" mantra, we also won the most gold between countries. Delirious spectators dressed in red and white hockey jerseys and all manner of Olympic swag broke into spontaneous choruses of the national anthem everywhere. Canadian flags now adorn porches and house windows, and flutter on the sides of cars confirming that a new era of uncharacteristic patriotism has swept this country. Now is the time to harness the post-Olympic spirit, take that unity of purpose and apply it toward a common goal. Let's encourage each and every Canadian to a higher standard of health and fitness. The shocking fact is that Canadians, like our neighbors to the south, are victims of a national epidemic of obesity. A full 60% of people are overweight or obese. We eat too much (of the wrong foods) and exercise too little. Don't believe me? Watch this


March 06, 2010
TED talk by celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver. The biggest tragedy is that our youth are suffering the worst from this trend, to the extent that a new precedent will be set: children today will live shorter lives than their parents. How is that?

Childhood diabetes is becoming more common, as is the incidence of other obesity related diseases: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and hormone related cancers. This leads to heart attacks and strokes, which negates the progress made by those who quit smoking. The health care system cannot support this self-inflicted epidemic - YES - it is self-inflicted. If you look at pre-World War II weight statistics when fast food outlets and energy saving devices did not abound, weights were closer to normal for the majority of people of all ages. This epidemic if unchecked, will bankrupt our health care system and force changes upon us as a nation that we consider a cornerstone of "Canadianism".

A group of locals will be unveiling an initiative shortly. In the spirit of this initiative, Whistler Reads is inspired to do our part to set an example for others.

Join WR in a community reading and discussion of food guru Michael Pollan's new book, Food Rules published by Penguin. It's soft cover, it's only 8 bucks and it's widely heralded as a distillation of his enormously popular previous three books on the topic. Let's become a fit and healthy nation. Here are a few of Michael Pollans 64 food rules:

  • Eat food made by humans, not corporations.
  • Stop eating BEFORE you are "full".
  • The whiter the bread, the sooner you're dead.
  • If you have to eat french fries, make them yourself. People will eat fewer if they have to peel and chop the potatoes, deep fry and clean up.
  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store where food is fresh and unprocessed.
  • If grandma couldn't recognize it, don't eat it.
  • Bring back the family dinner hour with home-cooked meals.
  • If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple - you're not hungry.
  • Like mom said, "every color represented on your plate."
  • If the cereal colors the milk - throw it out.
  • If you must eat a packaged food product - read the list of ingredients. If you can't pronounce them, don't eat it.
  • You shouldn't have to drink vitamin-enriched beverages.
  • Eat the orange. Leave the juice.

    About The Author

    Michael Pollan is a writer and journalist. He's not a food scientist or nutritionist. For the past 20 years he's been writing books and articles about the places where humans and the natural world intersect: food, agriculture, gardens, drugs, and architecture. He's a contributing editor to the NYTimes, Harper's, Mother Jones, Vogue, and has tons of awards. He's the James L. Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley. He learned a whole lot when writing his first book, the overwhelmingly popular The Omnivore's Dilemma which takes four meals and traces them back to their (startling) origins. The Botany of Desire was also a NYT Bestseller. His other books include: A Place Of My Own and Second Nature. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife, the painter Judith Belzer, and their son, Isaac. Listen to his TED talk about the way we grow and raise our food.

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    Links To Get You Inspired

    Pick any one of these and bring your comments for our discussion.

  • On The Move is First Lady, Michele Obama's national program to educate the public in healthy eating habits and stop childhood obesity.
  • 120 fitness tests - possibly the most comprehensive site of its kind. Dare you to take just one!
  • Supersize Me is Morgan Sprulock's (now classic) film showing the effect of eating a diet of McDonalds meals for 30 days.
  • Hah! Someone took a picture of a 365 day-old Happy Meal.
  • Killer At Large Steven Greenbelt’s film that the biggest threat to (the USA) isn’t Al Qaeda, but obesity.
  • News Item: Tofino bans fast food businesses proving that every town can do it. Take the cookie out of the cookie jar.
  • The 100 –Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating by Vancouver residents Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. An inspiring story about one community's initiative to get people eating localy that spurned a worldwide movement. Also, the spin-off Television series with some quick video summaries.
  • Food, Inc To understand the agribusiness. Whether it’s where the food comes from, the inhumane treatment of animals, dangers of combining foods from multiple locations into a single product…
  • Interview With The Author

    Here's an edited version of a telephone interview with Pollan, Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California.

    Q: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants" is a powerful, memorable statement that was in In Defense of Food and now Food Rules and sums up your food philosophy. What effect has it had?

    A: It has kind of entered the culture as a meme. I hear it all the time and see it on T-shirts. The idea was to make some very easy rules people would remember. The "mostly" (mostly plants) is controversial. It seems to annoy both carnivores and vegetarians.

    Q: Now you've given us Food Rules: An Eater's Manual with 64 digestible points/rules/personal policies. Why?

    A: I did this because I was hearing from lots of medical professionals, doctors and parents that they would love to have something – a pamphlet, really – that pared things down to the essentials. I wanted to reduce the message and get it out to a lot of people who might not be ready or willing to read a whole book. I wanted to preach to beyond the choir. I spend a lot of time talking to upper-middle-class, affluent people, but talking to them about obesity and diabetes. I'm trying to reach a very broad audience. It's meant to be user friendly, something where you can dive in anywhere and come back.

    Q: You've nailed one of the biggest food problems with the term "edible foodlike substances." Did you coin this phrase?

    A: I think I did coin this phrase. I felt a big part of our problem is that we should eat "food" and a whole lot of things don't deserve that designation. I felt I needed a counterpart to food to draw that distinction. I tried to be as value-neutral as I could.

    Q: Rule 17: Eat food cooked by humans, not corporations. Does anybody want to cook anymore?

    A: Yes and no. Many people feel they don't have enough time to cook. Many people feel intimidated by cooking. Many do want to cook but are stymied by a lack or knowledge or equipment. I see inklings of a shift back to cooking, somewhat due to the economy. I think there are people rediscovering the kitchen right now. The more I look at this question, the collapse of cooking is a very big part of our problem all the way down to the farm.

    Q: Rule 28: Buy a freezer. What's in yours?

    A: I have half a lamb in my freezer right now that was given to me by a farm around here – Full Belly Farm. So we've been gradually working on that. It's in cuts, not a whole carcass. When we find a good source for grass-fed beef, we get assorted cuts of that, too.

    Q: Rule 46: Stop eating before you're full and try to eat only to 67 to 80 per cent capacity. Easier said than done?

    A: Once you start paying attention to it, it's just about being mindful. Yeah, for most North Americans it is hard. We've been sort of taught by the culture to eat until you're stuffed. The French say: "Je n'ai plus faim" – I have no more hunger. Ask yourself, before you take that bite, is my hunger gone?

    Q: My 10 minutes are up but I have more questions, like, what have you eaten in the past 24 hours?

    A: Yesterday for lunch I had a little bit of yogurt with trail mix mixed in. For dinner we had brined, organic chicken served with whole grain couscous and oven-roasted brussels sprouts. This morning for breakfast I had steel cut oats and that's as far as I've gotten today – it's 11:45 a.m.

    Q: That's not very much food.

    A: I should say in the afternoon I was helping a chef friend prepare cassoulet and had some boudin blanc sausage. Oh, and I had an apple actually for dessert.

    Q: Are you done with writing about food?

    A: Um, no. I'm not. I have more to say. I want to write about cooking, and I want to learn how to cook better. I also have not written very much on the international food question – how you feed the world.

    Q: Rule 64: Break the rules once in a while. Which have you broken lately?

    A: Well you know I don't really have trouble going along with these rules on an everyday basis. There's not too much that I miss. I guess the "stop before you're full." I don't have a big sweet tooth. I do have a fat tooth. Cheeses are a bigger weakness for me than pastries, but cheese is real food. French fries – that's one rule that I break. I'm not cooking my own french fries.



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