Monday, August 3, 2009

The Cook it Yourself Diet

At the tail end of a Michael Pollan article(great article) about how cooking has transformed into a spectator sport he gets this choice quote:
You want Americans to eat less? I have the diet for you. It’s short, and it’s simple. Here’s my diet plan: Cook it yourself. That’s it. Eat anything you want — just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself.

Ezra Klein links to the actual 2003 paper that forms the basis for the idea that it's a lack of cooking that's making us fat.
First, we show that increased caloric intake is largely a result of consuming more meals rather than more calories per meal. This is consistent with lower fixed costs of food preparation. Second, we show that consumption of mass produced food has increased the most in the past two decades. Third, we show that groups in the population that have had the most ability to take advantage of the technological changes have had the biggest increases in weight. Married women spent a large amount of time preparing food in 1970, while single men spent little. Obesity increased much more among married women. Finally, we show that obesity across countries is correlated with access to new food technologies and to processed food. Food and its delivery systems are among the most regulated areas of the economy. Some regulations are explicit (for example, the European Union has taken a strong stance against genetically engineered food, Germany for many years had a Beer Purity Law), and others are cultural (Jose Bove’s crusade against McDonalds’ in France). Empirically, countries that are more regulatory and that support traditional agriculture and delivery systems have lower rates of obesity.

My pizza, french fry, and potato chip consumption would drop like a stone if I had to cook them all myself... would I end up consuming less calories? Presumably because the first thing to go would be snacks... and just swapping out an apple for a bag of chips saves you about 150 calories. I don't think I'd have the willpower for that kind of shift though, and I like cooking. You'd think with all I blog about cooking I'd cook more for myself, but I still haven't cooked anything other than a frozen pizza in ages. Maybe I should commit to eating 5 home cooked meals a week or something... that doesn't even seem like that much, but it would require quite a behavior modification.