Updating my dietary policy

A while ago I wrote about my personal dietary policy.

I’ve been pretty good about adhering to it. I’ve occasionally missed the meat targets when e.g. visiting people, but on my own it’s not been hard to stick to them. I’ve if anything done better on the fish and seafood targets than I’ve expected – I think I’ve had fish maybe once in the 4 months since I started it.

But I think it’s time to update it.

There are a few reasons I think it’s time to update it. The main ones:

  • I think it misses certain key areas
  • I don’t think it’s hardcore enough
  • It bans various things that should be permitted
  • It’s not well designed to create positive feedback loops. It says things I can’t do rather than things I should do

So I’m having a think about how to redesign to improve these.

Here are my general goals:

  • Environmental sustainability is key
  • I am moderately but not strongly interested in animal suffering. I will take steps to reduce it where it does not otherwise conflict with my goals, but I’m not going to bend over backwards for it. I will happily spend money to by lower suffering versions of things I eat though
  • The dietary policy must not feel like a hardship. Obviously I’m going to have to make changes to my life, and I’m fine with that, but if I’m constantly resenting it then I’m going to fail to live up to it
  • In general I am interested in designing systems which cause me to behave better and are self-reinforcing rather than systems which require constant maintenance.
  • I utterly reject any system which requires me to add up things like grams of carbon footprint consumed because I simply will not follow it. I’m OK with using these as guidelines for creating general rules though.

So with these in mind, here is what I’m thinking of. This is not a firm commitment to follow these rules, and some of them may be stupid ideas.

Firstly, I’m reducing the number of violations I can have. I am allowed two “cheat days” a month. The months strictly follow the calendar and I am not allowed two cheat days in the same week (for reasons of convenience, a week here starts on Saturday and continues to Friday. This follows the pattern for my eating habits much better than starting it on Monday)

All rules may be compromised on when my adhering to them would be a massive pain in the ass for someone who has not bought into them. I understand I may have to compromise on this some times when visiting people. I will express my preferences in these cases but if it’s inconvenient/undesirable for people to match them I won’t raise a fuss about it.

In all other cases the rules will be strictly adhered to.

The following are banned foods except on cheat days:

  • All meat except that is not explicitly white listed (see below)
  • All cheese (possible exception to follow)
  • All fish and seafood

Some meat is always permitted. In particular, chicken is just an allowed part of the diet, no restrictions. Other small birds and animals may be allowed too. Game, in particular venison, is always allowed (though I probably won’t eat that much of it because it’s expensive!). The reasoning here is that small animals are actually pretty efficient in terms of carbon/gram of protein. They grow fast and are low overhead. Arguably if your ethics are environment centric, chicken is better than tofu (I don’t actually have numbers for this. This may be false, or highly dependent on the sources of each).

Cheese is… regrettable. Again going on the metric of carbon/gram of protein, cheese seems to be as bad as many of the worst meats. The problem is not dairy products in general but cheese specifically, as there seems to be about a 10:1 ratio of milk to cheese produced. It’s unclear to me how much the byproducts like whey offset this.

I will probably allow myself cheese as a garnish about once a week, because sadness, but meals for which removing the cheese would make them not-meals are definitely a rules violation.

So that’s what I’m not allowed to eat. I also need to commit to some positive behaviour changes.

  • I will bring lunch to work at least twice a week on weeks where I’m working the full 5 day week. Why? Because I have much more control over the sustainability of what I make than I do over what I buy pre-made. This is a good way to reclaim some control over that, as work lunches are overwhelmingly my main source of food not made by me
  • I will eat a meal based on dried beans or lentils at least once per week. These seem to be a very good sustainable source of protein, much better than many other vegetarian options
  • Every time I throw away food, I will record (probably in a Google doc) what I threw away and why. I’m not as bad as many on the food wastage thing, but in terms of footprint I imagine the amount of food I throw away easily matches an extra burger a month or so. This should encourage me to reduce it.
  • Something about buying local, seasonal, veg on a more regular basis. I don’t yet know how this is going to work. Maybe an Abel and Cole box once a month or something.

That’s all I’ve got so far. I’m probably going to try following these rules for a bit (I’ll allow myself one more cheat day this month, despite the fact that the number of days I’ve violated these rules this month is definitely more than two, then start properly on the rigid cheat day allocation next month). Any suggestions extremely welcome.

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2 thoughts on “Updating my dietary policy

  1. Pingback: Venison stew | David R. MacIver

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