Book Review: Barry Estabrook’s Just Eat

Book cover of "Just Eat: One Reporter's Quest for a Weight-Loss Regimen that Works" with red background, white text, and wedge of cheese

Many Americans have a fraught relationship with food. Some fear it, some love it, some think of it as medicine while others believe much of it is toxic, there’s the judgmental “good food versus bad food” camp, and myriad variations on all of the above. That’s one reason the weight loss industry is a 70+ billion dollar one—we all want someone to tell us when to eat, what to eat, and how to eat it for optimum health and wellness. And we want it to be easy and painless.

Investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook has delved into the issue of nutrition, diet, and weight loss in his new book Just Eat: One Reporter’s Quest for a Weight-Loss Regimen That Works. When his doctor told him he had to lose a significant amount of weight or face grim consequences, Estabrook embarked on a journey to find a way to eat that would help him lose weight, get his elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure under control, and, he hoped, prevent him from becoming yet another male in his family to succumb to cardiovascular disease at a young-ish age.

Over the course of four years, he explored highly-marketed and wildly popular diets like Whole 30, South Beach, and Weight Watchers, as well as lifestyle eating like the French Paradox and the Mediterranean Diet. Through it all, he experienced what any dieter will recognize—the yo-yo of dramatic weight loss followed by a gain of everything lost and then some.

Estabrook digs into the science and history behind dieting, and unlike many books written by doctors, nutritionists, or diet gurus, he presents well-researched information in a highly readable and sometimes humorous way. He’s not shy about presenting his own experiences with self-deprecating wit: going out to dinner with colleagues who are chowing down on oodles of delicious regional specialties while he sips sparkling water and nibbles at a salad; the battles with intestinal upsets, irritability, grumpiness, and sleeplessness; and the boredom and tediousness of eating a restricted diet and keeping track of it. Anyone who’s ever been on the diet treadmill will relate.

Never a dieter in his life, Estabrook comes to the conclusion that he’s still not one. Yet, he’s managed to lose weight, get off the pharmaceuticals for his blood pressure and cholesterol, and become a thinner, fitter version of himself. He did it by taking information and pieces of wisdom from every plan he tried and every expert with whom he conversed. He incorporated what he learned into a way of eating and drinking that fits with his lifestyle and allows him to experience the joy of eating well. His method may not work for everyone—nor does he intend that to be the point of the book—but he saves the reader the time, expense, and frustration of trying so many diets that, by their very nature, doom most people to failure.

Estabrook says he still enjoys a good grassfed steak once in a while as part of his quest to eat the highest quality food he can find and to consume less of it. He’s eliminated the so-called bad actors – food that he recognized contributed to his weight gain, whether a loaf of home-baked whole wheat bread or a bag of potato chips. He’s changed his relationship with alcohol and takes the time to focus on food when he’s eating, rather than on the work on his desk. And he’s added an hour of physical activity to his daily routine. 

For anyone who’s been frustrated with the pounds-off, pounds-on rollercoaster of trying to lose weight, Just Eat is an entertaining revelation. You don’t have to “diet” to be healthy. You just have to find what works for you. And stick with it.

A Journey Through Whole30: GM Kay Cornelius Talks About Her Experience

Kay Cornelius is Panorama’s general manager, and last fall, she decided to try the Whole30 eating plan. Panorama Organic’s organic, grass-fed meats are all Whole30 Approved, so it seemed a natural fit when she was looking for something to try to overcome some minor health issues she and her husband were experiencing. This is her story.

Kay Cornelius holding reins of a horse in front of red barn wall
Kay Cornelius

Why were you interested in trying Whole30?

I was having joint issues and my husband had severe headaches. I’ve also always wanted to lose a little weight. I’m sure my husband does, too. I was really worried about him because he had debilitating headaches last summer where he just couldn’t function for several days. And I remember reading about Whole30. Whole30 isn’t a weight loss diet; you actually remove everything for 30 days and let your body eat real foods on a regular schedule, and then slowly introduce foods back and figure out what your triggers are. So I told him I was going to do it and he should join me because that’s how we’re going to cook. I did it actually to see if it would help my husband more so than me. He didn’t know that, but that’s what I did. 

When did you start the Whole30 program?

I started September 14, 2020, which was also my first day at Panorama. In retrospect, I think “Whoa, could I have possibly done that?” But it worked out well. I really enjoyed being on that diet because it’s just what I like to eat. And my husband stuck with me. He was almost as religious as I was about following it to the letter. 

What did you like about Whole30? 

I found the day-by-day planner they give you really helpful for motivation. Every morning I would read the little chapter about the day and I’d be like, yeah, that’s what I experienced yesterday, or, you know, this is what I think I will experience today. And it was pretty spot on. And gosh, by probably day 10, I was feeling great. And my husband was feeling great. He actually was losing a lot of weight, dropping a pound a day. 

I really enjoyed eating that way and eating pure meat and pure vegetables and cooking them together. And there’s no better time than September when gardens are at their absolute peak for vegetables, right before the first frost when everything is ripening. You always have a bountiful basket of vegetables. And it’s especially nice that Whole30 recommends Panorama Organic grass-fed meat. 

What kind of effect did Whole30 have on you?

I had more energy. I felt more vibrant. After I got through the first few days, I felt like I could tackle the world. I don’t know if it was the diet or the words in the book, but for me, it was really great. In fact, when I reached my day 30 I really didn’t want to go off it, other than I wanted to have a cocktail. I felt like I achieved something I needed to. I was invited to a little kid’s birthday party where they had coconut cream cake and I didn’t even take a taste. When I got through that birthday party, I knew I could do it. 

So I felt better as a result. We’ve slowly introduced things back and we found things that we were fine with living without, like milk in my coffee. I used to be religious about that—I couldn’t drink coffee without milk, but I drink it black now. I realized that I can cook burgers and grill steaks and cook roasts and I don’t need to add those seasonings that have sugar in them. But I do like having my cocktail now. 

I lost 12 pounds, which made me feel good. I’ve gained about six of it back now, but I don’t feel bad about it. I’m not a body conscious person. But I feel good. I feel really good. 

What about your husband? Did his headaches go away?

They did while we were on Whole30. And they did as we were introducing things back and then they stayed away for a while. Now, he still gets them, but he hasn’t had them as frequently, so I don’t know what it is that triggers them.

Did Whole30 actually change your way of eating and looking at food?

It did. I like to eat mayonnaise on a burger, and mayonnaise has sugar in it. One day early on I went to a grocery store to look for no-sugar mayonnaise because Whole Foods said they had it. They have a whole wall of mayonnaise, and at the very bottom by my feet were the ones without sugar. I was turning over jars to look for sugar on the label. Eventually I learned I could just look for the Whole30 symbol. It was the same thing with bacon and sausage. At the meat counter, I just quit looking at labels and bought the stuff that said Whole30. It was very handy to see that, and now I see the value of having that Whole30 on the front of Panorama’s products. It just makes shopping so much easier. 

I thought I would miss pasta, but I didn’t. I really got to learn to love spaghetti squash. In fact, I overheard my husband telling his buddies the other day that he prefers spaghetti squash to real spaghetti.

Package of Panorama Organic Grass-Fed Beef Stew Meat

What was the hardest part for you? 

Particularly working at home during COVID, I would snack all the time. Whole30 is not only about eating clean, but also about just eating three meals a day—a breakfast that satisfies you and then not eating until lunch. You eat something at lunch that satisfies you, and then you don’t eat again until dinner. So it took discipline to not snack or graze throughout the day. 

The other thing about Whole30 is that there’s a certain satisfaction in having something that’s crunchy. It’s not a vegetable; it’s more like the crunchy crust of a good bread or a tortilla chip. Celery doesn’t quite do it. I couldn’t seem to find a recipe that could deliver that. So the two things I missed most were an occasional cocktail and the crunch.

Do you still read labels and try to eliminate sugar?

I actually do. The sugar and the massive amount of bread and pasta we used to eat are triggers for me. I’m not a big sweets eater, but we’ll eat carbs. I realized they made me feel sluggish and a little foggy. If I eliminate those even for a week now, I notice my thinking is clearer and my overall well-being is just better. 

What other things will you carry forward from Whole30?

I like to eat meat, I really do, so I try to fill up my plate with protein and vegetables and very little starch or sugar. I try to avoid snacking and I eat whole foods rather than processed foods. I watch my labels. 

What would you tell others who might be considering Whole30?

I just think that each person is unique, and so is what works for them. This happened to work for me. 

I’m super proud of the fact that Panorama can be part of these eating plans like Whole30 and paleo that are good for the mind and good for your well-being. Everything we do in product development is with an eye towards being Whole30 approved because as a Whole30 person, I appreciate that on the label.