Saturday, January 21, 2012
Caballo Blanco (real name Micah True) is the runner I wanted to talk about in today's post.
But before I start telling you about what Caballo taught me let me start by saying that in the last few weeks I was contemplating the ideal diet for runners. I learned about the Maffetone method of running within one's maximum aerobic heart rate and along with it about the paleo diet. I also learned about teaching our body to burn fat rather than sugar through slower running and how this helps people who run endurance races. At about the same time a couple of friends on Spark and I started a study about the book"What the Bible says about Healthy Living". This book talks about three principles of eating: eating things that were created by God as food, eating things the way God made them (natural), and not becoming addicted to any food (not making any food our God).
As part of this study I read a little more about obsession with food and addiction to food and looked at some videos of people who are struggling with severe food addictions and diseases that come from extreme obesity. It became clear to me that it is a long road going from eating enough to meet our physical needs to the point of obsession and addiction to "special", "gourmet" or "fancy" foods. It occurred to me that very few people's food obsessions and addictions involve whole grains, beans and vegetables.
These foods are natural, simple and not addictive.
And that is when I remembered the talk we listened to this past May in a small University town in Idaho that stands out for its very alternative culture, at least by Idaho standards. Caballo Blanco, is an ultra-marathon runner who has chosen to live with the Tarahumara Indians who call themselves the Raramuri and live in the Copper Canyon of Mexico.
It was Christopher Mc Dougall's book "Born to Run" that made all this well-known to many thousands of people. The book came out in 2009, has been a bestseller and is known for popularizing minimalist and barefoot running as well exposing many people to the sport of ultra-marathon running.
Caballo's talk was advertised as a talk about the Raramuri Indians and was given at a small venue that had room for no more than 30 people. Like some of the other listeners we came to find out how the real Caballo Blanco compared to the person described in Christopher Mc Dougall's book and we were also hoping to learn something about running, from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
We were not disappointed. Caballo turned out to be a very nice humble guy who was clearly passionate about the people he was hoping to support through his speaking tour in the US. We saw many slides and heard stories about their living conditions and about running.
We had the chance to ask questions and the question of shoes came up. Caballo was wearing a pair of minimalist running shoes of one of the better known brands and when asked if he liked them his answer was: Yes, I like them, because I got them for free, followed by a big grin. This was followed by an explanation that minimalist running is not a philosophy among the Tarahumara Indians but a necessity. Cut-up car tires and strings make durable inexpensive shoes for them called huaraches. Like flip-flops, they are worn without socks and therefore the closest to what could be called barefoot shoes (which is really a contradiction in terms but that's another story). We also learned that the Tarahumara don't usually run barefoot because they live on sharp rocks.
When someone asked about the diet of these running people that will frequently cover more than a marathon in a day on very steep terrain, the answer was "Mostly beans and corn tortillas and some beer and tea". I couldn't help myself but ask "And some vegetables?" to which the answer was "Not very much." At some point in the evening Caballo had something to eat and the portion was a smallish dinner by most American standards, maybe 600-700 calories. I don't know what I was expecting a very lean and muscular ultra-marathon runner to eat but a lot more than that.
Earlier tonight I decided to refresh my memory about Micah True, the runner to make sure that I remembered some of the basics about him correctly. The first thing that I saw was that there was a Facebook page that I had not known about. I clicked on it and found something unexpected. The Raramuri are going through a very difficult time at this moment in history because of a severe drought. The food shortage is so severe that people are dying.
This struck me since I had just read about people dying from food addictions. So this blog is taking a very different turn now. I was planning to share about the values of simplicity in all areas of life, ranging from eating to exercise equipment, and the blessings that come with that. A focus on what matters, joy of living in the present, less stress etc. and all that is true. But I feel compelled to go beyond that and pass on this desperate need for food (corn) of one people group to another people group, all of you on Spark, one that in most cases is far closer to death from having too much. I've never written this kind of appeal so hope nobody will be offended, but I want to ask if you would take a look at the links I'm providing and decide if you can help, through your gift, through your prayers or through a message of some sort, or simply by passing on this message to people you know.
The first link is for the Facebook page of the Copper Canyon Ultra marathon which has many links and videos posted, the second one for an organization set up to support the Raramuri.
Thanks for reading,
Thursday, January 19, 2012
It all started with being reminded by a friend on spark of a great runner who eats a very simple diet. Simpler than most people in this country would eat. But more about that tomorrow.
Then I thought of the joke about the child that doesn't want to eat what's on her plate. The mother answers: There are lots of poor children that would love to have that and the child answering: Well, they can have it! I used to think this was at least slightly funny but with poverty levels in this country, one of the richest countries in the world, at a new high and the lines at food banks longer than ever it does not seem funny any more.
I've been thinking about the benefits of a paleo diet vs. the benefits of a raw vegan diet lately, knowing that both have a lot of benefits over the typical American processed crap diet. I was tempted to try both for a while and learn about them from experience. I believe both can be very tasty and very healthy if correctly prepared. Both can also be very expensive, especially if one wants to stay with organic foods primarily which is suggested.
Avoiding beans and grains (paleo) cuts out what is the least expensive kinds of protein for most people to buy. Raw vegan relies heavily on large quantities of raw vegetables and fruits that are very expensive during some seasons and in some climates most of the year.
Getting away from grains and beans is a luxury that few people in this world and increasingly fewer people in this country have, especially if they want to avoid the heavily polluted, conventional, mass-produced foods that are still the norm in most large supermarkets.
Anyone who does not know what I'm talking about watch the documentary Food Inc. (it's free to watch on youtube)
I'm wondering if all the foods we eat that are not essential fall in the area of gluttony, an old-fashioned sounding Biblical term that means overindulgence of food or drink. Gluttony is considered a sin in the Bible. A sin is not just something that harms other people but anything that we do to harm ourselves. Sin is often defined as anything that goes against our real needs or anything that hurts us. And then there is that verse that the wages of sin is death. Many people think of that in a spiritual sense but maybe the more direct meaning is physical.
Many "refined" foods used to be reserved for the upper class because they were too expensive for anyone else. Meat was reserved for special occasion like weddings or the presence of special guests. This is still the case in many cultures around the world.
On the other hand there are people groups that live in climates where you can't grow any vegetables. Most of the diet is based on meat, sometimes seafood.
When I look at what grows around me (in Eastern Washington) most of the year it is grains and beans (wheat, barley and garbanzos are mass-produced) but our climate will also allow growing a variety of cold-season vegetables and some things like tomatoes and other frost-sensitive plants for a short time of the year. These things are the obvious choice for food if I want to buy local. Many people keep chickens or ducks for meat and eggs and many people in our area raise beef cattle on grass. There is a growing number of people who raise dairy cows or goats and sell raw or minimally processed milk. In winter the only foods that are local are meat, eggs, dairy, root vegetables and fruits that store well like apples or vegetables that are extremely frost-hardy. Many people buy vegetables frozen for almost half of the year.
What if I limited myself (and our family) to eating only what we need for proper nutrition? How much money could I save (and how much money or food could I donate to the food bank or give to people who need it in my neighborhood) if I ate just to meet my needs and reserved special foods for truly special occasions like Christmas, Birthdays, and other rare occasions?
What if everyone did this? Would our economy collapse, pop like an over-inflated balloon?
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Ok, that's a little exaggerated, but it may have been over an hour. It took forever in part because I had to enter all the ingredients for recipes, then divide it into servings and enter the info per serving. I eat a lot of little things as snacks which took time as well. And the only thing I entered was macronutrients. The most difficult part about it is that I rarely use recipes and never measure anything so making meals took a lot longer than usual, too. It's not always easy to find the right food and sometimes when I found it there was no nutrition info with that entry. Tracking probably kept me from eating as much as I otherwise would have just because I did not want to enter even more stuff, LOL.
So, I think this was the last day in a while I'll be tracking food. Still, to get an idea of what my macronutrient levels are on a typical day it was useful.
I had three meals and two snacks. Total calories were 2660, definitely on the low side for me, carbs 232grams, fat 154 grams and protein 105 grams.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Here is a link to a video from ABC that explains why cardio is more important than strength training and why anyone should have a physical regularly:
Here is another one:
Sorry about the 30 second ad.
Please pass it on.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I tracked my food yesterday in part to try out this feature on Spark and in part because I wanted to see how many carbs I eat when I don't eat beans or grains.
The first suprise was that spark recommends 1600-1950 calories for me. That is about 500 calories less than I eat on days when I don't exercise in maintenance mode. On days when I run and/or crosstrain I eat around 3000 calories, sometimes more.
The carb recommendation was 208-301 grams, my carbs yesterday were 110 grams so this was not surprising since I was trying to eat lower carb.
The fat recommendation was 41-72 grams which seemed extremely low to me compared to the carb recommendation. My fat intake was 151 grams and that was with only 3 meals without dessert. A typical day for me would be more like 200 grams.
The protein recommendation was 65 grams and I had to add a piece of cheese to meet that requirement. I usually get a significant amount of protein from a combination of beans and grains and I can see how not eating a lot of those and reducing the carbs that way will also lower my protein intake. This would require me to eat more of more expensive sources of protein. In the long run I would not want to do this.
I may keep track of my eating tomorrow eating mostly grains and beans with some veggies and dairy added just to see how that changes my balance of macronutrients.
Overall I can already say that I would hate tracking food every day. There are several reasons. It takes much more time to record food combinations I have not eaten before but I believe in trying new foods all the time and making up new recipes all the time, in fact I hardly ever use the same recipe twice. Anything that is made from scratch (and usually healthier) is more work to track than packaged foods. Instead of spending the time recording foods I would rather have more time to exercise knowing that will make me much happier.
Having said all this, while I'm experimenting with changes in my diet tracking is very interesting to see the proportions of macronutrients and it's worth the extra time.
Today I was playing taxi driver for my daughter most of the day and ate only lunch at home. Everything I ate was fairly healthy but impossible to track.
Breakfast was a vegetarian crustless quiche with some breadcrumbs in it, snack was a handful or two of walnuts and raisins, lunch was a whole-grain melted cheese sandwich, afternoon snack I can't even remember and dinner a home-made lentil stew with carrots and beef. I think I feel like a good serving of ice cream for dessert with a few berries added. I definitely was hungry for some carbs by lunch time today, not sure if that was just habit or because I ended up having some bread in my breakfast.
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