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An evening with Caballo Blanco - a vibrant memory - and an appeal

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,

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DEC2DEC 1/23/2012 3:18PM

    My guess is that the Tarahumara eat what they eat because they are *poor*. These are the cheapest foods that can feed the most people. That doesn't make those foods healthy. They live in a very small area that provides limited food choices.

I'll definitely look into helping them!

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MARTHASPARKS 1/22/2012 11:59PM

    Wow, talk about food for thought...thanks Birgit.

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EJOY-EVELYN 1/21/2012 12:53PM

    Great recommendation on your part. I wish them success in managing this drought.

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TAMPATINK67 1/21/2012 10:21AM

    Thanks for the links. As usual, you've provided more food for thought...

"Obsession and addictions to special, gourmet or fancy foods" versus what's needed to nourish ones body.

The styles of restaurant dinning I've seen fade in and out of vogue have changed over the last several decades. Perhaps with the economy, perhaps with our health needs, perhaps as just another fad - but I've seen the styles shift from very complex/complicated dishes (creams, butters, and complicated cooking techniques), to haute cuisine (a shrimp, scallop, baby carrot and three peas - enjoy your dinner), to a return to comfort foods (meatloaf with mashed potatoes with gravy, short ribs and pot pies), and now farm to table....

It's interesting to note that some of the best chefs in the world today try to find the freshest ingredients and do as little as possible to let the ingredients speak.

Hmm - just as minimalist running has arrived (again), has the minimalist approach finally arrived (or returned) to the dining room as well? Minimalist cooking...?

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MAGGIE101857 1/21/2012 7:43AM

    Sometimes it's hard to believe that there are people in the world that don't have enough to survive - even in this wonderful country we live in. Thank you for sharing this story - I will not only check out the links but also the books you mentioned. All very interesting. Others on this site have posted about the Paleo diet, and I did look into it briefly (but at the time, my BHf was not interested in eating healthier! Now that he is, I think I will give it another look!

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60SIXTY 1/21/2012 6:31AM

    I like the term "food obsession."
When I am not eating the type of food I should, I believe an obsessive compulsion is involved.

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KRISZTA11 1/21/2012 5:23AM

    I read Born to Run just a couple of weeks ago and it impressed me, in several aspects.
Thanks for sharing, I'll check the websites!
Good for you that you had the opportunity to meet him in person.

Comment edited on: 1/21/2012 5:23:55 AM

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Lots of unsorted thoughts about food and gluttony

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?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DEC2DEC 1/23/2012 2:57PM

    When we switched to Paleo, and I told my husband I wanted to buy organic everything, he balked because of the price. But, we did it anyway, and we've been shopping almost exclusively at Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) since Dec. 1.

Guess what? Our grocery bill has gone DOWN. Because we're not buying snacks and other crap, we're buying organic from a very expensive store and still saving money -- and that doesn't even include the money we're saving by eating out only on Saturdays.

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MARTHASPARKS 1/20/2012 3:39PM

    I think that eating food as close as we can to the way that God gave it to us is a wonderful idea. I have been healthier since I quit eating most processed food but I haven't made the leap to being a vegetarian yet. I know it would help our planet if we all did, but I just haven't gotten there yet.

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ORGANIC811LFRV 1/20/2012 8:47AM

    I am just finishing the dvd video: Eating - 3rd edition. Please order it from Amazon.com for a little more than $7.00 It's a must see for any foodie like us.

Eating a plant-based diet and all the ramifications from that choice actually make our planet a more healthy, cost-effective, and kinder one.

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DIVEGODDESS 1/20/2012 7:10AM

    Very interesting insights! I think there's something wrong about unhealthy food being cheaper in the US than healthy whole foods. I've lived in many "developing countries" where the middle and upper class is a minority and the fast food processed foods are much more expensive than foods like vegetables, eggs and meat. Yet people with money chose to eat fast food..
I personally eat only nutritious foods most of the time but eating a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits gets expensive and I go back to beans and rice (grains and beans) being my staples. Even eating only for proper nutrition is getting more expensive than eating unhealthy these days..

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KRISZTA11 1/20/2012 3:41AM

    It is very logical, and it is a very good idea for yourself and your family, as you own a superb garden, and closely connected to earth.

Unfortunately only very few people are so mindful about their food, the majority choose food based on price and commercials, and many don't even know what grows around them and what traveled in from the far side of the world.

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TAMPATINK67 1/19/2012 9:28PM

    Or would the lack of purchasing processed foods force big business to get more involved in improving the availability and marketing of the natural foods that you are suggesting would become the staples?

Food for thought regardless....

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3 hours of shoveling snow and almost that long tracking what I ate

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.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

HJFOGARTY 1/19/2012 2:32PM

    I found if I save what I enter then the next time I use it it is right there saving me time - but the initial entry can be a pain. I hear you about the snow - we get so much here as well and shoveling and snow blowing are my job - not fun but good exercise! take care of you

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MARTHASPARKS 1/19/2012 2:03PM

    It's a pain to enter your own recipes. Using the tracker is easier if you use their recipes or eat very plain food that easily broken down into trackable entries. Your activity levels are unbelievable and I respect you so much!

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KRISZTA11 1/19/2012 1:23PM

    The Recipe Calculator is very good on SparkRecipes, for all food you plan to make again. You just enter ingredients and number of servings, and you have it for yourself, or share it.
Good luck to tracking experiment!

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HOUNDLOVER1 1/19/2012 12:34PM

    Thanks for all the comments, I'm starting to get an idea where I want to go with all my food experiments. I will post about it more in the next couple of days. emoticon

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KKINNEA 1/19/2012 10:57AM

    Sometimes it does feel like the tracker takes that long!

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TAMPATINK67 1/19/2012 8:49AM

    Understood - the tracker isn't easy to start working with -especially when we're not exactly following the standard dietary choices. But if you save things to favorites that you eat often, it does get much better!

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ORGANIC811LFRV 1/19/2012 7:39AM

    Being a raw vegan and drinking green smoothies thank goodness I no longer need to go through that hellish process! I know that I am getting enough of what my body needs to heal and thrive and drop weight naturally.

I feel for you hon, I really do!

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FLEAS2YOU 1/19/2012 6:51AM

    I have to laugh; maybe I should be glad I'm only tracking 1,300 - 1,500 calories a day! I'm also grateful that my snow shoveling days are gone. I decided that when I had to shovel the roof it was time to move! What to do with all that extra time?

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KANOE10 1/19/2012 6:33AM

    I know what you mean about time in tracking food. I spent hours posting my meals under groups on SP.
Good for you taking the time to work on your nutrition and assess how it is going.
I hear you about shoveling snow. We are in an ice storm and it took forever to scrape my car.
Have a great day.

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For any jocks and jockettes out there

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.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MARTHASPARKS 1/18/2012 9:45PM

    I loved the second article and do wish our country would make the shift from acute care to preventative care. I couldn't get the first one to run for me. Thanks, Birgit.

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GETFIT2LIVE 1/18/2012 12:34PM

    Great info, thank you for sharing the links!

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Tracking food for one day! Surprise!

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.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DEC2DEC 1/23/2012 2:41PM

    I think your numbers sound GREAT. Yes, they're way off Spark's recommendations, but Spark recommends sooo many carbs, and that means you get fewer calories. Shudder!

You're also right that you need to eat high fat. If carbs go low, then fat has to go high. Protein does NOT need to skyrocket.

I think you're doing GREAT!

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KKINNEA 1/18/2012 3:23PM

    I have another related problem for tracking - I like to eat out at restaurants and very few post their calorie and macro breakdowns. There is one that does so but is truly the exception!

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HOUNDLOVER1 1/18/2012 11:37AM

    My next blog, Wednesday, Jan 18, I will be tracking a more typical day, eating what my body feels like and what's affordable.
Thank you everyone for your feedback. emoticon

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KRISZTA11 1/18/2012 7:22AM

    It's amazing how many calories one needs to maintain weight while running, isn't it?
I'm interested what your normal nutrition day looks like in terms of carbs-fat-protein.

I'm eating above the SP recommendations too, but only 100-200 calories plus, and I still see new minimums sometimes. Usually I'm at the high end of carbs and at the low end of fat and proteins.

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TAMPATINK67 1/18/2012 7:14AM

    When you read the Spark Diet summary you realize it is closer to the MyPlate recommendations. So In addition to utilizing Spark to count the estimated calories I do eat in my more Paleo diet. I also like that I can track nutrients to know when I need to supplement with additional food swaps due to say low potassium intake. Finally, I find the daily report helpful: being in weight loss mode and not eating many starchy veggies, I still find my daily nutritional report (run after all food has been entered for the day, still shows a nice balance of 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 of overall calories from fat, carbs, and protein - and I'm okay with that mix!

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ORGANIC811LFRV 1/18/2012 5:33AM

    Thank goodness being a raw vegan and drinking green smoothies I don't have to track. The trackers are off in their recommendations anyway for vegie and fruit eaters.

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SEDGEY 1/18/2012 12:18AM

    Tracking can be challenging, but it's doable especially if you have the SP app on your phone. I will sometimes just approximate it by selecting a restaurant/packaged dish that is equivalent. I know it's not exact, but it should get me in the ballpark.

I also use food groupings a lot. I'll eat nearly the same thing every morning so I've input that and a few variations into my groupings and can edit from there. Once you've saved your usual food items into the favorites, it also goes a lot faster. A trick I just discovered is that you can pick several items from your favorites and then add them. I did them one at a time for a long time.

Since I've been eating primally, I don't worry about the calories and just make sure to track the carbs and make sure I get enough fat and protein.

Hang in there! :)

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