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What are you eating?

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I’ve been thinking lately about diet, more specifically, about the fuel that we put in our engines to make them go.

I’ve always been pretty good about what goes into my body. The cravings I have, my wife tells me, aren’t normal. When I feel nudgy, I crave fruits, vegetables, maybe some nuts or left over salmon.  I realize that for most people, these cravings aren’t normal, but I would like to challenge what should be defined as “normal”.

There’s a series of commercials on TV right for a car company that I can’t remember that keeps stressing that we’ve been brainwashed into accepting the status quo of what car companies are producing, but HEY! Look at us, we’re breaking that paradigm and bringing you what you REALLY need! I think that train of thought can be brought into the discussion of what we eat.  There has been a certain amount of brainwashing that has been done to the population as a whole.  We have been convinced that snacks have to be potato chips or candy bars or candy bars.  What happened to the concept of an apple or an orange?

We all know the phrase, you are what you eat. I’d like to modify that phrase a little to say you feel like what you eat. That’s because, to a very large degree, if you put good things in your body, your body will feel good.  If you put crap in your body, you’re gonna feel like crap.  Plain and simple.  It’s pretty straightforward.

But hold on.  What qualifies as good?  and what qualifies as crap?  and what about the things that are in between?

That’s where things get hard.  It’s easy to say to people, “eat right and you’ll be fine” or “don’t eat unhealthy food or you’re gonna get fat”.  How does that help people?  Most people have no idea what eating right really, truly means.

For a lot of people eating right means severely restricting calories.  There’s a little bit of truth buried in that, but I’m pretty sure that’s not quite right.  For others, it means eating fat-free, sugar-free foods from the “health & diet” section of the grocery store.  I KNOW that’s not right.  And yet for others it means eating only things that taste like cardboard and taking the joy out of eating. THAT is definitely NOT right.

So what’s a person to do?

Two words:

Be.  Present.

That’s it.  For a lot of people, eating has become either this orgiastic festival of gluttony or a mindless process of excess.  Either way, there is a detachment that has happened that doesn’t allow your brain and your stomach to work together in concert.  By being present, you pay attention to what you are eating and how you are eating it.  Eventually, if you are aware of every bite you put in your mouth, you will realize that you are not hungry and will hopefully stop.

For those that can’t, there is then an extra step – the food log.  It takes a lot less time than you actually think – literally 60 seconds after every meal or snack.  You write down what you’ve eaten and note how you’ve felt since you last meal or snack.  For those who say I don’t have the time I say, Are you frakking kidding me? Almost every adult I know has enough time to check their email, post to Facebook or tweet on Twitter after a meal.  Guess what? You have 60 seconds to write down what you ate on your mobile device. There IS an app for that.

By keeping a log you will have the ability to go back and discover what IS good for you and what is not.  Every person’s bio-chemistry is a little different.  Yes, there are broad similarities that allow lifestyle diets like Paleo, South Beach and Blood Type to generally work for a lot of people, but in the final analysis, we are all individuals who don’t fit perfectly into that cookie cutter mold.

That is why by being present, you can customize your diet to fit the needs of your unique physiology.

I love spinach.  A lot of people eat tons of it.  Unfortunately for me, by being present I have come to realize that I can only eat it in smaller doses without it having an adverse effect on me.  Unfortunate that I can’t eat it in large quantities – fortunate that I can avoid unnecessary unpleasantness.

So, are you aware of what you are eating?

Are you present?

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Why do you run?

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My friends over at RTR (Run Talk Radio) are currently feuding with Sarah Silverman over the use of the term “to Prefontaine” something. Each is claiming that they were the first to use Prefontaine as a verb. I believe that RTR has documented proof, but Silverman may have them outgunned in the lawyer department. As the battle lines are being drawn, I would like to officially lay claim on my own use of a famous runner’s name as a verb.

But first a little background.

When I first started running back in November ’08 I read Dean Karnazes’ Ultra Marathon Man. I found the book as a whole fascinating. Karnazes’ writing style was easy to read, and despite the occasional “look at me, aren’t I amazing” lines, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The stories of the various ultra marathons he ran were inspiring and hysterical. The things he accomplished by running made me want to run and run far. If you are new to running or are an old pro, I highly recommend it as an entertaining, inspiring book.

It was, however, the opening chapter that astounded me. The book opens with Karnazes running on a California desert highway, in the middle of the night, looking for a signal on his cell phone. Long story short, when he finally found a signal, he called a pizza delivery place called Round Table and convinced the owner to deliver a whole pizza, a whole cheesecake and a large Starbuck’s coffee to him…in the middle of the desert, in the middle of the night.

Karnazes paid his bill, and then continued to run, hot coffee in his water bottle, cheesecake still in the box in one hand and the large (did I mention large) pizza rolled into a cigar in the other. He continued to run while he ate.

How was this man doing that? Pizza? Cheesecake? Really?

I was floored yet intrigued.

Here I am now though, almost a year and a half under my belt (still a novice). I’ve learned a few things and my legs are a little more solid underneath me when I run. Last Saturday I figured maybe it was time to see if my stomach was solid too. My buddy Mike had an 18 miler scheduled for his training for Boston. About a month ago I had run a 17 miler with him through Boston near the end of which we passed a hamburger joint that was cooking up some aromatic delights. At the time I cursed myself for not having stuffed a $20 bill in my shorts before running. This time I wasn’t going to make the same mistake. Learn something on every run, right? I figured this was the perfect opportunity to put my stomach to the test.

All night and morning before the run I kept thinking, “what to put on the pizza? ham and pineapple? do I top off with black olives? maybe I go in a different direction and go for a hamburger?” Right before the run however, Mike pointed out that since we were starting our run at 7:00 AM, the likelihood of a pizza or hamburger shop being open for business during our run was highly unlikely.

Hmmm…what to do.

“There are a couple of Dunkin’ Donuts along the route,” he mentioned. Okay! Back in business…but donuts? Donuts are not test! I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed, but then, Breakfast sandwiches!

At about the 12 mile mark I took off. We had been running along at about a 9:15 clip and we were 2 miles out from Dunkin Donuts. I didn’t want Mike to have to interrupt his run so I needed to buy some time. I flew over the next two miles at a 6:40 pace. I looked at my watch. I had bought myself 5 minutes. I burst through the door at Dunkin Donuts and looked at the menu board.

Even better than breakfast sandwiches – Flatbread sandwiches. Those are kinda like pizzas! Oh! And they have ham & swiss ones!

I ordered 2 of them, and told the woman behind the counter not to wrap them. I would be eating them while running. She looked at me like I was nuts. I looked at my watch as I headed for the door.

4:55, 4:56, 4:57…

As I jogged out, flatbread sandwiches in hand, I saw Mike come running through the parking lot. We fell in step and I started eating.

Initially the sandwiches went down easily. It felt good to be eating something. My body obviously needed something after 14 miles, but after running the last 2 miles at near 10K pace, all my blood had moved to my legs and away from my stomach. The sandwiches sat like a heavy rock in my stomach, but after about a half mile things balanced out again and I felt great. I think that if I had just waited a half mile before wolfing down the food everything would have been fine.

So, it’s with this past Saturday’s experiment that I’d like to lay claim on the following:

To Karnaze – (verb) karnazed, karnazing – to eat something that could qualify as a meal while running long distances.

He karnazed that pizza between miles 20 and 21 of the Boston Marathon.

or

I’m planning on karnazing a meatball grinder on my next long run.

Hopefully Sarah Silverman doesn’t come after me too. Good luck RTR! I’m rooting for ya.

In the meantime, I’m gonna go figure out what I can karnaze on my next long run.

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Have any suggestions?

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