Runner’s World Review: Eat Vegan and Run

I’m an avid Runner’s World reader and have been for many years. Each month  I will pick one article from the magazine (suggestions welcome!) to discuss and we can kick around thoughts, opinions and reflections. We’ll stay one issue behind the most current so that non-subscriber’s can read along on the RW website.  It’ll be like a book club, except less Jane Austen and more sweat.  So grab a cup of Joe or tea (see, it is just like a book club!) and jump into the fray!

June 2012 – Eat Vegan and Run

This was a tough month to pick from as there were a few other articles I loved from this issue.  If you want to read the runner’s up, check out this one about the nostalgia running can elicit or this one about the power of the human spirit. However, in the end, I thought the best discussion would come from Scott Jurek’s new book, Eat & Run, about his transformation from a meat and potatoes kid to a fully vegan adult ultramarathoner.

As a one-time vegetarian who never went back to red meat and pork, I find veganism highly appealing, on quite a few levels. As an tree hugger, I like the idea of the least amount of energy possible being put into producing my food. As someone exquisitely aware of my family health history (rife with heart disease and stroke) I love the idea of taking the seemingly terrible hand my genes dealt me and fighting back (take that thymine!).

More than just reading about the benefits of this diet, however, was the enjoyment of reading about Scott Jurek.  The man is a machine! Having recently completed my own ultra, I am ever more fascinated by these seemingly impossible distances and the speed at which some people can complete them.  If this article whet your Jurek whistle, quench your thirst with this great interview  from Ultra Runner Podcast.

So let’s get to the meaty stuff – veganism and the emotions it evokes in people.  It does irk me when people say “but we are meant to eat meat! look at these canine teeth!”.  First of all, the “meat” most Americans are eating today is hardly that of our ancestors – back then everything was organic, wild- caught and free of antibiotics and other drugs.  People are eating commercially produced meat from one of a handful of companies and the cows are feed delightful things like poultry litter

Aaaaand this is where I have to stop myself to comment on my own musings. Veganism seems to bring out two sides of people (though I do think SJ does a good job of staying neutral) – either the folks who are “no meat? no dairy? what kind of hippie dippie voo-doo is this?” or the folks who become quite smug pointing out all the health benefits for themselves and the planet, patting themselves on the back with a “oh, you poor uneducated dear” look at the carnophiles. I admit to falling more in this second category, and this realization generally sends me into a self-loathing internal monologue that goes something like this:

“Really? You are going to lecture people about protecting the environment? Because even though you work to conserve wildlife, drive a small care, recycle and buy organic, you love to travel. On jet planes. Which have an enormous carbon footprint that no number of small, cute cars can make up for. And you aren’t willing to give up traveling, so who are you to ask someone to give up meat?”

The general conclusion I have come to is this – the best we can do is make the changes that work for us, hope others do the same and that our species doesn’t run itself into the ground any sooner than necessary. For me, driving a little car and staying away from meat is easy, giving up traveling is not.  So I know that is where my line is, but I don’t know how I feel about that.

What did you think of the article? Would you/have you tried veganism?

Did the way you ate as a child change when you became an adult?

What are your predictions for the future of the human race?

16 Comments

Filed under Runner's World Reviews

16 responses to “Runner’s World Review: Eat Vegan and Run

  1. The article had some interesting points. As someone who has never trained for anything other than a dance performance the whole idea of long distance running is pretty foreign to me. But I have, over the years, changed the way that I eat for various reasons. I have tried veganism, really without meaning to actually. I found it easier that I thought it would be but it was only a short amount of time which may have made it slightly more bearable for me. That being said, I don’t know that I would do it permanently, for a variety of reasons. But now I have your other two questions to answer so I must move on…..

    They way I ate as a child definitely changed when I became an adult, in someways that was good, in others bad. First of all we never had pre-cooked food in the house, nothing processed, nothing artificial. We had ingredients, a dozen different things that when put together in the combination would create a home cooked dinner. Where the components were whole, natural and fresh there was a downside. We ate a lot of meat, nothing was organic and did I mention that there was a lot of meat? We also indulged but that belongs on a whole different blog. When I became an ‘adult’ I took that freedom and ran with it, developing some bad habits along the way. Then I became and actual adult and wised up, especially after becoming better informed about what is in our food. As a parent its a whole different story as I am painfully aware that her little brain is taking in everything I do, say, EAT.

    About the human race…..hmmm. That is a tough one. I am going to get back to you on that.

  2. Ok, part 2 of my response: The Human Race
    I would like to think that we are on the path toward harmony, in how we treat each other and how we treat the planet. I would like to think that we will learn to eat less meat for all the right reasons and the meat that we will eat will be locally, humanly raised, feed real food and be free of hormones and toxins. But I don’t know if that situation is possible with the current ‘popular’ way of thinking. I am afraid that we will need to crash and burn before we can rebuild, which would be scary. I don’t think our current practices are sustainable, I don’t think the human body can be exposed to chemical after chemical for generations and still be the ‘superior species’ that we claim to be.
    A quote I enjoy is “If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do.” I know that my actions alone probably are not going to change the world (at least not immediately) but the choices that I can make for me and my family will effect us and hopefully others will follow.

    • First, I love that you said you would “get back to me on that” and then actually did! Second, I hope we are too, but it’s hard for me to really think so. It’s a funny thing being an endangered spp biologist but not having faith that we will be able to turn it around. I just see us heading towards a path of self destruction. Perhaps that is ok – every species burns out at some point. But won’t it be so sad if it is at our own hand and not because of some crazy asteroid or a zombie apocalypse? I think we will only know for sure when there start to be real repercussions. Right now, climate change, sea-level rise, lack of food and water, etc are abstract concepts for many of us (in the developed world at least). I think we won’t really know how we will respond to these changes until the shit hits the fan. It’s a shame we are so reactive and not very proactive… but it just seems to be who we are! It’s funny, too, b/c I think people are capable of immense love and empathy when it comes to personal relationships, or big stories that touch us… but it’s so easy to just turn the other way on a lot of the issues we face and it’s the choice a lot of us make every day. I know I (sadly) do.

  3. So, I am running with your final thought about people. I agree that on a personal level people can be incredibly compassionate and giving. But generally there is definitely an outer limit to that compassion. My school district is pretty small, there are only 60 teachers in my building, about 100 in the whole district. When someone in my building is going through a rough patch (surgery, death in the family, sickness, etc.) my staff rallies like none other. We have cooked dinners, bought groceries, donated money, visited homes, and held events all for the benefit of people. But that same compassion rarely reaches to those outside of our community. I understand that not everybody can donate money easily, or time, or items. But the choices people make often speak louder than the charity they give. If people stopped purchasing meat with hormones and pink slime, companies would stop processing that meat. Whether it is ignorance or indifference the result is the same.

    And I do think that some people genuinely don’t think that there actions have any long reaching effects. I don’t know how to change that. It all matters and there is tremendous power in that.
    Your blog stalker,
    Liz

    • I think this dichotomy is one of my favorite things about humans. We can be so sweet and thoughtful and really step up to the plate but in the same breath be callous and unfeeling. It’s really an amazing thing about us and I love that we are that complicated!

  4. Melissa Frieder

    I have so much to say but I am doing it from my phone so please excuse my punctuations they may not be even close to right. So question one, when I was 16 I became a vegetarian for 2 years then was a vegan for 2 years went back to being a vegetarian for 2 more years then went back to being a meat eatter. I use to fall into the second smug catagory you talk about but now I fall into a third catagory of I know how good it is for me but don’t for a long list of pathetic reasons. And now just feel guilty for not making myself a healthier person.
    Second question, I eat now the way I ate when I was growing up. Home made meals using prossesed ingredients and eating out several times a week. When I know how and that I should be eating better. I’ve been thinking for a while about getting back to being a vegatarian for a couple reasons, one I want to set a better example for my child. Two I am doing a half marathon this year and last time I trained I gained weight due to the fact that I kept saying I can eat what I want look how far I ran today. Also eating will probably make my run fell better ( I don’t really care about being faster.) One of the reason I keep putting this off is cause I have a meat eating husband who falls into the first catagory that you describe the ones that like to say that’s some hippie crap when I bring it up. But I also know that he will be super supportive if I actually do decide to do this. The other day on rachael ray they had elen degenreous cook on. He just wrote a book called vegan cooking for carnavours that I think I am going to pick up and bridge the gap between my ideas and Brandon’s.
    Third question, I once again agree with you that we are a reactive group with few proactive. This has been recently proven to me by my decision that we are going to switch over from disposable diapers to cloth diapers. If my baby is awake she wants to be changed every time she pees, we’ve had hours where she gets changed 5 times. If she’s asleep she’ll wait till she gets up but this still leaves us going threw about 15 diapers a day. I can’t stand the amount of waste we are creating, it makes me sick to think about it. And even though Brandon is very very sceptical about it, I feel we have to do it and this is something I am not going to budge on. What surprises me the most about us making this change is how many people try to talk me out of it. People who will never have to change or wash her diapers are trying to talk me out of it! Even after talking about the damage just my child and my future children will make with diapers and how easy it is to fix, I also always bring up the financial benefits to us, people are still adamantly against them. With all the advancements we’ve made these diapers aren’t that much worse to use the disposables. I know I am not as environmentally friendly as I could be but I am hoping some of the things I will do will help a little. But even saying all that I think I do more than most, and that is the sad part of this. And now I am going to stop cause I am tired and I feel like I am rambling. I love this Chris I can’t wait to see what is next!!!

    • First, of all thank you for your thoughts! Secondly, holy crap are you impressive on your phone! I would not have the patience to type all that on a phone!! Thirdly, to your comments… wow, there is so much good stuff in here I am not sure where to start so I am just going to go at it rambly-style! Good call on the third category – this is also a fascinating side of humans where we it is not because we are uneducated that we choose not to do something, but some other reason that stops us, even at our peril. When I watch people struggle with quitting smoking, I have the same feeling – you know it is killing you, yet it is so hard to stop! I think for some people it can be a little bit of rebellion against what others want/expect from you – but again, the harm is to you so it does not have great consequences!… I also think that having a child really seems to make people reconsider a lot of their lifestyle choices. It must be pretty amazing to feel responsible for shaping someone’s world view, or at least give them a head start to shaping their own way to go, mommy and daddy’s, my hat’s are off to you!… i think that the transition into a more veg lifestyle can be done in a transition, like that meatless mondays movement. just one meal a week at first, to get someone used to the idea. and since GD does all our cooking, i can say with certainty that there are lots of meals he makes that really taste meaty and delicious that i bet brandon would like! i bet that cookbook will be a good investment! it is also awesome that you have such a lovely hubby that will be supportive, even if it is something he himself would not instigate. the fact that he might be willing to try is huge…i have a few friends who have gone the cloth route that i will try to hook you up with to pick their brains! i bet that is something that would drive me batty too!…and now i am going to drive over to lil sis’ to see you, the hubs and that sweet lil baby up close for myself!! yay!!

  5. Having a child definitely makes one think about the choices they make in their lives, I think all major events in life sort of do that. It was very eye opening when I realized that Zoe was copying my actions, she will copy what I eat, drink, say and do.

    All changes are easier and more enjoyable if you have someone supportive by your side. Sean is the same way, he loves meat but if I cook something he will eat it. We do enjoy meatless Mondays and such, I agree that is a great place to start.

    Melissa- Congratulations on that beautiful little girl!! I ran into similar comments when I told people that I used cloth diapers. Its almost as if you are asking THEM to do the wash for you or something. Instead of being supportive, people question your motives and act like you are crazy. We made all of Zoe’s babyfood because I wanted better control over what she ingested and we got similar comments for that. I use cloth in the summer when I am off from school, its just too much for me to do it while we both are working. But I like knowing that I am making even the smallest difference. Have you tried out different kinds yet? I tried a few and found that I like BumGenius the best. This is a blog that a friend of mine writes (Belinda) and she talks about the different types of cloth diapers that she has tried. It might help:)
    http://www.learningtogreen.blogspot.com/

    Is that legal? To post a blog on another blog? Are we going to back in time?

    • I love link love, so please hyperlink away! Esp considering the weird backlash against cloth diapers (wtf is that all about? they do realize it means no work for them, right??), you mommas need all the support you can get!

  6. Becky Sharkey

    Hello! I am also a blog stalker, my friend! I am loving this topic and discussions. Like Liz, I have never trained for anything, but I do notice that what I eat and the amount of activity I do effects my energy level. (also could be how well Brenna sleeps that night as well!). I have always wanted to try vegetarian to an extent or at least cut our red meats, but Bryan is such a meat guy it’s so hard. Liz, I love your idea of Meatless Mondays! I will have to try that. Yes, having a baby really makes you wonder what is going into her body more than I really cared about what I was eating. We also made all her own baby food. I didn’t want all the extra preservatives and stuff in her food. I thought about cloth diapers, but when she was pooping 6 times a day, I wasn’t even going to try! Sorry environment! I have several friends who use them, if you need me to pick their brains,Melissa, let me know! Good luck!
    I do pretty much eat the same way I ate as a kid. As growing up and learning how other families ate, I am realizing that we were a very healthy family. Nothing organic, but all fresh veggies and fruits with healthy portions sizes. Everything in moderation and having a colorful plate was always a family motto growing up and I still stick to that, which is what I want to teach Brenna. Bryan has started making healthier choices and has lost 65 lbs from doing so.
    As I read about the pink slime and hear about the chicken litter on NPR, I hope that bringing awareness to these topics educates people and helps them make healthier choices overall as well as raises the FDA standards in approving what gets passed to sell to food stores.
    As for the future of the human race it’s pretty scary to think about what can happen. Bryan has said since I met him that overpopulation will kill us off. Locally, offspring are selling farmlands to developers for a whole lot of money, which makes local fresh foods hard to come by.
    Ok, sleeping baby up. Off to the park to see the ducks and the creek. I’ll let you know what I see, Chris (even though it’s Friday)!

    • becks, i really do remember your house being just as you describe! everyone stayed healthy, but it did not seem like anyone felt like they were being deprived. that was such a gift to have!

  7. Meg

    Wow. You all have so much to say. I will certainly not be able to compete in length, but I would like to share a little.

    1. I love this article. I need reminders that what I eat affects how I feel/perform. I need all the help I can get when it comes to running better/stronger. I have always thought that being a veggie would take it’s toll on your athletic ability. I am coming to realize that eating processed foods hurts even more. I was a vegetation for a little while, but I was not very smart about it. I ate too much cheese and bread. I am not sure that I would do it again, but I would like to cut way back on my meat in take.

    2. My eating habits definitely changed from when I was a child. Being the youngest of four, I ate what was offered. There was no choice in the matter (except on my birthday). As an adult, I love to eat whatever I want when I want. I think I need to go back to eating more for utility than pleasure. Not that I don’t want to enjoy eating. I love to eat! But, I want to recognize thy food is fuel and not just a way to satisfy cravings.

    3. As for humans, I am afraid that many will continue on this path of luxury and pleasure. But, some folks will always be smart and healthy. Perhaps the divide between convenience and health will grow until all of the processed food eaters perish and the whole foods eaters prevail. I have cut way back on eating out just this week and I am already reaping the rewards!

  8. Meg, I agree with the veg concerns, I felt that way too. When I was a veg, i was also a horrible one and felt like crap, hence my return to fish and pultry. but i think i am much better equipped to try it now! but i am not equipped to do this: http://www.thefruitarian.com/ this dude is an ultramarathoner and only eats fruit!! what???
    PS i lam totally picturing poor kid meg just grabbing scraps when you could get them! i hope there were some jelly rings in there!

  9. A few years ago I tried vegetarianism for about five months. I researched the hell out of it and worked very hard to ensure I was getting enough protein (eggs from my neighbor were the biggest source) and that I was eating healthfully and balanced. I had to give it up, though, because my body’s ability to heal plummeted. Heal, as in cuts took longer to close, recovery from hard workouts took much longer, etc. I still don’t eat a ton of meat and I always try to get my meat from sources that are not factory farmed hellholes, but from that experience, I know veganism is not a choice I can make for my body.

    When I was a kid, the only green vegetable on the plate was overcooked green beans. We ate a huge amount of meat and potatoes. While things weren’t generally fried, they were definitely not healthy, particularly in regard to the amount of processed crap, take-out and fast food.. To this day, my mom fully admits she hates vegetables and herself refuses to eat them. I remember many days as a teen just craving a healthy home-cooked meal. I do not eat the way I was fed as a kid. And I cannot ever go back to that diet.

    The human race will get a lot smaller in number in the next 100 years. The planet’s ability to sustain such a voracious population is reaching the end point quickly. I have a lot of theories as to what will happen even in the next 50 years and I tend to keep them to myself because it’s terrifying. A lot of what will and won’t survive will come down to money and socio-economic class. You and I can talk about this later on, not online :-)

  10. Melissa

    I grew up in a deli/meat market so meat has always been a part of my diet. When I started reading about Scott Jurek and his diet it totally changed my way of thinking about food. I still eat meat, but it is no longer the main part of my meals. I think the biggest difference I’ve made it at lunch time. I used to always be in a sandwich state of mind. Now I stay meatless at lunch by eating salads, quinoa with veggies, or even cereal, or a veggie omelet. By staying meatless during the day I feel like I can have a little meat at dinner. I like to mix it up, I’ll have beef one night, chicken one night, fish or other seafood one night, maybe pork another night, and then go meatless on the remaining nights of the week. The meat is never the main event of the meal, just a side. I fill the rest of my dinners with lots of veggies, brown rice, whole wheat pastas, or potatoes. I just got done reading Scott’s book (it is amazing!), and it has inspired me to focus more on my diet then I have been recently. While I feel I have enough knowledge of food to go vegan and be fine nutritionally, I just don’t want to. Meat, and cheese make me happy, and I could never go the rest of my life without ice cream. I feel like as long as I continue to eat these things in moderation I will be ok. As far as the human race, I think Chris and GD should have a kid so they can grow up and save the world!!

    • Haha, with out luck, the kid would want to be a corporate money hound or something!!
      Well, whatever you are doing nutritionally, it is working! You are a speedy lady! Here is my question to you – what do you do for breakfast? I am looking to change mine up.

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