Sunday, July 8, 2012
Book Review: Eat & Run
Unfortunately my habits tend to follow my heart rather than my head.
This is why, despite a profound disinterest in cooking and meal planning, I'm attempting to embrace both. It's also why I picked up Scott Jurek's memoir. Jurek attributes his years of ultra-running dominance, in part, to his careful vegan diet. He's confident enough of the connection that there's a recipe at the end of every chapter of this book.
A plant-centered diet isn't totally foreign to me. Before I got pregnant with my twins in 2006, I had been a vegetarian for five years. Becoming one wasn't a hard transition for me. My husband, Dan, had been veg for a few years and easily converted me: I am an animal lover (and not someone who could ever hunt or in any other way imagine killing my own food), and I've never been a big fan of meat anyway. I resumed eating chicken and fish because I wasn't getting enough protein for the pregnancy and felt instantly better as soon as I added those things back. I think I grew my kids on scrambled eggs, in fact. After they were born, I never went back to vegetarianism, but someday I might.
Going vegan? More of a stretch. I love dairy. Ice cream is probably my single favorite food. And despite Jurek's assertion at the big book signing I attended the other week that ice cream made with almond or rice milk is just as tasty as the real thing, I am dubious.
This isn't to say that I doubt what he says about the benefits of a vegan diet are true. His running results, his clear good health, speak for themselves. He backs up his position with a lot of real science. Even my instincts tell me that he is right (and I think your instincts will, too, should you read this book). Moreover, the recipes sound tasty. I know I'd like all of them.
But as convincing as Jurek and the evidence are, I have no plans to go vegan. There are two big reasons why I don't have time for a diet like his, and won't have that kind of time for years, if ever:
1) Running (unfortunately but understandably) is not my job. The job I am lucky to have takes up 30 hours of my time each week in actual face time at work, plus another five hours factoring in my commute. That's 35 hours of waking time that I do not have to make rice milk from scratch, haunt the bulk aisles at Whole Foods, soak beans for hours, construct beautiful meals that are two hours in the making and chop endless quantities of vegetables these meals require--or plan for all of those things.
2) I have children. Outside of the hours required by my paid job, I am responsible for caring for them. This job is not limited to my waking hours. And it is even more unforgiving of the elaborate kitchen activities Jurek practices daily (including the aforementioned making of vegan milks from scratch, bulk shopping, bean soaking, vegetable chopping, multi-hour meals and planning). This is because the modern world provides many tempting shortcuts for busy parents trying to get meals on the table, especially parents like me who don't enjoy spending lots of time in the kitchen. In order to make time for running, reading, hanging out with my husband, blogging and having some fun with my kids, I frequently and unapologetically take many of those shortcuts.
Yes, I do try to make our meals as healthful as possible (and happily I have a husband who works harder on this than I do). Yes, I'm trying to do more planning and to avoid things that are processed. But I'm not above feeding the kids a box of Annie's boxed mac and cheese, and throwing chicken on the grill is much easier than hand-assembling lentil burgers.
Enough about me, though. You're probably wondering: what about the book? Isn't this supposed to be a book review?
The book is good. You learn a lot about the ultra-running psyche, which is endlessly fascinating. Jurek had a tough childhood, has been through a nasty divorce and endured years of sadness watching multiple sclerosis make his beloved mother sicker and sicker. Though he never says so explicitly, these are probably also big reasons he's so tough and gets so much out of painful activities like running through Death Valley. As with the Kenyans, whose hard lives contribute to their ability to run fast and far, Jurek's circumstances aren't easy to mimic (nor would most of us choose to mimic them, if we're honest with ourselves).
I came away from this book with a lot of respect for Scott Jurek. I'm glad it's a bestseller, too. It may well make many people's lives more healthy.
That said, I'm looking forward to the sequel. You know, the one he's going to write when he and his now-fiancee have kids. I have no doubt they'll solve the kitchen conundrum that I'm too lazy to deal with. Oh, and it's Sunday, my Sweets R OK Day. I'm going out for some Dairy Queen ice cream. The kind made from REAL milk.