Do you look at other athletes, and look at what they’re eating, and wonder if they could do better if they switched to a healthier diet?
I do, because I realized that going vegetarian or vegan wouldn’t maybe fix their injuries, but it would make them pay more attention to their diet. That’s what it did for me. I had to start focusing on my diet because when you, all of sudden, don’t eat all of these things that you’re used to eating, you have to figure out, like, “what am I going to put into my body?” And being in Minnesota and trying to go vegetarian or vegan is not easy, so I had to read all these books and I had to get into the kitchen and start cooking. And that, in and of itself, forced me to start paying attention to what I put into my mouth. And I think that’s where athletes would benefit more, is just taking that first step to pay more attention to their diet.
It’s a roundabout way, I guess, to kick somebody in the butt and get them going. The body needs the building blocks to recover or heal itself. Nutrition is a big component. Obviously, training smart is a big component, too. There’s no one fix.
Did you see a difference between giving up, say, meat and then other animal products like dairy?
It was one of those things that I slowly did, so I didn’t initially notice a major shift. Partly because I had done the transition slowly toward vegetarianism, that maybe when I went fully vegan I didn’t notice I was less congested or anything like that. It was really hard to pinpoint things. But I think that’s the beauty of it. My body wasn’t going from eating McDonald’s four days a week like it had been several years earlier. Because I transitioned slowly, I maybe didn’t notice the shifts that other people might, if they went from eating a really poor diet to suddenly eating better.
And I think that’s a lesson for everyone else. Everyone expects, like, “Ok, this is going to be a magic bullet. I’m going to start feeling better right away.” It actually takes a while, like anything in natural medicine. For the most part, you’re not going to notice a huge difference. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a long-term fix, and it’s cheap health insurance.
You drop a lot of names in the book, regarding resources for recipes and health information. Like, you mention the Moosewood cookbook and Dr. Andrew Weil. Who would you recommend, say, a new vegan or an athlete read about to help educate themselves?
I think Dr. Andrew Weil or Michael Pollan are both good ones for somebody like me–going from meat and potatoes, or hunting and fishing. They start to get you thinking about things and looking at the bigger picture…and learn that our bodies have the ability to heal themselves. I like to recommend their books for someone who maybe isn’t sure they can take it all in at once.
Is there anything else our readers should know?
I think the key thing is that this is so much more than a book about eating and running. Obviously the title is Eat and Run, but it’s really about transformation, and running and eating were two ways for me to learn about myself and learn what my body was capable of. Somebody doesn’t have to be a runner, or a vegetarian or vegan, for that matter. It’s really about being open to possibilities and exploring those. For some people, it takes a while to be ready to take on a new challenge. And other times, you just get that idea and go for it. And that, to me, is super-special.