What no meat?

On October 26th, it was reported that according to research carried out by IACR (the cancer research body associated with the WHO), processed meats such as bacon, ham and sausages are carcinogenic to humans. This puts them on a list of 116 items with such substances as tobacco, alcohol and asbestos, diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis, plus a wide range of pollutants.

We’re constantly hearing that this food is bad, oh hang on a minute, no, it’s good… Er, no, it’s bad after all. At this rate, there will be nothing left on the table to eat. 

And if we believe all this research, a so-called balanced diet with the right level of macronutrients (carbs, protein and fat) is out of the window.

It seems like the World Health Organisation received quite a number of enquires on the subject. Here is a short statement from their media centre explaining that they stand by IACR’s findings.

A deeper look at the numbers paints a slightly different picture, however. The research ties the likelihood to colorectal cancer in particular. 

The experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

50 grammes is roughly two sausages or 4 slices of ham.

The average person is said to have a 5% chance ot contracting this particular type of cancer. So doing the maths as we might say means that an 18% increase in likelihood of contracting this specific strain would lead to a mere increase in likelihood of 0.9% (5% x 118% = 5.9%). Cancer Research UK puts the baseline rate at 5.6% leading to an increased likelihood of 6.6%. Either way, hardly worrying statistics. Sure, I don’t want to put my head in the sand but I have also heard over the years that stress is a major cause of cancer. 

It’s all very well giving up everything that is bad for us, and this article points out some more worries about foods many of us enjoy. But for such a small likelihood, I would rather continue eating my bacon thanks! In moderation of course!

Eat and Run: Book Review

  

Whatever the problem in my life, the solution had always been the same: Keep going! My lungs might be screaming for oxygen, my muscles might be crying in agony, but I had always known the answer lay in my mind.

Not a bad solution to live by. 

Scott Jurek doesn’t do things by half. He gives his best and just keeps on pushing further and further. I first learned about AQ: Adversity Quotient (a theory developed by Dr. Paul Stoltz) when studying for my MBA a few years ago. Jurek epitomizes this never-say-die spirit.

We meet Jurek as he is vomiting, lying prostrate on the searing ground of Death Valley, his brain being cooked in the heat of one of the hottest places on Earth. He is attempting to run the Badwater Ultramarathon — 135 miles of pure scorching hell.

For those who have read Born to Run, you will know Jurek as ‘El Venado’ or The Deer. Jurek is one of the greatest ultra runners of all time. 

It is not often that he succumbs to the elements nor to his own inner monologue telling him to stop, asking why is he putting himself through it. And as we soon find out, this is not going to be one of those times.
We get an insight into the mind of an elite runner and learn that he is no different from you and me. He too gets that inner voice that says, “It’s ok to stop and have a rest. Just this once.”

The next morning I didn’t want to get out of bed. I could hear music. It was the siren song of a warm bed, a cozy couch, a few hours of reading, or listening to music, or just being. No one was forcing me to run. No one said I had to. No one was going to die if I just relaxed a little. Those were the lyrics of the song. It was the catchy, terrible tune that had seduced so many runners to drop out of races. It was a melody I could not afford to listen to. The song was calling: Rest. You just ran one mountain. No need to do another.

The difference is that he didn’t succumb. He doesn’t succumb. 

Jurek didn’t start out as an athlete. At school, he was a bookworm and spent most of his time studying. In fact, his route into running actually came through skiing. At his high school graduation, he gave the valedictory speech and left his peers with four key messages:

  1. Be different
  2. Help others
  3. Never let others discourage you from achieving your dream
  4. Do things while you are young

Good advice indeed from an 18-year-old. Sounds more like something a 41-year-old might say to his kids! He took his own advice, even if he admits that at the time of his speech, he didn’t know what his dream was. 

As an adult, Jurek remains an avid reader and a student of life. Through various encounters during his time as a runner, he has shaped his own development.  His visits to Japan and to his bookshelf exposed him to the principles of Bushido. He likens the emptiness of the warrior’s mind in battle to the importance of remaining in the present when running a race. A wandering mind loses focus, and in a 100-mile race that can be dangerous. 

His studies do not rest solely with philosophy. He also studies the effects of the foods he puts into his body. He started out as a meat-eater, became a vegetarian and is now a vegan. Jurek cites studies that link the Western diet with the three most common causes of death in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer and strokes. He has studied through trial and error and lots of reading the effects of various foods on his performance. This book is not just for runners, but for those who care about what they put in their body. He ends each chapter with a recipe that he himself cooks up for himself or for his friends.

The healthier I had eaten, the faster and stronger I had become. Was it a coincidence that sick people were being served starchy, crappy food?

If you like running, Eat and Run will give you lots of practical tips, from how to breath to what training to focus on. If you like Born to Run, you’ll love this book which has more of a flowing style. If you care about your body, you’ll learn some quick and practical recipes, including a good one for chia seeds. And if you like autobiographies, Jurek gives you a clear insight into his mind.