Thursday, February 2, 2012

Eat Like a Poor Man

It's time to update on my first month of the 5000 mile journey I began. 
I've been a bit sniffly, tired and work-laden this week, so finding the hook came slow.

 I made my miles. I even exceeded them, but I was still more 'sick' than I feel in the summer. I expected to have fewer swollen fingers, blackened fingerprints, distended belly days. I realized that most of my miles came from walking, though this January has allowed me to run at least two to three very long runs each week. It's been unseasonably warm. Still I'm here, in a maxi dress, listening to a groaning burbling full belly and feeling a bit gross.

Welcome to winter with me. I've taken a few more days to meander at three or three.five miles per hour on a dreadmill -- yes I meant to misspell that. I've jumped off every few miles for an icy drink. And somewhere in there, I end up with more indulgence than I intend.

This week, while clicking off transcripts to kiddos, I'm also listening to Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. It's nice to realize 5000 miles is not as crazy as I thought. There are ultra-marathoners who would find my 15-17 miles a day on the adult habitrail called a treadmill silly. These folks run this amount daily. I'm meandering those miles on an electric machine. Outdoors, cries my body. Get out in God's creation. This is the trap of winter and always, I end up sickest in January and February. Self-doubt and physical discomfort make these dark days.

I happen to have physical proof of those processes. I get blackened lines on my fingertips, red itchy knuckles, swollen joints, and enormous swollen bellies. I feel so gross I just want to put on my fat pants and brew a cup o' sumpin' hot.

Why after logging 451.24 miles, do I still feel so winter blicky?

Here's what I surmise. I need to eat like a poor person. That's what McDougall wrote in today's segment of Born to Run. It validates something I've been thinking about for years, since I read an eastern monk's The Way of the Pilgrim-- that's had me thinking about food and energy, prayer and fasting for a long time. It's the one that gets in my face about mid-February, just was we come up on Meatfare or Cheesefare, which don't affect me much these days anyway. I cut meat and most dairy out of my diet eons ago. But I realize, even I can overindulge. In The Way of the Pilgrim, the pilgrim writes of twenty mile wanderings on bread and salt. The first time I read that, my diet was just beginning to sicken me. I was amazed at the need to cut things. What I hadn't figured out, and I'm realizing this winter is that it's not just the specific ingredients, it's the amounts. In Born to Run, McDougall says Tarahumara tribe in Mexico eats like impoverished people. Masa tortillas, pignoles, chia seed, fruits and veggies and beans. Almost no animal food. No processed junk. He says you can eat veggies like a pig, but he hasn't seen how much I can pack away. In the end a poor person eats on her limited means. And she doesn't end up sick, as we have, here in our rich culture. One nice thing about all this running? When I do it, really do it, with consciousness, I don't over-imbibe or over-eat. It interferes with a good run and a good run is meditative. I don't want to give that up. Dreadmilling is just that. It's churning away mindlessly like a rat, wishing away the miles. I end up watching stupid movies (a past distraction), working (a current distraction), and eating.

You'll never believe this, but once one appetite is out of bounds, I struggle with others, then, I dodge my medicine. I don't read Scripture. I avoid confession. I find reasons to miss church. It's a spiritual hedonism. It's not that I'm doing things like drinking and smoking and sexing it up. I'm just listless. I shop and troll the web more. I eat. I work. I repeat the cycle. I get frustrated at how I feel and I snark at my kids. They snark back. We're yelling. Then we're apologizing or retreating to different corners of the house, where I shop, eat. work. Then I dodge confession. I feel like Satan, roaming to and fro, seeking some junk food I may devour.

So, there are those miles. I feel pretty good that I achieved them. I'm heartened by the warmer winter and the fact that I'm not crazy for taking on this 5000 mile quest. I'm aware that doing this for causes other than my health is making me think twice about unhealthy appetites and hidden motives. So, you, the ones who have signed as donors, and as supporters, even if you can't donate, spread the word. I'm learning that running is for the body, and the body for the Glory of God. The food is for the stomach and the stomach for nourishing. All of it is to the works of God. Thank you.