Stressed is desserts spelled backwards


Lustig means Joyful in German and funny (or weird) in Swedish, but Robert Lustig is neither of those things. At least it’s not that side of him that shines through in his book “Fat Chance”. He’s pissed. And coming from his angle, as a pediatrician working with obese kids, it’s understandable. That main thesis of the book is that we tend to place blame on the individual when it comes to overweight, and that this, in many respects, is wrong. What set him off was the current boom of obese children, and the idea that any way you put it, they are victims, not perpetrators. He then goes on to claim that this is at least in part true to the grown up population as well. We are victims of our hunger-adjusting hormones, and of the food that is made available to us.

Just like six million other people, I’ve watched the video on Youtube where he lashes out at sugar and the FDA. Some might feel that he comes across as a little cocksure and arrogant, and some of his statements are a bit bold. For these reasons I like the book more, even though it’s not as easily digested as the video. (It’s not light reading, and most of the book is really about clinical work and politics. Obesity on a population level.) For instance he takes care in the book to mention that sugar is not proven to be an addictive substance, but that his personal view is that it behaves as one. All in all he is a bit of a maverick, but I personally think he does a very important job in trying to change eating habits among the poor in the US. I hope he gets some influence.

Normal bread to a Dane

“Normal bread” to a Dane.

One funny thing is that a lot of the remedies he suggests are already implemented here in Denmark. The supermarkets are full of fresh produce, traditionally the Danes eat a lot of whole grain bread. And, as in Germany, they are nuts about organic food. The situation described in the book, where there are only fast food joints or supermarkets with ready -made meals is completely alien to me. Of course, Denmark is also famous for Danish pastry, beer, sausages and cigarettes: It might just be because I live in a privileged neighbourhood. Last fall I attended a PTA meeting for my daughter’s kindergarten, and one of the parents hijacked the meeting, and went on for an hour to discuss an apple pie (organic, without added sugar, but sweetened with apple jam) that had been served to the kids. She claimed that it was damaging to introduce the kids to the concept of cake and party food. That the idea itself was damaging to the future health of our children. Holy shit.

It makes you ask, as Matt Fitzgerald does, “Are you part of a diet cult?”. Maybe I am. I’m trying to lose weight to run faster, and I do obsess over nutrition. My main focus though, is to enjoy good food and never ever feel hungry. So a personal sugar ban is a good thing for me.

DSC_0906_edited-1-1024x960Speaking of diet cults, the whole family went to a raw food restaurant a couple of weeks back. And we all got a massive stomach ache. It turned out every salad on the menu was dressed in “nut milk”. How much nuts can a person really eat? And why do you have to call it milk? How come every health food movement focuses blindly on the exact things you aren’t allowed to eat if you follow that diet? Examples are paleo “cookies”, raw food “pizza”, gluten free “muffins”, vegan “burgers”. There is so much delicious vegetarian food around, why slap people in the face with a big disappointment like that instead of just selling a diet on it’s strong suits?

Rant completed.



The Runner’s World (r) Complete Guide To Minimalism And Barefoot Running


In my last group training session a woman asked about my VivoBarefoot shoes. It’s the first time in the two years I’ve worn them that a stranger has shown interest in my shoes. Seems you can read about minimalist shoes in the paper every week, but very few actually use them for running. Out of the hundred something runners I see every week, about zero to one of them are wearing minimalist shoes, except for the odd Lunaracer racing flat. And even those are far between.

Anyway, the woman told me she had started running in VivoBarefoots, and had to stop after two weeks because of all kinds of pain in her lower legs. She seemed to be doing fine in her cushioned running shoes, but I wish she had read this book before venturing into barefoot shoes. I am afraid her story is a common reason why the five fingers end up in the back of the closet. (The other main reason being how they look.)

The book is short and very well written. I read it in a single day. It explains the main ideas and principles of running with less cushioning, and the author, Scott Douglas, is very careful to include all the ‘caveats’, and different viewpoints on barefoot running, which is nice. The book also includes some simple exercises, like how to do butt-kicks (on yourself), and how to go about shopping for shoes.

All in all, I’d say many people would be better off reading this book quoting reputable coaches, than getting all their information from web forums. It’s essential in the sense that it’s short, and IMO important for anybody interested in barefoot and minimalist running.

Running with Adharanand Finn


I just finished this book in two days. The plot is simple: Adharanand Finn used to be an athlete, but has long since stopped training. He somehow rediscovers his passion for running, and moves to Iten, Kenya for half a year, to train like a pro. While there, he meets many of the world’s fastest runners, and many world record holders, and improves his PB. No spoilers here.

It’s a fascinating look into how Kenyan athletes live and train, and what their background is like. Their way of life is really much poorer and simpler than I had imagined. For most athletes, running is their only way out of poverty, and the difference between failure and success is infinitely small. There is only room for a handful of runners in a big marathon, and they must be spotted by a foreign agent to be able to get abroad. The number of elite runners in Kenya is so large, they have to be at an Olympic level to even get noticed.  The dream for these runners is to win price money in a big international race, so they can buy a cow and a car. While training they can hardly afford a pair of shorts. Their diet in mainly ugali, which is a bit like polenta, and beans. So much for protein bars.

The book is sometimes compared to Born To Run. But while McDougal’s book is written with a mission, to convince people that barefoot running is a good for you, Running With The Kenyans takes a more open approach. Finn simply wants to learn to run faster, and his reasoning is: Why not learn from the best? The book is not just about running, but there’s a bit about daily life in rural Africa as well, as well as a number of interesting characters. The book won’t give you many concrete training tips, but focuses on the larger picture on how you should train. As the Irish coach Colm O’Connell puts it:

You people come to find the secret, but you know what the secret is? That you think there’s a secret. There is no secret.

So don’t expect the book to blow your mind like Born To Run probably did, but expect to want to head out for a long run as soon as you put the book down.

Born to run?

Detail from the book cover

Just finished this one, and it was a surprising read.It’s sort of two books in one: It’s a beat-inspired novel about ultrarunners, (very Kerouak) and an article about injury-free running, baked into one book. I expected it to be less of a narrative and more of a report, but I enjoyed it a lot. The book is chuck full of myths, facts and stories, and inspired me to get out on the trails.

Christopher McDougall’s thesis is basically that running without shoes, or in very light shoes, contrary to common belief, is healthier than running in padded running shoes. There is a lot of hype around this book, and I can understand why. It’s a very entertaining read, and his arguments are strong.

The book is setting a trend. Last year I had never heard of Five fingers or minimal running shoes, this fall they seem to be everywhere. They’re even making a movie of this book starring Jake Gyllenhaal. I’m not kidding.