Football and Food

I have made clear how much Saints football means to me, and I have made public my opinion of our dysfunctional relationship with food here. I even went as far as calling it “lethal”, which to some boarders on heresy, or at a minimum hyperbole. Even if we call it something less morbid like “normal”, facts like this exist: heart disease number one killer in Louisiana; 10,282 people in Louisiana died of heart disease in 2010* (how many of us knew one of these people?…); 42% of our adults participate in 150+ min of aerobic physical activity per week, when the national average is 51%. One could argue that it is borderline unLouisianan to be healthy and active. But I would take offense to that argument.

I love the game of football. I started participating in this game as a toddler in the yard in some of my earliest memories. It is a part of me, as it is for many of us, especially here. Football is an amazing game. It teaches young men how to put in hard work as a team to achieve incremental successes (first downs, three-n-outs, tackles, turnovers, making a crucial block, etc), battles if you will, in an overall big picture framework of a game. This game is very much a microcosm of life. For in the future, these young men will be counted on to play a team role in the real world. They will be called on to work with others to achieve what cannot be achieved without help, a team. I think team sports of all sorts do this, and it is why I feel they are so popular. But football has a special place in my heart. I can still feel the morning due-laden grass of three-a-days stuck to my face as I do grass drills. I can still smell the locker room. I can still hear coaches not-so-subtly suggesting improvements to one’s effort. I see and feel the Friday night lights, here the crowd and announcer, taste the mouth piece…
Football has a firm grip on my soul. I still think of the guys I played with as brothers. And my brothers and I, along with chest-pounding machismo, participated in a “manly” form of nutrition: meat is good, more is better; protein, protein, protein. I get it.

And now that our days on the gridiron are gone, we too easily and willingly relent to being athletic has-beens. We reminisce about days gone by, about how good we used to be, how we were once athletes. We concede that age is catching up to us. Boy, if could have it back: our youth, our athletic prowess, our team. We can, big men, we can.

We can reshape our lives and be even better than we were in our “glory days”. But this time around, it’s not grass drills and and tackling dummies. This time around it’s plants and running that will shape us. In that order.

Let’s address food. All we have to change is everything. So what? Besides the taste, how’s the way we currently eat making you feel? What’s it doing for your athletic prowess? How is it helping with your stamina? Food is good, don’t get me wrong. It’s what we deem food that is the problem. What we call food really isn’t; it’s really just bliss point-centric matter. In other words, it is merely something we put in our mouths for pleasure, not nutrition. That is (as made evident by the overwhelming amount of disease in this country) not a sustainable relationship with what we call food. Food should be an asset, not a liability. I don’t think anyone can make a cogent argument with the stance that how and what we eat today is an asset to us as a people. Rekindling a relationship between ourselves and the natural human food that has served us well for eons would be an asset to us as a people. And when I say human food I mean PLANTS. We have stigmatized the very diet that can offer us a beautiful active healthy existence. A diet that makes us more human. It does not turn us into spindly, pale, weaklings (I’ll spare you a bicep-flexing selfie, but I’m no frail little boy).

So, to my BIG brothers. To my athletic has-been brothers. Let’s make a change. I have always loved the phrase “don’t talk about it, be about it”. Well, I have been “being about it” on this front for while. I have figured out some things that have worked for me, and I want to share. With not just BIG, former lineman, but everyone. My big dawgs out there I’m talking to you, but the things I talk about work for all (just ask my cute little button of a wife:)). I don’t expect you to get it done in a vacuum. And that’s why I’m here to help. Let’s get started.

First, I just want share what have been some staples in our kitchen in this transition. I think transitional foods are important while letting go of some of the deadly loves we currently have. It’s nice to have a few things on the menu that closely resemble some animal product-heavy classics.

I’ll share a few of my faves I had that were crucial to me in the beginning:

1. Veggie burgers: keep in mind that want the least processed veggie burger we can find, with most natural ingredients, and that you can make them yourself. The one I found was Amy’s brand California veggie burgers. They have them at the Rouse on Canal Blvd. in Thibodaux, so I’m sure they can be found in most places. I get Ezekiel hamburger buns, and those burgers. I put a mixture of good organic salsa (green mountain gringo in organic isle, my fave) and ripe avocado in a bowl, mash it together, and spread the mash on the bun. Lettuce (or kale), tom, onions, bell peppers, grilled ‘shrooms, whatever…slap it all together, BOOM! A burger that is satiating and healthy. Hell, eat two.

2. PB & J my way: First, do yourself a favor and introduce your mouth to Madjool dates. Take sprouted grain bread, smear natural raw almond butter, smash some pitted dates into said nut butter…Smash dat, Bruh! With a glass of cold 30 calorie unsweetened almond milk? Boy, Shut Up!

3. Delicious smoothies: I get the frozen mixed berries in the big bag. I use this kinda as my ice. I buy the ripe bananas (that means brown specs on the peel) if I can. Get em home, peel em, freeze em, also acts as ice. I use Sunwarrior raw blend plant based protein from the Carrot Patch here in Thibodaux, but I know this is a product Whole Foods carries. Play with different combinations of fruit (dates, strawberries, nanners, melons if you like, etc), raw oats, chia seeds…you get the picture. No need to sweeten, the fruit has plenty sugar. Add raw almond butter from time to time. Almond milk based of course. Nutra bullet is awesome. We have a ninja, but my brother and mom have bullets. We’ll have a Vitamix soon.

4. Breakfast: I always was a cold cereal guy. I loved Cheerios, corn flakes, and Special K…thinking I was eating healthy, I’d tear these up! But these are pas Bon (this means “no good” , for the non-coonasses). My fave now is merely a bowl of raw old fashioned oats, and a little Red Mills muesli. I put in a half-scoop of choc sunwarrior, mix while still dry. Add almond milk. Mix to the consistency you like. Top with walnut pieces, berries, grapes, nanners, etc.

5. Hale To The Kale: As I spoke about with Rich Roll, kale was one that took me a while to become friends with. Me and kale were kinda eyeing each other up, no one really made a move. Until I read Chef AJ’s book Unprocessed. She schooled me on “messaging” the kale, as well as a dressing that was like WHOA. Get her book for the exact recipe. I’ll give you my memory-committed version…
In a blender put about 8-10 ounces of water. Drop in and index finger-sized piece of ginger, juice of a lime, plenty red pepper flakes (I like shit hot), about 5-6 pitted Madjool dates, and a giant scoop of raw almond butter, blend.
Pour it over your chopped kale (use 3-4 bunches of kale. Also, I bought a sink liner-you know, the big square thing that fits in the sink to hold water and dishes?-just for messaging kale. Any huge vessel will work), and message your dressing quite vigorously into the kale. This will reduce the volume of the kale and it can be then transferred to a less gigantic vessel than what is needed durning the message phase. Once kale is dressed I add raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds. Each time I eat a bowl of it, I top it with broccoli and radish sprouts.

These are just few of my favorite eats. But these alone do not a healthy diet make. Having kale, and a colorful array of natural raw produce in large volumes is where the corner gets turned, in my book. The foods I mention here are a few examples of the new “comfort foods” we eat (along with delicious, fresh fruit) when kale, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and the like seem to leave you wanting something.

Here are a few cookbooks we used along the way: Engine 2 Diet; My Beef With Meat; Unprocessed.

I’m purposely vague about exact amounts of stuff. I want you to play with the ingredients in the kitchen. Use my framework to guide you but you “exactify” it yourself, then you own it.

Big men, little men, ex-lineman, cute little girls, huge-bellied defensive coordinators (yes I did), I got love for you all; let’s get some traction on the issues that are robbing us of matriarchs, patriarchs, aunts, uncles, parents, peers, H.O.F. NFL legends, and beloved pop icons alike. I got your back. Let’s get it!

WHO DAT!!! (I had to)

FREE JOSH LAJAUNIE

imageI am an unabashed Who Dat!! with a last name that has South Louisiana written all over it. I grew up on Bayou Lafourche in Thibodaux, Louisiana. I’m proud to be a bayou boy. I’m proud to sound like a coonass. And I am proud to be a graduate of our little Harvard on the Bayou, Nicholls State University. Growing up here has contributed to a lot of things in my life of which I am immensely proud. It has also bred into me a relationship with food, as it has with many of my bayou brethren, that I have come to realize is dysfunctional and even lethal. This relationship played a huge part in my achieving something I am not proud of: weighing over 400lbs. These are a few words about how I changed that.

When the New Orleans Saints achieved the impossible in February 2010 I was forever changed. I had a new image of “impossible” in my head. It was no longer something that was real, an obstruction, an obstacle; it became a mirage. I was forever changed because what I had been told all my life would never, could never happen (although,I, at the risk of sounding crazy throughout my life thought would and could) HAPPENED. It literally changed something in me. I wanted to know more about what it took to make it happen, so I read Coach Sean Payton’s book. It taught me a lot about not making excuses, identifying objectives, finding a pragmatic way to achieve said objectives, letting go of my normal, and forgetting about the “that’s just the way it is down here” mentality that taints this region’s logic at times.
At the time, I was patting myself on the back for getting my degree after having flunked out seven years earlier, and I was applying what Coach had taught me to that endeavor. In February of 2011, spring semester of my senior year at Nicholls State University, I began to worry about the way I looked. You see, I was seeing other seniors in suits and ties giving business presentations in front of auditoriums full of folks. It bothered me that in the fall I was going to be one of those presentation-giving seniors. Except with my shirt tucked in, unlike most of these other guys, my belly would be hanging over my belt and I’d be sweating from nerves and from being fat (not to mention I’m 10 years older than everyone, and felt kinda out of place anyway). How would I be received? I worried, but didn’t act.

That same February my lifelong friend, Jeff, called me out of the blue:

Jeff: “Hey, buddy!”
Me: “‘Sup, Jeffie?”
Jeff: “I’m getting fat, bra. I gotta do something. If I join Laroussa’s, would you come with me and help keep me on track?”
(Laroussa’s is a gym in Thibodaux. I had been a member there on and off since high school, mostly off.)
Me: “Keep you on track? Bra, I don’t even know how much I weigh these days. I got on B.J.’s [my wife]scale, and it said ‘error’. I gotta do something too!”
Jeff: “Well, I’m joining today and I’ll be at the gym at 5:00 in the a.m., you coming?”
Me: “Yes. I’ll go by after school and sign up. See you in the morning”

And just that quick I went from worrying to doing!
A couple of weeks later I was complaining to B.J. about her scale being a wuss with all this “error” junk (even the doctor’s scale only went to 350lbs., so my weight had no real starting point, no high water mark if you will). B.J., detecting my seriousness I suppose, brought a scale home one afternoon that went up to 500lbs.! That oughta do it, I thought.
I hopped on that scale, and for the first time in years I had a number: 397lbs! I looked at myself in the mirror, hands on the vanity, leaning in nose-to-nose with my reflection and said “What the [expletive]did you do? You fat piece of [expletive]! Fix this!” I literally said that to myself, I’ll never forget it. I had tears in my eyes, fear in my voice, but something told me this time would be different.
After two weeks of working out, going to school, meeting with classmates after-hours for group projects, and eating less I still weighed 397lbs. That’s a single fried oyster poboy (my favorite, by the way) away from 400lbs.!
I buried myself in school work. I did a spring semester, a summer semester, and a fall intercession class to finish my degree. I felt so proud!And by graduation in December I had lost 60lbs.
School had taught me a lot about pragmatism, preparation, and execution. And now I felt more equipped to follow what Coach had written so adamantly about in his book. I also had a great sense of just what was capable; my Saints had won a Super Bowl, and I, a flunked out ex-jock, had a degree! On top of that, I had lost 60lbs., and felt like I was making a real physical transformation, for the right reasons, the right way, for the first time.
The following spring, 2012, I wanted to run the CCC. Jeff, who was still hanging in there with me, decided he’d do it too. We began running. I modeled my stride after a Thibodaux man who ran with what I call a jiggle. It’s about as fast as a walk, but looks like a run, a light jog really. Jeff could walk next to me as I “ran”. I was just so afraid to hurt my now 340ish-pound self running and derail my progress. But, I really wanted to run. I would see people all up and down St. Charles Ave on the weekends running, touring the city on foot, I wanted that.
The Crescent City Classic came on April 23rd 2012 (I won’t even address BountyGate in detail, but you can imagine it was quite the motivator at the time…). That race was quite a feat for me. I got tired in mile three and started walking. I was cramping in mile five. And could hardly muster the energy to run across the finish line (as opposed to walking, like the ladies with baby strollers). I had finished it with a time of around 1:50:00. But, in getting ready for that race, I had gotten myself down to 320lbs.! That’s minus seventy-seven pounds! I felt like I was on a roll. And I felt that running had awakened the almost dead, smothered in fat, athlete inside me. The one I had turned my back on years ago right before flunking out of my first attempt at college.
I had a new thing now: RUNNING. Immediately after that race, I wanted to get better. I wanted to get faster. I wanted to get stronger. I wanted to get lighter. I made a new commitment to the running aspect of my workout routine now that I could see the possibilities.
Others jumped on board with ‘ol Josh and Jeffie after that race. My best friend/wife/girlfriend/podna/soulmate started to get her BEAST on by joining Pro Athletic Performance (PAP) in Houma, my brother Dustin started hitting Laroussa’s with me and Jeffrey in the a.m., and even my heavy-drinking, chain-smoking lil Irish podna Pat jumped on the bandwagon with us. I wanted us to all run the CCC come 2013. It was a hard-sell at first but I wound up closing the deal by just registering everyone. (Although, Jeff, who was starting a new career, and had his first baby on the way, had fallen off of the regular Laroussa’s meetings, my brother had stepped in and started BEASTing out with me. Who, by the way, is down about 140lbs to date)This time I had a goal: run this CCC in less than an hour. Guess what?…DID IT! BOOM! My time was 00:59:56! WHAAAT!?! And guess who else ran it that year, in a very similar time?…Coach Sean Payton! It felt good to know I had shared the course with that man.
After the CCC this time, I felt even better. I had actually run the whole thing first of all, and secondly, I had done it in under an hour. Again, blurring the lines between possible and impossible. Now it was time to go next-level. This is when I began to seek out people who have achieved in this realm, read about how they’d done it, and do my best to implement their strategies.
After a very fun and exciting Mardi Gras season, B.J. and I decided to go “clean”. This is something she had read about. I wasn’t really interested in it; I figured I could just eat “healthily” and keep achieving my goals, as I had in the two years prior. Although I had stagnated at around 285lbs. by that Mardi Gras, I still felt good about myself. I mean, I had lost 112lbs. Who can say they lost 112lbs? Not many. But, I went in with her nonetheless. We are a team, after all. After our initial pantry cleansing and subsequent “clean”grocery-run, I was prepping some of our new food and had a few minutes to spare. I turned on my Apple TV, pulled up my Netflix account, and started looking for documentaries about the subject of nutrition. I came across a documentary called “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead”. I had heard about this documentary, but had dismissed it as some things I’d never do; I like drinking and and eating NOLA-style too much. But, since I was doing this “clean” thing I figured let’s see what it’s about at least. Well, that was it. This dude’s story was a lot like mine. And he broke it down in a way I had never ever heard before. And his fact-based approach really appealed to that pragmatic college graduate that lives in my head now. So, I kept watching documentaries that Netflix suggested to me based on having watched “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead”. One of these suggested documentaries was “Forks Over Knives”. Next-level started to crystallize. I began to rethink the way I was eating, what I, and the rest of America, called “healthy”. This is where I learned about Dr. T. Colin Campbell PhD; “The China Study”; Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. MD, and his son, a retired professional triathlete that is now a firefighter, Rip Esselstyn. 
Once I learned of Rip, I said to myself “who else is a beast like I want to be, and do they eat like him?”. The answers were: Rich Roll, Scott Jurek, and Brenden Brazier to name a few, and YES they eat like him. From reading their books I heard the same things over and over: no meat, no dairy, here’s why, here’s how to stop.
Following what I learned has changed my life. I began worrying less about my weight, and more about optimal health and fitness. (And as a side note, this is what is wrong with our country. I could go on a whole tangent about that alone; healthcare costs, economy, unemployment, dependence on foreign oil, US bonds on the brink of default, etc…all goes back to us, as a whole, being very very very unhealthy because stuff tastes, and feels good. And because we feel entitled to be unhealthy because we’re Americans and have this technology to fix us after the fact, or because “oh well, it’s hereditary, gonna get sick no matter what so why not just live it up”. Our hubris and ignorance has caught up to us, really. What would the founders of the country think of us?).
Now, all that said, most people may not be interested in the running thing as much as me, I get it. But there was another book I read that kinda hit on everything. It was an awesome, frankly put, informational book: “Skinny Bastard”. These two ladies that wrote this book have put everything in one place, in one book; why is plant based the way to go, why modern society is reluctant or downright defiant, how Big Agribusiness has manipulated government to keep facts away from the public, and how to implement it into your life (grocery list, meal plan, recipes, etc.).
I also realize this way of life is a drastic departure from our “norm”, but 1.) forget the “norm” (how’s that working for us?) 2.) so is the way of life, or lack there of, after open heart surgery, cancer, diabetes, or erectile dysfunction.

I want to talk about it more. I want to be a voice, an example of the worst offender fixing the wrong. I want to share my story…

-Here is a link to a feature story/testimonial I did for the running app I use-

I look forward to spreading the word about how doable and necessary it is for us to do adopt a naturally human lifestyle. Which, I believe is eating plants to fuel physical excursion.

Some Netflix Faves:

FORKS OVER KNIVE
FOOD MATTERS
HUNGRY FOR CHANGE
FRANKENSTEER
FAT, SICK, AND NEARLY DEAD
KILLER AT LARGE

Must-read books:

PREVENT AND REVERSE HEART DISEASE, DR. CALDWELL ESSELSTYN
THE CHINA STUDY, DR. T. COLIN CAMPBELL
FINDING ULTRA, RICH ROLL
BORN TO RUN, CHRISTOPHER MCDOUGALL
EAT & RUN, SCOTT JUREK

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