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Old 05-29-2007, 06:14 AM   #1
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"How the Lakota Got Fat and Beau LeBeau Saved Himself."

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_http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/articles/2007/05/25/news/top/doc4656604541bb2
292793009.txt_
(http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/arti...2292793009.txt)
Buffalo-based diet plan includes 'spiritual connection'
Documentary to track man's journey on Dakota Diet
By Mary Garrigan, Journal staff

(javascript:thumbnailWindow('/articles/2007/05/25/news/top/doc4656604541bb2292793009.img',%20373,%20238))
Nurse Kayla Wulf checks Beau LeBeau's blood pressure as he runs a stress
test on a treadmill for Dr. Kevin Weiland during a recent progress checkup
during filming of the PBS documentary, "Good Meat," by the film's producer, Sam
Hurst, at far left. (Steve McEnroe, Journal staff)
It is Day 100 of filming for the documentary "Good Meat," and its star, Beau
LeBeau, is devouring a buffalo burger for lunch.

The buffalo that LeBeau is dining on after a morning full of medical tests
is the "good meat" of the title. But it is the film's 10-word tagline that
sums up the story: "How the Lakota Got Fat and Beau LeBeau Saved Himself."

Filmmakers Sam Hurst and Larry Pourier like to describe their documentary,
which will air on PBS late this year, as "Super Size Me" upside down.

Instead of filming a physically fit, healthy white male for 30 days while he
gorges on fast food by eating at McDonalds three times a day, these
independent filmmakers are following LeBeau, a 35-year-old, obese, Lakota man, for
200 days while he tries to return to the diet of his ancestors, or at least to
the closest approximation of it that he can find in 2007 on Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation.

But just as Morgan Spurlock's indictment of fast food was about more than
his own rapid decline into poor health courtesy of McDonald's, "Good Meat" will
address more than LeBeau's attempt at weight loss and lifestyle changes.

In a commentary that touches on the social, economic and spiritual
challenges of life on a modern-day reservation, Hurst and Pourier will make the case
for American Indians to take buffalo off the ceremonial shelf and put it back
on their dinner tables.

"This movie is about Beau, yes, but it's really about so much more," Pourier
said.

Historically, the Lakota depended on the buffalo for all of their basic
needs, but especially as a source of food. Today, the animal plays a largely
symbolic role in the spiritual lives of Indians, eaten more often as a ceremonial
food than as a staple in their daily diet.

The irony of that is not lost on LeBeau, an unemployed man whose life is
arranged around traditional Lakota ceremonial practices such as the wacipi, or
sweat lodge, pipe ceremonies and being a Sun Dancer.

"We kind of put it up on a pedestal and only took it down for special
occasions," LeBeau said.

He struggles to explain that his new buffalo-centric menu is not just a diet
plan but a sacred communion of sorts that allows him to live his religion
more fully on a daily basis.

"The buffalo is considered sacred by our tribe, of course, but before this,
I didn't bring it into my daily life," he said. "Now, I do. There's always
been a spiritual connection for me, but now there's even a better connection
to it."

Filming for "Good Meat" began Feb. 14, when the 5-foot, 9-inch LeBeau
weighed in at 333 pounds. The medical news was not good.

At that initial exam, the former high school basketball standout with a
stocky build and a sweet jump shot failed his treadmill stress test. He could not
walk for seven minutes at an accelerating speed. He was chronically
exhausted by the obesity-caused sleep apnea, which was waking him, on average, 33
times each hour at night.

His supervising physician, Dr. Kevin Weiland, told LeBeau he had a body mass
index of 49 percent body fat, a fasting blood glucose of 158 and a liver
disease called NASH Syndrome (Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis), which is fat
accumulation in the liver. Then, Weiland used the word that Pourier says many
Lakota people hear as a death sentence: diabetes.

LeBeau had developed Type II diabetes, brought on by poor diet and lack of
exercise. Instead of treating the disease with an expensive drug, Weiland
prescribed a daily exercise regimen and 200 days on "The Dakota Diet."

Weiland's soon-to-be-released book by that same name emphasizes lots of
fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and the healthiest, most nutrient-dense
meat he knows of: grass-fed buffalo.

LeBeau returned to the small, crowded home at the base of Porcupine Butte
that he shares with his father, Dusty, and several younger siblings and their
families, and to the challenge of eating an ancient diet in a modern world.
The few retail food outlets on the Pine Ridge reservation are more likely to
stock soft drinks and processed sweets than green leafy vegetables.

He eliminated sugar-laden drinks from his diet. He quit eating fast food,
cut out processed foods and replaced white bread with whole wheat. He added
more salads and vegetables to his diet, choosing fresh over frozen and frozen
over canned, whenever possible. He replaced nightly snacks of high-fat,
high-salt potato chips with bags of baby carrots. Candy bars gave way to nature's
own candy -- fruit.

"I crave sweets still, but now, I eat grapes and bananas instead. They are
my candy now," he said.

Most importantly, he eats grass-fed buffalo meat every day, thanks to the
2-year-old buffalo bull he procured from the Oglala Sioux Parks Department
herd. Tribal members can get a buffalo from that herd, which must be transported
to an area locker plant for processing. The cost is less than $2 per pound.
Still, those upfront costs and adequate freezer space are other obstacles to
eating healthfully on the reservation, Pourier said.

On Wednesday, 100 days after he began the Dakota Diet, LeBeau is back at
Rapid City Medical Clinic, where everybody seems to know him.

Trailed by cameras, LeBeau has become a familiar sight at the clinic, where
Weiland practices internal medicine. The staff greets him by name. Nurses
wave hello in the hallway.

Weiland and other medical professionals will provide about $12,000 in free
and reduced-cost medical services to the project, which is being funded
through a $75,000 PBS grant, in-kind donations and other sources, according to
Hurst, executive producer. Hurst is a freelance journalist and former NBC News
producer who also owns the South Swell Buffalo Ranch in the Badlands. Pourier
is LeBeau's cousin and has a long resume of Lakota-related film projects to
his credit.

After 100 days of eating only grass-fed buffalo as a meat source and
following much of the other nutrition and exercise advice from the Dakota Diet,
LeBeau has dropped 46 pounds. He lost four inches off his waist, his body mass
index is down to 44, and he is losing weight the way Weiland likes to see it
come off -- slowly and surely.

His sleep apnea is under control. He can walk/run on the treadmill for 28
minutes nonstop and he recently played basketball with his 11-year-old son,
Jeffrey, for the first time in years.

"There is still much more work to do, but we want him to do this the 'Slim
Slow' way, as it is much safer and will assure that he will keep his weight
off indefinitely," Weiland said.

But the best news, halfway through filming, is that his liver functions,
blood-sugar levels and diabetes markers have improved significantly through diet
and exercise.

Everyone involved with the film knows that the next 100 days will bring
formidable challenges, including LeBeau's participation in the upcoming Thunder
Valley Sun Dance ceremony in late June.

But LeBeau insists, with the buffalo's help, that he is ready to save
himself.

Contact Mary Garrigan at 394-8410 or mary.garrigan@rapidcityjournal.com
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