Colts’ Plant-Powered Griff Whalen

photo: NFL.com
photo: NFL.com

Griff Whalen has to be exceptionally fast, strong, and calculating. That’s the job of the wide receiver, one of the most demanding positions on the football field. It’s also said he has one of the most enviable physiques in the NFL, so it’s no surprise that Whalen’s choice to be a self-described “plant powered athlete” is drawing controversy from teammates and fans. In the past few weeks Whalen has been tweeting images of Vega products, tweeting shout-outs to ultramarathoner and vegan Rich Roll, and generally being incredibly positive and motivated by his new vegan routine.

 

PlayerBio_Whalen
photo: colts.com

In a recent interview for the Indy Star, Whalen is grilled about being what they call “a leaf eater”. It seems the choice to forgo masculine, animal-based foods never ceases to amaze or invoke the stereotypical responses, despite a wealth of easily found scientific and nutritional research and a roster of vegan athletes that should speak for itself. But in the article, they show how his positive example is even rubbing off on other players:

Whalen’s dietary choice piqued the interest of punter Pat McAfee. During the off-season, he gave it a try.

“I decided I wanted to change my body a bit,” said McAfee. “I had no idea what exactly I wanted, but I knew if it looked anything like Griff Whalen’s, I’d be good to go. The dude might have a 14-pack.”

So, McAfee had Colts executive chef DeWitt Jackson start whipping up the same exact meals that Whalen was eating. He calls it “some of the most interesting stuff I’ve ever consumed.” – The Indy Star

 

8 Questions for Timothy Shieff

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Two-time World Freerunning Championship winner Timothy Shieff always thought he could fly. When he found freeunning, also known as Parkour, it was a creative outlet that allowed a sacred combination of spontaneity, strength and joy to lift him up. As an ethical vegan, Shieff is continually proving that a strong body is in line with a strong commitment to ethics and compassion. I asked Tim eight questions and here are his responses:

1. What’s the best idea you’ve heard lately?

Haha, best idea? Great question! When you’re in a vegan restaurant and want to try everything on the menu (happens too often) but you don’t want to be greedy or throw up after, eat half of everything, box the rest and find a homeless person who would appreciate it.

2. What music gets you pumped to work out/play?

I’d say English Grime Music, its kind of like our version of rap except its a different BPM so the flow works different, you can generally tell what everyone is saying clearly and the beats are always so powerful. Artists like Skepta, JME, D Double E, Fekky. Other then that I actually really like Drake and A$AP Rocky. In down time I listen to a lot of classical like Ludovico Einaudi and my favourite recent finds have to be Spooky Black and Yung Lean.

High Knees

3. Describe a childhood memory.

I remember being about 4 years old standing in a window situated halfway up my stairs and looking out and believing so strongly that I could fly! Of course my mother told me I couldn’t, and then for the next 20 years I believed that. Now I’m starting realise how little I actually know for certain in this world and the power of belief underlies almost every outcome in our lives so that I don’t actually know for sure that it’s not possible. Just that realisation of how little I know for absolute certain opened up my mind so much to feeling like a little kid again in a world of wonder and limitless possibilities!

Equally prominent from when I was roughly 4 was asking my mother if the lamb we eat was actually once a living baby sheep and her just telling me that it was, and that it’s ok. Like a moment of clarity from my pure spirit getting shut down and moulded to society.

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4. What meal would you make for a skeptic?

My super sweet potato wedges and a veggie burger. Gotta give them something they can relate to and it’s also like a fast-food their guaranteed to enjoy. If I had a nickel for every person that said they’d be vegan if they could eat like that for every meal…

5. What are you worried about?

Haha! I actually don’t know, I’ve done too much yoga, running and self reflection to carry too many worries. I guess I worry about my mum worrying more then anything, but I can’t stop being who I am for that, and making decisions out of fear is very limiting.

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6. When were you last shocked?

When I discovered how happy running makes humans. I had no idea it was this much fun but that because I always compared it to other things or judged it from an outside perspective without actually experiencing it. It’s so deeply ingrained in us, everything about our physical make up is to be good at running long distances; our Achilles tendons, our sweat glands, our ability to breath twice per stride etc. I always wanted to fly but by doing that I wasn’t appreciating what we can already do so well and now I’ve discovered that I get it, I love it. I always thought it looked boring, monotonous, strenuous. I wanted to just be powerful and explosive but there’s some incredible feeling of calmness and contentment in between runs. I smile most of the time I run and when I say “good morning” to people as I pass them and they respond I feel a new burst of energy fuel me from this connection, it’s fascinating to experience! There’s scientifically proven ties between compassion/happiness and our ability to run far/well and now I know it first hand. No wonder a lot of the best long distance runners and triathletes are vegan! I feel like I found a large part of the puzzle that makes up true, simplistic happiness as a human. People have known this for millennia of course but it’s nice to understand it. I also recently learnt that the US could solve homelessness with the budget they use on Christmas lights, now that’s shocking and really shows how little our governments understand/care about real issues.

Perched upon Urban Treetops where the rare freerunner may be spotted in cityscapes.

7. Describe a personal ritual.

After training yoga I always thank myself. I rarely actually get excited to go to yoga but I know how much it benefits me physically and mentally and how good/tranquil I feel after. So at the end of a session I say to myself something along the lines of “With this practise I show gratitude for the body I’ve been given and all the stresses I put it under. Through working and striving to improve myself I become more aligned with my true self and in turn puts me in a better position to help the others I share this planet with.” But the important thing is to take my time and feel the words not just say them in my head, there’s powerful energy in the feeling of gratitude. I try to do similar things after each practise/training session but change why I’m grateful and why I just did the practise.

8. What should we try?

Geocaching! Its like real-world treasure hunt thats been going on for a while now right under our noses on the streets we all walk! Basically people hide these tiny stashes all over cities and you use the app to get close to the location, then use clues to actually find the item. Then when you do you open it up, sign a bit of paper with your name and date, take a little gift (if its big enough to contain one) then put it back in its hiding place for the next cacher to come along and on the app you mark it as found. https://www.geocaching.com/

 

Animals On Film

I’m so happy to welcome an accomplished, award-winning filmmaker, Andrew Hinton, to The Discerning Brute’s roster of expert contributors. Andrew both meticulously crafts stories, ideas and feelings into compelling and visually stunning films, and looks at others’ films through a lens that assesses everything from aesthetics to ethics. - Joshua Katcher

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by Andrew Hinton, Filmmaker

As a filmmaker and a vegan I’m fascinated by the way animals are represented and portrayed on the screen. I believe in the power of media to shape our behaviour – and therefore our world – and I want to understand how this power can be harnessed to compassionate ends.

I’m embarking a new film project which seeks to make sense of the complex, sometimes inspiring, often heartbreaking relationships between humans and animals.

On this journey of researching my own film I’m going to explore everything from Youtube pet videos to undercover activist films. Feature films to phone cameras. Natural history documentaries to Hollywood blockbusters.

…I want to find out who speaks for the animals.

Along the way I want to find out who speaks for the animals. To discover why so many humans love watching some species while eating or wearing others. And see whether film really can change hearts and minds – and save lives. I’ll review and share some of the most interesting examples I find along the way here.

“We Work For Them”

In the documentary A Fierce Green Fire hero of the high seas Paul Watson shares the story of a profound encounter with whales which changed his life. “From that moment on” he says, “I decided I work for whales. I work for seals and sea turtles and fish and sea birds. I don’t work for people.” I remember feeling something shift as I heard those words. Here was a human who answered only to nature with the courage and capabilities to really do something about the problems he was witnessing.

There are a number of heroes in Orlando von Einsiedel’s documentary Virunga, released worldwide this week on Netflix. It’s a beautiful film wrestled pretty much single handedly into being by the director who spent over a year living and filming in the Virunga National Park in Eastern Congo.

The film plays out an all too familiar story of a murky British oil company seeking to undermine the conservation work at this UNESCO World Heritage Site in order to exploit the park’s natural resources. Standing in their way are the last of the world’s wild mountain gorillas, a team of rangers whose job it is to protect them, and a brave young journalist who takes considerable risks to reveal the company’s underhand methods.

Against a backdrop of money, politics and armed conflict we see the beauty and wonder of the park’s biodiversity. Leading the rangers is Emmanuel De Merode, a Belgian prince who quite literally puts his life on the line to fulfil his duty to save the park and its inhabitants. He’s a man of huge integrity and as the fighting gets closer he declares confidently “I will be the last man to leave”.

But when the camp is evacuated Andre, one of the handlers of the orphaned gorillas also decides to stay. Repeatedly checking his gun as he prepares to defend his gorilla ‘family’ he tells us why: “There comes a moment where you have to justify your life. The gorillas are the reason for my life“.

Virunga is an uplifting film about fragile hope, the costs and rewards of a life of purpose, and the urgent need to appreciate and conserve the wild spaces we have left in the world, and the life that lives there.

Here in the US it’s the last of the wild buffalo who are suffering the effects of politics, consumption and human greed. Every winter the buffalo leave the cold high ground in Yellowstone for the more temperate lowlands. Unfortunately for them the Montana livestock industry doesn’t want to share the public grazing lands they use for cattle so the buffalo are subjected to a range of hazing techniques, from helicopters and four wheelers rounding them up for slaughter to being shot at close range.

Silencing the Thunder, a 26 minute film by Eddie Roqueta is a measured and stunningly shot piece which not only gives all sides a chance to be heard but spends enough time with the buffalo that you feel they are part of the conversation too. It explores the science surrounding Brucellosis, a deadly disease which the ranching community fears will be transmitted to cattle, and raises difficult questions about the ‘management’ of these wild creatures.

But the real heroes of the film are the Buffalo Field Campaign, a team of activist volunteers who patrol the migration routes and seek to document the worst of the abuses, while campaigning for the free passage of the buffalo.

Stephanie Seay from the group sums it up beautifully: ”What it really comes down to is the human commitment to coexist. All we’ve got to do is say yes, we can do this, we can coexist with these animals. We’re smart enough as a species to figure this out. We just have to want to.“

The film did a great job of making this viewer want to. There used to be millions of bison across the United States and the hounding of the remaining few to the edge of extinction should be regarded as a national disgrace. (If this is a cause that resonates you can volunteer with BFC).

Finally, a hard hitting campaign by vegan production company Environment Films about the trade in dogs for meat in Thailand has been making waves. They’ve been working with the Soi Dog Foundation on a documentary about this grisly business for years but their short film featuring celebrities like Ricky Gervais and Dame Judi Dench has just gone viral. The press ran with the story, expanded it to Vietnam and the NYT have just weighed in. Over 600,000 people have now signed this petition asking Thailand’s leaders to put an end to it. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of effect all this international exposure has. Let’s hope there’s a happy ending and that the concern generated extends the debate beyond dogs to include all animals abused for food.

Pick a Phobia, any Phobia!

By Sid Garza-Hillman

protodefiphobia

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting The Discerning Brute/Joshua Katcher in person. He had been a guest (via Skype) on my podcast only weeks prior, and just by chance was able to come up to the Stanford Inn during a trip to Northern California. I head up the Stanford Inn’s Wellness Center and am the Nutritionist/Health Coach there.

Joshua, his partner James, and I sat down for dinner, and while we talked about many things (fashion included, though why anyone would wear anything other than rolled up 501’s and white t-shirts is beyond me. Maybe I should be more discerning.), the subject of protein came up. Not because any of us—all plant-based—were concerned with protein in the least, but because working at a vegan resort whose clientele are overwhelmingly NOT vegan, I am constantly asked the big protein question—where do vegans get their protein?

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A couple times a week I hang out and walk through the inn’s restaurant and talk to guests. Almost nightly I get the protein question and am there to hopefully dissipate some of the fear around it. I was relating this to Joshua and James and we all decided it should probably be a phobia. And that’s when, through obviously divine inspiration, it hit: PROTEDEFIPHOBIA—the fear of protein deficiency. I think we nailed it, and now just have to figure out the hoops we have to jump through to make it official. Is there a phobia department of the patent office? Should we ‘tm’ it for now (i.e. protedefiphobia™)? Oh, the possibilities. I’m so excited about it that it must be something that deep down I’ve always wanted and finally got: I’m a co-owner of a beautiful baby phobia!

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And yet, a reality check. Fear of protein deficiency is very real. As a species we are designed to protect ourselves and to survive the best we can. Often times corporations/companies/industries feed on this instinct in order to drive sales. The animal food industry is no exception. They succeed every time they convince someone that he or she will suffer greatly without intense amounts of animal protein. However, there are a few pesky facts that hurt their bottom line: 1) whole plants are full of protein 2) the human body performs best on a higher carbohydrate diet (not refined/processed carbohydrates, but whole plant ones) and finally, 3) more and more professional athletes are actually performing and recovering better after switching to whole plants. In my practice I devote a substantial amount of time and effort minimizing the fear around protein. But that’s one of the best parts of my job—helping people be LESS afraid. Less fear, more happiness and health. Pretty simple equation.

So, to those with protedefiphobia™, rest assured, help is on the way. It’s located in the produce section of groceries stores around the world.

The Lusty Vegan Interview

ChefAyinde

Chef Ayinde Howell’s new book, The Lusty Vegan, co-authored by Zoe Eisenberg, is a delicious, fun, sexy and indulgent cookbook that focuses on innovative recipes with savvy relationship advice for people that may not see pie-to-pie. Yours Truly gives some of his own relationship advice on page 89! I’ve had the lucky opportunity to both work with Ayinde as a featured chef, and eat his delectable creations at more than one glitzy event. I went back for seconds. And thirds.  With his new book hitting the shelves, I got the inside scoop on what makes the perfect recipe for a book about what it takes to keep on loving food and each other.

Joshua Katcher: Which two recipes from your new book are your personal favorite?
Ayinde Howell: Orange Cream Stuffed French Toast and the Hearts of Palm Lobster Roll

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Hearts of Palm Lobster Roll, from The Lusty Vegan

JK: Why is food such an issue for people in relationships or dating?
AH: Because it’s physical evidence that you agree or really disagree on a pretty key element of life. At just about every meal it can be an easy source of conflict or reassurance. The key is to have understanding, mutual respect and good vegan food. I try to address as much of these as possible with my co-author in TLV. And provide 80+ recipes for the eating part.

JK: What have you learned about relationships from writing this book?
AH: That I have been selfish in the past and didn’t know how to compromise. But I do now. Really! It’s a two way street and when we talk about building a life with someone there is a lot to consider. So if it’s a serious one, be open.

JK: List 10 ingredients you could never live without.LustyVegan
AH: 1. Flavored oils, truffle, sesame, olive etc.
2. vinegars, balsamic, cider, rice etc.
3. sage
4. powdered herbs
5. an all purpose seasoning, I make my own but old bay is nice and a good masala curry
6. cashews
7. vegan butter
8. organic veggies
9. tamari sauce
10. flour

JK: I love your point in the book to “let the food do the talking”. I feel like this can be applied to a lot of things. Tell us about an experience you’ve had where your food did the talking.
AH: Mostly it’s from when I worked as an executive chef in Manhattan, I would sit in the dinning room during lunch and watch as vegans would drag their non vegan co-workers to the vegan cafe. Witnessing their faces go from skepticism… to that silent fork… to plate-clanking joy never got old. I saw that worked so much better than any pamphlet or  attempt at convincing.

JK: I’ve met some people who don’t like art, don’t like kids… but would you date someone who didn’t like indulging in good food?
AH: So interesting, I’d have to say no. As a chef I get a lot of inspiration from the person I’m dating pleasing her palate and surprising those testbeds is a such a fun thing.

JK: I love the theme of the book and its inclusiveness. What kind of feedback have you been getting? Any haters?
AH: Well we release on Oct7th, I’m sure there are some haters out there. My co-writer Zoe Eisenberg was called vegan whore for dating her meat eating BF by one of our ieatgrass.com commenters (at least it was a vegan whore).

JK: When are you opening a restaurant and when will I ever get to have your Mac-n-Yease again?
AH: Ha! Post writing this book I am putting together a plan and team so I can create the space I want in the the best way! I will let you know sir!

JK: What do you have your sights set on for the next year?
AH: More TV stuff, I am working on merging all my talents together and hitting the world with veganism in ways they have not seen before.

JK: What’s the best way for people to get your book?
AH: Most book stores or Amazon.com.