HEALTHY HERO: JOSHUA KATCHER

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 photos by JP Bevins

Joshua Katcher grew up with a fascination for comic book heroes and villains, listening to punk rock and believing he could change the world for animals. Today, Katcher has maintained those idealistic roots, knowing that a strong physical body, a commitment to pushing boundaries and an entrepreneurial and academic pursuit of creating aspiration and desire with sustainable, vegan fashion is a powerful formula that works. In our second installation of Healthy Hero, LÄRABAR, respected for their simple, real ingredients that you can recognize, asked The Discerning Brute to turn the camera back on our founder and editor. Contributor Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD asks the questions.
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MR: What is it like to be a entrepreneur and educator in New York City?
JK: It’s a lot of work! I mean seven days a week, morning-to-night (and sometimes middle-of-the-night) kind of work. But when you work for yourself and you teach subject matter about which you’re passionate, it becomes the kind of work you’re excited and fulfilled to do. In February I’ll be starting my second semester teaching at Parsons The New School. I’ll also be going into my fifth year as a business owner with Brave GentleMan and my seventh year with TheDiscerningBrute.com. There’s something about New York City that is both thrillingly motivating in collaborating and what we have access to, but also terrifying in what we’re up against. Almost everyone I know here has a lot on the line, but we manage to forge ahead and have fun, too.

MR: Demanding work isn’t just tough on the mind, it’s tough on the body. How do you stay physically strong and healthy?
JK: Veganism and crossfit. I started doing crossfit almost three years ago and it’s the first time in my life I’ve actually had fun working out and seen significant results. At this point I go several times a week because I love it. I belong to a local cossfit gym where the coaches are fantastic and the athletes have become friends. I initially gave crossfit a try because I had a neck injury from a car accident. After trying acupuncture, yoga, massage and physical therapy, I was told I’d need surgery. I refused and believed that if I could build up my muscles, it would heal. Crossfit was the only thing that worked, and years later I’m pain-free and doing things I never thought I would.

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http://s3.amazonaws.com/jo.www.larabar.com.2011/uploads/product/large_images/20/thumb.jpgMR: How do you prepare for a workout?
JK: If I’m lucky enough to get to the gym with 5 minutes to spare, I’ll roll out on the foam roller or use a lacrosse ball to attack some tight muscles or knots. I’ll grab something to eat that’s convenient and simple like a LÄRABAR. I really like the Blueberry Muffin and Coconut Cream Pie flavors. There’s just a few ingredients like fruit, nuts, spices, and sometimes chocolate which are perfect for helping me power through an intense workout. I also finally invested in lifting shoes which made big improvements to my performance.

MR: You don’t often see “vegan” paired with “crossfit”. What do you eat?
JK:
It’s true, crossfit is more associated with paleo. But I have no trouble performing competitively on a vegan diet. There are so many top athletes who are vegan – from the NFL football field and the MMA ring to the Olympics and the strongman competitions. The myths about veganism being insufficient are impossible to maintain in the face of results. I love cooking and eating, it’s almost as cathartic as working out! I try to make time to cook at least one meal a day. One of my favorite go-to meals is simply grabbing a bunch of vegetables and making a big stew. I always start with onions, garlic and mushrooms and then build it out from there. Last night it was Leek, Bok choy, rainbow chard, butter beans, wakame, squash and miso. Tonight it might be shallot, trumpet mushroom, veggie sausage, broccoli, spinach and black eyed peas. I can make a lot and warm it up for the next day, and in the colder months nothing is quite as good as hot stew.

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MR: What is the creative process for Brave GentleMan?
JK: Brave GentleMan is very much about combining classic style with future textiles. We take a narrative approach to our collection, and the story typically is about what a man of the future would realistically be wearing – and that has so much to do with how it was made, who made it, and of what was it made? The most exciting innovations in fashion rarely happen in the cut of the pants or jacket. They are happening in the makeup of the textiles. From synthetic biology labs to low-impact recycling to bio-based synthetics and plant-based organics, we are evolving toward an era of the most high-performance and customizable materials we’ve ever seen. One of the most fantastic parts of these advancements is that animals no longer need to be raised, confined and killed simply for their hairs and skins.

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MR: What projects do you have up your sleeve for the coming year?
JK: I’m finishing up my first book, Fashion & Animals, and I’ve got some great new shoe styles for SS15 and AW15/16. We’ll also be scaling up production of accessories like belts and offering suiting in some gorgeous new textiles. I have some fantastic collaborations coming soon that I can’t yet talk about! And Maybe there’s a flagship store in NYC in our near future?

MR: What advice do you have for people who want to get healthy?
JK: You can do far more than which you believe you are capable. You can get stronger. You can work harder. You can do something you love. People who pursue life in this way never go into it with things perfectly planned. It will never feel comfortable to take risks or to push yourself beyond what you thought were your limits. But once you do, there is nothing else like it.

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Healthy Hero: Dominick Thompson

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photos by JP Bevins

Dominick Thompson is a real New Yorker. He works a demanding day job, started his own business on the side, and still finds the time to stay healthy and vegan while training hard for triathlons. LÄRABAR, famous for their simple, real ingredients that you can actually recognize, asked The Discerning Brute to spend a day with Dominick and get to know the insights, secrets and strengths of this healthy hero. We chased him around on foot, on wheels, under weights and in the kitchen and even caught him sharing his favorite Cashew Cookie bar with a squirrel friend.

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Joshua Katcher: People who live in NYC are notorious for having the busiest schedules. What does your typical day look like and how do you make time to work out and eat well?
Dominick Thompson: I work 10-12 hours a day Monday-Friday. That doesn’t include any special projects I’m managing that may involve late night hours or weekends as well. However, I do create time for training and even competing in races as they are important to me and my health. There is simply no excuses to not be healthy and train efficiently in this day and age. My typical work day includes me rolling out of bed to train from 5am to 7am. That gives me plenty time to shower and head into the office. I spend my lunch hours training as well whether its at the gym or going outside for a run through the busy streets of Manhattan. By the time I leave my office in the evenings, I have one thing on my mind, and that is to go hard in my third training session for the day which usually lasts 2 hours after work.

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JK: You’re in amazing shape. What’s your motivation for staying fit?
DT: The physical and mental feeling one experiences when they are at their peak level of fitness is something that is just as addicting as life itself, and life itself is truly my motivation.

JK: What’s your workout regimen like, and are you currently training for any competitions?
DT: I’m currently training to compete in my next Ironman, with hopes of qualifying for the Ironman Championship held in Hawaii. I currently log over 120 hours of training per month.

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JK: Who are some of your heroes? How have you inspired others to get healthy?
DT: With respect to physical health and athletic achievements, I didn’t have any real life heroes growing up. The only hero in my life in terms of athletic achievements was the person I used to stare at in the mirror everyday before and after football practice. To understand this, you would have to understand my past. To be brief, all I saw growing up were individuals just trying to survive the day to day struggles of life and poverty. The last thing on their minds was being healthy. Not having any male role models drove me to teach myself how to play football and to get involved in other team sports on my own. It also taught me how to think very critically and grow up fast. Without going too deep, let’s just say that I used the negative things and experiences I saw growing up as inspiration to do my best and to be the opposite of what I was used to, both on and off the field. Now in my adult life, I have inspired others by showing them they can thrive and still perform in athletics at a high level all on a vegan diet.

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Cashew Cookie

JK: Do you make time for fun?
DT: I do make time for fun, but I also consider competing in endurance sports such as triathlons and marathons as fun. I love them!

JK: Let’s talk food. What’s a great pre-workout meal, post workout meal, and snacks for in-between?
DT: I like things simple and healthy. I juice and consume a variety of berries for pre-workout fuel. If I’m out on a long bike ride, I re-hydrate with juiced watermelon and eat bars like LÄRABAR throughout my ride. The Cashew Cookie bar is one of my favorites. The best thing about LÄRABAR is that it’s only a few, simple ingredients like cashews and dates. Post meal is always bananas and juiced fruits.

JK: What are some common myths you dispel simply by being you?
DT: That you can’t be strong on a vegan diet. I’m actually stronger now that I am on a vegan diet than I was when I consumed animal products. In fact, my strength training has only improved.

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JK: What music gets you pumped? What ideas inspire you?
DT: It varies. Depending on the day or the mood. Sometimes I rock out to Tiesto and other times I crank up some Young Jeezy. I love all types of music. Kings of Leon is one of my favorite bands. As for what inspires me, people that work 9-5 jobs while competing as weekend warriors in marathons and other athletics inspire me! It is the very reason I formed IRON BRUKAL, which represents The Working Athlete.

JK: What’s something every guy should know?
DT: That compassion defines one’s intelligence with respect to all life itself.

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JK: What is something every guy can do right now to start getting healthier?
DT: Honestly, cutting out all meat from your diet is the first step in my opinion. Your children and grandchildren will thank you in the future when you are still living and able to play catch with them.

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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.

 

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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