Elite Veg Olympians

The Guardian today released an article featuring several Olympic athletes who, over the years, were able to accomplish inspiring physical feats. It isn’t their diets being responsible for these achievements that the article is pointing out, per se, but more so that these elite athletes’ accomplishments contradict popular and prejudiced myths about what human beings who eat vegetarian and vegans diets are capable. Many of the articles here on The Discerning Brute challenge these popular myths – and it seems at times that the overwhelming evidence is obvious. Yet the myths endure, not unlike an ultramarathoner.

vegetarian olympiads: Paavo Nurmi 1924 Olympic Gamesvegetarian olympiads: Edwin Mosesvegetarian olympiads: Carl Lewis 1991http://d1w4yg6zersvbl.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/bode-miller-super-g_54.jpg?462722http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/43/Emil_Voigt.jpg/250px-Emil_Voigt.jpghttp://www.abc.net.au/news/image/3951300-3x2-700x467.jpg

Paavo Nurmi – Distance Runner, Edwin Moses – Hurdles, Carl Lewis – runner, Christopher Campbell – wrestler, Bode Miller –  Skier, Emil Voigt – Distance Runner, Murray Rose – Swimmer (source The Guardian)

One might come to the conclusion that these myths are less about facts and more about maintaining the framework for a very specific (albeit intensively marketed and profitable) taste preference and worldview. Duh, right?  And if the support beams of that framework (eat muscle to become muscle) are knocked down, the entire architecture could crumble. I suspect, though, that even the “eat muscle to become muscle” logic is a further rationalization of custom, tradition, familiarity and a simple flavor preference.

I often hear people say of a meal at a good restaurant, “I had no idea this was vegan” or “I didn’t realize vegan food was delicious”. I’ve said it myself in the past when I decided to try veganism over 13 years ago are realized it was more than salad and tofu. If everyone – or at least most people – were to acquiesce, agree that there are a spectrum of non-animal sources of satisfying, filling, umami flavors, and acknowledge that this is not only a sufficient way to approach nutrition, but a pleasure, I doubt the athletic performance question would even arise. In other words, vegetarian and vegan diets need to represent an anemic and toilsome regimen that is yucky in order to maintain the food status quo. Even nutritionists and dieticians are guilty of this prejudice. We often hear them quoted “Well, it is possible to be a healthy vegan, but hats off to them for enduring such a trial”. And don’t forget the b12 scare.

What also strikes me, and supports this argument, is the insidiousness of ads for fast food and soft-drinks featuring athletes who probably rarely if ever consume them. Because they are “yummy”, they are percieved as a “good”. This is called aesthetic irrationality. This is why, even more so than science, I feel the best artillery for combating this prejudice is a plate of amazing food followed by an indulgent dessert.

A Fight & A Rose

• Vegan MMA gladiator, Mac Danzig, won his bout against Efran Escudero at UFC 145 in Atlanta. His victory came via unanimous decision. According to the Bleach report:

“Early in the first round, Escudero caught Danzig in a heel-hook and, while Danzig was able to escape, the submission took its toll. Danzig’s ankle was noticeably swollen for the rest of the fight, but he managed to tough it out and win the fight using superior boxing and clinch work.”

Danzig was quoted saying this, on mmajunkie.com:

“This performance wasn’t that great, but I am happy to win,” he said. “Nate Diaz is someone I want to fight. He’s at another level right now, and I know I need to put three very impressive wins together to get back up there. But that’s what I am aiming for now that I am healthy.”

A fight against Nate Diaz would put Mac Danzig in pretty amazing veg showdown, as both fighters are powered by plants. Here’s to hoping!

Le Labo makes a bag! (well, 300 of them). Every morning, from mid-May to mid-June, thousands of hand-pickers work the fields of Grasse, Bulgaria, Tunisia, and Morocco when dawn breaks. Rose petals are ideally picked when the dew protects their perfume from evaporation, and must be processed through steam distillation within 24 hours, to yield the best quality and quantity of oil. It takes about 4,000 kilograms (8,800 pounds) of rose petals to produce one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of rose oil, which makes Rose Absolute oil amongst the most expensive perfume ingredient in the world. Rose Centifolia, the rose quality from Grasse used in Le Labo’s Rose 31, is the most precious of them all.
Le Labo has partnered with LA based “Boro Queen” Heather Heron, to create a very special messenger bag. Freely inspired by the original shape of a bag used by pickers in the rose fields of Grasse, each one of the 300 limited edition handmade bags is unique and numbered.

The fabric Heather chose for the “Rose Project” is the original conveyor belt material used in US industry prior to plastic conveyor belts. It is incredibly rare and special in its origin and industrial durability. The straps are all carefully selected from vintage military strapping. Every bag has been made, dyed, assembled and stenciled by hand in downtown LA (and the natural overdye process includes drops of Rose 31 too, by the way).

This bag pays tribute to the work of these pickers who wake up early, work hard and are the first to care for our beloved rose petals before they undergo the long transformative process of olfactive extraction that makes them end up in our bottles.

Lean & Green: Jake Shields

http://www.jakeshields.com/Multimedia/Pictures/verisimo-win-lg.jpg

He’s anything but beefy. Jake Shields is the clean cut, handsome, Mixed Martial Arts champ that has more buzz floating around him than a beehive. Raised in the mountains of northern California, home-schooled, and brought up vegetarian since birth, Jake is rocking both the MMA world and the vegetarian community. He is the Elite XC Welterweight Champion, and he holds one of only three Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belts ever earned. Jake voted Yes on Prop 2 in California, and he’s just opened his own gym in Berkley, where he teaches jiu jitsu and plans on taking his career all the way to the top. Like Mac Danzig and the Diaz brothers, Jake Shields is yet another pro fighter responding to the cliché myth that vegetarians are weak with a swift kick to the head.

I got a chance to catch up with Jake recently about fighting, food, and teaching. Here is the interview:

http://www.jakeshields.com/Multimedia/Pictures/elite-2.jpg

Discerning Brute: Why do you fight?
Jake Shields: I’ve always loved to compete and MMA is competition to the max.

DB: There are so many myths about being vegetarian like you can’t get enough protein or you will be sick and weak. How would you respond to this as an athlete?
JS: Well I’m a life-long vegetarian and the diet obviously works.  I also have two brothers that are strong and healthy. But you do have to have a good balanced diet and eat healthy foods.  There’s plenty of ways to get protein other than eating meat.

http://www.jakeshields.com/PaulDaley_jake-win.jpg

DB: What was it like growing up veg?
JS: Never really felt any different. I never thought anything about it and nobody ever bothered me about it.

DB: What’s been your greatest accomplishment as an athlete?
JS: A lot of different things come to mind in grappling and MMA.  But winning the RUMBLE ON THE ROCK TOURNAMENT was probably one of the best.  It was an eight man tournament with 5 top ten fighters, Anderson Silva, Frank Trigg, Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Dave Menne & Renato Verissimo.  I fought two really tough fights in one night against Yushim Okami and Carlos Condit in the finals.

http://www.jakeshields.com/Multimedia/Pictures/versismo-pound-lg.jpg

DB: What kind of slack have you taken from teammates or opponents about your veg diet? Was your lifestyle ever an issue with your trainers or coaches?
JS: I haven’t really ever had any problem with anyone about my diet.  The only problem is sometimes it’s hard to find good food when I’m traveling.

DB: What advice would you give anyone who wants to start training in martial arts?
JS: Find a good school and go for it. Train hard.

DB: What other veg fighters have you met or do you know. Is there a camaraderie there?
JS: There’s actually a number of them. Nick and Nate Diaz are practically vegetarian. There’s a lot of camaraderie among all the fighters, veggie or not.

DB: Would you consider fighting Mac Danzing in a VeggieBattle? That would be fun!
Ya, that’d be great–then I’d be King of the Vegie Fighters!  But he’d have to come up, I’m not going down in weight.

DB: What’s next in your plans. Do you have an ultimate goal? A retirement plan?
JS: I just want to fight the best and be the best.  I really love fighting.  I won’t be retiring until I don’t love it anymore.  I also like to teach.  I’ve been teaching Gracie jiu jitsu and MMA since 2002 and just opened my own gym in Berkley a couple of weeks ago.

DB:Complete the sentence: In a perfect world
JS: …I’ll be the UFC Champion next year.

For more info on Jake, click:

DB’s Etiquette Recommendation: There are tons of resources for vegan MMA Gear. Both Vitamins & Minerals of Brazil, and Everlast make decent non-leather MMA gloves. In addition, Combat Sport International, has 3 styles of vegan gloves, and UFC has several vegan gloves.

Fresh Friday Finds

1. Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization
Amazing article from Adbusters on the counter-cultural void that is Hipsterdom.

2. The Vegan Collection
Affordable, sweatshop-fee, vegan shoes for men. The Vegan Collection is versatile – dress it up with a suit, or go with a pair of jeans. They’re under $50, and 25% of profit goes to animal advocacy.

The Lincoln, The Vegan Collection
  • The Lincoln Black, The Vegan Collection
  • 3. Hey Alaska, Stop Murdering Wolves!

    http://www.motherearthbeats.com/wp-content/themes/the%20hobbit/images/wolf097.jpg

    As many Alaskans already learned via media reports, 14 one-month old wolf pups recently were killed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in a practice known as “denning”. Denning is the practice of killing wolves in or around their den, in this case by shooting them in the head. 14 adults were also killed. Please, as soon as possible, contact Alaska Governor Sarah Palin expressing your objections to this unethical and illegal decimation of Alaska’s wolf population.

    4. Green Depot
    Perhaps an alternative to Home Depot (formerly known for it’s use of old-growth timber, and now it rampant greenwashing – among other shady practices) can inspire people to consider the enviroment when making home repairs and adjustments. Green Depot promises to be a good steward…that is aside from those “eco-friendly” insect killers and wool rugs. Maybe the best solution is to just not buy anything new at all. Check out Build It Green in New York – an entirely recycled/thrift Depot-style, DIY store.

    click here to shop

    5. Vegan, Lesbian Hollywood Wedding!
    Newlyweds and newly-vegans Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi got married and had a totally vegan wedding featuring a vegan red velvet cake by Sweet Lady Jane. How was I not invited?

    Ellen & Portia's Wedding Album | Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossihttp://i271.photobucket.com/albums/jj125/adeebasabr/RedVelvet.jpg

    6. Fur Real?

    Gwyneth Paltrow recently turned stomachs when she appeared draped in fur and exotic skins in a campaign for Tod’s. The strangest thing about it is that she surrounds herself with vegan and vegetarian friends and family including her very own vegetarian husband Chris Martin of Coldplay. Friend Stella McCartney is pissed, Moby is pissed, and I am pissed too. Vaginally and anally electrocuting a struggling fox until it is dead is the furthest thing from sexy. Hey Gwyneth, you might want to brutally bludgeon and stomp my dog, then turn him into a giant set of furry ear-plugs to block out all the shit you’re gonna hear for doing this campaign.

    7. AuH2O

    http://www.auh2odesigns.com/images/mens/full/fm_3.pnghttp://www.auh2odesigns.com/images/mens/full/workshirttee.jpg

    New York’s East Village is home to the recycled eco-boutique AuH2O. They even do custom alternations on the spot with no charge!

    84 E. 7th St.
    (b/t 1st and 2nd Ave)
    New York, NY 10003
    (212) 466-0844
    E-mail: kate@auh2odesigns.com

    8. Star Wars’ Environmentalist Origin

    Derrick Jensen is an amazing, truthful, and brilliant writer. But comedian? Who knew? Derrick files his grievances with the ineffectiveness of “non-violent civil disobedience” and many other the useless hoops activists jump through to change those who are destroying the planet.

    9. Need a reason to boycott the Olympics? How about several reasons…?

    Title abstract image of the Adopt 2008 project

    A Shocking Look Inside Chinese Fur Farms

    2008 OLYMPICS NO PROGRESS ON RIGHTS

    10. Olympic Judo Medalist is Vegan. NBA star is Vegetarian.

    Ronda Rousey

    I can’t tell you how many times people insist that it is not possible to be a veg athlete. Who was the first NBA player to win championships with three different teams? If you said John Salley, then bravo. But you know what else John Salley is? A vegetarian. Also, Beijing 2008 Gold Medalist Ronda Rousey, who is the first US woman to win an Olympic medal in Judo, is a vegan. Click here to learn about other veg athletes.