VEGGIE POWERED BIKES
Sometimes it’s hard to get inspired. For me sometimes equals winter. I have no love for winter. I would rather spend three months at a dentist’s office than live through another snow infested season. However, so far the Spring has never failed me and I welcome it by writing about someone who inspired me to go out for a run! Oh, and I also moved to California!
Ever since reading Eat&Run I’ve developed a fascination with extreme endurance athletes. Who runs 100 miles and more? Why do they push their limits so far? What does it do for them? What are these people like in their every day life? Turns out Matt Ruscigno of True Love Health is answering these questions in collaboration with Sasha Perry. Their documentary series Day in the Life shows us extreme athletes and to make things better, they are all vegan! Matt himself seems to have a hard time sitting still (I blame his vegan diet for all that energy). When he is not spending his day creating these webisodes, he works as a registered dietitian helping people make healthy food choices. He also runs the occasional 50 miles… what?, races ultra-cycling and iron-man competitions, speaks to the public, advocates for animals and still finds time to answer a couple of questions for the curious….
Tell us a little about becoming vegan. Why, when, how?
I went vegan for the animals. As a little kid I was always defending animals. Even at 6 years old I went fishing with some neighbors and I couldn’t stand to see the fish on the hook. I tried to be vegetarian multiple times but it never stuck until the mid-90’s when I got involved in punk music. Friends I met there were the support system I needed and I have never looked back. I was 17 years old then and the rest is history! My Italian mother taught me how to cook so I wouldn’t starve. From there my interest in food and nutrition developed.
You describe yourself as a vegan registered dietitian and endurance athlete living car-free in California. Being from Berlin – where bikes, feet and subways will get you anywhere – the ‘car-free’ part is particularly interesting to me. How do you do it? Any tips?
When I moved to LA I thought I would hate it. I was only there to do my clinical rotation at Cedars Sinai hospital. So many people complained to me about traffic. But since I was going to be there long I figured I’d live near my work. And shop and eat near my house. All easy by bike and traffic. Treating LA like this made me love it. And I stayed for 8 years! It also helped to know other people doing the same thing. Los Angeles has one of the most vibrant, creative bicycle cultures in the world and I wouldn’t be who I am without the thousands of people who make it up. If it’s new to people I recommend going car-light. Ride when is most convenient/easiest and build from there. Los Angeles also has a great rapid bus system that utilizes main streets and the freeways. This plus the train makes going longer distances possible.
Why do you bike/run/swim so much?
Ha! I only do it when I love it. I probably train half as much as people who do the events I do. And I probably don’t do those things as often as people think I do. But I do it because I love how I feel and who I am when I reach that meditative state that comes with a nice long run or bike ride. Plus I get to see the world! Also, I’m generally a restless person and grow bored easily. Ha.
Do you get overwhelmed by all the suffering animals go through? If so, do you have any tips on how to prevent burn-out?
I do. As activists we all want to face problems head on but sometimes we need a break. You have to take care of yourself first! If you are mentally miserable and too busy to eat healthy how are you going to advocate for a better way to live? It’s important for us to take ourselves seriously, but not too seriously. What we do matters, but if you need to sit on the couch and chill out sometimes, do it! And do it without feeling guilty.
What is the most common misconception about veganism you encounter?
I can’t keep track of how many times I’ve heard ‘You are vegan? But you aren’t super scrawny!’ or ‘You are vegan? But you don’t talk about it non-stop.’ I’ve always thought that actions are stronger for words and my advice to vegans is to talk less and act more. People will come to you, you don’t need to tell everyone you are vegan all of the time.
If you could only have three foods for the rest of you life, what would they be?
Burritos. I only need one. Though it would have rice, beans, guacamole, salsa and fajita-style onions and bell peppers. Yum. Now I’m hungry.
Mmmmm… me too!