Austin Aries is one of those athletes for whom there tends to be instant respect. There's just something about him. Be it the way he carries himself, his work ethic or ability, people seem to gravitate towards him. To his continuing credit, Aries is using the platform he has to speak out honestly and passionately about his view on food and the food industry, health and adopting a plant-based or vegan lifestyle. Thoughtful, eloquent and erudite, Aries new tome 'Food Fight' details his journey 'from the bingo halls to the big time'. We talked to the WWE Superstar about his motivations for writing the book, whether a vegan wrestling stable might be on the way and more. Make sure to visit www.austinariesbook.com to read all about it!
In your book you highlight the importance of education for empowering children in their approach to food, you discuss the politics of the food industry too. Is your book aspirational in that sense, a campaign of sorts?
I don't know if I'd call it a campaign but I think it's an important part of the discussion and an important part of what I hope people will take from the book. Truly, one of the factors why I was passionate about putting this out there was that with my profession I've gotten to travel all over the United States and the world and to meet tons of fans and a lot of them are kids. And you see kids in a lot of areas, especially in the United States, who are already off to such a bad start when it comes to their health because of the bad diet chosen and because there is no education. It's something I've actually got to go out there and see first-hand. They always say the proof is in the pudding - and I wouldn't recommend pudding for anybody! Just kidding... But seriously, take any of your statistics or your studies aside, just from what you catch with your eyes. I've been to all these different cities and towns inside the United States and I've seen people walking around, in airports, I've seen people just look sick. The United States is really a sick nation and it really all stems from our food.
We were surprised at the level of honesty in the book which some may say is beyond a 'PG' audience. Who would you say is the book aimed at?
At the end of the day, this is just me, telling a little bit of my story. How I got from being a meat-eating, dairy-loving kid to a plant-based professional sports-based entertainer. I talk about some things in the book but in my experience being open and honest about things is the best approach. It's a parent's responsibility to educate our kids but it's a cycle as our children become parents and teach their kids and so on and so forth. I think a big problem in society in general is that we don't really talk truthfully about things. There's a certain agenda if you want to talk about Marijauna, food, alcohol, all these different things. I think what this book is about is questioning what society has set as the standard, the law, the way it is, because that's really the food journey. When I was peeling back layers of what I was being told I should be eating, what I needed for calcium for my bones - it's a load of c**p being sold to you by the very people who are selling you milk - you peel back the layers and are being told this is bad but this is OK - if you start questioning it, you start looking at things a bit differently. It's not just food but part of that journey is peeling back layers and making informed decisions for yourself.
You give some details of where to look in the book for good data but there's a lot of contradictory information out there. Where should one go for the right information?
I think that's the big challenge. There's a new documentary that's come out called 'What The Health' its on Netflix and I'd encourage everyone to go and watch it. It really echoes a lot of what I'm saying in this book. Misinformation, disinformation, creating doubt in the consumer is all they're trying to accomplish. The cigarette industry did it for years - "we don't have to tell them it doesn't kill them, we just have to create doubt that it does". The food industry is much the same and when we begin to realise that the very entities that are put in place to protect us in this country - your cancer or diabetes associations, when you realise they are promoting the very things that are causing these ailments, you realise the bigger issue is that we have decided our healthcare and food system is for-profit. Healthy people are bad customers. Sick people are repeat customers - eating bad food and then taking some magic pill that is going to treat you, not cure you because then we lose a customer! We just want to treat you so you keep coming back then send you back to bad food. It's a cycle and we start early with kids who pass it on through their family etc etc and that's the corporate food system we live in.
You explain in the book your journey of discovery which appears somewhat solo. Do you have buy-in from your partner? Is building a healthy lifestyle as a family important?
I think anytime I've tried to push my thoughts or beliefs on somebody its done the reverse. So I think it's a case of lead by example. I do things for a reason and Im more than happy to share and talk and discuss about why I've made the decisions I have -obviously it's part of the reason why I've put the book out. I think if you let people to take steps at their pace and just encourage them, it's a lot more successful. I think there's also a factor of respecting someone's dietary or lifestyle choices, right? I've been pretty lucky with it. My brothers and sisters, a couple of them have adopted a plant-based lifestyle, some of my closest friends have, my girlfriend - and it wasn't because they felt obligated because I pushed them it was because over time they started seeing and understanding things Ive seen, I believe and seen the results and that the food can be good. I love to cook and I love sharing food with people and a lot of this tastes really good. I love eating tasty food - I don't want to eat brown rice and carrots all day! So I think once you get that over their head - it tastes good and stuff hasn't had to die or suffer? And its good for the environment and for my health? So whats the downside again? It's a pain because theyre not making any money from it - its not the cheapest and most available thing that's right in front of you, you have to put a little work into it....
You talk about the reaction of others to your lifestyle - have you suffered any vegan related ribs?
Ahh, not that I can recall. No real ribs played that I can think of. I think for the most part, its one of those things where - oh there's someone that doesn't drink alcohol. Well let's put some liquor in his Gatorade and see what happens? Oh this guy's doesn't eat pork, let's put pork in his food, how would that go down? I think its crossing the line a little bit!
Pete Dunne is a vegan. Are there others out there? Do you meet? Could we see a vegan faction form?!
I tell you what, seeing the guys now that are adopting the plant-based lifestyle or have been following it - Tyler Bate, Pete and there's a couple of guys in the performance centre I know of that are starting to follow it. It almost feels nWo-esque. We have a pretty large group - larger than people realise. I think there may be some people wanting to jump ship - vWo for life! It makes sense - it really is for life. It is for your life, for their life, for the planet - Vegan World Order!
We were amazed to discover in the book that you'd been in a band! Any plans to bring the singing into wrestling?
I don't know if I'll bring it into wrestling but once things have settled down and I've adjusted to the WWE schedule and getting things with the book out there, I'm definitely getting the edge to try and get back in and do a little something with music. I don't know if I'll integrate it into the wrestling so much. You never know maybe I'll run into Elias Sampson and we could have a conversation and talk a little while and see if there's something we could do together.
Exciting times! Well we hope the vWo makes it to screen and will be trying some of Austin's book tips. Make sure you do too!