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Part II – Omowale “Wale” Adewale
Omowale “Wale” Adewale is a vegetarian champion boxer, boxing trainer and coach, and personal fitness trainer. He is also the co-founder of G.A.ME, an organization developed to address socio-economic issues facing poor black and Latino communities.”
Hi everybody I’m Caryn Hartglass and we’re back for the second part of It’s All About Food here on March 12th, 2013. I wanted to remind you of a few things. You can send me an e-mail anytime during the show if you want to ask a question or anytime during the week: firstname.lastname@example.org. How easy is that? email@example.com and I love, love, love to hear from you. I really do, it makes my day. So, you can make me happy and send me a little message. That would be fun. And I’ll write back to you. Also, I wanted to let you know I’m going to be speaking around and I wanted to let you know what some of those engagements are. So March 24th, here in Manhattan we have a Veggie Pride Parade 2013. It’s going to culminate after the parade at the North End of Union Square Park. I spoke there last year and I will be very happy to be back this year. It’s usually in May but this year it’s in March. Let’s hope March goes out like a lamb and we have some very lovely mild weather there on March 24th. More information on that at veggieprideparade.org and then I’ll be in California in April speaking at the Berkeley Vegan Earth Day. Now you may know this, or not, but my birthday is on Earth Day, April 22nd, but Berkeley Vegan Earth Day is April 20th, 2013 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California. That’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m going to be joined by some other wonderful speakers like Jeanne Barr and Will Tuttle. Information at berkeleyveganearthday.com. Then, later in April, I’ll be in Miami at the Earth Day Miami Vegan Potluck. That will be at the Coral Gables Congressional Church and more information at earthdaymiami.org or you can just go to responsibleeatingandliving.com, my website, and click on the Talks Tab. If you have an event and you might want to have me come and speak send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caryn Hartglass: So that’s the events coming up and I’m really looking forward to that. We have another guest who is going to be on the show shortly. I know he’s here in the studio and I’m just waiting for him to come back in the room and join me. It’s going to be very interesting because we’re going to be talking about vegetarian boxing. He’s a champion vegetarian boxer. I know one of the things that really floors people when we talk about eating a diet based on plants is people really have a hard time believing that you can have athletic endurance and build muscle on plant foods. We have lots of different people today that are vegetarian or vegan and are super athletes proving more and more that people can fuel themselves just as well and maybe better on plant foods. I am going to bring on my next guest, and I just learned how to pronounce his name, which I wasn’t pronouncing correctly before, it’s Omowale Adewale and we just call him Wale. Right?
Omowale Adewale: Well, it’s Omowale Adewale.
Caryn Hartglass: You can put that headset on if you like. Then you can hear yourself and look really good. You already look really good.
Omowale Adewale: Wale is great.
Caryn Hartglass: Thanks for joining me. Omowale is a vegetarian champion boxer, boxing trainer and coach, and personal fitness trainer. He is also the co-founder of G.A.ME, an organization developed to address socio-economic issues facing poor black and Latino communities. Here we are and thanks for joining me.
Omowale Adewale: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you don’t live here in New York, you’re just here for the month?
Omowale Adewale: I do live in New York.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, ok.
Omowale Adewale: I was born and raised in Brooklyn.
Caryn Hartglass: OK, I didn’t realize that. For some reason when I read your information on LinkedIn …
Omowale Adewale: Regarding the tour, I was going all over the place.
Caryn Hartglass: OK, tell me about the tour.
Omowale Adewale: The tour is designed, just like you were explaining to your listeners, really to show people that you actually can be strong and very fit and athletically-inclined, skilled, being a vegetarian or vegan. When I train, I’m a personal trainer as well, as you mentioned, and I always give vegan tips. I am vegetarian myself, I give vegan tips, vegan options, to every one of my clients. The tour really is designed to show people demonstrations and boxing from someone who is a vegetarian and at the same time give them opportunity to basically go through the steps a boxer might do, the ab work, some of the routines, learn some of the punches, have a little fun with it. The importance is to really show if people are looking to say, detox, because they want to weight manage. There are a lot of people who want to gain weight so when they see vegans… they hear someone is vegan or vegetarian they automatically think, “ok, this person is going to be thin.” A lot of vegans are thin because they want to. A lot of vegans are aware of where to get their proteins. Obviously, chia seeds, edamame, these are all legumes that are high, very high, in protein. There’s no other meat that you can get that’s going to actually rival chia seeds, hemp, edamame. There’s a top ten and edamame is way at the top. And second place was chia. So meat wasn’t even in the top two.
Caryn Hartglass: So how did you get into your diet? Were you raised this way or was it something you decided for being an athlete?
Omowale Adewale: No, I got a little lucky, I got lucky. I had a conversation with my brother, who is actually not vegan or vegetarian, when I was fifteen. I’m 34 now. Immediately I became vegetarian. I chose my mother’s birthday in August and I became vegetarian.
Caryn Hartglass: What did he tell you?
Omowale Adewale: I was in Florida, by myself, away from the family, going to high school and we just got into a discussion in terms of the things I was eating. How important it would be although he would never become a vegetarian. How important it was to basically respect life. How a lot of different ways we become to respect life in terms of animals. You know people say “clean kills”, obviously vegans don’t believe in any kind of clean kill of animals. I said, “I’m going to go vegetarian”. So I went vegetarian, cold turkey. I’m fifteen at the time. I didn’t have that many options. You have to be a little skilled…I’d like to segue a little bit, let me know if I’m off course…in terms of food access. I really didn’t have the knowledge in terms of food, what foods I can get to enrich my particular type of nutritional plan. So at the time I was eating rice, greens, and corn bread on a regular basis. You said hemp and edamame and I said “what is that?”. Lentils, the various kinds of lentils, I didn’t know what to get. So it was black beans, things out of the can. My diet was all off. We call that a lot of times…what would you call that?…junk food vegetarianism.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, rice and cornbread isn’t really that junk food like junk food people are eating today with potato chips and cheese doodles but it’s pretty high starch.
Omowale Adewale: But that was pretty much what my diet consisted of, on a consistent basis. You know, I said I don’t want to have any meat, eat this and that, it was a journey. I went to three or four doctors and they told me I had high blood pressure. This is while I’m vegetarian. So you have to get to a much higher sense of living no matter what type of dietary plan you have. I noticed that I was eating foods that were high in sodium and not enough potassium. As soon as I was introduced to juicing and I incorporated that into my diet, things changed. Phenomenal.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m a big believer in juicing. I know it saved my life literally. People have different feelings about juicing. You’ve probably heard some of the “should you juice or not juice”. I think it’s a great thing. I don’t know that it’s absolutely necessary to juice but if you have a particular goal that you want to achieve, whether it’s a health crisis and you need to boost your immune system really fast, juicing is going to do it. If you want a fast boost of energy it’s the easiest thing to digest. It goes right to you. Just like people go for a caffeine fix, you go for a green juice fix, you’re going to feel that energy without the hangover afterwards that you’re going to get from junk.
Omowale Adewale: Right. I also think with juicing a lot of people ask me in terms of you want to lose weight. I’m training some folks who want to lose weight and folks who want to gain weight and I add juicing into each one of those regimens. There might be differences in terms of when they incorporate other foods when they’re juicing. Generally, beets are excellent for basically cleaning your system. I usually have people juice a beet with some water, maybe two or three greens, you know some spinach, chard and some kale, broccoli, maybe two or three. It’s going to do wonders for the system because what beets do it’s going to flush your nutrients out as well. It’s going to flush a lot of the nutrients that you do need so that you’re going to need to try to retain the nutrients that you do have with juicing…A clean slate, a lot of people do fasting or detoxing so they get a clean slate so next time they start eating, a lot of that is out of the system. You might do that once every two or three days, so I recommend that in terms of those who are trying to lose weight or gain weight.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Tell me about this tour that you’re doing.
Omowale Adewale: OK. Next stop I’m actually going to be in the Bronx. I’ve lived in the Bronx for ten years. I’ve lived in four of the five boroughs. So I’ll be at Hostos Community College.
Caryn Hartglass: Hostos, we know that.
Omowale Adewale: Yes, 2:15 Saturday March 23rd. It’s going to be youth-led. I have a young gentleman, he’s 20 years old, he’s also a boxer, in great shape. He wants to become a vegetarian.
Caryn Hartglass: Great.
Omowale Adewale: So, he’s making excellent strides. He’s also doing my boxing class today and teaching young folks.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, thank you…Well it’s pretty serious with young people, especially in different neighborhoods, the poorer neighborhoods. I would say most people in America today know nothing about food and nutrition and we’re educated by commercials and little sound bites on the news and it’s all nonsense. And as a result a third of the population is obese, everybody’s sick, we have heart disease and diabetes, these are food-born illnesses that do not have to happen. So we have a serious crisis. But the people who are wealthy and upper-middle class, they have means. They can hire a trainer, they can hire consultants, they can do something about it, it is their choice. But the people that do not have means need help.
Omowale Adewale: Right. I forget which hospital it is, I think Harlem Hospital that has McDonald’s in it?
Caryn Hartglass: A lot of hospitals have McDonald’s, please. It’s science fiction, it’s ridiculous, it is comedy.
Omowale Adewale: Of course, right, in the worse way too. A lot of these areas, like the Bronx, is the poorest congressional district in the nation. The sixteenth congressional district, the South Bronx specifically, you can go into say 161st where Yankee Stadium is, where the courthouses are, that particular location, you can’t find natural food, you can’t find a health food store. I talk to people all the time, even some of the folks who create these books for vegans and vegetarians or anyone who is vege-curious about where to go for vegetarian food tell you “there wasn’t much to put in the Bronx section”. There’s not much, especially in that particular area, it’s always assumed “well folks are not going to go, folks are not going to go”. I think that’s a huge problem. I think a lot of information, as you said, it’s kind of a disconnect between folks really getting food information. The fact that you have a lot of fast food in that particular area—McDonald’s, Burger King, you name it, diners, everything galore in that particular area. I look at it as almost an attack on that particular community. There’s something that has to be done and I think a lot of these discussions that we do have around food…This particular event that I’m going to be at March 23rd is the 11th annual, so you have folks that come in, there are nutritionists that have come in the past, there are farmers that will help with different information in terms of access to food but what we have to have something that’s consistent. A consistent discussion and dialog that doesn’t just leave and wait until next year or the next particular function. So what I’m doing, just like the young man that I’m working with and putting him under my wing, is trying to work with young people on a consistent basis. Really have more of a discussion, not just boxing, so even with this particular tour I’m trying to be accessible to folks, just give them free information, free accessible information, in terms of how can they get more protein into my diet? A lot of young people, some of the young men, want to be boxers. You know they say, vegetarianism, being a vegan, will bring down their weight. It doesn’t have to. You can still be very muscular to be able to do that. You can still get the right amount of carbs, the right amount of nutrition if you want to. You just have to apply the same discipline you have with McDonalds. You apply that same discipline, you’re going to look phenomenal. In terms of the barrage of the commercials that really attack the community, you see a lot of the billboards. Of course, why not go there? They must be ok. The FDA isn’t saying anything. I see it on a regular basis, so it’s a no-brainer, why not go to McDonalds? Why not get potato chips at the bodega. That’s what’s accessible, that’s what I can eat, right there. So what I’m trying to do is really have a consistent relationship, more than just a dialog actually, and discussion with the young people. But also work with them on a regular basis and …. I bring boxing, what I do with the tour and everything I do, boxing has really been excellent because boxing’s not so accessible but it’s something a lot of young people—and not just young boys, young girls as well—they want to box. They want to box. They want to be able to defend themselves. They want to be able to have fun. They want to get over their fear. They want to address bullying. I also encourage them to address their aggression that they have which a lot of vegan may say come on with the ….
Omowale Adewale: …the meat, their particular diet. Also encourage that within the system. This is the kind of relationship that I’m trying to have and not just going to speak at these different engagements. After March 23rd the next one will actually be in Texas on April 6th, then after that I’ll leave US and go into Europe to Italy for the 27th. It’s a spot tour so I’ll be going around to the different festivals and speaking and of course I’ll be back in the US May 11th in New Orleans.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, good for you. Now do you make your own food or do you go out and eat out?
Omowale Adewale: I cook so much it’s ridiculous. And I thought about it, one day—it had to be just a few days ago—I was in cooking and I said, “wow this is why people complain about juicing because they have to clean up after”. You want to be healthy? What are the most important things? What are the three important things to you? Would it be your children? Your children want to keep you around, right? You want to be able to stay around. You want to have better health so therefore this is a small sacrifice in terms of cleaning up after you juice. People talk about that all the time so I’m in my head saying, wait, ok, let me try to address them where they are, right? And say ok, try to find this juicer, this juicer is easier to clean. You don’t have to do too much cleanup on that. I think that you have to make things easier, much as McDonalds makes things easier in terms of making it 99 cent menu, you know we have to make it easier, as well.
Caryn Hartglass: This is the problem with our culture. It’s a problem. Everybody has to have things easy and I’m not sure when this happened and when we got so soft but you know, no pain, no gain.
Omowale Adewale: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: I juice every day and most of the time I make it, sometimes I’m fortunate my partner Gary will make it for me but it’s a commitment, it’s a religion because I had advanced ovarian cancer six years ago and I don’t have it any more and I know a piece of it had to do with….
Omowale Adewale: Amazing, congratulations….
Caryn Hartglass: …juicing and cramming dark green vegetables. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it and I juice. What I say is like what you said: You deserve it. I don’t even think of it as a sacrifice. I think of it as a gift, a gift to me. I’m cleaning this juicer, it’s not a problem. Just change your perspective: This is a gift, this is doing wonderful things. Don’t be so lazy.
Omowale Adewale: Right. See we understand this. But the problem is we’re up against, you know, heavy hitters.
Caryn Hartglass: I know.
Omowale Adewale: You know billion dollar budgets and marketing. At the same time I do agree and I feel I go back and forth with some of those who are working with me longer, I’m like “listen, just do it”.
Caryn Hartglass: Just do it.
Omowale Adewale: Just do this and stick to it.
Caryn Hartglass: Some people don’t have to juice. You know they could make a blended salad which is a lot easier and they can put their dark leafy green vegetables in and put their chia seeds in. It’s easy. The cleanup is easy. You can take it with you. OK. And that’s fine too…But get into your kitchen, get to know it and stop complaining. If you want results, right?
Omowale Adewale: Right. I think …
Caryn Hartglass: We have one minute so wrap it up really nice.
Omowale Adewale: Well the segue, we were talking about young people to veer off a little bit, a young man was murdered on March 10th Kimani Gray, I don’t know if your listeners were familiar… Police were in plain clothes and they stopped him and they shot at him eleven times, hit him six times. In my mind it’s kind of this dichotomy attack of poor access to food and poor food decisions that young people make, these issues in terms of stop and frisk, a lot call it police harassment or police murder…these two issues that are going on. I want to leave with that and ask people to attend March 23rd so we can have more of a discussion in terms of food and our young people.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you Omowale Adewale for joining me on It’s All About Food.
Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly, 3/25/2013