Veganism is both a diet and a lifestyle that is starting to gain considerable momentum in mainstream America with new studies, informative films, books, and broadcasted celebrities like Oprah and Ellen Degeneres—who hold considerable sway over the minds and manners of many—conveying the benefits of a plant-based diet. Unfortunately, when it comes to vegansim, the community itself still has a long tumultuous road ahead, due to myths surrounding the veg lifestyle.
As I’ve talked about in previous posts, one of the main misunderstandings of veganism is that it inhibits physical fitness, especially muscle building and strength. Fortunately, the vegan community is steadily building an arsenal of men and women who are living reminders that you can be cruelty-free, and have peak athletic prowess that can rival any omnivore! One of these people is professional arm wrestler Rob Bigwood.
Weighing in at 235 pounds and standing just under six feet tall, Bigwood’s plant-based diet is rich with protein and consists heavily of tofu, nuts, seeds, soy milk, almond milk, oats, “mock meats,” an abundance of dark greens and the occasional Vega protein shake. Like many other vegans, Bigwood at first struggled with the change in eating habits, but eventually found the right combination of foods that suited him the best, and ever since, his newfound diet has served him well, “It was hard for me to adjust at first, but once I figured out what worked for my body, everything just fell into place. I maintained my strength and lost a lot of weight and never felt healthier in my life,” Bigwood writes in an email interview.
Bigwood first got into the arm wrestling game when a friend of his cajoled him into entering a tournament in North Carolina. He took fifth place in the novice division and has not looked back since. Bigwood is presently one of the top arm wrestlers in the Northeast. With over 40 state tournament victories under his belt, a left handed super heavy weight PAC World Championship win in 2006, as well as an eighth place rank in North America in the left handed 110 kg division, this vegan has certainly made a name for himself in the world of arm wrestling.
Although Bigwood has experienced the health and fitness benefits of a plant-based diet, the driving factor for his change in lifestyle came from an ethical perspective. “I was watching a group of piglets at the Pennsylvania, PA State Fair. They were so adorable playing with each other and their mother. It was honestly no different than watching a group of puppies. At that moment I realized that consuming other animals for my own personal benefit wasn’t humane,” Bigwood says. He made the switch with his girlfriend in 2007, from omnivore to vegetarian, and from there, veganism was a natural progression.
Just like most other vegans, Bigwood is puzzled by many people’s warped perspectives of a cruelty-free diet, but acknowledges that it can be attributed to a lack of education and understanding. “Most people are misinformed, uneducated and intolerant. I honestly have no idea why we are conceived like that,” he says.
When not arm wrestling, Bigwood lives the professional life as an Interactive Art Director for Atmosphere BBDO in New York City, a company he describes as, “a globally recognized agency.” For leisure he enjoys playing poker in Atlantic City and New York, as well as throwing a few back for good measure.
Bigwood is one of many athletes who demonstrates daily that veganism is not synonymous with frailty or cowardice. He has created a facebook page titled “Vegan Strong,” which is an online community of athletes dedicated to dispelling the false reputation surrounding the veg lifestyle. For all the doubters who have fallen prey to the protein myth, just remember, you can’t spell “Bigwood” without spelling “Big”.