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Kickboxing champ Omowale Adewale on benefits of vegan diet

FOOD FIGHT: Omowale Adewale actively promotes the vegan lifestyle

“PEOPLE are almost always surprised I’m vegan.” This admission from US kickboxing champion Omowale Adewale is understandable.

With many myths and misconceptions surrounding the vegan lifestyle, it’s perhaps no surprise that people might assume that a sportsman, whose profession depends on strength, couldn’t be sufficiently fuelled on a meat-free diet.

Still, Adewale has successfully debunked this myth. A teen and amateur bodybuilder, the New York native went on to become a boxing and kickboxing champion. At one of his most recent kickboxing matches, he scored a knockout win – literally kicking out the theory that you can’t be strong or muscular on a vegan diet.

Last year, the sportsman offered his insights in his book, An Introduction to Veganism & Agricultural Globalism, and later this month, he’ll share his views on UK shores at the popular vegan festival, VegFest London.

Here, Adewale tells The Voice about ridding himself of chronic bronchitis through veganism and enjoying meat-free versions of some of his favourite cultural cuisines.

When and why did you decide to adopt a vegan lifestyle?
I adopted a vegan lifestyle in April of 2013. I was invited to appear on a vegetarian radio show in New York City after becoming a super middleweight champion.  A vegan radio personality asked me off air why I had not declared being a vegan. It made sense, because I was not consuming most animal products, so I just dived all the way in. It was easy, as I had been a vegetarian for 20 years.

Did you, or any of your friends or family, have any concerns that a vegan lifestyle may have a negative impact on your fitness/ sporting goals?
I didn’t think being vegan would have a negative impact on my life until many kept bringing it up. I was closer to leaving the sport than ever considering going back to consuming products with dairy, eggs or honey. That never entered my mind. I’d leave the sport first. For me, the sport is harder than the ethics. And the ethics of avoiding exploitation of animals is hugely more important than the sport.

Have you encountered many people who have been surprised that, as a vegan, you can be so strong and muscular?
People are almost always surprised I’m vegan. To many people, I shouldn’t look this muscular and shouldn’t be this strong. My last match I scored a knockout win in kickboxing. It’s no longer surprising to me I can hang with these guys, but it has been for many others.
 
What made you decide to pen your book An Introduction to Veganism & Agricultural Globalism?
I gave my book that title because I wanted veganism and globalism to be highlighted.  Veganism has helped shape my worldview in the best of ways. I didn’t think I would receive health benefits. No one would ever guess I thought that way. No one. I had been into fitness and sports for most of my life and all of my adult life. So the impact that it had on me inside and out was incredibly amazing. I wanted people to know.
Once people knew, I got bombarded with requests for writing a publication. However, I was a political science nerd so I wanted to use a political and social justice angle.  Addressing globalism the way I did was like an ode to Cheryl Payer who wrote The Debt Trap in the 70s. It made me love politics even more and invest in globalism.


WINNER: The sportsman after a kickboxing victory

What are the top benefits of adopting a vegan lifestyle?
I want to be consistent in social justice and this captures it for me mentally. People are listening to me and other vegans who are vocal and they are changing their lives for the better. People are eradicating their heart disease issues and owing it to veganism. I no longer have chronic bronchitis.
Even as a vegetarian, I consumed baked goods with dairy, cheese, ice cream and I feel that was the source of my illness. Since I dropped dairy, my nose has been clear like 95% of the time and generally everyday it is clear and I can breathe so much better.  This was such a turnaround for me it blew my mind.
 
What advice would you give to people considering adopting a vegan lifestyle, particularly black people who might be dubious about giving up their favourite African/Caribbean meat-based foods?
In every meal, we can extract the dead animal out and enjoy our stews, stir-fries, sandwiches or whatever. I eat roti with potatoes and chana and the delicious seasoning and I don’t miss eating goat, cow or chicken. There are unlimited vegan meals. Nigeria is having their third Vegfest in November and I will be discussing how we can consume the country’s cultural food without eating someone.

Are you of Nigerian heritage?
No, I’m not. My mother is from North Carolina and my father from St. Vincent. During a visit to Lagos in 2005 for a couple of weeks, I was given my name by a friend, Moyosore Akojenu, who was killed in 2007. I changed my name legally after his death.

Are you looking forward to participating in VegFest London and what can audiences expect from you?
I can’t wait! I really look forward to addressing intersectionality. It will be distinguished, as I will be addressing issues in my book with regards to so-called third world countries and what I experience day-to-day in America with regards to police. Also, my presentations on fight training and training without supplements should help a lot of people interested in developing more muscle and losing unwanted weight.

What is your proudest achievement to date?
Overall, I think people writing to me saying how much I improved their lives or inspired them has touched me so much; it’s made me feel impactful and special. That inspires me. I am most proud to have my mum follow more of a vegan lifestyle and my dad opening up to one. Both have been so helpful in supporting my book. They listen to me as if I’ve become the teacher and that means so much to me.

For more information on Omowale Adewale, visit www.omowale.org. VegFest London will take place at Olympia London, Hammersmith Road, London W14 on October 22 and 23. For more information, visit www.london.vegfest.co.uk

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