From having a meeting of the minds with a cow on the family farm to driving by a slaughterhouse, Austin Aries believes that these seeds — planted over the course of his life — ultimately influenced his decision to forego meats.
He relays that journey, which runs alongside his sojourn into the wrestling industry, in Food Fight: My Plant-Powered Journey from the Bingo Halls to the Big Time, his new memoir, which came out earlier this year and is co-authored with Mike Tully.
Despite the plethora of books that explore vegan diets and lifestyles, Aries said the difference with his is that it’s specifically about his journey — “and everyone’s is different.” He often is asked, by friends and family alike, the “same curious questions” about his decision to no longer eat meat, so he felt it was time to share how he made the transition from “a meat-eating, cheese-loving” Wisconsinite to a strictly plant-based diet.
‘THEY ALL DO INTERTWINE’
The first half of the book weaves in and out of Aries’ diet and lifestyle — from the meat-based meals he ate in his youth to his slow transition to a plant-based diet — and his wrestling career. Aries said that mix was intended to keep wrestling fans interested.
“And, in some ways, they all do intertwine,” said Aries, who stopped eating meat the year he started wrestling.
Aries’ career started out in Minnesota training with “The Trainer of Legends” Eddie Sharkey and Terry Fox, where the Greatest Man That Ever Lived picked up habits that followed him to his days as a trainer for Ring of Honor.
“It really was the basics, and even when I’ve gone on to train, I really just replicated my training [from Eddie Sharkey and Terry Fox]… Knowing the basics, you can never go wrong,” Aries said.
Teaching respect for the business, etiquette and paying dues are key for Aries.
“I think what you do, the first initial things you put emphasis on and make important, are the things that are going to stick with you,” he said.
Aries also said he liked his students to “earn their way into the ring,” regardless of their ultimate goals in the business.
“No matter what level you want to make it to in the industry… as long as you come and respect the business and respect it that’s the most important thing,” Aries said.
‘THE DRIVING FORCE’
Once Aries and Tully take readers on the journey to Aries’ decision to eat strictly plant-based, while also hitting on key points in his Aries’ career on the independent circuit, the book focuses solely on nutrition.
“Now that I’ve kind of reached this point, here’s the driving force behind why,” Aries said.
Overall, Aries said, having a “compassionate mindset toward other living creatures and also the environment” played a role in his decision.
“[Events throughout my life were able to] open my eyes to realities of the corporate food system and the corporate meat industries,” Aries said.
Though the current WWE 205 Live star has followed a plant-based diet since 2011, he said he still has people tell him he doesn’t eat anything that tastes good — and that’s one misconception The Greatest Man That Ever Lived likes to debunk.
“[People assume it’s just] brown rice and carrots,” Aries said. “I’ve always enjoyed food and cooking… [So I] find plant-based ways to recreate those flavors.”
Since removing meat from his diet, Aries said, he has been able to recreate foods he enjoyed while growing up.
“We all want to eat food we enjoy eating… People want food that tastes good,” Aries said. “At the end of the day, everything I used to enjoy, I can eat and enjoy.”
One food he has rebranded is baked ziti — a dish his girlfriend “grew up loving.” Swapping ricotta cheese for tofu, “regular, old 99 cent pasta noodles for a better option” and tossing in some veggie beef crumbles.
Cheat meals are also part of Aries’ routine, though he said “even at its worst, bad plant-based food is still going to be an upgrade.”
“I feel like in some ways because even my cheat meals aren’t as bad, I feel like I can cheat a little more,” Aries said.
One of his go-to cheat meals is pizza — vegan pizza, that is.
“[It’s] not bad in comparison… I love pizza, so that’s always one of my favorites,” Aries said.
ADVICE FOR BEGINNERS
The most common advice Aries dishes out for people looking to switch to a plant-based diet is to “always start slow.”
“Make sure you’re giving yourself the information and tools to be successful,” Aries said. “Don’t start hammering the nail with a butter knife.”
He suggested small steps, such as trying it for a week, or excluding meat on a per-meal basis — perhaps replacing scrambled eggs with scrambled tofu. Then aim for “Meatless Mondays.”
Aries said nobody “just happen[s] to be overweight” and that people do have a choice in what they eat. So when they decided to change their eating habits, according to Aries, they should “do it with conviction and start slow.”
“I think the big thing is, once you decide that your food choice is important to you and make that commitment, that’s the hardest part — Once you realize you have a real choice and you have real control over your health. All these diseases and ailments aren’t just genetic,” Aries said.
With social media and the internet, Aries said, others who are part of the vegan community are more accessible.
“[The information is] out there for you really to go and find,” Aries said. “My book’s just a small little crumb of that big community.”
You can order Food Fight at AustinAriesBook.com.