In this oversaturated world, it’s rare to come across something — or, in this case, someone —that really stops you in your tracks. That happened when I first heard of Rob Bigwood, a professional arm wrestler who is also a devoted vegan and animal rights advocate. A 27-year-old Interactive Designer, he is one of the top-ranked arm wrestlers in the Northeast and among the top 20 overall in the United States. Bigwood has won over 40 state tournaments, as well as the PAC’s World Championship in 2006 (left handed), and is hell-bent on disproving the myth that athletes need meat to build strength.
When did you become a vegan and why?
I first considered giving up meat back in 2002. At a State Fair a group of baby pigs caught my attention. It was too cute watching them play and fight for milk from their mom – no different than puppies. I felt ill knowing that I had a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast that same morning. I have to admit that I was pretty unsuccessful for a few years. But, when I moved to New York three years ago I set my mind straight and have been a strict vegetarian ever since. My diet naturally and gradually lead to a vegan diet.
Slow and steady wins the race. So, here’s the million dollar question, where do you get your protein?
Just to name a few: Tofu, nuts, seeds, beans, Soy Milk, certain vegetables, oats, and Vega protein shakes!
What do your fellow competitors on the arm wrestling circuit think of your veganism?
The arm wrestlers were originally shocked when finding out. They didn’t understand how I could be strong without meat and milk. Most have known me prior to going vegan and respect and support my decision 100%. I have actually even inspired a few of them to give up meat also!
That’s great. You must cook at home, right? Do you have a favorite dish?
I hardly ever cook at home. The only thing I make is breakfast before work. I usually mix oatmeal and almonds, sun flower seeds, flaxseeds, raisins and cranberries. If I’m feeling lazy I’ll eat cereal with soy milk and a banana. Working in New York makes it too easy finding vegetarian lunch and dinner options. I love Indian, Thai, Mexican and Japanese food and a few of my favorite places are Gobo, Blossom, Terri, Soy and Sake, and Candle 79.
I love Candle 79, the abundance of good food is definitely one of the benefits of living in NYC. So, do you wear leather or any kind of animal products?
I honestly refuse to buy any animal products. But I do own a couple of leather products that I purchased before turning vegan and feel guilty for owning them.
We’ve all heard that eating less meat is the single most effective thing we can all do to combat climate change. But, very few people are willing to give up meat. It’s still not considered socially acceptable to “tell people how to eat.” Do you have any tips on how to inspire people to change?
I have been doing the best I can with educating, inspiring, and breaking stereotypes without throwing it in peoples faces. I like to live my life by example and hopefully rub off on family and friends. People don’t realize the harsh cruelty and suffering these innocent animals go through before eventually ending up the mutilated meat in your sandwich. Being vegan also means being green, it is the absolute best thing for our environment!
It really is, but it’s still considered macho to not care about animals and the environment. How can we change that?
I think that is a ridiculous stereo type. I’m a “macho” guy and a HUGE animal lover. Again, to change this we need to lead by example. Set up a blog site, share your opinions, and surround yourself with people of the same interests. Educate and inspire.
What does the good life mean to you?
To positively influence the people around you and to learn and better yourself each and everyday.
Top photo by Jeff Bachner