Author Archives: Matt Ruscigno

About Matt Ruscigno

I'm a vegan Registered Dietitian, endurance athlete and activist living car-free in California. I think fun, adventure, ethics and radical politics go hand in hand.

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

I’ve created a page for my speaking engagements: www.truelovehealth.com/speaking and have included the Spring events below. I love doing these sort of events! If you are near any of these please come out and say hello. And bring your friends! Thank you to all of the people who have helped to make these possible.

All events are free of charge, unless otherwise noted.

*Wednesday March 13th 6pm  Hi-Tec Bikes,  San Diego, CA

Adding Plant-based Meals to Your Sports Nutrition Plan: The How and Why
Brought to you by my friends at Cycling Camp San Diego. See the event page on facebook for more info.

 

*Saturday March 23rd  Mission Viejo Hospital, Mission Viejo, CA

Plant-based and Powerful: What We Know About Vegan Athletes
Part of the Orange District Dietetic Association Fundraiser. May require registration.

 

*Tuesday March 26th 4-6pm Austin Peay University, Clarksville, TN

 The Unathletic Vegan Athlete, is that Even Possible?  How Being Physically Active Can Have Nothing to do with Sports
Hosted by the APU Sociology Department and Tucker Brown, PhD.

 

*Wednesday March 27th 7-830pm  Compassion Over Killing Headquarters, Washington, DC

Film Screening on Vegan Athletes with Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD
Limited seating, reservations required!

 

*Thursday March 27th 7pm  Sticky Fingers, Washington, DC

Plant-Based Nutrition Discussion with Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD
Limited seating, please get there early! More info here.  Special menu by Sticky Fingers! Hosted with Compassion Over Killing.


*Wednesday April 3rd 7-9pm  Jivamukti Yoga, New York, NY

Athletes and Plant-based Nutrition: Get Real Science From An Expert
Presented by The Discerning Brute and will include a question and answer session with myself and other vegan athletes. Ten dollar suggested donation. Facebook page and spectacular event flier!

 

*Sunday April 7th Chicago, IL

Sports Nutrition: What We Know About Plant-based Athletes
Details TBD

 

*Thursday, May 2nd 2-3pm Boise, Idaho

Sports Nutrition: What We Know About Plant-based Athletes
Idaho Dietetic Association annual meeting. Requires conference registration.

*Friday or Saturday May 3rd or 4th Portland, Oregon

Athletes and Plant-based Nutrition: Get Real Science From An Expert
Details TBD. Hopefully at Velo Cult with the my friends from Herbivore!

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Filed under nutrition, travel, vegan

My Thoughts on The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Corporate Sponsorship

I’m an idealist, there’s no doubt about it. I dream big! With my beliefs though compromise is a necessity to get anything done. It’s a reality I accepted when I started studying nutrition as a teenager at Penn State University. And there really is no better analogy for compromise than my academic pursuit to become a Registered Dietitian.  Yes, Cattle and Dairy Boards have influenced nutrition as we currently know it, but I’m confident that thanks to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics I received the best education in nutrition available. I have no regrets about becoming an RD.

Note that I say ‘best education in nutrition available.’ There is room for improvement and not everything my professional organization does I agree with. My ideal organization is really unfathomable, so I choose my battles and do more to promote what I want to see than to fight what I am against.

ANDReportCover

With that said, Michele Simon’s report, And Now A Word From Our Sponsors, hit a chord with me. It’s no secret that The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics works closely with major corporations and big food interests. I remember the first year I attended the Food and Nutrition Convention and Expo, the Academy’s annual conference, and was staying with a friend of mine. She noticed my conference bag and said, ‘Coca-cola sponsors your conference? Really? That’s insane that these are supposed to be nutrition experts and something so unhealthy sponsors your conference!’ And in one sentence she nailed the problem with having such sponsors. Not to mention the embarrassment!

The issue here is power.

With size and money big companies become powerful. They alter the environment we live in (‘environment’ in both senses of the word!) and normalize use of their products. It’s no coincidence that Coke billboards are everywhere, portion sizes have grown tremendously and nearly everyone on the planet knows what soda is.  Do you remember the Beef Industry freak-out over Meatless Monday being in an internal USDA memo? And the USDA issuing a public apology immediately? That’s power.

They have influence.

They influence government regulation from safety standards to advertising to young children. Big brands have billions of dollars to advertise their products, buy smaller companies and influence decision-makers and policy-creators like Registered Dietitians.

People say we need to hear both sides and we have to work with them to make change.

But the reality is their number one interest is in selling more of their product. It’s the nature of capitalism. The power dynamic is off: health professionals are not on equal footing, it is naive to think so. They have fought every single effort to reduce their effect on our health and the planet. If you work for them you are merely doing damage control.

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One of my first tweets ever was this photo from the 2010 FNCE in Boston of RD’s lined up to get free soda from Coca-Cola.

This is what makes small companies different.

It’s not about any sponsors. It’s about the right ones. They do not have the access to power and influence, so say the Mushroom Council or Broccoli Growers Association (one of those is real!) are not able to throw their weight around the way Coca Cola does. They don’t have the power to promote positive research and to bury negative outcomes. Or to buy off health professionals. Selling sugar-water is much much more profitable than selling vegetables straight out of the ground and these profits must be protected. When we work with them we are helping to protect their power, influence and profits. Is it worth the damage done to our field?

Yes, Registered Dietitians are smart enough to know if research has been influenced.

But that is not the issue. It is merely the association with our professional organization that is problematic. Like the story of my friend who pointed out the blatant hypocrisy. It’s embarrassing. We can do better. I understand defending your professional organization, but fellow RD’s please put your ego aside and think about what’s best to remain credible and move on as the nutrition experts we are.

A few links to read more about this.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics did respond to Michele Simon’s report, but it’s either purposefully ignorant or simply they don’t understand what the issue is. And she has since responded and pointed out what they are missing.

This has gotten some media in the United States, which Michele Simon covers here, but the most interesting, in my opinion, is this Al Jazeera 25-minute video on the topic.

The Union of Concerned Scientists briefly cover the influence of corporations on science in a recent article, which I recommend if this idea is new to you.

And every single person who works in the food and nutrition field should read Food Politics by the great Marion Nestle. And while you are at it, World Hunger: 12 Myths will give you a good idea of how corporate interests are protected at the expense of people’s health all over the world.

To my Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

I am proud to be a Registered Dietitian. I have compromised with you tremendously over the years. I know we don’t see eye to eye on everything. But this is a big deal and we need to make some changes. Please read the suggestions that Michele Simon makes, listen to your members (and ex-members! This is why so many have quit!) and let’s continue to be the experts on nutrition. We don’t need Coca Cola’s money to do that. And taking it just isn’t worth our reputation.

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Filed under eat, nutrition, political, read

Motivation.

Winter is always a tough time for me. Yeah, yeah I live in Southern California, how hard can it be? Hard enough! Even though I basically have a degree in behavior change / healthy behavior, I still struggle sometimes myself.  Isn’t that always the case? Anyway, I’ve a few half-written (okay, okay they are only in my head!) posts, but for now, since I’m on a video kick, here are a few I’m excited about. And if this site is about anything, it’s about me sharing exciting things.

This first is a fun video featuring my friend Cache, his partner Erin, their rescued companion Yeti and one of my favorite mountain bike trails in Southern California. Erin works at the super awesome Swvre shop, which is featured. Along with my old housemate Dave! And it’s made by my friends Sean and Ace.

For more info on Cache and his artwork watch this video interview from a few years ago.

Next is this video shows the Cyclocross World Championships recently held in the United States for the first time ever. If this video doesn’t give you chills, check your pulse.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The best activities are the ones where you are actively involved in the process. Like punk rock, where you see your favorite bands at tiny clubs and chat with the band members, the very best cyclocross racers in the world hang out with the fans. It’s healthier for us as individuals AND builds community. Win-win.

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Filed under bike, off-road

Short Film on Jacob Bannon of Converge

A lot of my work and energy is, ultimately, against people’s actions that I think are detrimental to other people, to animals and to the earth. Always being ‘against’ isn’t easy and I’ve watched many a friends/accomplices take the easier path in life, ie giving up what is important to them.

Though if you’re a regular reader of my site you know I don’t take an angry approach.  But that anger is inside of me and has been for a very long time. I know I’m not alone in this, but sometimes it does feel that way. Then today I came across this (very) short film on Jacob Bannon, the frontman for one of my favorite bands, Converge. I was fortunate to meet Jacob last year when we both had tattoo appointments with our mutual good friend Thomas Hooper. Hearing these two artists I greatly respect discuss their trade was a privilege, to say the least. And this short film captures the energy and emotion that comes out of Jacob Bannon. It’s an insight into someone who has influenced me greatly yet it’s also self-reflective as he comes from the same sub-cultures that I do. Either way I’m sure you can relate to some aspect of this great film.  Enjoy.

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Filed under political, vegan

Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine Conference!

Hey everyone, happy new year! A quick note that the new Vegan Health and Fitness magazine is having a conference/expo in Los Angeles on January 26th and 27th. I’m honored to be speaking and giving the last presentation of the day, Saturday night at 7pm. The full schedule has a list of fantastic speakers from a number of backgrounds and disciplines. Tickets are available in a few different formats; you can buy just the sessions you would like to attend, a day pass or one for the entire weekend. Plus right now they have a sweet deal: subscribe to the magazine for a year and get two free session passes at the conference. I’d like to point out that Cat Johnson, the kick-ass cyclocross racer from Day in the Life episode 6 , is on the cover of the recent Winter issue!

VeganHealthandFitnessExpo

I’ll be discussing some tenets of sports nutrition, my experience as a vegan athlete and sharing clips (or maybe a full episode!) of our Day in the Life of Vegan Athletes series. I hope you can make it and if you do, please come say hello. I’ll be the guy wearing a shirt! Just kidding, I’m sure a few other people will have shirts on.

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Filed under Day in the Life, nutrition, vegan

Day in the Life 10; Badwater Ultramarathoner Michael Arnstein

Our Day in the Life of Vegan Athletes Series has a very special 10th episode today. We travel to the Badwater Ultramarathon, which has been called the most demanding and extreme running race on the planet, and ‘spend the day’ with fruitarian Michael Arnstein.  Mike has a 2.28 marathon PR and sub-10 hour ironman results, which is super impressive, but not nearly as impressive as his positivity! Which is put to test during this 135-mile run in temperatures near 120 degrees. He has so many great things to say and he really captures the spirit of this race and what it’s like to run 135 miles. Without further ado, here’s Michael Arnstein’s attempt at Badwater:

How crazy was that! He endured through the night and just when you thought he might not make it, he finishes top 20! Among many great quotes, here is my favorite,

“When you embrace the struggling, you just learn how to accept it and appreciate it.
Because the good times are only really great when the bad times are pretty tough.”

For more on Mike, his diet and other videos see his site, www.thefruitarian.com. Thanks for watching!

Photo courtesy of AdventureCORPS

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Filed under Day in the Life, nutrition, road, run, vegan

Thanks. And Turkey Day.

I love holidays. I really do. People are nicer, more polite, more willing to share; many work less often and the emphasis is on friends and family. It’s how I wish people acted every day! For many years I was too punk to really celebrate them, but now I look forward to sharing time and food with close friends and family.

 

Thanksgiving is extra special because it is my vegetarian anniversary- 2012 will be my 18th vegetarian Turkey Day (I went vegan not longer after)! That’s more than half of my life, which seems significant. This week I’ve been thinking back to the angst-y teenager I was who decided to stop being wishy washy about this not eating animals thing and took a stand. It’s unfathomable to me that the same number of years old I was then, have since passed. And that that decision has changed my life so much!

That first Thanksgiving I ate only sides- which isn’t hard to do at an Italian Thanksgiving. Plenty of pastas, salads, and vegetables for me to eat. Soon after that I learned more about the history of Thanksgiving, the celebration of ‘giving thanks’ and romanticizing those who, and I don’t use these words lightly, committed genocide against Native Americans. I then fasted in protest for Thanksgiving over the next bunch of years. How could we celebrate so much death- people and animals?

I calmed down about it eventually and found that discussing these issues and offering delicious vegan options as Thanksgiving dinners was the most productive thing to do. And that’s my MO- be a positive example of alternatives. Alternative ways of thinking, eating and interacting.  Compassion is a topic of Thanksgiving- my philosophy has always been to just widen that circle of compassion like that famous science guy said.

 

 

But this year, inexplicably, I’m more angry than ever about the millions of turkeys killed for this holiday. I pride myself on not being preachy- most of those who follow my site are more interested in my adventures and racing than my diet or politics. And maybe I’ll lose some of those folks. But tomorrow if you sit down at dinner and there’s a dead bird in the middle of that table you have to know that it was a living, breathing being with emotions and feelings that suffered and died unwillingly to be there.  And the solution is simple: the more people who give up eating animals the less that are killed. You can make a difference.

Photos from 15 reasons not to eat turkey.

Vegan Thanksgiving recipes

[end rant]

Happy holidays.

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Filed under political, vegan