"It’s the easiest and quickest way to help you thrive in life. To help you have more energy, a cleaner and more efficient body that gives you an edge to help you push for your passion in life."
- DUSTIN WATTEN
After launching BEETxBEET, I was sent a very compelling email by a man in France opening up to tell me his story of going vegan and how he seeks to spread awareness now that he is on a more compassionate path. He didn't know how we could possibly work together but took the chance to reach out to me and I'm glad he did. I knew right when Dustin said he wanted to somehow collaborate that we should do a video showing sort of a day in the life of what it looks like to be him or a vegan athlete in general to spread awareness around that topic. Five months later we were standing in Long Beach at his parents house making green smoothies discussing his recent journey back from Europe for the off season.
The family was very open and welcoming while we set up shop in the cozy suburban home. I learned about how Dustin's father (a high school video production teacher) has been vegetarian since his college years but more recently has committed to the vegan path although mother (a first grade teacher) and brother (a surfer) do their best, they haven't fully taken the plunge just yet. Everyone is very supportive of Dustin and his lifestyle which was really pleasing to see. One thing the whole family has been on board with is juicing. There's a fight for the blender in the mornings but things get quiet when it's time to do dishes. Probably sounds familiar to most of you. I know it's a never ending dish battle in my kitchen. hah!
Looking back, I almost wish we would have gotten more footage around the family and made more of a story there but we didn't have too much time to spend with Dustin so this was a short and sweet version that I'm certainly happy with.
My motivation for making this video with Dustin was not only to share his story but it's important to me to show that athletes come in all different shapes, sizes, weights, sports backgrounds, etc. and that you can be a strong healthy athlete living plant-based. With all the protein you need! #truestory
I also wanted to squash negative stereotypes about men being feminine because they grill portobellos instead of steak. It's time to change the view of what being a man means in our society. It's time to recognize that a man can be compassionate and strong at the same time and that does not make him any less macho. Personally, I feel like it's the opposite! hah.
Special thanks to Dustin and his family for letting us into their home and for sharing their stories. It was so much fun and hopefully this will be part one of a series I'd like to do with many other vegan athletes in the future.
Love & Beets!
Can you share with us what it was that made you begin this lifestyle change?
Almost 3 years ago I was getting ready to leave for France for another 8 month season and I hurried off to the bookstore to grab some books in the sports section. I had to be quick and I ended up grabbing a book called ‘Finding Ultra’ by Rich Roll. It looked up my alley as I figured it was a motivational book about a runner and getting into shape. On the plane I quickly got bored with the first 3 books I picked out and so I went on to the 4th book, ‘Finding Ultra.’ I was surprised when I actually dug into it since it was about a man, Rich Roll and his story of finding a healthier way to live through a plant based diet. I was so consumed by his story that I read the whole book before the plane landed and decided that once I stepped off the plane I would try life without animal products. Every since then I haven’t looked back and I couldn’t be more grateful for this one book that has changed my life path.
Why is living a vegan lifestyle important to you?
First, it’s important to me because I believe there is no one true path in life that we are here to take, it’s for us to decide. By choosing plants and cutting out animals and animal products I feel we give our bodies the best source of nourishment and sustained energy to help us push for our own individual passion in life. Second, because I believe we are on this planet to live in harmony as close as we can with the earth and the other animals that inhibit it. By breeding animals to be consumed we are destroying not only our own health but the health of our soil, water, oceans and our ecosystem.
As a Male, what sort of criticism do you face being vegan? From your family, peers, the world? Do you feel that it’s hard to live this lifestyle as a Male?
It can be difficult and there is always criticism but I personal believe it never comes from malice intentions. I believe it all comes in the form of lack of information and at times insecurity. Most criticisms are directed in the form of the old "you need meat to be an athlete" or "you need meat to be strong" belief.
So when people criticize me or poke holes at my diet, I always do my best to listen, to listen very carefully and give them the respect I hope they would give me if I were talking about my diet. But at the end of the day if I perform at a high level and especially if I perform in the weight room, the chatter stops instantaneously. After 3 years, I have more people (especially other athletes) ask for advice for making the transition away from animals and into veganism.
How has being vegan effected your performance as a professional athlete? Do you notice a difference from when you used to eat meat and now?
Energy, I have a ton of energy and I am rarely fatigued or sore as much as my teammates. In Brazil we would always have 2-3 trainings a day. After the morning trainings, all of my teammates would have to resort to a mid day nap, where I felt great and was able to spend more time throughout the day doing what I love, whether it be meditating, reading or doing yoga outside in the sun.
What do you do when you aren’t on the court or training?
I love learning how I can be a better version of myself, so a lot of time is spent reading, meditating or time watching video, either on myself or our team’s upcoming opponents. When I’m back in California, I love spending time with my friends at the beach or snagging fresh produce at the farmer’s market.
What or who has been your biggest influence in wanting to help educate the world about being vegan?
Rich Roll has been a big influence in my life as far as getting me to give up animal products but also leading me to search out meditations and having compassion and understanding for people who don’t’ have the same views as me. I also stumbled across an instagram page by the name of Gangster Vegan, it’s by a man named Vinny Blanco who serves organic hot vegan meals to the youth out in PA and really inspired me right away to start thinking how I can help this movement and how can I also give back to the community.
What do you think the biggest challenge is that vegans face everyday?
It’s been an intriguing journey for me as I became a vegan purely for the health benefits. But especially this last year, I’ve noticed how we have a double standard when it comes to animals, how we can care so much about a horse or a dog yet how we consume other animals without a thought or a worry. How we view, breed and treat these animals is becoming harder and harder for me to see on a daily basis. I am very happy that now my eyes are open but the challenge for me now, is how I can help open the eyes of my friends and family and from there, extend this helping hand out wider as I believe we should treat all animals with the same love and care as we do our pets.
Given the opportunity travel the world and see different places and cultures, do you feel like you are seeing some changes in other countries as far as veganism is viewed there? Do you think it could be gaining more popularity? Has it been tough for you traveling overseas and being able to find food options?
Yes! Last year I lived in Brazil and it was an amazing experience. Of course they are famous for their Brazilian BBQ's but there I was always able to find beans, rice, veggies and fruit options. I was even able to find a vegan Thai restaurant, which was always packed with people throughout the day. 2 years ago when I lived in France, there were no vegan options, just rice and green beans when I went out to eat. Now there are Bio (Organic in French) stores everywhere, comparable to a small whole foods with less animal products, if any.
What message do you want to get out to the world about being vegan?
It’s the easiest and quickest way to help you thrive in life. To help you have more energy, a cleaner and more efficient body that gives you an edge to help you push for your passion in life.
What is your favorite vegan meal to cook or eat?
I am a big bowl person. For dinner I will usually cook some type of beans, rice/quinoa add some stir fry veggies, kale mashed with guacamole and a little Himalayan sea salt. It’s a easy and delicious way to help close out the day and I am able to give my body what it needs to recover and be ready to dominate the next day. But with that said, I’ve also discovered N'ice Cream this year and I love it after my morning workout as it keeps my energy high and my taste buds happy.
How did you decide that you wanted to be a professional volleyball player?
I didn’t to be honest. I played well enough in college to be invited to a national team tryout and ever since making the team, the next path for me was to begin playing professionally overseas. It was never a goal I was trying to obtain, I’ve always had a big passion for the sport and an even bigger desire to push myself to be the best I can be.
What position do you play as a volleyball player?
Libero it’s a player specialized in defensive skills: I have to wear a contrasting jersey color from my teammates and cannot block or attack the ball. When the ball is not in play, the libero can replace any back-row player. (I’m the small guy on the team) I’m 6’0ft but most of my teammates if not all of them are around 6’5, my two best friends on the team being 6’8 and 6’9.
Do you listen to music to get you pumped up for tournaments/games? If so, what is your favorite track or genre of music to listen to in order to get you in the zone?
I grew up loving old school hip hop but living overseas I’ve been introduced to a lot of different music that isn’t so popular in California. Recently I’ve had a huge passion for finding new Deep House, G-House and Future House music, all which I’ve used throughout the year before our matches. Some of my favorite artists are The Beatdangers, Duke Dumont, Croatia Squad and Tchami.
Do you have any weird superstitions involving the sport? Or any rituals you do before a game?
Coffee, every since I’ve lived in Finland, my one ritual is just to devour coffee before the game, I love going into the game as fired up as possible and the caffeine gives me an amazing boost. I’m slowly trying to cut down my consumption but for game days, it’s always a pre game ritual.
Do you know of any fellow professional volleyball players who are vegan as well? Anyone else on your team?
The last two years when I’ve been in France I’ve had two teammates go about 95% but one of my college teammates who is currently playing in Finland is now full vegan and this year two women from the USA National Team have made the jump as well.
What do your teammates think about your vegan lifestyle?
I think most of them were confused at first, as they’ve always been told they need meat to be strong but more and more I get questions about it and any if not all jokes have quietly subsided as I’ve stuck with it and have continued to improve in the weight room and on the court.
How is being vegan rewarding to you? How is being a professional volleyball player rewarding to you?
It’s a great feeling to be a professional and to do what I love every day. I love that in my free time, I am able to explore, learn, grow and expand who I am as an individual. Making time each day for my meditation practice, having lots of time to read about food, sleep, nutrition and to be as healthy and fit as possible ruining any chance of the weak vegan stereotype. But mostly it’s important because I can be a role model to younger kids and to preach the message that anything is possible with a passion, a dream and a big work ethic. I love working with kids and to give them the hope that they can pursue anything in life with the right attitude.
The rewards of a vegan is seeing and knowing my health comes first and with my health and attitude right, I am able to give back more energy and love to my friends and family. It’s an odd thought but I believe eating fruits/vegetables/nuts/seeds and staying away from animals makes you a happier person and I want to spread that feeling as much as possible on my short time here on earth.
Follow Dustin on Instagram @dustinwatten
If you are interested in learning more about being a vegan athlete and getting your protein I suggest checking out this article by Rich Roll, Slaying the Protein Myth.