Pro wrestler Austin Aries shares journey to veganism and beyond

26 October 2017

Austin Aries has spent almost half his life entertaining fans inside a pro wrestling ring. He has devoted much of that time adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, eventually leading to a completely plant-based diet.

So when he saw the opportunity to write a book that combined two passions, the Orlando resident jumped at the chance. “Food Fight: My Plant Based Journey from the Bingo Halls to the Big Time,” a wrestling memoir and food-advocacy book, was released in June. Aries will be one of the featured speakers at Central Florida Veg Fest Saturday at Orlando’s Festival Park.

Aries, a star in WWE, TNA, Ring of Honor and other top wrestling promotions, said he’s proud to use whatever notoriety he has to share his food journey.

“I’ve been blessed for 17 years to have a job where I make people forget their problems for a little while,” he said. “But now, how much cooler is it to help people fix problems in their lives, like how we take care of ourselves and how we eat? … If I can have an impact on changing their lives by planting the seeds of change in their head, that’s so fulfilling.”

Aries spent a year and a half in WWE — including a highly regarded match against Neville during WrestleMania at Camping World Stadium — but left the company in July. He said returning to the independent circuit allows him to move beyond the WWE’s style of wrestling and use the creativity that has made him one of the most respected wrestlers in the world.

"You can have a favorite band, but when they sign with a major label … maybe a new producer says, 'You can't do that, take this down a notch.' And you'll keep listening, but you'll always think their first album was their best album,” said Aries, 39. “Just like music, I consider wrestling to be an art form, and I have a vision of what that art should look like. Now I'm allowed the freedom to make it all my own again, and I'm excited to have that back."

Aries said he was inspired to give up meat after learning about animal mistreatment, then finding his health improved the more he cut meat from his diet. He became a vegan in 2011 and eventually stopped eating all animal products.He hopes his message resonates with his audience, but Aries said he doesn’t expect anyone to quit meat cold turkey without having the right tools.

“I’m not going to shove anybody in the deep end before they know how to swim,” he said. “I’m confident that if you keep an open mind and dip your feet in the water, you’ll say, ‘That feels nice.’ Maybe you’ll get in a little more and think, ‘That feels real nice.’ And soon maybe you’ll be swimming on your own.”

A Wisconsin native, Aries said he has been impressed by the plant-based food scene while working in Orlandothrough the years — he moved here full-time this summer. He cites The District Market at Mills 50 and Stardust Video and Coffee as favorite spots to dine, but said eating more healthfully can be easy as long as you’re committed.

“It’s about taking ownership over your food choices,” Aries said. “People say it’s expensive or it’s inconvenient, but isn’t your iPhone expensive, or your designer shoes? Why are you not buying the easiest, least expensive shoes or car? Our priorities are quick, cheap and easy, and those have to change.”

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