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A Brief Response to Charles Staley

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T-Nation posted an article by Charles Staley entitled, “8 Reasons People Do Dumb Things“. Charles is a very knowledgeable strength coach; I like and have used his ideologies in my own training on more than one occasion.

In other interviews I’ve seen with the man, he seems like a very mild-mannered person, but in this post he editorializes a bit more than usual (as a part of my response, I may do the same). Of the 8 rationales listed for why people do dumb things, number 6 is guilt, of which he states the following, “One curious artifact of living in an advanced society is the prevalence of simple guilt, which reveals itself in a number of interesting ways. We just have it so darn easy, and we can’t help thinking that our luxurious lifestyles must have some sort of consequences. So we find ways to punish ourselves, and then justify that punishment through all manner of pseudoscientific, ethical, and/or environmental reasons.

I think the fitness world has plentiful examples of people who “punish themselves” as opposed to trying to train in a productive manner. I’m sure you or someone you’ve been in contact with has used a workout as a means to atone for their sins (i.e. make up for eating too much junk food). In instances such as this, I agree with what Charles has to say; however, the example he chooses to site for his article is that of raw-veganism.

For those who are unaware, a raw-vegan lifestyle is one in which cooked food is not consumed (or at least not in any significant quantities) and is exclusively plant-based. I’ve dabbled with raw-vegan living in the past, getting the majority of my calories from fresh fruits. In fact, it was during this phase of eating that I set my squat PR, though I’m sure my form has improved substantially since then. As far as I’m aware, Charles has never been vegan or raw-vegan (if I’m incorrect, my apologies).

Charles opens this part of his dissertation with, “If I may be completely serious for a moment, why would anyone find himself attracted to the idea of abstaining from both animal products and cooking?” Well, Mr. Staley, if I may be serious here, lots of people have found themselves attracted to the idea of abstaining from animal products because they don’t agree with human society being based on the consumption of other sensate creatures (not to mention the inherent amounts of torture & abuse that those industries propagate as well as the tolls they take on our own physical well-being).

I can’t speak as much for those who choose to refrain from cooking, other than that the most nutritious foods for our bodies are fresh, raw fruits & vegetables (these items are also fairly cheap, so there may be a financial incentive as well).

Raw (and non-raw) vegans claim nutritional, ethical, and environmental rationales for their avoidance of most healthy, great-tasting food, but none of them stand up to scientific scrutiny.” Oh really? Fruits & vegetables are not healthy? Meat & dairy don’t contribute significantly to the onset of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other degenerative diseases? Animals don’t feel pain, nor is it their own right to decide what lives they choose to live? Is it not a better use of our resources to use 16lbs. of grain to feed starving nations as opposed to producing one pound of beef?

…for those interested in a very thoughtful and sober analysis of whether we’re “meant” to consume meat, please see Dr. Michael Eades’ excellent 3-part article, Are We Meat Eaters Or Vegetarians? Another must-read is Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth where the author, a former vegan, describes, among other things, how a bunch of eco-vegans pushed for the construction of a fence across the African continent for the purpose of partitioning predators from their prey (e.g., lions on one side, zebras on the other).

I have not read Dr. Michael Eades’ work, so I will save that for future commentary. In regards to Lierre Kieth, she claims to have been a vegan who also, “binged on eggs & dairy every chance she got.” So really, she was a lacto-ovo vegetarian, not a vegan. She also claims that all vegans eat meat at least once per week. Where she got that statistic, I have no idea, but as someone who hasn’t touched meat in almost 5 years, I take offense to such ludicrous claims. Just because she didn’t make it work for her doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t either (although, by her dairy & eggs reference, she was never doing it in the first place).

Even limiting your diet to plants involves some form of agriculture, which comes at the expense of animals, either because animals are killed during the agricultural process, or because the plants that would’ve ordinarily be eaten by other animals are now being eaten by humans.” Perhaps, but that still doesn’t make it right to artificially inseminate (i.e. mechanically rape) animals on the order of over 50 billion per year to die so that we can eat our hamburgers and get fat & sick.

As a final bit of supporting evidence, it’s worth remembering that carnivory is such a superior nutritional strategy that even dozens of plant species practice it.” Charles, are you going to start eating insects because your venus flytrap does? Thought-for-food.

Until next time…

Keep it strong, keep it vegan.

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