Monday, July 16, 2012

The Vegetarian in Derby: It is possible!

I am not a vegetarian, but I have often wondered about derby girls who were.  Spaghetto Fabulous of the Low Country High Rollers guest writes this blog to answer some of my questions.

I’m a derby girl. I’m also a vegetarian. Yes, you can be both.

Spaghetto Fabulous Photo by Badjon

People outside the sport have said to me “How can you be a vegetarian? I thought derby girls were supposed to be tough!,” as if my decision not to eat animals somehow makes me a wimp. A meatless diet does not make me any less aggressive, competitive, or focused when I am out on the track.

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 10 years now, so I’ve been veggie for a lot longer than I have been a skater.

Going vegetarian was a slow process for me, and it started in my early teens when I decided I just didn’t like the taste or texture of steak and ground meats. Then, the fetal pig dissection in biology class my freshman year of high school permanently destroyed any desire to eat pork products. I continued to eat fish and fowl, but really considered becoming a vegetarian since I am one of those sappy, bleeding-heart animal lovers. But, being a notoriously picky eater still living at home, I didn’t want to add any more stress for my parents who were already frustrated by what I wouldn’t eat. When I left for college, what I did and didn’t eat was completely up to me. Having just finished a grilled chicken sandwich before my cross-campus walk to art class, I decided “eh why not?” and gave the whole vegetarian thing a try.

My friends had mixed reactions: support, confusion, apathy. My parents were not on board with it (I remember my mother just saying, “Megan. Why would you do that?” over the phone), but I think after nearly a decade, they are finally kinda-sorta okay with it. My dad does still ask me if I “eat meat yet” every time I visit them for dinner, however.

I have always been active in sports, and my mother main concerns was I was going to become unhealthy, iron-deficient, and lethargic. I actually found the opposite to be true. While many of my friends came home with the “freshman 15,” I actually lost weight. Being a vegetarian has made me more aware of the types and quality of foods that I eat, and has also put me more in tune with what my body wants and needs. Being totally meat-free isn’t for everyone (and I mean that as a statement, not some snooty “I’m better than you” kind of thing), and some people just don’t do well on that type of diet. The cool thing about vegetarianism is that you can make it your own. There are actually a few vegetarians in my league, all who have their own variations on the diet. I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian, which means I eat eggs and dairy, but no meat. And yes, I do consider fish, chicken, and seafood to be meat. That’s just my personal thing though. I don’t think meat-eaters are bad people, and I certainly will not moo at you while you enjoy a hamburger.

One of the biggest challenges for vegetarians in derby, and in any sport for that matter, is eating healthy while on the road. It’s easy on short road trips where I can pack my own food, but it gets more difficult on longer trips that go several days. Where an omnivore can grab a grilled chicken sandwich or other lean protein at pretty much any fast food place, healthful and filling vegetarian meals are harder to find. Just because something is meatless doesn’t always mean it’s good for you. Yes, things like pizza, French fries, and onion rings are all vegetarian, but they are not smart choices to have before a bout! Many places have salads, but personally, I don’t feel that salads really make a meal. I may not eat meat, but I also don’t want to just eat a plate of leaves. Whereas some people can get fueled up just on fruits and veggies, I’ve learned that my body needs some protein and complex carbs to feel energized.

I usually end up at Subway, which I don’t like all that much because I feel like their limited selection of vegetables are meant to be little garnishes for the sandwich meat (shredded iceberg lettuce – ugh!) and not the bulk of the sandwich. You can add more “value” to your sandwiches by bringing some of your own protein sources, like cooked black beans, quinoa, or hummus spread. It makes your sandwiches tastier too!

Being a vegetarian athlete is not impossible, unwise, or unhealthy. You just have to do a little extra planning to make sure you get everything your body needs, especially on game day.


  1. Hey Spaghetto, (hey Elektra,)
    thank you so much for your input. I must say, I sort of hoped for more elaboration on what seems to be the hardest for me: LEATHER EVRYWHERE.
    The food itself might an issue as well, but for me trying to get around animal skin is MUCH harder.
    Thanks for taking the time!
    Brütal Gretchen
    of the Back Breaking Bambis Frankfurt

    1. Just like there are different levels of the food part of being a vegetarian, I know there are different levels of leather tolerance. You bring up a very good point. How do you deal with the leather issue with your skates?

    2. Right now, I am still sporting the entry level Riedell R3s, so I'm still doing pretty good. I have done some research and there are vegan skates by riedell

      BUT not only can you not choose from any of their other boots (as I understood), but the material is not super great, from what I've read.
      I'm thinking of staying with the R3 boots, even if I get a different plate, because they happen to fit my feet fairly well.
      I haven't found any alternatives to the Riedell Divine's, though :(

    3. When I was shopping skates in (I think) late 2010, you could get any Riedell boot in vegan. There was a markup, you could only get them in black or white, and you had to wait 4-6 weeks for manufacturing, but I don't consider those big problems. As far as I know, that's all still true. Maybe ask a Riedell rep about it?

      I've reffed around 70 bouts in my Divines since then, and the only issues I've had with the material are wearing on the right cinch strap from taking a knee and some tearing on my left skate at the back seam of the hole my foot goes in. That last I'm getting patched at a shoe repair store. Annoyingly, the patch will be leather, but it was that or a new pair of skates, and practicality won out over ethics. Of course, skaters and refs don't need exactly the same thing out of their skates (Y'all have to dodge a lot more hits than we do, for instance.), so if you've got skater feedback, maybe listen to them instead of me.

  2. We have a few veggies in our league and a couple of vegans. The veggies seem to do fine on the road but I know Derbycon was really tough on our vegan girls. I give them a lot of credit for doing what they do and being healthy while doing it. It's too easy to eat junk and lots of carbs as a vegetarian IMO when your familiar options aren't available.

    Jersey Buryher

  3. Very cool article! I'm a vegetarian of nearly 5 years and have been skating for a little more than a year so it's neat to hear another vegetarian's story.