The Fruitarian Athlete: Owen Gayle

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Owen Gayle, fruitarian and professional MMA fighter

So it’s high time I told you about some of the people I’ve been speaking to for my documentary – something I realise I’ve withheld for too long.  I insist that you contain your excitement, maintain your dignity, and let curiosity get the better of you.

Trying to find people to interview for When Life Gives You Lemons has been no easy ride. Not the most conventional of topics, finding adherents of this largely unexplored subculture was a tall task, and the number of straight-forward or obvious avenues at my disposal were pretty much non-existent. If, like me, you are incensed that the Society for British Fruitarians is yet to be established, then you’ll begin to understand that locating these rare and exotic fruits… I mean fruitarians, can be sort of difficult. Just speaking to the fruitarians that I did manage to get hold of allowed me to understand that the community, whilst growing, is still in a state of disconnect, and that they themselves have trouble finding other like-minded frugivores in this country – so I count my lucky guavas that I managed to find anyone at all.

The idea was initially born when I stumbled across a meetup group for the UK Fruitlucks online. The group meet now and then, more often in the summer, to celebrate their mutual love for all things juicy (there are only so many ways to describe fruit, okay?). The UK Fruitlucks are not necessarily fruitarians, but I thought they might have some in their ranks. Much to my detriment, no fruitarians came forward when I enquired… sob sob.

Next I decided to hit the wider net. Was there anything a google search couldn’t return? Fruitarianism is something that has largely manifested online, thanks to internet epidemics like blogging, vlogging, social media and specialist forums, so online seemed like a good place to start.

I trawled Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube locating people through keywords searches. Believe me, there was no shortage of accounts, in fact there were hundreds – but were any of them British?

Many of the accounts I came across belonged to those in sunnier climates; California, Phuket, Melbourne. This was to be a common discovery in my search for fruit fiends, but luckily for me, I managed to come across a handful of British ones.

First up was Ronnie Smith. On Twitter and Instagram, under the name the “Fruity Ronster” (I know, it’s fantastic) I soon found out that Ronnie was the organiser of UK Fruit Fest, a fruit-focused festival that was launched in 2014. Ronnie is also the author of The Lazy Man’s Guide To Raw Vegan Success. He seemed like the perfect candidate, and I thought he might be able to put me in touch with other fruitarians around the country as well. The only problem was that Ronnie is based in Glasgow, and as student budgets go, there was no way I could fund a trip from Bournemouth. That, coupled with the fact that Ronnie and I could not coordinate a good time to speak for WEEKS (I am terrible when it comes to missing calls, as many of my friends will vehemently testify) meant that it was a no-go. Instead I decided to ask Ronnie if I could interview him over the phone for the blog. More on our chat in a later post.

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So there was Ronnie, one of the first people I came across – and I’ve also spoken about Steven Bratman a couple of times too, you may be wondering where he fits in. I actually decided to contact Steven after reading one of his articles where he discusses fruitarianism and Orthorexia. Fruitarianism seemed odd enough, without the added element that it could be psychologically toxic. It was something I hadn’t considered before, and thought it could add another dimension to When Life Gives You Lemons, aside from the physical harm that it might cause. I knew before I contacted Dr Bratman that he was based in the US, so it was always on the premise of a skype interview for the blog.

But what about others – who did I end up finding? Well, I have to admit that the two fruitarians I discovered are interesting in their own right and I’ll introduce the first of them to you today – who I found exploring Instagram. Hashtags really do work.

@thefruitarianathlete_sotoncali, known to you or I as Owen Gayle, is the owner of the recently launched Muscle Up Gym based in Southampton, which has a holistic approach to exercise and fitness training, dedicating much of its coaching to natural movement and calisthenics. When I contacted Owen, he was refreshingly enthusiastic about contributing to this project. In the face of all the adversity I had experienced so far, it was so encouraging to set up an interview with such ease, so I couldn’t wait to speak to him.

I met Owen at his gym. You won’t see treadmills or cross-trainers there; it’s all about using your own body to get results.

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Owen Gayle, the fruitarian athlete

Owen has been on a fruit-based diet for just over a year, after a four year transition period beginning with vegetarianism. His motivation for a fruitarian lifestyle lay in the hope of reaching what he considers the optimal diet, to sustain a long and enduring life.

“Most people are baffled, and they don’t get it at first. When I actually explain it and break it down to them, it does make sense, but they’re still like “ah… it’s not for me.” I guess it just depends on what your life goals are; mine is to live a long, healthy life for as long as I possibly can – so because that’s my goal I’ll put the work in to achieve that.”

When I asked him whether he thought that his diet provided him with sufficient nutrients in the absence of other foods, like meat and vegetables, he had this to say:

“I don’t believe in protein. Having things like protein from animal meat, I don’t see [the] benefit in it. For me that’s more toxic to my body, so I kind of actually avoid it.”

“On special occasions – real special occasions – I’ll go as far as to having vegetables. I’ve got nothing against vegetables. It’s just at this moment in time, a lot of what I am doing is testing on myself.”

When it comes to mealtimes, he doesn’t follow convention. Owen eats when he is hungry, which it seems, is not very often, and can usually survive on just one meal a day. For him, he eats to get energy from food. If he can avoid eating for the sake of it, he will.

Once a top 10 professional MMA fighter, Owen stopped competing in 2012. During his fighting days, he met nutrition and diet with a different approach.

“I used to eat around a kilo of meat a day. It was quite a lot, and it was like eating every six hours, and every meal had meat with it.”

Now, he is training to compete once more – this time as a fruitarian. His first fight is scheduled for April, and he has no doubts about his diet and training regimen.

“For me, this is the best shape I’ve been in, even when I was fighting in my prime. So it will be interesting to see – and for me now, where I’ve obviously got into the whole movement, I think that’s just escalated my skill levels.”

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What’s fascinated me so much about Owen is that he totally debunks the fruitarian stereotype – the sickly, weak, thin, almost emaciated image that my mind produces by default. Instead, he’s toned, muscular, and clearly very strong. So what does he even eat?

“My kind of main go-to fruits [are] things like apples, dates, jelly coconuts, mangoes, at the moment I’m trying to eat a lot of pineapple – just because of certain things in the pineapple – pears, cucumber, tomato.”

To see the rest of the interview, watch out for the When Life Gives You Lemons full-length documentary.

 

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