I saw the Cro-Mags a year ago and got beat the fuck up. I was there to see Eyehategod and some other slow bands and really had no idea what in the dick I was getting myself into. I was born and bred a metal kid, without a doubt. Sure, at the height of my communist pamphlet-writing days I dabbled into some Exploited and Capitalist Casualties, and Black Flag has always been a constant, but for the most part, I’ve always opted for what resonates with my always cold, always tired, always sorry, glum, agoraphobic, stammering, shaking self. But the punk versus metal divide is a tired one, and one that I’m ashamed of indulging in for so long. Fortunately, you change, you grow up, and subsequently learn how to give different perspectives a chance. And let me tell you something – throw a scrawny, doom-listening chick into a hardcore pit, and she’ll get a lesson she’ll never forget (i.e. a couple of near death experiences and two bruised hip bones).
Through the pain and terror of being pushed against the stage so hard that it felt like every bond in my lower half was going to crack, I have a distinct memory of frontman John Joseph running around in circles in his shorts and athletic sneakers with more zeal than I exuded in my entire 20th year. He was a clear force to be reckoned with, musically and physically. I told myself that if I survived, I would look into this wise guy.
This is Hardcore
Like any good story it begins with a Vice doc – the educational tool of choice for all of us young kids coming late to the party. “Under the Influence: New York Hardcore” came out that spring, and suddenly the dude that I had been hooking up with at the time was starting to make sense. That dude loved three things: powerviolence, distancing running, and eating pussy. No complaints about the third, but being the asthmatic in the drool-stained Sleep shirt, I had still been kind of confused about the first two, and how in the fuck it is they go together. But what I came to understand, and even appreciate was the earnestness and pragmatism of hardcore. Autonomy. Energy. Actually fucking taking care of yourself. “They’re not singing about Dungeons and Dragons, they’re singing about Ronald Reagan.” Bringing a foot back into reality was what I needed at the time, but I only kept succumbing to my personal demons.
But then 2016 same and I knew I had to make a change. My health status was continuing to not look so hot, I was getting myself into a lot of trouble, and most of all, I was doing a lot of feeling sorry for myself. And that’s a waste of your goddamn life. So when I was stuck inside during the blizzard that shut down the East Coast, I took a long, hard look at my lifestyle (and some more Vice docs) and threw out the cigarettes, the dairy products, and my piss poor attitude.
While these changes were a good start, I was still far from where I wanted to be. So, this week, I decided to take it to the next level and live like the “vegan” machine himself, Mr. J Joseph. I went all in on what allows him to kill Iron Man competitions and performances alike well into his 50s – an upped vegan game, a no nonsense fitness routine, and a dedication to mental clarity (but not the New York accent, sadly; when I try to imitate it I just sound like the ghost of Joan Rivers got into it with Mort from Family Guy). Normally, I think those “I attempted to live like such and such celebrity for a week” clickbait experiments are pretty fucking dumb, and I’ll tell you why. Their bottom line is always that any kind of lifestyle that’s different from the one you’re currently living is unattainable and you should just succumb to stagnancy, to the status quo. What I’d like to present to you instead is a success story. Did I compete in Iron Mans? No, I most certainly did not. But I felt like I made the steps that would potentially allow me to reach some type of lofty fitness goal. And when it comes to adopting any kind of lifestyle, if you want it to stick, it takes time.
So, here are my thoughts and experiences. As is the case with most of my articles these days, I feel the need to place a brief disclaimer. I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, a trainer your mom, your pet cat (sadly), or Bobo the fucking clown. I’m just some chick that goes places and does stuff, and if you care to hear about it, read on
Meat is for Pussies
I know Joseph’s book, a funny as hell argument in favor of a plant-based diet that doubles as a food and fitness guide, isn’t really targeted towards my demographic. He’s speaking to the juicehead that just learned how to walk upright last week. Yano, that dude whose ego is derived from his ability to put down Jägerbombs as fast as he puts down women who reject his sexual advances. He may or may not have a collection of Affliction t-shirts. You get the picture. But what JJ argues, is that eating a goddamn quinoa salad doesn’t make you weak. What makes you weak is taking the easy way out, not questioning the bullshit we’re constantly fed by the meat and dairy industries, and taking pride in asserting dominance over a fucking chicken. While he’s calling people out, he’s not chasing them down either. It’s all very “here’s my advice: take it or leave it.”
So why did reading this thing over the course of the past week really change my perspective on things? I already had the advantage of being began vegan for a solid month prior, and vegetarian for seven years before that, and I’m not exactly a dude that defines gender in limited terms. But, I have managed to take a toll on my body through food, or, well, not eating it, partly to adhere to superficial standards, and partly it’s because how I seem to cry out for help when something is eating me. My metabolism and digestive system are fucking shot from it and it’s terrible. MIFP helped shake me out of my self-destructive mindset. Joseph dissents from those obsessive vegans, and really anyone, that lets food dictate every facet of their thoughts. So diets? They’re for pussies too, because you don’t need to worry about dramatic calorie restriction when you’re eating plants. It is an approach that allows you to, as John puts it, “eat to live, not live to eat.”
And man, before this past week, I was doing a lot of the latter. I’d spend every moment thinking about food, and when I could finally eating it again according to whatever bogus rules I had concocted in my mind. Having gotten a more sedentary job, I fell into this hole where I wouldn’t let myself eat anything at work besides an 100 calorie pack of cashews. By the time I got home, all I could handle was throwing some lettuce and chickpeas on a plate and calling it dinner before I’d descend into bed to watch bootlegged British weight loss shows on YouTube to “inspire” myself to refrain from any more food. If just getting up to walk to the file cabinet at work made dizzy, the thought of exercise was completely unfathomable, and it’s this physical weakness that only perpetuates the melancholia that made you want to stop eating in the first place. Miserable, I knew I needed to try and break out of the trap.
When you’re like John, eating five-six times a day with the goal of preventing “the tank from running on empty,” you quickly begin to see food as no more than a fuel pit-stop in the race of your day. On my first day living like John, I was having mad revelations like Peter Griffin coming out of the stem cell lab. I let myself eat every fucking two to three hours – oatmeal, smoothies, hummus and shit. Nutrient-dense foods. And for the first time in a long time, I felt human again. It was like I was coming back to life.
Fortunately, this level of energy is addicting, and regular eating is an easy habit to form. When you feel good, you’re less inclined to call back into the traps of your old demons. I found that increasing my food intake as a healthy vegan was completely different than as it was simply as a vegetarian. You can’t eat the load of ice cream and cheesy poofs that make you hate yourself. But what you can do is pump yourself with natural sugars and carbs – food your body actually knows what to do with. Feeling satisfied and energized, you don’t want to deprive, and when you aren’t deprived, you don’t want to binge on guacamole when you’re out with your friends and go to bed with a jar of peanut butter.
I find following recipes verbatim kind of tedious, so instead I looked through John’s MIFP meal suggestions and got some general ingredient inspiration. I got me some white beans and chipotle soy chicken and threw them in some lettuce wraps, along with some mango salsa that I totally winged, and it all turned out hella bomb. Even my carnivorous friends ate them the fuck up. It was a beautiful thing. The only issue I encountered with food stemmed from some raw sprouts. They had the hypochondriac in me Web MD-ing Listeria (Editor’s note, stay the hell off WEB MD, anything you look up is ALWAYS cancer) timelines after a stomach ache from hell (let it be known, though, that we have runoff from animal agriculture to thank for these kinds of foodborne diseases). But it chilled its tits, and the next night I just made a point of having something cooked instead. I also just so happened to be craving curry like a pregnant lady to the point where I actually called my local Indian joint to make sure they had a vegan selection. And that’s fucking saying something because phones turn my into a nervous, bumbling POS so I don’t call fucking anybody. I stormed into that bitch and killed a bowl with zero fucks given. Making strides, kids. Making strides.
The Iron Woman
My past attempts at working out have always been about getting smaller, not stronger. Always. I think this conceptualization of exercise as a temporary means to achieving weight loss is a trap that nearly every woman falls into, unless they’re literally a college athlete or something. But your “average woman” is the one that’s disproportionately targeted by magazines and websites who just keep feeding us this 30 days to a Brazilian butt lift bullshit. After my past of countless asthma attacks during jump squats sets and nearly throwing out my hip trying to get into the best booty-plumping yoga poses, I welcomed the concept of using exercise as a way of meeting a goal of lifelong fitness rather than making my ass look like two scoops of butter pecan ice cream (it was a lost cause anyways, as was the Pinterest coffee and coconut oil DIY cellulite scrub).
My first day living like John, I was hungover and feeling like shit, which certainly didn’t make the prospect of giving up the booze for a while seem too impossible. It also provided me with the motivation to get my ass up and working in order to counteract some of the damage I caused from operating on the id the night before. Seems odd, I know. But I’ll take it. It’s always been my urge to oscillate back to productivity after a brief bender that’s held me back from having any real types of issues with drinking. Realistically, I had to start slow so that my lungs or joints wouldn’t start giving my issues, as they often do. With the help of a big ass smoothie and an oatmeal power bowl loaded up with hella fruits and nuts, I took on a hike around outside as a warm up, and then went face to face with the cardio that drives Iron Mans.
Man, stationary bikes are fun as shit, mostly because you get to sit down while still feeling like you’re accomplishing something. Running though? Not so much. I’ve never really been able to run for very long, even when I was a kid. At the end of the day, I’m just not the most athletic kitten in the wicker basket. But you do what you can do, and as you watch your power walking turn into a jog, you develop a drive that continues into the work week, when working out means getting up when infomercials are still playing on the TV.
In addition to feeling like I was slowly building endurance for the first time in my life, I also felt like I could see increased muscle development right off the bat. It’s truly criminal how many women neglect to work out their bodies. In fact, the only time I’ve felt encouraged to do so was when I read an article on how to naturally get a fat rack once when I was, like, 12. I didn’t even know how to correctly do something as tried and true as a fucking push up. I consulted the exercise guide in MIFP, and found out that the art involves some glute squeezing, but at least this time torturing the tush would actually get me somewhere.
At the end of the day, adopting John’s physical discipline wasn’t a whole hell of a lot different than adopting the diet. Integrate it into your routine, and eventually it becomes intuitive. It’s just a matter of first overcoming that mental block. There was a time in my life that I never thought I would be able to forgo a dank ass froyo parfait or a drunken order of mozzarella sticks. But I did. And if I can do that, what’s an extra fifteen on the bike?
I once read that PMA is the YOLO of the hardcore community. But I think some bloated fucking hipster was getting on his soapbox with that shit, because based on what I can tell from my associates degree from Vice University, positive mental attitude is still pretty fucking important when it comes to the legacy of NYHC, and seems to be another key way in which hardcore dissents from other rock and roll countercultures.
While a regimen of a pumped up vegan diet and intense exercise probably seems like hell on earth to some, I was most worried about my ability to adopt faith in the power of positivity. The weekend I was supposed to leave on the trip to New Orleans that I had spent months planning and anticipating, I was puking my goddamn brains out and bitching to your friend and mine, Ben Fischman, that I was scared I was going to have to pull the plug if I didn’t get better. “Remember that PMA, man,” he told me. I told him I’ve never been too good at that. “Yeah, neither have I.” *Cue Dragonaut riff*
But what I came to find was that when you take care of yourself, when you make time to fuel and work yourself well, the rest just kind of follows. And when you’re getting enough carbs going to your brain and get yourself into a meditative state on your nature hike, you start thinking about shit, like last Friday when you watched the clock on your work computer until 5:00 when you’re finally free to escape and put on a fresh ho face and pay $40 for Junior in his Nissan Sentra to take you to some weak ass bar with some weak ass people to listen to some weak ass music and have your friend sloppily shew away the one hot dude that wants to talk to you because she’s so goddamn inebriated that she thinks the cute ones are creeps and just when you start to question all of your life choices and take your last shot of the night and cash the fuck out of there some dude that thinks flirting means patronizing your major and line of work even though he’s fucking unemployed and waiting for daddy to come through with a job holds you up in some conversation whilst critiquing your shot taking technique and your friend is now distracted by some nachos passing by until you drag her ass home and you face plant in bed with all your clothes on all to wake up the next day and work up the courage to check your banking app and come to realize that the bartender ripped you off because she thought you were too distracted by Prince Charming to realize how much you were paying, you ask yourself – what is the fucking point of any of this?
The answer I’ve managed to come up with over the past week is that there isn’t one. And don’t get it twisted here, it’s not the partying I’m putting down here, but rather the bogus trap of routine we manage to fall down and get stuck in, and the daily ass fucking we accept from others that toy with our emotions to the point where we feel like we can never escape. It’s easy to get caught up in bullshit, accept stagnancy, and live completely ignorant to the fact that our time here is limited. I watch people do it every day. Being in my early twenties I feel like I’m at a really pivotal, make-or-break time in my life in terms of my potential to reach my life goals. First and foremost, I hope that includes getting on the path to getting somewhere new, come hell or high water. It’s funny because this past week I found the courage to talk to some people in my life about the prospect of me leaving Baltimore, and they got hostile real quick. Why do you want to do that? People are the same everywhere. Blah, blah, blah. A lot of talking in circles, a lot of contradictions.
Let me tell you something. There are two kinds of people in this world. Ones that when presented with the notion that there are other kinds of lives to live, lives that are different from the one that they’re currently living, they get scared and fucking run, and ones that jump at the opportunity to experience them. I’d like to think that this past week has helped mold me into the latter, and that the next time I’m thrown into the pit o’ life, I’ll be able to hold my own a little bit better.
In Case you want to Munch on some Plants:
I felt compelled to throw in a little bonus here in case anyone is more curious about some of the topics I touched on this week. As indicated, I spend a good amount of time in front of digital media because I’m a good Millennial. I look at YouTube much more than I look at the television set, and I suggest you do the same. But the downside of the Tube is that it’s often a shit show when it comes to any nutritional advice. There’s a lot of people talking out of there ass, disseminating a bunch of dogmatic horseshit that has the potential to harm a lot of people. However, via some weeks of digging, I’ve managed to find some people that inspire without cutting anyone down:
Dang son, you’re in for a treat. VBMC is not only vocal and culinary talent all rolled into one, but also a great example of how you can instill the fear of Satan into lost souls without having to eat anything that bleeds.
Just an all-around sweet, earnest young lad. I highly recommend checking him out if you’re interested in plant-fueled fitness or enjoy a good Vlog hole.
- Unnatural Vegan
I actually was pretty put off by this chick at first, but she grew on me once I realized her tone isn’t as much arrogance as it is dry cynicism that even my mind on PMA can come to appreciate. She challenges assertions from other vegans that you need to cut out certain kinds of plant foods, like olive oil, and only make a plant-based lifestyle seem more and more unattainable. While she’s quick to challenge advocates of animal consumption, she doesn’t let her herbivorous counterpart off the hook either if she feels like they are sharing harmful information. She also spares you of any new age charge-your-crystals nonsense.