The interview with the world´s tallest vegan
If the German vegans can boast about having the strongest man of the world who is vegan, the Czech Republic has a unique person as well. Possibly the tallest vegan in the world (according to available sources) comes from the Czech Republic. It is a basketball player and amateur boxer Roman Halík who is 216cm (7 feet and 2 inches) tall. Roman cooperates with the Vegan Fighter project mostly as a translator. And this interview is the first of the series of interviews with people who participate in making of this web.
Hi Roman, can you tell us something about yourself? Which sport are you interested in and what brought you to veganism?
Hi, I play basketball, I played basketball professionally in the past, later I played semi-professionally and now I play only as an amateur. I have come to veganism step by step, about a year ago I quit to eat meat, and at that time I did not really know what vegan meant and what it stood for. I saw the infamous speech from Gary Yourofsky and the decision was made.
You are 216cm tall, what is your weight? In spite of the fact that you have been vegan for a short time, is it hard for you to get vegan meals which would cover you enormous energetic outcome?
My weight is around 125kg and that is the optimal weight for me. And it is not hard to find suitable food at all, as my diet had been mainly based on fruit and vegetables before. However it was a challenge for me to find alternatives for candy and milk. I love coffee with milk. On the other side I have discovered tofu and other delicious food. I have found, to my surprise that a lot of people use tofu and these people are not vegans, nor vegetarians. I have found out that tofu is popular.
What was your main impulse to switch from vegetarian to vegan?
The main impulse was Gary´s speech. It all summed up for me at that point. Of course I had seen videos from farms and large scale breedings before and I had not had a good feeling about what I had seen, but in the context of this speech all pieces fell into each other. I realized that there is not really a difference in being racist, sexist or speciesist. That there is no difference if somebody thinks that he is better than other race, other nation, other social group, or other species. After seeing this speech I was just laying in bed, staring at the wall and I was not able to speak, or move. I was completely paralyzed. I realized a lot of things, which I had not known before. For example I had thought that cows give milk just like that, but cows give milk only when they have calves. That is why cows are raped over and over again till they are able to give milk. Then they are slaughtered. They live in horrible conditions. And that happens to all animals. I had mixed feelings and emotions. I felt disgusted of how we treat animals and I was disgusted of me taking part in this, and I also felt a bit sadly, because from that moment I would not have my beloved pizza, or cheese, or milk chocolate anymore. But I was decided. And as time has went by I have discovered that vegan diet is not only healthier but it is also more diverse. And what is also important in these times, vegan diet is much cheaper than regular diet. But sadly for me, there are a lot of vegan sweets, which will cause a continuing struggle for me to keep my weight low.:)
It is normal for you to be a center of attraction, but if you add the fact that you eat differently than most people around you, maybe you have to face never ending series of questions, discussions and maybe more, or less aggressive attacks. Many people get frustrated from explaining over and over again that they will not have that steak. Do you have a tip for yourself on how to react to these situations and face them?
It was interesting for me to find out that the question: “How tall are you?” would not be the most frequent question that I would hear, because since I have taken the meat out of my diet the most frequent question has been: ”Where do you get your protein from?” I used to explain everything. That there are plant - based proteins as well- That these are more suitable for people, and that, in fact it is not the proteins that we need to get, but amino acids. But I have learned that it is better to simply ask back:”Do I look like I lack proteins?” And I do not talk about it anymore. If someone wants to know, he will find information by himself, if not it would be a waste of time for me and him to explain it.
And there is no universal rule to face attacks, everybody is different. I think it is important to be informed and to have patience with people, especially when it comes to family and close people. For most of them it may be a shock, they can react edgily, just because they are worried about the person that they love and that chose to go vegan. Often they are misinformed about veganism. They can also take it as an attack on their lives and values.
It may happen that family and people around you will want to “pull you back”, they will have millions of reasons for not being vegan. The ideal formula is to read a lot and to find inspiration and experience from other people. That does not concern veganism only. There is almost 100% chance that someone, someday had to face similar situation and had to solve it, and in the era of internet it is really not a problem to find stories and experience from other people.
What do people around you and your teammates say to veganism? Are there more people in your team that have similar diet? And how is the situation in Ostrava generally? Do you have more vegans, or at least vegetarians around you?
I am not interested much in what people around me say about veganism, but I try to explain ethical and health reasons if they are interested. Most of them nod their heads and they let themselves be inspired. I think that there is no one else in my team who eats in similar way, but I have come to find out that I have a lot of people around me who, even if they eat a little meat and dairy products they eat mostly healthily and they try to cut down the income of meat and dairy, just because of health and wellness. In most cases these are girls, because men, as me myself thought two years ago as well, think that they will not have muscles without meat and they will not be real men.:)
What are your practices like? Basketball is dynamic sport, do you lift weights as well, or do you do other sports? What is it like to run with your 216cm? :)
There are two practices a day in professional basketball, but in the present, basketball is only a hobby for me and because of time reasons I practice twice a week plus gym, which is necessary.
Running is okay for me, it takes a little time for my long legs to start moving fast, but than I am faster at the end of the court. :)
You surely have a lot of experiences with basketball. Do you like team sports more, or have any individual sports attracted you? Martial arts, or other individual sports?
What I like about basketball is that it is complex and you can still learn new things. Especially in offense there are endless possibilities of scoring. It is about coordination, experience and intelligence. When it comes to individual sports, some may be surprised that I fell in love with skateboarding when I was a teenager, at that time I tried handball, basketball, but I did not like organized practices and I wanted to play basketball not to do jump over ropes etc. I have still played basketball but only outside with friends, or at school. At 18 I decided to try it in some organized team. So I started to practice with B team of NH Ostrava and my first competition minutes came when I was 20 years old.
And concerning martial arts, I came across box last year; I wanted to gain physical fitness and hardness. I practice regularly in present and I believe that I will be able to participate in a match in future. It is not a surprise for me that it is said that people who do martial arts have the best stamina and bodies. The first one hour practice of boxing was very hard for me even if I had been used to a lot of physical activities before.
You are interested in coaching in your civil life, can you tell people who do not know much about it, what is coaching about?
I am interested in adult education in general; coaching is “just” a part of it. Simply, coaching is when the coach is an independent person who asks questions, helps to find solutions for the client for himself, to take these solutions as his own and than to make a plan with coach. The main aspect of coaching and personal growth in general is that each person should take the full responsibility for their lives.
Where have you been with basketball?
I have spent most of my active career in NH Ostrava; I have been to Holland and one season in Cyprus. After returning from Cyprus I have decided for the combination of civil job and basketball.
How would you describe your relationship with animals?
Most people think that vegetarians, or vegans are some kind of eco terrorists, or hippies who embrace trees daily and run through forests and they weigh 10kg. But the reality is different. I do not think that I am some special kind of animal lover, of course we have had dogs in my family, but I do not see myself as special animal lover. Simply I hate the idea that my cravings and comfort cause animals death and suffering.
And at the conclusion, can you give some recommendation for people who are thinking about becoming vegans, but they do not know if they can make it?
I really recommend to watch the speech of Gary Yourofsky, or to find information from other sources. Nobody says that everybody has to become vegan over night, why not step by step, but persistently. It is simply about to be involved in suffering of other species as least as possible. And if people who are vegans want to inspire, the best way is to be the example not a critic.
If the readers have any questions they are invited to write me to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will gladly answer all questions.
I would like to thank Klárka Šmídlová for her patience, for answering and advising me about vegan food and products. And I would like to thank Jirka Votava for making my website, which is attractive not only because of my picture that is on the home page. :)