I had the pleasure of interviewing Dotsie Bausch. Thank you so much for joining us!
Please tell us a little bit about you and your background as an Olympic athlete.
I grew up in Kentucky, raised on the traditional animal-heavy Standard American Diet (aka the SAD). I wasn’t much of an athlete growing up, but I did have a competitive edge. I moved away from home to attend Villanova University, and while my academic future looked bright, I developed an eating disorder coupled with an exercise addiction. This was the first time I was serious about working out, but it was certainly not healthy. After years of struggling and becoming life-threateningly thin, I finally found a therapist I resonated with and spent two years recovering. During the end of this journey, my therapist suggested I find movement again, the healthy way. I picked cycling, quite randomly. I got myself a clunky mountain bike and just started pedaling. A year later, I started entering long charity rides, and it was then that I realized I had potential.
I never dreamed of making it to the Olympics, but over my 14 years of cycling, it eventually became a possibility. It’s hard to condense all the training, sweat, crashes, and grit that went into my Olympic career, but trust me when I say it was an uphill battle. Despite the rigorous training schedule, I also went vegan about three years prior to the Olympic trials, and my coaches gave me a really hard time for it, saying I would never make the Olympic team. Well, I proved them wrong.
I am so proud to be a member of Team USA and to have represented my country at the 2012 London Olympics. We were the underdogs in those games, and that’s putting it lightly. However, we fought hard and came home with a silver medal. For me, it was a double win. Sure, there’s nothing like standing on that podium, but I had not only won for America, I had also won for myself, and for all the other plant-based athletes out there who’ve been told they’ll never make it. Just shy of my 40th birthday, I realized this was my first and last Olympics, but I wasn’t ready to stop fighting for what I so passionately believed in. Following my racing retirement, I made it my new mission to spread the word about the power of a plant-based diet.
Why and how did you start Switch4Good?
I was watching the 2018 Olympic Winter Games trials when a milk commercial came on. It said, “9 out of 10 Olympians grew up drinking milk.” I was infuriated. That was such a general statement. 9 out of 10 Olympians also grew up drinking water! Milk doesn’t make Olympians. Mindset, talent, and a dedicated training schedule does. I also felt so tired of the milk industry using athletes to sell their product and spreading their lies and propaganda that humans need the mother’s milk from another species to thrive. Its ridiculous! So, I sprung into action. Quickly, I put together a coalition of dairy-free Olympians (yes, we exist) and hired a crew to shoot a commercial in response to the MilkLife ad I saw. Our commercial aired in select regions following the Closing Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics and during the pre and post-show Academy Awards. To continue the momentum, I worked with a team to develop Switch4Good. We became an official non-profit in August of 2018.
What are some of the biggest misconception about milk consumption and the dairy industry?
Milk doesn’t “do a body good.” Nor will it help with exercise recovery. Nor will it help children grow big and strong. Nor is it the only food that contains calcium, protein, potassium, or vitamin D. The dairy industry tends to promote cow’s milk as the ultimate health food—a one-stop-shop for all your nutritional needs. But the thing is, we aren’t meant to eat only one food. If we were, why not just drink Soylent? At least that doesn’t have cholesterol, trans fats or a nasty does of hormones. A healthy diet should consist of a plethora of nutrient-dense foods, and that will certainly give you all you need to obtain optimal health. Plus, a varied diet is far more exciting and delicious! (Please refer to these 8 studies that give the evidence that cow’s milk does not build strong bones, encourages cancerous tumor growth, can cause allergies and asthma and increases risk of heart disease etc.(https://switch4good.org/whats-wrong-with-dairy/)
What are some of the advantages of living a dairy free lifestyle? How has it affected your athletic performance?
There are so many! It’s one of my favorite things to hear about how people have drastically changed their lives simply by giving up dairy. One of the most common benefits is gastrointestinal relief. 65% of the world population is lactose intolerant, and many beyond that are sensitive to dairy. For this population, giving up dairy will significantly decrease or eliminate uncomfortable bloating, stomach pain, and other digestive issues. Many also report clearer skin, both from acne and eczema sufferers. Asthmatics say they’re able to breathe better and not rely so heavily on their inhaler. Giving up dairy can also help prevent diseases later in life, as dairy has been associated with higher risks of hormone-dependent cancers and diabetes.
As an athlete, I found that I recovered faster when I gave up dairy. This meant I didn’t have to take as much time off training, so I could train more frequently than my teammates, all while maintaining a high intensity. I truly believe that ditching dairy 3 years out from the Olympics helped me make the team. The dairy-free lifestyle is an athlete’s secret weapon.
Give us a few simple tips for anyone who is interested in transitioning to a dairy free lifestyle.
Don’t think of ditching dairy as this big, daunting thing. You can do it, easily! For guidance, I recommend scrolling through the Switch4Good Dairy Alternatives page. You’ll see that you don’t have to give anything up; just swap out dairy products for non dairy products. There is an equally delicious alternative for virtually every dairy product out there—yes, even cheese and ice cream.
I’d also recommend trying out some dairy-free recipes. Meals don’t need dairy to be delicious (or nutritious, for that matter).
Finally, don’t think you have to do it all at once, and don’t worry about the future. If you can give up all dairy except you still haven’t found your favorite dairy-free coffee creamer, allow yourself the milk creamer and do what you can the rest of the day. It’s not all-or-nothing, especially when you’re just starting out. Also, if you’re fine with giving up dairy but you’re worried about that annual ice cream social you host every July, ditch dairy for now and if you still want cow’s milk ice cream in July, have it (though there are awesome nondairy ice cream brands out there that I highly recommend you try). Step by step, I’m confident you’ll get there. Anyone can make the Switch4Good.