Vegan Lowell policeman combats stress with healthy choices
CAMBRIDGE — Eric Wayne sips an avocado and kale smoothie, then sits the glass next to two empty bottles of raw coconut juice. Moments into his lunch at Life Alive, Wayne considers his next course. “I think I’m gonna get a shot of wheatgrass,” he says.
Wayne is a Lowell police officer, but his passion for raw food has prompted many to call him the city’s unofficial vegan mayor. “People are attracted to him because of his vitality,” says Heidi Feinstein, who started Life Alive, raw food restaurants, in Lowell in 2005; a third location is in Salem. The year Feinstein opened her place was the same year Wayne turned off his stove in an effort to combat work stress and excess weight. “I feel like I haven’t aged in seven years,” says Wayne, 40, who, like many friends on the force, used to eat a diet of “your typical muscle building shakes or drinking six eggs.”
Life Alive even named a dish, “The 5-0,” after him. “It’s everything — shiitake mushrooms, beets, carrots, seaweed, kale, broccoli, squash, brown rice, quinoa, and two different sauces,” says Feinstein. “It should be called the Kitchen Sink.”
The police officer, who loves a physical challenge, ran the Marathon this year. He met Kevin Corcoran, whose wife, Celeste, lost both legs in the bombings, and Wayne chose to run to benefit MyTeam Triumph, a nonprofit that pairs able-bodied runners with the handicapped; he has run several races for the organization. During training, he wasn’t thrilled with his nutritionist’s recommendations of Gatorade, salt tablets, and Gu energy gels. “It’s not a healthy thing to do to your body,” says Wayne. After each training run, he thought it took another day to feel good again.
He credits his wellness transformation to a book Feinstein recommended called “Eating for Beauty,” by superfood proponent David Wolfe. Wayne was an instant convert, and now, he says — and friends agree — he has limitless energy.
“He joined jiu jitsu and he could last the whole class. He wouldn’t break and he would just keep going,” says Alexander Ramos, who serves on the force with Wayne. That enthusiasm caught the attention of documentary filmmaker Drew Scott Pearlman, who features Wayne in his upcoming film “The Healing Effect,” which premieres May 15 (www.thehealingeffect.com). “When we walked the streets with him, he was like the mayor,” says Pearlman, who followed Wayne around for months.
“I want this movie to focus more on showing people what’s possible,” says Pearlman. “Eric’s always telling people in the community to eat plant-based, and it’s also caught on in the police department.”
Ramos is among Wayne’s partial converts. The 31-year-old police officer said he was initially skeptical of Wayne’s theories on raw food, and finally caved in and went to Life Alive. “I was thinking, ‘Who eats this crap?’ ” says Ramos. “But now I’m hooked. And I think it’s delicious.”
The younger officer still eats meat, but says more cooking at home has given him desired results. “I was 245 pounds, and I’m only 5-feet-9-inches. I’d work out and get hurt. Now I’m down to 200. For this job you just have to be fit. It’s hard, and a lot of hours. Nobody can make it to the gym every day, but what you put in your body you have control over,” Ramos says.
“There’s no such thing as portion control in my life. Even before bed, if it’s 100 percent nutrients, my body wants more of it,” says Wayne.
Filmmaker Pearlman says that if a police officer in Lowell can eat like this, anyone can.