From Addiction, Healing, and the Olympics to Animal Activism
An interview with the multitalented Dotsie Bausch, founder of Switch4Good.
Posted Mar 23, 2020
"Long before embodying radiant health and becoming an influential game changer, Dotsie Bausch struggled for years with severe eating disorders and a recreational drug habit, that combined, led to a suicide attempt. It was during her recovery that she discovered her gift and love for the bike."
Being an avid cyclist and enjoying plant-based meals for a long time, I'm always happy to learn how people came to the bike and their own meal plans. When I learned about Dotsie Bausch's circuitous journey to cycling—the long road from modeling and addictions that nearly took her life to founding Switch4Good—I was frankly floored. Her story can be seen in her TEDx talk called Olympic Level Compassion.1 I knew all about Dotsie's incredible accomplishments on two wheels, some of which can be seen in the Netflix documentary "Personal Gold: An Underdog Story." However, I had no idea of how she arrived at the award ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics and then went on to found Switch4Good. I was pleased when Dotsie agreed to answer a few questions about her unique and inspirational journey.
Why did you found Switch4Good?
I founded Switch4Good in response to the unrelenting misinformation perpetrated by the dairy industry. While watching the Olympic trials in December, 2018, I saw the “9 out of 10 Olympians grew up drinking milk” commercial and that was the last straw. The dairy industry is constantly capitalizing on athletes to convince the public that dairy makes you strong and healthy, but the fact is that the vast majority of Americans grow up drinking cows’ milk and aren’t Olympians, but many suffer from stomach issues, heart disease, cancer, excess inflammation, diabetes, asthma, and other health issues, and dairy doesn’t help. I gathered a team of 6 dairy-free Olympians, shot a commercial with the Academy Award-winning director Louie Psihoyos, and that aired during the Olympic Closing Ceremonies and pre-and-post-show Oscars to help Americans pull the blinders off when it comes to mindlessly drinking dairy. I realized that I could make an impact and truly help others live better and do more by ditching dairy and moving toward plant-based fuel, so I started Switch4Good to do exactly that.
How did doing this relate to your background and general areas of interest? In many ways it seems you made a 180 in terms of lifestyle and pursuing your interests.
As a 14-year professional cyclist and consequently a long-term advocate for nutrition, Switch4Good was actually in alignment with my background. I adopted a plant-based diet just over three years before standing on the 2012 Olympic podium, and I truly credit that choice for my success in the sport. From that point, I realized the power of a plant-based diet and how it went hand-in-hand with optimum athletic performance. Switch4Good also takes a performative approach and focuses on plant-based, dairy-free nutrition to help people realize their full potential and simply feel good in their bodies—whether they cheer their kid on at soccer practice or are training for the Olympics themselves.
Prior to Switch4Good and post-Olympics, I had actually founded my first nonprofit organization, Compassion Champs, which also advocated for plant-based nutrition for athletes. This was by no means at the same level of Switch4Good—it was a side hobby I began to do more good in the world—but it helped me step my toe into the nonprofit world. Simultaneously, I worked as a consulant for sports tech companies.
Who do you want to attract??
Everyone who wants (or needs) to live a long, healthy life. The goal is to educate others about the detrimental effects of dairy and help them make the switch4good, so obviously I want to attract those who are not yet dairy-free. However, Switch4Good is also a community of go-getters and athletes, and anyone from recreational runners to professional athletes can sign up to be part of our team. We want those who lead by example and also those who are even mildly curious about improving their health, the environment, or social justice issues (because dairy touches on all three points).
What are some of your major messages you want to out out to people?
Dairy does not do any body good. It can cause excess inflammation, inhibit performance, lead to bloating and other gastrointestinal issues, and it’s also linked with hormone-dependent cancers such as breast and prostate. You don’t need dairy in any form to be healthy, and in fact you’re much better off without it. Most people also don’t realize that 65% of the global population is lactose intolerant and cannot properly digest dairy. It’s not normal to be able to consume dairy and not have an upset stomach afterwards. And yet, the US Dietary Guidelines continue to promote dairy as a food group when in fact it is making many people sick.
How does Swirch4Good differ from others that are concerned with some of the same general topics?
Switch4Good is quite unique in that we focus exclusively on ditching dairy. We also focus on the health, performance, environment, and social justice implications of dairy rather than on the ethics side. While we are all too familiar with the animal issues involved in dairy production, we find this message doesn’t resonate with everyone. Feeling good in one’s body, however, tends to hit the mark.
What are some of your current projects?
We are urging the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to remove dairy as a food group from the upcoming 2020-2025 guidelines, and we’re getting the American public involved to make it happen. We encourage everyone to submit their comment to the committee and request this removal. We’re also working with professional sports teams as nutrition consultants and revving up for the 2020 Olympics in a major campaign to prove to the public that dairy is not a health food.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell readers?
I encourage everyone to just give it a try for a week, even a few days, and see how you feel. You’d be surprised how might lighter and energized you will feel after ditching all dairy products (yes, even that post-workout chocolate milk and “probiotic yogurt.”). We have all the resources you need at Switch4Good.org to help you make the switch—from “how-to” guides to scientific information to incredible recipes you’ll want to sneak into your weeknight rotation. It really is easier than you think, and everyone can (and should) make the switch4good.
Note 1) "The road to healing from anorexia led former model Dotsie Bausch to pursue cycling and eventually to a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics. In this inspiring talk she reminds listeners to 'be your best you' and challenges them to make healthy changes in their own lives. Bausch urges people to reevaluate the way they think about food and the impact eating meat has on animals and the environment."
Bekoff, Marc. The Scary Facts of Dairy Violate the Five Freedoms.