10 Life-Lessons Learned with Rich Roll

10 Life-Lessons Learned with Rich Roll

10 Life-Lessons at the Living the Plantpower Way Event with Rich Roll

by Tom Perry

A few years ago, I took myself to the inner-Melbourne suburb of Malvern (where I spent the first 4 years of my life).

I went to the Malvern Town Hall to see a genuine superstar of the plant-based vegan world.

Some say nice guys finish last. That definitely does not apply to Rich Roll.

For those of you who don’t know Rich Roll, he is many things: a husband; father; former corporate lawyer; one-time champion swimmer; recovered alcoholic; international-best-selling author of ‘Finding Ultra’; host of one of the most popular podcasts on fitness, diet and wellness; whole-food plant-based vegan; middle-aged ultra-athlete, and rated as one of the fittest men in the world.

He is also a super-nice guy.

Rich Roll and his wife Julie delivered a performance and presentation that was equal parts inspirational, educational, entertaining and motivational.

They were also joined by Melbourne-based plant-based doctor, researcher and host Dr Andrew Davies, and Andrew ‘Spud-Fit’ Taylor, renowned for surviving a whole year eating only potatoes.

You might know of Rich and Julie and their work, including their plant-based recipe book ‘The Plantpower Way’. Whether you do or not, there were many things I learned, or had powerfully re-affirmed during this event.

Rich Roll and wife Julie

  1. People can change. Rich Roll is a living embodiment of the idea that you really can turn your life around, reject negativity, and live true to your purpose. Rich went from the depths of despair, spending 100 days in rehab from years of alcoholism, to climbing the peaks of performance as one the world’s premier ultra-athletes. It’s worth remembering that achieving real, lasting change can be difficult; even painful. It is only in the crucible of hardship, effort and struggle that true character is forged.
  2. You can heal your body. Rich told the story (detailed in ‘Finding Ultra’) of when he was 50 pounds overweight, unfit, and barely able to climb a flight of stairs. Rich was a junk-food addict at this point, well on his way to a heart-attack and early death. Rich then made the conscious choice to go on a journey to rediscover his young, fit self. He eventually became a whole-food plant-based vegan with more energy, fitness and vitality than he ever thought possible.
  3. You can change the world. The plant-based vegan lifestyle can prevent and even reverse disease and has great healing power. It also has a much smaller carbon footprint than eating meat and animal products and avoids the suffering and death of literally billions of farm animals. By changing the world within, you can truly help to change the world around you.
  4. Live an authentic life. You should live a life that’s meaningful for you, not what others think you should do. By all means, learn from and be inspired by others you look up to, but only you can be you. Follow your own path, find your true purpose, and be your authentic self. Don’t try to be anyone else; just be the best you can possibly be.
  5. Be the example you’d like others to follow. Rather than seek to preach and push people in the direction you want them to go in, be the beacon that others will be attracted to. Accept and love your partner, family and friends for who they are, even if you don’t always agree with some of their life choices. Be the shining example of health and positivity that radiates the power of the plant-based lifestyle. When people close to you are ready to change, they will look to your example for living a healthy, ethical, and authentic life.
  6. Keep striving for excellence. Rich talked about one of his podcast guests, David Goggins. David, the only member of the US Armed Forces to complete SEAL training, is known as the ‘toughest man on earth’. Rich quoted one of David’s sayings “when you think you’re done, you’re only at 40% of your total potential”. Rich’s own experiences of competing in gruelling ultra-man events and the aptly-named ‘Epic 5’, which consists of five Ironman-distance triathlons, each on a different Hawaiian island, all completed in less than a week. Rich’s example and the stories he explores on his podcast of other jaw-dropping feats of human achievement and endurance are reminders of the possibility and potential that often lies dormant, just waiting for us to unlock and unleash it.
  7. Focus on the process, not the prize. Commitment to the process of self-improvement, of striving for positive change, and seeing it through is what can transform your life. It’s not so much whether you reach your ultimate prize, or goal, it’s how much you are willing to invest yourself in making progress. Rich Roll didn’t set out to be an ultra-athlete when he started running. He also competed in international events that he didn’t win, but he doesn’t see that as any sort of failure. On the contrary, Rich considers the fact that he was able to compete at the highest level of ultra-endurance events, after years of sedentary, unhealthy living, all well after he turned 40, as a both a physical triumph and a spiritual awakening.

Andrew spud-fit Taylor

Andrew ‘Spud-Fit’ Taylor

Another of the inspiring guest speakers, Andrew Taylor, spoke about his battle for years with the twin demons of depression and food addiction. Andrew said he tried every diet imaginable, and despite often losing some weight, he always put it back on. Andrew became so depressed he would sometimes cry for no reason. As Andrew ate in a vain attempt to feel better, he ballooned out to obesity.

Andrew’s ‘a-ha’ moment came when he realised his attachment to food, especially high-calorie low-nutrient density junk food, was a real addiction, like gambling, drug-dependency or alcoholism. Unlike these other addictions, however, Andrew understood that he could not simply go ‘cold turkey’ and give up food! So, he immersed himself in researching alternatives.

After 6 weeks of solid research, looking into, for example, the Irish historical reliance on potatoes, and the Okinawan’s traditional staple of sweet potato, Andrew decided to eat only potatoes, in a radical attempt to break his food addiction. He initially planned for this to last for a month or so, but after starting his potato-eating odyssey on New Year’s Day 2016, Andrew kept eating only potatoes for the whole year.

Now Andrew is 55 kilograms (121 pounds) lighter, and fitter than ever. He has beaten his depression, and no longer takes medications. Andrew has published a book: The DIY Spud Fit Challenge: A how-to guide to tackling food addiction with the humble spud. He also has his own website, blog & podcast, coaching program and t-shirts.

Here are 3 things I learned from Andrew’s talk:

1.      ‘Moderation’ is an excuse for mediocrity. For people like Andrew Taylor, and I suspect most people, eating ‘everything in moderation’ simply doesn’t work. Moderation, although sounding reasonable on the surface, is more often an excuse for not committing to real, lasting change – an acceptance of mediocrity, at best, and abject failure at worst.

2.      Extreme results require extreme effort. Andrew said he was criticised by some for following an ‘extreme’ and ‘unbalanced’ potato diet. As Andrew puts it, being that obese was ‘extreme’, and feeling depressed all the time was ‘extreme’.  This required ‘extreme’ measures to get the results Andrew was so desperately seeking. Despite all the nutrition ‘experts’ prediction of disaster, the reality is Andrew has not ended up with nutrition deficiencies – on the contrary, he is healthier than ever.

3.      Don’t think, do! I love this quote from Andrew. I had to wonder if he wasn’t a student or fan of my team, the Hawthorn Football Club (Aussie Rules), whose legendary premiership coach John Kennedy’s speech included the immortal “DON’T THINK! DOOOOOOO!” to his losing Hawthorn team at half-time in the 1975 grand final (we were thrashed by North Melbourne that year but came back to beat them the following year to claim the premiership in 1976!). Andrew Taylor said that he was prone to ‘over-think things’, while noting that sometimes we have to just take some positive action and give it a go!

Tom with Rich and Julie

I was really fired-up and motivated after attending this event. It reminded me that we all have unique gifts to share, and our mission should be to find the ultimate expression of our true selves, to add meaning and value to the world.

I’d like to thank the event organisers, the New Normal Project in conjunction with Conscious Club and SumoSalad; the speakers including Andrew Davies and Andrew Taylor for candidly sharing their struggles to find lasting health and wellness, and most of all Rich Roll and his wife Julie, who graciously stayed long after the 4-hour event was finished to speak to fans, take selfies and sign books (see picture of me with Rich & Julie). It was an honour and privilege to meet them in person, and soak up their wisdom and life-lessons.

If you haven’t read Rich’s memoir ‘Finding Ultra’, listened to his podcast, or bought a copy of his and Julie’s recipe book ‘The Plantpower Way’, I can highly recommend them all.

*You can find out more about Tom at his website: https://vegnetworkshop.com


Lambs to the Slaughter

Lambs to the Slaughter

Lambs to the Slaughter

By Sharon Gray

I can hear Dad now, screaming: “Why do they put them in holy pictures when they’re so stupid!”  The sheep prop on slim legs, heads down, ready to rush a gap in the yards. Ooof! Another boot into woolly guts and I wince; me, the timid one. 

The iconic lamb chop had me remembering the horrors of sheep farming. Flocking on a green hill, slumped dustily under a scraggy gum, toddling along their clever little paths – it looks good in the distance. Up close, it’s all torture.

I grew up on a farm, where much work was saved until school holidays (leaving aside what crows do to soft eyes, noses and mouths in lambing paddocks) then comes marking.

Snip go the shears, slicing a wedge out of an ear – left for girls, right for boys. See the bright blood spurt, see the dogs snap up the treat.

“They’ll be sh*tting blankets!”

I would only inoculate, from a pack tied to my arm, pinching a fold of skin and jabbing the big needle between.

Off they ran, shaking their ears, falling on their pretty knees with the shock of those tight, tight green rings on tail and testicles, and shouting for mummy. But they were eating contentedly soon enough – at least, it looked contented.

I knew a man who bit the testicles, a barbaric and inefficient practice, leaving a purse, vulnerable during shearing.

At crutching, we tore the hard dags off the wool, bagging them for sale. Everyone knows dag money is the kids’ money. Dags aren’t the problem.

On finewool ewes (girls), urine trickles into the folds of skin, where flies seek it out. I still shudder at the memory of fly-struck sheep being eaten alive by fat maggots.

Mulesing cuts away a circle of skin around the rear, the raw, bleeding flesh hardening into a fly-resistant scar. We never did that equally horrific practice at home, because we never ran finewools. Wethers (boys) wee from below their body, so mulesing doesn’t apply to them. Pizzle rot is not so common and quickly fixed with antibiotics.

Footrot is the worst. Cutting through soft, necrotic flesh, spurting blood trickling warm over my hands, maggots rushing like a river. How far do you cut back. Don’t ask.

Then pushed into a stinging footbath to stagger bloodily out to the yard again, expressionless as ever. After all that, the swift knife across the throat bent tightly back is a kiss.

I saw bloat treated once – a steel cannula thrust expertly through the skin and stomach wall and whoosh! A gas-powered plume of liquid shot across the shed.

No, chops do not get born on meat trays, and all creatures suffer.

I don’t believe reports from Norway insisting that crayfish feel nothing when boiled alive, likewise worms pierced through for bait.

British research indicates sheep remember up to 50 sheep faces and some humans, and appear to experience complex thoughts and emotions.

So eat your next chop slowly, and with some respect.

Reproduced from The Age newspaper (Melbourne), 18 March 2005: Metro.
Why I Am Vegan

Why I Am Vegan

Why I am a Vegan

By David Ogilvie

When I was 18 (in 1987), out of the blue I suddenly decided that I could no longer justify animals being killed simply because I liked to eat meat.

I really don’t know where that decision came from, it was just a realisation I had at the time.

A few months later, under protest from my family, I became vegetarian.

For me, it just felt right.

Over the following few years I became more aware of the way animals are raised for food and gained more conviction that I had made the right decision.

As well as avoiding meat I also stopped eating gelatine, animal fats, cheese with animal rennet etc., basically anything that an animal had to be killed to provide. I also stopped buying and wearing leather.

It wasn’t until around 1991, four years later, that I had developed a firm realisation that animals also suffer and are killed, both directly and indirectly, to provide us with eggs and dairy products.

I then chose to become vegan. I decided to remove animal products from my whole lifestyle.

I do not pretend that veganism is perfect, and many people will not agree with the reasons I outline below for why I am vegan, but for me, I feel it is the right way to live.

And I make no attempts to hide the fact that I am an idealist. I would love to live in a truly compassionate world where unnecessary suffering is prevented. (Why wouldn’t I?! What a fantastic place that would be!)

Why I don’t eat dairy products

Most people think it is completely natural for humans to drink cow’s milk. But when one really thinks about it, it is more natural to actually continue drinking our own mother’s milk beyond infancy and throughout our entire lives.

But how many people would think it natural for grown adults to still suckle from their mother!

Humans are the only species that continues to consume milk products beyond weaning.

And adding to that, we do not even consume our own milk products, we get them from other species, i.e. cows, goats and sheep. Cow’s milk is for calves, goat’s milk is for kids, and sheep’s milk is for lambs.

It is no more natural for humans to drink these milks than dog’s milk or giraffe’s milk!

And although cow’s milk is a source of calcium, mammals, including humans, that are beyond weaning can obtain all the calcium they require from food.

“Naturalness” aside, to keep cows producing milk continuously, and in the quantities that humans demand, they are impregnated once a year.

Otherwise their milk production declines. Some of the resultant female calves from these pregnancies are kept to re-stock the herd. (As the milk production of older cows slows with age they are sent to slaughter due to them being economically unviable.)

The rest of the female calves and most male calves end up being sold and slaughtered for veal, with many being only a few days old when they are killed.

Because humans want to drink the cow’s milk, a calf is generally taken away from its mother after only a few days.

This is quite distressing and traumatic for both cows and their calves and they often bellow for each other for days afterwards.

So although we don’t kill cows directly to get their milk, the by-products of dairy production – almost 600,000 calves in Victoria alone – have brief, miserable lives in order to keep the milk flowing.

Why I don’t eat eggs

Eggs are obviously only laid by female chickens.

Half of the chicks that are hatched to provide laying chickens are inevitably male, and are therefore unwanted (they don’t lay eggs).

These chicks are generally killed a few days after hatching, as soon as their sex can be determined; they are basically of no use so they are disposed of.

Although some free-range egg farms are a vast improvement for chickens over battery farms, this fact still remains: half of the chickens bred for egg laying are male and are therefore killed.

Also, most farms, free-range or not, send older chickens to slaughter once their egg production starts to decline.

For ethical reasons I am opposed to both of these aspects of the egg industry and therefore don’t eat eggs. And eggs are not an essential part of the diet anyway. 

(If people want to consume eggs I recommend they consider buying a few end-of-lay chickens (which still lay eggs and only cost about $1 per bird) and keep them in their back yard.

That way they know they are being well looked after. They would also be giving a few hens a good home that would otherwise be slaughtered.

Otherwise I recommend they buy free range eggs from small producers who are better able to provide adequate care for their chickens and are more inclined to give them a better and more natural life than the large producers are.

Most of these small producers only sell their eggs through health food shops.)

Why I don’t wear wool

I find it almost ludicrous that so many people in Australia despise the introduced rabbit because of its impact on the environment.

I agree that rabbits (and foxes) are a big problem, but introduced sheep and cattle, with their hard hooves and the vast expanses of native vegetation and wildlife habitat that have been cleared for them, have had, and do have, a much, much greater impact on the Australian environment!

They are by far the biggest introduced animal problem!

I do acknowledge that sheep and cattle are ingrained into our culture, and that the livestock industry is a huge primary industry in Australia, and there are many other issues involved here, but basically I have made a personal choice not to support these industries in any way if I can avoid it.

So that’s why I don’t wear wool..And due to the many alternatives to wool available in our modern society I do not need to.

I also avoid wool on animal welfare grounds.

Although sheep are not directly killed for wool, all sheep are ultimately sent to slaughter.

I am also opposed to procedures such as mulesing, where an area the size of a plate is cut from around the rear end of some breeds of sheep to prevent flystrike in the excessive folds of skin in this area.

This skin is cut off without any anaesthetic and is extremely painful.

This is the industry’s solution for a problem caused by selectively breeding sheep to have excessive skin so they produce more wool.

Although mulesing does prevent flystrike, which is a very miserable condition, it would be better if the industry simply bred sheep that didn’t have this excessive skin in the first place.

Why I don’t wear leather

The main reason why I choose not to wear leather is obviously because an animal needs to be killed to provide it.

But I also avoid it because it is an intrinsic aspect of the meat industry, an industry which I do not wish to contribute to at all.

Supporting the leather industry would mean supporting the meat industry.

Estimates are that 10% of an animal’s worth at an abattoir is in the skin.

Many people have questioned me about leather and state that the manufacture of microfibre and plastics (i.e. leather alternatives) have more impact on the environment than leather does.

But when the various chemicals used for processing, tanning and dying leather are put into the equation this is questionable.

These chemicals include volatile organic solvents, formaldehyde, fungicides, coal tar, azo dyes (possibly carcinogenic), chromium (VI), cyanide containing finishes etc., all of which are very toxic.

And this is without considering the habitat destruction and vegetation clearance to provide the grazing land for the cattle in the first place.

Why I avoid other animal products

Over the years I have developed a deep respect and reverence for all life.

Therefore, as well as purchasing products that are free of animal products where possible, I also avoid buying household products, toiletries etc. that are tested on animals.

The testing of consumer products on animals is horrifically cruel and is not something I wish to contribute to.

There is a wide range of alternative products available that contain less harsh chemicals, are better for the body, and more environmentally-friendly so I purchase these instead.

For a list of products that are not tested on animals, refer to the Choose Cruelty Free website.

My general philosophy

Unfortunately, in the society we currently live in, animal products are everywhere and it is virtually impossible to live 100% animal-free.

For example, animal products are used in motor vehicles, dyes in clothes have been tested on animals, and there are traces of egg and dairy products in many otherwise vegan products.

For many years I lived a very miserable and obsessive existence trying to be a 100% completely consistent vegan and it is not really somewhere I would like to be again (as I said, it is virtually impossible to do so in our current society).

If you are considering becoming vegan I recommend that you focus on the bigger picture and not get hung up about technicalities that are like drops in the ocean.

Go as far as you are prepared to and do only what you are ready for.

This means different things to different people and that is ok – everyone draws the line at a different place. (If you get hassled by the ‘vegan police’ just ignore them!)

In conclusion, my general philosophy that has developed over the years, and to which

I live by now, is to live as full a life as possible while at the same time minimising the suffering and impact on other people and animals that my life causes, and to also minimise my impact on the environment.

To me, that’s what I see as the essence of the vegan lifestyle.