MGU 245 | Best-Selling Author

 

What does it take to achieve your lifelong dream? What are the requirements to build that clear path towards success? For Robert Cheeke and his burning passion for becoming a best-selling author, it called for gratitude and motivation. He joins Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen to look back on his journey from being a nobody struggling to make ends meet to rising as the author of a New York Times best-selling book, The Plant-Based Athlete. He talks about how dismissing ego, getting out of the comparison trap, and refusing to focus too much on online popularity contributed to his status today. Robert also discusses how he continues to improve himself by sharing his current agenda focused on emphasizing the vast difference between physical aesthetics and health.

Listen to the podcast here:


Robert Cheeke: Behind The Scenes With Plant-Based Athlete And Best-Selling Author

We have a dear old friend who is a previous guest, the inimitable Mr. Robert Cheeke. I want to start this episode off, Robert, by telling a tale about aging like a fine wine.

I thought you are going to start this off by asking, who’s on the cover of his book?

No, I want to talk about aging like a fine wine real quick.

I need to know who’s on the cover of Robert’s book.

I have to say, is Robert our first repeat guest or do we have somebody else?

He’s not. Michelle Cehn and Toni Okamoto have been repeated guests and Jason from Relationships and Relationshits. Robert, you are 1 of 3 repeat guests. You are in the holy trifecta of repeat guests. Before I get into the aging like a fine wine thing, it’s burning in Whitney’s loins to know who is the cover model in your new book Robert?

MGU 245 | Best-Selling Author

The Plant-Based Athlete: A Game-Changing Approach to Peak Performance

I hope I don’t let you down. I don’t have a clue. This is a stock image that the publisher chose. We liked it. We do have many female runners and female athletes in the book. Use your imagination. This could be Mary Schneider. It’s not but it could be.

My mind went to Dotsie, but then I’m like, “That’s not Dotsie Bausch.” That’s because we love Dotsie. She was on our show.

She is featured in the book. That’s exciting.

Robert, in the long history of knowing one another, a memory flashed in me preparing for this episode, which was that I know I have told you this in person I don’t think we ever talked about publicly but in person. I had known you for years at this point. The first time I ever visited Portland was the summer of 2008. I was hanging out with a dear friend Erica. She was like, “We are going to go eat at all the vegan places, get vegan tattoos, get piercings and do all the vegan things.”

All the vegan Pacific Northwest things. She was like, “We are going to go to a place called the Red Black Cafe.” I’m like, “Let’s go to the Red Black Cafe.” We walked into the cafe. You are sitting at this table, commanding everyone’s attention like the Prince of Edamame. You are just there, wowing everyone. Everyone was just focused on you. I’m like, “That’s Robert Cheeke.” She’s like, “Who’s Robert Cheeke?” I’m like, “You don’t know who Robert Cheeke is? He’s the person who invented Vegan Bodybuilding.”

I’m freaking out because I’m like some scrawny kid from Detroit who was fanboying on you. I was scared as hell to come up to you and say anything. I’m like, “He’s not going to give a crap about me. He’s with all his friends.” He’s going to be like, “Who’s this weird stalker from LA?” It was the first time I ever saw you. I was reluctant to even engage because, at that point, you were just like this mythological figure. Before I came to know you, Robert, I didn’t even know that bodybuilding as a vegan was possible. I look back on this aging like a fine wine back in 2008 because I laugh. We are such good friends and we are scared as hell to even talk to you. I also want to say, neither of us had beards at that point. I just want to go on record to say, seeing us both go from clean-shaven. Robert, kudos on the beard, kudos on aging like a fine wine. I wanted to give that shout-out because I have been such a huge fan of your work for a long time.

Thank you, Jason. I appreciate that you saw me as a Portland minotaur, a mythical creature with a long tail. That was a place that I had a lot of great memories in. Portland, Oregon was a fantastic place to be and help be part of that growth of the vegan movement in those early days. Thank you for that reference. It has been great hanging out with you ever since.

MGU 245 | Best-Selling Author

Best-Selling Author: You can’t be constantly improving. You can try, aspire, and strive for it, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

 

I’m trying to think of the first time I found out who you were, Robert because part of our history is Twitter. Both of you have something in common. Both of you I have dated and both of you, I heard there’s a history of being together at the Natural Products Expo. I would see you separately. It wasn’t at the same show. I was going back and forth between the two of you. I remember the days before we dated and knew each other well, seeing you at the Expo. Is that how I met you, Robert, through the Natural Products Expo?

No. We met through Twitter first and then agreed to meet up at Expo West. We met up, I believe the first time I met you was with Christy Morgan. Does that ring a bell?

Whitney Lauritsen, Robert Cheeke, and Christy Morgan (2010)

Yes. I also met Christy Morgan through Twitter. You two were a huge part of my Twitter experience. I joined Twitter in 2009 but got into it at the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010.

Yes. That’s when you and I connected online in 2009 and the person had been in 2009, too because you were at my 30th birthday party in Los Angeles, which was in March of 2010. That would have been right after Expo, around Expo time.

Jason, a lot of connections are being made here. That’s when I first met Aisha aka Kitten and Damon and Kitten was on our show, Robert. There are a lot of connections that were made around that time. Who else was there? That was before Forks Over Knives or was Forks Over Knives already out at that point?

No, it wasn’t out yet. I was talking to Brian Wendel about how he was saying the same thing. He met many people at that birthday party, which was put on by ProBot. He put on this birthday party, which had many people there like Annie PO, Brendan Brazier, Julie Morris, Tonya Kay were there. You, Claire or Mighty Mae was there. A whole bunch of people. ProBot put this thing on like 30 people were there. It was cool because a bunch of us became friends, including where Brian said he met Mighty. A lot of people met at that event that night.

Robert Cheeke’s birthday party (2010)

I have a photo of that event which you probably do too. I have several photos because I remember I was into photography back then. It’s cool to me to have been able to know you for many years. You are a big part of my experience on social media too, which is something we talk a lot about. We talked about the last time you are on and how each of us has seen veganism and social media develop, and created these bonds with people that went on to do big things in the vegan movement. Some people drifted away and new people came in.

Sometimes, dreams take a long time to achieve. Click To Tweet

I know this is something that you reflect a lot on, as do we, Robert. I want to pick up on the subjects that we address in the last episode, which, by the way, for the readers, if you haven’t read that episode, please do. Read that, it’s like part one. I’m curious Robert, when we met up with you, that was right before COVID because we did it in person. We were with you at the hotel. That was January 2020. It’s a whole new world since then, about a year and a half later that we are doing this, were you working on your book at that point? I can’t remember.

I have been working on this book about The Plant-Based Athlete since 2018. I started it back in 2013, which is a whole other story. I had an agent. I pitched it to a publisher. It almost got picked up. In a strange turn of events, they said I wasn’t ready for the moment. I wasn’t the person to write the book. I needed to hire a professional writer, all these things. I wrote the book Shred It! to be like this 60 page eBook to help fund hired writers. That turned out to be like a 400-page book. I self-published it. It went on to sell a lot of copies. 1 or 2 years later, my co-author Matt Frazier got published by the same publisher who almost took on The Plant-Based Athlete book but didn’t. He published the No Meat Athlete cookbook. I self-published Plant-Based Muscle afterward.

I met with Brian Wendel who has played a huge role in my life. I used to work for him at Forks Over Knives and he was there. I watched some previews and early cuts of Forks Over Knives before it was done. He was there at my birthday when I first moved to LA and trying to find my way into the big city. We had dinner in 2018. He put me in touch with his agent, who I connected with and started this whole process with The Plant-Based Athlete. He said, “You are not doing this on your own. You need somebody else.”

That’s when I flew across the country to the East Coast. I met with Matt Frazier and presented this idea to him and said, “What do you think? Do you want to do this together?” He said, “Absolutely.” We have been working on it ever since, all of 2019, 2020. It’s finally out now. It has been the biggest project of my life. It has been incredible. It’s such an exciting time to finally have this out especially knowing the backstory. It’s taken like eight years for this particular book title, the same title and concept I had in 2013 but it has been a lifetime in the making.

I have wanted to be a mainstream author since I was in third grade since I was eight years old. I remind people that sometimes dreams take a long time. That might take 33 years. They take a while to be achieved. All those steps, Whitney was part of like, all those things along the way, meeting people. Those connections were made 10, 20, 25, 2 years ago. All of those are connecting the dots that lead to this moment.

It reminds me, Whitney, you were talking about some of those historical things that we have done. That red carpet Earth Day event with James Cameron. That’s where I first met John Salley and James Cameron. That’s where I first met all these different people there. Michelle Rodriguez and these other actors and actresses. I have kept in touch with John Salley ever since. He is someone I like in the movement. You and I met Biz Stone, who Co-Created Twitter. You and I met this along the way, on our journey, on tour.

Whitney, you were with me when I bought my car that I would travel around the country with for a decade. Selling books out of my car, sleeping in my car and trying to make it. The next thing I know, in the last couple of weeks, I have been on the Ritual Podcast. I have been on a whole bunch of other podcasts and filming with Mic The Vegan and Chef AJ. We are talking about major TV stuff, National TV, radio, podcast and all this stuff with you guys. It’s a lot different than driving around in my car with a self-published book, like having a book in every bookstore in America and translation.

MGU 245 | Best-Selling Author

Best-Selling Author: There are so many things happening behind social media that everything posted online is just a highlight reel of someone’s life.

 

Speaking of America, Robert, a lot of what you are describing sounds like a bit of the American dream plus the Hero’s Journey in a lot of ways. Part of what you are describing is the Hero’s Journey, which is you have a dream. You have an aim. You have to go through all of this trial, tribulation and obstacles. You get to the other side. I’m curious, do you feel like you are on the other side? Do you feel like you are still on that journey getting there?

One thing that comes up a lot is how a lot of people get to this point where they feel like, “When I get here, all have made it.” The three of us and perhaps some of our readers have had that experience of, “I have made it. This is the moment I have been waiting for or I have almost made it something that’s just out of reach.” Something shifts and you don’t get it. Things change and maybe you don’t want it anymore or you get it and realize this isn’t the end. This isn’t a place I’m going to stop at. There’s another hill to climb or that you want to climb. Sometimes we start going downhill and almost feel like we have to start all over again.

Robert, you touched upon this the last time you were on. How are you feeling about this big accomplishment with this book? Looking back over your career, how much has shifted? When I met you, social media was in its infancy. At that time, Facebook and Twitter were the be-all and end-all platforms. We still had MySpace. Blogging was big back then. You have said it was like, “Being a big fish in a small pond,” especially as vegans.

To Jason’s point, you were known as a vegan bodybuilder. When people talked about bodybuilding as a possibility for vegans it was you. That’s how I thought of you for so long over the years. When documentaries like Forks Over Knives came out, it was like this whole wave of new people coming out of YouTube. Rose, was a big fish in a small vegan pond for a while back with Durianrider and Freelee. I was in the top ten with views and subscribers. There weren’t that many people doing what I was doing. Now, I’m the tiniest fish in the YouTube vegan scene. It’s interesting how the waves shift and how you can have something, and then feel you have lost it or it’s shifted and then you want something else. How do you feel about all of that? What’s your perspective as your career evolved? What has changed for you in the past year since we last spoke with you?

That’s a lot to think about. Our previous episode was quite an emotional one. It was the most I have cried during a podcast or an interview ever. It was emotionally driven by the topics that we talked about. You said there has been a tremendous amount of struggle. I say that realizing I come from a privileged background. I’m a white male growing up in America with college-educated parents and all of that in the entrepreneurial world. What you reference is the American dream, trying to make it or having goals and the audacity to believe that you can achieve them. That has been a fantastic struggle.

I equate whatever you want to call success, achievement or whatever we have done with this book, is because of the countless times that I failed. Failing enthusiastically sometimes like dramatically failing. I’m talking about no money, sleeping in my car, not knowing where to go, having to call family to send some money so I can get some gas to get to the next town, to stay with a friend, to show up at Food Not Bombs where I was a kid, serving food for the homeless and people in need or anyone hungry in the park. Ten years later, I was lining up for some food in Portland, Oregon to get some free food and Food Not Bombs because I was out of money. I couldn’t buy food. These were all sacrifices because I would invest in trying to self-publish books and trying to realize this dream.

I want to be an author. This means something to me. It’s an identity that’s going to change my life. It gives me purpose, meaning, hope and fulfillment. It’s who I am. It’s who I want to be. It’s not how you see me or how someone else sees me but it’s how I want to see myself or how I want to be viewed. It has been one roadblock after another. Even just talking about this current book, I was turned down by publishers and by agents. I was told over and over that I’m not good enough. I’m not the person to write this book. I’m not famous enough. I don’t have enough followers. I don’t have a reputation. I need a co-author. I need a professional writer. I need an agent. I need all these things because, “Robert, you can’t do this on your own. You are not good enough.”

MGU 245 | Best-Selling Author

Best-Selling Author: Never judge a person online based on their posts. People have to trust that there is passion and purpose behind their actions.

 

I took every single one of those. I took it to heart and some of those were real. They were accurate. They were fair assessments of who I was and where I was at the time. I had to come to terms and be okay with that. Not to affect my ego or dreams that I still wanted to pursue and keep going anyway. I did. Do I feel like I have reached some level of accomplishment or something? The honest answer is not even close. I don’t say that from this ego perspective that I’m never satisfied, always hungry, you’ve got to keep grinding and always keep something bigger and better.

It reminds me, I texted my childhood friend, the kid I grew up with. I sent him a screenshot of the number one best-selling vegan diet book in America. The number one best-selling sports psychology book in America. One of the top ten exercise fitness and nutrition books in America. Landed publishing deals in the US, Canada, Germany, Taiwan, all before the book has even come out. My friend said, “What’s next?” He’s watched me for 30 something years, always trying to be something different. The world’s most recognized vegan bodybuilder. One of the most prolific self-published authors in America. Signing a major six-figure book deal. All expenses paid trips to speak in China, Australia, England, all over Canada, the Caribbean, the US, these exotic places.

I thought that question was apropos. He knows me well enough that, “Robert is not going to stop,” in a way that he was expressing care for me because he knows I put it all on the line. “Can Robert handle this? If he’s never satisfied, there’s always something bigger to achieve.” There’s always something next. “What is that next thing? Is Robert ever going to slow down and be more present, perhaps with family and friends and in his environment?”

I suspect that’s one thing that my friend is suggesting who has known me all these years. As I reflect on where I’m at, I’m just grateful. Gratitude is the number one thing that comes to mind. I posted some quotes online. It was a great quote from Mr. Rogers, the great Fred Rogers, who was always a big fan of recognizing people who helped us along our way, our journey and understanding. That’s what I was expressing as I do have one of the best-selling books in America.

Expressing that gratitude, knowing that I didn’t get here on my own. I had help every step of the way, including from both of you. You have both endorsed my book. You have helped me ship books. You have taken me on tour. You have put me on your podcast. You have put me on your YouTube channels. That’s everybody. It’s not just my parents and the people that I list in the acknowledgments in my books. People who had employed me, patted me on the back when I needed them, given me an opportunity or a platform. It’s all of the interactions along the way like everybody plays a role in that. To pause and recognize that and as Fred Rogers says, “Take a moment of silence and acknowledge the fact that there are a lot of important people in your life.” When I was struggling, stranded somewhere or I was tempted to give up. Who were those people that said, “Keep going? You’ve got this. You are out there telling everyone else to believe in themselves. You’ve got to do it too.”

I’ve got a long way to go. We are going to achieve a lot of things with this book and hope it’s going to make a big impact on a lot of people’s lives. It’s inspirational and aspirational. That’s the thing with this book. It’s the stories, the overcoming adversity, not just my brief story in the book but it’s the athlete stories that are in the book. They overcame many things in their lives to be champion plant-based athletes. It’s amazing. I’m grateful. I’m along for the ride.

I’m having fun, which is hard to do sometimes because it’s long days, late nights and a tremendous amount of work. More than most people know to have a book at this level of acceptance by the mainstream media. It’s a lot of work but I’m enjoying it the best that I can. When it reaches whatever peak it’s going to reach. We are not slowing down until it’s in the New York Times Bestseller and all these great things. We know the impact that it’s going to have on people. I will take a step back a little bit. By then, I could answer my friend’s question, “What’s next?”

It's not enough just telling everyone else to believe in themselves. You've got to do it too. Click To Tweet

Robert, this brings up so much. I want to thank you for your transparency, for sharing your process and your inner world with us. In the mainstream media, a lot of the discussion around entrepreneurship and success shows people’s highlight reels. The three of us have talked about this a lot even offline. I love that you are talking about it like it’s not easy on the level and the aim of what you guys are hoping to do and the peak that you hope this book reaches. I’m glad you are sharing the struggle, the holy struggle, the glorious struggle, as people call it.

Those nights, when you feel like you want to collapse in a heap and I’m sure there are many nights like this, you and I have texted offline about how much work this is, what is it that keeps you going specifically? We talked a lot about answering the question of why. Robert, on those nights when you don’t know how the heck you are going to keep going. Where do you pull the energy from? Where does it come from for you? Where do you find the will, the stamina to keep going? What is that for you? Where is that wellspring for you?

That’s a great question, Jason. It’s connecting the dots for me. I have been connecting the dots my entire life. I have had this incredible ability. I don’t know where it comes from. I may have talked about it in the last episode. I have been able to connect the dots in the future. I see them ahead of time. When I was in third grade and wanted to be a writer, I knew I had to take action to do that. I started writing books in the third grade, eight years old spiral-bound laminated. I wrote books.

I knew I needed to advance. I had a one-on-one writing coach in high school. When most seventeen years old are hanging out and doing whatever they are doing, I was writing a 100-page book and had a coach that would meet with me for 2 or 3 days a week and work with me. I signed up for writing classes at community college immediately after high school because I was still trying to find my way. I didn’t have a career in mind other than wanting to be a writer or pro wrestler.

I showed up at this community college writing class. It was about how to write your autobiography. I showed up and they are like, “Excuse me, sir, the Math classes’ in the next room.” Everybody was 60 or 70 years old. I was eighteen showings up and am I going on this, “I’m in the right place.” I’ve got to make the connection that it was your autobiography towards the end of your life. A lot of people were learning how to write that so they could tell their stories. I was eighteen years old but I wanted to learn how to write better. I did that. It turned out it wasn’t the right place for me because I wanted to learn how to write better.

Jason, what keeps me going is that I can connect the dots. I could see what’s ahead in the future. The simple answer is that, if this book hits a home run, it opens the door for another big book easily. Some cookbooks, Plant-Based Athlete Cookbooks or whatever the case is, it could be this 3, 4-book series of Plant-Based Athlete success stories. An expanded version with years down the road of big-time athletes in their big-time NBA, WNBA, NFL, NHL, Soccer, Tennis Stars and all that. We do have a bunch of great athletes in our current bucket, big names like Rich Roe, Scott Jurek, James Wilks, Rip Esselstyn, Fiona Oakes, and all that. I’m picturing what the next project is and the next project after that. I realized that at least, I see there’s little point in writing another vegan fitness book like my 4th or 5th one unless this is the book that soars and the unequivocal leader like the new standard-bearer.

A co-author Matt Frazier, a foreword from Dr. Michael Greger, endorsements from T. Colin Campbell, John Robbins, Brenda Davis, and the inclusion of 50 or 60 world-class plant-based athletes. I have already named some of them and there are many more. This is the book to be mainstream. This is the Game Changers in literature format. It does feature some people from the Game Changers. Dotsie Bausch, James Wilks, Scott Jurek, and Rip Esselstyn and 50 other amazing plant-based athletes like Vanessa Espinoza, Jehina Malik, Laura Klein, Darcy Gaither are these incredible athletes that I’m excited for people to learn about. Those days come off and, Jason, I had one of those days. I was texting with my good friends Danny and Giacomo.

MGU 245 | Best-Selling Author

Best-Selling Author: Many people who are critical of other people’s lifestyles are working for massive corporations that treat humans, the planet, and animals horribly.

 

I’ve got a card in the mail congratulating me on the book’s success. That was the only piece of mail that came. I needed that at that time because I was losing it. The pressure, the expectation is tough. The workload. I go to bed at 2:00 am just because I’m exhausted. If I don’t complete the next interview, I don’t do the right marketing, I don’t connect with the right people, hundreds of influencers took me months to connect with, who have got advanced copies and promoted the book organically on their platforms and spread the word. I don’t want to wonder what might have been, had I done that. If we missed the New York Times bestseller list by 100 copies, I don’t want that to happen because of that title. Maybe it’s just a material thing or a superficial thing but for me, it’s meaningful. I accept that it has been a quest, a journey my entire life.

That title after my name, New York Times bestselling author, will forever be with me. It’s something that can’t be taken away. It’s something that opens up doors for my next projects and other people to pursue work in this space, whether that’s books, magazines, TV or documentaries, it shows that the plant-based athlete lifestyle is here to stay. It’s grown-up. It’s matured. It’s a far cry from those early days with driving around and speaking to small audiences or selling small amounts of books and going into these small towns and all that. It’s something that is embraced not only nationally in the US but we have landed book deals all over the world before the book is even out. This is what I have been working toward Jason my entire life.

I became vegan on December 8, 1995, because I wanted to make a difference in the world around me. That’s what I wanted to do. That was the farm animals and Whitney has been in my house. She has seen where I grew up. She has seen the cows in the fields, the ducks and geese. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of those individuals. As a fifteen-year-old, I realized that if I could build muscle without eating animal protein, I might be able to inspire other people to do the same. They will be able to make a difference in the world around them, their community, friends, family and the animals near them. I have never lost sight of that. That’s the truth.

That’s important, Robert because I have to take a step back and think, “Have I lost sight of it and have others in the influential space of veganism lost sight of it?” One thing we talked about in the previous episode with you that is always worth coming back around to is the state of social media and the ego involved. When we get wrapped up in our ego, we lose sight of how it impacts other people for better or worse.

When Jason and I recorded another episode, I looked at some data around how social media causes much mental distress simply because of the comparison trap. The comparisons can work in our favor. We can aspire to be like people, learn from other people and feel motivated by other people but the opposite can happen too. We feel depressed because we are not what other people perceive us to be, whether it’s their physical shape, success monetarily, fame or these other markers. I know that’s impacted each of us in a lot of different ways.

We can get into this place of like, “I’m not as big as this person. Why even bother?” That takes us away from the reason where we all started? In transparency, for me and Jason, I’m not sure about you Robert, there is that part of me that has been drawn to fame and fortune for most of my life. I see this happening a lot on social media these days. People using veganism and using fitness as a way to get validation, fame and fortune. It’s concerning because it’s like that ego trap where we can get spiraled into it and drawn to the desire to make more money to get attention but it’s short-lived. As we were saying before, you can be the big fish, and then later the small fish or vice versa.

Jason, I’m curious how this is resonating with you as you are listening to Robert if those thoughts are coming up for you, too. Robert, where are you standing these days with the whole world of social media, especially since you are a big role marketing is a huge part of where you are at with your career? You don’t want to stop and wonder what if but at what expense? We talked about the anxiety that you felt in the last episode and the challenges you have had with public speaking because it takes such a big hold on you. Before we get to that I’m curious Jason what has been crossing through your mind?

MGU 245 | Best-Selling Author

 

There are a couple of things. First of all, the point you brought up, Robert, about having this dream of being an author. It’s something that I dreamed about as a young man, too. I started reading at a young age and I would bring my favorite books to bed with me like stuffed animals. That’s how obsessed I was as a kid. I was just obsessed with books. When you talk about the great success you have had in this new book and it’s all over the world, you brought up the whole idea of wanting to be a New York Times Bestseller, writing this goal and I have the same goal. I remember putting everything I had into my first book Eaternity. I was determined to hit the New York Times bestseller list.

I didn’t make it. It’s interesting. You talk about what you want to know. In your heart, you did everything you could. I can relate to that feeling because when the unit statistics came out, I realized that I had missed the list by only a few hundred copies. It doesn’t matter. No one is going to be like, “There’s no gold medal for almost making it.” That was such an ego battle for me because I did everything in my power that I felt I could do but I didn’t make it. When I was an athlete, I always felt motivated by having a chip on my shoulder. I have walked through my life with some form of a chip on my shoulder like, “You don’t believe I can do it. I’m going to show you I can do it, not just show you I can do it but do it better than anyone else.”

That has motivated me in sometimes toxic ways throughout my life. Bouncing this back to you and we have been talking about motivation in dreams, you and I are both huge basketball fans. We love basketball. We love Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Russ as a basketball player because he plays like he is angry. That guy has got a chip on his shoulder. I bounced this back to you, Robert, asking if you relate to that motivation. If it has served you in healthy ways or maybe some unhealthy ways, resonate with having a chip on your shoulder.

Jason, I’m glad you brought that up because I spent most of my adult life feeling that way. I was always overlooked and underappreciated. I even remember when I was 21 years old, my theme song was Toby Keith’s, How Do You Like Me Now? “How do you like me now? You didn’t give me a shot. You didn’t believe in me. You didn’t trust me. I’m going to show you.” I had that attitude in my Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness book. I had it in some other books that I have written. It has only been in the past few years that I have taken a different approach. I don’t know that I want to have a chip on my shoulder. Who cares what motivates me? In a way, it’s negative space. I’m glad you followed up with the fact that it has been toxic for you in some cases because I didn’t want to completely contradict you, even though that’s okay too if we have completely different opinions and completely different approaches.

I did want to express my authentic approach, which is that in my experience in years, it has not served me well to have a chip on my shoulder. This is the goddamn truth. I have already said a couple of times in this interview with both of you that I’m expressing gratitude. I’m reaching out to my childhood friends. I’m in touch with my third-grade teacher, who encouraged me to be a writer. I’ve got my 4th and 5th-grade teachers’ addresses to send a book to. I’m grateful. I don’t need to have a chip anymore. I don’t have to have a chip on my shoulder. I was the small kid who became vegan and then wanted to be a bodybuilder, pro wrestler and all this stuff. I eventually became a champion bodybuilder. I eventually became this speaker on a global tour essentially and all of this stuff and wrote a bunch of books. I don’t have to do that.

I don’t feel the need to say, “I told you so.” If I have any part of that attitude, it’s asking the question of, “Did you see this? Did you picture that someday I would be doing this?” For some of them, they said, “We knew that you will be doing this someday. We are proud of you.” That’s what I feel. I don’t feel like I need to prove anything because I spent my entire life trying to do that. It reminds me of a quote from Jake The Snake Roberts in the documentary Beyond the Mat, which I highly recommend people watch. It’s from the late ‘90s where he was trying to win the love of his father. His father was a pro wrestler. He wanted to be better than his father at what his father did. Jake, The Snake Roberts, wants to be the super famous wrestler in front of 80,000 live fans and millions around the world watching on TV. He said, “I did it. I was better than my dad and his sport. It didn’t matter.” I had that because I watched that film when I was a teenager. I was a big fan of pro wrestling back then.

My father was an animal scientist and has written fifteen textbooks mostly about raising animals for food. He toured all over the world. He was one of my initial, if not the initial, inspiration for me to want to be a writer. My message is a complete juxtaposition completely counter to his. I said, “I’m going to do this better than him. I’m going to do it. I’m going to earn his respect and appreciation.” I don’t know that it matters. I have sold more books than he ever will in history but I don’t know that it matters because it’s my journey. I’m sure he’s happy. I’m sure he’s proud. He says he loves the new book. He got right to work reading it and is impressed by it. It’s hard to cover and fancy. It’s a shiny cover and published by HarperCollins, the world’s second-largest publisher and global distribution and all that. To put so much worry, burden and stress that I need to do this to prove something to somebody else to get their approval, appreciation, love or respect. I can’t anymore.

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I wrote a couple of notes down as you were talking to Jason about you being this close to being a New York Times bestseller and I’m knocking on that door myself. Who knows by the time this is released I might be? That might be already established. It’s just a title. It’s like being a millionaire. Everybody wants to be a millionaire. We all packed up from Massachusetts, Michigan and Oregon to go to Los Angeles to be somebody. That’s the truth for all of us. We wanted to be somebody. Being a New York Times bestseller is thrown around like being a millionaire.

When you look at it like you were talking, Jason, the metrics and what it takes, the effort and giving every ounce of everything you have, it’s tough. If you are not famous, super-well connected, on TV all the time, it’s tough to be there. Many people say, “I’m going to be a millionaire someday.” Do you understand the metrics in that? Break that down. How much money do you have to make per month? Nearly $100,000 per month? It’s not going to be the end of the world. If I don’t secure that status, it’s worth fighting for. It’s worth going for it, especially when you have been grinding for 33 years, saying to myself and others that, “Someday I will.” It’s going to be nice to remove that someday.

What a beautiful way to phrase that, Robert. It’s going to be nice to remove the someday. It’s almost like a burden. When I was saying, “How to get to a certain level,” it doesn’t mean that that’s the end, but maybe just another layer that you can remove, which I haven’t thought about. It’s not about stopping the climb. You get to shed a layer of clothing because you are higher enough up that you don’t need it anymore. I found out you did reference the Jake The Snake quote in our last episode, I’m pleased. We are one of the few places you have referenced that in your life multiple times.

That is funny because I only recall telling that story 2 or 3 times. It’s probably twice on your show.

Talking about the journey of success and proving ourselves and validation ties into what I was expressing earlier. I almost made a video about this. Sometimes I will record one-off videos for my YouTube channel and I stopped myself because I wasn’t sure if I felt it was important for me to make it. Going back to the idea of the American dream, there’s this mythology of, “Anybody can get this if you just do these things.” This is another thing that comes up over and over again on our show. I remember in our episode with Jason Zook and Caroline Zook, two people that you would resonate with, Robert. They are coaches and we are talking about how in the business world, much like what we are talking about as media creators and vegan activists is there are so many people doing it. Many people are saying, “If you just do this, you will get those results.” That’s incredibly damaging to us.

We have been part of the No Meat Athlete bundle sales, for example, which has been a wonderful experience. There are a lot of incredible people but even in that, sometimes they would show the leaderboards. Going back to the comparison. I don’t want to compare myself to somebody else’s success and see what is working for them because I would find myself looking at what they were doing and saying, “I’m doing the same thing they are doing. Why am I not getting the same results?” That would lead me to feel like something was wrong with me. That I must be the problem.

If I can follow in somebody’s footsteps and they are saying, “Do this and you will get that.” when you do those things and you don’t get that, you think, “If I did it properly and if those people got the results and like clearly something is wrong with me.” I’m curious how you feel about that because I know behind the scenes as we have talked about how it can feel frustrating like the bundle sales we have talked about. We will often talk about that experience of what it has been years after years. We will compare ourselves to our previous progress. It’s not always about trying to beat others. It’s trying to beat yourself to be better than you were the previous time. What if you are worse than the previous time? That can be incredibly depressing.

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This idea of being in a constant state of improvement is tough. It may not be fair. There was a time I was the world’s most recognized vegan bodybuilder. I was interviewed by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal on magazine covers. I was referenced around the world. I was one of the only people known as a vegan bodybuilder back in early 2000. Ivan put that on the cover of my first book under my name. It was The World’s Most Recognized Vegan Bodybuilder. That was a hell of a title to live up to. You can’t always be constantly improving. You can try, aspire and strive for it but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. That’s true with other areas of life. It could be relationships, finance, happiness, fulfillment, popularity or within your job and how you ascend the ladder or don’t.

I don’t know that it’s super productive or even fun to compare constantly. Only compare ourselves to our prior selves. It’s a motivational idea that I compared myself to who I was yesterday and all of that. That gives you this constant stress and burden to be better rather than to be present. That is what’s missing. Can we enjoy the moment? Can we pause for a moment, reflect and be happy? In the moment that we are in, the three of us together, can we be happy? Are we constantly worried about how this is going to turn out? What’s the next interview I have to do? What’s for dinner? What if people don’t like it? What if people don’t like my voice or don’t like my message? What if they don’t buy my book and all this stuff? Who cares? Let’s focus on the present.

That’s a message that people can take to heart because if this whole thing, whatever we are doing, why write books, Jason? Why create a podcast? For you too, Whitney, why write books? Why travel around the world? Why move to Los Angeles and try to make it? We are all in this constant pursuit of happiness. We are trying to be happy. We are doing whatever we can to be happy. We think that you are living in a certain place or making a certain amount of money, having celebrity friends or having accomplishments attached to your name. “Look I’m a writer, a speaker, a champion athlete, a CEO, an entrepreneur,” whatever. If we are all trying to be happy, which should be the ultimate goal, we should do the things that make us happy.

I need those reminders as much as anybody, including going through this process that I’m in. Whitney, some people are more popular than I am in the Vegan Bodybuilding world. They have the blue checkmarks on Instagram and have way more followers. Their followers have never even heard of me. They don’t even know who I am and that’s okay. One of the lessons I meant to bring up earlier is when we touch on this topic of ego, social media, pressure, stress and comparing ourselves to one another. One of the things that I want to show if I can, is that you can achieve admirable levels of success.

Let’s say you make bestseller lists or achieve these tangible things that you can measure without having all of that, without obsessing about the big following on social media. You can call upon your relationships with other people that I work with over 100 different companies, with Vegan Strong and with Vegan Bodybuilding, over 100 companies that I work with. I have hundreds of colleagues like Dr. Campbell, Dr. Greger, Dr. Esselstyn, Forks Over Knives, Game Changers and people around the world.

A newsletter list that I have been building for years that I write in a blog-style or conversational email style regularly, it doesn’t have to be how many people follow you on Instagram. There are massively popular people on Instagram, Twitter or TikTok who could never get a big book deal. It wouldn’t happen for them because you have to have many other components. First, you have to write or hire a writer and have the means to do that. You have to have the creative concepts, the relationships built-in, the work ethic to see it through, a marketing strategy and all of that.

That’s one thing I have been thinking about. You look at my personal Instagram page with 12,000 followers and this guy has the number one best-selling vegan diet book in America. You could say, “What about your co-author? He doesn’t even have a personal page.” Matt Frazier doesn’t even have a personal Instagram page. He has somebody else run the No Meat Athlete page, which gets less engagement than mine. It’s not about that. It’s about the relationships that we have built all along the way.

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Every trip and tour I have taken, ten consecutive years speaking on the vegan cruise, putting myself on a college campus speaking for years. Speaking at all the major vegan festivals, going outside the vegan world and interacting with the motivational crowd, the self-help and personal development crowd, the non-vegan athlete crowd, the mainstream bodybuilding and fitness culture crowd, Jason has come to see me do my thing with 60,000 people out there at the LA fit Expo and hundreds attending our talks.

I have seen you there. We have taken photos together. You have seen us with thousands of people coming by our booth. It’s not just being behind the computer and posting or behind our phone and posting our most flattering photos but that’s part of it. There are all this stuff behind the scenes that are much more than often what I consider the ego-focused of social media, where it’s cliché to even say that it’s a highlight reel of our lives. It’s all the other things that go into making any project do well, not just a book but any project. You’ve got to have that foundation. I wrote an entire eBook about how to build a successful vegan brand.

I don’t know how to build a company. I’m not a business guy but I could grow brands and work with a lot of brands. One last thing I wanted to say, Whitney, that came up, you were talking about maybe some people lost their way or they are almost leveraging veganism to grow their popularity. It reminds me of a quote that Brian Wendel said in our Forks Over Knives office many years ago. He was being criticized a little bit because his film was health-focused. He said, “Animals don’t care why you stop eating them, they just care that you stop.” If some people leverage veganism to raise their reputation and get popular and all this stuff, it leads to people eating fewer animals, I’m okay with that. I don’t have to have a battle with someone else and say, “I was here first, I was the original guy. Look at all the books I have written, all this stuff.” It doesn’t matter. Whatever people can do, whatever that is, come to a plant-based diet for health reasons. I don’t care.

Come here for moral-ethical animal rights reasons? Great. Come here because it’s part of a challenge, you want to try something different or you want to change your life in some way, and you have heard this might be a good way to go, fair enough. “Animals don’t care why you stop eating them. They care that you stop.” I grew up on a farm for twenty years. I know what it’s like to be around farm animals. I know what it’s like to see some of them get a second chance. I don’t worry about what other people are doing. It’s a different environment. It’s a completely different landscape. You both have been doing this long enough to know that it was a small crowd. The vegan community was small. We all had similar principles, morals and values. We are in it to make a difference. This was back when there were only a few groups and organizations. They were all concentrated on similar efforts, goals and passions of reducing animal cruelty. The approaches were all similar.

There were a lot of protests, boycotts, speaking out, not using these products, writing to your lawmakers, writing to companies and trying to get rid of animal testing. There were vivisection going on, research lab animal experiments taking place on chimpanzees, rabbits or other animals. You spoke out about it. You reached out to companies, you reached out to your local representatives. You did this stuff and every person has their eBook, course or download and makes money off the way they look.

That’s just how it is. When was the last time you heard about people raiding a mink farm or something? It’s not that I’m not suggesting that or anything like that. I’m just saying it’s just a different type of activism. If it’s done in Instagram, fitness and beauty world, or done in the cooking and chef and food preparation world. If it was done through eBooks, courses, classes, lectures, documentaries, and books. That’s great. I never want to question anyone’s desire because we don’t know what other people are going through themselves.

You might look at someone say, “All this person cares about are how they look in a bikini or how they look in posing trunks and posting all their photos of themselves, getting a lot of positive feedback, pats on the back and all this stuff.” Maybe they have endured a lot of unhappiness in their life. Give them their moment. This is their moment to feel good about their place in the world. To acknowledge that, we don’t know what people are going through. We don’t know what they are up against. Trust that there’s passion behind their purpose and purpose behind their actions and make a difference in the world around them as well.

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That’s a beautiful perspective, Robert. It’s not assuming and not knowing what people have struggled with, what they have overcome and what they have endured. You did say one thing that sparked something in me I wanted to ask a question about. When you said people are making money off the way they look, it flashed in a moment when I was young. I was probably seventeen years old. I was a senior in high school. I had been a track runner cross-country and played hoops. I was then way thinner than I am now. I was 6’0” at 140. I was a string bean.

I started going to the gym. There was a Powerhouse Gym in Detroit. You talked about pro wrestling. One of my highlights was walking into the gym one day and meeting Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage, which was insane. That’s a different story for another time. I only saw them there once. They were in town for SummerSlam. There was one guy at the gym and his name was Reggie. It has been so many decades now. Every single time I go into the gym, Reggie was there. That dude lived at Powerhouse Gym.

I remember feeling like when I tried to meet you for the first time. I’m like, “How am I going to talk to this guy?” I’m a skinny, 140-pound kid trying to gain weight and gain muscle. By the way, Reggie was the biggest, most ripped guy. The dude was Herculean. I’m like, “I want to go talk to the biggest, strongest, most aesthetically pleasing dude at the gym and ask him what does he do.” We get to talking. He’s so generous with his time. We ended up talking for half an hour.

I said, “What do you eat?” This was pre-vegetarianism for me. He goes on and said, “I don’t even think about it.” I said, “What do you mean you don’t think about it?” He said, “I’m going to go over to McDonald’s after the gym session. I’m going to crush two Quarter Pounders, Chicken McNuggets and a Filet-O-Fish.” He’s going through it. My mind was blown at seventeen years old of how this human being aesthetically was so in what we consider the pinnacle of masculinity. The reason I bring this up is that there was a line between aesthetics and health. Oftentimes, physical aesthetics and health are confused and often seem like they are the same thing.

I think about that story with Reggie because I’m wondering about your experience of being a pro bodybuilder, being a champion bodybuilder and looking back not only on what you have accomplished, Robert, but all of these hundreds of athletes you know. Sometimes, it’s confusing. The reason I bring this up is we see people with big booties, six-packs and giant arms and we assume they are healthy but that’s not necessarily true. I’m bringing this up because I want to separate these two things, aesthetics and looks between health. They are often conflated in our society. Would you agree that they are two separate things and often confused?

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for noticing my booty, too. I turned the other cheek. I appreciate that shout-out. There’s a big line between aesthetics and health, what you look like and what your internal health is. Jason, you know this from the bodybuilding world, especially the pro bodybuilding world, the steroid use in the bodybuilding world. A lot of those guys don’t last long. I have met a bunch of them over the years that unfortunately passed away in their early 40s. Never even made it to age 50. That’s true for pro wrestlers, including Macho Man. He had a heart attack while driving a truck and crashed it into a tree.

I saw a sad poster. It was almost like you would see the Royal Rumble poster with all 30 wrestlers but this is a poster of all the wrestlers who have died young prematurely. It’s everybody from the Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man, Curt Hennig and Eddie Guerrero for all different reasons. All these people were larger than life. They are big and muscular. They looked aesthetically pleasing, inspiring, especially in the mainstream diet culture, it doesn’t equate to health.

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What comes to mind was my fellow hooper, Lamar Odom. He was rumored to be fueled by candy as an all-star level NBA basketball player. The human body is resilient when you’re young. You can do incredible things. Look at a lot of bodybuilders and NFL football players, they’re fueled by fast food or heavy meat protein, and all this stuff. They work like crazy in the gym for hours on end. They train like crazy. They may take anabolic drugs or growth hormones or steroids or other things to help them in certain ways. That doesn’t mean it represents health.

If you were to look at health and fitness muscle magazines from the ‘90s and early 2000s, flip through the pages of all these advertisements, many of those athletes are not around anymore. People who represent a look of health or something aspirational are not living anymore because of heart attacks, strokes, organ failure and mostly artery-clogging diseases. That’s the culprit for most of these individuals.

Unfortunately, that’s running rampant in the online world as well. Of course, you show it before, after photo and you sell your program. That’s the way it goes. You started this topic by talking about people making money off their looks or their appearance. I want to be clear that I’m not criticizing anyone for doing that, whether they use OnlyFans to raise money for themselves, modeling or they do nude photos, posing photos, flexing photos or before and after photos, who am I to judge? Who are any of us to judge anybody else for living their life to where they want to live and earning a living the way they want to earn a living?

The ironic thing is that many people who are critical of working for massive corporations treat humans, the planet and animals horribly or someone else running their own business and using their bodies to represent themselves in a certain way. It’s worth mentioning that. I also want to point out, Jason, it’s so wild to me going to these fitness expos that I have been on tour with Vegan Strong over the years. I will tell you a couple of quick examples because there are mind-blowing examples of the times that we are in. For example, an LA Fed Expo. There was a booth. Lee Haney was at this booth. He is the most decorated Olympia Champion in history. Granted, it has been a little while. He won in the ‘80s but he’s like the Michael Jordan. He’s the best at bodybuilding history. Ronnie Coleman tied him with eight Sandow trophies of being the best bodybuilder in the world. Lee Haney is the greatest of all time. He’s the GOAT.

There’s nobody there. Nobody knows who he is. Nobody cares. No one was even coming by to say hi to him. I see this line that is 2 or 3 hours long. I’m like, “Who’s this?” It was an Instagram person with the name Booty in her name. She’s known for her booty. I don’t recall her first or last name. She had people lining up for hours to get a photo with her because she’s cool on Instagram. She had 17 million followers at the time. That’s years ago. I don’t remember who she was.

We noticed that at the Olympia as well. There were famous bodybuilders, some of the greatest in the game, that teamed up like Flex Wheeler, Lee Priest, and Branch Warren. These are iconic names in bodybuilding. They created their supplement line. Right next to them was Bradley Martyn, a bigtime YouTube and Instagram guy, and he had all the attention. Here are these guys with no attention. This is for you, too, Whitney. It was something I could almost relate to. Me, Brendan Brazier and others who are early, no one knows who we are anymore in a certain context, despite the historical things that we have done in the vegan fitness world.

That was just a tangent on this topic but it paints a picture of the world we are in that we value certain things. Things like getting your photo taken with a famous Instagrammer is the new goal for a lot of people. That gives you street cred on your page or whatever the case is. It makes us do things that we wouldn’t normally do. It’s a different world in the fitness game now. That message is still as confusing as ever, as far as health and aesthetics, and not always going together especially in the world of bodybuilding, where they are not organically in alignment. They counter each other because the most ripped you look, the least healthy you are because of the measures you had to take to get there.

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I had aspirations, to be honest, of being my biggest and most ripped ever for a book launch. I’ve got in good shape. In a photo I posted, I looked good and in shape but I’m not where I thought I would be. I have worked hard. I thought that if I put in all this work, I’m going to look a certain way. It’s part of an honest conversation. The reality is that I’m not in my 20s or 30s. I have a huge amount of stress, workload and burden. I don’t mean to sound like I’m making excuses. It’s painting a picture that other people can hopefully relate to because I’m recognizing I have been writing books for people in their 40s, 50s, 60s who are reading my books for years. I can now relate to elevated levels of personal responsibility, elevated age and what comes with that like a different metabolism. My body responds differently, different environments, sleep schedules and all of these things.

In a way, it has helped me relate to my readers more where I am like a recovering workaholic. I am a retired athlete who is a writer now. I’m a weightlifter but I’m not a competitive athlete. That is who’s reading our book. That’s who picks up The Plant-Based Athlete. It’s the active person who is trying to get a little bit more mileage out of their active lifestyle and diet. That’s what I’m doing where I have said I’m in some of the best shapes I have ever been in, which is true but in my head, I still pictured a different type of physique than I have at this moment talking to you.

I have reconciled that. I have become okay with that. It took me a little while to permit myself to be okay with that without feeling like a failure, like, “Does my advice even work? How come I can’t get as ripped as I was as a competitive bodybuilder?” Quite frankly, I’m not willing to make those sacrifices now. I’m not willing to spend all that time limiting my food intake, my water intake or doing all this extra cardio. I’ve got books to sell to achieve another dream. It’s a different context these days.

It’s beautiful that you framed it that way, Robert because one thing we talked about in a solo episode we did was honoring our evolution as people that our needs, desires and dreams evolve as we do. Not just in terms of metabolism or cellular makeup but certainly our needs, desires, dreams and wants at 40 or 41 are going to be different than they were when they were 21. It’s wonderful that you are in this space of acceptance and honoring who you are now because it’s easy to get stuck in the past. It’s easy to lament what could have been or what came before and certainly honoring where we came from acknowledging it but also being present to what is happening at the moment. Final question because we are wrapping this glorious episode. Did you get your Oatly stock, Robert?

I asked him the same thing. I texted Robert that day.

I did not. I did not even know that was happening. We are doing this on a major holiday weekend and I did not even know it was a holiday weekend. I have completely lost the concept of time, space and days of the week. What I’m hoping is my last effort of this significance, I have given it everything I’ve got. I’m unaware of some things like that. I didn’t know Oatly was going public. I don’t know some of the things going on around me because I’m doing what I can to position the biggest thing of my entire life to be as successful as possible to open up doors for myself and others for the future. That’s where my mind has been, to be honest.

I look forward to the day where I can focus on being a little bit more present. I certainly was during the writing process when the editor takes 2 or 3 months to edit. I do other things. When you have a timetable and know the realistic opportunity you have in front of you to do something absolutely remarkable, it takes a remarkable effort. That’s what it is. No stock for me. I did well with Beyond Meat. I still have some. I sold off a lot and made a significant profit there, which can help promote my book. I’m not on the Oatly shareholder list.

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Yet, I didn’t realize this but there’s another vegan stock out there. It’s The Very Good Food Co. Does that ring a bell for either of you?

Are they on the Canadian stock exchange? Someone mentioned this company to me. I didn’t think it was the US stock exchange. I thought it was Canadian.

Did you hear that our friends at Vegan Essentials got acquired?

No.

They were acquired by a Canadian company that was going public ten days later.

That might be them because The Very Good Food Company is based in Victoria, Canada but they are on the regular stock exchange under VRYYF. It’s so good there’s two Ys.

It makes you ask why they are not the company that acquired Vegan Essentials? Vejii is the parent company that acquired Vegan Essentials.

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What does that mean for them? Old school company that we have all loved for so long.

It was time. They have been doing it since the ‘90s.

They were done? Are the cofounders out?

Yeah. I was talking to Ryan and I have known Ryan for many years. We talked through the whole thing so I knew it was coming, and then I saw the press release. He told me the day that the press release came out and it was all over VegNews and Yahoo! Finance. Everybody was talking about it. That’s just another. The plant-based movement is growing so much in many different ways, especially in the food and beverage sector. There are hundreds of millions of dollars being raised for all these different brands. Many of them are being acquired, and then getting global distribution and the pricing goes down. It’s accessible to anyone anywhere in America and many places around the world. There are a lot of positives about the expansion of the plant-based food and beverage industry.

It ties into this conversation of how things shift. Part of me is sad to see Vegan Essentials change but I’m also excited to see what that means for the industry. There have been so many changes. It’s always a bit bittersweet. We have seen VegNews change and now they are better than ever. They have grown so much. I remember going to their office with you, Robert when it was some tiny rundown office on the beach.

Way back in the day, it was like an apartment kind of thing, a small setup. That’s how so many things start. They start small, and then they become something that’s a household name. Field Roast started that way with Chef David Lee out of Seattle way back when. Tofurky started that way. Some of these are still independently-owned, of course. Miyoko’s, Vega and all these great companies all started somewhere in someone’s garage, basement or little office they rented.

I like seeing their success, seeing what they are able to accomplish and what it means for the movement. There are so many of these images floating around that end up in memes and such. Let’s say the dairy section in grocery stores where in some cases, it’s half non-dairy now. I used to have to go to a health food grocery co-op store to get soy milk in the unrefrigerated section in a little curtain or rice milk. Now, you go, whether it’s the dairy, the beverage, the ice creams or whatever, or you go to a mainstream supermarket like Kroger and they have a dedicated plant-based meat section. It’s a completely different world now.

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It’s wonderful, though, Robert, that you have that perspective because, as someone who did this in the mid-‘90s, you remember the days of Edensoy, Tofutti Cuties, and Soya Kaas Cheese if you wanted something, you were lucky if there were 2 or 3 options in that category.

You are paying a lot of money. You pay a premium price for that. I hate to say but a lot of it wasn’t that good either. No wonder the vegan movement didn’t take off in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It wasn’t that good. Even though I was this passionate animal rights guy in the ‘90s, I’m like, “Good over here.”

You had to pretend you enjoyed it. I had to pretend that I liked the blocks of Follow Your Heart cheese before they changed the formulation. I was like, “This vegan quesadilla sure is good.”

Jason, remember that translucent rice milk? It’s not quite clear like water and it’s certainly not white like milk. It’s this silver-gray color. Its consistency was watery but there are also some calories in there. You know you are paying for it but it looks a little funny in your cereal. You are not exactly sure how to take it. Do you remember that?

Of course. Also, trying to make recipes. I remember in the early days of like, “I’m going to make a cheese sauce but it’s runny, looks like pond scum and doesn’t taste like cheese. There’s this thing called nutritional yeast.” In the many years, it is remarkable what has taken place and what is taking place. A lot of the young blood out there, you don’t know these days. You don’t know the days of Soya Kaas Cheese and Edensoy. “It says it’s ice cream. It’s supposed to be ice cream. We will go with it.”

You talked about gratitude, Robert. Looking back on the innocence of those days when we all started, and then how much has changed, now we are talking about IPOs and stocks, 50 different kinds of vegan cheeses and twenty different kinds of vegan ice cream. It’s a glorious time to not only be invested in, be an entrepreneur or to be living a plant-based lifestyle. In 2021, it’s incredible what is happening.

For all the readers out there, we want to get Robert on the shareholder list of Oatly. To do that, this man needs some residual checks. Buy that book. Get The Plant-Based Athlete: A Game-Changing Approach to Peak Performance with you and our good friend, Matt Frazier. We are so stoked for both of you. We love and adore you and Matt. Let’s get this man some of those residual checks so he can get those stock options. We’ve got to do this. Get that vegan shout-out.

Thank you. I was going to briefly mention the parallels in what we have been talking about. When it comes to books, even in the early days, my first book was one of the only options out there and it wasn’t that good. It was okay or some people might say it’s good but when I compare it, it’s nothing like this. This is the grownup version. This is the 2021 version of the vegan movement. This is hardcover endorsed by all kinds of amazing people. The content is incredible. Our copy editor described the book as life-changing. Our publisher described it as stunning. Rich Roll says, “Everybody should have it.” Rip Esselstyn said, “You guys did an amazing job with this thing.” This is the version of vegan food now, vegan stock market and vegan IPO.

Some of my early books more than a decade ago were some of the Rice Dream that you didn’t know if it was ice cream or not, or you didn’t know what was going on your cereal because it was the only game in town. That’s what I’m so excited about. A book is out there forever as long as it’s in print but you always have the opportunity to come up with the latest version, the newest formulation of data that people like now. I appreciate you both having me on. You can find it on VeganBodybuilding.com. Of course, you will find it everywhere. It’s in every major bookstore in America and various countries around the world. I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to spend time with me. I always honor and appreciate that.

You know what’s cool, Robert? We use this amazing website called Bookshop.org because it supports local bookstores. You can go on there and see a list of incredible books. I typed in Robert Cheeke and the first book that comes up is The Plant-Based Athlete followed by Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, Shred It! and Plant-Based Muscle. It’s cool to see that. It’s great to see you on platforms like that, that have made it so easy. The Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness book is on backorder.

Maybe it’s out of print. Maybe the demand is gone that they stopped printing it.

You said it yourself. You’ve got the grown-up version, the reformulation. You can collect them all like I did or you can start with the newest, latest and greatest.

Maybe one of the older ones will be on Pawn Stars someday like, “What can I get for this?”

I looked up my name to see if I was in some article. Instead, I found the eBay listings for The Vegan Ketogenic Diet Cookbook. I don’t know if I should take offense to that or if that’s cool. What’s also cool about your book, Robert, is it’s not only available as a hardcover but Bookshop listed as compact disc and MP3 CD, old school.

We have an audio version. It’s not us recording it. It’s an actor. We even have a CD version, digital version and hardcover version. I wanted to say, Whitney, I had twice in 1 week 2 different people posted publicly that they found my book in an Arc Thrift Store and Goodwill in my hometown. You talked about your books being resold. They are passed along to somebody else. It already came signed and everything at Goodwill. My books are being recycled a little bit in that way. The thrift stores love them. You would never know where you might find it!

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About Robert Cheeke

MGU 245 | Best-Selling AuthorRobert grew up on a farm in Corvallis, Oregon where he adopted a vegan lifestyle in 1995 at age 15, weighing just 120 pounds. Today he is the author of the books, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, Shred It!Plant-Based Muscle, and the new release, The Plant-Based Athlete. He is often referred to as the “Godfather of Vegan Bodybuilding,” growing the industry from infancy in 2002, to where it is today.

As a two-time natural bodybuilding champion, Robert is considered one of VegNews magazine’s Most Influential Vegan Athletes. He tours around the world sharing his story of transformation from a skinny farm kid to champion vegan bodybuilder. Robert is the founder and president of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness and maintains the popular website, VeganBodybuilding.com. He is a regular contributor to No Meat Athlete, Forks Over Knives, and Vegan Strong, is a multi-sport athlete, entrepreneur, and has followed a plant-based diet for more than 25 years. Robert lives in Colorado with his wife and two rescued Chihuahuas.

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