Interviews with Christy Morgan and Rich Roll 7/25/2012


Episode #159


Part I: Christy Morgan
Blissful Bites

A vegan macrobiotic chef, Morgan offers environmentally-conscious eaters a variety of easy, palate-pleasing, healthy, and environmentally-friendly recipes in her cookbook, Blissful Bites: Vegan Meals that Nourish Mind, Body, and Planet. Also known as The Blissful Chef, Morgan helps home cooks make healthy, delicious meals with seasonal produce, many of which cater to raw and gluten-free diets.

Passionate about helping people change their lives and helping save the planet through a healthier, plant-based diet, Morgan’s work has been esteemed by bestselling authors of Skinny Bitch, Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. Neal Barnard. Blissful Bites has also been featured in VegNews, Diet and Nutrition Magazine, Green Child Magazine and on Martha Stewart Living Radio and


Part II: Rich Roll
Finding Ultra

Rich Roll has been featured on CNN and has been named “one of the world’s 25 fittest men” by Men’s Fitness Magazine. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Cornell Law School. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and four children and, when he isn’t training or competing, manages the entertainment boutique Independent Law Group, LLP.


Caryn Hartglass: Hello, I’m Caryn Hartglass, and you are listening to It’s All About Food. Thanks for joining me, it’s July 25, 2012 and if you have been listening to me on a reasonably regular basis, you know that I’ve been in California and I just got back to New York this morning. I was traveling on a red-eye flight and it’s always a surreal experience after being somewhere for three weeks or so and then coming back to a place that you are very familiar with. But, I’m really glad that the weather here is quite pleasant because when I left, it was quite horrible. And, yeah, so I’m back here in New York and I got here early in the morning and I’m really tired because it was on a red eye and so the first thing I did was make myself one of these great fruit smoothies with some green powder and all kinds of wonderful healthy food to get me a little energized. And, ah… {laughs} this is my story for the day…I don’t know what motivated me or didn’t motivate me, but I didn’t put the cover on the blender and a whole bunch of purple-ly, dark goo splattered all over the place and I cleaned it up and then I did it a second time {laughing!} And, then, finally, there was some left and I had my smoothie and then just before starting the show, I thought I’d make myself a cup of mate and I don’t know what motivated me, but I looked upon on the ceiling and I don’t know how it got there, but a lot of what was in the blender was now on the ceiling! It would have made Jackson Polack proud. That’s what happens when you don’t get enough sleep! Sleep is so important and if you’re wondering why you’re tired, one of the first things I like to ask is: Have you been getting enough rest? And, I hope you have and I’ll get some later—I’ll be fine. And…I wanted to remind you before we get on with our first guest, that I have a non-profit called Responsible Eating and Living and my website is I do another broadcast called Ask a Vegan and I just did my 100th episode last Sunday and I wanted to let you know because it was a really fun show and you might want to check it out. I interviewed a 13 year old boy who was quite interesting and articulate. So you can go to, go to the Real Radio tab and you can see the It’s All About Food Archive which has all of my 158 shows and counting and the Ask a Vegan Archive, as well. So, check them out!

Okay, one of the things I like to do about this show, you know I love talking about food and it’s all about food. And, I have an agenda and that is, to help people eat more plant foods because it’s so important for the planet and I think the most effective way to do it is to tell stories. I like people to come on and tell their stories. So, were going to hear a bunch of stories today and hear about food and the first guest is Christy Morgan. She’s a vegan, macrobiotic chef and she offers environmentally conscious eaters a variety of easy, palate pleasing, healthy and environmentally friendly recipes in her cookbook, Blissful Bites – Vegan Meals That Nourish Mind, Body and Planet. Also known as The Blissful Chef with a website Morgan helps home cooks make healthy, delicious meals with seasonal produce, many of which cater to raw and gluten free diets. Welcome to it’s All About Food, Christy!
Christy Morgan: Hi! Thanks for having me!
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well you sound like you do everything that is really important to me.
Christy Morgan: {Laughs} Awesome.
Caryn Hartglass: Making vegan meals that nourish the mind, body and planet that’s all there is. That all about food and that’s what it’s all about! Now, what is your story? In brief. How is it…
Christy Morgan: {Laughs}
Caryn Hartglass: …you became inspired to make vegan meals and share them with the world?
Christy Morgan: Well, I moved to Los Angeles after college and I went vegan after watching this really graphic video on animal food production.
Caryn Hartglass: Which one was that?
Christy Morgan: So…ah..Meet your Meat…
Caryn Hartglass: Meet Your Meat…yep…that’s a good one. Or, a bad one…yeah.
Christy Morgan: …and I went vegan overnight…
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Christy Morgan: And, so it’s a whole new way of cooking and looking at food. So,I had to teach myself. This was 10 years ago, almost. And, back then, there wasn’t really a huge amount of vegan restaurants, or vegan products so I had to teach myself how to cook.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmmm…Hmmm!
Christy Morgan: And, I met up with other vegans in the vegan community and went to potlucks and started cooking for other people and I just really loved it and so, decided to go to culinary school.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, good for you. Where did you go?
Christy Morgan: I went to a macrobiotic, natural foods cooking school in Austin called The Natural Epicurian.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok, were they supportive of a vegan diet?
Christy Morgan: Yeah. It was macrobiotic so it was mostly vegan…
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…Hmm…great!
Christy Morgan: …and now…now, the program actually is vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic and ayurvedic, and raw foods. The program has expanded to include all kinds of plant based foods and the plant based food movement..
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm…Ok. Austin is a pretty hip community. I know Whole Foods started there and for Texas, it’s probably pretty evolved for the rest of the surrounding community.
Christy Morgan: Yes. People are very conscious of their food choices and environmental choices. Lots of people bicycle and they’re into outdoor sports. It’s a great town.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I notice in the beginning of your book…one of things I wanted to mention is that the vegan world is really a community. And…ah…I don’t know how to explain this exactly, but a lot of us are on a mission, just like the title of your book…the subtitle: Vegan Meals That Nourish Mind, Body and Planet. We have a mission, we want to make this world a better place, we want people to be happy and healthy, we want the planet to be clean and healthy for generations to come. And, as a result, vegan chefs just tend to be part of a big community and I notice in the beginning of your book, you have a number of comments, testimonials or support for your book and it’s from a number of other vegan chefs in the movement and it’s really nice to see that they all come out to support each other.
Christy Morgan: Yes, it’s a very supportive, especially, anytime you go to a new city, you just basically google: vegan and your city and you will have a wealth of people waiting with open arms {laughing}.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Thanks to the Internet for that. I think that’s what’s really helped our mission, the Internet.
Christy Morgan: Definitely.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Chritsty Morgan: Yeah. It’s really helped educate people on…because there’s this old school…these old school myths and old school knowledge of nutrition and how nutrition works and we’re really stepping away from that and people are…their eyes are being opened to the fact, that you know, dairy isn’t really that good for you. It’s causing all this inflammation and all these issues you may be having or maybe you should check it out. We’re just opening minds. And, through the Internet, all these people are writing articles and just educating each other. It’s really amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: And, it does help that every week we hear about more and more celebrities that are going vegan.
Christy Morgan: That doesn’t hurt, for sure. I don’t like to look to celebrities, necessarily, because I mean, they’re people, too, who are going to make mistakes and they get more publicity on the mistakes they make sometimes.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. That’s true.
Christy Morgan: But, it definitely helps to get veganism out there. Vegan eating mainstream.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, you know…I think a lot of people are afraid. They’re afraid of change, and when more people are doing something, it makes it seem more ok to many people…
Christy Morgan: More normal…it’s not weird anymore! {Laughing}
Caryn Hartglass: Not weird anymore! No! {Laughing} Ok, now there are lots of different vegan diets and that’s something that really surprises people when I talk about vegan diets because there are many kinds. There are some unhealthy vegan diets and there are some that are healthier and there are just different kinds and science hasn’t told us whether one is better than the other. There’s just a range of different ones and macrobiotic is one of them. Now, why is it you decided to focus on the macrobiotic style?
Christy Morgan: Well, macrobiotic is not inherently vegan. The vegan diet means specifically to exclude animal foods from your diet and try to reduce harm to animals as far as entertainment, clothing, animal testing and all of that. So, being vegan isn’t just really a diet, it includes all of that.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…Hmm.
Christy Morgan: So some raw foods and some other kinds of things that look vegan are vegan just in the diet. They don’t, necessarily, include all the ethics that go behind the vegan diet. So, I just wanted to clarify that.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…Hmm. That’s good.
Christy Morgan: Macrobiotics is, actually, not inherently vegan. A lot of people who study macrobiotics eat fish and some of them eat other animal foods because it’s not a one size fits all diet.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…Hmm.
Christy Morgan: So, I had no idea what it meant before…what the word meant…until I went to the culinary school.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…Hmm.
Christy Morgan: So, I, actually, had no idea, but I feel really blessed that I did that culinary school and I learned about it because it taught me more about the whole foods diet. It taught me more of a holistic view of health. So, it wasn’t just about the food, it was about health, how it affects the planet, how it affects your organs, your mood, everything about you, your relationship with others. So…it’s more than just fuel to nourish us, it’s everything…to me {Laughing}.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…Hmm…Well it is!
Christy Morgan: Well, so, that’s what that taught me and it taught me about balance. It taught me about eating in season, it taught me about organic food…so…I really feel blessed…because I learned how to cook in a natural foods way. I never learned how to cook junk food. I never became a vegan who was a junk food vegan because I was exposed to all of this wonderful whole foods.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…Hmm…yeah, that’s lucky! You know, I’ve been doing this for decades and it’s been a lo-o-o-ng journey! {Laughing} of learning and ultimately coming to a very, very clean, whole food place.
Christy Morgan: And that’s what I try to share with even vegans because…just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So my mission is to help everyone, but especially, help vegans to actually learn to cook and to eat whole foods. Because it’s so easy these days to just buy packaged foods or buy Tofurkey dogs and all that stuff which is delicious, but you don’t want to make that all of your diet, right?
Caryn Hartglass: You know, you said that what moved you to the vegan diet was watching the video Meet Your Meat for people who aren’t familiar with that video, it’s put out by PETA and it has some very difficult to watch scenes of animals in factory farms. And…ah….that’s what moved me to this diet is the pain and suffering of animals that I don’t want to support. And, so, many people see videos like that and decide they’re not going to eat animals anymore and they end up eating a diet that isn’t healthy. And, I’m with you, Christy, because personally, I used to say vegan was a lifestyle, but now after an interview I had a few weeks ago with Gary Steiner, I’m now saying it’s a moral imperative, the vegan diet. It’s more than a lifestyle, it’s a moral imperative because of what we’re doing to our planet, the environment, animals and our own health. We need to change the way we eat and it’s important, to me, that all people that are promoting a plant diet look good, and feel healthy and look healthy because we are our own marketing.
Christy Morgan: Yeah. I mean, it’s a touchy subject that I’ve talked about before on my own blog and with other people…it’s a tricky subject….because just going vegan does not mean you’re going to get healthy, does not, necessarily, mean you’re going to lose a ton of weight and transform your whole life. It can happen, it happens for many people, but there’s a fine line we have to walk between promoting veganism for vanity and promoting it for health and the health of the planet and animals. So, it’s so much more than food, obviously, and it…and…a lot of people go into it because they think it’s going to help them, but I really hope that people dive deeper than that. That they experience the true passion that comes from not eating animals.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, we’re all on our own path and the range of how deep we’re going to go or the pace at how deep we’re going to go is really an individual thing, but…
Christy Morgan: Of course…
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah…but I believe that first eliminating animal foods from our diet and knowing that you can survive without eating animals really, I think, opens a crack into a whole other world and then you can go deeper and you can learn more. It’s first knowing that we don’t need animals to live!
Christy Morgan: Yeah, that’s a pretty big battle for people in and of itself…
Caryn Hartglass: Big battle!
Christy Morgan: …yeah…I applaud anybody who takes any steps to reduce the harm that they do and the animal foods that they eat. You know, I think it’s important that we are flexible and understanding of other people and support people on their journeys. Because, it’s really…not everyone is going to go vegan overnight….at least not tomorrow. So, if we can get people to make small steps, those accumulative small steps really become a massive tipping point and that’s what we need right now. In order to save ourselves and our planet, we need to end factory farming. It’ is so detrimental to our planet and our health. We all know that, right?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah…
Christy Morgan: I support anybody who takes any steps…Meatless Mondays…Vegan ‘til 6:00 p.m….whatever you want to do, just do something. Right?
Caryn Hartglass: {Laughing} There is momentum definitely happening. More people know the word vegan and they’re more open to it. It’s not a foreign word anymore. We hear about it in movies and on TV and everybody knows people who are vegan and so, there’s this momentum going on which is great. But, at the same time, there are other movements happening, as well, that are counter to what’s happening in the vegan movement. There’s so much promotion of eating pork and bacon and ham and making it trendy and hip…
Christy Morgan: Gormet…foodie…
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah! It’s kind of crazy. I was just thumbing through Prevention magazine. I haven’t looked at it in so long and they showed two different recipes. One had bacon and one had ham with some fruits and vegetables and I’m thinking: “C’mon, this is 2012, you still don’t get it? “ {Laughs}, but there we are!
Christy Morgan: Yeah….
Caryn Hartglass: But, you have…I wanted to mention, in your book…one of things that I really like to do and I’m glad to see you have a recipe for it…is tempeh bacon!
Christy Morgan: Yeah, that’s one of my most popular recipes, actually…
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Christy Morgan: …and you can find it…people can find it on my website, as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, that’s good. Now, you can buy it in the store, but what I like about making it at home, is that you can really adjust the flavors to the way you like it. I don’t like using a lot of salt and the tempeh bacon in the stores is r-e-e-e-ally salty for my palate.
Christy Morgan: Yeah, it is…
Caryn Hartglass: But, making tempeh bacon, it’s so good and tempeh is such a great food!
Christy Morgan: I love…yeah…I love tempeh.
Caryn Hartglass: Tempeh…they use a lot of tempeh in macrobiotic cooking, don’t they?
Christy Morgan: Yep! Yeah, that’s where I learned about it in cooking school. I would choose tempeh over tofu any day!
Caryn Hartglass: Well, what’s great about tempeh is that it’s more of a whole food, because tofu is more processed. Tofu is just curdled…the juice from the soybeans…pressed out of the soybeans. It lacks fiber and then it’s curdled and made into a cheese. But, tempeh is the whole bean, fermented, which makes it more easy to digest.
Christy Morgan: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: And, it has a nice flavor. I’m not exactly sure why this is, but I find people either like tempeh or they don’t like it.
Christy Morgan: Yeah! That’s what I find, too, in my cooking classes, but thankfully, I like…every time I do a class on tempeh, there is at least one person in the class who says, “I hate tempeh!” “I can’t stand it, but I like yours.”
Caryn Hartglass: Oooh…so what’s your secret?
Christy Morgan: Somehow, I’ve created tempeh dishes that turn people on to tempeh. But, I’ve had people say that about other things. People will come in and say, “I hate Brussels sprouts!” And, they have mine, and then they like it. So…
Caryn Hatrglass: Well, I think..yeah, that’s great…I think one of the important things with tempeh, especially, for people who don’t naturally like that fermented, mushroomy, nutty kind of flavor that it has, is to marinate it in something. And, it’s so good with a variety of marinades and when…plus I think it’s good, too, to hydrate it a little bit. It makes it moist and chewier and gives it a nicer texture. That’s what I like to do with tempeh.
Christy Morgan: Yeah. You should really try my tempeh bacon!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay! Definitely will! And you know they’re popular…there’s so many things you can do with tempeh bacon. You can have a BLT and just so many different things and, probably, you could put it on ice cream. Just they’re doing at Burger King right now! Did you hear about that?.
Christy Morgan: No-o-o…
Caryn Hartglass: Oh gosh, they’re putting these bacon bits on ice cream as a new sundae sensation. It’s like really?
Christy Morgan: Oh…that’s gross! {Laughing}
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah! But, maybe tempeh on a coconut, banana frozen ice cream or something…who knows…maybe your next book!
Christy Morgan: {Laughing} Okay, you’re giving me some ideas!
Caryn Hartglass: {Laughing} Another thing is that you have one of my favorite quotes in here by Joseph Campbell: “ Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” And this is so profound and this is really one of the wonderful things about this diet, this lifestyle, this moral imperative, there are some many things going wrong in this world today and this is such a wonderful, joyful, delicious thing that you can do that’s RIGHT! That makes a difference!
Christy Morgan: Yeah. That’s why it’s called Blissful Bites that’s why I’m called a Blissful Chef because eating this way really does make me feel bliss and it makes me feel so good every day that I can live my true self and my compassion with everything that I do. People don’t realize how important it is to eat this way because it is something you do the most. Like, we sleep and we eat. That’s what we do the most and you can make the most profound difference with your fork! And, people think, “Oh, it’s just food and I just need to feed myself so that I can have energy to work all the time” or something. But, it’s like: No! It’s much deeper than that!
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…Hmm. It’s, it’s…well…once you come over to our side, you’ll see how blissful it really is. {Laughing}
Christy Morgan: {Laughs} Exactly!
Caryn Hartglass: Did you have any specific physical changes when you transitioned your diet?
Christy Morgan: Well, I started when I was really young. I was right out of college when I started so I didn’t have any health issues, a lot of people go to this diet because of health issues, but I didn’t really have any because I was young.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Mmm…Hmm.
Christy Morgan: What I have noticed is that over the years, I keep getting healthier and more fit, and younger as I age which is totally the opposite of what other people do. Most people who eat a standard American diet, they degrade as they age.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right!
Christy Morgan: I stopped aging…I stopped AGING!
Caryn Hartglass: {Laughing}
Christy Morgan: I’m in better shape…I’ve become an athlete, now, later in life and I’m in better shape than I was when I was in college and I was an athlete. I can do more…
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. What are you doing now? What kind of sports?
Christy Morgan: …I can do more with my body now. I can work out harder and longer and have super quick recovery times or there is no recovery time. I can just keep going. It’s amazing. I do everything. I love being active. I do Zumba, I do kickboxing, I lift weights, I run. I did my first triathlon last year in September…
Caryn Hartglass: Whoo!
Christy Morgan: …and I’m doing the Tough Mother in October which is one of the hardest obstacle races in the country.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, Good for You!
Christy Morgan: So, it’s so exciting…it’s like, Hey, I can be an athlete now! And…and…on a vegan diet! So, I love going to the gym wearing vegan shirts! {Laughing}
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…Hmm! Oh, that’s really clever…that’s clever advertising!
Christy Morgan: My secrets out…!
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…Hmm…yep…here’s my secret folks! Well, it’s funny that you mention that because in the next part of the show, I’m going to be talking to Rich Roll…I don’t know if you know who he is…but he is…
Christy Morgan: Oh! Of Course!
Caryn Hartglass: …an AMAZING God! Who, in his 40’s started doing ultra marathons and all kinds of crazy physical stuff and he does it all on plant foods!
Christy Morgan: I know, he’s amazing. I love Rich Roll. Yeah! Yeah! There are so many amazing vegan athletes and they’re so inspirational and whenever I meet people at the gym who tell me about their diets, I tell them you should really look up Robert Cheeke, and Scott Jurek and Rich Roll and…
Caryn Hartglass: And Brendan Brazier
Christy Morgan: …and Brendan Brazier because there are so many amazing athletes. Although, there aren’t a lot of females that are that popular so I need to… Amy Dodes…she’s amazing and she’s a great athlete. But, we need to get some more females out there in the spotlight…
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well, you’re training…so, you know… maybe you’ll have to be one of them.
Christy Morgan: I’m not training enough, I don’t think, but yeah! {Laughing} I like to talk to people about fitness that’s for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s…it’s very important to exercise. It’s not just the food. You have to work your body and we just got ourselves into this crazy lifestyle of eating all the wrong foods, and sitting in an office and then coming home and then sitting and watching television and it’s all about convenience and it’s not healthy. We need to move, move, move. We need to be making things, we need to be moving our bodies and I just hope that we get there! But, you’re helping to do that with your very lovely Blissful Bites. {Laughs}.
Christy Morgan: Thank you!
Caryn Hartglass: I know that you’ve starred a bunch of your favorite recipes in here. Just before we go, did you want to mention any one in particular? To whet our appetite?
Christy Morgan: People always ask me this and I just love food so much it’s hard for me to pick. That’s why I actually put those Chef and Fan Favorite stars in there…
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…Hmm.
Christy Morgan: … so that people could look for that. But, really, I just love breakfast and brunch food…
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…
Christy Morgan: …I just love it! I’m working on the next book and that chapter is 3 times the size of the other chapters.
Caryn Hartglass: {Laughing}
Christy Morgan: I don’t know what it is, but I just love breakfast food! I love Tofu Scramble. I make a really good tofu scramble and I love pancakes so, all of that!
Caryn Hartglass: {Laughs} Yeah. It’s cozy and it’s comforting. It’s the best way to start your day with some really good food in your belly.
Christy Morgan: And, I actually eat smoothies. I usually have a huge, green smoothie every morning and that’s what I have for breakfast, normally, but I do love to splurge and make brunch for other people.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I think, maybe weekends or for some particular festive time, I love taking out the pankcakes or the waffle iron and making a really satisfying, great breakfast. I think breakfast does it for me, too. So, I just wanted to thank you for speaking with me today, Christy, and best of luck to you with Blissful Bites. Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food.
Christy Morgan: Thanks for having me! It was nice talking with you!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. I’m Caryn Hartglass Bye-Bye. You’re listening to It’s All About Food. I’m going to take a quick break and stay with us because I’m going to be talking with Rich Roll and his book Finding Ultra. Be right back.

Transcribed by Gail Schriver, 6.9.2013


Hello I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me and it’s time for Part Two of today’s show, July 25th, 2012. I’m going to bring on my next guest, Rich Roll. He has been featured on CNN and has been named one of world’s twenty-five fittest men by Men’s Fitness Magazine. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Cornell Law School. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and four children and, when he isn’t training or competing, manages the entertainment boutique Independent Law Group, LLP.

Caryn Hartglass: Welcome to It’s All About Food.

Rich Roll: Thanks for having me, it’s great to be here.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m so excited to talk to you today and I’m sorry, I did miss you when you were in New York for the Seed Experience a month or so ago.

Rich Roll: That was a great experience.

Caryn Hartglass: I just have a feeling just from reading your book there’s a lot of energy that comes out of here and I’m sure just being in your presence you get all charged up.

Rich Roll: (laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: I’m sorry I missed that experience. You have an amazing story. I’m really glad you’re sharing it with people. People love to hear individual stories especially when people have gone far into the dark and then come out into the light like you have. People love those stories. They really help the rest of us on our own personal journeys. And it’s pretty amazing.

Rich Roll: Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: So we’re going to talk a little about that and who knows what else will happen in this half hour. The thing that I have a…just in brief…or maybe you could just give us a thread of your story, not too much, just enough to tease and then I want to ask you some questions.

Rich Roll: Sure. I started out I was an athlete in college. I was a swimmer at Stanford back in the 80’s. When my swimming career ended so did all of my interest in health and fitness. My life just became about moving up the corporate ladder and getting married and showing up for the boss and paying the mortgage and all that kind of stuff. During that time I lost sight of my wellness. I gained a bunch of weight. I gained 50 pounds. More importantly, I just felt horrible. My energy levels were terrible. I was depressed. I was essentially a couch potato. It took a little bit of a health scare to get me to take an honest look in the mirror and realize that I had to make significant changes in the way that I lived my life.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m always wondering how to get people interested in eating a healthy diet because for me it’s a moral imperative for people to eat plants. It’s horrific what’s going on with factory farming today, the treatment of animals. We’re devastating the environment and people’s health is just deteriorating so quickly and it’s expensive and I just don’t like people to suffer. But it’s really hard to get that message across. I think you have some insight as to what some of those things are that keep people from doing the right things because you did have a bout of alcoholism and then you had the issue with food.

Rich Roll: Sure. I think that for most people, myself included, pain is the only true motivator. It’s really the only thing that’s gotten me to change any of my errant behaviors. And it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to suffer the depths of alcoholism to realize that drinking too much is bad for you and you probably shouldn’t do it. You don’t have to put on a ton of weight or suffer a heart attack to realize that maybe you should think twice about what you’re putting down your throat. Unfortunately for most people it takes that kind of severe consequences in order for them to change. It’s unfortunate, it’s part of the human condition I suppose but if anything I’m trying to promote this idea that you don’t have to suffer like I did or like so many people did in order to implement some simple changes that could actually make you feel better and help avoid the onset of all these congenital diseases that we’re suddenly experiencing in gigantic numbers with no end in sight.

Caryn Hartglass: I like to think that changing your diet is really not a difficult thing but there’s something in our mind that makes it difficult. You mention a few things that I kind of highlighted to myself: Change your perception, change your reality and then you also talk about fear. Most people have some sort of fear that really takes control of their life and makes change so difficult.

Rich Roll: Absolutely. When you look at change your perception and change your reality, we have this sort of very firm perspective that eating healthy is difficult, it’s expensive and it comes at the cost of flavor and taste and all these things we’ve grown accustomed to. Changing your perception means realizing or embracing the idea that none of those things has to be true. It doesn’t have to be more expensive. It doesn’t have to be more time consuming. And it doesn’t have to come at the cost of sacrificing flavor and taste. There’s some adjustments of course that comes with changing your palate to suit new foods or whatever but I’ve realized over the last five years of doing this that I don’t miss any of the foods I used to eat. I actually relish the healthy foods in a way that I never really thought possible. It all starts with the decision and a willingness and an open mindedness to try something new and set aside those fears and those preconceptions and then step into it.

Caryn Hartglass: Reading your book, it’s amazing, you write really well. It was hard to put it down. I wanted to get to the end. In some ways it was exhausting just going through…riding up and down those hills, doing those laps and running. Number one, you do things that most people would never even dream of attempting, just amazing physical feats. And then on top of it, you did it on plant foods. And this is what many of us are so excited about because…you have a little paragraph in here where people ask questions “aren’t you anemic?”, “what you are doing is dangerous”, “how can you stand all that bland food?”, “you can’t be an athlete without steak and milk”, “it’s impossible to build muscle without animal protein”, “you can’t get enough calories without meat and dairy”, “I’ve never seen a vegan who looks healthy”, “you’re missing key nutrients”, “you’re harming yourself”, “man evolved to eat animals”, “it’s not natural”. You just say it all right there and I’ve heard it a million times and you probably have to, but you’ve proved them all wrong.

Rich Roll: Yeah, absolutely. Again it goes back to all of these misconceptions, many of which are perpetrated by very powerful milk and dairy lobbies and conglomerates of the food industry that want you to believe that you need certain food products in order to live and be healthy. So many of those turn out to be inaccurate and downright misleading in cases. It’s an amazing time right now because plant-based nutrition has never been so popular or in the forefront of people’s minds. When you see people like Bill Clinton and prominent business people realizing the health benefits of eating this way, it’s making a profound impact on our cultural zeitgeist. For me as an athlete what’s great about that is I let the results of these crazy endurance events speak for themselves. Instead of preaching to people—you shouldn’t do this or you shouldn’t do that—I try to relate my experience, what’s working for me. I let the results of the athletic accomplishments establish and speak for me, that not only is this possible but it’s doable.

Caryn Hartglass: Now some of the people that have said all of these things that I read moments ago, have you changed their minds? Have the people you have worked with or crossed paths with been impressed with what you’re doing?

Rich Roll: For sure. I mean there are a lot of athletes now that are starting to experiment with this and realizing incredible performance gains and not just in the endurance sports arena. You’re seeing an amazing trend among the MMA fighters, the UFC guys. Plant-based nutrition is like all the rage in that sport right now. When you talk about that sort of masculinity issue of being vegan and not eating meat and what that means to your manhood… I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the UFC fight but these guys are absolutely barbarians…nobody more masculine or vicious than these guys and the fact that they’re beating each other up on kale and spinach is kind of amazing. And even recently Arian Foster, who is a very, very prominent running back in the NFL for Houston has adopted a vegan diet and it’s caused quite a stir amongst the sort of mainstream sports media…the ESPN pundits and the like…and everyone is watching closely to see how that’s going to play out. You’re seeing it more and more. It used to be the crazy ultra runners and the like but it’s really spilled over into many mainstream sports and it’s really exciting to watch.

Caryn Hartglass: So this isn’t exactly related to food per se but you’ve talked in your book about when you are trying to achieve some incredible endurance feat that you get to a place where you just let go and let things happen. Can you talk a little bit about that because I think that’s really profound and people could learn a lot from it.

Rich Roll: I used to harbor this idea that the only way that I could succeed in the world was directly related to how much I could impose my will on a certain situation. As a youth I experienced some success by working harder than other people, etc. But what I learned from my bout of alcoholism is the power of surrender and the power of letting go of conditions, situations and people that you don’t have any control over. It’s a very powerful counterintuitive notion that took me a long time to grasp but which has come to play a huge part in how I live my life and how I pursue my sport. In endurance sports particularly, and I guess in any sport, there are only so many things you have control over. You have control over your training, you have control over what you put down your throat, and you have control over how much energy you exert in a race, etc. but you don’t have control over your competitors, you don’t have control over the weather and all these sorts of things that cause anxiety and cause us to waste precious energy and resources on worry and the like that really don’t serve us. I think that at the highest level of any sport all the athletes are incredibly talented and they’re all training very hard, probably all doing very similar things, so what distinguishes the gold medalist from the also-ran? More often than not it boils down to how much domain that person has over their mental attitude. What is their mental construct over their event and their personal well-being. People that have better domain over their thoughts are generally going to be more successful in sport and in life I’ve found.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. That voice that we hear or those voices that we hear we need to turn them off and just be or let our consciousness just do what it’s supposed to do.

Rich Roll: And realize that there’s a distinction between who you are and how you feel and what your thoughts are. It’s creating a dividing line between that thoughts that creep into your head and who you actually are as a person and choosing which messages that pop into your head that you’re going to listen to and which ones you’re going to dismiss.

Caryn Hartglass: Here was something I was reading in your book when you decided to go vegetarian and then vegan it was because you were overweight, you were lethargic, you weren’t feeling well, when you climbed the stairs you were out of breath. What made you choose a vegetarian and then a vegan diet? Had you seen people on these diets that you thought might be helpful?

Rich Roll: Well it’s an interesting question. I wish I could tell you that I went to the library and checked out a bunch of books and watched a bunch of documentaries and came to this well-reasoned conclusion that this would be the best route for me but that’s not at all what happened. I really fell into it in a very occidental organic fashion. By just experimenting on my own and not initially knowing what I was doing at all. I originally thought well I’ll try a vegetarian diet. The reason for that is because it seemed very black and white to me and that’s what I needed. I needed something I could wrap my brain around that seemed doable.

Caryn Hartglass: You must have known some people that were vegetarian that might have left an impression on you.

Rich Roll: I was just looking for some change that I could implement that seemed simple and almost mathematic. It’s really informed by my experience in addiction recovery. You’re either drinking and using drugs or you’re not. There’s no middle ground. So with vegetarianism it was like well you’re either eating meat or you’re not. And I could conceptualize that much better than just saying well I’m going to eat better. That didn’t carry any meaning for me. So of course without taking any proper education about it, it wasn’t long before I was basically just eating unhealthy vegetarian foods like Domino’s pizza and French fries and trying to convince myself that that was healthy when it’s not. After several months of doing that and of course not losing any weight and not feeling any better, I was ready to bag it completely when I thought I wonder what would happen if I took it one step further and got rid of the dairy and got rid of the processed foods. I did it almost as a dare to my wife to prove that it wouldn’t make any difference. So the joke was on me when a week later I felt amazing and that’s when I realized there was something going on and that I should probably undertake a little study to learn more.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s funny. I try and tempt people like that: “prove me wrong” because it doesn’t take that long to feel the positive effects.

Rich Roll: No, if you do it right it shouldn’t even take three weeks, ten days should probably do the trick. But people are wed in their ways and it’s a very tricky thing when you get into trying to get other people to change. Particularly when they’re not ready to or not interested in change.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, and that’s many people. Another thing I’ve read, Brendan Brazier’s books. I know him. I’ve interviewed him. He talks about how plant foods are easier to digest and what ultimately happens as an athlete you recover a lot faster between workouts. So you can work more frequently and then get stronger. Have you experienced that?

Rich Roll: Absolutely. I think it boils down to two things. The first is nutritional density and the second is alkalinity. When you’re eating a whole food plant-based diet your foods tend to be much more nutrient dense than a lot of the empty calories that you get when you’re eating a lot of processed food and milk and dairy and the like which are more difficult to digest. When you’re eating your foods the more nutrient dense they are the more easily assimilated the nutrients are into your body without having to output a lot of energy to digest the food, which of course makes you tired. You’re able to feel better and have good strong consistent energy throughout the day without those ebbs and flows that you get. You know the food coma that comes after eating a big lunch or what have you. The other thing, and Brendan talks about this a lot as well, is alkalinity. The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of the standard American diet when combined with environmental toxins and the stressors of our daily life contribute to what’s called a state of chronic acidosis. That’s when your body is constantly striving to maintain essentially a neutral pH combating this constant barrage of acids that you’re putting into your body to make it more alkaline and that ends up leaching precious nutrients from your bones and all sorts of terrible things and creates an environment that’s ripe for getting sick and the onset of a number of congenital diseases. When you’re eating a whole food plant-based diet it’s primarily alkaline forming and in this environment you’re much less likely to get sick, your immune system is operating at its optimum functionality and it’s anti-inflammatory. So the physical response to exercise induced stress is minimized by this anti-inflammatory response. What that means is your body is able to bounce back more quickly. It’s not that eating a plant based diet inherently makes you a better athlete but it keeps you healthy, it keeps you from getting sick and it allows your body to repair itself more rapidly between workouts. When you protract that out over the season you’re going to realize greater performance gains.

Caryn Hartglass: When I was asking you before why did you choose vegetarian and vegan diets and you were explaining why, I was thinking that I think it’s easier when you have something that’s black and white. I think it’s harder when you have a diet that says you can eat a certain amount of something and have more than that. It’s really confusing for people. When you say you can’t eat that and you can eat this, it makes it a lot simpler.

Rich Roll: It’s a lot more simple to conceptualize like I said and also what it does is it helps break the craving cycle. Cravings are real. Cravings are powerful. If we didn’t have cravings for bad food then people would eat healthy all the time. The best way to break that craving cycle is to remove that product from your diet. If you’re on a protocol where you’re allowed a cheat day once a week or you’re allowed to eat a little bit of this and a little bit of that, you’re never breaking the chain. You’re never going to free from that craving cycle. What I’ve found is that if you can survive the couple of weeks of cleansing yourself from the dairy and the meat and the processed foods that once you put a little distance between yourself and those items you don’t think about them any more. You don’t crave them on a daily basis. Maybe a craving will come every once in awhile but it’s at a very low boil and it doesn’t become an overpowering thing that compels you to make an unhealthy food choice. But you have to break the cycle.

Caryn Hartglass: I found your book very inspirational and I don’t ever intend on doing the things that you’ve done, but it did make me want to work out.

Rich Roll: If the book only appealed to people who wanted to do crazy endurance races I don’t think I’d sell very many books.

Caryn Hartglass: What it told me, and there was a line in here somewhere and I didn’t dog ear it, but it was something about we only use about 40% of our bodies or we have a lot more when we think we don’t, something like that. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Rich Roll: Essentially the quote, if I recall it correctly is that when we think we’re at our absolute limit and can’t go any further we’ve actually only tapped into about 40% of what we’re actually capable of. If the book and the story is about anything, it’s about the incredible resiliency and capacity and potential of the human body. It’s unbelievable to me to this day that I could have abused it as long as I did with drugs and alcohol and fast food and terrible living and eating habits and then have it come back to life in the way that it has and perform at a level that has. I still have trouble believing that what has happened, has happened. It’s not me, it’s actually understanding that the human body is an amazing thing. When that’s combined with a healthy state of mind and the healthy diet and the like that your potential is untapped. The book, if you can give me another minute here, I would say that on a surface level it’s about a guy who’s unhealthy, overweight, gets it back together and goes and does these crazy endurance races that nobody is going to do. And it is about that but really what it’s about is…these endurance events are really intended as metaphor because I think everybody has sort of that dream deferred or that challenge they wanted whether it’s athletic or something completely different that just gets cast aside in the course of our busy lives and really the book is a call to action to tape into yourself and figure out what that thing is that you always wanted to do and start making some changes in your life and make it happen.

Caryn Hartglass: Well I definitely got that. I really enjoyed reading it. It was so powerful to see what the body could do. We have to remember that because so many people are afraid. You mentioned fear before, we’re afraid and we think we can’t do things with our bodies and also how forgiving our body can be. We can beat on it for decades and do horrible things to it and then if we turn around and nourish it, it heals, it can get strong and your story is so good at letting people know that they really can clean up their act. Some people go on a diet and then they cheat and they feel like, oh what’s the point? The point is the body is forgiving and can heal.

Rich Roll: It’s more forgiving than the human mind. You’ll beat yourself up over a bad choice and your body will forgive you if you start treating it right again.

Caryn Hartglass: And the mind is so powerful and can push us to do so many things beyond what we believe is possible. So thanks for showing us that. And thanks for joining me today on It’s All About Food. Finding Ultra and your website is and you also sell products that kind of assist if people are interested in endurance and athletic training.

Rich Roll: We have a cookbook and I also have an athletic recovery product. And you can find those on . If anyone wants to follow me on Twitter I’m just @richroll.

Caryn Hartglass: Great, thank you Rich. Thank you so much for joining me It’s All About Food.

Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly, 1/23/2013

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