There are few stories like the story of Rich Roll. On the eve of his 40th birthday, Rich Roll found himself fifty pounds overweight, and out of breath after walking up just eight steps. His decision at that moment overhaul his life, fueled by a plant-strong diet, marked a pivotal moment in his life. And what unfolded was a journey of transformation so radical, he went from couch potato to being awarded the title of one of the “25 Fittest Men in the World” by Men’s Fitness Magazine in less than one year. The story of this over-weight attorney and father turning himself into one of the most extraordinary endurance athletes on the planet is inspiring and motivating, and Rich will be sharing his journey of rebirth and discovering optimal health through food.
This week we will be featuring a multi part interview with ultra-endurance athlete, Rich Roll. We will be talking about his amazing new book, Finding Ultra (one of the most inspirational books we have ever read!) and hearing how he went from hitting bottom to becoming one of the worlds fittest men. We hope that you find inspiration, and know that even when you don’t think you can take that next step, there is always hope.
E2: What did life look like before you started on this incredible journey?
Rich: Although I had been a competitive swimmer at Stanford in the late 1980’s, I completely lost touch with health and fitness, my focus attuned to things I think we can all relate to – building my career as a lawyer, getting married and raising four kids. Although I had become very sedentary, my approach to nutrition (formed during my years as a swimmer, when calories were king) remained unchanged. And my addiction to cheeseburgers, pizza, fries and buffalo chicken wings began to catch up to me. But denial is a powerful thing. Despite packing on a good five to ten pounds a year throughout my thirties, I continued to convince myself that I was still that fit college athlete, bullet proof to obesity and declining health. But the scale doesn’t lie. By the time I was 39 I was a good fifty pounds overweight. More importantly, I felt awful – exhausted, lethargic and depressed.
E2: What was the tipping point for change?
Rich: On the precipice of my 40th birthday, I was blessed with a moment of clarity. It was very late, and as my family slept, I walked upstairs to go to bed after a long night of mindless television on the couch eating fast food. My chest tightened, and I was so winded, I came close to passing out. As I watched my wife and our little baby girl sleeping in my bed, I was gripped by fear. I was reminded of the heart disease that runs in my family. The disease that had taken my grandfather’s life at an early age, long before I was born, despite himself having been an Olympic hopeful swimmer in the late 1920’s. That night my denial was snapped and I faced the reality that I was no longer fit and youthful, but rather very overweight, terribly out of shape, and – more likely than not – facing the strong likelihood that I would suffer a heart attack.
The next day I formulated a plan. A plan to take back my health – something I could no longer afford to overlook. A plan that started with embarking on a whole food plant-based diet. Everything – and I mean everything – that I have achieved as an endurance athlete — begins and ends with this paradigm shift in my perspective on food.
E2: What would you tell someone that said they could NEVER do what you have done?
Rich: When I began this journey, I had no desire whatsoever to return to competitive athletics. My goal was simple. Avoid a heart attack. Lose some weight. Feel better. If you had told me five years ago that I would be standing where I am today as a successful ultra-endurance athlete at age 45, I would have said you were completely insane. So my message is this: when the body, mind and spirit are healthy and balanced, anything is possible.
That said, I am well aware that not everyone’s goal is to compete in the Ultraman. And I admit to some genetic predisposition to excel in this arena. But the point is that a whole food plant-based diet is a huge step in the right direction when it comes to taking your life back. Not just towards a healthier “you” per se, but a positive quantum leap forward when it comes to achieving the best and most actualized version of yourself – the person you are meant to be. What is that latent dream deferred you have always harbored but just can’t seem to realize? For me it was becoming an athlete and a writer. For you, it might be playing guitar, doing stand up comedy or running a 5K. The point isn’t to do what I have done, but to identify what you are here to do. Tap into that dream deferred and make it happen. And taking charge of your health is the first step in creating a solid foundation to make your own personal dreams possible.
We want to thank Rich for sharing his story with us. Please check back tomorrow for part 2!
Let’s hear from you! What was your ‘aha’ moment? What made you turn your life around?