I thought it would be fun to spotlight some of the different things going on at Texas VegFest, because I want you all to go! I want you to LIKE THEM ON FACEBOOK and tell all your friends that this shit is happening. It is going to be so awesome and well worth a trip!
People have all these preconceptions about vegans. Sometimes it can totally throw me off like when people think I am going to be some sweet demure earth momma. Talking to vegan bodybuilder and animal activist Robert Cheeke reminded me how different we can all be. He is someone who works tirelessly to improve his health and fight the cause while I’m laying around thinking about nachos. Robert started down the veg path when he was just a teen volunteering with Food Not Bombs and doing Animal Rights Week at his school. He recently moved to Austin because he wanted to get some sun (we’ve definitely got some of that) and training but I got to ask him a bit about what he thinks of Austin and being a vegan.
Hi Robert! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions. Have you tried any restaurants here in Austin that you liked?
I went to Mother’s on Valentine’s Day with my friend and liked it a lot. It was a combination of a sit-down casual dining experience along with a fairly quiet feel to it, which I enjoyed. I’ve also been to Bouldin Creek Café and had a great Sunday Brunch with friends. It is a little busy and trendy for my taste, but the food and overall experience was enjoyable. For dessert I’ve been to both Sweet Ritual and Toy Joy and had some pretty good treats there. I’m not one to eat treats often, so I don’t expect to frequent those places regularly, opting for fruit as dessert instead, but as a social experience with out of town visitors or a meet up with locals, they are fun places to go.
While on tour a couple of years ago, the experience that compelled me to move to Austin (I just signed a 10-month lease last week), I went to Mr. Natural, Beets Café, Wheatsville Co-op and of course the iconic Whole Foods Market flagship store. I’ve been to three potlucks at Rip Esselstyn’s house as well. I plan to go to Counter Culture and explore more vegan and vegan- friendly places in Austin during my time here. In general, my objective moving here is to focus on my fitness training, book writing, and outdoor activities in the sun. I don’t necessary go to a lot of vegan places, often times preferring to eat at home working on my projects, but when the social opportunities present themselves, I’ll make my way out. I somewhat got a lot of my dining experiences out of the way in my initial few weeks in the city and now it is time for me to get down to business editing my book.
I know that you first became vegan when you were pretty young and, I would imagine not quite as buff as you are these days. Do you notice that people treat you differently when they find out that you are vegan and a bodybuilder as opposed to scrawnier vegan kid?
I’ve been vegan since 1995 and I was 15 years old at the time of my lifestyle change. I weighed 120 pounds back then and recently have been as heavy as 195 pounds. I think the primary reason people would interact with me any differently now is because they find my physical transformation intriguing. Perhaps as an athlete I am taken more seriously now too. I still have a very long way to go to achieve personal goals I have for myself and for the movement I represent so I continue to work hard day in and day out to get closer to making those aspirations realities. I have a very practical and logical outlook on life as well, and I know that if I truly care about the movement I claim to care about, I’ll carry myself in a way that is more likely to inspire others to be more compassionate. It just happens that being healthy, happy and fit is more attractive and desirable than being a scrawny person. When we attach the word vegan to each type of lifestyle (fit and scrawny) they represent different things, and I choose the one that creates the most positive change and does the most good in the bigger picture.
Do you think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about vegan nutrition and if so what do you wish people were taught in school?
Like any controversial topic, I think there are a lot of misconceptions, misinformation, lack of education, lack of critical thought and lack of personal ambition to find truths within a given subject matter. I think that all applies accurately to how I view vegan nutrition. I still continue to struggle grasping the fact that people find me interesting, worthy of featuring me in their newspaper or magazine, or interview of this or that nature, simply because I eat plants and exercise. I think if we were taught at a young age to simply eat healthy plant foods, exercise regularly and engage in the activities that make us smile the most, we would be far better off in health and in life. If those simple principles were taught in schools we would have a healthier society. I care deeply about education, about children and about the future for everyone, even well beyond my existence on earth. I’ll continue to contribute ideas, time and resources for improvement in education in our schools.
I’m so excited about Austin’s first ever Texas Veg Fest, What do you think we will get to hear you talk about?
I too am very excited about Austin VegFest. I’ve been attending VegFests across North America for the past six years, sometimes visiting a dozen in a single year, but I’ve never been to one in Austin and I’m honored to be speaking this year. The audience attending my talk will walk away with some new outlooks on not only veganism and fitness, but on life in general. I have a hard time addressing general health and fitness principles without projecting my views of the all important essential actions that make all areas of life better. There are some common practices many people overlook and I shed light on them, revealing their importance, outlining how they can help us in every area of life. Namely, the roles that consistency, accountability and transparency play in our everyday lives, determining success or failure.
I often quote Mark Twain and reference Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., among others, when I talk about initiating change, living a purpose-driven life, and excelling in your chosen craft. I’ll talk a bit about my background, my fears about getting enough protein to build muscle on a vegan diet, and about the principles that seem to be best suited for building muscle, increasing energy, burning fat and loving life. It should be a lot of fun. I’ll talk about some of my training philosophies and my approach to eating which combined made a former skinny farm boy a champion vegan bodybuilder.
What is your new book going to focus on?
My new book is about living life with purpose and meaning, enjoying and maximizing the 1440 minutes we have each day. It’s about for living for 7/7 days a week, rather than 2/7 which most people tend to live for (the weekends). It’s about discovering what your passion is and making that a priority, creating what I call True Return On Investment (True ROI) of Life. It doesn’t really have anything to do with veganism or fitness but has everything to do with the fundamental principles I believe in, which do go hand in hand with living a compassionate lifestyle. My new book which I am currently editing also contains motivational quotes I’ve been writing since 1999 and chapters that analyze The Beginning, The Here and Now, and The Future, with clear examples of how our behaviors, attitudes and character traits were formed and how they impact us daily.
My aim is to create a helpful resource for people to use to gain enlightenment and understand why they believe what they believe and how they came to those conclusions in the first place.
With that in mind, a conscious approach to daily interaction with others, anticipating the impact on those we communicate and interact with, is empowering and should lead to greater happiness and less suffering. I move into my new apartment/writing studio at the end of the month and I can’t wait to get into writing/editing mode from morning until night until the project is complete. Once the book is complete, I’ll likely embark on another speaking tour, but as of now, my Austin VegFest presentation is one of the last I have scheduled for the rest of the year, until the book is complete.
Do you ever like to lie around and be totally lazy? Like on rest days?
I’m uncomfortable with the word “lazy” describing my actions and I work hard to avoid being associated with it. I do take some time to relax every now and then, but surely not as often as most people. I’m known for my 12-18 hour work days, which are deliberate and purpose-driven for meaningful reasons to create specific outcomes. Though I don’t relax as often as most, I find ways to create relaxing environments and I also truly enjoy what I do during the majority of my waking hours. One of my favorite ways to relax is to be in the sun (one of the reasons I moved to Austin) and that is where I feel at peace more than any other environment. In fact, I might be moving to the Caribbean when my lease is up in Austin, not to relax on the beach every day, but to find a new meaningful work environment with the opportunity to take that relaxing nap on the beach if desired. I know the value of rest, and a favorite activity of mine is sleeping in after a long day and tough workout, I just don’t do a lot lounging around for fun. I figure my role in life is to spend my time making other’s lives better, and in turn that will also improve my quality of life. That is why I work so hard. I’m driven to make a difference.
Thanks a lot for taking the time Robert and good luck with everything! And welcome to the sunniest place I know of!