Celebrating Father's Day with Vegan Ultra Athlete and Dad of Four, Rich Roll
Team BE x BODHI spoke to him about his family and his continuing journey with veganism.
Rich Roll is almost 53 years old. The plant-powered father-of-four epitomises great health and lasting vitality. He’s even been named the fittest man in the world, something he attributes to his vegan lifestyle. People venture into veganism for many reasons, none of which we’d criticise – after all, there’s never a bad reason to be vegan. For Rich Roll, it was a set of stairs. In 2008, after overcoming an alcohol addiction 10 years earlier, the best-selling author, ultra-athlete and podcaster was extremely overweight. “One day, just before my 40th birthday, I was walking up a flight of stairs and couldn’t breathe,” he recalls from his home in Malibu Canyon, California. “I truly thought I was about to have a heart attack. That was my ‘ah-ha moment’.” The next day, Rich completely overhauled his diet to a plant-based protocol and resumed exercise. “I brushed off my running shoes and dove back into the pool. I began riding my bike again. After giving up dairy products, eggs and everything animal-based, I experienced a tremendous spike in vigour, and I knew I had discovered something that was working for me.” Fast forward 11 years, and Rich’s reason for being vegan have evolved to include a concern for our planet and the welfare of the animals we share it with. He has also a garnered a slew of accolades, including being named in 2009 by Men’s Health magazine as one of the 25 Fittest Men in the World. He’s also the world’s first vegan to complete a 515km endurance event and finish in the Top 10 males. But it’s his family that Rich is most proud of. He and vegan chef wife, Julie Piatt, share four children - sons Trapper and Tyler Piatt (from Julie’s first marriage) and daughters Mathis and Jaya Roll. Together, they have raised their kids with their plant-powered philosophies. On any criticism he may have received on this decision Rich says, “My kids have all had their journey and now they are old enough to choose this way. There is no problem here – they are all super healthy, intelligent, productive members of society. “People often get so concerned if a child is vegan, yet the rates of childhood obesity and diabetes are through the roof. If a kid is eating chips or McDonalds nobody says a thing.” Rich’s podcasts, which feature conversations some of the world’s most inspiring people, including Russel Brand, Damien Mander and Australia’s Turia Pitt, frequently reflect on fatherhood and parenting lessons. The episode Raising the Conscious Child with master spiritual teacher Guru Singh, focuses on our flaws as humans and parents, how we can simply do our best with strategies for living a conscious life and the universal struggle of managing screen time and social media. Rich says, “None of us parent perfectly. But the way forward is to better master ourselves, our actions and reactions. My hope is that this exchange will empower people with some tools to do just that.” Rich is so eloquent and speaks with such clarity, I can’t help but ask how he answers that age-old question – from where do you get your protein? He laughs: “I usually say in the same way that some of the strongest animals in the planet get it – the hippo, rhino, gorilla. They are herbivores and super strong – they get their protein lower on the food chain. The nine essential amino acids that we need are found in copious proportions in plants. It’s impossible not to get your protein needs from plants. I have never had a problem building muscle mass and getting stronger and faster, and I haven’t had animal protein in a decade.” There’s no sign of a preachy vegan here – Rich is all about inclusiveness and showing people by example how awesome vegan life can be. “I like to lead by example,” he says softly. “I don’t want to convert you. If I can live how I do and be fitter than the people I am around, I don’t have to say anything. I can be a living example. I have my bloodwork done every six months and I have never had a problem with deficiency. I push myself harder than most people on the planet, which should be a strong indicator of the fact that my lifestyle works. I credit my plant-based diet for all of my success.” Rich Roll’s motivational health and wellbeing podcasts and his bestselling books are available at richroll.com