There are no limits to what you can do, and what you can become, with an open mind and a healthy, sustainable and cruelty-free regimen. Luke Tan is proof – the author, “vegucator” and strength athlete is the brains behind The Awake Method, a brand that promotes physical and mental well-being through a plant-based lifestyle. Here, he encourages us to lead by example as eco-warriors with five proactive approaches.
The fact that you are reading this post means that you’ve already gone vegan, vegetarian or plant-based. Congratulations on your journey so far! What was it that brought you to this lifestyle? Was it health, the environment... the animals?
Mine started with reading the book The Food Revolution by John Robbins. My decision cemented after watching the film Earthlings. I remember leaving my “carnivorous” lifestyle behind overnight, guns blazing… I wanted everyone to “wake up” to the truth – to realise that innocent animals were being harmed when it was completely unnecessary… to acknowledge that what was good for our health, was also good for the planet.
It’s been seven years (and counting) living and advocating a vegan lifestyle. The questions that ring at the back of my mind are: “How can I do more?” and “How can I be better?” During my journey, these are some of the lessons I have learnt.
1. Become the fittest and strongest version of yourself
When I made the switch, I set goals to compete in different events. This allowed me to develop a strong work ethic. I focused on relearning what I thought I knew about nutrition and followed a whole foods plant-based diet. My physiological changes were a byproduct of my competitive goals. The intention? So that no one could question or challenge the lifestyle I chose to live, and for them to be curious instead.
Is there an event, a fun run, a new fitness activity or competition that you’ve always thought about doing but pushed aside? Maybe this year is it… the year to commit to something out of your comfort zone. When you have a clearly defined goal, you will instinctually be driven to train consistently, move closer to a nutrient-dense diet, and develop mental fortitude.
Believe you can, and you will – we'll see you at the finish line
2. Move along the plant-based spectrum with a strong “why”
When I made the switch overnight, I had no clue how or where to start, but it just felt right in my heart. I realised through the years that the closer I moved towards a whole foods plant-based diet, the better I felt and the more I performed.
If you are not a plant-based eater at all, maybe start with one day of one meal substituting animal protein with plant proteins. This could include using meat substitutes and vegan cheeses. You can also head to a veg restaurant over the weekend or have a plant-based version of what you normally have. Once you’re accustomed to that, move closer towards whole plant-based foods such as tofu, tempeh, legumes, fruits, nuts or seeds, and whole grains. In no time, you will find that your palate has changed and that the foods that you used to have, you no longer crave. You will also start feeling the physical benefits (gradual weight loss, improved health markers, better digestion, an overall surge in energy… the list goes on!).
Beyond that, start researching more about your lifestyle switch and what impact it has on the planet and animals.
3. Be better than you were yesterday; practice C.A.N.I.
C.A.N.I. stands for Constant And Never-ending Improvement.
For me it was reading lots of books on nutrition then deciding to get certified in it, joining an entrepreneurship incubator, overcoming my fear of public speaking, taking courses on self-development, and also creating my vision board. I’ve set myself micro goals to always learn something new each day.
Every day, dedicate some time to reading or self-development. Udemy can be a cheap and useful resource for courses. You can literally learn anything and everything here. Kindle and audible books are just a click away. Read, listen, but most of all apply what you’ve learnt in your life.
Next thing to consider is who inspires you? Do they have a podcast, books or posts they’ve written? Model what they do because success always leaves clues.
Helping to spread the word at PranaOn's Power Plant Radio Podcast in Queensland
4. Welcome others into your lifestyle
When I was a strength coach, I had a few vegetarian clients that came along. Because they were not hitting their “protein goals”, I advised them to have some white meat (fish or chicken) once to twice a week. I assumed that their lack of progress was due to a lack in animal protein. I was not a bad person; I wanted the best for them and I did not know any better.
My wife first made the switch to a vegan lifestyle. She never enforced her beliefs on me but instead shared what she experienced and learnt. This sparked curiosity and planted a seed in my mind… which eventually sprouted when I came to my own realisation.
I too remember when I had a vegan friend back then who invited me to her house for dinner. Up to this day, I still remember how good the apple rhubarb pie tasted and what a delicious meal I had.
Cook a good meal, share recipes, invite others to a nice veg restaurant for a meet-up. Share what you know with no expectations to “convert” them. Appreciate that others are on their own journey. Realise that there will always be some who exist to challenge you, and make you feel less than you are… leaving you contemptuous.
Don’t argue or debate with someone until you know what you are trying to accomplish. Many people engage in confrontation with the goal of the other admitting “defeat”. If the interaction ends without your opponent’s mind being changed, then there’s not much point in it. Define your ultimate goal… if it’s to save more animals or get loved ones on board. Sometimes it’s best to let it go and direct your energies to those who need it most. A militant mindset only pushes more away.
5. Challenge yourself
Whether it is working up to a 1 rep max clean and jerk, or holding a human flag for longer, I consistently apply the progressive overload principle in training – whether it’s performing more reps for the same amount for weight, more weight for the same amount of reps, or increased time under tension the muscle is put under. Progressive overload is applying gradual stress to the body so that it is forced to adapt. This results in gains in muscle size, strength and endurance.
Performing the human flag in Melbourne
As someone once said, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.” What is it you want to be better at? Is it a fitness goal or overcoming a fear of yours? Find a reason to challenge yourself and not an excuse to stay where you are. Persistence helps you attain something but commitment helps you keep it.
Wherever you are on your journey, confront each day with these two questions: “How can I do more?” and “How can I be better?”
I hope you find health, fitness and purpose in all that you do.
Luke also co-founded and co-hosts the Plant Fit Summit – a yearly online event that gathers top plant-based health professionals, entrepreneurs, and fitness experts around the world who are dedicated to helping people make healthier and more positive choices – and Plant Fit Movement, an online community that supports individuals who want to live a fit and healthy plant-based lifestyle. Tap into these resources for more useful tips!
You can read his book for inspiration too
Main photo by Christian Marc Photography; photos courtesy of Luke Tan