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“It’s okay to say I’m not happy with where I’m at, but I’m happy with myself”
If you have been thinking about going vegan, I highly recommend John Lewis, aka Bad Ass Vegan being one of your first stops. Today, John has taken his passion for health to direct his first feature-length documentary focused on food and social justice. John has teamed up with the maker of the award-winning “What The Health” documentary team to create their joint venture “They’re Trying to Kill Us”. He also launched his first book called “Badass Vegan: Fuel Your Body, Ph*ck the System, and Live Your Life”, which is now available in bookstores and online.
John’s education in business coupled with his love for health and fitness gave him the ability to start his venture – Bad Ass Vegan – a health and nutrition company that strives to educate individuals on plant-based nutrition.
As a well-renowned fitness expert, John Lewis has spent over two decades in the health and fitness industry and played Division I college basketball. John is highly passionate about not only his own health and fitness but that of others as well. This is evident through his motivational messages either through his international public speaking engagements or simply through his social media outlets like Instagram.
We recently had John on the podcast for our 100th episode to talk about his story, book, documentary and what’s next. Here are some highlights that I wanted to share with you.
From Butcher to Inspiring Vegan
Like for many other vegans, John’s journey started out in a place far from plant-based. At the young age of 13, he found himself at 315 pounds. He talks about how even today, he still struggles with body dysmorphia. Then in grad school, he was struggling with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and having stomach issues that wouldn’t go away. His stomach issues got so bad that he went to the doctor. And guess what the doctor suggested?
The doctor told John that he should cut out meat from his diet!
And even though John was skeptical at first, he rose to the challenge. Around the same time, John had a friend pass away in 2004, he realized that he should take better care of himself and his health.
When he started to incorporate more plants into his diet, John also noticed that he started feeling better on his vegetarian diet. When his mother was later diagnosed with colon cancer, looking for a way to help her, he started to dive deeper into the research of a plant-based diet and discovered all these amazing health benefits.
As John continued to educate himself and feel better, he decided to go vegan in 2006. It initially started for health reasons but later, he learned all about the harmful effects that the animal industry has on our planet, the animals themselves, as well as on us humans.
His story is not only relatable and inspiring but also quite similar to that of a lot of vegans that first explore veganism from a health point of view. And, if you think back to 2006, veganism was far from popular. In fact, everyone thought John was weird. But now, they understand and see that he was onto something.
He chose the name “Bad Ass Vegan” for his personal brand. With it, he shows that you can do all the things you’re used to and still be vegan and conscious of what you spend your money on and what you support.
But, the craziest part about John’s story is that he used to be a butcher. He used to take animals apart and sell them as meat. Now, he can’t even look at meat without being disgusted. Talk about turning your life upside-down.
An honest and relatable vegan activist
What makes John a great vegan activist is his empathy. He used to be that stereotypical, pushy vegan animal advocate that would start ranting at anyone attacking him or his beliefs. But he’s changed his perspective. He actually listens to people and connects with them, which is such an empathetic and successful approach.
John sees people for who they are – someone interested in change and challenging their previous beliefs – and doesn’t start preaching that veganism is an animal-rights movement or that you can’t be vegan just for your health. Even though he agrees with the sentiment, he wouldn’t push his agenda on others like that anymore.
The most important part for John is that fewer animals are being eaten – whatever the reason. And when people are ready to explore the deeper parts of veganism, like he once was, he recommends a documentary or a book to read.
John also has the greatest empathy for people who are still figuring out what they want and where they’re going as he considers himself still on a journey, too – a journey full of self-love, appreciation and self-care. About killing others with kindness and yet standing up for yourself. This is also the mission that John preaches. You can be a badass vegan and still go out there and be kind to one another.
John doesn’t stop by spreading his message through social media alone; he takes activism to the next level by creating a documentary about veganism. “They’re Trying to Kill Us” is about food and social justice through the lens of hip-hop. It was created by the same director as “What The Health?” And “Cowspiracy”.
Even though the film isn’t out yet (as of April 2023), you’ll be sure to know about it once it is. Creating the documentary wasn’t easy for John. He lost his mom during filming. People tried to bankrupt the film. There was so much going on behind the scenes and yet he managed to come out the other end stronger than ever.
Shooting documentaries isn’t John’s only venture. Now, he is also hosting the next Vegan Street Fair in nine different cities. He really is a man of many ideas and boundless energy.
But he is also not afraid to show his vulnerable side. If you want to learn more about John’s story, but also plant-based eating, then you should consider reading his latest book, “Badass Vegan”.
“Badass Vegan: Fuel Your Body, Ph*ck the System, and Live Your Life”
This book essentially describes John’s three pillars of life. It features how he discovered an active system that is making trillions of dollars off of the backs of people dying from the food that they know is poisonous – in other words, the food industry.
The way you eat has a significant impact on your well-being. Once you figure out what works and doesn’t work for your body, you might wake up without your regular headaches. You will sleep better. We’re so used to the chaos that we’ve lost track of what is normal to us, and “normal” doesn’t always mean right. So, John challenges you to question the norm. And to find your own path doing so.
Because sometimes you just gotta take things into your own hands.
Sadly, there are a lot of health professionals who miss the mark and don’t help their patients by listening to them or looking at their diet. But more and more, people see the effects that diet can have on their health. They realize that they don’t have to go down the same path as their parents, for example. John also makes a really good point by stating, “You don’t see a lot of vegans in hospitals.”
One of the things his books discuss is how transitioning to plant-based or vegan may feel like a challenge, but it may be one of the easiest things you’ll ever do in your life.
It’s obviously not a guarantee that all of your problems will go away when you make the switch but knowing all the common and known benefits of a plant-based diet will likely benefit your health and well-being in some way.
It all falls back onto the context of learning to love yourself again. Once you learn to love yourself, you won’t feed yourself certain things either. You won’t put certain things into your body. You’ll realize that your body is a temple, it’s your space. And when you start protecting your space, your body, your mind, you start to love yourself and those around you, and you just won’t do certain things anymore.
If all of this doesn’t make you want to dive into John’s work, know this: Not only is his latest book packed with wonderful information, empowering stories, and emotional anecdotes, but John’s book also includes tasty vegan recipes. So be sure to check it out!
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