“Are you vegan?” It’s a question we get asked A LOT. How I answer it depends on how much of a conversation I want to have. I use “vegan” with wait staff at restaurants because it’s an easy shorthand. But it’s not nearly the whole story.

Russ is much quicker to say, “No. We are plant-based.” He’s right. And that always creates the opportunity to explain the difference. Naturally, if we are talking to someone who is interested in learning the Whole Food Muscle Way, we aren’t going to use the word “vegan.”

Here’s why:

Veganism is an ethos. They have eliminated ALL animal products from their lives (shampoo, laundry detergent, toothpaste, make-up, leather shoes, leather seats in their car, etc) because of the animal cruelty that creates those things. Many vegans are also concerned about other issues such as water sources, climate change, hunger, disease and human illness among others.

This means that they don’t eat anything associated with animals. But they can eat anything that’s not. For example; Coke, Pepsi and other soft drinks are vegan. Some will eat Oreos. Others will not because of cross contamination from machinery. There is a large spectrum of what it means to be vegan and we have seen it discussed very hotly on several different occasions.  

Additionally, you really can’t be “kinda vegan.” When we were transitioning, I used to use the word “vegan-ish.” And while that was true in principle about how we were eating, it was absolutely untrue once you really understand what it means to be vegan. Vegan is something you either are, or you are not there is no middle ground. And you can’t really “decide” not to be vegan anymore. When you care about animals the way vegans do, you don’t wake up one day not caring anymore.

Being plant-based is about health. Eating the Whole Food Muscle Way means eating plants as close to the way they came out of the ground as possible. Pepsi, Oreos, potato chips – decidedly not things we would choose to eat. Right this minute you might be thinking, “Wait. Potato chips are… potatoes.” That is true. A very processed, fried in oil, salted to death potato. That doesn’t line up with healthy.

Does that mean we would never have French fries? No. It doesn’t. There are rare occasions when we will have them. And we sometimes eat at vegan restaurants. But our guts are so accustomed to processing real food that they usually complain when we put oil-soaked potatoes or faux meats through our systems.

You certainly can be “kinda plant-based.” It took Russ and I six to eight months to transition 100% to this way of eating. And up until recently I would still have a chocolate chip cookie (with eggs and butter – NOT vegan) now and then. Sadly, or maybe it’s a good thing, my taste buds have changed and the last time I had one, I didn’t enjoy it and it bothered my gut. When we go to Russ’ mom’s she will sometimes buy a chocolate cake. It’s not a huge deal if we have a piece. Is it healthy? No. Is it plant-based? No. Is it really important enough for us to tell his mother not to buy? No, it’s really not.

There are those who are both vegan and plant-based. They combine the ethos of being vegan with the health decisions of being plant-based.

How you choose to eat is 100% up to you. My only request is that you make choices with your eyes open to the facts and the risks. That’s why we share our knowledge as much as we do. If you aren’t seeing our Facebook lives, make sure you like our page and turn notifications on.

Dr Robyn is a former competitive volleyball player turned psychologist with continuing education in nutrition. Russ is a former competitive bodybuilder and trainer on the Mr. Olympia Tour. They are the co-founders of Whole Food Muscle and the authors of How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way. To work with them one on one to improve your health and fitness or to have them speak at your event or organization email them at Health@RnRJourney.com.