My name is Mike Knight, the Vegan Tour Guide, and I have led a very unlikely path to living a plant-based vegan lifestyle. I use the word “lifestyle” because I found that once I did switch my way of eating, I realized that it wasn’t just my food choices that changed, it was me who changed too.
You see, I’m a “Meathead Wrestler.” I grew up lifting weights and believing that I had to consume as much meat as possible for “optimal protein” and muscle growth. I would say, “Why would I want to eat a salad? I’m not a rabbit!” To stay in shape and stay healthy, I always looked towards supplements and exercise, neglecting that the everyday food I put in my body plays a major role in all of this.
Back in 1997, I was watching a college football game on television with some friends, and my father was the referee for the game. It was something he had done my entire life and so it was no big deal for me to see him weekly on national television, except this time was different. As we were watching, I saw my dad do a “reverse swan dive” and fall straight onto his back in the middle of the field. I watched my dad have a heart attack in front of me, I watched as medic crews feverishly worked on him to save him.
The next thing I knew, I was in the hospital with him for thirteen days while he made a miraculous recovery. As the Doctor walked in and talked with him, he told my dad that he needed to “start eating better” and advised “a diet of fruits and vegetables.” I remember thinking to myself at the time, “Hmmm, why does it take this type of near death catastrophic event for a doctor to advise this type of diet?”
I went on with life until years later I met with my personal doctor and discussed my blood results. He told me that I had elevated cholesterol levels and even though I was only in my late thirties, he advised me to start taking drugs. I worked out, my blood pressure was always perfect, I felt great, I had already cut out red and ate very little if any fried food or sodas. So how could this be?
I went home, did some research, and I was introduced to a group doing a cleanse based off of Kathy Freston’s book: The Quantam Wellness Cleanse. I did the cleanse and thus began my plant-based journey.
I went back to my doctor a year later, and as he started reading my results, he got a very puzzled look on his face. He asked me: “What did you do?” I told him I switched to vegan diet and he looked at me and said, “Well, it’s working, your bloodwork is great, complete reversal.” That was 2011. My doctor never talked about any types of drugs for me again.
I believe that in life, if you have the ability to help others, then you should. It doesn’t matter if it is a big grandiose thing, or a tiny gesture—we should all do what we can.
Friends and family started asking me about my “new diet” and the “new me,” and so I started telling them about my changes. As these conversations started happening more frequently, it occurred to me that I needed to do my part to help others by spreading knowledge and information about a plant-based vegan lifestyle. So, I put together a website and blog with information to start directing people towards when I spoke to them. Plus, this website was something that people could then, in turn, send other people.
I started receiving great feedback from people making changes and that was awesome to me. I started wondering if there were ways that I could get information out to even more people and also “gather” information from other people in the plant-based and vegan space. That is where I came up with the idea of starting a podcast. I love running this mouth of mine when I am passionate about something. I have been on stages doing public speaking in a previous career in multiple places across the United States and locally in my area of Charlotte, North Carolina. I love connecting with people.
I kept receiving feedback from people who thought only “certain people” could go vegan and so I knew what my mission was: Get the stories of ALL types of people and connect them with my audience. I want everyone to know that this is for them. The more people I talk with, the more people I connect to my listeners, the greater the chances that people will find someone they relate to which could make the transition easier for them.
I love playing the role of “Host” or “Guide” and so the name “VeganTourGuide” was a logical choice. I want to take my listeners on a “Tour” of all things vegan and introduce them to new people, new things, new insights, new possibilities for them and ultimately help them however I can. I love doing this and I’ve learned a lot already from the podcast.
Today I’m excited to share the Top 10 insights that my podcast guests have shared that stuck with me.
One of the coolest “aha moments” came during my interview with Michelle Cehn. One of the advice nuggets she shared on the show was when I asked for advice for people making the transition to vegan. She stated, “One way is to ease into it, such as with your morning cereal. Start with cow’s milk and add in almond milk. Then gradually keep adding more almond milk and less cow’s milk, giving your taste buds a chance to adjust.” I LOVED this (when you listen to the podcast you’ll hear my enthusiasm for this) because often in life we are programmed to make something way harder than it needs to be. Michelle reminded me and the listeners that if we step back and look, we can find simple solutions.
I’ve had several guests give me feedback about the improvements they saw in their fitness levels once they switched to a plant-based diet. One wild story was when my guest actually felt SO good when he started eating vegan that he overtrained and actually broke a bone in his foot! You see, he was an ultra marathon runner (these are the people that willingly run races of 50, 80, even over 100 miles without being chased by someone with a weapon). When you are training to run these types of distances, you have to account for your muscles AND bones so you don’t overdo it. His muscles recovered so much faster than he was used to that he started training even more and the result was a broken bone. He laughed about it and just said it was a reminder of how incredibly well a plant-based diet works.
We’ve all heard someone share the myth that “vegans can’t get enough protein.” I now tell these people to simply listen to my podcast with David Carter, aka The 300 Pound Vegan. David went vegan while he was playing in the NFL. He played at Defensive End, not wide receiver or a position in which size wouldn’t be as heavily critiqued, so he had to figure something out…and fast. David’s weight dropped forty pounds practically immediately when he switched to a plant-based diet, and even though he felt better, stopped taking medications, ran faster, lifted heavier, he knew that he was still judged by the reading on the scale. So he started eating hemp protein shakes and spirulina and rice and beans and he actually went to a heavier weight than where he was prior! Incredible. Not only did he cut out meat, the so-called “only way to get enough protein,” but he actually gained weight, strength, and quickness!
We all think sometimes that actions are all-or-nothing, and if we can’t go all the way, then we shouldn’t even start. So it was so refreshing to be reminded: “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything, do something, do ANYTHING.” I love this line by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and it is so true. Everyone can just do what they can do and it all adds up. You can make small changes—you don’t have to change your entire life instantly.
I’ve learned from multiple people that slow cookers are the deal! Yes, there is hope for me (and others like me) that are not blessed with what I’ll call the “cooking gene.” I’m always looking to find simple shortcuts. I’ve had multiple guests on the show who, when asked about their “go to” meals, responded that they love just putting a bunch of food in their Crockpot and letting it rip. I love this and I’m investing in a Crockpot myself.
I’ve interviewed several people who work for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) including Krisite Middleton, Amy Webster, and Maddie Langley Segal. I love their approach of openness and acceptance of everyone and “meeting people where they are at” with regards to everyone’s individual journey to vegan. I’ll admit that I wondered what their response would be to people who said they “can’t make the full switch away from all meat or dairy at once.” They all respond with understanding and just encourage people to “take forward steps.”
Maddie had me cracking up when she told me about a time when she was talking with a friend who said: “I could be a vegan but I love bacon.” Maddie responded, “Fine, then be a vegan who eats bacon!” I loved that. Yes, at the end of the day, the goal is to move away from animal consumption, however, every step—even small ones—are great steps.
Kristie’s new book, MeatLess, even details one person in her book who eats “no meat before six o’clock.” It was so refreshing to see that they wanted people to know they were welcomed, not judged or chastised if they still consume some meat or dairy.
One of the most thought-provoking comments came with my interview with Curt Albright when he discussed his journey. He was once asked the question, “What breaks your heart the most?” his answer was animal suffering. Since that point, his life moved in a new direction of compassion and activism for the animals.
When I thought about this same question, “What breaks your heart the most?” my answer is people making the decision to not try vegan because of misinformation. That’s why my passion now is increasing the reach of my podcast so that I can provide information to more people to help them make informed decisions.
Choosing vegan is something that impacts much more than just the type of food you put on your plate. Once you start on this path, you will quickly see it is a lifestyle, not a diet. Everyone I talk with on my podcast tells me the same thing. They started for one specific reason (health, fitness, compassion for animals, etc.), but once they became vegan, their life grew and they started seeing all the other benefits and how choosing vegan affected so much in a positive manner.
I started eating plant-based for preventative health. But I soon realized that one of the greatest things about going vegan is that you make one change, yet you impact many things in a positive way. So much of what we do in life is always a one-for-one return. You make one change and get one result. The beauty of this is that your one change benefits your own health, spares the lives of others, and protects our planet.
Vegan food can be very cheap! People often share that they are worried that being vegan will be too expensive. That’s when I introduce them to Toni Okamoto, another guest on my podcast who runs the website Plant Based on a Budget. Toni offers countless recipes and information about how to eat vegan affordably. She even offers Plant-Based on a Budget Meal Plans showing how to eat an entire week of vegan food for a grocery budget of less than $25.00 per week. She crushed the myth that eating plant-based is expensive, and I really enjoyed spreading this information to others. Plus, Toni came on the show on her birthday—I mean, how cool is that?
Everyone I’ve come in contact with in the vegan space is extraordinarily open and helpful. I now know so many people who want to do whatever they can to help spread the word. I have podcast guests that in turn keep referring me to other incredible people to interview. Everyone wants to help lift one another up because the end result is healthier and happier people, a more sustainable planet, and less cruelty to animals.
I’ve made great friends with people who have come on the show. My good friend Lara came on the show and felt sorry for my limited cooking skills, so she sent me vegan cookies! I talk with people and this is just commonplace and I love that. I want to do my best to provide information and spread the word and I constantly have people that I interview asking what they can do to help me out. So much of life is always “what is in it for me?” and that isn’t the mentality here. It really is about everyone helping everyone.
Love what you just read? Be sure to check out VeganTourGuide.com and listen to Mike Knight’s incredible podcast there.