From running the corporate rat race to quitting his job and travelling the world in search of enlightenment, and finally reaching the best shape of his life at the age of 45... Ben Raue's physical and mental transformation has been anything but average.
After meeting Ben at Vegfest Bristol earlier this year and hearing how a plant based diet and consistent training transformed his life, we knew we had to share the story with the Vivo Community! Here's how he did it.
Plant Based Transformation of Ben Raue
Firstly, tell us a little about yourself...
My name is Ben Raue, I just turned 45 years old and I’m from the suburbs of Chicago. Growing up I was fascinated by National Geographic and nature programs, especially the ones about the rainforest. I remember one time I was glued to the TV and the narrator started explaining how humans are destroying the rainforest at an acre every second and species were going extinct due to deforestation. This had a big impact on me and led me to get an environmental science related degree at the University of Illinois.
I wanted to do something to help the planet, but after graduation found myself a bit discouraged since there were few job postings saying “Planet Savers Wanted.” The pressures of getting a job and paying off some debt let me to a corporate job. I didn’t want to let my vision go but I thought I might have to find a different route. Fast forward about 8 years and I was a business owner of a small employment outsourcing company.
The accumulated years of not really contributing to something I was passionate about was adding up. I didn’t feel I was making a real impact in the world. I needed a mental and physical detox from my 12 + years of of the rat race and unhealthy habits. So, I broke the golden handcuffs and decided to spend the next few years focusing on meditation and personal development.
I was fortunate enough to be mentored by a meditation coach who wrote "Meditation for Dummies". Around the same time I ended up studying and receiving certifications in hypnotherapy, personal training, life-style and weight-management consulting, and basic nutrition. I ended up using these tools to quit smoking, lose a little weight, and manage stress. I wanted to help others make the same positive changes so I started working as a coach.
Shortly into this new career, my father was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. He was given a 10% chance to live 2 years and a 2-3% chance to live 5 years by his first oncologist. When asking the oncologist about nutrition, he replied, “keep him away from raw foods and vitamins.” We were out the door, skipping what should have been his first day of chemotherapy. My father’s grim diagnosis put me on a quest to dive full-time into researching alternative and integrative health therapies. Through the research, we found an Integrative Oncologist who combined both conventional treatments and a nutrition-based protocol.
Fascinated by the field of natural healing I continued my search, interviewing over a half a dozen MDs and PhDs specializing in alternative cancer therapies. In addition, I had the good fortune to meet and interview “terminal” alternative cancer survivors who were alive a decade plus after their diagnosis. These interviews, in combination with months of in-depth research, opened my eyes to a whole new understanding of healing. I knew that I wanted to share what I learned and someday help to spread this information far and wide. And my father? He is still kicking 6 ½ years later. Although we have no way of knowing the role the more holistic nutrition based protocol had on my father’s full recovery, something allowed him to beat the odds.
Once my father was back on track, a personal burnout settled in. I ended up traveling extensively on and off for a few years through Thailand, India, and Central America to continue my meditation and self-enquiry practice. I found myself meditating 3-6 hours per day and attending numerous meditation events and workshops. There were many moments of deep peace throughout these years; however, living a semi-monk-like life didn’t seem to be addressing the external environmental, health, and human rights issues. There was a piece of me that was unsettled by solely focusing on inner growth but not taking action externally in the world.
About six months back, I rewatched the documentary What the Health which ignited a spark in me and made me want to clean up my eating to more of a whole food plant-based diet. I also rewatched Cowspiracy which brought back to mind the extraordinary impact animal agriculture was having on human rights, rainforest, species extinction, climate change, ocean dead zones, and more.
Refueled by these documentaries, I signed up for a vegan fest in January of 2018 in Tulum, Mexico. This was my “aha” moment. I decided to become the change I wanted to see in the world and dedicate my time and career to promoting a vegan diet, for the people, the planet, and the animals. My first step in the journey? My 90-day health and fitness transformation.
What was the motivation behind your transformation?
My motivation for my 90-day journey was to demonstrate to the world that you can thrive on a vegan diet. Most vegans are already aware of this fact but a majority of the population believes there is a lack of protein in a vegan diet and eating plant-based is not an optimal diet for fitness.
What were the first changes you made?
Although I had been vegan for 2 years prior to my 90-day transformation, I was a bit of a “junk-food” vegan including pizzas, ice cream, and eating out almost daily. In addition, I was going to the gym once or twice a week, but I had little direction or motivation to change.
The first thing I did was write down my purpose, my goals, and what I wanted to accomplish after the 90 days. The second step was to get support. This was a key step, as it gave me clear direction and took the guesswork out of my diet and fitness goals.
How did your training programme look over the 90 days?
The program evolved over the 90 days. For the first month, I worked out on weights about an hour a day, 5-6 days a week. I worked on each muscle group two days per week: chest, shoulders, triceps one day. The next day: back and biceps. Then a leg day. I incorporated abs 3-4 times per week. I repeated this pattern each week with a day off (or just cardio) in-between.
In regards to cardio, I started at 20 minutes of HIIT (high intensity interval training) 3-5 days per week and moved closer to 30-40 minutes towards the end of the month. Although I didn’t notice significant improvement the first month, I definitely felt strong and more alive. Cardio was starting to get easier and I was primed for month two.
The second month was much easier to get through the workouts. I found my 60 minutes turning into 75 to 90-minute workouts. I followed a similar routine to the first month but added a few more sets into the routine. As the weather was getting nicer, I found I was complimenting my back and bicep days with some basic calisthenics at the park - a little Derek Simnett inspiration! About 6 weeks into the program, I started to shift my cardio to more steady-state, as opposed to the HIIT. I started noticing more fat burning from the steady state cardio, which was mostly a slow jog. By the end of the second month, I felt like I was becoming unstoppable.
The third month I turned up the heat even more. I found myself working about 60-90 minutes per day in the gym on weights, and 6 days a week of 45 minutes of steady-state cardio. During the final 2 weeks, I did an hour of cardio with about 1 ½ hours in the gym on weights. I realize this is beyond what most trainers would recommend, but honestly, I felt amazing. I walked out of the gym each day energized and feeling on top of the world.
What changes did you make to your diet?
The easiest way to sum up my diet was I went from eating processed vegan foods (pizza, chocolate bars, a lot of Thai food, Indian food, chips & guac) to more of a whole foods plant-based diet. In addition, I became a bit of a smoothie junkie and I still am today.
This allowed me to get in a ton of fruit, veggies, and my protein powder. I only ate out in restaurants maybe two or three times the entire 90 days. I counted my calories very closely for the first time in my life and that made a huge difference! I kept my calories often between 2000 and 2500.
What supplements did you use?
What were your favourite foods during the transformation?
Smoothies!! Here’s a quick recipe that I love: 2 cups of soy milk, a full scoop of the Salted Maca Caramel protein powder, 2 brown-spotted bananas, 4 large dates, 2 cups of frozen mixed berries, three shakes of cinnamon, and top it off with some cacao nibs. Warning: I recommend sitting when taking the first sip.
Other sources of protein I incorporated in my diet included lentils, lentil pasta, quinoa, a lot of black and kidney beans, soy beans, soy milk, and brown rice.
What is the biggest thing you have learnt during this journey?
Having a compelling purpose bigger than yourself not only will drive you to success, but also more happiness and gratitude.
The transformation has helped in numerous ways. For one, it has given me the confidence to take on new and bigger challenges. It has inspired friends and family to change to a more plant-based diet. It has opened doors to create new connections in the vegan community. It was well worth the effort
What are your plans for the future?
I have a couple major projects in the works. First, my YouTube channel will be launched this summer. The goal of the channel is to inspire happier, healthier, more conscious living. An emphasis on this channel will be transformation interviews on health, fitness, and even condition-reversing transformations.
Secondly, I am helping people to transition to a vegan diet and accomplish their own transformations through one-on-one online coaching, with an emphasis on motivation, support, and commitment.
What advice would you give someone looking to make positive changes in their own life?
First, set a lofty goal.
Second, find very compelling reasons to accomplish your goal. Find a reason that will keep you going through difficult times.
Third, during your transformation phase make your transformation your priority.
Avoid circumstances and situations that don’t support your goals. Replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones. Become obsessed about learning about veganism, fitness, and self-improvement. These actions made all the difference in my transformation success.
Inspired by Ben's story? Have you got a transformation you want to share with us? Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us about your journey!