A headshot of plant-based bodybuilder Robert Cheeke next to an image of his new book The Impactful Vegan

Get a Peek Inside Plant-Based Bodybuilder Robert Cheeke’s New Book, ‘The Impactful Vegan’

By Robert Cheeke,


Editor’s Note: Longtime Forks Over Knives friend and contributor Robert Cheeke is coming out with a brand-new book, The Impactful Vegan. In the book, out June 25, Cheeke—who has been vegan for nearly 30 years—draws on his personal experiences, academic research, and interviews with experts to lay out a plan for being an effective advocate for the vegan lifestyle, covering topics such as identifying the best organizations to volunteer with and donate to; pitfalls that well-intentioned vegans often fall into; and finding a career path that aligns with your values. In the following abridged excerpt, Cheeke offers advice to help vegans avoid burnout, highlighting some easy everyday ways to help animals while not sweating the small stuff.

Contrary to popular belief, veganism is not a set of rules that one must follow exactly. Theoretically, one might argue that every decision made must be decided with empathy and compassion toward animals in order to be morally and ethically consistent with the core values and tenets of veganism’s opposition to animal cruelty. But in no other area of discourse do we hold ourselves to this impossible standard. Are we polite and considerate of others, including our parents, our siblings, our friends, and in other relationships 100% of the time, without fail? Of course we’re not. Are we in a perfectly happy mood every day of our lives, making the absolute most of this one life we have, seizing every minute of the day? Not a chance. Are our diets consistently free of alcohol, refined sugars, processed oils, junk foods, and artificial colors and flavors, amounting to a perfect daily calorie intake based on our optimal caloric needs? Keep dreaming. The reality is, we’re all imperfect beings.

We all make mistakes in our communication, in relationships, in friendships, in our work, in our advocacy, in our education, and in our everyday actions, and holding ourselves to an impossible set of rules is not an effective way to practice veganism. The goal of veganism is to prevent and reduce animal suffering, whenever possible. Are you a hypocrite every time you drive your car because of the insects you might smash, or every time you drive past a farm and don’t cut the fences down to free all the animals? I don’t think so. As vegans, we’re also individuals with our own sets of personality traits, characteristics, preferences, behaviors, habits, and tendencies, and we’ll likely react to animal exploitation differently from one another. We’re motivated by compassion, not by an inflexible set of rules.

The pursuit of perfection can be paralyzing, and often leads to stress and anxiety, and is ultimately unsustainable. It can also lead to unhappiness because you’ll always feel like you’re not doing enough. And, importantly, trying to be perfect will not help animals any more than being an imperfect vegan, because aiming for perfection leads to higher rates of backsliding from veganism, which ultimately hurts animals. So, don’t strive for perfection, but strive to live in alignment with your moral values, and if those values extend compassion to nonhuman animals, that is an excellent form of vegan advocacy, without having to follow a specific set of rules. Being a little more flexible, focusing on impact rather than purity, will reduce the most suffering in the long run. We have seen this in many circumstances, from the Forks Over Knives Effect of eating a plant-based diet even if one is not philosophically vegan, to the vegan kaizen system of taking small, incremental steps toward veganism rather than an all-or-nothing approach, to recognizing progress for what it is, not for what it should be in a perfect world.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

One of the ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed is by not worrying about the little things. I embrace veganism in all its forms to the extent that is possible and practical, but I’ve also learned not to sweat the small stuff. Rather than focusing on the little things that could bother you or slow you down, how about embracing some of these little things instead?

These are some small things that you can do every day to help animals:

  • Follow a plant-based diet and make food choices that are consistent with ethical veganism.
  • Tell others about the health, wellness, or fitness success you have experienced by following a plant-based diet.
  • Share plant-based foods with others, introducing them to meals that would have otherwise been animal-based foods in their diet.
  • Talk about ethical veganism with friends and family, answering questions and having meaningful discussions about compassion.
  • Vote with your dollars by making compassionate purchases for food, clothing, self-care, and other products, impacting the supply and demand for such items.
  • Wear vegan-themed clothing to act as an advertisement for the lifestyle. Donate to effective animal charities.
  • Volunteer to help animals in shelters, on farm animal sanctuaries, or in other capacities.
  • Give of your time, resources, or talents to help animals in need.
  • Support vegan activists, companies, organizations, and individuals.

Excerpted from The Impactful Vegan by Robert Cheeke (BenBella Books, 2024). Learn more about The Impactful Vegan and download a chapter for free here.


About the Author

Headshot of Robert Cheeke

About the Author

Robert Cheeke

Robert Cheeke grew up on a farm in Corvallis, Oregon, where he adopted a vegan lifestyle in 1995 at age 15. In addition to co-authoring The New York Times Bestseller  The Plant-Based Athlete, he is the author of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, Shred It!, and Plant-Based Muscle. Often referred to as the godfather of vegan bodybuilding, Cheeke tours the world sharing his story of transformation from a skinny farm kid to a two-time natural bodybuilding champion. He is a multisport athlete and entrepreneur, the founder and president of the online community Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, and a regular contributor to No Meat Athlete, Forks Over Knives, and Vegan Strong. Robert lives in Colorado with his wife and two rescued Chihuahuas. Follow him on Instagram.
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