CHANGEMAKERS: DAVID BAILIS ON BALANCE, WELLNESS, AND LEAVING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
Whether he’s crossing the finish line of a triathlon, performing in front of a crowd as a touring musician, or spending time with his two kids, David Bailis is committed to living by his values. He initially launched his blog and podcast, "Tourganic," as part of a personal challenge to maintain a healthy, plant-based lifestyle while on tour. Now, wellness has become a central part of his life, work, and personal mission. David joined us for an inspiring conversation about how his plant-based lifestyle helps him stay centered, grounded, and balanced in a fast-moving world.
As a multi-talented musician, composer, producer, marathon runner, triathlete, and more, I’m guessing you have a pretty jam-packed schedule! And still, you make healthy living a top priority. Why is a healthy lifestyle important to you?
Health, for me, isn’t a destination. It’s a process that’s ever-changing as we encounter different circumstances in life.
As I’ve tried to be the best person I can, in many ways, I’ve found that a central way to do that is with my own body. I've been into working out and going to the gym for years, and I first got into being vegan and eating healthy through that lens. I was traveling and touring a lot as a musician, and I started thinking about how I could streamline what's happening in my body. I tried cutting out alcohol and processed foods, and I could tell I was functioning at a higher level. Then I started to feel that cutting out meat and dairy was the answer for me. I tried it and saw instant results. As I started to transition into training for triathlons and marathons, eating plant-based helped me feel stronger and cleaner.
Overall, I feel like balance is so critical in life. I’m not saying this is going to work for everybody, because everybody’s bodies are different, and everyone needs to figure out their own balance in life. That goes for how you spend your time, how you see the world, and all sorts of elements that need to come into balance. It’s about trying to live your life in a way that works for you—and hopefully in a way that’s in line with your values as well.
What does wellness look like for you?
For me, a huge component to wellness and my quest to be healthy is routine. I thrive on routine. That was a really important realization! For instance, marathon training is a really great thing for me, because I'll do a 20-week training plan before a marathon. I’ll have every day charted out—exactly how far I'm going to run each day, for 20 weeks. I thrive on having that schedule, rather than waking up and thinking “What do I want to do today?” That also goes for my diet. It’s a much more structured approach, focusing on balancing my food right and getting what I need to optimize my life and my training.
In terms of day-to-day wellness, I eat mostly raw during the day. Almost all smoothies, salads, stuff like that. I feel best when I wake up in the morning and I run or work out first thing. I’m an early riser, so I'm usually up and out by 6:00 a.m. I also have two kids, and they’re a huge focus for me. My little guy's five and my daughter's eight, and I try to spend as much time with them as I can and help guide them through their lives. Meanwhile I'm trying to balance all my training and all my work, so I have a really busy schedule.
But I feel that when you don't have as much time, it forces you to be structured with the time that you do have. I really try to keep that in perspective. Whenever I have a free hour, I try to make the most of it, whether it's for my training, working on some music, something I'm working on for a new album, or anything in that realm.
There’s an important yin and yang with routine. It's so important to establish routine, but you also need to be willing to break routine in order to break through to new levels. For me, routine is not about running five miles on the same route every day for a year. That could be great for someone else, and make them happy, and that's beautiful. But for me, I love signing up for a race that is going to be an incredible challenge, that's going to break me out of my routine.
Some of the most gratifying moments of my life have come from being able to break out of routine, out of my comfort zone. They’re the moments I’ve thought, “I'm going to take a chance and challenge myself.” It’s about doing something that's going to make you scared, that's going to make you think, “Can I do this?”
Being a marathon or ultramarathon runner, an endurance athlete, or really an athlete of any kind—dealing with discomfort is absolutely key. Being in a place where you’re in pain, and your brain is telling you to stop, but you know that your body has the strength to keep going. Believing in your potential, rising to that challenge, it shows you something. Your character is strengthened from that. If you go to the finish line of a marathon, no matter if it takes people two hours or seven hours to finish, you know they’re feeling the same grit and strength of spirit. All those people are feeling the strength of living through that discomfort. There are a lot of lessons there.
“Some of the most gratifying moments of my life have come from being able to break out of my routine, out of my comfort zone.”
Do you see connections between your physical wellness and other areas of your life, like your music?
It's so connected. Music, for me, is a spiritual thing. If my inner being is out of alignment and all out of whack, I'm not going to perform as well. I'm not going to be centered. I'm not going to be able to dig as deeply as I want to as a musician and as an artist.
For me, I thrive when things are balanced and I can work in plenty of time to practice. My time with my instrument is spiritual. If I don't get to practice and be on my instrument every day, I miss it. And I think it's the same way with running, or with eating healthy foods. You just don’t feel quite right. You need certain things to feel like you’re complete throughout the day.
I’m so fortunate to have a life where I can do all these things I love. I don't take that for granted for one instant. And I certainly know that all of it’s connected to feeling good and being as productive as I can.
What initially inspired you to go plant-based? How has that transition impacted your life?
Reading books like Fast Food Nation—which isn’t a book that tells you to go vegan; it’s just an expose of the meat industry and factory farming—after reading that, I couldn’t turn my head away from what was happening. I’m deeply affected by books and documentaries, and many of those really strengthened my resolve to go vegan, eat plant-based, and try not to eat processed foods. Beyond my initial impulse, which was primarily for my physical fitness and diet, the inhumane treatment of animals and the environmental impacts [of factory farming] have become so central to why I eat the way I do.
It’s an all-encompassing thing to go plant-based. It aligns with my values and what I'm trying to do with my personal health. Ultimately, I think, if nothing else, what I'm trying to do is just leave the world a better place than when I got here. We all have different levels of impact that we can make, but let's try to do the best we can with what we have in front of us—with the choices we make on a daily basis, with the tools we have.
“The inhumane treatment of animals and the environmental impacts (of factory farming) have become so central to why I eat the way I do.”
Your blog and podcast, Tourganic, offer guidance for “anyone looking to feel good and live well,” especially for those with busy lives. When you have so much on your plate, how do you make space for healthy habits?
A big element of the blog was about traveling, especially as a musician, and trying to be healthy. People are always saying it’s impossible to live healthy as a touring musician, and I was trying to prove it was possible.
My main tip is preparation. Try not to put yourself in a position where you're not going to have anything to eat. The way to do that is by having a food bag with you at all times—hopefully supporting local co-ops. I always had a pretty significant food bag that I traveled with—dried goods, root vegetables, nuts, seeds, stuff like that—that would get me through any situation where there wasn't going to be any food for me. You just have to be willing to put in a little extra work.
From your music to your podcast to your blog, you’re getting so many powerful messages out in the world. What’s the main thing you want people to take away from your work?
I hope I can be an example of someone who has believed in myself. I'm trying to live by my values and try to impact the world in a positive way—whether that's with my music, my relationships with people and the support I give the community around me, through my diet, even through my running crew. I just hope I’m a solid support system and an example of a positive force in the world.
I also want to shout out Team VPA (Vegan Powered Athletes)—a team that I'm on of awesome people. It's a great group of all different kinds of athletes, from people who are elites to people who are casual, and we're all united in that we’re vegan athletes. They're really great people trying to increase awareness and prove to people that this can be done. Even though there are so many examples of amazing vegan athletes in the world, there are still people who don't believe it's possible. So I'm glad to be part of that team to help show we're out here doing it—and it’s possible!
As a formidable force for compassion and creativity, what are your hopes for the future of our food system—and our world?
It's a great question, and it's a big question. I'm an optimist, so I believe that even with all the negativity and darkness in the world, there’s a growing awareness about healthy foods and about factory farming. For a long time there was so little awareness of what was happening—of how the food gets to our plates—and I think more and more, every day, people are discovering what's happening and are willing to make a change. There are more vegan restaurants everywhere, and that's not because of some ideology—it’s because people want them. Because there are people to fill seats in those restaurants who weren’t there before. There’s certainly progress!
And, with technology and all the progress that's happening, I hope we can get to a place where there's more accessibility for people who don't feel a healthy lifestyle is possible for them. In areas of the country where there isn't as much awareness of health, or there aren’t options for healthy food, I really hope we're heading in a direction where there will be more options for people.
I hope that’s going to translate into more humane treatment of animals. I hope it’ll lead to more loving choices. What we do with our diet, what we choose to do every day, what we choose to eat has a huge downstream impact on so many other beings. Each one of us can really make change through our individual choices on a daily basis.
When it comes to changing the whole food system, who knows how long it’ll take or what that's going to look like. But I think a more inspiring—and hopefully attainable—approach is to think about what you can do today to improve the food system. To think about the choices you can make that will be best for your life, best for the environment, best for all living beings, best for the world as a whole.
You can listen to David’s music on streaming platforms, check out his blog and podcast online, and keep up with his running journey on Instagram. And for more inspiration and tips on adopting a plant-based lifestyle, download our free Plant-Based Starter Guide!