International Figure Skating

Living Well: Embracing a Vegan Lifestyle

Athletes are a special breed of Homo sapiens. We are driven, self-motivated, hard-working and goal-oriented. We are always striving for something more, something better — that extra something to give us the edge.

Our body is our instrument and, like a fine-tuned car, we must take care of it and provide it with a safe environment in order to develop and thrive.

As a fairly motivated person, I found myself intrigued with ways to improve myself during a difficult time in my life back in 2008. Nowadays, a vegan wholefoods diet is becoming mainstream, but eight years ago this was not the case. I stumbled upon a book called “Skinny Bitch” at an airport during one of my travels, and I was introduced to a world of plant-based living and the benefits that such a diet could provide me. I was fascinated and, as I had nothing to lose, I jumped right in.

After cleaning out my fridge, I began introducing more whole grains, fruit and vegetables into my diet than ever before. Like most people, I imagined that vegans only ate tofu, seeds and beans, but after spending a small fortune on vegan books, I discovered I was incredibly wrong.

I began to develop a passion for healthy living, which led me to study holistic nutrition at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. I began introducing so many new alternatives into my diet: quinoa, millet, spelt, buckwheat, lentils, chia, flax and hemp seeds — the list goes on and on.

Many people are so consumed with calorie counts, all-protein diets and cutting carbohydrates out, that they often forget about nutritional value. I believe in watching nutritional density, rather than calories. Some food may be very low in calories, but provide no nutritional benefit whatsoever. There should be a reason and a purpose for everything you put into your body, and I believe that my skating career has thrived over the past few years because of this approach.

A wholefoods diet is high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and devoid of animal products such as meat, milk, eggs and processed food such as bleached flours and refined sugars. I try not to eat anything that has ingredients on the label that I cannot pronounce or that I do not understand. The less ingredients, the better.

The main question asked of any vegan is: “Where do you get your protein?” This question always makes me chuckle, because people assume that the only way to get protein is from meat. I actually consume more protein now than I ever did when I was a non-vegan. Lentils, tofu, quinoa, amaranth, green peas, brown rice, hemp, pumpkin and chia seeds, oatmeal, spinach, broccoli, almonds, nutritional yeast, chickpeas and peanut butter all contain protein.

Over the years, I have also noticed major changes in my body as I have dedicated myself to a vegan wholefood diet. Almost immediately, I noticed a change in my skin. It became clearer and smoother, with a natural glow — there are many links between ditching dairy and the improvement of your skin’s appearance.

My sleep patterns also improved. I felt less restless and began falling into a deep sleep very quickly. Other benefits I noticed were increased energy levels and healthy weight loss. I also don’t have to worry about things like heart disease or high cholesterol.

Switching my diet also provided me with many unexpected life changes. I have become a calmer human being, more patient and understanding, with a lot less frustration and irritation. I have also become interested in studying other vegan athletes, because it is now known that a vegan diet helps to increase your rate of recovery during and after training sessions.

Although I didn’t turn to a vegan diet primarily because of animal rights, I did develop a compassion for animals that I didn’t know I had in me. I now support many animal rights groups and I have rescued a beagle, the number one dog used in animal testing for products such as cleaning supplies, make-up, mainstream medicines, laundry detergent, face wash, shampoos, conditioners, etc.

I encourage everyone to try to slowly introduce plant-based foods into their diet. Read product labels — if you don’t understand the ingredients, then it doesn’t belong inside your body.

Try to introduce an average of six to eight pieces of fruit and/or vegetables into your diet on a daily basis. Make your meals as colorful as possible.

Switching to a plant-based diet has changed my life. I believe that being vegan isn’t just a diet — it’s a lifestyle.

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