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Interview with Christine Ho: Vegan Gymnast & Fitness Junkie

Christine Ho is a vegan fitness junkie based in Markham, ON, Canada who used to eat at McDonald's and KFC everyday. Her favorite things to do are working out, reading fitness magaziness, reading recipes and "veganizing" them and coming up with new ones! Christine hopes to have her own fitness centre with a raw/vegan restaurant/cafe and also to perform in the circus one day! May sound a bit crazy, but after looking back and seeing how much my life has changed and that I'm still here enjoying the things that I love to do, I really believe that nothing is impossible.

Christine_Ho

Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
Becoming a vegan was a very gradual transition for me. I used to eat McDonald's almost everyday! One day, I read a book by Kevin Trudeau on the truth about the meat industry, which prompted me to cut out poultry from my diet. Seafood was the next to be eliminated from my diet, then eggs, and lastly dairy. I went vegan in January 2011 after suffering from a terrible cold over the Christmas break because I assumed that dairy had something to do with it. I barely get sick ever since then.

How long have you been vegan?
I have been vegan for over a year and I’m loving it.

What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
After becoming a vegan, I rarely get sick, I became leaner and stronger, I recover quicker, and I'm getting better grades because I could think clearer and memorize better!

What does veganism mean to you?
To me, veganism is not just a diet. It's a lifestyle. It is so much more than just food. I feel great knowing that my choice to go vegan has spared the lives of many innocent animals, be it for food or for fur. Also when I think of veganism, I conjure up images of peace, nature, and a green, environmental friendly lifestyle.

Training
What sort of training do you do?
I do a variety of exercises, which includes strength/weight training, plyometrics, kickboxing, endurance training, yoga, pilates, and dance. I also train for competitive gymnastics and I will start to train for a 10k soon.

How often do you (need to) train?
I workout six days a week and do gymnastics twice a week.

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
Yes. I used to be a competitive cross country and track and field distance runner in high school. Now I train my high school team.

What sports do you play?
Gymnastics and running.

Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
I think the biggest misconception about vegans ia that we don't get enough protein or that we will never be as strong as meat eaters. I often prove them wrong by telling them that I'm vegan every time I do very well in my competitions. I have gotten first place in my age category in the 5k event for Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront marathon, and I have won fitness challenges held in school. I even beat the guys!

What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
Others often say that I am a tough person, which I agree. I've learned to persevere, work harder than everyone else, and never give up through distance running because I was not born naturally good at running. I have to work extremely hard just to achieve a time that natural born runners can achieve. I've been able to transfer everything that I've gained from sports into my life. No matter what I do, I know that hard work will always payoff. Because I want to show others that vegans can be just as strong or stronger than meat eaters, my intrinsic motivation to excel is very strong.

What is your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is to eat out with friends and family.

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Some of them are, some are not.

Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
My parents are not, but my friends are.

What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that you are a vegan and how do you respond?
The most common question is the most popular one: Where do you get your protein? I simply list all the plant based protein sources to them and they are usually left speechless.

Who or what motivates you?
Other vegan athletes (i.e. Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier) and food motivates me.

Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast – Large green smoothie made with green leafy veggies, berries, bananas, flax, nuts, sprouts everyday with Sprouted bread with jam/nut butter/coconut oil/ oatmeal/ homemade muffins/raw crackers/sprouted grain cereal etc.
Lunch – Big salad with either Sandwiches, wraps, noodles, etc (whole grain, most are raw and made with raw sprouted grains, nuts and seeds and veggies)
Dinner - Big salad with Stir fries/curries/stews/soups with veggies, tofu/beans and lentils/tempeh etc.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - All sorts of fruits, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, coconut water, etc.

What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Vega Whole Food Optimizer/ Vega smoothie
Calcium - Sesame seeds
Iron - Spinach

What foods give you the most energy?
Sprouts, fresh and dried fruits

Do you take any supplements?
Daily multivitamin, Vitamin D

Advice
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - Strength training and complete protein sources such as quinoa, hemp seeds, and by combining legumes and grains. Enough sleep and reducing stress is also essential to repair and rebuild the body. Daily workout/food/sleep journal is also helpful.
Losing weight - A mix of steady state and interval cardio training, strength training to reduce loss of muscle mass, and watch what you eat. Many people assume that vegan foods are healthy, but that's not the case. Just because something is vegan doesn't mean that they are low calories or good for you. Again, get enough sleep and try to reduce your stress level as much as possible! Daily workout/food/sleep journal is very helpful. 
Maintaining weight - Workout most days of the week doing a variety of cardio, strength, and flexibility training that you enjoy to prevent boredom, eat healthy food that gives you energy and makes you feel good, and don't count calories because that stresses people out. Cookies and cakes are not going to make you fat and unhealthy as long as they are eaten in moderation. Always think of food as fuel and take time to enjoy everything that you eat. This tends to help people make smarter food choices.
Improving metabolism - Cardio intervals and strength training.
Toning up - The best way to tone up is to do a combination of cardio, strength, and flexibilty training and of course, eating a clean, whole and natural food based diet with adequate protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
I bring interesting lunches to school/work so that others will want to know what I'm eating. I wear T-shirts that say something about veganism. Once I started a conversation about veganism, I tell others a story about my journey towards becoming a vegan. Many of my friends started to eat less meat and more plants under my influence. I also volunteer for the Toronto Vegetarian Association as an outreach specialist at different events.

How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
The best way to get involved is through volunteering for various vegetarian/vegan associations and humane societies in the city. You'll learn a lot when chatting with others who have the same interests. Also, search up for vegetarian/vegan social or meet up groups who meet up on a regular basis for potlucks and to visit vegetarian/vegan restaurants. It's a great way to meet more people and try different food.
 
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