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Interview with Holly Noll: Vegan Fitness Fanatic & Go-Karter

Holly Noll loves Go Karts, Fitness and Food. Her journey began by growing up in the food industry, heavily inspired by her father, grandmother and their traditional styles, then learning to twist them into healthier, plant based, versions. Along the way she’s worked with some amazing restaurants and people including: Cafe Gratitude as the pastry chef, which changed her vision of what could be done with healthy, raw, food. Then she went on to start the original Liberation Foods, a wholesale vegan bakery out of Oakland, CA that was dispersed with her to Seattle to work at such inspiring restaurants as Sutra, Thrive and Cafe Flora, then she started teaching cooking classes and briefly a protein bar company. 

Holly has also has done many events and classes, guest lectured at the Art Institute of Seattle and Whole Foods Market, written columns on food and music for AMP magazine as well as food, fitness and recipes for various blogs and websites including her own Vegan Shortcake. Through teaching she met and coached individuals on how to use alkalizing lifestyle change to cure their cancers and disease while using diet and lifestyle to cure her own health. While in Seattle, she met joined an awesome team and created Vegan Shortcake, an ongoing cooking and lifestyle show, then moved back to California, became certified in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell and started her most recent project Liberation Food and Lifestyle. Holly also became serious about racing shifter karts and much more dedicated to training both for her own fitness addiction as well as faster times and more laps.

Holly_Noll

Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I realized the insanity in killing for meat early in my teen years, which had been a huge step coming from the meat and butter loving chef family that I do but in my late teens I got into anarchism and found myself in a house in the mission district of San Francisco, CA. I picked up a small feminist ‘zine that had only a page or so article on the connection between woman's struggle for sexual equality, reproductive rights and against violent sexual oppression and the female struggle of other species in the dairy industry. I realized I could not fight for the equality of my species/culture’s women while actively oppressing another. That day I went vegan, against hypocrisy and oppression, and in solidarity.

How long have you been vegan?
Over 8 years.

What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
It has given me so much - it is beginning to sound borderline religious. At first I’d say that it gave me awareness, a sense of being awake to even more, though this was painful as it is still today. Consciousness is not an easy burden to carry. Then, I think, it gave me a connection to where in my career I wanted to go as a chef. Purpose. The next step was health and education, and now I know that it also gives me protection against so many chronic diseases that are so prolific in our world. Veganism has also given me the ability to recover my physical self faster as well as a much better awareness of what I’m putting in myself and how it effects me. Of course, it has certainly isolated me and made things more difficult in some regards but the benefits have far outweighed the challenges and in many ways the challenges are what I’m fighting to break down.

What does veganism mean to you?
Veganism, to me, means maintaining a lifestyle that better reflects the world I want to live in.
 
Training
What sort of training do you do?
I do crossfit-style workouts, weights, as well as trail running.

How often do you (need to) train?
6 days a week

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
Nope, I’m a chef, but I am also deeply into fitness.

What sports do you play?
I race shifter karts. I would like to start competing in crossfit soon as well.
 
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
Ya know, I think it’s interesting just how many misconceptions there really are. As a chef the biggest is definitely that the food is boring and can’t be made to be tasty, or at very least, even come close to as tasty as flesh food. In the rest of society the biggest one that I’ve come across is that it’s very difficult. I think all movements have encountered this because people are afraid of sticking out. Being vegan is more difficult in that there is more thought that goes into it, but really, when you think about it in this context, do you wish to live your life with less thought going into your actions?

What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
In the short term: definitely recovery time and drive. In the long term: not consuming supplements and foods that will cause diseases in the future, shortening my ability to train.

What is your biggest challenge?
Not over-eating because healthy vegan food is delicious and I want to try everything.

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Nope, not really, but they are curious.

Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Yes, now they are. It took a good bit of time for them to come around that my career as a chef and my part of our family wasn’t seriously diminished by my lifestyle but now they respect what I believe and how I want to live as well as the ground I’m part of breaking in cutting edge healthy, vegan, foods.

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?
“But what do you eat?” This is usually connected with the obnoxiously over-asked protein question. My response varies from person to person. I try to tailor my responses to inquiries to the person so that I can be more effective with each individual, staying warm, understanding and helpful. I usually respond with describing a few delicious sounding meals quickly then briefly hit the protein centerpieces to ease their mind then go into quickly talking about protein sources and flavor profiles. My other favorite comment is “But… You don’t LOOK like a chef” and that’s when I get to talk about how being a vegan chef makes me not have bad skin, awful body composition and a short, diseased, life.

Who or what motivates you?
My motivation comes from fighting for a better world, as well as those who fight beside me.

Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - Smoothie of cold press coffee, almond milk, banana, cacao powder, a few berries, protein and ice with a touch of vanilla and cinnamon with unsweetened oatmeal with fresh fruit or a homemade protein bar usually including nuts, seeds, protein, cacao, and dates.
Lunch - Lunch is usually my post workout and changes constantly but is always my big meal of the day. Some examples are chick pea fritters filled with caramelized peppers and onions, spinach, herbs and crimini mushrooms topped with eggplant hummus, curry with quinoa fritters over fresh greens, raw onion wrap full of greens, avocado and grilled asparagus. I like to have fun with food, other examples can be found on my blog.
Dinner - I don’t really eat dinner. My bigger meals are stacked at the beginning and middle of the day and at night I usually just snack on something like beyond meat, greens, cucumber and oil free hummus and some sweet chia protein soft serve.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - Greens/cucumber/oil free hummus, apples with cinnamon, nuts/seeds, bars, chia jam on bananas or chickpea bread, berries, kombucha. On race days my “snacks” are really important because they’re what give me fuel at the track as eating big meals doesn’t work well in this context. My track snacks usually consist of super nutrient dense bars, lots of fruit, and chia kombucha.

What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Cruciferous Veggies, Seeds/Hemp, Protein Powder and “Beyond Meat”
Calcium - Dark Leafy Greens , Figs, Tofu
Iron - Spirulina, Quinoa, Lentils
 
What foods give you the most energy?
Fruit, for sure. I love foods that have probiotics such as kombucha but fast digesting carbohydrates and a little fat do the trick perfectly. Lemon water and smoothie with chia seeds, fruit, a bit of fresh raw coconut milk, cold pressed coffee and dates is the perfect whole food pre workout.

Do you take any supplements?
I love Plantfusion protein powder, chocolate. It kills my chocolate craving and I make “frappuccinos” with it that make my heart beat faster. I also take zinc/magnesium before bed but in general I try to stay away from supplements, especially since reading Dr Campbell’s book “Whole” and giving a lot of thought to how my body responds to the nutrients given to it and in what form that takes.
 
Advice
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - Sleep, drink water, eat enough and high intensity workouts with heavy weight.
Losing weight - Drop grains and sugar, add water, sleep, clean carbohydrates and intense, heavy, workouts.
Maintaining weight - Eat clean, drink water, sleep, and meditate.
Improving metabolism - Green tea, lemon water, probiotics and time control of food.
Toning up - Cut sodium, add green juice, sweat and sleep.
 
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
My primary goal in promoting veganism is to show people that it’s not a sacrifice. That you can eat delicious food, that is also clean, healthy and vegan that beats flesh foods out on all levels. I also believe in leading by example. Many of the people I know who have gone vegan were inspired by the amount of energy I have, how I look and how delicious the food I eat is. I find that this is more effective for me than telling them what they're doing wrong or being critical. Positive reinforcement is my favorite way of going about showing people vegan lifestyle rules. By showing that vegan food can be more amazing than flesh foods and that vegans can be strong, active and awesome, I think, is a great way to promote the lifestyle. Many people are unhappy in their lives and if they see a better way, a way to look, feel and be better, and it just happens to help the world suck less, than they’re likely to get into it.

How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
Several ways. I have a blog up on my Vegan Shortcake website that has tons of articles, recipes, etc, go subscribe there or use Instagram to stay up on it. This also has our totally rad cooking/lifestyle show by the same name. Additionally, I run a company called Liberation here in San Francisco and teach classes all around including Whole Foods, come to class and say hi or if you’re not in the area check out my eBook and shoot me an email or/and make recipes and post them up. Or just go vegan and represent!

 

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