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Interview with Mindy Collette: Vegan Fitness Model

Mindy Collette is a vegan, female athlete currently residing in New York City, after making the coast-to-coast move. For the past year, Mindy went back to school pursuing a degree in science, so she can work as a Registered Dietitian to help people heal themselves with food and exercise. Mindy is an actress, singer, songwriter, dancer and freelance journalist, and is currently writing monthly articles for the Vegan Body Building newsletter. She works hard to not only find ways to promote a vegan lifestyle and animal liberation to those who are around her, she also lives to promote and fight for human rights and liberation as well.

Mindy_Collette

Why Vegan?
Initially, sadly, it was for health.  As I became "vegucated" it quickly became about the animals, equality, and compassion. With more knowledge, I realized being vegan is not healthy for our bodies and our environment's healing, but so much more so the only loving, compassionate, cruelty-free way to live.  And, frankly, there is no other way I will ever live my life.  If I can't eat plant-based, I'd rather starve to death than know I was contributing to the suffering, neglect, abuse, and rape of animals. The facts are heart-wrenching, I just wasn't aware until 3.5 years ago, regretfully.

How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
Well, I first met Robert Cheeke at a bodybuilding competition in May 2009.  He was super friendly to everyone, and had the most genuine smile. We got connected on FaceBook and within months, I was in progress to my life change. I ordered his book, got involved online, and the rest is history - in the making!

Initially, I became incredibly ill in the fall of 2009 into winter 2010. There were times I didn't know if I would make it, like when I was lying in bed for 38 hours straight and not eating or drinking. I finally got better, only to get a horrific kidney infection in Spring. The doctor I saw told me to cut dairy and gluten immediately. I did both. I had already been cutting back on meat consumption entirely, but with the dairy being completely cut out, it just became that much easier to nix animal altogether. So, with the new friendship of Robert Cheeke and knowledge easily accessible online, I changed my diet, which has long since (& forever) changed my life.  
I identify with feminism, all human rights, and animal rights, those are my passions, which, as a vegan, we stand for the equality of these three activisms combined! A vegan lifestyle assures saving animals inadvertently, which makes it easily the perfect, harmonious way to make positive changes.  

Also, one of my favorite quotes is: My body is not a graveyard. That sums up how I feel specifically about veganism

How long have you been vegan? 
Since 2010, so almost 4 years, and it will continue until the day I die.

What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?  
If this question was asked three years ago, I would've immediately said "my health." Not now. Genuinely, my heart. I truly feel like I love deeper, feel more compassionately, and am able to be changed by real issues. It has completely changed my life. I deem it one of the greatest gifts to have been blessed with. Being vegan is not just a diet, it is a way of life - to live compassionately with unconditional, passionate love. I am not perfect, nor do I expect to reach perfection, but being vegan has encouraged me to learn to love much more freely.

What does veganism mean to you?  
Veganism is the acknowledgement that we are not more worthy, nor should one ever value oneself more, than any other living being. By eating a plant-based diet and adhering to a cruelty-free, vegan lifestyle, we promote equality, love, and compassion. Being vegan is so much more than food, and I will do all within my power to initiate positive change. Furthermore, veganism is better for the planet, and without a vegan lifestyle our planet will continually be degraded and deteriorate all the more, which hurts all walks of life. Besides, who doesn't want to live with an open mind and heart, with a clear conscience?!
 
Training
What sort of training do you do?
Typically, mostly weight lifting, and yoga. Though lately, due to my schedule & life changes, it's been a lot more of circuit training and cardio. I love to mix it up, and keep my training life interesting.

How often do you (need to) train?
I train 5-6 days a week, and that day off usually drives me a bit batty - so, I tend to still find a way to be physically active. Need and want are simultaneous for me because of both my high-energy and my physical goals.

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
I offer them as I can, though it is not my job, so my work is not guaranteed or available for purchase. When others come to me for specific goals, I refer them to someone I trust and who is fully certified.

What sports do you play?
Though I'm not an athletic type by way of organized sports, I do enjoy softball. My favorite ways to be physically active are dance, yoga, weight lifting - which can lead me to compete in figure and/or bikini competitions!
 
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
Strengths - I'm usually very positive, self-motivated, driven, and able to achieve the tone or look I'm going for.  I am very passionate and straight forward - but that can at times be misconstrued and taken the wrong way. Something I am working on!
Weaknesses - sweets (vegan cupcakes and ice cream - Lula's - being the top two culprits), wanting to be social (particularly time with my partner) can pull me away from training at times. Also, I can get distracted really easily, which makes doing one single task sometimes rather difficult.
Outside Influences - www.veganbodybuilding.com and Robert Cheeke, my entire Plant Built team (their support and drive are the main fuel to my workout fire these days), vegan businesses, athletes, chefs on social media, books and those who have overcome huge obstacles that most will never face.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
A) That we're militant. Which, some may be, but I'd like to think that militance is for ourselves and compassionate toward others is a fair mix and that's how the balance I work to achieve.
B) That we are weak, emaciated, and sickly. I think our team Plant Built competing last year in Austin, TX at The Naturally Fit Super-Show, sort of negated those stigmas!
C) That we only eat salads. I love to prepare food for these folks, because they are pleasantly surprised to find that they are full and satiated, and that there is a lot more than salad available on a plant-based diet. Win/win.
D) Vegans are hippies. Just like carnivores, we are all different. I may be a bit of a hippie, but not everyone is!!  

What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
My abs? They are my most defined muscle group, but I think that overall, I look healthy and that really strikes a lot of conversations with people. It is my pleasure to divulge information as they ask - if they don't ask, I don't force it on them. However, usually I am wearing a Plant Built, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine, SunWarrior, etc T-shirt or tank top, so that is a conversation starter in and of itself. Also, I don't tire out as easily when lifting, recover rather quickly, and my experience thus far shows I tend to not fluctuate my weight nearly as much as my meat-eating counterparts.

What is your biggest challenge?
Money and finances. Though, I think that's pretty common for people in their mid to late twenties. It can be hard to manage financial strain while working hard toward fitness goals, especially competing, trying to work to pay bills, and go to school. Juggling the imbalance is exhausting.

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Some are, some aren't. For the most part, people really are understanding, excited, and impressed.

Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Friends, yes! Even if they don't follow a vegan lifestyle, or understand why, they tend to be supportive. Family... well, they are highly carnivorous, so there is a pretty solid barrier there. Although I do have a few cousins who have toyed with a vegan diet, and some are vegan or vegetarian, so that is awesome to have the camaraderie.

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? 
Whoa! How do you do that? You eat eggs and yogurt though, right? Oh! And chicken?
Me: no, actually, no eggs, dairy, fish, meat.
Wow, so you eat a lot of salads then?
Me: nah, I just eat. Pretty much everything you eat as a carnivore, I can eat plant-based. I eat fruit, veggies, nuts, and some of the desserts are a 1000 times better than before I chose a vegan lifestyle. Usually the conversation just progresses from there, with a lot of questions and sharing images of other vegan friends etc.

Who or what motivates you?

I am motivated by lives that are jeopardized or aren't shown equality and fairness in our society. Animals, women, transgendered, intersexed, gay, lesbian, orphaned children, anyone who has been abused, raped, attacked, and the misunderstood, rejected, and used. Every day I am grateful to have lived through the experiences I have, and am driven to help others who have been/are going through inequality in any way shape or form. From as far back as I can remember, like 5 years old, I wanted to save all the orphaned babies around the globe. So, when I adopted a cruelty-free lifestyle it was heartfelt, and seemed like a brainless transition. My passion was already there. All I've ever wanted is to save lives from pain and suffering.

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Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - usually oatmeal, berries, and protein shake (pre-gym)
Lunch - seitan, tempeh, or tofu, veggies, and complex carb like rice, or sweet potato, or sometimes I will replace the starchy carb with fruit.
Dinner - Similar to lunch, protein, veggies, and carbs.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - fruit, protein pudding, smoothies, or a "fun" coffee (like a soy green tea latte or a non-dairy mocha!). Confession: cupcakes, ice cream (especially cashew-based) and sweets are my weakness.
 
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Vega Sport-chocolate, SunWarrior Brown Rice protein-chocolate, and Plant Fusion-natural for smoothies and cookies n creme too!
Calcium - soy milk (non-GMO, organic), molasses, tempeh, & broccoli
Iron - lentils, tofu, molasses, cashews, and leafy greens (collard and kale are my two faves)
 
What foods give you the most energy? 
Fruit and kale. My partner jokes that after a kale salad, I'm "kale drunk", because I get so much lasting energy from raw kale!

Do you take any supplements? 
The only supplements I am currently using are Vega protein and Vega Nutritional Shakes, and every other day a Vitamin Code Raw B-complex. In the past, I have invested in vegan vitamin D3 supplements, but they can be costly.
 
Advice
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - Eat! Lift Heavy! Sleep! Drink your water! In order to gain muscle we must feed our body the right foods to gain. Most people have to "bulk" to gain, there are the rare few that just naturally put on muscle even while "cutting". I am not one of those. In order to bulk I have to eat more than I am comfortable with/naturally want, eat the same foods consistently, higher protein, and lift heavy every single time I'm at the gym, and not do cardio. For me, cardio makes me lose weight, and muscle, really quickly. Also, follow and be in contact with the others from Plant Built, they are all amazing examples of how to gain muscle.
Losing weight - Eat! Lift weights! But make really wise diet decisions. Meaning that what food you eat is carefully selected and is purely fuel for your body. The best advice I have for losing weight and trying to tone, at least for me, is: drink lots of water, eat primarily fruits and veggies, sleep, lift weights, and get outdoors (uneven terrain) for cardio/walks. If someone wants to just lose weight, that is about portion control. I personally haven't been in a place where all I wanted to do was lose weight, so I would suggest those looking to lose to contact people like Tricia Kelly of Beyond Fit in Austin, Texas, or Dani Taylor of veganproteins.com. Both of these women have lost incredible amounts of weight, are vegan, are knowledgeable, and are so sweet and inspiring.
Maintaining weight - For me, maintaining my weight is the easiest of these three - gaining muscle, losing weight, or maintaining. I have maintained my weight for the past three+ years by eating consistently mostly clean, plant-based foods, lifting weight 4-6 days a week, drinking plenty of water, and trying to get the same amount of sleep on average every night. To be honest it is actually pretty difficult for me to gain or lose more than 5-7lbs or so, which can be really frustrating when it comes to competing and so forth.  
Improving metabolism - Lift weights, build muscle, water and sleep! Do I sound a bit redundant? GOOD! These are the main keys to a healthy body. The more muscle we have the more our bodies use the fuel (food) we give it, and in turn we are less likely to store it (fat). This is why we often hear trainers summarize the science behind it all with: muscle burns fat, because really that is what a more muscular body does. So, for me, the more muscle I put on by lifting heavier, the hungrier I am.
Toning up - Toning comes from eating clean, but not necessarily a super strict (no sweets ever, etc) diet combined with consistent workouts. When I first started working out, I didn't really know much about health or fitness. So, I hopped online and found women who, at that time, had more muscle than me. A lot of what I read said: light weights, high repetition, water, sleep, and clean food. That's what I did. I lost body fat and gained some muscle tone, which was what I was going for. What did my clean eating consist of? A lot of veggies and fruit for snacks, protein & veggies with 1/2 the amount of potatoes or rice as usual, etc. That worked for me for toning. My workouts were minimal then, pretty light weights for arms and legs, really high reps, and 20-30 min of cardio after. Though, again, I wasn't necessarily trying to lose weight, I just wanted to tone at that time.
 
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
I wear it most days via veganbodybuilding.com sweatshirts, tees, and shorts, or SunWarrior, veganproteins.com, Plant Fusion, Plant Built, or Herbivore tees and tanks, and I promote it through social media or online through veganbodybuilding.com, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as my personal website. I live, breathe, eat, and speak veganism every day. For me, this is so much more than a diet, it's about promoting a more Jainism lifestyle - a lifestyle of honesty, compassion, and love - I want to share that with others and hopefully leave this world a much better place than I found it.

How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
My brief bio is on Vegan Body Building & VGirls VGuys. Also, for following along, I try to post at least once a day on Facebook on my personal page, Vegan Fitness Model Mindy, as well as my new page, Vegan Female Health, and am pretty active on the Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness group page on Facebook as well. And, on Twitter and Instagram too, which are both under Mindy Vegan (@Mindyvegan)  I hope to see you there.

 

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