BECOMING VEGAN: MEET TONI MICHELLE
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Toni Michelle introduces herself as a 43-year-old wife and step mum to two beautiful children. She is a lover of all things health and fitness related, from good clean plant-based foods to a lifestyle full of activity in the great outdoors.
“Up at 5 am and in the gym, weight training most days, before heading to the office, then finishing off the day with some mental clearing cardio and an afternoon of “me time”. I just adore animals and I am an advocate of animal welfare. I love the outdoors and spend as much time as possible either in the hinterland rainforest or at the beach in the sand”, she tells us.
Toni works as a national sales and marketing manager for a food manufacturer but when she is not in ‘that’ office, she is at her home office, helping people transition their health through plant-based living and diet and lifestyle modification. If you’re interested, visit her website.
In this exclusive interview, the vegan bodybuilder opens up about the benefits of a plant-based diet and how she encourages veganism in her daily life.
What’s your motto?
Live by example so that others may follow your lead, and always smile at strangers…you never know who might need that human connection.
When and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I chose to switch to veganism after a lot of investigation in the year 2019 into where food comes from, how it affects the body and what the animal agriculture industry is doing to the planet. A three-pronged investigation – health, planet, and animals. That decision was cemented quite quickly, and I made the switch overnight and without a transition period – as did my husband also.
What have you found the biggest benefits to be?
There are so many benefits from stronger nails and healthier hair to clearer, whiter eyes and a leaner body. All my gut inflammation completely disappeared along with fluid retention and many food insensitivities. Living a whole food, plant-based vegan diet is also a lot cheaper.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
People have been led to believe, through media, that they must consume milk for its calcium and animal meat for its ‘complete’ protein. Yet, plant-based kinds of milk can provide just as much and more calcium, plus additional vitamins and minerals, without harmful hormones. Legumes, tofu, grains, Nutritional yeast, tempeh and seaweeds can all provide protein in abundance, again without the harmful heme iron and hormones found in meat – yet abundant in vitamins and minerals. A complete protein is easy to obtain when you eat a ‘balanced’ whole food plant-based diet.
What role plays social media in your lifestyle?
Social media is a wonderful tool to spread the word of good health, in a world of bad-health misconception. Social media allows like-minded people to also find strength in their beliefs and convictions and as the vegan ‘change’ gains more and more momentum, it allows our voices to be heard across the mainstream population. Vegan influencers have a powerful voice on social media and the younger generation especially are heeding the words of their peers and making better choices for their health, the animals, and our planet.
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?
Most people ask, ‘what do you eat?’ It appears to be a belief that a vegan diet consists of bland legumes, plain tofu, salads and vegetables. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A vegan diet consists of the colors of the rainbow, no fruit or vegetable is off-limits. There is no need to be afraid of carbs, in fact, a vegan diet exists highly on carbs. The fats are just glorious, I mean who doesn’t love avocado, nuts, peanut butter and coconut? Spices are certainly my friend when it comes to creativity in the kitchen too. I use spices from all over the world and my food is never, ever bland or tasteless.
Do you take any supplements?
I take a B12 oral spray daily. B12 used to be plentiful from the microbes in the dirt where the plants were grown that we eat. Today, through over-farming and animal agriculture, the soils have been depleted of this microbe, and hence, supplementation is required on a vegan diet, and should also be consumed in many instances on non-vegan diets. Many people also believe they must eat meat to get their vitamin B12 – alas, animals are ‘fed’ B12 also…so why eat the meat when you can just take a supplement yourself.
How do you encourage veganism in your daily life?
I post on my social media pages daily about the delicious meals that I create, and I love sharing those recipes. I am often asked, and almost daily, by strangers or work colleagues about my diet and the food I eat, and I always take the time to share my knowledge with them so that they too can create the change. I also have a website dedicated to plant-based health where I offer advice and recipes to others wanting to make a change to their dietary and health habits.
What are your thoughts on what’s next for veganism?
I see veganism becoming more and more mainstream. With people becoming more aware of the impacts of eating meat and dairy on their health plus the issues created by animal agriculture, it is only a matter of time. Seeing big food corporations also adding plant-based food to their portfolio of products also shows that the consumers are seeking change.
Your favourite vegan recipe.
My favorite would have to be my vegan nachos. It is a super healthy recipe that uses oven-baked potato wedges in place of corn chips and red kidney beans in a spicy salsa to replace where most people would use mince meat. It is always topped with fresh avocado, capsicum, tomatoes and fresh herbs…oh and nooch too (Nutritional yeast).
Are abs sculpted in the kitchen?
Too right they are. You are what you eat, and you can never out-train a bad diet.
What sort of training do you do?
I start my days in the gym. Weight-bearing exercises consisting of a lower-body day, upper body day, Wednesday rest day, lower body day, upper body day, whole body day, then a Sunday complete rest day. My workouts tend to run for 45 minutes and my rest breaks between sets tend to be 60 seconds. I love to keep my heart rate elevated for the period I am in the gym. When it comes to cardio, I love to mix it up. At home, I have a spin bike and a treadmill. On weekends I love to hike in the hinterland on the hundreds of bush trails that surround us, or head to the beach for some fun in the ocean and on the sand. One of my favorite past times is also rollerblading and cycling with the family.
How do you want you to help humanity forward?
The only way is to make ethical choices. One of the easiest ways is to begin with, our diet. If we, as a human race, chose to eat plant-based, we would not have world hunger, we would have better health and a better quality of life. Our planet would finally be able to heal from the over-farming, overfishing, the pollution of the environment through the overuse of chemicals, antibiotics and commercial practices…
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