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Interview with Ruth Heidrich: Vegan Triathlete & Author

Ruth Heidrich is a six-time Ironman Triathlete, named one of the “Ten Fittest Women in North America”, holder of a World Fitness Record at the famed Cooper Clinic, 67 marathons including Boston, New York, and Moscow, co-host of “Healing & You” radio show, lifelong runner and author of “A Race for Life”, “CHEF”, and “Senior Fitness.”
Ruth_Heidrich
Why Vegan?  
After a diagnosis of breast cancer, I enrolled in a clinical research study to determine the effect of a low-fat vegan diet on my cancer. It was this or chemotherapy and radiation and a vegan diet seemed the better alternative for a devout coward!
 
How and why did you decide to become a vegan? 
After only a few days on the diet and seeing all the other advantages, I realized that this was the diet I should have been on all along.
 
How long have you been vegan? 
It’s now been over 30 years, since 1982.
 
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan? 
Where to begin? The vegan diet reversed my cancer, got my high cholesterol down to normal, reversed my arthritis and got me off the drug prescribed for that, got me un-constipated for the first time in my life, gave me the strength and energy to do the Ironman Triathlon.
 
What does veganism mean to you? 
It is much more than a diet. It’s a philosophy of life that embodies abundant health for not just me but for the animals and the planet. It embraces compassion, awareness, sensitivity, and a joie de vivre!
 
Training  
What sort of training do you do? 
Running, cycling, swimming, and weight-lifting. Having struggled to reach an Ironman fitness level, I decided I would never let training go. 
 
How often do you (need to) train? 
I train 2-3 hours daily with at least an hour on the bike and an hour running with alternating days of swimming and weights.
 
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others? 
On my website, www.RuthHeidrich.com, there is an “Ask Dr. Ruth” box where I answer questions people have on both nutrition and training.
 
What sports do you play? 
Besides running, cycling, and swimming, I enjoy table tennis and hiking.
 
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this? 
That vegans are weak, scrawny, and couldn’t be very healthy from lack of protein. Addressing this is a challenge due to the pervasiveness of misinformation from advertising of products touting protein from animal products. I try to educate people through my four books. A Race For Life - how I went from being a cancer patient to a six-time Ironman Triathlete; CHEF - my cook/raw e-book covering all I think people need to know about nutrition; Senior Fitness - covers both the diet and exercise components leading to the top ten killers of people and how to reverse them; and Lifelong Running, which demolishes myths that surround running and how it is suitable for most every person, anytime, anywhere.
 
What are your strengths as a vegan athlete? 
Some people call me “disciplined” in my training but I call it “having fun.”
 
What is your biggest challenge? 
Aging! Although I can slow down some of the indicators of aging such as muscle and bone loss, I haven’t yet figured out how to stop them completely.
 
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not? 
I think we’re in such a minority that the answer has to be “no.”
 
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle? 
Although I generally get respect for having won over 1,000 gold medals in the years after going vegan, most of my family and friends don’t seem to be able to see themselves doing this.
 
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? 
It is “Where do you get your protein?” Even after all these years of trying to get the message out that ALL plants have protein, it’s still the most common question I hear. Then, of course, the second-most common question, “Where do you get your calcium if you don’t drink milk?” I tell them that leafy greens have abundant protein AND calcium!
 
Who or what motivates you? 
A passion and a mission! I enjoy keeping on top of the latest research on nutrition and aging.
 
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast  A large bed of leafy greens with mango and banana.
Lunch  A carrot or two and an apple
Dinner  Another large bed of leafy greens with a tomato, bell pepper, broccoli, dressed with salsa, curry, and mustard. 
Dessert is a large bowl of blueberries, 9-10 dried plums, a handful of walnuts.  I also add about an inch of finely sliced fresh ginger to all my meals for a nice, tangy zing!
 
What is your favourite source of:
Protein  Leafy greens
Calcium  Leafy greens
Iron  Leafy greens!
 
What foods give you the most energy? 
All plant foods are high in carbohydrates, which are converted to glucose to glycogen - the fuel for our muscles. For the brain, glucose is the only fuel that passes through the blood-brain barrier.
 
Do you take any supplements? 
Only B12.
 
Advice
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle  Find a sport you love and do it often, preferably daily.
Losing weight  In my e-book, CHEF, I suggest “a green fast” for rapid, healthy, short-term weight loss.
Maintaining weight  In general, our appetites tell us how much we need to eat to match our caloric expenditure as long as we are eating a healthy, whole-food diet.
Improving metabolism  Definitely exercise! Our bodies are meant to move! We die if we don’t!
Toning up  Again, exercise!
 
How do you promote veganism in your daily life? 
By taking whatever opportunities arise to show how veganism helps solve whatever problem is under discussion whether it’s our health, our treatment of our fellow Earth inhabitants (animals), or any of the environmental problems coming up in the news of the day.
 
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do? 
First, get educated. The more knowledgeable we are in what we see as the problems, the better able we are to make a difference in people’s lives. This includes areas such as the sky-rocketing rates of obesity, health-care (disease-care) costs threatening to bankrupt us, or the tendency for our medical system to turn to pharmaceuticals – “a pill for every ill” kind of mentality which now arguably is the third most frequently cited cause of death. With a little more help, we can do better!
 
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