Viva La Vegan!

Esther Oakley took three years to transition to a full vegan lifestyle and understands the challenges new vegans encounter when they first start down this amazing path. She is now a Vegan Lifestyle Coach and plant-based nutritionist, offering personalized coaching for individuals looking to go vegan or merely incorporate some meatless meals and learn about eating healthier. She also offers menu consultation services, helping restaurants add meatless items to their menus to make more restaurants accessible for everyone.  

Esther works and blogs at A,B,C,Vegan, where she helps new vegans, experienced vegans, and the merely curious explore this wonderful new world, giving inspiration, motivation, and community for a vegan lifestyle. She teaches the hows (recipes), the whys (health and compassion for animals), the whats (ingredients), and anything else readers want to see. Esther is a graduate of the Main Street Vegan Academy, a self-taught chef, and soon to be graduate of the eCornell certification program in plant-based nutrition, plus has her Master’s degree in teaching.


Why Vegan?
I'm vegan because now that I know all of the information about the health benefits, disease prevention, and animal compassion, it's impossible to ignore.  
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I did it as an experiment over 4 years ago after reading about the health benefits, and I never stopped. The more I learned and the more I saw how my body felt on this diet, the more I wanted to keep going.  
How long have you been vegan?
Over 4 years
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
Now I feel like I'm truly living for the first time ever. My body has more energy and I want to do more. I've become an athlete in at least 6 different activities. I was never an athlete before in my life. On the mental side of things, the compassion towards animals extends to compassion to people, and I feel like my mind is much more at peace than ever before.  
What does veganism mean to you?
I think it comes down to health - both physical and mental. My body feels wonderful now, and I also know that I am living in a way that will keep my healthy for a long time to come. Mentally I feel that I am doing the best I can to live in harmony with every other being on the planet, and that allows for a much more calm, even, steady approach to life.  
What sort of training do you do?
Depends what new activity I've gotten involved in. I do strength and cardio, through rock climbing, pole dancing, triathlons (swimming, biking, running), and yoga. I also did a program recently that focused on high intensity training, through bodyweight exercises and cardio.  
How often do you (need to) train?
After the program I did recently, I try to do some form of training 6 out of 7 days a week.  
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
Not yet, though I hope to offer pole dance lessons soon, and to teach at a pole studio.  

I do however offer Vegan Lifestyle Coaching, and exercise is absolutely a component of the coaching program. I work on helping others eat healthier, whether that means going fully vegan or just exploring the Meatless Monday idea. I work with where people are and where they want to go.    
What sports do you play?
See above.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
I think it's two-fold. 1. That we're not healthy, that we're weak, etc. I address this by living through example. I'm stronger and healthier than ever, and people see that. They see that I can climb walls and flip upside-down on the pole and that my diet is only helping me build strength - certainly not hindering me.  
2. That the food is terrible. Again, addressed by living through example. I bring wonderful dishes to any gathering I attend, and have people who know that anything I bring is just going to be good. I even have one friend who has told me she would go vegan if I would be her personal chef.
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
I am extraordinarily lucky to be blessed with incredibly supportive family and friends.  They may not have been convinced themselves (yet), but everyone in my life goes out of their way to make sure there's always vegan food available, to bring vegan food when they come to my house, etc. They love what I make and food is never an issue. That being said, I have people who question the idea, who challenge me on it, but it's never in a critical way, just in a learning-from-each-other way, and I value their input highly. Keeps me learning, keeps me thinking.  
Who or what motivates you?
Any time I have a moment of craving based on some nostalgic memory or good smell wafting by, I'm motivated to stick with it by everything I've learned about compassion for animals and meat, dairy, and egg industries.  
Food & Supplements
What foods give you the most energy?
Greens. Leafy greens, and my green smoothie. It's amazing how much I start craving greens when I'm eating them on a regular basis.  
Do you take any supplements?
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - Work at it, and track your progress.  We live in a culture where we want immediate results, and that doesn't happen here. It takes time to build up muscle, and you might not notice the small incremental changes - but when you suddenly can do 10 pushups no sweat when 4 weeks prior you couldn't do a single one - that resonates, that means something.  And then it builds on itself, to keep you going for the next milestone.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
Leading by example. Being passionate about what I believe in, while not being pushy. If people get me started talking about veganism or my different exercise activities, they can't get me to shut up! I try to be conscious of where are other people are at, and respect that we all started out as not vegan, so everyone's on their own journey. 
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
Find me at A,B,C,Vegan, on FaceBook and Twitter. Check out the my blog, comment, share, and contact me if you're interested in coaching. I would love to help anyone out there begin to explore, get more committed, learn how to cook better - whatever your personal need is, I'm here to help.
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