Viva La Vegan!
Sandra Lawson is a Rabbinical student, a sociologist, a weight lifter, bike commuter and a new lover of trail running and a vegan. She is passionate about fitness and Judaism and calls them the two loves of her life. She is the first African-American student accepted at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Rabbinical Program, and the first black queer student accepted at any rabbinical school. She really wants to make the world a better place and make the world a better place for Jews of color, queer Jews and all Jews.
Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
So first of all, I am 44 years old and I started lifting weights when I was 18, and have been lifting consistently since I was 21. In my 20s I became a power-lifter, and was able to pack on a ton of muscle and gain a lot of strength - often out-lifting a lot of men that I knew.

In my mid-20s, I became a vegetarian and a Personal Trainer, and in my 30s, some friends persuaded me to enter my first bodybuilding competition. None of us knew anything about being a vegetarian and competing as bodybuilders. There was some information out there but not a lot, and all of my friends and fellow bodybuilders were all omnivores and so I acquiesced and started eating fish. I cannot even begin to tell you how much fish (mostly Tuna) and how many egg whites I ate for that first competition.

Well, needless to say I got very bored with that diet and could not eat it any more of it. As my love of the sport of bodybuilding grew, so did my meat consumption and I threw out my vegetarian diet completely. I stopped bodybuilding to go to graduate school but continued to lift and eat meat. I continued my weightlifting regimen and working as a personal trainer and over the course of a few years my healthy diet deteriorated and I gained 40 pounds. I knew I needed a change and I felt like crap. I wanted to go back to being a vegetarian but for some reason I didn’t.

Then one day in February 2009, I saw Rip Esselstyn on the Today Show and that changed my life. On the show, Esselstyn talked about being vegan and eating a strong plant-based diet and offered a 28-day challenge to try the vegan diet. I didn’t have any serious plans to be a vegan, I just wanted to follow his plan for 30 days and get back on track to at least being a Vegetarian. From February to May or June, I dropped 30 pounds and eventually lost over 40 pounds and I became a committed vegan. Although I became a vegan for vanity reasons, and health, I have since stayed a vegan for ethical, environmental and religious reasons.

How long have you been vegan?
Over 5 years.

What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
My health, my energy, I also feel more compassionate.

What does veganism mean to you?
Veganism is my life.

What sort of training do you do?
I lift weights, cycle and run on trails.

How often do you (need to) train?
I lift weights about 4 to 5 times a week, run on the trails several times a week. Cycling is more like bike commuting.

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?

What sports do you play?
Not currently playing any sports.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?

I think the biggest misconceptions are that vegans are weak and we don't get enough protein. I try to educate people about how muscle is created and that all food contains protein, and by eating a variety of food loaded with nutrients, I am getting what my body needs - including enough protein.

What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
My strength is my strength. I am proving that one does not need to eat animals or animal by-products to be strong and athletic.

What is your biggest challenge?
Can't think of one.

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?

Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?

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?

The biggest question I get is, “How do you get your protein?” My answer depends on how the person asked the question. If they are sincere, I will be sincere in my answer.  

Who or what motivates you?
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:

Breakfast – Fruit.
Lunch - Mostly fruit but maybe a salad.
Dinner - Mostly salad or it could be something else.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - Love vegan pizza.
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Spinach, kale, broccoli, beans.
Calcium - Same as above.
Iron - Same as above.
What foods give you the most energy?
Dates and bananas.

Do you take any supplements?
What is your top tip for:

Gaining muscle - Lift weights
Losing weight - Eat plants and lots of them and exercise.
Maintaining weight - Eat plants and lots of them and exercise.
Improving metabolism - Eat plants and exercise.
Toning up – Exercise.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
Not sure if I am promoting veganism. People who know me, they know that I am a vegan. I think I provide a good example of how to be fit and without eating animals.

How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
They can contact me through my website, or on Twitter.
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