Bill Norton is an Australian Fitness Instructor, CrossFit Coach and animal rights advocate and activist. Passionate about a vegan lifestyle for ethical, environmental and health benefits, he is enthusiastic about helping people to get the most out of themselves. He believes education and intestinal fortitude are key to staying in great shape and being happy. He’s had the privilege to have been educated, coached and trained alongside some of Melbourne and Perth’s best and desires to pass on what he’s learnt to others.
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
Ironically I grew up on a hobby farm and we lived primarily off the land - we grew fruits and vegetables and raised sheep, cows and poultry. I also took part in the slaughter of these animals, so I was under no illusion as to where my food came from. It wasn’t until I moved in with a vegan in Melbourne did I make the connection and begin to rationalise ethics on an equal level. I started doing some soul searching and was vegetarian for three weeks, watched the documentary “Earthlings” and become vegan overnight. I could no longer participate in a system that exploits the innocent.
How long have you been vegan?
Since August 2013.
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
Been able to look myself in the mirror with a clear conscience, giving me a sense of purpose, and feeling great in the process.
What does veganism mean to you?
Standing up for what is right. Not condoning the unnecessary imprisonment, torment and murder of other living beings (human and non-human alike). This too takes into consideration the environment, since the main cause of environmental destruction is caused through animal agriculture. Also though our health and wellbeing, there are no known diseases caused from a vegan lifestyle! Veganism encompasses all sentient life and eliminates speciesism, racism, sexism and homophobia, for good.
What sort of training do you do?
I mainly follow the CrossFit methodologies whilst also incorporating strength, gymnastics and Olympic lifting disciplines.
How often do you (need to) train?
I train 5 to 6 days a week.
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
I’m a qualified Fitness Instructor and CrossFit Coach, I take classes at CrossFit Artax
in Perth, Western Australia.
What sports do you play?
CrossFit, that’s my jam! I enter in local competitions and I’m currently competing in the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, a worldwide event where people from all around the world challenge themselves to five workouts over five weeks to test their fitness. Other than that I enjoy going for a run every other weekend.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
The biggest misconception is that vegans are undernourished and are physically at a disadvantage. However the truth is quite the opposite. I’ve personally never felt better, I’m stronger, faster, and recover much sooner than I ever used to. I address this by being the exception, breaking the stereotypes and setting a good example.
What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
I don’t get sick. Better recovery time between workouts and I feel lighter.
What is your biggest challenge?
Promoting veganism in a meat, dairy and egg dominant industry that is bombarded with clever, aggressive and misleading marketing that has virtually unlimited resources and funding. The important thing is that I keep true to myself and continually improving in the way of performance and educating others along the way. Other than that, the only challenges I have are the ones I set for myself.
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Some are and some are not, that’s the way life is. For every hater, there’s someone else who thinks you’re a freaking inspiration.
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
At first they couldn’t understand why and thought it was a phase, but are supportive and respectful of my decision to live a cruelty free 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?
“You’re a vegan!?” “What do you eat?” and the classic “Where do you get your protein from?” There is a lot of false and misleading information about vegan nutrition and anyone who asks me about the topic, I’m more than happy to inform and educate them in a way that’s not forceful or intimidating, and leaves people asking more.
Who or what motivates you?
I’m motivated by doing what is right through a virtuous lifestyle, by trusting myself, breaking the rules (stereotypes), not being afraid to fail, ignoring the naysayers, doing my best and giving back through education and my actions.
In regards to who motivates me, Billy Simmonds, Joel Kirkilis, Ed Bauer, Frank Medrano, Patrik Baboumian, Brendan Brazier, Mike Tyson and the PlantBuilt Team,
basically anyone in any form of athletic disciple that promotes a cruelty free lifestyle. Also people who openly create awareness of speciesism such as, Gary Yourofsky, Dr. Richard Oppenlander, Dr. Melanie Joy, Capt Paul Watson, Philip Wollen, Gary L. Francione, Will Potter, Bill Clinton and Howard Lyman, just to name a few.
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - Rolled Oats with mixed berries, seeds and grains, Maple Crunch from Freedom Foods and soymilk. Sometimes peanut butter and vegemite on toast, and occasionally pancakes.
Lunch - I don’t usually eat lunch, if I do it’s at a vegan café such as Loving Hut.
Dinner - This varies, as it’s my main meal of the day so I like to get creative at times. This can range from a simple tofu, spinach, tomato, carrot, and avocado wrap; to a stir-fry or a full out mushroom pasta dish filled with beans, fruits and veggies. All depends on what I’ve got in the kitchen and what I’m in the mood for.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - Almonds, fruit, Clif Bars, Pringles and dairy free ice cream.
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Tofu, peanut butter, beans and almonds.
Calcium - Leafy greens such as kale and spinach, almond milk and almonds.
Iron - Leafy greens, beans, grains and almonds - I like almonds.
What foods give you the most energy?
Fruit and almonds.
Do you take any supplements?
Flaxseed oil with breakfast, Prana ON protein powder (with almond milk), Clean Machine’s BCAA’s and Cell Block 80 on occasion.
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - Lifting big, eating well and sleeping lots.
Losing weight - The key is high intensity interval training, keep it constant, keep it varied, keep it functional but keep it fun, or you won’t keep it up.
Maintaining weight - Need to find the balance between the training you’re doing or not doing and the amount of food you consume.
Improving metabolism - Train mean, eat clean and get lean! Sleep and drink plenty of water.
Toning up - Same as above.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
By being the example, the standard you walk by is the standard you accept. By not taking part in any form of animal cruelty and performing well in the gym creates controversy, people are more interested in a topic when they ask the questions themselves.
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
Start by questioning everything i.e. Where does my food come from? Why are cows, sheep, pigs, poultry and fish considered edible, and all the other millions of species considered inedible? Why is it acceptable to kill and eat a chicken and not a cat? Why do we drink cow’s milk instead of chimpanzee milk? More importantly why do we never ask ourselves why to begin with? Once you start asking these questions you begin to think logically and your perception on veganism changes. Then education is key, find the answers to these questions. The internet is a good resource however not all sites are reliable. There are heaps of documentaries filled with facts and credible sources, some good ones are: Speciesism The Movie, Lucent (Aussie made), Earthlings and Cowspiracy. Get involved with your local vegan movement group, live by example and when asked about veganism, be patient and coherent. Ignore the naysayers and be the vegan that gives vegans a good name.
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