Viva La Vegan!
Emily Segal is a vegan nutrition coach, owner and founder of Triumph Wellness, an International Nutrition Coaching Practice. She lives in Israel but works with clients all over the world via phone and Skype. Emily works with all types of eaters, specializing in permanent weight loss without restrictive diets or dietary dogma, as well as Emotional Eating, Sugar Addiction and overall healthy habit change. She healed her own binge-eating disorder and sugar addiction, and has maintained a 70 lbs weight loss and been at peace with food for 13 years.
Emily_Segal
 
Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I became vegetarian at age 16 because I didn't want to contribute to animal suffering and death.  I waffled a bit through college and early adulthood, though. I also knew that dairy and eggs were ethically problematic but didn't know how I could possibly live without them. I mean I used to think, “What can I eat?” In 2009, after listening to a podcast by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, I finally felt ready to give veganism a try. I did a 100-day vegan challenge on my blog, knowing that the accountability to my readers would keep me committed. It did, and I have been happily vegan ever since.

How long have you been vegan?
Over 5 years.
 
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
Mostly my mental health. I felt guilty about eating eggs and dairy before. Now I feel aligned with my ethics and beliefs, which just feels awesome right down to my soul. I also experience better energy and faster athletic recovery times. I ended up training for and running my first full marathon the year I went vegan, at the age of 45. My health was good before veganism, but became dramatically better! My cholesterol went from 200 to 140, my blood sugar went from 100 to 85 and my triglycerides went from 150 to 50! Those are the changes just from dropping eggs and dairy.

What does veganism mean to you?
Animals are free to live their own lives, not be used, enslaved, impregnated or slaughtered by humans.

Training
What sort of training do you do?
Until September 2013, I was mainly a long-distance runner. In September of last year though, I added weight training and slowly cut back on my running distances.
 
How often do you (need to) train?
6 days a week.

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
No, I'm not a trainer.

What sports do you play?
I consider myself an all around athlete – I include training for strength, flexibility, balance, agility and speed. I run, swim, bike, hike, do several kinds of dance, lift weights, do plyometric drills - the more varied, the better.

Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
People think that veganism is a diet that we adopt to lose weight or feel healthier. For me, it had nothing to do with those things, although they were happy side effects. Also, people tend to not want to think about their choices causing suffering and pain, so they throw insults at vegans that we are angry and judgemental, have eating disorders, survive on lettuce, whatever. It's just a reflection of their own discomfort with their own behavior. I used to feel the same way, so I try to be understanding and meet people where they are.

What are your strengths as a vegan athlete?
Faster recovery times between workouts, which allows me to train more with less soreness and injury. Better energy, enthusiasm, and mental outlook because I am excited about my lifestyle choices.

What is your biggest challenge?
There are people I love and admire, including people in my immediate family, who eat animals and animal secretions. It is extremely hard for me to reconcile the passion and ethical obligations I feel for veganism with my love and respect for others who don't embrace these beliefs as well. I often feel like I am split in two.

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
I live in a country, Israel that is very supportive of veganism. Most RD's still advocate meat and dairy, but veganism is gaining ground. But one thing that bugs me about the training I received at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) is idea of bio-individuality, meaning that everyone needs to eat a diet that suits them personally. I agree with that, but not where it comes to veganism itself. Veganism is not a diet. Even if my health were worse on a vegan diet, I would still be vegan because it is my ethical operating system. So, it bothers me when I hear IIN-trained health coaches saying “I tried to be a vegan, but it was important to listen to my body and eat meat when I craved it.” Nope, it doesn't work that way! 
 
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Yes, I haven't had too many problems with that. I was even in a book group that changed all the meeting meals to vegan just for me - we shared some amazing vegan dishes!

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 must have so much self-discipline! I could never do that. What do you even have to eat?” I think most people think that a vegan diet means constraints, restrictions and sacrifice. Trust me, this requires zero self-discipline on my part. I couldn't eat a steak any sooner than I could eat my own dog. I usually turn it around and ask them if it looks like I'm starving - it doesn't.  I am not small. Then I tell them that I eat waffles, scrambles, sandwiches, burritos, nachos, pizza, burgers, vegan cheese, yogurt, and milk - basically all the same things that they eat.

Who or what motivates you?
Every vegan motivates me pretty much - the bloggers, the activists, the athletes, the animal rescuers, and the regular folk. Looking into the eyes of my dog or any other animal I happen across, and feeling peace there, is what really inspires me on a daily basis. 
 
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - Oatmeal, tofu scramble, or a Smoothie. Also, pancakes, muffins, or biscuits and gravy on special occasions.
Lunch - Bean Burritos, chickpea flour crust personal pizzas (see my recipe), sandwiches, huge salads with beans and grains mixed in, hummus bowls, falafel, etc.
Dinner - Pasta and noodle dishes, lentils and rice, soup, pizza, tacos, chimichangas, stir-fries.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - Fruit, smoothies, rice cakes and hummus.
 
What is your favourite source of:
Protein – Beans.
Calcium – Tofu.
Iron – Greens.
 
What foods give you the most energy?
Carbohydrates such as fresh fruit, dates, sweet potatoes, quinoa, oats, and buckwheat.
 
Do you take any supplements?
Yes. I take Vitamin D, EPA/DHA, B12, Calcium, Iron sometimes, and Glucosamine. I buy vegan versions of all of those. I also use vegan protein powder and BCAA's to support my workouts.

Advice
What is your top tip for:

Gaining muscle - Lift heavy weights - you too ladies! Put down those tiny plastic-coated pink things. Lifting heavy won't make you bulky, but it will make you awesome!

Losing weight - The simple answer is to use a site like IIFYM.com to figure out how many calories you should be eating, then track everything you eat.  (And lift heavy things. The more muscle you have, the easier it will be to maintain your weight without having to starve yourself.) For many people it is not this simple, which is where I come in. If you know what to do but can't seem to make yourself do it, it's time to call a health coach. It's amazing how much more powerful it is to have the support, guidance and accountability a coach provides.

Maintaining weight - Again, figure out where you need to be calorie wise and track for a while until you reach that balance. See above about building muscle. Also, a health coach can be helpful here too as well, as it is often limiting beliefs or screwy mental patterns we have that cause us to re-gain lost weight. A coach can help you clear those things.

Improving metabolism - Lift weights. Yeah, broken record.

Toning up – Weights - lift them!
Seriously though, I was Queen Cardio before, and although I managed to pretty much maintain a 70 lbs weight loss with just running, I was getting flabbier and having to eat less and less to not gain weight as I aged. When I started lifting weights, I was able to eat a ton more food and still slim down. Plus, I just feel so much better, stronger, healthier and even more energetic.
 
I work with a trainer, but for beginners, I recommend one of the free programs on bodybuilding.com, such as Erin Stern's or Jamie Eason's. They’re not vegan, so don't follow the food plans there. A vegan health coach can design you a meal plan. Honestly, I had to conquer my fears of the weight room, but everyone in there has been supportive and helpful. And I am not getting “bulky”!
 
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
I'm a health coach who works with all types of eaters, but I gently move my meat-eating clients towards a more plant-based diet. I also write a blog with delicious vegan recipes and teach cooking classes and have online programs.
 
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
I would love to have them join me on my Blog, FaceBook page, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest. I am also available to write guest articles or give guest talks or participate in nutrition events. I generally speak on vegan nutrition, weight loss and management, emotional eating, food addictions and positive habit change.
 
 
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