VHf: When and why did you go vegan?
JA: 18 years ago, long before all the alternative vegan foods and restaurants that are in existence now! First, I learned about animal experimentation, which prompted me to go cruelty-free with all my bath/body/ household products. This led me into the animal rights world and I began doing fur protests. Simultaneously I was eliminating dairy products from my diet because of bad sinus allergies. But, I was still a big meat eater. I mean, we’re talking pork, pork, pork. Beef. chicken. Fish. It wasn’t until I was doing a fur protest that afterwards some people were going to get something to eat and asked where I was going and I said “McDonalds”. I seriously had not made the connection. This stranger, and fellow fur protester, gracefully explained to me the hypocrisy of doing a fur protest and then going to eat at McDonald’s. That was the moment that it finally hit me. I went full vegetarian within a matter of weeks and because I was already off of dairy, going vegan was not that much more of a stretch. To this day, I still have no idea who that person was that day, but I’m forever grateful for their poise and tact in their approach with me. Had they yelled in my face it may have had a different outcome. They set the example for how I present my vegan beliefs to this day.
VHf: What are the best things about it?
JA: It’s a win/win/win. A win for the animals, a win for the environment and a win for your health.
VHf: Your blood type is O, which accord- ing to the “blood type diet” means that you should be a meat eater. As someone who defies their theories, what are your thoughts on this silly “diet” trend?
JA: I was so excited when I found out I was ‘o’ and could legitimately put that theory to shame! I am living proof that a person with my blood type can not only survive on a plant-based diet, but thrive for 18 years!
VHF: You have recently disclosed a shocking secret to us here at VHF—your age. You started surfing in your 30s and won a championship at 40, making it to the USA Surfing Championships, placing 4th against 20 year olds! And recently you’ve picked up the hobby of competing in triathlons! Please tell us your secret to staying, looking, and apparently feeling, so young!
JA: Thank you! I credit my vegan diet for so much of my energy and youthfulness! I also believe that rest/sleep and good hydration also play an important role. And if I can reveal a beauty secret. Aubrey organics skin care products are AMAZING! They have not only rejuvenated my skin over the years, but I feel have even slowed down the aging process.
VHf: What would you say to readers who would like to be more athletic, but think that they are too old to get started?
JA: That it is never too late! I took up surfing late in life, and now swimming, biking and running for triathlons. Most people assume since I was a competitive surfer that I was automatically a good swimmer—not true, especially in open water! So, I enrolled in a swim class at my local YMCA. I did that for 6 weeks and then signed up again—for the same class! People thought I was crazy, but I was determined to learn as much as I could before going forward. now I feel confident in the pool as well as in open water. Running was the biggest challenge for me because
I didn’t trust my knees. But I worked on strengthening the muscles around them (even now I do not run very fast). I do get out there at least a few days a week. If my knees start to ache, I walk. If I’m feeling strong, I’ll go further. My motto is: always listen to your body. And again, so much of it goes back to rest. Your body will let you know when you need to take a break. If you listen, you will accomplish more in the long run.
You have now also achieved a great deal as a professional violinist! You are such an inspiration to people who have all sorts of dreams, from being a champion surfer or being a professional musician. What is your philosophy about following your dreams?
JA: ALWAYS follow your dreams. My mom instilled in me at a very young age to believe in myself, to pursue my passions, and that even if some of my ideas weren’t the best, that I would learn from my mistakes (which I still make). That mentality contributed greatly to my determination today.
I’d have to say my philosophy is to always follow your dreams, because even if you don’t realize the exact dream you’re pursuing, the path will still lead you somewhere great, guaranteed.
VHF: What have been your biggest challenges in following your goals and how have you overcome them?
JA: Patience! When I get an idea or set a goal, I want it to happen immediately! But I’ve learned over time and from experience that many of my goals and dreams have been realized from what I like to call “planting seeds” and then cultivating those seeds over time (sometime years). Some will sprout, some may need more nurturing and some may never take root, but as long as you are planting seeds, in time you will start to see a garden grow!
What’s your favorite part of competing in triathlons?
JA: My favorite part is the swim since I love being in the water! It’s a comforting environment for me and I actually do a lot of thinking, even while trying to dodge other swimmers’ legs and arms!
What advice would you give readers who are considering getting started in triathlons?
JA: This is a great question since I am still always learning about triathlons. It is a tricky field since it’s not just swimming or biking or running. It’s about ALL three, along with the right gear for all three. And transitions are just as important. If you aren’t set up correctly in transitions, you can lose valuable time. At least if my transitions are set up correctly, I can go into the next leg of the tri with confidence. I would suggest watching tutorial videos on everything triathlon-related and reading as much as you can about them. Don’t be embarrassed to go into bike, swim and run shops and ask questions. You will find that the staff are usually happy to share their expertise with you, even if you aren’t buying anything at the moment. Sometimes they even offer free clinics. And there are tri-clubs online that you can join and ask questions. People there are always excited to help you learn. And to ease race day anxiety, register and pick up your packet prior to the big day. Check out the course and arrive early to set up your transitions. All of this can be a lot to take in all at once, so give yourself time to absorb and process it all. The good news is that there are different distance tris and ones that are more beginner-friendly. Start out with something reasonable, and as you get more experienced, increase distances from there.
VHF: How do your vegan diet choices affect you as a whole?
JA: I am convinced that my vegan lifestyle has much to do with my musical and fitness accomplishments. Being vegan keeps me healthy and gives me mental clarity. Being healthy and clear-headed gives me confidence. Confidence Gives me the strength to pursue my goals and dreams. Going to bed at the end of the day knowing that my food choices did not cause suffering to countless innocent animals allows me to sleep at night with a peaceful feeling that enables me to wake up refreshed and ready to seize the next day!
(Amazing Photos by Randy Wright)
Hi Jennifer i really enjoyed your article about the benefits of your vegan lifestyle. Padraig O’Dubhlaoidh here, an Irish violinmaker working in Malvern U.K. and currently celebrating Veganuary with the launch of my Vegan Society certified, handmade vegan violins. the first in the world. See http://www.veganviolins.com I’m so proud to be able to offer a classic italian quality violin with no animal exploitation, to ethical musicians. Society is changing, bit by bit and perhaps in the future it will be the non vegan products that require warning labels. Happy Veganuary, Padraig.