Renee is an amazing compassionate vegan vet, based on the Sunshine Coast and along with her business partner runs The Natural Vets in Forest Glen. She is a glowing picture of health and is another great example of someone who walks her talk, not just to her friends but also her clients and her 3 young children. If you live on the Sunshine coast you may even see Renee climbing a local mountain when she is not at the Vet practice.
How long have you been vegan?
Since my third child was born (in 2013) and she was getting colic from dairy in my diet, this gave me the motivation to kick dairy for good. But I had been vegan a number of years before that, and been progressively moving back in that direction ever since.
What made you decide to become vegan?
I first went vegan at university in 2000. I was studying my Bachelor of Veterinary Science, and was exposed to the dark realities of the meat and dairy industries. It was surprising how many people studying a degree where compassion for animals played a key role yet they didn’t connect the dots. I then ‘fell off the wagon’ a few years later when I was working for fellow Vets who raised their own animals on their property and killed them in a “humane” way, so I convinced myself that was okay. I started eating meat and eggs again, as we were living on a farm and had our own chickens, and soon after that dairy followed as I was able to buy Jersey milk products from a local farm that marketed themselves as more “ethical”.
A number of years later I attended a raw yoga retreat on Stradbroke Island with Kath Ford, and she introduced me to the raw vegan lifestyle. I was intrigued, and the more raw vegans I met, the more interested I became. These were the healthiest, most joyful, empathic and conscious people I had ever met! This was the beginning of the end of my standard diet beliefs. I started avidly reading every book I could get my hands on about the raw vegan diet, watched films like Earthlings and Forks Over Knives, and realised that the vegan diet is the only choice for the health not only of the individual but also for our fragile planet and the animals we share it with.
What differences have you noticed with your training or lifestyle?
I have more energy to exercise and I am more excited by exercise than ever before. I see fitness now as an integral component to overall health and well-being, and it is something I work hard to include in my schedule every day, one way or another.
Tell us about your chosen sport and training. What does it involve?
I have completed two endurance trail events – the first Blackall trail run in November 2014, where I hiked the 50km trail with my training partner, and then the Oxfam trailwalker in Brisbane in 2015, where I hiked the 55km trail as a team of 4. Hiking and running on trails in nature is incredibly nourishing and balancing for the soul, especially at sunrise. I am aiming to enter more ultra events and would like to be able to run 100km eventually. In the lead-up to an event a lot of my training is simply time spent on my feet on the trails, interspersed with days on my bike riding trails or hills to keep my legs strong.
More recently I have become interested in calisthenics and so I incorporate a lot of bodyweight workouts into my week now, balanced out by yoga 2-3 times a week. We now have a mini bar park in our backyard! It is simply a high bar, dip bars, and with some assisted weight bands and gloves I am good to go. I love the simplicity, and I love that we can be active doing chin ups or dips or other calisthenics exercises while the kids play around us. I think the kids seeing my husband and I active and prioritising fitness is a very important message to witness in this day and age.
How often do you train?
I do something everyday. In the lead up to the endurance events I was either walking or hiking or biking every day, with longer hikes (between 3-7 hours) on weekends. Now I either walk or run bush trails, or go mountain biking, or do my calisthenics workouts, or do yoga (either Ashtanga or Bikram), or some rebounding and core work. I am moving to the base of a mountain soon and will be able to go mountain running every morning now at sunrise!
I start every morning with three handstands, and some abdominal exercises or rebounding or the Madbarz 3-2-1 Cardio workout (a great way to warm up on a chilly morning!)
I have found being a mother to three young kids (currently 3, 5 and 7 years), and working full-time running my own business, I need daily exercise time preferably in nature to keep me grounded, balanced, focussed and sane!
Tell us about some of your achievements to date?
Completing the Blackall 50km, my first endurance event, having injured my knee quite badly 15km in.
Completing the Oxfam 55km with my fantastic team of girlfriends, and raising nearly $2000 to support Oxfam’s global charity efforts.
In April of this year I completed a 6-mountain challenge organised by MAB Personal Training and Adventures. We climbed 6 mountains on the Sunshine Coast in one day, and my husband Ben and I ran many sections of the mountains. It was Ben’s birthday on the day and what a fabulous way to celebrate his birthday together! Thanks to my vegan diet, there was not even a suggestion of the dreaded ‘DOMS’, which non-vegans find astonishing. Most people don’t realise it is even possible to climb 6 mountains in one day, yet alone have no muscle pain to show for it afterward. That’s what happens when you eat high-energy, hydrating and alkalising foods – no hydralyte required! It was a fabulous day and has inspired me to spend a lot more time climbing many more mountains.
How do family and friends react to your vegan lifestyle?
Most family and friends are very accepting, but some do find it challenging. My family do find it hard sharing social events with us, as we prioritise health and refuse to feed our kids junk food, but we manage. Most of our friends find it inspiring, and many have incorporated more vegan meals into their weekly meal rotation after seeing photos of the meals we eat looking so delicious and following our high-energy lifestyle.
How do you promote your vegan lifestyle?
I post photos on facebook regularly of the kinds of food we eat, such as smoothie bowls, or the kids’ lunchboxes, or delicious vegan dinners. I think people are inspired by food when it looks colourful, delicious and like something that would make them feel good.
I prefer to inspire in a quiet way, by proving this lifestyle is easy, achievable and makes you feel amazing. I am not one to go out and chalk pavements or hold up flash cards, I love that others are doing that to promote veganism but for me it is more about a consistent daily message. And when people ask me about my diet… well then I can’t stop talking!
What do you eat in a typical day?
Mostly fruit, some salad/greens, usually a cooked vegan dinner.
Breakfast is usually a fruit monomeal, or a well-combined fruit bowl, or smoothie bowl, or a smoothie on the run. Lunch is usually papaya, or a smoothie with lots of greens and some seeds and coconut. Snacks are nuts or sometimes bliss balls or some granola and coconut yoghurt. Dinner is usually a cooked vegan meal such as dhal and rice, or sushi, or rice paper rolls, or stir-fry, or a Buddha bowl, sometimes with some kimchi.
What is your favourite food or recipe?
Whole ripe raw tropical fruit. Papaya, chocolate sapote, dragonfruit, passionfruit, berries, lychees, mangoes. A simple meal of well-combined fruits topped with some shaved coconut is heaven to me.
Do you take any supplements?
I take a sublingual Vitamin B12 most days. Occasionally I will have a drop of iodine in water. I am currently taking an iron supplement a few days each week. I do put some green powders in my smoothies some days – barley grass, alfalfa grass, spirulina, chlorella. I am currently experimenting with a vegan protein powder while trying to build some more muscle, but it’s not something I think is necessary, it’s just that I have found one I like the taste of in my smoothie bowls, and I wanted to see if it made any difference.
What advice would you give to people thinking of going vegan?
Do it. Educate yourself, understand your motivation, connect with other vegans, and reap the benefits. Watch documentaries such as Earthlings and The Cove so that you can really connect with the compassion side of veganism, and Cowspiracy to understand the environmental destruction that goes with meat and dairy production. Follow people like Janette Murray-Wakelin to see what is possible on a vegan diet.
What events or other exciting things do you have planned in the next 12 months?
I am planning on running the Great Barrier Reef Marathon later this year, closely followed by another go at the Blackall challenge, aiming for the 100km this time round.
I also have a term’s pass to Bella Bliss Studio that I won as part of a recent fitness challenge, so I am planning to try out their sylks classes. I am fascinated with activities that get you upside down, I think inversions are incredibly important for spinal health, especially when doing high-impact exercise like running, and spending time sitting at computers at work.
Next winter I would like to enter the King (Queen) of the Mountain challenge on Mt Cooroora, and so my training will be directed more towards that next year.
What do you do outside of your sport/training for fun?
Hang out with my kids, go to the beach, surf, yoga, read, weave, watch vegan documentaries!
Who are your biggest motivators in life?
My husband and my kids.
And non-vegans. I am tired of the messages that you need to eat meat for protein and dairy for calcium. If people just used common sense they would realise that cows are mammals and their milk is designed for calves not humans, and that protein EXCESS is a much larger problem than protein deficiency in the western world. I am out to prove that you can be fit, healthy, vibrant and VEGAN!
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
If you would like to connect with Renee, or book in your pet to see a natural vet contact her at the following links:
Thank you so much Renee. Keep an eye out on the blog every Fitness Friday for more vegan athletes.