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Name: Heather Morgan
Age: 37
Height: 5'4"
Stage Weight: 130's (ultimate goal: 125);
Off Season Weight: 140's (goal: low 130"s) 
Birthplace: Princeton, NJ
Current Residence: Smyrna, GA
Sports: Figure and Bikini Competition, hope to try Fitness some time

 Why did you become vegan?

I'd like to say that it was for ethical/environmental/health reasons only; but, honestly, as a teen who battled excess weight, I think I also saw cutting out animal foods as a socially acceptable way to get out of eating as I had very disordered eating behaviors.  Ironically, "just being vegan" does not guarantee weight control.  Au contraire!  In actuality, I was eating a bunch of starchy carbs and probably not enough protein and veggies.  Totally unbalanced!  That will pack the extra pounds right on, and I felt pretty crappy.  As a result, I un-veganized for a time.  Luckily, I know much more about nutrition now, and while I feel like it's easier for omnis with my body type to lean out, I don't think it's particularly healthy, and don't get me started on the ethical/environmental impact.  I may never be the leanest gal on stage, but it's not worth compromising my ethics or other values over.  So this last time around, I've ultimately arrived at being vegan: 1. For ethical animal treatment; 2. Environmental support and preservation; 3. My health.  In that order.     

 

When and why did you become interested in fitness?

I was a chunky kid and didn't like formal activity beyond regular play because I felt awkward and self-conscious.  I started to exercise regularly in junior high to control my weight (see above note on disordered eating).  Once I liked how I looked more, I started to participate in more activities "out in the open" (versus in my basement with a Jane Fonda video), such as running, soccer, cheerleading, and riding horses.  I'll be honest, I sorta suck at a lot of sports, but at least I liked how being active made me look and feel.  Thank goodness "fit" does not have to = "athletic", and I've found activities that I'm good at over the years.  I have kept moving ever since.  It's my Prozac.      

 

How would you describe your nutrition program?

"Controlled", ideally.  (haha)  Seriously--I am not good with portion control, and I can gain weight so fast it should make the Guinness Book.  Therefore, I measure and count everything (when I'm behaving, that is) in the off-season, and always in-season.  I eat as many foods in whole form as possible, and 50% or more of my fruits/veggies/nuts/seeds raw.  I don't have the benefit of the thermic effect of animal protein digestion due to eating easily digested protein powder a lot, and--let's face it--tofu has been through a process and isn't "whole" in the true sense.  So, aside from the foods mentioned, I emphasize things that my body has to really work to breakdown with my starches too, such as legumes, yams with skin, grains as whole as I can get them, etc..  In-season, it's pretty tight, and protein powders and lite tofu are my only protein sources.  Off-season, I open up and include veggie "meats" and other more processed foods for variety, while the rest stays pretty much the same.  Unless I'm pigging out or drinking beer "because I can"... {sigh}  I cycle my diet, so I'm rarely eating the same protein/fat/carb ratio 2 days in a row unless I'm maintaining, and within each macronutrient category, the amounts vary.  The gram dosages of each vary by a lot if I'm aggressively knocking pounds off for a show (1000-1400 kcals), and vary less if maintaining (1200-1600 kcals).  I drink a gallon of water a day, I'm big on organic, and I do put some emphasis on local/seasonal.  I also incorporate probiotic-rich foods into my diet, such as raw cultured veggies and young green coconut kefir, for better health and immunity.        

 

How would you describe your training program?

First of all I want to mention that I am trained by the Cathy Savage Fitness Team. Weight training-wise, I'm typically on a 4 or 5 day split that changes every 4 weeks, while sets/reps vary week to week.  My training sessions are short.  Quick-and-dirty is how this gal "gits 'er dun"!  As my comp prep guru says: "Lift so heavy, the big guys at the gym ask you for a spot".  It's that or I'm going somewhat lighter and working a slower tempo, especially on the negative.  Cardio varies depending on my leanness and training goals, but is usually 4-6x/week, 30-40 minutes.  I never do the same cardio workout twice in one week, and I make most of them interval style, sprint, plyos, stadium stairs, boot camp, whatever.  I do functional workouts either as part of some of my cardios, incorporating agility stuff and lots fun things either with toys like medballs, etc., or "just" body weight (using quotes because everyone knows those are the worst!  lol).  I also teach kickboxing, yoga/pilates fusion, and step interval classes 4-5x/week total.  The overriding theme with all of my training is: "Change is good".  Keep your body guessing so it doesn't adapt.  Same concept with the diet.   


What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?

Fave brands: DEVA, Nature's Way, NOW, Country Life, Garden of Life. 
1. Multi-vitamin, Cal-Mag because there's no guarantee that the food supply is adequate, or that absorption of nutrients is either due to daily stresses, etc.
2. DHA because I don't eat fish, and I don't want my brain to turn to mush.
3. Probiotics to bolster my immune system.
4. Sam-e and glucosamine with MSM and CMO to support my joints in recovering from the abuse described above.
5. L5-HTP for mood regulation specifically related to appetite control.
6. Amino acids for mood regulation (esp. tyrosine) and for lean mass support during dieting.
7. Sesamin and Omega oils for over all health and for fat loss.
8. CLA for muscle sparing fat loss.
9. Maca for non-stimulating mental clarity and alkalizing effect.
10. B-12 very occasionally (1-2x/month) just to be sure the liver supply is adequate.
11. Herbal thermogenic if needed during final stages of contest prep.
*Note: Not all of these are every day, all year.  Some of these are more exclusive to pre-comp dieting phases, such as mood regulators and thermogenics that are cycled in if needed at the end to help me keep it together.
**Second note: Keep in mind that there's no guarantee that any of the above reasons I give for taking these things are guaranteed benefits.  It's just what I've bought into at the moment.  I've noticed a definite difference with some, and the jury is still out on the others...  Always start with real food first. 


What are some common misconceptions about veganism? 

Here are the top ones that I experience:
1. There's nothing to eat.
2. There may be something to eat, but definitely not enough protein.
3. It's too difficult of a lifestyle to maintain.
4. That vegans are any combo of the following: weird, hyper-liberal, hippie-ish (or some other fringe/non-mainstream person in general, in appearance or otherwise), skinny/pale/unhealthy/malnourished, prone to extremism, judgmental, and the info we share is untrue.  


What do you think the most important aspect of fitness is? 

It's impact on your physiology.  How vague was that? (haha)  Many moons ago I would have said to "control your weight", but the older-and-wiser me knows that being fit supports a myriad of wonderful things, such as: a leaner body that is more impervious to illnesses and pathologies of all sorts; a better self-image; better mood regulation and mental clarity; increased productivity in other areas of your life; more graceful aging...the list goes on.  For any given person the emphasis on one or more aspects of fitness may be more emphasized than others.  To that end, for any one person the emphasis will change at different points in their life.  For example, I mentioned weight control above, but now--at 37--I'm even more interested in maintaining my mood throughout my day and my looks throughout my 40's.  Beyond that, I will likely want to maintain as much function as possible and continue to prevent serious illness and/or disability.  While I can't pick a "most" important one, I definitely think "creating and maintaining a highly functioning body into old age" could have summed that all up.  No matter what, it's a win-win to be active and fit as early in life as possible, and to stay that way.     




What do you like best about being vegan? 

The knowledge that I'm making kind choices for animals, and the good feeling that comes from it.  To me, "dominion" does not imply a right to use, abuse, and objectify in order to satisfy carnal or other alleged "needs".  It implies responsibility, and I take that seriously. 

 What do you like best about being fit? 

Being able to live life in a body that feels good to be in nearly all of the time, and look pretty good doing it.   

 
What are your strengths as an athlete?

Determination and focus. What I may lack in ability at times, is made up for in perseverance.  I am very goal-oriented, so I use that to my advantage.


What advice do you have for vegan athletes who are just starting out?

Learn as much as you can about properly nourishing your body for your sport.  I cannot overemphasize the importance of proper nutrition for fuel, maintenance, and recovery.  If that sort of information is not your baileywick, a few sessions with a vegan-friendly nutritionist who specializes in sports nutrition is a very wise investment.  I would tell this to anyone--vegan or not--but obviously vegans have fewer obvious informational resources, so mastering your diet is huge.  Also, ignore any "You can't [fill in blank] if you're vegan" type statements if you don't already. Lastly, for any athlete of any sport and any eating style, I say: strengthen your core and address and kinetic chain dysfunctions before or as part of your training.  It will improve your performance as an athlete AND as a human for many years down the road.  One of my favorite sayings (and this one is mine!): "Always hope you never know what you prevented by taking proper care of your body". 

 

What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?

First, examine your reasons for doing so.  With teens especially, I would want to make sure this was not some sort of rebellion and/or an eating disordered choice.  Like it or not, some people will choose this lifestyle for reasons I already mentioned: a socially acceptable way to get out of eating, and/or a misguided notion that cutting out all animal foods will result in easier weight control.  Then I'd give the same primary advice I did above to the athletes: learn how to be a good vegan.  Meaning: Find out as much as you can about nutrition and diet.  Most vegetarians of any sort that I know are hideously out of balance nutritionally.  That will have some long-term effects that are very detrimental.  Just being vegan does NOT at all guarantee good health.  In fact, in some ways, an omni could be better nourished overall just "accidentally" from getting a higher variety of foods and an abundance of all macronutrients--particularly ones who overeat.  Of course I don't advocate this as desirable or healthful, but hopefully you caught the drift of what I was saying there.  And again, a trip or two to a nutritionist who is supportive of your lifestyle choice can be so beneficial as it will either validate that you're doing well dietarily, or it will shed some light on some important issues that can drastically improve your short and long term health status if changed for the better.     

 
What motivates you to continue to be a successful vegan athlete?

Oooh... [earthy-crunchy alert!]  The same thing that motivates me to be a successful vegan person: love.  For animals, for the planet, for my body.

 
How has the website www.veganbodybuilding.com helped or inspired you?


Learning how very many vegans and vegan-wannabes are out there.  Wow!  And then seeing what people have done athletically on top of that.  I'll admit it--I had bought into some of the misperceptions about vegans.  I just thought I was "different".  Between the site, and getting over myself, I happily stand corrected.  Lastly, I enjoy the supportive and positive nature of most of the posts.  That's so nice to see, vegan or not. 

 
Is there anything else you would like to add about your vegan fitness lifestyle?

While it's fun being a sort of novelty at times, I hold out hope that some day being vegan and being fit is the norm.  [earthy-crunch alert #2] I know without any doubt that this would make the world a happier, healthier, kinder, more joy-filled place to live.  Period.   

 Thank you so much!

The Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness Team