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Name: Monica Parodi
Age: 38
Height: 5’7”
Weight: 120
Birthplace: Greensboro, NC
Current Residence: Atlanta, GA
Sports: Bodybuilding, Yoga, P90X2 cast member
E-mail: monica@monicaparodi.com
Website: www.monicaparodi.com

Why did you become vegan?

I had a health scare with cancer which became the defining moment in my life to seek a healthier lifestyle. I came out of surgery and when the doctors said that everything appeared to be benign I vowed then and there to get and stay fit and to make sure that the foods I put in my body promoted health and not disease. As I began to eat cleaner, my body really rejected meat. I never made the conscious decision that I was going to go vegan. My body no longer desired animal protein and I noticed that I did not feel the same after consuming meat. When I officially gave up meat and dairy, I researched more about veganism and animal proteins link to disease and cancer. The scientific evidence is overwhelming and I am confident that veganism is the healthiest lifestyle for my family.

When and why did you become interested in fitness?

I have been involved with fitness since I was a child starting with competitive ice-skating, gymnastics, and dance. I was a state ranked track athlete in high-school and All-American Cheerleader. When I had my twins and a two year old, I gave up. For me, weight training had always been about vanity and I thought it would be selfish to focus on my looks when I was already overwhelmed with three small children. My health scare reminded me that fitness is not about looks, it’s about HEALTH. The best part is that I’m a better Mom, a more patient person and just a better ME in general now that I am fit again. I love that I am leaving a legacy of health and fitness to my children and future grandchildren.

How would you describe your nutrition program?

I eat around 6-8 small meals a day depending on my level of training for that day. I love eating raw foods and try and do at least a 75% raw food diet. I do enjoy oats, quinoa and brown rice in addition to my raw foods. I do add lots of smoothies and shakes adding a variety of super food powders. I rarely use bars but when I do it’s a bar from Vega or Raw Revolution.

Sample Daily Meal Plan

Lemon water or water with greens powder as soon as I wake up for cleansing.

Meal 1: 1 cup Gluten-free oats with scoop Sunwarrior Vanilla Raw Vegan Protein, maca powder, chia seeds, acai powder, Andean Goldenberries and cinnamon.

Meal 2: Recovery shake. Hemp protein, cocounut water, Himalayan Sea Salt

Meal 3: ½ cup blueberries & a handful of raw, soaked, dehydrated almonds

Meal 4: 1 cup cooked Quinoa with lots of fresh, in-season vegetables

Meal 5: Sliced red peppers and Sweet Potato Hummus

Meal 6: Celery and 1 TBL spoon raw almond butter

Meal 7: Large raw salad with arugula, spinach, kale, hemp seeds, chia seeds, avocado, red pepper, tomato, zucchini, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, sprouted peas and apple cider vinegar.

Meal 8: Sun Warrior Chocolate Protein Shake

How would you describe your training program?

In one word- INTENSE!! I don’t have a lot of extra time so I have to make that hour or two really count! I need to make maximum use of my time and I train at home at 5:30 am six days a week before my children are up for the day. My favorite is P90X but I do other extreme programs like Insanity, Turbo Fire and Asylum. I go to a Yoga Studio once a week and hit the park with my kids and run sprints weekly. They keep the stop watch for me and time my speed. After that, we have family races and make fitness a family affair. In my programs, I lift 3 days a week, cardio twice a week and do yoga once a week. My rest day is always an “active day of rest” spent hiking, biking or playing flag football with my children. I keep my rest day low intensity and my six days of training I go for maximum intensity.

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

I use a lot of super foods like maca root, chia seeds, morenga powder, and greens powders. I’m also a huge fan of Vega products and Sun Warrior Raw Vegan Protein. I find that these products really increase my energy level and stamina.

What are some common misconceptions about veganism?

This is the only thing that I currently dislike about being vegan, but it’s a challenge and one that I will fight for everyday. There are way too many misconceptions out there. The biggest ones being that we are extreme, fanatics, freaks, wimpy, vegans only for animal rights, missing out on enjoying good foods and missing nutrients. They are all false, of course, and it’s certainly an uphill battle educating people on the truths about veganism. I have discipline but I am not extreme. The health consequences of other diets are way more extreme to me. I am the opposite of wimpy and so is every other vegan athlete I know. I LOVE the foods I eat and I am the healthiest I have ever been and do not have any vitamin deficiencies. I love animals with all my heart but if someone told me I had to consume animal protein for vitality and long term health I have to admit I would. It’s an added benefit that the lifestyle that’s healthiest for me is also kind to animals. It was not the deciding factor for me. It all circles back to health.

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

Well you can’t have optimum health without fitness and there is nothing more important than your health. I let two years pass after having my twins without doing any regular fitness regimen. I never want to feel like that person again. It was difficult getting through the day. I find that by taking an hour or two for fitness each day that the other 23 hours in the day are so much more productive. I get more accomplished and I have better quality sleep. There truly is not a more complete feeling of happiness than when you are fit. My moods are better and I feel confident and energetic. If you see a picture of someone with a great physique you can see that they look great but chances are if you could take a picture of how they feel on the inside it would impress you even more. That’s certainly how I feel. I’m confident with how I look on the outside and in love with the healthy way I feel on the inside.

What do you like best about being vegan?

What do I not LOVE about being vegan? I love that I can workout one to two hours a day but yet look just as fit, if not MORE fit, than those that workout hours upon hours each day. I love that as an athlete it’s difficult to fatigue me and that I recovery fabulously from extreme workouts. I can attribute all of that to my plant based diet. I love that my food choices move me in the direction of health and not disease. I love that my children are learning healthy eating habits as a vegan family. I love that my vegan lifestyle benefits animals and the planet. I could go on and on. I guess if I had to pick one thing it’s the way I feel now that I have become vegan. The feeling is truly priceless.

What do you like best about being fit?

The way I feel on the inside and the way I look on the outside. I truly feel better than I did as a high-school athlete. I can’t remember ever feeling better and it just gets better every day.

What are your strengths as an athlete?

I train like a “man” and never give up or back off.

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

Vegan athletes need to make sure they are sticking to plant based foods. There are a lot of vegan, processed, junk foods that will compromise your performance just as much as animal protein. Nutrient timing is key for vegan athletes, so researching for optimum performance is crucial. My athletic ability, performance and recovery are better than they’ve ever been now that I am a vegan. Be prepared to be the best athlete you’ve ever been once you go plant based!

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

Educate yourself and find other vegans for support. I went vegetarian for several months before I went vegan. I wanted to make sure I was doing the right things so I signed up for Melissa Costello from Karma Chow’s 30 Day Vegan Cleanse. I highly recommend her cleanse for anyone looking to go vegan. I learned a lot from her and the peers in the group. The other advice I have is to really put thought into your “WHY”. Why do you want to become vegan? Write it down and anytime you feel pressure to stray from vegan food choices think about your why and if that’s still what you want. Commit to your choice to become vegan and then implement daily discipline to succeed.

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

To be the best role model I can so that I inspire people to become vegan and plant based. I am very fortunate to be a Beachbody Fitness Coach and in the cast of the most successful fitness program ever put on DVD. I receive tons of messages on a daily basis asking how I achieved my fitness results. It’s the most rewarding feeling knowing that I achieved my results the healthy way and that I have people duplicating that success in their own lives. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t have someone contact me for changing their life. That is truly what the combination of being vegan and fit does. It’s LIFE CHANGING and I’ll never stop sharing and helping people. I have the best job in the world. When I think about missing a day of training or making the wrong food choice I instantly think of the positive example I need to set. It’s the people out there that are seeking a better life for themselves and their families that motivate and inspire me.

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

When I was cast in P90X2 I knew that I would have to be strong in rehearsals and the shoot. I had so many people tell me that you can’t fake strong and that I would need to add animal protein back to my diet for this isolated incident. I did it (adding fish) for four days and my training was noticeably different and not in a good way. I referred back to this site and all the other amazing athletes, remembered my why, and went back to being vegan. I’m so grateful I had this site at that important point in my life. I rocked rehearsals and the shoot! I felt great and STRONG.