Name: Vanja Grbic
Year of Birth: 1982
Birthplace: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Current Residence: Orlando, Fl
Professional Belly Dancer, Bollywood Dancer, Fire Dancer / Breather / swallower, Stilt Walker, Mud run enthusiast, aspiring bikini fitness competitor
VanjaDance on twitter and Instagram
Tell us a little about yourself, what you do for a living, what hobbies / interests / passions you have
I am a sales rep for a medical device company with a focus in cardiology. I came to the United States as a war refugee from former Yugoslavia. Upon my arrival I did not speak any English and the adjustment was quite difficult. I struggled with my language barrier, and even despite such difficult odds I managed to graduate in the top 15% in my high school class. While attending college I stumbled upon something that completely changed my life forever – I witnessed a belly dancing show at a local restaurant. This dance form completely mesmerized me and I embarked on an inspirational journey of discovery filled with shimmies, locks, and pops. I have always been interested in learning about different cultures and was very excited when I got exposed to Bollywood. I have been bellydancing and Bollywood dancing for 8 years now. Recently I have started to expand my repertoire to fire breathing/swallowing and stilt walking.
In addition to dance traveling is one of my big passions. I have visited approximately 25 countries up to date and am adding new destinations to my list each year.
Why did you become vegan?
I come from a culture of 100% meat eaters. We eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner… I’m sure we probably even put it in deserts. My younger sister turned vegetarian out of the blue and my entire family was in shock. We even had family interventions trying to get her to be “normal” again. During one of those discussions I listened to her reasoning why she chose to do it… compassion for animals, environmental effects, health reasons, etc. and it made total sense to me. I wanted to see if I could do it thinking that it would only be a couple of weeks… It’s been 7 years now. I am proud to say that I have been vegan since January 1 2013. It was my New Year’s resolution that I plan to keep forever. I am very excited about my decision because I know that it’s the best possible thing to do for animals, environment, and myself.
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I have always considered myself as “just a dancer”… never anything more than that until I started socializing with people who were amateur body builders. Their lifestyle became very intriguing to me and I wanted to learn more about it. I even started going to the gym with them in order to try to learn more. Currently I run in mud/obstacle races, yoga, spinning, and do weight lifting.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
I am still trying to figure out what’s working for me in terms of right amount of calories, ratios, etc. I do eat a lot of beans, legumes, and green leafy veggies.
How would you describe your training program?
I work out 6 days/week with a personal trainer. We do about an hr – hr and a half of weight lifting. I try to get up and run about three times/week in the morning before rushing off to work, and I also dance about 2-3 hrs/week
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
Glutemin, Raw Protein, amino acids, dim, magnesium, vitamin C, once/day women’s vitamin, coconut oil
How do people react when they find out you are vegan?
People think I am crazy…. I wish I could take a photo of everyone’s reaction when they hear it for the first time… total shock and disbelief. I even had a doctor tell me once that if I stick to a complete vegan diet I will die in 5 years – very encouraging.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
Everyone thinks that our food is boring when in the actuality our food is tastier than any meat you could possibly eat. People also think that all vegans are skinny, pale and sickish. I am on a mission to prove that stereotype wrong.
Have you had success in promoting veganism / vegetarianism to others? If so, how did you go about it?
I try not to push my opinions or way of life onto others simply because I don’t appreciate it when other people do it to me. When I meet someone who is genuinely interested in learning more I love to share all the science and facts behind the benefits of being vegan.
What do you think the most important aspect of training is?
Dedication and perseverance. Never give up even if it feels like you will never make it!! You are your own biggest obstacle… mind over body
What do you like best about being vegan?
I love feeling good about myself and the effect I have on my environment and especially the animals. I recently calculated the approximate number of animals lives I’ve saved – about 1,700 that’s pretty darn amazing…
What do you like best about being fit?
Being fit is synonymous to being healthy to me. You look great, feel amazing, and are always ready to conquer the day.
What advice do you have for people who are just starting out with training?
Find something you enjoy doing… Just because your friends are participating in a particular sport or an exercise regimen does not mean that it’s the best option for you. As long as you enjoy it you will find it within you to excel and never give up.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
Congratulations!!! You are a positive influence on the world we live in. Make sure you vary the foods you eat, and that you consume enough calories throughout the day. Reach out to others… we love to help
What motivates you in life?
I am a war refugee… I know what it is to not have any food for days at a time, no running water, no electricity, no access to education, and I know what it feels like to live in the constant fear for your life. I feel extremely lucky to have been given another chance at life. Every moment I have on this Earth is cherished and celebrated, and I don’t take anything for granted. I am my own toughest judge and I always push myself to go beyond the 100%
What do you think of veganbodybuilding.com? Has it helped or inspired you?
This is an incredible resource…. First place I went to when I decided I wanted to do fitness competitions.