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Name: Wendy Stewart
Year of Birth: 1979
Height: 5’4”
Weight: 182 lb
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Current Residence: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Sports: Taekwondo, Hapkido, dance, kickboxing, fitness competitions, middle distance
running (10k to half marathons)

Tell us a little about yourself, what you do for a living, what hobbies / interests / passions you have?
I teach group fitness classes in kickboxing and dance, teach tap and jazz to kids, and I am studying to be a health coach. I love to read, watch movies, and run. I love to see others succeed and do more than they thought possible. I also want to help women and children learn to respect and love themselves so I want to teach them how to defend themselves against attackers and bullies.

Why did you become vegan?
I became vegan after I learned how animals were treated on factory farms. I realized that not only was this a horrible injustice, but I didn’t really need animal products. After that it was a matter of making it work in a household full of non-vegans but I have great support from a local vegan non-profit, Open the Cages Alliance.

When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I have always been interested in fitness. I was a four-sport varsity high school athlete and a college cheerleader. I started lifting weights in high school and continued as I learned basics of other sports such as boxing, wrestling, judo, and gymnastics.

How would you describe your nutrition program?
My nutrition program is currently under a major revamp. I was guessing a lot until I was introduced to Vega and the product line by Brenan Brazier. Since I have started using these products, combined with a more healthful vegan diet, I have lost weight, kept sickness at bay, and healed faster from injuries.

How would you describe your training program?
I train in Taekwondo and Hapkido 3 days per week, teach dance 3 days per week, Turbo Kick 2 days per week, and will soon be adding in split routines of strength training in preparation for my first fitness contest in March 2012. I also expect to have black belts in both Taekwondo and Hapkido within the next 3 years so that I can train for the 2016 Summer Olympics with the USA Taekwondo team.

What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
I take an accidentally vegan multivitamin by NST, the house brand of my gym, as well as the Vega protein, recovery, pre-workout, and meal replacement products. I also take BCAAs to help get me through the heavy training days. I choose these because I like the plant food based products by Vega and I recognize the benefits of helping my body repair faster with food that it wants and needs. I feel better and my body thanks me.

How do people react when they find out you are vegan?
Most don’t react too much, but sometimes people think I like to eat salads all the time or don’t like the taste of meat. If they ask why, I explain my view on the human rights issues involved with factory farms and slaughterhouses.

What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
They think we are all skinny and weak, only eat salads, and act like hippies.

Have you had success in promoting veganism / vegetarianism to others? If so, how did you go about it?
For those who truly ask, it takes little more than logic and an understanding of the way food has been manipulated to the degree that it isn’t really food anymore. I think for most people it comes down to understanding that there are lots of foods to choose from. Animal products aren’t your only option!

What do you think the most important aspect of training is?
I think the most important aspect is feeding your body properly. Next to that would be proper and adequate rest. Without those two things we run our bodies into the ground and never get the chance to recover.

What do you like best about being vegan?
I love how simple it is. By simple, I mean there are lots of things I don’t have to worry about eating because it’s not vegan or not healthy. I also love the fact that I have met so many new and awesome people, tried tons of new food and can do my part to impart some compassion in this world.

What do you like best about being fit?
Being fit allows me to keep up with the kids I teach and all of the classes I teach each week. It’s great to show up at the gym and know that it’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had and that being fit is my job. People show up to my class for a fun workout, but I show up for them.

What advice do you have for people who are just starting out with training?
Respect your body and listen to it. Feed it more of the good stuff and resist the urge to believe that more is better. Rest is vital to training and should never be ignored.

What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
I have three pieces of advice: 1. Start with meals you already love and make them vegan. 2. Give yourself at least 21-30 days to build a habit. 3. Remember that you are changing your lifestyle and that takes time. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to take it one meal at a time.

What motivates you in life?
I want to look back on each day and know that I did everything that I could to be of service to those in need. I want to make sure that I use my God-given gifts to make a difference. If my life hasn’t been about that, then it’s been for nothing.

What do you think of veganbodybuilding.com? Has it helped or inspired you?
I love the website. It has been very helpful for me to see the athlete profiles and learn from those who don’t rely on chicken, fish, whey and casein.

Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
Although we are all on a fitness journey, it took me a long time to be comfortable with myself to get out there and teach fitness classes. I’m not perfect, none of us are, but it’s up to each and every one of us to make the most out of our lives and not let fear hold us back.