Luke and Emilie
Luke and Emilie are passionate about animals, veganism and bodybuilding. They intend to compete in bodybuilding competitions as a vegan couple - a first for Australia!
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Luke: I work as a Level 3 Strength & Conditioning Coach and I
am also an accredited (Master) Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Life/ Mindset
coach for Australian Strength Performance. I came 2nd Runner Up and won ‘Best Routine & Poser’ for the
2010 INBA Championships (Victoria) in the Novice category. Being an avid fan of
bodybuilding, my wife and I intend to compete as vegans in the near future.
The story on my journey through adversity was featured on
the ‘Vegan’ fanpage on facebook a while back. I feel honoured that it has
resonated with many. I am now actively promoting positivity and a healthy vegan
lifestyle through my facebook profile Luke T Evolvedstrength.
sustained two major injuries in the past two years (major tears on both my left
and right chests), I feel like I have come back stronger than ever. I am a true
believer that emotional strength builds physical strength. It is your past,
your setbacks that defines who you are. Every fall that you take in life, is
really an opportunity to learn, to grow, to be stronger.
Q: What made you decide to go vegan?
Luke: My wife was first a vegan and she introduced me to the book
‘The Food Revolution’ by John Robbins. The book was filled with facts and
offered a brilliant insight into the ‘politics’ of food consumption,
production. It covered aspects such as GMO foods, the effects & dangers of
the factory farming system and how a plant-based diet is better for the
environment. Shortly after, a friend introduced me to ‘Earthlings’. The film
exposed me to the atrocities of animal exploitation. These practices continue
to exist to feed the ever-growing demand of meat and their by-products. It was
an instantaneous decision for me to make the switch.
I have an interest in
environmental sustainability and I believe that a traditional western diet is
not sustainable in the long run for our very finite planet. Imagine if the two largest populations in the
world, China and India decided to adopt a western diet and increased their
demand/ dependency for animal based products? We would probably need more land
for grazing and cultivating crops for animal feed, more factory farms to cater
for the ever-growing demand. Though I understand that there is a move towards
biodynamic farming of crops and animal products, not many people have access to
it (cost/availability). I believe that we have surpassed ‘sustainable’ consumption
of meat-based products in the western world. This planet is not simply big
I have volunteered at Edgar’s Mission and have visited
the rescued animals at Animal Liberation Victoria. What I realized was that the
sheep, cows, ducks, chickens, pigs were no different to my pet cat ‘Chubbs’.
They displayed emotion, they displayed affection but most of all, they
displayed fear and vulnerability. I can truly say that I have made the
connection. If I could survive and thrive on a plant based diet, I say why
Q: Have you always been conscious of health and fitness?
Luke: I sure have been. I remember my childhood days when my
dad had his own gym set and was doing bicep curls, bench press and sit ups (he
used to pride himself at doing 1000 at one go!). I suffered from various
chronic illnesses (asthma, epilepsy, kidney issues) in my younger years. The
medication left me borderline obese up until the age of around 14. When I was
fully cured, I followed in my dad’s footsteps and started weight training. Only
in the last few years of becoming a trainer (and deciding to compete), have I
taken my health and fitness to a whole new level.
Q: Has switching to a vegan lifestyle affected your
training as a body builder? Has it raised any interest from your colleagues?
Luke: I used to be on a high animal protein, low carbohydrate
diet. I used to view carbohydrates (eg: fruits, rice, root vegetables) as the
limiting factor for getting leaner. I was always watching and controlling my
portions to a tee. Always craving refined carbohydrates like lollies, cakes,
chocolate and having it as my ‘cheat’ meal.
Since turning vegan, I have changed my mindset towards
carbohydrates, always keeping it whole, natural and minimally processed. I’ve
found that my recovery is a lot quicker and I am always full of energy. I also
find that I am getting leaner doing half the work I used to do following a
vegan diet. I do not crave the ‘crap’ carbs that I used to for two reasons: 1.
I am always ‘carbed’ up 2. Most of these refined carbohydrate sources contain
animal based products.
great sitting in the staff room with a fellow trainer (devouring a roast
chicken) curiously asking me "what do you have today??”, "Tofu and veggies” I
answer, a little chuckle follows. The other day, I had a chat with one of my
colleagues and was told that she was trying to have one meatless day a week,
couldn’t tell you how happy I was. I
also make it a point to wear my self-made ‘VEGAN’ printed tops when I workout!
Q: What type of foods do you eat to stay in shape? What’s
your favourite vegan meal (home-made or from a restaurant/cafe)?
Luke: I stick to mainly whole and natural foods. Always preparing
most of my meals and packing lunch. An average day for me would consist of
around 5-6 meals revolving around all sorts of veggies, rice, tofu, tempeh,
beans supplemented with rice/ pea protein isolate shakes.
absolutely love the Vegan Korean BBQ ‘Beef’ with biodynamic brown rice and
Kimchi at Yong’s Green Kitchen. When I feel like a treat, I head to Lord of the
Fries to get a Vegan ‘Lords’ Burger with a side of chips.
Q: Have you found any difficulties being vegan?
Luke: Not specifically. Though there are a lot of
close-minded and judgmental individuals out there (on both sides, meat eating
and vegan/ vegetarian). I believe that the world will be a much better place if
we all learned to understand each other a little better.
Q: What would you say is the best thing about adopting
the vegan lifestyle?
Luke: My spirituality and being more connected with the universal
force that binds us all together, unconditional love and compassion. It is this
love and passion that has helped redefine my true purpose in life, which is to
make a difference in some way.
my journey so far, I have connected with many people all around the world all
sharing similar values. Positivity and the desire to change the tide to make
the world a better place for all living beings.
Q: What do you think are the most effective ways of
helping veganism to become more mainstream?
Luke: I believe that the best way forward is for everyone to be
more positive towards each other (meat eater or not), to lead by example and
spread a positive and healthy image for the movement. To show non-vegans/
vegetarians how to make a transition (eg: the vegan easy challenge) and what
benefits there are for reducing meat consumption. When the time is right,
people will come to their own realizations and make changes relative to where
they are. As Dr Wayne Dyer once said,
‘If you have the choice to be right or kind, always choose kind’.
us a little bit about yourself?
Emilie: I was born and raised in
Montreal, Canada and moved to Australia around 4.5 years ago because "I needed
change”. I came here alone with a working holiday Visa in my passport, a
backpack and minimal money under my name. I lived all around Australia and
travelled for a year. I chose Melbourne as my new home as I fell in love with
the little laneways, amazing coffee and cosmopolitan feel. I met my husband
Luke almost three years ago and I am now living here permanently, working as a
travel agent for Escape Travel.
Between the age of 9 and 21, I
practiced the sport of short track speed skating (on ice) at a national and
international level. I represented my nation at the World Junior Championships
for three years in a row, finishing 5th in 2003. That year, I also
was the most decorated athlete of the Canada Winter Games with 5 medals (3
Gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze).
Physical activity is now a big
part of my life. I love to weight train with my husband/strength coach as he
knows how to help me push my limits. He is slowly preparing me to compete in my
first bodybuilding competition, hopefully at the end of the year.
also love to run and have completed my first half marathon in October 2012 in a
time of 1:41.
Q: Could you tell us
about your journey to becoming vegan?
Emilie: I was never a big meat eater. I
remember stating tofu as my favourite food in primary school and being allowed
to cook a vegetarian dish for my family every week. I never really enjoyed the
taste of meat, but was eating it because I believed I had no choice as an
I had a first stint as a
vegetarian/pescetarian a couple of years after my skating career. This moment
of my life was also the unhealthiest as I was waitressing and bartending in a cigar
lounge. I was drinking a lot of alcohol, inhaling a lot of smoke, had irregular
and unnatural sleep and eating patterns and barely had time to exercise.
Instead of focusing on whole, natural plant food, I was eating a lot of cheese,
milk and eggs to make up for the meat I was not eating. I went back to meat eating after about a
When I met Luke, he was preparing
for a bodybuilding competition and I had to prepare him high animal protein,
low carb meals to help him lean down. Together, we slowly started to completely
give up grains, fruits and starches and adopted a high protein, high fat, low
carb Atkins/Paleo style diet. A typical day for me would consist of a steak
with a handful of nuts for breakfast, meat and a bit of veggies for lunch, meat
for snack and meat and a little salad for dinner. I would often binge on nuts
as I felt they were the only "satisfying” food I could have.
My mum came visited me at the end of 2011 and was quite
surprised at the diet that Luke and I were consuming. She told me "This is not
you. You have always been into vegetarian food and never really liked meat.” At
the back of my mind, I knew she was right.
Having been diagnosed
with gluten Intolerance, I blamed the condition and my damaged digestive system
for the never ending cycle of diarrhoea and constipation I was suffering from.
Each meal was stressful as eating always made me feel so bloated, gassy and
uncomfortable. I often felt very lethargic and had mood swings.
After much contemplation, I decided that there had to be a
better way. I emailed an acquaintance who I knew was vegan and asked her to
give me a list of books, websites and movies on the topic. I bought The Food
Revolution by John Robbins and started following Freelee Frugivore and Harley
"Durianrider” Johnstone on Facebook and Youtube. It was an eye opener: being a
vegan was not only possible but optimal!
I also got interested into environmental issues and animal rights.
I first started by cutting down all meat (except fish and
seafood) and dairy. Overnight I started feeling a difference in my digestion. I
then realised that eggs were not making me feel good at all and cut them out as
well. Finally, watching the movie Earthlings taught me that fish felt pain as
much as we do and from then on, I turned vegan.
switching to a vegan lifestyle have you experienced any benefits in terms of
physical wellbeing as well as other aspects of your life?
Emilie: The first reason I gave up meat and animal products was to
improve my digestion (and it did). I
believe that animal products being hard to digest, their elimination from my
diet, along with an increase in fibres from the higher volume of plant food has
greatly helped having everything run smoothly again. I also have a lot more
energy and mental clarity, as I am always "carbed up”.
I also feel like performance in the gym has increased with
only 4 training sessions per week. I used to have to train twice as much and
could not get half of the results I am getting now. In the few months leading
to my first half marathon, I started a new desk bound job and could not run as
much as I wanted. I could manage around two runs a week along with a weight
training circuit on the weekend. I still managed to run 1:41, a time that I am
incredibly proud of! I know that if I really try and train seriously, only the
sky is the limit to what I can achieve!
On a psychological aspect, I have also felt a major
improvement. Since the tender age of 11, I had been suffering of eating
disorders. Moving to Australia on my own was the beginning of my healing
process and converting to veganism nailed the coffin to this lifelong battle. I
believe that by lining up my eating habits in sync with my heart, I cannot be
wrong and my body will always be in optimal shape.
I also used to suffer from major anxiety, panic disorders
and pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). These have all faded along with my
consumption of animal products.
am now a much more positive and calm person and my self confidence has risen.
type of foods do you eat to stay in shape?
Emilie: There is no magic: the food I eat is whole and as close as
possible to its natural source. I am very interested into the raw food
movement. I try and aim for around 75%-80% of my daily intake to be raw. I do
believe it is giving me more energy and making my digestion even more
I have read Doug Graham’s "80-10-10” along with Dr Caldwell
Esselstyn "Prevent and reverse heart disease” and became conscious of the
importance of monitoring my fat intake. I have completely eliminated refined
oils from my diet and only have avocado, nuts and seeds in small amounts.
The bulk of what I eat is fruits. They are nature’s fast
food: they don’t require much cooking at all as they are delicious in their
natural form. I begin my day with a big banana and date smoothie (around 6
frozen bananas, 4-5 dates, a pinch of coconut sugar and cinnamon). My lunch
often consists of bananas, mangoes when on season and passionfruit all mixed
dinner, I usually make a big salad and a cooked dish of tempeh/tofu/lentils/beans
served on rice/sweet potato/pumpkin/quinoa!
are your favourite vegan dishes? Please share one of your favourite healthy
meals with us?
Emilie: I love my breakfast so much I could eat it for every meal.
Blended frozen banana with dates is better than any ice cream I remember eating
in my omnivorous days!
My favorite cooked meal that I use to impress my meat-eating
friends is an amazing recipe of No-Meat loaf I found on the internet. It is
made out of lentils and oats and replicates perfectly its carnivorous version.
We are lucky in Melbourne to have access to a few amazing
vegan/vegetarian restaurants. I am absolutely addicted to Veggie Bar’s Raw
taco. Today I tried for the first time Shoku Iku, a new gorgeous raw vegan
restaurant in Northcote and had this amazing raw quiche on a bed of different
salads. We definitely are spoilt for choice!
having to eat on the go, I love my rice and appreciate the convenience of vegan
sushi rolls for a quick bite. Purple Peanut on Collins street in the city has
the best ones and offer a brown rice option. I also love any Thai dish
containing coconut rice. The Loving Hut in Richmond offers the most
unbelievable to-die-for vegan pineapple rice!
you found any difficulties being vegan?
Emilie: To be honest, not really at all.
I thought I would struggle with giving up leather goods as I used to love shoes
and bags, but it was not a struggle at all. My mind has opened to a completely
different state where consumption of brands and fashion are not as appealing as
they used to be. I follow a simpler lifestyle and enjoy the feel of natural
fibers like cotton on my skin. I go for comfort, practicality and durability
I still am a girlie girl! I do
enjoy some retail therapy once in a while and found that the Internet based
company ASOS offers a range of leather free pumps. I found this amazing
colourful fabric ethnic bag when shopping in Bali. I find it brightens up any
outfit and it is much more of a fashion statement than the Marc Jacobs, Celine,
etc., bags I used to carry around.
also love wearing t-shirts promoting the vegan message. I love my Edgar’s Mission tee, with "If we could live healthy, happy life without harming others,
why wouldn’t we?”
would you say is the best thing about adopting the vegan lifestyle?
Emilie: Apart from all the health
benefits I’ve experienced so far, the best part about the lifestyle is the
people! I love the vegan community! It is so tight knit, like a big extended
family! Since going vegan, I have connected with so many different like-minded
individuals from all over the world. What we have in common is kindness and
compassion, two qualities that have the capacity to stop wars, clean our air
and water and gradually make this world a better place.
A few months ago, I attended a
cooking class given by a wonderful raw vegan chef, Yoko Inoue. I did learn a
great deal of new recipes and tips, but I also spent the afternoon sharing with
an eclectic group of individuals. It was
a wonderful experience.
Human animals are a gregarious
species. It is natural for us to constantly search for a feeling of belonging.
I definitely have found it within the vegan community.
also feel like I have now the power to influence other people and create a
change in this world. I believe in preaching by example and this is what I am
aiming to do. It is my job as a vegan to keep my body in top condition to show
everyone that our lifestyle is optimal.
Q. What would your advice be for anyone considering
making the switch to vegan?
Emilie: I think everyone is different when it comes to converting to
veganism. For me what worked was to let go gradually of animal products as my
husband went pretty much overnight.
what you feel is best for you. If for the moment you are not comfortable with
giving up eggs or dairy or fish. It is ok. By giving up everything else, you
are already making a huge difference. One day, you will see, you will be able
to let go of this last bit. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself, it is
not a contest or a race. Just always keep informed, know what is really
happening in the different animal product industry. Ignorance is worst than
anything. As Sir Paul McCartney said "If slaughterhouses had glass walls,
everyone would be a vegetarian”.
When completely doing the transition, do it well. Make sure
that you eat mostly organic, healthy, whole food: mostly fruits and veggies,
beans, lentils, gluten free grains, unprocessed soy products (if not
intolerant). Mock meat can be a good way to transition, but it is often highly
processed and should only be eaten once in a while. Instead, learn to use
mushrooms and tempeh to imitate the texture of meat.
Make sure you eat enough! It is the main reason why some
people fail on a vegan diet and go back to eating meat. It is very easy to eat
too little calories on a vegan diet especially when keeping your fat intake
low. The first few weeks, keep a rough account of your calories. Vegan food
being less anabolic than meat, you will need more calories than a meat eater.
Depending on your sex, age or level of activity, your needs range from around
2500 calories to sometimes 5000-6000 for very active males. Do not be surprised
if you eat incredible volumes of food. Remember that fruits and vegetables are
not as calorie dense.
yourself with other vegans. If that’s not possible, connect with them via the
Internet. You will need the support system, especially if you are going through
the journey by yourself. Don’t be an angry vegan. Positivity breeds positivity.
Walk around with a big smile on your face, be kind, be active. You will see how
quickly people will ask you advice and help to make the switch themselves!
meet more vegans