Client Spotlight – Couples Who Go Vegan – Norm & Michelle

I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle at a Bodybuilding competition in Vancouver, BC, Canada a few years ago. It was her first show and she was SO nervous…just a sweetheart. We bonded that day and have been long distance friends ever since. I was super honoured to have Michelle and her husband Norm join my Vegan in 60 program and I’m super delighted with their results in both body and mind.

If you’re curious about what going vegan looks like, these two have some sage words here for newbies…..any time is the right time to go whole food plant based.

Love you both & thanks again….P.S. – I love this snap of you two…you might hate me for it but your fur baby is there and you’re tubbin’ in the snow which is one of my favourite pastimes (before moving to Pittsburgh).

You both rose to the challenge of trying out converting to veganism over 10 weeks, what made you dive into this challenge as carni’s?

We dove into this vegan challenge because it was exactly that a challenge. To be honest it was not something either of us would have considered trying ….until You said challenge….who doesn’t like a Little challenge.

What have you learned about veganism that has struck you as the most impactful? Ie: it’s health benefits, cost, animal rights issues etc…

 What has stuck with us so far are the health benefits. We both had wondered how going vegan would impact our health. So far it’s been great i really notice a difference when I removed dairy products from my diet. Michelle says now she is very aware of where our food comes from now and eating this way is pretty cheap.

Do you find that your working together on this initiative has brought you closer or created more stress at home?

Well it definitely has not added any stress ….has had is working together in searching and planning out our meals …snacks and as team Thiessen we hold each other accountable.

How do you tackle the questions asked of you by family, friends & others who may want to know a bit more about your new nutritional goals?

Family and friends have been supportive.  They ask questions and we fill them in on what we have found out. Most are interested in trying to be more plant based …not going vegan but being more responsible. It would seem our friends will make healthier choices after hearing our choices when we are out for dinner or such . Also creates interesting conversations.

What is the hardest part of being a new vegan?

Stress of finding new things to eat ….find recipes…choosing the options…shopping for the food…preparing the meals ….being new to veganism we don’t have easy go to dishes …yet.  Of course its stressful Try ing to fill our protein macro and keeping down our carb macros.

What is the easiest part of being a new vegan?

Making a vegan dish usually has lots of left overs. You get to grab healthy foods .

Are there any changes (physically) that  you have experienced that are super amazing that you want to share?

Ok some changes I’ve noticed is the bowel movements…2 to 3 times a day . Waking up alert and ready not needing a coffee to clear the morning cobwebs. No bloating( once I’ve adjusted to the beans).

What is your favourite vegan food so far?

For taste Mexican is our favorite . Seitan for the protein. I like to slice up my seitan and fry it in hot sauce.  Mmm mmm.

 Do you think you will go back to eating animal products, if so, why?

Yes I believe we will be going back to eating animal products . Our meal will no longer revolve around the meat. Things like cheese and honey are greatly missed . BUT we will be very mindful where we are purchasing our animal products from …the farm to table idea. With all the new ideas and recipes we have learned it will be way easier to keep our plant based diet most of the time. As Michelle has mentioned some cooked meat has effected her negatively as she has cooked it . I’m pretty sure that meat will be removed lol. By doing this challenge our eyes have been opened to a lot of different aspects of veganism….some we agree with and support others not so much but that’s ok we have a great base of knowledge now and will be more aware moving forward .

Michelle may want to add more as our time goes on.
Norm and Michelle Thiessen

Becoming Little Miss Bikini – Season 3 – Ep 3 – The road less travelled

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Honeymoon is over {sort of} and now there are more goals set and training on the horizon. We had an amazing wedding, shared the day with our closest loves and are now married….bizarre for us to think that 14 years ago this thought probably never crossed our minds. 5 years ago, still nada.

Then but for a beautiful night out in Philly {eating Vegan food at the amazing Bar Bom Bon} we decided to make it “official”….2 months later, cue wedding bells…and one month after that, we take this union stateside. Pfew, way to pack it all into one summer Williams’.

In terms of who we are and what we’ve committed to as a couple, that’s easy and hasn’t wavered. We train every day – at least 5/6 times per week. We work hard and play hard and have a great life balance that has taken years to achieve. We decided to save cash and take a road tripping honeymoon to see some amazing sights and bands.

We knew that our latest travels were going to take us to some amazing food, drinks and places we’d never seen. At a time of celebration it’s SO important to not lose sight of real life. Bodybuilding is a passion of ours but living out loud is moreso. Making the decision to not compete again this year was hard BUT the freedom it’s given me/us to have some fun and be playful is worth more than another bikini girl trophy ~ there is life before, during and after competition.

Scroll right to the bottom of this blog post for a list {with links} to all of the Veg/Veg Friendly places we stopped at worth mentioning. 

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Lets get to the good stuff shall we? Checking our egos and our 6 pack abs at the door, we said goodbye to the last of our houseguests and hit the tarmac.

We started off in Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel. This one was $50 which is a steal and is off strip. Their Asian restaurant happened to supply vegan protein and we were stoked. It’s off strip which is great because we were just there 2 months earlier so we didn’t need to do the usual getting pissed on the Vegas Strip. WE also chose this hotel because it has a decent place to workout. If you know Vegas like we do, you’ll be aware that there aren’t a lot of hotels with gyms to speak of at all ~ which is stupid really. We hit the gym both days we were there, ate well, drank minimally and enjoyed the sun.

From there we went on to Arizona. Page, to be exact via Zion National Park {pictured above}. Page is a creepy little place with a literal “God Strip”…no joke, 2-3 miles of churches lining a main drag. There was even “The Lords Gym” which we really wanted to hit up but it was just too janky. Sad face because I didn’t even get a picture of it.

There wasn’t too much to choose from in terms of staying fit BUT we were there for Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and nothing more. We did find a good little gym there called Titanium {below} and fit in another workout on the road. $5 drop in too. Good selections of Apex/Hammer Strength/Cybex with some crossfit stuff/battle ropes as well as some treadmills and one {very hidden} stair master.

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We were up early that morning due to a time change error and spent a couple of hours lazing before we headed for our tour of Antelope Canyon. You have to book this and it’s actually a sad and frustrating experience because it’s PACKED and I’m not sure how I mentioned to pull off a shot with no people in it. Check out my insta for more pics of the nature stuff.

Next we were on to Colorado via Moab Utah. We decided to stop in Moab so that we could take advantage of the most amazing Arches National Park ~ definitely needed 2 days here but we only had two hours so, if you do go, make some serious time for it. It was HOT and once again, crowded. Very sad face.

We ate at The Moab Brewry for dinner. They had salad options…no vegan protein, and mostly deep fry. Great beer though.

This day I was in a bad mood because we intended on hitting the gym in Moab, a place called South Town Gym. We rolled up at 730 am and realized the office didn’t open for 2 hours for us to pay a drop in. It’s a 24 hour gym for members but it posted threats all over that if we just snuck in people could lose their membership. The doors were unlocked but, ethically, we couldn’t do it. I was fuming.

We packed up and went to this little hippy looking place for breakfast (referenced below) but it was actually not easy to find anything vegan and then when I did suggest a tofu sub it arrived cold and lack lustre. If you must eat in Moab, proceed with caution.

Below, we hit a pretty well known gem in Marble, Colorado called The Crystal Mill {pictured below} which we had to access via a rented side-by-side. The weather turned but we didn’t stop…..great little BBQ spot called Slow Groovin’ had just enough on the menu to feed us…and is the only game in town that serves booze. This town is off the grid – no gym here. We stayed at Beaver Lake Lodge – such a gem and so wish we had two more days there as well.

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A little drenched from the rain, a little sad to be leaving such a magical place {that looked and felt and smelled like home} we hopped in the car and headed on down the road for Denver…..the apex of our honeymoon at Riot Fest – The Misfits & Gogol Bordello headlining day 3 had us at decibel 11 excitement.

The ride up to Vail and past through to Denver is a beautiful one. Twists and turns and fast moving traffic. Days in the car were on average 4.5 hours or so…this day is long, but with beauty weather it wasn’t really a bother.

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Hot weather, good times and some pretty amazing Vegan food had us all in a tizzy. We hadn’t really struck out too much in terms of food the whole trip. Sure, we missed a couple of days at the gym here and there but…we ate well, loved hard and were ear to ear smiles most of the time. Found this little reminder sitting on a park bench after a stellar meal at Vital Root in the Berkley neighbourhood of Denver.

Day 2 of the 3 day festival I woke up in EXTREME neck pain…FML, this old injury on the day we were working out at Armbrusts in Wheat  Ridge. I sucked it up, took a couple of Advils and went anyway to smash out a leg day. The only regret I have here is not buying a souvenir tank. Idiot. Who does that when they’re visiting the “Mile High Mecca”. D’oh.

Jeff convinced me {imagine no neck mobility and full face headache} to find some active release nearby. He located someone and lo-and behold they were an effing chiro. I was terrified…if you know me you know I don’t do back crackers. Check out my happy waiting room face below. So much pain, so happy about our workout.

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I won’t say much about the appointment but Jeff stayed with me through the active release, massage, electro shock & neck cracking ~ I flipped RIGHT OUT when he adjusted my neck. Never again!!

With Denver quieted down after yet another epic Gogol concert {hopping up and down for an hour straight is considered a cardio/calf day, no? } and a so-so Original Misfits show, we went home to bed ready to take on New Mexico. 5 states, 9 days…all adventure. There are far too many cats ass restaurants in Denver to rattle off in one email so again, check out the bottom of this post. We were well fed and there was even a street fair “Taste of Colorado” that we meandered around at…sadly, the food was pretty bad so we didn’t eat there at all.

The road to NM is a pretty boring one. Imagine windy windy windy prairie roads with a tonne of trailers scattered throughout. Not much to shake a stick at.

We arrived at our Motel 6 for the last 3 days of our journey and were outright disgusted. I know you get what you pay for but…well….I won’t go on, it was a homeless, unsecured haven covered in axel grease.

We straight up said HELL NO when we walked into our room, promptly got a refund and headed to old town.

We scored a helluva deal at the Eldorado Hotel & Spa which is close to damn near everything. It’s civilized and what we have become accustomed to over the last few years. We have been spoiled by our successes but not to the point where we won’t stay in a 1 star…as most of our trip has been…we figured we needed to splurge a little for our last few days.

Back to a place with a built in gym, restaurants and clean sheets ~ wheeeee! Downside? Not a helluvalot of vegan options and a breakfast laid out like the one below is about $40 USD. Sickening in my opinion.

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For our last few days we hit the gym every day, walked, hiked and made plans for the future. As I write this I am 1 Lara Bar down and ready for a bit of cardio…then on to see Bandolier National Park, Meow Wolf art installation.

Meow Wolf was an all out win. If you’re ever in Santa Fe, you need to pay homage to this amazing art installation. You’ll need at least 2 hours and then you’ll need to go back at least half a dozen or more times to get the story down. It’s far more epic than I can describe. Picture Disneylands Haunted Mansion meets the Little Mermaids grotto meets a sweet sweet mushroom trip in the woods. Something like 20,000 square feet of brain boggling art and imagination ~ with a side of LIVE music.

Just look at this link and plan accordingly: MEOW WOLF SANTA FE

Finishing up this blog post I wanted to impress how important fun and play are in life. We can all push our hardest 100% of the time but without play, life would just be toil and I have half a mind to think that’s not what it’s all about. You?

Yes, I’m an athlete. Yes, I’m a vegan. Yes, I’m an adult with responsibility. Conversely I am human, playful and imaginative ~ all sides need to be fed in order for this machine to run smoothly.

So, with that being said as I sip black coffee at a train depot of a municipal airport in Santa Fe, I’m starting to dream about the next few months and what they’ll look like. Though we are moving in 2.5 weeks, training for a new season of bodybuilding starts tomorrow. While I didn’t miss too many days of the gym, I still didn’t get in what I thought to be “real” gym time and this neck/back injury is still plaguing me. Time to dig deep and look forward with health and happiness at the forefront of my daily goals.

With all that deep stuff and a bigger need for life budgeting in mind, I think I’ve finally settled on my next contest, via the INBF Canada Crew putting together a little road trip to Savannah Georgia! Hows that for exciting?!!! Of course I can’t stop thinking about gaining weight, being lazy and eating / drinking poorly this trip. But it’s my honeymoon and there’s no way I’m letting that pass by by being a restrictive brat. Living is so much more than beating yourself up about not getting leg day done, it’s about reminding yourself to breathe and maybe take a couple days off because your neck and back are screwed!!

 

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Restaurant Recommendations by State:

Nevada – Las Vegas

Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas – FU *Vegan Protein Options

Utah – Moab

Moab Brewing

Peace Tree Cafe

Colorado – Glenwood Springs (final resting place of Doc Holliday)

Sacred Grounds  – horrible

Colorado – Marble

Slow Groovin *try the okra

Colorado – Denver

City O City

Vital Root

Watercourse

Handy’s

True Food

Hapa Sushi – a chain with shitty service but decent selection

New Mexico – Santa Fe

Agave at Eldorado

Coyote Cafe

Indulge

Sweet Water Harvest Kitchen

Taberna ~ By La Boca

Annapurna