VLV Articles

Bridget Flynn is a vegan athlete from the Midwest, USA who loves her job as the Sustainability Coordinator at Oberlin College. She graduated cum laude from Indiana University with degrees in Environmental Ethics and Religious Studies. She lives with her best friend, Buddy (who is a majestic cat), enjoys being active, reading, and spending time with and adventuring with family and friends.
Follow Bridget on FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter.
Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I received a DVD at Warped Tour that portrayed the brutal realities of slaughterhouses, the environmental impact of factory farming, and the health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets – as well as interviews with bands that have vegetarian and vegan members. This video was the first time I had seriously thought of – or seen – how animals were killed for my food. I was devastated, cried my eyes out and went vegetarian immediately. Over the next few months, I read more and more about being vegan and began to cut out most animal products until deciding to jump into veganism for life. As a deeply empathetic person and a total nerd, I learned as much as I could about veganism and related issues (human nutrition and health, environmental impact, advocacy, etc.) and developed immense passion for the subject.
How long have you been vegan?
Vegetarian since August 2006, Vegan since May 2007
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
Becoming vegan has allowed me to be who I am and live at peace with the world in a new way. Prior to going vegan, I didn’t know that this was even possible. I feel immense reward from living compassionately and advocating for the animals. Becoming vegan also opened me up to a whole new world of foods and ushered me into the vegan community! It’s so much fun to go to new cities to check out their vegan scene, find new products, meet like-minded individuals, and most importantly feel like I’m living in line with my ethics and making a difference for the animals.
What does veganism mean to you?
Veganism to me is about living in the world with respect to all life and with the desire to minimize suffering. This includes extending our circle of compassion and care to our human and non-human counterparts and the natural world.
What sort of training do you do?
I have been a life-long athlete; more recent accomplishments include running two half-marathons, dozens (if not closer to 100) 5ks, competing in a rock climbing competition, receiving my purple-belt in taekwondo, and completing a Tough Mudder. My current sport of focus is bodybuilding. I trained for my first figure competition in August 2014.
How often do you (need to) train?
I lift weights five times a week, pose once a week, and when in the cutting phase do cardio quite a few times a week.
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
Not in any formal capacity. As someone into fitness and nutrition, I give advice to my coworkers, friends, family, and random folks at the gym when they ask for it.
What sports do you play?
I have competed in: basketball, volleyball, track, softball, snowboarding, cross-country, kickboxing, taekwondo, swimming, rock-climbing, running, and now bodybuilding. I also bike recreationally.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
The biggest misconception or stereotype of vegans is that they are white, pale, scrawny, and need to worry about their protein intake. I combat this misconception by referring people to diverse vegan athletes, like the PlantBuilt team; as well as being an active and informed vegan myself.
What are your strengths as a vegan athlete?
I love to shatter the myths people have about vegans – in particular vegans in athletic arenas. Knowing I’m an ambassador to the animals pushes me to work hard. I want to dispel the myth that in order to be competitive you need animal products.
What is your biggest challenge?
Right now, dieting is hard, but that doesn’t have much to do with veganism. It can be difficult to be an ambassador for the animals, because people will always look to your for answers, critique everything you do from your achievements to your purchases. However, that’s a small price to pay.
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Some are; some aren’t. There are certainly some people that are in awe of vegans with muscle and respect it very much, but there are others that say “Well, just imagine what you could do if you ate animal products.” As a whole, I think the athletic community is becoming more and more accepting – and even excited about – veganism.
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
The vast majority of my friends and family are now. When I first went vegetarian and then vegan, my family was hesitant and didn’t understand it exactly. Now my family sees that I’m healthy, happy, and that veganism has been a positive, affirming choice for me.
What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that you are a vegan and how do you respond?
Haha! There’s so many. Certainly the top one is “Where do you get your protein?” to which I usually respond by telling them all the foods I eat in a day, and reference the myriad of ways to get plant protein from beans and lentils to whole grains to tempeh and seitan. I also love to mention that dark leafy greens like kale and Brussels sprouts have more protein per calorie than steak.
Who or what motivates you?
Motivation comes from within, but is reinforced by family, friends, fellow athletes, and the “haters.” I faced a lot of sexism in athletics growing up which made me develop an underdog-type of prove-them-wrong attitude. As a vegan, too, I am motivated to show that a compassionate lifestyle and fitness are not incompatible. Because I’m from the Midwest, there are a lot of minds to change; I constantly have fruitful conversations with folks about veganism, which is really rewarding. These kinds of conversations further reinforce the impetus to change hearts and minds, which is really motivating for me.
Ultimately, you’re the only one there to make those reps count or to stop you from gorging on Oreos. Especially with dieting, it’s a mental game and you have to keep yourself in check. Of course, it is extremely helpful to have supportive friends, family, roommates, partners, and coaches.
Bridget_Flynn_-_4wks_from_first_fig_compBridget Flynn - 4 weeks from first figure competition
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - Nowadays oatmeal with protein powder and strawberries; I also love really hardy green smoothies with fruit and peanut butter for breakfast. I also love healthy pancakes, waffles, tempeh bacon, and other breakfast foods.
Lunch - High-protein tofu, steamed broccoli, and nutritional yeast with salsa or spices; sweet potato with seitan and a huge salad with dark greens and veggies. I am also a fan of burritos, wraps, sandwiches, and more.
Dinner - Homemade seitan, brown rice, and steamed veggies like Brussels sprouts, peppers, or spinach with lemon. In the off-season, I like the Vegan Stoner’s mac-and-peas, pasta with marinara and nutritional yeast, cous cous, quinoa, and more.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - Veggies and hummus, snap peas, steamed veggies, zucchini, green beans, protein pudding (made with tofu and cocoa powder or protein powder and almond milk), kale chips, and in the off-season Clif bars, trail mix, pretzels. I am a huge fan of baked goods and enjoy making semi-healthy ones like my famous oatmeal raisin cookies, zucchini bread, carrot spice muffins, or cupcakes!
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - RawFusion Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge protein powder, tempeh, tofu, whole grains, quinoa - oh, it’s so hard to choose!
Calcium - Broccoli, kale, almond milk, kimchi (fermented cabbage)
Iron - Lentils, spinach, beans, edamame, tofu, tempeh, kale, nuts and seeds (trail mix – yum!)
What foods give you the most energy?
Simply eating healthy foods in the right portions keep me energized – as well as coffee and tea. Sweets give me energy boosts, too.
Do you take any supplements?
Right now, I take quite a few. In general, just an occasional multi-vitamin containing B12 is all I take. For bodybuilding, I also regularly take CLA, Glucosamine, BCAAs post-workout; as well as creatine during the bulking phase.
What is your top tip for:

Gaining muscle - Lift weights! Bodybuilding.com is a terrific resource.
Losing weight - This can be hard. Eat right and exercise regularly. I think too many people focus on losing weight instead of gaining health and fitness and simply feeling good. The number on the scale or even your BMI doesn’t determine your worth, your fitness, or your health. In the US, too many people rely entirely on the scale. Eat healthy, exercise hard and often, and learn to love your body no matter your size. Lastly, enjoy the journey. Particularly when you are striving for a certain goal, remember that you must enjoy the journey toward the goal, too. Happiness doesn’t just arrive and stick around once you’ve achieved your goal. Enjoy the process and keep striving for more.
Maintaining weight - Keep doing what you’re doing.
Improving metabolism - Eat smaller meals more often. I find that eating five to seven times a day is a great way to boost your metabolism and maintain a more consistent energy level throughout the day.
Toning up - Again, lift weights and/or do circuit-training exercises – even with your body-weight. There are so many ways to do this. Find activities that you find fun and stick to it.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
There are many ways I promote veganism in my personal and professional life. I talk to people intelligently and enthusiastically about veganism often – even simple acts like wearing a t-shirt that says “Vegan” on it at the gym have inspired many conversations. Just about everyone who knows me knows that I am vegan and respects my veganism. I have had conversations about veganism with nearly everyone I know at this point. I love when months, or even years, later people will contact me and tell me they are trying vegan foods or went vegetarian or vegan and that I inspired them. How exciting!
I have worked with Mercy for Animals and Indy Vegans. In my current role at work, I have advocated for a Meatless Monday-type campaign, and ensure events we host are vegetarian or vegan, which can mean hundreds of people eating vegan cookies! I am the advisor to the Animal Rights Club, and initiated an intersectional animal rights book club where we discuss how issues of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and sustainability relate to veganism and animal rights. Occasionally I post pro-vegan messages on my social media pages, volunteer for or contribute to vegan organizations, leaflet, support ethical and innovative vegan/-friendly businesses, and shop strategically among other things.
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
Feel free to find or contact me on FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter – preferably follow me on Instagram as that’s where I post most of my journey. Send me good vibes for my competitions!
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Leigh-Chantelle is an International Speaker & Consultant; Author, Singer/Songwriter and Blogger.

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