VLV Articles

Belinda Jansen is a runner by morning, Graphic Designer by day, and an experimental vegan cook by night. She began running six years ago as a way to help her lose weight, but has since fallen in love with the sport. She is currently training for her third half marathon and has various fun-runs, one marathon under (fuel) belt. She also loves weight training and outdoor activities, like hiking and kayaking. You can follow her “runventures” and cooking experiments on Instagram and Twitter.
Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
Like most, I started out as a vegetarian. In 2001, I saw a video of an indigenous tribe killing a rabbit for food and that’s when I made the connection - the only difference between my cat who I love like a child and the animals on my plate are norms dictated by society. From then on, I could not benefit from the death of any creature. At this point, I did not realize the implications of the egg and dairy industries. Then, a few years ago, I started having violent stomachaches after eating eggs and dairy. While my doctor advised me just to take antacid, I decided that my body was telling me that it no longer wanted these things inside it. So, I went vegan. The decision was originally based on health, but once in the community, I learned more about the dark side of animal husbandry - things that I can’t turn a blind eye toward - and knowing what I know, I could never use anything from an animal again.
How long have you been vegan?
I have been vegan since 2012.

What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
My mind and spirit has benefited most. I had a lot of dark tendencies growing up—a lot of mental anguish. Living a compassionate life has helped me heal.

What does veganism mean to you?
It means valuing all life and living selflessly to help make a better world for all creatures.

What sort of training do you do?
I run and weight train. I’m a bit of an anomaly in that I like to do both. Too often runners hate weight lifting and weight lifters hate running. Running is my thing - I am a runner - but I love how powerful weightlifting makes you feel. I love the benefits of both sports.

How often do you (need to) train?
I train 6 days a week, sometimes twice a day. Depending on if I’m training for a race, the balance of weight training and running shifts. I’m currently training for my third half marathon, so I run 5 days a week and two of those days feature a weight-training workout later in the day. The 6th day is cross training - either stationary bike or swimming and a core workout. If I’m not training for a race, I cut back on running and focus more on building strength.

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
I love sharing what I’ve learned and spreading the love of being active to anyone who asks, but don’t offer services in any official capacity.

What sports do you play?
Only running.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
I hate the stereotype of the “preachy vegan.” I have never met a vegan who tried to impose their beliefs on anyone else, but I’ve met plenty of omnivores that immediately question my choices. I’m sure that there are some vegans that do get a little “preachy,” and I get it - we are a passionate lot. If you give me the opportunity, I will talk your ear off, but I only do it when the message is well received. I prefer to concentrate on the positives - the benefits that I experience - and steer clear of negative, condemning language. Sort of the “you catch more flies with [vegan] honey” mentality.

What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
A vegan diet is perfect for endurance sports. I love my carbohydrates, and I put them to good use on long runs. A plant-based diet also helps you recover faster. Two days after my marathon, I was running again, where omnivores might have to take two or three weeks before thinking about hitting the pavement.

What is your biggest challenge?
My weight is my biggest challenge. I lost over a 100 lbs a few years ago, and while I would like to lose more, my body just isn’t ready to give it up. It’s both mentally and physically challenging. On the mental side, I feel like I am not a proper representation of a vegan lifestyle, and that fellow vegans assume I must be a junkfoodatarian - I have trouble getting respect in the weight room. It’s difficult to work so hard - eating clean and working out - not to have it reflected in my outward appearance. On the physical side, excess weight makes every mile I run harder and physically inhibits some things in the gym. Other ladies set goals like “to do an unassisted pull-up in a month,” but I would either need to lose so much weight or gain so much muscle to do the same, these types of goals seem impossible to me.

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
There are so many examples of vegans excelling in running and other endurance sports - it would be hard for anyone to argue against it.
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
For the most part, yes they are supportive. Sometimes there are concepts that they can’t quite understand (abstaining from honey is a big one), but they never make me feel bad about my decision.

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?
So many times people say, “No eggs, no dairy, and no meat. What do you eat?” People think all we eat is salad and tofu, but vegans often have a more varied diet than omnivores. I’ll explain how switching to veganism makes you rethink what you eat, leading you to explore new foods, and end up eating a greater variety of foods than before.

Who or what motivates you?
The memory of my grandfather motivates me. Growing up, we were very close. He was a very outgoing and loving man. I owe so much of who I am today - my education, my compassion, and my I-can-do-anything attitude - to him. Every Sunday morning long run, his spirit accompanies me in my heart.
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:

Breakfast - Fruit, oatmeal, green smoothies, muesli, tofu scramble & country potatoes (if I have a lot of time), Clif or Lara bar (if I’m on the go).
Lunch - All kinds of different salads, soup, sandwiches, leftovers.
Dinner - I usually just make something up, so it’s rare that I eat the same thing twice. I like to pair a green veggie (favourites include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, and asparagus) with a starch (potato, sweet potato, brown rice, farrow) and a protein source (tofu, beans, lentils). I take what ever I have on hand, toss it with some seasoning (my go tos are: garlic, onion, parsley, basil, chives, paprika, red pepper flakes, and Mrs. Dash), and cook by either baking or sautéing. Otherwise, I’ll eat a veggie burger (with no bun because I just kind of like it that way) with baked fries or Protein Pancakes (recipe from of Rawmazing website) with fruit.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - I like having leftover Protein Pancakes with grapefruit after a workout, protein shakes before a gym workout, open-face peanut butter sandwich, just peanut butter on a spoon, veggies with hummus, fruit, edamame, and, again, Clif or Lara bar if I’m on the go. My indulgences include Tofu Pie (usually made for a family gathering), vegan marshmallows, dark chocolate, Newman’s sandwich cookies, and I usually get Skittles around Halloween and Easter because it’s the only candy my mom knows I can eat.
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Tofu, beans, lentils. Occasionally I’ll employ a mock-meat if I’m short on time or supplies.
Calcium - Tofu, broccoli, fortified almond milk, kale.
Iron - Edamame, tofu, lentils, spinach.

What foods give you the most energy?
Bananas! My early morning runs are fueled by bananas because they are tasty, full of simple carbohydrates, quick to eat, and easy on my stomach.

Do you take any supplements?
I supplement with protein powder, vegan glucosamine, BCAAs, and digestive enzymes.
What is your top tip for:

Gaining muscle - Lift heavy, lift often, and give your muscles the fuel (calories) they need to grow
Losing weight - Lift heavy (you many not lose weight, but you’ll lose fat!), slight calorie restriction, stay active, and eat clean.
Maintaining weight - Eat clean, eat by feel, weigh yourself periodically - maybe once a month - to make sure you’re on track. After years of over-eating, followed by years of dieting, many of us no longer eat when it feels natural. We rely on the clock and macronutrient intake to tell us what to eat. Macros should be used only when training for an event, looking to lose fat, or looking to gain muscle.
Improving metabolism - Gain muscle, implement interval training (sprint intervals if you’re running), and eat clean.
Toning up - I’m not a fan of “toning.”
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
I try to be a beaming beacon of all that’s good in veganism. I love posting photos of my beautiful, tempting, vegan creations on my social networks. I also have a small selection of vegan message tees that I wear whenever I can.

How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
If you’re interested in running, just get a pair of sneakers and go do it - no fancy equipment required. That’s the beauty of running, it’s so easy to get started and an ability that we are all born with - some might be faster than others, but we can all do it. If you want to try veganism, I recommend reading Forks Over Knives and Thrive, and getting a few cooking books to help you learn new ways to combine foods.
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Leigh-Chantelle is an International Speaker & Consultant; Author, Singer/Songwriter and Blogger.

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