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Name: Despina Rosales       
Age: 38
Height: 5'
Weight: 115lbs
Birthplace: Nicosia, Cyprus
Current Residence: Sydney, Australia
Sports: Yoga, Pilates, Bellydance, walking/skating/cycling/swimming with my dogs

Website: www.despinarosales.com

Why did you become vegan?

For me, it dawned on me in this way: I asked myself what I'd do if there were suddenly no (so-called) farm animals to eat. Would I then kill, skin, cook and eat my dogs? The answer was (obviously) no. An ad by Mercy for Animals: www.mercyforanimals.org explains my epiphany best: "Why Love One But Eat The Other?" So, from that point I decided that I'd love all animals and eat none of them! And from that (ie. being vegetarian) I worked my way towards being vegan, and officially became vegan about a year later.

When and why did you become interested in fitness?

When I was 15 my school took us to an aerobics class and I loved it. I was interested in fitness from that point on.

How would you describe your nutrition program?

Balanced: lots of good stuff and a little bit of ‘bad’ stuff (in other words I have a sweet tooth!).

How would you describe your training program?

Varied: a mix of Yoga, Pilates, Bellydance, walking/skating/cycling/swimming with my dogs. I don’t like to follow a specific routine as I get too bored.

What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?

What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
That it’s impossibly hard. That you are relegated to a boring diet of only celery and tomatoes all day long. I sometimes find it challenging because of my (acursed!) sweet tooth…but there are loads of alternatives so I get by just fine. It’s a simple matter of choosing compassion over greed.

What do you think the most important aspect of fitness is?
There are many ways to interpret that question, but the way I interpret it is this: the most important thing you can do for your own fitness is find the fine line between challenging yourself and pushing too hard. In other words: to listen to your body and know when to go easy in your exercise or rest completely and have a day off.

What do you like best about being vegan?

Being able to look into any animals’ eyes and know in my heart that they and ALL their relatives are safe around me. (I also lost 10 kg from being veg and then vegan – and you’ve gotta love that!!)

What do you like best about being fit?
The energy it gives me! It seems like a paradox, but the energy you put into your exercise gives you back energy.

What are your strengths as an athlete?

I don’t consider myself an athlete - I consider myself a fit person in my personal life who also works in the fitness industry. So I guess my strengths involve two things: One, in using my fitness to keep my dogs in shape and give them an active life within the somewhat restricted environment of a city/suburbs setting. And two, in helping others get fit through teaching.

What advice do you have for vegan athletes who are just starting out?

Assuming the ‘starting out’ refers to the vegan aspect of things (rather than the ‘athlete’ side of things): eat well so that you can be the picture of vegan health. One common misconception is that being vegan makes you emmaciated, unhealthy and unwell. So the more fit, vital and vigorous vegans are around, the better the ‘advertisement’ you are for a vegan lifestyle. Be a walking billboard for veganism!

What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
Slow change is safe (and permanent) change: overnight changes (like crash diets) usually lead to backslides, so ease mindfully into a vegan lifestyle. Have a plan and stick to it.

What motivates you to continue to be a successful vegan athlete?

I stay vegan to help animals. Looking into my dogs’ eyes I remind myself that I am, essentially, looking into the eyes ALL of the non-human animal kingdom. My dogs therefore continue to motivate me to be a fit vegan!

How has the website www.veganbodybuilding.com helped or inspired you?
It’s just great to know about other fit vegans! It makes you feel like you’re part of a community. Vegans are in the minority (but hopefully not for too much longer!!) so it’s great that cyberspace can bring us together on sites like this.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your vegan fitness lifestyle?
Being fit is the only way to be – you’re only given one body so treat it well! Being vegan has enriched me spiritually – it’s made me feel better about myself in every way and I would recommend it to anyone.