Name: Emily Zukle
Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
Year of Birth: 1981
Weight: 123.5 lbs.
Birthplace: Salmon Arm, British Columbia, CANADA
Current Residence: Lake Oswego, Oregon, USA
Sports: Bodybuilding Competitor
Social Media: facebook.com/emily.zukle
Tell us a little about yourself, what you do for a living, what hobbies / interests / passions you have
I’m married and have two daughters, ages 1 and 3. I have a business degree and am licensed as a massage therapist. In my free time, I enjoy exercise in addition to spending time with loved ones.
Why did you become vegan?
For several years, a friend called me an ovo-lacto-pescetarian (meaning I would have been considered vegetarian if I didn’t eat fish). In January 2009, the man who would become my husband recommended I watch the documentary “Earthlings” narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. I tried to watch the video on my computer, but found it so disturbing, that not long into the movie, I had to open another browser and simply absorb the information audibly. It was enough, though, to turn me into an ethical vegan overnight. In fact, the only reason I had been eating fish was because a good friend and co-worker of mine who was a biology major in college told me that that cold-blooded creatures couldn’t feel pain. Of course, afterward in massage school I learned that any organism with a central nervous system can experience sensation, and it saddened me to realize I had caused unnecessary suffering because of trusting faulty information. Turning vegan definitely helped cause me to begin to question sources of information and look for the real answers on my own.
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
Ever since a young age when I set the elementary school record for the flexed-arm hang, I remember enjoying fitness. In middle school, I loved track and field days and the semi-annual mile runs (that everyone else seemed to dread). In high school, I was on a dance team and the varsity track team for the half mile and 300 meter hurdles. In college, I was a cheerleader.
I am a better person, physically and mentally when I do aerobic activity and I have been a member of a number of gyms in order to attend cardio classes and strength train at various times throughout my adult life. When my youngest daughter was about two months old, I participated in a 12-week body transformation challenge at the gym and lost the baby weight. I continued exercising regularly and this August, participated in another contest. This one for 30 days, which jump-started my bodybuilding contest preparation. Also that month, I joined a team and started attending their weekly posing practices.
At the end of September, I entered my first NPC (the largest amateur league) bodybuilding competition and placed 4th in my class, qualifying for several National level contests. I have a few more shows lined up this year, and hope to continue to place well, in order to help represent vegan athletes well. In fact, before the first show, I got the veg sunflower tattooed above my hip since I knew it would photographed, and I’ve already had the opportunity to talk about its significance to others in the bodybuilding community. Also, in reflecting on life after my first competition, I decided to do what I’ve heard others deem “vegan straight edge,” in other words, abstain from alcohol and other substances that might detract from an otherwise healthy lifestyle. Not that I judge others who choose to drink, etc., I just feel that for me, at this time in my life, I need to not just “eat clean,” but live clean as well to be the best person, and veg representative, I can be.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
Like a lot of folks in this sport, I eat my oatmeal and protein shakes during contest preparation, but the biggest thing that started contributing to my physical transformation was the avoidance of sugar and gluten. I have a huge sweet tooth and used to eat bread and a lot of whole wheat pasta, but once I gave up candy and switched to brown rice pasta, I started to see my abs and lost inches all the way around!
How would you describe your training program?
I exercise at Diva Den Studio. It’s a women-only gym that has classes in everything from “bootylicious bootcamp,” to Zumba, to pole fitness. They offer childcare for two hours every weekday, so that’s where I can be found five days each week, doing up to one hour each of strength training and cardio activity.
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why? I’m really not very good at remembering to take the EFAs, BCAAs or glutamine, though I’ve taken each at different times. I’m mostly a believer in what Hippocrates famously said: “Let food be thy medicine.”
How do people react when they find out you are vegan? I’m fortunate to live in an area where it’s so common that most people seem to at least know something about it, even if they think I still eat eggs, or use honey, or something. But at least it is mainstream enough that I can do my grocery shopping, and even dine, at a variety of locations.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism? That I don’t get enough protein or that it’s too difficult to make the switch from non-veg living.
Have you had success in promoting veganism / vegetarianism to others? If so, how did you go about it?
I feel like the most success of promoting veganism can come from example and not by being overly preachy about it. When people seem interested, I’m excited to tell them everything I can in a short time, kind of like an “elevator speech,” (you know, the ten to thirty second spiel you give to someone when you make an introduction). It usually involves something about my level of fitness and health and how good I feel and how I am happy I know I’m not harming others unnecessarily, and how relatively easy it is to make the change.
What do you think the most important aspect of training is?
Listening to one’s body and treating it like a machine--the only one you get in this lifetime!
What do you like best about being vegan? Knowing I’m reducing the amount of harm to the animals and environment. I feel I’m just doing the right thing that requires very minimal effort and hope that my example might lead others to consider their impact as well.
What do you like best about being fit?
That it opens doors to conversation about healthy living, which quickly turns to the topic of vegan living.
What advice do you have for people who are just starting out with training?
I think it’s probably the most common advice I read in magazines or hear trainers say, but I think people don’t actually follow. As Peter Drucker says, “what gets measured, gets managed,” so track your progress. Record everything you ingest in a food diary and record your workouts. Always remember that the data the measuring tape provides is more important than the numbers on a scale!
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
It’s relatively easy once you resolve to do it. Today, we are fortunate there are so many options available. Everything in the world seems to have a vegan equivalent. From man-made and synthetic materials, to veg-based meats, to my favorite: good animal-based cheese replacements (personally, I’m a fan of the Daiya brand—their shredded mozzarella style “cheeze” goes on all my salads and pasta). My favorite treat is Amy’s brand Rice Macaroni. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and features the cheddar style Daiya “cheeze”. It’s vegan, of course, and can be found at grocery stores that carry meat-free frozen entrees.
What motivates you in life?
As a mother, I have a responsibility to my daughters to be the best example I can be as a steward of all I’ve been given. I’ve been incredibly blessed and hope to share good habits with them that they carry on in their lives, and hopefully pass on to others they will help to influence during their lifetimes.
What do you think of veganbodybuilding.com? Has it helped or inspired you?
It is SO inspirational! I found it by way of Robert’s book when I began looking into bodybuilding in August. I was excited to read it, but I still found myself being impressed by the tone the author took with his approach to the content and his message. I felt it was very positive and a major takeaway was that it encouraged other vegans to be patient with people in the non-veg community. Whether it stated that or not, it was a message I received and it came at a time when I was frustrated that others didn’t understand the importance of being ethically vegan. I love the participation of the members on the related facebook group too! Flex Fridays (where members post pictures of themselves posing, often in clothing with vegan logos) are the best =)
Thank you for the opportunity to share this information. As so many other vegans have positively influenced me, perhaps reading this will help others evaluate their lives and the legacy they’re leaving in the world and their impact on others. It’s never too late to make a positive change!