I started out as a skinny skateboarder. I was 13 years old and had no interest in weights. My dad, however, was competing in weightlifting events at that time. He and his buddy Gary would enter bench press competitions while in their late-30s and early-40s, and my dad brought home more than a few trophies. He was known to be one of the strongest and toughest guys in our city. My older brother Chris, at 6'2", was always built like a football player. When I watched television or movies, I looked up to Arnold Schwarzenegger and The Hulk (Lou Ferigno), and the toys I had as a kid were G.I. Joe, and He-Man. Growing up, I always felt like a small guy in a big guy's world. These guys seemed larger than life, like superheroes.
My dad and me, at age 13
A few years later, I was ready to hit the weights. My dad put me on a program and, at the age of 15, I started lifting 4-5 days a week. I started to build some muscle and was happy with this new regimen. At the time, I still ate meat. My dad's advice then on how to put on weight was to eat everything I would normally eat, but add in four peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on top of that. And so it began. Through skateboarding, I had some friends who were vegan. Back then, the idea to not drink milk seemed absurd. I knew that meat was an animal that was killed, so that was an obvious reason to not eat meat, but not drink dairy?! A friend recommended I read John Robbins' Diet for a New America. I read it in 1996 and have been vegan ever since.
So now here I was: a 16 year old committed ethical vegan who lifts weights and wants to get big. My dad doesn't have any good advice on this. VeganBodybuilding.com was nowhere to be found. The internet was hardly even out yet. I had to do some research with what limited resources I had. On my path to becoming vegan, I became aware of the tremendous amount of suffering that animals have to endure in the meat and dairy industry — the conditions that these industry leaders never want you to see. Since that point and to this day, I see people's eating animals as one of the largest atrocities in human history. In our modern industrialized society, this is one of the most easily avoidable global problems of our time. This daily catastrophe can be avoided by simply changing what we put on our plate.
So now not only did I want to get big and muscular for personal reasons, I wanted to get big to crush stereotypes of the weak and scrawny vegan. I spent a good 10 years trying to figure out how to become affective in promoting this cruelty-free lifestyle. In 2006, I got a job at the front desk at a gym, and I knew this was my path. People looked to me for advice on technique and what to eat. I started becoming comfortable in promoting a plant-based diet for better health and performance. I then got my first National Personal Trainer Certification. I moved to Portland, Oregon and got another Certification, and got a job at 24 Hour Fitness. Robert Cheeke happened to work out at this gym when he lived in the area. We became friends, and he encouraged me to do a bodybuilding competition. I eventually did and won my first competition!
20 years later age 33
I am now a champion vegan bodybuilder, a CrossFit coach, a certified fitness nutrition coach, a physique competitor, and gym owner. I will admit that I enjoy some of the attention I get as a vegan athlete, but what really drives me is that I have something to prove: I am here to prove that animals do not have to be killed for food. We can survive and thrive on beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and grains. I want to inspire others to learn about the animal agriculture industry. I want people to learn that there is no such thing as humane meat. I want people to learn that eating animals is nothing but a choice, based on convenience and tradition. Now with the help of doctors such as T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn, Neal Barnard, John McDougall, Michael Greger, and many other physicians and nutrition experts, people can also see that this compassionate lifestyle also just so happens to be the healthiest diet on the planet!
Vegan Bodybuilding is more than my personal interest; it symbolizes who I am to the core of my existence. I strive to create a more compassionate world that sees all humans and all living creatures as worthy of care, dignity, and respect. As a vegan in a non-vegan world, I hope you are inspired to be an ambassador for this lifestyle and show that you too have something to prove.