Name: Sofia Sabeti
Year of Birth: 1988
Birthplace: Burbank, CA
Current Residence: Tacoma, WA
Sports: NPC Bikini Competitor
Tell us a little about yourself, what you do for a living, what hobbies / interests / passions you have?
Health and fitness has been my life's passion for almost as long as I can remember. I hold a B.S. from California State University, Northridge, in Kinesiology, concentrating in Exercise Science. I've worked as a personal trainer, and love sharing my passions with my friends, family, and as many people as I have opportunity to reach out to. I grew up on an island, so I am a big outdoors person; during the year you'll find me hiking, snowboarding, running, paddleboarding, sailing or boating, if it's outdoors and involves being active you can bet I am doing it!
Why did you become vegan?
At the tender age of eleven I made the decision to become vegetarian and stuck with it for almost a decade until a nutritionist I went to see told me I never would be able to gain the muscle I needed to compete unless I ate meat. During that year I developed more health problems than I had in my entire life! I became extremely sick, developed hypochondriac type tendencies, and experienced anxiety and panic attacks for the first time in my life. I eventually hit rock bottom and knew that I needed to do something drastic. I became vegan practically overnight, cutting out all eggs, dairy, fish, and meat and over the course of the year put myself through several juice fast cleanses which eventually helped transition me over to being 100% raw vegan.
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I was blessed to have been raised by a mother who was very passionate about health & fitness, a former aerobics teacher and yoga/pilates certified instructor, so I was definitely being molded for this lifestyle at a young age. She enrolled me and my brother at a PE program twice a week at the YMCA, however, I would dread going because though I have always been lean & small-framed, I did not have the endurance, stamina, or coordination like my peers. In order to reduce the anxiety I experienced from anticipating these PE days, I began running on my own at home. Again, at only eleven, I began to form a habit that I would carry on for many years to come. My parents fulfilled my mother's lifelong dream to open up a health & fitness club when I was a sophomore in high school, so from that time on my life was completely immersed with fitness. I completed my NASM certification at 18 years old, and landed my first job at Gold's Gym while a freshman in college. From there, I soaked up anything health or fitness related like a sponge, and decided to move out of state and attend a college where I could pursue a degree in Kinesiology.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
As a raw vegan my diet is very intuitive. I believe whole-heartedly that your body is an intelligent and complex creation that knows exactly what it needs at any given time. The key is to get to a point in your wellbeing to know how to properly listen to it and to respond to the signals it gives you regarding what it needs.
Right now I am working with WBFF pro bikini athlete Channa Serenity for my contest prep diet, so it is a bit more structured to accommodate my competition goals.
When I am not prepping for a contest, I do not follow a strict nutrition plan. I eat when I am hungry, about 6 times a day, and when my body craves a certain food, I indulge it
I am also a big believer in eating locally and sustainably. I am blessed to live in a community that has its own farmer's market, and to have many friends that have large gardens that share their food during the summer months, as well as a small garden of my own. I try to eat what is in season and as close to home as possible, as this will be the freshest and best for your body, the local economy and farmers.
I eat a LOT of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. I always start my morning with a big green smoothie and a lot of water all throughout the day.
How would you describe your training program?
Prior to competing, I trained mostly bodyweight, HIIT year-round, 6 days a week. To keep variety I would employ the use of sandbags, kettlebells, TRX, and UGI ball which made my workouts fun and challenging.
During contest prep, I change my training program dramatically. I do more heavy lifts, and use a 5-6 day per week bodypart split. Right now I am hitting Legs/Glutes twice a week, and Back/ Bi's, Chest/Delts, and another upper day. Like my nutrition plan, however, I will tweak this from week to week depending on how my body is responding.
I never do the same workout session twice. I love to keep my muscles guessing, and the variety makes it so I am never bored, or never experience that “burn out” feeling in the gym. I compliment my training with yoga practice as often as I can, and will never underestimate the benefit of a great sports massage!
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
I recently started using Sunwarrior Warrior blend protein and I absolutely love it! It is easily digested, and adds a bit more flavor and substance to my smoothies. Other than that, I truly believe you can fulfill all of your bodies nutrient demands through proper diet.
How do people react when they find out you are vegan?
Most people think my lifestyle is extreme, and cannot understand how I am able to eat enough food to meet the demands of my training.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
Other than the huge misconception about adequate protein intake, a lot of people believe that you have to be rich to eat this way. I am far from rich, work two jobs, and live off of a budgeted income, however, when it comes to my health I will make no sacrifices. Most people I come across say they cannot afford to eat organic, fresh, healthy produce and foods. With all of the sickness and medical costs due to diet-related disease in this country I say, you cannot afford NOT to eat like this. I choose investing in my health over recuperating from disease or sickness ANY day!
Have you had success in promoting veganism / vegetarianism to others? If so, how did you go about it?
I believe the best way to promote a way of life or to share your beliefs is to lead by example. People cannot help but be drawn to positive, healthy, and happy individuals.
What do you think the most important aspect of training is?
Variety. Your body is such a highly-adaptable mechanism, that you constantly have to keep it guessing. Sometimes it's as simple as changing up your rep ranges for a certain exercise, or to superset one muscle with an opposing one. My favorite way to keep things interesting and my body working hard is to change my rest periods during a workout. It's amazing how cardio-intensive your weight-training sessions can become just keeping your rest periods short!
What do you like best about being vegan?
The enormous amount of physical energy I possess, and having a continual positive attitude despite life's many obstacles and problems. Being raw vegan has truly brought me to a higher level of awareness and spirituality than I ever experienced on the regular SAD or even vegetarian diet. I feel more creative, motivated, driven, and inspired on these living foods I consume. It truly effects every aspect of your being, physical, mental, and spiritual.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
Don't be discouraged if you fall of the wagon or have a hard time being consistent all of the time. It took me a year to fully transition to the lifestyle I currently enjoy. There is a Chinese proverb I believe that says fall down seven times, get up eight. The same approach goes for any major change in your nutrition and lifestyle. Take baby steps if you need to; walk, stumble, crawl, just don't give up. You are worth it!
What motivates you in life?
Meeting and connecting with other like-minded people who want to make a difference in this world. Sometimes it's even the simplest gestures such as smiling at a stranger which can make such a positive impact in someone's life. Never underestimate the power of loving others & the desire to help your fellow friend.
What do you think of veganbodybuilding.com? Has it helped or inspired you?
I think this is an amazing community to gain and share knowledge with other vegan peers. It is so important to have a source of support and encouragement in your life, especially as a vegan engaging in any type of bodybuilding or athletic pursuit.