20 Dec Stephanie Rice
Olympic athlete Stephanie Rice has been vegan for seven years. She shares her plant-based journey with Gently Vegan.
A vegan lifestyle was something Olympic swimmer Stephanie Rice hadn’t contemplated at the height of her career. Now, at just 31 years of age, she’s been living a plant-powered life for almost seven years. It makes perfect sense. The swiftly-growing vegan movement has far surpassed a trend. And Stephanie is not the only world-renowned athlete embracing vegan life.
Household names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic and Chris Chan have all adopted a plant-fuelled fitness regime, diet and lifestyle. So much so that mega-director James Cameron documented their journey is his film The Game Changers.
Each of the athletes profiled reveals that their performance, recovery and all-over general health has vastly improved since turning to a plant-based diet. And Stephanie is no different. Gently Vegan’s Shonagh Walker chats to her about her journey.
Shonagh Walker: How long have you been retired from swimming?
Stephanie Rice: Oh it feels like a lifetime ago!
I retired in 2013, but I am opening a swimming academy in India. My goal is to guide Indian swimmers towards a podium finish by the 2028 Olympics.
SW: That is amazing! What would you say has been your most exciting career highlight?
SR: There are two. The first was breaking my very first World Record in March 2008 as a 19-year-old. I never had contemplated being able to achieve such a thing, so it was a MAJOR shock when I did it so unexpectedly. The other was, of course, winning all three of my Gold Medals later that year at the Beijing Olympics. Each win has its own special memory and they all mean something different to me. I can never pick a favourite.
SW: At what point in your life did you start to think about going plant-based? What do you think prompted this?
SR: I started taking meat off my plate back in 2014, mainly for health reasons. I had just retired from swimming and my body was really struggling after having my third shoulder surgery. I was suffering adrenal fatigue and a compromised immune system from years of intense training. I started researching ways I could improve my health, feel good and of course look good, which was especially important to me. My body was dramatically changing without the seven hours of daily exercise it was used to.
I was really inspired by other people who had adopted an abundant vegan lifestyle of mainly fruits and veggies. So I went 100 percent in! I tried the raw vegan thing for a few months and felt great when I was able to prepare my own food. But it wasn’t sustainable back then, with all the travel I did. So I went in and out of veganism for a year, until I found a way to make it work for me and my lifestyle.
SW: You say you’re 98 percent vegan? Does that mean the occasional slip up if you’re travelling? Or you might sometimes wear silk or leather? Can you elaborate a bit for us please?
SR: I say I’m 98 percent vegan, because in general I feel there is a never ending line of where to stop when it comes to being a vegan. To me being a vegan is so much more than just what you put in your mouth. It’s animal welfare, environmental impacts, sustainability, leather, etc.
SW: That’s the kind of ethos we have here at Gently Vegan. We do believe that every step towards compassion is a fabulous one, but also understand that sometimes life gets in the way and it can be impossible to be 100 percent vegan, 100 percent of the time!
SR: Yes! So, even though I would eat almost 100 percent vegan, I allow myself the space of the two percent to cover of the other components (plus an occasional piece of non-vegan cake at a family event).
SW: Did you notice a difference or improvement in your skin, hair, nails and energy levels when becoming vegan?
SR: It’s actually hard for me to pinpoint any dramatic changes that happened right away. I think they were all gradual. I have always been blessed with great skin, but I no longer get the odd pimple. I can now tell my skin is much clearer and my energy shines brighter now. My digestion is 1000 percent better and I no longer feel lazy and tired after meals.
As for as a huge change in overall energy, I don’t think so, but that could also be because I have been vegan for six or seven years now.
SW: You have released a couple of e-cook books. Can you please tell us about those?
SR: I don’t think many people know how much I adore cooking! It has been an absolute pleasure working with Vegie Delights to bring this passion to life. I’m so passionate about eating plant-based food and helping change the perception that it’s hard to eat plant-based.
All the recipes in the e-cook books I’ve created are really quick, simple and delicious. I know how busy life gets and how tempting it is to order take-away, but I’ve really learnt that you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to come up with a delicious and healthy meal. Most recently, we’ve just launched a Summer Entertaining Guide which is available for free at www.joinourvegietable.com. This is a little different from the other e-cook books we’ve created because along with some amazing vegan recipes, we also have included some handy tips and tricks for entertaining this summer.
SW: Do you find fitness easier to achieve now you’re vegan? Are you stronger physically?
SR: I have always been an athlete and someone who is very active. I know the importance of exercising, sweating and strengthening your body, especially as a woman. It’s so empowering and has a huge impact on my mindset and confidence.
Consistency is the only way to see lasting results. I generally work out every day, whether it’s a 20 minute HIIT workout or a one hour weights session. I really value health, fitness and mental positivity so I MAKE time for fitness.
Other than consistency, it’s so important to eat healthy and fuel your body with good food and for me, that is eating vegan!
SW: With the holidays coming up, what advice would you give people for avoiding the pitfalls and embracing a more compassionate Christmas?
SR: I think a lot of people don’t realise how easy it is to incorporate plant-based meals into their diet over the holidays. My advice is if you’re hosting, have a couple of options for people. Some plant-based and meat alternatives. If you’re attending a Christmas gathering, why not take a vegan dish?
Not only is this a polite thing to do and you can make sure there is something that you can eat, but it’s something that your family and friends can try – especially if they don’t eat a lot of plant-based food. I think people are so much more aware of their health nowadays and it’s also SOOO easy to opt for healthier options now.
SW: What will be on your plate this Christmas Day? Do you have a favourite recipe?
SR: My view during the holidays is to eat healthy and nutritious meals – with a little bit of balance of course! Personally, I love dessert, so that is where I indulge, but I actually love healthy, clean vegan main meals. My sister, who is also vegan, and I are hosting Christmas at our place this year. So, we will be serving up some of the tasty recipes from my Summer Entertaining Guide with Vegie Delights, along with heaps of vegan desserts that we have found on Instagram. I am so excited to give my family to gift of a health, plant-based Christmas, which will be a first!
SW: Summer is all about parties, BBQs, friends and family getting together … what meat alternatives do you favour for the great Aussie BBQ?
SR: After working with Vegie Delights this year, I feel like I’ve found some really amazing new recipes to serve up at summer parties! In our Summer Entertaining Guide we’ve created five delicious vegan recipes that are so easy to make and are perfect for entertaining. I think my favourite would be the Summer BBQ Burger with Spicy Chipotle Mayo and BBQ Corn, or the Delightful Mediterranean Rolls with thick BBQ sausages.
SW: They sound delicious! Do you have any tips for our readers on transitioning from meat eater to vegan? What kinds of foods do you suggest they lean towards in the beginning to help them if they are ‘missing’ meat?
SR: I think with brands like Vegie Delights, it is so easy to switch out meat with plant-based alternatives, even when you’re out with friends who may not follow the same lifestyle as you. Enjoying a plant-based sausage or patty on the BBQ is something everyone can do. It’s a really simple and easy way of showing your friends and family how simple it can be to substitute animal products for plant-based alternatives!
Lifestyle Editor Shonagh Walker