Power Vegan

Just arriving from Agate Surrey–Power Vegan, a health/nutrition/fitness/cooking book by personal trainer/nutrition specialist/writer Rea Frey. Here’s what you need to know about it, as conveyed by Rea herself in this Q&A:

Who is this book for?

I get asked all the time, “Where do you get your workouts? What’s your diet like? Do you take a lot of supplements?” As a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist, I felt like I was constantly giving the same answers, explaining why I chose a plant-based diet, why I constructed my workouts a certain way, etc. I always joked that it would be great to just hand people a book and say, “Here. It’s all there—the nutrition advice, the recipes, and the workouts. Have at it.” Luckily, Agate allowed me to do just that. This book is for everyone who wants to make health a priority. Despite its title, you don’t have to be a plant-eater to garner helpful advice from this book. The bulk of most peoples’ diets revolves around processed foods, and that needs to change. Power Vegan is about eating for energy and bringing power into our daily lives through the foods we eat and the way we move our bodies. I think it will appeal to people who want a sustainable way of life and are tired of the confusing diet books, the fad diets, and the quick-fix promises.

When did you first become vegan? Why?

I’ve been a plant eater for 15 years, though there was a brief “meat lapse” in my mid-twenties. When I was 13, I ate some bad beef and just decided to give up meat altogether. I was a huge animal lover; unless I could raise the animal and give it a good life, I wasn’t comfortable eating it. But more than that, I just like the way I feel on a plant-based diet. You’re eating food that gives you energy, food that doesn’t have to be cooked to a certain temperature just to be deemed safe to consume. As a plant-eater, life just becomes easier, not harder. I eat a greater variety of foods than anyone I know. I can also leave my groceries out for far longer, and I can indulge in raw cookie dough without having to worry about getting sick. That’s always a plus.

How has your background as a nutrition specialist and trainer shaped Power Vegan?

Over the years, I have worked with so many clients, and I’ve realized I can’t give anyone a canned program and expect it to work. It’s all about individuality. It’s about paying attention to how you feel with the foods you eat or the exercises you do. Power Vegan provides the tools to help you get to your best version of health—whatever that means to you. Steak lover or plant lover, health is simply the bottom line. Also, I’m not just writing about this lifestyle—I’m living it. My husband lives it. My daughter lives it. My parents are now complete plant-based eaters, too!

How should omnivores use Power Vegan?

Omnivores can use Power Vegan as a way to reassess how they feel with the foods they eat. Do they truly like these foods, or were they just brought up to like them? Does your body really feel great eating dairy, chicken, eggs? Or is that all you’ve been accustomed to? Omnivores can examine new ways of thinking and eating. I think that swapping in healthier recipes will bring more energy into their lives. I feel like plant eaters sometimes get a lot of flack about the way they eat, but American fare in general is nutritionally weak. We dislike one thing above all others, food-wise: inconvenience. So we now have any kind of food at our fingertips (and most of these foods come from a bag, box, or can); hence, the obesity epidemic and preventable diseases that are afflicting our nation. What many people don’t realize is that meat and dairy can be very hard to digest. Plant-based foods are often easier to digest, which allows the body more energy for repairs and daily activities. So, of course, you feel better eating those foods than harder-to-digest foods. I’m trying to bring omnivores some common-sense approaches to eating (e.g., “If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.”); I’m teaching them where they can find essential vitamins and minerals in surprising places; and I’m showing them some new power foods and exercises along the way.

What are some common pitfalls people encounter when trying to get healthy and lose weight? Why do you think it is so hard for people to stay in a healthy mindset?

What is a healthy mindset? Somewhere along the way, we have lost our understanding of what “health” really means. Today, health often means fitting into a pair of jeans or looking a certain way, instead of feeling good internally. Are we born to dose ourselves on caffeine just to get through the day? To suffer from bad skin, sore joints, or constant fatigue? In many ways, we’ve forgotten how to feel good. We pay attention to calories, fat and protein instead of the nutritional content of our food. We don’t think about what we’re putting into our mouths or how sedentary we are—we just want quick fixes. I think people approach getting healthy on unrealistic terms—“I’m going to lose thirty pounds in thirty days!”—instead of focusing on what they can and should do today. We are impatient and lose focus on the overall goal: sustainable health. Me? I’m going to eat five different vegetables today. I’m going to move for at least an hour. I’m going to get up and do the same thing tomorrow. And over time that ensures good health.

Power Vegan is a hybrid of a nutrition guide, recipe book, and exercise book, with friendly and approachable advice on how to think about the food that we eat. Why did you decide to take this hybrid approach?

To me, living a happy, balanced life means paying attention to what you put into your body, how you move your body, and whom you share your body with. I touch upon relationships and job stress in the book, because it all goes together with how we eat, exercise, sleep, and otherwise live our lives. You can work out around the clock and eat terribly. You can eat clean and have a stressful job, which will, in turn, affect your health. It all goes together, and it’s about striking the right balance with what works in your everyday life. If we take it back to basics (i.e., eat foods that come from the ground, move our bodies in some way every day, reduce our levels of stress), we can achieve lasting health.

What’s next for you?

Over the past 19 months, I have ventured into the land of pregnancy and motherhood. I began a blog (My Veggie Baby) once I discovered I was pregnant with my daughter, Sophie. I wanted to chronicle a first-time vegan pregnancy and what it means to raise a vegan child. I look forward to turning this blog into a book, and I have never had so much fun writing. It will be a very comedic, honest look at life as a pregnant woman and a first-time mom through that grueling first year of a baby’s life. Along the way, there will be helpful recipes for pregnancy and post-pregnancy, and plenty of delicious, plant-based recipes for the little ones.

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