Editor’s Note: For the past two weeks I’ve been featuring articles about vegan athletics written by Anne-Marie Campbell, Founder of Meat Free Athlete. With over 20 years experience, Anne-Marie knows a thing or two about how to thrive on a vegan diet. This week I thought you might enjoy knowing more about Campbell and how she incorporates veganism into her life and into her fitness. Here is her story of vegan evolution. – KD
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved sports and being active. There are many things that define who I am, but being an athlete is probably the characteristic that I’ve identified myself with since earliest in my life.
I have been a competitive athlete since I was 9 years old. It started with a newspaper ad promoting a local gymnastics club. I told my mom that I wanted to try gymnastics, and that was the beginning of my 8 years dedicated to the sport. I trained 3 times a week, for 3-4 hours, and competed in numerous tournaments. It was gymnastics that sparked my love for athletics and taught me the importance of commitment and setting goals.
During my time as a competitive gymnast, I was a huge hockey fan, and loved playing street hockey. When I was 16, I made the decision to ditch the spandex for skates and started playing hockey. Hockey was my first, true passion as an athlete. If I wasn’t playing a game with my team, or at practice, I was outside playing street hockey. I’d wake up, put my rollerblades on, and go straight outside to drag my hockey net out to the street. Even to this day, you’ll find me outside on my street, shooting on my net. It’s a happy place for me. I don’t think I’ll outgrow that… and I don’t want to!
Around this time, I started taking an interest in improving my performance, and what I could do to be better, faster, and have more energy. So, at 16, I ditched beef, pork, and lamb, and started cutting out fried and fast foods. I didn’t know anything about veganism at this time, or that it even existed, I just thought that cutting out those things would be healthier. This was before the age of social media and the awesome amounts of information available at our fingertips today!
A part of my decision to take my performance seriously, besides playing hockey, was that I was also on several teams in high school: ice hockey, field hockey, track and field, softball, and basketball.
Years later, in 2008, I discovered my love of martial arts when I started training in Tae Kwon Do. Initially, I was looking for something to do during my hockey off-season, but it ended up becoming my new passion. I absolutely love Tae Kwon Do; it eventually became the sport I put my full focus into and I stopped playing competitive hockey on a travel team. I still play hockey, but just recreationally, or pick-up. So far, I’ve been in eight Tae Kwon Do tournaments matches (8 wins – 0 losses).
I’ve also always thought of myself as an animal lover. My parents taught me to always adopt dogs at the shelter, and I always felt a deep love and respect for animals and nature. Sounds silly now, considering I wasn’t vegan back then, but that’s just how disconnected we can be! I was deeply concerned with the well-being of animals, and yet I was supporting the worst abuses by eating animal products. As crazy as it sounds, I never thought about where my food came from. I would order chicken, but I didn’t actually connect that word to the conscious thought that the chicken I was eating was an individual being, and I never asked myself what they endured to become a meal on my plate.
In late 2010 I started seeing posts on social media about factory farms, and the cruelty that unavoidably comes with it. Before seeing those posts, I never thought about where my food came from. I was truly disconnected. For the first time, I was seeing animal welfare issues that weren’t just about the cats and dogs we share our homes with. I didn’t want any part of it. This was the beginning of my personal journey towards living a vegan lifestyle.