I am a two-time winning vegan bikini athlete, certified personal trainer, the first-ever vegan World Naturals (WNBF) bikini pro and author of “Jacked on the Beanstalk: Plant-Based Fuel for Vegan Athletes.” I currently live in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada’s capital) about an hour’s drive from the rural town where I grew up. I actually studied journalism though and despite growing up in a hunting area, I’ve been meat-free since I was eight years old.
Being able to combine my passion for fitness, veganism, and writing is truly a dream come true. And I share my workouts, recipes, and personal experiences via my blog at www.JackedontheBeanstalk.com and most recently, my vegan podcast “Jacked on the Beanstalk: The Podcast” which I co-host with my sister.
When I’m not glued to my laptop writing or recording, I’m training other vegans for competition or just healthier lives in general. My most recent “client success story” was actually a meat eater turned vegan who won Bodybuilding.com’s $200,000 12-Week Transformation Challenge in 2015, beating out 345,000 other contestants worldwide.
I like to think I’m blazing trails and breaking stereotypes in the fitness world proving just how possible it is to get JACKED ON THE BEANSTALK.
Catch this Inspirational Soul online Here:
What was the moment you realize that you wanted to go vegan?
Like I said, I grew up in a small “hunting village” in a log house in the middle of the forest. We didn’t have cable TV, we had nature. My mom was always my biggest hero, feeding the birds, raccoons & deer, taking in stray cats and even raising orphaned baby squirrels. Sometimes we would have 30 deer behind our house. I adored living in the forest, surrounded by wildlife except for when “hunting season” was on. It is beyond heartbreaking hearing the three-week-long sound of guns being fired and loud ATVs ripping around the back roads. Hound dogs barking, pickup truck beds filled with bloody, lifeless bodies. And of course, our beautiful does and their baby fawns—the big horned bucks who’d graze on our property—so many of our deer who we’d never see again. I just couldn’t understand how people could hunt and kill such beautiful, sweet creatures. So at the tender age of eight, I became vegetarian.
I like to think I was an animal activist from a very young age. I remember one year my mom let me skip school because I wanted to protest against hunting season. I spent a whole week making picket signs. Then I packed a thermos of hot cocoa, wore Christmas reindeer antlers and stood post at a busy four-way intersection, waving my signs with each sight of a truck or men dressed in orange hunting gear. It’s one of my proudest memories. I went vegan in 2011 when I learned more about the dairy industry and realized that animals were still dying because of my milk and egg consumption.
How long have you been Vegan?
I was vegetarian for 20 years and I’ve been vegan since 2011 so six years now.
Why is being Vegan important to you?
I like breaking the stereotypes that exist about all vegans being weak, scrawny and protein-deficient. I always say that I don’t preach, I inspire and in fact, I sell t-shirts that say this very same message on them. Being a fit vegan (let alone a pro bikini competitor) in the protein-obsessed, meat-heavy world of competitive bodybuilding allows me to do just that. By offering my training and nutrition programs to vegans only, it actually helps to convert more and more non-vegans onto this lifestyle. Having one of my clients win the 2015 Bodybuilding.com $200,000 12-Week Transformation Challenge (beating out 345,000 contestants worldwide) definitely helped too. In fact, I regularly get new client requests from people who are meat eaters, pescatarians or vegetarians and you’d be surprised how many are willing to try my vegan bodybuilding nutrition plans because they’re so curious to know how I do it. And when they realize just how much better they FEEL eating this way, they rarely go back to their animal-eating ways. As I always say “you can’t argue results!”
Any recommended Vegan books?
Well mine of course! It’s an eCookbook called Jacked on the Beanstalk: Plant-Based Fuel for Vegan Athletes and can be found here.
I also got a lot of value out of “Thrive Diet” by Brendan Brazier when I first explored veganism for athletes. “Awake and Alive” is a book by my friend Luke Tan which is a great read and “The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life” by Melisser Elliot is a staple for any new vegan chick.
Any recommended social sites, Facebook Groups or other?
There are so many nowadays that it’s honestly hard to keep track of them all! I always suggest to new vegans to join their local area’s facebook group for vegans and vegetarians because it’s nice to feel close to your community. Being vegan can sometimes feel isolating and joining local groups full of like-minded people is a great way to connect with others fighting the same good fight as you and keep you in the know on cool vegan events happening in your own city.
I’m pretty honoured to have been asked to be one of the presenters at this year’s PlantFit Summit among so many awesome vegan fitness legends like Robert Cheeke, Crissi Carvalho and Fraser Bayley and world-renowned vegan doctors like Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Kim Williams and Dr. Alan Goldhamer.
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
I’m probably the most proud of my “Mindful Meathead” presentation from this year’s VegFest in Ottawa.
It is known that 96% of what we see as reality is nothing. It is our fears, worries, perceived misfortunes and dark energy that habitually, incessantly and unconsciously seizes hold of our minds. And sadly, it is this 96% of the unseen that creates all that is seen. But I believe that if we could just get a better handle on our thoughts, we could greatly increase the odds of living a longer, healthier, happier and more successful life.
I like to think that I not only provide my clients with fitness and nutrition programs but with equally important “joy and inner peace” plans. So I describe myself as a “mindful meathead,” epitomizing the right balance of “vegan hippie” and “meatless meathead.” And in this presentation, I discuss everything from bodybuilding and plant-based nutrition to body shaming, living life with intention and how others too, can unleash a healthy mind and sexy body.
Do you actively promote veganism? How? Please share any stories you would like.
Yes of course! I do it every day through my work as a vegan coach and I also participate in a lot of vegan outreach events. In fact, just last month, I was one of the speakers at The March to Close Down All Slaughterhouses here in Ottawa. Some of my speech footage for anyone interested: https://www.facebook.com/shannon.milling1/videos/10159148002730088/
I think it’s important for every vegan to do some form of outreach at least once per year because it’s really quite heartwarming and empowering to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. And as I always say, “to do nothing and say nothing stops nothing.” And I’m truly blessed to have the social media following that I have because it allows me to share my activism message with a large audience.
What is your favorite Vegan meme?
What is the vegan stereotype you hear the most and how do you respond to it?
I love how many bodybuilder dudes will shy away from soy because it contains phytoestrogens which will apparently make them grow breasts and lose muscle. I’ve been eating soy almost daily for 24 years. I’ve never had any problems building muscle and although I wish it would make my boobs bigger, it hasn’t yet
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
Grow Your Roots Café in Kanata, Ontario. Their desserts and BBQ’ed tofu sandwich are ridiculously amazing.
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
Ooh that’s tough! I don’t know if I should choose a decadent recipe or a super healthy favourite… Okay I’ll pick a “middle of the road” one.
These “Vanilla Oat Protein Balls” from my eBook (https://gumroad.com/l/Jacked ) was my savior during competition prep. They will definitely satisfy any sweet cravings and give you a hefty boost of protein.
Ingredients (makes 4 – 5 balls):
1 scoop vanilla Purely Inspired vegan protein powder
1 cup quick oats
3 tbsp ground flax seed
½ cup organic almond butter
1 tbsp organic coconut oil
¼ cup maple syrup (Canadian of course)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract or ground vanilla bean powder
1 tbsp sesame or chia seeds
Combine all ingredients in medium-sized bowl. Add a tablespoon or two of water if dough is too dry. Form into balls. Put in freezer and allow them to harden for a half hour. They can be stored in fridge or freezer.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Baby steps first. If you’re a meat eater, try going vegetarian first or incorporate just two or three vegan meals into your diet every week. And if you’re already vegetarian, try to only eat vegan at home and allow yourself cheese or milk when you’re dining out or as a “special treat” only. That’s how I began the transition from vegetarian to vegan and I found it was quite easy.
There are so many vegan options available nowadays that anyone can replace common comfort foods like cheese or milk with a dairy-free substitute. I try not to eat a lot of processed foods but the fake meat products are yummy substitutes for people in the transition phase.
And for those starting a vegan training regimen, try to ensure you’re getting 99% of your nutrition through whole, plant-based foods. Yams for instance, are a wonderful starchy, complex carbohydrate source that will help get you through those long, hard workouts. And watch the sugar & sodium contents of your foods. They can be very bloating!
What does living cruelty-free mean to you?
I love and respect all beings. And through my everyday life, I will always do my part to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. It’s awful that the majority of society claims to be animal lovers because their pet cats and dogs are loved and treated well. But often, these people show no compassion for the apparent “less cute” animals like pigs, cows and chickens. Instead they support their misery, torture and death through the meat, dairy, animal testing and leather industries. One of my favourite vegan shirts says “why love one but eat the other?” and has a picture of a pig with a dog. I always say “I don’t preach, I inspire.” And that’s also why I’m always wearing my Jacked on the Beanstalk vegan workout apparel at the gym and backstage at fitness competitions (http://design.tshirtelephant.com/jacked_on_the_beanstalk/shop/home). I like being physical proof that you can be strong and healthy without contributing to the death and suffering of others. Plus it’s so easy to be vegan these days! There really is no reason NOT to be vegan. And I hope I can always help show non-vegans “the compassionate way” via my passion for vegan health & fitness.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
I love Lululemon for all my vegan workout pants needs, Luxe de Mer skin care products and love shopping at Terra 20 here in Ottawa for all of my non-toxic, vegan hippie meathead home and beauty needs.
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
Good quality hair dye and hair products!
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
It always seems to affect my dating life. So I blog about it: http://www.jackedonthebeanstalk.com/compassion-is-a-relationship-killer/
What is one question you would ask other Vegans? Please answer it.
“Are you living the most beautiful life possible? With harm to none and benefit to all?” This is a big mantra for me. I wake up every morning and as I’m stretching and drinking my coffee, I ask myself: “what is my purpose today and how do I want to feel?” And then I determine how I’m going to achieve that purpose and those feelings. Often it’s as easy as just being grateful for being ALIVE and being privileged enough to get to use my energy to develop myself and help others through my work and brand. But I also know that in order to benefit others, I need to always be kind to myself first and ensuring that I create a supportive, healthy and nurturing environment in my little home office.