The Plant Kind Life

June 20, 2017

The Plant Kind Life

In this latest installment of Inspirational Vegans, we spoke to Kyle den Bak, aka "the Plant-Based Trainer". Check out, PlantKind, his very cool fitness and nutrition coaching outfit which is based out of the gorgeous and historic Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa. 

Describe your personal style in 5 words or less.

Casual. Bohemian. Earthy. Classic. Surfer.

Number of years as a vegan.

Fourteen years.

What has been the most challenging thing for you launching your own Plant-Based nutrition and fitness consultancy?

The culture of high protein, animal-based diets runs deep in the fitness industry. Despite all the contrary evidence, there is still this belief that to be lean and athletic, you need to eat lots of protein. As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite.

So when people come to me, they often have a pre-conceived notion about nutrition, and what I’m going to recommend as their coach or trainer.  When I advise them to eat lots of starchy vegetables, whole grains and legumes and fruits it can be a difficult sell. Jaws really drop when I tell them that whole grain pastas and breads are also healthful additions to a plant-centric diet.

So much damage has been done by the diet industry and popular fads like low-carb, paleo and fear mongering around whole grains. Re-educating clients is the most challenging part of the job, and I often find myself swimming upstream against the current fitness trends.

What has been the most rewarding part?

Changing bodies takes time, but changing minds about veganism takes even longer. That’s why I’ve designed my business model in a way that allows me to spend lots of time with my clients. Rather than have too many clients, I’m able to have a few really close relationships. It’s been rewarding to teach my them about vegan nutrition and customize their training in a way that gets them the best results.

Of course, this is rewarding for them, too. But for me, the knowledge that I am making a deep and lasting impact is my way of devoting my life the are healthier, greener, and more humane future. I can’t think of anything more gratifying.

How has the reaction been so far?

I’ve had this incredible reception at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier! I never would have thought I’d be able to run a vegan business out of one of Canada’s most prestigious and historic site.

The fact that I’ve been so warmly embraced by the members of the health club here tells me that the perception of the vegan movement is really starting to change. It’s no longer just something for alternative types. It really is a lifestyle for every stratum of society. How different from 14 years ago!

What do you see as the biggest vegan or ethical trend right now.

For so long, the perception of vegans has been that we are weak, pasty, no-fun, no style, life-denying hippy types. The biggest trend is showing how awesome and fun vegan living is. We haven’t given anything up at all. Instead, we are living an engaged life in line with our values, and nothing feels better.

Take one look at YouTube or Instagram! Vegans own it. From cool fashions to high performing athletes and bodybuilders to colourful food and smoothie bowls, we are showing that an ethical and healthy life doesn’t have to be a boring one.

Having compassion for animals, saving the environment, and taking care of your body is as cool as it gets.

What is the craziest myth you’ve heard about being vegan?

While I could say something like you can’t be a vegan athlete, or vegans can’t get enough protein, there is one myth that I think is truly crazy - that individuals can’t make a difference.

This is so false. Even if you look at the objective number, the average meat eater will eat about 8,000 animals in their lifetime. So right off the bat, there are 8,000 individuals who you’ve made a difference for.

Now consider people in your sphere of influence. Just by being a happy healthy vegan, you spread the seed that a vegan life is not only possible, it’s desirable. Maybe one of them will change. At the very least, you are showing there is an alternative. Now consider how they may influence the people in their circle. Good ideas spread exponentially. If silly cat videos can go viral, the idea that we can live lightly and compassionately in this world can too.

If you think your choices don’t extend beyond yourself, you simply aren’t aware of how connected everything is.

Most inspiring activist/role model.

I recently read that Rosa Parks was a vegetarian (vegan?). It’s fitting because veganism is in itself a form of civil disobedience. It’s a refusal to cooperate with what you know is wrong, even if it’s against the status-quo. Rosa wasn’t the first activist in the civil rights movement, but her refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger galvanized the movement into an unstoppable force.

We might not all be as brave as Rosa, but when we choose to not participate in animal exploitation, it sends a very powerful message to those around us. If you are ever scared to speak your mind, think of Rosa.

Top 3 things you’d take with you to a desert island.

  1. Seeds to plant vegetables. Because, for any vegan who has been ever asked “what if you were on a desert island”, it’s clear there will be no plant foods there.   

  2. My wife and child. She’s still pregnant, so that counts as one! We’ll start a vegan island.

  3. My copy of Marcus’ Aurelius, “Meditations”.

What is your favorite vegan nutritious snack?

Ripe papaya with a squeeze of lime.

What is your hope for the vegan movement in the next 5 years?

I see this progression in the popularity of veganism. It’s grown immensely with films like Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy, which is great. It tells me that people are starting to really think about the impact animal agriculture has on their health and the environment.

My hope is that we can continue the progression to more people thinking about animal rights. For me, it’s the most powerful and indisputable reason for the vegan lifestyle. Imagine caring for animals became the norm? Would we fight as many wars?

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