Vegana Hannah- Vegan Body Builder
Hanna LeBrun aka Vegana Hannah, is a local Austin vegan body builder. I had the pleasure of meeting her as she was out promoting her Vegana Hannah brand. I had a few questions for her and she was kind enough to share her story with JustBeingVegan.com
What is the history of your diet?
I first became vegetarian at the age of 11. I was actually at after school care, watching a show called “Braceface”- a cartoon about an awkward tween with braces. It was the episode where she happens to stumble upon a slaughterhouse in the city (I know, not the most realistic), and she decides to go vegetarian. I really looked up to her, and loved animals as well, so I decided in that moment I would do the same. So I went home and told my mom I wasn’t going to eat meat anymore, and I vividly remember her sighing, and saying, “It’s the middle of the week, can’t you at least wait until the weekend?” I told her I couldn’t. And I was lucky that she obliged.
I became passionate about my diet when I started to dive into the research about the meat industry. At 12 years old I watched “Meet your Meat” for the first time. I literally crumpled to the floor sobbing I was so upset watching the torture that went on in slaughterhouses. At that moment I knew this was something I was going to be doing for life. My peers gave me quite a hard time that it got to the point in high school that I started trying to keep it a secret. There were times I would cry at school because they bullying or the comments would be too much. Learning how to deal with ignorant and rude comments, and being treated differently for being vegetarian was definitely a challenge.
When did you adopt the vegan diet?
As I got older I knew deep down that veganism resonated more with my beliefs and ethics, but I was a huge cheese lover and couldn’t imagine giving it up. I would sometimes bake vegan treats in high school and college, but kept putting off the switch to go vegan. It wasn’t until I finally watched Forks Over Knives 3 years ago and learned more about the health aspect of veganism that I went vegan overnight. Once I saw for myself how harmful dairy and eggs are to our bodies, it was enough to push me to finally make the switch I had wanted to make for years.
When I first went vegan, I didn’t really want to tell anyone. I wanted to make sure it was something I could really do. Others in my social circle may not understand, I worried. However I lost about 5 pounds, I noticed my allergies diminish, my skin became clearer, and I stopped having any digestive issues. I felt so much better with a vegan diet, and it was also easier to maintain my weight.
How did you decide to be a vegan body builder?
I got involved in the fitness industry later that year. I actually joined the fitness industry after being in restaurants for 8 years, and I was looking for a more meaningful and flexible job I could be passionate about while I also pursued acting. The only sport I did was gymnastics as a child for about 5 years, so I fully immersed myself and learned everything I could while I got my personal training certification. I quickly joined the Gold’sFit program at my gym and fell in love with it, where I gained so much strength and confidence, and being part of that program helped me with past eating issues and food restriction. I soon started focusing on the skills I learned and the strength I was gaining instead of how I looked in the mirror.
Whats your favorite thing about being a vegan body builder?
If you would have told me a year ago that I’d become a professional bodybuilder, let alone a vegan body builder, I would have laughed in your face. It was never something I had considered, as it seemed so intimidating and I didn’t understand it. I feel as though bodybuilding is one of those things you don’t really understand unless you do it yourself. It seems strange to some, but the discipline and mental strength you gain from doing it is unlike anything else.
I never felt like I had complete control over my body until I started competing. In the past my weight would go up and down and even if I lost weight accidentally and liked it, it would bother me if anyone noticed. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. While it’s a mental struggle that doesn’t go away overnight, or from one competition, I can actually take a compliment now as I’m working hard to look the way I do. I also love the community and support bodybuilders have for one another. I have not experiences anything like the kindness that was displayed towards me at my first show.
What is your message to the public about your vegan diet?
I think the most important thing about veganism I’d like the public to realize is that it isn’t about being perfect. It’s about compassion. Simple as that. It’s about compassion for animals, the environment, other humans, being mindful of our health. It’s all encompassing. And as vegans we’re simply trying to make the world a better and healthier place. Another thing I want people to realize is that vegan food is delicious! We definitely don’t suffer with our food. I enjoy my vegan ice cream almost every night even while prepping for competition. There’s a way to go about it in a healthily way. I enjoy all the food I put into my body even as a vegan body builder.
Therefore- I try to be as humble and kind to others as I can be. I try to lead the example and make delicious vegan food for others whenever I can. I really think the key is leading through example. When people see for themselves how veganism can transform your life, they’ll want that same thing for themselves.
Who are other vegan body builders that you look up to?
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my coach Crissi Carvalho. She is an incredible woman and athlete and the reason I was able to win my first competition. I’m so grateful to her for taking me on as a client and guiding me in my journey. I’m also extremely grateful to my incredible fellow coaches I had the pleasure of working with at Gold’s Gym. They pushed me to become a better athlete and coach every day. Getting involved in the Gold’sStudio program completely changed my life. I also look up to other vegan bodybuilders such as Natalie Matthews (@fitveganchef), Robert Cheeke, Torre Washington, Nimai Delgado, Kileigh Branae, Samantha Shorkey, and Alexandria Rigia, to name a few.
I’m doing a fundraiser for my next show which is a charity show to help veterans and their spouses coping with PTSD by providing 3 months of free group exercise. Fundraising will also help cover some show expenses which will help me spread the vegan message as well as helping those coping with the disease.