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Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 138

World champion mountain biker Sonya Looney on fuelling as a vegan, habit-building, & more

Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 138. Today on the show, world champion mountain biker Sonya Looney discusses fuelling her training with plants, habit building, her vegan pregnancies, prioritizing health, and more.


Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina your go-to, no-BS, vegan fitness and nutrition coach. Welcome to the last episode of 2022. Thanks so much for joining me. If you're new here, happy to have you, welcome. And lately, I've also been hearing from many long-term listeners, so a special shout out to you for following along and supporting the show. I've got a lot of amazing guests, and the odd solo episode as well, planned for next year. So I hope you'll join me and please share this show with someone you think would be interested. And if you haven't already, leave a star rating and a quick review as that is the best way to get this show in front of new listeners. Much appreciated.


Now, I don't make New Year's resolutions, but I do like to set some priorities for the year ahead. Oh, and by the way, January 1st happens to be my 20th vegan anniversary. And it wasn't a New Year's resolution back in 2003, it just seemed like a good place to start at the time.


Anyway, one of my priorities for 2023 is to continue connecting with my audience. So with my recent Resistance Bands book giveaway, I corresponded with 51 awesome folks on my email list. And before that, I offered free coaching sessions and got to connect with 30 incredible people. Heads up that these giveaway shenanigans happen only in my email newsletter. So if you're not already signed up, go to karinainkster.com/contact to do so now. So in keeping with connecting with my audience, I would love to hear from you. Email me at karinainkster@karinainkster.com, message me on Instagram @karinainkster, or on Facebook, or use the contact page on my website, karinainkster.com/contact, or just send a smoke signal or something. Let me know what you'd like to hear covered on the podcast in the next year, or how I can improve the show for you, or just say hi. I would love to hear from you.


On to our esteemed guest for today: Sonya Looney. She's a world champion pro mountain biker, certified health and performance coach, podcast host, and TEDx speaker. She was featured in the New York Times bestseller, The Plant-Based Athlete by Matt Frazier and Robert Cheeke. Check out episode 94 of this show with Robert, by the way, if you haven't already. Sonya has raced her mountain bike across the world in over 25 countries at the hardest endurance races in places like the Sahara Desert, the Himalayas of Nepal, tropical Jungles in Asia, the steppes of Mongolia, and mountain ranges in Poland. She became a world champion in 2015. Here's our discussion.


Hey Sonya, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming in today.


Sonya Looney: Yeah, thank you.


Karina Inkster: I'm excited to learn about what you do and some of your insane feats of mountain biking and fuelling those with a plant-based diet. But let's jump right into your vegan backstory to kick things off. So whenever a guest is on the show who's plant-based, I like to get the background story. So why and how? Was there a catalyst? How long has it been? What's the deal?


Sonya Looney: Yeah, it's actually really funny whenever I think back on this because well, first, I'll start with answering your question. I changed my diet in 2013 and it was after meeting a guy who is now my husband.


Karina Inkster: Ah-huh. So some random dude who happens to be your husband now.


Sonya Looney: Yeah, and it's funny because every time people meet the two of us, they always think that I was the one that influenced him because I think that there's still the preconceived notion that eating plant-based is for girls. That's definitely changing. So people are always surprised when they find out that he was the one that swayed me into considering this lifestyle. And I was at a mountain bike race in 2012 and it was a six-day mountain bike race and that's where I met my husband. I would be eating dinner with him every night and I would notice what he was eating. It was weird to see a huge plate of grains and beans and vegetables and I just didn't really think that you could eat that way and be an athlete.


And then I asked him about it and he said, "Oh yeah, I eat a vegan diet." And then I thought, "Oh well, now this is all over. I can't like you." I'm kidding, but I asked him why and he said, "I saw this documentary and it was called Forks Over Knives and it's about how you can use diet in order to prevent all of these lifestyle diseases." And I thought, "huh, I didn't realize that you could do that with food. Maybe I need to look into this."


So I watched Forks Over Knives and I was always very concerned about high blood pressure and cancer and things like that and things that I felt were out of my control. Things that I thought you're just genetically or epigenetically predisposed to getting these things. And I realized that that wasn't always the case. So I thought, well if this is true I better change my diet, but I don't know if this is going to be a way... I don't know if I'm going to be able to perform. If I am racing my bike for a hundred miles or for six days in a row, how am I going to eat this way and get enough protein or get enough nutrients?


So I made my shift very gradually. My focus was on a whole-foods, plant-based diet and it took three months to fully change my diet. And after I did that, I never looked back. I think one thing that's important is that whenever somebody's considering making any type of change in their life, but especially a big lifestyle change like this one, there's multiple ways to approach it and that approach is going to be different for everybody. For my husband, his approach is, "tomorrow I'm just quitting everything and I'm never going to eat it again." And that works for him. For me, thinking in terms of absolutes makes it too hard to even start or even to consider. So that's another reason why shifting gradually was really helpful for me.


Karina Inkster: Interesting. It's a really good point that there are different approaches for different individuals and I think - I am stereotyping here - in the vegan world, there's a lot of black-and-white thinking like there is one correct way of being vegan and this is how you do it. And if you're not doing it this way, you're doing it wrong. So I feel like there's kind of a lot of that in the world of also fitness and nutrition, not just veganism. So I think it's a really important message for our listeners to keep in mind that hey, the end goal is the same; the end goal is long-term plant-based eating that supports your lifestyle, but the way that folks get there is often quite different. So I think that's a very important point.


Sonya Looney: I also think that the reason why you do it tends to evolve or deepen. For me, I came to it from a health perspective, but then there's also a lot of other great benefits like environmental benefits and animal suffering and things like that. And you just start becoming more aware of those. And it's so interesting how if you treat your body well, you treat other beings well, and then you're also treating the planet well. And whenever all of those things are out of balance, everything gets worse as a collective. So just thinking about how everything is connected instead of this reductionist of it's just me out there doing this thing, it also helps with purpose and with long-term change.


Karina Inkster: Hey, that's a really good point. So how did it change your approach to fuelling your races, your training, and your fitness?


Sonya Looney: The biggest challenge that athletes face when eating a plant-based diet, especially endurance athletes, is getting enough calories because if you're eating a whole foods diet or you're not eating a lot of processed foods, you're eating a lot of fibre. And you could be feeling really full without necessarily getting enough calories, but you also want to make sure that you're eating vegetables and not just eating grains and tofu or veggie meats or whatever. So for me, I do eat a lot of pasta to make sure that I'm getting a lot of carbs because I believe that eating a high carbohydrate diet, especially a complex carbohydrate diet, is really helpful as an athlete. But whenever I make choices like that, I don't opt for a white flour pasta. I try to get a bean pasta or a quinoa pasta so that there's added nutritional benefits to that. So not shying away from calorie density.


And it's funny because a lot of times people will think about weight loss and will be concerned about weight loss. So it just depends on where you're coming from, but I think that a lot of athletes want to maintain a healthy weight. And as an endurance athlete there is a strength-to-weight ratio where there's a limit to how light you want to be without losing strength, but you also want to be lean so that you're not carrying a lot of extra weight uphill that you don't need to. So there's a lot of consideration there. But one thing that really caught my attention was that I had disordered patterns of eating before I changed my diet on and off over the years. My relationship to food was always like, "oh, this thing is going to make me gain weight," or it just was this challenging relationship that I had with food.


And after I changed my diet, I realized, hey, as long as I'm eating within these boundaries, I can eat as much as I want. I feel great. And a lot of those issues went away. So that was a really interesting after-effect that I wasn't expecting. And now I'm not focused on my weight, I don't worry about it, I don't think about it in the same way. So it's sort of healed that part of me as well.


Karina Inkster: Interesting, interesting. I've heard some of these themes with other folks as well, especially high-level athletes, where the veganism piece becomes more and more evolved as time goes on, where there's lots of other reasoning to come into things. And then the eating itself, for a lot of folks when they make that change to plant-based eating, just becomes a healthier relationship overall with food. I don't know exactly why; maybe it's because you're eating in line with your values or that it's making you feel good or it's fuelling you well. I'm not sure about the reasoning behind that, but it does seem fairly common.


Sonya Looney: Yeah, I don't know. Like for me, I mean my weight didn't yo-yo a lot before I changed my diet, but now it just doesn't seem yo-yo. It just seems to stay at a steady weight. I don't worry about getting down to a "race weight" where some people will try to lose weight whenever they're in competition and then they'll gain more weight in the off-season. I don't think about food that way anymore and I just try and eat healthy and try and nourish myself and my weight stays pretty even keel and so do my emotions around food.


Karina Inkster: That's awesome. So was it in 2015 that you won a world championship?


Sonya Looney: Yeah, it seems like not that long ago, but then also, it's like, oh we're approaching 2023. That's a while ago now.


Karina Inkster: That’s pretty awesome. So tell me about that. Where was it and what was the race?


Sonya Looney: In mountain biking, just like other disciplines of endurance sports, there's a lot of different distances. So the Olympic distance for mountain biking is a short course. It's usually on the order of an hour to an hour and a half of racing, which can be anywhere from 10 to 15 miles or maybe up to 20 miles. It's pretty short. Whereas the type of racing that I do is endurance mountain biking. So my races could be six days, it could be a hundred miles, up to 24 hours plus.


Karina Inkster: Wow.


Sonya Looney: So there's a world championship for 24-hour mountain biking, which is one course that it's a big loop, like a 20-mile loop, and you have a pit that you come into every single lap. So you ride laps for 24 hours.


Karina Inkster: Holy.


Sonya Looney: And one lap takes up to around an hour to an hour and a half. So one lap is like a cross-country short distance, but you do that. It's whoever rides the most laps in 24 hours, wins. And there's a lot of things to take into account for 24-hour racing because you're riding all night in the dark with lights on your bike, you don't sleep. You basically don't stop unless it's to change batteries on your lights or to go to the bathroom or to fuel. So yeah, that was the 24-hour race I did. It was in California and I thought that that would be a cool one to go to because it was easy to get to. So I just drove down. It was a 20-hour drive. The race is in a different country every single year and it's really cool that that exists.


I didn't go to the race saying, "Oh, it is my life goal to win this thing." I was saying to myself, "Hey, I have a background in this type of racing, I'm really curious to see how this is going to go. I'm going to try to have fun." And that's how I approached it.


Karina Inkster: Wow. Well, congrats. That's pretty major. What are your current training goals? I mean now you've got small humans to look after and that's a whole new thing presumably since that race, but what does your training look like right now?


Sonya Looney: Yeah, this is something that I am still always trying to figure out for myself. So I had a child in March 2020, pandemic, and then I had another child in March 2022.


Karina Inkster: Oh wow.


Sonya Looney: And I was able to mountain bike through both of my pregnancies until the very end and be committed to training; even though training was more exercising for health. It wasn't like hardcore training. And in the middle was continued pandemic, where the border was closed and I couldn't race because of the border... I live in Canada, so the border was closed. So this year was my first year back to racing after having my first kid. And it meant so much to me to be back. But my relationship with racing and my goals around racing is something that I'm trying to figure out because before I had kids, my goal was to go after the hardest and longest races all over the world. So I'd look at the calendar, I'd look at the races and say what sounds interesting, what sounds like an ultimate adventure? What sounds really hard? And I'd just sign up for whatever I wanted.


And now I have two little kids. I have a baby and a two-year-old. I really want to be there for them. I want to be there as much as I can. So my interest in traveling around the world, I still want to do it, but I don't want to do it at the same frequency that I was. So my goals are more in line with racing domestically in the US and in Canada. But the challenge now with that is that I've been racing my bike for 19 years, so I still want to have that feeling of adventure and that feeling of curiosity and the unknown. And it's a little bit harder to find that now because I've done a lot of these events already. Of course, I love being as fit as I can and trying to win the race, but that's usually not my number one priority whenever I'm signing up for an event.


So I am doing a six-day race in Canada next year. That's already on the calendar for July, that I've done before. And that's going to be fun because one of my secondary goals, or actually now is a primary goal, is building community and helping teach people about health and mental skills and wellbeing. And I'm trying to incorporate that into events that I'm already going to in the way of a workshop or speaking. Another event that I signed up for that I'm really excited about is a 50K running race, trail running race.


Karina Inkster: Oh wow.


Sonya Looney: And I started as a runner before I became a cyclist 20 years ago, but I've always wanted to do a trail running race and I just have never been able to because I'm always prioritizing my bike races. So I thought, well this is a great opportunity to prioritize this year. And there's not a lot of semi-local within a five to seven-hour radius. There's not a lot of mountain bike races in British Columbia that are of the endurance category, which is really strange because British Columbia has some of the best mountain biking in the world.


Karina Inkster: I actually didn't know you were in BC because that's where I am too.


Sonya Looney: Oh really?


Karina Inkster: I had no idea. I just assumed... Well, actually I'm not sure I assumed anything.


Sonya Looney: Where are you?


Karina Inkster: I'm in Powell River, which is actually pretty excellent for mountain biking.


Sonya Looney: Yes it is.


Karina Inkster: So yeah. Whereabouts are you?


Sonya Looney: I'm in Squamish.


Karina Inkster: Oh, my sister lives in Squamish.


Sonya Looney: Cool. Maybe we'll meet sometime.


Karina Inkster: Mostly for the climbing. Yeah, that'd be awesome. If you're ever in this neck of the woods, let me know.


Sonya Looney: Yeah.


Karina Inkster: But it is odd because there's people who do destination mountain biking in this province. So it's a little weird that there aren't any-


Sonya Looney: There aren't that many.


Karina Inkster: ... or aren't many large-scale events.


Sonya Looney: And a lot of the races have gone away. A lot of the cross-country and endurance mountain bike races have gone away, but trail running is booming. There's so many different trail running races. So that's why I thought, well if I want to be more local but I still want to express myself athletically, this is a different way that I could do it and a new challenge.


Karina Inkster: That's very cool. So I'm sure a lot of folks were, I don't know, second-guessing or questioning you when you were pregnant, when you were mountain biking at the same time while being vegan. I mean, did you get a lot of pushback from folks?


Sonya Looney: It wasn't necessarily pushback, it was more curiosity like, "Should you be doing that?" Or, "Are you being safe?" I didn't take it as being judged because I ultimately knew what I was doing was the right thing for me and for my baby. Ironically, we just had a short documentary film come out at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival this week. And it's about the identity of being a mother, the challenges that athlete moms face during pregnancy and how a lot of athlete moms are afraid to become moms because of what that could mean for their career. So hopefully that will be available in the future for people to watch for free, but it's playing at film festivals around the world.


Karina Inkster: Oh cool.


Sonya Looney: And that's a really big topic. What is safe? But the cool thing was that because I went through this experience twice, I use my podcast and my writing and all the things to interview experts and put information out there so that if somebody's looking for how to be an athlete and how to be a mom, what's safe, how hard can you go, how long can you go, that people have those resources.


Similarly, I had two completely vegan pregnancies obviously because that's how... And my children are both vegan. They've never had any animal products, and there's also questions around that. And there's a lot of better resources out since I got pregnant, but there's a book called Nourish by Brenda Davis and Reshma Shah, there's the Plant-Based Juniors book, and there's another book called The Complete Vegan Pregnancy. And I wrote The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Pregnancy Nutrition on my website so that if people are curious about what you need to do or what you need to worry about, it's there.


But I also will say that there's a lot of recommendations around your diet when you're pregnant and you're not supposed to eat certain animal products. You're not supposed to eat certain dairy products. So for me, there wasn't really... except for reducing my coffee and not having any alcohol, there wasn't really a lot of changes that I had to make to my diet. And when you think about that, it's really funny because you're trying to eat as healthy as you can for the health of this baby, but that's just how we normally eat. I could keep going, so I'll stop there and let you...


Karina Inkster: No, it's all good. You have some really good points. I'm glad that most of it was coming from a place of curiosity because we've had folks with completely different experiences. I mean, sometimes there's a little background judgment happening, but we tend to interpret that in different ways, right?


Sonya Looney: Mm-hmm.


Karina Inkster: So you're living it. I mean you're showing people what's possible. You have the education piece as well available to folks. So if that's something someone's interested in, they can go to your website and check out the resources you have, which is awesome.


Sonya Looney: I'll just add with the pregnancy piece, there's a lot of things that could happen when you're pregnant like high blood pressure in pregnancy, swelling. I'm not saying that people that eat a plant-based diet do not have these things happen to them when they're pregnant, but it seems like the incidences of those happening is going to be less if you're eating a plant-based diet. Because if you're eating in the whole foods realm, you're going to be eating such that your blood pressure is probably going to be a little bit healthier and you're not going to be eating inflammatory foods. And those types of things are going to help you with pregnancy symptoms.


Karina Inkster: That's a really good point. I think a lot of times veganism is billed as the be-all, end-all, this'll fix all your problems. And in a lot of ways, sure. I mean, peer-reviewed research does show that it's an excellent way to eat for various reasons. But in the interest of being completely no BS and transparent, it's not the fix-all for everything.


Sonya Looney: No. It's going to set you up for the best possible scenario, but scenarios are still going to happen. But the way that I see it, it’s like, well, why wouldn't you want to set yourself up for the best possible scenario so that when those things do happen, at least you know you've done everything that you can?


Karina Inkster: Yeah. Is this kind of your idea of the importance of prioritizing your own health? I know a lot of cases when folks get busy, health is kind of the first thing to go. And I know that you have some thinking and some material around this idea of prioritizing our own health. Can you talk about that a little bit?


Sonya Looney: Yeah, I mean, first of all, I think it's asking yourself what does being healthy mean to me? Because that could mean something different to everybody and health has multiple facets. So health isn't just what you eat, it's not just sleeping, it's not just relationships, it's not just emotional regulation and knowing yourself. There's a lot of different pieces. So I think it's asking yourself, what is important to me? What do I value about health? And then looking at your actions, because if health is a value and then you see yourself get busy and then you stop prioritizing the thing that is your value, then your values and your actions are out of alignment. And that can be really challenging.


And people might be listening, they're like, "Well, I don't have time to cook because of this, that and the other." Or, "I don't have time to get enough sleep." And it's not about being perfect with your healthy habits, it's just trying to move in the right direction with all those healthy habits. So if it can't be optimal, which it can't always be optimal, that's just life. It doesn't work that way. What are things that you can do to be aware of what you're trading and to make it as best as you can with what you have?


Karina Inkster: Oh, that's such a good point. I think what you said about moving in the right direction and not being perfect, it reminds me of a quote I saw the other day, which is, "Consistently good is infinitely better than inconsistently perfect." So it's like there's all these diet plans and workout plans and what have you, where the expectation is you're 100% adhering to this thing or you're doing it wrong. And that'll happen maybe for 10% of the time. I mean, just realistically. So yeah, inconsistently perfect is not the goal, is basically what you're saying.


Sonya Looney: Yeah, I mean I think the goal, and this is something I talk about a lot, I think the goal should be showing up. And showing up might look different depending on how you're feeling. If you're exhausted, showing up might be a very basic thing. If you're at your peak performance, showing up might look different of what that looks like, but showing up takes away the pressure of it needs to be perfect or not at all. So showing up for yourself from a dietary standpoint, it might not mean cooking this amazing meal. It might mean just eating beans and rice and throwing some salsa on top, or just the most basic thing. Or maybe for sports, like as a cyclist, we spend a lot of hours on a bike and some people will think, "Well, I only have an hour. It's not even worth doing it." But it's like, no, show up and do an hour.


So what does showing up look like to you and how can you make that your goal? Instead of thinking all or none, it has to be this perfect thing that's going to be the best possible or not at all.


Karina Inkster: A hundred percent. We always say in our coaching business, always something. Instead of all or nothing, it's always something. Doesn't have to be perfect, doesn't have to be anything crazy, but always something. So you always feel like you're moving forward.


Sonya Looney: And there's a compound effect of that too.


Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Well, this goes nicely into another topic we were going to touch on, which is your idea that people think there's something special about humans who achieve big things. So there's this idea that people who achieve extraordinary things are just extraordinary people, but really these high performers, if that's what you want to call them, they're normal humans with really extraordinary habits. And I love this because I'm a little nerdy about habits and things like atomic habits like James Clear's book. So what's your concept here around extraordinary habits?


Sonya Looney: Yeah, I mean it comes back to that showing up piece. So being consistent and not giving up. A lot of the top performers, they just failed more than everybody else and didn't give up. I mean, there is an ability piece for sure, and I tend to discount the ability piece a little bit and I tend to over-index on the hard work piece because I think that people give up too soon, or like we were just talking about, they're not consistent enough. And this just dovetails into what exactly we were just talking about of what do you need to do to show up, what do you need to do to make sure that you keep working towards that thing, and how do you also take that rest when you need it?


And then also there's this relationship with what happens whenever you achieve something. And this is something that I don't know if you have to live it in order to be able to practice it or not, but a lot of times we're trying to achieve something to feel a certain way. Well, if I could just get X, then I'm going to feel like I'm enough or I'm going to feel like I've arrived or whatever. But a lot of times when you get there, you don't feel that way. You just see the next mountain. So how can you be happy... Not even happy, but how can you find meaning in the process and the daily actions instead of saying, "I am only going to be happy when I get whatever my goal is"? Because that's not a really great way to live life. Because in the end you're going to get that goal and then there's just going to be another mountain to climb. And you're going to miss out on the things that matter most on a daily basis, which are those habits. And those habits are what define you as a person.


And to quote James Clear, like you mentioned, "Every action you take is a vote for the type of person that you want to become." So what type of person are you becoming?


Karina Inkster: So powerful. So many nuggets in there. I love that. I see we're both James Clear fans. I'm not surprised. One of my favourite books I read, whatever year it came out. I think it was 2018 or 2019. I can't remember, but it's amazing. Lots of good pointers in there. So if our listeners haven't yet read Atomic Habits, highly recommend it. Lots of these concepts in there.


How do you work with clients? You've got a coaching practice, how do you work with clients with some of these mental challenges? I know that the psychological aspect of this is pretty big, it's something that you focus on. How does that show up in your coaching practice?


Sonya Looney: It shows up in a couple of different ways. First of all, I did my health coaching certificate through Vanderbilt University and they had this really great program - it was a graduate-level program. And this program was actually geared toward medical professionals. I'm not a medical professional, but I got into the program because of my background. So it's all about using health psychology and habit change to help people move in the direction of optimal health. So you sit down with somebody and there's something called the wheel of health with all of these different areas that people might want to work on, and it makes them sit down and clarify what their values and their strengths are. And then using those values and strengths in order to make changes in their lives through small achievable goals and through being able to talk through why things are important to harness their intrinsic motivation.


And there is a specific way to communicate. I used to think that coaching was telling people what to do until I did this course. And it's really about using powerful questions and active listening and motivational interviewing to help people figure out their own solutions because ultimately that is going to help them with their motivation.


And the repeated thing that people tell me, because every session I ask, "What did you learn?" People always say," I didn't realize that such a small action and celebrating the success of that action would make such a big difference in my confidence and my ability to press forward and stay consistent with the things that I want to do. And also to give me clarity on what I want to do." And talking out loud to somebody who is non-judgmental and creating space for you to work through things, that's incredibly powerful.


And the other type of coaching that I offer is mental performance coaching. So as a professional athlete who's taken on these crazy races in Nepal and Sri Lanka and Brazil, all these countries, people started asking me, "Well, how are you staying so positive and optimistic through all these things? How are you not giving up? How do you have a smile on your face? This doesn't make any sense." That was 12 years ago, people started asking me that. So I asked myself, "Well, how am I doing that? I don't really know." And I discovered a field called Positive Psychology that was founded in the late '90s by Martin Seligman. And I decided to dedicate the next decade and beyond to studying that field. So I have studied the field of positive psychology and sports psychology and come up with a program to help people be more optimistic. To perform at a high level, but still have a strong foundation so that they can feel good while they're going after these goals and especially when they don't achieve their goals.


The most powerful voice that we have is a voice inside of our own head. And becoming aware of what you're saying to yourself, learning how to train that voice, but also learning how to accept challenging emotions and find meaning in things that are happening instead of pushing them away, there's so much power in that.


Karina Inkster: Oh yeah, well said. So are the folks that you work with in this capacity focusing on the positive psychology, mental health or mental side? Generally, it's not all mental health necessarily. Are they competitive athletes? Are they weekend warriors? Is it a mixture? What's the client base?


Sonya Looney: It's actually a bit of everybody. I mean, I've had people that aren't athletes at all. This health coaching program I did, there's a national board certification that you can get that I'm about to take, which I'm pretty excited about. But that board certification and that program allows you to work with people who went to see a physician who says, "Hey, you need to make these lifestyle changes. You have diabetes or you have heart disease, or you need to start exercising,” or whatever the thing is. And to help basically work with the physicians in order to help people make lifestyle changes. So there's that capacity. There's the capacity of a super high-performing executive who's looking to - maybe they feel a little bit hollow inside and they don't know why or they don't know how to prioritize themselves, to athletes, to people starting their own business.


The cool thing about coaching is that I've been able to work with a lot of different clients and a lot of different reasons as to why people want to make changes. And coaching is a framework and being able to apply that framework to lots of different areas in life is pretty fun.


Karina Inkster: Absolutely, yeah, to say the least. You mentioned what I would call small wins. So folks saying to you, "Hey, I didn't realize that these small actions could have such a large compound effect." Feeling like I have agency, feeling like I'm doing something for myself. Is that a big part of what you do, is kind of breaking things into smaller chunks?


Sonya Looney: For sure. You'll set a goal, like a two to three-month or longer goal, but then you kind of set the goalpost and then forget about it. And then you set small weekly wins, small action steps so that you are able to work towards those things and build trust in yourself. And I think a lot of people have lost trust in their ability to do things. They've started something and stopped it. And I mean, January, New Year's resolution is the primary example, is that people think I want to change everything all at once, when really just making very small changes helps build that autonomy, helps build that competence piece so that you believe that you're capable of more. And that self-belief and then having someone supportive around you, that believes in you as well, can help you achieve great things, but also figure out who you are in that process.


Karina Inkster: A lot of times folks will say, "Well, I can just learn this by reading books or online articles or watching YouTube videos." And hey, all the power to you if you're a human who can do that, but I think it's the connection with another person. It's having someone to bounce ideas off of. It's the accountability piece. It's having someone who's kind of on the outside so to speak, not someone who's your family member or close friend, to be a mentor. I think those are all really important aspects for people changing their lives, but not overnight, not necessarily a 180 in 24 hours because, you know, your husband decides with veganism - and it does work sometimes - usually it doesn't really lead to super long-term habit change.


Sonya Looney: Yeah. I mean there's lots of things you can read in a book, you can read in a book how to meditate, why it's good for your brain, all of these different things. But actually doing the meditation and doing it consistently, well that's really different than just reading it in the book. Or you could read, this is how you train for a marathon, but you might need some specific coaching to help you figure out how to put all the pieces together. And those two things go hand in hand. It's not either/or.


Karina Inkster: Totally. Very true. Is there anything in the coaching piece, any other kind of points that you want to touch on in what you're offering or any sort of promos?


Sonya Looney: I just started taking new clients, actually…


Karina Inkster: Oh nice.


Sonya Looney: ... on my website. So it's pretty cool to be able to work with a new group of people. If people listening are interested, they're like, "Hey, I'm really interested in finding my best," then I'd love to work with you. I also have something called the Moxy and Grit Mindset Academy, which is basically all the things that come out of mental performance coaching in a self-paced online course. So really, people tend to want things in different ways. They want to learn it in a course and journal on their own, or maybe they want to work one-on-one with a coach. And it's pretty fun to be able to offer both.


Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Yeah. So your podcast and your newsletter, lots of free resources as well available. We will have show notes, of course, so folks can connect there and check out everything you've got. What's the deal with the digital cookbook that you have?


Sonya Looney: Yeah, I have a cookbook called the Plant-Powered Academy. And this was, gosh, I think in 2019, maybe I put it out there. But people just kept sending me messages like, "Hey, what are some good recipes?" And I would recommend all my favourite cookbooks. And they're like, "Yeah, but what are the other things? What are things that you eat?" So I'd say, "I eat things out of those cookbooks, but I also have my own recipes." And that demand just got too much, so I just thought, "Well, I'll just make my own cookbook and I'll just put it online and people can get it." So you can get that at moxyandgrit.com. And the point of those recipes was to make stuff that is healthy and really easy. And I think a lot of times people think that "Well, I don't want to go plant-based because I don't like cooking. I don't want to spend all this time, I don't have any time." So that cookbook is to help address some of those barriers.


Karina Inkster: Interesting. So is that your approach to nutrition? Do you think about food prep a lot or is it pretty simple for you?


Sonya Looney: It depends. Definitely now that I have two little kids and a business and I'm also still a professional athlete, like meal prep has become a huge pain.


Karina Inkster: That's how I feel about it generally. And I don't have any of those things except for a business.


Sonya Looney: And I will say since my children were born, my husband has taken over the majority of cooking and that is like... I used to do all the cooking before that. So that's been a pretty cool thing in our relationship in a way that he's supporting our family. But I still do some of the cooking as well. We just try and keep it simple because it's hard to make time to do it. And we also double or triple recipes because we eat a lot. And our toddler, our two-year-old, he's now eating quite a bit. So yeah, that's one of our hacks, is when we make a recipe, we often double or triple it and make sure we can have food for the entire week.


Karina Inkster: Yeah, it's almost being ahead of yourself. We do that with our clients a lot. It's like what steps can you take so that you're not getting to the point where you're super ravenous and you have nothing available to you? You want to be a step ahead of when that happens.


Sonya Looney: And then we also buy things in bulk. Like this company, they're not a sponsor or anything like that, but I just like them. They're called Om Foods. O-M Foods. They're in Nelson, BC. So for the Canadians listening, you can buy stuff. It's all organic, you can buy it in bulk. I buy a 25-pound bag of steel-cut oats from them.


Karina Inkster: Oh wow.


Sonya Looney: I buy stuff in bulk. It's way cheaper to do it that way. And if you just make a big order, like the shipping piece isn't super astronomical or anything like that, and it ends up being way cheaper.


Karina Inkster: Interesting. I might have to check them out.


Sonya Looney: Yeah, I think you'll really like it. They have tons of great stuff on there.


Karina Inkster: Huh. Good tip. Good tip. Well, Sonya, thank you so much for coming on the show. It was great to meet you, great to speak with you, learn about what you do, and I appreciate the conversation.


Sonya Looney: Yeah. And hopefully you can come over next time you're in Squamish so we can share some food together.


Karina Inkster: Absolutely. I actually will be there visiting my sister in about a month, so you never know.


Sonya Looney: All right. Cool. Come on down.


Karina Inkster: Thanks so much, Sonya.


Sonya Looney: Okay, bye-bye.


Karina Inkster: Sonya, thanks again for joining me today. Much appreciated. You can access our show notes and connect with Sonya at nobullshitvegan.com/138. Thanks for tuning in.




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