This interview is part of the Real Talk Real Women interview series, where we bring you the life-changing, heart-warming and inspirational stories behind the most successful women in health and fitness. Make sure to follow us on Instagram for the latest interviews! For this installment, we are joined by the remarkable Ella Magers.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself?
I would describe myself as a compassionate, tough, strong-willed, and determined woman. I'm all about giving a voice to the voiceless and am constantly working toward being my best self, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
I know that the stronger, more joyful, and more enlightened I am, the more effective I can be at making a positive impact on the lives of others and the planet.
For many guests on Real Talk Real Women, their health and fitness journey started with a health goal - for you it started with a deep sense of compassion - what is your key driver today and how does it all fit together?
Yes, I decided to stop eating animals at the age of seven when I connected the food on my plate with the animal it actually was. I had an ingrained sense of compassion for animals and believed strongly that as humans, we should be protecting and loving all creatures, not hurting and killing them.
By the age of fifteen I had done enough digging to understand the cruelty involved in all animal agriculture at which point I went totally vegan. I knew it was my life's work to educate others about the horrific practices of animal agriculture and teach people how to live consciously and compassionately.
My devotion to ending animal cruelty is, to this day, my "base" reason for getting up and working my ass off every day!
You participated in sports since you were 5 and jumped straight into the fitness industry at age 22 - tell us a bit about that.
I have been in sports since the age of 5. I was a competitive swimmer, gymnast, and volleyball player, and later, Muay Thai became my sport of choice (I practice and adore the martial art to this day). I have always loved being physically active and challenging my body, so after college I jumped into the fitness industry.
I moved to Miami at the age of 22 and became a certified personal trainer, fitness instructor, and wellness coach. I did my own research on nutrition, and when I discovered the wealth of research hidden from the public eye, proving the benefits of a plant-based diet, my career path fell into place. I was able to combine my love for fitness and wellness, with my deep-rooted desire to save animals and protect the environment, with the development of my brand, Sexy Fit Vegan®
Can you explain how Muay Thai is different from regular kickboxing and what you like about it?
Muay Thai, also known as Thai Boxing, is a moving meditation for me. The practice is a stress-reliever... it's my therapy! Muay Thai is "the science of the eight limbs," The eight limbs being fists, shins, elbows, and knees. In Muay Thai we utilize punches, kicks, elbow strikes, and knee strikes.
The focus is on powerful, efficient striking. North American kickboxing on the other hand, is a four-point striking system and only allows for punches and kicks above the waist. I love that Muay Thai utilizes your whole body and has very few restrictions. I love that the focus is on power and efficiency. And I also love the ancient history that goes along with Muay Thai.
You’re a certified personal trainer and wellness coach, you carry a masters degree in social work and are working towards your doctorate in holistic sports nutrition. Throughout your education; are there any things that stood out or surprised you and changed your perspective on health and fitness?
All the education I've had, and research I've done allowed me to have a great foundation to then "experiment" on myself! I have gone through many phases in my life, trying out different types of exercise routines, and eating in different ways (all vegan of course).
For example I lifted heavy for several years before I started focusing more on functional and bodyweight training. Muay Thai has been my one constant. Now I'd say I do it all. Variety is key! I do cross-training, interval training, boot camp type workouts, I still lift heavy on occasion, and I've finally added yoga practice to my regiment.
Believe it or not, that was the most challenging practice out of everything for me because it forces me to slow down. I resisted it for a long time! While Muay Thai is a fast-pace moving meditation for me, which seems to come fairly naturally, yoga is more challenging in a different meditative way that is more challenging for me. Learning handstand tricks is my favorite part of the practice. The older I get, the more I appreciate stretching my body in addition to beating it up!
When it comes to working with clients, something I learned early on is that handing someone a cookie-cutter diet or exercise plan will not help them in the long run. There is a huge mindset component, especially when it comes to the nutrition side.
Changing dietary habits is a big challenge for people who have been eating one way their whole lives. It's necessary to help people gain the knowledge and tools they need to eat mindfully and live consciously.
Personal integrity really comes into play. Most of us are great at following through with their commitments to others (family, friends, boss, etc.) but when it comes to the commitments they make to themselves (working out, eating clean) they allow those promises to fall to the bottom of their priority list. Learning to follow through with those commitments we make to ourselves and learning to trust ourselves in that way is the key.
You’ve been featured in many prominent media outlets across the world and were honored as one of America’s Top 50 trainers by Shape Magazine - how has all this media coverage affected you and your ability to impact others?
I have been incredibly fortunate to receive recognition by the mainstream media. I care about spreading my message, and that's what the recognition has helped me do. I was lucky enough to be discovered by Page Street Publishing thanks to Shape Magazine, and that's how my book, The Six Weeks to Sexy Abs came about!
It's definitely a snowball effect. I just kept putting myself and my message out there every opportunity I saw, and the small recognitions led to bigger and bigger opportunities to become established as an expert in my field. I have been fortunate enough to give workshops and presentations all over the place including Macao, China. And now, I'm able to focus on helping people all over the world with my 6-Week Plant-Empowered Coaching and 8-Week Empower Consulting Programs!
What are your programs all about?
My 6-Week Plant-Empowered Coaching Program gives people the tools they need to transition to a healthy, practical, sustainable plant-based, active lifestyle. We do this by giving program members the knowledge they need about nutrition and fitness, applying the knowledge to each person's life routine, developing the right mindset for success, and providing valuable support. We do this all in a structured, step-by-step way so that it is not overwhelming and it sets people up to continue on a healthy path that truly works for them, for the rest of their lives.
My 8-Week Empower Consulting Program walks wellness professionals through the process of developing and implementing a profitable online business of their own, based on their passion and expertise, that will in turn allow them to help many more people.
I'm excited to be working with up and coming Wellness Professionals who are incredibly motivated to figure out how to turn their passion into a successful (and profitable) career. Money is fairly taboo in the helping professions, but I break down the taboo and talk to entrepreneurs who are working their asses off but struggling to pay their bills. I was there so I get it. For me to now have a structured program to help wellness professionals take their businesses to the next level, create a solid income, AND help more people in the process... that's inspiration!
You’re a big proponent of a vegan lifestyle - can you walk us through the basics and talk to what that really is, and is not?
Here's what a vegan lifestyle means to me...
First, a vegan lifestyle involves living consciously. Meaning understanding the consequences of all our choices in life - how they affect ourselves (mind, body, spirit), how they affect other sentient beings, and how they affect the environment and our planet as a whole.
A vegan lifestyle involves avoiding animal products and bi-products to the best of our ability. Avoiding ingesting and wearing animals is the "easy" part. The more challenging part is doing what you can to avoid animal products and bi-products in your toiletries and cosmetics, and refraining from buying products that are tested on animals. There are many people who try to "catch" vegans being inconsistent and calling them out with criticism. I believe we are all doing the best we can with what we have and it's more productive to celebrate the compassionate and healthy choices that people make instead of nit-picking.
We are at a point where many people are getting educated enough to make the decision that they'd like to make the transition to vegan. That being said, there is so much conflicting information out there, even in the parameters of a plant-based diet, about what a healthy one looks like, and how to make it into a lifestyle. There's plenty of books and recipes out there, but people are often overwhelmed and don't know how to start.
It was for these people I created the 6-Week Plant-Empowered Coaching Program. I developed a structured, step-by-step process, for making the transition successfully. Everyone has different needs, goals, body types, food sensitivities, likes and dislikes, etc. and the program addresses the need to give clients the knowledge and tools they need to put together a plan that works for them, not just for a few weeks, or a couple months, but for the rest of their lives!
What are the most common misconceptions and challenges you feel people have when it comes to a vegan diet and lifestyle?
There are so many! The stereotypes are still lingering, like that vegans are scrawny, hippies, weird, dogmatic, militant, but are disappearing fairly quickly at this point. There are so many inspiring vegans in the mainstream now, that show that going vegan and eating plant-based, will help you build the healthiest, strongest, body you can imagine from the inside out. Living a vegan lifestyle also sets your soul free. To know you are not ingesting or wearing pain and death, that you are doing your part to end cruelty and stop the vast destruction of the environment that animal agriculture causes, is a very empowering feeling.
Also, the protein concern usually arises... "How do you get your protein?" My answer, "Plants!" Protein is WAY over-rated in our society thanks to the powerful animal agriculture industry. It is easier than people think to get plenty of protein from plants. All my muscle was built on plants alone, and I have plenty of muscle!
A lot of people just stop eating meat and have no clue how to compensate for that, or even consider the fact that they might have to - what are your 2 cents there?
What I have people do the first week of my 6-Week Program is simply fill their plates with as many whole plant foods as possible. The focus is on what you can ADD to your plate as opposed what you are eliminating. I guarantee that by taking meat off your plate, you will discover a whole new world of plant foods you never even knew about. It's an exciting process of discovery. It's largely a mindset thing. It's important to also realize that there may be a period of detoxing when transitioning away from animal products. Detoxing is uncomfortable, but guess what, change happens outside of our comfort zone, so we have to keep that in mind that it's OKAY to be uncomfortable. It's temporary and the results are well worth it!
You started SexyFitVegan to help others on their journey towards a life full of life and energy - tell me about the name and your mission with the site.
My brand, Sexy Fit Vegan® is all about bringing veganism into the mainstream, breaking down stereotypes, educating, and inspiring people to make the transition to vegan. I mostly inspire others simply by being me and leading by example. I've built my body on plants alone (as opposed to animal protein), proving very clearly that you can have a strong, lean physique on a vegan diet.
I also demonstrate that you can enjoy a great social life, look and feel sexy, and have fun as a vegan (more fun in my opinion because it's not at the expense of the lives of sentient beings). I do my workouts, eat right, and balance it out with fun with friends, watching sports (I love the UFC and football with vegan beer and nachos!) You don't have to be "perfect", you just have to find the perfect balance for you. As long as you are making educated, conscious decisions, it's all good.
Going into 2017, what are your biggest life goals?
I am focused on continuing to grow both of my programs. I put my heart and soul into both of these programs and I can't tell you how rewarding it is to see people through a process that changes the course of their lives forever. The programs have already changed many lives. Now I want them to change many more!
I also plan to travel quite a bit in 2017. I'm fortunate to have set up a business that I can run from anywhere. Not it's time to take advantage both for personal growth, and to give talks and workshops in other countries.