“Most people are convinced that I have gained all this mass and muscles as a bodybuilder before I became vegan, what they find shocking is actually the fact that I have been vegan for 6 years already, long before I became a bodybuilder” says Amir Daniel Kaufman and smiles, when he was asked about the first reaction of people when they find out that he is a vegan bodybuilder.
We interviewed Amir this afternoon, catching him while he was still at home before starting his intensive routine. Behind him, on the desk, I could see a variety of awards that he has received from different bodybuilding competitions.
Kaufman has achieved quite a lot so far, despite being 29 years old. He is originally from Herzliya, Israel. He holds a degree in accounting and he has lived a varied life. Being a salsa dancer for over 6 years, an instructor, personal trainer and recently a bodybuilder as well. “Diversity is the name of the game for me,” says Kaufman.According to Amir, People expect him to say that he has only been vegan for 5 months or 1-year maximum. Most people think that he started to gain weight and muscles before he started his vegan diet. They find it hard to believe that he actually maintains his daily routine.
The vegan bodybuilder is also the only vegan who has participated in the NAABA (National amateur body-Builders association) competition in Israel last year in 2015. “It was a dream that came true, the main reason I wanted to compete in bodybuilding for my category is because I wanted to prove to people that it’s possible to maintain a vegan diet and compete as a bodybuilder at the same time. Hopefully, one day I will be the first vegan to also win first place.”When he was asked what made him become vegan he answered “One of the reasons I have decided to become vegan is my love for animals, but it wasn’t until I read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer that I have started to seriously understand veganism and think about what I eat, it was probably one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I believe that what we eat and put in our body affects the way we look and feel.”
Amir believes in energy on the spiritual level and that the food he eats impacts on the way he feels and the kind of energy he gets. “I eat 6 meals a day and invest approximately 3 hours every day in the whole process of buying my food, cooking and preparing all the meals for the day, but it’s definitely worth it.”
Amir gave us a glimpse of his daily nutrition program, he reveals that he eats almost the same food every day, and he has a very specific menu. He starts his morning with granola with soya milk and oats, second meal is usually beans, lentils and all kinds of legumes with a big salad, third meal is Cocked dish of legumes and whole grain, fourth meal is Bowl of broccoli and some other steamed vegetables with tahini, fifth meal is vegetables as well. He eats primarily raw food and makes sure to take food with him when he goes out for the whole day.What he likes the most about his lifestyle is the fact that he’s taking part in something very positive and huge. “I call veganism the next revolution,” Kaufman says. He compares it to back in the days when women weren’t allowed to vote and African Americans didn’t have the same rights as everyone else. Today it is completely normal for a woman and African Americans to have the same rights and vote. The same applies to veganism, as a few years from now, it will no longer be weird or strange to be a vegan. “Hopefully one-day vegans won’t be the minority,” he adds.
As a person with a lot of values and an interest in animal rights and healthy lifestyle, he describes that the biggest benefit of being vegan is actually in the spiritual aspect, being vegan is part of his worldview. “I love to stay true to myself, live a healthy lifestyle and do what I love.”When asked about the biggest challenge of being vegan, Kaufman giggled and said: “Hmmm, good question”… it took him a while to reply probably because he has been vegan for a long period of time, he is over that challenging phase perhaps. “I think that the only challenge is only in the beginning when you have to change your habits and lifestyle and just get used to the new vegan diet and way of living. After a while when you get used to it, the whole process becomes much easier and it’s no longer a challenge for you, it becomes part of you part of who you are and your daily routine.”
Kaufman started to get more interested in fitness and bodybuilding in his final year at the military service, “I was always a bit chubby as a kid. Since high school I have always wanted to be fit and have abs,” he says. —But just during his military service in the IDF army, He decided to start working out by himself and soon after that he discovered that this is what he really loves and that’s what makes him happy and feel good.“My dream is to inspire and help people. I want to show them that it’s possible to achieve our dreams and I want to be an example for other people who want to become vegans, to show that you can not only be a vegan and strong but also a vegan and healthy.” When I asked him to give me an example of how he plans to reach other people he said “I have my own Facebook page, and website. One of my future plans is to use the social media platforms as a medium to inspire and help other people, as it’s one of the most powerful tools nowadays.”
He often gets motivated by other successful people that have pages or channels across social media, other activists. “I have a close friend, Jeff Morgan an American holistic bodybuilding vegan who is also the host of Guilt Free Vegan channel on YouTube. He’s the best example that being fit and vegan is possible at any age. He’s 44 years old and the exercises that he can make related to strength are remarkable,” he says.
According to Kaufman, it is very easy to be a vegan in a city like Tel-Aviv where he’s currently living. The city is full of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, supermarkets and coffee shops. In fact, it’s one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, recently it was ranked #1 best destination for vegan travellers by the Daily Meal.
When asked about his future plans Amir says “Currently I feel that participating in more competitions in Israel is not something that I feel like doing anytime soon. I am more aiming to get on the stage abroad and compete at an international level. But It is too early to talk about that as I am still not in the right shape and I don’t have enough muscles to participate on an international level”
Coaching and consulting is definitely something that Amir would like engage with in the future. He is very interested and ambitious to help people, give them the right direction and show them that despite all the challenges and obstacles we face in life, we shall never give up on our dreams and the things we love to do. According to him “anyone can be successful in any field if they do what they desire the most”
When asked about an advice for young people he said, “My best advice for young people who want to become vegan especially for teenagers, is to stay true to yourself and to avoid arguments with family members and friends because the easiest thing to do is to drag yourself into an argument. Just try to stay positive when you explain to people why you want to be vegan, stick to your values and emphasise the positive aspects of it”
“Do what you love. That’s the most important thing, being persistent is not enough if you don’t like what you do” Amir says as an advice for young people and adds “I also have a sign on the door of my house to remind me that we shall not be afraid to try and take the first steps. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”