This week we are really excited to share with you; our lovely readers our most recent interview with TJ Waterfall; a plant-based nutritionist based in London. We loved hearing about how his parents influenced his passion for fitness growing up, and eventually his shift towards eating plant-based. TJ documents his colourful vegan meals on Instagram @tj_waterfall, which has gained quite a following for those ready to pursue a plant-based lifestyle as well as focus on their fitness. Interested yet? Read on to find out more…
Hi TJ! Tell us a bit about your childhood and background, and how you feel that has influenced you today?
I had a really active childhood. At school, I always played sport – rugby, athletics, cross-country, basketball, judo, tennis, football… the list goes on, I was a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades. Although I play less competitive sport now, I still enjoy staying in good shape and eating properly so I can be on my best form. My parents have been a huge influence too; both in terms of my attitude towards animals, and how I eat. They are both incredibly kind and caring, towards people and animals (I remember from a very young age being taught why using circus animals is cruel) and I feel that has played a big part in my desire to help contribute towards the global rise of plant-based eating. They have also always been quite health conscious, and I think that has rubbed off on me and given me a fascination of nutrition and fitness.
Can you tell us a bit more about being a plant-based nutritionist?
It’s really great fun. I have worked as a chef in the past, so I love putting those skills into creating new plant-based recipes that are really tasty and nutritious. Whilst being vegan or vegetarian is one of the healthiest ways to live if done properly, there are several key nutrients that need to be thought about, which could lack if people fall into a monotonous or unvaried diet. So it brings me great pleasure to show people how to improve their diets and see them thrive in terms of their health and fitness.
Why do you think you have really started to gain a following on social media?
I think it is easy for anyone, regardless of whether they eat meat, to come up with ideas for new recipes. And because vegans have fewer ingredients they can cook with, some find themselves cooking the same handful of dishes all the time. So I think it’s really useful to have a page with lots of interesting, tasty recipes. I also think people love to see how these high-protein vegan dishes can help fuel improvements in strength and fitness, which I demonstrate through short workout clips that people can try for themselves.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part has to be when avid meat-eaters, who previously never would have dreamed about quitting meat, tell me proudly how they have become vegetarian or vegan, and that they are feeling much better for it. These people are the best advocates for taking on a plant-based diet, because if they can do it, and at the same time feel great and make improvements in their fitness and physique, then anyone can!
Do you think you have a work/life balance?
I really love what I do so I almost don’t see it as work. I am fascinated by nutrition and how the body works, I really enjoy cooking and creating new recipes, and contributing towards empowering people to go vegan or vegetarian is a passion of mine. And I make plenty of time for socialising and training, so yes I feel the balance is great.
When did you decide to become plant-based and why?
I became vegetarian in 2013 and started restricting dairy and eggs in 2014. I had been thinking about it for a while, but I guess I was worried that it would affect my health and fitness. However by that time, the issues of animal cruelty and the environment became more important to me, so I decided to do it anyway. Much to my delight, my health and fitness were not affected in the slightest (I carried on making progress in the gym and felt really energetic), and my only regret was that I didn’t ditch eating meat much sooner. This is why I hope my work can help other people make informed decisions about the positive aspects of becoming plant-based and encourage more people to ditch eating meat.
How did you first find becoming plant-based, particularly with your job?
The first few weeks were a little tricky, as many of my favourite recipes before that had contained meat. So I initially fell into the trap that lots of people fall into, of eating much of the same thing and getting a bit bored of the food. But I soon became more experimental with my cooking and started making vegan versions of all the cuisines that I love from around the world. So after a month or so, I started finding it really easy and not missing meat at all.
What do your friends and family think about you now being plant-based?
I think it came as a bit of a surprise at first – some people think of vegetarians or vegans as the hippie type or think it is some sort of extreme lifestyle. But for me it was just a rational decision – I couldn’t justify eating meat any longer when I weighed it up against the animal welfare and environmental damage it does. So after that slight initial surprise, it made perfect sense to my friends and family. They all admire the decision, and it has got lots of them thinking about the impact of their diet too.
What is your one health tip?
Variation is the key; try to get in as many different fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds into your diet as possible, to make sure you’re eating a broad spectrum of important micronutrients every day. Always trying to eat foods with a wide variety of colour helps too.
What is your one fitness tip?
Consistency is key, rather than going through cycles of training intensively for a while then giving up. If you can keep your fitness fun and enjoyable, rather than a chore, then it can become part of your daily routine that you look forward to, and you can maintain that consistency. Regularly switching things up can really help with this; try new sports, join a running/cycling club, or use a different gym routine to help keep things fresh.
What is it like being plant-based in the city you live in?
I’m very fortunate living in London – there are almost more vegetarian and vegan restaurants than someone could visit in a lifetime. Even meaty restaurants like steakhouses cater very well for vegans nowadays, so it really is easy. Also, the markets and supermarkets have such an amazing variety of ingredients – you have the ability to make cuisines from around the world.
What words do you live by?
Be the type of person you’d like to meet. I love this phrase – it means something different for everyone, but for me, it means trying to be someone who’s caring, humble, compassionate, good fun, interesting, and interested.
What’s next for you?
I am continuing to grow my website – meatfreefitness.co.uk – and I’m developing personalised nutrition and fitness guides for vegans and vegetarians who want to make sure they’re getting the right nutrition to reach new heights of health and fitness.
We absolutely loved catching up with TJ and hearing all of his amazing health and fitness advice.
If you are a vegan business, individual or blogger and are interested in being interviewed as part of our interview series, please get in touch at contact@.
All images via TJ Waterfall.