Yolanda Presswood, vegan powerlifter
Yolanda Presswood is a powerlifter who has achieved great things very quickly.
Originally competitive in the bikini and fitness categories of bodybuilding, Yolanda started competing in Crossfit in November 2014 and then moved to powerlifting in October 2016, with her first competition in December of that year.
2017 was affected by personal circumstances with three meets cancelled, although even this could not stop her making her mark. In October she competed in the Masters 40-44, 67.5 kg category, breaking the California State records in Bench and Squat, with the Squat also breaking the US National record. She was also awarded best lifter of all Masters lifters. The Bench Press was 62.5kg (137lb) and the Squat was 128 kg (283lb). This was made all the more impressive as Yolanda weighed in at 60.8 kg, over 6kg below the weight limit.
“My greatest achievements thus far” Yolanda told us soon after the records “are setting state and national records. Another achievement prior to this was squatting 280lbs in training. That moment I'll never forget.”
Yolanda is vegan, and has been since 2010.
“I was lacto-ovo vegetarian from 16-19yrs old. I've always hated eating flesh. At 19 back in 1996 I tried being vegan but I had no one to help and it definitely was not mainstream like it is today. I was always meant to live compassionately. I've always loved animals. Cows have been a favorite of mine since I was a young girl. Never in my life did I expect them to be part of such a heinous industry that abuses and murders them daily so people can eat hamburgers, steak and ice cream.”
“I went vegan back in 2010 after reading a little book called ‘the ultimate ph solution’. It was not a pro vegan book per se, it spoke on the acidic nature of animal flesh and products in our bodies. I had already been predominantly dairy free since I was 19. Being health conscious it made sense to cut out all animal products.
"I decided I'd look deeper and picked up Alicia Silverstones book ‘The kind diet’. It was there that my eyes were opened to the atrocities animals suffer every day. I couldn't look away. As you know, as vegans we start with the obvious and keep learning as we go along our lives. My household is vegan for the animals including our two teenage children ages 14 and 18. Vegan for life. Strong hearts. Strong minds. Strong body.”
Yolanda is fully committed to veganism, and travelling is no obstacle.
“I am vegan for the animals all day, everyday” she says “I do not eat animal products or wear them or use them period. When traveling, it's best to take what you can and then scope out places when you get there. Being plantbased is simple. There's fruit, veggies, grains like rice and oatmeal everywhere. “
The diet has to be good; Yolanda trains five times every week. She trains Squat and Deadlift 2-3 times per week depending on how far she is from a competition, and she trains Bench twice a week. All training days include accessory training to build muscle.
What does she eat?
“People would probably be surprised at how little actual vegetables I consume” explains Yolanda. “I eat lots of simple carbs along with protein and fats. My body just doesn't perform well if I fill my calories with vegetables. I mostly eat pancakes (made using my own recipe), tofu (I'm medically gluten free so no seitan for me sadly), protein cookies.
“I love Beyond Meat wraps in Follow Your Heart gluten-free tortillas, potatoes, white rice, broccoli or zucchini, berries and bananas, peanut butter, avocados, crackers and cashew cheese is one of my favourites. Potato chips are definitely something I could eat a lot of, donuts from my favorite local coffee spot, pasta with beefless crumbles from Beyond Meat. We enjoy going to some of our favorite vegan spots as well. Chili cheese fries are one of my ultimate favourites.”
There’s plenty of protein in there, and in training and in normal life, Yolanda finds nobody questions her diet.
“I've literally never had anyone say to me some of the ridiculous things people say to others in regards to gaining muscle, getting shredded or getting enough protein. You can't look at me and say any of those things to yourself. I've been vegan seven years and lifting for five of those. Every ounce of muscle, every bit of strength has been built on just consuming plants.”
With so much achieved so quickly, it’s clear that Yolanda is capable of performing at the highest levels. Already she’s looking at podium finishes in the drug tested US Nationals. “I also want to use it as a platform for animal activism, inspiring other females to stop focusing on abs and weight and get strong.”
Strength and veganism go together for Yolanda.
“Being vegan is truly the one thing that's connected me with inner peace. Coming from a back story of sexual, physical, emotional and verbal abuse. Living with diagnosed PTSD and the plethora of disorders that come with that. I lived so long with pain, anger and rage uncontrollably. Veganism, not consuming violence, has truly and wholeheartedly allowed me to be a much kinder and gentler individual in all aspects of life.”