Interviews

Vegan Bodybuilder, David Luna: Overcoming Alcoholism and Building Body and Mind

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by Shari

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He’s never eaten an animal in his life!

Changing What’s Possible

Dave’s never eaten meat in his life! And he’s BUFF.

He overcame alcoholism, a divorce, and much more you’ll learn about in this interview!

Dave is the former manager of the health food store where I shop. We became friends and started to work out at the gym together across the street.

We share a love of health, fitness, and mental toughness training. And during this time, he’s become certified as a NASM fitness trainer!

He’s a great dude — a fantastic daddy. And I’m truly honored to have him as my first guest for the Plant-Based Chronicles Interview Series!

His story will blow your mind first – and then inspire you.

We started recording the interview right after he said he shared some embarrassing stories publicly. 😳

SHARI:

I just want to ask, now that you said that… What was the hardest thing you covered in your interview with your cousin and the hardest thing you covered in the interview on Sober Saturdays [a live Instagram show]?

DAVE:

Well, on Sober Saturdays, one of the hardest things was just talking about it in general, talking about alcoholism and how it, like, kind of ruined our lives, and you know, talking about my splitting up with my wife and like, how all that happened.

And then it’s just sharing some embarrassing stories I haven’t even shared like all of them. Just a couple of them, which are kind of sound fun and exciting but kind of dangerous and, you know, stupid at the time.

I mean, at this point, it kind of is what it is, but we all talk about stuff on Sober Saturdays about what we’ve done naked. You know what I mean? 

Interesting stuff like that, and then for the meat – like my cousin interviewing me about not eating meat.

I’ve been so used to it my whole life – of not eating meat – so it’s kind of not really that difficult, but now more than I was prior, you know.

Over the past couple of years of being vegan, I’m a lot more open about it because it’s become more common nowadays, so just being open in general.

When I was younger, I kept it to myself. Because I was kind of embarrassed about it because I couldn’t handle the kind of questions, it’s like, “What do you mean you don’t eat meat?” or getting criticized for not eating meat.

Now, it’s like kind of a sense of pride and like, I’ve taken that on and kind of shown what I can do physically while not eating meat – or never having eaten meat before and showing that anything’s kind of possible on a plant-based diet.

Proving it to myself and kind of showing that to others as well.

Plant based bodybuilder

SHARI:

OK, that’s good because I’m going to ask you about the hard things and embarrassing things later.

So just for the people that don’t know, I want you to give the two-minute version of like, how someone could grow up not eating meat.

What was it about your parents that – because everybody I know that doesn’t eat meat, they switch to eating meat when they were old enough or when they’d go over to a friend’s house, or when they became teenagers like, eventually, they wanted to at least know what it was like or they have their couple of years.

I did it. My mom raised me on like, the 70s hippies’ diet with sprouts, and everybody else had boloney – and I wanted the baloney.

So I had a very long rebellious phase where I was eating steak and all this stuff, and you know, I came back to it. Everybody comes back to it when they know better.

But tell me a little bit about that upbringing – how you never deviated from that.

DAVE:

So our upbringing as kids, we were raised vegan, and my dad had a very strict vegan diet. He didn’t even, like, even if there was a vegan option somewhere – if they cooked it in or around something that was in contact with meat or close to it, he wouldn’t let us have it.

He was also very strict about artificial colorings and flavorings, and he was pretty much all-natural as much as you could. No artificial colors, red dyes, all that stuff.

He was very strict, and at the time, it kind of built a like, discipline around it.

But it did make us curious as kids because there wasn’t a lot of explanation as to why we were vegan – and he was very kind of dark about it.

Like it’s, it’s evil if you eat meat – or it’s evil and like that was kind of like, it kind of like scare tactic almost.

And I don’t think that really was the best way for it.

Like with my kids, they’re vegetarian – and you know, as much as vegan as possible, but it’s kind of more of like educating them and making it not feel wrong, but you know, it technically it kind of is, but just not letting them be fearful of what it is because then you do become rebellious like you said.

David Luna

So when my parents split up in my younger ages, I think I was like eight or nine or whatever the case was – we did want to try animal products because they were everywhere around us.

And at one point, we did say, “Hey, can we try a slice of that cheese pizza?” and then it was all downhill from there. 😅 But it was more of a curiosity thing to it. Not necessarily like a peer pressure because I grew up with that a lot, and everyone’s like, “Hey, eat this cheese… eat this meat… eat this, eat that,” and I was just like, “I don’t really want to…” because subconsciously, as a kid, I knew that it was not right.

I felt guilty about it, and I felt wrong about it. Like I just didn’t, in my heart, it didn’t feel necessary to eat meat because I had done it for so long, so I’m like, “Well, why now?” and I was like, “What’s the harm in cheese?” not knowing the – you know – extensive, behind the scenes of the dairy industry that I do now kind of know now.

But as a kid, it’s like, “Oh, it’s just milk…” whatever, “…it’s just cheese,” it is what it is… and then I just tried it and kind of dabbled with that but for some reason.

I just I’ve never had a desire to eat meat, and I don’t know if it’s because it was so ingrained in me at a young age, but I think, I mean, a part of me just feels – it just feels wrong – and it feels unnecessary and the more I become educated about protein and amino acids and getting your calcium and your fiber and all this stuff – all the sources that you can and then you think about it.

And the animals that are the oldest, the strongest, and the largest, you know – a turtle, a gorilla, or an elephant, are all plant-based. So I kind of just look at it that way.

As opposed to the other end of it, and yeah, I just haven’t felt the need to ever try it, and my younger brothers – one of them went full, you know, meat eater. And then the other has tried like, seafood, lobster – I think he tried crab, and he’s just like, it’s just not for us.

And we’ve survived it for 30 years.

SHARI:

Yeah. And I wasn’t raised vegan… and I think the dark – I agree with you that – like, the fear tactics are probably not ideal.

Obviously, it didn’t work on your two brothers or your siblings.

But, I wasn’t raised vegan or vegetarian; it just kind of was the food that she had. And so I think without the education, you can rebel and go to whatever – because you don’t understand why you’re not eating –

Because she was never an ethical vegan – she’s still not – she was just a hippie.

And I’m an ethical vegan, so I would never consider meat now, but it was just – that’s, I think, one of the differences. And I agree with the way you raised your daughters because – the rebellious part is the worst part.

DAVE:

Especially girls – they’ll want to rebel against their dad as much as possible in the future. And my oldest, Thea, she always asks when we’re gonna go back to the Village [vegan restaurant in San Diego] for their bean, cheese, and rice burrito and some raw cheesecake.

And it’s like, I didn’t force that. I didn’t say, “You have to eat this burrito… like it’s wrong… you’re, you’re a bad person if you don’t eat this burrito… you’re bad if you don’t like that…” was the tactic that I was raised on.

And it was kind of like, pinned us against other family members and other friends. We’re like, oh, we can’t be friends with you because you don’t eat meat. Like that kind of tactic doesn’t really work, and eventually you kind of – if you do it for the right reasons – you kind of end up finding yourself surrounded with more vegans and other people that are kind of in that community without you know, exiling everybody else for their choices.

Because a lot of it is just a lack of education, it’s such a generational – um, trait that’s been passed down from years to years to years, you know. And some of us are just at a pivotal point where we’re kind of wanting to change those ways.

Especially if they don’t feel right to our – you know – our hearts or our bodies.

I agree too, and I don’t like; I don’t care. I know some vegans, like, don’t even want to be around people that eat meat because, to them, they’re murderers.

SHARI:

And yeah, why would you – if someone murdered a baby, why would you hang out with a murderer? So yeah, I understand everybody’s coming from a different place.

My personal view is a little more evolved just because I understand that everybody has their own path in this life.

They have different past experiences and reasons for what they do and why. And they’re doing the best that they know how. So for me, I’m okay —

I don’t want to, like, go to a turkey – Thanksgiving thing where they’re celebrating the death. Like, I don’t do that anymore. But you know, we all have to find where we want to fit in and have those boundaries for ourselves.

But I had a question if your dad – why he became vegan – why he was so strict, and was your mom 100% like that? And who did you get, who did you get raised by when they got divorced?

DAVE:

So my dad, when he was about like, he grew up with kind of a Hispanic family, right so like my grandpa used to do like menudo and put the – they would put the bones in everything, and they would literally like, try to use every bit of possible of the animal.

And like tortillas and beans with lard in them. And, like, that was the life he grew up on… I don’t think he was necessarily heavily processed stuff. I’m not 100% sure, but I think he was around 18 years old. And one day, he just like – I don’t know if he made the connection or something, but he was just like, “I’m done with this. Like, I’m gonna go vegan.” And he went vegan at 18, and now he’s, you know, in his mid-60s and has been vegan this whole time.

David Luna bodybuilder

SHARI:

And what made him make that switch?

DAVE:

I don’t know, honestly he just kind of said – his idol, I guess, back in the day, was the Beatles. They were on this vegetarian, vegan kick back in the day, and he like saw them doing was like, all right I guess I’m gonna do this and then he just went full board into it and there was a lot of conflict with him and his family because they didn’t understand it at all like coming from a heavily like animal-based family that they just kind of – I don’t know if they shunned them out, but they just kind of didn’t understand.

His brothers didn’t understand his middle brother was like a huge barbecue smoker and all about meat meat meat and then same with his younger brother, but like he just had that switch. 

And sometimes it comes unexpected like for a lot of people. Like even for me, when I went back to vegan, I just started seeing things, and I was like, you know what, I’m feeling better. I had started a health food journey.

And I think that’s where he was at. He was trying to be healthier and wanted to be more active, and he was in the construction industry, and I don’t know, it just kind of clicked, and he stuck with it.

But yeah he was very strict on it. Like when him and my mom were dating, he wouldn’t – he didn’t allow her to — “allow her” [air quotes] to eat animal-based products because she wasn’t – and she came from the same kind of thing. Like a Hispanic background – of you know, lard in this and menudo that and meat in here and chicken broth in the rice.

And like – it’s like, you don’t need chicken broth – you can use regular vegetable broth, but those are the kind of things that are just taught over the years, and that’s just all people know.

So for her, she didn’t know any different, and you know, she just fell into that. But she wasn’t 100% committed in it. Like I know she would, you know, sneak it. Have an ice cream sandwich here and there like with her girlfriends.

But yeah, like, it was completely frowned upon by my dad – he didn’t allow it – he didn’t allow meat anywhere near the house, in the house, he wouldn’t – any family get-togethers, we would have to be outside when they cooked meat inside the house. We’d go sit outside. Or using – even the same like cooking pans or silverware, dishes, it was like, it was wild as a kid growing up that way.

But yeah, he just stuck with it, and yeah, to this day, he’s still vegan, and he’s healthy as ever. He races dirt bikes, and he’s in his mid-60s.

SHARI:

So he’s healed things, and he’s healthy being vegan this long; he knows how to do it right?

DAVE:

He’s healthy yeah he definitely is. He’s on Purium now so that helps incorporate that protein because part of him is – now he’s in that older age.

He’s starting to realize that his muscle is starting to deteriorate a little bit. As it naturally is, not just for vegans, it happens once you get into your older ages.

That your body starts naturally deteriorating muscles, and that’s why people in their 70s, if they’re not healthy and fit, going into that they have no muscle definition. They can’t pick themselves up off the floor. They can barely get off the couch.

So for him, he’s physically active, and he’s still working construction in his mid-60s, but he needed to add in more protein besides beans, rice, nuts all that stuff, so yeah I got him on Purium.

I was gonna ask about my mom or talk about her a little bit, and she, um stayed vegetarian surprisingly because she had that connection with the animals.

And she’s like, I don’t feel the need to go back to eating meat because when she was with my dad. She didn’t – she just kind of felt that she needed, you know, cheese and eggs and stuff like that in her diet.

And she was on that diet – she was kind of pescetarian – so she did eat um fish every once in a while – like a fish taco or even shark – but it was very, very rare. Like maybe a couple times a year.

And then her and my stepdad – because my stepdad was a meat eater when they got together. And so she did some cooking. She did the majority of the cooking, so a lot of – he was eating a vegetarian diet. But you know, he would eat meat every time he had the chance outside of the household or sometimes cook burgers himself and make his own dinner or whatever.

Up until about the time I went vegan again three years ago, um, my mom and stepdad both decided to go plant-based vegan – like shortly after. Maybe about a year afterwards.

And they saw the “Game Changers,” and they watched a couple other documentaries on Netflix. And they’re just like, well, we don’t – like in comparison with the health and fitness of those athletes that they compared – my stepdad was like, “Well, I’m in my like getting close to 50…” – or in his 50s at this point and he’s like, “I need to start making some decisions to change my life if I want to live a healthy, you know, lifestyle the last couple years of my life.”

And he got a little bit more physically active, and he’s all about the vegan foods and all the vegan pop-ups that we go to and stuff like that.

And it’s just amazing that he’s like “Man, there’s some good vegan food.” Like, even, they’re in Mexico right now, and he’s like, this is the best Mexican vegan food I’ve had in Mexico.

And as I was saying before – is the Mexican culture for so long was meat in everything.

And now they’re starting to change their culture and cater to, you know, vegans. And have these delicious options. And he’s like, “What the heck, like, where has this been all my life?” kind of thing.

And it was tempeh and black beans blended together. And it’s like, that – tempeh is one of the highest protein sources for a vegan, blended with black beans and spices, and boom, you got yourself a high protein vegan taco, burrito, or whatever.

And it’s Mexican style with no chicken broth, no stomach lining, no hooves from pigs… like, you know what I mean – it’s kind of awesome.

So I’m happy that they went in that direction, as well.

READ PART TWO HERE!

Bonus for those who love our interviews - you can contact me for a top-secret copy of this video interview. Just don't tell anyone. 😅

How to find Dave for business/product consulting or fitness training:


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About Shari

Shari Likes Fruit is all about making fruit and vegetables enjoyable, loving animals, and cherishing the joy within all of us.

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