Olympian gold medallist Stephanie Rice admits that transitioning from a swimming champion to a “normal person” five years ago was a pretty difficult task.

Stephanie recently underwent another kind of transformation – to looking more physically toned and trim. Stephanie credits her new body in part to her healthy plant-based eating plan, fitness work outs and positive mind-set.

The 29-year-old motivational speaker and businesswoman admits that while she’s gone through tough times, she’s now healthier and happier than she’s ever been. One thing she’s thrilled to be talking about is her passion for vegan food. Stephanie has just released her first ever eCookbook – Vegan Goodness – which she helped create for Vegie Delights’ ‘It Tastes Great To Be Good’ campaign. Free to download from the Vegie Delights website, it’s packed full of delicious recipes featuring an array of their vegan products such as ‘Smoked Chipotle Sausages’.

“I’ve been a vegan for five years and whilst I know it’s not for everyone, I still think it’s a great idea for everyone to eat a few more meat-free meals and enjoy the health benefits of clean eating,” she says. “If more people can embrace meat-free Mondays that’s a win for them and the sustainability of the planet.”

We were lucky enough to chat to Steph, who told us all about how she pulled off her transformation, her commitment to personal growth, what a day on a plate looks like for her and her favourite place to work out.

You’ve undergone a pretty massive physical transformation recently – and you say, “no change you make on the outside will last unless you change your mindset”. Can you tell us a little bit about how you shifted your mindset to make the transformation stick?

I think I was doing a lot of comparing. Pre-transformation I’d do a hard work out for up to an hour. But then I was comparing myself to when I was doing swimming training and doing seven hours of exercise a day. That in turn would make me feel like I wasn’t doing enough and it wasn’t worth my time. I decided I needed to change my mindset to a kinder, more positive frame of mind. Now when I exercise I only do 20 minutes’ worth, but I feel really good about myself afterwards. I’ll say to myself: “that was a really great job, and my body feels so much stronger!” I then leave the workout feeling energised, focused and positive rather than feeling down and tired. That mind shift has had such a great overall effect.

What was it like to transition from a life of full time swimming to ‘normal life’ in 2014? How have you worked through this comedown (or come up!) over the last few years?

I found transitioning from being a top-level athlete to a regular citizen of the world pretty hard. Figuring out who Stephanie Rice is right now, what I stand for and what am I passionate about has been my biggest challenge. What I was known for before was being Stephanie Rice the swimmer – I didn’t know anything else. Developing new goals and outlooks has been tough. I went through some hard times. It had to do a lot of introspection and work on my own personal development. But I think I needed to go through that to now have the knowledge to share all that I’ve learnt with other people. I’m grateful for that.

You say your mission is to help others build self-worth and discover their inner strength – what are your top tips for someone looking to initiate this process?

Firstly be kind to yourself on the journey! If you’re looking to get healthy but you really want to eat a burger then have it but listen to your body afterwards. If you’re thinking: ‘I feel really sluggish and tired after that’, then take note of that. Listening to those cues will help you go forward with momentum. Secondly, be positive. Don’t think that you’re missing out by sacrificing something, think of it as gaining a new experience instead. Lastly, don’t try to accomplish anything overnight.

How important has personal development been in your journey?

It’s been massively important. I did a lot of reading up on it and self-care practice to the point where I developed my own program for others called Magical Mentoring. I take inspiration from people like Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey who are such strong voices for personal growth. Once I made a committed mental transformation to be more positive and stop being so hard on myself, that started to change my physical transformation.

What’s your philosophy on health and wellness?

My health and wellness philosophy is a holistic one – it integrates my exercise plan, eating mental thought processes and lifestyle. I feel everything you do needs to be in sync. There’s no point in doing a great work out and then racing off to eat junk food straight afterwards!

What does a day on a plate look like for you?

For breakfast I’ll eat half a cup of oats with chia seeds, flax seeds and almond milk. Lunch is usually avocado on toast and a salad with greens and tomatoes, along with an iced coffee made with almond milk. I’m a bit of a home body so I just like to eat quiet dinners at home with my boyfriend Rory. I’ll roast some sweet potatoes seasoned with rosemary. I then make a salad of fried kale, cucumber, nuts and tahini sauce. My dinners usually only have about four things in them as I like to eat really simply!

What pushed the shift to a vegan diet?

Back in 2013 after retiring from swimming I was going through a slump of my body suddenly transitioning to a regular lifestyle and not training hard all the time. As a result I was so tired and down in general. I felt like I needed some kind of answer to get motivated again. That’s when I started getting inspired by other people who’d adopted a vegan lifestyle. I’d never felt great after eating meat and eating dairy and eggs made me feel sick and inflamed my skin. I started cutting out things here and there and eating a wider variety of plant-food and suddenly it just all made sense – and made my mind and body feel so much better.

If you had 3 tips for people losing weight, what would it be?

Firstly don’t compare yourself to loads of “perfect” looking people on Facebook or Instagram! Remember people often post those pictures because it’s the best they’ve looked all week – they don’t look perfect all the time! Run your own race. Secondly be really cogniscent or aware of what you are trying to achieve. Your body is not really going to change just from doing one good training session or eating one great healthy meal. Be steady about the long-term goal and take it day by day. Thirdly, don’t deprive yourself too much. If you are doing the right things 90 per cent of the time that’s great. Allow yourself to indulge now and then. If you’re too strict about being healthy it may backfire.

Can you share your fave workout with us?

Find a place to work out at home – If you only ever work out at a gym or outside, it’s easy to skip exercise when you don’t feel like going out or the weather’s bad. My favourite place to work out is my balcony. Sometimes I might work out with weights, other times it’s crunches or planks to work my core. I like to follow YouTube work out videos as well – Kayla Itsines is one of my favourites. Vary your routine so you won’t get bored.