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How a Plant-Based Diet Helped 30 Year Old, Jack Lose 220 Pounds and Save His Life
At the start of his incredible journey, Jack tipped the scales at over 500 pounds and was diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and was pre-diabetic. All by the age of 30. We dive into Jack’s story and dig deeper into how he broke a long cycle of unsuccessful yo-yo dieting and went plant-based.
Jack is transparent and vulnerable throughout this post. He shares not only the ups but also the downs he has experienced along the way. Get ready to be inspired!
Going plant-based can feel scary and overwhelming. Most of us are not raised plant-based and we don’t live in a plant-based world. What happens when the fear of a health issue outweighs all of those concerns?
Jack starts by saying, “My entire life, I was always overweight and unhealthy. I never learned the healthy practices with food because we didn’t know as much back then. We didn’t know that it would impact you later in life. And so I always dieted through high school and college. I did the traditional cut this out, add this.”
He says what he’s doing isn’t working. He’s getting tired of yoyo dieting but what else is there? Is this enough to spark a massive lifestyle change?
He goes onto say, “And then I took a look at some documentaries on Netflix just on a whim. The first documentary was Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. And it was all about juicing. And this guy lost a lot of weight. I was curious because at that time, I had no idea what plant-based or vegan was.”
“This guy didn’t eat any meat or dairy. So I went down a rabbit hole. I looked up all these different documentaries.” And he said to himself, “You know what, if I want something different, I need to try something different. And that’s what really just took me down the path. It was a lot of research. It was a lot of trial and error.”
Jack encounters some challenges along the way. It’s not this picture perfect journey we would all like to have and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean plant-based eating isn’t right for him. It doesn’t mean plant-based eating isn’t right for you.
As he’s researching he thinks, “Okay, what’s the science behind it? What’s the underlying structure here? What am I really driving toward?”
And this is when he decides he needs to be plant-based. He’s wanting something different and according to him, he needs to try something different because what he’s currently doing isn’t working for him.
“Yeah, it was just a struggle. At one point, I lost 84 pounds in 2012 and I got down to 400 from 484. And I gained it all back because I started sprinkling things back in.” He says, “You don’t realize what you do until it’s too late and you’ve sabotaged yourself.”
Receiving a Tough Diagnosis at 30 Years Old
Before Jack goes plant-based, he faces a scary diagnosis that he’s not expecting, especially at such a young age.
“So, it was right before I ended up leaving Dayton, Ohio, to go to North Carolina for a job opportunity after I finished grad school. I went for a physical.” Jack says to himself, “Let me follow up with my primary care doctor, just to get everything checked before I move and find a new doctor, make sure I’m all squared away and got my routine blood work.”
He wants to make sure he’s all squared away before moving several states away.
Shockingly, he says, “I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and I was pre-diabetic. So they put me on three medicines and I was like, wow!”
At this time, he’s 30 or 31. And he is shocked! But that’s not the end of it.
“And then on my first trip back to Ohio to visit my parents, my left hand was kind of tingling a lot on the ride up and it just didn’t feel right. I was thinking, a heart attack. And so that entire trip I spent in the hospital because they couldn’t get my blood pressure down,” he says.
Jack is put on more medication almost immediately. His doctor says he doesn’t have a choice because his situation is that serious.
Jack says, “Even after the trip to Ohio, I still didn’t do it right. It still took a year and a half for me to really grasp that, hey, I need to make some changes. And it took my doctor increasing my cholesterol medicine again for me to really understand that I’m killing myself.
Taking the First Steps to Change
Jack is starting to realize that there is a connection with what he’s putting into his body and how he’s feeling. But, how does he make that connection? And, how does he even take those first steps? Before he begins, he starts doing some research.
“I found you and some other plant-based folks,” he says. “I started looking at what people are doing and how they’re incorporating these things into a lifestyle.”
He starts looking at, what they eat and how they function. To ease into plant-based eating, he give Meatless Monday a go.
“So, I really started with Meatless Monday. I found that hashtag. And I was like, oh, this is cool. Make a day out of it. So I did Meatless Mondays for a while. And then I said, all right, so let me try and do a meal every day. And then I said, okay, let’s make it two meals a day. And then I said, let’s make it 3 meals.”
As he’s increasing the amount of days he’s eating plant-based, he’s still being flexible on the weekends. And then he gets to a point where he’s ready to go all in. He says, “It took some time, but it was just literally one meal once a week that I made and it just took off from there.”
Taking things one step at a time like Jack can make transitioning to plant-based much more sustainable. If you’re curious to go plant-based or you feel this pull, it doesn’t have to be this overnight transformation. You can do exactly what Jack did and take it one meal at a time, start with something like Meatless Monday and go from there.
Jack advices, “Don’t do it cold turkey. I did it that way, and I failed. And so I had to take a step back and I had to transition myself slowly.”
Falling in Love with Food Again
As Jack is transitioning to plant-based, he rediscovers a love for food and a passion for cooking and creating.
“I was a typical guy. Didn’t know how to cook, relied on processed stuff, just little quick, easy things, and eating out. The traditional diet, you can hide behind, covering things in sauces and cheeses and stuff like that. But plant-based, you can’t hide from that type of thing.” He says, “You have to season, you have to prepare. You get to curate all types of flavors. And it really made me fall in love with cooking.”
From there, he teaches himself how to cook with some helpful pointers from his mom. He says, “I never knew that I would be someone that loves cooking, can cook well, and prepare dishes that people love. It shocked me. I continue to shock myself.”
And I can confirm this! I’ve been following Jack on social media for a while and you would never know that he didn’t know how to cook back in the day.
He says, “Oh, gosh, if you would have seen some of the old stuff I cooked…so sad.”
Celebrate the Successes
Fast forwarding on Jack’s journey, he’s been plant-based for several years now. And even thought it’s been a lot of trial and error, Jack is celebrating a lot of success along the way.
“I started at 514 pounds and I’m down to 294 this morning (April 2021). I’ve lost 220 pounds. Naturally, it takes time so I didn’t rush it,” he says.
He wants to do things the “right” way because what he was doing in the past didn’t work. Besides weight loss, he’s excited about a few other things.
“I don’t take any medicine anymore. So no cholesterol, no blood pressure medicine, no pre-diabetes medicine. A lot of my blood levels are normalized,” he celebrates. “There are some things that run in my family so I’m just trying to combat that through eating healthy and exercising. Because while it may be genetic, I think that you can beat a lot of things just by proper nutrition.”
Going from the standard American diet to a plant-based diet plays a large role in Jack’s success but it’s not the only thing. He also mentions that movement is a big part of his lifestyle now.
He says, “Six to seven days a week, I’m doing something, either walking or jogging. I fell in love with cycling. I started weight training with a trainer.”
But there was this false narrative going on inside his head that he’s not an athlete. He mentions this to a buddy who responds saying, “Dude, you’re an athlete. You are active almost every day of the week consistently!” And then Jacks enthusiastically says, “So, yes, I guess I am [an athlete].”
With incorporating more movement, Jack starts to feel even better.
“I feel stronger. I have my aches and pains, everybody does. And, I attribute some of that to the abuse that I put my body through my entire life of being overweight. So I try not to get too down when I have a sore knee consistently. I had surgery on my knee in college, but I’m trying to do as much as possible to take that strain and pressure off of my body and strengthen it. But the amount of energy that I have, the things that I’m capable of doing that I would have never, ever dreamed of, it’s insane,” he says.
Back when Jack was 30, 31 years old, he couldn’t envision himself where he is now. He says, “I had no idea I would be going out on a Saturday for a 20 mile bike ride on the trail. Who would have thought?”
Where There are Hills, There are Valleys
One thing I appreciate about Jack is that he is vulnerable and transparent about his journey. And just like any journey, it’s not all wins. There are times when you have to walk through a valley and overcome a hurdle.
“I’m very transparent. It’s not linear by any means. I had struggles last year with COVID. I picked up some pounds. I got on it toward the end of the year and was able to get back to a manageable point and then pick it back up this year and keep going,” he explains.
“Last year, I think it was when my cholesterol numbers started to creep up because I was eating a lot of processed stuff. I wasn’t eating as much fruit, veggies, legumes, beans, all the good stuff.” Jack goes onto say, “I was eating things like processed sausage. And all that stuff is fine in moderation but you can’t eat that six days a week for weeks and expect it to impact you the way you want.”
“I struggle,” he says but he also encourages himself by saying, “Let me see what happens if I don’t give up and if I keep going. So I remember that and I pick it back up and I get going.”
Jack’s Best Advice
When it comes to transitioning to plant-based, Jack advises, “Take it one day at a time. Start with one meal a week like Meatless Mondays.”
He even says to, “Find out the plant-based version of your favorites. They are out there. There is not a shortage of recipes. There’s tons of plant-based and vegan folks that post all types of healthy, delicious stuff. If you had a childhood favorite, there’s definitely a plant-based version of it out there somewhere.”
And if you like going out to eat, he says, “Go out to a restaurant that has plant-based options, and try it there and see how good it can be. Then you think wow, what can I make at home?”
If you struggle finding a supportive, like-minded community, Jack encourages, “Whatever you do, find the support and the structure beneath you to lift you up, connect with like-minded people, start following some plant-based folks. Start following some vegan folks. Start looking at the people that are in the lifestyle that you want to have.”
Connecting with people on social media is a great way to find inspirational people and accounts who are on a similar journey.
“Everybody on my Facebook, the amount of messages I’ve gotten like, dude, you look so awesome. You’re doing amazing. You’re inspiring. Tell me how. There is so much love. I’ll post an update and I’ll get 400 likes and I was like, these are people I haven’t talked to since high school, college, maybe even before that, and they all come out of the woodworks and show me support. I get so overwhelmed with how much people care. Hopefully, I can help someone, to show them that it’s possible,” he says.
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