When you’re starting out on a plant-based diet, you’re looking for change. Some of us want to reduce the harm that’s done to animals, others care about preserving nature… but for most, feeling better in their bodies is what they are craving most.
And who could blame them?
So many of us have been struggling with either minor or major health issues, lack of energy, or a generally icky feeling that’s something’s not quite right. Wanting to get out of this state can certainly provide us with a boost of motivation in the beginning. But after a few months, when we start to miss old food favorites or are tired of talking to waiters about what we don’t want in our food, it can seem all too easy to throw in the towel.
With this inspirational article, we hope to spark your joy for and interest in vegan or plant-based diets once again. We collected 14 incredible vegan transformation stories from people all over the world and at all stages of life. Some of them have lost tremendous amounts of weight in a healthy and sustainable way. Others escaped death by an inch or got off their medication.
Chronic, debilitating diseases can be treated or even reversed by making the right diet and lifestyle changes. And some of the vegan transformation stories we’ll share with you below are mostly about showing the world how you can become incredibly fit and ripped while eating exclusively plants.
Kids, teens, adults, men, and women – all of them profited from eating a plant-based diet consisting of mostly whole foods.
Granted, we assume that not everyone in here became an ethical vegan - but everyone made these huge changes while eating a healthy vegan diet. For more information, find the different ways of eating vegan here.
Now, let’s find out about the huge impact plant-based foods had in terms of health, happiness, a newly found sense of well-being and self-esteem for these people. Their stories are absolutely breathtaking and can serve as great inspiration to both long-term and transitioning vegans.
1. Doug is off all his medications and reversed his heart disease
After an almost-fatal heart attack (which usually kills 90% of the sufferers) in his own yard, Doug was classified with coronary artery disease at age 49 and put on heart medication “for the rest of his life”. His cardiologist suggested he’d have 4 eggs per week and that he should stick to lean meats - nothing else about altering his diet.
But Doug’s own research fortunately introduced him to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s work, whose suggestions he slowly tried to implement. But being a true foodie, he only took a few steps towards a whole foods plant-based diet while still trying to enjoy his croissants and Brie.
That is, until he had another health scare regarding the blockages in his arteries which motivated him to work hard on cleaning up his diet (no animal products or oil!). Ever since then, he has lost 55lbs and has the energy of a teenager, running his second half-marathon at age 58.
2. Kate got off the lung-transplant list and restored her eyesight
As a wife and working mother of three school-age kids, Kate was leading a very busy life many people can relate to. In September 2007, she had developed a cough that wouldn’t go away, and she was dealing with slow-motion sluggishness, increasing fatigue, and a noticeable swelling of her legs and abdomen.
An acute care visit later, she learned that she was suffering from type 2 diabetes, severe right-sided heart failure, and severe sleep apnea. What was most troubling, though, was her rare form of hypertension that had no cure and came with a terminal prognosis: two years to live without treatment and five years to live with treatment.
Her health deteriorated quickly, which resulted in needing a heavy tank of oxygen, losing her eyesight, and being on a long list of medication while having to stay home most of the time. As she was already put on a list for a lung transplant, she saw on TV how someone explained that a whole foods plant-based diet changed their life and she was intrigued.
After a year of trial and error on this way of eating, she contacted Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and attended a 5-day program by Dr. John McDougall. Making these huge changes resulted in her eyesight being fully restored, getting off the lung-transplant monitoring list as well as her diabetic medications, and only needing oxygen at night. She also lost more than 110 lbs!
3. Dick reversed his prostate cancer and lost over 30 pounds
Just before turning 50, Dick was diagnosed with prostate cancer and recommended to get surgery. But he decided against that step and, instead, started to follow a comprehensive, doctor-supervised program of lifestyle interventions—diet, exercise, supplements, and stress management would be the areas he’d tackle.
Dick hoped that since this program was known to slow the progression of the disease, he wanted to “buy some time” until less invasive treatment options became available. After some more research, he doubled down on his lifestyle changes and became very serious about them – losing over 30 pounds, along with some curious skin tags.
And even better, his PSA levels stabilized, suggesting that his body was successfully wrestling his cancer cells. Two years after his initial diagnosis and effectively hacking his own body to make it inhospitable to cancer growth… he was officially in remission!
4. Emily reversed her crippling rheumatoid arthritis and depression
In her mid-thirties, the Cincinnati-based artist was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that caused her a lot of pain and affected her joints tremendously: rheumatoid arthritis. From her knees, hip, ribcage, up to her shoulders, and elbows – the pain worked its way up and even eroded a bone in her foot and was so excruciating that she couldn’t sleep, stand, sit, walk with ease, lift anything, or even breathe sometimes.
She was depressed to the state of having suicidal thoughts, was losing her hair, and laid on the floor crying most mornings. In terms of treatment, she decided to take a corticosteroid for some relief and thought of taking more medications until she discovered the nutritional approach to help and reverse her condition. She soon weaned herself off her medication and decided to heal her body by eating a whole foods plant-based diet. Her next blood work came back normal with only slight inflammation.
5. Tara healed her ulcerative colitis and finally became a mother
During her pregnancy with twin girls, Tara was put on strict bed rest for extreme symptoms of ulcerative colitis, which she was given high doses of steroids for - but that proved to be mostly ineffective.
Unfortunately, she lost her babies at 32 weeks due to complications of this high-risk pregnancy. From then on, she had to treat her flare-ups with different drug regimens from then on, until her body gave in and everything she ate ran right through her – causing an unwanted weight loss of 40 pounds.
During a longer stay at the hospital, she researched online and came across plant-based eating as an answer to her condition. She then put her whole family on a whole foods vegan diet and it was soon clear that they wouldn’t go back to any other way of eating again. Her constant tenderness and bloating, even her lethargy went away.
And miraculously, her body became healthy enough to try for another baby who was born “healthy and hefty” not even one year later!
6. Luke left his childhood ailments behind and improved his fitness
The Singapore-born Luke was plagued with chronic asthma, epilepsy, and kidney disease growing up - and the medications he took for these ailments left him borderline obese. Helping himself to 8-10 fried chicken wings each Sunday surely wasn’t helping here, just like the ribeye steak he loved to eat.
Staying on a “high protein” diet seemed to be a non-negotiable in his adulthood, especially when he entered the fitness industry as a trainer and bodybuilder. Along with over 2 pounds of animal flesh per day, he was also spending a fortune on supplements, workout pills, and fat burners.
Luckily, his vegan wife introduced him to plant-based heroes like John Robbins and Robert Cheeke (a vegan bodybuilder) who opened his eyes and showed him how this diet was more ethical, sustainable, and healthful. Turning vegan for the animals, he was surprised to find his overall muscularity increasing after just one month and even dropping body fat.
He had more energy, a better recovery, less joint issues, and a better skin. In 2013, he competed in the Australian Natural Bodybuilding Championships as a vegan and placed second in his division.
7. Christine cured her chronic pain and endometriosis
Even though Christine had already decided to follow her heart and go vegan for ethical reasons, she was still following a rather unhealthy diet. Although quitting meat, dairy, and eggs caused her lifelong allergies to vanish, she was still having lots of processed foods, sugar, oil, and salt.
Christine had suffered from endometriosis pain for about 20 years, had struggled with debilitating back pain for ten years, and also had recurring chronic pain in her hands, feet, legs, and neck. Nobody could figure out how to help her and some days, she couldn’t even get out of bed. One day, her friend convinced her to do a 30-day challenge and eat only whole-food vegan meals for a month.
This diet change resulted in her being able to sit up easily after waking up for the first time in many years and it “felt like magic” to her. Apart from her chronic pain slowly subsiding, she also regained control of her bladder after having dealt with incontinence for a few years. She then lost 25 pounds without trying, her adult acne cleared up, and her endometriosis pain (which she’d had for 20 years) went away.
8. Greg opened up his arteries again after a stroke and bypass operation
Can you believe that this man suffered an almost fatal stroke – just one month after taking the photo on the left? His arteries throughout his whole body were closing up due to plaque... And this exact build-up didn't just cause his stroke but was also responsible for his type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and 15 months later a three-way heart bypass operation.
All of these health issues happened when he was still eating the Standard American Diet, trying to handle the situation with prescription medication. Several years later, he was intrigued to switch to a whole foods plant-based diet and here’s what happened: his energy increased noticeably, his ailments decreased, he lost 80 pounds without trying, and after 12 months his doctor called him at home to tell him he was no longer diabetic.
9. Rich went from overweight recovering alcoholic to elite athlete
As Rich approached his 40th birthday, he noticed that his life was all about moving up the corporate ladder as a lawyer, but health-wise, he felt terrible. Even though he'd been a competitive butterfly swimmer at Stanford University in the late 80’s, Rich’s career was cut short by struggles with drugs and alcohol which turned his life upside-down.
And then, 10 years later, he was an unhappy recovering alcoholic and 50 pounds overweight.
As he realized that, at the age of just 40, he couldn't even get up a flight of stairs without being in such a pain that he feared a heart attack coming along, he knew that he had to change. The very next day, he went on a vegan diet and experienced a huge improvement in his energy that caused him to get back into running, cycling, and swimming.
Two years later, 50 pounds lighter, and fueled by nothing but plants, he surprised the triathlon & ultra communities by not only becoming the first vegan to complete the 320-mile über-endurance event, but by finishing in the top 10 males (3rd fastest American) with the 2nd fastest swim split — all despite having never previously completed even a half-ironman distance triathlon.
Today, he is an elite athlete with hundreds of miles of competition under his belt who inspires thousands of people with his depth and personal transformation. Tip: You can watch an inspiring interview with him on YouTube.
10. Kira reversed her prediabetes and got offer her ADHD meds
Despite her parents’ best efforts to teach their daughter how to eat a healthy diet, by the time she was 7 years old, Kira became addicted to food, overweight, and was on 3 medications for her ADHD – one of which had caused her to become prediabetic.
Unlike most kids, Kira was lethargic, slept all the time, and got out of breath just walking to the car. Soon after watching the documentary Forks Over Knives, the family started to change their ways! They began exploring animal rights activism and eliminated all animal products from their diet, started cooking more and eating a huge variety of new foods on their whole food vegan diet.
This resulted in the reversal of Kira’s prediabetes (which could have ended fatally) as well as improving her focus and energy. She also lost almost 30 pounds, is symptom-free and in no further need for any medication.
11. Nina and Randa cleaned up their painful cystic acne
The identical twins had been raised on a vegan diet and were shocked to suddenly be confronted with breakouts all over their faces at 20 years old. This issue left them depressed and held back their careers as musicians and actors.
After trying dermatologists, antibiotics, special facials, blue light therapy, and prescription skincare products, they looked into Dr. John McDougall’s research which suggested cutting back on fatty foods. Almost immediately as they got rid of the oil, nut butter, and soy products, they saw positive results! The pictures you see above are just 6 weeks apart and the sisters are happy and successful as ever these days.
12. Tim was on his way to an early death at 38 years and 400 lbs
Along with a high weight, there usually come lifestyle diseases. But not only did Tim struggle with cholesterol and triglycerides that were literally off the charts and a blood pressure of 255/115, he was also born with a genetic disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which affects the joints.
As the only way to deal with his already-destroyed joints, he had to use crutches and canes as well as leg braces. He dealt with his permanent pain by constantly increasing his medication. But after having to watch family members suffer from aggressive cancers, he and his wife decided to turn their lives around.
Since he wasn’t fit enough to get a gastric sleeve, he decided to do research of his own and watched inspiring documentaries that led him to follow a plant-based diet (find more on this on his blog). Not only did he lose most of his health issues and started to become very active, he is now 200 pounds lighter.
13. Eve went from 340 lbs at 24 years to running a triathlon
At just 24 years young, Eve weighed 340 lbs and exhibited the onset of kidney dysfunction, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and an irregular heartbeat. She was told that she was facing a life full of prescription drugs, hospital visits, and disability if she didn’t make a change.
Fortunately, her vegan brother and sister-in-law inspired her to try some vegan meals which caused her to further research this topic and ended in her being horrified by what she found. Her love for animals and want to protect them solidified and her new diet allowed her to feel full while shedding the pounds.
Her passion for cooking enabled her to turn her favorite omnivore recipes into vegan masterpieces and she even picked up running.
14. Nimai built 20lbs of vegan muscle in 3 years
For all of those who think that you need lots of animal protein to become big and strong: Nimai was raised on a vegetarian diet and has never consumed any meat or fish in his life.
Three years ago, he went fully vegan and has built 20 pounds of pure muscle since then! His motivation to change towards a plant-based diet was the unethical treatment of animals for human convenience and he is now determined to disprove common misconceptions.
Nimai is living proof that plants have enough protein and he states that they help him recover and perform better as an athlete.
Bonus: Josh LaJaunie lost 220 lbs and became an Ultra-Runner
Growing up in South Louisiana (supposedly the “living to eat” State) and having a love for deep fried and rich Cajun foods paved the way for Josh to pile up 410 lbs at the young age of 32. Concerned about his strong family history of heart disease, he started moving his body more and got into running.
His new passion led him to read books by plant-based athletes such as Scott Jurek and Rich Roll, which resulted in him changing his own diet accordingly. Josh was featured in the documentary above which you definitely need to check out!
Which of these stories have really hit home or were most touching to you? Are you inspired to up your game and make a real change? Or have you already been vegan but were looking for some motivation to keep going? Let us know in the comments below.
Alena has been eating a plant-based diet for 6 years and is passionate about sharing her learnings in the fields of nutrition, wellbeing, and vegan ethics. She is the co-creator of nutriciously and loves music, reading, nature, traveling, yoga & good food. Alena received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy, and social work.