Plant-based Athletic Inspiration: Josh LaJaunieby Garth Davis, MD on May 19, 2015
Josh LaJaunie is an incredible individual. His story is truly inspiring. Read and enjoy his guest post.
I’m Josh LaJaunie. I’m the big guy in the left picture.
I am from Thibodaux, Louisiana. I am a former football lineman. And I identified most with the big, whiskey-drinking, animal-eating (didn’t matter, wasn’t very picky), former football player with stories of how athletic I used to be before I got hurt. And being that guy got me 200lbs overweight and miserable.
There is no shortage of that person here. I was kind of in that big guy club. The guys who couldn’t fit in booths. The guys who need seatbelt extensions and specially made clothing. That club was my identity. Even as I began to lose weight eventually, my goal was always “playing weight” (290-300lbs). I held onto the “fact” that I was destined to be a big man. I almost felt I’d be betraying something or someone if I left.
Eventually, some life circumstances began to change; I found a girlfriend, although it feels kinda silly to call my wife that now. And at the age of 29, in 2007, she encouraged me to go back to school as a freshman at Nicholls State University.
By the spring of 2011 I was thinking like an educated pragmatist for the first time in my life, and preparing for my senior year. Not only was my pending degree exciting for me, but in the year previous my beloved New Orleans Saints won SB44. I sort of made a case study out of the that epic win (WHODAT!!). I wanted know how the hell Coach and Mr Loomis were able to have success in a town that has epitomized the opposite over the long term in many ways, especially when considering NFL success. So, I read Coach’s book.
Among his beautifully timed “f” bombs were some profound ideas that struck me as relatable to my own world. But one I found particularly useful and paradigm-decaying was when he addressed all the “that’s just the way it is here” talk he encountered. He defied it at every turn. Unwaveringly. He even imported people from outside, like Joe Vitt for example, who bristled at the idea of complacency as bad as Coach did. And ultimately, they changed a culture. A culture who’s results were appalling on many levels. Now we are used to winning.
Reading that book planted a seed. But that seed didn’t germinate until my friend Jeff called and invited me to join the gym with him in February of 2011 as I started my final full semester. With that invite, Jeff changed my life. I would wind up never looking back.
Durning my presentation-heavy final semester I had gotten compliments on my weight loss as well as my presentations. That felt pretty cool. By graduation in December I had lost 60lbs. and was feeling like a proud graduate. It was around this time that my friend Jeff and I decided to run the Crescent City Classic 10k in New Orleans that following April. Jeff would often be able to walk alongside me as I “ran.” Although I had lost weight, at 340ish lbs, I was still quite heavy for a runner. We got up to 4 miles in training. I figured I would have to walk some on raceday, and I did, a lot. I was happy to have finished, but bummed that it took me 1:43:00. I was hoping for 1:30:00.
But that failure sparked me. I knew how I was still eating in my heart of hearts. So, I really had no right to be upset for underachieving; I hadn’t done what it takes. I was still eating like shit, drinking like a fish, and smoking cigarettes when I wanted to because I was losing weight regardless. But as the weight loss slowed, I reevaluated what I was doing.
That race eventually lead me to reading “Born to Run,” which introduced me to Scott Jurek, whose story lead me to plants and running. So, I found myself 100lbs lighter (but still 100lbs overweight) reinventing an already somewhat reinvented self. I was morphing into an aspiring runner, rather than being a reluctant runner looking for weight loss.
As I began to hone my aspirations, I found that a plant based diet was used by some of the baddest runners out there. Scott Jurek is not alone, which was a surprise to me; Rich Roll, and Brendan Brazier were the next two plant based badasses I learned about. This, coupled with watching Forks Over Knives for the first time, really cemented my new views on food. I became a 100% plant based, not ex fat guy, but athlete. I decided “I’m going be that. An athlete.”
Today I identify with being a runner, a plant based runner. Yes, I have lost 200 lbs., but I think about that so much less now that it’s been done. It’s no longer the moment I’m in. I think about PR’s these days a lot, but I also want to be a Pied Piper, if you will, for the plants, mindset, and activity that got me to where I am today, and where I know so many would like to be.
In my own family, for example, my wife and I found ourselves always fielding questions that ultimately just ask “how?” So, we invited everyone over and started a “boot camp” at our home. We workout (my wife tries to kill us, I mean) on Tuesday and Thursday every week. We bond, laugh, hurt, piss-moan, and complain, but we get it done.
This started as just family but has grown as people have discovered that there’s a workout at Josh’s every Tuesday and Thursday. So now I have running buddies, friends, friends of friends, and family all working out with us. It’s so cool! But if you know me, I’m a “fix the damn food!” guy. I guess it because I’ve come so far that I take it so seriously, but I do. So, beside breaking a sweat with folks, I try to be consistent example of the plant based lifestyle in action. Not unlike a lighthouse on a rocky shore.
In the end, I’m just a guy who wanted something bad enough to change, finally.
So if you’re reading this, and you identify with the old me more than the new me, I get it. Just know I’ll be here when you’re ready, but you’re giving me a helluva head start.