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How One Man Overcame Incredible Obstacles, Lost 200 lbs & Transformed His Life

By December 2, 2013August 7th, 202338 Comments

This interview is like nothing you have heard before on this show.

It will move you.  It will inspire you.  It will erase whatever obstacles and excuses you rely on that perpetuate bad habits, keep you stuck, and reinforce denial.  By listening, my hope is that you will realize that no matter what your circumstances or environment, we all have the power to implement profound personal change beyond our collective imagination in miraculous and fantastic ways.

A couple weeks ago, a guy called Josh LaJaunie tweeted me his before and after pictures, thanking me for helping him along his journey of total transformation.  Bear in mind, I get many such images sent to me.  I absolutely love this stuff – It’s why I do what I do.  But something about this post was different.  The change was so astounding, my first thought was, “Can this be real?”  The 400+ pound guy on the left bore almost no resemblance to the guy on the right, a super fit, super handsome young man running with a big smile on his face.  And yet when I looked closely, I could indeed determine that it was in fact the same person.  I was stunned.

Chris Farley had morphed into Bradley Cooper.  But how?

I had to find out.  I reached out to him, and we exchanged a few e-mails.  Then he sent me a document, with a title that says it all.


A manifesto on life transformation, it’s the detailed personal account of how Josh accomplished what some would deem impossible, dropping over 200 pounds and a life-long addiction to unhealthy foods & lifestyle habits to discover a passion for running.  A journey that led him to completing a half-marathon and preparing for his first marathon.  He didn’t just lose weight — he became an athlete.

But what truly struck me wasn’t just the weight loss or his discovered passion for running.  It was the story of how he faced, battled and overcame astounding, impossibly entrenched cultural obstacles to change everything about how he lives his life.  A gift he now freely shares, transforming the lives not just of his family members, but his beloved community at large.  At that moment, I knew I needed to share his story with you.

Josh LaJaunie in 2007 — “I am an unabashed WHO DAT!”

Born & bred in southern Louisiana, Josh is a 100% genuine, authentic, self-avowed “swamp dweller” from Bayou Lafourche.  Someone who shirks at the label “cajun” as too highfalutin, and “proud to sound like a coonass”.  A big kid surrounded by a loving nuclear and extended family united by their shared love of food — a regional imperative — Josh was a standout high school football player, recruited to play college ball.  But disillusioned by college life in Arkansas, he dropped out of school, only to return home, aimless and unmoored.  He found work in the family construction business, but lived for the weekend – time spent hunting, fishing, cheering for his beloved New Orleans Saints, feasting on his favorite local delicacies — po boys, jambalaya & barbeque.  And partying.  Lots of partying.  It’s just what you do down in Bayou Lafourche.

The weight escalated.  As did the despair.  His embarrassment and shame escalating in equal measure to his declining self-esteem.  Not to mention an almost certain future of diabetes and heart disease.

Then something happened.  In 2010, Josh’s beloved Saints achieved the impossible, winning the Super Bowl.  It seems a small thing.  But to Josh it was everything.  Forever altering his perception of what is possible, he began to question the limits he imposed upon himself.  Empowered, he began to “let go of his normal” and dismiss the embedded “that’s just the way it is down here” mentality he was starting to understand often taints the logic of his region.

A chain reaction of events ensued that set Josh on a new trajectory.  A path that involved a return to fitness and the adoption of a 100% plant-based,  PlantPowered diet.  A path that changed his life beyond his imagination.

A life transformed.

It’s one thing to “go vegan” in Santa Monica, California.  But it’s another thing entirely in Thibodaux, Louisiana.  No plant-friendly restaurants.  No Whole Foods Market.  And essentially zero community support.  An environment where unhealthy food isn’t just a choice, but a celebrated cultural imperative.  Some might even say a religion.

That Josh cut against the grain is an understatement.  To embrace a PlantPower lifestyle didn’t just mean an open invitation to ridicule.  It meant risking complete social ostracization.

So just how did he do it? I won’t spoil the story entirely — you will have to listen to find out — but I will leave you with the final words of his testimonial:

“I want to be a voice, an example of the worst offender fixing the wrong. I want to share my story…”

I am proud to give Josh a well-deserved microphone to serve this end.  And I assure you that his extraordinary tale is well worth your precious time.  So put those earbuds to work and get to listening to this true American original.

I hope you enjoy the conversation!

P.S. – If you are interested in learning more about eating the PlantPower way, or looking for a unique gift for a fellow wellness warrior, our “Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition”  is currently ON SALE for 30% off through the end of today, Monday December 2, 2013.  With over 3.5 hours of streaming video content, an online community forum and tons of downloadable resource tools, tips & recipes (including our e-cookbook), it’s everything you need to get more plants into your life.   To learn more and to purchase or gift, visit



  • REH says:

    Huge fan of the podcast. The Josh Lajaunie episode had unparalleled authenticity. Amazing episode.

  • BYOL says:

    thanks for giving this guy the mic. Really inspiring stuff. Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work Josh!

  • EJC says:

    Great story of his journey. He was so real and honest i loved it. I listened to this for inspiration as i have started my own journey today…beginning one week of juicing and working toward a plant based diet. Love these podcasts and have made a donation to ensure this great content continues. Thank you Rich and Julie.

  • Jess says:

    Incredible, inspiring story! Thanks for sharing, Josh and thanks for bringing it to us, Rich.

  • JasonRH says:

    Really inspiring story. It’s even more amazing to see someone like that come out of a community in which obesity is such an epidemic. It will be interesting to see how his journey unfolds and the impact that he can have.

  • Josh LaJaunie says:

    Thank you all for the kind words and intrest. This has been an amazing experience for me, and knowing that what I’ve done inspires folks is lagniappe (Cajun French for “a little something extra”). I’ll keep sharing my journey, and look forward to hearing about yours.

  • Trailmomma says:

    One of my favorites thus far. Congrats Josh. I wish I could give you a hug. Thank you for your story and for your inspiration!

  • chadfredlott says:

    It’s probably because I’m also from Louisiana, but this is my favorite Rich Roll podcast yet.

    I can’t think of a more difficult place in the country to go vegan than Southern Louisiana. Josh is absolutely an inspiration for anyone facing social disapproval.

  • LSP says:

    Thank you so much for interviewing Josh. As a former New Orleanian, I was amazed and inspired by Josh’s ability to embrace a plant-based diet and change his community. Like Josh said about the Saint’s, the impossible is truly possible!

  • Nonipunk says:

    “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right either way”. Brilliant!
    Thanks for another great post Rich.

  • Cathy Mack says:

    Wow! What an inspiration Josh is. Thank you so much Rich for sharing him with us.

  • Will Kriski says:

    Amazing story! People have many ways to discount the success of others, saying they can’t run, or the person doesn’t understand ‘my’ situation, etc. I’m trying to show that people can lose weight based mostly on diet, without grueling exercise as many don’t want to start running, cycling, etc when they are really overweight. And I don’t have vegan restaurants or whole foods around here, I just eat tons of potatoes, rice, etc using easy recipes.

  • Steve says:

    If you wanted to create an impossible challenge by taking the most unlikely guy and putting him in the most unlikely place to pull this off, Josh would be that guy. Amazing.

  • Wunderdawg says:

    I’ve been a listener to the podcast from the beginning and this was surely one of my favorites. Josh your story is amazing. You are down to earth and inspirational for sure. Congrats and best of luck with your future endeavors brother!

  • Mary Page says:

    Loved, loved. loved this podcast! So flippin’ inspiring!!! Great job and thank you Rich for bringing this to us!

  • Hey Josh, inspiring story. I live up the river in Baton Rouge and I know how hard it is socially in Louisiana to maintain a healthily diet. I too lost over 50lbs, changed my complete life, and went to a juicing vegetarian. What’s your next marathon, I’d love to see you at the finish line 🙂

  • Chris in Springfield, GA says:

    Rich & Josh…I don’t have words to adequately describe how much I loved this podcast. I was inspired, moved to tears, laughed my ass off, nearly put my car in a ditch between the tears and laughter. I am so THANKFUL to know about Josh and to have heard his story. You cannot find out about people like Josh and not feel a burn to make positive changes in your own life and continue to strive to be the best you can be…it’s just not possible. THANK YOU for this podcast. Josh, brother, keep up the good work. You have the power to save lives and change them for the better by your example, and your community needs you. God bless my friend and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • Kate says:

    I’ve been listening to podcasts since they were first invented on itunes (8 years?) and this was one of the best interviews I’ve ever heard. I’m so glad I discovered your podcast and this was the first episode I listened to. I’m thinking if a guy in LA can do this, surely I can — living in Berkeley with a vegan on every corner. The hardest part for me is eliminating oil. Everything tastes so dry.

  • dsue says:

    The cool thing is, Josh’s journey is a lot like so many of ours, even though the details aren’t the same. So many of us are going through this “metamorphosis”; for me it was the realization that I could run distance after seeing my first ultra a few months back. I want to be there, I want that state of being, and nutrition as well as exercise will get me there.
    BIG HAND it to ya to Josh’s wife!! She really put him on track! I’d love to hear from her too, because man, it isn’t easy trying to go clean and change a lifestyle when the husband is ready!

  • Alison from Vancouver Canada says:

    Thanks Rich for seeing the potential of influence by having Josh on your show. I have been listening to your podcasts since day one and even though I come from a background of athletics and healthy eating… I was truly inspired by Josh’s journey. Josh you helped me to take that one last step to go 100% vegan which has been my interest and challenge over the last year. And similar to Rich’s comments .. dont underestimate your sphere of influence with your journey and lifestyle. It is powerful ! Thanks to you both !

  • Monique says:

    This was such a great podcast, Rich and Josh! To my Acadian/Cajun brother, bravo et bonne continuation, Josh!

  • Kelly Mahoney says:

    excellent episode. loved Josh’s Louisiana accent coupled with his open mindedness. Made me think if Josh can do this, anyone can. I mean that as a compliment.

  • Jeff says:

    Great podcast! The South needs more people like Josh LaJaunie demonstrating what’s possible on a plant-based diet. I know, because I’m from Arkansas. The culture is still against us here, and we need new leaders to emerge.

  • Jim Culbreth says:

    Josh’s story is very inspiring. All RRP episodes are great, but this is a “must listen to.” Thanks Josh and Thanks Rich. You are both inspiring athletes.

  • Mica Millbach says:

    Rich, this is a podcast masterpiece. Well done sir.

  • Sarah says:

    Wow, what an inspirational story, Josh. Thank you for stepping out to share your experiences with us.

    Rich, thank you for interviewing Josh. Amazing!

  • jason says:

    RR podcast at its best!

  • Brenda says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for this interview!!! I sooooo enjoyed this conversation. I loved the candor, the honesty and the inspiration behind every word. It felt like listening to two old friends jamming on life, love and God. I’m Hispanic and I understand EXACTLY what Josh is talking about with cultural mores. Hispanics are very much like Cajuns. Food equals love. And meat is at the center of it all.

    “It is amazing what our body, mind and soul can do when you get in touch with what we’re suppose to be doing naturally. I think plants and running is exactly where it’s at.” -Josh LaJaunie
    Josh, you are such an inspiration! You are changing the world one person at a time.
    I conversation has definitely inspired me to change! thanks 🙂

  • Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!! Love it

  • Carlos Barrios says:

    Hey Josh, what a jawdropping and moving story!! You are very very from you voice for plants and running plateauing 🙂

  • TMM says:

    I might be a little biased since my mother is from LA, but this episode was freaking awesome. Josh is the man! I

  • Chris Padilla says:

    You guys didn’t get a word in regarding Digifit. Sounds like that would have been good to discuss.

  • Josh Meckel says:

    What an amazing transformation! Thank you for sharing your story. I have passed this podcast to quite a few of my friends. 🙂 YOU ROCK!!!

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