Chris Wauben says there was a day when he felt like the fabled frog in the pot of hot water: Leap or die. But in his version of the story, he had to change his diet or suffer dire consequences. He had ballooned to 200 pounds, was in constant pain from an inflamed gallbladder, and ultimately knew that if he didn’t do something, he would spiral downwards. One night, when he was 38, he landed in the hospital in such excruciating pain the doctors told him they had to remove his gallbladder. He refused and promised himself he would change his diet.
He decided to become vegetarian and give up meat. But working at a pizza parlor, “going vegetarian” just meant holding the pepperoni off the slices he ate all through his shift. His body still suffered and the pain persisted as he ate cheesy slice after cheesy slice. He felt ten years older than his years and he knew this was not working. Even though he lost some weight during that time, the pain didn’t subside. He essentially gave up and added back in the pepperoni. He felt helpless.
During Quarantine, Wauben Gained 30 Pounds Then Decided to Eat Vegan
Fast forward to the beginning of the quarantine last year, in March, Wauben left his job flipping pies to stay home to take care of his son. During this time, he hunkered down like the rest of the country and helped himself to junk food, and his health took another dive. It wasn’t until the last week of October that he decided to watch a film starring Daniel Craig, who looked like the picture of health, exactly the opposite of how Wauben felt. Yet here was Craig, nearly a decade older than Wauben and in amazing shape. He didn’t think it was possible for him to look like Craig since, “I’m 5’7 and 48 years old and Craig was 5’10 and 53 years old,” but the notable missing link was the difference in diet and exercise. He finished the film and decided to research Craig’s diet. He found out that the actor follows a high-protein, low-carb diet.
The next day Wauben set out to follow this diet and stocked up on meat beans, nuts, and wheat substitutes. After one week of eating similarly to a traditional keto diet, Wauben once again experienced the awful pain in his gallbladder and decided that he needed a diet tailored to his condition. Instead of giving up completely this time, he went deeper into a healthy mode, ditching steak and meat, and adding in more legumes, vegetables, and high-fiber foods, based on an entire night spent researching foods for improving gallbladder health. He found out that a vegan diet was his best chance to irradicate pain. He had known about this diet ten years earlier when he went vegetarian, but the information was now much more detailed and the choices more plentiful. It finally made sense to him that dairy was one of the key components of his pain. So, the first week of November he cleared all the dairy and animal products from his fridge and stocked up on veggies, beans, fruits, plant-based milk, meat alternatives, and his favorite low-carb bread. In three months he lost 45 pounds, but more importantly, he shed the fat and inflammation that had stubbornly stuck with him and now lives pain-free.
Here’s What Happened When He Ditched Meat and Dairy
The first two weeks on a vegan diet were hard for Wauben, and he admitted to feeling tired and having low energy, but he remembered an article about the effects of a vegan diet and the author had said these ‘symptoms are normal’. Wauben continued to eat a vegan diet, and by the third week, he was feeling powerful and full of energy. As he reflected on how he felt and as his pant size shrunk smaller his smile grew wider. Wauben made a commitment to himself that he wouldn’t step on the scale and feel discouraged in the first few weeks. He also started exercising again. Towards the end of November, his 30-minute cardio session turned into two or three hours of running on long runs, and his mood lifted. Between a consistent exercise routine and eating a vegan diet, the weight loss results were in the mirror. Every time he’d look at himself, his waist was smaller and the definition in his muscles more noticeable.
After Three Months on a Vegan Diet, Wauben Lost a Total of 45 Pounds
After three months of regularly eating oatmeal for breakfast, a vegan sandwich for lunch, and an Impossible burger for dinner, Wauben felt lighter, younger, happier, and like a new person. At the beginning of December, he stepped on the scale, even though it wasn’t part of his plan, and saw the number:138. He could barely believe it. He had lost 45 pounds in three months. In addition, he no longer felt the pain from his gallbladder, and he didn’t have to live with the aches and potential of having his gallbladder removed. Wauben confidently said, “I’m going to eat this way forever. It’s not a restrictive diet, I simply adjust the foods I used to eat.”
During the time after he last weighed himself at the beginning of February, Wauben published a book about his weight loss journey, How I Lost 45 LBS in 3 Months: (An American Flag Running Man’s Journey to Epic Achievement). In the 44 page paperback and Kindle version, readers can learn how each step helped changed Wauben’s life and be inspired by his success and the secrets he shares. We spoke to Chris Wauben who offers helpful advice to anyone who wants to make a difference in their own life.
The Beet: When and why did you decide to go vegan?
Chris Wauben: Well, I’ve always had gallbladder problems and I knew my diet could affect the pain, so that was sort of the start to my journey. Ten years ago I dealt with unbearable pain in my gallbladder and I was rushed to the hospital. The doctors insisted I get my gallbladder removed but instead, I knew I could change my diet and use a natural solution to heal the pain. So, I researched the healthiest diets and found the vegetarian diet, and instantly gave up meat. At the time, ten years ago, I was still eating dairy but I had less pain in my gallbladder. Unfortunately, the vegetarian diet only lasted a few months and I was back to square one, my old unhealthy eating habits for 9 more years. It wasn’t until very recently, about six months ago, when I noticed a big change in my health, and not a good one. Just like most people during quarantine, I ate and gained a lot of weight. I left my full-time job working at the pizza shop to take care of my ten-year-old son while my wife worked, she’s a full-time teacher. My diet was very poor–I was eating pepperoni pizza all the time when I worked at the shop.
Fast forward to the end of October, I finally decided to watch Casino Royale, which I’ve been wanting to see for a while. The main star of that movie is Daniel Craig, a guy with a similar body shape and close in age. He’s 5’10 and I’m 5’7, he’s 53 and I was 48 a the time, and I wanted to look like him. At that point in time, I was 182 pounds, out of shape, and could barely keep up with 30 minutes of cardio. I was so motivated by James Craig that I researched his diet and came across his meal plan that consisted of a low-carb, high-protein diet. So, the next day I tried eating that way and a week later I was having gallbladder issues and didn’t feel well at all. I soon realized I needed a diet tailored to my needs, a diet with low-cholesterol. I did more research geared to gallbladder health and came across the vegan diet. I always knew about this way of eating since I was a vegetarian but I finally decided to try it after all the science-proven evidence behind the diet. So, the first week of November 2020, I officially gave up all animal products, and I’m fully committed to this lifestyle, I feel amazing, it’s been life-changing.
The Beet: What does your diet look like now?
Chris Wauben: In the morning, I start my day with a breakfast bar or stick to my usual which is oatmeal. For lunch, I have an Impossible burger patty in the broiler with vegetables. Some days I’ll have a Tofurky sandwich with smoked gouda. I use Carbonaut, a delicious low carbohydrate bread. I do the same thing for dinner and rotate my meal depending on what I had for lunch. I find it so interesting when people think all I eat are salads, but every time I go grocery shopping, I’m blown away with all of the plant-based options. There are so many. I tell my friends and loved ones who are curious about what I eat on a vegan diet that you can eat all the same foods. If you like pizza, the vegan version tastes just as good, if not better. If you like bacon and eggs in the morning you can make a JUST egg scramble and plant-based bacon.
The Beet: How has a vegan diet impacted your health overall?
Chris Wauben: I’ve been eating vegan since the first week of November 2020 and I noticed a difference right away. I feel calm and I have more energy at the same time. The first two weeks when I changed my diet, I felt a little tired and was struggling with doing have an hour on the treadmill. But, now I get up to more than 2 or 3 hours of cardio a day. I really do credit my vegan diet for my advanced fitness level. By the second week of eating vegan, my body was getting used to the changes and I started losing weight and having more energy. Also, my gallbladder health has improved so much and I feel completely pain-free.
The Beet: What was the hardest change at first?
Chris Wauben: Before I was vegan, I loved milk in my coffee. But, I tried oat milk and loved the taste but now I drink coconut flavored almond milk because it contains fewer calories and you can always find it.
The Beet: When did you start to notice weight loss results?
Chris Wauben: I started seeing the weight come off fast. This diet was different for me as far as weighing myself. I told myself that I wasn’t going to track progress on the scale, I was going to track progress by looking in the mirror and fitting into clothes. One of the reasons I chose not to weigh myself is because our bodies fluctuate a lot. One day you could be 150 pounds and tomorrow you could eat all the same foods and do all the same exercise and weigh yourself and you could be 152 pounds. I don’t want to feel discouraged. On day one I started at 182 pounds and as the weeks turned into months I knew I had lost weight. I felt amazing in size 28 pants when I used to wear a size 36. When December came around I weighed myself and I lost a total of 45 pounds in three months. I haven’t weighed myself since but I’m sure I’ve lost a few more pounds. This is how I look at it: I’m not on a diet, but I’m changing my diet and this is how it’s going to be for the rest of my life.
The Beet: You are an inspiration. How else has a vegan diet helped you?
Chris Wauben: It’s really hard to describe. I feel a lot younger, my brain functions differently, I think clearer, calmer, and I feel much happier. I’ve always been a happier person but when you’re pain-free, lighter, full of energy, helping the environment, lowering your carbon footprint, you feel much better. A vegan diet did something to me psychologically and I feel so proud of that. I fit better in all my clothes and I feel great wearing them. Also, here’s one most people don’t often think about. Because I’m 45 pounds lighter, I use less gas in my car, it doesn’t have to push me around like it used to. I’m lowering my carbon footprint every day and that feels really good.
The Beet: What are you up to right now, working on anything new?
Chris Wauben: Right now I’m staying home watching my 10-year-old son and focusing on my health. I work out every day and cook my vegan meals. I’m also trying to get my wife to eat more plant-based and so far she’s invested in vitamins which is a great step forward. I found that it’s easier to lead by example when you want to convince someone to do something. I’d rather show off how a vegan diet has helped me mentally and physically instead of pushing someone to eat a certain way.
The Beet: Do you have a mantra?
Chris Wauben: Be kind, be wise, be civilized. I like to preach positivity.