Transformation through Diet

Author: Shieh Yuan

Joshua is a friend from university days that I met recently at a friend’s wedding. Many of us could not recognise him at first, because he had undergone such a massive transformation, he looked like two different people! Turns out he had gone vegetarian, and is feeling younger and more energetic than he’s ever been. I was even more shocked that these changes happened within just a span of a year. When most of us have put on weight since we joined the workforce, Joshua lost weight and even started a running habit he never used to have because of his current higher energy level.

Here’s an interview with him to find out more about his journey in weight loss and regained health in switching to a predominantly plant-based diet:

SY: How was your lifestyle and body like before you turned vegetarian? What did you eat, how did you look, what were your health indicators, and how did you feel?

J: Before I made the decision to go vegetarian, I was a junk food, late night snacking, eat-the-whole-big-pack-of-Lay’s-potato-chips kind of person. I was overweight and didn’t exercise at all.

SY: What triggered or influenced you towards a predominantly plant-based lifestyle?

J: I had a minor health scare, and that caused me to review my lifestyle. I previously tried going vegetarian for a month or so a few years back, but mainly out of animal welfare concerns. I decided to go back to becoming vegetarian as I read more about the health benefits of doing so, as well as the ethical issues involved in eating animals. 

SY: How did you transition to this diet? What helped you in this transition?

J: As an all or nothing person, I just decided that if I were to succeed, I had to go fully vegetarian. At the start, I actually actively also avoided eggs and dairy so that I could psychologically tell myself that I was doing this permanently.

Reading books helped me quite alot. There are a ton of books on both the health and ethical reasons why most people should go vegetarian. In fact, if you were to read most books on healthy diets, you would, as a flesh-eater, actually think that most of these books had an extreme bias against meat. It is only after reading book after book on living a more healthy lifestyle that you will realise that we are so ingrained with the cultural and familiar ideas that eating meat is good, normal, and healthy that we are literally quite unable to understand the simple truth: eating too much meat will cause you to die earlier. 

SY: What are some of your favourite vegetarian foods and what do you like about them? Where are some of your favourite places to eat? What foods satisfied you and what helped you stay on track?

J: I tend to eat the same thing over and over again. Since I work from home and anywhere I like, most days I make an early lunch at home: a Vitamix soup made from chickpeas, tomatoes, celery, cashew nuts, spring onion leaves, garlic, and some flax and chia seeds.

When I eat out, I eat at places with good and filling salads: Grain Traders, Cedele, Da Paolo, Muji Cafe, Marché. Recently discovered The Providore as well!

SY: Can you describe the changes to your body from adopting this diet? What is the best part?

J: Diet is probably the most important factor in a person’s health and body composition. I lost around 20kg over the course of the year by eating a vegetarian diet, keeping a close watch on my carbs intake, and exercising regularly. I lowered my high cholesterol to healthy levels, reached my goal of running at least 2017km last year and on track to running 2018km this year.

Joshua’s cholesterol stats pre- and post-vegetarian:


Total 271

LDL 198

Triglycerides 201


Total 166

LDL 92

Triglycerides 63

SY: !!!

SY: How about your wife and family? Are they also vegetarian? How do you reconcile your different diets?

J: At Japanese restaurants, I can order a soba and vegetable tempura. At Chinese restaurants, I’m eating a few baos or vegetarian dumplings. I try not to eat carbs normally, so eating these things give a sugar high and so I’m happy already.

SY: What is your underlying philosophy and motivation for continuing with this diet and lifestyle?

J: It’s nice when you eat knowing that you are eating in a way that will help you live longer, and that you not contributing to unnecessary animal suffering. It’s also nice to feel healthy and have the physical confidence to do anything you want to do.

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