Kailash used to leave his pants and shorts unbuttoned underneath his shirt because he could no longer fit into any of his clothes. When a doctor told him that his health was on the line, he decided to make some serious changes. He went from being prediabetic and eating fast food on the regular to adopting a vegan diet and running a marathon — and he lost 25 percent of his body weight along the way. Kai now looks and feels his very best, he loves going to the gym with his wife (POPSUGAR editor Gina Florio), and he says he could never go back to his old ways. Read on for his full story.
POPSUGAR: When did you start your weight-loss journey? What made you decide to?
Kailash Duraiswami: I started my weight-loss journey about three years ago when I moved to San Francisco. I was very overweight and I previously had been in better shape in college when I was vegetarian. I was in a place in my life where I was in a new city and felt like I could make dietary changes. More importantly, a doctor had recently told me that I was prediabetic and had high blood pressure, so I knew I had to get healthier if I wanted to live a long, happy life.
PS: What was your starting weight?
KD: My heaviest weight, which was close to my starting weight, was 200 pounds.
PS: How much weight have you lost so far?
KD: I've now lost about 55 pounds. That is about 20 to 25 percent of my body weight from where I started. I feel really good about my weight level now and it's mostly about increasing muscle at this point. You'll hear that from a lot of people — that the weight number doesn't matter once you are in shape.
PS: How did you do it? Did you follow a specific diet?
KD: My diet is a whole-foods, plant-based diet. This means my diet is vegan but also includes only "whole foods," so almost no refined foods, like flour, sugar, or anything like that. There is not one point in time since I started my vegan diet that did not lose weight in my weekly weigh-ins for the first eight months that I weighed myself regularly. I came up with this diet after reading a few articles online and reading a few books. I highly recommend reading The China Study or watching documentaries on Netflix about food that will help you learn about how your body cannot use processed foods.
PS: Did you do a specific workout type or schedule?
KD: I do a lot of running and weightlifting; these are things that I really like. I ran the San Francisco marathon last year and it was such a huge accomplishment; I'm planning to run another in the future. As for strength training, I think it's good for people to focus on compound lifts like squats and deadlifts to help lose weight and gain strength. I find that those exercises lead to the physique most of us are looking for with a strong core and toned lower body. These are also the important categories of muscle that you use routinely in your life.
PS: What are some nonscale victories you've experienced?
KD: It's great to be able to get new clothes that actually fit. I used to have to leave all my pants and shorts unbuttoned underneath my shirt because they were way too small for me. I never have to worry about that again. It's also great to be able to not sweat all the time. I also definitely feel more confident in public and when interacting with people. It really cannot be overstated how much getting into shape will change your life.
PS: How do you stay motivated?
KD: My wife and I (we just got married a couple weeks ago) do a lot of fitness-oriented things together, including going to the gym and running. But even before she and I were together, it was still extremely easy for me to remember what it was like being overweight. It is easy to remember not feeling confident about myself and it's easy to not want to feel that way again. It's easy to eat healthy when I can directly understand how it makes me feel or look. That saying "Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels" — I found that it's easy to be motivated when you really understand that statement on a personal level.
PS: What does a typical day of eating look like for you?
KD: I eat the same breakfast and lunch every day, and we experiment with dinner multiple times a week and eat leftovers here and there. This is what a typical day looks like for me:
Green apple and peanut butter with oatmeal and chia seeds
Scrambled tofu with sweet potato home fries (made without oil)
A big salad with fresh veggies and tempeh
Protein shake with spinach, vegan protein powder, and almond milk
Here are some of my favorite dinner dishes:
Thai stir-fry with coconut milk, basil, and red peppers
Vegan burgers on whole wheat bread with greens, mushrooms, and onions
Sweet potato enchiladas with avocado and creamy cilantro dressing
PS: Any advice or tips for people on their own journey?
KD: Being healthy gets easier and easier every single day. I used to want to cave in, and I thought I would die without eggs and dairy. I used to think there was nothing to eat if I didn't eat packaged foods, and that there was nothing vegans could eat for breakfast. As you do more research and read just a few books about diet and nutrition, you will find that making healthy choices gets easier and easier. Menus at restaurants will appear completely different to you and making food at home will be much less daunting.
My concrete pieces of advice would be: make your own food, read The China Study and a few articles online about whole-food, plant-based diets, and whatever you do, do not lose hope. Being in shape is worth every ounce of effort you put into it.
PS: Anything else you want to share?
KD: We are oversaturated with images of food and drinks around us. It's really hard to get over what we see flashed into our minds over and over again, but you can do it. Our bodies are all meant to be in shape and be fit. If you take out the unhealthy foods you eat, you will be left with a very healthy body. I tell everyone I know that the simplest thing you can do is dramatically reduce the amount of fried food, dairy, and sugar you intake. If you do this, you will see amazing results.