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Meet our Herbie of the Week: Bonebreaker!
I actually met Bonebreaker last year through a mutual friend during a conference in Marshall, Texas. While there, he told me how he turned his life around by going plant-based after surviving a drug overdose a few years ago.
I was SO impressed by his story, I knew he would be perfect for the Herbie of the Week series.
Read on for Bonebreaker's truly inspirational journey to being plant proud!
After surviving a drug overdose in December 2008, I decided to turn my life around and start rebuilding from the ground up. Since then, I've dedicated my life to veganism and I'm extremely passionate about sharing my story with the world. I would like to give you a glimpse into my crazy bounce back to life that has resulted in my involvement with four documentaries over a 5 year span, and ultimately has led me to writing an autobiography (You can find out more about it on my Indiegogo campaign page!).
I am not the typical plant eater, as you can probably tell from my 400lb frame. But let me tell you something - giving up meat and all other animal products was the best decision I have ever made, and that compassion forged strength in my life beyond what I thought was possible physically, emotionally and spiritually. My efforts to encourage others to challenge and conquer their own struggles whether they happen to be addiction, depression, or lack of purpose, all have the emphasis of giving back to others in some way. I found my strength to be compassion for animals, because for many years of my life I was hoodwinked and oblivious to the suffering that they endure just to become our "protein". Most people are conditioned to wear the same blinders, which removes our heart's ability to feel... making it easy to deny the painful experience of a sentient creature needlessly being destroyed for food.
Okay here we go -
In January 2009 (one month after my overdose), I was a miserable person and suffered terrible pain from drug and alcohol withdrawal… my body was broken down, and had some serious issues going on internally (my liver enzymes were severely damaged). Oh yeah - I weighed almost 600lbs!
I knew it was a matter of time before I was going to die, and I knew I had some serious lifestyle issues to address. In 2008, I consumed an estimated 2,200lbs of beef according to all my fast food receipts from Jack in the Box. I also would go hang out at Chinese buffets devouring monstrous plates of eggrolls and Kung Pao chicken for 3+ hours, or until they kicked me out for abusing their profit margin. Living like a human garbage disposal only fueled my self-hatred and contempt for living sober, and food became an even more powerful addiction than the prior four years as a substance addict. I needed a change...
Around the same time, "The Wrestler" came out in the theaters, and I had a small recognizable part in the movie. After going to see it, I was so moved by Mickey Rourke's performance that I decided to go find a wrestling school and train to be a professional wrestler - just days before I was about to check myself into rehab!
The process of putting my toxic body thru 10+ hours of rigorous training per week took it's toll on me, and I was getting desperate for some kind of change, but I was so distraught that I couldn't find the solution. About a month into my training, I met a girl at the gym who told me she was a vegetarian, and suggested that I eat less meat in order to reduce the inflammation in my body. I was a 500lb wrestler raised in BBQ country, so naturally I laughed at the gesture. But after emailing back and forth a few times, she ended up sending me a video of baby chickens being ground up alive. In an instant - these cute little chirping yellow chicks were turned into a blueish-purple pile of flesh and bone - and for the first time in my life, I felt disgusted that these innocent beings met this gruesome fate, just to become McNuggets in a cardboard box with fries and a Coke. There was NO WAY that my eyes could undo what I had seen, so I immediately gave up meat forever.
I had concerns about where to get protein, and was dumbfounded about how to eat as a vegetarian. I figured that rice and beans were filling, so I started eating them as a staple in my diet. The results were amazing - not only did my body start to hurt less and recover quicker between workouts, but my standing barbell press went from 275lbs to 315lbs in less than a month! Hell yeah - I was loving this new change in my life, but as enthusiastic as I was, my lack of resources on how to eat a variety of plants and get strong soon led to me turning to the dangerous concentration of milk proteins known as CHEESE.
Most of my life I avoided dairy products, because I always seemed to get sick and very weak if I ate anything containing cow milk - but I really didn't want to fail as a vegetarian, so I started eating cheese pizzas like they were popcorn! I felt like cheese was a drug and would sometimes salivate at the thought of chugging a 32oz cup of queso from the local Mexican restaurant. I was also desperately trying to lose weight, so in order to offset the 50+ pounds of cheese I was eating per month, I would starve myself for days and then binge afterwards. That wasn't enough to offset the dairy binging, so I had to start swallowing handfuls of diuretic pills in order to lose weight, eventually getting down to 419lbs from 550lbs. But after spending the first year as a vegetarian being sick 80% of the time, I decided to get all animal products out of my diet and go vegan.
When I first made the choice to be vegan in June 2010, I started out eating lots of fruits and vegetables in addition to rice and beans, but soon started giving in to my junk food addiction and was going for all the meat substitutes, and hitting all the amazing vegan comfort food trailers that Austin, TX has to offer - not really the best thing for a compulsive overeater like myself. I also went back to eating cheese again when I couldn't figure out how to eat as a vegan. Believe it or not, I went from 419lbs in June of 2010, to 571lbs in January of 2012 – I gained 152lbs of bodyfat in 1.5 years and as a result I almost died of heart disease.
It wasn't until I studied the egg and dairy industry critically, and realized that the very video that initially made me give up meat was a result of the egg industry! Further investigations led me to find out that the egg and dairy industries are just as violent to animals and harmful to the environment as the meat industry - I needed that vicious kick in the heart to finally give up all animal products forever. And since that day of realization sometime in early January 2012, I have been 100% vegan.
But it was too late...
In mid-March, my friend Kate invited me to attend an Engine 2 potluck hosted by plant strong hero Rip Esselstyn - this was going to be a great opportunity to network with people eating a vegan diet, and the sadness in my soul that was yearning for support in the compassionate lifestyle that I was living, saw hope in going to the potluck gathering. But, I had grown too large to fit in any clothes considered presentable, and so I emailed Kate and told her that I was sorry for not showing up, and that I felt like I only had a few months to live. Well, she got back to me within an hour and said that a plant-based doctor named Linda Carney wanted to meet, and help me learn how to incorporate whole foods into my diet - so I decided to take the challenge and learn how to finally eat healthy.
The next week I stopped by Dr. Linda Carney’s office in Buda, TX for lunch. I was welcomed by the smell of fresh whole foods cooking in the kitchen, which is a unique sensation going into a doctor’s office. After the initial visit, it was discovered that I had a heart murmur, high blood pressure, and was in the early stage of diabetes. I immediately wanted to fix my health, so I adhered to her advice and came to her office everyday for a week to eat lunch. There was an abundance of fresh, healthy food that I was allowed to eat like beans, greens, squash and yams. I was fortunate to see how Dr. Carney and her husband Sean prepared these amazing, whole foods out of plants with little seasoning, no oil or added sugars. This was exactly how I had been wanting to eat since going vegan in 2010, and now I finally had the resources on how to eat a Starch-Smart diet!
Dr. Carney and her husband Sean are responsible for giving me my health back by completely changing my dietary habits and encouraging me to exercise, and providing an educational setting that helped build a foundation of knowledge to the reasons why I should avoid foods with oils, sugars, dairy, meat, and caffeine products. As of today, I no longer have the heart murmur, high blood pressure, or diabetes. I also have lost over 150lbs of body fat and have kept it off for more than two years. And I am much more at peace in my heart thanks to Dr. Carney's tender approach to helping me regain my health.
But there was some unexpected benefits to getting healthy that I never imagined would happen...
When I started to make my diet consist of clean starches like yams, beans, oats, lentils, fruits and vegetables, I started to not only feel better but I became very strong. My ability to recover quicker between my training allowed me to get back in the gym more frequently, giving me an edge needed to be in the elite level of strength for my sport. I'm training for the most difficult feat of grip strength on the planet - to be the first human to pick up the Mark Henry Dumbbell - a monstrous 300lb piece of iron with a handle thicker than a beer can. I have gotten so strong in my training that I can shred thick phone books in less than a second, bend pieces of rebar like rubber, and never imagined that I would be the strongest I've ever been in my life eating plants.
My journey has been tumultuous and full of struggle, and I'm very happy that I'm finally going to get my autobiography ready for the world to read later this summer. If there are any people that can benefit from hearing about the difficulties I've faced in life, and they can find a way to relate their own struggle to mine, then I have lived a life fulfilled. I have some amazing media projects in the works, so this won't be last time you hear from me. I wish each and every one of you all the best in your journey to being a Happy Herbivore!
Thank you so much, Bonebreaker, for sharing your amazing story with us! You are such an inspiration!