This post first appeared in Indy Week.
Louis Vitello was a chubby kid who grew into an obese adult. At age 25, he weighed 398 pounds and dismissed a doctor's warning that his health habit would send him to an early grave.
"He told me I had 10 years to live if I didn't change my life, so I figured I had time to deal with it," says Vitello, a New Jersey native who moved to Raleigh a few months ago. "I wasn't ready to give things up."
Just days after his diagnosis, however, two terrible things happened. First, an overweight friend suffered a devastating diabetic collapse. After he stayed with the family at the hospital, another friend persuaded him to take a day off to visit. Before Vitello could leave in the morning, the friend's wife called to say her husband had died of a massive heart attack.
"They were both big guys like me, who never thought about how their lifestyle was making them sick," says Vitello, now 31, who has lost and kept off more than 200 pounds by strict adherence to a vegan/raw diet. "I didn't want that to be me."
Tired of fad diets, Vitello developed his own weight-loss plan, first by eliminating processed foods and then focusing on vegetables. A former network engineer, he now works as a wellness and weight-loss coach and teaches classes in healthy food preparation at Whisk in Cary. He also maintains a website, VeganCarolina, which lists vegan restaurants across the state and serves to connect vegans through community-based groups.
"My love of raw foods started with juicing, but there's so much more to it," he says. "I love cooking now, and hope people look at me and see what a vegan/raw diet has helped me achieve."