My story is different than most of the stories on this website, as weight was never a real issue for me. I don’t have dramatic before and after pictures, because the poor health and pain I dealt with was hidden inside. Before I spiraled into a life-threatening depression, I raced bikes competitively. During this time, I ate the standard American diet. I would have bacon and eggs for breakfast, Alfredo pasta for lunch, and something like chicken, rice, and boiled veggies for dinner. Overall, I was young and working out so much that I didn’t worry about eating.

In 2011, I was officially diagnosed with clinical depression. My life started taking a turn for the worse as my social life began to disappear and I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. For four years I struggled with severe clinical depression. There were periods when I would begin to function normally and look okay on the outside but still be hurting inside. Then months would go by where I could not get myself out of bed, and my lifestyle habits were threatening my health. I tried many different approaches to dealing with my mental health, spending hours in talk therapy and taking many prescription medications. Nothing seemed to work.

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After four years of battling this depression, I finally gave up hope in 2014 that I would get better and be able to move forward in life. Instead, I began to think about how I could support myself as a severely depressed person. I got myself a night-shift job and rented a cheap room in the city. I really didn’t want to work hard. I just wanted to live alone and not be homeless. This way I wouldn’t really have to get better, because there would be no responsibility. My life consisted of sleeping a lot, smoking pot, not going out except to work, and not doing much in general. I spend most of my money on alcohol or drugs and usually had enough left over only for fast-food meals. I was just existing, with the least amount of effort.

Then, one afternoon in February of 2015, I was listening to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast and heard Rich Roll tell his story. Something about the way he spoke gave me a ray of hope. I decided to try a vegan diet along with moderate exercise for four days, and if it did not work I would stop. During those four days I watched many documentaries, including Forks Over Knives, and I ate an insane amount of rice and vegetables. To my surprise I felt great!

I began to take this approach more seriously, and within a month I did not feel depressed anymore. I woke up earlier with more energy, wanting to get outside and ride my bike. I started taking yoga classes and learning as much about plant-based nutrition as I possibly could. The amount of progress I made in less than a year has completely blown my mind. The diet and lifestyle proposed by people like Rich Roll and documentaries like Forks Over Knives has literally saved my life.

In darker days, I sometimes visited the ER to be safe, and pain often kept me up all night. I could never imagine then the life I live today: I’m training for an Ironman distance triathlon, cooking plant-based meals for family and friends, and studying business at college … with the confidence and strength to take on whatever tomorrow brings!

I cannot wait to find out what is next!

Karl Hoppner before after
Brown ceramic saucepan full of cooked brown rice, with a wooden spoon nestled beneath the rice
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