'Plant-based barbeque' might sound like an oxymoron, but serial entrepreneur, professional barbeque master, and American Royal winner Brian Rodgers was weighing in around 300 pounds and eating meaty barbeque all day long. Then, he was diagnosed with six life-threatening diseases, turned to a plant-based diet, and transformed his health. Instead of ditching barbeque, he gave it a plant-forward makeover and used BBQ to help others live a healthier life.

In this episode of Awesome Vegans, Brian joins me to share his story of how he lost 140 pounds and created Fool’s Gold, a line of plant-based barbeque sauces and rubs for tofu, tempeh, sweet potatoes, and more. Brian was determined that if he had to give up meat, he would never have to give up the barbeque. Read on to see how Brian changed his life and adapted his passion to serve his health, and improve the health of others.

Here is a short excerpt from our longer interview, which you can watch below.

Elysabeth Alfano: Brian, tell us your story. I think most guys think, ‘Barbeque: it’s summer, it’s all about the meat.” But not for you because you lost 140 pounds on a plant-based diet and you’re not going back. Tell me how you did it.

Brian Rodgers: I was 300 pounds about a year ago and, for everybody watching this, I’m not 300 pounds. Now I’m 160 pounds. Yay! So how it started for me: I’m from Kansas City born and raised, home of barbeque!  I’ve been doing professional barbeque for over thirty years and won the American Royal actually, the largest barbeque contest in the world in 1999.  So, I’ve got a love for the barbeque chops!

I moved to Colorado, about two years ago, and I was still doing barbeque. However, I went to my doctor and I was diagnosed as being morbidly obese. I was 300 pounds. And I also got diagnosed with six life-threatening diseases.  I was diagnosed with liver disease, with Despedida, I had severe hypertension. I even had a buffalo hump. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a buffalo how they have that little extra piece of fat behind their head.  Well, humans can get that, too. I did not know that until I went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with buffalo hump, as well.

EA: So that’s an actual diagnosis? That’s not just a nickname?

BR: Yes, yes it is.

EA: Oh, I’ve never heard of that before.

BR: It’s an actual diagnosis. It’s related to several different diseases which- I’m not a doctor, I don’t even enjoy science or medicine. You have some amazing doctors on your show, I’m sure they could tell you exactly what it is. But yeah, so it’s a fatty build-up behind your neck. I basically decided I was going to have to do something to change or I had to get gastric bypass surgery. Those were my two choices.

So, I went to the gastric bypass surgeon to see what that was all about. And he said, ‘We’re going to dissect your body.  We’re going to do all these different things to you. You could die,” and then he dropped the bomb on me. He said, ‘Now Brian, we talked a little bit before we started here and I know how much you love barbeque, and that’s what you eat and you’re a big foodie.”

I’m also a classically trained chef as well. He said, ‘So I just want you to know that your taste buds are going to probably change. In fact, you probably won’t like barbecue anymore.” And that was it for me! That was it for me! That was the trigger!

EA: That’s all you needed? Oh my gosh!

BR: That was the trigger! He said I could die, you know and that was a lot, but giving up barbeque? I was not ready to do that. So, I started the next day, I went cold tofurky. I haven’t eaten a piece of meat since. I don’t do dairy, I don’t really do oil too much. I just stopped eating salt for the most part. And I went on a mission to see if I could still eat [plant-based] barbeque and here I am. I lost 120 pounds and I reversed all six diseases within six months of that first appointment. And now I’ve gone on to lose another 20 so I’ve lost 140 pounds since I’ve started. I’m maintaining it and I’m still eating [plant-based] barbeque.

EA: Oh, I love this! I want to step back. First of all, shout out to the human body. We can abuse it for decades and sometimes knowingly we dive into the bag of chips and we know we’re being bad, and we try to retreat. Sometimes unknowingly, meat and dairy are served to us as healthy foods and so we don’t even know that we’re doing something bad for the body literally since we’re weaned from our mothers. We are talking about decades of abuse.  Listen to that! In six months, your body bounces back. I’m incredulous and in awe of what the human body can do.

So, when you start to shift the Titanic and you say, “Okay, no more meat because I don’t want to go under the knife, and I don’t want to die either.  I’m just going to do food as medicine.” You decide that the easiest way to do this, the lowest hanging fruit…is to change what I eat.  Did you have any trip-ups, pitfalls, anything that kind of set you back a little bit? Or was it smooth sailing the whole way?

BR: Oh, every day is still [a challenge]. I got to tell you it was a lot easier to lose the weight and reverse the disease than it was to get it. I worked really hard at putting that 300 pounds on. And I’ve been fighting childhood obesity since I was eight years old. That’s what I’m all about. That’s what my foundation is. Fool’s Gold barbeque, that’s what we do. All the things we do is about fighting the incredible disease of childhood obesity.

I’ve been [personally] fighting it since I was eight years old and nothing’s ever worked. So, do I have trip-ups? Every single day. Every day it’s still a challenge. But I’ve met so many incredible people that I didn’t even realize this whole world of plant-based and veganism existed until I stepped into it. But yeah, challenges every single day. Every single day I want to do something that I know is not right for my body and it’s not an easy journey, particularly when you lose as much weight as I did. It’s a mental challenge, too.

So, I mean I still look in the mirror sometimes and still see my old 300-pound self. It’s a crazy thing, your brain takes a little bit to catch up with you. And my doctor is always telling me, ‘Brian that’s going to go away. Brian that’s going to go away.” But it’s really weird when your wife says, “Brian you’re 160 pounds” and you walk past a store or in a mirror and you see a 300-pound man. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve seen my before and after pictures, but it’s pretty dramatic.

So, yeah, it’s a battle. It’s a battle every day but it’s a great battle. It is such an amazing battle that I’ve dropped everything else. I’ve had a lot of successes in my life. I sold a company to one of the big credit bureaus and made a lot of money. Now I’ve dropped everything else and I’m on a mission. I’m on a mission to kind of be the lead generation aspect of plant-based and plant-based barbeque!

Not everyone can go cold Tofurky, like Brian, but Brian shows us that just because you give up meat and dairy, doesn’t mean you have to give up taste!  And I can vouch for this! Barbeque tofu, tempeh, and sweet potatoes are the bomb! You can find recipes here.

For the full interview, click here.

Elysabeth Alfano is a plant-based business consultant and helps people transition to a plant-based diet. Follow her @ElysabethAlfano on all platforms and at ElysabethAlfano.com