Will.i.am lost 20 pounds going on a plant-based diet, giving up sugar

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Ever since I went through “the change”, I’ve been looking for a way to eat healthy and drop some of the weight that is slowly creeping up on me. I was a vegetarian back in the day (otherwise known as the late 90s), inspired by seeing a Pop-Up Video episode that claimed that Fiona Apple lost 10 pounds by going veggie. Since I’m susceptible to celebrity influence, I’m pondering taking up Black Eyed Peas’ Will.i.am’s new diet.

The 43-year-old singer/actor, who is set to launch a Fergie-less Black Eyed Peas European tour, recently shared that he has lost 20 pounds thanks to changing his sleep and eating habits. Talking with Ariana Huffington on her Thrive Global podcast, Will.i.am admitted that he was up to 210 pounds on his 5’10” frame. He blamed the weight gain on lack of sleep and a junk food packed diet. He said,

“I was eating bad, sleeping bad. No regiment. I was going to sleep around 5:00 in the morning … I would argue with people like, ‘All I need is like two hours a day.’ Like boom a catnap and a catnap and I’m just ready to go.”

In addition to the weight gain, Will.i.am was experiencing high blood pressure and cholesterol, acid reflux and nasal drip. He went to a doctor, who gave him a wake-up call, telling him, “Your high blood pressure is like you’re 60. And your cholesterol. Where heart disease and diabetes runs in your family, you should take control of that.”

After adopting a plant-based diet and giving up sugar and processed foods, the pounds melted away, his blood pressure and cholesterol went down and he was sleeping like a baby. He also experienced a reduction of his stress level as a result of eating healthy. He testified that,

“It changed my life, and I would encourage everybody to have a plant-based regimen. You don’t need the meat, you don’t need to have decaying flesh in your body. The more I think about it I was like, ‘Ew.’ I was just, I had death in me. Decayed flesh and crazy chemicals I can’t pronounce. You wouldn’t put that s— in your car.”

[Quotes from Thrive Global via PEOPLE]

You and I both know (but probably don’t want to admit) that eating healthy has so many health benefits, even over and above weight loss. I just don’t know if I’m quite ready to give up the burgers and wings, but this story does make me want to take a step back and examine what exactly is going into my body and how I can live a healthier existence.

In researching this story, I found a hilarious clip of Will.i.am from an episode of the Graham Norton Show back in February. It’s short, but it’s worth a watch (and I’ll use any excuse to post a Graham Norton video. I love his show).

will.i.am aka William James Adams, Jr.

will.i.am aka William James Adams

Photos: WENN and Getty

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64 Responses to “Will.i.am lost 20 pounds going on a plant-based diet, giving up sugar”

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  1. Slowsnow says:

    To quote my husband, “why is it so difficult to do the right thing?”. I mean duhhhh. Eating veggies, dropping the junk and processed food and you sleep like a baby and loose weight. Duuuuhhhhh.

    • Aang says:

      Giving up sugar is haaard. It’s my drug of choice and I’m totally addicted. I detest every artificial sweetener out there. I very rarely drink alcohol, have never smoked or used drugs, limit my coffee to one per day, exercise daily, have great sleep hygiene, but I just can’t quit sugar.

      • Sue Denim says:

        You can do it :) I quit sugar (cane, artificial, but have just a bit of honey or maple syrup from time to time) a few years ago and it was only hard for the first month. I now eat mainly just whole foods, organic if possible, and it all tastes so much better. Sounds expensive but it’s actually much much cheaper overall. I also no longer have crazy-making cravings. Diabetes runs in my family, and I can see that sugar addiction does too. Breaking that addiction has been one of the best things I’ve done. My skin, digestion, sleeping, energy levels, overall sense of well being were really off and are now back on track — I think what we think of as aging may be just toxins. And I did lose the extra weight I’d put on in my 40s. To get through the first month, try having sweet fruits like pineapple, make healthy smoothies you can sip through the day, yams are also filling and sweet. You might also need to drink more water. And then gradually you’ll realize you’re feeding yourself not the cravings. Good luck!

      • JanetDR says:

        I did it for a year and a bit. I made treats with honey or maple syrup ( but ate less treats overall because I had to make them myself). I did it for the anti-inflammatory effect and the difference in my knees was striking. I let it sneak back in on a vacation and am feeling the difference. I was disappointed that I didn’t lose weight but I also ate a lot of toast when I had cravings!

      • jwoolman says:

        I hate artificial sweeteners also, and can’t stand stevia either. Corn syrup is meh to me but not awful. So I actually look for cane sugar….

        But cutting way back on sugar is likely to help people lose weight whether or not they eat dead animals, although I don’t live on aspirin or have other problems to the same degree that everybody else has in my family and the only real difference is what I eat. I’ve been vegetarian for close to five decades and often eating vegan for about four decades (allergic to dairy and eggs). I’m living proof that a veggie doesn’t have to be thin, though… But when I eat right and rarely eat sugar, my weight does stay where it should be without effort.

        I don’t eat all that well for various reasons currently, so the difference between me and my family is basically what I don’t eat. I’m trying to eat more fruit and veg at the moment since that really does help. Freezing fruits and veg for the vitamix is the smartest thing I do. If you’re a sugar freak, you might try that to see if fresh fruit drinks with all the fiber will satisfy. I like to make them slushy consistency. I just freeze in portion size packets, so I can also eat them directly from the freezer as well (some things need to be frozen in separate pieces before bagging). Melons are great for both methods. I love frozen blueberries and seedless grapes and citrus fruit segments also. I even freeze avocado mixed with lime or lemon juice.

        I also freeze such concoctions in popsicle molds. Also pour flavored non-dairy milks into the molds, can’t be easier.

        A lot of softer fruit can be blended pretty well in any blender, but the vitamix (or equivalent) really makes very smooth drinks even out of blackberries or red raspberries. Annihilates those hard little seeds….

        I think if I were a guy his age with his family history, trying a vegetarian or vegan eating approach minus sugar for a while would make a lot of sense. He will likely lose the weight as desired but also that change in diet may help with other conditions and potential conditions. He can always loosen up a bit if he can’t live without eating dead animals, but there really is a huge variety of plant-based food out there especially for somebody who can hire somebody to do all the buying and prep and cleanup and pay whatever things cost. He could afford organically grown, which usually is much tastier than the regular stuff (which tends to be bred for transport and machine harvestability rather than taste, and some foods really do retain more pesticide residues than can possibly be good for us). I lived with a cat who was addicted to tomatoes, but only the organically grown ones. I tried to switch the wee beastie to the cheaper regular ones, but no go. She insisted on the good stuff or else. She had found a piece of organic tomato dropped behind something soon after she arrived and after that, she wanted a piece every time I even looked toward the kitchen.

      • I hated stevia, now I love it. You have to let your tastes adapt, give them time to change… it is hard to realize you can’t buy processed foods (even Kashi has as much sugar as it does protein per serving), or most bakery items… that sucks. But the more people reject sugar, the more likely it is we’ll see products with healthier sugar alternatives on the shelves.

    • Rescue Cat says:

      Or calories consumed v calories burnt. It’s simple but not easy.

      • ttu says:

        I eat SO MUCH since I went vegan and somehow it made me lose weight. Well not somehow, I just eat lots volume-wise but because it’s not drowning in grease and cheese, it doesn’t have lots of calories.

        It’s been wonderful for my thyroid as well, it used to be a mess, my endo was shocked as I had been a begetarian before and she didn’t know what to do with me, my thyroid was all over the place. Went vegan and bam, first tests were the best I’d had in 2 years since diagnosis, and it’s been all good basically ever since.

    • Lucy2 says:

      It is common sense, but for many people it’s not that simple, and bad eating habits/food addiction are a symptom of other issues.
      Also food deserts are a serious problem, as is poor nutrional education. When you have access to fresh, healthy food, it is easier to lose weight- not everyone has that.

    • Slowsnow says:

      Yes! Agree with you all. I am quoting my husband after going to the gym thus cutting a whole period without exercise.

      What I would like to see is a celeb explaining scientifically why we are drawn to not doing what is good for us.

      You know, without the pseudo-science healing enlightenment that comes with idleness and a lot no money.

    • khaveman says:

      Why the know-it-all snark? Dude is just sharing his story. Good for him!

    • Apalapa says:

      It is weird because I sleep better when I have a little sugar/junk food in me. I love plant based food but I tend to undereat when I don’t have a little sweet to satiate me. It sucks to go to bed hungry or wake in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep from not eating enough.

      I am happy with a variety of food and getting to eat 3 solid meals a day for both my mental and physical health!

      • jwoolman says:

        Peanuts are really good to eat before bed. The combination of protein and fat seems to hold you over til morning pretty well. A Type 1 diabetic recommended just ten peanuts as enough to keep his blood sugar steady through the night.

        I like junky kid cereals but only late at night… I do typically sleep better if I eat close to bedtime. It certainly doesn’t interfere with sleep for me either.

  2. Mariposa says:

    I had to go on a strict candida diet about ten years ago and boy, the weight just fell off me. It was no sugar (not even fruit or honey) and no carbs, dairy or nuts. I ate protein, vegetables and fat. It was so boring, but it was the fastest weight loss I’ve ever had. I think, like will.i.am, it is cutting out the sugar that is the key part.

    • Cee says:

      Mariposa! I didn0t know there was a diet for Candida! I’ve been battling this SOB for about a year after an STD and antibiotics. I’m now taking probiotics daily but I will try this diet. I am so done with Candida. Thanks for sharing.

      • Mariposa says:

        Oh give it a go! I had systemic Candida after taking anti-malarials (they were antibiotics), and I felt like I was being poisoned, it was awful. The diet is full-on, but what you are doing is starving the Candida of the food they live off, which is sugars, yeast, grains etc. They can’t live off protein, fats or vegetables, so they die off. I had to do it properly for a month for them to really die off, so try to get a book or website that gives you the strict diet (no fruits!).

        Even now, years later, I still don’t eat much sugar and I definitely can’t tolerate a lot of yeast.

  3. Becks1 says:

    I have done the Whole 30 before, which obviously isn’t plant-based but it does increase my vegetable intake considerably (since I need to eat more veggies to feel full) and I really feel good when I’m on it. I miss chocolate too much to be on it for life, ha, but it has made me wonder how I would feel if I did try to do a more plant-based diet. My uncle went vegan a few years ago – it was supposed to be for 3 months to get his cholesterol down – but here he is, years later, in great shape, healthy, etc. He loves it.

    • Karolina says:

      Chocolate is plant-based so you wouldn’t need to give up something you love ;) if milky chocolate is your choice there’s plenty of non-dairy alternatives that taste just as good if not better! Junk food as well – burgers, pizza, etc – while still not the epitome of health, choosing the plant based options is still miles better on you and the planet. I don’t mean to preach, it’s just I feel like there’s this misconception that going plant-based = boring food, and it really isn’t. It’s actually exciting to find all these new things because you have to substitute your every day meals, so you get to experiment and find cool new combinations and tastes. I’ve been vegan for 4 years now and my weight is stable (I used to be underweight) and I find my relationship with food is so much healthier mentally. I’d encourage you to have a chat with your uncle, at the very least to try it out :) And remember it doesn’t have to be overnight. It took me a good 6 months to find what works for me, what is tasty and nourishing, and to nail the perfect tofu burger recipe (the secret is in the seasoning ;) ). Best of luck to you!

    • ttu says:

      I buy dark chocolate and melt it in a pan with coconut milk. Then pour it over sorbet, or vegan ice cream. Or homemade banana ice cream, also known as ice cream. It’s amazing.

  4. Jane says:

    I reduced my sugar, ate breakfast, increased my exercise and protein, and gave up processed food two weeks ago.

    I’ve already lost 5 pounds and it wasn’t difficult.

  5. OriginalLala says:

    when I stopped eating animal products I lost a bit of weight but not a ton. I’m always impressed when people are like “Oh I went veggie and lost 35 pounds”, cuz that definitely did not happen to me, and I eat a whole foods (non processed junk). low sugar, dairy-free veg diet. But I have PCOS so the rules are always different for us cysters :(

    • Spicecake38 says:

      Sorry Lala,I have been reading how great every body has been doing adding tons of veggies to their diets ,and that’s great!My problem is that I have Crohn’s disease and vegetables do not feel good inside my gut(still regretting that Cobb salad on Sunday)So yeah, health issues definitely make healthy eating/weight loss harder for some of us.Wishing you health dealing with the PCOS.I have heard it’s awful.

      • OriginalLala says:

        PCOS sucks, but I am grateful that I have mild form of it so with healthy eating and regular exercise I get regular periods, have normal blood sugar, no baldness, my hirsutism is now gone , and I’m just on the higher end of a normal weight range — I’m lucky, it could be much much worse so I really shouldn’t complain about a few extra pounds when others have a much more difficult struggle with PCOS.

        My lovely mum has Crohn’s too – that is a beast to deal with. She has the same issues with veggies and high fiber foods.

      • Veronica S. says:

        Same, though I have IBS and not an inflammatory disease. I could definitely clean up a few things, but I do count my calories and try to eat more protein these days to offset my intolerances – which are getting worse as I get older. Onions are the ones I miss most, but they make me violently ill if I accidentally eat more than a tablespoon or two of them. I used to drown my salads in red onions before I got diagnosed.

    • Switch Pretty says:

      A lot of us with auto immune diseases struggle with losing weight partly because of the meds we have to take and partly because our bodies are so inflamed. I follow the Auto Immune Protocol diet -which is similar to paleo but much more restrictive (grain free, sugar free, night shades free). It similar to an elimination diet and helps teach you what foods exasperate any symptoms. I have 3 AIs and was always in pain and gained over 70lbs because of the meds and illness (plus my lack of mobility as I’m now with a walker). The diet has really helped me lose my inflammation and am slowly losing weight. I’m finally able to wear clothes that I haven’t been able to wear since 2 years ago.

    • Veronica S. says:

      It’s because they’re likely cutting out dairy-based products, too, which removes a lot of processed carbs.

      I went vegetarian for a year or two. Didn’t lose a single pound, lol. Later found out I had an diagnosed thyroid disorder, so now I get to have fun losing that weight in my thirties.

    • Pandy says:

      I’ve been veg for about 8 or 9 years … with no weight loss either. Irritatingly enough!!!

    • sommolierlady says:

      Original Lala- I’ve been a vegetarian almost 50 years. Never got thin even though I eat healthy and exercise every day. Sometimes metabolism and genetics just aren’t on our side but still in good shape for mid 60′s..

  6. TheOtherMaria says:

    55lbs down thus far via WeightWatchers, but y’all are right, it’s hard…

    I’m tired of going to the groceries weekly and the costs are steadily rising 🙄 I can’t imagine how anyone with children, no vehicle, or low funds manages to do it **I will forever tip my hat off to parents for this, especially my mom who qualified for all three when I was younger **

    I’m not a big sugar junkie but bread will forever be my Achilles heel, sigh.

    • Esmom says:

      I hear you on the food prices, especially on fresh and healthy options. My kids are nearing the day they’ll live on their own and I keep telling them it will be a shock to pay for their own groceries. It truly sucks that really healthy eating tends to come only at a high prices.

    • Veronica S. says:

      They don’t do because it’s not affordable. That’s part of why obesity is so common in lower economic classes – they buy for calories, not health. They need their dollar to stretch farther so they can survive.

  7. A says:

    Going plant based changed my life for the better too. Never going back!

  8. fortune100 says:

    He lost weight because he cut out sugar/junk food/got more sleep; no because he stopped eating meat. Eating some high quality fish, beef, and chicken are great ways to lose weight and have vital vitamins/ minerals we can’t get from plants.

    And he apparently doesn’t understand digestion or has a serious problem if meat is decaying in his body rather than getting digested. He needs to stop watching PETA videos!

    Whole30, paleo, primal, or even keto are all great ways to lose weight, but cutting out sugar is the most important, that stuff is poison.

    • Laur says:

      Meat is pumped full of hormones and antibiotics so it’s no better than sugar. Processed meats are officially classified as carcinogens by WHO. At least if you cut it out you don’t contribute to that industry.

      • Linda says:

        Not all meat is pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. I raise my own beef and we sell it to people also. Nothing is added. The meat industry will never die out. I am 64. My numbers are incredible according to my dr at my last complete checkup and meat is always a part of my diet. The good old fashioned calories in versus calories out still stands true

      • Veronica S. says:

        Certain red meats (beef, lamb, pork) contain certain sugar molecules that have been shown to induce an immune response, which can lead to inflammation and potentially increase a risk for colorectal cancer. That’s why it’s listed as a carcinogen. It’s not necessarily across the board, since genetics certainly play a role, and so does the cut of the meat – a diet of full Filet Mingon is less likely to give you problems because it’s the best cut with the least fat attached. Other meat sources like poultry and fish lack the sugar, so they’re not as problematic.

    • Jordana says:

      What are the “vital” vitamins and minerals we “need” from animals’ bodies?
      .I’m asking because meat eaters like to throw that one liner into an argument with vegetarians. What are the vitamins? What are the minerals?
      B12? Nope. It’s actually a bacteria found in soil, and we used to get enough of it by eating from gardens. Destroying the soil and growing practices have disrupted the natural process. Farmed animals are fed b12 supplements. Their bodies dont naturally produce it. We don’t need to eat their bodies to get b12. We can eat the same supplements the animals are given.
      Omega 3 or “fish oil”? Nope. Fish get their omega 3 from eating sea plants. It’s not self-generated or produced by their bodies. I’ve taken omega3 supplement that is vegan, and it’s made from the same source – seaweed.

      I’ve havent eaten animal parts for years. My last physical and blood tests were perfect. Protein level good. B12 level: normal. Cholesterol level: amazing. My doctor actually said ‘wow’ when she looked over my results.

    • Veronica S. says:

      B12 is the big one we need for metabolic function that had to be obtained from animal products because plants don’t store it, though it’s less of an issue these days with all of the supplements on the market. We don’t *technically* need to eat animal products at this point unless you live in an area without industrialized resources or economic means.

      The part about meat decaying in his body is total bunk, though. If your digestive tract isn’t moving along properly, it’s an issue with peristalsis not input. I assure you, sir, there are plenty of chemicals in vegetables you probably can’t pronounce unless you’re a chem/bio major, lol.

  9. Patricia says:

    Why is sugar the devil?!? I agree with several commenters above that it’s the biggest factor in weight loss. It’s poison!
    My sisters and I were fed a steady diet of “I’ll show you my love with sugar” from our very withholding and scary mom. Seriously it was the only way we felt comfort from her. We are all very addicted to it, physically and psychologically.
    We have all tried cutting it out many times, sometimes with great success. I recently lost 25 Lbs post-second-baby, because I wasn’t eating sugar and added more fat and veggies to my diet. I have another 25 that needs to go big I started with sugar again and everything stopped. And it’s so so hard to cut it out again. It’s an unbelievable drug, it even talks to you like a drug “it’s ok everyone eats sugar… you had a bad day some sugar will help… you deserve it… you won’t eat any tomorrow so go ahead today…” Who feels me on this? It’s so hard. I really limit my own child’s sugar intake (and the baby gets NONE), and make sure there’s as little emotional attachment as possible.
    Parents DO NOT show your kids love by giving them excessive sugar! My sisters and I are a testament to the lifelong struggle you’ll create.
    Ok rant over lol.

  10. Esmom says:

    His sleep was so messed up, wow. I’m sure it was the main factor in his weight gain. One of the things that sucks about the education system in the U.S. for high schoolers is that it really doesn’t allow for adequate sleep. So bad for developing teenage brains! My kids’ high school has one day a week where they start an hour later but it’s nowhere near enough to close the deficit that so many kids are operating on.

    Anyway, I digressed. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 15 years. It wasn’t a conscious decision, meat just gradually lost its appeal for me. I’m pretty healthy but I tend to get major cravings for highly processed, salty stuff sometimes, not sure why. That’s a bigger downfall for me than sugar. Yesterday I could have eaten an entire jumbo bag of potato chips, sigh.

    • Apalapa says:

      Yeah I tend to think sleep has more of an impact on weight and overall mental and physical health than anything else.

      Years ago I couldn’t for the life of me get a good night’s rest and I found I had a sleep disorder, at which point my weight dropped without changing much food wise. I feel for anyone who has messed up sleep and how it affects their body.

    • Veronica S. says:

      Yeah, sleep is the major issue for me. ADHD brains release melatonin at a delayed pace compared to “normal” brains, so our sleep cycles are 4-5 hours off from everybody else, and we often have insomnia. I have a lot of trouble getting to bed at a decent hour to wake up for work well-rested.

  11. khaveman says:

    Processed food and sugar are demons – and food makers love to get ya hooked early with their Fruit Loops and Honey Nut Cheerios. Got to make good choices for yourself and go natural.

  12. DesertReal says:

    Good for Will!
    I dropped 20 lbs in 2 months by doing something similar (low carb/Glycemic). Its crazy easy to do (I don’t have much of a sweet tooth) and I still have baked wings, burgers, etc. And luckily my favorite alcohol (distilled liquor like bourbon, vodka, moonshine, etc.) technically has no carbs. There are so many easy and delicious subsitutes for starch and carbs (riced cauliflower and spiraled zucchini is in the frozen veggie section now) and I never feel deprived. It’s been a breeze.

  13. Mo' Comments Mo' Problems says:

    Why doesn’t Fergie want to be with the group anymore?

  14. Tiffany says:

    But he kept the baby wipes……

  15. SJhere says:

    I have started since Aug. 1 to stop buying “treats” which for me is soda, chips, candy and bakery items. Partly because I know I can eat/cook better and partly because I am trying to save some $$. It is just awful how much I’ve been spending on convenience foods. Not even health wise, cash wise.

    I’m 57, I know better than to live on coffee, chips, and donuts.

    I’m offering support and good wishes to everybody who is working to be healthier. :)

  16. me says:

    Has anyone tried the new A&W “beyond meat” plant based burger yet? I don’t like the taste of beef so don’t know if I should waste money trying this new burger. How “beefy” tasting is it?

  17. Veronica S. says:

    9_9 Vegetables are still sugars. What you gave up is processed or refined carbohydrates, which have higher calorie counts.

    I do miss a lot of vegetables that I used to eat, though. GI disorders are not kind to veggie lovers. :(

  18. D says:

    Wahls Protocol. Credit me when your life changes for the better please;)

  19. Nicegirl says:

    LOL, Corey, like you’re old enough to have gone through “the change” yet. Cutie cutie cutie to the pie pie pie 🥧

  20. Chloeee says:

    I just started keto and I love it although I’m pms-ing and I just want bread with my cheese. My sister was prescribed it years ago for her seizuresand it worked wonders. Two weeks in and I’m 7 pounds down, I feel good, and it’s easy to stay on track since I know I can have cheese and butter and even some alcohol in moderation. Pair that with the low carb chocolate from Trader Joe’s and it’s not too bad! I was a vegetarian for many years so I’m still adjusting to the increase in meat (still no pork and beef though just not for me) and when I hit my target I’d like to switch back to a more plant based low fat, moderate carb diet. I would urge people to not rule it out though! I was very anti after seeing all the heavy cream and oils my sister had to intake, but there’s a lot of good new research on it.

  21. Grey says:

    He’s the one who said that women buying/carrying/stocking condoms is “trashy.”

    Nope. He was canced yeeeeears ago.