When Thibodaux, Louisiana, native Josh LaJaunie appeared on the December 2016 cover of Runner’s World and revealed he had lost 230 lbs. through running and a plant-based diet, his story touched the lives of many self-described “country boys.”
So in an effort to help them, LaJaunie, now 39, set up a private Facebook group as a safe place for everyone to share their stories and struggles and to motivate one another to lose the weight.
Dubbed the “Missing Chins Run Club,” the group has 52 members and counting — and they have dropped, in total, more than 4,000 lbs.
“This is the place to talk about why your stretch marks itch like hell,” LaJaunie told Runner’s World of the blunt advice he offers. “It’s a beautiful thing to be able to give these beer-drinking, back-slapping men an avenue to health and happiness.”
“[The Missing Chins] is a tight-knit group,” said member Tim Kaufman — an Alden, New York, resident whose weight once exceeded 400 lbs.
Shedding 200 lbs. thanks to running and a vegan diet, the 44-year-old has gotten a grip on his health and even weaned himself off an addiction to painkillers. Still, he finds the group motivating more and more each day. “It’s so cool to see new guys come in,” Kaufman said. “It takes you back and makes you appreciate the struggle.”
Jason Cohen, 33, of Lafayette, Louisiana, can relate. He’s lost 125 lbs. after topping off at nearly 300 lbs.
“When I see other members post a 7-mile run in the Facebook group, I don’t have any excuses,” said Cohen, who is filming a documentary about LaJaunie and others who have achieved major weight loss called Big Change the Film, due out in 2018. “Time to lace up and get out there.”
Like many, Cohen always struggled with his weight. “My entire life I always thought I would be big,” he said, explaining that he also cycled, forged a weight-loss competition with a friend, and adopted a plant-based diet to help him slim down.
Another member of the group, Justin Lacy, of Dexter, Missouri, also took up a plant-based diet, cycling and running to bring his weight down 290 lbs. from a starting weight at over 500 lbs.
Now training for marathons, the 32-year-old said he was motivated when his mother had a stroke three years ago. “I thought, wow, I’m extremely selfish,” he said. “Soon my family’s going to be crying around my hospital bed.”
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Josh LaJaunie’s own brother Dustin has joined, losing 150 lbs. and counting — a long way from where he was five years ago, at 425 lbs.
Eating plan-based and running alongside his brother, Dustin compares the Missing Chins to the trips he and his brother used to take when going hunting. “But instead of gathering to go take life, we’re coming together to gain life,” he said.
Now that news of the group has gone public, LaJaunie assures it will stay private.
“We’re going to keep it a secret group because it’s just a safe place for us ex-fat guys to talk about things associated with being an ex-fat guy, LaJuanie said in a video posted to YouTube. “And we talk about it with language that, it’s almost like a camp and locker room environment where we can just say what we want and say what’s on our mind. It might be offensive but it’s just a safe place to talk about things that we thought we were all alone in dealing with. With stretch marks and lose skin and different body problems and mindset problems and social problems and all of that. I’m super proud.”
“They’re all my brothers in this thing,” he added. “Let’s keep doing our thing. Let’s hone it, let’s refine it, let’s be contagious with it and let’s help others overcome this thing that we fought with all of our life.”