Every January people start asking me about a vegan weight loss diet. Not only do people start making New Year's resolutions to lose weight, but diet companies start offering specials, health magazines run articles on losing weight, and we start worrying about bathing suit coming up in a few months.
Within the past few years, the vegan diet has been in the spotlight for its amazing health benefits, including weight loss.
I love any reason that someone finds a plant-based diet, and so I heartily embrace these questions. But, as a general rule, I don't believe in diets. When people focus on sacrifice, they begin obsessing over what they can't have and eventually they rebel against the restriction and binge on junk, which leads into the end of the diet.
I do, however, believe in lifestyle changes and learning to understand and trust in the cues our brain is trying to send to the rest of our body. When someone chooses to start eating a plant-based diet rather than following trendy diets, they can lose weight forever.
Our modern, weight-loss driven society has taught us to fear calories and carbohydrates, and to think that we can't trust their bodies to tell us what food they need, and how much of it we should consume.
Ever notice that almost every commercial on TV is either for fast food or medicine? These companies are urging us to eat certain foods, and then other companies (sometimes even owned by the food companies) insist that we need medicines to alleviate symptoms caused by those foods.
It's important to remember that commercials are trying to sell us things, not advise us on our health. You don't need to believe them. You can control what you eat and how you eat. You are in charge of your body.
I find that many people are convinced they are overweight because they overeat, they eat emotionally, they have a genetic predisposition for obesity, they eat too many carbs, or they lack will power. Some psychological issues do contribute to obesity, but a larger factor is simply diet.
Diet, nutrition, and weight loss are relatively recent struggles and studies for the human population. Only a hundred years ago, people ate what was available in season. Our overeating problem started when societies started getting wealthier and created access to more animal products and the technology to bottle everything up and distribute it. Not surprisingly, the wealthier the society, the more access to animal products they had, and the more overweight they became.
Many people are convinced that they need to count calories and avoid eating fats to lose weight. However, most cultures have been eating high amounts of calories for thousands of years while retaining thin physiques.
This puzzling phenomenon is detailed in The China Study. On a typical day on the standard Asian diet (before they started eating Westernized foods), the Chinese would consume around 2600 calories, whereas Americans only eat about 1900 calories.
Why are Americans (who eat fewer calories) typically so overweight and Asians are thin? The difference is the type of food we eat. The traditional Chinese diet mostly consists of whole plant foods and very few animal foods, and only a small percentage of their calories came from fat. They eat tons of fiber and complex carbohydrates, as well as soy protein. American diets are the exact opposite-- very low fiber, very high protein, simple carbohydrates, high percentage of calories from fat, and plenty of added fats from animal products.
Why do animal products lead to obesity in humans?
Very simply, human bodies were never biologically designed for eating other animals. We come with flat teeth made for grinding grains, not canines for ripping and tearing. We have long digestive tracts for breaking down plant materials to get plenty of nutrients. Animal-eaters have short digestive tracts to avoid having rotting meat in their bellies for too long. We have long fingers and short nails for holding onto plants and eating around them with very little protection. True carnivores have talons.
Many people experience weight loss simply by switching over from eating a standard western diet, full of meat and dairy products to a plant-based diet. On their vegan weight loss diet, they can afford to eat some of the junkier foods and the processed foods. These people are often those with the least amount of weight to lose, and are often the younger ones. The older we get, as our metabolism slows, we need to go a step further.
If you are older or more overweight, you will need to avoid junk foods altogether. Just because they aren't made with animals doesn't mean they are healthy.
I promise that if you focus on these real foods, you can ignore the hype attached to any particular diet plan and experience the real truth behind a vegan weight loss plan; one that isn't such a "diet" after all.
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight Year Round
I know, this is easier said than done. However, you'll never have to set another New Year's resolution to lose weight if you don't have weight to lose. Yoyo dieting is proven to put a strain on your body, and you will feel 100 times better about yourself if you never really get to a point where you look in the mirror and say, "I need to make a change. Starting tomorrow, I will..."
The good thing is that if you have come to this page with the desire to lose weight for the new year, you have the power to make a lasting difference and never look back.
2. Don't Eat Mindlessly
When you are truly hungry, it's time to eat, and it's best not to interrupt your eating time with other activities, like talking on the phone, working at the computer, or watching TV. You deserve the time it takes to eat, and you will eat better when you choose to do it this way.
3. Think About What You're Eating and Chew Well
Your body has to work hard to digest food, and you can help it along the way by chewing each bite of food for a long time. Most people take a few bites and swallow the food down the hatch, but if you can work your way up to the double digits on bites, it will be easier for your body to digest. If you're really good at chewing and can work each bite into a juice, you get a serious gold star.
The other benefit to chewing really well is that you actually get to taste your food. When you're eating something delicious, you should truly enjoy it by opening up the different flavors with each bite. The longer you chew, the more you'll realize that the initial taste you get on the first or second bite evolves and becomes more intricate with subsequent bites. Keep chewing.
4. If You Do Decide to Eat [Vegan] Junk, Pad Your Stomach With Healthy Food
I feel better when I eat fresh, whole fruits and vegetables as snacks. If I get a hankering for some Tings, I'll first see if I can get rid of the craving with some vegetable sticks dipped in homemade salad dressing. If it's still there and I want to indulge it, I'll eat an orange or grapefruit afterwards to ease the strain of the junk on my body.
This is an especially helpful tip for maintaining a vegan weight loss diet during the holidays. Even if you live in a completely vegan world, the holidays can often mean vegan holiday cookies, substantial meals, chocolate as stocking stuffers, and a good number of brightly colored alcohol drinks. I personally believe in the occasional indulgence-- the more you feel deprived, the more likely you are to feel resentful of your new "diet," and the less likely you are to maintain your new lifestyle.
5. Oldie But Goodie- Don't Skip Breakfast
You should eat something within 90 minutes of waking up to jumpstart your metabolism and give yourself energy for the day. If you don't eat in the morning, you throw off your entire vegan weight loss diet.
On the days I eat a crappy breakfast, I always feel like I'm playing catch up the rest of the day. I never feel totally satisfied and I find myself snacking on more junk than I would have if I had a good vegan breakfast. Opt for a variety of fruits and whole grains, and a good source of vegan protein.
As with any diet change, moving to a whole foods-based vegan weight loss diet will be a big change at first. You will probably need to develop a taste for many of the new foods, and while at first you may not like them, they will grow on you. Within a few weeks, your tastes will change and you won't crave sugar and grease but fruits and vegetables.
A vegan weight loss diet is an effective way to lose weight, but focus on the life change rather than the sacrifice.