Each year, thousands of people make the switch to a plant-based (vegan) diet; many for environmental, health, athletic, and ethical reasons. But some are making the change because they believe eating a diet of 100% plant-based foods will slim their wasteline. Although there are a myriad of health benefits associated with a vegan diet (reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, etc.), losing weight by cutting out meat, eggs, milk, and cheese (alone) may not do the trick.
To lose weight on a vegan diet – or any diet for that matter – you must look deeper into where you are getting your calories and fat. A big misconception among newly turned vegans is that because a food is deemed vegan, it is also healthy. This is not true. There’s a huge market for highly processed (ready to eat) foods, and many companies are taking advantage of it. And you can’t blame them. But there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to eat a healthy vegan diet and be satisfied with your weight. Below are some ways to tip the scale in your favor.
6 Tips for Vegan Diet Weight Loss
1. Cut Out the Oil – All oils, whether they come from soybeans, olives, or coconuts, are highly processed and 100 percent fat, making them nutrient-poor and calorie-dense. It wasn’t until the 1900s that scientists learned to extract these oils using a chemical process where the oil is extracted, deodorized, refined, and altered. Somehow, these oils still get promoted as health foods. The few trace nutrients found in oil don’t outweigh the 120 calories per tablespoon that they deliver. Besides, there are no health benefits from consuming these minimal amount of nutrients.
Cutting oil from your diet is a great way to reduce calories and excess fat, plus minimize your chance of heart disease. Worried about getting enough fat? There are other (healthier) ways of getting fats into your diet. Eating nuts, seeds, and legumes will not only meet your daily allowance of fat, but will also give you a healthy dose of fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Some of my favorite whole-food sources of fat include: avocados, olives, nuts, raw seeds, and soybeans.
2. No Junk Foods – Oreos, Tofurky Sausages, Boca Burgers, and even Cocoa Puffs are all vegan. But are they going to promote weight loss? Absolutely not. These food-like products are, not only highly processed, but full of artificial ingredients, sweeteners, colors, and OIL. I’ve come to learn that any food that is made to look like an animal product typically carries an unhealthy amount of oils. These oils contribute to the high percentage of saturated fats found in these mock foods.
Artificial ingredients and additives (such as MSG), which are found in these vegan junk foods, have been gaining attention for their fat-producing effects. Recently I learned that rats are fed MSG to add weight before they take part in certain experiments. That’s right – MSG is the protocol for making rats fat! So why are we eating it? Eating foods in their whole (natural) form is the best way to go. And the only way to know what’s in your food. Furthermore, eating them raw will maintain their nutritional structure, giving your body the best results.
3. Eat at Home – It’s near impossible to avoid eating out at restaurants. It seems like every week someone is having a birthday which deserves heading to the nearest eatery. But reducing the amount of food you eat from restaurants can increase your chances of success in cutting fat and calories. Unlike the foods you buy in stores, restaurants are not required to label their dishes with calories, fat, carbs, or even ingredients. Eating from home allows you the comfort of knowing what’s going into your meal and what it’s doing for your body. The next time there’s a celebration, offer to fix dinner at your place.
4. Halt the Salt – Salt is an ingredient that deserves more attention than it gets. It’s one of the most overused minerals in our entire food supply. The daily recommended amount of is 1,500 mg, however, the average American consumes 3,466 mg daily. Salt won’t necessarily promote weight gain, but it will leave you bloated due to water retention. This can bring about similar feelings as weight gain, making you want to give up your weight-loss efforts.
Salt is associated with more serious problems than bloating though. It’s been known to exacerbate high blood pressure, increase the risk of gastric cancer, and fuel kidney problems. Cutting back on salt is not difficult either. Ween yourself off a little each week until you are no longer adding it to your foods. After a week or so, you won’t even miss the taste of salted foods. In fact, your palette will begin to enjoy the natural taste of foods!
5. Exercise – This may seem like a given, but many people believe that because they’re eating healthier they no longer need physical activity. This is completely false. If you want to build a healthy body, the mouth is a great place to start. But the body requires motion to make use of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you are feeding it. Beginning a regular exercise regimen will help your body to process the foods that you are eating and put them to good use. Metabolism plays an important role in the way we make use of fat and calories. The more you workout, the higher your metabolism rate. You’re body does this naturally to make the best use of the nutrients it has available – much like the way a car’s computer balances fuel combustion for best performance.
6. Reduce Stress – You’ve probably seen those funny commercials for cortisol reducing medications. These highly exaggerated commercials may seem bogus, but the science they present concerning cortisol is mostly true. Although stress is not the only reason for cortisol secretion, it has been dubbed the “stress hormone.” And reducing your cortisol can actually reduce your weight. According to researchers at Yale University, slender women who had high cortisol also had more abdominal fat. Furthermore, results published in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine in 2000 established a link between cortisol and increased storage of abdominal fat.
Of course, I’m not promoting the use of medications to reduce cortisol levels. I would suggest getting proper sleep (7-8 hours a night), eating on a regular schedule, and taking part in relaxing activities. Many people have found that yoga is a great source of stress relief. Not only will it balance mood and reduce anxiety, but help to build a solid core. Not into the whole yoga thing? Find a place outside under the shade of a tree and sit in silence for about 20-30 minutes. If that doesn’t bring about peace and relaxation, read a book.
Have you noticed an increase in weight since switching to a plant-based diet? What foods do you believe contributed to the added pounds?