- Diet & Weight Loss
Vegan weight loss tips
According to most statistics, there is no real concern about vegan weight loss. Vegans are more likely to be in better health, and more likely to be a little under average weight for their height, rather than over it. Indeed, many people find that shifting to a vegan diet based on plant foods helps them lose weight more easily, due to cutting out many unhealthy foods. However the real world is made of real people, rather than statistical averages - and real people come in all shapes and sizes, and with different kinds of metabolisms, tastes and emotional baggage. The bottom line is that some vegans do need to lose weight, I have been there myself, and hope the following tips will be useful:
A plant based diet is different - and if you're transitioning from a typical animal-based diet, there is a lot to unlearn. That includes your existing perceptions of what a typical balanced meal looks and feels like. If you are trying to replicate portion size and proportions on the plate based like-for-like with a typical omni diet, you could easily end up with some strange and unhealthy vegan meals. You need to get yourself some great vegan recipes for balanced and healthy meal planning - research the vegan food pyramid, and find yourself a delicious NEW world of healthy and tasty eating.
Watch those refined carbs. Many vegan diets are high in carbohydrates for bulk and calories, and that's fine - in fact you can still lose weight if that is your aim, but always look for high-fiber, wholegrain choices. Just by making this simple switch from the typical 'white stuff', you can still achieve noticeable weight reduction, if carbs form a significant proportion of your diet. Not only will the fiber be filling and regulate your digestive system, they will have a smoothing effect on your blood sugar - lowering the glycemic index of your meal will raise your blood sugar more gradually, blunting the insulin response and avoiding the plummeting of blood sugar that can follow, leaving you craving for more sugar over a rapidly escalating cycle.
Learn to cook differently. Try eating the foods you love already, but differently. For example, steamed or baked instead of fried, or in many cases you can eat your food completely raw with all the enzymes intact. It's easy to get into the habit of completely altering the natural taste of food with spices, herbs and marinades - it is fine to do this, but if you do it all the time you won't know and appreciate what the food itself tastes of! Try getting hold of the best possible quality of ingredients, such as locally grown organic fruit and veg, and eating as simply as possible for a few meals. This will lead to greater appreciation of your native abundance, and help to accelerate your vegan weight loss as a happy by-product.
You don't have to fake it. Remember you gave up eating animal products for reasons that mattered to you... so you can also find a way to leave behind the textures and tastes that kind of food once brought you, because they are not natural to plant-based vegan foodstuffs. Recreating them involves artificial chemicals, lots of salt, colorings, flavorings, flavor enhancers - eurgh, why would you want to eat that stuff? Plant fats are almost all liquid at room temperature, to make them mimic animal fats they are 'hydrogenated' to create 'trans' fats that do not exist in nature - the long term effects of these molecules are completely unknown, but already they are being found in human brain cells, displacing normal fatty acids. Of course the quality of vegan meat substitute products varies immensely, but in the long term it's best not to be too dependent on them for your protein - use them to help you transition, sure, but they are generally speaking over-priced, highly artificial, and not especially nice food products.
Eat your food as naturally as possible. That means, as close to its raw, un-messed-about with state as you can. Of course you can eat many vegetables and fruit raw, whilst you can't do that with beans and legumes... however it's better to soak and cook beans than to buy tofu or a can of re-fried and salty bean goo. You can also sprout most beans in a day or two, and enjoy eating them raw and bursting with enzymes - these speed digestion and reduce fat storage, incidentally. Either way, you control exactly what you're eating instead of a commercial manufacturer - take a good look at the ingredients of typical brands of beans in sauce, and decide if that's going to help your weight loss and overall health. Incidentally, this soaking and sprouting and stuff means you have to plan your meals a few days in advance - this too is excellent for portion control and avoiding snacking.
Watch you don't go nuts! Nuts are delicious, and they're a great source of vegan protein. Assuming you don't have allergies to worry about, they can definitely form part of your regular diet. But portion control is critical - nuts are extremely high in fat, hence very calorifically dense. Take a look at some packaging info and get a shock - you will see how easy it would be to munch your way through 800kcal of cashews without a second thought. Try to choose your nuts for specific health benefits, such as brazil nuts for selenium, and enjoy the different flavors and textures in a mindful way. Don't graze on them whilst watching TV or driving!
Try not to drink too many calories. Alcohol is not the only culprit here, incidentally. Flavored soy milk drinks targeted squarely at the veggie market are loaded with sugar and fat, and the sugar in your coffee and tea adds up dramatically too. Even if you make your own fresh healthy juices and smoothies, think of them as a food not a drink, and include some non-sweet veg too - fruit juices are incredibly sweet and do nasty things to your blood sugar and insulin levels. The trouble is, it's so easy not to notice all this stuff, because we just swill down drinks without noticing and don't take account of their calorie or sugar impact. Try to get into low-caffeine beverages like herbal teas, or even learn to appreciate nature's most natural drink of all, water... A full glass 20 minutes or so before each meal will fill you up and blunt your appetite as well.
Ease up on the sweet stuff, period. It's really tough, but you owe it to yourself to try and re-educate your sweet tooth. Eating sugar (even from fruits) causes your blood sugar to peak, then to crash very shortly afterwards, causing more cravings in an inescapably vicious circle. Fruits, especially juices or dried fruits, are extremely high in glycemic index and will send your blood sugar all over the place. And think about this: most processed cane sugar commercially available is refined using animal bone char as its activated carbon source, therefore is NOT vegan. That means all the sugar that is not eaten directly in fruit, incidentally. Take a careful look at the ingredients used in many vegan dessert recipes, and make an informed choice, if having a truly vegan diet is important to you. For your weight loss, health, and food appreciation generally, if you can make a conscious effort to re-train your taste buds and enjoy fewer sweet foods, you will do yourself a huge favor. And as your palate grows more sensitive, you will find yourself enjoying sweetness in unexpected places, such as ripe tomatoes or pimentos...
Eat fats - but, the RIGHT fats - The 'fat is bad!!' message is a pervasive one in weight loss literature, but it has become oversimplified to the point of not always being correct, and can even present risks. Vegans are actually the group in greatest danger of being deficient in specific essential fatty acids (EFAs), and there is an important clue in that word 'essential'! You must ensure you have a regular source of Omega-3 in your diet - these include flax oil, nut oils, and olive oils. Your body cannot manufacture Omega-3 and every cell in your brain requires it! So you can also supplement - most commercial supplements are based on fish oils so they're out, but look for vegan DHA supplements mainly derived from flax. If you don't eat the right kind of fats, you may end up craving the wrong kind, and eating moderate amounts of healthy plant-based fats will not halt your vegan weight loss
Finally, be colorful - eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. There is no white in the spectrum, so chips are not one of your '5 a day'! (and vegans should be looking at plenty more than 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day in any case, think more like eight to ten). If your vegan diet includes a range of dark green leaves, bright red and orange fruit, luscious purple peppers and bright yellow corn, you will know you are getting a balanced and complete range of nutrients - so you won't find yourself running to the fridge the way you do when you're hungry but not even sure what you're lacking/looking for (lots of weight gain amongst poor eaters is attributable for this, if the body is missing something vital it creates hunger to try and get it somehow). Instead, you will be a shining example of vegan health and well-being for others to aspire to! What better way than to spread the vegan health message!