By now you might have heard about the great success people have with the vegan weight loss diet.
But does it REALLY work for the long term? Are there any "insider secrets" you need to know to not only lose the weight, but to maintain it as well? Are there any pitfalls or challenges you should look out for?
The answers to these questions might surprise you!
Let's start with the obvious stuff first...
Why Does A Vegan Weight Loss Diet Work?
First and foremost, when people go vegan they tend to lose weight right out of the gate. Why is this?
One word: FIBER.
When you eat fiber-rich foods, this fiber sweeps through your intestines and pushes the crap out (literally). Giving your body a constant supply of fiber means you are always cleaning out the pipes.
On the other hand, animal products contain ZERO fiber. And YES that means ALL animal products including red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, milk, cheese -- well, you get the drift. As long as you continue to eat these foods, you will find it difficult to lose weight.
Of course, you can go on a diet and eliminate some problem foods for a while. People do this ALL the time to lose weight. But eventually you will add those foods back in to your diet and the weight comes right on back.
Then one day you realize your pants are getting too tight and you're feeling yucky about yourself. So you go on ANOTHER diet. Yes, it's totally senseless, but you do it anyway!
Because you have no idea what else to do!
Here are some tips to get you started:
Sassy's Top 10 Vegan Weight Loss Tips
Here are some tips that you can start using TODAY:
- If you're just starting out with the vegan diet, be sure to review the Vegan Food Pyramid because it's a great starting point to understanding the various food groups you need to eat.
BUT, you might like to know the range of servings in the Pyramid was created for the general population, including people who want to GAIN weight! Those who have weight to lose have to take the information found in the pyramid and tweak it in order to lose the weight.
How do you tweak the Pyramid for the best weight loss results?
Opt for the LOWER serving amounts listed in most of the categories. For instance, you will notice the whole grains recommendation is 6-11 servings/day (3 - 5 1/2 cups). Sheesh, 11 servings of whole grains is a HECK of a lot of food, let alone adding in all the other food groups. So if you want to lose weight, opt for the lowest range which in this case is 6 servings (3 cups). Depending on your metabolism you might need even less than that;
- DON'T simply switch out your meat and dairy for vegan meat and dairy substitutes (soy meats and cheeses). While it is okay to occasionally eat these foods if you go vegan and have NO weight to lose (always buy organic or non-GMO soy foods), it's not ideal if you DO have weight to lose. Many of these "faux foods" are high in fat and sodium, which go against your weight loss efforts. Much better to teach yourself how to create a whole foods vegan menu from the get go;
- DON'T be afraid of whole grains. Some "fad diets" eliminate grains and grain-based foods entirely, but whole grains are filled with important nutrients we need such as B vitamins.
There is a big difference between eating foods which contain REFINED grains and eating foods which contain WHOLE grains. They're not all created equally! Whole grains are healthy complex carbohydrates our bodies use for energy so they digest more slowly, offering your body the important glucose it needs in a more even manner. This helps to keep blood sugar more balanced which, in turn, encourages weight loss. Plus, we need the important nutrients whole grains give us.
Stay aware of the effect eating various grains have on you. Avoid simple carbs (such as white rice or white pasta) and instead reach for whole grains (like brown rice or whole grain pasta) for lasting energy and to encourage weight loss.
- DO cut back on your sugar intake. Sugar is bad news and the more you eat the harder it will be to lose weight. (By the way, if you do consume sugar be sure it's always organic.)
PLUS, overuse of sugar can lead to problems with an overgrowth of yeast in your body, and when that happens look out because it becomes NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to lose weight until you get the yeast under control. (Trust me, an overgrowth of yeast in your body is NOT FUN and the subsequent diet can be very restrictive.) Really take a look at your diet -- where might you be adding unnecessary sugars into your daily or weekly menu?
- DON'T drink fruit juice! This is one source of "sugar" that you need to rid yourself of. Fruits are fantastically good for you, providing you the water-rich fiber your body needs, along with so many important nutrients as well. But if you drink the juice, and eliminate the fiber within (such as OJ, apple juice, pineapple juice, etc.), then you are basically mainlining all the simple sugars naturally contained in the fruit. Much better to eat the fruit as is, or opt for fresh vegetable juice instead;
- DO eat lots of green leafy veggies. Foods like kale, collard/mustard/turnip greens, broccoli, bok choy -- these types of foods provide vital nutrients including CALCIUM which is needed to lose weight. If you are lacking in calcium, your vegan weight loss efforts could be hampered;
- DO drink a BOATLOAD of water. All those amazing fiber-rich foods you should eat need water to aid them in the job they need to do. Two-three glasses a day is NOT going to cut it for you. The range of your water intake should be 6-12 (8 ounce) glasses per day. Shoot for the lower range if you eat lots of water-rich fruits and veggies and smoothies, and the higher range if you don't.
- DON'T be afraid of nuts! (tee-hee -- sorry, that made me giggle.) But seriously, so many people ask me if nuts are okay to eat when you're trying to lose weight.
YES! Nuts provide important HEALTHY fats we need, and are high in vegan protein. Raw nuts provide important enzymes we need. Toasted nuts tend to taste a little more interesting and make the protein more available for your body. So I recommend eating some raw nuts and some toasted nuts to get the best of both worlds. Just don't go crazy with them -- 1/4 cup nuts per day if weight loss is your goal;
- DON'T be a slave to your scale. SCALES LIE! Did you know you can lose INCHES but still GAIN WEIGHT? As you enjoy a vegan diet combined with exercise (!), you will begin to build muscles where you didn't have them before. No, not "he-man" muscles, but muscles which help you tone to get rid of the flab. Muscle is denser than fat; therefore, as the muscles grow and the fat is burned off you will see a reduction in inches while the scales remain where they were. Hide your scale away, and pull out your measuring tape instead;
- DO start an aerobic exercise program as well as a weight-lifting program. Of course you have to exercise for weight loss! Do you really think diet alone will cause the lasting vegan weight loss you seek? There is no diet in this world that will work if you don't exercise regularly. If you go to the gym and walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes, that's certainly better than nothing at all. But you need to WORK UP A SWEAT to lose the fat.
I recommend "warming up" for 10-15 minutes as you slowly bring your heart rate up. Then work to keep that heart rate up for at LEAST 30 minutes. Usually a combination of, say, jogging with short 1-minute bursts of fast running, works beautifully as you challenge your body to go farther with each workout. Then, "cool down" for 10-15 minutes as you bring your heart rate back to normal. A heart monitor is the key here so you can keep track of your heart rate.
Muscle burns fat. But before you begin lifting weights, be sure to get advice from a pro (such as an instructor at your gym). You can hurt yourself if you don't know what you're doing.
Finally, be patient with yourself. Make changes to your diet in baby steps for the greatest long-term success.
Hope you have found some answers you were searching for today.
Thanks for being here. :)