You can choose to go on a vegan diet for different reasons – not just weight loss but also animal protection, environmental protection or health reasons. But is weight loss through a plant-based diet really possible? If so, how does it work?
Can You Lose Weight on a Vegan Diet?
Yes, vegan diet weight loss is possible, but there is no guarantee. Technically, you can lose weight on any diet – if you simply avoid high-calorie/ low-nutrition foods such as chocolate, chips, soda and convenience foods.
A vegan diet, however, has clear advantages: It often includes a varied selection of vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. According to one study, a vegan diet could reduce the number of deaths per year by 8.1 million. The researchers draw the conclusion that more than half of the deaths avoided would be due to a reduced consumption of red meat (beef, pork, sheep, goat) and about a quarter to an increased consumption of fruit and vegetables.
In fact, vegans often live generally healthier lives: they smoke less often, drink less alcohol and exercise more. If the vegan diet is the reason for this healthy lifestyle or if health-conscious people generally opt for a vegan diet is not clear.
Vegan Diet and Weight Loss: What To Pay Attention To
Longtime vegans know their way around the produce section, but those of you who are just starting your transition to a vegan diet should pay attention to a few things. Most importantly: It is tricky to get all of your nutrients from a plant-based diet. These include vitamin B12, vitamin B2, vitamin D, protein, calcium, iron, iodine, zinc, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids.
However, besides vitamin B12 – which vegans should supplement or ingest with the help of B12-fortified toothpaste or foods – it is possible to get these nutrients from a balanced, varied plant-based diet. Use the vegan food pyramid by the animal rights organisation PETA as a guideline. Additionally, regularly taking blood tests at the doctor’s may detect possible nutrient deficiencies.
Plant-Based Diet: The Key for Weight Loss is Energy Balance
If weight loss is your goal – on a vegan diet or not – you have to use more energy than you take in. This does not mean that from now on you have to spend your time counting calories and starving. It often helps to change things bit by bit and slowly strive for a healthier lifestyle.
How much energy you use varies from person to person and depends on your initial body weight, body composition, gender, age, health, the temperature around us and, most importantly, physical activity level. Many of those factors you can’t control – but physical activity you can. That means that if you want to lose weight, you have to move more.
Exercise Is Essential
You don’t have to exercise five days a week – often it’s the little things that can make a big difference: Climb the stairs instead of taking the escalator or elevator, walk or bike short distances and get moving during your lunch break. These exercises can already lead to weight loss on a vegan diet.
Yes, even in the winter. Remember, the temperature outside also plays a role in energy usage. The colder it is outside, the more energy your body uses to keep you warm. In addition, the cold air and, if you’re lucky, a few winter sunrays (vitamin D) are good for your health.
Try to integrate regular sports activities into your everyday life: Maybe you like to go swimming, running, cycling, dancing or enjoy team sports? No matter which sport, make time for it every week. If you are worried about not being disciplined enough, make appointments with friends so you can motivate each other.
Mindful Eating Habits
Now that we’ve discussed energy expenditure for weight loss, let’s talk about the energy you’re taking in from your plant-based diet. Again: Small changes can make a big difference. A good way to find out where to start is with a food journal.
If you regularly write down what you eat, you will probably notice a few dietary changes you can make. Do not eat as litte as possible to achieve weight loss! People on a vegan diet need to eat enough calories. Instead, pay attention to the quality of the foods you eat.
Clean Eating: Not Just a Trend
Eat as clean as possible! This goes for vegans, too: There are plenty of convenience foods out there that are filled with salt and additives. Avoid them and try to eat as much fresh and unprocessed food as possible: Vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, grains and nuts can be combined in a number of delicious ways.
Carbohydrates? Yes, but Whole Grains Please
Do carbs make you fat? Not necessarily. If you only eat pastries, white bread and sugar, also known as simple carbs, on your vegan diet, weight loss is unlikely. But if you eat foods that contain complex carbohydrates, such as cereal flakes, bran, beans, wholewheat pasta, wholewheat bread, wholewheat rice, potatoes, vegetables or soy products, your body will need more time to digest them, causing your blood sugar level to rise more slowly and keeping you full longer.
Healthy Snacks Instead of Cheat Day
Cheat day is a trend that is especially common on social networks and YouTube: Six days a week you go hungry and on one day you stuff yourself with pizza, fries, coke, chocolate, ice cream and everything else which was otherwise off limits. These regular, planned binges are not a good idea.
Instead, it is better to treat yourself to something every once in a while: Why not try our vegan oatmeal cookies or creamy chai latte for instance? One advantage of doing it yourself: You decide how much sugar goes in.
Weight Loss on a Vegan Diet: Drink – A LOT!
Besides food, drinks also play a big role in losing weight. A very simple rule of thumb is: Stay hydrated. Don’t wait to be thirsty to drink water.
Sweet drinks such as coke, sprite, iced tea and juice will give you unnecessary energy (calories) so drink some nice, cool tap water instead. For an extra hint of flavor, spruce up your water with ginger, cucumber, herbs or lemon.
Listen to Your Body
The next time you eat, slow down and listen to yourself: Are you really hungry or are just satisfying a craving? Are you stressed or relaxed? Prepare your meals beautifully and take your time eating them. When you realize that you are full, stop eating.
By the way, stress and weight are often related: While some people hardly eat during stressful times, others stuff themselves with sugary and fatty “comfort” foods. So take time to reduce stress on a daily basis: Taking just ten minutes for yourself after getting up, during your lunch break or right before going to bed can help lower your stress level.
Vegan Diet: Weight Loss Takes Time
Don’t think of a plant-based diet as a “quick fix” for weight loss. It is not supposed to help you lose a lot of weight in a short period of time and then let you resort back to your old eating habits. View your new diet as a long-term change: Try out new recipes, get inspired and discover the diversity of the vegan lifestyle. Give yourself and your body time to adjust – and take it one day at a time.affiliate links: If you buy here, you actively support Utopia.org because we get a small portion of the proceeds.
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