I don’t remember how much weight I lost when I went vegan but it was enough to convince me that I’d never have to worry about fat again. Eventually though, I discovered the many accidental vegan items like Oreos, chips, fries AND the world of vegan pastries, ice cream and everything in between. So although I initially dropped some weight, over the years I ended up gaining it all back, plus some.
This is proof that being vegan doesn’t always equal healthy or fit. So if you’re wondering about going vegan solely to lose weight you should know that eliminating animal products from your diet isn’t a guarantee for weight loss and like anything that involves change, real work is usually required. I wanted nothing to do with my kitchen (although that hasn’t changed much) so I didn’t bother learning about ingredients, labels or whole foods. That caught up to me quickly so I had to change my approach. I decided to focus on eating whole, plant-based food and to regularly move my body. Eventually I started feeling lighter, my body started changing and as a major plus, I stopped caring about the number on the scale. If you read nothing else in this article please know this: the key to losing weight (on a vegan diet or not) is to consistently focus on whole, plant-based foods and move your body.
My hope for you is that you’re not obsessed with the number on the scale but if you’re looking to shed some extra fat with a vegan
diet lifestyle I’ve put together some DO’s and DON’T’s to keep in mind. The tips listed below are applicable even if going vegan isn’t part of your overall plan so consider the next points as the basic groundwork for a lasting and successful health journey.
HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT ON A VEGAN DIET?
-Focus on plant-based food. Whether you’re vegan or not this is something we should all strive for. The reality is that big salads and giant bowls of vegetables are simply not the norm but they should be. Most “food” in grocery stores contains ingredients that we can’t pronounce so the outer perimeter of most stores is where you want to shift your focus. Click HERE to see a list of the good stuff.
-Get familiar with your kitchen. I wish I didn’t have to tell you this but it’s the truth. If you want to lose weight on a vegan diet (or any diet in general) you’ll have to have more control over what you eat and the only way to do this is by cooking your own food. There will be times that this simply isn’t possible because life happens but striving to make most of your meals at home will yield amazing benefits.
-Move your body. Go for a walk, a slow jog, dance or run around with your dog or kid but this is basic stuff. Moving your body everyday (even if only for 20-30 minutes) is essential for your wellbeing whether you care about losing weight or not. I know this can be hard because of time constraints, low energy and other circumstances but I promise the benefits you’ll gain from dedicating a few moments to yourself on a daily basis will completely outweigh the effort it takes to get started.
-Become friends with carbohydrates (the good kind). Fiber and nutrient rich foods like fruit, sweet potato and whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat bread and quinoa can help with weight loss. Avoid refined carbs like white rice, white bread, pasta and most sweets. This doesn’t mean that you should never eat refined carbs (let’s keep it real) but try to make the times you enjoy that stuff a rare occasion, it’ll be easier to put the next point into practice.
-Cut out sugar. This is a big one. Sugar is everywhere and it’s addicting, like crack. Weight loss is nearly impossible without cutting out sugar so if you’re hooked on anything that comes in a package the sooner you start the weaning process the faster you’ll reach your health goals. Surprisingly a lot of vegan food is loaded with sugar so it’s important to read ingredient labels and become aware of the different ways sugar is listed (high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, anhydrous…).
-Clean out your pantry. If your pantry is stocked with rows of packaged food like cereals, cookies and dried pasta chances are they’ll eventually end up on your plate. Willpower can only reach so far so it’s important to stock your pantry and refrigerator with plenty of whole grains, legumes, leafy greens and fresh fruit.
-Don’t try to replace your meat. There are many great options for fake meats out there but nothing is ever going to taste exactly like animals taste. So instead of trying to include faux meat at every meal learn to embrace the absence of meat. If you focus on whole foods like leafy greens, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains you’ll find that the need for meat (or faux meat) at the center of your plate is more of a habit than a necessity.
-Don’t overcomplicate things. I know cutting out animal products and processed food sounds daunting and it can be if you try to do everything perfectly so don’t complicate things. Keep it simple, make one small change at a time and commit to being consistent, before you know it you’ll be ready to take on the next task.
-Don’t assume everything labeled ‘vegan’ is healthy. The world of vegan junk food can be just as addicting and unhealthy as regular junk food. Just because ice cream, cupcakes and desserts are labeled ‘vegan’ doesn’t mean they are healthy for you (this also applies to things that are labeled ‘organic, low-fat, sugar free and healthy’). The bulk of our diet (whether you’re trying to lose weight or not) should consist of food that doesn’t need labels or ingredient lists.
-Don’t go crazy with carbs. I’m not talking about things like brown rice, sweet potatoes and fruit (those are on the DO list). I’m talking about REFINED carbs; highly processed food like pies, pastries, pizza, bagels, pretzels, most pasta, noodles, muffins, cakes, cookies, candy… the list can go on forever. It’s easy to replace animal products with more bread, rice and pasta and forget about the real food that sits at the edge of the grocery stores so this is something to be mindful of if you’re serious about weight loss and health.
-Don’t mindlessly eat. When some people go vegan they might feel like “something” is missing so they resort to snacking on anything that’s available even if they’re not hungry. The options for convenience food are never-ending but it’s our responsibility to become aware of what, how much and when we’re eating. When you begin to pay attention to small things like snacking constantly you may notice that it’s simply part of an unnecessary habit.
-Don’t be embarrassed. If you’re trying to change your eating habits, improve your health and get fit don’t apologize for it. If you want to go vegan for weight loss reasons don’t be embarrassed by that either. It’s easy to feel that we need to apologize to others that may be inconvenienced by our effort to invest in ourselves. And of course it’s important to be realistic, understanding and never judgmental but it’s also important to give yourself the permission to celebrate your dedication to a healthy lifestyle.
I wish there was a magic vegan recipe or pill that would solve the entire weight loss issue, it would definitely save many of us a lot of time and more people would go plant-based but until then we’ll have to stick to realistic methods; eat whole, plant-based food, move your body, sleep and repeat. Consistency is so important when it comes to reaching weight loss goals or making lifestyle changes. But more important than consistency, determination, dedication or any other motivating word is the fierce belief that YOU are wildly and completely worth the time, energy and focus you invest in your health. So don’t give up or run away from starting. I know this health, plant-based vegan, weight-loss stuff can be overwhelming but caring about these things and being willing to make changes is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. You’re here trying to learn more about plant-based food so you’re already on the right track, keep at it.