Top 5 reasons why you are not losing weight as a vegan
Generally, people who transition to a vegan lifestyle will find that they lose some weight, simply because they are cutting out cholesterol, decreasing their intake of saturated fats and increasing their intake of complex carbohydrates and fiber. However, it’s not this simple because you can still be unhealthy as a vegan. If you are not eating the right foods and living off pizzas, alcohol and oreos for example, then you will not find it so easy to lose the weight, you put yourself at risk for deficiencies and you won’t be healthy either. Here are the top 5 reasons why you may be struggling to lose weight as a vegan.
Although smoothies can be full of nutrition, they are not ideal if you are aiming for weight loss. This is because a large number of calories can be put into a smoothie and if you were to eat all the components in that smoothie, simply chewing those foods would make you more satisfied. The same goes for juices. When you juice vegetables and fruits you are removing the fiber (which makes you feel full) and drinking only the sugars. This will result in you feeling hungry again a short time after even though you took in quite a few calories. The same goes for coconut water, soda drinks alcohol and hot beverages.
Tip: Stick to water or herbal teas only and eat your calories to increase satiety.
Vegan foods like coconut milk, ice-creams, sweet potato chips, vegan chocolate, vegan cheese, bakery goods and fast foods are all okay in moderation, but if you consume too much of these foods you will inevitably gain weight. Less of these foods is better for your health and your waistline. If you can stick to eating 80-90% whole food plant-based then the 10% of eating these foods won’t impact too much on your weight loss goals. If you fully deprive yourself of these foods it may seem impossible to stick to, but for many who eat whole food plant-based, they will find over time they crave the junk foods less and less as your taste preferences change. Whole food plant-based is focused on vegetables, fruits, whole-grains and legumes (nuts, seeds and organic soy) and avoids processed, refined and high sugar foods.
Tip: Trade processed snacks for more fresh alternatives like sliced apple and peanut butter, fresh strawberries, frozen banana nice-cream or raw veggies and hummus. Fresh fruit or raw veggies are a great quick snack that will fill you quickly due to the fiber it contains. Depending on how much you want to lose you may also need to watch your intake of nut butters due to their calorie density.
Sometimes I have clients who think they are eating a really healthy plant-based diet and cannot understand why their weight is not dropping, but when I evaluate their intake, they are simply taking in too much energy by eating large portions at their meal-time. For example, a smoothie bowl is a very nutritious meal choice, but when you make it with nut butters, plant milk, numerous fruits and top with seeds and more fruit it becomes a very high calorie meal. The same goes for dried fruits- it’s best to avoid these when trying to lose weight and instead stick for fresh or frozen fruits.
Tip: Aim to fill up your sandwich/plate with lots of salad/vegetables, some vegetable protein and complex carbohydrates. You want to choose nutrient dense foods, not calorie dense. Going from lowest calorie dense to highest aim to eat mostly vegetables, fruits, whole unprocessed starches, legumes, and less of the processed starches, refined processed junk food, nuts/seeds leading us to the highest calorie dense foods- oils/fat.
Vegetable oils are 100% fat calories and contain very little nutritional value. While vegetables contain 100 calories per pound and fruits contain about 300 calories per pound, oil contains about 4000 calories per pound! That’s 120 calories in just 1 tablespoon. Not only is it high in calories, but it contains no fiberto keep you feeling full and satisfied so you will still need to eat more. We are not just talking about oil you add either, it’s also found in many processed foods such as veggie burgers, vegan cheeses, fast foods and many packaged foods. When you eat out its common for vegan foods to be drenched in oil so it’s important to ask for no oil or very little if possible.
Tip:Use vegetable stock or some vinegar in the pan in place of oils. Reduce your intake of processed foods containing oils and cut out using oils in your cooking and you will find it much easier to lose weight. Also trying to prepare your own meals rather than eating out will give you more control over how much oil you are consuming.
If you want to speed up your weight loss, exercise is a great way to do this. Not only will you burn calories, but you will feel better mentally, your heart will be healthier and your blood pressure and blood sugars will regulate if these are elevated.
Tip: Start with walking 3-4 days a week for 10-20 minutes and over 2-4 weeks aim to build this up to 30-40 minutes of brisk walking daily (this will be dependent on your health and fitness level). We should be walking 10,000-20,000 steps a day (10,000 is a good goal for most sedentary people). Many find a pedometer is very motivational so they can track their daily steps. Find an activity you enjoy like swimming/body-pump classes/dance class/ weight training- once it makes your body move it’s wonderful because you are more likely to stick to it.