According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, individuals who follow a vegan diet for approximately 18 weeks shed, on average, four pounds more than those who follow animal-based diets. The beauty of the vegan diet is that there are no gimmicks involved, no hardcore caloric restriction, and no bonking from malnutrition in the middle of the afternoon. Plus, you can eat carbs (unrefined carbs, that is)! Follow these six tips to lose weight the healthy way, and save the animals and the planet while doing so.
1. Weigh calories versus nutrient density
Weight loss and nutrition are all about return on investment. You want to aim for foods that are low in calories but high in nutrients. Stick with these, and not only will you feel energized and satiated throughout the day, but you also won’t have to bother with calorie counting. Typically, vegetables have the least amount of calories while providing a robust profile of nutrients—followed by fruit, starchy produce (squash, potatoes, corn, and oats), whole grains, and beans and legumes. Focus on these foods to make up the bulk of your meals, and consume higher-calorie plant foods such as nuts, seeds, and avocados sparingly.
2. Focus on fiber
Constant hunger is one of the main reasons why diets fail. When you focus on high-fiber foods, you’ll feel fuller for longer, as this essential (but highly underrated) nutrient is slow to digest. Most Americans are fiber-deficient and don’t even come close to the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 25 grams per day. High-fiber foods include leafy greens, fruit, legumes (includes beans, lentils, and peas), and oats.
3. Limit processed foods
Sure, those vegan crackers might contain some fiber, but they probably also contain calorically dense oils and other ingredients that could lead to weight gain. It’s a wonderful thing to live in a world where vegan options abound, but just because it exists doesn’t mean we should help ourselves to non-dairy ice cream or vegan grilled cheeses every day. Focus on plants, and enjoy these vegan treats only on occasion.
4. Train your taste buds
We’re just going to say it—cravings suck. Along with hunger, those incessant neurological signals are another culprit of weight-loss failure. There is no magic pill to stop the cravings, but over time, you can at least bend them to your will. Your taste buds and gut microbiome can adapt to what you feed them. Over time (give it six weeks or so), your body will start to crave the healthier food you give it. We know that this is a major trust exercise, but we promise it works. For example, there is probably a vegan product or vegetable you didn’t like before you went vegan. Not a fan the first time you tried vegan cheese, but now you always keep it stocked? Freaked out by Brussels sprouts, but now you crave them every winter season? See? Trust the process.
5. Put food in your fridge
Don’t leave your meals to spur-of-the-moment decisions. You don’t have to write out a plan or spend hours on a Sunday meal-prepping, but you should keep healthy food on hand so you don’t end up getting vegan pizza delivered. Convenient foods to keep on hand include frozen veggies, quick-cooking grains, pre-chopped vegetables and lettuce, canned beans, oil-free hummus, and sauces (try Roots), and fruit galore (if you’ve never tried cotton candy grapes, you need to). For especially busy lifestyles, a digital meal planner is a great place to start (we created this one curated just for plant-based eating). With a well-stocked kitchen, there’s no excuse to not eat incredibly delicious, plant-based meals.
6. Spring clean your Instagram feed
Just as you would unfollow a person who was giving off negative vibes, it helps to unfollow any accounts that trigger cravings or undermine your self-esteem. If you know that you act on impulse whenever your local vegan bakery posts a two-for-one deal, it might be time to take a break from that account (you can always re-follow them after you hit your weight-loss goal). Also, get rid of any accounts that make you feel guilty or like you’re not good enough. Images of ripped vegan bodybuilders or lean plant-based yogis can be aspirational and motivating to some, but if they make you feel down on yourself or trigger thoughts of hopelessness, these accounts aren’t helping. During the first few weeks of your weight-loss journey, you may even want to delete the app from your phone. Focus on you; because you’re worth it, and you’re going to be successful.
Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and runner living in Orange County, CA.