Just making some small changes can kick-start your vegan weight loss! Here are 7 tips to help you lose weight on a vegan diet.
When I first went vegan in 2012 (after being an on and off vegetarian since college), I thought I would lose weight fast. I would no longer be able to eat pizza (my weakness)…or all the amazing pastries that were always in the employee break room at my corporate job. No more donuts or scones or 800 calorie muffins – they all contained eggs or milk and were NOT vegan. So I thought weight loss would come naturally.
And while I did lose SOME weight when I first went vegan, I didn’t lose all the weight I wanted to. Probably because I soon realized how DELICIOUS vegan food was.
Eventually, I cracked the code on losing weight as a vegan. Just making small changes, made a huge difference!
This post is all about showing you the simple tweaks to make to kick-start vegan weight loss!
Vegan Weight Loss Tips
TIP #1: Drink enough water (and why this is especially important for vegans!)
This is SO important and yet SO easy to ignore (because you hear it everywhere). But so much of the time that we think we are “hungry” we are just “thirsty” – dehydrated. We just need water, not food. And when you satisfy this need, you no longer want food. Feeling tired in the middle of the day? Drink water. Have a headache? You might be dehydrated. Drink water. Water is MAGIC. And it CAN help you lose weight.
BUT for vegans, this tip is especially important. Vegans typically eat more fiber than non-vegans (which is SO healthy!). But because of all this extra fiber, vegans (especially newer vegans) can experience gastrointestinal discomfort – which can show up as bloating, constipation, or gas. Fiber needs water to work effectively in your body, because water helps the fiber move through your body. So drinking enough water is important. Make sure to drink at least 8 glasses a day – and more if you exercise, are in hot or dry climate, or if you drink a lot of caffeinated drinks or alcohol (which can be dehydrating).
TIP #2: Don’t drink your calories
We so often underestimate the number of calories we “drink” – whether this is fruit juice (which is typically very high in sugar, and low in fiber), coffee beverages, or alcohol, calories from beverages can add up fast! The sugar is also absorbed quickly, which can lead to insulin spikes.
And “liquid” calories do little to make you full. And you might just end up drinking 200-300 calories of empty calories, which will do little to sustain you but will contribute to weight gain.
TIP #3: Reduce or eliminate the amount of vegan processed foods you eat
Anything that comes in a box or bag with a list of more than 5 ingredients is typically highly processed. And processed often means there is salt or sugar or other ingredients added that can be highly addicting and make you crave more (read the book “Salt Sugar Fat” by Michael Moss to learn more!!). The fewer processed foods you eat, the more weight you will lose.
One tip on how to reduce eating so many processed foods is to eat MORE UNprocessed foods – this will help fill you up and you will have less hunger and cravings for the “junk” foods. This is sometimes called “crowding out the junk food”….and it works!! If you go to a restaurant and want the vegan burger, have it! But…instead of having the burger with fries, have a salad or vegetables with it instead.
TIP #4: Make sure you are getting enough sleep
Have you noticed that when you don’t sleep enough, you crave sugary carbohydrates? That’s because when you are sleep deprived your appetite-regulating hormones are (ghrelin and leptin) are affected. So lack of sleep can make you hungry AND make you crave all the unhealthy foods!
On the plus side, a vegan diet can improve your sleep!! But this is if you are mainly eating a whole-food, plant-based diet with limited sugar, and processed carbs. Eliminating caffeine, sugar, and processed carbohydrates AFTER 3 pm CAN be very helpful to ensure a good night’s sleep! Daily exercise can also help.
TIP #5: Pay more attention to portion sizes
Sometimes people don’t realize how much they are over-eating – and this is especially true with processed foods. And when I first went vegan I thought I could eat anything I wanted and not gain weight – mainly because I was cutting so much out…and not eating animal products anymore. Even the plant-based doctors were saying that “you won’t gain weight on a whole food plant-based diet, you can eat as much as you want”. Well, I was not eating all whole-food plant-based – I had discovered Vegenaise (hello vegan mayo!)….and have you heard of the recipe site Chocolate Covered Katie? (There are SO many amazing vegan recipe blogs out there!!)
It can be helpful to track your calories and portions for a week or two on an app such as myfitnesspal or Chronometer – because you may be surprised at how many calories even healthy foods (like nuts and seeds or avocado) have – and this can help you eat more appropriate portions! Don’t think of this as restricting yourself….think of it as educating yourself on the foods you are putting in your body.
TIP # 6: Make sure you are eating enough fiber and protein – and not too much fat
Eating enough protein and fiber will not only help make you full, but they will keep you full LONGER. A lot of newer vegans tend to eat more carbs – because they’re an easy vegan food – pastas and breads, but then wonder why they’re always hungry.
Incorporating more vegan protein and whole grain products is important. Beans, tofu, seitan, tempeh are great sources of protein, and also contain fiber! And stick with whole grains – such as oats, quinoa, brown rice, and other whole-grain products.
And fat – especially processed fats like bottled and coconut oils, vegan mayo, salad dressings, etc – are very calorically dense, with little to no nutrition. If you want to use these in your foods, they should be measured so that you don’t overdo them. It’s healthiest to get your fats from avocado, nuts, and seeds! Tip: instead of cooking with oil, cook with a little veggie broth (add to pan as needed to prevent sticking). You won’t miss the “fat” and the broth adds a nice flavor to foods.
TIP #7: Try intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting was a game-changer for me. Intermittent fasting is simply a way of eating your meals within a specific period of time during the day, and then not eating during a specific period of time. Simply by changing WHEN I ate, intermittent fasting helped me easily lose the last bit of weight I hadn’t been able to lose. And like a plant-based vegan diet, it also offers some pretty amazing health benefits!
The easiest way to start intermittent fasting is by eating your last bite of food at least 3 hours before you go to sleep at night, and then not eating again for a minimum of 12 hours. This allows your body to fully digest all the food you have eaten. To lose weight and burn fat, fasting for 16 hours a day has shown to be the most beneficial. Fasting WILL become easier as your body adjusts. When you eat, make sure to eat enough high-quality vegan foods – healthy plant-based protein, carbs, fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fasting is very healing for your body, and eating a healthy vegan diet is very important to support healing.
This post was all about vegan weight loss – this doesn’t have to be difficult, some simple changes can make ALL the difference for you.
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