Struggling to lose weight and keep it off? You're certainly not alone. But it doesn't have to be complicated! Keep reading to discover the #1 nutrient for easy weight loss, plus which food you absolutely want to avoid, and a few quick tips to help you reach and sustain your goals.
Spoiler: It's all about quality, not quantity.
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If you want to lose weight, dietary fiber is your best friend.
This carbohydrate can regulate blood sugar, reduce your chances of certain cancers, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and more!
Forget Protein - 97% of Americans Are Fiber Deficient
Most Americans experience constipation because many of us aren't eating enough dietary fiber.
Why does this matter? Well, our gut microbiomes run primarily on fiber. Fiber promotes that good bacteria growth. When we consume fiber, our gut produces short chain fatty acids which aid in the growth of the cells that line our colons, suppress inflammation, and fight disease.
Without fiber, we can't feed our good gut bacteria, resulting in dysbiosis, which is an overgrowth of bad bacteria. This overgrowth can lead to inflammatory disease (like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, for starters).
Good bacteria like butyrate, on the other hand, has anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting properties. And fiber promotes the growth of butyrate producing bacteria, so no surprise: Those who eat more fiber, like vegetarians are found to have a much higher concentration of butyrate producing genes.
So what does all of that have to do with weight loss?
Good gut bacteria helps to keep your BMI lower.
Individuals with a higher bacterial richness are associated with a healthier overall weight, while those with low levels of good bacteria are more susceptible to obesity and are more likely to gain weight over time.
Fiber also helps to slow the incorporation of glucose (sugar) into your blood stream. This keeps you from blood sugar spikes and crashes, which can be tough on your pancreas and promote weight gain.
What can you do to maintain a healthy weight?
Eat more fiber filled plant-based foods to help you reach that ideal bacteria equilibrium.
Already overweight? That's OK! It's never too late to start eating more fiber. Changing your lifestyle to incorporate more plants in your diet can even reverse obesity and help you regain critical gut bacteria while promoting overall health.
The real reason you can't get rid of belly fat?
You might be malnourished, which is disrupting the good bacteria in your gut.
Wait, malnourished?! Yes.
When we hear the word “malnourished” we usually think of being dangerously thin. And sure, this is one symptom of malnourishment — but excess fat (even obesity) is another sign.
Being malnourished doesn’t mean just not getting enough food (though that will certainly lead to malnourishment). Really, being malnourished means not getting enough nutrients, and oftentimes that nutrient is fiber.
Example: how many antioxidants, and how much Vitamin A, C or E do you think this meal has? It's filling, but doesn't contain the nutrients we need to thrive.
Fiber is easy to find! Every plant on the planet contains fiber. This is why choosing a plant-based diet to lose weight actually works. The more plants you eat, the healthier you will feel, and the more weight you will lose until you reach a healthy balance.
Make sure two thirds to three fourths of your plate is filled with plant-based foods like greens, beans, fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains like brown rice, oats and quinoa (refined grains like white flour are stripped of their fiber), and seeds.
An easy way to do this is make a huge salad every night.
Not a salad fan? Check out this guide to making your salad snap, crackle and pop.
Just can't do salad? That's OK. There are plenty of ways to eat more plant-based foods, trust us. You can always explore veggie stir fry, steamed veggies, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, whole grain pasta dishes, veggie casseroles and more!
Next level: try a whole food plant-based diet to lose weight
To lose weight fast, and keep it offf, consider a whole food plant based weight loss diet diet. Or aim for 80-90 percent WFPB.
What is a whole food plant-based diet? It's eating plant foods in their whole form or minimally procesed.
Stick to WHOLE grains like barley, whole wheat, rolled or steel cut oats, quinoa, brown rice and brown rice flour instead of white flour and white rice. This way, you will reap the benefits that the grain has to offer including high levels of fiber that are stripped away during the refinement process.
Stay away from fatty foods that do not contain fiber. They are extremely calorie dense and promote weight gain.
Of course, some fat is healthy for brain and joint function, but don’t worry, most plant foods contain some fat so you’ll never have to worry about not getting enough.
The easiest way to eat less fat
Get olive oil out of your kitchen!
Now, we generally don’t advocate structuring your life around nutrition labels or obsessively counting calories at MamaSezz, but take a moment and consider some olive oil nutrition facts.
One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil contains roughly 120 calories.
To give you an idea of how much that is, the same amount of refined white sugar only has about 50 calories. A medium sized russet potato has about 165 calories. Which is going to quench your appetite better: A large potato or 1 tablespoon of oil?
And despite being high in calories, oil doesn’t take up as much space in our stomachs as nutrient-dense whole plant foods so eating oil tends to increase how many calories we consume in total because we have a harder time recognizing when we’re full.
(Oh and by the way, olive oil isn't the heart healthy food we think it is, either.)
But if we are supposed to eat more fiber-filled salads for our plant-based weight loss, how do we make dressing without olive oil? Good news: it's easy! Check out our favorite oil-free dressing, sauce, and spread recipes by clicking HERE.
If you just can’t seem to shed a pound, even with calorie counting, take a look at your hormone balance and brain chemistry (spoiler: you can change these!).
If you’re like at least half of Americans, you’ve tried a bunch of different weight loss approaches. Low carb, high protein, shakes, calorie counting, points, badges, apps, forbidden foods, cheat days, fasting...
And chances are, not many of them work for very long.
So what in the world is going on? Well, your hormones may be a little out of whack.
f you struggle with weight loss you may be leptin resistant!
First you need to understand leptin, a hormone that tells your brain whether you have enough fat stored to maintain your energy. Released by fat cells, it sends a signal to your brain saying one of two things:
“Hey, you’ve eaten enough and stored enough fat to stay healthy. You can stop with the calories for a while. There’s enough fat to burn to keep all systems running.”
“Alert! Alert! Fat storage levels too low! Eat! We need to store more fat!! You aren’t getting enough calories!! Eat!”
Leptin monitors how many calories you’re getting, and how many of those calories are being turned into fat cells. Ideally, it keeps you from starving or overeating.
If you are starting from an overweight or obese place, you may already be leptin resistant. This means that you have high levels of leptin, but your brain is more or less blind to all that leptin.
And as we now know, when the brain doesn’t sense enough leptin, it goes into starvation mode. Even though you do have enough calories, even though you already have eaten enough, you get hunger signals, and you turn those calories to fat. So you could eat the same number of calories as a person without Leptin Resistance and while they process it as energy, you may store it as fat.
This isn’t your “fault.” Diets that don’t understand the reality of the body are failing you.
The Solution: heal your leptin resistance with a plant-based weight loss diet
There isn’t a single step to re-regulate hormones and brain function. And “how to lose weight” isn’t a question answered with a magic pill. But there are a few things that do seem to help consistently:
- Stop eating the (SAD) Standard American Diet of processed foods and animal proteins. Researchers think that inflammation contributes to leptin resistance, and the SAD contributes to inflammation.
- Eat foods high in fiber. (Hello again, fiber!) Whole, plant-based foods, especially, give your body fiber it can digest and use.
- Make sleep and movement a priority! Both sleep and exercise have strong effects on hormone function. Healthy levels of each support your hormones. A lack of either can gum up the hormonal works.
Do diets work?
You don’t have to be a yo-yo dieter to finally make progress. You can lose weight naturally.
And while yes, a plant-based diet has the word "diet," but we like to think of this as a lifestyle change. Not a quick fix.
And when you get into this mindset you'll see:
- Diets can work when they help you step away from the SAD and move towards nutrient-dense high-fiber foods for healthy weight loss.
- Diets can work when they give you simple behavior design tools so you can stick with eating changes.
Healing your body with a plant-based die in order to lose weight and keep it off takes time. But it is absolutely possible.
Want to lose weight on a plant-based diet? Limit these foods:
- Meat (even lean cuts)
- Eggs (even the whites!)
- Processed foods
- Pre-packaged foods with unrecognizable ingredients
- Refined sugars (try these natural sweeteners instead!)
Reducing these foods will help your plant-based weight loss journey while also reducing your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and other non-communicable diseases.
(Wow, what a bonus!)
1. Drink water before you eat your meal.
This will reduce the amount of calories you consume at meal time.
2. After you have finished dinner, brush your teeth and stop eating for the night.
If you feel like you need to indulge in a treat, this is most likely because it is part of your nightly routine. Try drinking a warm cup of herbal tea instead, and form a new, healthier habit!
3. If you’re going to exercise, do it right before a meal.
If you’re extremely overweight, and you have just switched up your diet to incorporate more fiber and less fat, avoid exercise and make sure you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Your body is healing, and it needs sleep and relaxation to do so.
The really simple version: eat more fiber (plants!), eat less fat (meat, dairy, oil).
- half of your plate should be a huge salad
- a quarter of your plate should be whole grains or starchy vegetables
- a quarter of your plate should be veggies or plant-proteins
- Want to lose weight? Choose a plant-based diet for weight loss. Specifically high carb, low fat.
- What's that mean? Eat more fiber, that means more fruits, veggies, greens, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
- Avoid fat that does not contain fiber, that means dairy, meat, eggs, oil, and processed foods.
- Drink water before each meal, and stop eating after dinner (no midnight snacking!). Get plenty of sleep and take it easy while your body heals.
- Need help with your plant-based weight loss journey? Get healthy meals for weight loss, delivered to your door, with the MamaSezz Weight Loss Bundle.
By Caroline DiNicola Fawley
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.