Eating plant-based for weight loss? Good call! Studies show on average plant-based eaters have lower BMIs than their meat eating counterparts, which makes sense when you think about it; a well-rounded plant-based diet is much lower in calories than Standard American fare. But if you went vegan for weight loss and the scale isn't budging, don't give up just yet. No matter how earnest your intentions, you could be inadvertently sabotaging your own weight loss journey!
No worries, it's easy to course correct and I'm here to help you troubleshoot so you can get the most out of going vegan for weight loss.
Before We Begin: Lose Weight Naturally (No Calorie Counting!)
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1. You're Eating a Lot of High Calorie Foods
Yep — a plant-based diet is typically lower in calories than the Standard American diet. But if you're not able to lose weight with a plant-based diet, you may be consuming too many calories (even if it's all from plant-based foods!).
A plant-based diet is health-promoting and can help you maintain a healthy weight, but not all vegan foods are created equally! If you find yourself eating lots of processed vegan food, that right there could be the problem. Following more of a whole food plant-based diet? There are still healthy whole foods that are high in calories and fat.
The Easy Fix:
- Loading up on nuts? Try swapping the nuts and seeds that top your oatmeal with fresh or frozen berries instead. If nuts are your go-to snack reach for low calorie options like fresh fruit, steamed edamame, oil-free popcorn instead.
- Love you some avocado? I don't blame you — it's delicious! But like nuts, while a healthy food, avocado is high in fat and calories which can delay the plant-based weight loss you're after. Mix up your breakfast routine and go for low calorie tofu scramble over avocado toast. Always have avocado on your salad? Try loading it up with other veggies instead: tomato, red onion, fresh corn, grated heart-healthy beets, spiralized carrot or zucchini, broccoli or cauliflower florets, or cucumbers soaked in vinegar.
- Speaking about salads, high-calorie dressings could be the culprit behind your weight loss plateau. Hummus and tahini-based dressings, albeit healthy and high in vitamins and minerals, are also high in calories. Try this simple oil-free dijon dressing instead.
2. You Don't Eat Enough
I promise I am not trying to confuse you! Just as consuming high-calorie foods can lead to weight gain, so can eating too little. Hear me out: in your attempt to decrease your calorie intake, you end up not eating enough, which actually slows down your metabolism. Not eating enough slows doesn't your calorie burn, leaves you feeling hungry most of the day, and can make you more likely to binge on junk food.
The Easy Fix
The best way to lose weight on a plant-based diet? Stay satiated! And choose a whole food plant-based diet, one without added oils and sugar. This will allow you to, for the most part, eat as much vegetables and fruit as you want, without sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
3. You Are Drinking Your Calories
Smoothies and freshly squeezed juices can be healthy additions to a plant-based diet, but when it comes to wfpb weight loss, chewing your food is usually better. Studies show that liquids lead to less satiety than solid food. In addition, your healthy smoothie can easily be the one messing up with your weight loss, as it's very easy to pack it full of calories and high-fat foods.
As for juices, even homemade versions, are high in sugar and lack fiber, which increases your blood sugar levels (and can lead to hanger shortly thereafter). Additionally, where you would normally need time to chew and swallow a fresh fruit, drinking a glass of juice takes a few seconds, not allowing your brain to realize that your stomach is full.
The Easy Fix
Make sure to get the majority of your calories from solid foods, treating smoothies and juices as treats that you enjoy once in a while or 1-2 times a week!
4. You Eat Vegan Junk Food
Vegan junk food is still, well, junk food! And it has sabotaged many weight loss journeys because it's usually high in added oil and refined sugar.
The Easy Fix
If your goal is to lose weight then do your best to focus on whole, non-processed foods, and avoid eating cleverly disguised vegan junk food, however healthy it might be advertised as. Need help spotting "vegan junk"? Learn how to read food labels here!
5. You Sleep Too Little
Lastly, something you probably haven't considered in regards to your weight loss journey: the quality of your sleep. Not getting enough sleep affects the regulation of ghrelin and leptin, two hormones that are central to a healthy, normal appetite. Research has shown that lack of sleep can literally make you feel hungrier and crave foods high in carbohydrates and fats.
The Easy Fix
Aiming for a minimum of six hours of sleep every night and keeping a regular sleep schedule will dramatically improve your food choices and positively affect your weight loss goals. (Bonus: here are the best and worst foods for your sleep!)
Losing weight is harder for some than others. It can be incredibly frustrating to feel like you're doing everything "right" and yet still the scale won't budge. And remember, that weight loss isn't the only benefit of a plant-based diet! Here are 5 signs your plant-based diet is improving your health, that have nothing to do with weight loss!
- The best diet for plant-based weight loss is a whole food plant-based diet!
- If you went vegan for weight loss and you're not seeing results, you might be making these 5 common "mistakes: eating too many high-calorie foods, not eating enough, drinking your calories, eating vegan junk food, sleeping too little.
- The good news is, once you remedy these 5 things, you'll most likely see the plant-based weight loss you're after! Not to mention, you'll benefit from your new diet in so many ways: from disease prevention to better sleep to clear skin!
- Need help kickstarting your WFPB weight loss? Join the MamaSezz Guaranteed Weight Loss Program and get delicious plant-based meals delivered to your door.
Rafaela Michailidou is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and a freelance health and wellness content writer, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.