Sick of dieting? I don't blame you. It can feel like one big cycle of deprivation, hanger, binge eating, disappointment, feeling like a failure...and it totally stinks. Not to mention most diets aren't sustainable. And while at MamaSezz we're big proponents of a plant-based weight loss diet (and we've got the science to back it up!), we know that even the best diets can fail without realistic goals and a practical plan.
Here's how to set yourself up for true success on plant-based weight loss diet, without taking an all-or-nothing approach.
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In an ideal world, humans would crave fruits and veggies, feel full after one serving of food, and drink a gallon of water a day. We would wake up with the sun and feel like moving our bodies right away. Around 3 pm, we would feel the need to do a little yoga or meditation, and then we'd settle in for sleep just after the sun went down.
But let's get real: very few people (at least in the West) live this way. Most of us crave junk food, have trouble with portion control, feel like we need to drag ourselves to the gym, rarely get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. And there never seems to enough time in the day to drink all the water we really need, right? Life is hard, and change is tricky, which makes dieting — and seeing lasting results — really tough.
And if you're sick of dieting you're not alone. Dieting flippin' stinks!
Even the "healthiest diet in the world," can feel miserable, and ultimately fail you. Why? Implementation, accessibility, and your ability to stick to healthy habits are all just as important as the diet itself.
Why Calorie Counting Doesn't Work
Ever counted calories before? Then you know that it helps you lose weight...but it also is a pain in the butt. And it's not a forever solution.
Calorie restriction (which isn't always a “healthy" way to diet, by the way) can lead to weight loss, for sure. But, compliance can be tough. For example, if you eat a calorie-dense breakfast and then have to restrict yourself for the rest of the day, that day sure has a way of dragging on, and boy can a day of restriction make you feel like giving up quick. Who could blame you? Being hungry all day is NOT fun!
Calorie counting also sucks the joy out of eating! When you've got to micromanage every single thing you put on your fork, meal times can be a source of stress, instead of a source of joy and nourishment.
It's just not sustainable, not to mention it can result in malnutrition, deprivation, feelings of guilt and shame — all that not-so-great stuff.
What About Keto for Weight Loss?
Another popular option for weight loss is the keto diet, which like calorie counting can indeed result in short term weight loss, but studies show it's simply not sustainable.
Why? Well, with a keto diet you're essentially starving your body of its energy source to the point where it begins to eat away at itself. After about a month or so, your body will be screaming at you to eat carbohydrates, because you need them proper bodily function.
The lack of fiber (which is a carb, by the way) will strip your stomach of its good bacteria, you’ll begin to experience inflammation in your internal organs, and your kidneys will be overwhelmed by the amount of fat in your system. When you inevitably give in to those carb cravings, it’s difficult to recognize that it is not your fault. But know this: your keto diet "failing," isn't you failing. It's not that you don't have the willpower to eat better. It's simply that you aren't meant to survive without carbs!
A Plant-Based Weight Loss Diet to Help You Break Free from "Diet Failures"
OK, so if counting calories and keto diets aren't great for long-term success, what is?
A plant-based weight loss diet. Specifically, eating whole plant-based foods.
A well-rounded plant-based diet has so many benefits, from longevity to disease prevention to healthier skin to, yes, healthy weight loss!
And if you're sick of "failing" every diet you try, here's some really good news: you don't have to count your calories to lose weight with a plant-based diet, in fact you can enjoy whole plant-based foods abundantly! AND, you don't have to stick to this diet 100 percent to see results!
Yep, you read that right, but I'll say it again in case you need some reinforcement. You don’t have to stick to a plant-based weight loss diet 100 percent to see results!
If you eat mostly whole foods that are plant based, you’ll see results. If you want to have a slice of cheese, a lamb chop, or some butter in your mashed potatoes, every once and awhile, go for it. Your body won’t go into shock. Just remember, the more whole plant-based foods you eat, the better you will feel.
If you decide to go whole food plant based (or at least 80 percent) keep in mind that these side effects are probable:-healthy weight loss
-lower chance or reversal of heart disease
-lower change of some cancers
-clearer, more supple skin
-lower chance of diabetes or reversal of type 2 diabetes
-less inflammation and joint pain
-lower changes of osteoporosis
-a longer life
-more restful sleep
But remember, even the best diets can fail if not implemented correctly! And that includes a whole food plant-based diet.
For instance, if you’re used to eating calorie dense, fatty foods with high levels of salt, oil, and sugar and try to switch cold turkey to salads…well, your body is going to struggle to accept this. The best way to ensure longevity, is to do your research, and ease in, on day at a time. Strive for progress, not perfection. And by the way, you won't just be eating salad!
The biggest mistake you can make is trying to change your whole life in one day… ahem, like on January 1st.
Don’t get me wrong! This is a great day to start making gradual changes in your life. What we tend to forget is that change takes practice, because you are often learning to implement new skills and habits.
Your taste preferences, exercise habits, and cravings are a result of a lifestyle that you’ve spent your entire life forming. That’s not going to change overnight just because you’ve set some goals. If you expect positive changes to happen all at once, you may find yourself discouraged and even defeated when they don't.
Give yourself a break, and a shot at real success, and take it one step at a time.
Also remember that those taste preferences are formed habits that can be changed. Vegans don’t often crave bacon like meat eaters might. I know it’s hard to believe, but after a few months following a plant-based weight loss diet, you may even be craving red peppers, avocados, and quinoa the same way you crave bacon and cheese now.
Don't believe me? No worries. I didn’t believe it at first either.
Now, let’s start to talk about implementing some goals.
- Drink more water
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Eat more whole foods
Take this time before really committing to a plant-based weight loss diet to be conscious of your current habits.
How many glasses of water do you typically drink a day?
How many servings of fruits and veggies are you eating on average?
How many ounces of meat and dairy do you consume daily?
Start adding in a few more glasses of water a day, and carry a water bottle with you.
Enjoy larger portions of your side dishes and smaller portions of meat.
Swap out your morning eggs for savory pancakes or a tofu scramble.
Don’t jump in 100 percent; just test the waters for now.
The best time to make these changes is at the grocery store. That’s where all your big game-time decision making happens. My #1 tip is to make sure you’re nice and full when you go shopping. Then, when you’re ready to make your decisions, tummy full and basket in hand...
Grocery Shopping Tips for your Plant-Based Weight Loss Diet
Opt for Dave’s Killer Bread, or play around with toasted Ezekiel bread instead of your normal brands.
Buy some date sugar and use that in place of refined sugars.
Test out a few brands of black bean, red lentil, brown rice, or edamame pasta and find your favorite.
Experiment with non-dairy milk to find the one that tastes the most familiar (here's a helpful guide to dairy-free milk, by the way).
Fill your cart with a few extra pounds of colorful fruits and veggies than you normally would.
Stick mainly to the produce section and begin to experiment.
Avoid the #1 mistake people make on their first plant-based shopping trip:
Just because it says “vegan” doesn’t mean it’s healthy, (or that you have to buy it!). Of course, you’re going to be curious about faux meats and dairy-free butters, so pick and choose just a few to try at a time. Keep in mind that these meat and dairy alternatives are oftentimes highly processed, and much more expensive than whole foods. That being said, they can make a transition to a more veggie-centric diet easier, so enjoy them in moderation.
Start your day off with 16-oz (two cups) of water, first thing in the morning. Even before you eat your breakfast. Then enjoy one of the three following plant-based breakfast dishes until you’re ready to find your own favorite plant-based recipes online.
3 Vegan Breakfasts to Kickstart Your Plant-Based Weight Loss Diet
Try to make breakfast your 100 perent plant based meal for the day, and incorporate as many whole foods as possible during that meal. It always feels good to start your day off right. But, keep in mind, if you’re on the go and grab a sausage egg and cheese from a fast food joint, this is not an excuse to shame yourself, or “give up."
If you expect perfection, you will constantly be disappointed. Praise yourself for eating more plant foods overall than you have in the past, and continue on your journey.
Similarly, start to reduce the meat, dairy, and refined and processed foods you buy and consume. You’ll discover new favorites, start to crave fruits and veggies, and probably spend a little extra time in the kitchen at first. Each time you make one of your favorite dishes, make a bit extra to freeze. This way you always have healthy meals on hand for those busy work days or late dinners.
I have been eating a whole food plant based diet for over 5 years, and I eat dessert every night.
My secret: Dates!
Sweetening foods with dates is proven to not cause weight gain or glucose spikes. That’s right…all that sugar without any of the side effects.
Try a few of our favorite date-sweetened desserts to keep your sweet tooth satisfied. This way, you can indulge without straying from your healthy habit goals.
One of the most exciting things about the whole food plant based diet, is that even if you’re trying to lose weight, you don’t have to worry about portion control. It's why so many folks choose, and succeed, on a plant-based weight loss diet.
So if you’re hungry, EAT! The word “diet” is often equated with “starvation,” “restriction,” or “deprivation,” but the truth is, the plant based diet is more of a lifestyle.
I mean would you consider this day of eating to be restrictive?
Breakfast: Chocolate shake and avocado toast.
Dessert: Chocolate pie.
Snack: Cookie Dough.
Yes… that is what I ate yesterday, no joke. All whole food plant based. All healthy. No refined sugar or oil in sight. All whole grains, fruits, veggies, nuts and beans. Yummmmm.
Just remember, don’t expect perfection! Focus on the foods you enjoy, and do your best!
- Diets fail when they are not physically sustainable for the human body, or when you put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect.
- You can lose weight on a plant-based weight loss diet without eating this way 100 percent of the time!
- Don't put too much pressure on yourself. Ease into a new diet. Strive for progress not perfection.
- Make your big decisions at the grocery store! This makes decision at home easier.
- Enjoy foods you like. Being plant based doesn't mean salad for every meal.
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.