Why veganism isn’t a diet, and what DOES work for weight loss

Once in a while I start off with a topic either on Twitter or Facebook that leads into a rant. A rant leads into a long, lengthy session that qualifies as a blog post. This is one of those times.

I just had yet another discussion on why going vegan isn’t a diet or a recipe for weight loss. Times like this I really loathe PETA with a passion. You can eat healthy or unhealthy on ANY diet. When I lost 100 lbs, I was an omnivore. The key is to eat clean and exercise. While the benefits of being vegan include things such as naturally low cholesterol and more attention to fruits and veggies it’s not a magic bullet.

As a vegan, you can enjoy numerous desserts and baked goods, sweets, fried food, and tons of alcohol. French fries, provided they aren’t cooked with animal fat or whatever, are VEGAN! Any of those things can be vegan, but they don’t represent quality food with quality calories.

This is your recipe for weight loss:

1) Eat enough QUALITY calories. This means nutrients. 1500 calories of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, etc is NOT the same as 1500 calories of Twinkies and cake. Eating too little nutrients will cause your body to go into starvation mode, and even if you initially lose weight you will gain it back later and it will bring its friends alone to crash all of your parties. You want your metabolism to be revved up and continue doing so even after you reach your target goal. Starving your body will NOT get you there, I promise.

2) Eat a balanced diet. Plenty of veggies, lean proteins, carbs, and fiber. Avoid processed foods, white sugar, oils, corn and high fructose corn syrup, and fried food when you can. Eat LOTS of fresh fruit and veggies. Oils are pure fat with no redeeming nutritional value; stop buying the hype on olive and vegetable oils and remove them as much as possible from your diet if not completely. Healthy fats include avocados, nuts, and seeds, and you want those in moderation too. Alcohol is also permissible in moderation and depending on the drink. Hidden sugars and empty calories add up. Look up the calories of your favorite drinks and ask yourself if it’s worth it. Occasional slip ups, treats, and indulgences are not a problem. But if they become every day, they’re a habit and a lifestyle choice.

3) Drink plenty of water. I do not mean tea (although tea is awesome, as you can determine from my moniker!). I do not mean energy drinks. I mean WATER. Water flushes out toxins, keeps you hydrated for your workouts, and helps your body to keep going.

4) DO NOT SKIP MEALS. All you’re doing is putting your body into starvation mode; see #1. You are not dieting; you are engaging in a lifestyle change. Train your body for being fit in the long haul by eating correctly NOW.

5) Eat carbs. You need fuel to burn fuel. Unless you’re on advice from a doctor low carb diets are a stupid, unnecessary, and batshit crazy fad. You may quote me on this freely; I do not care.

6) Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re no longer hungry, don’t eat when you’re not hungry. If you don’t eat enough calories because you’re not hungry, don’t know when to stop eating, or eat when you’re bored or depressed you need to exercise mindfulness when eating and reprogram your relationship with food. I know of far too many people who have an unhealthy attitude towards food, mostly due to programming from their youth in regards to comfort foods or what was considered to be “appropriate”. It’s nothing to be ashamed or embarassed about; it just means that you have to reexamine your outlook and practice positive affirmations in regards to eating the right foods. It’s also way more common than you may think, and much of it is based in our culture.

You can do it. It’s not easy, but the results are so worth it. When in doubt, consult a nutritionist and/or a counselor. Sometimes hypnosis tapes will go a long way towards therapy too.

7) EXERCISE. This includes both cardio and strength training. It can be as little as 10 minutes a day to achieve results. Get up, move from your desk at work, little bits over time go a LONG way.

8) DO NOT OVERTRAIN. Long hours on the cardio machines will cost your body to slow down to conserve fuel and will adapt to the same exercise if done over and over again. Keep your body guessing, do not put all of your exercise eggs in one basket, and take it at your own pace. Initial soreness from new exercises is completely normal and will only go away with more exercise; feeling sick and dizzy after a workout means you trained too hard, probably didn’t eat enough to boot, and may also indicate dehydration. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER.

9) If you can, find out how much you’re REALLY burning per day versus either just guessing or taking HUGE overestimations from your treadmill or elliptical to tell the tale. Get a FitBit or a Bodybugg. It’s WELL worth the investment.

Want to increase your metabolism? Best way is to lift weights. Muscle burns fat! I used to be one of those “I can’t eat over 1,000 calories or I will diiiiiee” types. I now eat 500-700 calories more per day on average and I weigh thirty pounds less. My metabolism was CRAP. I am a testimony to the notion that effective ”diets” do NOT mean starvation; starvation only puts on weight and kills your metabolism.

If you still don’t believe me, go visit my before and after photos as visual proof in the profile link. I honestly know what I’m talking about and this is why I’m inspired to help people with their own personal fitness. I know what it’s like to struggle with your health, your diet, and your weight—not to mention fit into the clothes you love, and it’s seriously empowering to gain control over that AND feel great.

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