Vegan diets cause weight loss very predictably. In a huge study of Seventh-day Adventists, those who had adopted a vegan diet weighed 30 pounds less than meat eaters, on average. In fact, essentially every research study shows the same thing: Vegan diets cause big-time weight loss.
But what if it is not working for you? That can happen. In my clinic, we use vegan diets for people with diabetes, cholesterol problems, menstrual cramps, migraines, and many other problems. For perhaps nine out of 10 participants, weight loss is a given. For that other one in 10, the problem is usually easy to spot.
Let’s look at how a vegan diet works, how things sometimes get off track, and how to fix it (I explore more of these topics in my new book,The Vegan Starter Kit).
A vegan diet, by definition, is all plants all the time. Whether it is seared oyster mushrooms and artichoke hearts over capellini, a bean burrito with jalapeños and pico de gallo, or cucumber sushi with a seaweed salad, everything comes from plants. In their natural state, plants are loaded with fiber, and fiber fills you up with essentially no caloric intake. In contrast, meat, dairy products, and eggs have a big zero in the fiber column. So if you replace meat chili with bean chili or you top your spaghetti with arrabiatta sauce instead of meat sauce, your fiber intake increases. And fiber fills you up, satisfying your appetite before you’ve eaten too much. A vegan diet also means no animal fat, of course. That is important, because there are 9 calories in every fat gram. Contrast that with carbohydrates, which have only 4. So with that animal fat off your plate, a huge source of unnecessary calories is gone.
When there is plenty of fiber on your plate and very little fat, you get satiated far more quickly. You will swear you are eating the same amount of food, but in fact you are eating less, and you’ll see the difference on the scale.
There’s more: A vegan diet increases your metabolism. In a study of 64 overweight postmenopausal women, a vegan diet increased their after-meal metabolism by 16 percent. The effect lasted about three hours after each meal. Here’s why: If you were to eat a chicken salad sandwich with mayo, its fat passes into your cells. As it does so, it interferes with your mitochondria—the microscopic “burners” that are trying to burn calories inside each cell. Getting rid of that fat allows your mitochondria to recover, so they can burn calories faster. This has been shown dramatically in research studies. At Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, researchers put volunteers on a high-fat diet. Within just five days, their mitochondria had slowed down significantly.
A low-fat vegan diet is just the opposite. The animal fat is gone, and your metabolism can recover. That is why you get a significantly better “burn” after each meal.
So, with all that going for you, what could get in the way?
Here are the questions to ask:
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