1. Do you actually need to lose weight?
Some people worry about their weight even when they are already in the healthy weight range. Check your body mass index (BMI) using any of the handy BMI calculators you will find online. Just plug in your height and weight. A vegan diet helps eliminate body fat, and if you do not have much body fat, you will not lose much weight.
2. Are you actually following a vegan diet?
If your answer is “Oh, yes, I’d say I’m 90 percent vegan,” that extra bit of cheese that lingers on your plate draws 70 percent of its calories from waistline-padding, cholesterol-raising fat. Ditto for that bit of wild-caught salmon. Typical salmon species are 40 to 50 percent fat. And every fat gram packs 9 calories you do not want.
3. What about oils?
Nearly all foods from plant sources are very low in fat. Vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans have only traces of natural fats. But there are a couple of exceptions—nuts and avocados are high in fat. Yes, it’s a more healthful fat, compared with the fat in cheese and meat, but all fats—good fat, bad fat, everything—have 9 calories in every gram.
So if you are having trouble losing weight, chuck out the nuts, nut butters, and guacamole. And be especially vigilant about added oils. The oils used in frying (e.g., potato chips and french fries) and salad dressings add unwanted calories, as do the fats added incidentally to a great many packaged foods. The worst of the lot are coconut and palm oils, which are not only loaded with calories but are also high in cholesterol-raising saturated fat. If you want to power up your weight loss, read package labels, and skip those products that have more than 3 grams of fat per serving.
A quick word about exercise: Exercise is not a huge calorie burner. Your body is just very efficient in its movements, not using up a lot of body fat as you move along. You can see this for yourself. Go to the gym, hop on a treadmill, and run flat out for a mile. Then wipe your sweaty brow and push the little button that shows how many calories you have burned. It turns out to be about a hundred. Not very impressive. A 2-ounce serving of cheese on a pizza slice has more calories than that (about 140). Even so, exercise helps. First, it’s hard to eat ice cream while you run. It gets you out of the kitchen and makes you feel great without any added calories at all.
So, if a vegan diet has not yet clicked for you, you will want to:
- Check your BMI to see if you really do need to lose weight.
- Do it 100 percent vegan.
- Eliminate added oils and oily foods.
- Take a trip to the park instead of the refrigerator.