As someone who eats entirely plant-based and has lost a lot of weight, gained weight back and lost weight again, I could lose my voice in a quick 30 minute convo with how much I could say about this topic. For starters, I think it’s a really complex subject because of how individual and personal eating is.
For example, I’m the most disciplined, undisciplined person you’ll meet (oxymorons are fun!). I eat almost 100 percent intuitively and once I get into a groove that works, my diet is a little like the movie Groundhog Day. Same food, different day. Then there are those times when I eat whatever I want because it feels right and I’m just going with the flow. Carpe Diem! And then I go through periods where I eat like you read about in those nutrition books and think “no one can really do this.” Oh yeah I’m doing it…till I’m not anymore.
What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. So as you start your adventure to lose weight with a plant-based diet, you’ll find your path is completely unique.
HOW TO START A PLANT-BASED DIET FOR WEIGHT LOSS
I’m all for plant-based diets, but in all honesty, I’m not a huge supporter of suggesting a set list and an extremely strict plant-based dieting plan to lose weight quickly. It’s possible, but if you don’t learn to love it and make it work for you, it won’t stick.
With that said, there are a few guidelines that are pretty universal and can help anyone reach their weight loss goals. After years of experience, research and a lot of trial and error, here are a few ways to approach any plan for achieving weight loss using a plant-based diet.
FIND FOOD OPTIONS THAT YOU REALLY LOVE
Please tell me that people have stopped trying to lose weight by eating the most bland and basic foods. If you’re one of the few people who see food as fuel only, then you’re the exception (and the envy of many).
But if like most of us you really enjoy eating, you can find lots of plant-based food choices, with exciting flavors to make fully satisfying meals. And I’m not implying things you settle for, I’m talking about food that you love and look forward to eating. The key is to mix and match while trying out new combinations until you stumble upon your new staples. Here are a few things you can try adding to make plant-based dishes a little more exciting.
- Balsamic vinegar
- Herbs and spices
Any of these add-ins can really make eating healthy and plant-based dieting fun and sustainable. Lemons and limes in particular are one of the healthiest and most affordable ways to add flavor to almost anything. Squeeze lemons on salads, squeeze lime on rice, use your imagination. Instead of buying dressings or sauces from the store, lemons and limes add great flavor without adding extra junk. Play around with different recipes and ideas and eventually you’ll be shouting “voila” while patting yourself on the back.
GET HELP GETTING CREATIVE
There are hundreds of resources and recipe repositories online that are filled with tips, suggestions and ideas for plant-based eating. If you’re motivated to put in the work, you’ll be able to create your own collection of meal plans, shopping lists and recipes to keep you plant-focused for as long as you want. But you’ll still be on your own in the kitchen and, by yourself, it will take time and trial and error to get there.
While a personal chef would be ideal to speed up the process, that’s probably not an option. But Purple Carrot, or something like it, might be. As one of a small number of vegan-friendly meal delivery services, Purple Carrot is a fast and convenient way to stick to a plant-based diet while trying a ton of new, creative dishes. The menus change weekly to make sure you can try a variety of different plant-based meals that won’t make you feel deprived or bored.
Because the ingredients are fresh, healthy and pre-portioned it can also help kick-start your weight loss. You’ll easily be able to monitor calories while also making a lifestyle change to become healthier overall. Another bonus is that Purple Carrot isn’t necessarily a diet program, so you don’t have to worry about only losing weight when you “stick to it” because you’ll be getting inspiration and learning how to cook plant-based foods you love, so you can branch out on your own anytime.
LEARN WHAT FOODS YOU DO AND DON’T DIGEST
“Digestion is life, the rest is just details” is pretty much my motto. I still can’t decide if I’m overly sensitive or just really tuned into my body. I never used to pay attention to my digestion until I wanted to start eating healthier and lose weight. That’s when I realized digestion is one of the main factors regarding moods, cravings, energy, weight loss, and weight gain.
Some common signs of poor digestion are issues like
Those symptoms don’t just make for a rough night, they are also tied to weight loss. Poor digestion often means your body is struggling to break down certain foods which keeps food nutrients from being fully utilized, and can impact your metabolism. Improper digestion can contribute to weight gain when your body can’t absorb nutrients or eliminate waste properly. those issues can slow your metabolic rate making calories more difficult to burn, and slowing weight loss progress. Developing a strong mind-body connection and being aware of your digestion process will be one of the best things you can do to help the weight loss process be successful. You start to learn how every single thing you put in your body makes you feel and if it digests well or not.
Everyone’s body is different of course, but some of the usual suspects when it comes to digestion problems are things like
- Fried foods
- Artificial sweetener
- Excess fiber
- Cruciferous veggies
- Spicy foods
Even though some of these items like beans, cabbage and whole grains have healthy properties that can be good for you,if they don’t agree with your body, they could prove counterproductive to weight loss. You can go it alone through experimentation or you can enlist the help of a nutritionist. Even a virtual version of a nutritionist can provide valuable guidance on what your best foods are based on your metabolic type or blood work.
Not only can improving digestion can help accelerate weight loss you’ll also feel better in general. Healing the gut isn’t the easiest thing to do, and may take a lot of investigation and effort, but the reward of feeling great is well worth it.
GIVE UP AS MUCH PROCESSED FOOD AS YOU CAN
If you’re gung-ho about losing weight fast and doing so with only plant-based foods, eating entirely really clean with the right amount of vitamins and nutrients is probably going to get you the results you want. And by clean, I am referring to whole foods, things that have only real ingredients and as few additives and preservatives as possible. The second you see an ingredient list that requires heavy Googling or has terms like Blue #2 (hmmm..), it’s out.
Processed food is so common in people’s diets that even though it can be a tough battle to cut down, letting go of processed foods makes a huge difference physically and emotionally. If it’s not possible to give all up processed food get rid of it in stages. The thing is, if you’re new to this plant-based thing, eating fully clean and plant-based from the get-go may be too difficult. You’ve got to be in the right place mentally to be able to eat this healthy. How do you know if you’re mentally in the right place? You’ll learn quickly once you begin. And sometimes you just know before you begin that you aren’t ready.
COMMON SENSE IS KING
Regarding what to eat, plant-based diet plans with a goal of rapid weight loss consist of exactly what you would think they would. Some fruits, some vegetables, some whole-grains, some nuts, some legumes, non-animal proteins and a whole lot of water. The way I would describe it is “common sense eating” but like one of my friends once said to me, which really struck a chord, was that “common sense isn’t so common”. We’ve become so used to unhealthy options and fad diets that we forget the answer may be really simple.
Unless you’ve got a plant-based restaurant near you that serves really healthy options, you’re going to need to make a lot at home. Here are a few tips to help make life a little easier.
- Cooking things in batches and storing them helps to keep you sane, so you won’t feel like you spend your life in the kitchen.
- If you’re in this for the long haul, invest in a food processor and a juicer.
- Consider a plant-based food delivery service, if you find yourself short on time and energy to do a lot of menu planning, shopping and prep.
When I started eating all plant-based and clean, it forced me to really learn how to cook and also to broaden my horizons. People hear plant-based and associate it with restriction when it’s really expansion. The irony, right?! Just when you think you’ve learned everything there is to know, you’ll find a new way or a new amazing recipe and want to shout from the mountain tops something really positive about plant-based eating. “Vegans are geniuses and had it right all along!” …or something like that.
If a standard meal plan works for you, find your plant-based favorites and stick to it. If you prefer to switch it up, switch it up! Here are some healthy and really great clean plant-based ideas to get you started.