Vegan Weight Loss

What do you picture when you think of a vegan?

Many people picture vegans as skinny, waif-like creatures.  That is certainly the stereotype I had heard before going vegan.

And some people do lose weight when they go vegan.  Their bodies naturally respond to the lower-fat, higher-fiber diet and they lose unwanted pounds effortlessly.   Allow me to be the exception to the rule.  I have never found that going vegetarian or vegan has had any impact on my weight, in either direction.  Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved peanut butter and eaten it in generous quantities.  Maybe it’s because I love vegan cupcakes just as much as I love that healthy hummus and veggie sandwich pictured above.  But I am not one of those who has effortlessly lost weight as a vegan, and I know plenty of others who are in the same boat.

Like countless other moms, I have retained some “baby weight” from each of my three pregnancies.  Recently when I’ve looked in the mirror or at photographs of myself, an unfortunate thing has begun to happen.  I have thought, “who is THAT?!”  I don’t look like the “me” that I remember.  I gleefully walk through life feeling exactly like that thin person I always was pre-babies, and then every now and then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I think, “whoa, what happened?!”

I’m not hugely overweight, by any means.  I am right on the cusp between the “healthy” BMI range and the “overweight” range.  (I checked it by plugging in my height and weight into this handy little calculator.)   My BMI is about 25, where it used to be in the 21-22 range.  I’d like to get back there!

So, as cliche as it sounds, I’m making weight loss my new year’s resolution.   First off, I should acknowledge that I’m already doing a lot of things right.   I have a ton of healthy recipes in my repetoire.  I love vegetables of all kinds, I snack on fruit, and I enjoy brown rice, whole wheat pasta, lentil soup, and other healthy foods.  When I eat sauteed kale with garlic and pine nuts, I’m literally saying “mmmmmm…” with every bite.   As for exercise, I’ve been taking dance classes 3-5 times per week, and I have three kids to keep up with, so I’m definitely not sedentary.

However, there are a few tactics I am using to really get the ball rolling:

1.  Cut down on baking vegan goodies.  I think decadent vegan chocolate chip cookies are great on occasion, but for me baking has become more than occasional.  When I do bake, I’m going to go for healthier recipes, like those of my favorite cookbook author, Dreena Burton!

2.  Watch the portion sizes, and pay more attention to being hungry or full.

3.  Choose green smoothies/green juice rather than coffee to get me started in the morning.

4.  Get more sleep, which is already happening naturally for me as I wean myself off coffee!  Check out this Web MD article about how sleep affects weight loss.

5.  Add cardiovascular exercise (my dance classes don’t really qualify as cardio).  I’m starting by taking my toddler for stoller walks – which will gradually turn into runs as soon as I get a jogging stroller!

Tactics I’m not trying?  Tracking every food I eat, calculating calories, or eliminating my favorite treats completely.  As Kathy Freston says, there is a lot of power in simply setting your intention.  When you are focused on your goal, you will naturally make choices that push you toward your goal, rather than away from it.  I’m setting an intention to lose weight this year.

Is weight loss one of your new year’s resolutions?  If so, what tactics are you using to reach your goal?

11 comments Add yours
  1. Every year, I have a weight loss goal 🙂 But my goal is to sort it out before I turn 40 so I’m not waffling about it all the time – either I stay at my weight and try to make healthy choices or I just buckle down and lose it. I’ve found a way to eat that works for us so this is the year I’m going to just DO IT, already.

    I cannot STAND counting/tracking food or measuring. I also get belligerent when I get hungry, so traditional diets are not for me.

    BTW, I was vegetarian all through college and still gained almost 40 lbs. There are a lot of bad choices that don’t include meat ;(

    And I too love baking, mostly just the process of creating something fun. I try not to do it very often even though the vegan cupcake book tempts me so.

    Good luck!!! I should see if T will still ride in the stroller for walks. Otherwise, it’s too slow to be considered exercise 🙂

    1. Good luck to you, too! I am with you on not counting/tracking food. I have tried it before and literally, I can only last two days, max. If I get hungry and I’m running out of calories, I get really really cranky and immediately give up on it! I think eating when hungry/stopping when full is the magic ticket, as well as making healthy food choices in general.

  2. Hi Rebekah,

    Thank you for a great and very timely post!

    Although I’m not happy to hear about your weight-loss challenges while being vegan/vegetarian, I’m very happy to know I’m not alone! I didn’t become overweight until I was in my middle 40s, and now 15 years later, and a mostly vegan, sometimes vegetarian for the past year, I have not lost any weight at all. In fact, I sometimes think I’m gaining it!

    I’m happier food-wise than I’ve been in years and I know that will work to my advantage in the long run. My health has suffered as a result of my on-going food issues prior to this past year and I’m focused on being healthier, although I’d like to be thinner as well. My BMI is one point over into the “obese” range and I really, really want to be in the “overweight” range or lower.

    Thanks for letting us overweight vegans/vegetarians know we’re not alone!

    1. Thanks for your reply! I think that now is a great time to go vegan because of all the great cookbooks out there as well as all the yummy products available…but it’s a double-edged sword, because current-day vegans are eating a lot more decadent food and treats than did vegans past! I’m hoping a focus on whole foods will be the ticket for me. Good luck to you, too!

  3. Happy New Year! I enjoyed reading your post. I have a wicked sweet tooth and being vegan does not automatically make that disappear. For me, it’s tricks to keep my sweet tooth happy. Morning is never an issue for me and eating – coffee, water, bowl of cereal/bagel/oatmeal/fruit – we don’t have “junkfood” around for breakfast choices. For lunch, I do my best to have a protein-packed fruit smoothie – that way I have portion-control, brown rice protein powder, ground flaxseeds, spirulina, and tons of fruit and kale. Gets my tummy full and the sweetness of the fruit and protein helps my craving for the afternoon sweets. For dinners, I simply try to stick to portion-control (smaller plate and only one serving). As for the evening, I brush my teeth when my kiddos are brushing. For some reason that totally stops me from giving in to night snacking – I think basically I don’t want to exert the energy to brush again. Also, when grocery shopping, I don’t buy any sweets and vegan, organic junkfood. My husband and I joke that if it’s organic or vegan, it must be good for you 🙂
    My goal along with you is to also get more sleep and be in bed by 10, reading a book or going to sleep. Too often these days, I find myself on the couch watching TV or on the computer until midnight – so unnecessary! And, exercise is a must – I’m trying to walk at night when my husband is getting the kids ready for bed.
    Good luck and keep us posted!!! I think blogging is such a great outlet and can be a wonderful support system.
    P.S. Sorry for the superlong reply! LOL

    1. Thanks for those great tips! I will try brushing my teeth when the kids are brushing, evening snacking is something I find myself doing from time to time, too. Blogging is a great way to stay accountable, that’s one reason I posted about this!

  4. Aw, Bekah–you don’t need to lose weight! Besides, I LOVE your vegan goodies. If you get too skinny, you may not make them for family gatherings! I, on the other hand, could definitely afford to lose more than a few pounds. I’ll wish you luck if you wish me the same (-:

    1. You’re too kind! Don’t worry, I won’t neglect to bring vegan goodies to family gatherings, I think that’s the perfect time to have them! It’s all those in-between times that get me – those, “I’m bored, it’s a rainy day, let me bake something” times. Good luck to you too!

  5. Good luck!!! I have never been able to measure or keep track of anything and have gone from vegetarian to vegan. Now vegan over the past decade and even eating “normal” vegan seemed like it was easier to keep a good weight than when I was eating cheese. I do think that vegans are able to lose weight more easily than the general population, IF they want, because to be truly vegan you have to read everything like a maniac. You have to know what created a “natural” flavor. You already have to be so in tune to your dietary choices (and fashion, etc…) that if you want to eat better & cut the crap, you are already used to paying attention. I am currently basically living sugar free. Meaning I get sugar, but from dates, apples, banana, and my refined sources would be coconut sugar (raw) and stevia (the packets). I rarely do flour, because I am GF and only ate Ezekiel sprouted breads prior to that. So basically fruits, veggies, only whole grains, and nuts & seeds.
    I try to avoid adding any oil and stick to avocados, etc….Seems like the Esselstyn plan is great for weight loss because you don’t have to count so much. By ridding the oil, and minimizing nuts & seeds, etc….you fill your belly with fiber and not so many empty calories. I used to eat a ton of raw flax crackers, etc….I did not gain weight but I do notice my digestion is much better when I ditched the enormous amount of fat I was eating on a super high raw diet. If you like Indian food, then get Anupy Singla’s “The Indian Slow Cooker” which will make cooking Indian the easiest thing on the planet and it is nearly all veggn and I use no oil in any of the recipes!!

  6. Rebekah,
    First off, thank you! I have been enjoying your blog and checked out some of the ones you follow as well. I have been eating totally plant based since July of last year, just woke up one day and said enough is enough! Tired of poor eating habits and yo-yo dieting , thanks to the good old SAD. Since I truely was clueless I literally ate oatmeal, beans, rice and veggies….started to drop some weight off too =] Well, then I discovered my favorite tortilla chips were vegan, and some vegan cookies were marvelous and…what is that….vegan brownies??!! LOL Yes, I started to put the weight back on =[ Then came the books to try to help me figure out how to make this work for me…Dr Esselstyn, Dr Furhman, Engine 2, Neil Barnard I was overwhelmed with where to start, I was sure that there should be some middle ground, so I decided to go surfing on the web to see what is working for others. Looks like you have a plan, or should I say a well formed intention! I know that I have to cut back the processed foods, but I am in the hopes that I can make my plan/intention informed so that I am set-up to succeed as I am sure that you will ~ you go girlfriend!! I’ll be back to check on your success!

    1. Thank you! I have been coming at this with various tactics over the course of this month, a little trial and error going on to see what works for me. At the moment I’m finding that tracking my food intake (ugh, I know I said I didn’t want to do that!) is the most effective way to consistently drop the pounds. I’ll be updating at the beginning of February with a review of how my first month went – so stay tuned! I hope you are finding success, too, and I’d love to hear back on how it is going for you.

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