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Weight Loss on a Plant-Based Diet

Welcome back to Stirring The Pot. Thank you for joining me.

The power of a whole food plant-based diet for weight loss lies in its simplicity. The ground rules are simple and easy to follow. Eat only plants - fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Don't eat animal products. Do your best to eat those plants in as minimally processed a form as possible and avoid highly processed foods even if they're plant-based. Avoid adding oils to your food or while cooking and keep high fat foods to a minimum. And don't calorie count, because calorie counting takes the joy out of eating and it's unnecessary if you stick to the other rules.

Eat plants, not animals. Plants are high in fibre. Animal products contain zero fibre. Fibre is the undigestible plant roughage (this tastes much better than it sounds) which provides a food source for the bacteria in your large bowel. Fibre has many wonderful qualities, but in relation to weight loss, it fills you up but with virtually no calories. It also helps to keep water in the gut which not only helps prevent constipation but adds to the feeling of fullness. I could wax lyrical for hours about the benefits of a high fibre diet, but despite this, most people don't get enough. As plant foods become more processed, for example taking the wheat grain and stripping and grinding it down to white flour, that crucial fibre in the outer coat is lost. Eating entirely unprocessed food all of the time isn't necessarily realistic for the world we live in today, but just be aware that the less stripped down a plant food is, the better. Aim to eat whole foods when possible. Dr. John McDougall has produced an easy to follow pulling-no-punches Colour Picture Book on why we should eat plants.

Avoid highly processed foods. Have you ever thought about the fact that you could never eat a scoopful of butter on its own? Just as you couldn't eat a few spoonfuls of white flour, white sugar or salt on their own, chased down with a raw egg. Mix them together however and you have the taste sensation of raw cookie dough. This is an example of how our taste buds have been hijacked by flavour combinations that nature never intended for us. In fact, one of the only natural foods which contains significant proportions of both sugar and fat is breast milk, designed to keep the baby coming back for more. So what does this have to do with weight loss on a plant-based diet? Everything. Starting a whole food plant-based diet built around unprocessed or minimally processed plant foods allows your taste buds to recalibrate. It generally takes about three weeks but it does happen. When nature is left to do the job, she does it very well. Plant foods might contain fats (avocadoes, nuts, seeds) or sugars (fruit, some vegetables) but they don't contain enough of both to trigger the same pleasure centres in the brain which start to tingle when someone mentions cookie dough ice cream. After three weeks without highly processed foods, ripe fruit tastes sweet again and the highly processed foods you used to enjoy taste overwhelming. You will have reclaimed ownership over your taste buds.

Avoid oils and minimise high fat foods if you want to lose weight. This is because all fats have a high calorie density. One gram of fat contains 9 calories. One gram of protein or carbohydrate contains 4 calories. So foods which are higher in fat contain more calories per pound. Animal foods are surprisingly high in fat. Vegetables contain 100 calories per pound whereas beef and ice cream contain 1000 calories per pound. Whole grains and tofu contain 500 calories per pound, while cheese contains 1700 calories per pound. Nuts and seeds are very healthful foods but contain 2800 calories per pound so must be eaten in limited amounts if weight loss is the goal. Because of these differences in calorie density, 500 calories of vegetables fills the stomach and gives a sensation of being full. However, 500 calories worth of oil (which is only 4 tablespoons) hardly makes a dent and slides through unnoticed. Have a look at this excellent graphic on calorie density from Plant-Based Health Professionals UK.

If you've ever tried to diet, you will know the mathematical contortions of calorie counting which sucks the fun out of eating. If you are willing to try a whole food plant-based diet without added oils, there is no need for calorie counting and you will be rewarded with the weight loss you desire plus a lifetime of eating foods which taste as delicious as nature intended and have the nutrients to provide you with the health and energy you deserve.

I would encourage anyone who has lived their life trying to lose weight to watch this YouTube video featuring the excellent and entertaining Doug Lisle, a renowned psychologist who has spent decades working with people wanting to lose weight. The video is 75 minutes long and a real pleasure to watch. How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind - YouTube

Join me next week when I discuss enjoying a plant-based diet during the holidays.

Please be aware that a plant-based diet is a very effective way to lose weight, so if you are taking medication please consult your healthcare professional as medication doses might need altering as you become lighter and healthier. Also, anyone on a purely plant-based diet requires vitamin B12 supplementation of at least 10 micrograms a day or 2000 micrograms a week (British Dietetic Association).


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