Question: Hi Monique, I have been a vegan for 7 years and a vegetarian for 16 years. My weight fluctuates up and down, but recently I have gained 15 lbs. I want to lose this weight and have joined a gym. My question to you is, what kind of weight loss program do you recommend for vegans and vegetarians?
Thanks for your advice, Phyllis
Answer: I do not believe in "quick weight loss programs" because they usually lead to yo-yo dieting and can have an adverse effect on your metabolism. I advise people to adopt practical exercising and eating habits. To only eat in moderation, and not to eat any particular food in excess.
I advocate a health promoting diet which includes a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, soy and other legumes, grains, pasta, seeds, nuts, and nutritional yeast. I believe in eating balanced, nutritionally dense foods to gain optimum health, and sensible exercising to promote proper muscle mass.
Muscles are what burns calories. This is why it is so important to maintain your muscles if you want to loss weight. The true way to lose weight healthily, and keep it off, is to make long-term lifestyle and dietary changes that allow you to burn more calories than you take in.
Weight bearing exercises, like squats, push-ups and strength training builds muscle mass. Endurance exercises like aerobics, walking, and bicycling increases your metabolism (the body's calorie burning regulator). Stretching exercises like yoga increases and maintains your balance and flexibility. Yoga and Pilates exercises have elements of all three -- routines properly done on a regular basis will increase your strength, endurance and flexibility.
As for the foods for vegans that want to lose weight, eat more high vegetable protein and high fiber foods like beans, legumes, tempeh, textured soy protein, seitan, edamame and soynuts. Increase the color in your diet - consume a wide variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Eat more complex carbohydrates like whole grain bread, brown rice, hulled barley and millet. Try to eliminate or drastically reduce your intake of simple carbohydrates like white bread, refined sugar and baked goods, and hightly processed foods.
Also, make sure you drink at least eight cups of water a day. A good habit to get into is to drink a cup of water before every meal. This will help you get enough water throughout the day. It will also help you take in fewer calories at each meal because you are partially filling your stomach with water.
Another good habit to get into is to spread your meals out during the day. Instead of eating 2-3 big meals, try eating 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day. This will help keep your metabolism from slowing down and help maintain a stable blood sugar level. It also keeps you from getting too hungry, which contributes to binge eating later in the day.
Finally, make sure you do not snack or eat any high calorie foods at least 2 hours before you go to sleep. Any calories taken in late at night will not be burned, and your body will convert it to fat.
For more information about dieting go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieting
For more information about vegetarianism go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism
For more information about veganism go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veganism
For recipes and more information about a healthy vegetarian and vegan diet, read my book
Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook
Other Recommended Books...
• Plant Based Nutrition and Health
by Stephen Walsh
• The New Becoming Vegetarian: The Essential Guide To A Healthy Vegetarian Diet
by Vesanto Melina & Brenda Davis
Also, read my Q&A "How can I tighten my torso after losing a lot of weight?"
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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.