Veganism and the quest to lose weight
Let's talk about losing weight. As a woman, I feel that weight loss is sewn into the culture I grew up in. I can remember hitting 112 lbs in third grade and thinking, "Holy crap! I'm huge!" I was already around 5 ft tall and looking back I was a normal 9 year old who just happened to grow real fast. My mom, who's always been thin, tried to help make me feel better by telling me comforting things like, "well, if you just don't gain anymore weight you'll thin out as you grow." You know... all those times you don't gain wight from age 9 till adulthood. She meant no ill will, it was just a time pre-body positivity and I do believe she was legitimately trying to give me hope. It didn't really work. Since then I have struggled with my weight on and off for years. As a 5'8" adult I spent most of my twenties hanging around 180 and eventually creeping up to 205 by my 29th birthday. "This CAN NOT be my 30's!" I cried. And it wasn't. I lost about 40 lbs and kept it off for over 3 years now, but I've learned a lot of lessons along the way.
While I will save more of the story of my weightloss and my thoughts on willpower later, this post will focus on thoughts on becoming vegan solely for weight loss and the benefits of veganism for weight control: Calories do count. Sorry to tell you, but the good news is not all calories are created equal.
When I started the second round of my vegan journey two and a half years ago (the first was in college) I spent a lot of time watching videos on YouTube from people who focused on plant based diets that were low fat, high carb (still on board) but also professed that if you stuck to unprocessed plant foods, and ate mainly raw mono-meals (only one food at a time) that you could eat as many calories as you want. If you want to check out raw-till 4 go for it.
I wanted this to work for me SO. BADLY. Eat everything I want/can? Never count calories? Perfect! I was Mel Gibson, Braveheart freedom cries level excited. (*see those abs in the back? Freelee, you're body still rocks, I just like my sanity more)
I tried monomeals and I was SO unsatisfied. I craved more flavors together, different textures, and felt like a total failure when I had to eat crackers half way though my day, never reach the satiation level I was told I should achieve, and never really lost any weight.
Humans cook food because it allowed us the semi-pre-digested option that enabled us to get more calories and our brains to grow beyond our primate peers. We are meant to eat cooked food and it's ok to do that anytime of day you want. Do I mix in a raw meal now and again? Absolutely. Raw zucchini noodles in the summer with avocado dressing is drool worthy. That being said, the name of the game is find what works for you because it will keep you happy and excited about a plant based life.
When I lost my wight I was not a vegan, but since I have become vegan I still count my calories every day. I track them on an app called LoseIt. If the sole goal of being a vegan for you is weight loss, you may have to keep doing some soul searching. Moderation is still needed. Here is my short list of the positives of veganism and weight maintenance/wight loss.
1) Fiber. Do you like to spend zero time in the bathroom? Do you like to feel fuller for longer? Do you like knowing you're doing something that literally all doctors recommend you add to your diet? Fiber. It's so good for helping your body get out gunk and makes you feel fuller so when you are working toward moderation you don't have to be hungry on less calories.
2) Recovery time. Since going vegan, if I have the occasional slip up day (and some times I slip up real bad. Like 3,500 calories in a day bad) my body bounces back immensely quicker than it did when I was eating meat. My body uses the food and then sends it along without waking up feeling gross and greasy and disgusting when I wake up from a rough day.
3) More bang for your buck. 500 calories of vegetables goes WAY further than 500 calories of cheese. Obviously there are things that are also highly caloric in a vegan diet (cashews, oil, fake meats and cheeses and things like that) but when you start to gear yourself toward making meals mainly out of vegetables, fruit, and unprocessed carbs, you naturally eat high volumes of food without consuming a ton of calories.
4) Healing. While counting calories sounds like a pain, when you do it for a bit your body gets the idea of what a 'normal' amount of food feels like. Taking the time to make nutritious, whole foods also helps your body to discover what 'good' feels like. The body does an amazing job healing itself if we get out of its way. People telling you you're full of toxins is a BS way to sell you products you don't need. When you stop giving your body huge assignments like breaking down tough to digest (and easy to rot in the gut) animal protein, things loaded with artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, and dairy products that were made for baby cows and not your grown-ass human self, it can spend more time actually doing what it needs to. Having your liver and kidneys filter out the bad and allowing your good gut bacteria to flourish. Your body knows what to do.
When you start to adjust to new tastes and flavors, eat closer to the earth, and eat more mindfully, you start to recognize what makes your body feel its absolute best. Veganism allows me to eat foods that my body knows what to do with in larger quantities and enables me to bounce back much quicker than before. It's not a magic bullet for weightloss, but it is a magic bullet for allowing the body to heal itself and for you, the owner operator, to feel its best.