The following question is edited for length.
Every time I read about someone who had lost a lot of weight, they always lost weight on some sort of high-protein, low(er) carb diet. So it seems like those kinds of diets are a lot more effective than vegetarian/vegan diets when it comes to weight loss.
Is that because vegetarian and vegan diets are typically higher in carbs? They include whole grains and a lot of beans for protein, which are both very high in carbs. That makes sense, because nobody can live on vegetables or fruit alone.
By the way, when I say diet I do not mean some sort of crash diet or just a temporary fix. I take diet as a way of long-term style of eating.
Read the full question on Reddit.
The following is revised and expanded upon from what I wrote on Reddit at the link above.
Whether or not a person is likely to lose weight always depends on the interpretation of “vegan”. It’s possible to eat a ton of vegan junk food (also known as processed food) on a vegan diet, because a vegan diet is simply one that avoids all animal products.
However, there are many different interpretations and versions of many diet formats, including vegan. If you adopt a whole foods plant based version of vegan, yes, it’s possible to lose a lot of weight. If you avoid oil and instead get your fats from whole foods (sometimes called “whole foods plant based no oil, or WFPBNO), you may even lose a bit more.
In these diets you focus on produce, whole grain, legumes, nuts/seeds and only use small amounts of oil (if any) and omit added sugar and processed foods and you will probably lose weight quite naturally if that’s your goal (and if you adopt this way of eating then you will probably lose cravings eventually and not have to worry about counting calories either). For more information you can also use the term “whole foods plant based diet” for your searches – this is the version of veganism that’s quite focused on health and weight loss over activism (not that there is anything wrong with activism, it’s just not the focus for everyone following a “plant based diet”, just some).
Calories in calories out?
And a note about calories, as it is often addressed in weight loss questions. All calories are not equal after they enter your body, as it depends on what your body does with them (how it metabolizes and processes the calories). Fiber, sugar, chemicals and other processed food – your body, brain, metabolism and gut processes these elements in certain ways, so “calories in vs calories out” is not always the case. You may feel full for a long time on 500 calories from one kind of healthy meal, but after a processed or low-quality 500 calorie meal you might be be starving and eating again after a short time.
Focus on quality calories like whole, unprocessed foods (and remember that processed food includes things like white flour and any added sugars from granulated white sugar to high fructose corn syrup, to fancy coconut sugar to anything that ends with an -ose in the ingredient list). If you eat mostly produce you often don’t need to count them – you will fill up naturally and stop eating when you’re actually full, and your body will return to a healthy size. Sugars and carbs in whole fruits and vegetables are fine because they come with fiber that help you process that in your body (this is why removing the sugar from fruit – processing it – is not as good).
Carbs like calories aren’t equal
And a quick note, because it’s often said people can’t survive only on fruits and vegetables – humans can technically live on produce alone. It may not be optimal, or the healthiest thing to do, but it is possible to survive on such a diet.
Also, to go back to the carbs for a second, they aren’t as evil as many people out there promote. The bad carbs are processed “simple carbs” (think: sugar, white flour, white rice, etc). Whole grains, carbs in produce, and so on are perfectly healthy and fine for weight loss and many other conditions as well. So try to eat whole grains whenever you can.
Lifestyle, not “diet”
And I love that you’re interested in making this a long-term lifestyle change – that’s definitely the way to go about it. And for long term you don’t need to worry about protein combining, with a varied diet that is naturally taken care of. You will want to invest in a sublingual B12 vitamin taken (most likely) once per week — look for one that is methylcobalamin, and optionally D3/K2 if you don’t get much sun. And you might want to get some flax seed in your diet from time to time. That should cover the balanced-ness, but a few good books will help too (check out Dr. Michael Greger and Dr. Fuhrman for health related information).
Long term success will make a large impact on your overall health. And with consistency by avoiding processed foods and sticking as much as you can to healthy, whole foods will find you success in the shorter term for the desired weight loss. And it probably goes without saying, but adding some activity in there (even just a regular, consistent daily brisk walk or two) always helps too.
Photo: public domain, source.
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