Is a Vegan Diet Good for Weight Loss?
MOLECULAR & CELL
BIOLOGY, UC BERKELEY
February 21, 2023
Masala Body offers three different types of weight loss programs, one of them being geared toward weight loss on a vegan or vegetarian diet. In my time developing the Masala Body weight loss programs, I’ve developed food combinations and frameworks that work with our metabolisms to help lose weight, and my work includes diets centered around veganism.
I am often asked if a vegan diet is good for weight loss. While a vegan diet is appealing to some, there are a lot of questions about this lifestyle, like:
- Is it hard to feel full on a vegan diet?
- Are there enough vegan meal options to support weight loss?
- Is just going vegan enough to help me lose weight?
These are all good questions to ask if you’re considering pursuing a vegan diet and also want to lose weight. In this article, I tell you everything you need to know about being a practicing vegan who also wants to achieve healthy, sustainable weight loss.
WHAT IS A VEGAN DIET?
Veganism is a plant-based diet. It excludes meat, fish, and anything else coming from animals such as eggs and dairy. Though this seems like a new trend, this type of diet has been around for centuries; it wasn’t until 1944 when it was officially given the name “vegan”. Many people choose a vegan diet for its health benefits, its environmental influence, and most notably, animal rights.
IS JUST GOING VEGAN ENOUGH TO LOSE WEIGHT?
I am often asked if all it takes to lose weight on a vegan diet is to just switch to eating plant-based foods that don’t contain animal byproducts. The assumption is that plant-based foods contain fewer calories, thus, you’re guaranteed to lose weight by virtue of eliminating animal byproducts from your diet. Additionally, I’ve found that when people imagine what a vegan looks like, they conjure the image of someone skinny.
However, not all plant-based foods are good for weight loss. Take refined grains, like white rice and white bread, for example; while these foods are considered vegan, they are terrible for weight loss. Refined grains have been stripped of most of the nutrients whole grains provide, and they have a high glycemic index, which can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar after meals. When blood sugar spikes, it can lead to heightened fat storage and increased appetite. As I discuss in my article, Why is it So Hard to Lose Weight Over 40?, refined grains can also lead to insulin resistance, which makes it harder to lose weight.
If you are interested in going vegan but also want to lose weight, like with all weight loss efforts, you need to be conscientious of what you consume.
WHAT SHOULD YOU EAT IF YOU WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT ON A VEGAN DIET?
1. Avoid “bad” carbs
Yes, those vegan crackers may have some extra fiber, but they are also highly- processed, dense in calories, and low in nutrients. All of that is the perfect mix for weight gain. Just because there is a growing market of vegan options, doesn’t mean they are better for you. Focus on plants and save those vegan treats for special occasions!
2. Add more healthy carbs and slimming grains
- Healthy carbs
We have always been taught that carbs are bad and to avoid them at all costs. That’s not necessarily true. By integrating more healthy carbs like beans, lentils, starchy vegetables, and sprouted grain bread into your diet, you could actually start to lose weight.
Whole grain alternatives to white rice, which will help prevent spikes in blood sugar and can be more filling with less calories.
- Slimming grains
There are many grains that can aid in weight loss. Eating a meal that incorporates slimming grains like those below, such as millet, buckwheat, or farro, helps decrease calories and blood sugar spikes, while speeding up your metabolism at the same time.
3. Focus on protein
Protein is essential to achieving your desired weight, but sticking to lean proteins such as chickpea flour, beans, or lentils supplemented with flax or hemp seeds, protein powder, tofu, tempeh, edamame and egg substitutes will help you cut the calories, but keep the nutrients.
4. Add more fiber
The main culprit of any failed diet starts with that nagging feeling of being hungry. So often, people will reach for something to quickly satisfy their hunger without considering the setbacks. Incorporating more high fiber foods into your vegan diet can keep you feeling fuller longer since they are slower to digest.
5. Stick to the skinny sweeteners
There’s a bunch of all natural sweeteners, like monk fruit and cinnamon, that pack a punch and don’t leave you wanting for more. Check out the chart below to see the best options to satisfy your sweet tooth!
6. Balance is key
Too much of one thing is never good. Even when eating plant-based foods, some are better for you than others. Finding the perfect balance can result in positive results to your waistline!
Using my Vegan Fat Burning Food Framework is one way to add the right combinations of each is key to a successful weight loss plan.
CAN YOU LOSE WEIGHT ON A VEGAN DIET?
It seems like everywhere you turn these days, there is a different type of diet trending, but the same question stays the same: will you see results?
Keeping true to an all-natural plant-based diet has its advantages, and many people who decide to try a vegan lifestyle notice changes on the scale. The following Masala Body success stories also demonstrate that it’s possible to lose weight if you decide to go vegan.
VEGAN WEIGHT LOSS SUCCESS STORIES
After only 21 days on the Masala Body vegan weight loss program, Alia lost 7.2 pounds, 3 inches from her waist, and 2.5 inches from her thigh and bust. Here is her tracker and what her weight loss looked like over those first 3 weeks:
ALIA'S VEGAN WEIGHT LOSS RESULTS
This is what Alia had to say about Masala Body’s vegan weight loss program:
I am so very thrilled by your program and plan on sticking with it on a day to day basis. I really haven't felt this great and in control of my eating in years.
My pants fit again without a "muffin top" & I even went out & bought new jeans, as my old ones are too big.
The meal prepping has been so instrumental to me staying on track, as when I just need a little something to hold me over, I can reach for an already prepared meal and take a few bites. My favorites are the detox paprika bowl, the tofu & broccoli bowl, not to mention the Thai Thinning curry!!! I make a big batch & freeze it so that I always have some! & my kids love all the flavors, as well!!
Plus, all the spices, veggies & protein really do fill me up & I am eating less & enjoying food more. No more negative self talk before, during or after eating... & that is worth it all!!
I am emotionally & physically reconnected to food & my body. I haven't felt this good in years…
Alia's before and after results after being on Masala Body's vegan weight loss program.
June is one of my clients in her mid 60s who was looking to lose weight and get healthy. She knew she was at risk for diabetes and high cholesterol. Her weight made her uncomfortable and low energy when it came to doing activities she loved, like skiing in Colorado all winter, which she wanted to do during retirement.
Within the first month of getting on Masala Body’s vegan weight loss program, she shed an inch and a half from her thighs!
JUNE'S VEGAN WEIGHT LOSS RESULTS
Sandee was already a vegan, but she was having trouble losing weight. After starting Masala Body’s vegan weight loss program, she immediately started to see results. Her waist dropped from 40 inches to 35 inches!
From the first day of my program, I provide accountability to take weight, measurements, body fat, and muscle mass, knowing that all numbers work together to give a lean, toned body, with a smaller and healthier waist.
SANDEE'S VEGAN WEIGHT LOSS RESULTS
WHAT ARE THE PROS OF USING A VEGAN DIET FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
- Health benefits
Studies show that following a vegan diet has a lot of health benefits when followed properly.
- More nutrients
- Lose excess weight
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Reduce risk of diabetes
- Prevent cancer
- Reduce arthritis pain
- More health conscious
- Benefits the environment
- Protects animals
WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS OF USING A VEGAN DIET FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
Though there are obvious benefits of a vegan lifestyle, there are drawbacks that you should be aware of.
- Vitamin deficiencies
There are necessary nutrients that could cause deficiencies in your diet. To avoid this, a person should consume a variety of nutritious plant-based foods and may need the following supplements.
- Vitamin B12
- Less protein options
To find protein in a vegan diet requires you to be a bit more creative. Though there are options, they’re limited on a vegan diet and the options that are out there are often processed.
- Challenging to eat out
Though the number of vegan options is growing, they’re still tricky to find without a bit of planning.
IS A VEGAN DIET FOR EVERYONE?
Not everybody is built the same and how your body responds to a vegan diet can determine if it is worth sticking to.
For example, if your diet is missing essential nutrients and you have trouble keeping your vitamin intake balanced, that could lead to feeling exhausted, hungry, and frustrated. Here are six reasons you may want to stop a vegan diet and try something else.
The goal is to gradually begin the transition and see how your body responds, but before making any changes to your diet, it’s important to consult a doctor.
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL TRANSITION TO WEIGHT LOSS ON A VEGAN DIET
Here are some tips that will help you successfully lose weight on a vegan diet:
- Start slow
If you are thinking of switching to a vegan diet, the first thing to remember is that it is not a diet, but a lifestyle. Take baby steps. Substitute one of your meals the first week, then the next add in a healthy snack. As you start finding a balance in your routine, then add another meal. This will help your body adjust and once you start seeing changes, you will only be more motivated to stick with it!
- Monitor what you eat, but don’t count calories
Though counting calories is a strategy many have tried, it’s not natural. After all, we eat food not calories! There are better ways to monitor food intake without hiding behind numbers and sacrificing natural nutrition that can benefit weight loss.
- Find a support community
One of the key features of Masala Body’s online weight loss coaching programs is that they provide a community of like-minded folks who are also trying to lose weight while using a specific diet. When you surround yourself with people who are also eating vegan and trying to lose weight, you can commiserate, learn helpful nutritional tips, and stay accountable.
- Strength training
Strength training is a great way for women over 40 to increase muscle mass and lose weight.
- Find some exciting recipes
Lack of options is a big reason why people are hesitant to commit to a vegan diet. Masala Body has many vegan recipes you can lean on when you’re trying to figure out what to make for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- Cleanse your Instagram
Are you following your local bakery or constantly seeing picture posts by your foodie friends? Being bombarded with subconscious reminders often sends the unhealthiest messages. Next time you are online, filter through those unnecessary posts and find ones that will benefit you in the long run!
Being mindful of a balanced vegan diet takes planning, careful attention to nutrients, and a bit of creativity to get a jump start. There are many positives to consider and a lot of great plant-based options that could result in a slimmer waistline. With more people becoming vegan, the options are growing, making it more manageable than ever before.
If you are interested in a structured system that will help you lose weight on a vegan diet, check out Masala Body’s Vegan & Vegetarian Weight Loss Coaching program page.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nagina Abdullah is a health coach for middle-aged women and professionals. She coaches women to boost their metabolism naturally, shed pounds and keep them off. Her work with weight loss clients led to the creation of Masala Body, an online weight loss platform that provides an easy and accessible system that helps women sustainably lose weight. She has helped over 1200 women successfully lose from 10-80 lbs and create a sustainable lifestyle change. Nagina earned her degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley. Read More…