Going Vegan to Lose Weight: Does it Really Work?

GOING-VEGAN

​Let’s face it, the elephant in the room is that the aging population is overweight.  As Michael Pollan quotes in his “in defense of food”, “Even the biggest most ambitious and widely reported studies of diet and health ...leave undisturbed the main features of the western diet: lots of processed foods and meats, lots of added fats and sugar, lots of everything except fruits, vegetables and whole grains.” 

GOING-VEGAN

This is the society we live in, so it’s no doubt that you want to lose weight. You have tried everything under the sun but can’t seem to shed those extra few pounds! It must be hormones?  I’m big boned you tell yourself as you eat those late night sugary snacks your body craves. But wait! There is one last thing you could do to lose weight, but you are so fearful… how can I live without meat? Can I really turn to the dark side of the planet to the cultish brood of meatless mongrels?  Do I even want to do that? Will it even help me lose weight? We didn’t know so we tried it ourselves, a 7-day trial in veganism. Read on for a tell-all in living vegan for a week to lose weight.

What is Veganism?

First off, we wanted all the facts, so we researched veganism. To our discovery, there are two types of vegans as set out in the dictionary: to which one means a person who does not consume anything that comes from an animal. The second being a person who does not consume or use any products that come from an animal. These two meanings can vary due to the mass amounts of animal by-products we use on a daily basis and may not even know it or think about it.

To avoid all animal by-products would mean that we would not or could not use many foods and products that you least expect. Here’s a list of some obscure things you may not think contain animal products:

  • ​Leather: skin of a cow
  • ​Gummy candies: Gelatin contains animal bones
  • ​Nail Polish: some contains herring scales
  • Wine: some brands are filtered with fish scales
  • Crayons: contain animal fat
  • Condoms: some brands contain casein which is a protein found in animal milk.
  • Beauty Products: Ever read Keratin on the back of a label? Commonly derived from hooves, horns, and the hair of animals.

​The list can go on and on because manufacturers are constantly adding animal by-products to their own products to decrease costs. As weird and unfortunate as some of these can be, this is not what we have opted out of. Our trial is solely removing animal by-products from our consumption diet.  What this means is we cannot consume anything that came from an animal. This includes things like butter, milk, eggs, yogurt, honey, (Yes honey!) all meat, and any dairy.

VEGAN-Two

At first, this seemed like a massive challenge, but to remove these items was more of a mental game after the first few days, than a physical. It was more difficult to do research and figure out new recipes to create rather than actually cutting those foods out. There are so many foods that I could eat, versus what I couldn’t. The list of vegetables, grains, and legumes was much longer than that of dairy and meat that I could not eat. Regardless I was on a mission to lose weight, and I was set to put this to the test.

To start, I recorded my Pre-Vegan weight to test the theory that going vegan will help you lose weight. On average I work out 1-3 times a week, (more so one than three) doing various forms of exercise- but they say that diet is 80% of weight loss, and I haven’t lost weight from just working out. Here’s my self- study: one week of veganism to lose weight and here’s what I found:

Sunday weigh in: 145 lbs.

First, I examined what I normally consume and what needed to remove to make my new diet vegan. On a regular morning, I would eat yogurt and granola with a coffee and banana. I had to substitute out the yogurt because of the dairy and honey on my grains. I needed to come up with a new breakfast since I usually don’t stray from my current items!  I opted for a week of smoothies with plant-based protein powder (21 grams per scoop). This did not satisfy my cravings so as the week progressed I added extra breakfast items such as a Larabar and banana. Since I am the kind of person who is constantly eating, I divided up my breakfast instead of having it all at once.  

Meal prep was a godsend this week as I didn’t want to think about what I had to cook for dinners after a long day at work. For the first three days, I ate cauliflower “fried rice.” This was made with shredded cauliflower, peas, carrots and spices- made to taste like Chinese fried rice- but all veggies! As good as it was on the third day, I was glad it was the last evening of eating this “rice” dinner.  

Day 1: Sunday

Breakfast: Coffee black with stevia powdered sweetener, green smoothie (kale, banana, rice mylk, plant-based protein powder)

Lunch: Spinach salad with pumpkin seeds, strawberries, and tofu pieces

Snack: Carrots and Baba Ganoush (eggplant dip), Larabar

Dinner:  Cauliflower “fried-rice.”

For lunches I consistently had salads, and, unfortunately, was hungry throughout the day, thus snacking more often than usual. My usual snacks are chips or popcorn, but since the butter and dairy of the majority of these snacks are not vegan, I opted for vegetable snacks like carrot sticks and cucumbers. I felt my energy levels fluctuate as I noticed that I was also cutting out sugars at the same time. My meals and the majority of my usual snacks contain some form of dairy in them. I.e., Cheese, yogurt, honey.

Note:  Doritos are vegan!! I learned this from attending a “Vegan party” my cousin held. The entire menu of food was things that you would think had dairy but were made with vegetables and legumes and still tasted “cheesy” and filling.

Day 2: Monday

Breakfast: Coffee, black with stevia powdered sweetener, Vanilla protein powder smoothie with strawberries, banana and rice mylk.

Snack: Cashew Larabar, Mixed unsalted nuts, and cranberries

Lunch: Spinach salad with cashews, mandarin oranges, hemp hearts, oil & vinegar dressing.

Snack: Cucumbers and Doritos

Dinner: Cauliflower “fried rice.”

Note: Cucumbers are awful on their own.  Try adding salt and pepper or dipping them in organic all-natural peanut butter, or Doritos!

During this week my initial hypothesis was that I would lose a significant amount of weight eating only vegetables and no animal by-products. Generally, I never ate breakfast; coffee was my go-to before early work days- and a mass amount of sugar!! Vegetables were seldom on my menu, and fast food was a regular occurrence.  My caloric intake would fluctuate from days where I ate burgers and fries to days where I ate nothing for hours on end.

In many cultures, fasting is part of religious tradition.  During Ramadan, people of Islamic faith, Muslims, are required to fast from sunrise to sunset as one of the five pillars of faith.  Fasting is considered to be a way of testing, practicing, and to deepen one’s personal commitment to their god. Many people in the western world fast for perceived health benefits as well. This is not what I did and not what I would recommend doing either.

Since I wasn’t eating properly, I was under the impression that when consuming more vegetables, that generally have a lower caloric value than the fats I was consuming, naturally I would lose weight.

Day 3: Tuesday

Breakfast:  vegan bagel with Daiya vegan cream “cheese” + Black coffee with stevia

Lunch: Bean salad: Chickpeas, shredded carrots, black beans, red kidney beans, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic & roasted red pepper spice

Snack: dairy free vegan yogurt (So delicious coconut yogurt)

Dinner: Cauliflower “fried rice.”

Day 4: Wednesday

Breakfast:  Black coffee with stevia, grilled tomatoes on toast with avocado

Lunch: kale “Caesar” with Daiya vegan Caesar dressing, homemade croutons

Snack: hummus and carrots, Larabar

Dinner: Lentil soup made with coconut milk, red lentils, diced tomatoes and curry spices.

There is something to be said about the vast creativity that is undergone when attempting to put on a vegan menu for the first time. Generally speaking, anything you eat can be made to taste similar to that of the meat or dairy variety but will likely never taste exactly the same. Honey can be replaced by maple syrup, tofu bacon with that of a pork belly and so many more.  The world of veganism is its own monster.

Fact: sugar is vegan, so is bread.  

The Glycemic Index measures how much a particular carbohydrate-containing food increases blood glucose levels or how quickly carbohydrate levels are turned into sugar. Sugar (sucrose) contains two molecules, glucose, and fructose. Since our bodies naturally produce glucose is it vital to our lives. Fructose, on the other hand, is not produced, and therefore not part of the human metabolism.  When we eat fructose, or fructose-containing foods the majority of it gets metabolized by the liver. At this point in our bodies, it gets turned into fats and secreted into our blood.

By eliminating processed and fatty foods, my body craved sugar. The drastic decline from having it to not was a withdrawal that was hard to shake.  My body craved bread and sugar. The joy that now came from my carbohydrate-rich (or so it tasted like) Larabars were extremely satisfying.

Day 5: Thursday

Breakfast: Coffee, Larabar, banana

Lunch: zucchini noodle “spaghetti” with tomato sauce, mushrooms, and hemp hearts

Snack: air popped lightly salted popcorn, banana

Dinner: Leftover lentil soup

Day 6: Friday

Breakfast: So Delicious vanilla dairy-free yogurt with puffed quinoa, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and maple syrup

Lunch: Leftover Zucchini noodle “spaghetti” with tomato sauce, mushrooms, and hemp hearts

Snack: dried figs, dates and walnuts

Dinner: “Crispy Chkn wrap” from Fresh (contains no chicken) * Fresh is an all Vegan menu

Finally eating out was such a treat. Having vegan options in the city makes eating out rather enjoyable. This project has taught me that eating vegan can actually taste amazing.

Day 7: Saturday

Breakfast: Toast with smashed avocado & alfalfa sprouts

Lunch: Spinach and avocado salad with chickpeas and shredded green apple, lemon balsamic oil vinaigrette dressing

Snack: Daiya cream cheese and gluten-free crackers

Dinner: Mashed sweet potato with steamed broccoli and tofurkey (Tofu turkey)

Day 7 weigh in 145 lbs.  

Seven days of vegan eating is more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Having differentiation within my meals was probably the most difficult thing and not eating cheese!  I really missed cheese. At the end result I didn’t lose any weight, perhaps one week wasn’t significant to reveal any drop in weight. But hey- I feel great!

The fact of the matter is when you put science to the test, the answer can be yes. Yes, if you go vegan, you will lose weight. The answer can also be no. No, going vegan will not help you lose weight.  Here’s why;

A vegan diet is great and sustainable for mother earth (we’ll save that conversation for another day) but going vegan can also do you harm. When you remember the rule about sugars and fats and how our body does not metabolize fructose, you can understand why some vegans are in fact not healthy, and even overweight. By removing meat from the equation, vegans are often left to replace the carbs with breads and sugary sweets. You can be completely healthy and be a vegan but need to ensure you are getting a good balance of proteins from legumes and vegetables as well as carbohydrates and healthy fats.

The rule everything in moderation still applies, and always will. I am not a doctor, just a person who tried to solve the mystery of weight loss. Trick be told, each body is different, we all metabolize certain foods in certain ways and following the same diet may result in different changes.  So, whether you choose to go vegan or eat meat just remember that a little goes a long way.

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