Vegans usually have an above average understanding of the basics of good nutrition. We are inquisitive by culture, always inquiring whether a product is humane, and the thought process continues on to whether a product is healthy as well. Sometimes, though, we need a little help.
New vegans, especially, inaccurately assume that just by not eating animal products the extra adipose tissue on the waist line will diminish. Vegans well versed in the art of nutrition may discover a dessert cookbook that opens up a whole new world of formerly vetoed sweets, and find that the jeans are fitting a little tighter.Getting back on track is less complicated than you may think. Not necessarily easier, but not complex or impossible. Change is not always easy, but by following a few simple steps, you’re on the way to better health and a sleeker physique.
Invest in a journal. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or elaborate. An old cast off copybook will do just fine, or recycled paper attached by a ribbon. There are also several free sites online that will record your meal plans. Look around and find one that suits your style. Personally I like the old school method. A hand written journal will allow you to record not only what you eat and drink, but how you feel as well. How does that pertain to weight loss? If you’re having a “bad” day, your complex carbohydrates could be too low. Did you eat breakfast? What did you have? The higher tech method doesn’t always allow you to record the details that may offer you a glimpse into what makes you tick. Research shows that individuals that journal are more successful.
Life is full of surprises and celebrations that demand gratification. Embracing an 80/20 approach eliminates the guilt that often accompanies a diet. 80% of the time you eat thoughtfully, choosing foods that promote health and healing. The other 20% you mindfully plan the holiday meal, down to what you are going to put on your plate when the date comes. When life throws you one of its infamous curves, you do the best you can, and move on. If you are an athlete, especially one in training, change that ratio to 90/10.
Try to eat every 2 1/2 to 3 hours, 5-6 times per day. You are not allowed to starve. When you are excessively hungry you often grab things that aren’t on your “A” list, eat fast, and eat a lot. When food is consumed at regular intervals your blood sugar stays level and metabolism hums along at a steady rate. Try to cut it off about 2 hours before bed. There are a few people who need a last minute snack, but most of us need a chance to digest our food before we go to bed, or our sleep could be compromised.
Most of the food we eat should be fresh, and enjoyed in its simplest, unadulterated form. Food is fuel. When we embellish we tend to add fats, sugars and calories whose sole purpose is not to provide fuel and nutrients. Keep it simple. If you consume anything prepackaged, make sure you understand every ingredient on the label. If the label contains any trans fats, hydrogenated oils, artificial sugars, preservatives, coloring, the word “enriched” or excessive natural sugars or healthy fats, put it back on the shelf. When you eat with health in mind, it all falls into place. Nutritious foods not only supply our life force and support our physical well being, they have an impact on our overall body composition.
One of the first things people often do when they want to lose weight is restrict their calories. When calories are decreased too low it slows down your metabolism, which affects weight loss. An adult female needs 1200 calories, and an adult male 1500 calories, just to complete the multitude of metabolic processes that happen inside our bodies every second. Those calories do not include exercise or any simple physical activity. This explains why diets aren’t a permanent solution. You cannot eat too few calories forever. When you eventually increase your calories, chances are you’ll not only gain back the weight you lost, but more. Instead of aiming for a caloric deficit, focus on what you are eating. Focus on making a lifestyle change.
Not all calories are treated the same by the body. You have a bigger chance of wearing refined and simple carbohydrates than you do complex carbohydrates, which have to be broken down in the intestine before they can be used. Simple carbohydrates are your sugars, even the natural ones like maple syrup. Refined carbohydrates are mostly snack foods that exist in a gray area. Big corporations take a perfectly healthy food like oats or rice, strip it of all its original nutrients, enrich it with unnatural ones, add ingredients we can’t understand without a degree in chemistry, flavor judiciously with salt and sugar, then sell it to us as a wholesome treat. Don’t buy it. Complex carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, are our bodies favorite source of fuel, and the only source of fuel for our brains. These carbohydrates are the mainstay of the vegan diet, so theoretically, when we eat a well balanced vegan diet, everything will fall into place.
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing complex carbohydrates. Most adults need about 7 servings of vegetables per day, but only 2 fruits. I admittedly exceed the fruit recommendation when my favorites are in season, but if you are trying to lose a few pounds, it would be prudent not to exceed the 2 serving limit. They are a natural sugar, and even though they provide much needed fiber, excess sugar shows up on the waistline. Most of the online journals record sugar and sodium as well as calories, fats, carbohydrates and protein. Seeing how easy it is to exceed your daily allowance can be quite an eye opener.
Choose fats wisely. Only about 20% of your calories should come from a fat source. Though fat is one of our 6 basic nutrients, along with carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals, and water, it is something that is easily exceeded, like sugar. Select foods that are rich in fats that have a healthy impact on the body, and particularly the heart, like avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
Water is a nutrient that we often overlook regarding weight loss. It’s necessary to complete the body’s metabolic processes, dehydrate our tissues, and flush out toxins. To keep things working properly you should drink a minimum of 2 quarts every day. The actual scientific amount we need is one ounce per pound of body weight, but much of that is retrieved from the fruits and vegetables we eat. Don’t drink your calories. An unsweetened herb tea can provide some of this necessary fluid, but avoid liquids that contain calories.
Gluten can be a hidden foe in the battle against the bulge. Many different varieties of wheat use to be in existence compared to the few that are grown today, and those few are often genetically modified. Gluten intolerance has been on the rise since the end of the 1900s. People with that intolerance often experience a number of unpleasant side affects, along with the inability to lose weight. If you suspect that gluten may be an issue, try eliminating it for a few weeks and see how you feel. You may be surprised at the result.
Breakfast is the meal of champions; skipping the most important meal of the day is not an option. You have fasted all night while you’re sleeping, and the carbohydrate storage facility is empty. Refill! The refilling process itself burns calories; it’s a win win situation. Eating breakfast also jump starts your metabolism. I liken it to heating your home with a wood stove. You wouldn’t dream of going off for the day without adding wood to the stove. Don’t dream of going off for the day without eating something. My personal favorite is oatmeal and green tea. In the cold months I cook the organic oats with about a tablespoon of raisins and cinnamon, then top with seeds and hemp milk. In the warm months I eat it raw with whatever fruit is in season, like fresh peaches, and cinnamon, and top the same way.
Losing weight can be a frustrating process, but when you take the emphasis off of losing weight and put it on gaining health, a subtle shift in attitude happens, and with that shift comes success. Instead of falling into a diet trap, make a lifestyle change. Listen to your body and learn your unique idiosyncrasies. Keep your eating plan simple, highlighting fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and clean protein as opposed to meat analogs. You will satisfy not only your body, but your soul.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.