An increasing number of people are adopting the vegan lifestyle for different reasons and health benefits are playing a large part in the growing interest in plant-based diets. One of these benefits is a significantly lower risk of obesity, which goes hand in hand with a lowered risk of hypertension, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Keep in mind, however, that this stands for a healthful plant-based diet, one that is done the right way and structured around nutrient-packed foods.
If you’re contemplating veganism as a means to lower your BMI, don’t expect the weight to melt off effortlessly no matter what you eat, or the transition to be entirely simple. As with any other kind of diet, there are a couple of factors to acknowledge and it’s extremely important to be aware of your body’s needs as well as the transitions it will be going through. We’re going to cover those factors in this article to help you get all the information you need for achieving a healthy body through a plant-based diet.
Be careful during the transitional phase
The biggest problem when transitioning to a plant-based diet is trying to satisfy cravings but lacking experience with recipes and the fact that many people get carried away, thinking “It’s vegan, so it’s got to be healthy and low in calories”.
Vegan junk food is still junk food, meaning it’s just empty calories without the sufficient amount of nutrients. Watch out for the culprits: deep-fried food, pastries, potato chips, sweetened drinks and highly processed foods, also known as “faux foods” that many vegan first-timers reach for as a way to substitute animal-based food. Also, it’s very easy to slip into the habit of overcompensating with bread and pasta during this initial phase, until you get the hang of the diet. While carbs are necessary, loading up on them at every meal won’t keep you full longer and you need to maintain a balance of nutrients in each meal.
So, what should you be eating?
A balanced diet is a key to health and weight loss, and eating smartly will get you far on your weight-loss mission, slowly but surely. Luckily, there is a wide variety of nutritious plant-based foods, and your main focus should be nutrient-dense fruits and veggies. The Vegan Pyramid provides very good guidelines on consuming a balanced vegan diet that can help you lose weight in a healthy way.
You will notice that the serving suggestions are presented in ranges, and that’s obviously because you need to adjust the portions to your caloric needs. This is the part where you need to be cautious: in order to lose weight, the amount of calories you consume needs to be lower than the amount you spend, but this is not a call to go into extremes and constantly be hungry. Listen to your body’s needs and eat regularly, just make sure to stop once you’re full (this may need some getting used to, but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it with time).
It’s highly recommendable to consult a professional physician or nutritionist first to figure out your specific daily nutritional needs. Once you know that, follow some basic guidelines to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients every day through food and some additional supplements.
Don’t underestimate the importance of exercise
Reducing calorie intake results in a slowed down metabolism, as your body gets the signal to enter “starvation mode” and store fat. That’s why no diet is complete without exercise, as physical activity burns calories efficiently and speeds up metabolism. It can be difficult with extra weight on, but the important thing is just to start moving in any way you can. Riding bicycles (stationary or outdoors), walking at a moderate pace and water aerobics are all great forms of exercise because they put less stress on the joints. Do what you can and what you’re comfortable with. Focus on being active and don’t be discouraged by what you can’t do, because your abilities regarding exercise will improve and develop over time if you keep it up. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise weekly, and you can break this down in any way that suits you. Try doing 30 minutes of exercise five days a week, and if that seems too difficult for you, don’t stress it, but rather break those 30 minutes into 10-minute sessions and you will soon notice that your stamina is improving.
Lastly, remember that going vegan and losing weight represents a big change in your lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is a set of good habits, so set goals for yourself in order to maintain them. Goals require commitment, as well as some trial and error along the way. It might help to keep a journal or a log just to stay aware of what you eat and how much you exercise. But don’t go to extremes and overburden yourself to the point that you’ve made yourself miserable. This new lifestyle is an enormous step, and for starters, you should be extremely proud.
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