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the vegan diet

lately I’ve lost over 7% of my body weight in an almost embarrassingly short period of time, and I am pretty sure I did it in a healthy manner. In fact, I feel much better than I did before losing the weight! And I’m guessing that many people could follow the same procedures that I did to do so themselves. My simple (or not so simple?) steps:

The five simple steps

  1. Eat completely vegan *
  2. Don’t eat bad food
  3. Exercise every day **
  4. Cut down on simple starches
  5. Set yourself a timeline

Step 1: Eat completely vegan

eating vegan accomplishes several things. First off, I find eating meat, cheese, milk and the like, tends to add calories, and it also increases your cholesterol. Eating vegan means that you cut out all the burgers, cut out the cheese, and stick with fruits, vegetables, and grains (though see part 4).

I’ve put an asterisk on this one because I don’t eat completely vegan. If there are traces of milk in something, I’ll eat it – I don’t scour lists of ingredients to make sure that the things I’m eating are completely free of milk or egg. And the other week I’ll admit I did eat a great baked salmon fillet – it’s pretty healthy for you, and helps to reduce cholesterol. But I found the biggest problem I had with vegetarianism, when I tried it, is that I would substitute meat with cheese. So instead of eating meat, I’d eat lots and lots of cheesy pasta. And it was great! But not for my midsection.

one reason eating vegan helps you lose weight is that you can’t eat out anymore, or at least it certainly seems that way sometimes. There are a few places where you can order vegan meals or vegan substitutes, but not many! The result of this is that you eat out a whole lot less. And restaurant food is, for the most part, chock full of calories! If your friends are going to the pizza joint for lunch, and you’re following this diet, you’re going to go home and eat healthy food instead.

Step 2: Don’t eat bad food

while following this diet, don’t eat any garbage. Avoid chocolate and sweets. And don’t snack on chips; snack on carrot sticks instead. Give yourself a treat once in a while, but only if it’s a small one. And avoid high fructose corn syrup! This is harder than it sounds – everything is laden with the stuff these days.

just as an aside, what I find depressing is that anything “diet” probably has Aspartame or some similar disgusting no-calorie sweetener in it. I don’t understand how if I want to eat something “sugar free”, it has to be filled with that crap. I’d much rather eat non-sweet product than something sweetened with artificial sweetener.

Step 3: Exercise every day

this one is tough, but not so tough. What I find more difficult is exercising every second or third day. The reason this is tough is because after three days of not exercising, it’s harder for me to want to get up and do it, and I’m more likely to forget that it’s “exercise day”. I’ll quickly fall out of the habit! When you exercise every day, every day is exercise day! And that’s much easier to remember. You also get some great benefits from exercising every day – more energy, a more restful sleep, better lung capacity, and the like.

I also find that if you exercise every day, you don’t want to eat bad food. Have you ever gone on a long run, and then tucked into a greasy burger and fries? The very thought makes me feel ill.

you don’t have to hit it very hard – go for a short run and do a few light weights, for example. But do it every day.

I put two asterisks here because in reality I don’t exercise every day… I’ve missed a few here and there. But I do try to exercise most days! It’s the thought – well, the routine – that counts.

Step 4: Cut down on simple starches

substituting meat with bread or pasta doesn’t seem particularly healthy to me – you need to substitute the protein in meat with protein from other sources. Bread, especially white bread, is filler (I’d also avoid white potatoes for a similar reason). If you fill yourself up with bread, you’re missing out on the goodness that comes with eating tons of fruits and vegetables.

instead of bread, I tend to use corn tortillas as wraps, or healthy rice (I’d also avoid white rice) with meals. I also eat a lot of nuts – plain whole almonds are one of the best snacks for this. A handful of chips will make you hungry for more chips, while a handful of nuts will fill you up ’til dinner! Beans are a must. If you haven’t tried quinoa, you should – it is supposedly a wonder grain! And of course, I do tend to eat (natural) peanut butter – it goes great on a banana for an afternoon snack! Almond butter is also good.

Step 5: Set yourself a timeline

it’s difficult to tell yourself you’re going to eat vegan for the rest of your life. It’s pretty easy to tell yourself I’m going to eat vegan for a month! Anytime you get those cravings for burgers or milkshakes, you can tell yourself, “it’s only for a month! It’s only for a month!” When you don’t feel like exercising, “it’s only for a month!” If you don’t have the willpower to do something difficult for a month, you probably don’t have the willpower to participate in any other sort of diet.

I find that when I first arrive at a restaurant for lunch and I’m starved, it’s really difficult for me not to go for one of the big, fattening meals on the menu. After I’ve chosen and eaten the low-fat vegan meal, and am full on it, I never look back and say to myself, “wow, I wish I’d eaten the burger instead!” I always feel better after eating, knowing that I have more energy, and am not going to be crashing later that afternoon. Think about that next time – how will I feel after eating this food, an hour or two after I’ve eaten it?

the best part about setting yourself an end date is that by the time you get to the last date of your timeline, you might not want to recommence your bad habits. I know that after a few weeks of eating vegan, I look and feel great, and don’t want to go back to eating a ton of meat and cheese every day. It’s better for me, it’s better for the animals, and it’s better for the Earth. I’m not an activist by any means, but I can’t argue with that sort of logic.

In conclusion

I’m not a dietitian, but come on… a diet where you eat nothing but healthy food, and exercise every day? How can that not work?

there are a lot of expensive weight loss products out there that guarantee that you will lose weight, “accompanied by proper exercise and a healthy diet”. Well, my diet is that same diet, without the expensive product. Eat healthy, and exercise. What could be simpler?

3 Comments

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  1. merlinofchaos
    18. Sep, 2010 at 2:21 am #

    I think the headline on line 4 is wrong. There’s a fad gluten free diet going around which is actually kind of unhealthy and at first I thought you were promoting it. You are not; you are promoting cutting down on simple starches, which is totally not the same as avoiding gluten.

    Replacing simple starches with whole grains == good.
    Removing gluten == bad (unless you happen to be gluten sensitive or celiac or something, in which case it’s not just good it’s life-changing).

    • Brian
      18. Sep, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

      good point… I’m not saying to cut gluten out of your diet to lose weight!

      I tried vegetarianism once, and the biggest problem I had with that was that cheese and pasta were all I would eat. Of course, this did not help me achieve greater health; in fact, it might have made things worse!

      but you’re right – it’s not really gluten that is the problem, but the simple starches – things like white potatoes and white bread – that don’t help your body out. I should edit this post to point that out.

      thanks for the advice!

    • Brian
      18. Sep, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

      fixed!

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