Monday, September 15, 2008

On Veganism and Weight Loss

There's this common misconception that converting to veganism will produce automatic weight loss. Just like an omni change in dietary lifestyles, it really depends on the individual. Some people lose a bunch when they first cut out animal products. Others stay the same or even gain some pounds. I think it really depends on two things: your diet before veganism and how you eat once you become a vegan.

I first went vegan at age 19. At that time in my life, I was very active. I was in college, involved in a comedy troupe and the poetry scene, had a restaurant job, and went to clubs every weekend. I literally danced my ass off. I suppose it also helped that I was completely unaware of the versatility found in a vegan lifestyle. I spent the first couple of years thriving off of fresh fruits, vegetables and tofu...with the occasional soy lunch meat thrown in a sandwich. I hated reading labels so I stayed away from a lot of sweets and breads (which have always been my weaknesses). I lost about 40 pounds and was at the lowest weight of my adult life at 138 lbs.

Once I discovered decent vegan dessert recipes, however, it was over. Around that same time I got engaged. The stress of the wedding and my new passion for cooking made for a substantial weight gain. I topped the scales at 218. On my 5'3" frame, it was ridiculous. Some people are a healthy 218. I had trouble walking up stairs. I couldn't fit any of my clothes. And I was genuinely unhappy.

It took me several months to get below 200. I'm about 40 pounds away from my goal weight. So I thought I'd share some pretty universal weight loss tips. These work for me, but it may not work for everybody.

1. WATER is essential to weight loss. It's the foundation of life, so don't skip out on this. I've always had a love/hate relationship with water. As a wee lass growing up in South Texas I wouldn't drink it. I was often dehydrated to the point that I couldn't move. I went to the doctor once because my sides had been having sharp pains for days. He told me I was constipated. I think that day definitely changed my perspective on the whole water thing. Drink 8-10 eight ounce glasses a day.

2. EXERCISE is a word that used to make me cringe. I have gym fear. I have workout clothes fear. I don't like to run. And I hate to see skinny people workout. A couple of years ago, I took a cardio kickboxing course and realized how much I loved to work out. I don't like the typical stuff, though. I walk, do pilates, kickbox, dance, bust a fool down in Wii Boxing... It's really possible to make your exercise regimen work for you. Try to, at the very least, walk for 30 minutes a day. It makes a difference.

3. I don't believe in depriving my body of anything. I'm a foodie to the core. When I want to lose weight, I simply incorporate more RAW AND LIVING FOODS into my diet. I do this for a few reasons. First, they offer a lot of fiber...and more fiber equals healthier poop. Also, they are filled with nutrients and sunshine. A lot of raw foods are packed with water as well. I also like the lack of preparation. Throwing a salad together or grabbing a piece of fruit is much easier than cooking something for an hour.

4. The one thing I learned from LA Weight Loss was this: 5 SMALL MEALS A DAY really aids in weight loss. It's common sense people! If you eat throughout the day, you will always feel satisfied. Ravenous hunger will kill a weight loss goal in a minute. This happens to be the hardest step for me. Sometimes I get so stuck on what to eat that I forget to even do so. Like's almost 7 in the PM and all I've had is a handful of raw crackers and some peanut butter/carob/agave nectar concoction.

5. VERSATILITY is the key to happiness. A decade ago, while taking home economics, I learned that your plate should be as colorful as an Alaskan day is long. More colors and versatility equals more nutrients and vitamins. I also think it saves you from a dull fate and the boredom that often comes with a weight loss plan.

6. While I don't believe in depriving yourself of food, I do believe in watching SALT AND SUGAR INTAKE. I don't do iodized table salt because I think it's kinda gross. I stick to sea salt. Usually, I keep it to a bare minimum and add just enough to make the flavors pop. As for sugar, I'm currently using dates and agave nectar as sweeteners. This is a helluva lot more expensive than plain sugar, but I don't crash after and I feel better in general.

Above anything else, I really feel like you should listen to your body. It will definitely tell you what works for you.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll have to go find me some food right now. For shame.


LeAnne said...

I in NO WAY went vegan for weight loss but I am going through a dramatic change of weight. I honestly didn't notice anything until about a month ago when I noticed I needed a belt for one of my pairs of pants. when I put my belt on there was about 4 inches of belt space to the nearest belt hole. So, I weighed myself and that's when I found out I dropped 37 lbs. I've been vegan since 4/1/08. Honestly though, now that the weight is gone I do feel better physically.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! I hate it when people say "Yeah, but you lost weight because you're a vegan." It is hard to convince them that it's hard work and that vegan cupcakes will never make you lose weight.

Nice blog, btw!

Sarah said...

i get stuck on what to eat too. especially since i have to feed a toddler. oh the pressure!!

i too am an overweight vegan.