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Plant Based – Weight Loss

Plant-based diets don’t all look the same, although the premise is similar. The overarching goal is to have most of your food intake from whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables while limiting or eliminating animal products. So why do people lean toward this style of eating? Some of the more prominent benefits include a decrease in disease, a decrease in blood pressure, improved functioning of the immune system, and a reduction in inflammation within the body! While these are all highly practical reasons to switch to a plant-based diet, another important factor is weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. 

It’s no surprise that focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods within a plant-based realm are ideal for health; science has shown us time and time again the positive impacts of plant-based diets on our waistline. Essentially, those who partake in plant-based diets have been shown to have a lower body mass than those that do not. 

Current guidelines recommend no more than one to two pounds of weight loss per week, although this will vary from person to person depending upon goals as well as exercise and diet parameters. Aside from the movement side of the equation (which is just as important as your diet), plant-based diets certainly play a large role in decreasing body mass. Let’s dive into some of the research, and you can see just how much of an impact plant-based diets have on your weight!

The science

Weight can be tricky, especially since it can fluctuate daily depending upon several factors, such as hydration, exercise status, and sodium intake. That’s why it’s critical to look at studies that observe changes within the human body over time instead of an acute study. Research from the International Journal of Obesity has done just that, with weight observations within men and women over five years. Over 21,000 people in total participated, and their dietary preferences ranges from eating meat or fish to being vegans or vegetarians. Over time, it was noted that while weight was gained among participants as a whole, those who decreased their meat intake had the lowest weight gain (as compared to those who did eat meat throughout the five years).

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Another study from Nutrition – this one shorter, only six months long – subjected participants who were classified as overweight to either a vegetarian diet, vegan diet, semi-vegetarian, those who ate meat, and those who ate fish. In the study’s conclusion, it was noted that those individuals who ate an entirely plant-based diet (within the vegan category) lost more weight than all of the other groups consistently throughout the six months.

Research from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition spent 18 weeks determining if a plant-based diet impacted the body weight of corporate professionals (some of whom also were dealing with Type 2 diabetes). Not only did weight decrease with the implementation of a plant-based diet, but cholesterol and HbA1C levels decreased as well – rounding out the evidence that internal health factors are also positively affected by a plant-based diet, along with body mass!

Factors

While studies like these use specific terms like vegan and vegetarian, let’s keep in mind that plant-based diets are not precisely the same; vegans tend to avoid consuming animal products of any sort due to reasons behind animal cruelty, while those who consume plant-based diets may occasionally consume eggs, dairy products, and meat. With that being said, most people who utilize plant-based diets ultimately aim to consume as many whole, natural plant products as possible, but with the inclusion of animal products as one desires. 

Another factor to consider with plant-based diets (and any diet in general) is that weight loss and corresponding health goals will only be obtained with consistency. Fluctuating between nutrient-dense foods and processed, packaged, and sugar/salt-filled foods regularly will have much less of an impact on your waistline in the long run, as opposed to adhering to a whole, nutrient-dense diet for the long run. The same can be said for exercise adherence as well! To see results and reach your weight goals, consistency is key!

Bottom line

So why do plant-based diets have such an impact on weight? The answer is simple – plant-based diets have fewer calories (and typically more fiber) than those who do not. If you want to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet, speak with your physician before making that lifestyle change. They can let you know of any contraindications that you may have and can suggest ways to adjust to this sort of lifestyle slowly. Over time, you’ll notice an increase in energy, less brain fog, and the need to order some new pants…since the ones you’re currently wearing are probably going to be too big!