According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 65 percent of American adults age 20 and up are overweight or obese, but the prevalence of obesity among vegetarians and vegans is below 10 percent. On average, the body weights of both male and female vegetarians are three percent to 20 percent lower than omnivores. Research has also found that switching to a healthy vegan diet leads to weight loss, even without changes to exercise or limits on portion size, calories, or carbohydrates. And, studies have found an increase in calorie burn after vegan meals, meaning plant-based foods may be used more efficiently as fuel for the body, as opposed to being stored as fat—pretty powerful support for a plant-based diet. But in my years of private practice I’ve also seen people gain weight by going vegetarian, when they don’t get the right balance. Here are some veggie dos and don’t’s:
Mason, A. E., Epel, E. S., Aschbacher, K., Lustig, R. H., Acree, M., Kristeller, J., … Daubenmier, J. (2016, May 1). Reduced reward-driven eating accounts for the impact of a mindfulness-based diet and exercise intervention on weight loss: Data from the SHINE randomized controlled trial. Appetite , 100, 86–93. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4799744/
After dinner, wash all the dishes, wipe down the counters, turn out the light, and, if necessary, tape closed the cabinets and refrigerator. Late-evening eating significantly increases the overall number of calories you eat, a University of Texas study found. Learning how to stop late-night snacking can save 300 or more calories a day, or 31 pounds a year.
Mate tea is known for its powerful thermogenic effects—meaning it turns up your body’s calorie burning mechanism—and can also promote weight loss by improving insulin sensitivity. In a recent study, participants were divided into two groups. One group took a placebo 60 minutes prior to exercising, while the other group ingested 1000 mg capsule of yerba maté. Researchers found that those who consumed the herb increased the beneficial effects their workout had on their metabolism without the workout. Plus, this brew is like green tea on steroids, with up to 90 percent more powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants, a cache of B vitamins, and plenty of chromium, which helps stabilize blood-sugar levels.
Certain studies have shown that just three 15-minute exposures to grapefruit essential oil each week helped participants reduce their appetites and practice habits (like slow, mindful eating) that better control their weight. How can you use grapefruit essential oil at home or when you’re on the go? Trying adding several drops of pure grapefruit essential oil (citrus paradise) either to a diffuser in your office/home, to your shower or bath soap, or with a carrier oil to be massaged right onto your skin (just do a skin patch test to be sure you don’t have an allergic reaction first).
Mint tea wards off the munchies. Fill a big teacup with soothing peppermint tea and sniff yourself skinny! While certain scents can trigger hunger (a trick Cinnabon figured out long ago), others can actually suppress your appetite. One study published in the Journal of Neurological and Orthopaedic Medicine found that people who sniffed peppermint every two hours lost an average of 5 pounds a month. Although tea is relatively low in caffeine—about 25% of what a cup of coffee delivers—decaffeinated varieties are great to have on hand for a soothing bedtime treat that will keep you out of the cabinets!
A Cochrane meta-anylsis including 14 studied involving use of green tea found that its consumption was associated with mild but significant weight loss results compared to controls or placebo. (2) One study that tested the effects of green tea extract on a group of adults compared to a control group not taking green tea found that after 12 weeks, those taking 857 milligrams of green tea had significantly lower levels of ghrelin (known as the hunger hormone).
A 2014 Taiwanese study analyzed the effect of hibiscus tea extract in increasing weight loss. Researchers examined 26 individuals over a 12-week period. The results showed that participants who took hibiscus tea extract lost more weight than control groups. The hibiscus ingredients also reduced serum free fatty acid (FFA), demonstrating the tea's ability to reduce fat storage.
Controlling your portions during meals and snacks requires no special skills, no financial commitment, no special food preparation, and you can always eat what everyone else is eating. It does require a little bit of research to find out proper food portion sizes for weight loss, but that investigation can take ten minutes or less. Many organizations, like the National Institutes of Health, provide a printable card that you can carry with you for reference.
To make sure you're getting enough, try tracking your intake (even briefly) with an app like My Fitness Pal. Another strategy is to include more pulses (the umbrella term for beans, lentils, and peas) in your meals, since they are one of the best sources of plant protein. One cup of cooked lentils contains 17 grams of protein, compared to about 8 grams in a cup of cooked quinoa or a quarter cup of almonds. Whipping a plant-based powder (such as pea protein, made from yellow split peas) into a smoothie can also boost your intake, by as much as 25 grams per serving.
To prep his patients for success, Dr. Seltzer tells them to plan around a large evening meal by eating a lighter breakfast and lunch—NBD since most people who eat a meal before bed tend to wake up feeling relatively full, he says. Research suggests balanced bedtime meals may also promote steady next-day blood sugar levels, which also helps with appetite regulation.
Fenugreek seeds help boost metabolism, and water helps flush out the toxins. Oats and banana are rich in dietary fiber. Flaxseeds are a good source of healthy fats that help reduce inflammation. Oranges are loaded with vitamin C. Watermelon keeps your hunger pangs at bay, and almonds are a good source of healthy fats. Brown rice with tofu and veggies provides your body with fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Buttermilk aids digestion. Green tea catechins will help scavenge the harmful oxygen radicals, and an apple will provide your body with vitamin A, dietary fiber, and minerals. Have a protein-rich dinner with chickpea curry and veggies. Having warm milk before you go to bed will help you sleep better and be ready for the Day 2 of the vegetarian diet. Moreover, full-fat milk is more effective in aiding weight loss than skim milk or low-fat milk.
Pu Erh tea is named after the town Pu’er in the Yunnan province in China. And guess what – this tea is also obtained from Camellia sinensis. This is a specially fermented tea and is also known as black tea. Scientists have found that Pu Erh tea has lipid-lowering properties, and it helps reduce weight in patients with metabolic syndrome (28), (29).
Lots of people have, for their entire lives, used food as a reward. To restrict their own reward, and then not be allowed to have their reward after they succeed is tough. It’s like going into an apathetic void of brain fog and sadness. And sure, you can rewire your habits over time and eventually your body will self-regulate so hunger won’t be an issue anymore, but it takes time. This period is a trial by fire where many people fail.