That’s because the vegan diet doesn’t really lead with weight loss as a benefit. Vegans are often vegan because of their commitment to not eating animals and animal products due to ethical concerns—or they want to save the planet. The vegan diet is often a moral one.
But that doesn’t mean that a vegan diet can’t help you lose weight or help you maintain a healthy weight.
In fact, there are bunch of factors involved in being on a vegan diet that inherently help you with your weight–factors that can contribute to improved body weight no matter how you eat, vegan or otherwise.
But there are also some potential complicating issues when it comes to a vegan diet and losing weight, too. These issues can impede weight loss, if that’s your goal.
Here’s what experts say about being a vegan and being more in line with a healthy weight.
What is a vegan?
That would be a person who doesn’t consume any animal products including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and honey (because it comes from bees). There are sub-divisions, but that’s for a different article.
Can you lose weight just by being vegan?
That’s sort of complicated.
Yes, vegan diets are often produce-rich and high in fiber, which helps you feel up during a meal and stay fuller, for longer, between meals. And, yes, produce often contains high amounts of water, which also helps with fullness.
“A whole food plant-based diet can be very satiating and filling with fewer calories than a standard American diet,” says Spencer Nadolsky, D.O., an obesity physician.
So the fuller you are on the good stuff, the fewer calories you take in over the course of the day. Sustain a calorie deficit and you may end up losing weight.
Researchers have studied vegan diets and weight loss too. Most recently, a 2022 study published in the journal Obesity Science and Practice, found that people who went on a low-fat, vegan diet for 16 weeks did “decrease body weight, body composition, and insulin sensitivity.”
That’s the physical side of things though. Good diets also consider the mental and emotional aspects of eating.
“I don’t typically recommend that people focus on weight loss when following a vegan diet (or other eating styles) because I think it minimizes the other things like enjoyment and satisfaction and puts weight loss above them,” says Willow Jarosh, M.S., R.D. of Willow Jarosh Nutrition in NYC.
Vegan diets, which are already fairly restrictive in terms of what you shouldn’t eat, run the risk of becoming more restrictive if you’re considering low-calorie foods for weight loss too.
“When people are likely already making their pool of options smaller to focus on weight loss, a vegan diet likely minimizes the pool of choices even more,” says Jarosh.
So it’s important to ask yourself why you’re going on a vegan diet. If weight loss is the primary reason, you might buckle under the pressure of restriction. (And remember, the best diets are diets you can do for life.) If it’s because you’re animal- or planet-conscious, well, that’ll give you a whole different motivation, and weight loss might just be one of the side benefits.
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