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Veganuary: Does the plant-based diet work and will it help with weight loss?
Weight Loss

Veganuary: Does the plant-based diet work and will it help with weight loss?

By Liza Southerton, Clinical Dietician, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare
Posted: January 26, 2021

Each year as the calendar turns over, people find themselves looking for a fresh start, often in the form of a New Year’s Resolution. Many people make a commitment to living a healthier lifestyle — and with that comes a new diet.

There are countless diets that you can try. Everyone is different, so the results are never going to be the same for each person.

If you’ve been considering a new diet, going vegan might be a choice for you. A vegan diet consists of only plant-based foods — meaning no meat, fish, eggs or dairy. In other words, foods that are not derived from any kind of animal source. Veganuary, which is a UK-based non-profit organization, outlines veganism and getting started with a vegan diet on their website.

Veganuary also promotes a month-long challenge for those who are interested in the diet. The namesake is a play on words; “Vegan” is inserted for January — or really any month, — to represent the time period in which you’ll attempt the diet and see how it impacts your health. According to the non-profit, more than 1 million people have committed to trying to go vegan in 2021.

The question is — does the vegan diet work? The answer isn’t as simple as a yes or no because not everyone has the same goals — and their experience with trying a given diet won’t be the exact same as someone else.

If your goal is to lose weight, there are some things to consider with veganism. Weight loss is not something the vegan diet directly focuses on. Instead, the concept is based around the idea of encouraging people to eat a “plant-based diet as a way of protecting the environment, preventing animal suffering, and improving the health of millions of people.” (Veganuary)

However, if you were to make the switch to a plant-based diet, you might naturally lose weight. Lauren Wicks with CookingLight.com outlined the ways in which veganism can help (and hurt) your weight loss goals. You can read her full story here, but we’ll outline some of the reasons below.

The ways vegan diets help weight loss:

  • Vegan diets are usually higher in fiber intake, which is an important element of weight loss due to its satiating effect.
  • Vegan diets are often lower in saturated fat. The absence of animal products dramatically reduces the amount of saturated fats you consume.
  • Plant-based foods tend to be lower in calories than animal-based foods.
  • You could get more natural energy out of a plant-based diet, if you are eating enough calories and the right kinds of carbohydrates.
  • Vegans tend to weigh less than other groups, on average. Wicks cites a 2013 study from Loma Linda University in her article, which found vegans have a significantly lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than people who eat both animal and plant-based foods.

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It’s important to note that a vegan diet can also be a hindrance to weight loss if you don’t do it correctly. In other words, you still need to practice healthy lifestyle habits. If you’re planning on trying Veganuary to obtain unreasonably fast results, then ditch the diet immediately thereafter, you may be viewing Veganuary as just another fad diet. Cleveland Clinic describes “fad diets” as plans sold as the best and fastest approach to losing weight.

Fad diets generally don’t yield long-term success due to the drastic change in one’s intake, which usually means consuming far too little calories or removing vital foods/nutrients from one’s diet. Your body may be able to compensate or keep up with such a change for a short period of time but inevitably it will begin to function suboptimally due to lack of nourishment. 

Eatright.org touches on one of the very important problems with losing weight too quickly — along with fat loss comes muscle and bone loss. So instead of hoping to try Veganuary for the sole purpose of obtaining quick results, try Veganuary as a first step in a long-term lifestyle change.

Every component of food is necessary for your body to perform efficiently. Yes, that includes carbohydrates and fats. If you are doing Veganuary correctly, your vegetable and fruit intake will likely increase, so it is important to note that each color provides its own benefit (i.e. red vegetables/fruits provide antioxidants, green vegetables/fruits build healthy cells).

Challenge yourself to “eat the rainbow” and consume a wide variety of vegetables and fruits on a weekly basis. Much like fueling your car w/ mid-grade vs premium, fueling your body with wholesome, nutrient-dense foods will allow your body to naturally take care of itself for a longer period of time.

Also remember that healthy lifestyle habits include exercise. Just because you’re eating healthier doesn’t mean you should abandon exercise. Exercise is extremely helpful in increasing overall functionality as well as cardiovascular health, which is shown to decrease the risk of many chronic diseases. You should also avoid smoking, limit alcohol intake and make sure you are getting enough sleep.

In conclusion, the answer to the question “does it work?” is really up to you and how you approach a vegan diet.

If veganism sounds like a good option and you want to give it a shot, you can read this 31-Day Veganuary Dinner Plan for Beginners. EatingWell.com put together a guide to help those who are interested get started with a well-balanced vegan diet.


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