I finally figured out how to lose weight in a healthy way and keep it off!
Weight loss is complex. In theory it is simple, but there are so many different factors that contribute to weight gain and so many different ways to lose weight! I yo-yo dieted and struggled with my weight for years. I restricted calories by reducing portion sizes, I overexercised, and was even afraid of whole food complex carbohydrates! I made many mistakes and would often end up gaining more weight than what I started with. Thankfully, I figured out how to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way! I found a whole food plant-based diet and healthy lifestyle!
All of the tips below are based on my own experience of losing 80 pounds and regaining my health on a plant-based diet. Some of the tips I would advise to everyone across the board, and a few of them are personal to me. It can take some experimentation to figure out what will work best for you as an individual. I always encourage you to do what works for you!
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10 Tips for Losing Weight and Keeping it Off
- Avoid Weight Loss Gimmicks
Avoid weight loss pills, teas, shakes, or any other fad diet or shady weight loss program that promises quick weight loss results. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. These products and programs don’t work long-term and are not worth sacrificing your health, time, and money.
2. Be Mindful of What You’re Eating – Keep a Food Journal
Keep track of what you’re eating in a food journal (or use an app like Cronometer or MyFitnessPal). Be aware of what you’re putting into your body. It was easy for me to eat my three meals a day, but also eat other foods throughout the day that I wasn’t remembering and accounting for. This isn’t about judging and micro-managing every little nibble. It’s about building awareness of what you’re eating so you can be mindful and know what you’re eating and how your progress is going. I know it surprised me to realize how much extra food I was eating mindlessly before I kept a food journal. From there I was able to make a few changes and tweak some things so I could make new habits and continue to make progress.
3. Keep Junk Food Out of Your House
This may be difficult to do if you live with other people, but I encourage you to negotiate and make a plan with other members of your household that will work for everyone. This was especially important for me in the beginning. Whenever there was processed food in the house, I would think about it constantly and more often than not I would delve into the junk food even though I knew it wouldn’t support my health and weight loss goals. My husband, Chris, and I made a deal early on that he would eat whole food plant-based at the house and keep junk out of the house. Another option is to keep junky items on a high shelf out of the way. Now that I have lost the weight and am maintaining, Chris sometimes will have a couple of junky items around, but I’m not as interested in eating it anymore. Do your best and find what will work best for you and your family.
4. Understand Calorie Density
Calorie density is the number of calories per pound in a given type of food. Foods that are less calorie dense tend to be more nutrient dense (ex. non-starchy vegetables are about 100 calories per pound). This doesn’t mean you should only eat green veggies, but rather it provides a general guide of how many calories are in foods without having the need to count calories daily for optimal health and weight loss. Focusing on consuming whole plant foods such as non-starchy vegetables, fruit, starchy veggies, whole grains, and legumes will enhance your health and support your weight loss efforts. Some higher calories plant foods are also healthful, but you may need to moderate the consumption of them to meet your weight loss goals (ex. dried fruit, nuts and seeds, avocado). Oils are not recommended on a whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet.
5. Eat 3 Large Meals Per Day
This point is personal to me. Whether you eat 2 meals per day or 6 meals per day, you can absolutely lose weight! However, when I tried to follow the guidance to eat frequent smaller meals throughout the day, I wound up constantly thinking about food, eating all day, and overeating. Smaller frequent meals didn’t work for me. I am a volume eater and love to eat large nourishing meals. I like to feel full and satisfied until the next large meal. Eating 3 large meals minimizes the need for snacking. I don’t snack everyday, and when I do it’s typically fruit. If eating more frequent smaller meals works for you, that’s great! If 5-6 smaller meals isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to switch it up and try 3 larger meals.
6. Rethink Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Breakfast doesn’t have to be typical “breakfast foods.” Before going plant-based, I never would have considered eating leftovers in the morning or incorporating veggies into my breakfast. Don’t be constrained by typical breakfast foods or what you think breakfast should look like. In many other cultures, eating vegetables, whole grains, and other savoury foods for breakfast is the norm. If you want to eat leftovers for breakfast, go for it!
7. Gamify Nourishment
When I first got started on a plant-based diet, I was just trying to figure out what to eat as someone who hated vegetables and hated cooking. If you’re just getting started, maybe skip this step until you have a good routine and your new eating habits are well-established.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been making a game out of boosting the nutrition of my meals. I ask myself how I can increase the nutrient density of my meals. Some ideas are:
- pick out a new vegetable, fruit, legume, or whole grain to try
- add greens or extra veggies
- add legumes or whole grains
- add ground flax or chia seeds
- batch cook something new
- mix different ingredients together
- eat foods in a new way (raw vs. cooked or both!)
A couple of great examples of gamifying nutrition come from the books How Not to Die and How Not to Diet by Dr. Michael Greger and Fiber Fueled by Dr. Will Bulsiewicz. Dr. Greger outlines the daily dozen (and 21 tweaks for weight loss) which you can keep track of yourself or use the app to keep track. Dr. Bulsiewicz has a point system to track the variety of plants consumed. It can be fun to challenge yourself to try new foods, experiment in the kitchen, and find new foods you love!
8. Move Your Body
It IS possible to lose weight without exercising. However, moving your body has so many health benefits, including: improving mood, giving you more energy, building strength, boosting endurance, and aiding in sleep. I’ve had times in my life when I’ve been unable to exercise, so I value the ability to move my body and do all the things I want to do. I encourage you to find a type of exercise or movement you enjoy and have fun with! Check out this post for more information about movement.
9. Keep Going – Be consistent
Don’t give up! Slip ups happen. We are all human, nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes. No matter what happens, get back on track as soon as you can! Make the commitment to yourself for your health and your weight loss goals to do your best, get back on track if you slip up, and be kind to yourself in the process. Take a look at this post about creating habits for success.
10. Find Support
Find people who are in your position or have been in your position. Find others who are interested in weight loss, eating a plant-based diet, and/or living a healthy lifestyle. Share your struggles, your triumphs, ideas, and recipes. Connect with others whether it’s in person or online. You can always leave comments below my posts here on the website, on my YouTube channel, or elsewhere on social media to connect with me and others in the Plant Fit Meg community. There are other groups and communities online and you can check out my post about finding support if you’d like more resources.
Weight loss is a process and it takes time. Be patient, be kind to yourself, and do what works for you! Seek to lose weight in a way that will support and enhance your health. Lose weight in a way that will be sustainable for long-term health and long-term weight loss maintenance.