Reducing calorie overload through a vegan diet


In my last couple of posts we looked at how to estimate your calorie expenditure and your calorie consumption. If like most people on a standard american diet you are getting a little heavier every year, then there will be a gap between those two numbers – your calorie overload. Now you need a strategy to reduce that number.

Calorie Restriction

The first approach I used to try and to lose weight was simple calorie restriction. I cut out some of the high calorie junk food I was eating such as frequent treats from the Starbucks pastry case. I also tried eating half as much food at lunch time, or choosing more healthy looking options in restaurants. This worked and it did help me lose half of the weight I had gained over the years, but it was a constant struggle.

A simple calorie restriction approach or a diet program is a constant strain on your willpower. Scientific studies have shown that willpower is actually a limited resource that you use up throughout the day. So if you observed restraint at the office by maintaining your composure in the midst of annoying colleges and stressful situations, you may not have enough willpower left to resist that ice cream in the freezer when you get home.

Change your lifestyle

The main problem with diets for most people is that they are temporary – you lose the weight, feel good and then put it all back on again. In fact studies have shown that two thirds of people put all of the weight they lost back on and then some. So what you need is not a new diet but a permanent lifestyle change. The lifestyle change that worked for me was becoming vegan.

Making a big change

An effective way to avoid the willpower problem is to make a big decision up front. Once you have committed to a big change your subconscious brain will actually be working in the background to make that change happen.

When you make the big decision to become vegan, you have implicitly made lots of small choices about what to eat at the same time. When you see an ice cream desert your subconscious brain is already saying to you – I am a vegan and vegan’s don’t eat dairy products. Choosing to eat the ice cream would create cognitive dissonance which offsets our desire to consume sugar and fat. The end result being that you don’t require as much willpower and over time, as being vegan becomes a part of your identity, it wont require any willpower at all.

A plant based diet

It is still possible to put on weight and eat badly whilst being vegan. Your goal should be to eat a plant based diet getting most of your calories from whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains whilst avoiding processed foods, meat and diary. A new term coined by Joel Fuhrman for this kind of dietary vegan is nutritarian, but your fiends and the waitress at the restaurant are going to be more familiar with the term vegan.

In future posts I will explain why such a vegan diet is so much better for your health and your waistline than the standard American diet.

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6 Responses to Reducing calorie overload through a vegan diet

  1. Thanks for the article.. I have just recently found the vegan lifestyle and I love it. It seems like I just can’t take in enough information.

    • Mark Osborne says:

      Thanks Jamie, I know how you feel.
      I am guessing that you are Jamie looking at your website – it would be nice if you would use your name in comments.
      Good luck with your new blog.

  2. Brittany says:

    I just decided to embark on a vegetarian experiment. I have been a type 1 diabetic for almost ten years-I am trying to see if I can reduce the amount of long acting insulin I take. As a type 1, insulin is a must and there is no way around it, unlike those with type 2. I have read studies where type 2 has been reversed with a vegan diet, so I figured it could at least be beneficial for me as a type 1. I stumbled upon this article (http://www.pcrm.org/health/prevmed/diabetes.html) which suggest type 1 try this. Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes and veganism/vegetarianism has a lot less research and studies than that of type 2. So this is why I am experimenting.

    I love cheese, so besides that, the dairy isn’t really an issue and I could probably go all the way to vegan diet, but I just haven’t found a vegan cheese that I like. So, at least a vegetarian diet is a good start for someone like me; raised in the south where beef and bacon are a main staple. I stopped eating beef 4 years ago when I started working at a health food store. I also introduced myself to grains and their benefits.

    I just found your blog and the nutritional info is great. Thank you so much!
    -B

    • Mark Osborne says:

      Thanks Brittany, good luck with your experiment.
      I’m interested to know how it turns out – so I’ll be following your blog.

      As for cheese you should try daiya , I haven’t been overly impressed with soy and rice cheeses, but dayia tastes really good.

  3. Fantastic post, I cannot wait for the next one.

  4. Jenell Billheimer says:

    Caloric restriction may have its evolutionary roots as a survival mechanism, allowing species to survive on scraps when food is scarce in order to continue to reproduce. But that restriction only has lasting positive effects if the overall diet is a balanced one, which may not always be the case in conditions of famine. (That also explains why anorexia is so unhealthy: people who starve themselves become malnourished). It’s possible the strategy developed as a way to protect species from consuming toxic plants or foods, when it wasn’t always obvious which sources were verboten.^”;`

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