One way to lose weight in a healthy manner is to reduce the amount of fat we consume. A friend of mine recently asked me how they could lose weight when they are eating pretty healthy to begin with and it made me reflect on what I learned switching from a Standard American Diet (SAD) to a whole plant-food lifestyle and then some additional learnings along the way. Here I share a few things that may be of help if you are looking to shed some fat and weight.
Before I transitioned to a whole plant-food lifestyle I didn’t know one thing from another regarding fat and weight other than thinking if I ate less calories I’d lose weight so I constantly would go on and off diets and contests trying to drop the fat and weight that continued to grow as I aged through my 30s and early 40s. Nothing stuck… I would lose 10 pounds from trying one thing and then gain 12 or so back and my weight blossomed to a portly 224 pounds and Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30.4 in my early 40s, classifying me as obese. Overweight, obese, whatever you call it…I felt like crap. So when I went on these diets, cut calories, eating similar crap, being hangry, I kept getting bigger and bigger in the long run…and unhealthier.
Dr. Neal Barnard, who I have learned so much from over the years shared a study that measured the average BMI from five different diets and the only one that produced a BMI under 25 (healthy weight), was Vegan. This is just one measure but is a good indicator of overall health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares the plethora of health effects by being overweight or obese. All from what I’ve experienced is tied in some way to consuming animal products…many factors of course.
When I educated myself about what I was putting in my body I made quite the revelations. I was consuming a lot of fat, cholesterol, and calories. Not only that, but by consuming animal products I was also increasing my chances of cancer and all the other chronic illnesses that come with a SAD. I found a few concepts that helped from Dr. Neal Barnard about calories, fat, cholesterol, and weight. A few highlights included:
- Foods and drinks (milk) from animals contain crazy amounts of cholesterol, fat (saturated), calories, and chemicals promoting cancer
- In general a gram of fat has 9 calories
- In general a gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories
- Dr. Atkins really screwed this one up with the high fat, low carb diets. There are tricks for the short-term weight loss he professed but it doesn’t last and you get all the crap benefits of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses to boot…no thanks. Dying of a massive heart attack didn’t help his case here either…
- Fat content (Percentage of Calories from Fat) – you would think beef would be the worst…well the worst is CHEESE
- Leanest beef (29%)
- Skinless chicken breast (23%)
- Trout (32%)
- CHEESE (70%) – Milk greatest source of saturated fat in our diet and cheese is a concentrated form with crazy amounts of sodium added in so you get the best of clogging your arteries, adding weight, and cancer promotion like a rocket ship
- The good stuff without the saturated fat:
- Broccoli (8%)
- Beans (4%)
- Rice (1-5%)
- Sweet potato (1%)
- Oil really sucks….100% fat and 120 calories per tablespoon…wow!
- Visceral fat (around belly) on its own can lead to or complicate chronic illnesses. Dr. Michael Greger has so much good information on this in his book, How Not to Diet, if you want more.
After giving up animal foods with all that fat, I dropped 65 pounds without trying. It wasn’t a diet. I ate as much as I could and exercised and the fat and weight flew off. Now if I want to shed a couple pounds for a race, I clean up a few things from my plant foods that carry more fat and calories. Here are a couple things I do that you also may find helpful:
- Avocados – have every other day or couple days vs. every day (higher fat content)
- Nuts and nut butters – same rule for me with avocados. They are healthy but if I’m looking to shed a pound or two, cutting back on the nuts and/or peanut butter helps.
- Dipping sauces/dressings – look at the calories and fat content to find opportunities; ex. I use a buffalo sauce that has zero calories as an alternative
- Oil – I really eliminated all together but will also be more diligent when I’m eating out to limit what a restaurant may sneak in; I use vegetable broth if I need to cook in a pan as an alternative…mushrooms and other veggies also create enough moisture/coating on the pan to prevent sticking I have found vs. even using a vegetable broth.
- Processed foods – read those labels if it’s coming from a box (read my blog, How to Read Labels for Healthy Eating)….watch the chips, etc. Usually high in calories, processed sugar, and sodium…
Really if I’m dialing it in I just eat as much whole plant-foods as possible. If the food is in it’s own wrapper that’s a pretty great sign…
I hope you find this helpful if you are looking to shed fat and weight. Consult with a physician and/or professional as always when making changes to what you do.
– Add Health to Your Life
Resources I have found useful on this topic
- Calorie Density Explained and More | Dr. Neal Barnard on The Exam Room Podcast
- Dr. Neal Barnard on Sugar, Fat, and Weight Loss
- The foods you need to eat to lose weight – Neal Barnard, MD
- How Many Calories Should You Eat In a Day? | Dr. Neal Barnard
- Tactics For Sustained Weight Loss: Michael Greger, MD | Rich Roll Podcast
- Dr. Michael Greger: “How Not To Diet” | Evidence Based Weight Loss 2020
- The Best Diet for Weight Loss and Disease Prevention
- JanYOUary – Dr. Michael Greger On “How Not to Die”