How to Lose Weight with a Vegan Diet

Over the past year I have lost a lot of weight. That was not my plan, I simply tried a vegan diet out of curiosity. My life changed dramatically in the months that followed, and weight loss was just one part of the journey.

To say there was a heroic struggle would make a good story, but the truth is I never went hungry. Over the same time I lost the weight, I managed to gain a good amount of lean body mass. I feel indescribably good and want to share my story. My motivation is to give hope to anyone looking to make a change in their lives.

I can’t predict your future experience, but I am happy to share my own personal transformation story.

This is not medical advice, just an set of opinions from some guy on the internet. If you are obese, please discuss any dietary changes with a medical professional.

How I Became Overweight: A History

I was a slightly overweight but active teenager. Once I started working, I put on a whole bunch of weight. I managed to lose all of that extra weight in my mid twenties just before I married.

traditional northern thai (lanna) costumes

When I hit 30 I started to gain weight again. At the age of 39, my wife and I moved to live in Thailand. My peak in weight of 130 kg (287 lb) was around this time.

Within a year of living in Thailand I dropped 10 kg (22 lb) from a generally improved diet and doing some gardening etc. For the next 3 years or so my weight plateaued.

Over time, I was less physically active, ate quite a lot and drank more than a few beers on occasion. I struggled with back pain which made it hard to get motivated about improving my health.

Deciding to Make a Change

As I mentioned in the introduction, I was not particularly motivated by weight loss when I changed to a vegan diet. The important thing is that I did change my behavior.

Eating Good Food: Whole Food Plant Based Diet

It is not enough to simply go vegan and expect weight loss. There is a lot of vegan junk food available at the supermarket.

I strongly suggest you take a look at the article above, but the most important point for weight loss is that you need to eat a Whole Food Plant Based diet. This diet is unprocessed plant foods including vegetables, fruit, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and mushrooms.

Obviously you are removing animal products from your diet. You avoid processed foods in general, but especially cut out processed oils and refined sugar.

One of the key benefits of this diet is that whole plant foods contain less calories by volume than processed foods. You can eat vegetable until you feel full and still lose weight.

One aspect of the unprocessed food guideline that makes a big difference is to stop drinking calories. Fruit Juice sounds healthy. but you can take in a lot of calories in your drinks and it will not make you feel full.

If you just drink water, or tea/coffee (no sugar etc.) it makes a big difference. Personally I stopped drinking alcohol at the same moment I went vegan. For me, this made a big difference.

Reinforcing Your New Eating Habits

Here are some tips that really helped me with compliance to my new lifestyle:

  • Accountability: Talk to someone you trust about what you are doing and be open with them when you fall short of your goals
  • Cook your own Food: Not everyone has the time to cook all of their food, but whatever you can manage really helps you take control of what you are eating. Can’t cook? Now is a good time to learn – see some of my simple recipes.
  • Batch Cook and Freeze Meals. If you cook something really healthy, cook a lot of it: you can save a lot of time and ensure many healthy meas this way.
  • Try New Foods. I ate a lot of potatoes when I started because they were easy to cook, I have since learned to cook all sorts of vegetables, beans & grains. For others, I know that even tasting new foods will be a challenge rather than cooking – but be bold, this is your new life!
  • Don’t Go Hungry. Most people fail to transition to veganism because they simply don’t eat enough. All those steamed potatoes in the fridge in the early weeks (and batches of frozen meals cooked in the months after) saved me from craving any of my old food.
  • Try New Drinks. If you can’t simply make the break from juice or soda to water, then try drinking tea or coffee. For me I was in the habit of drinking beer on social occasions, so I started drinking bottles of club soda so I had something in my hand with 0 calories.

Do You Need To Exercise?

The first point to make is that exercises has massive health benefits to people of all sizes and ages. If you are obese, please consult a medical professional about any exercise programs you want to start.

The next point to make is that: You can’t out-run a bad diet. You should not expect calorie-burning to be the main benefit of exercise. It may contribute to your energy balance, but you exercise for general health.

benefiting from some vegan diet weight loss and playing golf

My personal experience was that I started to lose significant weight without any exercise apart from an occasional walk around the neighborhood.

After two months of my new diet, I was feeling really good and bursting with energy. I started looking for exercise because I wanted to.

I bought a yoga mat and did some ‘older inflexible guy’ stretching on the lounge room floor.

A big break-through for me was the realization that I could choose an exercise that I enjoyed. There have been several times in my life when I tried running simply because I required no special equipment and I had it in my head that running was a really good way to exercise. Unfortunately I really dislike running, so it was always easy to find excuses to stop.

I started to get interested in strength training, a much better fit for someone with short thick legs like me!

Personally, I was well on the way with weight loss without exercise, but by taking up strength training I have statistically improved health outlook and life expectancy.

I did notice a mental shift towards seeing food primarily as nutrition critical to strength development. For other people who struggle in their relationship with food, I have seen this be a powerful factor in their long-term success in losing weight and maintaining healthy eating.

Vegan Diet Weight Loss – Review after 1 Year

So at my one year anniversary of eating vegan and being alcohol free I have lost 27 kg (60 lb), down from a starting point of 119 kg (262 lb).

For me, losing weight was far from the most important outcome, so I feel a bit awkward talking about it. On the other hand I know that being overweight is a struggle for a lot of people, so hopefully my story can be of help.

I don’t feel like posting a before and after photo set or writing up a miracle vegan diet weight loss plan. My goal is to simply give people hope through my story, point to some reliable sources of information, and continue to set a good example in my own life.

I now eat whatever I want, but what I want has changed profoundly

Penn Jillette
My story is similar to that of Penn Jillette, just without the fame, fortune, and magic skills!

If you take medical advice from a Los Vegas magician, you are an idiot who deserves to die.

Penn Jillette

Thoughts on my Plant-Based Future

More weight loss is a reasonable expectation. I am still eating plenty of food, but my body is doing a good job of managing the ebb and flow of nutrients now.

I am grateful that I have avoided chronic lifestyle disease from my poor choices. While not guaranteed, a long life is more likely now. I have a renewed interest in the world and feel less anxious about the future.