When you think of diet and weight loss, commonly you’ll envision deprivation, obsessing over the foods you can no longer eat, and cruelly small portion sizes. And if you have ever been on a “diet,” these awful predictions came true. Most diets around weight loss are all about restriction, and that’s why most diets don’t work.
If you were lucky enough to make it through the obstacle course of a weight loss diet and then you got back to normal life, you probably gained the weight right back. Most people do.
The restriction and deprivation that made you lose the weight in the first place is the force that kept you from keeping it off long-term. Unsustainability! It is the dirty little secret that most fad diets fail to mention.
The weight loss from eating a 500-calorie-per-day diet, drinking only liquids, or eating a strictly monolithic meal—like only bananas—may hold up for a week or two. However, the problem is the minute you go back to a normal way of eating (and even if it’s a healthier version than what you started with) the pounds creep back on simply because the diet wasn’t designed for the long term. No one is going to be able to eat only bananas forever.
So what can you eat forever, and be your ideal weight? There are several components that make up the best strategy for weight loss: sustainability, nourishment, diversity, and satiety.
Sustainability to keep the weight off
A food strategy that helps you right-size your body and keeps working as your forever way of eating is the best way to lose weight and keep it off long-term. The truth is that “diets” will never take you to the finish line of your weight loss because true weight loss is permanent only when we adopt a new way of eating long-term. A lifestyle.
Nourishing the body
Any strategy for weight loss should help you shed those pounds without breaking your body down. Be wary of diets that emphasize inflammatory foods like dairy, meat and processed shakes, yet minimize or eliminate foods that are anti-inflammatory: fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes like beans and lentils.
Diversity of foods
The best strategy for weight loss will encourage you to eat a diversity of foods rather than limiting what type of food you can eat. This is important because no one food or food group can give you all the nutrients you need to be healthy.
There is nothing worse than being hungry on a diet. It is the main reason many people fall off. No one can function when they are starving. The best plan for weight loss should be satiating, so that you don’t lose your mind trying to lose those pounds.
The plan that lasts
Sustainability, nourishment, diversity, and satiety sounds like a great recipe for success! But can we really find all of this in one particular diet? Yes! A whole food, plant-based diet takes the gold medal when it comes to weight loss long-term.
Plant-based diet for the win!
A plant-based diet checks off all four areas. A whole food plant-based diet is made up of vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), whole grains, herbs, spices and (small amounts of) nuts and seeds.
The awesome thing about using this diet for weight loss is that it can take you to finish line regarding your health goals. A plant-based diet is a sustainable lifestyle that never has to end.
Kick it off and then sustain
When I first adopted a whole food plant-based diet I went in with the Daniel Fast. I decided not to stop the Daniel Fast way of eating and made it a lifestyle. Over time, I lost over 50 pounds.
The Daniel Fast: A Bridge to Healthy Living is a great way to kick-start your weight loss.
What makes it sustainable is that you can eat enough food to keep you full while still losing weight. Spoiler alert: your portion sizes may even look bigger than before you started this diet. Salads are no longer the side hustle but become the main gig. Your salad should be packed with everything and the kitchen sink in the plant kingdom. Check out Gigi’s Big Rainbow Salad on danielsplate.com.
So much food!
This may sound contradictory: how can eating more still result in losing weight? The secret is calorie density. Calorie density is the number of calories contained in a certain weight of food. Understanding this is the key to losing weight and improving the quality of the food you eat. The name of the game with a whole food plant-based diet is to eat better, not less.
Most plant foods (except for oils, nuts/seeds, and avocados) have a low calorie density, which means you can eat more of it for less. A whole food plant-based diet gives you more bang for your caloric buck. A heaping plate of plant food contains the same number of calories as a tiny portion of hyper-palatable meat or dairy fast food. But a plant-based diet is also healthier and more generous than a traditional low-fat diet. For example, eating a plate of vegetables has about 30 calories per 100 grams compared to a plate of grilled chicken breast that has about 165 calories per 100 grams.
Being smart about diet for weight loss
It is important to note that some whole plant foods like nuts/seeds, oil, and avocados have a high caloric density. Omitting oils is wise if you are trying to lose weight, since one tablespoon of oil has a whopping 120 calories. Compare that to a whole bowl of lentil soup carrying about the same calories. Since nuts, seeds, and avocadoes have nutritional benefits that you still need, portion control is the best way to eat those when trying to lose weight.
Eating more, weighing less, being healthier
The great news is the rest of the diverse plant kingdom is on the table. When you lean into a whole food plant-based diet, not only does your caloric intake go down, but the quality of your food goes up. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes are rich in antioxidants. They help fight chronic disease and cancer on top of helping you lose weight. Check out the article, What the Daniel Fast does to your body. A whole food plant-based diet is shown to reverse and manage the #1 killer in America: heart disease. That is the biggest bonus to a weight-loss plan I’ve ever heard of!
Keeping it going
Feeling full and satisfied is common on a whole food plant-based diet because what you are eating is fiber-rich and water-rich which is what keeps the body satiated throughout the day.
When choosing the diet best for weight loss, the main question you must ask is: Can I make this a lifestyle? Crash diets don’t work and they never have.
Eating to live healthy
The number on the scale does not determine the healthfulness of the diet: we have to weigh the long-term outcomes. Even if a diet helps you lose weight in the short term, if it compromises your health in the long term you need to ditch the diet.
The goal all along was to become the healthiest version of yourself. Being outside of a healthy BMI (body mass index) is linked to chronic illness like diabetes and certain cancers. But getting to that healthy BMI can’t be via poor nutrition! When you choose a whole food plant-based diet you are not only losing weight, but you are also eating to live and restore your overall health.
A whole food plant-based diet for weight loss is so effective that it is a standalone diet—you don’t need to add exercise to be successful. Changing your mindset around finding a quick fix and opening yourself up to new ideas around food will set you up for an amazing journey on a whole food plant-based diet.