So… do plant-based diets lead to too much weight loss? Well, they can. As with all sorts of diets, if you overdo it, you can end up looking like you got out of a concentration camp, but super-healthy plant-based diets can lead to too much weight loss easier than other diets.
I discovered this to be a major problem as I began my healthy lifestyle journey. For a time, I went fully vegan. I didn’t have any sort of animal products at all, and I even cut out a good 95% of the processed food in my life. This is NOT when my weight problems began. In fact, I became a healthy weight and still maintained a figure that I enjoyed.
My problems began after I watched Chef AJ give a talk about plant-based diets. To clarify, I don’t think Chef AJ is necessarily wrong, but I didn’t factor in that she’s half a foot taller than me and tends to eat more on a regular basis before taking her advice. She said that you should wait until you’re hungry enough to eat vegetables before eating something – that a donut would make you “hungry” before broccoli would. While this is true, I should not have tried this tactic out. For starters, I’m a work-at-home spouse. I don’t expend tons of energy in any big bursts, and just utilizing low amounts of energy throughout the day don’t spark the appetite. Secondly, I’ve learned that I just don’t like to begin my day with vegetables. I add a bunch of greens to my dinners when available, but for breakfast, I just won’t reach for vegetables. But as I was taking Chef AJ’s advice, I didn’t eat unless I was hungry enough to eat vegetables. And since nothing in my usual lifestyle sparks my apatite, I was eating less than 1,000 calories a day. After a couple months, I really began to see the effects, and I didn’t like them at all.
To get myself back on track, I began eating a lot of rice. By a lot, I mean that I was eating at least 6 or more cups of cooked rice every day there for a while in addition to at least one more meal. On that note, I need to discuss a major misconception. Many people are under the horrible impression that rice (or potatoes, for that matter) are fattening. But no. It’s all the butter/oil/cream/etc. that’s fattening. Have you ever seen 6 cups of rice? That’s a lot of rice. And I was eating that every single day and still struggling to gain weight. One cup of dry rice is 600 calories. Rice triples once it cooks, so a single cup of plain rice is only 200 calories. 6 cups of cooked rice was still only 1,200 calories. And rice is one of the most calorie-dense natural foods! (The same thing can be said for potatoes, although I don’t have numbers for potato calories on-hand.)
Yes, eating a plant-based diet with minimal processed foods will lead to weight loss. However, this only becomes a problem if you overdo it. And, it’s totally possible to gain weight on a plant-based diet as well. I lost too much weight and gained back to a healthy weight on a plant-based diet. My advice is, yes, wait until you’re hungry to eat, but don’t necessarily wait specifically for vegetables – you may be waiting a long time.
Stay healthy, friends.