Eating a plant-based diet: how to lose weight and keep the weight off
There are so many different types of diets out there on the internet that it can be difficult to know what would suit you and what works. Many women try one diet, then another, and another. And in between, they eat whatever they want to “feel good”. If this sounds like you, we hope this article gives you some tips to help to break this cycle, so that you can start to lose weight consistently and then keep your weight to a level where you are happy. By switching to a plant-based diet, or by making a few changes to your regular diet you can set yourself up this late summer for successful weight-loss.
What does “diet” mean?
According to the dictionary the first meaning of the word “diet” is “the kind of foods that a person habitually eats”. The second meaning of the word diet is associated with restriction – people eat less or specific foods with the purpose of losing weight. In this article, we use the word “diet” to reflect the first definition – the kinds of food that one regularly eats.
What is a plant-based diet?
In essence, a plant based diet involves eating lots of:
- Nuts and seeds
- Wholegrains (including things like rice, millet, quinoa etc)
- Legumes (including beans, lentils, chickpeas)
We tend to exclude highly refined or processed products, or anything that comes from animal sources (dairy, eggs, honey, gelatine etc). Here at La Crisalida Retreats, the diet goes one step further – we also exclude caffeine, added salt, alcohol, excessive vinegars and processed sugars (with one exception – we use rice syrup as a form of sweetener). We also have limited use of products containing gluten and do not serve bread.
Plant-based food is not a “fad” diet. The plant-based diet has been around for many years and has been well studied by scientists around the world. We believe that eating more fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes is a sensible approach to eating a balanced, healthy, nutritious diet. Most of the items included in a plant-based diet (listed above) are naturally low in fat, and high in nutrition. Including lots of items that are naturally low in fat will mean that you will feel fuller, for less calories.
If you are looking to lose weight, juicing can give you a kick start. To create a juice, you need lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, plus one machine: your juicer. (Read our article “All you need to know about jucing”). Here at La Crisalida Retreats, we suggest that guests juice for three days as a great way to kick-start your weight-loss – the additional benefit is that your body will also start to cleanse from the inside out. You can juice for longer. Juicing allows the body to rest, to rebalance and reset. At the same time, it delivers maximum nutrition. Read more about juicing retreats here.
Portion and types of food
Sometimes we think that if we reduce the size of our portion we will naturally drop a dress size or lose weight. This is in part true, but not if it means that you feel constantly hungry! Rather than simply cutting back on the portion, look at what is on your plate.
The size of your tummy is like the size of your fist, it´s actually quite small. Some foods fill up your tummy in volume, but the type of food will affect the number of calories that it takes to fill this space. For example, when you eat lettuce or salad veggies you can eat a big bowl (let´s say 284g worth of salad), and it will fill up your tummy for around 400 calories. To fill your tummy with chips (I´m talking about the deep-fried potato chips that you can buy from a fish and chip shop in the UK), even having a regular portion (284g), the calorie count will be much greater – more like 900 calories (and that´s before eating the fish!). Your tummy will be full both ways. One will bring you great nutrition and help you to feel good from the inside out, and the other might give you a short-lasting boost of energy, soon followed by a slump (and maybe some pimples).
A great way to fool your eyes is to use smaller plates or bowls. Many modern dinner services have large dinner plates or bowls – this means you need to add more food onto your plate so that your mind thinks it is a generous portion. Pick a smaller plate or bowl and load it up!
Emotions and food
Be aware of how you feel when you start eating your food. For many of us, how we feel emotionally can affect what and how we eat – think of the phrase “comfort food”. When we feel sad, cold or upset, we often reach out for things to offer ourselves comfort – be they sweets, chips, cheese. We have previously discussed how to use nutrition and foods to balance your emotions. What you eat can affect how you feel, and vice versa. When it comes to eating, try to make mealtimes a place of peace and calm. Eating mindfully (be present whilst you are eating, focus on each mouthful) can help you to become aware of the sensation of fullness, which means that you will eat less naturally.
Everyday changes to make to your diet and eating habits
Following a plant-based diet can help you to lose weight, and to maintain that lower weight on an ongoing basis. Even if you do not feel ready to go 100% plant-based, then maybe consider eating this diet 80% of the time. Here are some of our top tips to incorporate into your diet and regular eating habits:
- Relax before sitting down to eat. (Stressing out or being anxious can lead to eating more, as you might eat faster).
- Swap one meal or snack a day for juice – start with one day on a weekend, then increase the days.
- If you are feeling hungry, check if you are thirsty. Drink a glass of water. Often, we confuse slight dehydration with hunger. Read our recent article on water and hydration.
- How often do you eat out? If it’s a few times per week, see if you can change and eat at home for one meal. Or pick a lighter dish when you go out – look for something vegetable based (watch out for vegetarian specials which often contain lots of cream, butter or cheese). A tomato based sauce will have lower calories than a cheese-based sauce, and will feel lighter inside.
- Drink less alcohol. Beer and wine a high in calories. If you are drinking, do so mindfully.
- Fill your fridge with healthy treats – somethings that you want to eat, that is quick and easy if you are in a rush. A pot of hummus is fab.
- Eat dark chocolate instead of milk or white – you will want to eat less dark chocolate!
- Add more veggies to your plate – buy a smaller piece of meat (make sure it is the best quality meat that you can get, trim off the fat) and increase the portion of vegetables.
- Steam instead of fry. Use a tablespoon or two of water instead of oil when frying (remember to be more vigilant, stir the veggies frequently to prevent them sticking to the pan, and add more water if needed).
- When making salad dressings, cut the amount of oil in half and replace with water. You will need to blend the ingredients and the water first, then gradually add in the oil whilst the blender is running. This makes a lighter salad dressing and quickly halves the calories.
- Use a tablespoon when serving oils or oil based dressings – at 135 calories per tablespoon, measure your dressings by the tablespoon as you add them to your salad.
- Add a bowl of salad as a side dish – and eat it!
- Summer is a great time of the year to eat more salads. So team up your salad items with avocado and nuts (read our article healthy sources of fats) or grains like quinoa or millet, add some beans or sprouted lentils. This will make your salad bowl complete (read more about fresh salads here)
- Get together with friends and instead of meeting up at the pub or café, go instead to the local park, walk, jog or play on the swings. Move your body.
- Eat slowly. Chew each mouthful. Pause whilst you are eating, put your knife and fork down. Tune into your body and notice when you are starting to feel full.
- Start your morning with a glass of room temperature or warm water, with lemon. This will activate your digestive system – 30 minutes before eating.
- Cut out the soft drinks – if you drink diet cola or other fizzy drinks, replace these with water instead. Adding a slice of lemon or lime to your water can add some more flavour.
- Do you snack at night in front of the TV? If you know you do, and can´t stop it, then change your snack – cut up some fruit, carrot or celery sticks, make some homemade energy balls, and leave them in the fridge. Remove all the crisps, cakes and biscuits and don´t replace them next time you go shopping!
- If you do move to eating 100% plant-based diet, you might need to take extra vitamin B12 supplements.
- What is your “go-to” food? This is the meal you would typically choose if you were out or hungry. What do you naturally reach for? If your answer is pizza, or chips, then you maybe think before you go out about what might work better for you – veggies or salad. Instead of choosing chips for your sides, take a portion of broccoli.
- Swap your source of sweetness or sugar – if you consume white sugar then consider swapping to brown sugar or using maple syrup, rice syrup or agave instead. Over time, reduce the amount of sugar you add to your morning coffee or tea, swap to fruit instead of sugar on breakfast cereal…
Calories in, calories out
Remember, losing weight (and keeping it off) is not just about what you eat. It´s also about getting active – find an activity that you enjoy. Get out and about with family or friends. Create that healthy lifestyle.
Maybe you would like to visit the retreat for your detox and weight loss retreat. We have lots more articles on our blog page about nutrition, weight loss, activities you can do at home (like rebounding), plus recipes for food and juices.
About the author
- Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).