How to: Weight Loss On a Plant-Based Vegan Diet

The tips in this post show you how to lose weight on a plant-based vegan diet.

January is the month when we all set fitness, particularly weight loss goals. So, I thought it was appropriate to dedicate my first post of 2018 to just that.

As with any other programme, weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise. You can lose weight effortlessly just by changing the way you eat, but exercise undoubtedly helps with building lean muscle and maintaining bone density.

The more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body burns at rest, which means the more food you can eat without gaining weight. If you have an enormous appetite like myself, this is awesome, and it’s a key reason why I love to incorporate exercise, particularly strength-training into my daily routine.

I would highly recommend that you include some form of exercise into your daily routine. You can start with walking if you’re new to working out or haven’t worked out in a long time, and then slowly build-up to more intensive programmes. Every little counts!

The good news about weight loss on a plant-based diet is that you never have to be hungry and you never have to feel like you’re on a typical diet. If you choose the right foods, you don’t have to count calories, and you can eat until you’re comfortably satisfied. The way you eat to lose weight is the way you eat to maintain it, so you will not be going on a diet or coming off one.

Great, right?

The not-so-good news is that as with every other dietary change to support weight loss, you’ll have to be compliant, and you’ll have to accept that it is a lifestyle change. If you start incorporating foods that don’t support weight loss, you will not lose the weight. So, please don’t go complaining that it doesn’t work if you don’t give it your all.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Set smart goals

Before you start trying to lose weight, it is vital that you have the right mindset and that you’re committed to achieving your goals. Make sure that you set specific goals. Don’t write things like ‘I want to look better, or I want to feel better’ Write things like, ‘I want to lose 50lbs over the next six months’ or ‘I want to lose 10lbs so that I can run a half marathon’.

Ensure that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to reach your goal. You don’t want to give up when you feel it is becoming too complicated or when you’re craving a particular food that is not supportive of your goal.  Get rid of all the excuses you keep telling yourself and make a commitment to yourself that you’ll stick it through no matter how difficult it gets.

Ensure that your environment is supportive of your goals. Clear out foods from your fridge, freezer, and store cupboards that could sabotage your new eating style. You’re more likely to ‘cheat’ if those foods are constantly around you. You may be able to resist them once or twice, but there will come a time when you have an overpowering craving. If those foods are not around you, you won’t eat them, but if they are, you’ll eventually give in to them.

Start to visualise yourself at your goal already. There is something about visualisation that propels you towards your goal weight. I’ll recommend that you watch YouTube videos about the law of attraction. Corny as it sounds, they do indeed work for any goal that you’re working towards.

Basic Guidelines for Plant-based Weight Loss

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  • Base your diet around whole grains and starchy vegetables: Eat liberal amounts of whole grains (such as rice, corn, barley, quinoa, millet, oats, Kamut, amaranth, spelt and farro), potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, cassava and plantain. These foods are low in fat, but rich in carbohydrates and fibre, which help to satisfy hunger, slow digestion and absorption.
  • Eat moderate amounts of legumes: Beans (such as kidney beans, butter beans, chickpeas, mung beans, borlotti beans, pinto beans, and haricot beans), lentils (such as red and yellow split lentils) and peas fall into this category. Legumes are rich in fibre, and they are very slow-digesting. They help you feel full for very long periods and help to keep your insulin levels stable.
  • Eat generous amounts of non-starchy vegetables: Non-starchy vegetables including asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, aubergine (eggplant), mushrooms and tomatoes, have much fewer calories than starchy vegetables like squash and sweet potatoes.  You can reduce the calorie content of your meals by replacing some of the starchy vegetables with non-starchy ones. Don’t cut the starchy vegetables so much that you’re still hungry after your meals.
  • Eat raw vegetables: You can lose weight faster by eating some of your vegetables uncooked. Cooking tends to break down complex carbohydrates into more easily digested, sweet-tasting simple sugars. This increases the speed at which your body absorbs them and could make you hungrier quicker, which means you eat more and raise your overall calorie intake. That way, you’ll slow down your weight loss.
  • Avoid simple sugars and artificial sweeteners:  Sugar spikes your blood sugar levels and stimulates insulin production. You can add small amounts of coconut sugar, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup or agave nectar to your food, but try not to cook with them. Artificial sweeteners can stall your weight loss by increasing hunger; avoid them as much as possible.
  • Limit the number of fruits you eat: Fruits are nature’s candy for a good reason! They are so tasty it is easy to eat several pounds of them without realising. Good as they are, they still contain calories that mount up. Depending on how quickly you want to lose weight, it may be a good idea to limit the amount of fruit you eat per day to two portions. Once you reach your desired weight, you can increase the quantity you consume. 

To lose weight efficiently while eating a plant-based diet, centre your meals around starches. The main foods groups you should eat, include whole grains and starchy-vegetables, legumes, non-starchy vegetables and fruits.


It goes without saying that you’ll need to eliminate all animal foods and their by-products from your diet. This includes foods like meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, and yoghurt.

The other foods you need to remove are:

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  • Oils: You need to remove every kind of oil including coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil,  and avocado oil from your diet. Despite every health benefit that health professionals claim they have, oil is pure liquid fat. If you eat a high carbohydrate diet, with lots of fat in it, you will not lose weight. Your body will burn off the carbohydrate for energy, but store the fat in your tissues and this will eventually lead to weight gain.
  • High-Fat Plant Foods: Avocados, olives, nuts and their butter, seeds and their butter, coconut, soybeans and their by-products such as soy yoghurt, and tofu. There is nothing wrong with eating these foods in small amounts if you can control your portion sizes. However, these foods are easy to overeat, and they can stall your weight loss significantly because of their fat content. Consider removing them from your diet until you reach your ideal weight.
  • Flour products: I find that I’m not satisfied for long periods when I eat products made from flour. This includes things like bread, crackers, and even burgers from made from lentil or chickpea flour. It makes sense because grinding increases the rate at which carbohydrates enter the bloodstream, where they raise insulin and blood sugar. The faster your insulin and blood sugar levels rise, the quicker they drop, so the quicker you get hungry. Grinding also breaks down the dietary fibre in food. Without dietary fibre, you absorb your food faster, so you don’t stay satisfied for as long, and you end up eating a lot more food than you would if you eat food in its whole form.

You could eat all the right foods, but if you’re not eating in a way that is conducive to weight loss, you will not reach your weight loss goals.

When you eat, eat until you’re satisfied but not stuffed. If you prefer the stuffed feeling, ensure that you’re filling yourself with non-starchy vegetables rather than whole grains, starchy-vegetables or legumes. You’ll need to eat vast quantities of them to eat the same number of calories.

Non-starchy vegetables provide approximately only 100 calories per pound, while whole grains, starchy vegetables and legumes contain 400-600 calories per pound. Avocados contain around 750 calories per pound while nuts, seeds and their butter contain up to 2800 calories.


Wait at least 20 minutes after eating your meal before going back for seconds. Your stomach needs time to let your brain know that you’ve had enough food. If after 20 minutes, you still feel hungry, eat more non-starchy vegetables. If that doesn’t satisfy you after another 20 minutes, eat some more starchy vegetables, whole grains or legumes until you’re satisfied.

High-fibre foods like those you’ll be eating require that you chew them properly before swallowing. So, take time to chew your food. The longer you chew your food, the more satisfied you’ll be once you’re done eating. You’ll also give your stomach a chance to let your brain know that you’re content, and you’ll reduce the chances of overeating.

Thirst can sometimes be mistaken for hunger, so it is essential to drink lots of water. Water also aids digestion and keep your bowels moving.

You could eat all the right foods, but if you’re not eating in a way that is conducive to weight loss, you will not reach your weight loss goals.

How to eat for maximum weight loss

Now that you know what you should be eating, the next step is to devise a plan that sets you up for success.

Plant foods are naturally low in calories, but it is still possible to overeat them so that you either maintain your current weight or gain. You must eat fewer calories overall to lose weight, but it doesn’t mean that you have to count calories. You can either practice portion control or consume foods in order of increasing calorie density.

Practice portion control by filling one-half to two-thirds of your bowl or plate with starches (whole grains, potatoes and legumes) and filling the other one-third to one-half with non-starchy vegetables. If you’re still hungry after eating load up on more non-starchy vegetables. Use the bowl below as a framework to guide you.

Weight Loss Framework Bowl

An alternative way of practising portion control is to use colour-coded portion control containers. Each colour represents a food group. Your current weight determines how many containers you need to lose weight. I’ll go into more details in another post as it requires quite a detailed explanation that is beyond the scope of this post.

Eating in order of increasing calorie density is a more natural way to lose weight in my opinion. The basic concept is to start each meal with a generous quantity of non-starchy vegetables or salad, then move on to starchy vegetables, whole grains or legumes. By eating non-starchy vegetables first, you’re less likely to overeat starches. When using this method, it is vital that you eat only to satiety and not until you cannot move or have to unbutton your pants.

It may be overwhelming to incorporate all of these changes at once, so it is wise to start slow. Comment below the small change(s) you think you will make to diet to get you started?



1 Comment

  1. Porsha
    5th January 2018 / 6:59 PM

    Awesome information!!! I ??? how detailed everything is!!! I am better educated on oils and carbs and how everything is broken down! Excellent work Somi!!!

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