Should we be using the Veganuary challenge as a method for losing weight?
Short answer/ Spoiler alert: No.
Now you know I won’t stop there though, let me explain.
Firstly Veganuary for those who may not be sure is challenge which 100s of thousands of people across many countries undertake each year. It involves being completely vegan for 31 days during the Month of January.
According to the official Veganuary website there are 3 main reasons why people sign up Veganuary.
- To protect animals
- To help the environment
- To improve health
- Health improvements suggested were a reduction in blood pressure, cholesterol and reduced risk of type-2 diabetes however there is no mention of weight loss.
So why do we hear so much about weight loss and plant-based diets?
1. If your previous diet contained a lot of high fat meat products such as bacon, charcuterie type meats or steak then removing these may tip your overall calorie balance into a deficit. Similarly if you were previously consuming a lot of foods such as pastries, biscuits, ice cream or cheese then again removing these will begin to reduce your overall calorie intake.
2. Many plant based whole-foods are naturally lower in calories. This means you can eat a higher volume of food but without a large amount of energy. Food you may start eating more of include vegetables, beans, lentils & pulses. These foods are also high in fibre which means you will feel full and actually may not be able to consume a large volume. These factors combined can often lead to a reduction in overall calorie intake.
Including more fruit, veg and varieties of fibre also has a positive effect on gut health and the gut microbiome and research suggests that a higher diversity of gut bacteria may influence weight and the ability to lose weight. But you’ll need longer than one month to make significant changes.
3. Vegan diets tend to require more planning and if you start to do this then you may naturally start to reduce the amount of processed or convenience foods you consume. The action of signing up to a month long challenge may automatically make you become more mindful of your food choices and this may make you consciously or subconsciously manage your meals and snacks more carefully.
The rise in popularly of Veganuary and plant-based diets has driven a huge increase in like for like food options. For example Gregg’s vegan sausage rolls, the McPlant burger, Vegan Ben & Jerry’s, Vegan brioche, croissants & pain au chocolat. Therefore is it becoming very easy to eat a high calorie, low nutrient diet whilst maintaining the Vegan diet. If this approach is taken its unlikely that there will be any change in calorie intake or you may even begin to gain weight.
Vegan diets require careful planing, particularly in the early days. This requires time, energy and head space and if this isn’t something you commit to then it can be very easy to eat more processed, pre-packaged foods which may not be as nutrient dense and contain more calories than a home cooked meal.
Like all things in the world of nutrient and weigh loss there are so many nuances in this area but in my professional opinion its much more important to focus on the health benefits of including more plants, more fibre and more whole-foods in the diet (whether this be full vegan or not) than whether you will be seeing the pounds fall off.
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