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Recently, we saw a brief blurb on ABC news that indicated that obesity rates in America, as well as globally, are continuing to rise. It looks like we're on track to have 86% of all adults in America categorized as overweight or obese by 2030 - with related health care costs very close to $1 TRILLION! Well, if you look around you, this is really no surprise. As our lifestyles become even more sedentary, and cheap, high calorie (and often tasty) foods are omnipresent, what else can we expect? Or perhaps it's the 3,747 average calories we're consuming per person (according to New Scientist) -- that will pack on the pounds quickly!
The American mentality of instant gratification is also a huge factor. (And here I get on my soapbox.) We are taught from day one, that if we want something "we deserve it" (thanks to the marketing folks at L'oreal), and have to have it NOW (thanks Target). Whatever happened to saving up for something? Whatever happened to working for things? Whatever happened to anticipation? Why do we need so much stuff? And this goes for food too. Last year, when we were travelling through Sedona, we stopped at Taco Bell for a bean burrito, no cheese (vegan). Their new add campaign was something about a "fourth meal." Sheesh!
But I have an easy weight-loss suggestion for the general population; eat vegan a few meals per week. Notice, I said vegan, not vegetarian. That's because vegetarian often means "a non-meat based dish slathered in cheese." And as good as "real" cheese tastes, it's not likely to be part of a "reducing" diet, at least not in the quantities we typically consume. But overall, vegetables have fewer calories than meat.
Now, I'm not saying that simply eating vegan is the solution. We've found plenty of vegan junk food items out there. It's also fairly easy to eat a "bad" vegan diet. Our personal experience -- we notice we tend to gain a pound or three when Jane is baking more often, or when we're eating a lot of vegan ice cream or snacks. But as we move away from processed foods and eat more plant based whole foods, we consume fewer calories, and that's when the pounds come off, and it feels effortless.
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health - Newsletter
- Obesity Research Journal
- BMI Calculator - Adult; Child/Teen
- Veganism: A Weapon to Fight The Obesity Epidemic — John Livesey PhD, Scientific Officer, Department of Endocrinology, Christchurch Hospital, New Zealand
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Some people want to lose weight, so they become vegan. Weight loss is possible. When Jane and I started on our vegan journey, we both effortlessly lost weight. I dropped twenty pounds in 5 months, and she lost 11. These numbers may not be staggering, but we didn't do anything else. We simply went from eating a slightly healthier than average American diet, to a vegan diet. No calorie-counting, no increase in exercise (although we really need to work on that). Not bad for no effort. We'd probably still be losing a bit of weight if Jane wasn't finding new and incredible vegan desserts to make like the vegan danish we had this past weekend.
While Jane was poking around on the internet today, she ran across a post entitled, "Lose Weight While Spending Less on Food and Exercise." She shared it with me and I thought, who doesn't want that? So I figured I'd blog about it too.
The author writes that we should:
- Eschew diet pills / diet drinks -- Jane and I always laugh at those commercials. If you read the fine print, it always says "Combined with a healthy diet and exercise program, (insert product name here) will help you to lose weight." Hmmm, won't the diet and exercise do that without the pills?
- Buy only what you will eat -- So, I guess this means no more beets for us! (I confessed yesterday, that we keep buying beets, but Jane can't bring herself to prepare them, so they usually wind up in the compost bin after a tour of our refrigerator.)
- Eat your heaviest meal in the morning and your lightest at night. -- Tough to do since most of us prepare or go out and eat a hearty dinner.
- Eat smaller portions -- In other words, don't supersize me.
- Chew slowly and carefully -- When I was a child, my mom and I used to watch The Bob Newhart Show. There was one episode where he was talking about chewing food. I don't know why this is still stuck in my head (especially since I probably couldn't tell you anything about any other episode), but here goes... "32 chews keeps your tummy from danger, then you can stay up and watch the long ranger." That should keep you motivated!
- Control your appetite with more physical activity -- um, that would mean getting up from behind the computer occasionally.
- Dilute your fruit juices -- my mom always did this.
- Drink more water -- Water is the most consumed beverage in our household, so that's not really a problem for us. If you're not a huge fan, try putting a slice of citrus in your water. That will make it more palatable.
- Avoid or control the consumption of excessive alcohol, due to its caloric content. As a reminder, some alcohol is not vegan (certain beers and wines, due to the manner in which it they are manufactured, are not vegan.)
- Avoid or control the consumption of processed and junk food -- Well, we know that junk food is bad for you, it just tastes so damned good (until you wean yourself from it).
I would like to add another point:
- Eschew animal products. Plant-based foods tend to cost less than animal-based foods, and tend to have fewer calories and fat too.
Don't get me wrong, you can certainly gain weight eating vegan, but if you eat a healthy vegan diet like we are, the weight can just fall off. And you can save money at the same time (unless you've been subsisting on happy meals or other junk foods). Eat food that is healthy and vegan. Weight loss happens almost without your trying. Talk about a win-win.
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For the last few years, it seems that "the obesity epidemic" has been one of those hot topic issues. You read about it everywhere and hear about it on the news with some regularity. And now that it's January again, it seems like you hear something new every day. I guess it's not so surprising after all. If you do any research on the matter, obesity health-related issues are problems facing most developed and developing countries. According to the World Health Organization there are One BILLION overweight people in the world, and at least 300 million of these are clinically obese. Overweight is defined here as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25 and obesity is having a BMI over 30. Imagine that, 300 million clinically obese people... That's the equivalent of the entire population of the United States. (You can find a BMI Calculator here.)
The most effective way to combat obesity is to modify your diet and to begin an exercise regime. You know, common sense... eat fewer calories than you expend and you'll lose weight. But the global trend of wealthier and denser populations has lead to a change in the way we live. As humans, our diets are comprised of more refined foods, foods which are high in saturated fats, trans-fats, sugars, and over processed grains stripped of their nutrients. And food is omnipresent. There is food for purchase at almost any event you might attend, including plays on Broadway!
In addition to the dietary changes we have also experienced significant changes in the way we live over the last century. More and more labor saving devices allow us more leisure time, and more time to socialize - which is usually a food-centric event. It seems like home cooked meals are becoming a rarity. The computer, television, and electronic games have all but replaced the physical pursuits we used to participate in during our leisure time. Most of us spend our days behind a desk in front of a computer. All this adds up to a sedentary lifestyle, which coupled with the above mentioned dietary changes, has led to our ever expanding waistlines.
One of the ways to combat this problem is to shift to a vegan diet. Most doctors and health organizations recommend that people should increase their intake of fruits and vegetables while reducing their consumption of saturated fats. Saturated fats are primarily found in animal products (with the notable exception of coconut oil).
The major killers of Americans—heart disease, cancer, and stroke—have a dramatically lower incidence among people consuming primarily plant-based diets. Weight problems—a contributor to a host of health problems—can also be brought under control by following the New Four Food Group recommendations. -- The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Of course, being vegan doesn't guarantee that you will lose weight. If you eat nothing but potato chips or Soy Ice Cream, you'll most likely be eschewing animal product, but you won't lose weight. Generally vegan meals are less calorie dense than those centered around animal product. If you've been following this blog at all, you'll know that I've lost 20 pounds and my wife has lost 11 over a six month period. That may not sound like a lot if you're looking to lose 100 or so, but we haven't done anything else. We haven't stepped up our exercise; we haven't cut our consumption. We just changed what we were eating, for other reasons, and had this very nice byproduct. And we're not the only ones. Apparently, a veg*n diet will result in a 1 pound per week average weight loss, as reported in a study by Nutrition Reviews.
For further reading see:
- A New Food Guide for North American Vegetarians (pdf)
- Veganism: A Weapon to Fight The Obesity Epidemic -- John Livesey PhD, Scientific Officer, Department of Endocrinolog, Christchurch Hospital, New Zealand
- Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
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Today is our 4 month anniversary - we started following a vegan diet on 7/7/7 (a most auspicious date).
Today was also the day of my annual check up. Jane and I have been eagerly awaiting today as a day of validation. We have been operating under the assumption that when I got back my bloodwork we would see a dramatic improvement (not that things needed all that much improving.) Unfortunately, the wind was taken out of our sails a bit. Although there was improvement, it was certainly not dramatic enough to shout from the rooftops that we all should be eating vegan.
So, how'd I do?
To date, I've lost 15 pounds. (Only 1 pound in this last month, but you can attribute that to Jane's muffins.) Remember, this is with NO EXERCISE, and no reduction in quantity of food I'm eating.
- My total cholesterol went from 154 to 147 which is a 4+% improvement. Ideally <150
- My HDL (that's the good stuff) went from 46 to 41 which is an 11% reduction. Ideally, it should be over 50 and this can be improved with exercise. Something I'm not doing much of these days. Good > 40
- My LDL (that's the bad stuff) went from 69 to 62 which is a 10% improvement. Ideally <130
- My Triglycerides went from 196 to 221 which is a 13% increase, and not so good. Ideally <150
- My fasting glucose went from 92 to 87. Both numbers are completely within the normal parameter, and show I have no concern about diabetes. Normal is <100
- My blood pressure remained the same.
The most distressing thing for me is that the changes don't seem to be significant enough. We were expecting dramatic improvements. The increase in triglycerides isn't so troubling. The test doesn't really reflect anything more than what's been going on the few days before you take it, but, are we eating too many carbs? It's just so frustrating that this stuff is so complicated. And living the vegan life can be really tough at times.
One more point: I took my blood test a few weeks ago due to scheduling concerns, so this really reflects 3 months of vegan eating.
So, is it worth it? Jane goes for her physical at the beginning of December. We'll evaluate then, but I've got to say, today I miss milk, and turkey, and...
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First off, let me apologize to anyone I may have offended with that statement, but when I was growing up in New York it was common "knowledge" that British Cuisine was an oxymoron. Bangers and Mash, Salisbury steak, Toad-in-the-Hole, Steak and Kidney Pie; none of these are particularly appealing to me, and so I had written off British Cuisine as something that I wouldn't partake of.I have recently changed my mind about that. While I can't say that any of the dishes listed above could ever entice me to give up my vegan life, I have stumbled across a few cooking shows that have caused me to re-think my ideas on British Cuisine.
In my recent pre-vegan days, Nigella Lawson always had something tempting to offer on her TV show, Nigella Feasts; not to mention her sensual treatment of food. Her show always made me want to eat something. There are a few things I remember seeing her prepare which could be easily converted for the vegan diet, and some that were vegan. Nigella's website (link above) has a recipe index, but it appears the recipes are submitted by visitors to the site. I haven't gotten my hands on any of her cookbooks, so I can't discuss whether her recipes cook up well. But everything looks enticing.
Yesterday I caught a program called "You Are What You Eat" on the BBC network. There is some considerable discussion on the web as to whether Gillian McKeith is legitimate... her science is suspect and she seems to be a snake oil peddler. BUT, the show is entertaining and inspiring. It starts with "Dr." McKeith secretly watching the client for a week or so, then piling up what they've eaten for a week. It's absolutely astonishing to see what people will put in their mouths. Then she barks at her clients and teaches them a bit about nutrition. And they live happily ever after by the end of the show.
I'm not sure that it's something I would watch regularly, but it did inspire me to do some googling, and this link is what inspired me to write this post. I spent considerable time on this site, it's clean and well designed and very informative.
And finally, they have vegan recipes (just click on the vegan option). So, who says the Brits can't cook?
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I received an email comment on the blog yesterday :
I HATE to break it to you but I have been vegan for a while now and I am still 100 pounds overweight. Oh well, at least I don’t eat innocent animals--J
The only reply I can make is that this blog is a chronicle of my vegan experiences (and Jane's too). We've lost weight over the past three months. Admittedly I've lost more weight than Jane has, which frustrates her a bit. But we're losing weight because we're eating more fruits and vegetables instead of processed food, just like most nutritionists would advise. Another big contributor to our weight loss is that we're generally having cut up fruit for dessert instead of some high calorie dessert Jane woild have baked; Jane used to love to bake. Our diet has changed to be more healthful and clearly less calorie-intensive, as we are actually consuming more food than before. And I'm sure a grilled portobello mushroom has far fewer calories than Chicken Parmesan!
So J, I'm sorry your experience hasn't been as rewarding mine and Jane's has been so far. But I'm not trying to sell anyone anything, I'm just excited about my experiences and I want to share how easy it has been for me.
And maybe this will inspire others to make choices that will be less harmful to our environment and more compassionate to our fellow creatures on this planet. (Proselytizing over.)
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Today is our 3-month Vegan Anniversary. We started this journey on 07/07/07. It's been an interesting journey. To date, I've lost 15 pounds without any other attempts at losing weight. That's right - no exercise. Jane's lost 5 pounds. That's really exciting. We're not thinking about what we're putting in our mouths from a "diet" perspective, so we're not feeling deprived. Maybe we should bottle this stuff!
There have been the occasional bumps in the road for Jane. She's the cook and has had to learn how to change her thinking when it comes to "what's for dinner." And our staples have had to be re-learned. But we live in southern California, and have some really great year-round farmer's markets, so getting our hands on good fresh produce has never been a problem.
Our biggest issues have involved eating out. We've found that quite a few restaurants don't have anything on the menu for a vegan to eat. But we've found a few vegan friendly restaurants and when we're out with our non-vegan friends or associates we've gravitated towards Italian food. It makes for invisible vegan eating. We don't need to explain our dietary choices to anyone because there is always the option of pasta (whole wheat, of course) with marinara sauce and grilled vegetables. No one looks at you cross-eyed if you skip the cheese. Easy. We just hope Grassroots re-opens soon (they are closed due to fire damage).
Anyway, after three months we both feel fine. There's been no difference in our energy levels and we believe we're healthier. We'll actually be reporting on that in a future post. We've got our annual medical check-ups coming up in late November so we'll see if our new way of life has some hidden benefits as well as the obvious one of weight loss. We expect to be reporting good things.
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That's 14 pounds, gone without really trying.
Sometime in June Jane, my wife, decided we were going vegan. Since we're not billionaires, we decided that we'd finish off all the animal product in the house first. We also had a trip planned for the end of June, and didn't want to start our new lifestyle on the road. Nor did we want to have struggle with a new way of eating upon first coming home, so we settled on 7-7-7 -- an auspicious date.
I have to admit, I was a little reluctant, although I didn't say much since Jane is the primary food preparer in our household. And she said the literature promised all kinds of health benefits, which sounds great when you're middle aged. (I mean really, who cares when you're 20's, a bag of Doritos and a few beers makes a great dinner then.)
We've been doing OK, there are the occasional moments when one of us will look at the other and say "I could really go for a _____ right about now." But it not too often. Cheese and desserts are the toughest things. But we're doing OK being vegan.
So, this morning when I weighed myself and realized -- I've lost 14 pounds, without doing a thing!!!! -- I proudly proclaimed myself a vegan. I'm still the couch potato I've been for the last few years. I didn't take any magic pills or have any surgery. And half of the weight I wanted to lose just fell off all by itself. The vegan diet is magic!
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As I mentioned in my last post. My wife is making us over as vegans. She's got every disease known to mankind in her gene pool and we're hitting our middle-aged stride. There's breast cancer, colon cancer, brain cancer, bone cancer and now liver cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, etc. So, even though we're both relatively healthy, if sedentary and a bit overweight, she wants to ensure she doesn't hit the genetic jackpot if she can avoid it.
We're both doing OK ourselves, but with this last bout of relative cancer, she freaked out, and so now we're vegan. To be quite frank, I'm kind of surprised. Her biggest joy in the epicurean world has been ice cream, followed closely by chocolate. And we both enjoy the out-of-home dining experience. But, in the division of labor in our household, she is the cook, which makes her the pack leader. Where she goes, I follow...
Lately Jane, my wife, has taken to borrowing books on various health topics from our local library. The latest book, Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes was her main inspiration for veganism, diabetes being one of the more prevalent diseases in her family tree. Dr. Barnard proposes a low-fat vegan diet to help prevent diabetes, and his anecdotal evidence was quite compelling.
Couple that with her increasing distress at how meat products get to our table, it was a sure bet that we'd be vegetarians at the least. I mean, this woman practices the catch and release program with any insect that makes its way into our home! No matter what stage of sleep I might be in, if there's a spider in our house, I have to escort him out.
Hopefully all this healthy eating will pay off. As I mentioned yesterday, I've already dropped 8 pounds without an ounce of effort on my part. I sure can't complain about that!