Weight loss for a vegetarian lifestyle

I need to follow a weight loss plan to help me lose about 40 pounds, and right now I am on day four of the Atkins diet. I don’t really like the way I am feeling right now, and I feel like I am eating too much meat/ poultry/eggs. Do you have any suggestions on what kind of diet would better suit my normally vegetarian lifestyle?

Answered by Bradley West, ND, of Santa Cruz, California, who specializes in diet, food allergies, gastroenterology, thyroid, adrenals, and traditional and functional medicine.

The ability to lose weight or regain an optimal weight depends on many factors such as your age, individual biochemistry, metabolism and digestion. If an extra 40 pounds has accumulated over the years from poor food choices (such as too much processed foods), over-eating, or under-exercising and you are less than 50 years old, simple weight loss changes could be all it takes to lose those extra pounds.

Adding extra walking, stretching, running, and weight training not only burns calories and speeds up metabolism, but these activities also improve your mood, circulation, and overall health. By cutting out over-processed foods and grains (such as wheat, corn, and rice) and relying more on whole, fresh, and organic foods in a plant based, vegetarian diet can work wonders. This means you need to eat lots of veggies and greens, some fruits, and a good amount of essential fats found in nuts, olives, and avocadoes—to name a few. Oftentimes, vegetarians will need to add eggs and wild caught fish a few times per week to be optimally healthy and control cravings.

If someone wants to lose weight, they should be aware of everything that they eat and drink each day. The most effective way to do this is to log every item that they consume, in either a journal or an online food tracker. You will be surprised by what you eat. Mindful eating is a practice where people pay attention to how and where they eat food. This practice can enable people to enjoy the food they eat and maintain a healthy weight. As most people lead busy lives, they often tend to eat quickly on the run, in the car, working at their desks, and watching TV. As a result, many people are barely aware of the food they are eating.

If you are older than 50 or struggling to lose weight while eating a low-calorie and healthy diet, it’s time to check your hormones. Low-functioning thyroid disorders are very common and can make it nearly impossible to lose weight. Too much stress, not enough sleep, environmental toxins, and food allergies can all weaken the thyroid, in addition to causing problems with digestion, metabolism, and many other body functions and systems. Have a thyroid blood panel done, but also go by your symptoms and basal body temperature, as thyroid blood tests are often misleading.

I also see great results with periodic juice-fasting to bring back balance. But be sure to consult with your local naturopathic or integrative doctor before starting a fast. The above strategies will take a bit longer for your weight to normalize, but ultimately, you will feel and look much better without yo-yoing and struggling with a diet that isn’t fit for you.

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