Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fat Vegan

A vegan diet does not guarantee a slender physique.

Nor does a vegan diet guarantee health.

A friend who went vegan nearly six months ago laments that she cannot lose weight.  For the record, my friend isn't fat, though she's probably carrying a few more pounds than what would be ideal for her health.  By following a vegan diet, though, she has seen her cholesterol numbers drop dramatically.

She and I went to dinner at the same Mexican restaurant.  Our experiences were different.

I planned ahead -- I looked at the menu online earlier in the day, decided on a salad, on which I would substitute black beans instead of chicken, eliminate the cheese and tortilla chips, and ask for the dressing on the side.

She pored over the menu looking for something "warm", and chose the vegetable fajitas.  While chatting with our friends, she snacked on chips.  Then she summoned over the waiter to place an order for guacamole.

She shared the guacamole with all of us, and since I had a fairly tough workout earlier in the day, I knew I had a little bit of wiggle room in my calories for the day.  So, I had about two tablespoons of the guacamole and a tortilla.  She had most of the rest of it, with chips.

My salad looked and tasted delicious.  I kept the dressing on the side since there was salsa on the salad which was delicious and gave the salad enough flavor.

When her fajitas came, she also got a plate of rice and beans to go along with them.

Over dinner, she talked about some great vegan finds -- Daiya cheese, and vegan pizza from Whole Foods.

And then, she lamented that as a vegan she hasn't lost any weight.  "It must be my metabolism."

Now, I'm not going to suggest that I'm perfect in my eating.  I'm not.  I struggle with my demons -- late night eating, sweets, the uncertainty of a meal at a restaurant and the lack of impulse control that can come with dining with friends.

My point is this -- just because you are a vegan does not mean that you will be slender.  You need to make wise food choices.  There are lots of calorie-laden, vegan choices -- guacamole, tortilla chips, energy bars that are loaded with sugar, vegan baked goods, restaurant dishes fried in oil, soda, candy bars, and on and on.

Rather than aiming for "vegan", look to whole, unprocessed or minimally-processed foods.  Look to fruits and vegetables to make up most of your diet.  Fill the rest in with whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats, and unprocessed sources of protein like beans and lentils, or minimally processed foods like tofu.

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