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How to End a Weight Loss Plateau with a Plant-Based Diet: 9 tips for success

What if there was a way to break through a weight-loss plateau and keep the weight off in a healthy way, without having to think about it all the time or work at it constantly?

It’s exhausting and frustrating to have one diet after another fail or stall before you reach your destination.

I speak from experience after struggling with my weight and diet for nearly 30 years.

There are a lot of fad diets that help you lose weight rapidly for a little while because they remove processed foods from your diet. I have tried at least a dozen.

Inevitably, you hit a plateau after a few weeks of dramatic weight loss, and you may even begin to regain the weight. 

One way to keep that from happening is to adopt a whole-foods plant-based diet.

A plant-based diet consisting of calorie dilute, whole foods is sustainable over the long haul and will prevent you from gaining the weight back because it is a lifestyle and not a fad diet.

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1. Weight Loss Plateaus are Natural

The calories in calories out theory breaks down

The theory of 3500 calories to burn one pound of fat is not an exact science after all. It’s true that we must create a calorie deficit but later in your weight loss, the amount can vary. Metabolism may slow down a little as you lose weight have less of you to carry around.

It’s inevitable to hit a plateau once you reach the weight that is sustained by the calories you are now eating. You have to find a way to eat the number of calories it would take to sustain your thinner self. The problem is that you might have to eat less than you did before you got fat just to hit your target weight.

Often people who go on calorie-restricted diets long term end up with insatiable hunger. Then they gradually start eating a bit more food without noticing.

To break the weight loss plateau you have to find a way to cut calories even further without slowing your metabolism too much. When we cut back too far there is the inevitable pendulum swing to the other extreme.

By eating high-volume low-calorie foods you can keep from triggering hunger hormones. If you keep eating a diet of refined foods it is very hard to resist your hunger signals.

With whole foods, you feel full eating fewer calories because plants are high-nutrient high-bulk foods that have fewer calories.

A plant-based diet is safer and more sustainable than a ketogenic diet

A plant-based low-fat diet high in whole unprocessed foods does not give you such a dramatic initial weight loss. But a plant-strong diet is one you can stay on for life without adverse effects.

When you lose weight slowly, one to two pounds per week maximum, you can ensure that you are losing 90% fat.

2. A Whole-Foods, plant diet can take the weight off fast at first


Eating a plant-based whole-food diet can mean rapid weight loss at first.Your body is eager to dump toxins built up in the tissues and colon.

The fiber in plant foods helps carry away toxins rapidly and help you feel much more satiated with fewer calories. You may also lose a lot of water weight early on if you cut back on salt consumption.

Higher nutrients levels with plant-based nutrition gradually help you get rid of cravings for processed foods.

When you eat a whole-food diet, your body is receiving many more nutrients than on the Standard American diet (SAD).

As you up to the levels of plants, including berries, beans, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, and onions, you increase your phytonutrient ratio per calorie dramatically. So the more you eat of low-calorie whole foods, the more weight you will lose without slowing down your metabolism. The reason a bulky high fiber plant-rich diet works is because you’re not trying to lose weight by trying to eat small portions of processed foods.

One of the biggest problems with the usual fad-diets is that you are cutting out so many nutrients and so many calories your body begins to fight back by hoarding fat.

And what’s worse is that you start to get crazy uncontrollable cravings for high-calorie junk foods.

When I first started on a whole-foods plant-based diet using Chef AJ’s book, I lost 30 pounds in a couple of months.

The diet was so high in nutrients I had been missing for a long time. this made it easy to stick with and I was never hungry.

Whole plant foods like beans, sweet potatoes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are so low in calories and so high in fiber that the amount I had to eat to get enough calories was about 4 or 5 times as much as the SAD or Standard American Diet.

There was a huge variety of food to choose from and recipes that made it all taste pretty good.

You can learn more about eating nutrient-dense foods at Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s site. He has written some incredible books on staying thin and healthy for life and reversing chronic lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease, depression, and more.

Dr. Gregor’s book, How Not to Die, is an excellent resource as well.

With this heightened nutrient level, you feel more satiated, so you don’t eat as many calories as you used to, and you feel full on the high fiber veggies. It is incredibly easy to lose weight…

At first.

But even a whole foods diet isn’t magic and your weight loss will slow down but you will continue to lose weight gradually and reach a healthy weight.

When to Adjust Your Diet

If you find that after a month or two of rapid weight loss you are stuck at the same weight for more than a few weeks, it might be time to make some adjustments to get to your goal weight. Or you might want to lose more slowly from now on.

Take a body-positive moment…

But first, make sure you bask in the enjoyment of eating a healthy diet. Then decide if you want or need to lose more weight right this minute.

Ideal weight is different for everyone. Maybe your original goal weight is unrealistic. That is for you to decide.

Even a weight loss of a few pounds is beneficial to your health. If you are stressing yourself out over losing more weight, this could be more stressful than the weight itself — something to think about.

With any diet, the closer you get to the goal, the less food you need. When you were bigger, you needed much more food to maintain all that body mass. Cutting back by a few hundred calories per day made a dramatic difference at first.

Now that you are smaller, the weight loss can slow down or even stop because you are currently eating just the right amount to maintain that first level weight loss. That’s why that last few pounds are always hardest to lose.

3. Your Microbiome is the key to successful long-term weight loss

The microbiome has been linked to resistance to weight loss. But this is good news because this is something we can correct through proper diet over time. Be patient and keep going. It can take a couple of years to correct your microbiome, depending on how much damage you have done.

By eating a diet rich in high fiber plants and making sure you get a variety of nutrients every day, you are building a better microbiome.

Our modern diet high in processed foods and animal products is the opposite of what our microbiome likes and is suited for. Even vegan junk foods full of sugar and white flour and oil can destroy good bacteria.

4. Over-Exercising Won’t Magically Make You Thin

Our bodies were built to hold on to fat just in case there is a famine. Getting your body to feel safe enough to let go of that last bit can be a challenge. If you over-exercise, you wear yourself out and make yourself hungrier, so you end up eating more in the long run.

Moderate exercise is excellent but overdoing it won’t help you lose weight. There are diminishing returns with training. If you push too hard, you feel run down, and your body begins to rebel by hoarding more fats in case you decide to do that again. Adding strength training can help, and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time.

What you eat is the primary regulator of body fat. Even elite athletes who exercise at the highest levels on earth can remain fat. A great example is Monica Seles, the tennis star who wrote a book about her struggle with binge eating while she was training for many hours every day.

5. Stress can stall your weight loss

Sleep

Make sleeping 7 or more hours a night a priority. Sleep deprivation can cause weight gain by skewing levels of the hormones, leptin, and Ghrelin in the brain and body. This can skew appetite regulation leading to more natural weight gain.

Massage, self-massage yoga, and other soothing focused forms of exercise can be better than adding heavy workouts sometimes. Fluid types of resistance training like Barre class or Pilates can also help.

Ways to relax for better digestion:

  • Close your eyes and take a mini 4-breath meditation before you start with long deep breaths to relax the nervous system
  • Savoring your food, by smelling it before you start
  • Let each bite reach the stomach before taking another bite.
  • Turning off the TV and phone while eating

The Psychology of Eating Institute has a lot of information on being present when you are eating.

6. Eat the right fats in the right amounts

Take a look at your fat consumption. How much and what types of fats are you eating? If you are sticking with starches, beans, veggies, and fruits, you are probably eating low enough calorically that you can eat a high volume of food.

But be careful about higher fat items like tofu and soybeans because they are about 50% fat as opposed to other beans that are a lot lower in fat.

Dairy is great for growing baby calves into 800-pound cows!

If you are still consuming dairy, this could be the culprit. Some studies suggest that the protein fragments called casomorphins in dairy can interfere with your hormones.

Milk has built-in opioids to make the baby animal sleepy and docile after feeding. Do you want that drowsy drug-like effect?

Cheese is a tough one to give up because of the drug-like effect. Cheese has higher concentrations of casomorphins than other types of dairy products.

Our culture is big on the calcium propaganda churned out by the dairy council about milk. But it doesn’t add up. We have higher levels of osteoporosis in the US than countries that do not use any dairy products.

I had the hardest time of all giving up cheese.

For most would-be vegans and healthy paleo folks, dairy is the hardest thing to let go of. But if you are having trouble losing weight, you will be happy once you say good-bye to cheese expecially.

Cheese is 70 percent fat and predominantly saturated fats. Cheese and has more sodium than potato chips. The proteins in dairy can cause autoimmune symptoms of inflammation, joint pain, and arthritis.

weight gain is easier with high-fat foods like cheese and oil because there is little energy used up to convert the fat into, well, fat. With carbs, the extra step burns a few calories.

Read, The Cheese Trap, by Neil Barnard MD to learn more about the problems with dairy.

Vegetable Oil Can be a Problem

Try switching out oil for whole foods containing healthy fats to down on calories. Oil can also aggravate inflammation by the irritating the endothelial lining of blood vessels.

What about olive oil and coconut oil?

Olive oil and coconut oil have been touted as wonder foods. Their full fiber origins; coconut and olives are much better for us than the extracted oil which are 100 percent refined and stripped of their phytonutrients.

You get the whole host of phytonutrients from the complete versions. Cooking oils are stripped of all the fiber and most of the nutrients leaving only the fat and minor amounts of beneficial elements if any.

Vegetable oil of any kind packs so many calories, at 120 per tablespoon, that it just isn’t healthy food.

Processed oil is found in almost every prepared food, even the so-called healthy ones. You have to check labels carefully and prep more at home.

Sometimes the only way to avoid oily foods is to bring your own home-made oil-free dressing with you when eating out, bringing a food cooler in the car at all times and pre-eat before a meal out in case there isn’t much that is edible when you get there.

Essential Fatty Acids

We need healthy essential fats, but they should come from whole foods like avocados, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raw soaked nuts, and seeds of all kinds in small amounts. Include flax seeds or chia seeds raw freshly ground.

Oily fruits and even sweet potatoes, greens, and other veggies have small amounts of healthy fats in them. As long as you are eating a whole-plant-based-foods every day in a wide variety, you should be getting plenty of fats and essential oils.

The great thing about eating a predominantly plant-based diet and cutting out the oil is that your omega 3, 6 and nine ratios become ideal because plants are much higher in omega 3, the good fats while omega 6 is lower.

This is the opposite in a standard American diet filled with meat, dairy, and oil which makes it almost impossible to get healthy ratios of your EFA’s for heart health no matter how much omega-three supplementations you take. It is proposed that inflammation is caused by the high ratio of omega 6 in proportion to omega 3.

An algae-based supplement for EFA and DHA can also be helpful for vegans and non-vegans alike. DHA is essential to absorb vitamin D from sunlight and very important for brain health and overall energy levels.

I can’t recommend eating seafood because of the high levels of heavy metals in seafood and because it isn’t going to be sustainable for much longer for our oceans. The EFA and DHA in fish come from the algae they consume. So if you go directly to that algae is safer than mercury exposure from fish.

If you do want to eat some seafood, keep to the lower end of the food chain with sardines or anchovies. Avoid larger fish like Tuna and Sea Bass because the larger fish have eaten everyone else and everyone else’s toxin load.

7. The right carbs for plant-based weight loss

You may need to cut back on flour products like pasta and bread. Even the whole grain forms can slow down weight loss and cause cravings for some people, so you end up eating more, or cheating more often.

Eating higher fiber whole grains like quinoa, brown rice whole steel cut oats instead of their flour-based counterparts can help speed up your weight loss because you feel satiated faster.

When steel blades grind the fiber of any plant into a fine powder, it destroys that fiber matrix that slows down the absorption of starches into the bloodstream.

Insulin spikes can cause fat storage and weight gain or at least slow down your weight loss.

Check your dried fruit consumption

If you are eating a lot of dates and other dried fruits in your recipes these can be very concentrated. It is easy to overeat dried fruits quickly.

Typically fruit is very low in calories at around 300 calories per pound, but apples or bananas become extremely high calorie when dehydrated.

Smoothies and Juices can be an issue

Smoothies can lead to weight gain for some people

This was a big disappointment for me!  I used to pound down a smoothie every morning.

We are taught that it is incredibly healthy to have a green smoothie every day. And this is true in a way because a green smoothie is a lot healthier than eating a muffin or many traditional breakfast foods.

But because mechanical blades destroy the fiber this makes the sugars in some plants go into your bloodstream too quickly causing blood sugar issues over time. Susan Peirce Thompson explains why smoothies, dried fruit, and artificial sweeteners can kill weight loss progress.

Eating more salads and whole foods can help with weight loss because you feel full longer.

Smoothies are almost predigested and can leave you hungry or lead to overeating because you have not experienced the chewing sensation. It is a lot easier to overeat on blended foods than whole plants that have to be chewed.

If you cut back on blended meals, like smoothies and protein drinks, you might speed up your weight loss.

Any highly processed foods will have the effect of being higher in concentration and easier to overeat on.

Flour, sugar, protein powders are all designed to fatten us up. Keep your food as close to its natural form as you can for improved insulin sensitivity.

8. Add more raw, low-fat plants to lose weight faster

This is something we all intuitively know. Raw foodists lose weight fast. I went on a raw food diet for four months and lost a lot of weight very quickly.

But raw food diets are hard to sustain because there is a lot of prep involved to get enough calories. There are many phytonutrients you miss by leaving out whole grains, legumes, and other cooked veggies.

Most people end up compensating for the lack of cooked starches with nuts seeds and dried fruit. Ultimately this turned out to be an unbalancing, frustrating experience.

It just wasn’t sustainable long term for me. It was expensive and unsatisfying without starches like sweet potatoes and beans in my diet.

However, adding raw foods at the beginning of every meal can help fill you up. For instance, you could add some carrots, salad greens, jicama, cut up apples, etc. to your meal.

Raw foods are less absorbable for the body and take more energy to digest. The minute you cook foods, you make them more available to the body to use as fuel and stored as fat because there is less energy spent on digestion.

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham goes into all the details of why humans eat cooked food and why it is so hard to subsist on a completely raw foods diet for humans.

9. The Right Amount and Kind Right of Protein

Contrary to popular belief, it may not be a good thing to eat a high protein diet to lose weight.

Animal protein, even grass-fed, still tends to be higher in fat per pound and has more toxins in it than plants. In reality, you are eating not a high protein diet but a high fat and toxin diet when you ingest too much animal protein. You may lose weight faster for a little while, but the point is to have healthy lasting weight loss without increasing your risk of disease.

Protein isolates and powders are too easy to digest and speed through your system without needing to be worked on. You may want to try cutting back on protein powders if you use them and try more beans and plant proteins.

The World Health Organization has been recommending that 10 to 15 percent of your diet should come from protein.

But in the US, the meat and dairy industry fund the FDA and distorting our data to sell their products. The China Study and Whole by T Collin Campbell explain why we are encouraged to eat animal products.

These foods have been proven to lead to disease in humans in many studies done inside and outside of the US. Dean Ornish has also done some in-depth studies.

The problem with Ketosis

Keto, Paleo, and other high-fat, high-protein animal-based diets give you rapid weight loss at first.

But a high protein high fat with virtually no carbohydrates causes drastic water loss and only about 75% fat loss, the rest is muscle and water.

You don’t want to lose muscle mass when you diet because muscle mass is one of the best ways to keep your metabolism up so you can burn fat easily.

People tend to gain more fat than before the diet every time they go on and off a high protein and high-fat diet.

On a balanced, low-fat, plant-strong, whole foods diet you are losing 90 to 95% fat and very little muscle mass.  

Being in ketosis is dangerous long term and can cause insulin resistance due to the fat in the blood blocking insulin receptors in the cells. So when you do go off your diet or stray even a tiny bit you spike your insulin levels. this is why people gain so much weight so fast when they end ketosis or a high-fat diet.

Diets high in saturated fat are not natural and can be dangerous for your health in the long run. Keto diets can raise your cholesterol and inflammation levels

Another problem with a diet low in whole-plant sourced complex carbohydrates; like fruits, veggies, nut, and seeds, is that you are missing out on most phytonutrients you need to fight diseases.

Sadly businesses profit through illness

The US has become one of the least healthy countries in the world with high rates for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, mental health issues, and a lot of other diseases. Much of the reason is the agricultural and pharmaceutical policies in this country.

Everything has to be FDA approved to be taken seriously. this costs millions of dollars in scientific studies. Only a few large companies can afford to have their products studied with scientific rigor. This is the reason there is little emphasis on simple dietary solutions to disease and obesity. Few people are doing studies on substances that cannot be patented.

In Summary

  • Eat whole foods and avoid processed food as much as possible.
  • Improve your microbiome
  • Do exercise you enjoy but try not to overdo it.
  • Eating more raw foods can aid in speeding up weight loss.
  • Check your dried fruit and other hidden processed sugar consumption.
  • Consider cutting out oil and checking your consumption of nuts.
  • Cut out dairy products which can be high in fat and mess with hormones.
  • Keep your carbohydrates whole, try cutting back on flour, dried fruits, and smoothies.
  • Reduce stress levels with adequate sleep, meditation, and self-massage.

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