There are many different reasons people choose to become vegetarians. For some it’s an ethical choice. They believe the meat industry is cruel and inhumane. Others become vegetarian because they want to save the environment. They believe that the meat industry is responsible for polluting and destroying our eco-system. And others choose vegetarianism because they believe a plant based diet is healthier than one that focuses on meat, which is known to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Some people choose to become vegetarian, however, because they think it will help them lose weight. But does it really?
Actually, the belief that a vegetarian diet will aid weight loss is a myth, most likely based on the stereotype of the thin, waif-like vegetarian. For some people, especially people who consume lots of meat, becoming vegetarian might help them drop a few pounds. But there’s no guarantee that a plant based diet will really help anyone lose weight.
Here’s why it’s possible to be a fat – even obese – vegetarian:
Weight is about calories in and calories out. Although certain types of food are more calorie dense – pound for pound, for example, beef contains more calories than broccoli – it’s possible to eat too many calories of any food. Choosing a vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll consume fewer calories, which is a key component for losing weight.
There are plenty of high-calorie vegetarian foods. For the lacto-ovo vegetarian, foods such as eggs, cheese and milk can be packed with calories. Even vegans – who shun all animal products – can eat their fill of pasta, potatoes, bread and some sugary sweets. There are vegetarian and vegan versions of brownies, cupcakes, cookies, doughnuts and pies. Choosing vegetarianism does not eliminate these treats from your diet.
Vegetarians do not necessarily exercise. Studies have found that losing a significant amount of weight – and keeping it off – generally requires a regular exercise program. However, choosing a vegetarian lifestyle does not automatically mean you’ll start to enjoy hiking, jogging and yoga.
Some studies have suggested that choosing – and sticking with – a vegetarian diet may help some people lose weight. But the weight loss principles for vegetarians are the same as those for meat-eaters. For successful weight loss, vegetarians need to consume fewer calories than they use (whether through diet, exercise or both).
If you’re thinking about adopting a vegetarian diet to assist with your weight loss endeavors, you’ll still need to limit high calorie foods (like cupcakes and doughnuts), and you should try to eat more whole foods (like fruits and veggies). By doing this, you may be able to drop a few pounds on a vegetarian diet.