Weight loss programs have been around for a long time, with more and more on offer. For the average person, it is almost impossible to go through all the pros and cons and ultimately decide on which program to follow. Paleo, keto, Atkins, calorie restriction, and plant-based weight loss, there are so many options and approaches. One approach is low-fat, another high-fat. There is low-carb versus high-carb. How are you going to make a decision? In this article, our aim is to not add to the confusion but to provide a perspective that will ultimately make it easier to know what to look for.
The key question to ask yourself
Most weight-loss diets have two things in common: Calorie restriction and eating less. Both of them go hand in hand, as less eating generally also means less calorie intake. Whatever you eat, if you decrease your food and calorie intake, you will in most cases lose weight in the short term. We will not go into the specifics of each type of weight loss diet and its calorie restriction approach, but you get the point.
The missing thing in most weight-loss diets is that there is no long-term plan. It is almost impossible to continuously restrict your intake of food and calories. This is where almost all weight loss programs fail: A sustainable dietary approach that one can follow consistently to maintain a healthy weight.
So, in our opinion, the key question to ask yourself when considering weight loss programs is: Am I going to be able to maintain this diet and lifestyle for a long time?
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The sustainable weight loss approach
Considering dietary approaches to weight loss and looking at the available scientific evidence, we need to specifically mention one diet that:
- Helps achieve weight loss
- Can be sustained as it does not involve quantity restriction
You may have already heard of this dietary lifestyle. It is called a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet. The term originates from Dr. Campbell and his well-known revolutionary medical and nutritional work documented in his book, The China Study.
What is a Whole Food, Plant-Based diet?
Simply said, this diet is all about consuming plant-based foods in their purest form. The diet excludes animal products like meat, fish, cheese, and milk. In addition, preference is given to unprocessed foods. For example, whole grain bread is preferred over white bread, or olives are preferred over olive oil.
The reason is that lots of valuable nutrients get lost during the processing process. Whole plant foods contain fiber, minerals, vitamins, and natural levels of fat, whereas processing leads to losing lots of these nutrients, and instead of creating an imbalanced product high in calories, sugar, salt, or fat. By consuming whole plant foods you can eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains without worrying about overconsumption of calories, sugar, salt, and fat, and that is the key!
We now know that these calorie-rich products are both addictive and can contribute to obesity. The World Health Organization estimates that 650 million people worldwide are obese, and 1,9 billion people are overweight. In its prevention and control recommendations, the WHO specifically mentions that we should increase the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts, in addition to regular exercise.
What are some of the key studies proving weight loss on a plant-based diet?
There are many studies that prove the positive impact of a Whole Food, Plant-Based diet on short-term and long-term weight loss and balance. One of the studies to highlight is Dr. McDougall´s in-house program. Over 1600 participants, most with common disease symptoms such as obesity, started eating a mostly Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet. After just 7 days the average weight loss was 3,1 pounds, all the while participants ate as much whole plant foods as they desired. No calorie or food quantity restriction, just a simple but profound dietary adjustment.
We also need to mention that in following up with participants several months and years later, most of them were able to continue their weight loss journey and reach and sustain their ideal weight. Circling back, the key question we asked earlier: Am I going to be able to maintain this diet and lifestyle for a long time?
It appears that the Whole Food, Plant-Based diet may well be our best-known answer to the question.