Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Of the many ways to lose weight, one stands out as by far the most healthful. When you build your meals from a generous array of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans—that is, healthy vegetarian choices—weight loss is remarkably easy. And along with it come major improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and many other aspects of health. The message is simple: Cut out the foods that are high in fat and devoid of fiber, and increase the foods that are low in fat and full of fiber. This low-fat, vegan diet approach is safe and easy—once you get the hang of it.
Changing eating habits is the cornerstone of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight permanently. There is no way to “lose 20 pounds in two short weeks” and make it last. Very-low-calorie diets or low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets may cause major health problems and are very difficult to maintain for the long term.
The old myth was that pasta, bread, potatoes, and rice are fattening. Not true. In fact, carbohydrate-rich foods are perfect for permanent weight control. Carbohydrates contain fewer than half the calories of fat, which means that replacing fatty foods with complex carbohydrates automatically cuts calories. But calories are only part of the story.
The body treats carbohydrates differently than fat calories. The difference comes from how the body stores the energy of different food types. It is very inefficient for the body to store the energy of carbohydrates as body fat. When your body tries to turn carbohydrate into fat, it wastes 23 percent of the calories of the carbohydrate. But fat is easily converted into body fat. Only 3 percent of the calories in fat are burned in the process of conversion and storage. It is the type of food that affects body fat the most.
Although protein and carbohydrates have almost the same number of calories per gram, foods that are high in protein—particularly animal products—are also usually high in fat. Even “lean” cuts of meat have much more fat than a healthy body needs. And animal products always lack fiber. Fiber helps make foods more satisfying without adding many calories, and it is only found in foods from plants.
Exercise helps, too. Aerobic exercise speeds up the breakdown of fat and makes sure that muscle is not lost. Toning exercises and weight-lifting help firm muscles and increase muscle mass. The trick is to find activities that you enjoy and that fit your lifestyle. Walking is a good way to start. You can do it anywhere at just about any time.
The best weight control program is a high-complex carbohydrate, low-fat, vegetarian diet complemented by regular exercise. This is the best choice for a healthier, longer, happier life.