There’s plenty of evidence — both scientific and anecdotal — pointing towards the connection between weight loss and the vegan diet. One such study even says that it should be considered an option for reversing and preventing obesity.
So, exactly how long does it take to lose weight on a vegan diet?
Well, research says that this diet can help you lose significant weight in as little as 18 weeks.
Of course, you start losing weight way before that. Done right, you should be able to start safely losing weight in just a week. There are also other benefits that’ll come immediately, as well as others that come a bit later on.
On that note, how many pounds you lose and how fast you drop them depends on a bunch of factors. You also wouldn’t want to lose weight too fast because that’s just not safe. Plus, there are pros and cons to this that I believe you should know about so you can gauge if this diet really is meant for you.
Let’s talk about those, starting with this:
What’s a safe way to lose weight on a vegan diet?
As with any other weight loss diet, it all comes down to using more calories than you take in.
Per the MayoClinic, cutting about 500-1,000 calories a day from your normal intake will help you shed about 1-2 lbs per week.
Many experts consider this the safe rate to lose weight. Any more than that and you run the risk of putting your body in survival mode which slows down your metabolism — and that’s just not good if you want to keep the weight off.
This is actually quite advantageous to vegans. As research shows, vegans generally ate about 602 calories less than omnivores, so it’s right in that safe sweet spot. However, it still boils down to you controlling your portions.
That being said, I highly recommend counting your calories at least until you get a good grasp of how much food you need to eat. It’s going to be annoying having to log everything you eat at first but it pretty much becomes second nature once you get the hang of it.
I’m using the free MyFitnessPal app whenever I’m trying to adjust my calories. There’s a paid premium version but, honestly, I’ve never used it because the free one does the job just fine.
Also, I highly recommend using the vegan food pyramid as a guide.
While limiting your calories is important, where you get these calories is even more vital.
This is where the Vegan Food Pyramid comes in.
It prioritizes fruits and vegetables, followed by whole grains, then dairy substitutes, beans, and seeds, then fats and sweets.
Following this pyramid should get you the balanced diet that the National Health Service (NHS) recommends.
Factors that affect weight loss even on a vegan diet
Now, even if you do practice portion control and follow the guidelines of both the NHS and the food pyramid, everyone’s weight loss journey will still be at least a little different. Here are a few reasons why you might be losing weight slower:
It’s no secret that a good majority of us tend to pack more weight as we get older and it’s largely because of our hormones.
For men, it’s largely because of a steady decline in testosterone whereas it’s menopausal for women. Either way, these hormonal changes bog down our metabolism, making it easier to gain fat (weight) and lose muscle.
These hormonal changes also tend to reduce energy levels, making us lazy and burn less calories.
So, please don’t compare yourself to younger folk. It’s just unfair.
Unfortunately, it might just be how you’re wired.
There’s a study that followed several twins and found out that even those who were reared apart shared the same inclination towards obesity. Therefore, if you were born into a family with either of your parents being overweight, there’s a chance that you might have inherited their genes.
Luckily, obesity isn’t solely genetic. That’s why you see relatively slim parents with overweight children, and vice versa.
So, even if your genes make it harder than average for you to lose weight, it’s still very much possible.
Your current health status
Obesity has been associated with quite a number of diseases. Per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), these include:
- Heart disease
Among several others. Along with any other injuries you may have, these conditions will be huge factors in the degree of activity you will be able to tolerate, as well as the type of food you will have to take. Thus, quite possibly forcing you to take things slower than usual.
That’s okay though. Progress is still progress after all.
Your current weight
The heavier you are, the easier it will be for you to lose weight. And the closer you are to your ideal weight, the slower (and harder) losing weight becomes.
The logic behind this is fairly simple and can be explained with basic physics — a heavier object (i.e. yourself) will require more force (calories) to move a certain distance.
So, if you weigh 200lbs, you will burn through more calories walking 1 mile versus someone who only weighs 135lbs and walks the same distance.
Also, I’m saying this from experience but it’s so much easier to cut calories when you’re heavy compared to when you’re light.
For example, let’s say you eat 4,000 calories right now. It’s easier to cut 500 calories off of that compared to when you’ll only be eating 1,500 calories down the line.
Your previous lifestyle/diet
If you’ve been relying on junk food and fast food before now, switching to the much cleaner vegan diet is going to get you results almost immediately.
On the other hand, if you lead a relatively healthy life prior to going vegan, there likely won’t be as much cleaning up left to do, so the results won’t be as apparent.
Your stress levels and how much sleep you get
I’m putting these two together because they’re closely linked. Put simply, less sleep leads to more stress, and more stress might lead to lower quality sleep.
This is important to your weight loss journey because, as one study says, stress and sleep share a lot of the same pathways that affect metabolism. So, having abnormal amounts of either of them can stagnate your goals.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a vegan?
Here’s where you gauge whether or not this diet is meant for you. If you think the pros of going vegan outweigh the cons, it might be worth a try. If not, there are always other ways to lose weight.
Below is a quick list of what I think are the most important pros and cons of going vegan. Further down and we’ll get more in-depth with these items.
High potential for weight loss
Well, you’re here to learn about vegan and weight loss, right?
So, in case I haven’t made it clear yet, vegans generally eat less calories than their omnivore counterparts. If you do the switch, there’s a good chance you’d lose weight, too.
Be careful not to lose weight too fast though. If you need help doing this, scroll back up to the “What’s a safe way to lose weight on a vegan diet?” section near the top of the page.
Healthier than the traditional diet and even other plant-based diets
According to a 2016 research, the vegan diet saved about 129 million lives with 8.1 million deaths avoided. That’s more lives saved compared to other vegetarian diets and even other diets that adopt global dietary guidelines. Incredible, right?
Per the same research, this is because you eat significantly less red meat (like, none at all) while eating more fruits and vegetables. The reduced caloric intake also led to lower numbers of obesity which, by the way, also played a huge role in saving lives.
Moreover, the vegan diet reduces the risk of developing several deadly illnesses, including:
- Coronary heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Food is generally packed with antioxidants and other nutrients
Fruits and veggies, beans, legumes, and a lot of other foods in the vegan diet are naturally loaded with powerful antioxidants.
This is important particularly in today’s world because a good bulk of what’s around us now can lead to oxidative damage, including cigarettes, junk food, pollution, radiation, stress, and several other things that contribute to disease.
These antioxidants help shield our cells from these things, thus making us healthier for the long-haul.
Vegan food is also generally high in several nutrients, such as fiber, vitamin C, and magnesium while having significantly less unhealthy fat.
Better for the environment
While other people switch to veganism for the health benefits, others are fascinated by its positive effects on the Earth we live in.
For one, animal production requires way more fossil fuel, leading to higher greenhouse gas emissions. It also consumes more water and resources — and I think that’s definitely something to think about.
While there’s still a large pool of food choices in the vegan diet, it also restricts a lot of others.
The whole food bit is pretty obvious — you can’t eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, and honey — but aside from that, you likely won’t be able to find a lot of vegan meals in most restaurants as well.
This, of course, eliminates a lot of junk food — which is a pro, obviously — but it can also be an inconvenience. Imagine going on a date with someone who just absolutely adores barbecue, or going to social events with meals that aren’t vegan-friendly. Man, that would be a nightmare.
The need to constantly read labels
Speaking of inconveniences, you might want to make reading labels a habit just to make sure all the ingredients fit your diet.
With all the restrictions, you need to. Honestly, I’m not even vegan but just the thought of having to check virtually everything I buy at the supermarket seems like it’ll be one huge pain in the behind.
Lacks a few nutrients
While the vegan diet helps you get more fiber, vitamin C, iron, and magnesium, it also lacks a few others. Perhaps the most notable of these is vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
B12 is largely found in meat, dairy, and eggs, so going vegan can easily rob you of this vital vitamin. D, on the other hand, is a vitamin that a lot of people lack, regardless if they’re omnivores or vegans.
The good news is that there are plenty of vegan supplements available, including MaryRuth’s D3+B12 gummies.
Other nutrients that you might want more of in the vegan diet include:
- Calcium (plus magnesium and potassium) for bone strength.
- Iodine for thyroid health
- Zinc for a solid immune system
- Omega-3 fatty acids to fight off inflammation
While I do believe supplementation is key for vegans getting the right amount of nutrients, fortified foods like tofu, iodized salt, and some cereals do help.
Mostly incomplete sources of protein and amino acids
Animal sources of protein like fish, beef, and eggs contain all essential amino acids, which is why they’re considered “complete”. Plant-based sources of protein, on the other hand, mostly lack at least 1 (study).
This is probably one of the most commonly known drawbacks of going vegan but, luckily, there’s a very easy solution: just get your veggie protein from multiple sources.
There are also plant-based sources of protein like quinoa and soy with a complete amino acid profile, so it’s always a good idea to include those in your diet.
In a nutshell
In case you were still asking “how long does it take to lose weight on a vegan diet?”, it generally doesn’t take a lot of time. A week’s worth of eating clean and eating the right proportions should get you results.
However, it also depends on a handful of factors, including your age, genetics, health, and a few others. It also matters if, to you, the pros outweigh the cons because if it doesn’t then being vegan won’t be sustainable even if it’s effective.
The fact of the matter is that everyone’s different. You might be losing weight faster than other people, but you could also be shedding pounds a little slower. What’s important, I think, is that we strive to be better regardless of pace.
If this helped, pay it forward and share it with your friends who might have the same concerns.