Are Women Becoming Vegan Just to Lose Weight?

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Meat: It isn’t what’s for dinner if you want to be thinner – on and off the red carpet. Yes, a rigid diet is a great way to feel in control, and it shows up in vegetarian lifestyles just like all others.

The most disciplined in our culture are Hollywood celebs du jour like Kristen Bell, who swears by vegetarian diets (and daily workouts) to get that perfect body. It is not just a lifestyle for this segment, but a career. A one-time vegan, Bell says she reaches for a spoonful of peanut butter or a few Morningstar Farms veggie sausages for that protein fix.

She is among a growing cast of leading ladies (Demi Moore, Alicia Silverstone, Natalie Portman) and regular weight-conscious folk who have become mindful eaters not only for environmental and moral reasons, but to achieve that flat, bikini belly and 3-inch gap between the upper thighs. It works quite well but isn’t the vegetarian ideal.

Fountain-of-youth finder Moore says she is lucky she prefers iron rich, leafy spinach to chocolate, explaining why she looks 20 when she is approaching 50. But for most women, a focus on a strict veggie diet to reduce calories rather than to maintain good health has its pitfalls in terms of getting adequate daily nutrition.

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“There is a caloric intake everyone needs, usually around 1200 to 1800 – depending on the height to weight ratio and if someone isn’t hitting that amount they are suffering from a caloric deficit and cannot function properly on a daily basis,” says Reese Dimacali, CPT/NCSF, a Bay Area trainer and nutrition consultant. “To be healthy you need everything, fiber, carbs and protein, which are fuel sources for our bodies and you are causing trauma to the body without that balance.”

Dimacali finds the healthiest vegetarians are not the new crop of green beings trying to look like models and rock stars but well rounded people who take it seriously. They research what their body might be lacking by giving up animal proteins and fats, and supplement their diets with protein shakes, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish oil, pills, bars, rice and beans, soy and rice milks or other nutrition to boost energy and vitality.

“I studied at U.C. Santa Cruz and there were always rail thin vegetarians lying on the beach, not working out,” says the trainer. “I never saw them going on runs. You don’t have to work out to stay thin if you are only eating salads and spinach because losing weight is 80 percent eating, not exercising. It takes a lot of greens and cabbage soup to get the calories up to what is needed, and that is why they are usually so lethargic.”

In other words, if you aren’t a conscious vegetarian, you aren’t inclined to move your body the same way as the vegan with a cause. As Diets in Review points out, the way of the vegan and vegetarian is not a diet, but a lifestyle, one that requires awareness and responsibility. The site also links this choice to a deeper respect of the environment, saying “while there is a not a link to Veganism and activity, Vegans generally tend to eschew fossil fuels, and this translates into increased walking or utilizing public transportation methods, which in turn increases physical activity.”

Today, there is a cornucopia of websites, such as Vegan Nutrionista, which can walk you through the food pyramid for maintaining good a good intake of grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and oils  – and staying fit as a result. When we talk to teens about their bodies, we focus on health and not weight to prevent eating disorders. We do this for a reason.

Vegan Nutrionista’s Food Pyramid:

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With adults going vegetarian, as well, we need to emphasize the prolonging of life and lifting of spirits that often comes with avoiding sweet, salty, preserved processed foods and chemicals found in much of the animal kingdom. A muscular, buff body is sure to follow – ask any wise yogi! Very few of the masters clean their digestive systems to look hot in skinny jeans; but they still do. And so will you, as long as you feed your carnivore-designed system with what it requires.

Images: Celebrity Diets, Examiner

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DISCUSSION

8 thoughts on “Are Women Becoming Vegan Just to Lose Weight?

  1. I’m sorry, but as a teenage vegan, whose 3 closest friends were also raised as vegans, you CAN survive on “Cabbage soup” and salads. In any case, haven’t we reached the point where we know that vegans and vegetarians on average live longer than meat eaters and have a much more varied diet than an omnivore? My brother is 20 years old and 6’2. He is a vegetarian and was raised that way. He is buff and healthy and fit, with plenty of energy. And he eats like a truckdriver. Yes indeed, he goes at that spinich and veggie burger like there is no tomorrow. The fact of the matter is, these people don’t know what they are talking about. It’s crap. You grow up learning that milk and eggs and lots of bacon is healthy. Gotta get that protien! People focus too much on the source than the actual nutrient. Where is the cow getting all that protien from, hmm?

  2. @Luanne No criticism intended! I know you wouldn’t claim that fish oil was vegan! :-)

    I was actually responding to the part about the “healthiest vegetarians” supplementing with fish oils. I guess it’s a matter of definition. I know some people claim to be vegetarian despite the fact they eat fish. On the other hand, it drives my vegetarian friends crazy as they consider fish to be meat!

    But I was actually agreeing with you about fish oil being a useful supplement for “flexitarians”, as you say. I too think the healthiest vegetarians are the ones who are not über-strict. It’s good for the environment and our health to reduce meat but to be flexible about it.

    I don’t want to be a herbivore OR a carnivore. I’m a happy omnivore, which means I eat meat and plants. I think that’s true for most of us!

  3. Yes, I can see now, I never said vegans eat fish oil. Hurray. I did mention websites that include oils. But thanks Caitlin for always being on top of the posts. You keep me on my toes.

  4. Yeah, the fish oil is often a supplement for those flexitarians like me. Vegans wouldn’t use them and I didn’t mean to suggest that. I do think we are carnivores but don’t have to live that way any longer.

  5. I was going to make the same point about fish oils as Rob! It’s neither vegetarian or vegan, but it’s certainly an option for someone who follows a more flexible meat reduction diet and wants to supplement.

    I saw Alicia Silverstone’s vegan diet book The Kind Diet in a bookstore the other day. It was actually sort of interesting – I think it gave a lot of info on nutrition. And I love the name! I didn’t buy it though as I’m not keen to become vegan.

  6. I totally agree with you, M’lou. I’ve been trying to go the veggie route for the right reasons and I do feel so much better. Getting thinner is another story, and I like your point about moderation.

  7. The book “Skinny Bitch” is all about this – – become a vegan to be thin. I think this type of thinking is very short term and not very sustainable. It’s tough to make such radical changes in one’s eating habits for vanity reasons alone. I’d imagine that real benefits to waistlines, health and the environment would come from thinking critically about all food choices and selecting the healthy, local, sustainable, etc foods and doing it all with balance and moderation.

  8. I liked the fact that you’ve emphasised that veganism is not just about losing weight and that you’ve suggested that people considering it should do some nutritional research (easily available online). However, you mentioned that vegans might be taking fish-oils, which would not be the case! Vegans don’t use any animal products. Also it’s innaccurate to describe humans as carnivore-designed, at the most we’re omnivores which means we can survive on either plants or animals – no one eats only meat!

 

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