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.
“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:
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.