Welcome to our updated Weight Management page. We have revised the energy density page and created three new pages covering food addiction, satiety and low-fat diets. This incorporates much of the material we present in the weight management section of our one-day seminars. Click here to see upcoming seminars.
A whole foods, plant-based diet will enable you to lose weight and keep it off without portion control. It’s first and foremost a health supporting diet so you will feel yourself getting healthier as you lose weight, unlike Atkins-Paleo style low carb diets which have many side effects and are dangerous to health in the long term. There are no special products required – it’s food-based and you can buy everything you need from your local supermarket and fresh produce store. Going plant strong is not difficult or expensive.
Energy density is the key concept for understanding how the type of food we eat determines our body weight. It’s also the key to managing your weight – whether your goal is weight loss, keeping weight off or avoiding weight loss. Check out our simple calorie density chart – it may surprise you to see that some of the carbohydrate-rich foods for which we have a natural affinity are moderately low in calorie density. You can use the principal of energy density to build meals which are full-sized and satisfying yet modest in calorie content. And you won’t have to worry about nutritional deficiencies because whole plant foods have a higher overall nutrient density than animal-derived foods or processed plant foods. People who adopt a plant-based diet for weight loss often express joy and relief at breaking free of portion control, often after years of unsuccessful dieting.
Two thirds of Australians are overweight or obese. This is not the result of a design flaw in the human body, lack of will power or declining physical activity. The problem is that we are eating the wrong type of food for our species. Calling ourselves omnivores does not change the fact that our anatomy and physiology suggests that humans are herbivores. Modern processed foods and animal products provide a hyper-concentrated source of calories which goes beyond the operating range of our weight regulating physiology. The failure of our appetite and satiety regulating mechanisms to fully compensate for the richness of this food results in systematic overeating and gradual weight gain.
Eating food is pleasurable. We have dopamine-based brain reward systems that are designed to respond to high calorie food and other experiences that improved the chances of survival and reproduction for our hunter-gatherer ancestors. But modern foods like cheese and processed foods are ‘hyperpalatable’, leading to a temporary state of enhanced pleasure followed by addiction. Moderation keeps you trapped in this state. Once you break free from addictive hyper-palatable food, you will find it easier to resist comfort eating.
There is a lot of debate about low carb vs low fat diets. We prefer to think in terms of food rather than nutrients – i.e. a diet based on whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits. In nutrient terms this is a high carbohydrate, moderate protein, very low fat diet. There is a physiological basis for the saying, ‘the fat you eat is the fat you wear’, but the best evidence for this approach is the real world observation that people who eat low fat, plant-based diets are always leaner.
Our tips for maximum weight loss will help those who are still having difficulty losing weight even after changing to a whole foods plant-based diet. We also give advice on how not to lose weight for those who are at or below their goal weight.
- Lisle, D. J., & Goldhamer, A. (2006). The pleasure trap : mastering the hidden force that undermines health & happiness. Summertown, Tenn.: Healthy Living Publications.
- McDougall, J. A. (1995). The McDougall program for maximum weight loss. New York: Plume.
General weight loss:
- The McDougall Maximum Weight Loss Diet (2 min video) – sound advice on how to apportion your green and yellow vegetables vs starches when trying to achieve maximum weight loss.
- Chef AJ: From Fat Vegan to Skinny Bitch (58 min. video)
- The Plant-based Pharmacist’s Recipe for Weight Loss Success
- Diet vs. Exercise for Weight Loss (2 min. video), and Dr Greger’s associated blog post Diet vs. Exercise: What’s More Important?
- Meat and Weight Gain in the PANACEA Study (3 min. video)
Calorie density and the ‘Pleasure Trap’:
- Calorie Density: How to Eat More, Weigh Less and Live Longer – Jeff Novick, RD (1 hr 20 min video) **Full length talk**
- A Common Sense Approach To Sound Nutrition – Jeff Novick, RD
- Maximizing Weight Loss: How To Fine Tune Calorie Density – Jeff Novick, RD
- Clarify Carbs: Making The Complex Simple – Jeff Novick, RD
- Pleasure Trap, Part 1 (17 min video) and Pleasure Trap, Part 2 (16 min) – Dr Alan Goldhamer explains why our brain was not designed for our current food environment and in Part 2 covers calorie density.
- Weight Loss Isn’t Rocket Science (4 min video) – Dr Goldhamer explains why the current advice to eat in moderation and to eat smaller portions does not work!
- The pleasure trap: Douglas Lisle at TEDxFremont (17 min video)
- How to lose weight without losing your mind – (1 hr 15 min video) Doug Lisle provides an excellent explanation of why people become overweight and how to reduce weight. It’s all about energy density and our built in reward systems and it takes the personal blame off overweight individuals.
- Foods That Make You Thin – Jeff Novick, 2011 (16 min video)
Maximum weight loss:
- Chef AJ: From Fat Vegan to Skinny Bitch – **NEW** (59 min. video)
- Not Losing Weight on a Plant-Based (Vegan) Diet? Here’s Why (How to Lose Weight) – The Happy Herbivore identifies the ‘culprits’ that inhibit weight loss even though you are avoiding all animal products and trying to eat a healthier diet.
- How the Plant-Based Diet Made Me an Overeater (It’s Not All-You-Can-Eat, Plants Don’t Have “Magic Calories” that Don’t Count) – Happy Herbivore
- Can’t lose the weight? It could be the nuts – Jeff Nelson, and see also this lengthy analysis of the science about nuts and weight loss: Nuts & Weight Gain: It’s Worse Than We Thought
- See also the Maximum Weight Loss Strategies page
Food composition tables:
- NUTTAB 2010 on line searchable database (Australian)
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory – User-friendly access to USA food composition data
- NutritionData.com – Includes percentage energy from carbohydrates, proteins, fats
- Anderson, J. J., Celis-Morales, C. A., . . . Pell, J. P. (2016). Adiposity among 132 479 UK Biobank participants; contribution of sugar intake vs other macronutrients. International Journal of Epidemiology (first published online July 12 2016; abstract only free) – NB Concludes fat is the largest contributor to energy intake in obese individuals.
- Astrup, A., Grunwald, G. K., Melanson, E. L., Saris, W. H. M., & Hill, J. O. (2000). The role of low-fat diets in body weight control: a meta-analysis of ad libitum dietary intervention studies. International Journal of Obesity, 24(12), 1545-1552.
- Shick, S. M., Wing, R. R., Klem, M. L., McGuire, M. T., Hill, J. O., & Seagle, H. (1998). Persons successful at long-term weight loss and maintenance continue to consume a low-energy, low-fat diet. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 98(4), 408-413.
- Wright, N., Wilson, L., Smith, M., Duncan, B., & McHugh, P. (2017). The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutrition & Diabetes, 7(3), e256.
- I Lost 300 Pounds and Regained My Life … And My Entire Family Joined Me! – Kitten Barbossa (2016)
- I Lost 180 Pounds in a Year … Along with High Cholesterol, Pre-Diabetes, and Sleep Apnea! – Jon Bergman (2013)
- Janet: Losing 100 Pounds as Well as Her Unhealthy Food Cravings – Janet Carter
- Post-Pregnancy Weight Gain, High Blood Pressure, and Acne are Now Gone! – Mackenzie Holiday (written story, 2014)
- Goodbye to Disordered Eating, High Cholesterol, and Excess Weight! – Crystal Burman (written story, 2013)
- Cloudy Rockwell: Loses a Hundred Pounds – (8 min. video plus written story)
- Norm Weinstein: Lost 250 Pounds – (video)
- Cathy Stewart: Loses 150 Pounds – (written story)
- Dan Curtin: Depression, Hypertension, GERD, Obesity – (written story)
- Jennifer Bucheli’s NEW LIFE – (PBJ written story)
- Unsupersize Me (documentary film) – Watch Tracy’s amazing journey, losing 200lbs in one year on a plant-based diet.
Page last updated 14 February 2016