How to Lose Weight without Exercising Differently

October 06, 2009

How to Lose Weight without Exercising Differently 

 Competency # 4 Activity                        Reference:  Barnard et al, Effects of a Low-Fat Plant-Based Diet, Am Jr of Medicine 118, 991 (2005) 

 Losing weight is just about the hardest thing we ever do.  I have had many people come to me and say, “I think the only way to keep your weight normal is to feel awful part of every day.”  Many of us are just confounded.  No matter what we do, we can’t lose weight.  Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, the list is long of companies and organizations helping you to lose weight.  They stay in business because no one seems to be able to do it successfully and keep it off.  Being overweight leads to all sorts of problems with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease… 

 Wait a minute!  There’s hope.  From George Washington U in DC comes a great little study in which overweight women were given two diets.  Both groups were told not to worry about changing exercise amounts or to worry about what they ate.  The control group was told to follow the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) diet.  The study group was vegan.  No animal products.   The vegan diet was 10% fat, 15% protein, and 75% carbohydrates (whole foods, whole grains, legumes).  Animal products, nuts, nut butters, added oils, olives, and seeds were “proscribed” (forbidden).  

Each group had a weekly support group in which they were given cooking lessons, group discussions, and support from a physician and a dietitian. The vegan group lost 12.76 pounds, eating as much as they wanted.  The NCEP group lost 8.36 pounds, also eating to satisfaction.  Both groups got much better at insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.  Here is what is really interesting.  This weight loss is what you see with a 1200 calorie energy-restricted diet, but neither group was energy-restricted.  The “thermic effects” of food were also significantly different for the vegan group.  The extra fiber in the vegan group makes for more calories burned as heat.  

A recent review of many studies shows that increasing fiber by 14 grams a day results in a 10% reduction in energy intake.  Clearly, that must mean that our brains are happy and feel full when our stomachs have a greater volume of fiber in them.   Our body temperature is up a degree or two. With what we know about fructose now, we could add a caveat.  A vegan diet that avoided sugar completely, but allowed you to eat all the avocados, nuts, seed butters, seeds, etc. that you wanted might be the next study to review.  That hasn’t been done yet.  It’s coming. 

 WWW: What will work for me.  The challenge is the palatability of the food.  I need to eat food I look forward to eating.  I clearly need to learn new recipes.  Indian food has thousands of curries that are vegetarian and just delicious.  West African peanut stews are great.  Mediterranean hummus, Chinese stir-fries, Okinawan sweet potatoes.  There are recipes out there.  With three weeks of vegan eating, including no sugar, my weight is down 9 pounds while eating 17-22 servings a day of fruits and vegetables, and not feeling hungry.  All the peanut butter I want too!

Column written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI,  (262-784-5300)