Practical Research into Losing Weight on a Vegan Diet

By: Anna Faktorovich, PhD

Abstract: Damages from obesity and a sedentary lifestyle creep up slowly over decades of abuse. Few people have the resources for regular testing to spot when slightly elevated cholesterol or blood sugar levels slip into deadly ranges. And those who are tested dismiss pre-diabetes and other early stages of lifestyle diseases as a natural part of aging. They listen to doctors’ advice to take statins or other drugs that mask symptoms while continuing to indulge in a junk-food diet. Meanwhile, doctors receive kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies for prescribing drugs. Thus, they are financially motivated to not offer nutritional or physical activity advice that would otherwise cure these illnesses. Meanwhile, over-the-counter supplement makers are benefiting from dieters’ lack of education in this field to paddle untested and ineffective substances that keep the world fat and sick, while creating an enormous industry interested in maintaining self-propagating myths. This essay explains exactly what I learned over the past two years to drop over 100 pounds. It is neither a sound-bite of pop propaganda selling my services, nor an incomprehensible study on a narrow subject written in exchange for funding from the dairy of meat industry. Instead, it encompasses all of the evidence I believe is necessary to convince readers to switch to a whole-food, plant-based, vegan diet and to increase their physical activity level to maximize their life expectancy and health. It anticipates the questions a dieter is likely to encounter when transitioning to a vegan diet; armed with this information, hurdles can be overcome to improve the odds of success. I am not a dietitian or a physician, but neither are most of my readers; all humans have to be informed about what might benefit their health; this realm cannot be left to a group corrupted by corporate interests. 

Key Words: obesity, sedentary, exercise, weightlifting, cholesterol, diet, vegan, diabetes, nutrition, weight loss, dairy, meat, industry, supplements

In 2017, when I learned that my blood sugar level was slightly elevated at 105 and my blood pressure jumped while stressed as high as 160, I decided it was time to commence on the first “diet” of my life. As I reviewed online articles and watched films on the topic of diabetic risk and weight, the only solution scientists and believable doctors were proposing was veganism. A doctor I had scene a decade earlier regarding constipation had recommended a higher fiber intake: when I told him that I was already taking fiber gummies, he did not comment, but seemed displeased. I learned from BMI calculators that at 248 pounds, I was morbidly obese. In other words, I would have qualified for gastric bypass surgery, so veganism was less drastic in comparison. Veganism was ideal to increase my fiber intake, thus resolving the constipation that had plagued me since I gained most of this weight in 2010. In the two years that followed, I lost over a hundred pounds, as my weight has gone as low as 142 pounds (normal BMI). This loss is not the norm for dieters. One often-cited study reached these results when exploring the odds of an obese person successfully reaching normal BMI: “In simple obesity (body mass index = 30.0-34.9 kg/m2), the annual probability of attaining normal weight was 1 in 210 for men and 1 in 124 for women, increasing to 1 in 1290 for men and 1 in 677 for women with morbid obesity (body mass index = 40.0-44.9 kg/m2).” This number is so low that it is possible the few people who reached it dropped in weight because of an illness that prevented weight retention rather than because of their diet. Even losing 5% of their weight was only achieved by 1 in 7 women across 9 years of trying.[1] Looking at other people in their neighborhood, an average American might not notice their own obesity because this problem is so prevalent. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015-6, 39.8% of Americans were overweight and 71.6% were obese; according to NHANES, in 2013-4, 7.7% were morbidly (deadly) obese; and, according to CDCP, there were 1.4% of underweight adults in the U.S. 2013-4.[2] Thus, only 27% of Americans are “normal weight”, a range recommended to prevent our top killers, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. This problem affects more than a majority of Americans.

Despite the dire state of our nation and much of the rest of the world, the “diet industry” is profiting from this near-impossibility of ever succeeding in losing weight to sell snake-oil supplements, purging products, and untested and tasteless powder-foods. It is indeed impossible to lose weight even with drastic unnatural strategies such as bariatric surgery, which contorts digestive organs. Amidst this avalanche of anti-science, veganism proponents have been softly explaining the weight-loss and other benefits of this model for a couple hundred years without penetrating into the mainstream. I decided to write this article after being prompted by authors I have published with Anaphora to share my findings across this personal weight loss journey.

Across the health and nutrition classes I took in high school and college, the message was that meat and dairy were essential for human survival. This propaganda made me scared for the vegan friends I had in college: I was terrified they were at risk of dying of malnutrition, a protein deficit, an eating disorder, or from missing some other essential nutrients in meat and dairy. The more research I have done in this field, the more I learned the opposite was true. Vegans experienced better health outcomes, life expectancy, fewer nutritional deficiencies, leaner or stronger physics, and various other positive results. In contrast, red and processed meat and milk eaters were at much higher risk of cancer, heart disease, and most other diseases caused by the “western diet”. All this indicates that humans are “naturally” vegans, and their attempts to transition into omnivores or carnivores is putting unnatural strain on their bodies, which break down as a result.

Meat consumption has been shown in several studies to be a risk factor for developing diabetes. While some pop-nutritionists suggest that eating fruits, oats or other natural sugars and carbohydrates contributes to the development of this disease; these notions have been disproven by studies that show a high carbohydrates and low fat and protein diet, especially a vegan one, helps avoid diabetes and its complications. One of these studies explains what has long been known in this field: “The intake of meat, particularly processed meat, is a dietary risk factor for diabetes. Meat intake impairs insulin sensitivity and leads to increased oxidative stress.” They ran a study wherein they offered two different meals (“a processed hamburger rich in protein and saturated fat” and “a vegan meal rich in carbohydrates”) to 50 type 2 diabetes patients and 50 healthy participants. After analyzing the data, they concluded: “Our results suggest that the diet composition and the energy content, rather than the carbohydrate count, should be important considerations for dietary management and demonstrate that processed meat consumption is accompanied by impaired GIH responses and increased oxidative stress marker levels in diabetic patients.”[3] It is common to hear from popular culture that people need more protein in their diet. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend eating between 45-65% of calories in carbohydrates, 20-35% in fat and 10-35% in protein. Plant-based whole-food vegan YouTube doctors including Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM (Nutrition Facts) and Pamela Popper, Ph.D., N.D. (Wellness Forum Health), tend to recommend an 80% carbohydrates, 10% fat and 10% protein diet. Any diet with over 15% of protein is a high-protein diet. One of the highest recommended protein intakes is the Stillman Diet at 64%; it was championed by Irwin Maxwell Stillman in The Doctor’s Quick Weight Loss Diet, a study that has been universally criticized by nutritionists and doctors as extremely harmful to health. A comparative study fed 811 overweight adults diets with 15, 20 and 25% of protein, and with carbohydrates levels of 65, 55 and 35%. Their findings were that all of these dieters lost around the same percentage of body weight over the 2 years study: “Reduced-calorie diets result in clinically meaningful weight loss regardless of which macronutrients they emphasize.” In other words, tracking calories and staying under the recommended amount results in weight loss, regardless of the mix of macronutrients consumed.[4] The first study suggests that processed meat consumption in particular contributes to oxidative stress and diabetic risk. Both studies show that the macronutrient percentages alone do not impact weight loss or gain, or risk of diabetes. The processing of foods, and especially processing meat, is particularly dangerous for both weight and health. From personal experience, eating processed and compact protein (vegan or meat) makes me feel somewhat lethargic and contributes to constipation. Even eating high protein foods such as beans causes some constipation and bloating. Keeping protein intake under 15% and minimizing high-protein and high-fat foods tends to result in my own scale dropping.

Figure: My Macronutrient Percentages: Lose It!

Yet another study tested why “vegans have a lower incidence of insulin resistance (IR)-associated diseases and a higher insulin sensitivity (IS) compared with omnivores.” Insulin resistance and sensitivity can lead to weight gain, can increase risk of diabetes and can cause other health problems. A high carbohydrates vegan diet helps to avoid problems not only because it leads to weight loss, but also because it fixes underlying issues such as insulin resistance, which in turn further contribute to weight loss. They concluded that: “vegans have more favorable glucose homeostasis and plasma lipid profile, which is in line with previous studies. We also found that vegans have higher plasma levels of polyunsaturated fatty acid, more precisely linoleic acid, ALA, eicosadienoic acid and dihomo-g-linolenic, and lower skeletal muscle DHA content. We also demonstrated that vegans had a significantly higher insulin-stimulated glucose uptake”.[5] In other words, vegans had low polyunsaturated fat content in their blood. It is rather difficult to consume any polyunsaturated fat on a vegan diet, and especially on a raw-vegan and unprocessed diet; these fats are present in nuts and oil, but are in heightened concentrations in fish. Some vegan doctors recommend staying away from oils and limiting nut consumption to avoid these potentially harmful fats. It seems the trend to avoid foods high in these acids is contributing to overall lower numbers for vegans in these areas. It is important to keep in mind that omega-3 fatty acids are important for human health, especially their ratio in comparison with omega-6, so vegans need to be aware of these to avoid overloading on oils that lead to this balance skewing in an unhealthy direction. The lower DHA muscle content means the vegans in this study were lower on omega-3s. The low insulin resistance in vegans is the primary takeaway here: vegans as a group are less vulnerable to disease.   

Glycemic control was also tested on Asian vegan and conventional eaters with type 2 diabetes over a 12-week period. The findings demonstrated that a strict vegan diet was significantly better at regulating the glycemic response than a strict “conventional diabetic diet”. “Both diets led to reductions in HbA1c levels; however, glycemic control was better with the vegan diet than with the conventional diet. Thus, the dietary guidelines for patients with T2D should include a vegan diet for the better management and treatment.” The only downside these researchers spotted was the “lower… compliance” in the “vegan diet group”, leading them to believe that “it is not realistic to recommend vegan diets to all T2D patients.” Only “strongly motivated” patients are noted as being suitable to be recommended veganism.[6] It is difficult for me to imagine how any diabetic can be anything but “strongly motivated” to cure this disease, as I went vegan before I even entered the pre-diabetic category. Perhaps my understanding of the shots diabetics need and of the health complications that follow this disease combined with learning of the vegan option contributed to the inevitability of the vegan solution for me. Thus, explaining these points to pre-diabetics and diabetics should be a required step of diabetic medical care. Doctors cannot predict which patients are “strongly motivated”, so they cannot give up on a known cure because of their assumptions on any patient’s lack of will. The findings are clear: type 2 diabetics should always be recommended switching to a vegan diet.

Several studies have even shown a reversal of type 2 diabetes on a vegan diet, allowing patients to stop taking medications. A review of this is offered in Michelle McMacken and Sapana Shah’s “A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes”. It concludes that a “plant-based diet” is an “effective tool… for type 2 diabetes prevention and management”. They elaborate: “Multiple potential mechanisms underlie the benefits of a plant-based diet in ameliorating insulin resistance, including promotion of a healthy body weight, increases in fiber and phytonutrients, food-microbiome interactions, and decreases in saturated fat, advanced glycation endproducts, nitrosamines, and heme iron.” They stress that diabetes is a major problem of our times, and thus means that the population at large can benefit from going vegan. The statistics they cite indicate: “In the United States in 2011–2012, 12%–14% of adults had type 2 diabetes and 38% had prediabetes.” In other words, around 52% of Americans are already burdened with this disease, and this only covers type 2 and not type 1 diabetes. In their concluding remarks they stressed that a whole-foods plant-based diet low in “refined foods and animal products” can prevent and treat not only type 2 diabetes, but also cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension, hyper-lipidemia, inflammation, and cancer. They also advise lowering intake of “red meats, energy dense foods, salt, and alcohol” to further minimize cancer risk.[7] Having the perfect diet that meets every one of these recommendations might be a strain, but there are exceptions to some of these rules. For example, salt is a needed component in a human’s diet, so having an absolute-zero salt intake might be counter-productive. Having some energy density in foods might also help alleviate bloating, which is possible on an extremely high-fiber diet, such as completely unprocessed raw-vegan. Eating the standard American processed high-meat diet is causing a health epidemic. Moving in any or all of these directions can only help add active years to life.

I started exercising regularly when I first noticed my weight was out of control back in 2011. In the first couple of years, I bought exercise equipment and walked, rowed or paddled on these machines at home. I recall exercising daily or almost daily for half an hour or an hour across these years. Despite this work, I did not lose any weight, perhaps because I ate more in the meals before exercising to give my body a boost. When I moved into a new house in 2016 for my job in Brownsville for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, I did not buy a new set of exercise machines, as I had previously. Instead, I began doing aerobic exercises with YouTube videos for a bit over an hour daily. This exercise alone did not cause any weight loss. The pounds only began dropping as I increased my fruit and vegetable consumption to a point where they dominated my diet. The exercise I was doing before this point might have helped boost my system, easing my transition to a vegan diet. Around a year ago, I incorporated a 15-minute weight training into my 37-minute kickboxing video exercise regimen. Higher muscle-mass increases the resting metabolic rate, so a muscular human can eat more food without gaining weight. Muscles are also more compact than fat, so a muscular person of the same weight as a fat-rich person appears leaner. This change seemed to help me escape a weight plateau I was in prior to this change. I have noticed definition in my upper body as I transitioned from using 5 to 10 to 15-pound weights for these daily HIT weight lifting sessions. A month ago, I added around 5-minutes of 7.5-pound ankle-weight exercises; I have already noticed some definition and toning around my knee. Weight lifting in a gym can be an emotionally straining activity, as shredded athletes tend to intimidate newcomers. Hand and ankle weights cost around $5-20, so beginner weight lifters can purchase their own basic equipment for a price less than a month of unused gym membership. It is a good idea to start by lifting lighter weights to avoid strain injury.

How much exercise a human body needs for optimum health is a question that has been answered in several studies with divergent results. One study addressed this myth: “A goal of 10,000 steps/d[ay] is commonly believed by the public to be necessary for health, but this number has limited scientific basis.” By analyzing the quantity of steps taken by women with a “mean age of 72” across 7 days with follow-up testing in 4.3 years, they learned that “as few as approximately 4400 steps/d was significantly related to lower mortality rates compared with approximately 2700 steps/d. With more steps per day, mortality rates progressively decreased before leveling at approximately 7500 steps/d.” In other words, walking five-miles-a-day to meet the 10,000-step requirement had a negative affect on their health, while half of this mythological goal gave maximum benefit to elderly women. The researchers explain the origin of this popular saying is from the “trade name of a pedometer sold in 1965 by Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company in Japan called Manpo-kei, which translates to ‘10,000 steps meter’ in Japanese.”[8] The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an 118-page digital book to explain their physical activity recommendations, and these numbers appear in many popular magazines touching on this subject, but typically one of the key recommendations is isolated to fit with the politics of the writer. The report recommends the following: “For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity…” The key word here is “substantial”, as opposed to minimum or none; those who stay under this minimum might be a bit less prone to disease. Most publications repeat the 150-minute minimum as if it is the optimum quantity of exercise; this low bar makes Americans feel good about their bad habits, as they might calculate cleaning their home once a week meets this goal. HHS adds: “Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.” In other words, an hour of at least moderate-intensity activity daily might be necessary for real health benefits, but just as doctors say they don’t trust people can met stricter dietary guidelines, this goal (while ideal) is too steep to propose it out of fear it might scare Americans away from moving altogether. The last summary point is: “Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.” Strength training is offered the same space here as aerobic activity, and is represented as a separate category leading to its own positive health outcomes. Thus, those who fail to do a minimum of muscle-training activities are missing out on a method that prevents muscle degeneration and other problems that worsen with age. Weight training and vigorous daily activity are required for minimum health outcomes or to avoid America’s top killing diet and lifestyle tied diseases. HHS stresses: “10 percent of premature mortality are associated with inadequate physical activity”. Being inactive is deadly. Despite being warned, according to the National Health Interview Survey, in 2016, “only 26 percent of men, 19 percent of women, and 20 percent of adolescents report sufficient activity to meet the relevant aerobic and muscle-strengthening guidelines…”[9] YouTube’s vegan doctors summarize this problem by saying that designating time to exercise daily saves time that otherwise would be spent going to the doctor to fix problems caused by inactivity.

Figure: My Total Per Month Calories Burned with Exercise: Lose It!

While my own experience demonstrates that exercise alone does not lead to significant weight loss, studies have shown that vegan athletes do as well or better than their meat-eating rivals. One team of sports medicine researchers analyzed an “ultra-triathlete (three times Ironman, means 11.4 km swim, 540 km bike, 125 km run in 41:18 h as a whole) living on a raw vegan diet” in comparison with 10 “mixed diet” Ironman triathletes. The determined that the “vegan athlete showed no signs of dietary deficiencies or impaired health. In comparison with the control group, the vegan athlete showed a higher oxygen intake at the respiratory compensation point.”[10] In other words, the vegan was not suffering from protein or other deficiencies some claim to result from veganism. The vegan’s high oxygen intake made it likely that he could endure more physical strain than his “mixed” rivals. Thus, a vegan diet can enhance an average person’s ability to exercise regularly and at higher intensities. 

A few months ago, I started counting the calories I eat daily with the Lose It! app. This app sets the allowed quantity of calories per day based on BMI, and the weight goal (losing 1 to 1 ½ pounds per week). As I slipped into “normal weight”, the app showed an error message that remaining on the 1 ½ pound plan would put me at a net calorie count under the recommended daily 1,200-calorie minimum. Recommended minimum daily protein and other micro and macro nutrient counts are frequently offered in terms of grams eaten per day as opposed to a minimum as a percentage of the total diet. Thus, exercising daily allows those on a diet to meet the per-day gram requirements while still remaining in a calorie deficit. Based on my observations, staying on the 1 ½-pound loss plan or hovering at around 1,200 net calories daily (1,500-1,700 calories total before calories lost to exercise are subtracted) keeps my weight steady, rather than contributing to further weight loss. I was eating 300 calories under this level in the months when I was pushing to attain “normal”. The most likely explanation for my lowered metabolic rate is that losing 100 pounds across the last couple of years has reset my body to conserve the weight it has left. Anybody who does not measure the precise number of calories they are eating that results or fails to result in weight loss might keep trying to lose weight without success. The recommendation to not eat under 1,200 calories daily makes most dieters feel as if they are starving when they eat the maximum number of calories at which their metabolism allows for weight loss. I tend to feel a bit hungry and hazy in between meals when on a low-calorie plan, but this sensation is preferable to feeling stuffed and drowsy after eating a heavy-calorie meal.

Figure: My Monthly Average Food Calories: Lose It!

The lowering of metabolic function after major weight loss was confirmed in a famous study called, “Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after The Biggest Loser competition” by E. Fothergill, J. Guo, L. Howard and others, which appeared in 2016 in Obesity. After measuring the changes in resting metabolic rates (RMR) of the gameshow participants at the end of the competition and then 6 years later, they concluded: “Metabolic adaptation persists over time and is likely a proportional, but incomplete, response to contemporaneous efforts to reduce body weight.” One problem with this study is that they failed to measure the metabolic rate before the weight loss. The metabolic rate decreases with age, so regardless of weight loss, measuring an average person’s RMR in six-year intervals should result in lower numbers in the later tests. This study determined that the gamers’ RMR remained the same across this period. They also learned that over these 6 years, nearly all of the participants gained at least some of the weight they had lost back. One graph demonstrates how some participants had lost up to 100 kg on The Biggest Loser, but most of them gained back around 40 kg back; a couple of them were up to 20 kg heavier at the 6-year mark than when they started the show and began losing weight. Only one participant continued losing weight, dropping from 20 to a 40 kg weight change six years after the show; this happened to be the participant who lost the least weight out of this group during the show itself. Most of them also gained overall body fat mass. The more fat somebody gained, the more overall weight they tended to gain. RMR change graphs shows more variation than the weight gain graphs. Some participants saw drops, while for others it went up over the 6 years. It seems the participants knew their original RMR before they started The Biggest Loser because a graph reports that by the end of the show, their RMR had dropped across the board by 200-2,000 kcal/day.[11]

The Lose It! calculator lowers the daily allowed calories as one’s weight drops. Thus, anybody who loses 20 to 100 kg would have a lower RMR after the weight loss compared to when they were heavier. Since nearly all of these participants gained weight back across the following 6 years, one would expect that their RMR went up, as carrying more weight requires more daily calories for maintenance. Around 6 out of 14 participants saw their RMR go up in keeping with their weight gain, but the other 8 had their RMR drop. This drop in RMR despite weight gain is what troubled the researchers and popular media that has been recycling these results. It seems that weight loss can contribute to steeper weight gain afterwards because of this rapidly declining RMR. Aging might have cancelled out some of the weight gain for some of the participants to lead to these mixed results. Bloggers and mainstream media alike have been displaying this study as an example of how radical weight change can negatively affect metabolic rates. I can attest that my own RMR is lower than the standard RMR that assumes 2,000 calories is needed for weight maintenance; I need 1,200 for maintenance. A low-calorie diet has been demonstrated to promote good health, while being overweight is a risk factor for disease. Thus, I believe dieters should simply assume that as they lose weight, they will need to eat less and less. The diet has to be optimized to raise the metabolic rate despite these natural challenges. A vegan diet rich in fiber and unprocessed carbohydrates boosts digestion, and this is a major component of metabolism. Anybody committed to keeping the weight off is likely to need to incorporate calorie-counting and adjusting their RMR predictions into their plan. If, after extreme weight loss, an individual returns to their pre-diet eating-habits or consumes a “normal” 2,000-calorie diet, weight gain is guaranteed.

Micronutrient deficiencies should be something all humans consider before choosing a diet. One telling study tested omnivores, vegetarians and vegans for deficiencies in several vitamins, minerals and acids that are commonly problematic. They determined: “Omnivores had the lowest intake of Mg, vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin and folic acid. Vegans reported low intakes of Ca and a marginal consumption of the vitamins D and B12.” Based on this, the recommend for dieters in all three categories to consume “a well-balanced diet including supplements or fortified products” to “potentially fulfill requirements for vitamin and mineral consumption.” The omnivores were low in vitamins like C and E because they were not eating enough fruits and vegetables rich in these. Meanwhile vegans had lower calcium, D and B12.[12] I read about this before, and started taking regular D and B-complex supplements around 4 months ago. Some nutritionists recommend against all types of supplementation, insisting that everything should come from “natural” foods, but these types of findings confirm that D and B12 levels are likely to be low in vegans, so they should be topped of. I chose D and B-complex supplements that provide 100% of their recommended daily value, instead of taking those with much higher 1000% or more rates because having elevated levels of these can be as much of a risk as having them too low.

I prefer to eat calcium in broccoli, beans, nuts, seeds, grains, tofu, oranges and other foods high in it to avoid taking this supplement. Studies have shown that calcium supplementation can have negative effects, including constipation, and risks of kidney failure. A review of studies on calcium supplementation concluded that: “The two studies demonstrated that calcium could prevent osteoporosis and osteoporotic fracture or improve BMD, but simultaneously also revealed the increase of the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases and increase in urine calcium level and subsequently in the risk of urinary calculi.”[13] As you can see, taking calcium through supplements might strengthen bones, but it also might increase odds of developing heart disease through arterial calcification and kidney failure due to heightened calcium retention and related side effects.

I wanted to include a set of reviews of vegan meat and dairy imitation foods. I have seen YouTube influencer vegans doing reviews of products they received for free from corporate sponsors of their channels. When I queried top vegan companies, only one, Tofurky, gave me two “Free Product” vouchers. When I checked the imitation food section of my grocery store, they only had Tofurky’s sausages ($2.99: the coupon was for up to $7.99). I also purchased a few other vegan items I had not tried before to review them as well.

I did not eat any type of bread across most of my two-year diet, but I returned to it once I reached my goal of dropping to below 145.6 pounds, or “normal” BMI. Perhaps because two years without bread has made its re-introduction remind me how much I enjoy eating it, I will begin with this food group. Nutritionists advice eating a heavy breakfast and lighter meals later in the day, so I try to keep the combination of foods in my breakfast at between 580 and 750 calories. It takes two large bagels to enter this range. I tried sifting through the bagel section to find bagels with higher fiber or more whole wheat, but as I read the labels, I decided that while bagels range in calorie density between around 200 and 290 calories, they mostly have similar ingredients. Gluten-free bagels taste rather flat, so while these are low in calories, it is perhaps the one bagel category that does not work for me. I am freezing all of my breads and bagels because the expiration date on them tends to be 4-5 days after the purchase date, and I prefer eating fresh bananas and other fruit in the first week after going shopping, and then relying mostly on frozen foods in the second week (to avoid shopping weekly). When I was in Portland, Oregon a couple months ago to exhibit at AWP, I had difficulty finding eatable restaurant food, so I bought a school-bag-sized set of breads, teas and fruits to eat these at the table when other options were limited. The gluten-free bagels from this place were artisanal, and so tasty, they gave me a mood-boost that sparked my return to breads. I also bought imitation vegan cheeses to go with the naan bread. These cheeses were shockingly good and similar to real cheese, only better in terms of being less greasy and being imbibed with more layers of flavor. After returning from this trip, I designed a breakfast combination of eating two bagels with a piece of imitation cheese and tea.

One of the only unique bagel brands available in my local grocery store is Dave’s Killer Bread bagels. I especially enjoy eating Dave’s Epic Everything organic (260 calories; 4.5g of fat, .5g saturated fat, 5g of fiber, 4g of sugars, 12g of protein) or Dave’s plain bagel (260 calories; 0 cholesterol/ saturated fat, 3g of fiber, 5g of sugar, 12g of protein). Before re-incorporating imitation cheeses and breads back into my diet, my dietary cholesterol, saturated fat and added sugar intake was close to zero, but I don’t believe any study has tested if zero or close-to-zero are statistically different in this regard. A vegan doctor commented in a video that the fiber in breads should be no less than a tenth or a seventh of their carbohydrates, but when I failed to find anything in the bread aisle that matched this high standard. Overloading on natural fruit sugar compared with overloading on breads’ carbohydrates seem to be equally non-harmful eating habits. These bagels relatively high protein volume might contribute to their filling and energizing properties. The vegan imitation cheeses I have enjoyed sampling include: Chao Vegan Cheese, creamy original (60 calories in a slice, 4g of saturated fat, 0 cholesterol) and Lisanatti Foods original almond cheddar style (70 calories in an eighth of the package: 4g of fat, 6g of protein). The latter does not even have any saturated fat, and has a significant protein kick because it is derived from almonds. All of these processed foods have more salt in them than I might add while cooking vegetables, but they do not push my daily salt intake above the recommended maximum.

One of the drawbacks of this meal is its low on water when compared to the three cups of water I add to make my oatmeal. I tend to drink a cup of water before this meal, but some nutritionists contradict this by arguing that water only slows digestion by diluting the stomach’s acidity. Yet others argue that water is processed in around ten minutes, and does not make any significant changes to stomach acids. If I’m having oatmeal or bagels, I add a double-sized cup of Earl Grey black tea (0 calories). This is a simple caffeine kick without any nutritional value. Tea is somewhat better for teeth than coffee. The first step I took as I began transitioning to a vegan diet two years ago was quit drinking coffee because its bitter taste began to grate on me two decades after commencing on the coffee habit, and I had started drowning it in extremely high-sugar and high-fat creams. I preferred Coffee-Mate’s French Vanilla Creamer, putting around four tablespoons of it per cup; this quantity of cream has 6g of fat, 4g of saturated fat, 20g of refined sugars, for a total of 140 calories. 25g is the maximum recommended added sugars content in a woman’s diet. Thus, this single treat was pushing me to this limit. Because I have to be especially alert to write and research, and black tea has only around 50mg of caffeine, around four months ago, I started taking 200mg of pure caffeine tablets without other additives. Recent studies have shown that the other ingredients in energy drinks might be causing heart palpitations and increasing the risk of heart problems rather than only the milligrams of caffeine in the beverage. My blood pressure jumped from 90 to 98 in the six months when I was drinking one 140mg of caffeine Monster Absolute Zero drink daily. So, I returned to drinking tea with the caffeine pills. My alertness level seems to be steadier across the day, without a sudden lurch after the energy drink. I have returned to drinking the remainder of my energy drink supply on a few occasions when I had to be hyper-active, but was feeling lethargic in the morning.

Figure: Bagels, Imitation Cheese and Tea Breakfasts

The breakfast I have been eating consistently across the past two years is a mix of oatmeal and fresh fruits. Great Value quick 1-minute oats do the trick (450 calories in 120 grams: 9g of fat, 1.5g of saturated fat, 12g of fiber, 3g of sugars, and 15g of protein). I have added Mamma Chia black, organic seeds to this mix around a year ago (60 calories in 1 teaspoon: 4g of fat, 4g of fiber, 3g of protein). I incorporated them primarily after watching videos that stressed the importance of having more Omega-3s in the diet, but have since seen some videos that argue that Chia is not a superfood, as the body does not absorb this form of Omega-3 as readily as when it is in flax seeds and the like. I did test a bag of flax seeds previously, but the taste of ground flax seeds is as grotesque as any protein powder, so even if it’s “super”, I will not be trying it again. I also add some sesame seeds without any good health reason; I added them because I was missing their taste on bagels. A new discovery for me is the Livfit superfood, organic cacao powder (20 calories in 1 teaspoon: 2g of fiber, 1g of protein). It has no fat or sugar, and makes oatmeal taste rightly like a chocolate bar. The two oranges or other fruit items I add to this mix provides the sugar that keeps the cacao tasting just as it would if the sugar was unnaturally “added”. It makes me feel oddly stuffed despite having only a gram of protein, so I eat it only once or twice in two weeks. This oats dish can reach 740 calories with all ingredients and two bananas. This mix has around the same overall fat content as the two-bagels combination. It has around 19g of protein in contrast with the bagels-and-cheese 30g. There is more fiber in the oatmeal and fruits. I have noticed that the energy in oats is released more gradually across a day, whereas bagels fizzle out and leave me hungry sooner. I recommend both of these meals for those transitioning to veganism to start a day on an easy-to-make and extremely filling combination of macro nutrients.

Figure: Chocolate Oats with Fruits

Other breads that I have particularly enjoyed and have somewhat better nutritional content are the 7 grain Udis gluten free whole grain bread (110 calories in a slice: 5g of fat, 2g of fiber, 2g of sugar, 3g of protein) and the Marketside sprouted wheat bread with honey (150 calorie slice). “Sprouted wheat” breads are said to be better for digestion, and this one has a rich taste despite this unique sprouting feature. A gluten-free option that is not as bad as some others because it is seedier and denser in texture is the Canyon Bakehouse, gluten free English muffin (200 calories: 4g of fat, 2g of fiber, 5g of sugars, 4g of protein); it looks more like flat biscuit than a muffin, so the name is misleading.

Figure: Sprouted Wheat Bread

In two years as a vegan, I probably ate tofu five times. The consistency of pan-cooked tofu is as repelling as raw slugs. Small quantities tend to be easier to swallow, but I tend to prefer extremely simple, single-ingredient cooking strategies, so I have to eat the full container or at most half of it, and at this volume it seems to expand in my digestive system, making finishing a plate challenging. The best I could do before was get the soft tofu and drown it in curry, so that the taste of curry dominates the dish, making it more like a fluffy pie than a tasteless slime ball. But, my most recent experiment might have solved it. My store finally acquired Nasoya super firm tofu. I had tried regular firm tofu previously, and it had the same texture when eaten as soft tofu. The Nasoya super firm tofu has 350 calories in half of the package, and 20g of fat, 2.5g of saturated fat, and 37.5g of protein. I did my first experiment baking the tofu in the oven, and this fixed the expanding sensation of eating it lightly pan-cooked. The oven sucks access water out of it, leaving a meatier texture. A bit of salsa and spices for taste, and it was pretty good. I froze the remaining half of the package after cutting it: articles indicate that baking frozen tofu might improve taste even further: I will try this experiment in the coming weeks.

Figure: Baked Tofu

I have been skipping most of the vegan processed foods section during my diet phase, but as I scanned it searching for processed foods to review I stopped at the Yves falafel balls (300 calories in half of the package: 14g of fat, 1g of saturated fat, 8g of fiber, 6g of sugar, 10g of protein). These look like deep-fried bread-balls, but are actually full of chickpeas.

To describe a problem I encountered with falafel, I have to turn to the enormous problem of food spoilage. The falafels’ listed expiration date was a month in advance, so I let them sit in the fridge for a bit over a week after buying them. When I opened the package, I spotted 1-inch-sized fungal growth on half of the balls. Each looked like a round, whitish-greenish mold-mound. Perhaps because I was hungry, my first instinct was to cut these out and toss the balls in the oven. However, as these cooked the smell of mold spread across my little house, making me feel somewhat sick. When I took a few small bites out of one of these cooked balls, I could taste the mold. I looked up falafel spoilage, and learned that because falafel is a soft food, the mold spores had penetrated into all of these balls and saturated them with spoilage even in places where the growths were not outwardly apparent. So, I had to dump all of these, and the remaining half of falafel. I also had to spray my house with favorite Ozium air sanitizer, which actually “reduces airborne bacteria” rather than only masking the smell.

Figure: Spoiled Falafel Balls

It has been an intense struggle to find fresh, unrefrigerated, perishable but unspoiled food in American supermarkets. It seems to an untrained eye that there is a link between the volume of food spoilage on American supermarket shells and Americans’ low-fiber and low plant-based food eating. Perhaps, Americans are avoiding fresh food because most of it is spoiled, or perhaps it spoils in bulk because Americans are avoiding it. I usually have to discard my shopping list because the foods without major spoilage do not match my wish-lists. For example, I have been craving eggplant after learning a new simple cut-in-half baking method I discovered, but eggplant on the shelves tends to have deep soft brown spots or the last few times there was no eggplant at all. Just an example of the prevalence of spoilage can be seen in this shot of an entire section full of spoiled purple sweet onions. When questioned about these types of problems grocery-workers deny the spoilage, insisting that these foods are eatable. I did not take a photo of the mold and other more grotesque examples of this to spare you the nausea. I have tried complaining about spoilage to the FDA at one point, and they said they would send an investigator to look into it, but never followed up with me. It is difficult to imagine what these stores gain by leaving spoiled food out. A single spoiled onion infects the healthy onions and other foods next to it. It seems these stores are attempting to convince buyers that all that is available is moderately to seriously spoiled food to limit the amount they lose from natural food spoilage and mis-calculating the volume of fruits and vegetables they can sell. The push to keep spoiled food on shelves is likely to have contributed to the spread of food-borne illnesses even in raw plants like lettuce; though this latter problem is said to have been caused by contamination of the lettuce by fecal matter from cattle-processing. I have to drive for 35-minutes one-way to reach the closest store with at least some unspoiled fresh food. Those in city food deserts might not have the luxury of access to a car or sufficient gas to make a commute of this duration. Supermarket supervisors have to figure out how they can dispose of all of their spoiled food, leaving only fresh foods on display, even if these are only a small quantity of a limited number of items. Deciding what foods to order to meet the demand is one of the only meaningful tasks on the agenda of these supervisors; even they cannot do the math, perhaps chains should create apps to handle this process. I have developed food borne illnesses (including the life-threatening h-pylori in China) at a few points, and I feel the impact on my digestive system every time I eat even slightly disintegrating food. There has to be accountability for supervisors that cause even these slight discomforts to stop them from inaptitude on a mass-outbreak level. 

Figure: Spoiled Purple Sweet Onions

Even in the middle of summer, it is difficult to find unspoiled watermelon, a fruit that might be the victim of racist marketing that has repelled African Americans from the stigma of indulging in this “stereotypical” food. Knocking on a dozen watermelons to test for hollowness led me to the conclusion that nearly all of them were soft on the inside, or past their spoilage date before leaving the store. I like eating half-a-watermelon or around 6 pieces (515 calories: 106g of sugar) a couple of times per week because it acts like a digestive flush and clears up any remnant constipation. It is also extremely filling, and it is tastier than most cooked lunches I might design. Further, it has a lot of water, which oddly seems to clear retained water out of my system. I don’t eat this volume of watermelon more than twice in a couple of weeks because at 106g of sugar, its sugar content is on the extreme end. Introducing half-a-watermelon into my diet was among the first steps I took when transitioning to a vegan diet. If I did not have access to some fresh watermelon at this juncture, I would not have started seeing weight loss results early on, just by disrupting my years-long constipation problem. American stores see a higher profit from selling nearly-unperishable sugar-bottles of soda than from the sale of plants. Americans are accustomed to food being already spoiled or nearly-so when they get it home, and they deal with it by throwing out most of the fresh food they purchase instead of consuming it. Because fruits and vegetables need a month or more to travel through the international distribution network to a local store, even the “freshest” in this offering is already ancient in terms of how long fresh food can last in the open air. This is why some nutritionists argue that frozen plants have higher nutritional value than fresh ones, as they are frozen at their ripest point instead of being picked while they are still green in the hope that they will ripen before spoiling during their long journey. I live in rural Texas: there are farms on all sides of my city. When I have brought up the notion of “shopping-local”, the markets here are more concerned about farmers paying them fees or competing for shelf-space rather than in simply providing the freshest possible ingredients to consumers. Since obesity is a national epidemic solving these spoilage problems should be handled as the emergencies that they are.

While vegan bloggers tend to post images of meals that mix a variety of different ingredients, I prefer to cook one or a couple of ingredients at a time. This is in part because I am cooking for one: so if I had to cut onions and the like in half, they would be more prone to spoil before I need to use them in a new dish. Additionally, I like simple recipes because they take less thinking to chop up and serve. Squash zucchini with skin is a favorite (3 zucchinis: 135 calories: 2.5g of fat, .6g of saturated fat, 7.9g of fiber, 19.8g of sugars, 9.6g of protein). It is a sweet vegetable that works on its own. It also lasts for over a week in the fridge, and because of this longevity, it tends to be available in a fresh state in stores.

Figure: Squash Zucchini

I have also been experimenting with bigger and meatier mushrooms, such as the giant portabella mushroom heads: (37 calories in 6 ounces: .6 total fat, 2.2g of fiber, 4.3g of sugar, 3.6g of protein). Small white mushrooms have a flat taste, but browner or more complex mushrooms have layers of flavor and texture. I grew up eating mushrooms freshly picked from Russian forests, and these are on the opposite end from white mushrooms in taste-measures. When I shopped in a Wichita Falls store on my way back from Portland, I bought some oyster mushrooms, and these really tasted like oysters without some of the salty-goo consistency and flavor that have been repelling me from this shellfish. If you haven’t tried oyster mushrooms or their relatives on the mushroom tree, they are worth the extra dollars.

Figure: Portabella Mushrooms

Many vegan doctors recommend the potato-diet, or eating a lot of starches, including squash and potatoes. However, spoilage tends to give potatoes a sting: they develop this bitter or moldy taste long before their color is altered sufficiently to make them look spoiled, so those that are going can be avoided. I have noticed that small baby potatoes are a bit less prone to this grotesque taste. In particular, purple potatoes have a sweet taste that does not turn. However, I have not seen bags of nothing but giant purple potatoes (I would recommend this as a future addition for potato-sellers). The only option I found with these are baby mixed-color (purple, red, yellow) potatoes (235 calories in half of a packet or around 8 potatoes: 8.8g of fiber, 2.9g of sugar, 5.9g of protein). One thing to watch out for, though, is these tiny potatoes tend to explode in my oven when I cook them at 425° for 35 minutes (with holes poked in them with a fork to let them breathe). The cleanup of an exploded potato, even a baby one, is strenuous. I will try to adjust the temperature in the future, but this is the recommended cooking method in online recipes.

Figure: Multi-Colored Potatoes

Over the last half-a-year, I have been eating a lot of acorn squashes: around 5-inch (216 calories, .5g of total fat, 8.1g of fiber, 4.3g of protein) baked in halves with Country Crock original spread with calcium (1 tablespoon: 45 calories: 5g of fat, 1.5 of saturated fat). These little acorns have the calorie-counts that fit into my daily plans without edging any other key meals out. This combination, at only 261 calories per meal, is incredibly filling, and tends to quench my hunger for the rest of the evening. Eating two bananas instead produces a steeper sugar-spike and drop-off, but because this is a sweet vegetable, its fiber content keeps it on slow-release for several hours. These also last for at least two weeks in the fridge, and so I have not come across any spoiled ones in the store until my last shopping trip. On this occasion, all of their acorn squashes were moist and sticky with a softened outer core, signs that must indicate they are very old. The Spruce Eats reports that acorn squash lasts two weeks in the fridge and up to a month in a 50-55 F cellar. It is possible that I have been ignoring a slightly tart or sour taste these take on when they start to spoil because I enjoy eating them so much, or perhaps I always decimate them within two weeks. 

Figure: Acorn Squash

When I cut fresh salads (tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, avocadoes), I like to top them with chunky preserved vegetable mixes such as salsa (mild) or picante (spicy). I switched to these when I was searching for a vegan salad dressing low in calories; sour cream topping was one of the last dairy foods I gave up to go vegan. I still sprinkle a bit of grated parmesan and Romano cheese (10 calories per teaspoon), on some vegetable dishes. I have purchased some vegan imitation parmesan cheese, so I might finally ween myself off this addictive food (the last non-vegan food I am clinging to) in the coming months. Unlike ketchup and other dressings, salsa is low in calories and sugars. One of the best in this category, in terms of taste and low calorie-density, is Safeway Select Southwest salsa (2g of carbohydrates, 150mg of sodium and not much of anything else in 2 tablespoons); there is no added sugar or fat as in most standard dressings.

Figure: Fresh Salad

I have also started adding organic apple cider vinegar (Heinz: 0 calories) as a salad topping and into bean soups. Vinegar is said to promote weight loss by accelerating digestion in part because of its acidity. I heard that if it tastes good to you, then your body is craving the acidity; in contrast, if you don’t like the taste, your stomach is likely to be sufficiently acidic, so you probably don’t need this supplement.

I tend to repeat a number of the same vegetable dishes every couple of weeks, so I try to add a good deal of spices to keep me interested in these flavors. One new addition to my spice cabinet is Litehouse freeze dried garlic and parsley; I have always craved garlic, but it is too time-consuming to crush it from raw cloves. Fresh parsley tends to be spoiled in the stores I frequent. I also use a standard spice mix: I just make sure that it does not include salt because putting salt in these fills the bottles with a cheap salt instead of the spices the higher price is meant for.

My favorite spice is curry. It took some effort to find a curry that matches what I was used to eating from Indian restaurants before I went vegan. I tried around six different curries, and most were rather grotesque or strange in taste. I finally came across Its Delish’s Curry Powder (14 oz container), available directly from the manufacturer on their website. I tried buying their nuts as well, but these were very spoiled. Since curry does not really have an expiration date, it came in a great shape. A teaspoon of this curry has 6 calories (.3g of fat, 1mg of sodium, .7g of fiber, .1g of sugar, and .3g of protein). This means that eight teaspoons can be added to a dish at under 50 calories, making for an extremely sweet concoction. I have not needed more than a couple of teaspoons to penetrate most of a dish with this great taste.

My experiments in grains other than oats have had varied degrees of success. I have enjoyed Bob’s Red Mill farro (278 calories in 82.2 milliliters: 2.1g of fat, 9.7g of fiber, 9.7g of protein). However, farro can taste a lot better in more complex recipes as opposed to just in the naked, boiled form that I cook it in to limit this dinner to 278 calories. I have noticed that when I eat a lot of rice, farro and other grains in this category, I tend to put on weight. Whereas, if I am closer to a raw-vegan diet, the weight drops even at equal calorie levels.

If you are not frightened by weight gain, another great grain I have come across is couscous. Though, for both farro and couscous, there are some varieties that taste a lot better than others. So the first one you try is too woodsy, lacks sufficient water-absorption, or seems drained of taste, I recommend trying a few other varieties. The Bob’s farro I mentioned is not an example of great farro, it’s just the farro that I have tried with so-so results. A grain that is almost always tasty and enjoyable is arborio rice (292 calories in 3.9 fluid ounces: 5.8g of protein). It tends to bulk up and bloat me up, causing constipation, and because it is a white rice, it is low in fiber, but it just tastes great. 

Before I added bagels to my diet, eating oats daily started to be draining, so I was glad to come across Uvelka buckwheat: (612 calories in 170 grams: 5.2g of fat, 5.2g of fiber, 21.8g of protein). I ate a lot of buckwheat as a child in Russia. American versions of buckwheat have a strange grassy taste or seem a bit spoiled, so I recommend purchasing any variety with Cyrillic or Russian lettering on the container from online stores. I have not found buckwheat sold in any physical stores. For some reason, most mail-ordered buckwheat containers arrive with giant holes in them that spill most of the buckwheat into the surrounding box. It is possible that Russian-made products are being vandalized by U.S. customs in our current anti-Russian political climate. I complained about this once, and received a refund from the online store, but stopped complaining afterwards since I was choosing to buy it despite anticipating the holes. Probably because of these difficulties and because the price of available buckwheat in these online retailers seems to have doubled, I have cut down on buckwheat.

Finally, some observations on the one food which I received for free to facilitate this review set: Tofurkey original sausage, Andouille, artisan (480 calories in 2 sausages: 24g of fat, 3g saturated fat, 1,240mg of sodium, 2g of fiber, 2g of sugar, and 52g of protein). It tastes better boiled than pan-cooked because the boiling gets rid of some of the oils while bulking up and softening the texture. The sodium count is higher in this meal than in any other vegan meal I have had thus far. It is also incredibly high in fat and protein when contrasted with all of my other dishes. On the two days I ate two of these sausages, my macronutrient breakdown jumped from the usual 10-15% protein/fat and 80% carbohydrates to around 25% in both protein and fat, perhaps because of my low total calorie budget. The sensation I had after eating these sausages were nearly identical to the grogginess I feel after eating highly processed restaurant meat. I recall this sensation because I break my vegan diet whenever I travel to conferences, and did so on the trip to Portland, where I ate fried shrimp in a fast-food Asian restaurant. It was pretty pleasurable to try this sausage in the first few bites, as it was a good estimate of the meaty taste, but then the grogginess set in, so I struggled to finish the meal. I was satiated after eating it, but I don’t know if this was a positive as it was more of stuffed than a full feeling. I look forward to seeing studies on highly processed vegan products to see if there are any cancer or heart disease risks associated with these foods just as with processed red meat. Tofurkey’s main listed sausage ingredients are tofu (soybeans), wheat gluten, canola oil, and soy sauce (soybeans again, processed in a different fashion). The final taste of these sausages is far from tofu, so that the wheat might be more pronounced as a kind of breading in its texture. I am going to buy another package of these sausages with the second free coupon I received from Tofurkey because I think I am craving this taste, just as I would crave soda or processed meat if I tried it again: there is something addictive about these foods. They are addictive by design: a food that is not addictive cannot compete in our international food market against all of the foods engineered to attract and addict users. It is possible that I am having a negative reaction to this food unjustly, while making excuses for bagels. It is a curious step forward in a segment that currently makes up the smallest part of most major grocery chains.

Figure: Tofurkey Sausage (Boiled and Grilled)

A few lessons can be gleamed from the relationship between my weight and the types of food I have been eating by tracking in Lose It!  The following are some of the rapid and steady periods of weight gain I saw while tracking food intake across five months. Prior to the start of the February 4-16 spike, on 1/29, I began eating black (or white) bean soup for lunch daily, continuing this habit until 2/7. The net calorie intake in these days ranged between 1,413 and 894. The latter calorie low oddly occurred on 2/6, as the weight began climbing. In the following days, my main variant meals were arborio rice, corn, and kidney beans. I also frequently ate buckwheat for breakfast with frozen mangos, which added up to a higher-end breakfast at 750 calories. I went shopping again and purchased fresh fruits and vegetables on 2/15, dropping to a low-point net on that day of 603. I usually lose my appetite on shopping days. In the following few days, I ate pan-steamed cauliflower and other vegetables as my main meal and a lot of fruits and salads. My net remained low, but not too low at 1,051 on 2/16 and 894 on 2/17, when the weight started to come back down of this spike. The calories eaten on some of the upswing days was the same as on the drop days. The difference was clearly the higher fiber and water content in the fresh foods in contrast with the boiled bean soups or the bulky white rice. It took a few days of eating beans daily for the weight to start coming on perhaps because the over-abundance of beans created constipated conditions. Thus, it seems eating a bit of rice or beans once in a while does not impact weight gain, but their daily consumption is likely to lead to weight retention.

Figure: My Daily Weight Changes Between 1/19 and 5/19: Lose It!

March 20-27: I ate bean soup on many of these days. I also indulged in quinoa. The net calories covered at around 1,050. On some days I even skipped dinner and the net dropped as low as 847, but the weight kept climbing. After this period, I traveled to Portland and did not even track calories for 4 days or so: gaining around 5 pounds, which rapidly came off after I returned and ate a lot of fresh food.

April 11-14: I had buckwheat for breakfast again 4/10-15, switching to two whole-wheat bagels 4/16-18, as the weight headed downwards. On the day the weight started climbing, 4/11, I added soft tofu for lunch and my net went up to 1,257. I was also snacking on 7-grain bread instead of eating more fruits as snacks. And I ate a good deal of baby potatoes in these days, but there were many days when I ate potatoes but not beans or rice, and the weight was not spiking from just potatoes. I went shopping and started eating mostly fresh fruits (including half-a-watermelon) and vegetables on April 15, the day of the weight-curve reversal.

May 6-13: I had extra firm tofu on the day before this incline, 5/5. I also switched from eating oats to eating two everything and plain bagels for breakfast. I also experimented with brown rice elbow pasta (the first time I had pasta across this two-year diet). I had bean soup on 5/10-11. I once again went shopping, added fresh fruits and vegetables back in, and the weight began to reverse on 5/13.

This data is highly repetitive. My weight went up as my fresh food consumption shrunk, and I relied more on processed foods. Anybody who needs to see extreme weight loss in a short span within a prescribed calorie net, really has to do it on a vegan whole foods plant-based predominantly raw diet. Some foods cause metabolic slowdowns even during otherwise low-calorie nets. Dieters who need to lose weight for their health should track their calories in a similar manner to discover which foods are triggering their weight gain. I only began consistent calorie-counting in January of this year, so I know that most people who start trying to lose weight are not going to want to track calories. Anybody morbidly obese and on a standard-American-diet just needs to add as much fruits and vegetables as their can handle into their diet first. These should crowd out junk food in volume in the stomach. This strategy is likely to take an average person down to a plateau, and at that juncture tracking calories becomes necessary to keep losing weight or to maintain weight despite the lowered metabolic rate. It took me a couple of years to gather this information. I hope I have digested it in a manner that will help readers bypass some of my hurdles.

[1] Alison Fildes, et al., “Probability of an Obese Person Attaining Normal Body Weight: Cohort Study Using Electronic Health Records”, American Journal of Public Health (Vol. 105,9 (2015): e54-9).

[2] “Overweight & Obesity Statistics”, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease (Washington DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). “Obesity and Overweight”, National Center for Health Statistics”, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Washington DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018). Cheryl D. Fryar, M.S.P.H., Margaret D. Carroll, M.S.P.H., and Cynthia L. Ogden, “Prevalence of Underweight Among Adults Aged 20 and Over: United States, 1960–1962 Through 2013–2014” (Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016).

[3] Lenka Belinova, et al., “Differential Acute Postprandial Effects of Processed Meat and Isocaloric Vegan Meals on the Gastrointestinal Hormone Response in Subjects Suffering from Type 2 Diabetes and Healthy Controls: A Randomized Crossover Study”, PLoS ONE (vol. 9,9 (September 2019)), 1.

[4] Frank M. Sacks, et al., “Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates”, The New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 360,9 (2009): 859-73).

[5] J. Gojda, J. Patkova, M. Jacek, et al., “Higher insulin sensitivity in vegans is not associated with higher mitochondrial density”, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2013: 67, 1310-5: Macmillan Publishers Limited).

[6] Y. M. Lee, S. A. Kim, et al., “Effect of a Brown Rice Based Vegan Diet and Conventional Diabetic Diet on Glycemic Control of Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A 12-Week Randomized Clinical Trial”, PLoS ONE (2016: 11, 6).

[7] Michelle McMacken and Sapana Shah, “A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes”, Journal of Geriatric Cardiology: JGC (vol. 14,5 (2017): 342-354).

[8] I. Lee, E. J. Shiroma, M. Kamada, D. R. Bassett, C. E. Matthews, J. E. Buring. “Association of Step Volume and Intensity with All-Cause Mortality in Older Women.” JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 29, 2019.

[9] Alex M. Azar II, Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition (Washington DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018).

[10] Roman Leischik and Norman Spelsberg, “Case Report: Vegan Triple-Ironman (Raw Vegetables/Fruits)”, Case Reports in Cardiology (Volume 2014, 1-4), 1.

[11] E. Fothergill, J. Guo, L. Howard, et al., “Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after The Biggest Loser competition”, Obesity (Silver Spring: 2016 August: 24(8): 1612-9).

[12] R. Schüpbach, et al., “Micronutrient status and intake in omnivores, vegetarians and vegans in Switzerland”, Eur J Nutr (2017: 56; 283-93).

[13] Kelvin Li, et al., “The good, the bad, and the ugly of calcium supplementation: a review of calcium intake on human health”, Clinical Interventions in Aging (vol. 13 2443-2452. 28 Nov. 2018).


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