How to Achieve Your Optimal Body Weight

calorie density eat more lose weight help with losing weight lose weight on a plant-based diet losing weight optimal body weight weight loss weight loss and vitality weight loss programs Sep 11, 2022

We need to acknowledge the elephant in the room--we live in a culture that emphasizes a certain body size and glorifies diet culture. We know that a huge motivation to try a plant-based diet is the potential of losing weight and achieving that ideal body size. We are here to support you in whatever goals you have set for yourself. This post is designed to support those who seek to lose weight in a way that is sustainable and that also promotes long term health.  

It is important to look at health as a whole, and not just as individual parts. If you make it a priority to become healthy by eating more plant foods, weight changes can be a side effect. Unfortunately, sometimes individuals make weight loss their priority, and this can lead to potential disordered eating or develop other habits that are detrimental to overall well being.

One of the many benefits of a plant-based diet is optimizing your body size. One of the biggest reasons is due to the caloric density offered by plant foods. Calorie density is how many calories are packed in certain foods. For example, plants are not as calorically dense as animal and processed foods. This means that you can eat more quantities of plant foods to achieve the same calorie amount as its animal or highly processed food equivalent.  If you want to see changes in your body size on a plant-based diet, you don’t have to go hungry! You just simply EAT MORE plant foods because they can fill you up more due to their low caloric density.

As you set goals regarding your body size, we challenge you to prioritize more on how you feel or your energy levels rather than just your weight or even other measurements like waist size, etc. Remember, you are here to have not only amazing short-term results that last into long-term benefits to reduce your risk for chronic disease and improve your quality of life. Most people who switch from the Standard American Diet to a plant-based diet lose anywhere between .5 to 1 pound a week. Everyone (and every body) is different, so don’t be discouraged. If you don’t see any visible changes in your body size immediately. Instead of focusing on numbers, focus on how you feel. There are a lot of other “non-scale victories” that happen when you switch to a plant-based diet! Some of the many victories include things like better skin, less painful periods, less inflammation, to name just a few).

Understanding Calorie Density Can Help Us Eat More And Still Achieve Optimal Body Size

To start, calorie density is a measure of the calorie content of food relative to its weight or volume. Choosing foods with a lower calorie density can help with optimal weight changes and maintenance. It makes you automatically eat fewer calories while still eating without restrictions and/or portions that fill you up.

For example, carrots, with 41 calories per 100 grams, have a low-calorie density; chocolate, has 550 calories per 100 grams, and is considered a very high-calorie dense food. Another example is comparing spinach and oil.  A pound of spinach is 100 calories, while a pound of oil is 4,000 calories. 

When you think of ways to change your body size, many often focus on mostly counting calories; however, just choosing foods based on caloric density may be simpler and more effective. When you focus on food quality, the benefits exceed just the potential changes you may see with your body size. Basing your diet on low-calorie dense foods will naturally lead you to focus on predominantly nutrient-rich whole plant foods that also help your body fight off chronic diseases. When you consume more of these foods, it will “crowd out” most calorie-dense, highly processed foods that have little additional nutrition and are easy to overeat. 

It’s Not About Portion Sizes, It’s About Caloric Density

When we look at ways to change our body size, we may think that reducing portion sizes is a no-fail method. However, it might not be as easy as it seems. Researchers have found that people generally eat the same volume of food each day, regardless of the types of food they ate.

In one study, participants ate 56 percent more calories when provided a high-calorie dense meal, compared with a low-calorie dense one. Another study compared calorie intake for high- and low-calorie dense meals that were matched for palatability and macronutrients. Even with the same tastes, flavors and macronutrient profiles, people ate an average of 425 more calories when given the calorie-dense meal than when given the low-calorie dense one!

This is all to indicate that our bodies naturally desire a full stomach after eating. Our body will feel full with 300 calories of carrots but not so much with 300 calories of soda. It is so easy to overeat when we choose foods that are calorically dense. 

Your Gut Microbiota Impacts Your Body Size

Have you ever wondered how the same food and calorie content can yield totally different effects on different people? Individuals can follow the exact same meal plan and some will lose weight while others stay the same size. Why is that? It all depends on the gut microbiota involved.

One study took identical human twins who were genetically the same but one was obese and the other thin. Researchers took stool from the twins and transferred it into germ-free mice. Then they fed the mice the exact same diet and the exact same calories. What they found was fascinating. The mouse that got the lean twin’s stool stayed lean and the mouse who got the obese twin’s became obese. Despite the fact that both mice were fed the exact same diet and exact same calories, they found that the body type transferred through the power of the microbes in their gut.

Many individuals have spent years working really hard to lose weight—exercising, eating well, doing all the things experts are telling us to do—and now we can understand why that might not be working. The gut microbiota plays a significant role. You can give the exact same food to two different people and the differences in their gut bacteria will determine if they experience changes in their body size.

So, how can you improve your gut health so It can work in your favor and help you reach your optimal body size? Eat more plants. The American Gut Project found that those who consumed a variety of 30 different plants every week had the most diverse and healthy gut.


PlantWhys Tips On How to Optimize Your Body Size 

Okay, real talk. 

What you eat is only 50 percent of the equation. The other half is what is going on in your brain when you decide why you want to eat something. We cover a lot of this in depth through the mindful eating and emotional eating section of our Empowered by Plants Course. But for reference, here are two important tips to help you work through the other road blocks you may face when wanting to achieve your optimal body size and other related goals.

Plan your meals in detail in advance

Whether you are a meal planner or not, it is important to make decisions about food by using your prefrontal cortex in your brain. The way you do that is by making those decisions ahead of time, instead of being easily influenced by cravings or emotional reasons in the moment. 

Write down (not just think about it) exactly what you plan on eating either the night before or in the morning. Only focus on one day at a time. You can plan your specific meals if you wish, which may make grocery shopping more seamless. Give yourself permission to schedule in higher calorie foods or treats. The important component is planning ahead of time and avoiding impulsive decisions later on. It only takes a minute or two but it makes a huge difference on your ability to stay focused on your goal. This is similar to when you schedule out your day, and then the time comes and you may not really feel like working on a certain project–but if you stick to it, you get more done. There will be times that you don’t feel like sticking to your plan, making adjustments as each day progresses and factoring in some flexibility.

Ali’s Experience: 

I plan out my meals specifically in the mornings. I plan a little treat option for the afternoon or evening, and unlimited amounts of fruits and veggies whenever I feel hungry. When I know I am going to go out with friends, I write it down that I will have a certain treat that night. It is not about restricting yourself as much as it is about using the logical part of your brain to make decisions about food instead of using the primal part of your brain when you feel an urge in the moment. 

You are also learning to trust yourself and have integrity to follow through with what you say you are going to do. Over time you can rely on your intuition more because you are using your prefrontal cortex to make food decisions. You are your own best coach. Write your own protocol every day, and follow through with what you said you were going to do. 

Acknowledge Your Cravings

What you resist, will persist.

Sometimes when you are trying to push a craving or desire away in the moment it is like holding your breath underwater. As soon as you get a chance to eat again you “take a big breath” and it is bigger than it would have been had you not restricted yourself. It is possible to feel an urge or craving without indulging the craving. The more you try to use your will power to work through it, or try to ignore it, the more power it has.  

It is important to allow space between the stimulus and the response.

Try to feel your cravings in your body when they come. Where do you feel the craving? In your head, in your stomach, or in your gut? You actually have taste receptors all throughout your digestional tract. Recognize where the craving is coming from. Sit with it. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Like a mother dealing with a toddler having a tantrum. The parent can choose to give in to what the toddler wants, hear the child whine, ignore the child, or try to reason with the child. The latter two usually end in a worse tantrum. Giving in doesn’t teach the child important life lessons, but being with the child and listening to them whine and scream, without getting upset will help the child progress faster. 

So it is with cravings. When you give in over and over you don’t allow yourself to progress. When you resist, argue, or ignore the craving, it usually gets worse. But if you can sit with the craving or urge, and hear it out without giving in, then you can get stronger over time. Remember, one of the best ways to learn and grow is to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

Create A Supportive Environment for Your Goals

Chef AJ is known to often repeat the phrase:

“If it’s in your house, it is in your mouth.”

The hardest decisions you will have to make are in the grocery store. Prepare yourself before you go grocery shopping. Eat before you go. Make a plan. It is a lot easier not to buy the treat, then to buy it and see it in your home and have to resist it everyday. 

Know Your Boundaries In A Toxic Food Environment

Hopefully, the idea of cutting back on certain foods feels sustainable and logical to you as whole plant foods can be delicious. We know it can be difficult to truly develop a taste for them without taking initiative to cut back on highly processed foods for a few weeks; your senses have been deadened by industry level flavor profiles. Once you are liberated from the taste profiles of cheese, oils, processed meats, and sugar-laden sweets, you will be amazed at how good healthy food can taste. 

We need to acknowledge that there are bigger players influencing our food choices. There is a reason why most of America is struggling with their body size and self-image. Having struggles with our current body size is not because we failed. We are living in a toxic food environment that doesn’t set us up for success. The average individual is blasted with 10,000 food commercials a year. McDonald’s  alone spends billions of dollars a year on their advertising. Thus far, the food industry has spent more money on advertising than any other sector of the economy because they have success with it. The processed food industry brings in trillions of dollars annually. With this financial power, it is no surprise they have a prominent influence on public policy, scientific research and the ability to hire lobbyists to influence legislation in their favor. 

Seventy-one percent of Americans are struggling with their body image and size because we live in a food environment that exploits our natural tendencies. As humans, we have an inborn drive to maximize calories per mouthful. The food industry refines crops into almost pure calories—pure sugar, oil (or pure fat), refined flour (pure starch). These ingredients are what makes food highly tasty and addictive.

What are we designed to eat? There are 300,000 known edible plant species in the world. We were designed to eat lots of plants. The Hadza are one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer societies on the planet and provide insights into what our life may have looked like for hundreds of thousands of years. They hunt and kill some animals to eat. However, they also consume 100 or more grams of fiber a day in their food, and during a year will include around 600 different plants in their diet. The average American gets a measly 15 grams of fiber per day and typically has 50 or fewer species of plants in their diet. 

If it really is the toxic food environment to blame, why doesn’t everyone struggle with their body image and size? Dr. Michael Greger has answered that question by saying, that’s like asking, “If cigarettes really are to blame, why don’t all smokers get lung cancer?” It’s always more complex than a simple answer: This is where genetic dispositions and other exposures can tip the scales. Just like you can significantly decrease your chances of getting lung cancer with smoking cessation, you can tip the scales of the struggle with body size by eating the foods your body was made for–whole plant foods.

There Are So Many Amazing Benefits to Eating More Plants 

The same diet that has been shown to prevent, treat, and reverse some of our leading killer diseases is the one with the greatest potential for optimizing your body size.  Following a plant-based diet is one of the easiest ways to eat less calorically dense foods. We can't emphasize enough how eating more plant foods provide multiple benefits to your health. One of the greatest benefits is optimizing the body size you are naturally designed to have at this point in your life. By eating more plant foods you can feel better now--have the best quality of life to do what you want as you please--and live longer later by lowering your risk of chronic diseases. 



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