Vegetarian Doesn't = Skinny or Healthy

I'm about to release my new book "Breaking Your Fat Girl Habits". You may think - What does this skinny chick know about losing weight? See my transformation from 2005 as a restrictive Vegan working out twice a day killing myself - to current day 2015 applying half the effort! I was never "overweight" but should have been much more fit considering the amount of time I spent obsessing over my so called healthy habits - which were working against me....Between 2005-2006 my body completely morphed and 9 years later it hasn't changed. Aging and genetics are not the problem! Throughout the book we identify "Fat Girl Habits". Often a vegetarian lifestyle without guidance can be one. While vegetarianism has benefits, it's not for everyone.

A lot of people tend to think that if they adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, they will automatically lose weight. Not so fast! You have to do it right in order to be healthy. There are a large percentage of vegetarians that eat way too many starchy carbohydrates in an attempt to cut out other foods. Just because you are eliminating meat, however, does not mean that there are no consequences to eating unlimited amounts of nuts, seeds, avocados, and other healthy oils. All the foods mentioned above are extremely healthy and necessary for vegetarians, but these are not “free foods” just because they come from the plant kingdom. I know firsthand from being a vegetarian for many years and never having the body I wanted.

I did plenty of juicing and eating lots of organic fruits and vegetables – which was good. Yet I lived on soy burgers, fake meats, and other foods that I believed were awesome meat substitutions. What I didn’t know was that they also contained MSG, gluten, and - even worse - excitotoxins that can cause a host of health problems as well as accelerate aging. Tofu and tempeh are the exceptions since they are naturally fermented and are not manmade. While these hipster vegan restaurants that I would often eat at were still healthier than a fast food joint, my dishes were a far cry from healthy.

Macrobiotic restaurants also served my favorite dish called the Planet Platter – a combination of brown rice, seaweed, tofu and beans. I would eat a huge bowl and not think twice because all the ingredients were natural. In addition, I’d often top it off with a healthy cookie and a cup of vanilla soymilk.  I was extremely rigid about my vegan lifestyle, yet the scale never moved in the right direction. For the record, I was working out twice a day!

It wasn’t until I got into a serious relationship with a sports-watching “meat and potatoes” guy that I started to change my ways. He was in unbelievable shape and would often order a burger, some grilled chicken or fish at every meal. When we would go out to eat I’d always piss him off because I’d just have vegetables and a potato or some rice. Since he wouldn’t compromise and come with me to a vegetarian place, we’d eat in restaurants that didn’t have any soy protein on the menu. I’d be starving from not having my beans or faux meat then end up overeating whatever starch was served…and still be unsatisfied. So I would go home and snack again while he was good for the night. He’d tease me and say that’s why I couldn’t lose weight because I was always eating. He said, “Why don’t you just eat normal? An egg for breakfast or a piece of grilled fish or chicken every now and then won’t kill you.” I still felt uncomfortable eating a burger or steak since that would be frowned upon while I was a yoga instructor.

To keep the peace and enjoy meals together, I finally agreed to compromise. I swapped out my almond butter and rice bread sandwiches in the morning for omelets or Greek yogurt. My lunches changed from veggie burgers and brown rice to grilled chicken salads. The dinners we’d have together were no longer my usual green salad and a potato but transitioned to fish with salad and vegetables. It wasn’t like I was on an Atkins™ diet. I still added starch to my meals such as a little quinoa, brown rice or sweet potato but it was a quarter of the amount I was eating previously. I was overeating those foods before because the lack of protein made me feel hungry. Even though soy protein or nut butters may be equivalent in protein grams to a fleshy protein (i.e., meat, fish, poultry, or eggs), they are incomplete proteins if not paired correctly with other proteins- (i.e., beans paired with brown rice) so they don’t keep you as full. That’s why you may find yourself overeating grains.  My snacking significantly reduced and I felt so much more energetic. I realized I never actually felt well as a vegetarian until I started eating better quality proteins. We’re not talking about the nitrate-filled meats like hot dogs, bacon or lunch meats.

As I began to adopt my new lifestyle (which I wouldn’t refer to as carnivorous since it was mostly fish and poultry), the pounds melted right off. My muscles that were defined from all the yoga postures were hidden under the extra weight I was holding until then. My biggest regret was that I waited so long being resistant to making those changes.

Whether you choose to be a vegetarian or not is a personal preference. In its original form – eating mostly fruits and vegetables, naturally fermented tofu, tempeh and small portions of beans, lentils, seeds, nuts and non glutenous grains – it’s honestly more humane and better for the planet. If I wasn’t so hungry all the time following that kind of program, I’d definitely do it myself.  But if you are trying to replicate the modern American diet with a soy version and not watching your carbs (since you need to compensate for the lack of protein), you may want to rethink your strategy.