Wouldn’t we all like to eat as much as we want without guilt or impact to our waistline?  This may surprise you, but I love to eat.  If I don’t feel that good sense of satiety (fullness) at the end of a meal, I feel deprived and maybe even a little angry.  My mother often reminds me: “You were such a happy child as long as we kept you well fed.” Well, if you ask my husband, not much has changed.  On the other hand, I also like to fit comfortably into my clothes and feel good about my appearance.  I’m sure you can appreciate how these two driving forces are in direct conflict with each other.  The only strategy I have found that comes close to allowing these two desires to coexist is to eat a high plant-based diet.  Aside from the fact that fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients, I have found that eating an abundance of plant-based foods can provide me with the kind of satiety I enjoy for a fraction of the calories of other foods.  It’s a win-win!

I first discovered this way of eating while participating in my first Optimal Health Detox program in the spring of 2010.  Over fourteen days this program teaches you new ways to enjoy a plethora of plant-based, whole foods while removing toxins from your body and jump starting weight loss leading to better eating habits that are easy to maintain beyond the program.  I learned that vegetables could provide the kind of satiety I enjoyed (and thought I could only get from eating meats, breads and pastas) once I knew some new ways to prepare them. I also noticed the direct impact that what I was eating had on how I felt both physically and mentally.

The benefits of a high plant-based diet are endorsed by other programs as well, such as Volumetrics.  The idea behind Volumetrics is that you can lose weight by eating fewer calories while still feeling full.  “People like to eat, and research has shown that when you eat high-water content foods such as a green salad with a lot of vegetables or soup, you eat less food.” says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.  A focus of Volumetrics is an emphasis on learning how to eat water-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which tend to be healthier foods. Similar to the Optimal Health Detox program, people who follow the Volumetrics plan are more likely to build lasting healthy habits. “They will develop a healthier lifestyle and maintain weight loss,” says Giancoli. “You’ll be getting a more plant-based diet and eating whole grains. You’ll be healthier.”

A recent article in the NY Times, “Eating for Health, Not Weight,” also supported a high plant-based diet, its long term health benefits and its ability to satisfy those on a quest for fullness rather than deprivation.  Author Dean Cornish, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and the founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, states: “Calories do count — fat is much denser in calories, so when you eat less fat, you consume fewer calories, without consuming less food.”  Cornish continues: “[I]t’s easy to eat too many calories from sugar and other refined carbs because they are so low in fiber that you can consume large amounts without getting full.”

To avoid any confusion, I’m not a vegetarian and I’m not advocating the exclusion of animal based proteins.  I’m suggesting that if your stomach is full of high volume, high fiber, low calorie food, there is less room for other “bad stuff” that will add to your weight and have other potentially negative impacts on your overall health. If you are someone who has a difficult time with portion size, congratulations! You can feel free to over eat your vegetables!  Try adding vegetables to your favorite mixed dishes — bulk up chili, soups and stews with water-rich vegetables like broccoli, carrots or tomatoes. Studies show that you are likely to eat the same portion of food as usual and will be satisfied with fewer calories because some of the space in the bowl is taken up by low-calorie-dense vegetables. If I can eat the same amount for less calories, I’m all for it!

If looking and feeling better in your clothes and that sense of fulfillment isn’t enough to convince you to give a high plant-based diet a try, there is also the fact that you are nurturing your body with an abundance of nutrients that will make you start feeling better every day.  Again, it’s a win-win!

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