Vegan Publishers is happy to announce that Lani Muelrath, the Plant-Based Fitness Expert and author of “Fit Quickies: 5 Minute Targeted Body Shaping Workouts,” will be regularly contributing to our guest blog. We hope you enjoy this second article in a series that is sure to help you along your path of healthy, fit and compassionate living!

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How to Eat Vegan, Be Healthy, and Stay Trim

By, Lani Muelrath, MA, CGFI, CPBN, FNS, the Plant-Based Fitness Expert

Let’s face it. Not all vegan diets are created equal.

Perhaps in the compassion category, they run neck-and-neck. Yet when it comes to healthy eating, between you and me, you could live on Coke and fries and still be an official, card-carrying vegan.

You could also be unhealthy and quite overweight.

When Donald Watson coined the term vegan back in 1944 with the first Vegan Society newsletter, the driving force behind the term ‘vegan’ was to differentiate from those vegetarians eating dairy and eggs. Waters had been so moved by his experience of seeing cows being led to slaughter that a whole new breed of veg-eaters was officially born.

These days, there is a stronger association between vegan diet and health, and many people also turn to a vegan diet to help them with weight loss. ‘Overweight vegan’ may sound like an oxymoron, thought it’s entirely possible to be one.

The good news is there are three very simple guidelines for becoming not only vegan, but also a trim and healthy one. And believe it or not, it’s all about plugging into your natural hunger and fullness signals, and being a good animal by taking five minute fitness breaks.

How to Become a Formerly Fat Vegetarian

When I was 50 lbs heavier, I was confident that there must be a way to eat according to my hunger and fullness signals and not be over-weight. I’d see the squirrels scrambling in the trees and on the deck outside my studio eating their fill, and they didn’t have a weight problem. And they weren’t counting grams of protein, carbs, and fat either- there is no ‘Zone Diet’ manual for them. And it’s not because they didn’t have enough to eat. As a matter of fact, there is no obesity in the wild, until wildlife has access to human foodstuffs with all its processed wonder. This gave me inspiration and hope.

As it turns out, there is a way for humans to do this too – eat according to appetite, just like all of the other critters that are being good animals. It only requires that we level the playing field with what we put on our plates.

Satiety is a Function of Nutrition and Bulk

Your body has the wisdom to keep you at a healthy weight. For most of us, this means respecting the laws of nature when it comes to hunger and fullness. Satiety is a function of nutrition and bulk. We are designed to be naturally slim when eating high-nutrient-content food that is full of color and fiber (an essential nutrient) as it is grown.

When we mess with the works by disrupting and removing fiber or otherwise processing natural foods, we affect its calorie concentration. Without the fiber content to provide nutrition and bulk, it becomes easy to plow through platefuls of eats before our natural fullness signals- designed to work perfectly with natural, unprocessed foods- switch our hunger off. It becomes easy to keep going long after our caloric needs have been met. This is why calorie counting and portion control don’t work when you are eating anything other than a whole-foods, plant-based diet.

Two critical considerations when it comes to eating vegan according to appetite in a way that keeps you slim and energetic:

1) Eat whole plant foods. This is because of the fiber content which is a critical part of the hunger and fullness signaling process. If we are eating highly processed foods with disrupted and removed fiber, added sugars and fats, and bleached and otherwise altered carbohydrates, then relying on our hunger and fullness signals won’t work because without the fiber, we can’t trust our appetites to stop when our energy needs have been met. This goes for expelled oils too, the most calorie-concentrated, de-fibered edible of them all. The fat you eat is literally the fat you’ll wear. Without the fiber content, you don’t have the fullness on par with the calories and as a result can actually have eaten too many calories for the day and still be hungry.

2) Eat sparingly of whole plant foods that are high in fat. Even with their fiber intact, avocados, olives, coconut, nuts, and seeds are such calorie-dense packages that they can easily contribute to a weight problem.

3) Hook into the power of 5-minute fitness breaks. Though not ‘dietary advice’ per se, this tool is extremely helpful to you in making healthy change. Physical activity improves emotional outlook and physical confidence. People who are engaged in regular exercise feel more in control of their diets. PLUS short bouts of exercise – even three to five minutes – restores the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, inviting you to make healthier choices.

The good news is that eating according to appetite WILL keep you trim when you are clear about the food on your plate being whole plant foods. Add some physical activity and you have the basic tools you need for brilliant success.