Like many people new to the idea of starting a vegan or plant-based diet, I had NO idea what I was doing! I dove right in with a set of expectations that honestly… wound up to be mostly wrong!
Here I want to share ten things I discovered when I went plant-based for 30 days – that way you’ll know some of what to expect should you go down this journey for yourself!
1- You Can Make ANYTHING Out Of Plants
In the past, I always knew I wanted to eat more plants, but most plant-based or vegan foods I’d seen looked so boring!
And so much of it always seemed really unfamiliar. I was always used to burgers, fries, cookies, cakes, ice cream, meaty, cheesy burritos, and pizzas.
Looking at vegan or plant-based options years ago, those things were missing.
All I’d see was dry broccoli, brown rice, no sauces, limited seasonings, no pizazz!
But in my first 30 days of plant-based eating for weight loss, I quickly discovered that there is unlimited potential for delicious plant-fueled foods!
It’s true that for the most part, you have to cook it yourself, which is inconvenient.
But let’s be real – whether you’re eating plant-based or not, if you want to lose weight, a big part of that will be eating food you’ve prepared.
I found so many recipes for vegan sauce and seasoning blends, vegan cheese, vegan eggs, plant-based burgers, pizzas, cupcakes, pancakes, and more!
The only thing I never really found an excellent substitute for was chicken wings (I hate cauliflower wings), but that’s fine!
Because the beauty of going plant-based is that you don’t have to be 100% perfect!
There’s still tons of wiggle-room to do you, boo!
Which brings me to my next point.
2- “Vegan” And “Plant-Based” Are Not The Same
Much of the time, you’ll see “vegan” and “plant-based” used interchangeably. And understandably so.
They do share similar elements, but they are not the same.
Veganism is an ethical position that 100% eliminates the use of all animal products from one’s life, which means no leather, no honey, no products tested on animals – nada.
Plant-based eating is defined by what is included, not by what is excluded — from your diet.
Someone on a plant-based diet tries their best to base the vast majority of their meals on whole, unprocessed foods from the Earth while limiting everything else.
So a vegan may also just so happen to eat a plant-based diet if they choose. But Oreo cookies, some potato chip brands, and many candies are also vegan but not plant-based.
Also, depending on who you ask, a plant-based diet leaves room for occasional indulgences in animal products (which a vegan would never do!)
I didn’t know anything about this distinction before diving headfirst into eating more plants. But it was refreshing to discover that I didn’t have to become a hardcore vegan to benefit from changing my diet.
And I can still enjoy some of the foods I used to enjoy some of the time – which gives a sense of freedom that I find refreshing.
3- Dressings & Sauces Are Key
Next, I was utterly blown away by how delicious a simple plant-based sauce or dressing could be.
And I think this is one of the most critical aspects of succeeding with a plant-based lifestyle.
I can’t express enough how much I love creamy salad dressings.
While trying so hard to restrict calories in the past, I’d go for the low-calorie or low-fat ranch and blue cheese dressings at the grocery store, and they are so gross!
Before actually diving in and trying the plant-based lifestyle, I thought I’d be resigned to a boring life of plain salads and dry broccoli forever. But nope!
Once I learned how to whip up batches of low-calorie sauces and dressings it became standard to load almost every meal with saucy salad greens, be super full and satisfied, and lose weight!
4- Physical Ailments May Go Away
The next thing that surprised me when I tried the plant-based diet for weight loss was how quickly specific physical ailments went away – even before I’d lost much weight!
A few years back, I began experiencing knee pain just in my regular life. Not even during exercise.
Just walking around.
I’d also had some back pain and neck stiffness that I just chalked up to growing a little bit older.
I did think that maybe my excess weight was contributing to the pain.
But less than a week after abstaining from animal products on a plant-based diet, ALL of those pains dramatically subsided!
It had nothing to do with the actual weight I was carrying, mind you.
Just eliminating those foods from my diet eased years of pain that I was carrying around for no reason.
5- Your Stomach May Rebel When You Stray
I wasn’t prepared at all for the stomach pain that ensued when after that first 30 days, I tried eating an In n’ Out Burger!
It takes a bit of time for some people to get used to ingesting more fiber when they switch to eating more plants.
But the opposite was true for me.
My gut loved all the fresh fruits, veggies, and grains!
I guess it got angry with me for going back to my old ways.
I will say that now my stomach handles all food better, but it took time.
6- You May Not Lose Weight Right Away
The next thing that shocked me was that I actually gained weight when I first tried plant-based eating.
If you’ve looked on the internet at all (especially on Instagram), you will see tons of super skinny vegans talking about how they eat these huge meals full of nuts, avocado, fake meats and cheeses, big smoothies with banana… and they never count calories.
“If you’re eating plants, you will lose weight automatically.”
I want to let you know right now that this is complete and total BS, and you should not listen to it.
You can eat too many veggie calories, just as you can eat too many other calories.
If you want to lose weight, you still have to watch what you’re consuming on a plant-based diet.
And it SUCKED.
It was the most frustrating thing to put in all that work, just to gain weight in the first half of my experiment.
But you learn quickly what works and what doesn’t and make tweaks.
Once I paid more attention to the types of plant-fueled foods I was putting into my body and made adjustments, the weight melted off – and has stayed off!
7- The Benefits Go Beyond Weight Loss
Some people like to talk about how plant-based or vegan living will help them live long, beautiful lives.
Others talk about the increased energy, mental clarity, clear skin, and overall improved sense of well-being.
That’s not why I showed up, but it’s why I stayed!
I went plant-based purely for vanity reasons. I wanted to lose weight, and that was about it.
But in that thirty days, not only did I lose weight, but my skin cleared up, my sleep improved, I needed less caffeine, I became happier, more compassionate, felt fewer body aches and pains, and just felt like my overall quality of life was better.
I was really surprised to experience all of this, but so glad I did!
8- Your Tastebuds Change With Time
The next thing that surprised me when I tried going plant-based to lose weight was how my tastebuds changed.
I always used to look at tofu with a side-eye, especially when it was supposed to replace meat. Like… what?!
It did take some getting used to tofu and other typical vegan ingredients and replacements, but honestly? Now I prefer those substitutions in cooking!
For example, tofu scramble is widely touted as a vegan scrambled egg recipe, and at first, I thought it was a little odd.
But now, if I can choose between a properly-seasoned tofu scramble and a three-egg omelet?
Give me the tofu!
My top recommendation for someone who wants to transition to a plant-based lifestyle would be to keep an open mind and allow your tastebuds to get used to the variety of new foods you’ll encounter.
Which brings me to my next point…
9- Plant-Based Foods Are So Unique
One of my fears about going vegan or plant-based all these years was that I’d be limited to “just” fruits and vegetables – how boring!
But there is so much variety and creativity when you eat from the plant kingdom, it’s ridiculous!
I feel like my options have expanded. My palate has matured. There are so many beautiful, tasty food combinations and creative methods for cooking, and I feel a little sad that I’ve missed out on all these years.
Looking back now, I feel like yes, it’s easier to take some chicken, season it with a few different spices or maybe a store-bought sauce (full of sugar), and throw it into the oven.
Then, pair it with some rice and broccoli and call it dinner.
But to me, THAT now seems dull and limited.
Some of the recipes I’ve made since transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle blow even the most decadent meat-based meals clean out of the water.
Flavor, texture, presentation, smell…
Plant-based eating can be such a high-quality sensory experience and is anything but boring!
10- We Don’t Need To Cook With Oil
Finally, there is so much confusion around the idea of oil. Some people say it’s okay, while others say it’s bad for you.
The topic of oil can be a whole blog post all on its own, so I won’t get into that now.
BUT from strictly a weight loss perspective and nothing else, eliminating oil is so beneficial.
Why? Oil is the single most calorie-dense item in most peoples’ diets.
If we want to lose weight, we need to consume fewer calories, right?
Well, one tablespoon of olive oil is 120 calories!
Do you know how little a tablespoon is?
If you’re sautéing garlic and onions in olive oil, those calories aren’t going to make you any fuller.
That’s just 120 extra calories making you fat – not full.
At first, I was baffled and confused at the instruction to sauté onions and garlic in soy sauce, water, or vegan Worstershire sauce.
But you know what? It worked just fine!
Now, oily foods taste weird to me.
I’m used to lighter, fresher-tasting foods and that’s a good thing!
Imagine looking and feeling lighter effortlessly while still enjoying good meals just because you’re free from cooking in oil!?
The Plant-Based Weight Loss Lifestyle Works
There are actually like twenty other benefits I can think of that I’ve experienced since going plant-based to lose weight.
But I’ll stop here (for now!)
I won’t lie and say it’s super-easy all the time because it’s not.
It’s a conscious choice and a decision that takes some planning and effort.
But, it does get easier over time.
And if the benefits didn’t outweigh the bad parts, you wouldn’t see so many people making the switch.
I know I lost some weight before adding more plants into my diet. And I’m still not 100% vegan, nor am I striving to be.
So, I won’t say it’s the only way to lose weight.
But I know I could never get below a certain weight before regaining it all back on a standard American diet.
Even with intermittent fasting.
In my experience, the more plants I eat, the lower my body weight.
I’m sure the same would go for you too!
I hope you enjoyed this list of shocking things I learned when going plant-based for weight loss.
Good luck on your weight loss journey!