I’m a Vegetarian — Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

The Short Answer from a functional medicine specialist

Vegetarian Sandwich

Q: I’m a vegetarian; why can’t I seem to lose weight?

A: The key is, what are you eating? Most people who are vegan or vegetarian eat a very high-carb diet. They’re eating lots of grains and beans, lots of starch.

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Brown rice and kidney beans may be nutritious. But eating lots of foods like these, which turn into sugar, can lead to weight issues and insulin resistance.

Most vegans and vegetarians also crave sugar because their biology is a little out of balance.

People whose diet is higher in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in starch and carbs tend to fare better with weight loss.

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In fact, an analysis of 53 randomized, controlled trials found that people on low-carb diets did much better with long-term weight loss than people on low-fat diets. People on high-fat diets also did better than people on low-fat diets — because they ate fewer carbs.

Many studies confirm that your lean body mass increases when you eat good-quality protein and fat and decreases when you eat starch and sugar.

I do understand the moral and environmental reasons for being vegetarian. That said, there is scant evidence that eating meat is bad for our health, especially when it comes from grass-fed, sustainably raised animals.

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Mark Hyman, MD, Director, Center for Functional Medicine

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