Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

If I quit meat will I lose weight?

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This article was ALL OVER my twitter feed last week. I couldn’t help but wonder how much truth the headline “To shed pounds, going vegetarian or vegan may help” contained. You know, I have no doubt that it may help. I also have no doubt that it may not help, and that it may not be the only option.

The article states that the study (meta-analysis) concluded that following a vegetarian or vegan diet lead to greater weight loss than following an “average American diet”. At which point I was like “are you kidding me?!!“. Of course following a prescribed vegetarian or vegan diet is going to lead to more weight loss than a terrible diet consisting of heavily processed foods and few vegetables (aka the “average American diet”)! Especially when you’re only looking at the results over the course of the study. We all know that it’s easier to lose weight than it is to keep it off.

I was also left wondering how the authors decided which studies to include in their meta-analysis. There were only 12 studies used and I can’t imagine that there were only 12 studies that met their inclusion criteria. Is it possible that they were “cherry picking”? Someone want to do some pubmed searching and let me know? I don’t really have time for that so I suppose I’ll let them slide on that count and just leave the suggestion out there.

The authors themselves state that at most, the studies lasted for 18 months and it did appear that weight loss on these vegetarian and vegan diets was often not sustained over time. Therefore, while it’s possible that people will initially lose weight on vegetarian and vegan diets they may not keep the weight off over time. This may be due to reverting to normal dietary intake or to increasing consumption upon conclusion of study participation.

While this article tells us that at least 12 studies have shown vegetarian and vegan diets to be effective methods of short-term weight loss it doesn’t tell us if other diets are any more or less effective. There was no comparison made between low carb, high fat, high protein, calorie counting, mindful eating, or any of the kazillion diets that people undertake to lose weight. Perhaps there is an equally, if not more effective way to lose weight. As everyone is different, I would hazard a guess that, while going veg might help one person to lose weight it might not help another. Don’t feel that you have to give-up roast chicken to lose weight, and don’t be discouraged if you give-up meat and don’t see a change on the scale. There are many factors that contribute to weight loss, the consumption of animal products may or may not be one in your case.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

10 thoughts on “If I quit meat will I lose weight?

  1. :) I had to chuckle. I hosted a garage sale last weekend and one of my customers randomly started talking to me about nutrition (not knowing I am an MS, RDN, CDE). I was joking about fitting into a pair of jeans that a friend’s daughter had put into the sale. I am not overweight, though heavier than I would like to be and claimed that if I would just lose a few pounds, those jeans would fit. The random shopper then stated, “just cut meat out of your diet – if you just cut out meat, you will drop weight quickly and I guarantee you will fit into those jeans.” Ha. Little did she know, we do not eat much meat (though I enjoy meat, I am not a vegetarian and do not plan to follow said diet!) nor did she know anything about the rest of my intake.

    I just thought it was funny how people have these random ideas in their heads and are so firm about that being the answer. What is even more funny (though super discouraging) is that she was (overly) willing to tell any random stranger that following _____ diet will make them “drop weight.” I would love to see her credentials in nutrition.

    What took the cake was towards the end of our conversation, she insisted that I “just need to eat fruits and vegetables.” Again….she has no clue. I am nearly certain that I eat more fruits and vegetables than she does. :)

    …and to think, all I wanted to do was have a garage sale w/out having to play dietitian for a day!

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    • Don’t you just love that? Haha. In my last job I was working with the public and would often have people preach diets to my as if they were the experts because they had read Wheat Belly. #dietitianproblems

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  2. I saw this article and shared many of your thoughts here–thank you for exploring them in depth. Certainly foods like cheese, ice cream, and Oreos are all veg*n, and not necessarily considered ideal for weight loss :)

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  3. What do you make of the recent attack on kale being harmful?

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  4. Oh jeez. If you eat a crap diet, then switch to a vegetable based diet, of course you’ll lose weight! If you eat crap and switch to a new type of crap… just no. LOL!

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  5. You will never, ever, ever run out of content for your blog.

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  6. Sad thing about stuff like this is it’s sometimes very hard to convince people that studies made by *gasp* SCIENTISTS can be wrong or biased. I get a lot of “they’re scientists so I’ll trust their word over yours” when people don’t even know the credentials of people conduction said studies/analyses, although all the knowledge you need to tell if a study is badly designed fits into a single infographic.

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