Clean eating is taking over the food scene… and while the word ‘clean’ can be replaced by ‘real,’ or ‘whole,’ the idea behind all of these terms is the same; eat only high-quality and natural foods made from clean/real/whole ingredients. Definitions of clean eating vary, but my definition of clean eating includes eating as many plant foods as possible, which ensures getting enough fiber, protein and nutrients to stay energized and satisfied. With a bit of time and effort at the beginning, a plant forward, clean eating regimen quickly becomes second nature. There are countless reasons to fall in love with clean eating (check out my top 3 reasons why here), but an initial draw could be the weight loss aspect, and that’s what I’m focusing on today.
I’ll start out by saying that these tips are primarily based on my experience after years of weight fluctuations and anxieties surrounding my weight. Having adopted this way of living has freed me from struggling between my love for food and desire to be healthy and feel good. Because plant-centric, clean food isn’t readily available everywhere and often takes more effort to get my hands on, this lifestyle naturally deters me from mindlessly eating just to eat, and instead causes me to savor and appreciate food when eating. Because I eat in a clean, plant-centric, nourishing way most of the time, when I do indulge in sugary and rich foods, I can just enjoy them knowing that my regular healthy habits more than balance things out.
For me, when I began my commitment to clean eating, I wasn’t necessarily trying to lose a specific amount of weight over a specific amount of time. Staying lean and looking fit is on my mind to some extent, but it wasn’t the primary reason for me to go clean. I committed to a completely clean lifestyle after concluding that ingesting anything unnatural and/or heavily or inhumanely processed can’t possibly benefit me in an authentic way and that it was time to take my health (and my future self’s health) into my own hands. I cut out pretty much any restaurant or food establishment not focused on quality, freshness and made-from-scratch menu items. I began cooking more and more of my meals at home using organic, fresh and real ingredients produced without gmo’s, chemicals, or artificial ingredients. And finally, I made fresh produce and plant foods the focus of my diet. Because I was already a vegetarian at this point, this wasn’t a difficult adjustment for me. But for meat eaters transitioning to a nourishing and sustainable clean lifestyle, it’s important to understand that clean eating is about increasing fresh plant foods and decreasing the consumption of animal products. Over the course of the first year of clean eating, my weight began creeping down naturally, and now, my normal weight (the weight I land on when I’m making minimal effort to be healthy) is almost 10 pounds lower than it used to be. Ten pounds lighter just because of clean, plant-forward eating? Yep. And that’s weight loss without feeling deprived or hungry. It’s truly an amazing concept.
So clearly weight loss can be a naturally occurring bi-product of going clean, if you’re willing to give it a little bit of time. On the other hand, for some, quicker and easier controlled weight-loss is the primary reason to adapt a clean eating regimen. But in this case you probably don’t have the patience to wait a year to naturally lose those extra pounds. Depending on what you want, there are different ways to approach clean eating. But because today’s focus is on faster weight loss as a priority, here is my introductory guide to clean eating for fast, healthy & effective weight loss.
1. Calories Count
In my experience, counting calories is a great tool for weight loss. Weight loss is about science, and science says that if you burn more calories than you consume, you should lose weight.
A clean eating lifestyle without the goal of losing weight pretty much means you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as what you’re eating is balanced, overall nourishing and benefits your body. But when trying to lose weight quickly with clean eating, counting calories and limiting portions gives you the control. But it’s also not about being restrictive. As long as what you’re eating is clean, you shouldn’t be too rigid with calorie counting. Why? Because the ingredients and foods you’re consuming as a clean-eater are pure and nourishing, so eating an extra 100 calories from an apple because you’re super hungry or another tablespoon of homemade dressing to a salad because it needs it for flavor, is not going to hinder your weight loss. In fact, listening and answering to your body makes for a more sustainable eating regimen.
Net net, stay in your target calorie range but don’t get too hung up on it.
Now you’re probably wondering what your calorie range for clean eating weight loss should be? It varies by person obviously. Gender, height, age and genetics all affect the amount of calories you burn in a day and therefore the amount of calories you should eat to lose weight. Plus, how much weight you want to lose is also a factor. It’s up to you to decide on a manageable daily calorie range, but I’ve included some sample ranges below, which are based on an average person with an average metabolism.
Women – 1400 to 1600 clean calories per day for weight loss
Men – 1850 to 2050 clean calories per day for weight loss
2. Eat at Home
One of my best tips for weight loss (and clean eating in general) is to cook for yourself and to eat at home as often as humanly possible. Control over ingredients when cooking yourself allows for a more genuine (and therefore more beneficial) commitment to clean eating. No matter what you cook at home, it will likely be healthier than the version you would get at a restaurant. Smaller portions, lower calories, less sodium, higher quality fats, whole grains, organic ingredients and more produce are all benefits of cooking yourself, and this makes a huge difference when trying to lose weight.
3. Vegan for a Day
Don’t worry, I’m not telling you to be a vegan, or even a vegetarian, but there’s something to be said for eating like a vegan, if only just for a few days per week. Think about it. If you take meat, cheese and dairy out of the equation, the acceptable clean eating replacements are produce, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. Plant based foods like these contain tons of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, all of which will help to clean out your digestive track, rev your metabolism, fight infections and super charge weight loss.
4. Get Moving
I believe that what you eat determines the majority of your health, but when it comes to fast weight loss especially, exercise is essential. This doesn’t necessarily mean killing yourself in the gym or training for a marathon. Personally, much of my exercise comes simply from living in New York, walking everywhere and having an active job where I’m on my feet a lot. You can imitate this heart-healthy lifestyle by walking at a normal pace for 45 minutes two times per week. Additionally, get your heart rate up with two sweat-worthy cardio workouts every week, each lasting about 30 minutes. This could be jogging, cycling, rigorous hiking, speed walking, boxing or any other exercise that gets your heart rate up. Lastly, 1-2 strength/stretching workouts per week will create lean muscle tone, improve flexibility and relieve stress. My go-to choice? One-hour vinyasa yoga sessions. But if you’re into lifting free-weights or you’re familiar with equipment-free strength exercises, 45 minutes of either of these is an option too (just make sure to constantly stretch out…improved flexibility is life changing).
Trust me when I say, even a moderate exercise regimen like this one makes a huge difference when it comes to weight loss. Extra time and energy? Increase exercise whenever and however you can to further accelerate weight loss.
5. Carb & Sugar Patrol
Clean eating isn’t about giving up every indulgence. After all, carbs and sugar are part of what makes life delicious, and even on a clean eating regimen, moderate amounts of minimally processed sugars (like honey and maple syrup) and lots of whole grains (like organic whole wheat packaged breads, made from scratch doughs, quinoa, brown rice, millet) can all be found. But if trying to lose weight efficiently, sugar and carbs typically contain loads of sneaky calories that add up quickly which could potentially hinder quick weight loss. For this reason, try to limit added sugars and grains when trying to shed pounds.
While clean, wholegrain carbs are not unhealthy and added sugar here and there is 100% acceptable, a grain-free meal once a day and full days without any added sugar will help to greatly reduce calories and portion sizes while feeding your body nutrient-dense, hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables.
Side note, this ‘sugar and carbs’ category also contains alcohol. It’s important to realize how alcohol can negatively affect your weight and your overall health. Not just because of the calories, sugar and carbs in the alcohol itself, but also because of impaired judgement when it comes to food and eating. My advice? Except for that daily glass of red wine to unwind, steer clear of alcohol when trying to lose weight quickly.
So there you have it, my five introductory tips fast and healthy weight loss using the clean eating regimen. Follow these flexible guide lines, in addition to the general rules of clean eating, and you’ll be shedding pounds in no time. If you have anything to add, feel free to reach out using the comments section below.
* The content in this post is based on my own experience after transitioning to a clean, plant-forward dietary model. I cannot guarantee my same experience or results. It might sound restrictive or unsatisfying at first, especially if fast food and packaged foods make up the bulk of your diet. In that case, I definitely see why one might think that. But I can confidently say, that after years of dealing with the struggle between food and health, I’ve never felt better or more free when it comes to eating and feeling my best.