Burning Fat and Getting Into Shape as a Vegan Woman

We’ve all heard the same guidelines over and over: pay attention to calories in and calories out, get moving, drink water and get rest. All these are true and excellent advice for those of us interested in losing weight, burning fat and getting into shape as vegan women. But perhaps you’ve always dreamed of being fitter and never found the way to stick with those tips, or maybe you long for days gone by before kids or work, or an injury threw you a curve ball.

I’m not a medical or fitness professional. I’m just a vegan gal who loves to move and feel amazing, and I’ve been there too. I know how important it is to do what you need to in order to be healthy and happy. Here are some tips for you amazing vegan women out there to help you get into that health and fitness zone:

List your obstacles and your "lessons learned". Image: Shutterstock.
List your obstacles and your “lessons learned”. Image: Shutterstock.

Know thyself

Every time you find yourself starting over or hitting a plateau, sit down with a pencil and paper. List all the obstacles, issues, problems, or reasons things aren’t going well, both now and in the past. Be honest with yourself. List every single thing you can think of.

Now, for each item, list at least one thing that you can do about it – your “Lessons Learned”. Think hard and get creative. You won’t get what you’ve never had without doing what you’ve never done. As you progress, you will likely need to do this again. Every so often, read your list and see how you’re doing.

One size does not fit all

One size does not fit all: If something works for 99% of the world, it’s probably worth trying, but if it’s not for you, ditch it and move on. Image: Shutterstock.
One size does not fit all: If something works for 99% of the world, it’s probably worth trying, but if it’s not for you, ditch it and move on. Image: Shutterstock.

You are your own experiment. While all human bodies have the same basic physiology, we all have our own lives, psychology and behaviors. If something works for 99% of the world, it’s probably worth trying, but if it’s not for you, ditch it and move on. For example, although it is common advice to write down one’s food intake, I have finally learned it’s not for me. Writing down my food or following my macronutrients intake causes me to quickly spiral into an unhealthy relationship with food, obsessing over what I’m eating (or not eating) and making me miserable. Since I’m a competitive numbers girl, I found that food tracking just makes me eat less and less each day. For example, if yesterday I survived on x calories, today my goal is x-20. It doesn’t take long for this to become a bad idea. I wrote this on my Lessons Learned list and stopped doing it. Now, instead of having a maximum ceiling, I go by minimum requirement. Every day I MUST eat A, B, C, D, and only then do I worry about extras. Basically, I started tryingbeating my goals with nutrition rather than calories. Since recording meals doesn’t work for me, instead of giving up I made a new plan that does. You can, too.

Similarly, if you don’t already have an activity that you enjoy, or you’re ready for something new, do some research until you find it. There is something out there for everybody, and while one popular activity might not be your cup of tea, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t others that will be. Always remain open to letting new wonderful things into your life. Then, focus on loving your body for its ability to do the things you love.

Use your monthly cycle

You can use your monthly cycle to your advantage! Image: Shutterstock.
You can use your monthly cycle to your advantage! Image: Shutterstock.

If you are menstruating, you have an incredible fat burning weapon in your arsenal. According to Rachel Cosgrove, author of The Female Body Breakthrough, the week before and the week of your period are high fat burning days and you can make the most progress here by being disciplined in the kitchen. Some days you will want to eat the entire house – your body needs a lot of energy to do its work. That’s why it’s sending you all these messages to get some french fries ASAP. If you can hang on, keep your wits about you, and focus on healthy, nutritious food with no junk in these days – you might be able to burn some serious fat. If you’re holding a carrot and just wishing it was a cookie, you know it’s all smoke and mirrors.

If you’re weighing yourself, you will probably find that you weigh more on the days that you ovulate. Don’t let it stress you out – it’s usually just water retention. To avoid these ups and down, try comparing apples with apples. I.e. if you weigh yourself on day 17 of your cycle, make sure to only weigh yourself again on the next 17th day. Jot down your cycle in your training log, and soon you will be able to identify when to expect hormonal shifts and how to schedule your training and diet to complement what your body is doing.

To learn more about how to use your monthly cycle to your advantage, I found Cosgrove’s book, mentioned above, very beneficial. Although not a vegan book, I was able to apply her tips and advice to my vegan lifestyle, and recommend it for those who are interested in forming a positive relationship with food, while understanding their body.

Bouncing back

Nurse as long as you can. Image: Shutterstock.
Nurse as long as you can. Image: Shutterstock.

If you have pregnancy weight to lose, whether it’s been a week or a decade, I highly recommend Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell After Pregnancy by Debra Waterhouse.  Do you know why we gain a bunch of weight during pregnancy? Because we NEED it! That weight is there to make high quality nutrition for an infant. Therefore, let your body do its work.

Nurse as long as you can; you and your baby will be better for it. Pump as much extra as you can (depending on your medical history, you may be a candidate to donate to a breast milk bank. You can contact the North American Human Milk Bank for details). Don’t freak out your system by going on a crazy diet or exercise regime. The smallest change is still progress. If you focus on your baby’s nutritional needs by making your own high quality nutrition a priority, you may be surprised by how far that alone will bring you. 

Be excited about your plans

Do what you love and enjoy doing, without added pressure. Image: Shutterstock.
Do what you love and enjoy doing, without added pressure. Image: Shutterstock.

Stop measuring success by the scale or your appearance. Even if your ultimate goal is to compete on stage in a bikini, that experience only lasts a few moments, so ENJOY what you are doing! Look to the future and make it about what you want to do, not how you would look like or what the scale will show. The reason dancers look like dancers is because dancers love to dance. So live your life, and enjoy movement. Let your body figure itself out without the added pressure.

I also encourage you to have an active “event” to look forward to. It can be something formal like a competition or race, or something informal like a long hike, a climbing trip or a night out dancing. Set a date and start preparing. After that is completed, pick another.

Finding success

As a vegan woman, you have several tools in your box that many don’t. Your diet is easily adapted to be nutritionally dense. Check out The Plantpower Way by Rich Roll and Julie Piatt, Flexible Dieting for Vegans by Dani Taylor and Shred It! by Robert Cheeke. Your cycle can slingshot you into better and better body composition with each passing month. If you are nursing, you are your very own fat burning factory. These benefits coupled with some self knowledge, honesty and out of the box thinking can get you to your goals. Congratulations on your future success!

Image: courtesy of Sara Lee.
Image: courtesy of Sara Lee.

Guest Post By Sara Lee

Sara Lee is a wife, mother, veteran, teacher, health nut, ethical vegan, environmentalist, distance athlete, yogi and lifter. Her goal is to help more lifters to know they can be vegan and more vegans to know they can be lifters. She currently competes in kettlebell sport for PlantBuilt Vegan Muscle Team.

Follow Sara on Instagram: @solarpoweredsara

 Cover image: Shutterstock.