Come gaze into my crystal ball and see what the new year will hold. I predict that early on, millions of people will resolve to lose weight, gyms will offer special membership rates, exercise equipment will be sold at half price and companies will peddle "miracle weight-loss pills" and discounted diet plans. Much of the nation will be excited about "downsizing."
But by spring, few people will be as "significantly reduced" as the price of a workout tape. Many will have forgotten their resolutions entirely by the time the ball drops in Times Square. Others will struggle to eat healthy for a few weeks, only to see their resolve stall in the McDonald's drive-through by Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Mark my words: This will happen--or my name isn't Carnac the Magnificent.
OK, well my name isn't Carnac. I don't even own a crystal ball. But I'm confident about my predictions because the same phenomenon occurs year after year. Revelers ring in the new year by making resolutions to eat less and exercise more. For many, this just means switching from fried chicken to grilled chicken (in the mistaken belief that it's a lot healthier) or forcing themselves to do crunches and eat cereal that tastes like cardboard before giving up and going to Sonic for a Footlong Quarter Pound Coney. Is it any wonder that their resolutions are doomed? If you're serious about losing weight, take a cue from Biggest Loser trainer Bob Harper and try exercising regularly and eating a healthy vegan diet.
A vegan diet isn't actually a "diet" at all. It's just easier to maintain a healthy weight if you eat plant-based foods rather than animal-based ones, because most plant-based foods are naturally low in fat and calories. They're also high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which help boost your metabolism, so you burn more calories. There are slim meat-eaters and heavy vegans, of course, but according to the American Dietetic Association, vegans are less likely to suffer from weight problems. Research even shows that vegans are a whopping nine times less likely to be obese than meat-eaters are.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that everyone eat three square meals of salad a day. But you won't lose weight if you slip into unhealthy patterns that include eating lots of fish sticks and chicken sandwiches or fall prey to commercials advertising extra-large, extra-cheese pizzas with eight types of cheese and cheese-stuffed crusts.
If you want to lose weight--and save animals--try eating a variety of delicious plant-based meals, such as "beefless tips" sauteed with asparagus and onions; pasta with spicy marinara sauce; three-bean chili with (or without) ground "beef" crumbles; lentil and spinach soup with warm whole-grain bread; oatmeal with almond milk and blueberries; soy sausage, scrambled seasoned tofu and hash browns; bean burritos; and creamy mushroom risotto.
As that long list of options shows, you don't have to deprive yourself or resort to fad diets in order to lose weight. With so many vegan choices available, you can enjoy great-tasting foods and stay in shape without harming a soul. I foresee good things for those who go vegan this year: good karma, healthier hearts, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of cancer, diabetes and other diseases. Your loved ones will likely see "less" of you in 2011 too--and that's a good thing!
Heather Moore is a research specialist with the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.