Dr. Neal Barnard: Weightloss on a Vegan Diet

Dr. Neal Barnard: Weightloss on a Vegan Diet

This is the second article in a two-part series featuring a special interview with Dr. Neal Barnard, President of PCRM: Weightloss on a Vegan Diet.

Physician, nutrition researcher, author, and president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. Neal Barnard is a vegetarian and a leading proponent of a plant-based diet.  The first article featured the health benefits of a plant-based diet.  This article focuses on weightloss using a vegan diet. Dr. Barnard spoke to our Yummy Plants reporter about his latest book, 21- Day Weight Loss Kickstart. The Kickstart is an easy weightloss plan using a vegan diet.   

Although our reporter was eager to learn all about the diet, her first question was this:

Yummy Plants:  Twenty-one days?  How can a person change a lifetime of eating habits in three weeks?

Dr. Barnard:  Twenty-one days is a magic number for changing any sort of habit.  Two days doesn’t give a person enough momentum and one year sounds daunting.  Twenty-one days is enough time to break old habits and start on a new path.  In twenty-one days a person’s new behavior has created new neural pathways in the brain.  For people on the Kickstart, the new neural pathways support healthy eating habits.

Yummy Plants:  Why did you choose a vegan diet for the Kickstart?

Dr. Barnard: My research team and I had done a study with women who were moderately to severely overweight (50 pounds or more).  Our results showed that a vegan diet helped people lose weight and keep it off.  One significant finding from our study was that the participants on the vegan diet burned 16% more calories in the after-meal period than those who were on a traditional diet.

The participants in our study experienced remarkable weight loss after shifting to a 100% plant-based eating plan. They lost one pound per week. Two years after the study ended, the women had not regained the weight.

There are many advantages to a vegan diet.   (1) Dieters can eat as much as they like of plant-based foods without worrying about calorie-counting.   (2) Plant-based foods are high in fiber and filling so they offer appetite control.  Vegan dieters don’t feel hungry and don’t overeat.  (3) Vegan dieters lose more weight between meals than those on a traditional diet plan. (4)  Plant-based meals allow people to reduce their fat layer without reducing muscle mass and bone mass.

Yummy Plants:  The Kickstart program warns dieters about using too much oil in their cooking  and meal plans.  Vegans usually use olive oil which is considered healthy.  Why is oil a problem?

Dr. Barnard:  Oils have fat.  Olive oil, like all oils, contains 9 calories per gram.  Oils of any kind are processed and refined and much of the nutritional value is lost in the processing.  Go light on the cooking oil.  It’s better to eat whole olives which contain fiber and key nutrients.

Yummy Plants:  For vegans who are on a diet – and vegans in general – do you have some tips on dining out food choices?  Green salads can become a bore!

Dr. Barnard:  When you’re eating out, make it easy – choose a cuisine type that naturally has lots of vegan options.  Is there an Italian restaurant nearby?  Order pasta with marinara sauce.  At a Mexican restaurant, try a bean burrito without the cheese.  Chinese cuisine offers many vegetable dishes.  Do you like sushi?  Veggie sushi is really healthy.  Even in the fast-food world, it’s possible to find vegan fare.  Subway will make a vegan sub and grill it.  Taco Bell can prepare a bean burrito gold without the cheese.

Yummy Plants:  I know many readers and members of our community would like to know more about the Kickstart program.   What kind of information can they find on your website?

Dr. Barnard: The https://pcrm.org site has free cooking tips, videos, and online support.  More than 150,000 people have already signed up to join the Kickstart.  It’s not too late to start.

We are so grateful to Dr. Barnard for sharing this valuable information with us! 

Dr. Neal Barnard has written many books including The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook: 125 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Jump-Start Weight Loss and Help You Feel Great, Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes and Turn Off the Fat Genes.

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I have been a vegan for two months and haven’t lost a pound yet. What am I doing wrong? I love the new way of life but, was hoping I would of lost some weight by now. I have not started an exercise program yet. In fact I’ve gained weight. Can you please let me know what I’m doing wrong? Thank you..


Can someone please give me an example of a 3 quick vegan meals & possibly some nutritious vegan snacks? I don’t cook much and need healthy vegan meals on-the-go. Any & all suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated! :)


I have an underactive thyroid and low vitamin “D” and doctor’s concerned about adequate protein. Endocrinologist wants me to eat between 1000 – 1200 calories per day. It is difficult and I’m concerned about getting adequate nutrition. Been Vegan for about 2months and although no weight loss on scale, I do notice a change in my clothes.

Should I be taking a vegan protein supplement?


I started on the vegan path because of Dr. John McDougall’s book “The Starch Diet.” I have read about Dr. Barnard in my internet searches, and I just discovered a woman at my church is vegan and follows Dr. Barnard. Hence, I found this site! I need to lose about 40 pounds, and although I have been vegan for three or four months, I am not losing weight, nor is my blood pressure dropping. I know about keeping olives, avocados, and soy products to a minimum, and I learned from a fat-free vegan site to keep beans to no more… Read more »

Thanks for the points you have provided here.


I started the 21 day kickstart on July 18th after Dr Barnard spoke @ my workplace. It has been easy going & I’ve lost 15 pounds so far. Better yet, I feel great & my arthritic joints are MUCH better. Thanks Dr. Barnard!


Show them your before and after blood work results and then maybe make them some really great vegan dishes. Good luck! I started in march as well.


Sorry, I meant to say started the program in March 2011. Love it!


Dr. Barnard, I love your book. I started the 21 day kickstart in March 2010, and I am hooked. Been Vegan since. Have lost 22 lbs and feel great. My concern is the rest of my family. Most of them are overweight and have many medical issues. I try to talk to them about lifestyle change and they think I am crazy! It is so disheartening. What more can I do????


I just wanted to add a couple of food notes. Traditional pasta is made using eggs and isn’t vegan. Going to a restaurant and having pasta with marinara would not be a good vegan option. And people need to research fast food places and find out whether or not they’re using animal fat in their refried beans. Also, Asian/Thai restaurants like to use oyster/fish sauce and you have to ask them if it’s in the sauce and to not include it if it is. Otherwise, I’m happy to see a push toward vegan eating. Yay!

Reply to  Kelly

A lot of pasta does not have egg in it!


Update: I started the vegan diet about ten days agio. It’s actually pretty easy to do. I’ve already lost 2.5 lbs. There is one other benefit I hadn’t expected. I’m spending less on food!


I downloaded the diet book using Kindle for pc. The 21-Day diet book is a great motivator and full of nutritional information as to why a vegan diet works. I’ve only finished part of the book, but I went to the supermarket yesterday and packed up a cartload of veggies and some vegan frozen foods. I am getting ready for the big moment. Dr. Barnard suggests planning ahead and picking favorite vegan or veggie foods for the diet. I can’t wait to be lean by going green. How about you?

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