Find out why the secret to slimming down might be eating more, not less

By Nora Tobin
August 10, 2012

Two things you might not know about me: I love to eat, and I hate feeling hungry! I used to think these qualities ruined my chance for weight-loss success. Luckily I was wrong, and I've learned that feeling hungry is more than just no fun; it's not healthy and can actually make it harder to lose weight.

The Secret to Losing Weight for Good

You don't have to follow a strict diet plan to lose extra pounds and keep them off. In fact, the best strategy is very straightforward: Fill up on nutrient-dense foods throughout the day. Rather than focusing on how much you're eating, it's much more effective to watch what you're eating. It's almost impossible to overeat if your plate is filled with high-fiber, nutrient-packed foods.

I made the shift from calorie counting (and constant frustration) to filling up and leaning out (without counting calories) by adopting a vegan lifestyle. By eliminating animal products from my diet, I was able to make lasting positive changes in my life, including weight loss, increased energy, better complexion, improved athletic performance (beach volleyball), and relief of all digestive problems. To top it off, every meal I eat tastes amazing and leaves me completely satisfied.

How to Get Started

Drastically changing your diet overnight can seem overwhelming (and rarely leads to lasting change), so take it one step at a time. Start with one food substitution and slowly add in others. As my friend and New York Times bestselling author Kathy Freston, says, "Leaning in is about setting an intention for what you want, and then nudging yourself ever so gently in that direction, even if getting there seems impossible… It's all about crowding out, not cutting out."

Here are a few simple swaps to get more plant-based foods into your diet:

Instead of: Dairy milk

Drink more: Almond, rice, hemp, soy, or coconut milk (unsweetened)

Instead of: Meat

Eat more: Beans, legumes, tempeh, or non-GMO tofu

Instead of: Cheese

Eat more: Hummus, olive oil and balsamic (with veggies), baba ganoush

Instead of: Eggs

Eat more: Plant-based protein shakes, almond butter, oatmeal

Top 5 Tips for Lasting Results

1. Always Eat Breakfast

Eating breakfast provides your body with energy to fuel physical activity throughout the morning. Plus, eating a healthy meal in the morning may help you avoid the temptation to reach for a quick-fix at the vending machine when your stomach starts growling around 11:00 a.m.

Try: A quinoa or oatmeal bowl to get a combination of complex carbs, protein, fiber, and healthy fat. Start with one half cup of hot grains (of your choice) and add almond milk, walnuts, berries, cinnamon, and honey. If this is not convenient, try a piece of multi-grain toast with almond butter and banana.

2. Snack Smarter

The best snacks to keep you feeling energized are a combination of protein and carbs. Just like eating breakfast, snacking on nutrient-packed foods throughout the day can help you avoid becoming so hungry that you'll reach for anything. (Trust me, your body would rather you eat an apple and an ounce of cheese than a bag of chips from the convenience store).

Try: Snacking on small amounts of nuts, fresh fruit, or veggies and hummus every two or three hours.

3. Choose Complex Carbohydrates

Yes, you can eat carbs and have a knockout body, just make sure you eat the right carbs. Avoid processed and refined carbs (the white stuff) and choose complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, oats, and legumes. Complex carbs provide dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which slow down digestion and make you feel fuller longer (the key to weight-loss success). Refined carbs are highly processed and often full of added sugars. These foods break down easily to supply quick energy in the form of glucose. This is a good thing if your body needs quick energy (if you're running a race or playing a sport), but most people are better off choosing unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods that contain natural sugars, like fructose in fruit.

Try: Find ways to fit more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats) into your everyday diet. Some refined carbs to limit: white bread, white pasta, and sugary baked goods.

4. Enjoy the Good Fats

Just like carbohydrates, not all fats are created equal either. The "good" fats (omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA) are very beneficial to your health. Research shows strong evidence that the omega-3s EPA and DHA can boost heart, brain, joint, eye, and skin health.

Try: Fatty fish like salmon and tuna and fish oil supplements are the easiest significant sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

5. Drink Water All Day Long

Water is the elixir of good health. Staying hydrated does everything from boosting energy levels to promoting healthy, glowing skin. Drinking water also helps to flush out toxins and waste products in the body.

Try: Drink two, 8-ounce glasses of water before every meal. You'll not only hydrate your body, but you'll be less likely to overeat during the meal.