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   Bill Harris, M.D. | Q&A

Vegan Weightloss Plan
Q&A with Bill Harris, M.D.

Q. I am a 48 yr. old female and have been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for 13 years. I also now weigh the most I have ever weighed in my life - 376 lbs! I really need a vegan weightloss plan.


A. A vegan diet is a weightloss plan.

The bottom line in weight control is this: if you burn more Calories than you absorb from your food, you will lose weight. On a whole food vegan diet based on vegetables and fruit, you can easily meet all your nutrient requirements and fill your stomach before your Calorie requirements are met. The Calorie shortage is then taken out of your fat stores and you can lose about a pound per week. That's 52 pounds a year, 104 pounds in 2 years, etc.

As I also have chronic fatigue, firbromyalgia, and osteo-arthritis, I need a simple plan that is easy to fix and follow.

Appended is a fibromyalgia reference.

If you can, will you please help me? I need the structure of a plan that includes amounts since I tend to eat too much. I am also a sweets addict, and any advise you have on shaking that problem would be greatly appreciated.

You probably aren't eating too much, just the wrong food. Dairy products seldom lead to weight loss and your sweets cravings will have to be redirected to fresh fruit. A daily exercise program is essential to weight loss and while you may not enjoy moving 376 lbs around you'll have to do it if you really want to lose any. Swimming and stationary bike riding would be good starters since running is likely to cause knee pain at your weight.

My recommendations are pretty simple and you can read them all at:

1. On Becoming Vegan http://www.vegsource.com/harris/going_vegan.htm

If you have Microsoft Excel 97 on your computer I would recommend: 2. Diet and Exercise Questionnaire http://www.vegsource.com/harris/download.htm

These recipes are much more complicated than the ones I use myself but you should give them a glance: 3.Some Vegan Starter Recipes http://www.vegsource.com/harris/recipes.htm

This part is important because it explains why any combination of the above recipes will meet nutrient requirements: 3a. Nutrient analysis of the recipes. http://www.vegsource.com/harris/going_vegan_table1.htm

Why I emphasize vegetables and fruit over grains and starches: 4."Less Grains, More Greens" http://www.vegsource.com/harris/ten_categories.htm

If weight loss is your objective then a raw vegan diet would be the best. Fresh raw vegetable juice is a particularly good choice because it's a balanced food, with the exception of vitamin B12 which must be supplemented: 5. Raw vs Cooked http://www.vegsource.com/harris/raw_vs_cooked.htm

Although adapting to a vegan diet is most important, learning to fast periodically would also be helpful since it would at least demonstrate to you that going without food for 1-2 days is not fatal. There's some good advice on this at:




Good luck,

-William Harris, M.D.


July 6, 2001

Scand J Rheumatol 2000;29(5):308-13

Vegan diet alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms.

Kaartinen K, Lammi K, Hypen M, Nenonen M, Hanninen O, Rauma AL

Department of Physiology, University of Kuopio, Finland. hietanen.kaartinen@pp.inet.fi

The effect of a strict, low-salt, uncooked vegan diet rich in lactobacteria on symptoms in 18 fibromyalgia patients during and after a 3-month intervention period in an open, non-randomized controlled study was evaluated. As control 15 patients continued their omnivorous diet. The groups did not differ significantly from each other in the beginning of the study in any other parameters except in pain and urine sodium. The results revealed significant improvements in Visual analogue scale of pain (VAS) (p=0.005), joint stiffness (p=0.001), quality of sleep (p=0.0001), Health assessment questionnaire (HAQ) (p=0.031), General health questionnaire (GHQ) (p=0.021), and a rheumatologist's own questionnaire (p=0.038). The majority of patients were overweight to some extent at the beginning of the study and shifting to a vegan food caused a significant reduction in body mass index (BMI) (p=0.0001). Total serum cholesterol showed a statistically significant lowering (p=0.003). Urine sodium dropped to 1/3 of the beginning values (p=0.0001) indicating good diet compliance. It can be concluded that vegan diet had beneficial effects on fibromyalgia symptoms at least in the short run.

Publication Types:

Clinical trial Controlled clinical trial

William Harris MD received a degree in physics from the University of California Berkeley, where he earned Phi Beta Kappa honors. He received his degree in medicine from the University of California at San Francisco, and received his postgraduate training at San Diego County Hospital. He holds a Medical License in the State of Hawaii. He has been an Emergency Department physican since 1963, and the Director of the Kaiser Permanente Vegan Lifestyle Clinic on Oahu until his retirement in 1998. Dr. Harris is the author of The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism.

In addition, he was the 1950 Big Ten Trampoline Champion, is an accomplished hangglider and commercial pilot, and at age 70 became a skydiver with 108 jumps to date. Dr. Harris has been vegetarian since 1950, and vegan since 1963.

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