Gaining Weight as a Vegan

Gaining Weight as a Vegan

fatveganQ  I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years and on Jan 3, turned Vegan. I made the change because I abhor the cruel practices; however, I was hoping to drop some weight. Instead, I gained. A typical meal plans is as follows: soy proten bar and fruit or oatmeal with fruit for BF; sandwich with vegan deli slices, veganaise, 1/2 avocado and tomato slices and 1/4 cup trail mix (nuts and fruit) OR an Amys meal with trail mix as a snack for LN, and some type of sauteed vegetable mix with a grain or pasta for dinner. What am I doing wrong? I dont count calories but I dont think im going over 1300 cal a day. Im thinking I need to take out the trail mix. Im frustrated. Please advise.

First, congrats for joining the club. I’m glad you wrote. We’re here to support your choice.

I realize that I only have a one day food diary, but I have some ideas and questions for you to ask yourself. Let’s start with a quick run down on your caloric and fat intake with the foods you given. It is a little hard since I don’t know the quantities of these foods, but I’ll go with the suggested serving size with the product.

Product Calories Fat [in grams] Protein [in grams] Fiber [in grams]
Cliff Protein bar 240 5 10 5
Apple 65 0 4.7 4.4
Whole Grain Bread [2 slices] 138 1 5 4
Tofurkey Slices [5 slices] 100 3 13 0
Veganaise [1 Tablespoon] 90 9 0 0
Avocado 170 15 1.3 4.5
Tomato slices [2] 5 0 0.3 0.3
Trail Mix [1/4 cup] 173 11 5.17 3
Whole Wheat Pasta [2 cups] 350 2 14 12
Canola oil [1 tablespoon] 124 14 0 0
Mix vegetables [1 cup] 120 0 5 8
Total 1575 60 59 41

My first rule of thumb for weight loss is not to be hungry. Being constantly hungry leads to binging. No matter what, don’t cut out foods so that you are continuously thinking about eating. This sets up a disjunctive relationship with food.

Next quick idea – swap out half the avocado for two pieces of fruit or a small salad with dinner. Avocado is very high in fats [albeit good ones] and lower in fiber than more veggie or fruits equaling the same amount of calories.

Okay, your calorie count is not high for the average adult. My question is how tall are you? I’m five foot five. I eat around 2000 kcal daily. However, I run about 20-25 miles a week. I am a believer in the basic “calories in, calories out” theory. This means that no matter where your calories come from for you to maintain your current weight the calories you eat need to equal the calories you use. Before you start making sure you run around using up the 1575 k calories, remember the highest amount of caloric output is in the daily digesting of your food. Unless you are an elite athlete. If you are five foot two and are sedentary your intake may be higher than your output. What type of physical activity are you doing?

On the other hand, recent studies support looking at the source of calories. Your fat intake is around 38% of your calories. For weight loss, we usually want fat around 20% of calories. I am currently a researcher for a study looking at whether a low-fat [~20% of intake] vegan diet helps with weight loss. Earlier versions of this study did not count calories. Results showed that the low-fat vegan diet yielded significant weight loss without added physical activity.

Why do I mention fiber? Because fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer. Think about eating 240 calories of a protein bar. Then, think about eating 240 calories of fat, about two and a half tablespoons of any oil. Which would keep you sated longer?

When folks shift from eating 500 calories of potato chips [approx. 50 chips] to eating 500 calories of lentils [approx. 2 1/4 cups, cooked], their caloric intake tends to drop simply due to the filling fiber of the lower fat choice. Your tummy can only hold so many lentils and tells you to stop eating. Really, who can’t down 50 chips while at your computer or driving through a traffic jam?

What was your eating pattern before going vegan? If you had been eating once a day, you taught your body to turn every calorie into fat as quickly as possible. Your body learned that it never knew when food was coming in and it had to hang on to every possible calorie. If you have since switched to eating throughout the day, your body may be adjusting to a constant stream of intake versus that once a day thing.

Take a look at your eating habits and see what applies. Dietary advice is closely related to your whole life. It is not a cookie cutter business. Hopefully, you have enough here to chew on. [I had to do at least one groaner.]

Are you trying to lose weight but need a program and some motivation? Want diet plans, worksheets, journaling, success stories, and other weightloss support? Check out VegFamily’s Weightloss Club VegDieters!

Marty Davey

Author: Marty Davey

Marty Davey is a Registered Dietitian and has a Masters degree in Food and Nutrition from Marywood University. She became a vegetarian in 1980 when she discovered that the French didn't want our meat products due to factory farming methods and began studying nutrition while cleansing her diet to a totally plant-based lifestyle. She has a private practice specializing in assisting clients transitioning from the conventional Western foods to a plant-based regime.

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