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6 reasons why Vegans gain weight

Updated on July 10, 2011

I lost over 60 pounds after eliminating all beef and dairy from my diet. Adapting this Vegan diet helped to cleanse my body of toxins and flush the fat. Weight loss was rapid at first and then tailored down to a steady 1-2 pounds a week. The reasons for my success go beyond the path to Vegan-ism however. Many Vegans make the mistake of thinking that they will automatically lose weight just because they have given up meat. But remember, Vegans can still eat chips, fried foods and many candy bars. After some research and experimentation I found the following reasons why Vegans may experience weight gain. (And actually, these apply to non-vegans as well)

1. They eat too much fat

Fat has a way of creeping into a Vegan diet just as much as a carnivore diet. Oil, even the healthier olive oil, is basically liquid fat. Try cooking with vegetable broth, water, or Bragg liquid Aminos instead of oil and read labels when you are purchasing packaged foods.

Nuts, although a complete food source with protein, are also loaded with fat. The body does need some levels of fat, but Vegans many times go overboard in an effort to compensate for other deficiencies. Nuts are important, but keep them under control.

Soy becomes an important ingredient in the Vegan diet as well, replacing meat as a source of protein. The challenge is that not all soy is created equal. Soy ice-creams for instance vary from 2 to 8 grams of fat per serving. Therefore, reading labels is still important. Just because something touts itself as being vegan, does not necessarily mean it is good for your weight loss goals.

2. They eat too many processed foods

Anything packaged in a bag, box, or can, should be examined carefully. Many of these products have added sugars, fats, and sodium - All of which can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and weight loss goals. The best way to eat as a healthy Vegan is to stick with fresh foods that you cook or process. Consider learning how to can your own vegetables. Take the time to cook fresh beans and store them for recipes instead of canned. Consider making your own pasta and breads. The more control you have over what goes into food the more control you have over your weight loss. Now don’t get me wrong- I am not at the stage of making my own bread- but I still think it’s a darn good idea! The point is to eat foods at the most natural state as possible. Even if you are a meat eater, it’s a good idea.

3. They eat out too much.

Eating out is always dangerous when you are trying to lose weight. Eating out as a vegan adds new challenges. It is important to ask questions and clarify before ordering. What a restaurant lists as heart healthy or low-calorie may still have dairy or excessive oils and many vegetable dishes are often dripping in butter, heavy creams or oils.

Waiters run from me when they see me coming. They know I am going to ask questions about the menu and make them double check. I sometimes pretend that I have a complicated set of allergies that will cause my imminent death if I eat anything with butter or oil. For some reason people are more patient with my demands when they believe it is a health issue and not just a choice. I also find it safer to order from the sides section where you may find steamed vegetables or a baked potato (order it without butter or sour cream). Salad dressings are also deceiving. You can totally undermine your weight loss efforts with the wrong dressing.

4. They eat too many substitutes.

There are many meat and dairy substitutes on the market with new products introduced every day. These products provide a variety of options for Vegans. But again, vegan does not mean less-fat or calories. You also want to consider that it takes some unnatural ingredients to create a product that tastes like something else. In addition, these fake products have to be packaged in some way, which usually requires sodium. It is healthier to skip many of these fake products and eat real food in it’s natural state. If you have to go fake- Be careful. In my area, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods grocery stores provide some healthy Vegan options made from natural or organic products. I have even found some healthy options at my local grocery store, Butera Grocery, but again, reading the labels is very important.

In the milk aisle you will find milks made from soy, almonds, and coconut. All of these have their individual health benefits although coconut milk has the highest concentration of fat. The soy and almond milk are usually the best options, but many have added sugars and flavorings that add more calories. Lean towards the light options. You will still get the nutritional benefits without the calories. Also, you want to choose milk replacements that are fortified with Vitamin D since this is a nutrient that is hard to come by for Vegans. The Trader Joe's Light soy milk and Silk soy milk lite have less than 2 grams a fat per serving and both have a good percentage of vitamin D.

5. They eat too much pasta.

Although part of a vegan lifestyle, the refined carbohydrates that are found in white pasta, white rice, and white breads offer low nutritional value and can be loaded with sugars and sodium. A healthy alternative would be whole grain versions. Regardless, the calories add up with these foods, so it is important for vegans to continue to watch portion sizes in the grain aisle when they are looking to lose weight.

6. They don’t get enough exercise

The bottom line in weight loss is to burn more calories than you take in. You have to get moving. You have to burn the calories. Figure out what activities you love to do and do them often. Mix up your exercise between weight bearing and aerobic and as much as possible have fun.

Whether you are a Vegan or a non-vegan, if you need to lose a large amount of weight like me, you need to begin to think differently about the food you eat. The purpose of food is to provide nutrients for the body. It is just that simple. Eating for entertainment, socialization, boredom, sorrow, shame, celebration, or any other reason other than nutrition is using food for the wrong reason. Believe me; I had to learn this the hard way. I have been battling my own personal weight gain villain for most of my adult life. I have been up and down and around again with my weight. And now, at fifty years old, I think (and I really really hope) that I have finally figured it out.

What is your weight-gain challenge?

What is it in your life that challenges you the most with weight loss?

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