Vegans are less likely than omnivores to be overweight or obese on average, which is a nice selling point for veganism. In general, our diets are somewhat lower in fat and much higher in fiber—two important factors for weight management.
But not everyone loses weight when they go vegan, and promising people that they will is unfair. There are plenty of vegans who struggle with their weight. Some overweight vegans feel guilty about their body size because they believe that they aren’t a good advertisement for veganism. But anyone who makes an effort to embrace habits that honor the rights and welfare of animals deserves to feel proud. Veganism is a lifestyle based on a set of beliefs about animal use and there is room for everyone to be a good role model.
That doesn’t mean that health is unimportant or that we shouldn’t strive to eat in a way that reduces risk for chronic disease. But, for whatever reason—and there is a lot about weight control that we don’t understand—some people, vegan or not, struggle more than others with weight.
There is plenty of research on how to lose weight and, for the most part, the formula is pretty straightforward: Move more to boost your calorie needs; eat less to decrease your calorie intake. Dietary approaches that allow you to “eat all you want without counting calories” nearly always achieve this by restricting food choices. But diets that restrict too many foods often don’t work well for long term maintenance.
If you’re struggling to lose or maintain weight, or find it difficult to stick with a reduced-calorie plan, consider tweaking your diet composition in ways that have been shown to improve success.
Find the right balance of fat—not too high and not too low. Evidence suggests that those who reduce their fat intake are more successful with long-term weight control. Because fat is energy dense, avoiding fatty foods can help reduce calorie intake. That’s why very low-fat diets—which sometimes ban all added fats and higher fat foods—are sometimes promoted as a foolproof way to lose weight. But while this is a very effective approach for some, it doesn’t work for everyone. Some dieters find they never feel quite satisfied without a few fattier foods on their menu, and so they end up overeating. Research suggests that including higher-fat foods in weight loss plans could be more effective for long term weight maintenance for this reason. (1)
Certain higher-fat foods could have unique advantages as well. People who consume nuts (tree nuts and/or peanuts) tend to have a lower body weight than those who don’t. Nuts are associated with increased satiety and they may also cause a slight increase in energy expenditure. There is evidence that their fat calories are not well-absorbed, too. (2,3) This doesn’t mean that adding big bowls of nuts to your diet will produce weight loss. But a serving or two of nuts per day (a serving is an ounce or ¼ cup) is not only compatible with weight loss efforts, but maybe even be helpful.
Load up on vegetables. The higher fiber intake of vegans is a real advantage for weight control since bulky plant foods create a feeling of fullness. Vegetables are especially valuable in this regard since they are rich in fiber and also high in water which gives them more volume. There isn’t much research on the relationship between vegetable consumption and weight control, but studies suggest that they are probably beneficial. (4)
Choose foods with a lower glycemic index. Carboydrate-rich foods with a low glycemic index (GI) are digested and absorbed more slowly and gradually which results in more gradual increases in blood glucose and insulin. One theory is that this delays hunger and helps with weight control. The studies are very conflicting, though. (5,6) It may be enough to just include plenty of fiber in your diet, but choosing foods with a lower GI can’t hurt. Fiber, fat, protein and acidic ingredients like lemon juice and vinegar all reduce the glycemic index of meals. Raw and gently cooked foods have a lower GI than well-cooked foods. “Particle size” affects GI, as well. For example whole wheat kernels have a lower GI than whole wheat flour. It’s the same food, but the GI goes up as the wheat is ground into smaller particles.
Give protein intake a boost. A little extra protein may help with hunger and protect muscle during weight loss. (7) Legumes are sort of the best of all worlds in this regard because they also provide lots of fiber. But other protein-rich foods like tofu and veggie meats can be useful, too.
Make time for both aerobic and strengthening exercise. Aerobic exercise burns calories and strength training protects your body from muscle loss during weight loss. Both are important for anyone who is working on losing body fat.
1. McManus, K., Antinoro, L. & Sacks, F. (2001) A randomized controlled trial of a moderate-fat, low-energy diet compared with a low fat, low-energy diet for weight loss in overweight adults. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 25: 1503-1511.
2. Mattes, R. D., Kris-Etherton, P. M. & Foster, G. D. (2008) Impact of peanuts and tree nuts on body weight and healthy weight loss in adults. J Nutr 138: 1741S-1745S.
3. Alper, C. M. & Mattes, R. D. (2002) Effects of chronic peanut consumption on energy balance and hedonics. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 26: 1129-1137.
4. Rolls, B. J., Ello-Martin, J. A. & Tohill, B. C. (2004) What can intervention studies tell us about the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and weight management? Nutr Rev 62: 1-17.
5. Abete, I., Parra, D. & Martinez, J. A. (2008) Energy-restricted diets based on a distinct food selection affecting the glycemic index induce different weight loss and oxidative response. Clin Nutr 27: 545-551.
6. Das, S. K., Gilhooly, C. H., Golden, J. K., et al. (2007) Long-term effects of 2 energy-restricted diets differing in glycemic load on dietary adherence, body composition, and metabolism in CALERIE: a 1-y randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 85: 1023-1030.
7. Layman, D. K., Boileau, R. A., Erickson, D. J., et al. (2003) A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr 133: 411-417.
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I hate to say this however every since I become a vegetarian and vegan, I have actually gained weight. Befor I becoming a vegetarian. I only way to 120 pounds now I weigh a 145. I have gained this weight in the last 4 to 6 months. I’m ashamed of my body, I’m ashamed of the weight I have gained. I have always been slender I even wore children’s clothes at times now I’m not even going to reveal the size I wear no matter what I do I gain weight I did not choose to be a vegetarian or vegan my body chose it for me due to the fact that I cannot Digest meat and believe me when I say this I am a true meat eater. I loved eating meat.
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Thank you for this article! I am one of those who didn't lose weight when I went vegan, and I am frustrated when I hear people make claims that when you go vegan, the weight just naturally falls off. I can also relate to the sentiment of feeling like you aren't a good advertisement for veganism. I'm actually on the high end of "normal" weight, and not technically "overweight," but I do have a good 30 pounds of cumulative baby weight from my three children that I would like to lose. I have tried the no-oils approach of Engine 2 Diet and Neal Barnard, but I found that I felt deprived and unsatisfied.
I have recently decided to track my food consumption using an online tracking tool, aiming for a 500-calorie per day deficit to achieve my goals. What do you think of this approach?
I worry that a 500 calorie per day reduction could be unsustainable in the long run. I tend to favor a very gradual weight loss with a small calorie reduction and a boost in exercise. If you find that weight is coming off too fast (and I think more than a pound a week is too fast) or that you are hungry all the time, then going 500 calories below your usual intake may be too much for you.
I always subscribed to the calories in/calories out theory but I have come across references made to research that appears to provide serious doubt to this long-held belief. Also, exercise seems to be highly overrated. I'm currently reading "Food and Western Disease: Health and Nutrition from an Evolutionary Perspective" by Staffan Lindeberg. Lindeberg was the lead on the Kitava Study. Its amazing how many long-held beliefs have very little actual scientific basis. This book reads like a university text but it is very interesting and extremely well referenced. Everything he says is backed up with over 2000 references to studies and science publications. He uses his experience from the Kitava Study to illustrate many of his points. For example, the Kitavan males average BMI is around 22. They don't suffer from food shortages, they aren't much more active than a typical Westerner and on top of this they smoke! (76% of the men and 80% of the women) They don't suffer from any of the typical diseases of civilization, i.e. CHD, diabetes, cancer, etc. Their diet consists of fruits, vegetables, tubers (taro, yams, sweet potatoes, tapioca root) and fish. The amount of Western food in their diet is negligible: 0.02% The predominant fat is coconut oil, which is highly saturated. That said, the predominant SFA in coconut is lauric acid which is a medium chain fatty acid. It primarily raises one's HDL-C. In terms of calories in/out it appears that it is WHAT you eat rather than HOW MUCH. I'd recommend this book to everyone interested in human evolutionary nutrition. Its a bit sciency so its not a fast read.
CORRECTION: 0.2% of their caloric intake is from Western foods, not 0.02% as previously stated.
Smoking is associated with lower body weight so that may be part of the explanation.
But yes, there are a lot of questions about why people can eat the same amount of food and have different body weights. Calories do matter, but they may not be the whole story.
I disagree about the exercise, though. I think it's pretty important for overall health regardless of body size.
Don't get me wrong, I think exercise has benefits to offer even if it plays only a minor role in weight loss. Take the example of gorillas in zoos. The story I came across had to do with the fact that gorillas in a zoo (in Cleveland I think) were overweight and heart disease was the number one killer. They were eating a vitamin-rich, high-sugar, high-starch feed, which was/is the standard fare for zoo gorillas. The gorillas in this zoo were given a "new" diet consisting of a variety of leafy greens and their calories were doubled yet they ended up losing weight. Also, when you consider how much exercise is actually required to burn off a modest number of calories the contribution is really rather unimpressive. The recommendation for exercise nowadays is one hour per day. Cattle, as well as other livestock, fatten up nicely on an all-grain diet. The fact is that grains aren't a natural food for cattle or most livestock. The ancestor of today's cow is the auroch. It was a grass feeder and so should today's cow.
In the book I'm reading Lindeberg reports that in his own experiments, pigs that were fed a grain-free diet became shorter and thinner than pigs raised on traditional feed.
Personally, I've dropped all grains from my diet and I feel better and have lost weight while doing nothing more than a 45-minute walk, 3-4 days a week. Fruit juice has also been stricken from my diet. I get what I need from the fruit itself.
My point: The natural diet of a species should not make that species fat under normal conditions. Humans shouldn't be any different from any other species in this regard. I believe it is more a question of what we eat and less importantly how much we eat and how much time is spent in a gym.
I'm sure the smoking was a factor in their lower bodyweights. What is odd is the fact that they don't seem to get lung cancer! That said, I'm certainly not advocating smoking! lol.
well it is easy to gain weight with any diet when you aren't watching what you are eating. I did not magically lose weight when I became a vegan. what works for me is getting regular exercise and monitoring my portion sizes using a calorie count program. after all, there are still many yummy desserts and fried food that can be made vegan.
I really got into baking when I went vegan, and packed on the kg! Eating a bit more fruit and leafy greens and raw in-general instead of grain-based food seems to make the weight melt off – replacing most cooked fats for nuts and seeds is probably a big part of it – thanks for pointing that out!
Have you ever read Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon? It's a very interesting read, and encouraged me to learn a lot about weight and the fact that it's largely predetermined by genetics. Plus, she's very anti-dairy and pushes for people to eat a whole foods based diet. Anyway, I'm curious because I think Bacon (the woman, not the food) runs in vegan friendly circles so I'm wondering if you've read her work and what you think of it?
I will say that I think this statement is unfair:
Some overweight vegans feel guilty about their body size because they believe that they aren’t a good advertisement for veganism.
First off, there is no such thing as a correct weight, and so I reject the term "overweight." I'm much more comfortable with "fat." I'm a fat vegan and know that my body size is of nobody's concern but my own. In fact, a lot of larger Americans feel more comfortable talking with me about their food and body issues (if they have them) and know that I won't judge. I can't tell you how many people who are interested in veganism have said to me, "Oh but you don't look like you're starving!?" and I'm like, "Heck yeah! Vegan food is awesome!" and that's the first step in their journey to a more plant-based diet.
I believe that encouraging people to get regular exercise, eat a well rounded plant based diet, and feel good about themselves, at whatever weight they're at, is one of the ways that vegans can show they have compassion for all animals—humans included.
Yes, I'm familiar with the Healthy at Every Size philosophy and the research behind it and think it has a lot of merit. And it's interesting to me that you prefer the term "fat" because I'm uncomfortable with it. It sounds perjorative to me, but I understand your point about the term "overweight," as well.
I hear often from vegans who feel that they aren't good role models for veganism because of their body size, so I don't think that my *statement* about that was unfair, but I think it's unfair for anyone to make them feel that way. If veganism is viewed as a club for skinny people, there is no hope for the animals.
I've run in fat-acceptance circles, too. We tend to encourage the re-claiming of the word "fat" over the term "overweight" because fat is just adipose tissue and shouldn't really be feared. "Overweight" as a descriptor is dependant on our compairing ourselves to others, or worse, to the western medical BMI chart, which doesn't allow for individuality. I'm afraid that many people would mis-understand someone like Ginny if she started using the word "fat," because she is not fat herself and tends to favor more mainstream views. I love that about this blog takes a more mainstream point of view. Talk about veganism from more mainstream sources is important. There are simply too many people talking about all sorts of BS in the name of veganism right now.
I do feel rejected by the vegan community because I am fat. I know I shouldn't, but I take it personally when celebu-vegans go on and on about how meat makes you a huge slob and veggies will make you skinny. Omnivores tend to view fat as something that happens when you eat too much junk food. Some vegans say that fat is something that happens because you contribute to the butering of innocents by eating meat. That's a much worse charge, in my book.
This is a really interesting post. I put on some weight after I went vegan. Because I chose to dive head first into a new world of foods! I've written about it on my blog so I won't bore you here. I'll simply say that I decided a few extra pounds, while eating very healthy, is a-okay with me. I find your tips here really great because while I'm happy with my body being rounder, I am 45 and do need to keep an eye on how my body will change as I enter menopause, etc.
JL, I remember reading your blog post about this, and I'm totally with you. I am never again going to weigh what I did when I was 30, and I have no intention of trying. For one thing, I think it would compromise my bone health if I slimmed down that much–and I'd rather have a few extra pounds and *not* have osteoporosis!
Thanks for the article, Ginny! I am still doing well with Joel Fuhrman's "Eat to Live" program (although I have not been "perfect"!). 27 lbs. lost in 2 months. I am eager to see your weight loss food plan.
Rebecca, that's a really fast weight loss! I'm sure it feels great, but fast weight loss often involves some loss of muscle–and that makes it harder over the long term to keep weight off. I'd add some calories!
In my humble opinion, the single best piece of advice for people trying to lose weight while being on a vegan diet is to remember that a calorie is a calorie and that vegan calories count just as much. Omitting meat, dairy, eggs and honey doesn't mean you can eat unlimited amounts of food without gaining weight. You aren't living off lettuce, you are living off with food with real nutrition and real energy to be burned off.
I am often told, by family & friends who do struggle with their weight, that I "don't have weight issues" because I am vegan. Not true! I don't have weight issues because I don't have weight issues. My body is very clear with me that regardless of what & how I eat, it wants to be within about a 10 pound range. Being an omnivore, during and post-pregnancy, made no difference to my weight. If I want to lose beyond my body's comfort zone, I have to make a real concerted effort. I have a BMI of 20.6, and quite frankly I have little desire to lose weight. Now, toning the muscles I have is a different story!
I guess what I reject is other people "blaming" veganism for my body being what it is, using that as a reason to dismiss veganism either saying it won't work for them or that they'll never look like me. I have my own body image issues, believe me, so this always rubs me the wrong way.
Thank you so much for writing this Ginny. I put on a lot of weight (between 70-80 lbs) whilst on a medication for 2 years. I have been off it for a few months and have lost some of the weight (about 20 lbs) but it has been a struggle for all sorts of reasons (one of them being comfort eating). And I have incredible guilt for not being a "good" role model for veganism. I've had people comment "but I thought vegans were thin". Another vegan dietitian/doctor (can't remember who now) even writes on his website something to the effect that overweight vegans are not helping animals for this reason.
MH, I hope you'll let go of that guilt. Simply making the choice to be vegan is reason to feel proud, and all vegans help animals. I'm really sorry to hear that any health professional would suggest otherwise.
I really like and get so much from all your blog posts, Ginny, but I really appreciate this one. I've had eating and weight issues my entire life: as an omnivore, as a lacto-ovo vegetarian, and as an ethical vegan for the last many years. In the old days it was typical for vegans to lose weight (if they didn't have an eating disorder of overeating) but not, with the plethora of recipes and ready made foods out there, it's just as easy to be an overweight vegan as an overweight omnivore, at least for me. And some of us can binge eat sufficient amounts of "healthy foods" such as vegetables, beans, and whole grains, and even just vegetables to get ourselves into the overweight or obese range. I do feel I'm healthier as a vegan but that' s not why I am a vegan.
I'm a vegan who struggles with my weight. Food has always been my primary addiction. That said, I lost 50# last year and have 25 to go. The last few months I've been maintaining and that was with doing a ton of baking (once I found vegan baking books and mastered the art of high altitude baking – it was a thrill).
I didn't become a vegan to lose weight, though. So I don't worry about my body image as a billboard for veganism. However, my blood pressure and cholesterol levels have dropped significantly, so I talk that up with people who are interested in the 'health' aspects of veganism.
Regarding Robert's comment "Also, exercise seems to be highly overrated."
There was a good Time magazine article a few years ago about people exercising and not losing weight…because their high-intensity workouts stimulated their appetites and it doesn't take much food to wipe out most calorie-burning achievements (they gave the example of half a muffin). Also, they said that exercisers also compensated by moving less during the rest of their day because they were more tired.
It's unfortunate that there are so many weight loss philosophies, each with its counter-argument. Even commonly-held "truths" (such as breakfast being necessary) have well-reasoned alternative viewpoints. But if one method isn't working there's another that might fit your body better. I took the calorie-counting method (using the Lose It app) for the first 20 lb loss and not entirely sure how I managed to lose the last 5 lbs (maybe no-breakfast). My decision to finally lose weight happened to coincide with my transition to vegetarian and then vegan.
I know–if there is an exact science to weight loss, we don't know what it is. But there is definitely research showing that people who exercise regularly often don't boost their calorie intake to compensate–which means that the exercise does help. Also, weight training increases muscle mass which boosts metabolism.
I don't really like overly restrictive methods for weight loss since they are often not sustainable. So I'm much more in favor of small changes that lead to gradual weight loss. Reducing caloric intake by just 200 calories and adding 150 calories worth of exercise (a 30 minute walk) could result in a loss of a pound every 10 days. Or for those who don't want to lose weight, just doing the 150 extra calories of exercise could ward off the weight gain that often creeps up on people over time. And if you add in the little boost in metabolism from more muscle, it can make a difference. So I think exercise is important for overall health and gradual weight reduction, but I would agree that you can't rapidly exercise the pounds away.
After a lifetime of struggling with my weight, I would say there are no 'quick fixes' for sustained weight loss. From my experience, eliminating whole food groups has not been sustainable, be they refined fats, sweeteners, etc. Eventually, I go back to using them and the previous total deprivation makes the cravings hard to keep at bay.
While I recognize that everyone is different, two things have always helped me: 1. Keeping a food journal; and 2. Eating discrete meals, instead of 'grazing.' The fewer times I start to eat, the fewer times I have to *stop* eating.
Regarding the composition of a vegan weight reduction plan, I agree wholeheartedly with Ginny on incorporating a good amount of fiber and protein, along with some concentrated fats in the diet to keep hunger at bay for a longer time. Years ago, I read a book called the 'NO S Diet': no snacks, seconds or sweets except on days of the week beginning with 'S' plus special occasions. I'm compulsive, so I need to put limits on those 'S' day liberations, but this 'grandma' approach to eating allows me to not weigh and measure everything going into my mouth and counting every calorie compulsively. I have found that the calorie-counting method is short-lived for me because when I can't do it perfectly, I count the day 'blown' and eat with abandon. That frequently proves to be the beginning of the end for my weight loss efforts.
Oh yes, and an afterthought about the embarrassment of being a fat vegan. I definitely feel that pain. Depending on the context, I don't even mention I am an ethical vegan because I don't want people thinking that they will gain weight if they forego animal products. Just this week, there was a report on how we are exporting our bad food habits around the globe, along with our fat prejudice. Even cultures which appreciated larger bodies are looking at fashion models and losing their love of curvy figures. And with all the national health care debate, people are feeling more vindicated than ever attacking fat people for driving up health care costs. Just yesterday, the NYT reported on a proposed 'fat tax' for Medicaid patients in AZ.
I suspect those of us who seem 'hardwired' to retain extra pounds, despite eating healthfully and having enviable health indices (cholesterol, BP, level of fitness, etc) will be penalized.
Hello. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), the greatest single thing one can do to improve their health is to attain and maintain a healthy weight. Of course how one attains and defines what a “healthy weight” is are two different things. For myself, the greatest decision I ever made was to change to a “whole foods, low-fat, vegan, plant-based diet/lifestyle.” By changing to a WHOLE FOODS plant-based lifestyle, I lost over 70 pounds, while in the process reversing my type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, gout, and depression. The books that changed my life were “Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program For Reversing Diabetes,” “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, “The Food Revolution” by John Robbins, and “Eat To Live” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Oh, and did I mention I did all this without counting calories, starving myself, or exercising (more on that later). I have been off of all medications for over a year, and have easily maintained my current weight for more than a year also. My weight went from a high BMI of 31.3 (obese), to a current BMI of 19.9 (normal). I do exercise religiously now, however, at the time did not due to trying to and finally breaking in foot orthotics (I know, poor excuse!). My advice to vegans trying to lose weight safely and effectively and keep it off long term while still feeling great and thriving is simply this: Eat a WHOLE FOODS plant-based diet. For example, concentrate on eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Stay away from all of the processed vegan junk food out there. Remember, just because it is vegan does not always mean that it is healthy. Learn to read food labels! Drink lots of water! Get plenty of rest each night! Exercise! Keep abreast of the latest nutritional science! Stay positive!
Nice job! The BMI reading of 19.9 may be normal in your case, however at 5'11" I would have to drop my weight to 143lbs to achieve that number. According to the WHO I would be classified as underweight. Surprisingly enough, they also consider a weight as low as 149 to be in the normal range for me. In reality, I would be a walking skeleton!!!
Jerry, it's great this is working for you. Some people find this approach to be too restrictive, though, for the long term. As I noted in my post, a very low-fat diet works for some, but overall, the research suggests that long term success is better for many when they include some fat in their diet.
Great post, thank you, and greetings!
I went vegan on 7/24/08, lost about 15 pounds within 2 months (got off a medication too at the same time), and then started doing the P90X workout program winter 2008-9. 18 months of that got me to drop an additional 18 pounds, and I was down to my highschool weight of 115 lbs (I'm 5'8). I LOVED my size, had great definition, made sure to stick with my Garden of Life RAW Calcium supplements, supplemented with Lifetime Life's Basics Pure Plant Protein to aid the growth of lean muscle, etc. etc.
Then I got off the pill last June after being on it for 19 years. The result? 18 pounds of unexplained weight gain, loss of muscle tone, major exhaustion (later diagnosed as Stage 2 Adrenal Fatigue), along with a host of other annoying issues that I was not expecting.
I stopped P90X to start Turbo Fire (wanted to improve my cardiovascular health), bought a FitBit to watch my food intake, sleep patterns and steps taken/calories burned. I lost about 3.5 lbs since February, but am holding steady at 130. It's very depressing because I worked so hard to drop that bulk of weight, and it's like no matter what I do I can't seem to get past this plateau thanks to my stupid hormones.
So, it might not be the food per se – it could be age factors, hormonal crap, and everything else. I recently found Gobble Green, a vegan version of Seattle Sutton's or Nutrisystem that remarkably has very good food that is flavorful, filling, and keeps the caloric load down. Yes the stuff looks rather unappetizing in its packaging, but once heated, you would be surprised as to how good some of the dishes are (the Seitan Bean Stew, "meat" loaf and kung pao come to mind immediately). For those of us keeping a daily food journal, having prepared portion-controlled dishes makes life a LOT easier in trying to control dietary intake.
I just wish I could lose this layer I put on after getting off the pill. Very soon I will be taking a Mediator Release Test to see what food sensitivities I have in the hopes of combatting the fatigue, but for now, I'm doing the best that I can.
Sandy, it's hard to imagine that you need to lose weight if you are 130 pounds at 5'8". Maybe you should just concentrate on some exercises for toning. 115 pounds sounds much too low for your height.
My heart really goes out to people who put so much effort into such small differences in weight. There is so much living to be done. None of us has the time on this earth to feel that bad about weight, be it 5 lbs or 50. I'm an acupuncturist and I've seen so many people in this same situation who start to restrict their diets down further and further in the hopes of feeling well again. I hope you don't go down that path. Its very true that some people have food senstivities, but its more true that your body needs a variety of foods to feel well. My best guess, based on this post, is that your body's ability to use the food you eat has been compromised by restrictive diets. You may need to look at HOW you eat, not just what you eat. And I would recommend looking at what foods you need to ADD to feel well, not just what foods you need to eliminate.
I come from fat genetics. The book that made me lose weight was Dean Ornishes Eat more weigh less. The Diet contained egg whites but the fat melted off really really fast I lost 70 pounds in 6 months.
Didn't Ornish allow egg whites and low-fat(skimmed) milk on his diet?
Hi Ginny…thanks for this article. It appears that I'm not alone in my chubby vegan world.
A couple of commenters mentioned hormones and I wonder if this might be a contributing factor for me also. I have slowly been losing weight (1lb/month) by adding cruciferous veggies, flax meal, citrus and (more) celery to my diet on the advise of CW Randolph.
Is there a link between hormones and retained weight? Can we address this kind of imbalance with our vegan diets without resorting to more artificial means?
Health and Happiness 🙂
What helped me to lose 15 pounds and keep them off was to eat whole, intact natural foods, more pulses than grains, and lots of vegetables. Sequential eating helps, too: eat your huge portions of veggies first, then just enough beans or grains to fill you up.
This is basically where I am taking my diet. Fewer grains (rarely eat bread) more fruits and vegetables and enough beans, lentils, etc., to provide adequate protein. I do consume grains to a far lesser degree than I used to, eating mostly wild rice or steel-cut oats. Did you cut down on starchy foods like potatoes? How about fruit juices?
I also put on weight after veganism. It's partially due to celiacs tho & eating soy & cooked foods, that my body just doesn't know how to digest properly. Anytime my body doesn't know what something is.. I gain weight. So now I'm a raw vegan & I cheat sometimes for super good cooked vegan foods in small amounts, my body needs the enzymes in uncooked foods to digest things properly.
Since I received a lot of traffic via this site before foolishly deleting my blog, I wanted to stop by and let everyone know that the blog is back up, this time with no deletion plans. 🙂
Thanks for paying attention!
Ginny, as usual, a great post and extremely interesting comment thread. I am learning a lot about weight (and I thought I knew quite a lot, already!). Do you think that folks who lose weight when going vegan were "overweight" as an increase from their natural set-point to begin with (whatever their natural set point is/was)?
I was 17 pounds over my pre-pregnancy set-point weight when I went vegan. In about 12 months I lost it all and have maintained that loss. My pre-pregnancy and now current weight is "healthy," but high on the BMI scale, like a 24. I did not restrict fats or sugars in any way, but ate a balanced mixture of whole foods freshly prepared and some vegan convenience foods.
Such a fascinating discussion. I love and admire your work so much!
In 2001 at the age of 43 & a medically verified 330# (I'm 6') I literally went vegan overnight. I bought a $99 exercycle & plunked it in front of the TV in the basement & pedaled until I could go an hour non-stop. To make a long story short, my weight dropped to 175# in a little over 11 months & have kept it off +/- 10# for NINE YEARS & have medical files to prove it. Type 2 diabetes- IN TOTAL REMISSION. Fatty Liver Disease- My liver is back to normal size. Triglycerides went from 500+ to 79. Total cholesterol went from 220+ to 139. Blood Pressure normal. I take no prescription drugs & take a multi B vitamin & Vitamin D supplement daily & THAT'S IT! I pedal an hour a night on my $99 exercycle in front of the TV & do an hour of free-weight training with dumbbells every other day.
I call myself 'the Anti-Inspiration' because every fat person I knew when I was fat is even fatter today. My biggest regret is telling people I'm vegan (I eat no animal foods & don't wear clothes or shoes made from animals), because I am criticized & mocked relentlessly for it. I have never met another vegan & every 'vegetarian' I've met eats chicken and/or fish.. One 'vegetarian' told me my 'diet' was 'too extreme'! The social pressure to be an omnivore is extreme (to say the least!) but knowing what I know now about animal exploitation I could never go back…
For some a high fat, low carb diet works for losing weight. low carb is often associated with animal fats, but it doesnt need to be. you dont need animals to do this, you can get your fats from coconuts and avocados for example. coconut butter is devine! you can eat it with a spoon. if you need omega 3 fats, you can get those from algae.
Also, you might want to try short intense exercise or high intensity interval training, like this http://www.bodyrock.tv/ it really does work better than steady state cardio and its healthier in the long run.
Thank you so much for this!
Hi, Ginny–thanks for your sensitive and aware approach to this topic! I’m also a vegan, female in my mid-late 30’s, who struggles with weight issues. I’m what you would call an extreme endomorph–very short (under 5′), and very curvy. I’ve always had difficulty with weight ever since I hit puberty, and have remained at a 20-30 lb. overweight ‘set point’, starting at age 13, for most of my adult life. The ONLY thing that has ever worked for me to lose weight (and I’ve tried EVERYTHING) was high fat/protein, low carb. At the time I lost the weight, I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian, so I was able to fairly easily adapt the typical low carb diet to my vegetarian lifestyle. Through remaining on that diet on a long-term basis, I was able to maintain most of the weight loss for a good number of years. However, since going vegan, I have been having a much harder time with my weight again–and it’s because of the carbs, not fat. Fat has never been a problem for me, but I seem to have an “allergy” to carbs and sugar. And yes, that includes ‘good’ carbs like brown rice, whole grain breads, etc. ANY carbohydrates immediately bulk me up and put weight on me, and since all plant-based foods have carbs…all plant-based foods can be problematic for my weight. Thus, I am wondering if you can consider the needs of vegans like me, who respond best to high fat/protein, low carb, and who will need to create a workable plan for a LIFELONG diet of this type if we’re ever to live at a reasonable weight.
Obviously, my reasons for going vegan (animal rights) have nothing to do with weight loss, and are immovable regardless of my weight, so that’s not going to change. But I am extremely unhappy at my current weight, and am feeling enormously frustrated by all the ‘low-fat/high carb’ advice that vegan nutritionists generally dispense, as I know for a fact that that does not work for my body type. I have been experimenting with different diets and exercise regimens for most of my life, and I know that the ONLY thing that works to make the weight budge at ALL is high protein/high fat/low carb. There must be a way to create a workable vegan version of that diet for life! Oh, and for the record, even when not ‘dieting’ I eat a whole foods vegan diet primarily made up of vegetables, tofu, beans, nuts and seeds, I never ever touch soda, and avoid fruit juices as well (I drink only coffee, tea, unsweetened vegan milks and carbonated water), I avoid any kind of processed foods, and while I’m not currently ‘working out’, I do get a decent amount of exercise due to the fact that I haven’t owned a car since my teens, almost always walk rather than take the bus whenever I need to get anywhere, and have to hike up and down 5 double flights (so really, 10 flights) of stairs any time I want to get in and out of my job. My job as a teacher is also fairly active, so I’m not sitting around at a desk all day.
Your advice would be much appreciated, and thank you so much again for your refreshingly honest and compassionate approach to this issue.
I have similar issues. I had pronounced abdominal obesity on a fairly high carb American diet. I do my best to watch my carb intake and limit my grains, don’t eat any fruits other than tomatoes (unless that’s considered a vegetable!), and nuts, seeds and oils form a large part of my diet. However, I have started to increase the fiber-dense whole grains a bit – e.g. using a high-fiber orzo and adding wheat germ and wheat bran – and have not found any weight increase in doing this now for several months. I think it’s possible to eat low carb on a strict vegan diet, though not as easily, obviously, as on a non-vegan diet. You just need to ensure that even your whole grain portions are kept relatively low, favoring legumes if at all possible (and some legumes are much lower in carbs than others, e.g. black chickpeas are far better than white chickpeas).
Oh, and btw, regarding the term “fat”–I’m aware that the fat acceptance movement has made an effort to reclaim that word. While I applaud the underlying motives for why they are making that effort…I still find the term to be pejorative and hurtful. (Probably in large part because I HAVEN’T accepted my weight as it is.) So since not everybody feels comfortable with it, I would implore people to not use that term unless the person they intend to use it with is using it to describe him/herself. Otherwise, if that person is not using that term…don’t assume that they’re OK with it, because there’s a very high chance that they’re not.