‘VEGAN DIET MADE ME GAIN WEIGHT!’ 7 COMMON REASONS AND THEIR SOLUTIONS TO STAY IN YOUR BEST SHAPE AS A VEGAN
Recently I received a question from a reader concerning the fact that since she went vegan, she gained some serious amount of weight. She was interested to know what might have caused it and any tips to prevent and reverse the situation.
I would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ for this question, since it is a great article topic, very much worth exploring. I hear a lot of vegans say they are doing it for the animals, so they don’t care about weight gain – yet, I am a firm believer in taking care of our own body and shape. I am personally trying to keep in good shape all year round, and I can easily relate to someone struggling to find the balance when they first exclude all animal products from their menu. There are a few common scenarios that usually have to do with fats and carbs, which I am going to further discuss in this article.
7 Common Reasons Your Vegan Diet Made You Gain Weight And What You Should Do Instead
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1. Eating peanut butter by the spoonful
OK most articles on vegan weight gain start with carbs. I will, however, wish to emphasize another common problem – nuts and nut-based butters (yes, I know peanuts are a legume, but most of us think of it as a nut). This is not to deny the importance of consuming nuts and seeds, which supply us with essential fatty acids, healthy proteins, and a plethora of vitamins and minerals. I am talking about portion control!
Nuts and seeds are extremely calorie dense, and despite the fact they contain healthy fats, we only need a small amount of them to meet our nutrient needs. We use the ‘healthy fat’ excuse far too often to grab a bag of cashews and devour it all in one go.
Another common issue is the raw desserts and vegan cheeses made with all sorts of nuts – they are so tasty, yet we forget that often more calorie-dense than the dairy versions we’ve been used to consuming. Portion control is key!
Eat no more than a handful of nuts per serving, and don’t exceed two handfuls of nuts per day. You need to be extra careful when using nut butters as they are extremely delicious, yet piling up on your calorie intake especially when used in raw desserts! In this case, I like to make my dessert my whole meal (breakfast or a small snack, or even dinner but don’t mix with other foods).
2. Overloading on carbs
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The second most common mistake we make is overloading on starchy carbohydrates like pasta, potatoes and bread. And they might as well be our favorite foods! (if you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know about the special love I share with potatoes and anything that has to do with them).
Since you often hear the advice by other vegans to ‘carb up’ you might actually get confused. While starchy carbs certainly can, and should be included in our diet, they must not be the star of every meal!
Remember that greens and fruits are also carbs! Good carbs! If you need to shed some weight, you can eat less root vegetables and grains, and focus on greens.
Also keep in mind that carbohydrate binds more water in our system than protein, so if your macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein and fat) content has shifted to a higher percentage of carbohydrates, this can explain water weight as well. To deal with that, make sure to include some regular exercise into your daily routine and hydrate with actual water to help you fight water retention.
3. Mixing carbs and fats
One important lesson I learned from my personal trainer is that you can never mix fats and carbs and expect to stay in shape. I am not going to go into the detail of high carb vs high fat diets, but you should choose one, or the other, or at least follow some food combining rules within each meal.
I am all for moderation, so I try to limit my fats, but still not go overboard with my carbs. What does this mean? Pasta with cashew sauce is an absolute calorie bomb and if you’re eating this on a regular basis you are likely to gain tons of weight! Should you never eat it, though? Of course you should – but not at every meal!
Mix fruits with nuts rather than nuts with pasta/bread for example. If you do the latter, make sure you keep very strict portion control.