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How to Avoid Unwanted Weight Gain on a Plant-Based Diet

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Dieting sucks.

You go through fad diets… painfully monitor your caloric intake …and feel super guilty about indulging in your favorite cheese.

…and then you still have to head to the gym after a hectic work day and force yourself to run on the treadmill for 2 hours.

This process is physically and mentally draining. Your weight goes up and down like a yoyo ball, despite how hard you work, and it seems like there’s no end in sight.

So when you see celebrities going on a vegan diet, you think… Animal foods are to be blamed for your weight. So let’s jump on the bandwagon and go vegan. (Kudos to you, by the way!)

If you’re skipping animal foods and dairy, you can basically eat anything you want, right?

Plus, you get to eat fake beef burgers, pile up on vegan ice-cream, and just maybe… you can finally skip your grueling gym sessions.

Until … 2 months later, you weighed yourself, and your weight … it went up at least by a few pounds.

What went wrong? Isn’t a plant-based diet, or even a mostly plant-based diet, supposed to help you lose weight?

Not so fast.

Contrary to popular belief, you can easily gain weight on a vegan diet (Yes, vegan weight gain.)

And to you omnivores out there, if you’re wondering why some vegan diets you see seem so unhealthy to you, you may find this article useful. By the way, we’ll also be featuring another article on how to gain weight healthily on plants – stay tuned.

When you first switch to a plant-based diet, it can be downright terrifying, at least unconsciously, because you may be worried that you don’t have enough nutrients, you don’t know what to cook and eat, amongst many other reasons.

So you try to get your nutrients and familiar taste of foods through faux animal products, that look, feel, and taste the same as the original. And your salads are drenched in olive oil. This way, you don’t feel like you’re missing out at all. And when people ask you where you get your protein, you say, hey I get it through my soy burgers so you can keep them quiet.

However, fake animal and processed plant foods and oils can be fattening and harmful to your health, even more so than animal foods. And it is easy to gain weight on a vegan diet if you don’t know what to eat.

But no worries, we’ve devised 3 simple and easy fixes to help you from gaining weight on a plant-based diet.

#1: Avoid Most Soy-Based Mock Meat Products

Most fake soy meats you see on the shelf contain GMO soy and isolated soy protein, which is associated with diseases such as osteoporosis and kidney stones, and can potentially promote cancer and accelerate aging.

A lot of the mock soy products also contain refined starches, fillers, are high in sodium, and are highly processed.

Solution: Go for non-GMO, traditional soy products

Non-GMO, traditional soy products like tofu, tempeh and edamame can boost your health, and give you protein and micronutrients.

Try to limit your soy foods to below 5 servings a day to maintain low IGF-1 levels though. High IGF-1 levels can potentially promote cancer.

If you really crave a faux burger, make your own!

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#2: Go High Carb

Yes, go high carb, including fruit, green and root vegetables, grains, starches.

We’re not talking about refined carbohydrates like white sugar, cookies, deep fried chips here (those are a no-no!).

When you eat carbs, they give you the energy to sustain the day, and they can also keep you full.

If you don’t eat enough carbs, you may ingest more fat like olive oil, which can make you gain weight.

Good Carbs don’t make you fat!

Contrary to popular beliefs, carbs from whole foods are unlikely to make you fat. Many on the low-carb camp demonize all carbs, but they may not understand that greens and fruits are also carbs.

I repeat. Greens and fruit are carbs. Good carbs.

Of course, you should avoid refined sugars and processed carbs like donuts, but avoiding healthy fruits like banana may not be the best idea.

If you eat enough good carbs, you’ll likely to feel satiated, which means you won’t binge on processed stuff. And having enough fruit in your meal may have you curb your cravings.

If you would to shed some weight, you can eat less root vegetables and grains, and focus on greens, and vice versa. However, some root vegetables and grains can make you fuller so if you exercise quite a bit, it may be a good idea to include them in your diet.

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#3: Limit Oil… Even Olive Oil

Yes, limit your oil intake. This includes “healthy” oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, etc.

Most oil you see on the shelf are deficient in nutrients – they have minimal vitamin and mineral content due to the discarding of the fiber and protein during extraction, which contains a significant portion of the anti-oxidants and protein-bound fibers.

Oils are calorie-dense and these calories can promote weight gain if you don’t limit your intake.

Oils like olive oil are marketed as healthy foods because their high content of monounsaturated fat makes it less harmful than saturated or trans fat. While olive oil is healthier than margarine, it is still high in fat, which should be limited.

Even coconut oil may not be as helpful to our cholesterol as marketing claims. And yes I’d limit intake of coconut oil too.

And as you all know, vegetable oils like canola, margarine and palm oil are not healthy for you.

Eat Nuts In Place of Oil for Fat, But Still Watch Your Intake; Opt For Cold-Pressed Oil

Whole seeds and nuts are rich in good fats and can protect against disease. Raw nuts and seeds have been associated with reduction in cholesterol levels and protection against sudden cardiac death.

So instead of using olive oil in your salads, you can make your own cashew dressings and dips by blending your favorite nut with herbs. Cashews is one of the best nuts to do that. This way, we maximize our nutrition intake and eat less calories.

And go for sprouted nuts, as they are better for digestion and energy! I’d still monitor your intake of nuts though, since nuts are still high in fat, and a little go a long way… even though some studies suggest that nuts may not cause the expected weight gain.

And, if you really crave oil, go for cold-pressed oil since the enzymes and nutrients in the oils remain intact. Refined oils are more processed than cold-pressed oils, and therefore don’t provide as many nutrients; potent antioxidants have been stripped from the oil. It’s also common for refined oils to be mixed with less expensive oils, in order to keep costs low.

Disclaimer: This article is mainly for people who want to explore eating healthier on a plant-based diet. It is not about fat-shaming. You can take the content on this article with a grain of salt if you don’t agree with it.

  • Debra Myers

    It’s easy to be a fat vegan, I’ve experimented with this lifestyle and put on weight period. I wasn’t eating any junk either; just lots of whole grains, vegetables & beans. I ate a small amount of nuts & avocado; no added oil to anything, wine limited to 2 glasses a week, and maybe 1 or 2 pieces of fruit a day. It’s extremely frustrating because the diet is so limited and it’s almost impossible to eat out with friends; and then I gained weight. I really have mixed feelings; the studies show that it is better for your health and the environment and it sickens me the way we treat chickens & cows in this country. Currently I limit my consumption of meat & fat, and have cut back on the carbs to keep the weight in a healthy range. Balance of nutrients seems to be the key for my body chemistry.

  • Charlo Cartin

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    • Lana

      Thank you!

  • Lj Thomas

    I am so frustrated with all the conflicting articles from the plant based gurus on one side and the animal based gurus on the other. They all claim to be superior and have their research and testimonials to back up their claims. So the rest of us are caught in limbo trying to make sense of it all.

    • Lana

      Lj, thank you for your comment. Yes I understand. It can be confusing to make sense of it all. Personally I believe in a whole food plant based diet, and I think it works well for me as well as many I’ve seen. I’d trust your internal compass and try out different foods and see what feel right for you. You may also find https://nicolelana.com/weight-loss-study-interview-dr-christopher-gardner-part-1/ informative.

      • Lj Thomas

        It’s a very good article, Lana, in terms of showing an understanding of the confusion I’ve described here, but believe me, at age 67 with a history of weight issues, I have spent a lifetime experimenting with all kinds of diets. I find the the low carb/high fat diets help me lose more weight more efficiently and steadily in the short term, and they keep me from getting hungry all day long, but eventually the carb cravings become overwhelming, and I wind up bingeing and giving up.

        The plant based diets are tasty and healthy, but the greater insulin release continuously fuels my cravings for carbs that aren’t so healthy as well.

        So I’m trying to find some common ground by embracing the best aspects of both approaches and the guidelines they both agree on by trying to avoid refined and processed foods– the fast foods, junk foods, the take-out garbage and pizza joints. I try to drink a lot of water and keep as active as possible.

        I really have more of an eating disorder, i.e. food addiction issues as well as metabolic resistance, hypothyroidism, and other issues.

        I have also started intermittent fasting with a 16/8 protocol to kind of limit the grazing and late night snacking habits.

        I’ll keep trying! I’m still almost 100 pounds below my all time top weight which is an accomplishment in itself. Thanks for your help! LJ

        • Lana

          LJ,

          Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I acknowledge your hard work in finding a diet that fits you, and exploring the different options out there. The 16/8 protocol takes discipline so good on you.

          Yes, avoiding refined and processed foods is a good idea, and drinking more water can certainly help.

          In terms of eating disorder, I can understand. This can be very challenging to tackle, as it does require discipline and courage to look into the root cause of the food addiction.

          I believe that most food addictions are most likely due to trauma – many are using food as a coping mechanism to avoid their emotions. This isn’t good or bad, it is just a way for many to deal with emotions such as anxiety, shame.

          I believe that while following diets & a fitness regime can help, the most sustainable and long lasting way to “unwind” the eating disorder is to address the root cause – suppressed emotions, as well as the awareness of how such emotions lead to various food choices. Once those underlying emotions are addressed, I believe the rest (diet etc) should be pretty straightforward.

          Please be as compassionate as you can to yourself and your body. Your body has done a lot for you. 🙂

          Let me know if you have other questions – I’m here to cheer you on on your journey to wellness. Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with the community!

          • Lj Thomas

            Thank you, Lana! I appreciate your time and caring responses.

            I overeat eat when I’m happy, sad, depressed, bored, active, upset, exhuberant – the whole gamut of emotions . So it’s kind of hard to attach the eating habits to specific emotions. I think being retired and having so much time on my hands is the biggest problem. I’ll be doing lots of traveling in 2018 and getting back to the gym, so that should all help.

            Thanks again and Happy Holidays!

          • Lana

            Lj,

            Thank you for your comment. Hmm, overeating and emotions are intricately related 😉 Traveling and gym-ing will most definitely help! Happy holidays to you too!