Many people assume that by going vegan, you are adopting a healthier lifestyle, and, therefore, can expect to benefit in all sorts of ways. You might believe that by sticking to a plant-based diet, you’ll notice improved skin, sleep, energy, and mood. You may also think that cutting out animal products from your diet and eating just plants will help you lose weight. However, this is a misconception. A vegan diet is not, by definition, a healthy diet. You can switch to a vegan diet and lose no weight. And perhaps actually gain some pounds. Let’s explain how this can happen and what the best sort of vegan diet is for achieving your weight loss goals.
How You Can Gain Weight as a Vegan
While being vegan means that you only consume plants or foods of plant origin, this doesn’t mean you will necessarily be eating a healthy diet or a diet that promotes healthy weight or weight loss. There are all sorts of foods that are vegan that, if you continually eat them (and in large amounts), can cause you to gain weight. This would include crisps, fries, white bread, white pasta, and vegan food high in refined sugar like desserts, chocolate, sweets, as well as vegan junk food like burgers and hot dogs. Certain vegan-friendly drinks, such as fizzy drinks like Coke, juices (which are also high in sugar), and alcohol, can also lead to weight gain if they are a regular feature of your diet.
The dietician Michelle Hyman has pointed to many reasons that a vegan may gain weight as a result of his or her diet. Some examples include:
- Not eating enough, as this can slow down the activity of your thyroid gland, which can lead to weight gain
- Having food sensitivities that contribute to belly bloat and hormonally-influenced weight gain. For instance, as a vegan, you could be allergic to gluten, soy, corn, tomatoes, nuts, or seeds.
- Lacking a healthy gut. Bacteria in the digestive tract help to process food efficiently so that we don’t gain weight. Without healthy gut flora, your body may not be able to break down calories to the best of its ability, resulting in weight gain.
- Eating big portions. Just because whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds are healthy, this doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited portions of these foods and not gain weight. If you do that, you may gain weight or be unable to shed pounds.
- Consuming too many calories. High-protein vegan foods like quinoa, beans, and lentils contain more carbohydrates than they do protein. And if you consume more carbs than your body can use, you may find yourself gaining weight over time.
- Missing out on vital nutrients. Certain nutrients, such as calcium, protein, and iron – which you may miss out on as a vegan (if you don’t plan your diet well) – contribute to a well-functioning metabolism. Being deficient in these nutrients can cause your metabolism to slow down, which makes it more difficult to lose weight.
Achieving Weight Loss as a Vegan
A balanced, well-planned vegan diet is one of the most effective ways you can achieve weight loss. (Of course, combining such a diet with regular exercise is recommended if you want to lose weight quickly and maintain your ideal body weight and shape.) The key to losing weight as a vegan is to follow a whole foods diet or mainly whole foods diet. This means avoiding refined and processed foods. If you want to lose weight and keep weight off, you should eat an array of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, legumes, and seeds.
Another tip for losing weight as a vegan is to ensure that your meals are made up of a range of colors. This is not for aesthetic reasons. The more colors you have on your plate, the more likely your meal will be high in fiber (which encourages the feeling of being full and so prevents overeating). Meals that have a diverse color range are also more likely to contain a variety of essential minerals and vitamins that promote a healthy metabolism and gut flora. Furthermore, be sure to keep Hyman’s points in mind if you notice that you’re failing to lose weight – or gaining weight – as a vegan. Often, making some minor changes to your diet here and there can help make a massive difference to your overall weight loss.