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6 reasons you might have gained weight on a plant-based diet when your goal is to lose weight

Saturday, January 21st, 2012
It can be disheartening.  You embrace a plant-based diet with the hopes of not only getting healthier, but shedding a few pounds and you  are looking forward to slipping into your jeans a little more easily.
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Yet for some inexplicable reason, a few days in you step on the scale and the numbers are up.  What’s with that?  Here’s how ‘Jo’ put it in a recent posting:
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I began the 21-Day Kickstart and have been following it pretty closely. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost a year now and decided I would try to move closer to vegan. I was hoping it would help me lose some weight. I’ve been exercising pretty regularly but haven’t seen any change on the scale. I don’t eat out much at all. Make all my own food. I eat whole grain breads and pasta. Lots of fresh veggies and fruit.Am I missing something?  gourmetJo
Here are 5 reasons you might have gained weight on a plant-based diet when your goal is to lose weight
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Not to worry Jo, it is usually enot too hard to find the root of the problem. And it may just be a matter adjustment time.
Here is my expanded response to Jo.
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Hi gourmetJo,

This happened to me as well when I switched to a low fat vegan diet.  Actually, I gained 2 lbs in the first month. And this was after decades of a vegetarian diet!  So the changes for me were eliminating dairy, free fats (expelled oils), and minimizing higher fat foods vegetable foods such as avocados, nuts, and olives.

The 2 lbs came on pretty quick, stuck around for a month, and then in the month directly, after I dropped them.  Then the next month I dropped 2 more lbs which became a 4 lb. weight loss, a net loss of 2 lbs during that time.  Keep in mind I was not overweight since losing 50 lbs several years ago and my weight stays within a 3 – 4 lb range.

Here are 6 possible reasons you may have gained weight: 

Arrow Our bodies need adjust time. We always dread the idea of weight coming on fast but want it to go OFF fast, aren’t we something?  Give it some more time.

Arrow Increased fiber content.  If your diet plant-based diet changes include a step up in dietary fiber (usually does, did for me) then you have more fibrous content in the digestive track which holds water in the gut. This can translate to poundage by the scale, but not body fat poundage. So you may be losing fat yet holding a bit of water in the system.

Arrow 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. I look at it as getting hydrated, especially for those coming off a dietary plan that is too steep in protein, which purges water from the system. You may be re-hydrating – which can be a good thing.

Arrow  Watch for hidden fats  that can easily sneak into your diet with oils, nuts, seeds, and high fat vegetables and fruits.  These rapidly climb the calorie density of your diet and can result in weight gain or stalled weight loss. See Is the fat you eat the fat you’ll wear?

Are you drinking smoothies? Smoothies are an easy way to overshoot our daily calorie need because of the disruption of fiber that happens in the process of making a smoothie a smoothie.  This disruption of fiber impacts the satiety of the smoothie contents.  You don’t get the same result as if you had eaten the vegetables and fruits whole.  This article went on the Plant-Based Fitness Expert Blog about that very phenomenon if you’d like to take a look:

To smoothie or not to smoothie? The skinny on blending your fruits and greens

I’ve received several replies, emails and comments on facebook in response to the smoothie post. One of the responders said she had started doing big smoothies every day since last October. She reported that she has gained 6 lbs not knowing why.  She’s thrilled to have the smoothie insight and is investigating the connection.  And she’s promised to keep me posted.

   Are you including regular servings of  TVP (textured vegetable protein) and soy meats?  These items can contain big servings of hidden fats and sodium without the fiber advantage of whole foods.  Stick to whole foods and limit these items to occasional condiment or decoration.

I hope you find this encouraging! Give it time, take care and have compassion for your body.  Keep getting support for positive changes!  And you too will experience the slender, energetic joy of a whole-foods, plant-based diet.

Have you an insight from your own experience about weight gain with a dietary switch that you’d like to share?  Please post in comments below.

Thanks so much for coming by.  Please ‘like’ and share this post and if you’re on facebook, please join me now on my facebook page here: facebook.

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