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Why haven't I lost weight as a vegan?

by Michele
(Summerland, FL)

Why haven't I lost weight as a vegan?


I am a new vegan and very frustrated. I've been a vegetarian for 20 years and on January 3, I turned vegan. I made the change because I abhor the cruel practices; however, I was hoping to drop some weight. Instead, I gained weight.

A typical meal plans is as follows: soy protein bar and fruit or oatmeal with fruit for breakfast; sandwich with vegan deli slices, veganaise, 1/2 avocado and tomato slices and 1/4 cup trail mix (nuts and fruit) OR an Amy's meal with trail mix as a snack for lunch; and some type of sautéed vegetable mix with a grain or pasta for dinner.

What am I doing wrong? I don't count calories but I don't think I'm going over 1200-1300 cal a day. I'm thinking I need to take out the trail mix. I'm frustrated. Please advise.


To start, I want to applaud you for making a big change in your life for unselfish reasons. As far as losing weight, I totally understand your frustration, but I do ask that you give yourself a little bit of a break. It took time to put on any extra weight you have, and it might take some time to take it off.

I hesitate to give advice on health issues in a forum like this because a) I am not a doctor and b) I do not know your exact situation. There's more that goes into weight gain than simply food; including exercise, stress, drinking/smoking, and other emotional factors. In order to give you an answer, I am going to give some basic advice, but I definitely recommend you check with your doctor before making big changes.

You absolutely should be able to lose weight on a plant-based diet, but because there are so many amazing substitutions now available in every grocery store, it's easier than ever to eat an unhealthy vegan diet. If you eat primarily vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, you will lose weight, barring the factors I mentioned above are neutral. Some people who are very overweight will see changes just by substituting in vegan products in place of their old animal favorites. I've heard of people who just ate veggie burgers instead of cheeseburgers and lost tons of weight. Other people will need to push it a bit with a more whole foods-based diet and skip all processed food to see changes.

The meal plan you described seems like it would be a good interim plan for someone who is switching over from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet. You are using substitutions for meats, which can be psychologically helpful when someone still wants that meat flavor, but they are not necessarily the best for someone looking to lose weight. I'm going to go through your meal plan and make some suggestions and ask some questions. You are welcome to comment back with answers, or just ask yourself these questions.

Breakfast: "soy protein bar and fruit or oatmeal with fruit"

I personally don't eat protein bars unless I’m in a situation where I can’t find any real food and need a quick snack (like when traveling). You get plenty of protein from a plant-based diet, so don't feel that you need to eat supplements in order to eat enough protein.

I do really like oatmeal for breakfast, but are you adding any sugars or salts to it or eating it plain? Adding a teaspoon of 100% pure maple syrup should be fine, but any refined sugar is not going to help you. Are you using homemade oatmeal from old-fashioned oats or the packets of instant oatmeal that are loaded with sugar and preservatives? What kind of fruit are you having with it? You should always opt for whole fruit rather than canned.

Lunch: "sandwich with vegan deli slices, veganaise, 1/2 avocado and tomato slices and 1/4 cup trail mix (nuts and fruit) OR an Amy’s meal with trail mix as a snack"

Sandwiches with deli slices are good for people making the transition, and they are fine every once in a while, but eating them every day will not help you lose weight. I would also stay away from veganaise for the time being, until you reach the weight you are most comfortable with. Additionally, while avocado and nuts are great for vegan snacks, but because they have healthy fats in them, they are better for people looking to maintain or gain weight.

A good deal of any sandwich is the bread and often bread is made with enriched white grains, which means that all the healthful parts of the grain are stripped down and then nutrients are added back in to make it healthy. There are a few healthy breads on the market, and to find those, look for all the ingredients in the bread to have the word "whole" first, and that there are no added sugars in the ingredients. Or, you can learn how to make your own bread. I have an ebook with my favorite vegan bread recipes that might be helpful for you.

As far as Amy's meals... they can be very tasty and convenient when you are in a pinch, but when you are focusing on losing weight, it's better to stay away from processed and/or frozen foods.

A good option for a lunch would be a cup of low-sodium (preferably homemade) vegetable soup and a salad, or a bean puree like hummus with a variety of vegetable sticks and a side of tabbouli. You can learn to make these quick dishes very easily and you can often find these pre-made in grocery stores. Again, watch out for any ingredients you can't read on the package, and stay away from anything with a lot of sodium. You could also pack yourself from leftovers from dinner the night before for a lunch.

Dinner: "some type of sautéed vegetable mix with a grain or pasta"

I think what you mean by a "vegetable mix" is something from a package, right? In general, stay away from whole foods in packages. It's just as easy and inexpensive to buy the actual leafy plant product as the frozen one, and it's so much better for you.

A great dinner plate will show ½ plate full of vegetables, which can be a mix or just one vegetable, ¼ plate of a gently cooked whole grain and ¼ plate of a bean. The closer you can stay to the original whole food with this, the better for your body, and the quicker you will lose weight.

For instance, you can take a can of beans that you rinse completely and sautée them with some garlic and olive oil and fill ¼ of your plate with it. You can then cook some quinoa and put that in another quarter of your plate, and then fill the remaining section with sautéed fresh vegetables, and you have a complete dinner.

The options are endless for this if you simply vary the grain, vegetable, and bean, and it’s so easy.

I hope this gives you some new ideas. It’s such a broad topic that it can be hard to completely answer your question in just a few paragraphs. There is an abundance of information on weight loss on Vegan Nutritionista, so I hope you will look around and check it out. And never despair; you’ve only just begun your journey and there is plenty of time to change your body for the better while staying true to your beliefs in the horror of the animal industry.

You might want to check out the ebooks I wrote with meal plans dedicated to one month’s worth of workday meals, there is one made for fall/winter produce and spring/summer produce. I also have a popular ebook with my easiest recipes, called Vegan Cooking for Beginners.

I hope this helps. Keep us updated and good luck!

Comments for Why haven't I lost weight as a vegan?

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Vegetarian and weight question
by: Wanda

I went vegetarian the end of June this year and I have wanted to take off some weight too but it still hasn't happened and I feel for the most part I am trying to eat healthier. I drink my green smoothies every morning as well. I thought by going vegetarian it would be easier to take off some weight. I didn't go vegetarian just for that reason I also didn't feel right about eating meat.

Read this
by: Anonymous

You have too much fat and salt in your diet you need to cut out those fake meats they are high in sodium. Nuts are high in fat and sometimes have salt on them. Avocado are high in fat as well. Cut out all oils & stop eating protein bars we don't need that much protein if your worried about protein plus its high in sodium and fat the fat you eat is the fat you wear, eat beans or broccoli look for no salt added if you want can beans. Always look at how much sodium your consuming if you cut it all out you will drop weight but you have to pay attention to what you're eating read the percentage of all you are eating. Try adding more steamed vegetables no fake butters no fake cheese no high sodium because if you do all that you wont lose any weight thats the problem people have they keep eating all this high fat high sodium and not losing weight because this is a big mistake alot of people make.

weight loss
by: Anonymous

Hi. I have been a vegan for a year now. I lost over 20 pounds when I first became vegan but then I slowly gained that and more back. I was high carb vegan for about 7 months (including fully raw for a few months). But I decided to stop being a hight carb vegan since I gained a lot of weight. Now, I just stick to whole food and eat as much as I feel like I need. I drink a lot of water and exercise almost every day or even twice a day (running and biking).
breakfast: quick oats from trader joes + 2bananas or peaches.
snack: ~4dates and greens or herbal tea
lunch: a giant salad with lemon grave+vinegar+half or less of an avocado.
maybe an apple or some other fruits as snack
dinner: veggies sauté (usually brocclie, mushrooms, beans,maybe some potatoes, kale,etc) with water and a couple tablespoons of curry paste.
I am really confused and not sure why I am not losing weight. I am eating mostly whole foods and no vegan junk or fatty food at all. I would appreciate your help.

Fibromyalgia and vegan
by: Anonymous

I gained weight with menopause going from 125# to 160# in 8 mounths. I went on to developed fibro and and am ANA positive. After watching 'sick, tired and nearly dead' I went vegan cold turkey. After 3weeks my pain levels decreased by half and I lost 6 pounds over 8 weeks time. After 3 months of being vegan (exempt for a teaspoon of butter i add to my bread making machine), I have not lost any more weight, but I feel better and have stopped by lyrica meds completely. I work out 4-5 times a week in a cross fit class (for 2years) and found that the swelling in my joints has disappeared. Quite frankly, I have decided that living pain free is a bigger benefit than losing weight and for that reason, I will continue to stay vegan. I am healthier now than I was at 125# as a meat eater 10 years ago.

Better to be fit, than to just look fit. :-)

Vegan Diet and Weight Loss
by: Chick's a Vegan

Check out this video from Michael Greger's website: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-to-upregulate-metabolism/

Weight control and vegan ism
by: Anonymous

For me the most helpful thing is a WHOLE Food plant based diet. Oil is not a whole food but is refined (read Drs. Neal Barnard, Macdougall, T.Colin Campbell as well as Engine two Diet and others). There are many cookbooks that have recipes that fit this like Happy Herbivore (Lindsay Nixon has several books). That being said, I still have to be careful to not eat too many nuts or nut butters! Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, as unrefined as possible. It works!

This is for Big Chuck in an earlier post.
by: Anonymous

You mentioned you can't eat the Textured Vegetable protein in the fake chicken and veggie burgers so you can't be a vegan! Please don't think that is what we as vegans eat! Oh no! what gave you that idea? That is processed junk and is not good for you. Make home made veggie burgers from whole foods like lentils, rice oats and spices. TVP is horrible for you as is all isolated soy protein. When ever you see that on a packaged "vegan fake food" put it back on the shelf and walk away. You can get plenty of protein just eating whole foods like whole grains, veggies, fruits and beans. Make your meals of those things and you will be eating enough protein and all other vitamins. (except b12) Good luck to you.

Lose Weight by BEING HONEST
by: Jenn C

To those folks who claim they are not losing weight and they are eating "only" X number of calories: you're eating too much.

No matter how diligent you think you are at counting calories - you're probably undercounting.

A 6'2"/260# man should be losing a LOT of weight if he is only eating 1200-1600 calories/day (ludicrously low!).

The original writer also claims a ludicrously low number of calories.

I'm 5'10" and around 150# -- I eat 1800-2300 calories/day (I exercise 30-90 minutes/day). I track everything with an iPhone App from http://www.loseit.com/

Like most people -- I probably under-report food (heck, I just ate a handful of cashews with Braggs Aminos - probably 170 calories right there) and over report exercise calories burned.

Stop doing that. Hold yourself accountable.

If you're really eating 1200-1600 calories a day and not losing weight, go see a thyroid specialist.

Even on days I don't exercise, I find it hard to be satisfied with less than 1800 calories/day just going to work and sitting in front of a computer. And - I have chocolate every day.

Other than beer/wine/chocolate, I tend to avoid packaged prepared foods.

Nobody will necessarily lose weight
by: Michael

I am a fifty-year-old male. I am 6'2 and weigh260 pounds, not a lot of muscle. I walk several miles four or five days a week, and I always eat between 1200 and 1600 calories a day of strictly vegetable matter. I go easy on the carbs (very little rice and potatoes) and my proteins come from beans and lentils and soy. I eat plenty of fresh greens and vegetables, and low fructose fruits. Guess what? After a year of doing this I have lost exactly three pounds, and I am a strict calorie counter; no sweets and no fatty dressings or oils. By the way, I have super low good and bad cholesterol and high triglycerides. I don't drink alcohol and for two years I have only drank water. Nothing guarantees a weight loss. I am not being negative, I just want people to keep in mind that sometimes, things are what they are. I have accepted this fact, but the frustration is still there. Just because a person does everything right (and then some!) doesn't guarantee a result.

Vegan & weight
by: LyNel

I thought about this & wondered why I have never ever had a weight problem. Before vegan & after.
When I was 16 & didn't have a weight problem. I read all of Adele Davis Books. I thought she was the smartest person ever. I bought Lecithin, wheat germ, brewers yeast & V-8 juice. Worked my way up to 1/2 of each of the brewers yeast & wheat germ & 1 Tablespoon lecithin. Drank that in a huge glass of V-8 juice every morning. Ate the non vegan lunch & dinner. I cooked with a mixture of Safflower & sunflower oils. Apparently that is what kept me slim & trim. Who knew that oils would be the secret. It's FAT. I'm 71 & a vegan & still 5'5" like I have always been & 120 pounds like I have always been. Oh, breast cancer, 20 years ago, & taking Tamoxifin caused me to grow a goiter. I had to swallow radio active iodine to kill my thyroid. I took script of thyroxin for years. Now I take Liqui-Kelp. My thyroid levels are perfect. Who knew that one could take a supplement in place of a perscription. Hope this helps.

Maybe I can't be a vegan?
by: Big Chuck

My wife and I are having one heck of a time with a vegan diet. Unlike a lot of vegans I grew up eating from my dad's hunting trips so I'm not as big on killing animals as I am trying to find a great way of life for my wife and I. We love the taste of the food but am having a terrible time with our body's ability to process the grains and carbs. The textured vegetable protein which makes grains look and taste like chicken, veggie burgers has been the root to our problem. We love our salads and grilled veggies but We were forced to add fish, chicken and eggs back into our diet. After gaining 10 pounds I am down 8 and she is down 4 pounds. I love what the vegan diet does for your cholesterol over all health but I'm having a huge problem with all of the people talking about how skinny and lean the program is making them and I'm here to represent the ones who's bodies can not process all of the grains. Being a vegan is not for everyone.

Count the fat grams!
by: Lane

I, too, have had difficulty losing weight on a vegan diet. I have thyroid problems and high triglycerides, both of which can make weight loss difficult. In order to lose 1-2 lbs. each week I watch fat grams like a hawk and aim for no more than 10-15 grams per day (10% or less of total calories). I also limit fruit intake to 1 cup per day, as fruit intake can increase triglycerides, which increases insulin, which suppresses the burning of fat. In addition, I exercise 4000-5000 calories per week and do some strength training as well. If I keep to this plan I am able to lose a modest amount each week.

Losing stubborn weight is easy
by: Trey Wil

I have personally trained thousands of people over a decade. It is just like I tell every client, you are like a a old computer switching to a new operating system.

1. You should also consider the timing. You should be on a new diet and be consistent at it for your mind to release the hormones to compensate change. That is why the pharmaceutical industry normally prescribes 30/60/90 and 120 day dosage.

2. the bigger you burning versus storing. Exercise teaches the body to turn on metabolism machine to burn fat. If you were not exercising before start now to truly help your body make the transition.

3. Learn about fasting. No one is true vegan unless they rid themselves of the waste of the previous diet. This is not a large portion of the fat weight you want to get rid of, but is a large factor in helping your system boot up to heal itself to work properly thanks to vegan nutrition...

Me too
by: LyNel

Hi, I have been vegan for several months now & can gain weight in a heartbeat. I discovered that I cannot use any vegan prepared anything. I have to make it all myself. I ordered a grain mill, grind my own flour & make my own bread. I gained 20 pounds in a month. MAN!!!! that bread is good. I have to freeze it to keep me out of it. Then there is the homemade peanut butter. Then there is the homemade hummus. Then there is the homemade cashew cheese. I can go on & on. It really is easy to gain weight on a vegan diet. Everything is sooooo good. I can't believe I lived all those years eating animals & the typical western diet. That stuff is nasty compared to the vegan diet. Now I'm growing my own vegetables & herbs from vintage & heirloom seed. I'm hooked on fresh raw anything. It's so much better than the cardboard tasting stuff in the grocery store.

It doesn't take any more time to make it, grow it & prepare it than it does to go to the grocer. I live 100 miles from the nearest city & am a grandmother so I have some time. Give it a try on the weekends & freeze it. It works. LyNel

Veganism and weight loss
by: Tam

Very helpful information. I recently became vegan the first of the year. I'd really like to lose 10-lbs. I'd been vegetarian for a year already but decided to make the total switch. My concern is making sure I get enough protein. Also I think I eat too many grains. My staple grains are Ezekiel bread, stone ground crackers (occasionally) and bulgar wheat or tabouleh. I recently bought a juicer and plan to make more green juices. Need to up the veggies. I do get plenty of fruits and have increased the beans/lentil intake as well.

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