10 reasons why a vegan diet could be causing you to gain weight

KarpenkovDenis/iStockIf you aren’t careful, a vegan diet can actually lead to weight gain.
  • There are different health benefits linked to a vegan diet – including maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Some foods on the vegan diet won’t help you lose weight automatically.
  • Other reasons why you might not be losing weight on a vegan diet has to do with health problems.

A vegan diet has been linked to a variety of different health benefits, as the Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health suggests that a well-balanced plant-based diet can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity.

But while a steady diet of plant-based foods are thought to keep your body at a healthy weight, experts like registered dietitian Michelle Hyman, MS, RD, CDN, explained that replacing animal proteins with an excessive amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and vegan junk food, may actually result in unwanted weight gain if you aren’t careful. So, if you are turning to a vegan diet to lose weight, you may want to reconsider some of your eating habits, especially if you have made no progress at all.

To see what could be potentially hindering your vegan weight loss goals, INSIDER spoke more to Hyman and other experts about all the reasons why you may be struggling to lose weight on a vegan eating plan. Below are some things to keep in mind if you are struggling to shed some pounds with a plant-based diet.


You are relying on processed vegan-friendly foods.

apasciuto/FlickrProcessed vegan-friendly foods still aren’t healthy.

“It is easy to reach for processed vegan foods that contain hidden sugars, refined carbs, and foods that lack fibre or real nutrients,” said certified holistic health coach Liz Schau, CHHC. Because processed foods contain addictive ingredients such as excess sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats, people tend to eat more of them than they would home cooked foods, she said.


You have underlying hormonal imbalances.

Tharakorn/ iStockHormones can be to blame for weight gain.

“Imbalanced estrogen, testosterone, thyroid hormone, cortisol, and progesterone can all cause weight gain,” Schau suggested. A low thyroid, for example, is an extremely common cause of weight gain that may be at the root of the issue, she explained.


You aren’t eating enough.

Foxys_forest_manufacture/ iStockNot eating enough will slow down your metabolism.

“You’ll want to vary your diet and make sure you are actually eating enough at each meal until you feel satiated (not stuffed),” Schau told INSIDER. Eating too little can also slow down your thyroid which will cause weight gain, she added.


You’re drinking your calories.

Ken Hawkins / FlickrDrinks can be lots of calories.

“Juices, smoothies, vegan lattes, and alcohol can pack on hundreds of calories to your daily bottom line, which can lead to weight gain,” Schau explained.


You have hidden food sensitivities.

Peter Kramer/Getty ImagesYou could have a sensitivity.

“Gluten, soy, corn, tomatoes, nuts, and seeds are all extremely common food sensitivities that can contribute to belly bloat and hormonally-related weight gain,” said Schau. You should ask your doctor about food allergy testing to determine which foods you are reacting to, she advised.


You don’t have healthy gut flora.

Sarah Schmalbruch/INSIDERLacking healthy bacteria prevents your body from breaking down calories effectively.

“We know that the bacteria in the digestive tract help break down the foods we’re eating, but they also help us process calories in an efficient way as to not cause weight gain,” said Schau. You could be lacking the healthy bacteria your body needs to break down calories, and you can easily use a multi-strain probiotic to replenish your flora, she suggested.


You are consuming too many vegan desserts.

Sydney Kramer/INSIDERVegan alternatives can be just as caloric.

“One thing to watch out for with vegan diets is eating healthy fats and vegan desserts without practicing portion control,” said registered dietitian Michelle Hyman, MS, RD, CDN. Vegan brownies may have just as many calories (if not more) than versions that are not vegan, she explained.


You are ignoring portion control.

ShutterstockJust because things are healthier, it doesn’t mean you can’t overeat it.

“People assume that because vegan options are ‘healthier’ they can eat unlimited portions of grains, veggies (especially starchy vegetables), nuts, and seeds,” said nutritionist Stacy Goldberg, MPH, RN, BSN. This can actually contribute to weight gain or lack of weight loss, she added.


You are consuming too many calories.

Marco Verch/FlickrQuinoa, beans and lentils have lots of carbs.

“Many vegan alternatives (quinoa, beans, and lentils) actually contain more grams of carbohydrates than they do protein,” said Hyman. Consuming more calories than your body can use, whether it comes from carbohydrates, protein, or fat, results in weight gain over time, she suggested.


You’re missing out on important vitamins and nutrients.

puhhha/ShutterstockAnimal products can give lots of nutrients.

“Since you are not eating animal products on a vegan diet, you could be missing out on important nutrients,” said registered dietitian Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN. Not having enough nutrients (calcium, protein, iron) can cause symptoms such as fatigue, low energy, and can cause your body’s metabolism to slow down, which makes it harder to manage weight, she suggested.

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