Last Updated on February 9, 2021 by Monica Nelson
Losing weight can be frustrating. I get it. You cut back on the sweets, ramp up your exercise, and everything seems to be going all fine and dandy, until one day you hit that dreaded plateau, and the pounds just don’t seem to want to come off.
And eating only plant-based foods, you’d think losing weight would be relatively easy, right?
Plant-based or vegan diets can be one of the trickiest to deal with when losing weight. If you’re tired of eating seemingly healthy and not seeing the results you want on the scale, it’s time to take a step back.
I’m outlining the top reasons you may struggle to lose weight on a vegan diet. Whether you’re looking to lose weight or maintain weight, addressing these will definitely help to move that needle.
What’s Preventing You From Losing Weight
1. You’re falling prey to the “healthy” vegan foods
Just because it’s labelled “vegan” or is “plant-based” does not mean it’s healthy. A lot of vegan foods are still highly processed, calorie-dense, and heavy on the carbohydrates.
Look at ice cream, for example. Whether it’s vegan or dairy-based, ice cream is still ice cream. It’s laden with sugar, stabilizers, thickeners, and flavors that all add up to weight gain and body fat accumulation.
But it’s not just the sweets that you can fall trap to. Vegan meat alternatives, plant-based cheeses, crackers, and pretty much everything else you find labeled as vegan are processed foods that are far removed from their natural forms. And over time, those foods convert to sugar and directly into fat and excess weight.
2. You’re going overboard on the carbs
Plant-based meals tend to be carb-heavy, which is the biggest downfall I see for people trying to lose weight.
Because virtually all vegan foods have carbs—think beans, legumes, rice, quinoa, root veggies, tempeh, basically all the staples for a vegan—you’re likely consuming a hefty amount at every single meal without even knowing it.
Research suggests that the glycemic effect of the diet may influence weight control, with a lower glycemic-index diet eliciting a lower waist-to-hip ratio and waist circumference .
Foods that are low in fiber are often high on the glycemic scale and thus have a more immediate impact on blood glucose and insulin.
As such, paying attention to the types of carbs you’re eating is key to losing weight. If you’re consuming simple carbs that are digested quickly, it’s going to spike blood glucose and insulin, which promotes fat storage and weight gain.
If you’re consuming low-glycemic carbs (i.e., they’re higher in fiber), they will digest slower and elicit a much more stable increase in blood glucose and insulin, as well as a much steadier supply of energy.
3. Your portion sizes are way too big
Just because you’re not following a “diet” doesn’t mean you can go crazy on the portions.
People too often cannot understand that a portion size is usually smaller than what you think, but don’t want to take the steps to actually measure what one serving size is.
Ever heard people “guesstimate” a serving size? Yeah… it rarely works, so don’t be one of them.
For many people, calorie-dense food like nuts and seeds are a big sticking point for portions.
Because they’re heavy on healthy fats and one ounce isn’t that big, people tend to eat 3-4 servings in one go without realizing it.
Even though nuts and seeds are a healthy food and totally fine to eat on a vegan diet, excess calories are still excess calories that will turn into excess weight.
I recommend that if you’re trying to lose weight and not seeing results, try calorie counting.
While it’s not the most ideal solution long-term because it can quickly become obsessive, it can help you gauge how much you’re actually eating daily, and then you can figure out where you need to make adjustments.
4. You’re not eating enough protein
Protein is the foundation for your body’s structure. Nearly every cell in your body requires protein to function optimally, so if you’re not consuming enough, your cells won’t be functioning optimally.
But protein is also the foundation for muscle mass, which helps to maintain metabolic rate; as everyone says, muscle burns more calories than fat—and they’re right.
Meeting protein requirements on a plant-based diet can be challenging for many people because most foods have more carbs than protein, but it’s not impossible—you just have to be strategic.
Based on the RDA for protein, the average adult female needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
However, if you lead a relatively active lifestyle or are an athlete, those protein requirements are further increased.
Research suggests that strength athletes may need to consume between 1.6-1.7g/kg of bodyweight, whereas endurance athletes may need 1.2-1.4g/kg, roughly twice and 1.5 times the RDA, respectively .
So, to ensure you’re getting enough, track it. You’ll probably find you’re not eating as much as you think.
5. You’re not eating enough, period
It may sound a little odd to say that not eating enough could cause weight gain, but it’s true. When you’re not eating enough to support optimal body function, it can affect your thyroid and adrenals, which control your metabolic rate and stress response. Ultimately, it can stall your weight loss progress.
Restricting calories too much causes stress on your body, which causes the release of cortisol, the fat-storage hormone. So, if you’re trying to lose weight by severely restricting calorie intake, you could sabotage all of your efforts.
What To Do Instead
So, now that you know where you may need to make some adjustments, what can you do to get your weight loss started?
Less is more
When it comes to losing weight on a vegan diet, less is always more. Not necessarily in terms of caloric content or food quantity (although that’s part of weight loss), but in terms of ingredients. Always opt for minimally processed foods that are in their purest form (i.e. whole foods).
Things like fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats are super nutrient-dense, regulate blood sugar, and prevent packing on pounds.
Increase your protein
The combination of protein, fat, and fiber helps you feel full longer, thus decreasing the blood sugar spikes and the subsequent urge to eat an hour later.
But like we said, protein is also required for nearly every function in your body, including muscle maintenance, so eating vegan foods high in protein is key to maintaining a healthy weight and meeting your weight loss goals.
Invest in measuring equipment
Investing in a kitchen scale and some measuring cups will do you wonders for moving towards your weight loss goals.
When you can visually see how big a portion or serving size is, you’re more likely to consume what’s actually appropriate for your body. That way, you’re not consuming excess, and that excess isn’t converted to fat.
There is no one-size-fits-all diet for weight loss—if there were, everyone would do it. Vegan often seems like an excellent alternative for people looking to lose weight because it’s typically considered ‘healthier.’
Still, it’s also important to realize that any eating style can go sideways and end up in more unhealthy territory than anything else.
However, if you take a step back and analyze what you’re actually eating, you may notice where you’re going wrong.
If you aim to consume a strictly whole-food plant-based diet that’s free of processed and refined foods, watch your portions, and ensure you’re getting adequate protein, you’ll likely find the pounds start to come off pretty easily.
But if you’re doing all the right things and still struggling to lose weight, a vegan fat burner can be the perfect way to kick things up a notch – so long as you remain in a consistent caloric deficit, consider all the points mentioned above, and choose a product which uses a clean, natural, and science-backed formula.
- Y Ma, B Olendzki, D Chiriboga, et al. Association between dietary carbohydrates and body weight. Am J Epidemiol. 2005;161(4):359-367.
- PW Lemon. Effects of exercise on dietary protein requirements. Int J Sport Nutr. 1998;8(4):426-447.