Why am I not losing weight on a vegan diet?

Why am I not losing weight on a vegan diet?
10 min reading time

Followed a vegan diet and didn’t lose weight? If so, let’s try to sort it all out and clear up your confusion!

Plant-based diets have been shown to be effective in weight loss and improving overall health, due to their association with a lower risk of chronic disease.

However, not everyone will automatically lose weight after adopting a plant-based lifestyle, due to several factors that prevent this from happening.

Here’s why, from a registered vegan dietitian.

Why you are not losing weight on a plant-based diet

Hidden calories in your food

Take a look at the sneaky calories that might be in your meals that you might not be aware of, such as:

  • Oils
  • Juice
  • Smoothies
  • Avocado
  • Dried fruits
  • Walnut seeds
  • Spreads
  • Cereal
  • Vinaigrette
  • High fat yogurt
  • Coconut cream

Although the foods listed above are all nutritious and filling foods, they can be very high in calories.

Make sure you have the recommended serving size for foods, especially nuts and spreads, and don’t use too much cooking oil, as oils are 100% liquid fat.

Also, read the labels carefully, some salad dressings and some dried fruits can contain a few hundred calories. Try to choose oil-free dressings.

Eating out at restaurants

Eating a lot at restaurants is crucial because people who tend to eat a lot at restaurants end up consuming a lot of calories. Restaurant meals tend to be higher in calories and fat than home-cooked meals. This is because you don’t know exactly what the ingredients are!

Cooking at home is much more beneficial for someone who wants to lose weight because you know exactly what you’re eating and you can cut back on those hard-to-avoid refined carbs!

Eating too many carbs

Pizza, pasta, and bread can be a vegan’s best friend because it’s so easy to overeat when following a vegan diet. This is usually the only option available to vegans when dining out or at a gathering.

However, refined carbs lack fiber and tend not to satiate your hunger as well as whole-grain complex carbs. Leaving you less full, causing you to snack more often and possibly leading to excessive calorie intake. Little vicious circle!

Refined carbohydrates also release insulin, which can lead to weight gain according to some  studies. In other words, it can be fairly easy to overdo it when it comes to carbohydrates.

weight loss vegan

How to lose weight on a vegan diet

Increase your protein intake

When you switch to a plant-based diet, it can be easy to lose your protein intake. The current recommendation estimates protein requirements at 0.9 g/kg of ideal body weight. This means that a man who weighs around 80 kg should consume around 72 g of protein per day.

Hindering your protein can interfere with your weight loss efforts because protein improves insulin and satiety levels.

An average of 10 to 15 % of your calories should come from your proteins.

This great source of energy can be found in a variety of foods, such as

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Tofu
  • Quinoa
  • Peanut butter

There are many easy and nutritious ways to add protein to your diet without it being boring and repetitive. Some of my favorites are:

Avoid liquid calories

Replace smoothies, sodas and juices, with whole fruits and vegetables, which are much higher in dietary fiber and will therefore keep you full for much longer.

Make water your drink of choice because it is the best thirst quencher and calorie-free. You can’t go wrong!

It’s usually better when trying to lose weight on a vegan diet.

Add a few drops of lemon, lime or orange to change things up every once in a while. You can also try mashing fresh raspberries or watermelon in your water or adding sliced strawberries. Cucumber and fresh mint are also refreshing flavors!

There are also other healthy beverage options such as naturally flavored seltzer water, coffee, or tea.

Herbal teas such as green tea have been shown to boost metabolism and help with weight loss.

Avoid highly processed vegan food

I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t rely on too many processed foods because they can contribute to your struggle with losing weight.

These days, there are thousands of vegan products available on the market for us, but not all of these options are necessarily healthy.

Take for example a veggie burger. Some are full of unnecessary additives, highly processed compounds, chemicals, dyes and excessive amounts of sodium.

Understanding high and low-calorie foods

It is important to understand calorie density and not to memorize or practice calorie counting as it can quickly become toxic.

Vegan chef and best-selling author Chef AJ puts it best:

“When you change the average caloric density of the foods you eat each day, you can literally eat twice as much food by volume, while taking in half the calories.”

Focusing on low-calorie foods like fruits, vegetables, starches, legumes, and whole grains that are loaded with fiber and water will help you feel fuller on fewer calories.

Kale, cabbage, spinach, and lettuce are especially beneficial due to their high amounts of water and fiber.

For example, 480 calories might be 4 tablespoons of olive oil or a full plate of vegetables. As a general rule, if it does not contain fiber, it does not contribute to satiety.

If you don’t know how to balance your vegan lifestyle, contact me and I’ll help you on your weight loss journey.

Minimize sugar intake

The same rules apply to all types of diets, vegan or not. Desserts should be eaten in moderation. A vegan dessert can still contain a large amount of sugar.

Minimize the use of sugar and avoid artificial sweeteners, as they are considered empty calories.

Sugar disrupts your metabolism leading to health issues such as weight gain, high blood pressure, inflammation, etc.

If you like sweets, try fresh fruit or a few dates. While this may seem bland, you can easily spice things up and creatively slice an apple, add cinnamon, dairy-free plain yogurt and make it your special after-dinner treat! You can also try making your own fruit sorbet! Who doesn’t love ice cream?

Fruits are high in fiber, phytochemicals and naturally contain sugars.

Alternatively, eat a smaller portion of a relatively low-calorie vegan dessert, taking the time to eat mindfully and savor it.

weight loss vegan

Consider taking supplements

Some vegans struggle to meet their daily needs and end up deficient because some whole-food vegan diets can be low in certain vitamins and minerals.

The following supplements may be particularly beneficial for your metabolism and digestion:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • EPA and DHA
  • Iron
  • Iodine
  • Calcium
  • Zinc

Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals such as iron can lead to fatigue, a weakened immune system and impaired brain function.

Therefore, an iron deficiency can make weight loss and meal planning much more difficult.

The best dietary sources of iron include kidney beans, seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds, and dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale and broccoli.

If you have concerns that you may be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, contact a vegan registered dietitian to treat and prevent nutrient deficiencies.

Mindful eating

Listen to your body and learn to understand its natural hunger cues so you can practice intuitive eating. To do this, make your meals more special by creating a relaxing environment for yourself.

Eat slowly and chew food well to aid digestion, take the time to appreciate the different flavors and reduce your total food intake. It is crucial to be aware of the food and drink you put into your body.

Your daily structure

In order to develop healthy habits, it’s important to keep your meals regular and try to avoid distractions such as your phone or TV when you eat.

By structuring your day and sticking to your meals, you can avoid temptations and skipping meals that lead to overeating at your next meal.

Planning your first meals can be difficult but allow yourself some flexibility.

Other factors

Other factors can affect your weight loss journey such as

  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Diet
  • Metabolic health
  • Genetic composition
  • Gut bacteria
  • Other medical issues such as eating disorders

Generally to lose weight, both women and men need to reduce their calorie intake by 500 calories per day. For a more specific meal plan for weight loss, contact me, and I would be happy to assist you!

Additional weight loss tips

Here are some more simple tips to promote your weight loss journey:

  • Eat at least five servings of non-starchy vegetables a day like broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini
  • Add protein like beans, legumes and nuts to every meal and snack
  • Choose complex carbs like brown bread and whole grain pasta over refined carbs
  • Eat whole foods like quinoa, brown rice and bulgur
  • Limit consumption of highly processed foods such as veggie burgers and meat alternatives

Why am I not losing weight on a vegan diet and exercise plan?

Exercise can also go a long way towards vegan weight loss. I suggest to all my clients to do some physical activity. It’s never too late to start!

Choose physical activities that you enjoy and that respect your strength and flexibility.

Changing your lifestyle could be as simple as walking around the neighborhood for a few hours a week. This alone can interact with your energy balance, hormonal balance, immunity and boost your metabolism.

Sometimes all it takes is a little more movement to get things going. And yes, in case you were wondering, it’s totally possible to build muscle on a vegan diet!

weight loss vegan

Why am I losing body fat but not weight?

Difference between weight loss and fat loss

Weight loss refers to a decrease in your overall body weight due to loss of muscle, water and fat, while fat loss refers to weight loss specifically from fat, which is a healthier goal.

It can be very difficult to know if you are losing fat or weight because the scale does not differentiate between them. You can tell the difference with these simple instructions.

Fat loss can be determined by a body fat scale which provides the percentage of fat and muscle you have. Skinfold compasses are also a great way to estimate fat loss.

Most people don’t realize that diets that claim to help you lose weight quickly and easily fail to mention that most of that weight loss is actually loss of water and muscle.

Muscle loss can be very detrimental to your overall health and should be avoided.

The main goal is to lose fat and maintain muscle by having a high protein intake, exercising regularly and following a nutrient-dense vegan diet.

Does being vegan help you lose weight?

You may be wondering if the hype is true: does a vegan diet actually help you lose weight or is it just a fad?

Well, yes ABSOLUTELY, when done right! Vegans have been proven to have a lower BMI than omnivores.

Going vegan leads to reducing the number of high-calorie foods you eat, because sometimes you end up replacing high-calorie foods with high-fiber foods, which have fewer calories and keep you full longer.

Many studies have shown that vegan diets are much more effective for weight loss than other diets.

For more information, check out this beginner’s guide to a well-balanced vegan diet.

Bottom line

All in all, don’t let your weight loss journey consume you! Make your health the number one goal, adopt good habits and think positively on your journey to a healthy weight.

Being vegan does not guarantee weight loss or even weight maintenance. You will need to learn how to follow a balanced and nutritious plant-based diet while respecting all your needs.

If you haven’t seen as much progress as you’d like and have further questions or concerns, consider booking an appointment with a registered dietitian who can guide and help you throughout your healthy plant-based weight loss journey.