Will a vegan diet make me fat?
When she first undertook my one week vegan pledge, my sister threw me an unexpected question: ‘will I gain weight?’ I was somewhat taken aback. I imagine that many of you, at least in the past, may have harboured that stereotypical image of the pasty, skinny vegan, so the idea that a vegan diet would make someone put on weight was a new one on me.
When I questioned her further, I found that her concerns stemmed from the fact that her soya milk and yogurts and vegan margarine contained more calories than her usual dairy products.
Now I’m not a trained weight loss counsellor or a nutritionist, so I can only speak from my own experiences of weight gain and loss. I haven’t even checked the calorie or fat content of my vegan products.
Like many (most?) women I have had ‘issues’ with my weight since…well I can’t remember a time when my figure hasn’t plagued my thoughts. My wardrobe has played host to everything from a size 8 to a size 22. I’ve been a chubby omnivore, a fat vegetarian and a skinny omnivore too. But my changing size has nothing to do with the nature of my diet (with regards to being a meat eater or otherwise) and everything to do with a lack of willpower and a very sweet tooth!
Prior to my vegan adventures I was an avid, and successful, Weight Watcher – counting points and tracking every single morsel that passed my lips. Effective but oh so dull!
Happily, since adopting a vegan diet, I have ditched Weight Watchers. I never think about calories or fat grams anymore and it’s incredibly liberating!
And it seems to be working. Since the start of the year I’ve lost 14lbs without effort. (In case anyone is worried about being too skinny, I could easily afford to lose since having my baby). This has left me a comfortable and content size 10-12. I could probably stand to lose another 7lbs or so and if I hadn’t discovered a joy for baking vegan cakes, I’d have lost that already.
So what’s the secret?
Well, this isn’t going to surprise anyone, but there is no secret. Simply eat only as much as your body needs and get off your bum and do some exercise every now and again!
It’s really very simple. I don’t cut out carbs, avoid all fats or live on cabbage soup. I eat of huge variety of vegan foods.
That said, I do have a few guidelines that I try to employ.
I eat when I’m hungry, and except for veggies, I try to limit portion sizes. I limit nuts and nut butters and avocados – though they do feature regularly in my meals. I also don’t go too wild with the coconut milk or olive oil.
I try not to indulge in sugary products although I fail miserably in this at least a few times a week!
A vegan diet won’t guarantee weight loss – after all you could eat chips and soya ice cream all day long and not shift a pound while still being a strict vegan.
However, a well-planned, well-balanced vegan diet, with its abundance of fruit, veggies and pulses, is ideal to help you maintain a healthy weight – without calorie counting.
What if I don’t have any weight to lose?
Then allow yourself extra portions or snack on lots of nuts and dried fruit. Go nuts with yummy avocado dishes and make big pots of curry with lots of olive oil and creamed coconut. Delicious!
What if I’m cooking for kids?
A low fat diet is not suitable for young children – they grow at an alarming rate (at least mine do!) and they need lots of fat and calories to help them do this. That’s not to say that a vegan diet isn’t suitable for children, you just need to be aware that they do need a lot more fat than we do.
Read my top tips for vegan kids for more info and speak to your health visitor or a qualified dietician if you are unsure.