Vegetarian Gaining Weight For No Reason

Why am I gaining weight instead of losing on a vegetarian diet?

I have had a vegetarian diet for 4 years. The first year I had become vegetarian I slimmed down very quickly, I think I also lost a lot of body mass because I stopped working out so frequently too.

Over the years I have slowly been gaining weight back on and recently I have gained more weight than I ever have before.

I am 5' 4" and my average weight has always been around 110-115, but in the last 3-6 months I am now almost 140. I feel horrible.

The only thing that has really changed about my diet is that I started taking vitamins and drinking a lot of water, besides that nothing else is different.

I can't figure it out, why am I gaining weight? I am Especially confused because I am drinking so much water and I am now exercising, doing a lot of situps, running about 3 days a week, jump-roping, and biking a little here and there. I feel so discouraged.

I love being on a vegetarian diet. I admit that sometimes I don't always make the healthiest meal choices, but that didn't effect me in the beginning so why would it now?

I guess that's a pretty big question, so to narrow it down, why after 4 years would I be gaining weight for no reason, that I can't seem to eliminate? Any advice? Thanks so much. - S. S.

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Dear S. S.,

Gaining Weight could be due to any of a dozen different things. Just a few possibilities:

1. Excess calories: For a couple of weeks, count all your calories and see where they're coming from. Figure out how much calories you need to maintain or actually lose weight, and take it from there. Anne Collins is helpful website with good veg weight loss advice and support - there's a small fee to join. There's a section for vegetarians.

WebMD explains Weight Loss: Exercise and Weight Control

2. Food sensitivities, allergies, intolerance, etc, causing water retention, bloating, and digestive disturbances. Go through allergy screening, if you can afford it, or just start eliminating obvious suspects such as soy, peanuts, dairy (especially milk), gluten, and see what happens. This is not an approach that most doctors or dietitians would recommend, and you might want to get professional help in the end.

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3. Digestion: Poor digestion and elimination, candida, irritable bowel sydrome, crohn's disease, food additives and toxins in food, sugar and junk food (empty calories) - just a few of the delightful possibilities that could affect your weight.

Things to try: Eat more fresh organic food, esp whole grains and veggies (heavy on the veg), fresh juices to cleanse, probiotics and digestive enzymes, digestive cleansing.

4. Menopause: You don't give your age, but as women approach menopause, starting as early as forty, their bodies go through many changes: metabolic, glandular, digestive, hormonal etc, and for many of us, weight gain is an unfortunate side effect.

It's usually necessary to make a few dietary adjustments during and after menopause: more water, as you're doing, but also more fresh veg and fruit, more protein, less carbs, juicing, herbs etc. Less calories - a lighter diet in general. Yoga is wonderful for balancing the physiology and emotions during menopause. I highly recommend it!

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5. Working Out and Gaining Weight: Once thing I've noticed about exercising, and have read here and there, is that when you first start working out after not working out for a while, at first you keep gaining - apparently because you're gaining muscle mass, but haven't shed the fat yet. Same goes with hydrating after not drinking enough for some time.

Plus, although it's great to get fit, I've also heard that working out doesn't affect your weight nearly as much as reducing calories, although it does firm things up, which makes you look thinner and gets those feel-good endorphins flowing.

6. Other Possibilities: I suggest a physical check up and blood work to eliminate possibilities such as thyroid, diabetes, malnutrition (e.g. B12, folic acid, iron), and other lovely things we hate to even think about.

Give your weight loss tactics time to work. Although it shouldn't take too long to get things under control, try to think long term, and not be jumping on the scale every day, or pushing yourself too hard.

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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