Many people go on a WFPB diet to lose weight, and they see big time results! WFPB weight loss is really effective. Eating a plant based diet helps people lose weight naturally because plant foods are high in nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, while low in calories and fat. The added bonus? This diet can add years to your life, prevent disease, improve your sleep, improve regularity, slow age-related cognitive decline, improve mood, and make you feel and look amazing.
Wow, who wouldn’t want to hop onto the plant based train? That said, if a WFPB diet is optimal for overall health and promotes weight loss, what do you do if you’re already naturally thin (and don't want to lose any weight)? In this case, how do you gain weight or keep your weight up while being plant-based?
Well, don’t worry, my lean friends – this article is for you! I’ve struggled to gain weight my entire life, and I manage to enjoy the whole food plant based lifestyle without worrying about blowing away. Here’s how I do it:
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Growing up, I was always “twiggy.” Belts were a necessity, specialty sizes were preferable, and mealtime was always on my mind. I was a fast grower, a big eater, active, and actually quite self-conscious of my (lower) body weight. Adults showed concern and peers always seemed to make mention of my body; but my mother and grandmother were slender so I had no cause for health related concerns*.
*If you find yourself losing weight rapidly, speak to your doctor about potential underlying health issues.
Of course, being overweight draws much more negative attention than being underweight, but that didn't stop the subtle digs and snarky comments from hurting, especially as I was coming to age. I got to the point where I would eat excessive amounts of fatty foods just to prove I wasn't starving myself (and then avoid the bathroom after mealtime to suppress suspicions about purging).
My mother was worried I’d have a heart attack at 30 because of the amount of saturated fat I was consuming, but I was worried if I started eating healthier that I’d grow even thinner.
The truth is, I didn't mind being thin – I was just fearful of what others would think of me. I was willing to put my body at risk to prove that I didn’t have food issues. The result was that I developed distorted eating habits that could have very well put my heart and body at risk.
So, I stopped putting my body at risk. And the first thing I needed to do to accomplish that was forget about what I perceived that others thought of me, and learn to love my slender, thin, twiggy, bony body.
Self love doesn’t mean you should settle for living in an unhealthy body; it just means that however much you weigh, or no matter what you look like at any moment, you should always love and respect yourself.
It’s perfectly acceptable to recognize that you’re over/underweight and work towards healthy goals. In fact, recognizing you are unhealthy and trying to make a change is possibly the strongest form of self love. But it’s so important to love yourself at every stage of this process.
Once you have learned to love yourself for who you are, you begin to treat yourself with the utmost respect. That is when I transitioned to a plant based diet, which showed my body ultimate love.
Drum roll please…
I did not wither away when I went plant based! I did lose about 5 pounds as I was transitioning (which was a lot for me). But eventually, I went back to my normal weight and I fluctuated no more than a few pounds here and there.
Like any major life change, it took me a few months to figure out how to eat for my body and my health goals. What I realized is that a plant based diet doesn't always, "make you lose weight– it just helps your body level out to it's natural weight.
So if you're overweight, that would result in weight loss. For me, not much changed.
As many naturally thin people can relate to, when I don't exercise I tend to thin out. During these times I found a few tips and tricks to keep the weight on without compromising my health. Along the way I learned a lot about eating plant-based for someone who’s naturally skinny, and I’m here to share my secrets:
1. Avocados are your new BFF
Half an avocado a day (or more) keeps your calorie intake sufficient.
It’s not difficult to add in avocado to your diet, because it’s freaking delicious in every way possible.
Make this creamy pasta, blend it in a smoothie or an oil-free salad dressing, enjoy avocado toast, whip up some guac and top your tacos, make dairy-free ice cream, "indulge" with this chocolate pudding, spread it on a sandwich, go nuts!
There’s pretty much nothing avocados can’t do.
These mushy green fruits are high in fat (the good kind) but also loaded with fiber, which is heart healthy. Avocado’s are also chock-full of with plant-based Omega-3s, which promote healthy brain function, skin, nails, and hair. (After adding a minimum of half an avocado into my daily diet, I noticed a difference in not only my body, but also the health of my hair!)
2. Nut butters belong in almost everything
Nut butters are awesome in salad dressings, smoothies, pasta sauces, buddha bowls, fruit platters, and stuffed into dates. I try to eat between 2 tablespoons to ¼ a cup minimum of all-natural nut and seed butters a day. I load my salads with this tahini dressing, my smoothies with all-natural peanut butter, and my pasta sauces with cashew cream.
Not a bad problem to have!
3. Eat when you’re hungry
My advice: don’t leave the house without scarfing down a hearty vegan sandwich first. Make sure to always have a bag of almonds in your purse or car. Eat first thing when you wake up in the morning, and don’t hesitate to indulge in an after dinner snack.
Speaking of, re-define snack: instead of chips or grapes, try munching down a full sandwich or a plate of leftovers. If you have a fast metabolism, a big snack like this shouldn’t spoil your dinner. Who says you have to just have three meals a day?
4. Don’t hyper-focus on how you look – take note of how you feel
Stop weighing yourself, hoping that the needle will go up a few notches. Start thinking about how you feel instead.
Just because someone you barely know takes note that you look “sickly” or “malnourished,” doesn’t mean that you are.
Do you feel sick and tired? No!? Then keep doing you!
As long as you feel healthy, your blood work is golden, and you have plenty of energy, it really doesn’t matter how you look. That being said, if you're finding you do look sickly, or people you know well mention that you look off, it's never a bad idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Learn to listen to your body, and to love every part of it, no matter how big or small. You need to be your biggest fan and advocate, so when you look in the mirror each morning, point out something you love about yourself and say it out loud. You are unique, beautiful, and powerful in your own skin. Don’t let other people's expectations, standards, or insecurities bring you down. Own your unique look, and make health your goal.
BONUS: High Protein WFPB Smoothie Recipe
This WFPB smoothie is packed with protein, healthy fats, and tons of fiber. Enjoy this bad boy for breakfast, a snack, or after your workout, whenever!
- A WFPB diet is a great way to lose weight naturally – but it doesn't have to be a weight loss diet! If you're naturally underweight or skinny, you can still enjoy a WFPB diet (and reap all the health benefits), without fear of losing too much.
- Whether you're over- or underweight, self love and respect for your body is of the utmost importance.
- If you want to eat a WFPB diet, without losing weight, be sure to load up on avocados, all natural nut butters and nuts, to eat when you're hungry, and to listen to your body (not the scale).
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.