Weight Gain while Plant-Based

Hey y’all,

Due to my health and body inflammation, I’ve transitioned to a very low-calorie diet. I don’t eat gluten, so most bread products are off the table, I don’t eat dairy or eggs, so that takes most desserts (and cheese) off the table, I severely limit my consumption of refined sugar and even some naturally occurring sugars (many days I eat completely sugar-free), and I don’t eat peanuts or peanut butter. I also limit my intake of meat. I only eat a pound or less of meat (of any kind) in a week.

These parameters had me lose a lot of weight without trying to. At first, this wasn’t a problem at all. I enjoyed losing some weight, but after a while, the weight loss became too much. For a while, I looked like a recovering starvation victim. I wasn’t experiencing any negative health effects, but I’m sure I was getting close.

Obviously, I just wasn’t eating enough. Weight loss only occurs at a caloric deficit. Unfortunately, I also didn’t have the funds to be eating fistfuls of nuts (because I can’t do peanuts, so that automatically means the more expensive nuts) all day or stuffing down avocados. I’m also living in an area that doesn’t have access to clean but perishable foods (meaning I can’t order them online either) – for example, there’s not any dairy-free cheese here or gluten-free bread, so it’s not like I could load up on grilled cheese.

So what in the world did I do? I had to eat more calories, but the deck was certainly stacked against me. Prior to trying to gain weight, I actually didn’t eat meat at all, but that was one of the first tough choices that I made. Plain meat is naturally gluten/dairy/sugar-free, and (while definitely not the cheapest) it’s one of the more inexpensive food choices. Meat is also naturally calorie-dense. Because of this, I added meat back into my diet. I still didn’t eat much, but even a little helped. Beef is also much more calorie-dense than chicken, so I include that.

Since I can’t eat peanuts, no peanut butter for me, and that’s pretty much a classic put-meat-on-your-bones food. Seeds are much cheaper than nuts, and sunflower seeds are the most similar seed to peanuts in calorie density. The problem was, buying sunflower butter from the store is more expensive than I liked. I found a really great sunflower butter recipe. I love eating this on other foods, but I don’t want to use it up so fast, so I just put plain sunflower seeds in my smoothies rather than the sunflower butter that I have to make.

But the best thing I did to gain weight was to eat A LOT of rice. I would make an entire pot of rice multiple times a day and eat the entire thing by myself. For many months I ate up to 6 cups of cooked rice a day. Rice not smothered in butter or oil only contains 600 calories/cup before cooking. Cooking the rice makes it more than double in size, so 6 cups of cooked rice contains less than 1500 calories.

After gaining weight back, I learned a few more things about health. If I had it to do over again, I’d probably eat at least half beans with that rice. I’d also include more greens in that diet. However, that’s what I did to gain some weight back. I also started counting calories simply to make sure I ate enough. If I hadn’t eaten enough calories in a day, I would make sure to have dessert or a snack at the end of the day. Maybe these tips will help someone else who is trying to keep some weight on.

Good luck and good health!

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