Dietary Dilemma


So, we’ve been eating a vegan diet (with small Indulgence Day departures) for more than a month. Frankly? Eating vegan is easier than I thought it would be. We’re eating fresher, better quality food. We’re eating more vegetables.

And we’re both becoming more creative with meals. Clyde recently took slices of butternut squash, sprinkled them with just a pinch of salt, baked them in the oven for 15 minutes, and produced mouthwatering “french fries.” And I’ve been making smoothies. (My favorite: two cups of spinach, blended with a banana, a peach, five strawberries, and ten grapes.)

I like the vegan diet. I like the health benefits it promises. I like the variety and the adventure of it.

What I do not like, though, is this: I’m gaining weight.

In the last month, I’ve gained five pounds. My percentage of body fat has risen from 17.5 to 18.5. My weight’s gone up from 190 to 195. And my stomach — which had gotten really flat — is starting to show signs of bellyfication again.

Frankly? I feel lost and frustrated. I believe the vegan diet is technically better for me. That said, I’m certain that if I go back on my plan (mostly meat and green vegetables … no carbs, sugar, or fried food *except* on Indulgence Day), I’ll quickly go back to looking thinner and losing weight.

I’ve gotten used to feeling confident and excited about mealtimes, so this negativity is a big (and unpleasant) change for me. What to do? I can’t decide. Your advice and insights are always welcome … and appreciated.

In the meantime: if you see me eating a bowl of black beans and a whole chicken tomorrow … you’ll know what’s going on.


Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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  • I've had this same dilemma. The problem is that the two diets have two different goals. The meat and veggies (low-carb, high-protein) is really better for losing weight, and does good things for your blood profile as well. The vegan diet is all about preventing cancer, which is a whole other thing entirely. It's also very hard to do a low-carb diet that's vegan, which means you're likely to gain weight if you're carb-sensitive. Vegetarian is a little easier, because it allows dairy and eggs, a good source of protein. But according to the latest, even those amounts of animal proteins could be considered less healthy in terms of cancer.

    It's good in this situation to really define your goals. The cancer-prevention one is longer term and perhaps less likely to benefit you now if you struggle to maintain a lower weight on it. If you want to strike a good balance between the two, you might consider sticking to low-carb veggies and supplementing your protein with dairy, tofu, nuts, etc. rather than higher-carb veggies, rice, beans, etc. Then you are still avoiding the worst of the animal proteins from a health, environmental, and food sustainability perspective while maintaining your weight. I also think that sustainable seafood is both healthier and better in the other ways than most other meat choices, so tend to go there if I need a bit of supplemental protein. Essentially, the lower on the food chain you can get and the more natural the food the better for you (i.e., not fed grains, antibiotics, etc.). Good luck – I'll be interested to know what you decide.

  • Wow, Theresa, that is interesting and helpful. I read Mark's post and had no ideas or advice, for I'd never followed a low-carb diet, only vegetarian (not vegan), so I had nothing useful to offer.

    It seems frustrating and sad and ironic that one must make such choices–long term, cancer-avoiding health or present health–because we cannot achieve both. Crazy. When did this happen to the human race?

    Mark, I'll be watching your journey with interest (and good wishes), as usual.

  • For some reason this got me thinking about chimps. Aren't they omnivores, but only eat meat rarely? I don't recall ever seeing a fat chimp, but I'll bet there are some in zoos.
    Have you added an exercise program to your regimen? I'm a firm believer that it's not about the calories that you burn with exercise, but about the effect exercise has on keeping the metabolism active/ fired up.

  • And I suspect a lot of the carcinogenic potential from eating animals comes from eating their fat, not their protein, where natures stores toxic chemicals and carcinogens the body can't get rid of, like mercury in fish oil. Anyway, I'm just trying to justify my meat habit. Picking up brisket tomorrow from Community Q…..

Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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