4

votes

Getting heavier on paleo?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 30, 2011 at 12:08 AM

Been reading on PH here for a bit, and you guys are always an awesome resource! Thank you so much for what you do!

Quick background on myself before getting to my question (I promise this won't take too long). At the beginning of the year, I started a vegan diet thinking it was the most healthful way one could possibly eat. Yeah, you probably know how that ended up... nothing but wheat-based products, rice, rye, barley, soy, meat analogues, etc... I started with a weight of about 180, and eventually dropped down to 152 pounds in 6 months... but I felt like absolute crap-o-la. Convinced it couldn't be my diet, I continued with the vegan diet and hordes of exercise until I finally decided to poke around the web for answers and stumbled upon this (warning, it's a bit long... but fascinating): http://voraciouseats.com/2010/11/19/a-vegan-no-more/

I immediately changed my style of eating and quickly dabbled in the world of this here Paleo way of life. I've been on the diet for the better part of 2 months now, and while all my symptoms of brain fog, lack of energy, digestion issues, etc... have made damn near a complete 180-degree turn, I can't help be be concerned about how much heavier I am now than when I was a vegan. I bounced between 152 - 158 (I'm 5'10") eating those wonky grains, but now that I've adopted this way of eating, I now find myself at 172 pounds, with a weight gain that seems to be consistant. My hypothesis is that I might just be re-gaining some basal muscle tissue that I lost as a vegan now that I'm eating way more protein (I was really, really skinny... not in a good way), but I'm a little concerned that my body is just holding onto all of the fats and meats and I'm destroying the original weight loss that I worked so hard for.

I haven't kept a food journal or anything (that's part of the fun of this lifestyle, right?) and I'm not completely pigging out on paleo foods... but I'm gaining crazy amounts of weight. Modest breakfast of eggs/bacon in the morning, Chipotle salad with pulled pork and guacamole for lunch, grass-fed hamburger with guacamole on lettuce for dinner as examples... usually no snacks, so nuts can't be the culprit... and I'm just a bit stumped. All I read is how many folks lose weight right out of the gates doing this, but my situation couldn't be any different, although I feel soooooooooo much better.

Anyway, this is getting much longer than I hoped for (sorry!), but if anyone has any advice, I'd love to hear it. If not, all good too! I'm not big on lifting so my main form of exercise is running/sprinting. Perhaps my body is just getting back to a natural set-point? Stumped!

Thanks.

19acef0aed67ef8dc1118d8e74edb349

(2954)

on January 05, 2012
at 07:59 PM

Being skinny is not the same as being "lean". In your case, you were skinny-fat. Now you're regaining muscle from Paleo? That's a good thing, isn't it? I'd rather be firm and strong than skinny and squishy.

449e19bbd371a87b653b9b8b56736005

(1567)

on December 04, 2011
at 10:16 PM

One of the things that keeps my spirits up in my journey to lose - I tell myself, it took me 15 years to put this weight on, I have to at least give myself a couple years to get rid of it :)

Cd61bdabc3cc5fad501cefa0d19c663e

(388)

on December 04, 2011
at 06:34 PM

Are you actually gaining weight in your midsection though? Or just having trouble losing it?

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 03, 2011
at 09:48 PM

Oh... one thing I did miss here with your second point – almost all of my fat is in my belly. Even when I was doing the vegan thing and was at a weight of 152... I still had a belly. I couldn't explain how that happened. Skinny everywhere else, but still had a pot belly that wouldn't budge.

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on December 02, 2011
at 07:11 PM

Yeah, weight doesn't matter. Looks do. :D If you look solid and lean, who gives a crap if you're 150 lbs or 200?

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 02, 2011
at 06:48 PM

It's the only time I have confidence that my body isn't able to adapt to lower calories and is forced to use reserves. Plus, I get a few days of careful and reduced eating afterwards so as not to waste the effort.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:25 PM

Good call. Have done the Eat Stop Eat thing for a bit (fasting for 24 hours 1-2 days per week), and it's worked pretty well. I suppose with that example, it's a pretty strong argument for the truth in calories in/calories out being one of the main components in dropping fat.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:23 PM

So, what macros did you see the best success with? More protein than fat? Or vice versa?

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:22 PM

Thanks for the encouragement, Miriam! Just after reading all of the "wow - I *immediately* dropped pant sizes, lost crazy amounts of weight, etc...," it's a little cumbersome that I've gone in the completely opposite direction.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:20 PM

Yeah, dairy is something I've kept in the diet, albeit not a crazy amount. Maybe for the short haul, I'll try to limit it completely. All grains are out of my diet, which I'm hoping is most of the battle... but for my mental health, I'm not sure I could completely eliminate cheeses. They're so darn good, and seemingly one of the lesser offenders. But that could be me just being stubborn too ;)

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on December 02, 2011
at 05:08 PM

My ex really leaned out when he dropped his omega-6 consumption by cutting out pork/avocado/chicken/nuts.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 04:49 PM

And as a reference - when I was vegan, I lost an incredible amount of weight in a pretty short time. From November 2010 to about May of 2011, I lost 65 pounds doing nothing but watching my calories, eating nothing from an animal (even honey), and running on the treadmill 5 days a week, 6 miles each. But over time, I felt a lack of energy, brin fog, etc... Decided to go Paleo because it just made sense to me, and instantly blew up the scale and clothes are tighter... but I feel way better. Could be muscle mass (I hope so!), but perhaps calories really do matter most, contrary to the claims?

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 04:43 PM

This is absolutely amazing, Raydawg - thank you! To answer a couple of your questions, I have been doing a little bit of dairy on Paleo, but not much. Splash of whole milk in the coffee in the morning (the dairy/coffee thing seems to be acceptable/unacceptable depending on which experts you read), occasional piece of cheese, but really, it's a minuscule amount. Was eating Paleo foods pretty freely for the first 1 1/2 monts, then when I started to get heavier and my clothes started getting tighter, I freaked and began cutting calories, while still eating paleo-approved foods (+dairy).

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 04:37 PM

Will do that later today - thanks for the idea!

0d2dec01a5ed9363a9915e111ae13f7e

(4583)

on November 30, 2011
at 03:24 AM

Hey, George, the measuring tape is great too! Really though, you can have a pretty big swing in weight from lean mass (bones, muscle) and fat mass, and water weight through any time period. You've got some great info here, and you know you know this stuff! Soldier on, get lean/mean/strong and "dense".

94a4a87e3d2e1e9160b6ed77678b4bea

(1311)

on November 30, 2011
at 03:03 AM

Oh and one other thing - are you eating much dairy? My weight loss stalls or I put it on with dairy - it was hard for me to give it up as i looooove cheese - but after I did things went more smoothly and i have reintroduced very limited amounts of it. Check out other posts on dairy.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on November 30, 2011
at 01:13 AM

Hard to tell if I'm getting "fatter," per se... I can def tell I'm filling out a little more and obviously getting heavier, but if you saw me at my skinniest, you'd probably hope I was gaining some body mass. I don't think it's possible that I can be eating too much, and like most who've had success, I'm not all that hungry, but I do find myself eating about 3 times a day with perhaps a small snack occasionally. Maybe calories in/out does still matter a little more than we think, but the real paleo value is appetite suppression, hence *hopefully* listening to your stomach and eating less?

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on November 30, 2011
at 01:08 AM

plus one.......

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 30, 2011
at 01:01 AM

I agree with Laura. You were skinny fat before, now your body is being cautious because of the "famine" you just survived. Eat healthy, be active and enjoy!

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on November 30, 2011
at 12:53 AM

*I certainly hope the hypothesis is correct, rather... I swear I'm not dyslexic :)

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on November 30, 2011
at 12:52 AM

This is awesome - thank you! This certainly hope the hypothesis I'm is correct, and I totally agree that a number on the scale isn't as important as feeling great (which I totally do compared to where I was a couple of months ago!). Even when I was in the low-150s during that vegan stint, I still had a bit of a pot belly, which is why grains' effects on the body seemed to make so much sense to me (how could I be 10-15 pounds under weight for my height and still be "fat?"). I suppose I'll just have to give it a little more time and hope it's indeed my body working itself out.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on November 30, 2011
at 12:46 AM

Thanks for this! Re: how I feel – the wacky symptoms I felt as a vegan have all but disappeared. I had crazy low energy, an all day fog, and I was always, always hungry. I also had these bouts where my hands would turn cold, and my core temperature would get so low, I'd have to pump my car heater up to 80-degrees just to feel normal (even on not-so-cold days). I suppose I do feel a bit leaner overall, but it seems like that much weight gain is suspicious when I know there's no way I'm over-eating to the point where I'd gain 10-15 pounds in two months.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on November 30, 2011
at 12:42 AM

I know I should.. but it's so tempting to hop on there and see where I'm at. Mirror-wise, the smallest I was around my waist at the belly button during the vegan stint was just under 33-inches. Currently, I usually start the day at around 34-inches, and it ranges 1/2" to 1" inch of gain throughout the day.

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11 Answers

8
0d2dec01a5ed9363a9915e111ae13f7e

on November 30, 2011
at 12:36 AM

Toss scale into recycling bin. Use mirror for assessment.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on November 30, 2011
at 01:08 AM

plus one.......

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on November 30, 2011
at 12:42 AM

I know I should.. but it's so tempting to hop on there and see where I'm at. Mirror-wise, the smallest I was around my waist at the belly button during the vegan stint was just under 33-inches. Currently, I usually start the day at around 34-inches, and it ranges 1/2" to 1" inch of gain throughout the day.

0d2dec01a5ed9363a9915e111ae13f7e

(4583)

on November 30, 2011
at 03:24 AM

Hey, George, the measuring tape is great too! Really though, you can have a pretty big swing in weight from lean mass (bones, muscle) and fat mass, and water weight through any time period. You've got some great info here, and you know you know this stuff! Soldier on, get lean/mean/strong and "dense".

3
Cd61bdabc3cc5fad501cefa0d19c663e

on November 30, 2011
at 12:46 AM

Based on the equation I've learned in my RD program, a 5' 10" tall man has an ideal body weight of 166 pounds, which give or take 10% gives you a healthy range of 150 - 182 pounds. You are right in the middle of your ideal weight range for health. So I don't think you should be concerned about your current weight.

If you feel good, and your weight is being redistributed proportionately (i.e. no massive belly), then it sounds like your body is just rebounding from a long period of malnutrition. It may be that your body wants to store fat more readily right now since (as far as it was concerned) you were in a 'famine' for several months. However, I think if you give it a little time and don't stress too much, your body will reach a healthy balance.

The main thing is that you feel better though. Life is more than just a number on a scale, as cliche as that sounds.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on November 30, 2011
at 12:52 AM

This is awesome - thank you! This certainly hope the hypothesis I'm is correct, and I totally agree that a number on the scale isn't as important as feeling great (which I totally do compared to where I was a couple of months ago!). Even when I was in the low-150s during that vegan stint, I still had a bit of a pot belly, which is why grains' effects on the body seemed to make so much sense to me (how could I be 10-15 pounds under weight for my height and still be "fat?"). I suppose I'll just have to give it a little more time and hope it's indeed my body working itself out.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on November 30, 2011
at 12:53 AM

*I certainly hope the hypothesis is correct, rather... I swear I'm not dyslexic :)

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 30, 2011
at 01:01 AM

I agree with Laura. You were skinny fat before, now your body is being cautious because of the "famine" you just survived. Eat healthy, be active and enjoy!

Cd61bdabc3cc5fad501cefa0d19c663e

(388)

on December 04, 2011
at 06:34 PM

Are you actually gaining weight in your midsection though? Or just having trouble losing it?

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 03, 2011
at 09:48 PM

Oh... one thing I did miss here with your second point – almost all of my fat is in my belly. Even when I was doing the vegan thing and was at a weight of 152... I still had a belly. I couldn't explain how that happened. Skinny everywhere else, but still had a pot belly that wouldn't budge.

1
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on December 01, 2011
at 11:39 AM

You haven't mentioned whether or not you do dairy, if you do, cut it out as whey and lactose is insulogenic. If you supplement with whey protein powder, that too will cause insulin spikes.

It's highly likely that your weight gain is muscle mass, but if your macros are higher on the carb side and on the protein side vs fat, that could cause fat gain.

The opposite could be true, you might not be getting enough calories and your body might be hanging on to it because it thinks you're starving.

Other issues, n6:n3 ratio (Chipotle is fast food, they don't use good oils), you might have stress of lack of sleep, thyroid issues, estrogen or xenoestrogen (BPA for example) etc., low testosterone, etc. all of these things can cause weight gain.

If it's n6, obviously cutting down on PUFA n6's will help, as well as adding n3 (just eat fish 2-3x a week, if you like sashimi, eat that as the n3's won't be oxidized by cooking.)

If it's stress, get enough sleep, meditate, take holy basil (aka Tulsi tea), cut down on caffeine.

If it's thyroid, try adding a little bit of iodine and see if you feel any better, or not. Don't over do it however as it can go the other direction.

If it's testosterone, Maca, Vitamin A, tribulus can help.

If it's estrogens, DIM can help, but fat itself can aromatize testosterone into estrogen, so you won't easily solve this until you remove the fat, though DIM will help with that.

If you really want to be sure of your progress, buy yourself an induction scale, one that not only measures your weight, which is a useless measure, but also measures percentage of body fat, muscle, bone and water. Note that these things are not very accurate, they may be off by 10-20%, but hopefully they're consistent enough so that you can get a view as to your progress.

I wouldn't worry about daily fluctuations, go ahead and measure on a daily basis, but write it down the results as well as what you did the day before, how your sleep was, whether you did any IF, whether you worked out, was it heavy or light, etc. Then look at the long term trends and see what affects fat loss vs gain.

Note that fat does weird things, it gets softer and squishier while retaining the same volume as it fills with water, then overnight it lets go the water and you drop 3-4lbs in a single day.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 04:49 PM

And as a reference - when I was vegan, I lost an incredible amount of weight in a pretty short time. From November 2010 to about May of 2011, I lost 65 pounds doing nothing but watching my calories, eating nothing from an animal (even honey), and running on the treadmill 5 days a week, 6 miles each. But over time, I felt a lack of energy, brin fog, etc... Decided to go Paleo because it just made sense to me, and instantly blew up the scale and clothes are tighter... but I feel way better. Could be muscle mass (I hope so!), but perhaps calories really do matter most, contrary to the claims?

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 04:43 PM

This is absolutely amazing, Raydawg - thank you! To answer a couple of your questions, I have been doing a little bit of dairy on Paleo, but not much. Splash of whole milk in the coffee in the morning (the dairy/coffee thing seems to be acceptable/unacceptable depending on which experts you read), occasional piece of cheese, but really, it's a minuscule amount. Was eating Paleo foods pretty freely for the first 1 1/2 monts, then when I started to get heavier and my clothes started getting tighter, I freaked and began cutting calories, while still eating paleo-approved foods (+dairy).

1
C00e493393828df34be65ddc25456c7c

(610)

on December 01, 2011
at 11:19 AM

You should know if you gained fat as you dont why don't you Post a headless pic of yourself in shorts and no top so we can see how you look.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 04:37 PM

Will do that later today - thanks for the idea!

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on December 02, 2011
at 07:11 PM

Yeah, weight doesn't matter. Looks do. :D If you look solid and lean, who gives a crap if you're 150 lbs or 200?

1
Ff8e370f494a4088c6cadca788c2766b

on December 01, 2011
at 03:17 AM

If you are worried about aesthetics then you have to keep in mind your macros. The thing with a lot of paleo eaters is that they overload on the fat snacks and coconut butter. Granted they are making better food choices, but most people have had great aesthetic results with Paleo/Zone. Our local Crossfit gym has done all kinds of nutritional challenges and the most effective for losing weight has been Paleo with an account of macros(paleo/zone-I believe Matt Chan has a video on it). Not so much weighing and measuring like a mad person. I personally do better with tracking my macros and eating mostly paleo food choices. Feeling good and losing weight.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:23 PM

So, what macros did you see the best success with? More protein than fat? Or vice versa?

1
449e19bbd371a87b653b9b8b56736005

(1567)

on November 30, 2011
at 12:51 AM

I honestly wouldn't worry about your weight. The 'ideal range' for your height is between 150-180 or so, which you're well within. If you feel great I'd be willing to say your body is recovering from your previous diet. Keep it up, don't stress about your weight, and your body will do the rest.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:22 PM

Thanks for the encouragement, Miriam! Just after reading all of the "wow - I *immediately* dropped pant sizes, lost crazy amounts of weight, etc...," it's a little cumbersome that I've gone in the completely opposite direction.

449e19bbd371a87b653b9b8b56736005

(1567)

on December 04, 2011
at 10:16 PM

One of the things that keeps my spirits up in my journey to lose - I tell myself, it took me 15 years to put this weight on, I have to at least give myself a couple years to get rid of it :)

1
94a4a87e3d2e1e9160b6ed77678b4bea

(1311)

on November 30, 2011
at 12:37 AM

Interesting. The one thought that popped into my mind after reading your post was that perhaps your body needs to heal itself in terms of making up for all of its lost nutrition - which your body was being denied on a vegan diet. Maybe you need to let yourself heal and then concentrate on weight. After you feel great you can think about the proportions of fats/proteins/carbs and other things such as IF.

Also - how do you feel? My weight loss has been slow on paleo but I haven't cared all that much because I feel fantastic. And again - do you feel leaner despite the scales telling you that you are heavier? Many people find that their body composition is different.

94a4a87e3d2e1e9160b6ed77678b4bea

(1311)

on November 30, 2011
at 03:03 AM

Oh and one other thing - are you eating much dairy? My weight loss stalls or I put it on with dairy - it was hard for me to give it up as i looooove cheese - but after I did things went more smoothly and i have reintroduced very limited amounts of it. Check out other posts on dairy.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on November 30, 2011
at 12:46 AM

Thanks for this! Re: how I feel – the wacky symptoms I felt as a vegan have all but disappeared. I had crazy low energy, an all day fog, and I was always, always hungry. I also had these bouts where my hands would turn cold, and my core temperature would get so low, I'd have to pump my car heater up to 80-degrees just to feel normal (even on not-so-cold days). I suppose I do feel a bit leaner overall, but it seems like that much weight gain is suspicious when I know there's no way I'm over-eating to the point where I'd gain 10-15 pounds in two months.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:20 PM

Yeah, dairy is something I've kept in the diet, albeit not a crazy amount. Maybe for the short haul, I'll try to limit it completely. All grains are out of my diet, which I'm hoping is most of the battle... but for my mental health, I'm not sure I could completely eliminate cheeses. They're so darn good, and seemingly one of the lesser offenders. But that could be me just being stubborn too ;)

0
5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on December 02, 2011
at 06:34 PM

Get your bodyfat tested. Either calipers or bodpod. Don't do the electro resistance one. See where you are at and test again in 3-6 months or so. See if it changes. Most likely it's muscle and not fat, but you need a baseline.

0
Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:15 PM

Half of that weight gain could easily be water, and as you say there's likely been significant rebuilding of lean body mass with the addition of protein.

With regards your new question, I think that paleo makes things a lot easier regarding hunger and cravings, but we still have a lot of habits to unlearn to stop eating unnecessarily. AFter all, even our best paleo food is still essentially available 24/7 with no physical cost. I think adapting food intake to lifestyle will get you where you want to go eventually, lean and healthy. ABeyond that, and it's entirely my opinion, but for me the logical way to burn extra fat in a hurry is to fast. That's what the fat is stored for.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on December 02, 2011
at 05:25 PM

Good call. Have done the Eat Stop Eat thing for a bit (fasting for 24 hours 1-2 days per week), and it's worked pretty well. I suppose with that example, it's a pretty strong argument for the truth in calories in/calories out being one of the main components in dropping fat.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 02, 2011
at 06:48 PM

It's the only time I have confidence that my body isn't able to adapt to lower calories and is forced to use reserves. Plus, I get a few days of careful and reduced eating afterwards so as not to waste the effort.

0
013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

on December 02, 2011
at 05:03 PM

I suppose another question I'd pose is this, since the advice seems to conflict a little bit: is it a combination of eating paleo (and not having as much hunger as with eating rice/beans/wheat/etc...) and trying to stay in a caloric deficit most days? Or is there actual truth in being able to essentially eat as much as you want, as long as it adheres to the paleo model? I'm definitely way less hungry between meals on this diet (was ravenous a lot of the time when I was eating grains) and it's easier to curb cravings... so is that the real x-factor? And the "move more, eat less" idea still stands?

0
3f3236d1f951d4b4c25eff387699a905

(554)

on November 30, 2011
at 01:01 AM

I'd steer clear from foods I can't stop eating, such as coconut haha If you look better and more toned/less skinny fat, I'd say it's a def. improvement. But if you've gotten fatter, it might be good to poke around with the macros. I feel best on a lot of protein. Also, if you feel you're eating a lot, give it some time and just eat as much as you want. Your appetite will decrease after some time.

013c756670ee6e1456893b5c335fccac

(165)

on November 30, 2011
at 01:13 AM

Hard to tell if I'm getting "fatter," per se... I can def tell I'm filling out a little more and obviously getting heavier, but if you saw me at my skinniest, you'd probably hope I was gaining some body mass. I don't think it's possible that I can be eating too much, and like most who've had success, I'm not all that hungry, but I do find myself eating about 3 times a day with perhaps a small snack occasionally. Maybe calories in/out does still matter a little more than we think, but the real paleo value is appetite suppression, hence *hopefully* listening to your stomach and eating less?

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