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Want to know how to gain weight as a vegan woman? This is the ULTIMATE Vegan Weight Gain Guide where I give you 7 tips on how to maintain and build curves while keeping a healthy plant-based diet.
⏱Reading Time: 13 minutes
Editor’s Note: This is not intended for people with serious underweight issues or eating disorders. If you’re experiencing any of the following I highly encourage you to seek professional help.
“I want to go vegan but I don’t want to lose my butt!”
This is what I used to think before I started my vegan journey. Through trial and error, I find out that vegan weight gain is more than possible. So the advice shared here isn’t theory, but REAL LIFE tips that actually work.
You can skip to my 7 Vegan Curve Building Tips Video if you rather not read through the article.
This article has been recently updated as of the year 2020 and this video was recorded in 2018 before the updates so there are more tips in the article.
My Body Transformation: Skinny Doesn’t Always Equal Healthy
On my About Page I share my body transformation from weight loss to weight gain on Meet Gina Marie. For this article, I will focus solely on my journey to gaining back healthy weight while on a vegan diet.
The Before Pictures
In the first two pictures, I weighed between 100 to 105 pounds (at my lowest I got down to 98 pounds!). My waist was 26 inches and my hips were 30 inches. I wasn’t fully vegan yet but I mainly ate a plant-based diet with the occasional fish, eggs, and chicken.
In the first picture specifically, my sister and brother in law were on a cross country trip and stopped to see me and were shocked at my physical condition. I was 98 pounds and hadn’t eaten in days under the guise of “fasting” yet again. I was dizzy even in that picture.
I became overly obsessed with being healthy, cleansing, detoxing, and being thin! I totally didn’t care about having a butt or not, my mind had shifted to “thin is in!” I would freak out about every piece of food and wouldn’t touch a carb to save my life. I was always tired from too low calories and a lack of carbohydrates plus I did not work out.
Please understand that I am NOT body shaming myself. Being naturally thin is perfectly okay! However, I was not healthy in that state and was FORCING MYSELF to be smaller so I had to make a change.
The Now Picture
The picture on the right is what I look like today. I am 100% full vegan! I fluctuate between130 pounds to 140 pounds. My waist is 30 inches and my hips are 40 inches. I started this weight gain journey not only aesthetics and health but because of a bet from a former co-worker. You can hear more about this story on the Brown Vegan’s Podcast.
It took a lot of trial and error to figure out how to gain my curves back in a healthy way while eating vegan as there were NO resources out there teaching this! (And till this day years later, there are still very few resources on this topic!) But now I feel I have a perfect balance between having curves but still being healthy and I’m now sharing that knowledge with you!
Why Do Women (and Men) Like Curvy Bodies?
Why do women want a curvy figure?
A desire to have more curves isn’t just about vanity, it is also science. Most women desire a curvy figure because it signifies youth, good health, and fertility. Most men are attracted to a curvy figure for the very same reasons. A curvy body states that you are properly nourished and are capable of nourishing another life.
So how do you make vegan weight gain possible? How do you build curves while on a meatless diet? On a very basic level, you consume more calories than you burn. Specifically below, I go into:
- what weight is,
- how to avoid unhealthy/unnatural weight gain,
- 7 specific steps on building curves while on a vegan diet, and
- vegan recipes for weight gain.
What is Weight?
Weight is our birthright. It validates our existence here on Earth. Just think of the phrase “it doesn’t hold much weight.” That is the same as someone saying “they don’t give it much proof of existence.” Most people who desire to gain weight, whether it is muscle or curves, have a desire to prove something or to be seen.
Avoid Unnatural/Unhealthy Weight Gain Methods
With the recent trend of surgically enhancing butts, it is easy to be tempted to take a quicker route to achieve your desired look. But not only is surgery risky, but it’s also expensive. Plus it looks rather odd sometimes. I highly advise against this route.
Another solution women opt for is eating all kinds of high-calorie junk food. In my Calorie Dense Foods article, I go into detail of why this is a mistake because you risk gaining weight in undesirable places along with health issues.
Don’t add waste to your body. The goal is to accomplish HEALTHY vegan weight gain. BUILD NATURAL CURVES that fit YOUR SPECIFIC BODY SHAPE and become healthier while doing so.
7 Vegan Weight Gain Tips
I broke these tips down into 3 sections: Diet, Exercise, and Mindset.
Part One: Diet
1. Eat Calorie Dense Foods
When I first started my vegan weight gain journey, I would literally stuff my face all day. A lot of times I would eat even when I was not hungry. That was until I discovered calorie-dense foods.
Related Content: 3 Types of Calorie Dense Foods
Calorie dense foods are high in calories, but the portions are small. They are awesome additions to add to a meal that might be low in calories like salads or green smoothies. Now we are not talking about junk foods like soda or fast food burgers. We are talking about foods that pack a lot of nutrition.
Examples include healthy high fat foods like:
- nut butters
- healthy oils
- nuts and seeds
If you try to increase your food portions right away, your mind will automatically reject that idea because you are not used to it. However, adding calorie-dense foods to your diet will give you a caloric boost without the double portions. This way you are easing your body into eating more without the overwhelm. You are literally training your appetite to increase.
Eventually, your appetite will naturally increase overtime, but for now, focus on quality, not quantity, and make every meal count.
2. Increase Your Protein Efficiency
A vegan talking about protein is NOT an oxymoron.
Protein is very important for your vegan weight gain goals. Protein is not automatically synonymous with animal flesh. Protein is the collection of 20 different amino acids; 11 of those are naturally synthesized by the body and the remaining 9 you must get from food sources. We call those “Essential Amino Acids.”
So what we really are acquiring are amino acids not protein per se and those amino acids are abundantly (and primarily) found in plant-based foods.
When I say increase your protein efficiency, I am not just referring to increasing the number of grams you consume. (Not entirely at least.) I am referring to the quality of the protein you take in that allows maximum absorption.
Animal protein contains uric acid and that alone puts a lot of stress and strain on the human body. Animal protein is also very fixed and complex. That means your body has to punch in for overtime hours in order to break all that down and obtain the individual amino acids needed.
However, most plant-based sources of protein are not as complex, meaning they are ready and available to use freeing up your body to have more energy for other things (like your next workout session). So while you are building your curves, you are actually getting more useful protein on a healthy vegan diet.
Examples of plant-based proteins include:
- nuts and seeds
- beans & legumes (this includes soy because soy is a bean)
- clean vegan protein powders
My favorite vegan protein powder is Organic Hemp Protein Powder. Hemp protein has given me great results and it’s affordable. Its content is 50% protein. It has all the 9 essential amino acids and it’s a great balance of omega 3s and omega 6s. It’s very easy to digest. I consume hemp powder in smoothies and I also use hemp seeds(link this) sprinkled in my salad at times. OK enough gushing over hemp, on to tip #3.
3. Consume “Curvy Carbs”
EAT YOUR CARBS!
I hope I said that loud enough. I coined the term “Curvy Carbohydrates” because they are CRUCIAL in your vegan weight gain goals, even more so than protein. In fact, protein needs carbohydrates in order to work.
If you are to starve your body of carbohydrates, especially after an intense workout, it will cause your body to use protein as a primary energy source (which is the job of carbohydrates). Over time, this can break down the muscle proteins and totally contradict the curves you are trying to build.
Yes, I know carbohydrates have gotten a bad rep. But carbs are NOT your enemy. They are your number one source of energy. The key is to get the RIGHT type of carbohydrates. Your carbs should consist mainly of whole foods of both simple carbs and complex carbs -not processed refined carbs.
I want to make this very clear…
- white pasta
- white bread
- white sugar, etc
are NOT the type of carbs I am talking about. Those are dead foods and extremely detrimental to one’s health. (And can cause havoc on your teeth). When I say carbohydrates I’m referring to vegetables, fruit, and grains.
Healthy simple carbohydrates digest quickly and only take a few minutes to fuel your body. An example of a HEALTHY simple carbohydrate is fruit. This is why you might see some folks eat a banana right before a workout because it gives them a quick fuel source.
Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest giving you sustainable energy throughout the day. Examples include:
- whole grains (rice, oatmeal, Kamut, etc)
- sweet potatoes
- baby red potatoes
- yucca root
- sprouted wheat or gluten-free bread
- gluten-free or whole wheat/sprouted wheat pasta
Remember carbohydrates are not your enemy if you are eating the right kind. Without a healthy amount of carbs, you will NOT build curves.
Part Two: Exercise
4. Strength Train
Strength training is the number one way to sculpt your body, achieve vegan weight gain, and build curves (naturally that is). Repeat after me; “muscles are curves, muscles are curves, muscles are curves!” Okay you get the point lol
Sprinters vs Marathon Runners
Marathon runners do not weight train. Their primary focus is to run far and fast for as long as they can. So when they are in the gym, their workout regimen consists of ….well, running.
On the other hand sprinters primary focus is to move with force and power. So their workout routine includes weight lifting which in turns gives their body more curves and shape. This is a prime example of why lifting weights is CRUCIAL in building curves.
“But Gina I do not want to get big and look like a man!” Lifting weights will NOT make you overly muscular. It’s very difficult for men to become super muscular without body enhancements and they naturally have testosterone. So we ladies have nothing to worry about.
Some of the best weight lifting exercises you can do to build curves include:
- donkey kicks
- hip thrusts
- leg press
- leg curls
When lifting weights make sure you lift heavy RELATIVE TO YOU. You will hear this “lift heavy” advice often, but what folks fail to mention is what’s heavy to me, is not necessarily heavy for you.
Do not go to gym squatting 100 lbs if you never even squatted 20 lbs. This is what I call “Ego Lifting”: when someone lifts a lot of weight they can’t handle just to “show out” in front of others. Practice the correct form first. I went from a 36-inch hip to a 40-inch hip NEVER lifting more than 40 lbs! How is this possible?
Because your body does not know “weight” by numbers. All it knows is tension and failure. You want to make every rep count and burn out your muscles. This is called “reaching muscle failure” and that is how it will grow.
Of course, as you get stronger you will require heavier weights for your muscles to actually work. But please START AT YOUR LEVEL. Challenge yourself yes, BUT NO “EGO LIFTING.”
A Brief Note About Cardio
Cardio is not the best for building curves however that doesn’t mean it should totally be ignored as it’s extremely healthy or overall health. If you want to keep your curves while doing cardio do exercises like stair stepper, elliptical, or walking on an incline at a slower pace on a treadmill while activating your glutes!
Part Three: Mindset
5. Have the Right Vision
Where your mind goes, your body follows. If you believe in your mind that you can accomplish vegan weight gain your body will follow suit.
The reason I was able to keep going on my journey is that I had a STRONG belief that I could build curves without consuming animal products. PLUS I was determined to prove naysayers wrong. That mindset motivated me to do the necessary actions needed (dieting and exercising) even when progress was slow. Have a vision for yourself how you desire to be and always keep that image constantly in your head.
Also, stay positive.
You cannot hate yourself into a new body. You cannot look like anyone else. But you can be the best version of YOURSELF. You can be the curvy version of YOU. Transformation, whether physical or otherwise, comes from within. Your cells respond to all stimuli, that include the words you speak. So change your mindset! Be kind to yourself. Use your mind to visualize and hold the belief that you can accomplish your goal!
6. Rest and Relax
Rest is an overlooked factor in this “grind till I get it’ society.”
They even have a hashtag for it,
#TeamNoSleep. This is a HUGE NO-NO. The recovery process is essential in vegan weight gain.
Too much stress in the body and in mind can lead to burning out. You have to make time to RE- CREATE YOURSELF (aka recreation). Life can be very difficult. On top of our everyday issues, transforming something as personal as your body can be overwhelming.
If you are overstressed, you could potentially kill your results because foods do not digest well when you are stressed. Undigested food means nutrients can’t properly nourish your body. Gains can’t grow in a space where there is restriction. Relaxation allows your mind to be at ease which allows your muscles to be in that relaxed state.
Get enough sleep. Book a full body massage. Engage in activities that bring you peace and joy. Make rest and relaxation a CONSISTENT part of your routine.
7. Be Patient and Consistent
Yes ladies, patience really is a virtue.
I know how frustrating it is to want something and not have it especially in this internet instant society we live in today. Everyone is selling “21-day booty programs” and “7-day shrink your waist wraps.” All lies and all gimmicks that do nothing but leave you feeling as if something is wrong with your body.
It also creates a sense of desperation. But the truth is to achieve your weight gain goals, you must be patient and WAIT. Nothing can be built overnight including your beautiful body.
Thoughts and mental images have the capacity to transform your feelings in an instant. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the physical realm. It takes a repeated amount of effort OVER TIME of thinking, visualizing, eating, exercising, and recovering. Just good old fashion consistency, discipline, sacrifice, and hard work. Those things NEVER go out of style.
I won’t do you a disservice and sell you hype that you can grow 3 inches in your hips in 30 days. You will not find any microwave fads here. Just honest advice on what it takes to really build the body you desire.
What keeps you patient is enjoying the process. Enjoy the new foods you discover. Enjoy the new muscles you can now feel in your body. Enjoy feeling more energized and fit. The results will take care of themselves.
Also, be consistent. Anyone who has embarked on a journey of body transformation will tell you it takes consistent work to see some major results. Don’t workout 1 day a week and then take the next 3 weeks off. Don’t eat what you’re supposed to one day and then not get the right amount of calories the next. It’s the daily habits that build on top of each other that will help you reach the results you’re looking for.
Bonus Tip: The Importance of Digestion
Digestion isn’t often discussed in weight gain circles but it’s IMPORTANT because you want to make sure the food you are consuming is actually getting absorbed. What good is eating a meal high in protein if your body isn’t absorbing that nutrient? When you improve your gut chemistry, you increase your chances of good health and successful healthy weight gain.
Some ways to improve your digestive system are:
- Up Your Probiotics: Particularly stuff like homemade raw sauerkraut, kimchi, or kefir.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking enough water helps you digest foods high in soluble fiber (like beans) and break down food so your body can absorb nutrients.
- Drink Smoothies: Smoothies are pre-chewed food so they are easier to digest. Plus you can add a lot of calories to a smoothie which is good for curves.
Vegan Recipes for Weight Gain
Here’s a list of recipes for you to incorporate in your vegan diet for healthy gains.
- Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
- Parsley Smoothie
- Fried Oyster Mushrooms
- Lentil Meatballs
- Vegan Lentil Loaf
- Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
- Lemon Tofu Sheet Pan Dinner
- Creamy Kamut Alkaline Pasta
- Vegan Protein Salad
7 Vegan Curve Building Tips Video
NOTE: This video was recorded and uploaded in 2018 when I mentioned I been vegan for 6 years. As of the year 2020, I have been a vegan for 8 years.
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Update Notes: This post was originally published on February 20, 2018, but was republished with new photos and new tips on February 27, 2020.
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