"severely" underweight since going vegan?

Oatmeal32

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Hello all,

I have some concerns over my weight dropping since going 100% vegan 1 month ago; perhaps this is something that I should or should not be alarmed about.

Before going vegan (Whole Food Plant Based [Nutritarian] to be specific), I was already slightly underweight at 117 pounds. I am 5'4 and 27 years old, female.
I used to eat a lot of processed foods, cheese, eggs, and a few lean meats before transitioning. I am eating a lot of new foods; I rarely ate veggies and barely any fruit before, certainly never ate any legumes, vitamins, or flaxseeds.

Since eating a more nutritious and high-fiber diet, I now weigh 105 pounds. I use Cronometer to make sure to eat the right amount of calories everyday (2100 calories for my BMI) and I drink lots of water throughout the day.

I make sure that I am eating the right foods and I keep a food diary... If anyone is interested seeing in my food diary.

I follow Dr. Greger's "Daily Dozen" and cut out oils as well after doing heavy research, which has had a very positive impact on my mysterious heart palpitations that I've had since childhood. I have a high-carb, low fat diet and I eat lots of healthy fats such as avocados and nuts in moderation. I supplement B12 and vit D. The only foods I don't eat much of in the "Daily Dozen are beans and legumes, because I've always had a strong aversion to the texture of beans and it is hard for me, but I am always working my way up to eating more.

According to the American Dietary Association, my BMI is considered severely underweight. I also know that these ADA studies are funded by the meat and dairy industry. I am also aware that the so-called "normal" BMI rate in America has been adjusted to fit the "normal" obese individuals of America who eat the (SAD) Standard American Diet high in meat and dairy. I do not have a vegan-friendly doctor where I live and every doctor I've researched on this issue has said that I need to start eating animal fat to gain a "healthy" weight.

Physically, I feel fine! I have more energy before going vegan, I've been happier, I've been exercising more (moderate cardio exercises 4 times per week), and my heart palpitations have reduced. My immune system is strong. My headaches have also started going away. My digestion is a lot more regular as well than it has ever been in my entire life. I have a good appetite.

My theory is that since I've cut out the bad oils and bad fats and have been eating high fiber foods, that my body has been getting rid of the bad fats that I used to eat and is now stabilizing on this new WFPB diet.

I've also been under a lot of stress since getting married for the first time 6 months ago into a pretty difficult marriage and I've been worrying about a lot of things, which I am trying to get under control. I know that stress isn't good at all, but I still remain a pretty laid-back and logical person.

My goal is to begin working out more to gain a healthy amount of muscle when it gets warmer outside in the spring to resolve this issue since muscle weighs more than fat.

Is this something I should be worried about? I would appreciate any advice on this potential issue.

Thank you for your considerate input in advance. <3
 
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Congrats on going WFPB! That's an admirable and worthy commitment.

One observation regarding you tracking calories. Is this to ensure you don't eat too many calories, or you get enough?

Mama Chickpea had the same problem after we switched and was not eating enough, so we had to step up the game for her. The big deal was incorporating limitless healthy fats into our diet. Although ours include oils, avocados and nuts/seeds are a big deal.

Something I noticed personally after switching was that my body burned calories more efficiently, so to maintain and gain I had to increase my caloric intake. I would suggest resetting your baseline from 2100 calories to something higher (2300-2500 depending on rate of weight loss). If it's a struggle to get all the calories you need, incorporate those easy snacks (seeds/nuts) throughout the day to help shore up your calorie count.

If you find something that does work, please let us know! I'm always interested to see what works for people.

Good luck!
 
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Oatmeal32

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Congrats on going WFPB! That's an admirable and worthy commitment.

One observation regarding you tracking calories. Is this to ensure you don't eat too many calories, or you get enough?

Mama Chickpea had the same problem after we switched and was not eating enough, so we had to step up the game for her. The big deal was incorporating limitless healthy fats into our diet. Although ours include oils, avocados and nuts/seeds are a big deal.

Something I noticed personally after switching was that my body burned calories more efficiently, so to maintain and gain I had to increase my caloric intake. I would suggest resetting your baseline from 2100 calories to something higher (2300-2500 depending on rate of weight loss). If it's a struggle to get all the calories you need, incorporate those easy snacks (seeds/nuts) throughout the day to help shore up your calorie count.

If you find something that does work, please let us know! I'm always interested to see what works for people.

Good luck!
Thank you for your thoughtful reply!

Do you think this is something I need to be concerned about health-wise? When should I be concerned about my weight?

Also, is Mama Chickpea doing better and has she put on more weight?

I just looked at Dr. Greger's response to gaining more weight in which he says the following:


"As explained in my video Eating More to Weigh Less, the key to healthy longterm weight loss is understanding calorie density and eating low calorie-dense foods. When applied in reverse, the concept of calorie density can be used to gain weight. In other words, you would want to eat more foods that are more calorie dense. The idea is to not just add a single one of these foods, but to add several foods into your diet until the amount of calories you take in exceed your energy needs. Examples of higher calorie dense foods appropriate for a whole food plant-based diet include: nuts, nut butters, dried fruits, tofu, avocados, and whole grain breads/crackers/dry goods. Eating more cooked food than raw also helps with calorie intake.

You can incorporate several of these relatively healthy foods into each meal and snack, and eat primarily cooked foods. For example, a person wanting to lose weight will want to use vegetable-based sauces, but you would use nut-based sauces. While a person wanting to lose or maintain weight would include a lot of raw food, say big salads with some lemon juice as the dressing, you might eat smaller amounts of raw food and far more cooked veggies, beans, and grains.

While that’s the answer to your actual question, I would step back and ask, “Why do you want to gain weight?” Are you hoping to gain more fat? Gaining fat isn’t generally healthy unless you are severely fat deficient, which is fairly rare. On the other hand, if you want to gain more weight without gaining fat, then what you are talking about is gaining muscle, and that involves more than just changing your diet … it includes incorporating weight-bearing exercises into your workout regimen."
 
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That depends on your body fat percentage. Most people tend to get stuck on numbers like weight and BMI when they have no true indicator of body composition. Body fat percentage is much more helpful in this regard. Anything under 12% is getting less healthy, while 6% or lower is a major cause for concern. Based on your height, your weight may not be too bad depending on how your body composition is. Try and determine your body fat percentage for a better idea.

Anything above 12% could be considered healthy, but that also depends on factors such as breast size in women. If you are larger in that area, you may want to push more towards 20% to account for that.

As for Mama, yes, she has stopped losing and has been doing well maintaining.
 

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Hi! (again). and Happy Birthday.

here is some good news.

Your weight is fine!

I'm pretty sure it was Dr. Fuhrman in Eat To Live (or it might have been Dr. Gregar in How Not to Die - i read them both last summer and they have started to blend together in my memory) that discussed proper weight and the "recommended" amounts from everyone including the ADA. His conclusion is that they are all biased up. The problem is that they are determined by the weight of Americans and averaging. And Americans are too fat.

So your goal should be to be "slightly underweight".

Just look at all the big name Vegan doctors. They are all skinny.

Just a little side note. Mr. Chickpea mentioned his body "burned calories more efficiently". It might be nitpicking on my part but we don't burn calories more efficiently - but we can use calories more efficiently. (and I'm pretty sure efficient is the wrong word here, too).

As our weight gets lower so does our BMR. So we burn fewer calories each day. Also as our weight goes down, the number of calories to walk a mile, or stand for an hour, or anything where we are holding ourselves up (so not riding a bike) will also go down. What is nice about this little factoid is this: our bodies are set up to reach an equilibrium. Get skinny - burn less calories - gain weight. Gain weight - burn more calories - lose weight. As long as the number of calories consumed remains the same.

Now to give credit to Mr. Chickpea, if you are exercising - like in a sport or activity - as you do it regularly, and get better at it, you do burn fewer calories cause your body is more efficient at that activity. Like a good tennis player takes fewer missteps. or a dancer is more fluid. A skier has better form.

Ok. one more caveat. For young women. Athletic young women who are skinny (think marathon runners, ballerinas, - not sprinters, tennis players) have issues with the Female Athletic Triad. It seems like a Body Fat Percentage (BF%) of under 18 is a threshold. This is probably not something you need to worry about. It's not just the calories or body fat - it's also the high level of exercise. But it might be evidence that a BF% of less than 18 (for women) is not ideal.

Here is a good home technique to assess your bf%

https://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/body-fat-percentage-calculator
 
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Just a little side note. Mr. Chickpea mentioned his body "burned calories more efficiently". It might be nitpicking on my part but we don't burn calories more efficiently - but we can use calories more efficiently. (and I'm pretty sure efficient is the wrong word here, too).

As our weight gets lower so does our BMR. So we burn fewer calories each day. Also as our weight goes down, the number of calories to walk a mile, or stand for an hour, or anything where we are holding ourselves up (so not riding a bike) will also go down. What is nice about this little factoid is this: our bodies are set up to reach an equilibrium. Get skinny - burn less calories - gain weight. Gain weight - burn more calories - lose weight. As long as the number of calories consumed remains the same.
Semantics. :p

Not quite sure how to word it, maybe they are burned quicker? Somehow, my slowing metabolism was semi-reversed/slowed to allow me to actually burn. That's progress that I will take nonetheless.

Sometimes there are way too many factors to provide an accurate summation. As you brought up BMR.
 

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Semantics. :p

Not quite sure how to word it, maybe they are burned quicker? Somehow, my slowing metabolism was semi-reversed/slowed to allow me to actually burn. That's progress that I will take nonetheless.

Sometimes there are way too many factors to provide an accurate summation. As you brought up BMR.

Yeah, I know. It was nitpicking.
 

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Hi! (again). and Happy Birthday.

here is some good news.

Your weight is fine!

I'm pretty sure it was Dr. Fuhrman in Eat To Live (or it might have been Dr. Gregar in How Not to Die - i read them both last summer and they have started to blend together in my memory) that discussed proper weight and the "recommended" amounts from everyone including the ADA. His conclusion is that they are all biased up. The problem is that they are determined by the weight of Americans and averaging. And Americans are too fat.

So your goal should be to be "slightly underweight".

Just look at all the big name Vegan doctors. They are all skinny.

Just a little side note. Mr. Chickpea mentioned his body "burned calories more efficiently". It might be nitpicking on my part but we don't burn calories more efficiently - but we can use calories more efficiently. (and I'm pretty sure efficient is the wrong word here, too).

As our weight gets lower so does our BMR. So we burn fewer calories each day. Also as our weight goes down, the number of calories to walk a mile, or stand for an hour, or anything where we are holding ourselves up (so not riding a bike) will also go down. What is nice about this little factoid is this: our bodies are set up to reach an equilibrium. Get skinny - burn less calories - gain weight. Gain weight - burn more calories - lose weight. As long as the number of calories consumed remains the same.

Now to give credit to Mr. Chickpea, if you are exercising - like in a sport or activity - as you do it regularly, and get better at it, you do burn fewer calories cause your body is more efficient at that activity. Like a good tennis player takes fewer missteps. or a dancer is more fluid. A skier has better form.

Ok. one more caveat. For young women. Athletic young women who are skinny (think marathon runners, ballerinas, - not sprinters, tennis players) have issues with the Female Athletic Triad. It seems like a Body Fat Percentage (BF%) of under 18 is a threshold. This is probably not something you need to worry about. It's not just the calories or body fat - it's also the high level of exercise. But it might be evidence that a BF% of less than 18 (for women) is not ideal.

Here is a good home technique to assess your bf%

https://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/body-fat-percentage-calculator

Thanks for the reply, Lou,

And thank you for the birthday wishes. :innocent:

Ok, so I measured my BF% based on the link you've given me and these were the results (I had to round off adjust 2 measurements because the system wouldn't take half sizes in decimal format):

"Your body fat estimates are:
15.85% using the U.S. Army body fat algorithm, or
16.99% using the U.S. Marine body fat algorithm, or
15.22% using the U.S. Navy body fat algorithm, or
25.41% using the formula developed by the YMCA.
"

Should I be concerned?
 
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From personal experience, for the Marine Corps estimate, 26% is considered overweight. You're not near it and are in a zone that would be considered "fit." Personally, I wouldn't be concerned, but it never hurts to get a second opinion. ;)
 
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From personal experience, for the Marine Corps estimate, 26% is considered overweight. You're not near it and are in a zone that would be considered "fit." Personally, I wouldn't be concerned, but it never hurts to get a second opinion. ;)
Thanks for your input. I'm a little confused--I thought under 18% for an average female was something to be concerned about as stated above in the previous replies?

Update: According to the Marine's standard, it looks like I'm 5 pounds underweight since their minimum is 110 for a 64 inch tall female. Being 5 pounds under doesn't seem that bad in perspective.

:)
 
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Thanks for your input. I'm a little confused--I thought under 18% for an average female was something to be concerned about as stated above in the previous replies?

:)
That depends on your build. Having personal experience with the way the Marine Corps measures body fat, you're fine. Especially if one of those puts you at 25%. In any of them, you don't fall into a worrisome range yet. If any of them dropped into single digits, then absolutely, there's some concern there. Specifically, I said "Anything under 12% is getting less healthy, while 6% or lower is a major cause for concern."

Unfortunately, as you can see by the variance in algorithms, there is no set 'percentage' until you get a true test from a medical professional.
 
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Update: According to the Marine's standard, it looks like I'm 5 pounds underweight since their minimum is 110 for a 64 inch tall female. Being 5 pounds under doesn't seem that bad in perspective.
All the Marine Corps wold do is put you on a "diet" to fatten up until you gained 5 pounds and have you work out to bulk up muscle. They usually aren't concerned with that.
 

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All the Marine Corps wold do is put you on a "diet" to fatten up until you gained 5 pounds and have you work out to bulk up muscle. They usually aren't concerned with that.
Gotcha.

Thank you for your input. It really helps to put things into proper perspective.
 
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I'm seeking opinions from doctors on other forums, and someone said that I could be seriously in danger and have hyperactive thyroid or diabetes.

I don't think this is true because I got a physical 6 months ago before going WFPB and my thyroid is fine. The doctor said I didn't need a blood test because I was healthy. My blood sugar has always been a little high but not in the diabetic range as far as I'm concerned.
 

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Should I be concerned?
No.

I don't know why the YMCA is so far off the rest, but I think the rest all put you squarely in the slightly underweight category. which is pretty good. Probably just where you want to be. I'm pretty sure that the 18% limit is just for athletes because of the Female Athlete Triad. Oh. And just recalled that anorexics also get FAT - but they might be gym bunnies as well.

The only other issue might be if you lived in a very cold climate or a place that occasionally had famines. in that case, you would probably want to have more fat.

This article also accounts for age. Check it out. You are almost ideal.
https://www.builtlean.com/2010/08/03/ideal-body-fat-percentage-chart/
Check out the comments too. some more insights there.
 

Lou

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And now you have a good reason to include guacamole, chocolate, and cashews in your meal plan.

or try out this avocado smoothie and let me know if its any good.
https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/ultra-creamy-avocado-smoothie-3363132

or the Tom Brady Avocado Ice Cream. It's vegan
https://www.boston.com/sports/new-england-patriots/2017/09/15/how-to-make-tom-bradys-famous-avocado-ice-cream

And since its your birthday
https://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2017/07/24/vegan-chocolate-cake-recipe/
 

Oatmeal32

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And now you have a good reason to include guacamole, chocolate, and cashews in your meal plan.

or try out this avocado smoothie and let me know if its any good.
https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/ultra-creamy-avocado-smoothie-3363132

or the Tom Brady Avocado Ice Cream. It's vegan
https://www.boston.com/sports/new-england-patriots/2017/09/15/how-to-make-tom-bradys-famous-avocado-ice-cream

And since its your birthday
https://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2017/07/24/vegan-chocolate-cake-recipe/
Awesome! Thanks, Lou! :)

I won't worry about it then.

I still want to understand why I lost weight, though. It sounds like you are saying this is because of the WFPB diet + caloric burning through exercise as you explained very well above. Is this correct?
 
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According to the American Dietary Association, my BMI is considered severely underweight.
This is the part that sticks out right away. I am 5' 2", 98 lbs. I'm 53 and really don't exercise like I should, or I'd likely weight more because I'd have more muscle mass. I'm just fine for my height and age and activity level. I'm sure that by the ADA I'd be "severely underweight" as well, but screw them. I just came from the doctor and they didn't even blink an eye. I'd highly recommend stepping away from the numbers and just *be!* ....As for why you lost weight - it was probably weight you didn't need, cutting out processed food (especially) is going to do that. :)
 

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Awesome! Thanks, Lou! :)

I won't worry about it then.

I still want to understand why I lost weight, though. It sounds like you are saying this is because of the WFPB diet + caloric burning through exercise as you explained very well above. Is this correct?
I'm not sure either. I've seen your Cronometer tables and it sure looks you eat adequate calories.

My best guess is that all these numbers are just guestimations anyway. The tables say that a person of your height and weight and exercise level burns x numbers of calories a day. but that is based on averages of real people. You could easily be a standard deviation (or two) above or below average. Maybe that results in a ± of 10%. That could be 200 calories a day or one pound every other week.

I have the same problem in reverse. I'm supposed to be able to eat 1900 calories a day and lose weight. But I have to eat under 1600 to lose weight.

I think the tables and calculators just give us a good place to start and then we just have to make adjustments.

Oh, by the way. If you wrote those measurements down, put them in a safe place. It would be fun/interesting/informative to come back and compare them in 6 months. or 10 years. (I just had a Mrs. Maisel moment - she kept a book and recorded her measurements religiously).
 

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Thanks for your input. I'm a little confused--I thought under 18% for an average female was something to be concerned about as stated above in the previous replies?

Update: According to the Marine's standard, it looks like I'm 5 pounds underweight since their minimum is 110 for a 64 inch tall female. Being 5 pounds under doesn't seem that bad in perspective.

:)
Yes it is something to be concerned about it. I don't agree that your goal should be to be underweight, in fact I'm a little disturbed that anyone is saying this to you. 105 is okay for someone who is five four, but it is pretty low, and depending on your bone structure it could be too low. I don't know how big or small your frame is, and you should also know that muscle weighs more than fat.

You can stop getting your period if you go below 18 percent body fat, in fact my friend who had severe anorexia, her doctor made sure she stayed at 18.5. He wanted her at 19 but they compromised on 18.5, just to put this in perspective. The Marines is full of women who may have slightly lower body fat due to being athletic and muscular. The United States military is not a place I look to for guidance on anything, but I do think 18 percent is the line.

You may not be eating enough, or may not be eating enough fat for your activity level. You should always factor in activity level, not just body size. Good luck.
 
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