Gaining Weight With Raw and Vegan Foods

Since I started blogging last year, I’ve consistently been asked to write a post on how to healthily gain weight with raw and vegan foods. I’ve avoided the question so far, mostly because I think that people who have significant amounts of weight to gain or lose should be working closely with a medical doctor or an R.D. It’s not a process that should be guided by reading food blogs.

With that in mind, I thought I’d offer a few of my thoughts on ways to gain small amounts of weight with raw and vegan foods.

My experience so far has suggested that there are two groups of people who have a hard time gaining weight with vegan or raw lifestyles: the first is composed of people who simply need to eat more calories, and could use some tips on squeezing those calories in. The second includes people who are sabotaging weight gain efforts by clinging to restrictive eating patterns.

Obviously, it’s much easier to discuss the former group. If you’d like to gain some weight with vegan and raw foods (either because you’re quite slender to start with, or because you’ve lost weight since exploring veganism), the fundamental thing you need to do is eat more calories.

Weight gain is mostly a matter of calorie expenditure vs. intake. When I mention this, many people who eat plant based diets balk, and remind me that all calories are not created equal. I know this! The quality of the foods we eat contributes to weight release or storage, just as surely as caloric density does. (So eating a Big Mac will keep the pounds on far more reliably than eating six hundred calories worth of rice, beans, vegetables, and avocado.) And yet, when it comes to weight gain or loss, it’s the ratio of calories eaten versus calories burned that ultimately governs the process. How healthy a person feels will have to do with a lot more than calories–getting a high portion of vegetables, eating meals that are whole and unprocessed, etc. But if you want to gain weight, you’ll need to start eating more calories, either by increasing portion size, eating more calorically dense foods, or, ideally, both.

The goal is to do this without eating foods that are laden with sugar, low-quality fats, and simple carbs. Believe me when I say that this is far, far easier than it sounds! It’s a myth to think that weight gain necessitates junk food; it doesn’t. In fact, the following small efforts should point you in the right direction:

  • Make an effort to eat more fats. If you suspect that healthy fats make up less than 25-40% of your overall food intake for the day, you should try eating more. No, you don’t have to do this with a spreadsheet or a calculator: just do a quick mental comparison of how much fat you tend to eat (versus the whole bulk of what you eat), and see if the ratio could use a boost.
  • Seek our foods that are rich in calories, like nuts and nut butters, avocados, certain whole grains, and coconuts. These foods will easily add caloric density to your meals, making it easy to take in more energy without eating more food than you can stomach.
  • Snack on foods that are calorically dense. I recommend either a) calorie-rich snack bars (such as ProBars or Raw Revolution bars) or b) a nutrient dense smoothie. You can try making one with a banana, 2 tbsp nut butter, a smoothie infusion (such as the Vega brand), and fresh nut milk. Oatmeal is also great for tossing into smoothies! These snacks offer energy without too much bulk, and therefore make it easy to get more calories in.
  • Begin increasing the size of your meals. Try eating 50% more of each meal than you already do (so, if you typically eat a sandwich at lunch, eat a sandwich and a half; if you tend to have a cup of soup with a cup of quinoa, have one and a half cups of each). Over time, this will add up to positive results.

These tips make it easy for anyone to get more energy and nutrition in without junk foods or empty calories. You’ll simply be getting more nutrition, more of the time.

Of course, that advice is directed to men and women who are genuinely committed to weight gain. Unfortunately, many of the people who write to me about weight gain are sabotaging their own efforts, whether they mean to or not. They want to gain weight—or rather, they’ve been told they should gain weight—but they refuse to do what it takes to make it happen. Time and again, I hear from women who are “trying” to gain weight, but who seem riddled with counterproductive food phobias. They include:

  • Paranoia about eating a well balanced diet, or the exclusion of certain food groups ( e.g., “I’m scared of grains, “I’m scared of nuts,” “I don’t eat oils,” or “I can’t have any sugar”)
  • Religious adherence to food combining practices
  • Refusal to eat calorie-rich foods resulting from an imbalanced fear of “density” (I typically hear this from people who have become overly caught up in cycles of fasting or abstinence)

If any of those patterns describe you, I can only say this: weight gain isn’t likely if you’re fixated on abstinence or a terribly limited swath of foods.

Listen up kids: if you choose to be a vegan, you’re already limiting your diet more than a lot of people do. I think that my blog is a testament to the fact that eating a conscious vegan diet that includes a ton of raw food needn’t be limiting. As long as you’re making room for the major vegan food groups—veggies, legumes, grains, a bit of high-quality soy (fermented if possible), sea veggies, fruits, and nuts/seeds—you have no reason to suffer from unwanted weight loss. But if you begin slipping into a mentality wherein you fear all foods that aren’t vegetable juice, green smoothies, or avocados, you may quickly find yourself becoming thinner (or less vibrant) than you want to be.

I know plenty of high raw foodists who feel terrific eating two green salads and a smoothie each day. I’ve met lots of others who fail to thrive with those eating habits. If vegetables and juice are working well for you—if you weight is stable, your energy good, your elimination solid, and your health vibrant—well then, that’s terrific. If they aren’t working, you need to go back to the drawing board, and remind yourself that loving raw food should not mean sacrificing variety. I, for one, couldn’t get the kind of dietary balance I need if I didn’t eat grains, legumes, and a very moderate amount of soy in addition to all of the raw veggies I eat and juices I drink. Raw foods are the foundation of my lifestyle, obvi, but they don’t exclude everything else.

If you’re eating mostly raw but finding that you cannot keep your weight stable, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I eat enough? If I were to compare my energy (kcal) intake to what’s considered normal for my weight and height, would I be close, or very far?
  • Have I crossed off a ton of food groups that I used to eat?
  • Have I self-diagnosed a food allergy that may or may not be real?
  • Have I become fixated on food combining to a point where I simply can’t fit enough bulk into a meal?
  • Do I eat often enough? Do I routinely skip meals?

If you’re answering “yes” to more than one of those questions, you may need this wake up call: weight gain and severely limited dietary habits are mutually exclusive. Period. It’s not veganism that’s the culprit here, or raw foods: it’s a fear of variety and heft. More often than not, men or women who tell me that they can’t gain weight with vegan foods have reduced either fat or carbohydrate intake drastically; if not, they’ve severely reduced their portions. And weight gain won’t happen until those habits change.

Healthy weight gain tends to come slowly, and slowly, and then it happens quickly. So if you’re at the start of a weight gain journey, remember that consistency and effort will pay off with time and with patience. If you follow some of the tips above—more fats, more caloric density, more energy-rich snacks, and bigger meals—it should ultimately prove simple.

And once again, remember that, if you have a significant amount of weight to gain, these efforts alone may not be enough. Talk to your doctor about how you can expedite the process in a healthy way.

Hope this gives many of you the answers you’ve been looking for. Veganism shouldn’t mean wasting away, and in fact I hate to ever think that it’s synonymous in the popular imagination with waifdom. Eat well, eat with balance, and remember that raw foods need not preclude a varied approach!

Before I go, I wanted to mention that speaker bios for the HLS have been posted. Check out my awesome fellow speakers! I am so excited for August.


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  1. im on a strick plant base diet. beating cancer my question, i dont eat fat. ivw noticed im loosing weight fast. i was told no avacadoes or coconut oil, shouldnt i hv healthy fats?


    • I do absolutely recommend healthful fats to help arrest the weight loss and maintain your strength and vitality on your journey. If you have specific questions and are interested in nutritional counseling to address it, please feel free to reach out to me over email ( I’m sending good thoughts to you as you heal.

  2. Hi, I live in Bayside Queens (NYC and Nassau county). I’m 69 year old 5’11” male. For 5 years following a WFPB diet I weighed 160 pounds, which was fine. I have lost 13 pounds in unintended weight loss,over the course of about 8 months, and I can’t regain this weight no matter now hard I try. If anyone out there can recommend a medical doctor, who participates in Medicare, and has expertise in reversing unintended weight loss ( and some experience working with with vegans following a WFPB diet), who can help me regain healthy weight I would greatly appreciate your recommendation.

  3. I’m guessing these ideas might work for someone who needs to lose weight though is financially restricted to the point that they need more calorically dense foods to meet their caloric needs in general? I’m on SNAP and don’t have much wiggle room, this isn’t a matter of just not buying that coffee at Starbucks sort of situation (you can’t buy Starbucks coffee on SNAP anyway as far as I know). Though I want to start eating this way (either totally raw vegan or more raw) to get healthier first, though also hopefully lose weight so I can simply physically feel better that way as well. So I’m hunting for budget friendly high calorie or calorically dense raw vegan meal ideas.

  4. “you should still include some healthy carbs in your diet such as a variety of vegetables, nuts and seeds and/or beans and legumes along with non-starchy veggies and leafy greens.”

    Um, do you know that non starchy vegetables, leafy greens, and most nuts are not sources of carbs.

    And it is okay to cut out food groups, especially if you have certain food intolerances or allergies.

  5. So I have been vegan for almost a year and the scale is saying I’m under weight. I eat ALOT! Like more than my family combined. I feel like I actually overeat at each meal. I eat nuts or nut butter multiple times a day. I drink protein shakes. Protein bars. Eat pastas and breads. Tons of corn chips, vegan friendly chips of all kinds. I’ve even started adding dessert after my meals, like a few ok a lot of Oreo cookies or non dairy ice cream and I can’t put on weight. Anything suggested I’ve done. My family has even expressed concern about my weight which makes me eat more until I feel sick and still nothing really changes. When I’m not hungry at a meal because I’ve had a snack I make eat and eat. I typically weigh between 112-118. I’ve been 127 at my heaviest. I’m 5 ft 3 3/4 inches so basically 5’4” and I’m 103 sometimes 104 at the end of the day. I’d love some help gaining at least 10 lbs

  6. Now after 5 years i am changing to meatatarian.. becasue eating veggies and some fruits are not working.. 5 year ago i was 25 pounds from my goal weight so i got the bright idea i went on a raw fruit and veggie diet all vegan…no meat protients at all.. it was all raw organic veggies and fruit.. i was on it strictly two smooth blends a day about 8oz each and then a raw veggie dinner like avocado veggie spaghetti ect. in those three weeks i went from 225 to 345. i kept a diary of everything that went into my body and my dr said that at those i should have lost weight like mad.. she did not understand why and whats worse i was rushed to er with sever constipation to the point i was almost compacted. i stopped the full vegan and did fruit and veggies with 4 oz of meat i did lose some but not a lot. i have gotten down to 310. the entire time having hell with constipation even though i am eating spinage, kale ,beets daily. So this past week i decided to flip the entire thing around… for the first time i am off all stimulates for constipation. I am eating three meals a day and snack and in 24 hours i lost 15 pounds. what did i do ….. I have been eating NOTHING but Meat.. Be it chicken, beef,pork i eat as much as i like (about two pieces of meat i would say 8oz all together. and i have more energy, skin looks health my hair looks healthier.. i cannot understand it. its like my body is the opposite of everyone… that my body treats meat like veggies and veggies like meat…. HELP anyone ever hear of this?

  7. I am trying to increase my weight and find it tough for me. I have slightly less weight as require. I have found some useful tips from your content and these technique looks like I did not try before. After reading your ideas, I feel confident to gain weight. Thanks

  8. In your post, you recommended “high quality soy”. Any recommendations on where this may be found? Thanks!

  9. I DO have a LOT of diagnosed Food Allergies and Intolerances. I am allergic to soy, nuts, dairy. I am intolerant to most legumes, coconut, avocado. So would simply eating larger portions of raw vegan or cooked vegan diet still be enough to maintain or gain weight for me?

    • Hi Michelle,

      I’d need to know more about your situation before making any big generalizations, but I think that bigger portions and also more attention to calorie dense foods (in your case, oils and grains come to mind, as well as seeds if you can tolerate those) as much as possible.


  10. Hey. Thanks for the post…. I’m currently underweight and would like to bring my weight back to a healthy level again. While I consume some EVOO and nuts/seeds everyday and a half avocado every 1-3 days, there is little other fat in my diet. While I’ve considered supplementing with coconut oil, I’ve read many times that, even though it’s a fat, CO’s medium-chain fatty acids actually speed up metabolism and drive weight loss. Any thoughts on this? Thanks. –John

  11. Thank you for this post. I have been vegan for 15 years, am now in my mid sixties. Am in good health but a little on the thinish side. I see why. I don’t eat enough, or dense enough, or often enough. I am guilty of about 5 of the points you mentioned. Including missing meals because of rushing to do something else and having a strict food combining mentality. Eating a few pieces of fruit after aerobics and lifting weights is not going to work. Thanks! I appreciate the wake up info.

  12. I know you posted this a while ago, but it is very relevant to me now. I have unresolved digestive issues that have caused some disordered eating habits. like you said, im trying to gain weight but its all very scary for me. I eat a plant based diet and want to prove to my doctors that I can gain weight this way. I used to eat nuts by the handful but have had bad experiences feeling very unwell with so much dietary fat. So I’m trying to work out… should I up my carbs? Can I handle the fruit sugar (as I used to eat a low carb, low sugar paleo diet)? I don’t want to jump into anything but at the same time, its kind of do or die you know? I know you aren’t a doctor but any thoughts or experience would go a long way!

  13. My only question is how do I make juicing taste better. By taste I mean texture. I have the issue of “form”. What I mean is a carrot whole is tolerable for me to eat. Juicing a carrot, it’s a struggle to not vomit when drinking it. How do I get my brain to tell my body it’s the same thing! A vegetable or fruit is the same juiced or solid… I am gaining weight with a whole foods diet but without juicing it is impossible for me to have enough intake. I need on average 6500+ calories per day so juicing is VERY important. Any suggestions? I want to add ice cream (like Häagen-Dazs, only 5 ingredients) to the fruit and make a milk shake.

  14. Great & inspiring article! I’ve struggled with trying to gain weight in the past, but never before on a vegan diet. I suppose the same rules apply; 1)Eat more & 2) Lift weights. Though I’m already familiar with this concept, it helps to hear it again. Thanks for the inspiration!

  15. I’d like to add a thought or two about the above posting. I believe a third category exists (or at least a subcategory) of vegan folks that are looking to gain weight. Obviously, I’m addressing my own specific situation (but I don’t imagine myself to be alone).

    In short, I am a combination of: a person with an extremely fast metabolism (I have a difficult time gaining weight on a non-vegan diet), someone extremely exercise and training oriented (high caloric need due to heavy training volume).

    I would highly prefer to stick to a vegan diet to maintain my nutrition. However…. despite an already large intake of food, I’ve been consistently on the losing end of the scale over the past few years (no sudden losses, but a gradual and consistent drop). My training requires adequate caloric intake, but it is very difficult to meet with vegan foods. I fully understand that increasing intake will lead to gain…but in reality it isn’t always practical to have to eat 6-7 healthy meals a day.

    This is a round about way of saying…please understand that there are those of us out there that for healthy and practical reasons simply need higher density nutritious options because it’s impractical to eat gobs of high water content low caloric foods.

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  24. I need to gain 10 lbs or so, since I went vegan I’ve lost weight and I no longer look ‘healthy’. I don’t suffer from food phobias, but I have restrictions since I have an autoimmune disease and I have intolerance. I cannot eat soy, gluten, and corn. I also don’t eat sugar, except for what is naturally in fruit.

    I am actually studying for my certification right now in holistic nutrition, so I understand that in order to gain weight I need to eat more calories. That’s easier said than done, as I get rarely hungry, have no cravings and the organic produce I get is already so expensive, I can’t afford to buy more food.

  25. Another issue–underlying digestive health. I can keep my daily calories in an upper end of what works for me, but I can’t add that much food to my current meals, because my digestion will be even more overwhelmed than it already is. (I probably should buy even more avocados, though, those are easy to tuck away and digest. If only they were sold ripe!) I’m working with an ND but some aspects of gut healing just take time.

  26. On 10/01/2012 I am beginning a 90 day gain weight program (VEGAN). I am 65 yrs. of age very active and weigh 147 lbs. my best weight is 160, most functional. I am working with a nutrition coach, and spiritual guide. The point is that anyone can be a optimum health and happiness at any age and I am going to show you how in practical applicational terms. Diet, exercise, meditation, relaxation and devotional service. We are going to do before and during and after photos, and possibly an ongoing description of obstacles and helpful areas along the way….

    • Good for you!
      I am about to turn 45 and also on a vegan weight program. I don´t agree completely with author. I do way, way, waaaaayyyy better or minimum fats and pretty much all carbs (lot´s of fruit smoothies, bananas, dates, etc), rice, beans, potatoes, quinoa, etc. Also began recently to use hemp protein powder and seems to be a good thing. Oils are overrated. Been 40 days already without eating them and feel perfectly fine!

  27. What a great post! I am in this situation right now where I feel great, but I definitely look and know I need to gain at least 10 lbs. Unfortunately its a hard balance because I don’t want to give up how great I feel by trying to gain weight with processed foods. Its a tricky situation to unravel because I have multiple food sensitivities as well. Thanks for bringing attention to this since most of the time people are concerned with loosing weight you never get to hear the other end of the spectrum.

  28. I’m trying to re-gain the weight I lost after switching to veganism, and I guess in retrospect a lot of that should have been obvious to me. >.<
    But it wasn't, so thank you! 😀 (Also I was somehow unaware nut butter existed.)

  29. Thanks for article. not sure about the eating more fats, though. Won’t this increase my body mass index too mcu. My body mass index was too high some time ago because I ate way too many nuts!!!

  30. HI Gena: I stumbled across your blog and appreciate the article as well as your feedback. I’m one of those people who want and need to gain weight as I am naturally very thin and can lose weight-unfortunately-without trying. I would like to share this with you though: using the word ‘paranoid’ and sentences like ‘I can’t have sugar’ in the manner in which you did seems to be mocking those individuals who may have diabetes and allergies. You seem very smart and educated, it would be smarter to refrain from comments that appear to be making light of serious medical conditions. I fall into the category of people who have a variety of food sensitivities and allergies. And yes, they are confirmed. Your a pre-med student, if you lack sensitivity now, you’re not going to make a good doctor or even a good nutritionist for that matter. I actually met with a certified clinical nutritionist who shared your apparent bias and was not very helpful to me because she had them. When I heard her statements and read yours today, it actually makes me think that you’re just not educated enough to work with these specific issues and instead of gaining further knowledge you choose to make it the customers fault and not your own. Maybe the better approach would be to acquire more knowledge in these areas and if that’s of no interest to you than be honest in your line of work and refer your client/s to someone with better understanding and more empathy or with the blog refrain from these comments or topics. Just a note;The thing about choosing a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle is that it’s real easy to do so if you have no allergies, food sensitivites or health issues that may require a person to eliminate certain food groups, otherwise, you’d be just like everyone else.

  31. hi thanks for your great article, i have recently started a vegan diet and i am noticing i’m loosing weight which is not my intention. I just realise i need to eat more calories (nuts and grains). Thank you !!!

  32. I enjoyed reading your article for I am one of the few who either wants to gain weight or stay where they are. while on a plant based diet. The problem is i get many more weight loss sites than weight gain sites when I search..Though we are fewer than those who need to lose weight, we are still out here and we, too, need answers or help (however you want to put it)
    One may look at us and think we have no problems but we do and we(as I said earlier) want help
    On an earlier site’s blog I stated this.
    This an issue that seems to be being ignored and must be looked into and not forgotten. and thank you for including us.

  33. This is a great post. Previous searches I had done on this topic (long ago) would always direct me to sites saying that if you do not want to gain weight veganism is right for you, and I found that extremely frustrating.

    I do have a semi related question that you may or may not be able to help me with… My weight is in a relatively safe range (I mostly appreciate this post because information is a good thing to have, just in case I ever find myself in the situation of being underweight someday in my life), but I notice that my figure is changing a lot as a vegan. I’m losing a lot of my curvature, which has always been one aspect I’ve liked about my body. Even though I’m on the upper end of my safe-weight-range, I notice that I’m starting to be able to see my ribs on the upper end of my torso a little more clearly as time goes on. Is there anything you can suggest (or maybe there’s a resource you can direct me to, if you know one) to help me keep my curves? I really would like to remain beautifully Rubenesque as a vegan, but I don’t want to overdo things.

  34. This is an excellent post! Thank you for sharing and being real. Great info. Cheers ^_^.

  35. “But if you begin slipping into a mentality wherein you fear all foods that aren’t vegetable juice, green smoothies, or avocados, you may quickly find yourself becoming thinner (or less vibrant) than you want to be.”

    Ha ha, that used to be me! I was a 6′ male standing at around 125 pounds soaking wet for that exact reason. I started working out (heavy weight training, no cardio), adding chicken and fish to my diet until I could bulk up, then I started cutting it back off. It seemed to work for me. I think the key was eating so much that I thought “I’m going to get fat” and yet, I gained maybe 2 pounds a week if I were lucky. When you’re so thin, overeating does absolutely nothing negative to your body since your metabolism is like a 24/7 furnace. I’m now healthy, standing at about 165 if I had to guess. Good article.

  36. Thank you so much for the excellent information on how to gain weight.
    These are the best information I have found. I should be able to gain a few pounds now. Thank you again.

  37. Wow! This is VERY well written. The honesty and firmness speaks clearly. I am a vegan who is looking to gain weight and is not concerned about restrictions when it comes to foods. Thank you so much for this article….now, where’s the print button?

  38. I’m pleased Madam, thank you for writing this because I am very skinny and I am interested in going vegan/vegetarian right now. But I also had a goal to gain more weight this year and it seemed that a vegan diet would of not suited me.
    I think I’ll hold off on this vegan thing a bit, but I’ll gradually start to eat less meat as I go.

  39. I love this post, and I’ve just been reading some of the awesome comments.
    May I ask a stupid question? Which foods are the best to help gain weight but are also easy on the digestive system?

    I want to eat more calorie dense foods but my stomach freaks out if I have too many nuts (which is sad because I love them, especially cashews!). Thank you 🙂

    • Try to eat ‘raw’ nuts and nut butters that have been soaked to remove the enzyme inhibitors!

  40. This is the best post/article I read in ages about the issue of gaining weight. Truly great post Gena!

  41. Gena, I just needed to comment again and say I really adore how much effort you put on exploring all the sides, good and bad, of veganism and raw food diets. Your honesty evokes more honesty. When I first found your blog I was living in a cycle of disordered eating and feared EVERYTHING – and honestly reading your blog helped re-awaken a lot of my passion for food. Thank you.

  42. This was SUCH great post – I am currently trying to maintain or gain close to 5 pounds. I cannot tell you how many healthy fats I need to eat per day. I have been diagnosed with gluten/dairy/corn intolerances so it is hard to get those cals in without feeling like I’m so stuffed I could burst! Thanks for the great tips Gena!

  43. “The goal is to do this without eating foods that are laden with sugar, low-quality fats, and simple carbs. Believe me when I say that this is far, far easier than it sounds!”–
    This is so on point! As you know I did a bodybuilding competition in June as a high raw all vegan. Gaining weight, not just any weight, but ONLY lean muscle mass, while training, lifting, running, etc and chiseling one’s body is hard.

    It’s easy to gain weight, just drink a case of Bud and a bucket of wings (kidding) or I hear Duncan Hines frosting is vegan and there are tons of vegan cookies and such to eat..but anyway, one can load up on foods like that and you’ll probably gain weight, just not healthy lean mass.

    For the average person though, who’s not training at an elite level, I think raw vegan foods, i.e. dates, nuts, dried fruits, avo’s, coconut oil, etc…are super dense and one can easily gain weight on them IF you are EATING ENOUGH which is what you stress in your post. Amen to that!

    The view of vegans as sickly pathetic wasting away people is just not right! I hate it! I want to show everyone that you can be a true ATHLETE as a vegan, too.

    Regarding food allergies..I do hope that everyone realizes they DO EXIST for some of us. Everytime I feel like the consciousness of humanity is changing and that people accept that yes, they are real, well..then I fear that others think it’s just a smokescreen. Trust me, if you had what I have, or anyone did, they would not think it’s an exaggeration. Sadly though, many dr’s and western medical practices cannot accurately diagnose food intolerances so the patient is left to SELF-diagnose and do their own legwork. It’s a fine line, but I just want everyone reading this to know that for some people, our symptoms are horrific and awful and even if a MD doesn’t say, oh you have this, it’s so self-evident that you do type of thing.

    Super long comment..sorry but I am passionate about so many issues in your wonderful post, Gena!


    • A great comment, Averie!

      I’m in no way claiming that all food allergies, self-diagnosed or medically diagnosed, are bogus. I know well what so many of you suffer. I’m simply saying that a lot of them ARE used to cover up disordered behavior, or as a way of avoiding fear foods without being attacked.

      The very same goes for veganism, and for raw foods: many women DO seek out my particular lifestyle as a means of sublimating an eating disorder. Naturally, I fight all the time to show that not all of the women who eat the way I eat are doing so out of a fearful mentality (if anything, I try to show readers that this lifestyle was actually a part of my lasting freedom from phobic behavior, and made me MORE flexible). But the point is, I think we have a responsibility to talk about the possibility of various dietary habits serving as masks for troubled behaviors, and confronting the issue head-on.


  44. Once again girl a great post. Well said!!! We have been getting emails about this question and you nailed it. It took us awhile to start ‘eating’ some foods because we were scared of ‘gaining’ weight, but now that we are more aware and knowledgeable about foods it is much easier. We are also learning a lot about our bodies each day so that helps us feel more comfortable in our skin.

  45. Great post, Gena! As Bitt mentioned, I just blogged yesterday about a weight-gain related topic — how I packed on 8 lb of muscle in about 3 months while eating mostly raw and all vegan. I’ve never been underweight, and I didn’t need to gain for health reasons, but I wanted to be stronger.

    In addition to eating plenty of calorie rich, nutrient dense food, I started lifting heavy weights. I highly recommend that anyone looking to gain weight should a) eat more and b) pick up some weights at the gym and convert those extra calories and nutrients into strength and muscle 🙂

  46. Gena this is such a wonderfully written post. I know that this is going to be such a great reference for so many people 🙂

  47. love this post!!! I can’t believe when I was consumed in my ed I was afraid of fats. Love that I enjoy food. And this is great for people wanting to gain weight, most people who need to gain weight may eat ALOT but maybe are the wrong kinda foods [like certain veggies]. Love the way you write 🙂

  48. NO! No fasting…I agree. It’s dangerous, it triggers even more food fears, it wrecks the digestive system, and that “low” metabolism rate is just temporary, anyway.

    That said, loved this post, Gena. It’s quite frustrating not being able to get tips to GAIN weight, and I’m still in the process myself. I think another reason it’s hard for people (esp with ED) to gain weigh is because they (intentionally or unintentionally) sabotage themselves by eating TOO much bulky, low-cal foods…and I thought it was interesting that you raised that “self-diagnosis” of allergies…I see that often and it frustrates me to no end. I once sabotaged myself greatly, by only consuming a specific type of food. I got in high amount of calories, but only ingested certain foods (nuts, mostly), thus still sticking to an even stricter diet regimen, and was miserable, had poor digestion, and still lacked life and energy.

    • Sophia,

      I have to be delicate in what I say re: allergies, since so many people really do seem to have them. But I also see what I believe are a high number of self-diagnosed and phantom cases, wherein allergies are masking food phobia or a way of avoiding public meals, and it worries me.

      I’ve gone through weight gains about three times, and each time I did just that: all veggies (and, because it was pre-vegan, fat free yogurt and egg whites) and no density. I found that changing the ratio between veggies and calorie dense foods just a little was very effective, and it taught me how to structure a meal around density — a habit that has stuck 🙂


  49. Great post. I read something awhile ago on this subject and thought the answer that person gave was very interesting. Since I don’t have this problem, I can’t comment on how it works.

    The answer was to fast for 2-3 days. This resets your metabolism to a lower one so that you can gain weight easier. People after a fast can gain weight easier as your metabolism is lower.

    As I said, I won’t be trying this as I need to lose more weight, but am putting this out for anyone interested.


    • Nancy,

      I STRONGLY disagree, and I urge my Choosing Raw readers not to try this. Fasting for two days to lower your own metabolism is so deeply counterproductive, I don’t know where to begin! Many people who are underweight on raw diets are the way they are because of too much fasting and abstinence in the first place: continuing to fear and avoid food will only compound and deepen the problem. And what happens when food is reintroduced, and metabolism re-sets and speeds up? Does one fast again? Hardly an answer, if you ask me.

      Not to mention the fact that, if you are very underweight, there’s a good chance your body needs more real food, not the avoidance of it.

      Finally, I should note that fasting can be hazardous to some people’s bodies (not enough nutrition, and it results in weakness, depression, menstrual problems for women, etc), so I would say it’s especially poor thinking for anyone who is already too thin.


      • According to the research of Dr. Fung, a fasting researcher, fasting actually increases your metabolic rate.

    • Ive been thin my whole life, underweight. Seems to not matter what I eat! I have researched fasting quite a bit and from what I have read Im going to have to say I believe there is truth to health benefits of fasting, including resetting your body and being able to gain weight easier after a fast. Never be quick to say something definitely will or WONT work.. its worth your time to do extensive research. Different solutions will work for different bodies.

      • The biggest problem with this other than the fact that fasting is harmful to your health is that its completely false! Yes sure… you might gain weight quickly after a fast. BUT your most likely gaining back the water weight you lost while fasting, maybe a few extra pounds and YOU CAN NOT PERMANENTLY BREAK YOUR METABOLISM. It WILL reset itself. This is only an extremely short term solution.

  50. Wonderful post packed with helpful tips. That’s something I’ve been trying to balance lately because my appetite is increasing while training for a half-marathon.

  51. I’d say this is especially helpful for athletes. I’ve been training about 3 hours per day (I’m an endurance triathalete) and it can be REALLY hard to keep the weight on while eating a whole foods diet. Nut butter and dried fruit are my best resources for extra calories.

  52. Great tips! As you probably know, I’ve had experience in having to gain weight on a vegetarian diet. Peanut butter sandwiches and big smoothies were the keys to my success!

  53. Great post. I definitely do not have this problem, but I have heard people say that they tried being vegetarian or vegan but lost too much weight and went back to eating meat. In the future, I will send them this article.

    It’s interesting because before I went vegan, I definitely had this idea in my head that vegans were sickly-looking, very thin, maybe a little yellow, and somewhat on the way to death (I am the first vegan I ever met). And now that I’ve met a bunch of vegans, almost everyone is very healthy-looking and pretty much indistinguishable from the general population! Though our arteries look much better, I’m sure. =)

  54. I am very sad to not be able to see you in action at the summit! You will be so great! I will watch the webcast!

  55. Great tips as always!! It makes me sad when people equate veganism with wasting away. I was told this weekend by a family member that I was the healthiest vegan they’ve ever seen since all of the others they know are emaciated and waif like. I took it as a compliment – I’d like to show people that you can be healthy and vegan.

  56. I’ve never been in a “too thin” situation–it seems very hard with my body type, but when I had lost the most on a raw diet I was still very nutrient deficient. I wasn’t really eating enough heft and was not too thin but had deficiencies. Not healthy. I’d rather have a bit more weight but be healthier.

    I am also tired of the people in the raw movement that are obsessed with strictness and perfection. A few of the local raw foodists here are very much this way and fear cashews and salt like the devil! It’s over the top for me.

    Lastly, Camille just wrote about how she gained weight on a plant-based diet by lifting weights and eating more. Check it out here:

  57. Thank you! My husband is just built very thin, but he is in very good shape. He is always trying to gain weight, and when i decided to cut a lot of meat out of our lives, he started complaining about how he was going to lose weight now. I can show him this now!

  58. I love your blog, Gena 🙂 I’m not vegan or trying to gain weight, but I think there are elements of this post that speak to everyone. I’ve recently started training for a marathon and I’m trying very hard to balance activity with healthy fueling. When I’m running lots of miles, I eat nut butter like it’s my job. Hehe.

  59. Amazing post – each and every word. I’m really looking forward to meeting you/listening to you speak at HLS.

  60. I’m excited for you too! I have been through the process this past year of reworking myself into weight-sustenance mode, and I definitely understand the purpose of this post. The mindset is a tricky thing in the “second category” of people you discussed. Good to keep us all thinking 🙂 and I loved that you used obvi haha

  61. Great post, as ever. I especially appreciate the last bit – it’s very important to be honest with yourself about your hang ups and fears if you’re actually committed to making progress.

  62. These are all really good tips Gena…Eating raw is really difficult for me because of all of my food-intolerances and I realized what those intolerances were through eating more raw foods.

    It is hard for me to get in enough calories when I can’t eat soy or nuts of any kind. I try to get in a ton of grains and fats and that seems to keep my weight steady. It is still a challenge though!

  63. I do find myself in conscious weight gain mode a couple times a year. For some reason, I can’t get through a big writing project without losing 5 to 7 lbs. And from my experience, I will say that carbs work better than fats. I have found the best foods for gaining weight are bananas and mangos. Of course one banana or one mango won’t do the trick, but if I start making smoothies with three or four bananas, the weight will come back. Fats could work, I suppose, but the problem with fats, is they suppress my appetite. So I can make a big batch of pesto, great, but then I won’t want to eat again until late into the next day. I can gain weight eating grains too (even more quickly than fruits), but then my digestion slows down, and I get depressed, etc., and then I lose my appetite, so over the years, I’ve found it’s best to make limit my grain intake. The good thing about fruit carbs, is they digest quickly, so you can eat again in just a few hours. I also recommend Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss. I can easily eat half a container, and while it’s far from a health food, it’s vegan and yummy and will definitely pack on pounds.

  64. Great post, as always! I would love to read a post from you on how to deal with the rebound weight gain that comes from leaving behind overly restrictive eating patterns.

  65. Awesome post, Gena. I myself am not trying to gain (or lose) weight but this is really valuable info that I plan to share with my girlfriend who is. As always, thank you!

  66. even though i’m not looking to GAIN weight (rather lose weight) i think that this is extremely well-written and is also a good resource for people who are just trying to live a healthy lifestyle in the first place.

    thanks gena!