Why Your Belly Is Getting Bigger On A Vegan Diet (Carb-Sensitivity)

man-with-big-bellyOne of the benefits of eating a vegan diet is weight loss. Weight loss is almost effortless for some who start eating a vegan diet. The pounds fall off and you feel great.

You never thought that after eating a vegan diet for nearly a year that you would have a problem with your weight, but for some reason you are gaining weight in your midsection.

Stubborn belly fat rears it’s ugly head and you are confused because you are eating a vegan diet, doing all the right things, but you don’t understand why your belly is fat.

Today you learn why your belly is getting fat while eating a vegan diet and tips to help you get rid of the belly fat.

My Big Belly Story

I started my experiment with eating a vegan diet in 2008 and in the beginning everything was great. I have had my ups and downs, but over the years, I have maintained a healthy weight.

Let’s fast forward to 2013. I experimented with eating a starch based vegan diet and this is the time when I noticed that my belly started getting fatter.

It was this year when I finally understood why my belly got bigger and why I felt bloated and fatigued after eating certain foods.

I eliminated those foods, changed my diet and as a result I no longer have bloating or feel fatigued.  I am starting to see my abdominal muscles take form.  Sticking with a fitness routine definitely makes a difference.

The Vegan Diet

The vegan diet is a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, beans, and grains.  Some vegans exclude extracted oils from their diets, while others include oils in their diets.

Most of the foods in a vegan diet are carbohydrates; seeds and nuts are fats.

“Low-fat diets tend to be high in carbs because protein in nature usually comes bound with fats. Since you go low on the fats and proteins you eat high carb by default (Schenck, Beyond Broccoli, p. 75)

Sensitivity to Carbohydrates

Some people are sensitive to carbohydrates and it does not matter the source of these carbohydrates.

“Carb-sensitive” people, after consuming simple carbohydrates and sugars, experience a rapid spike of blood sugar that triggers, in turn, a spike in insulin and associated metabolic cellular messengers and leads to negative consequences: the body receives the signal to store, not burn fat; and the spike in insulin causes a rapid drop in blood sugar; this in turn creates uncomfortable symptoms like fatigue, irritability, headaches, and brain fog. These symptoms stimulate the individual to seek even more carbohydrates and sugars to remedy the feelings associated with the rapid drop in blood sugar.” (Schenck, Beyond Broccoli, p. 75) (Actual Source:  Hyman, Ultimate Metabolism, p. 51)

Get Rid of the Belly Fat

Here are some tips on how to get rid of belly fat:

  • decrease the amount of high glycemic (spikes blood sugar) foods that you eat (certain fruits, sweeteners, tubers, certain root vegetables, grains, certain beans)
  • drink the recommended amount of water
  • consume healthy fats
  • consume essential fatty acids
  • have a good protein source with each meal
  • decrease the amount of sweet smoothies and sweet juices you consume (it is best not to consume any sweet beverages)
  • consume most of your food whole with fiber intact
  • decrease processed vegan foods in your diet (best to eliminate these foods)
  • consider going gluten-free
  • have a consistent fitness routine that has strength training and HIIT (high intensity interval training)
  • get the rest your body needs
  • do not be afraid of taking supplements
  • keep a food journal and note how you feel
  • experiment on yourself and note how you feel.


Some people are carbohydrate sensitive and you have to determine if you are carbohydrate sensitive. Once you determine if you are carbohydrate sensitive, then you can start getting rid of the belly fat.

Pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods.

Your body tells you everything you need to know, but it’s up to you to listen and take action.


Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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About the Author

Evelyn Parham started this site in 2010. She enjoys writing, reading, and dabbling in photography and video editing. Learn more about her here.

13 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Tiff says:

    I think this might be my issue. I am a “starchivore” vegan and only eat whole foods which means I tend to eat a bunch of rice, oatmeal, and potatoes along with fruits and veggies. But I am always bloated and my tummy is a little puffy. I am tiny everywhere but my tummy. Granted I had kids, but you’d think eating whole foods (no oil too) and working out, it’d be much better lol. I think it’s the overload of carbs..

    • Hi Tiff,
      Sounds like you have it figured out.

      I would encourage you to incorporate healthy fats/oils in your diet. Because they are beneficial for our digestive health. Oh, and if you aren’t already, start taking a quality probiotic.

      Thanks for chiming in and sharing your experience with us!!

  2. Lauren says:

    Hi Evelyn,

    Can you give me some idea of what the number is that is considered high on the glycemic index. I’ve been a vegan for 8 years. I’d like to lose about 5 lbs. but nothing that I do short of going back to a diet like South Beach takes off the belly fat. I have cholesterol issues and recently added grains back into my diet to try to reduce it Thank you

    • Hi Lauren!

      Sorry for my late reply! Here’s a link for you to check out: http://nutritiondata.self.com/topics/glycemic-index

      Having higher cholesterol/triglycerides is related to the amount of sugar/carbs you are eating. In order to get results, you have to cut out those foods that are high in sugar and have a high glycemic index. The link I shared with you has a chart that includes the GI for common foods.

      Incorporating grains could be a problem for you because some grains actually cause bloating in some people and are high in carbs, not to mention the gluten that is present in these grains. You may want to look in grain-free options.

      I recommend you try eating more non-starchy vegetables and low-glycemic goods, add a quality probiotic, make sure you are getting adequate protein, and don’t be afraid to incorporate healthy fats. Don’t forget to do some movement that you like.

      Thanks for sharing what’s happening to you and I wish you the best!

  3. Shenade Finnestad says:

    Hello, over 2 months ago I switched to a vegan like diet (based on the Eat to Live approach by Dr. Fhurman). I felt amazing the first month on this plan. I came from a high protein high fat diet with no fruit to this and the switch worked and I started losing weight. The last 2 weeks (after being on plan for 6-7 weeks I started getting awful digestion issues like bloating, gas and feeling full constantly and uncomfortable. I can barely eat even though I am hungry. I get some uncomfortable pain too. I don’t understand what’s going on because I am still eating the same volume and types of food I started with. I eat 2-4 servings of fruit a day, beans (usually in form of bean burger -homemade or hummus), 1 -2lbs of raw and cooked vegetables. I also sometimes add in nuts and avocado. But due to my stomach bloating and feeling bad about how I look I’ve pretty much taken those out. I stay away from starchy carbs like potatoes and I don’t eat grains. Any ideas as to what might be going on? I was looking and feeling so amazing and then 6 weeks later I am back to where I started. I have an appt with a naturopath this weekend and hopefully they can help.

    • Hi Shenade,
      Sorry for the late reply!

      Beans could be the culprit, but know that there are some fruits and vegetables that may cause bloating too. I recommend you take an elimination approach, which means that you eliminate a food that you suspect could be causing your digestive issues and reintroduce it into your diet after a certain amount of time. You could have a food intolerance and not realize it. Eliminating some foods you think might be the issue is a great place to start. Check out this article http://evelynparham.com/know-food-intolerance/

      It is also a good idea to eat fermented foods, take probiotics, and possibly an enzyme to help with digestion. Oh, and be sure you are eating healthy fats. I know Dr. Fuhrman’s approach does not call for much fat/oil, but fat helps with digestion too.

      Keep me posted!!

  4. Neha Singh says:

    Hey Evelyn!! Your article sounds like just my story!! I am too strictly on a vegan diet but can’t get any desired changes!! Wasn’t aware of the carb sensitivity issues!! Great information! Much Needed! Thank You

    • Hi Neha,
      Welcome! It sounds like you need to loosen up a little. 🙂 When we put restrictions on ourselves, it can sometimes be stressful.

      Yes, some people are sensitive to carbohydrates, and it doesn’t matter the kind of diet one follows.

      Thanks for chiming in on the discussion!

  5. Marisa says:

    Hello Evelyn!

    I have been a high carb low fat vegan for about 7 months now, and I definitely have the same problem that you have just described. My stomach fat is so stubborn, if not getting worse, and I have noticed I haven’t been feeling good after eating a lot of fruit actually. Since most of my diet has been centered around good carbs, it’s hard for me to figure out what I’m supposed to eat now. What do you recommend?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Marisa,
      Your body is sending you signals that what you are doing is not the best thing at this time. Everyone cannot eat a high carb low fat vegan diet; we are all different. You may have to flip this and do higher fat (healthy fat) and lower carb. You have to test this and see what works best for you. You can’t always go with what the experts say, your body will be the judge of that.

      FYI – Some of us are sensitive to fermentable carbohydrates, even though they are ‘good carbs.’ These fermentable carbs cause bloating, gas and digestion upset for some. Examples are broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts.
      You need to do an elimination test on foods you suspect cause your bloating.

      You may also be sensitive to eating a high carbohydrate diet. Long-term eating of high-carb can result in insulin resistance for some people which is one of the reasons why belly fat is hard to lose. The fact that you don’t feel well after eating fruit is a sign that the sugar content might be too much for you to handle. Just an educated guess on that. If you’ve been under stress, that can also cause you to store belly fat.

      My recommendations:
      – buy a high quality probiotic (10 Billion)
      – eat carbohydrates (veggies) that have a lower glycemic index/sugar content
      – if you eat grains/beans/nuts/seeds pay attention to the carbohydrate content (try to make sure these foods are from a whole source)
      – eat only berries or low sugar fruit (don’t eat a lot of fruit)
      – make sure you get the amount of protein that you need
      – make sure you eat healthy fats (don’t be afraid of healthy fats)
      – buy a glucometer so you can test your blood glucose.

      Thanks for your question and I hope I have provided you with some helpful tips.

      All the best to you,

  6. Great insights. I know my sister has struggled with the effects of carbs, while I seem to have better luck. As we are twins, it’s a mystery. Maybe some of these tips will help me avoid belly bloat issues. Thanks.

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