I Tried an HCLF Vegan Diet to Lose Weight and This Is What Happened After 2 Weeks
Over the past year, I've slowly been gaining weight. And although I'm working out a lot and gaining muscle (thank you, CrossFit!), this wasn't just muscle weight. I went to my doctor to get my blood sugar and thyroid levels checked, but everything came back normal. As a fellow woman in her early 40s, my doctor said she'd recently tried the Noom diet, where you track your food on an app, and had lost five pounds "effortlessly." She said it made her realize that she was overeating on nuts and other fats.
As a plant-based eater, a majority of my diet is nuts, seeds, and avocados. It made me think, "Maybe I'm just overdoing it on the fats," and then I remembered the videos about the HCLF (high-carb, low-fat) vegan diet I'd recently stumbled on while looking up vegan recipes on YouTube. For an HCLF vegan diet, the macro breakdown is about 75 to 80 percent carbs, 10 to 15 percent protein, and 10 to 15 percent fats. I thought that since I was already eating a plant-based diet, maybe I should give this a try. Here's my experience after two weeks on an HCLF vegan diet.
What I Ate on an HCLF Vegan Diet
Since I was already a plant-based eater, I continued to eat my fill of raw and cooked veggies. But one thing I started to eat more of was fresh fruit and whole grains. Over the previous year and a half, I'd found that eating fruits and whole grains could cause digestive upset and belly bloat, so I'd cut back on those. It was exciting to reintroduce them! I ate tons of bananas, apples, berries, peaches, grapes, melon, and fruit smoothies, and found that they didn't upset my stomach.
My meals consisted of fresh salads with tofu and cooked whole quinoa, brown rice with beans or curry, oatmeal, soups, whole wheat pasta, and instead of snacking on nuts, I'd nosh on baby carrots or strips of bell pepper.
What I Didn't Eat on an HCLF Vegan Diet
Not eating meat or dairy wasn't an issue as I was used to that, but since this is a low-fat diet, I cut way back on avocados, nuts, seeds, and oils. I was so used to grabbing handfuls of raw almonds, adding sunflower or hemp seeds to my salad, and smashing avocado on my toast.
I had to stop roasting and sautéing my veggies and tofu in oil, so I baked and steamed instead. An HCLF vegan diet emphasizes whole foods, so I also cut out flour, sugar, and processed foods like protein powder, salad dressing, hummus, and vegan ice cream.
What I Loved About an HCLF Vegan Diet
I loved the freedom of saying yes to carbs, especially in this low-carb-obsessed world. I ate tons of baked sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, oatmeal, popcorn, fresh fruit smoothies, brown rice, beans, and fresh fruit, and a little bit of whole wheat bread and pasta.
I loved rediscovering new vegan recipes and experimenting with cooking and baking without oil. Eating whole foods and cutting out processed foods made my body feel so vibrant and energized. And since I was getting my fill of fiber, my digestion was smooth, and as long as I didn't overdo it on whole grains or fruit, I had no issues with bloating.
How an HCLF Vegan Diet Affected My Workouts
Holy energy! Eating so many more carbs a day lit a fire under me at CrossFit, on runs, on bike rides, on hikes, and even at yoga. I had more stamina and endurance, and just felt so ramped up. It was awesome!
What Was Hard About an HCLF Vegan Diet
I didn't realize how much my plant-based diet relied on fats. Before starting the HCLF diet, I ate so many nuts, loved eating homemade nut butter and roasted veggies in olive oil, and practically ate one avocado a day. I had to relearn how to cook, baking sweet potatoes instead of roasting them, making my own salad dressings that didn't have oil, and finding new snacks that weren't nut-based. The first week was definitely an adjustment, but by the second week, I had my meals and snacks set.
Did I Lose Weight on an HCLF Vegan Diet?
I lost a few pounds in the first week of this HCLF vegan diet. But eating so many carbs and hardly any fats didn't satiate me, and I found that my hunger increased. I wanted to eat every few hours, so I did, and that made me gain that weight back. So by the end of the two weeks, I was back where I started.
Will I Stay on an HCLF Vegan Diet?
An HCLF vegan diet emphasizes eating as many filling, plant-based carbs as you want, and I loved the freedom of that. And although I had tons of energy and felt really happy and vibrant, I just didn't feel satisfied — physically or emotionally.
I ate so many fresh salads, veggie- and grain-packed soups, smoothies, bowls of oatmeal, and more bananas than I care to share, but I didn't like that I felt hungry every few hours. Not eating enough fat was the reason registered dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, author of The Anti-Inflammatory Kitchen Cookbook, said I was so hungry all the time.
I was also really sad to miss out on eating the fats I love, such as avocado toast, seeds on my salads, spoonfuls of nut butter, and foods made with flour and sugar like homemade vegan cookies (I love to bake!).
While eating a more whole, plant-based diet definitely made me feel good, I won't be continuing this HCLF vegan diet. What I will be doing is balancing out my macros a little more than I was, eating slightly fewer fats, upping my complex carbs, and still making room for homemade vegan pizza or cookies — a moderate-carb, moderate-fat vegan diet.
I'm so glad I did this little eating experiment. It's good to change things up every once in a while to make sure what you're doing is working for you. It was eye-opening to see what a huge part of my diet fats were, and how eating more carbs can make me feel better and increase my performance at the gym. And although I didn't get leaner, I feel like this new way of eating already has had such a positive impact on my lifestyle that I don't even care!