Monday, March 25, 2013

Operation "Feed Me" : Gaining Muscle on a Gluten-Free, Vegan Diet - Part 1

This is Part 1 of a 3 part series on how a super-busy, skinny guy like me was able to gain weight and lean muscle mass on a gluten-free, vegan diet.  I'm sharing it in response to several requests.  The title is an homage to one of my favorite musicals, "Little Shop of Horrors," and the mantra of the alien plant in its quest to grow bigger.

At the beginning of each new year, there are almost always changes that we'd like to make.  Whether we name them "resolutions" or "goals," they share in common the desire to make a difference.  To see something differently, feel it differently, to begin a transformation or to maintain the effects of one - we often find renewed energy and motivation in the first months of the year to make it happen and hold ourselves accountable.  

And for me, my goal was to gain 10 pounds by the middle of March. 

You may be wondering, "Why?" or "What for?"  Well, to give you some backstory, at the end of 2012, I was just coming off a lovely one-two punch of food poisoning and the flu.  Needless to say, my body was not holding on to much.  And if I'm to be totally honest, I was also amidst a breakup at the time.  So even when my appetite returned, stress and emotional turmoil continued to take their toll on me, diminishing my desire to eat.  All that combined led to my weight dropping about 6 pounds from 137 to 131 - the lowest it had been in nearly 5 years.  

Now I think everyone has at least one part of their body where they believe weight gain or loss can be seen more evidently.  Hips, chin, upper arms, ankles, etc.  For me, it's my face.  If I notice my cheeks starting to sink in, my dimples turning into creases when I smile, or the the bones by my temple becoming Klingon-esque, I know that I need to eat more.  I was at that point.  And when I, the champion of heart-to-heart prolonged hugs, began to shy away from them because I felt like my sharp shoulders made me "unhuggable," I really knew something had to give.  So I saw the new year as an opportunity to not only reclaim the pounds I had lost in both body and heart sickness, but to find a new me, stronger, more present, and less fearful.  And, yes, more huggable.

This photo was one of the first that made me aware of my dipping weight.

Fun with fellow blogger and good friend, Krysta Gonzalez, at the laundromat
just days after recovering from the flu. Thank goodness for soft light.

Taken January 1, to help fuel my resolution.

The first thing I did was hire a personal trainer.  Fortunately, I work at an exercise facility as a Pilates instructor, so I was already familiar with the trainers and knew exactly with whom I wanted to train.  During the initial consultation, I remember him asking me about diet, and I replied matter-of-factly that I was both gluten-free and vegan.  Then he gave me that look.  Not judgmental, but more of that 'not sure what to make that combo' look.  And after discussing it in relation to the goal we had set for me to gain 1 pound of muscle mass per week, I remember having some doubts.  Gaining weight had never come easily to me.  Would I be able to satisfy my body's elevated need for protein and calories and put on pounds now that I was on a strictly plant-based diet?

Writing this now and looking back, I can laugh.  I reached my goal of 10 pounds of additional muscle mass in under 7 weeks, averaging 1.4 pounds per week while keeping my 14% body fat percentage constant.  During the third week I gained 2.5 pounds, and as my trainer looked at the scale and looked at the changes happening to my body, I saw him beaming proudly from ear to ear.  I remember resetting the scale and weighing myself again just to make sure it wasn't a mistake, I was so surprised.  I don't think either of us expected me to progress into this 'new body' as quickly as I did.

Taken February 6 - nearly 8 lbs of muscle gained in 5 weeks.

So how did I do it?  

Please stay tuned for Part 2 coming Wednesday, where I will discuss not only how I did it, but the tools that were instrumental in my success.  I hate cliffhangers, too, but if I'd published this entire post as one, you probably wouldn't like it much either.  [clever smirk with eyebrows raised]

Thank you and see you Wednesday!


  1. You definitely look much healthier now when comparing the pictures. I look back at old pics and wonder how I was still standing. :D Good for you for meeting your goal!

    1. Right? Then I'm sure you know what I mean when I say that I didn't feel like I "fit" in my body. I had been feeling that progressively more and more over the Fall and Winter months, and when I finally got sick, was it any wonder? I make myself do so much over the course of each day, you'd think I'd make more time to feed myself. That's resolution #2. :) Love you, Debi!


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