Sugar, especially in excess will cause weight gain - and especially when included with fats and carbohydrates such as found in cakes, pastries and biscuits and white bread. Sugar that is not burned up for energy (as taken in excess) is converted to fat for storage by insulin in order to protect the body from high blood sugar which can damage the blood vessels and nerves. A diet of refined foods, especially carbohydrates induces fat deposition, whether or not it is vegetarian. Also a diet that has too much fried food will be fattening - fat is very high calorie, almost double those in protein and carbohydrate. One must remember, though, that there are essential fats that are necessary fot health - the Omega oils, O-3 and O-6 which must be eaten as the body cannot make them - and are not usually fattening.
If however a vegetarian consumes a balanced, wholefood diet then they are less likely to become overweight. Tofu in itself is unlikely to be fattening, being protein, but it depends on what it is combined with. There is also the possibility that someone who is intolerant to soya (and other foods) may become overweight - for some reason some intolerances seem to induce weight gain.
That said, many people make the opposite mistake when they first become vegetarian and their unbalanced diet leaves them underweight and pale. This was more common before there were so many vegetarian food products on the market but it still happens. I find a vegetarian diet is very easy to balance and have done for nearly 22 years. That said, in the first few years, I was a member of the Vegetarian Society and their information was outstanding. Now, thanks to the internet, much of it is freely available at http://www.vegsoc.org/
Yep watch out for sugar, carbs and salt, I have been reading a book by the juice master, i know it sounds a little corney but he talks alot of sense and explains why these things are so bad for us and how the big food companies trick us into eating all their foods filled with chemicals, from a young age too toys with meals etc...
He also talks about when people diet they feel like they are missing out on something, by not eating the bad foods that they love but once you get over the addiction that the big food companies get us hooked on, you actually lose the cravings because, your body is functioning better, your happier with the way you look and you don't need the bad foods to make you feel better
Google him a have a look.
A balanced diet and exercise are the way to go, you'll be healthier and feel great.
The first thing I would do is find a program that teaches you exactly what to eat and how to eat it. It is really important when becoming a vegetarian that you don't miss out on the essential amino acids etc that we get from animals.
Also, make sure you cook 80% of your foods or at least have a warm drink with your salads. The reason I say this is that too much raw foods can damage our spleen and stomach digestion. This means that they get lazy and tend to store more sugar and fat rather than process it.
I dont think that Tofu in itself can make you fat, but an excessive amount in one sitting might...
But seriously, I recently discovered a book by Allen Carr called "Easy Weigh to lose weight", and in my understanding this is the most comprehensive guide towards losing weight. Speaking strictly of vegetarian food, if you eat milk and dairy products, processed and refined food and most importantly, if you combine protein and carbohydrates in one dish, then you will certainly start gaining unnecessary weight. If you find this interesting, then go find this book, there is a lot in there and I saw on myself that the principles work.
The only reason I can think of tofu potentially putting on weight is that it contains goitergens (sp), which could potentially affect the thyroid and slow down metabolism. Food isn't always about calories!!!
personally I have no idea re tofu as its not something I eat and I don't eat soya substances products that look like meat either. But I do follow a semi-vegetarian eating plan (do eat fish), i think you mentioned about cheese, well that's usually quite high in fat. I recently found out amongst other things I am intollerant to cows and goats products, but also potatoes....that was hard to cut out...but to substitute regular potato I use sweet potato instead (related to a different family) and have no problem with it & have been losing some weight, where I seemed to be stuck in a plateau.
I tend to eat a lot of meals that i prepare myself as that way there is less chance of hidden fats, etc to be in them.
I was going to say exactly what ReikiPixie said - that soy consumption is contraindicated for folk who have hypothyroidism (i.e. their thyroid is underfunctioning).
We all know from general knowledge that some folk are obese/morbidly obese as a result of their thyroid not producing adequate thyroid hormones. Ingesting foods which contains goitrogens (substances which suppress thyroid function) to excess may theoretically induce hypothyroidism in people who otherwise had normal thyroid activity. People who already have hypothyroidism, or suspect it, should avoid/minimise consumption of foods containing goitrogens. These include:
Rape seed (Canola Oil)
Iodine, and foods containing iodine - have the opposite effect on people with healthy thyroids - they stimulate the thyroid. Most of us will have heard of the olde-worlde health food shop weightloss supplement KLB6 - which contains kelp, lecithin and B6. Kelp is to stimulate metabolism, lecithin is for digesting/emulsifying fats, and B6 is to reduce fluid retention.
Baring that you dont already have a thyroid disorder, the issue always comes down to taking in more calories than your expending. If you take in more your going to gain weight.
The goitrogen issue is a valid one but it doesnt slow down your thyroid noticeably over-night. Goitrogens can also be countered by cooking food for 10 minutes which inactivates them and increasing iodine in the diet. Soya products are generally fermented(miso etc) or cooked so it really isnt an issue.
The problem is more prevalent in those who consume broccoli, kale, spinach etc raw because there not able to inactivate them.
Synthetic Chemicals in the diet (or other environmental contaminants - skin care products etc). If the body has absorbed a synthetic chemical it can't eliminate quickly, it will store that chemical in fat cells. The more chemicals you are exposed to the more fat cells that form in the body...
Look for books by:
Stephen Perrine "New American Diet"
Dr. Paula Baillie-Hamilton "The Detox Diet -
Eliminate Chemical Calories and Enhance Your
Natural Slimming System"