For a big part of my teen years, I did not like what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I hated how my collar bones made the first show when I was out and about; so many times I could not get myself to wear off shoulders and fashions that exposed my upper body. I did not like the way my rib cage was numbered like I didn’t care for it enough to cover it with some flesh. No, I was not stressed, I was just skinny and did not like any bit about it. The shattered self-esteem that comes with body weight concerns is not funny and no one not even yourself may understand the full gravity of it.
I know the majority of people out there want to shed off some kilograms and there is a silent weight loss movement that has taken over the world. Most of the current weight management content out there is focused on weight loss leaving those who want different guilty. However, there are plenty of people out there struggling to gain weight. I am here to share with you some things to take note of based on my experience and expertise.
Why you may not be gaining weight
Not gaining weight is a mirage of varied factors that may be the reason why one is not gaining weight as desired and this makes gaining weight as hard as losing weight, if not harder. Some common reasons why a person may find it hard to gain weight include:
- Not eating enough for your body’s needs
- Having a very physically demanding lifestyle or job
- Underlying medical conditions
- Substance abuse
- Eating disorders
When is it important to gain weight
Being underweight in simple terms comes about when the calories (energy) being consumed is less than the energy being utilized. Being underweight is associated with a weakened immune system, fragile bones, fertility problems, and nutritional deficiencies and before I even continue, I need to make it clear that being skinny does not always equate to being underweight. The only sure way you can ascertain that you are underweight is by using the Body Mass Index (BMI). A BMI reading below 18.5 is what we consider as underweight. Calculate yours here. So if one is underweight, it is important to gain weight and achieve a healthy and ideal weight to sustain a quality life.
Recovering from disease
Diseases come with a collection of symptoms that may strip your body of its weight for example diarrhea, dehydration, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite to mention but a few. Sometimes even the medicines that are given may leave you with undesired effects. It is important that someone recovering from disease is supported to gain weight as this will improve their immune system and also guarantee faster healing.
Not gaining enough weight during pregnancy can have far-reaching negative effects on the baby and mother. Many women will gain 1 – 2 kilograms during the first trimester and thereafter 0.5 kilograms every week for the rest of the pregnancy. Throughout pregnancy, different women will have different parameters for gaining weight. An overweight woman needs to gain less (7 to 9 kilograms or less, depending on their pre-pregnancy weight) while an underweight woman will need to gain more (13 to 18 kilograms). One who is having more than one baby will be required to gain even more. Women having twins usually need to gain 17 – 24 kilograms.
In your antenatal visits, you will be told the required kilograms you will need for a healthy pregnancy.
Bodyweight concerns have unfavorable health and self-esteem effects on an individual. Self-esteem is defined as the overall opinion of yourself. When someone has an issue with the way they appear and in this case, someone feels too skinny, gaining weight will do a lot for them to appreciate themselves better. I have clients who come to me bothered by their current weight and look, and when they begin their weight gain program, they light up even before they hit the scales.
What to do
Work with a professional before attempting a weight gain program
We are in the 21st century where there is tons of information everywhere. Why it is important to work with a professional is because you will avoid gambling with your health because that is not a very smart thing to do. Working with a dietitian or physician will enable you to know the reason why you need to gain weight, rule out the possibility of an underlying condition, customize your diet to your specific body needs and know what your healthy weight is and be able to work towards that.
Adopt a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle
The goal here should be to gain weight gradually NOT drastically until you reach a healthy weight. Drastic methods of gaining weight may work but will not last or will leave you in a worse state than before. Consuming unhealthy food like high-calorie foods that are packed with saturated fat and sugar increases your risk of having high cholesterol in your blood which is a big catalyst for developing cardiovascular diseases. Rather opt for healthy high -calorie dense foods. Add activity to your lifestyle so that you do not end up storing more calories (energy) than you need as these are the ones that will be converted into unnecessary fat.
Eat more to stimulate muscle growth
It is important for us to understand that you can gain weight by building muscle (lean body mass) and by building fat. Always aim to do the former rather than the latter for reasons I have explained above. The way you can do this is by increasing your meals but choosing healthy foods.
- Eat at least 3 main meals and have more healthy snacks throughout the day.
- Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.
- Consume whole-grain foods for your carbohydrates.
- Consume a lot of high proteins especially animal protein for example meats, dairy, or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks and yogurts). Have whole (full-fat), eggs, fish. Do not ignore the plant-based proteins too like legumes, nuts, and seeds
- Use unsaturated oils and spreads, such as olive oil, avocado oil, and eat them in small amounts.
- Drink plenty of fluids but try not to have drinks just before meals to avoid feeling too full to eat.
Build muscle not fat
Exercises are one way you can build muscle. It is important to work with fitness trainers who understand what they are doing so that you can build muscle and begin to see an upward change on the scales rather than lose even the little you already have by choosing the wrong type of exercise. Choosing compound exercises that work for multiple major muscle groups, for example, the squat and bench press is one of the helpful ones.
Track your weight gain journey and document it as much as possible
Motivation is the air beneath the wings for any attempt in life. If you do not find motivation for your weight gain journey, chances are that you are going to get bored, feel overwhelmed or frustrated and end up abandoning the journey altogether. Tracking and documenting this journey gives you something to look forward to and also a way of being accountable to yourself. Look out for interesting recipes to spice up your meals so that they are new each time you are going to consume them. You can also look out for people who may be on the same journey as you are, as this will help you know that you are not alone. If there are communities you can join, the better.
As you begin your journey, you may encounter countless roadbocks, eyes on the prize friend. Imagine how you would feel if you achieved your goal and then stay the course. I wish you the best of luck.
Share this with someone you think may need it.
See you next Wednesday