In a culture obsessed with thinness, it may feel strange for some to be concerned about wanting to gain weight. But for some this concern is very real, and there is some evidence to support that being underweight may be just as bad for your health as being overweight, and is associated with a higher risk of early death in both men and women.
Our genes have a big part to play in our weight, and there are a few underlying health conditions that should be ruled out too for anyone struggling to put on and hold weight. These include an overactive thyroid, eating disorders, coeliac disease, type 1 diabetes, cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases and infections.
Although going crazy at the cake stand might seem like an obvious choice to pile on some extra pounds, this isn’t necessarily the best way to go about maintaining a healthy weight. Ultimately to gain weight we want to eat more calories than your body burns, but the diet should continue to be built around good quality proteins, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. You want to ensure you gain the right kind of subcutaneous fat as opposed to fat around the middle, which can be damaging for your health.
Whilst 3 balanced meals per day is readily recommended to most, it might be that you want to consider having 5-6 smaller meals throughout that day, aiming to eat every 3-4 hours and choosing to eat the most calorific foods on your plate first in case you get full quickly. Also try not to drink water right before meals as this will make you feel fuller quickly.
Choose energy dense foods and be smart about how and what you eat. Calorie packed and nutritious snack options include nuts, nut butters and dried fruit. Including coconut milk and nut oils to smoothies is an easy way to increase the calorie density of your meals whilst also adding in valuable nutrition. Dairy is high in calories and can help maintain weight. Choose organic, grass-fed sources adding yoghurt to smoothies, cheese to scrambled eggs, or snack on sliced or cottage cheese. Enjoy the odd ice cream but beware of the added sugar!
Exercise regularly. Although this may seem counter intuitive, exercise helps to regulate appetite and lifting weights will not only improve strength, but will also help to gain muscle mass as opposed to fat.
Quite smoking! The nicotine in cigarettes has been shown to suppress appetite, as well as contribute to many other serious health condition. Contact your local pharmacy or healthcare provider for advice on how to quite smoking.
Weight loss, just like weight gain, can be a sign of the body not coping well with high stress levels. Cortisol, our main stress hormone, causes the body to work harder, which can cause an increase in energy consumption, leaving us feeling drained and undernourished. Exploring stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, walking in nature and taking time out for yourself can be helpful to lower cortisol levels and therefore reduce the bodies energy demands.