On this blog, I often talk about tips and topics regarding weight loss and fat loss–specifically regarding my own personal experience with it. There are more than plenty of weight loss and fat loss dedicated posts you can check out, but I have also sprinkled some information about weight gain (healthy and unhealthy) in my blog. However, I noticed that I do not have a separate article about gaining weight the healthy way because I figured that most people would know how: integrate more energy dense foods, focus on exercises that result in building muscle, increase the number of rest days you have, and so forth. Having said that, there is one major component that most are unprepared for when it comes to gaining weight: dealing with the why.
While there are many individuals who are naturally very slim and struggle to keep a healthy amount of weight on, others have different reasons to do so. Below are several reasons as to why someone SHOULD look into gaining weight instead of losing weight:
- Lost menstrual cycle. Granted, there are more than plenty of causes for an irregular (PCOS, etc.) or lost period (pregnancy and menopause), but if you have maintained a healthy cycle for several months, if not years, and have suddenly skipped a period for at least two or three consecutive months, you need to see a gynecologist. While many will prescribe birth control as a solution, others will administer lifestyle recommendations, including weight gain. There are many diets out there that recommend eating +2,500-3,000 calories daily with little to no exercise (always light intensity) for non-menstruating women who are not in menopause age, even some with as high as 10,000 calories a day! This plan lasts until one has achieved a consistent menstrual cycle over the course of at least three months. Amount of weight gained depends on the individual, but if someone does end up piling on too many pounds that it becomes unhealthy, weight loss is safe and healthy if it is conducted slowly and steadily without starvation and excess physical expenditure.
- Eating disorder recovery. It is a given that eating disorders do not come in a specific size–anyone of ANY weight can have an eating disorder. Having said that, there are many individuals with an ED that need to gain some weight due to maintaining a low BMI, losing bone mass, muscle, fat, and so forth. Again, this entails a diet with a certain minimum target of calories for the day, or alternatively, a gradual increase in food intake to gain a healthy amount of weight.
- Maintaining a healthy pregnancy. It is almost always advised by a medical professional to gain a certain amount of pounds when carrying a baby (some doctors prescribe weight loss plans for chronically obese or overweight people before pregnancy, not during)–after all, the fetus needs to develop healthily! In general, it is optimal for the infant to be chubby (~7.5-8 pounds, though even as little as 5.5 or as much as 10 pounds is normal) in their early growth stages because the extra fat nourishes them in case if they struggle to eat or become sick. Having said that, this study outlines how excess weight gain in pregnancy poses more harm than good for the baby and the mother. There are various recommended ranges of ideal weight gain based on height and stature, though it is best to discuss these parameters with a doctor beforehand.
- Diminished strength in the gym. Seeing no progress–in fact, regression in strength–is always frustrating. Putting on some muscle is almost guaranteed to aid in the pursuit of elevated strength. Granted, this process takes much more time, discipline, and precision than just going on a bulk, but you are immensely less likely to gain on a higher amount of body fat. Still, it is certainly possible to gain strength without piling on a pound or two, though this is mostly common in people who lose fat in the process of strengthening their muscles.
- Unhealthily low body fat percentage. If it has not been preached sufficiently to you or ingrained into your mind deeply enough, you need some amount of fat on your body to be optimally healthy. Body fat percentage requirements vary across the board, but it is nearly impossible and 100% unsustainable to have 0% body fat. There is this sickening phobia towards fat people and fat in general, plus there are plenty of individuals who have an extremely low body fat percentage that pose just as many health problems. On the other hand, it is much easier and more enjoyable to gain weight healthily than to lose weight for many, but still, putting on weight mandates just as much effort. Eat more calories than you burn–generally from starchy and high fatty wholesome foods such as nuts, seeds, whole grains, potatoes, spreads, and more. The lower the fiber content and volume, the easier it is to digest.
- Your metabolism is very slow. Specifically, this applies to people who appear slim or thin, but still cannot seem to eat as much as you desire,. Sluggish metabolisms do not discriminate on the number on the scale. Your metabolism often decreases when you lose a lot of weight, but this can be mitigated if you increase your physical muscle mass. Even though you may not lose as much weight at some point in your health endeavors, acquiring more muscle also encompasses a myriad of long-term health benefits. Similarly to attempting strength gains, the best plan focuses on muscle building instead of broad weight gain. After all, muscle burns three times the amount of fat at rest!
- Dealing with another medical condition. Unexplainable weight loss often occurs if there is an underlying health issue. Most of the time, it is extremely easy to find factors that contribute to sneaky weight gain or weight loss–hence, if you find that you have lost a relatively significant amount of weight immediately and suddenly with no changes in your diet and exercise routine, then it is best to talk to your doctor. Depending on the condition, they may advise you to actively gain weight or prescribe you medication or certain lifestyle changes to aid the process.
What are other reasons (and advice) for healthy weight gain?