With obesity and diabetes epidemics on the rise, it makes sense as to why so many health publications emphasize methods in which to help the world lose weight. However, this focus often overlooks those who are struggling on the other end of the scale who are desperate to put pounds on.
Whether from pregnancy, stress, a physical illness or a mental condition, being underweight (and potentially nutrient deficient) requires a careful system to rectify the issue without endangering your health. Here are 10 helpful places to start:
1. Keep a Food Journal
Just like there are the right tools to have for your weight loss regimen, the same principles can apply to weight gain. Start with a food journal, documenting what you ate each day for two weeks, counting calories and recording the numbers on your scale. This may seem like a laborious process, but it can help you pinpoint areas to work on instead of playing a guessing game.
2. Do the Math
No two bodies are the same, hence why it’s up to you to cautiously experiment with what works and what doesn’t. It’s been estimated that 3,500 calories are the rough equivalent of one pound gained, meaning that around 500 to 1,000 calories a day should result in one or two new pounds a week. Start gradually increasing your daily diet by 200 calories and see what happens. Depending on these results, adjust that figure until you reach a steady, controllable growth.
3. Eat More Frequently
Part of your problem may be that larger meals fill you up too quickly. Counter this by consuming five or six smaller meals throughout the day, providing your body with continuous fuel to burn. Be strict and consistent about this, never skipping meals while ensuring that they take place at the same times every day.
4. Eat Correctly
Shoving your face full of junk food will increase your weight but can cause severe ill effects on your heart, skin, and almost everywhere else. Instead, be balanced with your approach by loading up on healthy carbs (sweet potatoes, oatmeal, whole-grain bread), protein (eggs, beans, soy), and good fats (avocados, nut butter, olive oil). Sprinkle some cheese on everything too if you’re feeling adventurous.
5. Move to Smoothies
Instead of slurping down that coffee or unhealthy soda drinks, replace them with highly nutritious calorie-dense smoothies. These energy boosters work like less-filling meals between meals and are as nourishing as you make them out to be. Try mixing milk, fruit, seeds, nuts, carrots, and protein powders to really pack a stomach punch.
6. Smart Snacking
Excessive sugar and saturated fats could never be responsibly recommended, but the occasional after-dinner slice of pie or ice cream should be relatively harmless (or perhaps even momentarily beneficial for your mental health!). But for the most part, always stick to clean snacking, such as yogurt, granola bars, bran muffins, nuts, or whole grain crackers with hummus.
7. Keep Exercising
This may appear counterintuitive, but without physical activity, you may end up with excess fat rather than a healthy upsize, and this can place unnecessary strain on the heart. The key here is to focus on muscle development by building a routine which includes deadlifts, pull-ups, and bench presses. As an added bonus, these intense workouts will also awaken a monstrous appetite.
8. Avoid Cardio
Note that cardio exercise (such as running, swimming, cycling, etc) will incinerate many of those precious calories that you’ve been collecting. If you’re a keen runner, then it may be in your best interest to take a break from the activity until you’ve got your weight up. Otherwise, less distance is better, favoring quick sprints instead of lengthy endurance rounds.
9. Eat Right Before Bedtime
Due to your active body burning calories during the day, it makes sense as to why weight gain has been linked to food consumption directly before sleep. Your cells also perform much of their regeneration process during your slumber, meaning that these additional nightly nutrients provide extra energy resources for the procedure. Of course, you don’t want to stuff your belly just before bed, as this could disrupt your sleeping hours with heartburn or indigestion, so snack on something light, such as beans, avocado, peanut butter, or cheese.
10. Get Support
Finally, if you feel like you may need help, then swallow your pride and speak to someone. Weight loss and weight gain often come with their own unique set of emotional changes, which is why it’s important to not face this journey alone. Build a support system, whether it be with a medical professional, a dietitian, a personal trainer, or even just a friend who is happy to lend an ear and a smile.