Disclaimer: I am not a registered dietitician or have any credentials to elicit health advice. Everything I write is from my own experience and personal journey. Please consult a licensed health professional before making any plans for gaining weight.
With the onset of obesity and global desire to lose weight in our society, it elicits a notion that gaining weight is something that is easy – “too easy” – for most people.
“That cookie will go straight to my thighs.”
“I definitely gained weight on my one week vacation.”
“I need to lose those three pounds.”
I’ve heard them all. It seems that according to most people’s testimonies, weight gain is inevitable and will simply happen over night (or over a few too many caesars). And here’s the thing, I’m not saying the people who say these things are making things up. For some, gaining weight does seem very easy, and conversely, very hard to lose weight.
Current favorite breakfast: 2 eggs / toasted english muffin with butter / farmers market back bacon / fruit
Why is that? Is it true? I don’t really know the answer to this.
But what I do know is society is not aware of how hard gaining weight actually is. And, yes, I’m talking about for most people, not just the odd few. That being said, we aren’t just talking about those “few pounds” here. We are talking about a substantial amount of weight gain, be it for health reasons, to return to a healthier set point, have your menstrual cycle return etc.
French Toast Bagel with Regular Cream Cheese
Each body works differently, and so some bodies may gain, or lose weight, differently than others. This is also dependent on things like muscle mass, age and natural metabolic rate. But in general, a body needs A LOT of calories to put on weight. These are calories above and beyond what is needed for daily living or any additional energy expenditure. Add on muscle and organ recovery and you are looking at needing calories for all this repair work and THEN some.
Most people do not realize the amount that one must take in for this to happen. And how hard this can be.
I think even some professionals – nutritionists or dietitians and even doctors – are not fully aware of how much food one must consume when needing to gain weight. Especially, yes, even for a young female. I was recently told how my friends’ elderly grandfather had to be put on extra supplements for months and months before he started seeing the weight gain that he needed.
“Just eat a cheeseburger…” (How many of us have heard that one?)
Yeah, well, news to you – that cheeseburger ain’t gonna do anything, doc.
Turkey / Ham / Cheese / Mayo / Honey Mustard / Veg / Italian Cheese Bread… SO GOOD
I really like my dietician at the moment, but I think she falls a little into this category. A category of people surprised at how much discipline, regiment and conscienceness needs to go in to ensuring you achieve those high levels of calories your body needs when gaining weight. Unfortunately, being in a small town I do not have professionals who work specifically with those recovering from an eating disorder, but if you are somewhere with options available to you, I highly recommend checking out Amanda’s recent post about how to choose the proper treatment team. Only those with specific training may understand the amount of food you actually require. And not only this, but they will be trained to help, support and push you in the right ways.
Homemade Saskatoon Berry Pie (definitely not made by me) / Ice cream
Afternoon Snack. Blueberry Scone / Cheese
It had been two full weeks without any form of exercise – apart from a few gentle walks – and I really thought I had been eating more than I ever had. And yet, when I saw my dietician this past week…. I had lost a pound.
That’s how easy – or hard – this can be.
My eating disorder leads me to believe, or assume, that any increase in calories and decrease in activity will inevitably lead me to gain weight.
Wrong assumption. So wrong.
Pizza for two my ars.
A few extra hundred calories a day won’t necessarily do anything – as hard as this is to believe.
And then this also brings up the notion of exercise.
Even I was shocked that, for the rest of the summer where I had still been exercising on and off, I did not lost weight and even made some marginal gains. And here I was, finally having giving it up completely, and the scale went down!
Spinach, peanut butter, hemp seeds, cocoa, almond milk, dates
I’m not a big smoothie fan, sadly, but if you are they are an awesome way to get in some extra nutrients and aren’t bloating or filling
You know those sayings, “you can’t outrun a bad diet?” Meaning – no matter how much you exercise, if your diet isn’t “right,” you will still gain weight? Well, that kind of works in the opposite way, as well. As much as our brains would like us to believe that exercise can be the solution to losing weight or automatically keep you from putting on weight, it really does not have this much power. “They” say that, as a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally 75% diet and only 25% exercise. Source.
What this means – what I am getting at here – is it really is about the food. You can’t simply just take out exercise and expect that your average daily intake will automatically lead you to gain weight. Simply taking down your activity will not elicit the weight gain you may need. You still need a lot of food. Even when not exercising your body needs a lot. Add on any form of activity to this, and you just need more (for the reverse side of this conversation – this is also proof for those who fear that stopping exercise for a certain amount of time will automatically lead to weight gain….. it won’t). It is hard enough getting in enough calories for just your daily living and all the internal work of repairs that are going on when you regaining weight – do you really want to have to take in MORE to account for even extra activity? I have to ask myself this every day.
Vanilla ice cream + pre mix of hersheys chocolates, almonds and mini pretzels + mango
Sometimes bought, pre mixes of nuts etc. are a good idea so you know exactly how much you are getting in and can’t let those voices lead you to think you are having more than you actually are.
I am not a “student” of Minnie Maud, but I do know that the numbers stated in this program are no exaggeration. When I was in the hospital, near the end of my weight gain period I was taking in 3500+ calories a day. And this was with absolutely zero physical activity… and some weeks I barely made my weight gain quota.
This can be hard to believe. But I assure you, our bodies are incredible.
An evening snack that will have you waking up hungry
Taking in this much can be hard. Maybe not for everyone, but it is for me. It is hard both physically and mentally. Yes, my family has a naturally high metabolism that I’m sure isn’t working with me. And I am now working at a job where I am walking around, and carrying plates and trays for, on average, 6 hours. There was one point where I wouldn’t have thought any thing of this, but my recent step on the scale has shown me that this level of activity may be doing more of a disservice to my weight gain goals than I had thought. That’s a lot of movement and a lot of energy being expended. And yes, it can be this easy.
So to try and make up for this increase of activity, not to mention the unfortunate meal timing you get when you work at a restaurant, I’ve started adding Ensure supplements into my day. Did I want to? ….que flashbacks to the hospital…. No. I did not. But my dietician reminded me that these types of supplements were formulated to give our bodies the correct combination of vitamins and minerals they need. The only “negative” thing about them is that, since they are human-made, they can not work as efficiently in our bodies as say, an apple, can. Otherwise. They are good. Very good. Especially if you are like me and find it hard to take in enough calories with merely food and smoothies – I had to finally admit, after months of stubbornly saying “I want to be able to do it with real food,” – that it is just too hard for me. So these guys are going to “ensure” (groannnn) I’m giving my body at least a bit more each day, and getting in all the nutrients my body needs.
Being ALL the stealth at work.
Oh hey how’s it goin? Yeah, just made myself a little protein smoooooth-ay this morning at home. Yeah, its Vega…
*brushes off shoulders”
26 Vitamins and Minerals. Practically candy!!
Okay this time not so stealth.
Of course, this post is focusing on the surprising physiological and physical difficulties of gaining weight that not many people realize. It is not touching on the very real mental struggles that come along with it. These can be the real demons to face. But when those voices are telling you that you don’t need to have any more, remember this. Our bodies are incredible – like, they are INSANE machines – and not only can they take a lot of sustenance and will balance it all out to stay at a certain set point, they also require A LOT. Even more when gaining weight. More than you may want to believe, and more than you may see in the average What I Ate Wednesday post.
Curried Lentils and Rice with Spinach / Curry spiced full fat greek yogurt / Beanito chips x2
But I am also not saying this means you must give your body only processed sugar and, for lack of a better work, “junk.” First of all, all food has nutrients. All food has something your body needs and can use. Of course, some processed sugars are going to be easier to add into your diet when you are needing those extra calories, but these can be on top of all sorts of healthy, nutrient dense whole foods. Avocados! Nuts! Cheese! Cream! Meat! Potatoes! Its all good for you. And you should keep it ALL.
NUTS! They have protein!
This has protein, too.
My favorite, and truly easiest, way to get a little extra in. As one says, “there’s always room for ice cream.”
If you are in a phase of gaining weight, also know that there are many other changes that need to happen in your body before the pounds may actually starting coming on. The extra energy is going to go to where it is needed first, like to your brain and heart. But keep going and keep pushing and keep adding where you can. You may feel CRAZY. Like – you may feel completely whacky and out of control. You may face some individuals who do not understand the amount that you need. But just like diving into a cold pool or ripping off a bandaid, you just have to one day do it. And then, I promise you, the next day won’t feel quite so hard.
Linking up with Jules from dropsofjules for her wonderful Mental Health Monday series. Check out her page for many more wonderful resources on eating disorder recovery and gaining weight through the Minnie Maud guidelines.
Have you been surprised at how hard it is to gain weight?
What’s your favorite food?
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