Growing up, Grandma would always call me Iyabo. She believed I looked like her. Although she passed on when I was a preteen, I remember that she always looked frail. She was a tall woman, but never quite had a lot of flesh. As I grew, the rest of my family confirmed that I really was like her- mentally and physically. I never crossed the 50kg mark in all 26 years of my life, but during the lockdown, I finally did! At this point, I decided that it was actually possible for me to gain weight, but being a rather meticulous person, I wondered; Is there a right way to do this?
Being underweight is an often overlooked health issue, especially when compared with being overweight. If someone is underweight, they do not get enough nutrients they need to maintain their health, which can be very harmful.
Contrary to popular opinion, being underweight may pose up to three (3) times greater risk of early death than being overweight.
This means that being underweight may be worse for your health.
Being underweight can impair the immune system which leaves you at risk of many infections. It can also lead to:
- Increased risk of heart diseases
- Slower healing from illnesses and wounds
- Bone thinning and fractures
- Infertility and lack of menstrual periods
- Increased risk of dementia
- Frequent physical activity or too much exercise where one may burn excess calories that can lead to low body weight.
- High Metabolism: Some people may not gain weight even when they eat high-energy foods because their body uses energy faster than others.
- Physical illnesses: These can cause nausea or vomiting which makes weight gain difficult or decrease appetite such as thyroid disorders, digestive disorders, cancer, diabetes.
- Poor mental health: This can affect body image, ability and willingness to eat. Some conditions that can lead to this include anxiety, depression, anorexia and bulimia.
- Genetics: Some people have naturally low BMI which could be due to physical characteristics that run in their families.
The Right Ways To Gain Weight
Being underweight is a condition that can be remedied. However, this has to be done in the right way. Eating a diet rich in refined sugars like pastries, bread, pre-made beverages, soda, sweetened yoghurt and fruit juices, ketchup, will only increase your chances of illnesses and probably worsen your health.
The first step to gaining weight is to ensure that you check your Body Mass Index (BMI) to be sure that you fit within the underweight to borderline normal weight side of the spectrum. You can use the adult or child and teen (2-19 years) BMI calculator.
It is important to check your weight periodically. While foods rich in carbohydrates and fats are necessary, it is important to focus on healthy sources.
Eat Foods That Are High In Protein
The most important nutrient for gaining healthy weight is protein. Its consumption increases muscle mass which is important for healthy weight gain.
Without protein, most of the extra calories may end up as body fat. Aim for daily intake 0.3- 2.0g of protein per kilogram of body weight. If one isn’t getting enough from food, protein powder can be used to supplement.
Eat (Or Drink) Nutrient-Dense Foods
When taken in small portions, nutrient-dense foods which provide energy as well as nutrients like vitamins and minerals while still being filling.
- Unsweetened Yoghurt
- Nuts and their butter (peanut, almonds, etc.)
- Unsweetened dairy like milk, cheese, yoghurt
- Greens (spinach, kale, cucumber)
- Avocado, dark chocolate,
- Whole grains like oats and brown rice.
- Eating more of these foods help to keep one healthy while gaining weight.
People who find it difficult to eat may find it easier to take smoothies and shakes rich in these foods.
Eat Foods Rich In Healthy Fats And Fibre
Gaining healthy weight is promoted by including foods rich in fibrous carbohydrates and healthy fats in every meal.
These help in providing energy which is needed to build muscle, thereby increasing body weight. Making the right choice with fats is important, so as to gain healthy weight.
Healthy fats include mostly unsaturated fats which are present in foods like fish, avocado, chicken, vegetable oils.
Unhealthy fats are mostly saturated or trans fats which are in processed foods, fried foods, and fatty meat like pork and beef. These should be avoided because they cause unhealthy weight gain and can increase risk of several diseases.
Whole foods rich in carbohydrate, like rice, beans, oats, are great sources of energy which promote muscle growth. Limit intake of processed foods and sugars.
Take In More Vegetables
Vegetables are not rich in calories, hence, they do not help much in weight gain. However, they are much needed sources of vitamins and minerals which the body needs to stay nourished.
Eat At Least Three Times Daily
Eating multiple times a day increases the amount of food taken and increases nutrient and calories taken. When possible, use bigger plates as this would help to eat more foods.
Also, include snacks between meals to boost caloric intake. Do not take water before meals, because this can fill you up faster.
Consult With A Licensed Nutritionist
Healthcare is vital and consulting with with a nutritionist who has been trained and equipped with the right knowledge is a step in the right direction. They will provide you with personalized details, meal plans and the tracking you need.
As with most goals, gaining weight is a process and with consistency, you will see good results.
As the year draws to a close if you have the goal to gain some kilograms or know someone who does, share this article with them.