Yes you read right, I said weight gain. In this day and age it’s not often you hear of weight gain referred to in a positive light. With almost two thirds of Australian adults either overweight or obese, you can understand why “How To Gain Weight” does not make front page news. However for a percentage of the population, weight gain is something that many people do struggle with, particularly when wanting to achieve this by taking a healthful approach. Whether it’s due to a naturally slim build, a past or present illness or possibly an eating disorder, for some – gaining weight in a healthy manner can be a challenge.
If you have been a follower of mine for some time, you may know that I became quite unwell earlier this year due to a nasty virus followed by post viral fatigue. As an enthusiast for all things health, nutrition and fitness my life surrounds a wholefoods diet and an active lifestyle – lending itself to a relatively slim physique. So when I fell ill, shedding some weight left me lacking in energy, wreaked havoc on my hormones and ultimately did not allow my body to recover as quickly as I would have liked.
With the support of my naturopath and GP, I have been able to restore my body to a healthy weight, which will in turn allow it to focus on healing and regenerating itself back to optimal health.
When I sat down and mapped out how I was going to achieve my goals, I knew that I wasn’t going to:
a) Resort to fast or unhealthy foods
b) Overeat or;
c) Develop an unhealthy relationship with food
As you might imagine, the amount of information out there for weight gain, paled in comparison to that of weight loss. I was either hit by “How To Avoid Weight Gain” or often lead to body building websites surrounded with protein shakes and artificial supplements, not quite what I had in mind…
Fast forward a few months and I have achieved my optimal healthy body weight (woohoo!) and feel called to share my experience and what in ways I was able to achieve my weight gain goals. I hope this will shed some light on an often overlooked subject and in turn support you or someone you love, walking a similar path.
Please note I also would recommend you seek support from a nutritionist, naturopath or general practitioner to assist along your journey.
- QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
We’ve all been there – a few too many pieces of chocolate, handfuls of nuts, bags of chips… Healthy or not, no one enjoys the feeling of eating to the point of being overfull, so don’t feel the need to overeat at any one meal or snack. This will often have the adverse effect: leaving you so uncomfortable that you might skip your next meal and possibly end up in a vicious cycle.
- MAKE SMART CHOICES
Q: “So if I’m not going to drink 3 green smoothies for breakfast, how will I gain weight?”
A: “Choose energy and nutrient dense foods.”
No I don’t mean count calories, I simply mean become aware of foods that are dense in nutrients without you having to eat them in great volumes.
Here are some examples:
- Nuts glorious nuts! (And seeds)
This one was a no brainer for me, I could live off them! I’m not fussy either – almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, walnuts – you name it! These guys are dense in energy and nutrient powerhouses – full of protein, healthy fats and omega 3 fatty acids to name a few.
Note: organic are your best bet and activating them will assist in easier digestion.
- Nut & Seed Butters
On a similar strand to what’s listed above, nut and seed butters are another fabulous way to add more to your meals and snacks without adding volume. Tahini (crushed sesame seeds), almond butter and peanut butter are my personal favs. Tahini for example, is one of the best sources of calcium, packed with vitamins and minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc. I love to drizzle tahini on, well everything! Banana, roasted vegetables, porridge, the possibilities are deliciously endless!
- Sweet Potato
Don’t get me wrong I’m all a lover of all vegetables but there’s something just so darn sweet and nourishing about sweet potato – especially when baked or roasted. Boasting high levels of vitamin A, C and B6 they are a great nutrient rich form of complex carbohydrates to include in your diet (particularly under a sea of tahini!).
It’s been a while since the spotlight was first shone on Quinoa, however it remains to be an excellent source of protein (great for vegans and vegetarians), iron and lysine (for tissue regrowth). Quinoa is also great for its versatility – makes a delicious porridge, tossed through a salad or alongside your favourite stir fry.
3. INCREASE HEALTHY FATS
Hopefully by now most of you will be aware that opting for full fat products over skim, fat-free, skinny or light options are the only way to go! Adding more healthy fats into your diet will not only bulk up the energy and nutrient density of your meal, they will add loads of flavour and do your body a world of good! Give these a try:
– Avocado, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Organic butter, Ghee, Salmon, Nuts & Seeds (and butters).
Note: If you’re cooking at higher temperatures opt for coconut oil, organic butter or ghee. However Extra Virgin Olive Oil is fine for low to moderate temps.
- DRESS UP!
No not you (well that could be fun…) I mean your meals! Get creative with dressings made from olive oil, tahini and lemon juice. Sprinkle chia seeds on your porridge, try your hand at homemade mayonnaise, chop up nuts and seeds and toss them through your salads and stir fry’s.
- EAT REGULARLY
Whilst I did say don’t overeat, I do believe you need to increase the frequency of your meals and snacks. This can often mean eating when you’re not particularly hungry. I stress again though – there’s no need to overdo it to the point of feeling overfull or uncomfortable. Personally, I would eat around 5-6 times a day – starting with breakfast, followed by morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and sometimes dessert. I understand that not everyone has the time to take a break that often, so aim for at least 3 meals a day and then snack when you can – nuts are great to munch on between meals.
You heard me! Whilst I choose to eat healthful foods the majority of the time, I believe eating foods you enjoy, without guilt, is the key to creating a balanced approach to healthy living. For some it might only be a few pieces of dark chocolate, for others it might be a slice of pizza with friends – whatever it is, enjoy it! This is something I believe in full stop, not just related to weight gain, in fact it’s something I encourage for maintaining your ideal weight.
- ADAPT YOUR FITNESS REGIME
If you love keeping active like me, you might find this one a little challenging. Weight gain is essentially the result of putting more in the tank than you’re putting out, so going for a 10k run or climbing Mount Everest is not going to help your cause. That said, you don’t need to become a sloth! Simply find more gentle ways of moving your body. Here are my top picks:
- Restorative yoga, this is my absolute fav! As well as being a much more gentle form of movement, it is incredible for assisting the body in healing and restoring (extra brownie points!).
- Beach and or nature walks, slow it down and take in the beauty that surrounds you.
- Stretching, a great way to wake up your muscles and invigorate your body in the morning or wind down and prepare for sleep at the end of your day.
Contrary to popular belief, rest is an essential part of maintaining a healthy and happy body and mind for that matter. In this go go world that we live in today, it can often feel like a crime to slow down, however giving your body time to rest and regenerate is imperative, particularly for those who have been or are currently unwell. If you’re already getting plenty of Zzz’s, (between 8-9 hours a night) give these a try:
- Enjoy a long hot bath, filled with Epsom salts
- Sit down to a good book and cup of tea
- Develop a meditation practice
- Revisit your childhood with some adult colouring in books
- Connect inward with some daily journaling
- Netflix and chill
9. SLOW & STEADY
Like with weight loss, slow and steady is a much safer and maintainable approach to achieving your weight gain goals. Giving your body time to adjust to your modified diet and lifestyle will allow it to begin to restore itself back to optimal health. Aiming for an increase around 0.5-1kg per week is a good place to start, however as we are all unique, it’s best to consult with your practitioner on this one.
- IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE KG’S
While yes this blog has been very much weighted (pun intended) around your body weight, remember that we are all individually unique, particularly when it comes to our body composition. So whilst achieving a healthy BMI (body mass index) is a great place to start, working with your trusted health professional is the ideal way to achieve your healthy body.
Gaining weight does not need to result in compromises to your health, diet or lifestyle, so if you have any questions or need further guidance – leave a comment below or alternatively don’t hesitate to send me an email!