There is so much focus on “weight loss” with little attention on those who need to put on weight.
Firstly – you need to always deal with and uncover why you are underweight and struggling to reach a healthy weight.
Are you nutrient deficient? Do you have a low appetite? Perhaps you have a complicated relationship with food and have taken dieting too far? Afraid of eating? Afraid of gaining weight? Or perhaps you have a medical condition that makes weight gain very hard.
All of the above scenarios must be taken seriously. It is my advice that you seek professional help from a therapist/doctor and nutritionist to help you uncover the reason behind your weight loss/inability to gain weight. If you are dealing with anorexia or bulimia you most definitely need professional advice – my blog is not enough. I am here to support you, but additional help is a necessity.
When it comes to healthy weight gain, it’s important to focus on nutrients, not calorie counting. This adds anxiety to the situation. The goal is to gain weight by eating wholesome, nutritious foods. I am not suggesting cheeseburgers and chocolate in excess.
My top tips for healthy weight gain:
Add more good fats into your diet. You cannot be afraid of them if your goal is to gain weight. These fats are so nourishing to your body. Aim to have 2 serves of fat with each meal: e.g.: 1 avocado at lunch, 2 tbsp olive oil in your cooking/salads, 2 tbsp. hummus/tahini added to your meals, 1-2 tbsp nut butter to breakfast.
Add whole grains into your diet – gluten free or not. Your body needs whole grains to thrive. Ensure each meal has a serving or two, eg: brown rice, quinoa, rye bread, oats, beans and legumes. If you are significantly underweight you need to double the wholegrain serving e.g.: 2 slices rye bread, 1 cup oats, 2 cups cooked brown rice. Do not skip carbs at night.
Add healthy oils to your food and cooking generously. 2 tbsp. at least of my favs – coconut oil, organic butter and olive oil.
Make a smoothie each morning. Include lots of nutritious fats, proteins and carbs – e.g.: bananas, dates, coconut, protein powder, berries, cinnamon and coconut milk.
Get plenty of protein. You need to eat protein at each meal. Chicken/meat/eggs/fish/beans/legumes/tempeh/Greek yoghurt/protein powder – never skip this. If you are struggling to get protein in, I recommend a good quality protein powder without the nasty additives. A good nutritionist can recommend brands.
You cannot skip meals or snacks. I recommend two snacks every day and a small dessert after dinner. Some good snacks include: raw nuts/seeds, bliss balls, full fat Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and banana, rice cakes with almond butter and banana slices, toast with smashed avocado, coyo with mango and berries. Any of these options are great for an after dinner healthy treat. Please do not skip the snacks.
Over exercising is really counterproductive. If you are underweight and trying to gain weight, take it slow. You have to commit to doing no more than 2-3 small exercise sessions each week until you come back to a healthy weight. You need to just enjoy rest days. If you need to exercise for your mind – brisk walking and yoga only. NO RUNNING/SPINNING/WEIGHTS until you reach a healthy weight.
Avoid anything ‘fat free’ or ‘low fat.’ They are not the healthiest options!
Have a designated treat every day. It can be a healthy treat. Example: raw/dark chocolate, banana nice-cream, 1-2 slices of my healthy banana bread, 1-2 muffins topped with almond butter, Nutella bliss balls, some good quality gelato or 1-2 brownies. See my recipe section for lots of delish ideas for snacks/sweet treats!
Nourishing foods to help you:
Enjoy these foods in abundance! Do not be afraid – they are so nutritious and nourishing.
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Nuts, seeds
- Brown rice
- Sourdough/rye bread
- Nut butters
- Proteins, as mentioned above
- Coconut milk
- Coconut cream
- Greek yoghurt – full fat
- Organic butter
- Oily fish (salmon)
- Chia seeds
- Dark/raw chocolate
- Raw treats (found at most health food stores)
- Acai bowls
- Healthy homemade granola bars