Please note that I do not have an eating disorder, so this post talks about gaining weight purely from a physical health point of view, rather than mental or psychological.
This is a story from February 2018. I have always been one of those people who can eat loads and never put on weight! Around this time, I got a bit concerned that maybe I was actually too thin. I am 5 foot 7, and my weight tended to range between 7st 13lb and 8st 2lb. I calculated my BMI (Body Mass Index) to find that I was in the underweight range, which was a surprise to me because I never considered myself underweight, and I thought I ate loads!
I have always been quite an active person, so I thought maybe I wasn’t actually eating enough to offset the calories I was burning through exercise and generally being active. I didn’t feel unwell as such, but there were a few mild symptoms that I had been having, and I wondered if perhaps my low weight could be the cause of these.
The symptoms I was experiencing included:
- Clicky joints (maybe I needed more fats / oils to lubricate my joints?)
- Feeling tired / light-headed sometimes.
- Always feeling cold and having cold hands (perhaps I needed more ‘padding’?)
- Not very good skin – frequent spots.
These things could have been caused by anything, and could be totally normal, but I was interested to see if any of them would improve if I increased my weight.
I figured out that in order to be in the healthy BMI range, I would need to increase my weight to at least 8st 7lb. Feeling inspired, I decided to give this a go!
I LOVED the idea of this challenge! I am a big fan of food and I love eating. So the idea of being able to eat as much as I wanted and actually try to gain weight was very appealing to me! I decided to do this in a healthy way though – I wasn’t going to binge on junk food!
These are the guidelines I decided on:
- Increase my overall calorific intake.
- Increase the size of my meals, especially breakfast.
- Add in lots of foods that are rich in nutrients, proteins and healthy fats. For example, all fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocados, oils, ‘superfoods’, beans, whole grains and olives.
- Boost my meals with thickly spread toppings, and nutritional yeast, herbs and supplements sprinkled on top.
- Only a minimal increase in carbohydrates, especially ‘fast carbs’ and ‘sugars’.
- Healthy snacks such as fruit or nuts between meals, but not after my evening meal.
- Nutrient-rich drinks such as smoothies as well as water.
- Staying aware of being kind to my digestion – don’t overdo it.
- Continue to exercise as normal.
I would weigh myself at the same time every day to record my progress. I had no idea how long it would take to build up the weight and whether it was achievable in one month, but I wouldn’t know unless I tried!
At the end of the month, I would decide whether I wanted to further increase my weight, maintain the level I had reached, or decrease my weight again.
I ended up affectionately nicknaming this month ‘Fat February’, and I was going to call my blog post that but decided ‘Food February’ would be less misleading!
Here is my weight record for the month:
|1st February||8st 2lb|
|2nd February||8st 1lb|
|3rd February||8st 2lb|
|4th February||8st 3lb|
|5th February||8st 4lb|
|6th February||8st 2lb|
|7th February||8st 2lb|
|8th February||8st 3lb|
|9th February||8st 3lb|
|10th February||8st 2lb|
|11th February||8st 4lb|
|12th February||8st 2lb|
|13th February||8st 5lb|
|14th February||8st 4lb|
|15th February||8st 3lb|
|16th February||8st 6lb|
|17th February||8st 5lb|
|18th February||8st 6lb|
|19th February||8st 4lb|
|20th February||8st 5lb|
|21st February||8st 5lb|
|22nd February||8st 7lb|
|23rd February||8st 5lb|
|24th February||8st 6lb|
|25th February||8st 5lb|
|26th February||8st 6lb|
|27th February||8st 5lb|
|28th February||8st 5lb|
As you can see, I started the month weighing 8st 2lb, and my weight fluctuated quite a bit, but overall it gradually increased throughout the month! I reached my target of 8st 7lb on the 22nd, but I didn’t manage to maintain it because I dropped back down to 8st 5 or 6lb after that.
Here are the notes I wrote at the end of the challenge:
I started out averaging around 8 stone 2, and I finished the month averaging around 8 stone 5, so I have succeeded in steadily raising my weight throughout the month, although I haven’t reached my target of 8 stone 7 (at least not consistently).
I have been eating more, mainly at breakfast. Also, I have added more variety of foods into my lunches and dinners, and I have eaten more snacks. At first it felt like I was stuffing myself and I was really full, but now it feels more normal, although it’s hard to tell if I’ve eaten the same amount all month – it’s fluctuated by day and situation.
I had more digestive problems earlier in the month but those have settled down now. This could be related or unrelated to my eating more.
I’ve done what I said, in that I mainly increased certain types of food and I didn’t increase carbs much. I often ate more food or accepted food that previously to the challenge I would have turned down as I would have thought I’d eaten enough. I’ve enjoyed eating lots!
- I haven’t noticed a major change in my physical appearance, other than my tummy is more bloated.
- My joints have possibly been less clicky but I’m not sure.
- I have possibly been less light-headed, I haven’t noticed a major difference in my energy levels though.
- I don’t feel warmer yet.
- My hands have been dry, but this could be due to the very cold weather.
- My skin has not been great – I have still had spots on my face, and even more spots than usual on my chest and back. Could this be because I’ve been eating lots of oils?
I have decided to continue this challenge into March. My goal is to reach or exceed my target weight of 8 stone 7, and see if I gain any more results.
I did indeed continue this challenge into March, and this is my weight record for the month:
|1st March||8st 6lb|
|2nd March||8st 6lb|
|3rd March||8st 6lb|
|4th March||8st 6lb|
|5th March||8st 4lb|
|6th March||8st 5lb|
|7th March||8st 5lb|
|8th March||8st 5lb|
|9th March||8st 5lb|
|10th March||8st 5lb|
|11th March||8st 5lb|
|12th March||8st 5lb|
|13th March||8st 5lb|
|14th March||8st 6lb|
|15th March||8st 5lb|
|16th March||8st 5lb|
|17th March||8st 5lb|
|18th March||8st 5lb|
|19th March||Didn’t weigh|
|20th March||8st 2lb|
|21st March||8st 4lb|
|22nd March||8st 5lb|
|23rd March||8st 5lb|
|24th March||8st 4lb|
|25th March||8st 3lb|
|26th March||Didn’t weigh|
|27th March||8st 5lb|
|28th March||8st 1lb|
|29th March||8st 4lb|
|30th March||8st 4lb|
|31st March||8st 4lb|
You can see from this table that I didn’t manage to sustain my increase in weight. My evaluation notes explain why:
March was not a success like February was. I plateaued at 8 stone 5 for ages. I think that was because I got really busy, so I had less time to eat and I was spending more energy too. Furthermore, I was trying to keep my digestion happy, for all the events I needed to attend. This meant that my weight gain challenge went a bit out the window, and by the end of the month my weight had dropped down again due to personal challenges making me lose my appetite.
This is a challenge that I may decide to come back to and try again in future months.
Did I ever reach my target weight?
After last March, I pretty much forgot all about trying to gain weight. My weight has remained fairly steady between the range of 7st 12lb and 8st 4 or 5lb. I may still try this challenge again in the future, because I never found out whether my low weight was the cause of my symptoms, and I am still curious to know whether gaining weight would help with any of these things.
However, I realise that BMI is only a guideline, because everyone has a unique build. There are so many different body types, and it may be that I am naturally slim with a fast metabolism, and that my low weight is still in the healthy range for me. People sometimes comment that I am slim, but nobody has ever told me I look underweight. Even my mum told me that I look just right for my height and build. So I would conclude that as long as I feel basically healthy, my low weight and BMI is probably nothing to worry about, and if I struggle to gain weight without eating excessively then that’s probably the way I am meant to be!
Have any of you got a BMI that is outside of the healthy range, but you feel that you are still a healthy weight for your body type? Or have any of you attempted to gain or lose weight? Were you successful, and did you notice any differences in your health and wellbeing? Let me know in the comments!