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Weight Gain - How can I GAIN weight?

General | May 12, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

weight, weight gain

Weight Gain - How can I GAIN weight?

So many people are struggling to drop those extra kilos these days, while at the same time new weight loss diets are constantly emerging. It’s not surprising then that being underweight may not seem like a problem. Yet, for people who are too skinny, trying to gain weight can prove to be a real struggle.

Being underweight

Being underweight officially means having a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 18.50 (BMI is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify underweight, overweight and obesity in adults).

Causes of underweight

Underweight can be caused by a variety of factors:

  • Medical condition. Some examples include:
  • Older age. It is estimated that average food intake falls by about 25% from 40 to 70 years of age due to several age-related factors, including:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in taste buds and smell
  • Low stomach acid
  • Hypochlorhydria
  • Lifestyle changes such as loneliness, boredom and depression
  • Medications.
  • Genetics. Some people are naturally thin. Scientists believe that these people inherited genes that promote a faster metabolism and can eat more than others without gaining weight.

The downside of being too thin

While obesity is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, for some people, being underweight is not without a risk too, and it has been linked to various health complications:

  • Being underweightMalnutrition. Underweight individuals may not be consuming a balanced diet, which can lead to deficiencies of key nutrients. For example, deficiency of iron may result in anaemia, while calcium deficiency increases your risk of osteoporosis. In addition, as we need enough nutritional reserve during illness, deficiencies can result in weakened immune system and make us more vulnerable to infections, as well as longer healing time for wounds.
  • Atrial fibrillation. Both obesity and underweight are associated with increased risk for atrial fibrillation
  • Adverse pregnancy outcomes. Underweight among girls of childbearing age is associated with infertility, maternal mortality, delivery complications, and preterm birth.
  • Early menopause. A study of nearly 80,000 women found that underweight women and those who were underweight as teenagers or in their mid-30s were at greater risk of early menopause compared to lean or normal weight women. Prolonged absence of menstruation results in infertility and in lower oestrogen levels, which puts you at risk for osteoporosis. Furthermore, early menopause is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cognitive decline, and premature death.
  • Migraines. Results of 12 studies, with total of 290,000 participants indicate that he risk of migraine is increased in individuals with weight disordered (obese and underweight) compared with those of normal weight.
  • Respiratory death. Underweight individuals appear to have an increased risk of dying from chronic respiratory disease. Researches suggest that underweight could be the consequence and not a cause of respiratory disease.

Tips for gaining weight

It is important that you gain weight with the help of a healthy, balanced diet. The idea is to increase your lean body mass (muscle), rather than your body fat.

1. Choose nutrient-rich foods: 

Dairy or dairy alternatives – include full cream milk and natural yoghurt. Incorporate smoothies made with milk and fresh or frozen fruit.

Nine tips for gaining weightMinimum of 5 vegetables and 2 fruit per day. Emphasise more starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and beetroots, and fruits like bananas and raisins.

Lean protein - lean meat, oily fish, beans and lentils.

Whole grains - wholemeal pasta, brown rice, whole-grain breads

Healthy fats - extra virgin olive oil, avocados and nuts

2. Avoid foods that are high in sugar and saturated fats. These foods are usually high in calories and low in nutrients, such as chocolate, ice cream, cakes, biscuits and soft drinks, as well as processed meats.

3. Add toppings.  Add more calories to your meals by adding healthy extras such as:

  • Add extra virgin olive to vegetables, pastas, stir-fry or soups
  • Dip bread in olive oil and vinegar.
  • Add avocado to your sandwich or salad.
  • Enjoy natural nut butter on sandwiches
  • Sprinkle nuts or seeds into yogurt, breakfast cereal, smoothie and stir-fry.
  • Add cheese to casseroles

4. Eat more frequently. Rather than eating two or three large meals, eat five to six smaller meals during the day, or three regular meals a day with healthy snacks in between. You may want to include a bedtime snack too.

Tips for gaining weight5. Do not skip breakfast.  Sart your day with a hearty breakfast.

6. Increase your portion sizes.

7. Drink less before and during the meal. Drinking before and during the meal may reduce your appetite.

8. Exercise. Strength training will build up your muscles and may also stimulate your appetite.

9. Eat with friends and family. Eating main meals in company and sitting around the table make them more enjoyable and can increase your motivation to eat.

Did you know?

India and China have the largest number of underweight people in the world, but both countries are also in the top five most obese countries.

The bottom line

There are more obese people in the world than underweight, but both have related health implications.

If you experience unexplained weight loss, meaning that you are losing weight without trying, it is important to see your doctor to find out if there is any underlying medical condition.

However, if you are one of those people who are genetically programmed to be skinny, and your weight does not fluctuate much, don’t worry.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Gelaye, B. et al., 2017. Body composition status and the risk of migraine: A meta-analysis. Neurology, 88(19), pp.1795–1804. Available at:

Kang, S.-H. et al., 2016. Underweight is a risk factor for atrial fibrillation: A nationwide population-based study. International Journal of Cardiology, 215, pp.449–456. Available at:

Kivimäki, M. et al., 2016. Underweight as a risk factor for respiratory death in the Whitehall cohort study: exploring reverse causality using a 45-year follow-up. Thorax, 71(1), pp.84–5. Available at:

NCD Risk Factor Collaboration, 2017. Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128·9 million children, adolescents, and adults. Lancet (London, England), 390(10113), pp.2627–2642. Available at:

Mayo Clinic 2017. What's a good way to gain weight if you're underweight? Available at:

NHS Choices, 2017. Underweight adults. Available at:

Nieuwenhuizen, WF, Weenen, H, Rigby, P & Hetherington, MM 2010, ‘Older adults and patients in need of nutritional support: Review of current treatment options and factors influencing nutritional intake’, Clinical Nutrition, vol. 29, pp.160–169. Available from:

UMass Amherst, 2017. UMass Amherst Study Finds Women Underweight in Teens, Mid-30s Are at Greater Risk of Early Menopause. Available at:

World Health Organisation. Body mass index – BMI. Available at:

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