You can’t pick up a magazine in the checkout line without seeing an article on weight loss – probably more than one. It has become a global obsession with no shortage of gurus, self-help books and celebrity endorsements. But what about the other end of the equation? What if you want to [gasp!] gain weight? Where do you look or help? Will your South Beach friends just smile and tell you they wish they had your problem? Maybe, but that’s why we’re here.
Believe it or not, you are not alone. For a variety of reasons from illness to surgery recovery to genetics to better performance in sports, there are a million and one reasons for people to want to gain some weight. The key is in keeping it healthy. Maybe you remember wrestlers in high school eating four lunches because they were trying to jump a weight class… don’t do that. Instead, try these six secrets to healthy weight gain:
1. More calories
Start by trying to add 500 calories per day to your current diet. Look for calorie-rich foods that are also good for you. Avoid sugar-free or nonfat varieties of everything. Look for varieties of your favorite foods that have more calories. If you like cold cereal in the morning, try switching to granola or a muesli-type cereal. These varieties are normally higher in calories and, since those calories often come from nuts or natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, they are helpful calories to add.
2. Fat is your friend
Say it with us, “Fat is my friend.” We’re talking about healthy unsaturated fat here – no trans fats. Fat has the highest concentration of calories per serving. Try old fashioned peanut butter – the kind that separates and needs to be stirred together. Use real cheese. Try whole milk instead of skim or 2%. Another great source of healthy fat is avocado.
3. Exercise is key
Muscle weighs more than fat, so anything you do to build muscle mass will help you gain actual weight as well as fill out your physique. If you are recovering from an illness or a surgery, exercise can be an important way to regain the performance or stamina you previously had.
4. Snacking is not only allowed, it’s required
By and large our bodies try to keep equilibrium. That’s why both weight loss and gain are tough – our bodies are conditioned to maintain where they already are. To gain weight healthily, you will need to add snacks between meals. This helps keep your blood sugar regulated and conditions your body to be hungry again the next day at that time… and the next.
Extra calories can come from anywhere. If you’re having a salad, add some avocado, croutons, garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, chicken, steak... and don’t forget the dressing. If you’re eating cereal add some dried fruit or chopped nuts.
6. Don’t forget the carbs and protein
An increase in good carbohydrates and protein will help keep your weight-gaining diet on the right track. When it comes to carbs, unprocessed are best. Look for whole grains and fruits. For protein, also look for healthy choices like poultry, fish, beans and lean cuts of pork and beef can help balance out your diet as you gain weight.