Gaining and Maintaining Weight Healthfully
The topic of gaining weight may not sound as popular as the usual how to lose weight tips – however, for those trying to gain weight and prevent unwanted weight loss, this task can be just as challenging and frustrating as for those out there who are trying to lose inches.
It is commonly thought that for weight management in general, calorie intake no matter what the calories are from, need to either exceed calorie output or vis versa for weight loss. Well, there is so much more to managing weight than this!
Underlying cause – First things first, the underlying cause of weight loss or lack of weight gain should be investigated. There are many reasons why, and maybe you know what yours is or maybe you don’t. It may be a combination of factors.
You may also have a concern about the healthy weight gain of your children, or how to gain weight healthfully in pregnancy. Ask us about these concerns too!
Common reasons for weight loss/lack of weight gain (not an extensive list):
– Chronic health conditions (IBD, cancer, diabetes, COPD, CHF, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, MS)
– Gut health (IBD, IBS, celiac disease, diarrhea, constipation, nausea/vomiting, too much/too little stomach acid, malabsorption, abdominal surgery)
– Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism, Grave’s disease)
– Underlying infection (TB, parasite, gastroenteritis)
– Mental and emotional health (anxiety, depression, OCD, eating disorders)
– Nutrition and unknown food intolerances/allergies (celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, lactose/dairy intolerance, other food intolerance(s), inflammatory diet, poor nutrition in general, dehydration)
– Adverse effects of some medications
– Advanced age
– Recreational drug use/abuse
Why is there a concern about being underweight?
Being underweight may be affecting your ideal body image and self-esteem. There are also physical health concerns about being underweight and experiencing unintentional weight loss including nutritional and vitamin deficiencies, increased incidence of anemias (low hemoglobin, iron and or vitamin B12), fatigue, osteopenia and osteoporosis, lower immune function and increased infections, growth and development delays/issues in the younger population and multiple hormonal and fertility issues.
Weight gain should be done in a healthful way, just as weight loss should. Treating any potential underlying condition and being consistent is key.
General tips for weight gain:
Seek treatment for underlying conditions. Unsure what exactly the issue is? Talk with your health care provider to have it investigated. Optimizing physical and mental health are extremely important factors and knowing the underlying cause is a great starting point.
Improve gut health – Optimize gut motility and absorption. Are you having 1-3 formed bowel movements daily? Seek support to optimize your gut health and heal constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, bloating, nausea, vomiting, food intolerances, etc.
Improve nutrition – Include healthy fats and oils, proteins, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vegetables and fruit. Avoid processed and sugar laden foods, ‘empty calories’ and mystery ingredients on food labels. Investigate and avoid food intolerances/allergies. Looking for nutrition specifics and/or an individualized meal plan? Ask us today!
Proper hydration – Drink at least 2 litres of water spread throughout the day. Limit water intake to ½-1 cup with meals to support digestion and appetite. Avoid carbonated drinks like soda pop, energy drinks and fruit juices as these can negatively affect blood sugar levels and metabolism and are full of those 'empty calories'. Supplement with more water if you drink coffee or caffeinated tea.
Supplements – Talk with your health care provider about appropriate vitamin, mineral and nutritional supplementation. Gut health must be addressed and supplements may be recommended in the form of capsules, powders, liquids or IV depending on your general health state and absorption capabilities.
Exercise – Regular cardiovascular and strength training exercises are important for gaining appropriate muscle mass and preventing muscle loss. Regular exercise can also help to improve mood, fatigue, digestion, sleep, balance and prevent bone loss.
Seek help with hormone balancing.
And – Patience, it’s a process. You may need to try different strategies. It will take time and hard work to implement changes.
I wanted to make a post about this topic as it has been coming up in practice for me quite a lot over the past year with patients and I want to reach out to more people who may be struggling with this issue. If you are having trouble gaining weight, or have a condition where you are losing weight unintentionally, a naturopathic consultation can provide you with a thorough, individualized and holistic approach to your overall health.
– Dr. Julia Dean, ND