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Healthy Weight Center

Gaining Weight for Health

03/11/2009

Question:

I am a 22 yr. old woman and I weigh about 103 lbs and am 5ft. 8in. I can`t seem to gain weight. I try and eat a lot and do the opposite of people who try to lose weight. I try not to exercise too vigorously. I also have 2 small children and I gained 40 lbs with each and lost it immediately after having each one. What can I do to gain weight? Could it be a thyroid problem or something or just a fast metabolism?

Answer:

Thanks for your question. At 5'8, your weight of 103# is certainly on the light side. Your "ideal" weight (according to height/weight charts) is between 124-154. However, if you have always been thin, you may never weigh that much. Your body's set point is an internal cue to keep your body weight fairly stable. So, gaining weight may be difficult for you.

It is common to gain more weight than what is considered "normal" when you are thin to start with. Average weight gain recommendations for normal weight women are 25-30#. For someone thin to start with, a gain of over 30 lbs may be beneficial to you and your baby.

When you say you are "doing the opposite of what people do to lose weight", I am assuming you are eating high calorie or high fat foods. In order to gain weight, you should try to eat 3 meals per day, plus in between meal snacks. You should expect to feel full, but don't make yourself sick!

Your calorie intake for weight gain should be approximately 1800-2200 calories per day. This can easily be accomplished by choosing foods from the Daily Food Guide Pyramid. Try to eat at 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, grains or pasta, 2-4 servings of fruit or juice, 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-3 glasses of milk or yogurt and 2-3 servings of meat per day. Increasing your juice, starch and milk servings will increase calories, but not necessarily fat. Of course, this depends on the type of dairy products you choose. Choose 1% or skim milk when possible, and add dry powdered milk to it to increase calories and protein, but not fat.

High fat, high sugar foods will also increase your caloric intake, and hopefully your weight. However, OVER consumption of these foods may also increase your risk of heart disease, cancer or cavities (over time). Obviously, you don't want to be really strict with yourself, but keep in mind that these foods should be eaten IN ADDITION to foods from the Food Guide Pyramid (not IN PLACE of them).

A registered dietitian can assist you in meal planning and snacking. A dietitian can also assess your exercise habits to make sure you are not burning up too many calories, which may inhibit weight gain.

Speaking of exercise, strength or resistance training would be beneficial to you so that you gain muscle, and not just fat. Keep in mind, weight gain is like weight loss; it does not happen overnight. If you try these suggestions, and see no improvement in the next few weeks, see your physician. I am not trained to diagnose thyroid conditions or metabolic disorders.

I hope this information helped you. Good Luck!

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Response by:

Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Adjunct Faculty
University of Cincinnati