Believe it or not, gaining weight and keeping it on can be as tricky as losing it and keeping it off. Instead of having the occasional extra snack, you need to take in more calories than you burn on a regular basis. Some underweight girls are fit and well – they simply have a slender constitution. This often happens because they’re in ‘energy balance’. This means that they (often quite unconsciously) eat the right amount of food to meet their daily calorie requirements. Research shows they don’t have a very high metabolic rate, rather it’s a combination of their inherited body shape, their natural level of appetite, what they eat, and their activity levels (for example, they may rarely sit down).
However, for many others being underweight may mean their bones aren’t as strong as they could be and their periods may be irregular, which can affect fertility. It also means they have fewer ‘reserves’ if they fall ill.
In order to gain weight, set yourself a realistic target and aim to gain it gradually – say, around 1kg (2.2lb) a month. To do that you’ll need to add an extra 300-350 calories or so to your daily intake. It’s best to do this in a healthy way as part of a balanced diet, rather than simply eating more fried kuku or sugary empty-calorie foods like chocolate. Yes, you will gain weight that way, but you’ll be gaining health problems associated with a high sugar diet no matter your size
- Keep a food diary for a few weeks to learn more about your eating habits.
- Rather than struggling to eat a few really big meals, plan three regular meals plus two or three snacks. Ideally, you should eat every three hours.
- If you tend to eat erratically, write down a regular meal plan and keep to it.
- Eat high-calorie yet highly nutritious foods such as seeds and nuts (peanut butter etc)
- Have protein in some form with every meal – meat, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, avocado are all great.
- Make sure you have starchy carbohydrates such as wholemeal pasta/rice/potatoes at each meal
- Add fresh fruit juices to your meals
- Have a snack, such as a piece of fruit (bananas are great) or some muesli, every night before bed so that your body does not go into a famished state during the night.
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