How to gain a little weight?
November 4, 2009 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions for how to gain 10 pounds?

So, I'm just under 5' tall. This morning, the scale said I weighed 83 pounds, which seems a little too thin. I'd like to gain about 10 pounds---I think I'd be less cranky all the time. Any suggestions on how to do this, besides eating more?

(Background: just moved to Fairbanks AK. Lots of stress in the last 3 months, although that should be letting up now. Still nursing a 15-month-old 2-3 times a day. In general, when I'm not pregnant, I more typically weigh more like 90 - 95 pounds, sometimes as high as 98. I...round up...if people ask me how much I weigh.

Maybe I shouldn't even be worried about this. But when I'm starting to get into the range where if I were younger than 8, I'd have to use a car seat, and instead they let me drive my own car, well, it seems a little strange.)
posted by leahwrenn to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Go for foods with healthy fats: olives, avocados if you can get fresh ones, maybe some butter. If you eat meat, eat a high-quality steak once in a while.

Sugary foods might make you pack on pounds faster, but they won't help with the crankiness.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:12 PM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

One of my friends had this problem so she started drinking slimfast shakes as snacks in between meals. Like, eat regular breakfast, drink a slimfast shake at 10, eat regular lunch at noon, etc.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 12:13 PM on November 4, 2009

Eggs supposedly help. Add in some toast with PB to every meal. Probably the healthiest way to go about it is gently (IANAD or YD), just up your calories a bit all over the map. Then step it back down when you've reached the weight you like. Really, most people would love to develop their own road map to gaining a few pounds. Indulge a little, but keep it low key.
posted by eralclare at 12:15 PM on November 4, 2009

Chocolate milk.
posted by meerkatty at 12:16 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Make sure you're getting enough protein, as others have said, and I'd also make sure you're getting enough iron.
posted by runningwithscissors at 12:19 PM on November 4, 2009

I remember Jared Leto said he microwaved and drank cartons of ice cream to gain weight to play Mark David Chapman. Probably not the healthiest way to go about this, but it's kind of fun and hilarious.
posted by eggplantplacebo at 12:30 PM on November 4, 2009

Lots of stress in the last 3 months, although that should be letting up now. Still nursing a 15-month-old 2-3 times a day....

...Maybe I shouldn't even be worried about this.

I'd say:

1) Try not to worry about it, because you're just perpetuating the stress cycle. Stress has different effects on different people -- with some it causes abnormal weight gain, with others abnormal weight loss. But it's always bad for you.

2) Feel free to supplement nursing with formula-milk. Natural breast milk is great, but the anti-formula arguments are a little overblown. Especially if full-time nursing is too demanding on an underweight woman.
posted by randomstriker at 12:35 PM on November 4, 2009

I have a similar body type, and strength training really helps to build the right kind of weight (muscle rather than fat). is an excellent resource for putting together a program.

In addition, you'll also want to be sure to eat more of the healthy fats and protein such as full-fat dairy products, avocado, and peanut butter.
posted by susanvance at 12:38 PM on November 4, 2009

Here, have ten of my pounds- no, no, I insist!
Seriously, though- try putting on some muscle mass instead of just eating more. Squats and lunges are great for your legs, and you're probably able to do at least one pullup if you only weigh 85 pounds. Get a pullup bar and start practicing daily. Your back and your legs are where your body's largest muscles are, so if you work on them you'll gain weight.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 12:40 PM on November 4, 2009

a gallon of milk a day.
posted by rhizome at 12:46 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

One of my friends had this problem so she started drinking slimfast shakes as snacks in between meals. Like, eat regular breakfast, drink a slimfast shake at 10, eat regular lunch at noon, etc.
posted by lockestockbarrel

I am a skinny guy, I used to buy cases of "Ensure" shakes at costco and drink them just like lockestockbarrel's friend, in between meals. It works and is convenient and once you buy them you will drink them, but it will be more costly than eggs, peanut butter, etc.

Ensure has ~350 calories
Slimfast shakes have ~ 200 calories
posted by gavtaylor at 12:50 PM on November 4, 2009

I suppose the Emilia Romagna diet with healthy doses of butter, cheese, pasta, polenta, pork products and baked sweets ought to do the trick. Find some Marcella Hazan cookbooks and work through them, Julie & Julia style, and you're all set (literally).
Alternatively, traditional Viennese cooking ought to be safe.
This is something of a reversed low-carb diet. Only: watch your vitamins and stop if your stomach begins to protests. And I believe that the usual recommendation to do some exercise is not bad for this program either. You don't want to add just flabbiness, I suppose.
posted by Namlit at 12:52 PM on November 4, 2009

I know you're in Alaska, but homemade mostly-cream strawberry (or whatever) ice cream is an awesome way to gain weight. I'd avoid chocolate and caffeine in any form, especially since you're so little.

Since it's cold where you are, I'd look to some cream-based soups, maybe some that also contain healthy things, like cream of broccoli or cream of mushroom soup.

If you're not tight on funds, you could also look into some soft cream-based cheeses, like brie and its sisters. Yummy.
posted by amtho at 12:53 PM on November 4, 2009

I'd like to gain about 10 pounds ... any suggestions on how to do this, besides eating more?

Lift weights. You'll wind up eating more (because you'll be more hungry), but the weight gain will be from exercise rather than just eating more for its own sake.
posted by zippy at 12:55 PM on November 4, 2009

Drinking lots of beer worked for me. :-|
posted by mudpuppie at 12:56 PM on November 4, 2009

To me this seems like a no-brainer... eat more carbs. Pizza, pasta, and breads will do this quite nicely. But of course you'll want to balance it out with some protein and fat.
posted by crapmatic at 12:59 PM on November 4, 2009

I unintentionally gained a LOT of weight recently simply by drinking a malt beverage after lunch every day.

Between a couple of cases of malt and a couple of cases of ensure, you should be set.

But while you're at it, why not add cream or even condensed milk to your coffee?
posted by pick_the_flowers at 1:02 PM on November 4, 2009

Nuts, eat lots of nuts, they're good for you! Carry around a bag of them all the time and munch, very satisfying! Trail mix with dried fruits in it is good too. Once you decided to wean the babe you'll likely put some weight on easily enough.

Have you ever lived in a really cold climate before? You burn more calories!

I do remember having to eat a candy bar or two every day just to stay at 115 (10-15 lbs underweight for me) when I was nursing, but I wouldn't recommend it. I also did not get a period until he was 14 months old, it was like my body was making sure I didn't get pregnant again!
posted by mareli at 1:05 PM on November 4, 2009

I got really underweight from being sick last year and I was in a place where food was not all that plentiful. I ate a chocolate bar a day and drank whole milk until my weight was back up, and I've been the healthiest I've been in years since then. When I hit my normal weight, I stopped gaining (I had the opportunity to go back to my regular diet before that, so that was good). So I say, if you need to gain, just eat and don't worry about it. I mean, maybe you want to do something more healthful than a chocolate bar a day, but whole milk is a great choice (organic if you can), and fats in general have the benefit of being dense in calories so that you don't have to eat too much. Take a "whole fats" approach and eat foods naturally high in fat: avocados, coconut, fatty fish, whole milk. This will give you a good balance of nutrients with the fat.
posted by carmen at 1:09 PM on November 4, 2009

I'm 5'7" and tipping the scales at... about 15 pounds under where I like to be. I feel your pain, and I round up when people ask me. (and lately I'm wearing shirts with higher collars.)

To keep from dipping any lower, I eat until I'm past full, more often than I want to eat. I add cheese to everything.

Beverages with sugar (gatorade for me).
More cheese.
Peanut butter.
No low sugar, low fat, or calorie free options. When I buy a drink at starbucks, I make sure they add whole milk.

For me it's not stress, but adding a moderate amount of exercise to my life (about 1/2 hour on a bike, 3-4 days a week). I'm right about at my set point, and I don't like the way it looks. Because the biking is part of how I commute now that I don't own a car, it's not like I can stop exercising at the moment. I didn't get over 100# until I was into my 20s and got a job at an office. Secretary spread.

I just want you to know, you're not the only woman who feels this way. And if you're as tired as I am of larger folks chiding you for considering it a problem, I don't blame you, it can make the effort to gain even harder.
posted by bilabial at 1:35 PM on November 4, 2009

Beer. Also ice cream.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:54 PM on November 4, 2009

I'm slightly under 5 feet and used to be about 90 lbs, now more like 95-100. Ensure is the (expensive) answer. Make sure you get the Plus version; it has the most calories. You really need this extra weight going into flu season. My doctor told me I was in danger at 90.
posted by desjardins at 2:06 PM on November 4, 2009

Steak, butter, whole milk, cheese, bacon, avocados, potatoes, pastas, breads, ice cream, candy.

In that order of preference.
posted by dfriedman at 2:13 PM on November 4, 2009

peanut butter! in shakes, in oatmeal, incorporated into dinner, etc.
posted by pintapicasso at 2:24 PM on November 4, 2009

If you're not terribly fond of Slim-Fast or Ensure, you can make shakes/smoothies with whole milk and protein powder and whatever fruits you like to add some flavor. Peanut butter is delicious in shakes; apparently so is avocado. Whichever way you go, drinking your extra nutrients will be easier than eating them.

Strength training is a great idea, and you might also want to consider yoga - it's not as effective as lifting weights at building muscle, but it will help, and it's a great stress reliever.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:24 PM on November 4, 2009

Skimmed milk powder is dirt cheap and fantastic stuff for gaining muscle and fat; it is just concentrated, slow releasing carbs and protein. Get a big tub of it and stir a few tablespoons into some whole milk before bed, then it will put your body in an anabolic state for the duration of your sleep, whereas you would normally go catabolic due to ~8hrs without eating. Take a multivitamin as well as trace nutrient deficiencies can stop you building muscle effectively. If you can squeeze some weights / resistance training into your schedule, even better!

Interesting that you mention you are breastfeeding regularly and live in a cold climate - I'm sure you know both of these things can lead to a LOT more calories being burnt!
posted by ruperto at 2:36 PM on November 4, 2009

Basically eat whatever you like, try to keep too much fiber out of it for obvious reasons. Don't worry too much about the health effects or Food A or Food B until your weight is up.

I am a runner with a high-metabolism and have sought Dr. advice because I was worried that:

- I was too thin (getting some comments from people)
- I was eating too much junk

His answer, was don't worry about it as long as your weight is good. Good luck and happy eating!
posted by mymanb at 2:38 PM on November 4, 2009

I am guilty now & then of making "wholer than whole" milk: buy a carton of heavy whipping cream and add 4 oz. or so to an 8 oz glass of taste. Just as nature did NOT intend...but it can really hit the spot. A way to get the effect without all the vanilla/sugar (which I would avoid) from, say, ice cream or shakes, and avoiding the heaviness of cheese & butter, both being too overrich, for me at least, for alot of eating. You don't want to give yourself an eating disorder by eating alot of candy.
Just make sure your getting a lotta greens if your eating alot of dairy.
Hard-boiled eggs & mayonaisse, if you want to go the egg route.
Oatmeal boiled in milk + (organic) shortening and/or avocado.
posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 5:31 PM on November 4, 2009

Get married, it worked wonders for me.
posted by jazzman at 5:47 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you want to get scientific about it, you can basically ensure you'll gain a certain amount of weight in a certain time by counting your calories. A pound of fat is roughly 3500 calories, so if you eat 500 calories more than you burn every day for a week, you gain a pound. You can get a decent estimate of how many calories you burn a day using a calculator like this, and you can track your calories on a website like . I'd recommend doing some strength training too. Not only will you gain more muscle and less fat, but it will make you feel a lot less stressed and cranky.

As far as concrete tips are concerned, you can replace foods you usually eat with higher calorie equivalents: 2% -> whole milk, diet soda -> regular soda, regular toast -> buttered toast -> toast with peanut butter, etc... . Keep your house stocked with foods you like, and indulge yourself more when you go shopping. Try to eat 5-6 meals throughout the day. I've had success keeping my freezer stocked with Ben and Jerry's ice cream in the past, although it's not exactly the healthy route.
posted by martin10bones at 6:14 PM on November 4, 2009

Ach, you poor thing! I know what Fairbanks is like, and I have a friend who's breastfeeding. (The phrase she used was, "it's like having a tapeworm.")

I would take it easy with the exercise, even though that IS a great way to gain healthy weight. The problem is that the baby's eating all your calories! I would be concerned about you burning any more calories than you have to in order to move from your couch to the fridge.

How about buying one of those giant tubs of protein powder that weightlifters drink? GNC sells stuff specifically designed to put weight on people. I had a coworker who would both add it to his food, and mix it into a shake to drink.

It's not very tasty, but think of it as medicine. It's not for you, it's for your baby. You need to pass on good nutrition to the little tyke, and it's hard to do that when your body is running on empty.
posted by ErikaB at 6:31 PM on November 4, 2009

I really really debated about saying this. And posted that last comment, then walked away from the computer to do something, then decided that I had to come back and say it. Fully understanding that this is a big, messy, complicated, emotionally charged issue, and not something that a total stranger has any right to address with you over the internet.

But in my defense, you did mention it in your question!

Here is what I want to say:

Do you want to address the part about "besides eating more"? Either with us, or with a trusted friend, or with a professional?

I think you might. But I am not you, and I don't have the right, do I?
posted by ErikaB at 6:42 PM on November 4, 2009

I think she meant "don't just tell me to eat more, tell what what to eat more of".
posted by maudlin at 6:45 PM on November 4, 2009

You could get a part-time job at a chocolate shop....
posted by aniola at 11:22 PM on November 4, 2009

(I knew someone who gained 30 pounds in six months that way.)
posted by aniola at 11:23 PM on November 4, 2009

Re: aniola's suggestion x Fairbanks: Ooh, yeah, see if Candy Kingdom is hiring! It's in the Bentley Mall over on College. Also, Barnes and Noble is usually hiring in the cafe. A couple Frappuccinos per day will pack some weight on.
posted by Cricket at 9:59 AM on November 5, 2009

I'm sure you've thought of this... but maybe go ahead and wean the baby? He or she has gotten a GREAT start already with the nursing.

I'm 5'0" and underweight. When I was nursing, I lost pounds like crazy. I don't think I ever went under 90, but that was enough to worry me a bit. If you're genuinely concerned about your health, the fastest remedy will be to wean the baby. Your child will be fine, and it IS important for you to consider the needs of your own body.
posted by torticat at 9:07 PM on November 5, 2009

Nursing takes a huge amount of calories...cook everything with butter. But the best solution would probably be ensure shakes. You do need to take in a lot more than usual.
posted by kathrineg at 3:12 PM on November 6, 2009

Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack - absolutely no exceptions. If you are too busy (perhaps with the baby) to prepare a snack or meal, you need to get the calories in anyway. You can use ensure or a protein powder/ carnation instant breakfast blended into whole milk, or make a high-calorie shake with ice cream & whole milk - add in some peanut butter too, if you want. This can also substitute for a meal, but you'll need to make it even higher calorie. If you eat three 600-calorie meals and three 400 calorie snacks, you'll be at 3000 calories per day, which should do it - yes, you probably need that much to gain, especially while you're nursing. If you don't gain on that, you might even need more.

Ensure Plus (or Boost Plus) has 350 calories per bottle, regular Ensure or Boost is only about 250. A half cup of Haagen Daz ice cream is about 270 - blend that with a cup of whole milk & 2T of peanut butter, and you have a 620 calorie shake, which can substitute for a meal if you need to eat one-handed.

You can also substitute juice or milk for water throughout the day.

Of course, real meals are important too - cook with plenty of olive oil and butter, use whole milk yogurt instead of nonfat, etc. Snack on nuts instead of things like popcorn; make sure you always put full-fat dressing on your salad; cook your vegetables in oil; put avocado, cheese, and/or mayo on your sandwiches.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:40 PM on November 8, 2009

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