I've lost too much weight, and I can't seem to gain it back.
May 25, 2010 5:15 AM   Subscribe

I've lost too much weight, and I can't seem to gain it back.

I am 5'4 and weigh 100 pounds. Almost a year ago, exactly, I lost 15 pounds over the course of two weeks. I wasn't trying to lose weight, I was just very stressed out and didn't have much of an appetite. I know a lot about nutrition, and I eat extremely well. For the past year, I have been trying to gain weight, but to no avail. I eat throughout day; a varied diet of healthy carbs and fats, and I also eat a lot of veggies. I am definitely consuming enough calories because I use organic butter and heavy whipping cream like nobody's business. I am not a vegetarian.

I am still quite stressed out. My heart frequently beats very quickly and I get adrenaline rushes at least once a day due to some personal stress in my life. I am wondering if my anxiety has sped up my metabolism. I feel healthiest at about 115-117 and I so desperately want to get back to that.

I feel like this has been going on long enough to ask MeFi for some advice. Thanks!
posted by DeltaForce to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Based on your measurements, I'll assume you're female.

Have you come off birth control in that time frame, by any chance? I lost about 10 pounds when I stopped taking it and couldn't gain it back despite looking definitely-too-thin (also 100lb at 5'4"). I was also experiencing severe anxiety during this time.

Sadly the only thing that helped was having a baby, so that likely isn't the solution you're looking for! I just figured birth control may be a non-obvious reason for your inability to gain.

Good luck! Enjoy the heavy cream!
posted by sunshinesky at 5:22 AM on May 25, 2010

Go to a doctor. One possible explanation for those symptoms could be hyperthyroidism.
posted by Ery at 5:26 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm no doctor, but that sounds like an endocrine issue. This has definitely been going on long enough to tell this to a doctor, let alone mefi.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:28 AM on May 25, 2010

A number of girls I know are perpetually underweight. Can't seem to put on pounds for love or money. While most people would kill for that problem, the side effects can include anemia and the sort of general malaise that goes along with it. Fortunately, in many cases the cause is something as simple as iron deficiency, which can be treated with dietary supplements.

You might consider seeing a doctor. Inability to put on weight can be a symptom of something you want to take care of. Even if it's only anemia, that isn't healthy, and getting yourself worked up by a physician sounds like a good idea.
posted by valkyryn at 5:29 AM on May 25, 2010

Thanks so far everyone. Relevant info: I have never been on birth control and I have a regular period.
posted by DeltaForce at 5:30 AM on May 25, 2010

I knew someone who got a copper iud and started gaining weight that she really didn't want. Here's a forum full of people with the same problem. You could try using this to your advantage by eating lots of copper containing foods like peanut butter, shellfish, mushrooms, chocolate, liver, nuts, etc.
posted by stavrogin at 5:33 AM on May 25, 2010

Anxiety, weight loss, and rapid heartbeat, among other things, are signs of hyperthyroidism. If this is your problem, it's treatable. Go see a doctor.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:36 AM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Assuming that there are not underlying health issues such as those mentioned here, the standard advice for gaining weight is calories: whole milk, eggs, cheese, butter, steak.

Since you say you're eating enough, though, I agree with the other responders that you should discuss this with a doctor.
posted by dfriedman at 5:40 AM on May 25, 2010

Any other meds? ADD medication can mess with your metabolism (and thus your weight).
posted by schmod at 5:42 AM on May 25, 2010

My heart frequently beats very quickly and I get adrenaline rushes at least once a day due to some personal stress in my life.

Yeah, you want to see a doctor, in fact, see a doctor immediately.

I have a friend who suffered from hyperthyroidism that went undiagnosed for a long time; he was told if he'd waited much longer his life was in danger. I don't mean to be scary, but I'm not a big 'see a doctor' person and I think you should call one today.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:09 AM on May 25, 2010

Another vote for seeing an endocrinologist.
posted by kimdog at 6:10 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

How many calories are you taking in daily? If you don't know, it's a little premature to say that you can't gain weight. Figure out what you're getting now and increase your intake by 500 or so per day. That's about 3.5 cups of whole milk, which is a very easy way to get those extra calories.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:31 AM on May 25, 2010

major upsets/changes in your life? in the past i've had something called an agitated depression. this was brought on by a major breakup, so i did the whole burst into tears & want to crawl under the covers & die thing. the depression continued, though, so that the last thing in the world i felt was depressed--i didn't sleep well, my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest, i couldn't eat much, and my mind was going a thousand miles a minute. aside from being tired from not sleeping, i felt like superwoman at times because i had so dang much energy (what i referred to at the time as adrenalin rushes).

you might want to consider the depression angle.
posted by msconduct at 6:31 AM on May 25, 2010

That sounds similar to my sister's experience of Graves' disease (basically hyperthyroidism). Obviously, we can't diagnose you, but it would probably be worthwhile for you to get checked out by a doctor!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:46 AM on May 25, 2010

(And, if I remember correctly, she would be eating like 3000 calories a day and not gaining weight)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:47 AM on May 25, 2010

See a doctor about this, but 5'4 100lbs really isn't dramatically underweight for a woman. If you are given a clean bill of health just maintain a healthy diet and exercise and dont worry about something that isnt a problem.
posted by BobbyDigital at 6:49 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seeing an endocrinologist sounds like the right strategy, but a note about macronutrients too - you mention eating carbs and fats, but you don't mention protein. A healthy split is about 40/40/20 (protein/fats/carbs).
posted by brozek at 7:20 AM on May 25, 2010

When I was in college, I lost some weight that I really didn't need to lose, and my heart got skippy and I felt some adrenaline rush type things. It took a while for me to convince the doctors to take me seriously, but it turned out I had "sub-acute thyroiditis" -- i.e. basically a thyroid infection. It wasn't serious and just had to go away on its own, but they put me on betablockers for the symptoms.

Just to chime in with "it might be a thyroid problem," but adding that not all thyroid problems are scary.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:04 AM on May 25, 2010

Stress itself can burn a lot of calories so, to be honest, I also think you should be reducing the stress and anxiety in your life - easier said than done, I know.

As a former hyper-thyroidism sufferer myself, yes, it could be that. It certainly is not a bad idea to check with an endocrinologist to see if there are any metabolic issues.

The symptoms of hyperthyroidism are available online. I know in my extreme case (I ended up in the hospital with thyroid storm) other symptoms included shaking (If I held my arm out, it would jiggle up and down) and bulging eyes.
posted by vacapinta at 8:13 AM on May 25, 2010

Are you on any other meds? I'm the same size as you and forget to eat when I am extremely stressed. Even losing just a few pounds can really affect how my clothes fit and how I feel about myself. Do you smoke? You should definitely go to the doctor for the thyroid and anemia testing. Your concern about your weight is adding to the stress.
posted by mokeydraws at 8:16 AM on May 25, 2010

I eat throughout day; a varied diet of healthy carbs and fats, and I also eat a lot of veggies. I am definitely consuming enough calories because I use organic butter and heavy whipping cream like nobody's business.

YMMV, but I gain the most weight when I'm not thinking about carbs and food amounts -- awareness of those things makes me want to eat less (maybe cultural conditioning?) and makes me realize when I'm full so that I don't overeat. Personally, when I don't overeat, I tend to lose weight. If I wanted to gain weight, I would eat when I was bored, think only about how delicious the food is and not how many calories it has, and eat out. Pasta, cheese, white bread, a sedentary lifestyle, and cooking with butter instead of olive oil are what make me gain weight quickly.

I realize that these aren't very healthful solutions. Maybe you could try developing muscle rather than going after arbitrary weight gain.
posted by ramenopres at 8:22 AM on May 25, 2010

Here's an article written by Krista Scott-Dixon of Stumptuous (who knows a thing or two about nutrition herself) about eating for mass gain. I find that a peanut butter and banana smoothie with whole milk is a pretty good way to eat a crapload of healthy calories in a way that doesn't feel like you're eating a ludicrous quantity of food (I can't get hungry for breakfast because eating in the morning makes me feel sick, but drinking calories doesn't bother me. PB&B smoothie is a frequent meal in my life). It's super tasty in the summer if you freeze the bananas first, especially with some chocolate added.

(Nth-ing the "see a doctor" comments, but you might as well eat some extra calories; I was underweight in high school for a year or two -- I was also under a lot of stress and had the racing heartbeat going on. My other physical symptoms went away when I had resolved the issues that were stressing me out, and when I put on some more fat.)
posted by kataclysm at 8:38 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am turning into a broken record here, but you don't need an endocrinologist, you only need your primary care doctor.

Your primary care doctor can run the very basic tests that will evaluate your thyroid and other basic lab work, and if something turns up, they will refer you to the appropriate specialist.

It is not a good idea to see a specialist due to something you think you've diagnosed over the internet, because you may not pick the right specialist, plus, most medical issues that have no diagnosis yet are best addressed by a general practitioner. Generally, it is always a better idea to start with your primary care doctor, who is skilled at figuring out the general cause of your symptoms, and has a broader base of knowledge and will keep a more open mind than a specialist. Once you have narrowed things down a bit, then a specialty referral will make sense.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:19 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone for your help, I really appreciate it. I made a doctor's appointment with my GP for early next week. I'll update here, in case anyone is interested.

Thanks again.
posted by DeltaForce at 12:57 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might want to track what you eat for the next week so you can take that info in to your doctor. That way if you're really eating plenty, you can rule that out immediately.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:40 PM on May 25, 2010

Update: I had my appointment earlier this week and my lab results came in today. There does seem to be some borderline hyperthyroid stuff going on, though I am not sure if it is enough to warrant my symptoms.

I will be having a follow-up with my doctor next week.

Thanks everyone!
posted by DeltaForce at 8:49 AM on June 4, 2010

Thanks for updating - I hope your follow up goes well.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:24 AM on June 4, 2010

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