Reading material request
February 16, 2021 10:47 PM   Subscribe

I am at the bottom end of the BMI, and I have to work hard not to fall off. I do not have anorexia, I do not have bulemia.* I have overcome enough of my childhood picky eatingness to pass as normal. I am not a child, I am not the parent of a child. I have a high metabolism.** Executive function issues with preparing food are also play. I don't know anyone who deals with this and I feel alone. Any workarounds I've figured out, I've had to reverse-engineer from articles directed at people who aren't me. I'd really like to read some articles written for people who are like me.***

*I have a positive body image and see people as beautiful at all sizes, and I have the good fortune to only experience weight-based discrimination at the doctor's office, where I get "you look healthy" instead of tests. I know the failings of the BMI. This is context, not the focus of my question.

**I am eating a lot of the time. I am also hungry a lot of the time. As in, a group of people eat the same bowl of oatmeal with all the same added ingredients, and I am the first one hungry again by a significant chunk of time. I would really love to be mostly vegan for ethical reasons, but I have tried and it does not work for me because then I am even hungrier. I could probably do it if I lived in like a really tasty vegan potluck community. This is context, not the focus of my question.

***This is the internet, everything is on the internet, please help me find my corner of the internet.
posted by aniola to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The ask is not clear (to me). Are you looking for material on how to gain weight, or maintain weight? Or to get more out of the food you are eating? Or to prepare a different kind of food ?

Probably tangential, but: if you are taking any prescription meds, research if/how they can affect hunger and metabolism. Do not take only one single medical professional’s advice as authoritative. Dr’s can often not know. My own anecdotal: I took Cymbalta for 12 years and craved food (esp carbs) immensely ALL THE TIME. After stopping, cravings disappeared and weight returned to normal within a matter of months, and I am eating so much more healthily. RELATED, the new medication I was put on after all that, actually suppressed my appetite (too much) until the right dosage was found.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:23 PM on February 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Anecdata, but I gained and kept weight once I started weight lifting. I don't know if that's what did it. All I know is that I was at a natural (but very low) BMI until age 22 or so. I started weight lifting with a trainer once a week, and then I started gaining weight, both muscle and fat.

I have never really found a "corner" of the internet that helped me with it. I read weightlifting blogs to learn about calorie-dense meals, and I tangentially found information by searching for meal supplements specific to weight gain. I don't weight lift anymore, and keeping my weight up can sometimes be an issue (especially when I'm under the weather), but I've found it easier to at least stay in the "normal" BMI ranges in the past few years. It might've been the weights, or age + hormones, but it was like a switch flipped and suddenly I wasn't a twig anymore.

To avoid feeling hungry, I'm pretty much grazing all day in between regular meals. I don't worry too much about if my snacks are healthy (which I know is a privilege), just as long as they have enough calories to keep me going until the next meal. I try to balance them out with healthy meals, at least. Carrot snacks aren't going to keep me full between breakfast and lunch, but a homemade muffin and smoothie will.

tl;dr: Bodybuilding blogs and subreddits gave me the information I needed to stay healthy and put on weight, even from a purely nutritional angle. I've been through it and it's a terribly frustrating experience; I'm sorry I don't have more specific resources.
posted by lesser weasel at 11:50 PM on February 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Also, if you want to talk specific numbers (height + weight, etc.), it's not a trigger for me, and I'd be glad to discuss it with you in private messages.
posted by lesser weasel at 11:55 PM on February 16, 2021

Best answer: There are articles on keeping weight on seniors... (advice includes eg sneaking fats into things (butter, peanut butter, cheese, higher fat dairy, nuts), including the odd nutrition shake with extra calories...)... that’s more like the reverse engineering you’re doing, though.

Just curious, is your digestive health ok? Sometimes people are a little too “quick” at digesting and they don’t realize this, because it’s always been that way, that’s their normal. But maybe there’s an underlying medical issue. Sounds like your doctor isn’t taking your concern seriously, all you can do is try once more then look for another.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:44 AM on February 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was you when I was in my 20s. I found that grazing/snacking a lot between meals also helped.

....If you are also in your 20s, there is also a very real possibility that in your mid-30s your metabolism will change and this problem will effectively fix itself, as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:13 AM on February 17, 2021

Are you familiar with ectomorphs? I’m not sure if it fits what you’re looking for, but if it does, that could be a way toward community.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:24 AM on February 17, 2021

Best answer: So if you weight-lift, you're gaining muscle, and consuming fat, so yes, your net weight will go up, and I'm probably being captain obvious here.

Just to clarify, in my specific case, I had trouble gaining any weight at all -- including through fat, no matter what I ate or the other exercising I did -- until I started weight lifting specifically. Getting sick was an issue, because I would lose weight and then spend upwards of a year trying to get back to where I was because it would. not. stick.

Hence my mentioning it, in case my experience can help OP with ideas, because for most of my life I knew exactly what OP meant with "I have to work hard not to fall off." Sometimes bodies do not perform as expected.

Re: ectomorphs, in my experience those communities can sometimes be toxic as hell, so be wary IMO. It can be a good starting point for articles and nutritional information, though, if you're willing to cherry-pick.
posted by lesser weasel at 4:57 AM on February 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Thanks for clarifying about ectomorphs. I’m not actually familiar with the communities, being not-an-ectomorph myself; I’m just aware they exist from some old bloggers I used to read about other topics who also mentioned they were ectomorphs.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:22 AM on February 17, 2021

Best answer: From the executive function angle, Black Girl Lost Keys (an ADHD blogger) has a piece about cooking with ADHD and 100 No-Cook Meal Items.
I’m not sure to what extent you’ll feel like you need to reverse-engineer stuff aimed at people with executive function challenges but overall they don’t seem like they’ll be weight-focused or toxic or aimed at kids.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:37 AM on February 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Hi! You are not alone.

My biggest advice is eat slow carbs + lots of healthy fat and minimal sugar. To take your oatmeal example: instead of rolled oats, use steel cut. Make them with lots of butter/oil and whole milk or coconut milk. Top with nuts and maybe protein powder.

In general, try adding things like avocado, olive oil, coconut milk, nut butters, eggs, prosciutto to everything. Smoothies are a great way to bulk up. Keeping protein bars around is also helpful if you forget meals - set phone reminders to yourself.

The advice above about strength training is good, as you want to gain muscle, not fat. The Reddit GainIt forum has some good advice, and engaging a nutritionist and/or personal trainer would likely be worthwhile.
posted by veery at 7:19 AM on February 17, 2021 [6 favorites]

One corner of the internet is Reddit's r/gainit/, "Fitness subreddit for information and discussion for people looking to put on weight, muscle, and strength." Although the typical participant seems to be is a skinny young man trying to add muscle, anyone who's trying to gain (or maintain) weight is welcome, regardless of gender, age, fitness goals, etc. Read the wiki, then post your specific remaining questions.

One part of your question is a little confusing to me: Generally, people have trouble maintaining or gaining weight because they are not hungry enough. It's hard to force-feed yourself. But you say both that you have trouble maintaining weight and that you are always hungry. I'd be careful that do don't try to limit your hunger by eating more filling foods. For example, a bowl of plain oatmeal or a plate of raw vegetables will fill you up without too many calories, which is why people who are trying to lose weight are encouraged to eat them. To gain weight, you want to eat foods that don't fill you up but DO provide a lot of calories, precisely so you will consume more calories - such as smoothies.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:26 AM on February 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: - I am not on an prescriptions.
- I am in my late 30s.
- Stuff aimed at people with executive function challenges is great.
- I will talk to a new doctor when the pandemic is under control.
- I have already tried a dietician. The dietician was confused and basically told me to eat more.
posted by aniola at 8:07 AM on February 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My breakfast is steel-cut oatmeal with sunflower seeds and walnuts and apples and cabbage. The cabbage helps make it feel filling a little longer. I am full for a while and then hungry again like an hour later. I eat from a bigger bowl than my partner (but don't always finish)
posted by aniola at 8:13 AM on February 17, 2021

Do you drink a lot of water? People say a lot of what we feel as hunger is actually thirst. I don’t know how true this is, but it’s worth trying.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:44 AM on February 17, 2021

Response by poster: I am about zero feet from my water bottle. (yes).
posted by aniola at 8:51 AM on February 17, 2021

Response by poster: Is there anything like weightlifting but that's fun? I'm more likely to do it if it's fun.
posted by aniola at 8:51 AM on February 17, 2021 and are what you are looking for.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 9:01 AM on February 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Funny you mention oatmeal as an example. I make a batch of steel-cut oats every week. My husband says they make him feel full for a while but I feel hungry soon after and it doesn't make sense. It like I feel empty inside, literally. I read somewhere that you have to soak them. Some people digest them differently. Maybe this is just how your body is.

It might be worth examining your digestive system, poop habits etc. I am small and have issues gaining weight/keeping weight on. When I go to the doctor they pretty much just equate small with healthy and it's frustrating. You might have some kind of food sensitivity or it could just be how you are. Do you get enough fiber? Red apples vs green apples also have different digestive impacts. Do you get heartburn? I thought I didn't get heartburn or reflux but apparently, there is something called silent reflux.
posted by mokeydraws at 9:37 AM on February 17, 2021

Because of all the oatmeal discussion, I want to share something that I’ve had a hard time realizing: even whole grains (like steel cut oats) and legumes are still pretty carb-heavy. I’m not saying this from a carbs = bad perspective at all, just that for satiety or avoiding blood sugar spikes and drops, sometimes you need to add more fat than many people are conditioned to use. Nutrition advice over the decades has often steered people away from fat so much that I think the “be sparing with fat” idea seeps in to most people’s consciousness even if they haven’t ever been dieters per se.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:35 AM on February 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Fats and proteins. I have a job I can't snack at that's very high energy, if I eat only carbs and veges beforehand I'm in a hungry rage by 11am. I also can't eat huge meals in the mornings as it makes me very nauseous, so I really need small densely calorie packed foods. With your breakfast I'd have more nuts and seeds than oats, and I'd try to get an egg in too.

Eggs, meats, nuts, seeds and beans! Often I'll make a protein rich smoothie to drink during work as drinking is fine. Lots of avocado and nut/seed butters. (You can buy frozen avocado for smoothies that's a lot less expensive than fresh).
posted by Dynex at 12:49 PM on February 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ask A Swoll Woman writes about eating, and certainly doesn't presume you're trying to lose weight -- a lot of her writing is about deliberately gaining weight, to get stronger. Here's a column about finding good food when you just don't have the mental resources to do a lot of work on it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:50 PM on February 17, 2021

Best answer: Add fat, add heaps of fat.

Also look at a calorie calculator, the sunflower seeds and walnuts are good, but the other things in that breakfast are very filling, but don't have a lot of calories.
I don't eat sugar by itself, makes me spike and feel crap, but I can add it to meals with more protein and fat because that slows the absorption. So I would be adding a bunch of fat, maybe a 3 tablespoons of coconut cream to that breakfast, and a bit more sugar.

Also, with the way you need calories, you can eat icecream. Like, just go for it. Have ice cream after dinner. That's got the fats and calories you need. Enjoy.

I just started adding a couple of spoons of butter to my hot dishes. Partly because I'm celiac, and turns out rice noodles have less calories than wheat noodles, and it was easiest way to compensate.

In terms of things like weight lifting but more fun, maybe rock climbing? Engages the monkey-puzzle-solving brain.
posted by Elysum at 12:51 PM on February 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

You mentioned you added cabbage to breakfast to feel more full, it has fibre so it makes you feel full/satieted, but it has almost no calories.

OK, so your breakfast is made up entirely of very filling, low calorie foods, and I suggested adding coconut cream, but no, I'm wrong, it turns out that that is also a very filling fat which makes people eat less calories later in the day.

See that list of filling food above? You want the opposite.

I'm going back to my best suggestion:
Add a scoop of ice-cream to that breakfast.

And here's reading material on why:

If you eat meat, eat fatty meat. Add butter & sugar to just about anything you feel like.
posted by Elysum at 1:07 PM on February 17, 2021

Response by poster: I do not eat refined sugar (with the exception of dairy). I probably eat more fat than most people you know.
posted by aniola at 1:25 PM on February 17, 2021

Seconding that aniola eats lots of fat/oil. It's not unheard-of for her to put an entire stick of butter on a bowl of popcorn.
posted by sibilatorix at 1:47 PM on February 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

I hope this doesn't sound dismissive, because it isn't intended to be that way at all. I, too, have a quick metabolism and am at the bottom end of the BMI. No way does a bowl of oatmeal last me until lunch. I have tried being a vegetarian but I can't do it because it just doesn't fill me up. It can actually be a challenge for me to stay at people's homes for extended visits because, as I've stated many times, "People don't eat!" I get hungry when I stay with them. Some people can go all day without eating, but I can't miss a meal and I never, ever do. So I'm not like most people, but that's okay. I am what I am and they are what they are and I don't worry about it.
posted by SageTrail at 1:58 PM on February 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

You don’t want to eat unhealthy fats like butter for the sake of being a healthier weight.
1. Look at your family. Do they have high metabolisms? Do they have problems associated with high metabolisms and insufficient eating? If not, you should be fine. Problems with weight are not really a human problem (unless you are ignoring hunger pangs or have an underlying medical condition) because our metabolism is sufficiently evolved to slow down if you eat below what you need.
2. Some search terms might help : orthorexia, hyper metabolism, appetite, keto/vegan/paleo. Just throwing these out there. Take note of certain terms when you come across them.
3. Keep a journal and experiment with: when you eat, the size discrepancy between meals. For instance, if you fast all day and eat a lot before bed, you should gain weight. Typically, if you do the reverse (large meal for breakfast and skip dinner or late night snacks), you should lose weight. Snacking throughout the day (grazing) keeps your metabolism high.
4. What activities make you hungry? Do that.
5. You can be a normal weight and unhealthy. You can be underweight and healthy. You can’t tell how your organs are functioning based on your dress size, most of the time. Median/average weight in Japan is different than the US. Focus on what you’re putting in your body, what your blood tests show (if there are any deficiencies), how you feel after you eat. Gaining weight for the sake of it can be more harmful than not. As long as you have been a constant weight/BMI your whole life, a doctor will not think anything is wrong with you internally.
posted by thesockpuppet at 9:33 PM on February 17, 2021

Also, liquids/low fiber foods are the easiest way to gain weight. The more you’re chewing, the more quickly you feel full. You can make high calorie smoothies as meal replacements if cooking is too much work. Smoothie suggestions: add protein powder/a nut butter/dates etc. Smoothies are really trendy nowadays, so it should not be hard to find something convenient that’s what you need. I say smoothies, not juices because juicing removes the fiber and you’re just left with sugar and vitamins. And you seem health conscious.
posted by thesockpuppet at 9:39 PM on February 17, 2021

Response by poster: I am not trying to gain or lose weight. I am trying to not be perpetually hungry. Can the focus please return to sharing corners of the internet that meet the criteria specified in my original post?
posted by aniola at 12:38 PM on February 18, 2021

Thanks for clarifying; it was unclear (at least to me) whether your concern was more about hunger or about maintaining weight.

In general, protein and fat are more satiating than carbs. Try to ensure that your meals contain a good amount of protein and fat. Higher fiber foods are also generally satiating, but you mentioned being hungry after eating oatmeal, so that might not apply to go.

Peanut butter (or other nut butters) might help; it's cheap, healthy, not time consuming, and filling.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:28 PM on February 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

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