Tips For Healthy Weight Gain
Our society has become obsessed with the idea of losing weight.
Which don’t get me wrong has its time and place.
However, from my own personal experience and seeing my clients struggle with the same thing, trying to put on weight in a world constantly telling you not to, can be extremely hard.
For a long time, I was blinded by the tempting headlines, the weight loss articles and the images of influencers on Instagram after their sweaty workout or colourful salad bowls. I drove myself insane stepping on the scale each morning. Cutting out multiple food groups. All so that I could be a better, healthier version of myself and achieve what society was telling me was going to make me ‘happy’. Boy oh boy was I wrong.
So these tips are for you. For those struggling to put on weight, in a world constantly telling them not to. Or for those that just need to hear that weight loss isn’t the be all and end all. Because imagine how much more you could give to the world if you weren’t obsessing over that number on the scale.
I hope these tips work for you like they did for me.
Add healthy calories
You don’t need to ‘bulk up’ or change your diet drastically, rather think of ways you can make your current meals more nourishing by adding healthy calories.
For example, add nuts and seeds or nut butter to your smoothie, pair your mid-morning fruit with cheese or peanut butter (my personal fav), add avocado to your salad or sandwiches and drizzle olive-oil as a dressing on your dinners.
Ensure you have morning and afternoon tea
Snacking between meals is highly encouraged for when you are concerned you aren’t eating enough.
Choosing nourishing snacks is also going to provide you with energy throughout the day, leading to better concentration and mood.
Wholesome snack ideas include Greek yoghurt with chopped up banana and a drizzle of honey, nut butter on wholegrain toast, veggie sticks with hummus or ricotta, apple with nut butter, handful of nuts or add nuts to your yoghurt, milk-based smoothies with nut butter, bliss balls, wholegrain crackers with cheese and tomato or hard-boiled egg and avocado. The list is endless!
Choose full-fat varieties
For so long we have been told that ‘low fat is good and high fat is bad’. But I want you to start getting comfortable with the idea that fat is ok. In fact, it is an essential part of our diet and important for good health.
Fat is the most energy dense macronutrient and is therefore what we want to be aiming to increase when trying to assist with weight gain. Try to focus on incorporating more unsaturated fats into your day, these being the fats found in nuts (almonds, cashews, Brazil) and seeds (sunflower, pepitas, flaxseeds, chia), olive oil, salmon and avocado.
I like to call the foods high in unsaturated fats GLOW foods, as they are so nourishing for our insides and help to make our skin, hair and nails strong and shiny. They are also the building block of our hormones, contain anti-inflammatory properties and help with brain function.
Aim to include these types of food with every main meal and snack. Don’t be scared to choose full-fat dairy varieties. In fact, I encourage this. Remember, your body needs extra support and fat to get to a healthy weight.
My favourite ideas include:
Full-fat Greek yoghurt as a snack with a sprinkle of nuts and seeds
Wholegrain vita-weats with mashed avocado and either sliced tomato or hard-boiled egg
Handful of almonds, cashews or Brazil nuts
2-3 bliss balls (filled with healthy fats)
Salmon drizzled with olive oil and squeeze of lemon
Smoothie made with 1 cup full-fat cows milk, large dollop of Greek yoghurt, 1 banana, 1/4 cup cashews, 1 large tbsp peanut butter, sprinkle of cinnamon and drizzle of honey
Peanut butter on wholegrain toast with chopped banana and drizzle of honey.
Incorporate more carbohydrates into each meal
What I often see in my clinic is carbophobia.
Thanks to fad-diets like the Atkins of Keto diet, we as a society are primed to have a real distrust and avoidance of carbohydrate-containing foods. However, did you know that the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that wholegrains are our greatest number of serves we need to consume each day. YES! For women aged 19-50 years, it is recommended we consume 6 serves of grain-rich foods per day (as a comparison, for veggies it is 5 serves and dairy and protein 2.5 serves). This is because carbohydrates are our bodies main and preferred energy source.
When I tell women that it is OK to eat bread, pasta and rice you should see their eyes light up. I feel like Oprah on the couch telling people ‘you get a car, you get a car and you get a car!’.
While I can’t disagree with those that say we need to reduce the amount of refined carbohydrates we eat i.e. think sugary and processed foods, I do disagree on those that ban carbs all together.
When wholegrain varieties are chosen they are so nourishing for our bodies as they provide a slow release of energy throughout the day, plus a whole host of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Fibre is so important for good health, as it assists in the maintenance of the digestive system and can help keep our bowels regular (winning).
When looking to incorporate more carbohydrate-rich foods into your day look for breads and pasta that say wholemeal or wholegrain. Other ideas include brown rice, noodles, quinoa, crackers and starchy vegetables i.e. corn, sweet potato, potato, parsnip and pumpkin. Aim for 1 cup of rice or pasta or 2 slices of bread at each main meal and slot into snacks when you can i.e. crackers.
Include 2 rest days per week
When I first started my journey to putting on the weight I had lost, this tip was one of my biggest challenges to overcome. So if this feels scary, I’ve been there and I get you. But it isn’t until we take a step back from our current exercise routine that we realise how unbalanced it has become.
I want you to aim for 2 rest days minimum each week and on the other days switch from cardio or weight training to more restorative movement practices such as walking, yoga or pilates.
On your rest days, take that time you would normally exercise to do something purely for you! Take a bath, paint your nails, do a face mask, phone a friend. This is so good for the soul and mind.
Incorporate dessert each night
This tip literally changed my life. For so long I feared ‘unhealthy’ foods. I wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole. So to challenge this and to ‘allow’ myself to eat something sweet each night really helped overcome my obsession with being healthy. This practice allowed the space for more balance back into my life.
If the thought of this overwhelms you, start small. Start by making one of my healthier versions of sweet treats i.e. the banana bread recipe is to die for. Get comfortable cooking these desserts. Enjoy it either as a snack during the day or have with a pot of herbal tea before bed (my favourite while reading a juicy book). Once you get comfortable with this, branch out and switch it up. Add some chocolate or ice-cream (and not the dark kind). Let me know how you go with this tip! I always say I am the best person ever when homework for my clients is to have dessert!
Talk to an Accredited Practising Dietitian or health professional for extra support
For those that need extra support and guidance, speaking to a trusted health practitioner can be very helpful. I know changing isn’t easy, but it can be done with the right support system around you. You don’t have to do this alone.