Why Is It So Hard To Gain Weight?
Contrary to popular belief, there are people out there who find it extremely difficult to gain any weight.
How do I know? Because I used to be one of them!
Preposterous right? I know! Some people are baffled at how such a problem could exist.
You just have to eat more food right? Well, not exactly.
We’re going to be exploring 4 reasons why you just can’t gain weight, and how you can remedy this with proven methods and strategies to ensure permanent weight gain.
Below is an overview of the pitfalls people fall into when trying to gain weight. As always, you can click on any of the list items in the contents to skip to your desired section.
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- My Story – 5’9 at 132lbs to 182lbs
- You’re not eating enough – consistently!
- Do you know how many calories your body actually needs?
- You are eating the wrong foods.
- Your exercise routine consists mainly of cardio.
- You’re making excuses.
My Story – 5’9 at 132lbs to 182lbs
My journey isn’t unique, but I’m happy to share my story so you can see what I went through to get there.
I’ve always been very skinny and slim, ever since I was a child.
According to my parents however, I was a fat baby, but the moment I could run and play, the fat from my cheeks just fell off.
I’ve never been a big eater, evidently.
Overtime, my self-esteem dropped due to the constant negative comments I received from friends and family about my weight.
“One day you’re going to die.”
What surprised me the most was the fact that my relationship with food was always healthy.
I love food, I always have and always will.
Something many people didn’t seem to understand was the concept of being ‘full’.
Little did my family know, you can’t just endlessly gorge food down your throat.
Our digestive system produces a hormone called cholecystokinin that sends a message to your brain to control your appetite.
Like many of my fellow skinny brethren, I could barely ever leave a dining table without leftovers on my plate.
Luckily I never suffered from eating disorders and my BMI has always been in the ‘healthy’ range.
However my problem with my weight wasn’t just due to the amount of food I ate, but also the lack of essential nutrients and minerals my body absorbed.
Lack of Excellent Nutrition
My true bottleneck lied with my lack of understanding what constitutes excellent nutrition.
I’ve always believed that you’re only meant to eat when you’re hungry.
Just reading that back makes me want to ravage my fridge!
When I was in college, our Biology curriculum focused on teaching us how the digestive system works, but not the importance of good nutrition.
Our canteen was full of oily processed foods: chips, burgers, pizzas and doughnuts amongst others; all foods with a high glycaemic index.
It was no surprise to see hyper-active man-children with low attention spans causing havoc in the classroom.
In any given day, it would be rare for me to consume more than 1,500 calories per day.
Unfortunately most of those foods were simple carbohydrates with very little quality protein.
Without ample amounts of protein in your diet, you won’t gain muscle or add mass to your frame.
During my mid-late teens, 2/3rd’s of my meals were packeted, pre-made, chemically-injected foods found at your local Iceland.
It wasn’t until late 2011 till I realised that this wasn’t proper nutrition, and if I continued on a diet like above, I could end up in a hospital bed sooner or later.
How I Gained Weight
Fast forward four years, and here I am today.
I finally understand the terms ‘nutritionally dense’ and ‘calorie dense foods’ like the back of my hand.
I’ve opted to not only gain weight, but to gain weight healthily.
Most importantly however, the arduous process of trial and error has taught me many skills, such as how to be patient and delay gratification and why being consistent is a requirement for succeeding in any goal you set your eyes on.
Now it’s your turn.
Let’s take a look at the pitfalls many people like yourself, fall into when trying to gain weight.
1. You’re Not Eating Enough – Consistently
Many people who try to gain weight simply don’t eat enough.
I’ve seen it myself amongst some of my friends, eating once or twice a day just isn’t healthy.
Unless you are partaking in intermittent fasting, you need to make sure you’re eating regularly, and each meal consists of good poly/mono-unsaturated fats, slow digesting, complex-carbohydrates and quality protein.
Personal trainers and health professionals recommend underweight people to eat 4-6 times a day.
This is because naturally, we can’t consume 800-1,000 calories worth of food in one sitting.
Our bodies (ectomorphs) have yet to adapt to eating meals of such quantities, so by breaking them down into 4-6 smaller meals we can still get all the required calories needed for healthy weight gain, whilst not feeling bloated at the end of the day.
We all know that to gain weight, you only need to consume more calories than you burn right?
Good, but the problem is that many people are unaware of how many calories their body requires to maintain their current weight, let alone to gain weight.
Below is the Harris-Benedict formula, used for measuring what your basal-metabolic rate is.
This measure will tell you how many calories your body requires daily to carry out basic metabolic processes in your body.
Calculate BMR for males: Height (176.25cm x 6.25) + Weight (65.9kg x 9.99) – Age (22 x 4.92) + 5 = 1656 Calories
Calculate BMR for females: Height (176.25cm x 6.25) + Weight (65.9 x 9.99) – Age (22 x 4.92) – 161 = 1490 Calories
- Height in centimetres: 5’9 = 5 x 30.48 = 152.4 + (9 x 2.56) = 176.25cmTo Calculate: 1 foot is equivalent to 30.48 centimetres and 1 inch is equivalent to 2.56 centimetres.
- Age: 22
- Weight in KG: 145lbs/2.2 = 65.9kg
The final figure you get here, is the minimum amount of calories you need to consume to maintain your weight.
Below is an extra step you need to make in your calculation to ensure the calories you’ve calculated are specific to your own behaviour and activity levels.
- Sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
- Light active (light exercise 1-3 days a week): BMR x 1.375
- Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
- Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
- Vigorous, strenuous, monster-hunter level exercise!: BMR x 1.9
Using myself as an example: 1656 x 1.375 = 2277 calories to maintain current weight.
If you want to gain weight healthily (1lb/week), add 500 calories to this figure.
Why? Because 3,500 calories makes up a lb.
There are 7 days in a week.
500 x 7 = 3,500.
Therefore you’ll gain 1lb every week by consuming 500 calories in excess to your daily caloric needs.
2. You’re Eating The Wrong Foods
“For breakfast I hope to have full fat yogurt with nutella on toast, and a glass of milk.
Lunch will probably be a sandwich, some fruit and crisps.
For dinner I’ll eat lots of pasta, something dairy and a salad.
Evening (around 9)-2 slices of peanut butter on toast.
Just before bed, I’ll have a bowl of ice cream.”
There are only three foods here that will help you gain weight.
- Peanut Butter/Nutella
Everything else has so little nutritional value, you might as well omit it completely.
Something I’ve found to be extremely common among many ectomorphs, is their incessant need to snack on sandwiches.
I wonder what is it we love so much about them.
All joking aside, you can tell this diet is poor and devoid of any quality protein or good fats.
Below is a list of foods with high nutritional value to include in your diet instead.
- Sweet Potatoes
- Olive Oil
- Pitted olives
- Salmon, Tuna, Sardine or any other oily fish derivative.
- Rye Bread or Wholemeal bread over white bread.
- Brown Rice
- Pinto beans, black-eyed beans or baked beans.
- Buckwheat, Bulgarwheat and Lentils.
- Walnuts, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Almonds.
In addition to the sources listed, I suggest you try adding some of these into your diet as well.
Start Learning How To Cook
“Something I did when I was overcoming eating issues was learn to cook properly, and really enjoy cooking and therefore the food I made.
Food needs to become a pleasurable activity.
Your diet sounds fairly standard, seriously up the calories.
Eat like a viking preparing for war, then add some snacks.
Protein shakes etc aren’t really necessary, you can get all you need from proper food, and you need to learn the lifestyle change of eating more too.”
– Double Agent
Unfortunately for the majority of us, including myself – we have failed to make food a pleasurable activity. I feel we’d be more likely to stick to a diet plan if we were cooking the foods ourselves.
3. Poor Exercise Routine
Too Much Cardio – Little to No Muscle-Building Exercises
Doing the couch to 5k is NOT going to help you gain weight or build muscle.
Aerobic exercises are great to help you burn fat and strengthen your cardiovascular system.
To build muscle you need to break your muscle fibers down, consume protein and sleep very well to build even stronger ones.
I’m not saying that the only way to build muscle and mass is through strenuous workouts at the gym.
Let’s not go there.
The monthly subscription you pay towards your gym membership would be better spent on your diet.
Going to the gym is no-doubt the easiest and fastest way to build muscle.
However, I wouldn’t tout it as the best.
Whether you decide to go the gym or complete your workouts from home, you have to give your body a reason to build muscle.
Your body doesn’t want to add weight or gain muscle.
It wants to remain self-sufficient by doing as little as possible.
It’s a stubborn bastard.
But by breaking down your muscle fibers, you are essentially holding your body at ransom.
“Fight or Flight.”
“Evolve or die.”
This is what I mean by teaching your body and mind exactly what you want from it.
Give your body a reason to grow, and it will grow.
4. You’re Making Excuses
Your methodology and approach to weight gain would make dinosaurs extinct
It is a well established fact that your attitude towards food is critically important to whether you’ll succeed at your weight goals.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been in your position before.
I know what it feels like to be skinny and weak.
However, we do ourselves no good by trying to convince others that gaining weight is impossible for us.
- I just have a high metabolism.
- I can eat junk-food, and not gain weight.
- I do eat a lot!
- I’m just ‘naturally skinny’
These aren’t reasons why you can’t gain weight.
How do I know?
Because I used to say the exact same things.