When You Need To Gain Some Healthy Weight Part 2: The Actual Weight Gain

This is an addendum to my original post back in March when I made the decision to gain some healthy weight for my health. I discussed it in detail here, but in brief, it was a hard decision to make and hard thing to talk about (and achieve!) in a culture so focused on weight-loss and dieting. It also put me in a vulnerable position, as people are quick to judge others in terms of their bodies, food choices and lifestyles.

I’m glad I did because the outpouring of support was outstanding and it was my most popular blog post by far. Many of you related directly and others of you might have different goals, but could understand and respect the situation in different ways.

So what happened? Well, I am here to report that I have successfully gained 15 lbs. and the weight-gain train is still going strong.

How I did it: Obviously eating more and decreasing my activity. This was hard and difficult at first and I felt extremely full, bloated and uncomfortable for the first couple of weeks/month. However, after that, my body caught on pretty quickly and I was (and still am) hungry ALL THE DANG TIME! This was interesting to experience myself, because my eating disorder clients go though this during their weight restoration phase of treatment. Once your body’s metabolism levels out, it goes into a hyper-metabolic state where it utilizes tons of energy to repair the body. It is not uncommon for an underweight anorexic to be placed on a 3,000+ kcals/day meal plan. I was surprised I was experiencing this phenomenon, because, at the time, I felt like I was eating enough and was satisfied. Obviously I was not, because my body latched on and was saying “give me all the food” and I eat significantly more now then I ever have before.

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How I’m doing physically: Definitely went up sizes in everything. Chest, hips, butt, legs, waist..all of it! All my clothes fit tighter now and I had to donate all of my jeans because I cannot fit in them anymore. While this was difficult at first, I have grown to love my body and feel more “womanly” now. I have boobs and curves now and it feels great and healthy! Women are meant to have fat, and while I don’t denounce women with a six-pack (good for you!), I know I feel happiest when I don’t. That being said, I know for a fact (thanks to a fancy machine) that I have gained a significant amount of muscle in addition to some fat. I can’t stress enough the fact that my activity has decreased, but I have increased muscle mass. Goes to show the power of rest and that more/higher intensity is not always the best.

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 How I’m doing mentally: It was rough at first mostly because, again, I was going against the grain of what everyone else seemed to be focusing on. I also felt guilty talking about it to a lot of people in my life due to their own struggles with losing weight or history of disordered eating. I did not want to focus on weight in an effort not to trigger someone I cared about. While I felt good and strong some days, I also had days where it was difficult for me to experience not being able to fit into my clothes. Even my stretchy workout clothes felt uncomfortable. I also had bad body image days where I felt “fat” or gross in my own skin. Goes to show I am human and everyone has these days. I am able to combat these thoughts with the facts (I am building muscle, muscle requires more energy and weighs more than fat, etc.) but they still present themselves sometimes, unfortunately.

Lessons I’ve learned:

Your hunger cues will take awhile to come back, but they WILL come back. The longer you’ve been under-fueling, the longer it will take for them to normalize, but the best thing to do is keep trucking through and eating.

-Your body is smart and you have to trust it, even though it will be hard at times

-It will be hard not to compare yourself to others

-It will be annoying to eat a lot and all the time

-Eat when your body tells you, not when society says to-I went from 3 meals and 2-3 snacks to eating up to 7-8 times/day because my body was hungry! I was building muscle and required more energy.

-You will feel a million times better after you gain the “healthy” weight :).

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Where I’m going from here: I am still in the process of seeing where my body’s natural set point is in terms of weight. I am still finagling my meals and foods to accommodate my higher metabolism and energy needs. For instance, I have recognized I need to beef up all my meals, but especially breakfast. So now I use a whole banana instead of half, more milk, and add an egg to it for more calories and nutrients. I also have noticed I need a nighttime snack even if I’m not necessarily hungry for it or else I wakeup in the middle of the night hungry and need to get up and eat. I am still learning and some days are frustrating because of it, but I am confident that my body knows what it is doing. The best thing I can do is listen to it because it got me this far already!

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Some Pictures from 2016, Plus the Worst Thing you can do for Your Health in 2017

The worst thing you can do for your health this upcoming year is…compare yourself to others. That’s right, it’s not eating too much sugar, skipping your workout bypassing all vegetable, so on and so forth. No, it’s falling into the ever-so-likely and deathly comparison trap. We’ve all done it before. While out to eat with friends, you might really want the burger and fries, but your friends all order salad with grilled chicken so that’s what you make yourself do. You then proceed to eye every cheeseburger that passes your table while you wait for your unappealing bowl of greens and leave the restaurant feeling unsatisfied. Or maybe you notice a fellow gym-goer who does 30 minutes of the stair master before taking an intense 60-minute spin class with you. You begin to think your not doing enough and should add more exercise to your workout.

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I find myself doing this too! My first job after graduating was in a hospital and one day I overheard two nurses talking. One of them was pregnant and was complaining to her friend about how she’s been eating SO much lately. “I’m eating every four hours! I feel like a pig”. Ummmmm, I thought, I get hungry and eat almost every 2 hours…does that make me a “pig” if I’m eating more than a pregnant lady?! Of course not, and I know enough to know better. Even so, it is human nature to compare ourselves to others. However, this is extremely counterproductive.

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Everyone has different bodies and metabolisms. Some people need 3,000 calories/day to be healthy and some people need half that amount. Some people can workout intensely almost everyday (i.e. fitness competitors, marathoners, gym rats) while for other people that wears their bodies down, decreases their immunity and makes them sick. Everyone has different. Life circumstances are different. Your salad-ordering friend may have had a heavier lunch or was not feeling that hungry. Or maybe, she truly was craving a salad and was listening to her body! If your body on the other hand is craving a cheeseburger, you should listen to it too! Additionally, we are all different ages, have different lifestyles, tastes, preferences and much more. In short, we are all very different so why would we compare ourselves to someone else??

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Mimicking what others are doing instead of what is right for you is the worst thing you can do for your health in 2017 or EVER. I say this every post, but your body is REALLY smart and denying it what it needs by doing something else is not going to work in the long run. Eventually, it will rebel and you’ll be back to square one. For instance, after that salad you really didn’t want, your 10X more likely to eat something else to compensate, leading you to consume the same amount of energy that the cheeseburger would have provided in the first place.

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So, at this time of year where diet programs are a plenty (“Eat These 5 Foods to Lose all that Belly Fat Once and for All!!!”, “The 1,200 calorie Diet for Weight-loss”) and your tempted to buy in, remember there is no quick fix and there is no cookie-cutter option for everyone. Make small, realistic goals not all-or-nothing resolutions that are right for YOU, not someone else. Happy New Year friends <3!!

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