Can't Gain Weight? The 5 Habits Keeping You Skinny

In a world of increasing obesity, gaining weight is often looked upon as a problem that is nice to have.

Don't they understand how confusing and frustrating it can be for a naturally skinny person to gain weight and build muscle? 

Obviously not!

How do I know this?

Because I used to be skinny. Desperately skinny.

The worst part was the unwanted advice I would get from well-meaning friends and family, which usually went like this...

"Hey toothpick, you should eat more."

And my sarcastic reply...

"Really? I never thought of that. Thank you, O wise one!"

If it were as simple as eating more, we would all gain weight, wouldn't we?

But the reality is different.

Gaining weight as a naturally skinny person can be a bloody hard thing to do.

However, there's an easier, more effective way.

But before I get to that, I want to explore three habits that are stopping you from gaining weight.

And then I'm going to give you the proven strategies I've used to not only increase weight and muscle but also make those gains permanent.

My Journey From 126lbs to 196lbs

I came into this world a chubby baby, but it didn't stay that way for long.

As soon I could run the I the baby fat melted away very quickly.

Apparently, I never had a big appetite. But I always remember loving food.

Being skinny didn't bother me until my teens. By then I was more self-conscious about how I looked to the outside world.

Also, I was more aware and sensitive to the negative comments about me being underweight from family, friends and complete strangers.

Also, I was more aware and sensitive to the negative comments about me being underweight from family, friends and complete strangers.

Comments like...

"You eat like a small child."

"I've seen more meat on a chicken leg."

"Man, you got no ass!" That one really hurt me.

In desperation, I tried to gorge on as much junk food as I could. I didn't even care if I got fat - anything but skinny.

Of course, this was a mission impossible. When you're naturally skinny, it's tough to keep eating and eating.

Later on, I realized this desperate strategy was a complete waste of time.

Millions of years of biological evolution have made the human body very adept at controlling a balanced state.

Did you know that our digestive system produces a hormone called cholecystokinin that controls our appetite?

It knows when you're full. So when you eat more than you usually do, it feels like your having to force yourself.

But forcing myself to eat didn't produce any significant gains.

Later, I learned that it's not the quantity but the quality of the food you eat is far more critical to you gaining weight fast.

Regularly eating unhealthy processed food wasn't giving my body the nutrients it needed to increase weight and build muscle.

You Are What You Eat.

weight gain and food

Every Saturday I'd go to Costco's to bulk up on food for the week ahead.

Pushing the trolley through the aisles, I was struck by the immense variety of food that is available to us.

We have more choice than any other time in human history.

But here's the thing.

Most of what we choose to eat is pure garbage. It has little to no nutritional value.

And it made me take a long hard look at what I was eating.

What I discovered shocked me. Turns out my diet was 80% carbohydrate's, but it gets worse...

They were simple carbs - the worst type!

I'm talking about fries, bagels, and donuts. They were my daily snacks and pasta was my main meal at least five days a week.

By then I was in my mid-twenties, 6ft tall and weighing 130 Ibs - a string bean.

My diet was severely lacking in good quality protein, and without protein, I was never going to gain muscle mass.

But the realization was a turning point. Everything changed after that.

I made the deliberate choice of learning everything about nutrition.

I soon understood the difference between calorie dense and nutritionally dense foods...

And with this knowledge designed and applied healthy eating habits into my daily life.

The Weight Finally Goes On

That was 5 years ago.

Today I weigh 196Ibs and I've been this weight for the last four years.

Of course, it didn't happen overnight.

It took a few months of trial and error before I began seeing the results. But the time and effort were worth it.

Look.

I'm just an ordinary guy and if I can do it, you can do it too.

However, change only happened when I became more aware of the choices I was making.

The choices we make soon become habits. Some are good, some are bad.

That's the first step, increase your awareness of the diet your eating.

I quickly realized three habits we're sabotaging my ability to gain weight and they're probably doing the same to you.

I know these will sound familiar.

You Think You're Eating Enough vs. What You're Really Eating

Most skinny people's eating habits suck.

They're either eating too little or eating inconsistently.

I was the same. I would skip breakfast or lunch, then gorge on a large calorie dense evening meal to make up for the lost calories.

But here's the deal...

Our bodies can only process and absorb about 1000 calories in one sitting.

What's more, if you've got the body size of an ectomorph your calorie absorption rate would be even less.

You would be far better off eating regular small meals during the day .

Doing this ensures you're absorbing as many nutrients and calories in one sitting. 

And with small regular meals, you avoid getting bloated.

In fact, most health experts recommend skinny people should eat between 4 to 6 meals a day.

Not Knowing The Calories You Need To Gain Weight?

counting calories for bulking

If you're like most skinny guys, you probably don't have a clue.

In fact, they don't even know the number of calories they need to maintain a healthy weight.

And that's a big problem.

Why?

Because everything that you do to try and gain weight is guesswork.

If you're serious about gaining weight you've got to know and track your numbers.

Fortunately, its easy to find out.

Calculating Your BMR

The first step is to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is the amount of energy (calories) you're body requires each day to function while resting.

That's right, your body burns calories while sitting and sleeping.

The formula uses your weight, height, age and gender as follows: 

For men:

BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) - 5 x age (years) + 5

For women:

BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) - 5 x age (years) - 161

Here's how I worked out my BMR:

(Weight 88.9kg x 10) + (Height 182.9cm x 6.25)- (age 31 x 5) + 5 


889 + 1143.12 - 155 + 5 = 1882.12

My basic calories needs are 1882.12 calories per day.

The BMR Doesn't Tell The Whole Story

On its own, the BMR is no use to us unless we lie in bed 24 hours a day.

We also need to factor in how much energy we exert while we're active.

To do this, we use the Harris-Benedict Formula.

The formula takes your BMR and applies activity factors to calculate your daily energy expenditure needs.

Below is the range of activity factors you can apply to the Harris-Benedict Formula.

Just choose one that's most relevant to your lifestyle.

If you're sedentary (little or no exercise) :

Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2

If you're lightly active (light exercise/ 1-3 days/week) :

Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375

If you're moderately active (moderate exercise/ 3-5 days/week) :

Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55

If you're very active (hard exercise/ 6-7 days a week) :

Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725

If you're extra active (very hard exercise/ and physical job or 2 x training) :

Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9

I'm moderately active, so my calculation looked like this:

1882.12 x 1.55 = 2917.28

I need to consume 2917.28 calories every day to maintain my current.

When you've worked out your maintenance level all you have to do is exceed that level to gain weight.

Many health experts agree that gaining 1Ib a week is a healthy way to gain weight.

One pound is equal to approximately 3,500 calories per week.

For healthy weight gain add an extra 500 calories each day above your maintenance level.

So, this means increasing your calorie intake by 3500 calories per week.

Are You Eating The Right Foods

Here's a comment I recently read from a weight gain forum:

"In the morning I have a bread and peanut butter, full-fat natural yogurt, washed down with a glass of milk.

For lunch, I'll have a grilled cheese sandwich, potato chips, and a banana.

For dinner, I usually have Italian, lots of pasta, salad and some cheese.

Later in the evening, I'll have a bagel and peanut butter.

Before bed 3 scoops of Ben and Jerry."

Can you see a problem here?

Look.

Most of these foods, apart from the pasta, peanut butter and milk are going to make you gain weight.

Why?

Because they have little to no nutritional value. You might as well not eat them at all.

A common habit with natural skinny people is their incessant need to snack on potato chips and sandwiches.

Potato chip sandwiches was a favorite daily snack of mine!

The fact is, many skinny people's diets are working against them.

The diets are low in nutrients, especially sources of quality protein and healthy fats.

But you can change this by replacing them with healthier options.

Here's a list of the foods I eat regularly:

  • Oily fish - especially tuna, salmon, and mackerel
  • Nuts - pecans, Brazil, walnuts, and almonds
  • Black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas
  • Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Virgin olive oil
  • Porridge oats
  • Avocados
  • Hummus
  • Lentils

It's not an exhaustive list, but it's a good place for you to start.

Can't Cook? Your Not In Control

cooking for weight gain

I love to eat. But when it came to cooking I was a disaster in the kitchen. I hated it.

But I soon realized that by not cooking I wasn't in control of my eating habits.

Nine times out of ten I would choose the fast food option.

It was easy even though it was making me unhealthy.

By making it a pleasurable experience learning to cook became much easier.

Not only that, the payback was enormous in terms of improving my eating habits and my health.

You're probably thinking... "I want to, but I don't have the time."

Listen...

You and I have the same 24 hours in the day so that's a lame excuse.

I was saying the same thing but I got around the time issue by planning in advance.

Here's what I mean...

On Sunday's I would prepare big batches of...

  • chicken casserole
  • tuna pasta and
  • beef stew 

Basically, enough to last me the whole week and freeze them in containers.

In the morning I would take a container and let it defrost.

By the time I got back from work in the evening, I would stick it in the microwave and there I had an easy healthy meal prepared in minutes.

I can't emphasize enough how this simple hack can transform and simplify your life.

Stop Making Excuses!- Why The Words You Use Matter

You may not realize it but the words that you communicate to yourself (inner voice) and to other people greatly affect your results.

Here's what I mean.

When I was failing at everything to gain weight I became very good at coming up with excuses.

"I must have a fast metabolism"
"I'm naturally skinny so I can't build muscle"
"I can never put on weight"
"I'm just not motivated"

Any of these sound familiar?

At the time I didn't realize these excuses were sabotaging my results.

At the gym looking at these big muscular guys I would say to myself "I could never get a body like that."

Talking about undermining my chances!

Again, this is about awareness.

When I realized it, I stopped the excuses and changed the inner scripts in supporting me rather than undermining me.

Look.

This didn't happen overnight - it takes a time and practice - to reprogram years of negative self-talk, but it was worth it.

So, my advice becomes more aware of the self-talk and excuses you give yourself and to people why you're not gaining weight.

Write them down and rewrite the story to one that supports your goal to gain weight fast.

There's a good chance it's holding you back.

Gene Dasci
 

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