Cashews: the best way to get a lot from a little.

There are people out there who want to gain weight?

Just kidding, I swear. Y’all know I’m kidding. To my thin mints and skinny minnies, please don’t fuss at me.

Q: I really enjoy your blog because I am all about a seriously HEALTHY lifestyle. The recipes are always GREAT and the daily exercises successfully break the monotony of my workout routine. I have a problem and I’ve been very unsuccesful finding ways online to solve it. I NEED TO GAIN WEIGHT!! […] After a discussion with my OBGYN and my regular Dr.they have decided that I am malnourished. […] I will have a slice of toast, an apple or a crossiant and juice for breakfast, no lunch and a large dinner. […] I’m trying to eat more but after a point my stomach hurts and I get headaches. I can literally take two bites of a small sandwich and be full. Please understand that I LOVE food bc I am a great cook. I am entering into my 30s and want to have children soon and I want to be healthy…and I thought I was!! However I don’t want to live off McDonalds/Pizza Hut/Wendy’s and just get fat. I will at some point start lifting weights but can you please give me some feedback on eating healthy and putting on POSITVE POUNDS? Thanks in advance and contine to inspire change!!

Hmmm… this is a challenge.

It’s not as easy as telling you to “just eat carbs,” because that could potentially cause you to develop an addiction that you certainly wouldn’t want… because then, the weight would never stop.

I’m not going to tell you to just overeat because, well, the goal is to put on quality muscle from organic methods. Not put on fat, or use something unnatural to get there. You want a natural method because you want something that you can keep up as a habit – read: you want something sustainable – for the rest of your life on your own.

For starters, looking at what you’ve shared with me.. there’s no possible way you can gain weight on the eating schedule you’ve shared with me. There’s also no possible way anything good can come from a body that hasn’t been properly nourished. Of course you’re experiencing headaches and an upset stomach – trying to force the body to adopt and embrace more than its used to will cause you to experience discomfort.

At this point, even if you did start lifting weights, I’d question whether or not you’d even be able to put on muscle fairly in a respectable amount of time simply because it doesn’t sound like you’re getting enough protein – an extremely important element of muscle development – to accommodate that. I mean, you could be… but I doubt it.

The reality, here, is that my answer for you is the same as my answer would be for any woman who was overweight who wanted to focus more on developing quality pounds as opposed to merely continuing to build fat. The only difference is how you’ll approach it.

First, if you’re truly having trouble eating, just try to slow roll your way into eating more. Make yourself an omelet (one egg or two, either or) with diced bell peppers for breakfast. For a snack, a handful of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews or something… some kind of nut or seed. For lunch, get something else light – a nice salad or maybe a sandwich (try a fat slice of tomato, a little lettuce, a few slices of your favorite kind of meat, some mustard.) For another snack, try a few slices of apple, and dinner as you usually do it. The goal is to start off with things that you can start off with small portions, and gradually increase as your tolerance improves. Because really, you can’t build without properly nourishing your body.

You also have to understand that a woman who maintains her weight at 145lbs eats substantially more than a woman who maintains her weight at 100lbs. Considering the amount of calories each woman burns over the course of a single day, in order for you to get to that weight – and stay there – you have to up your intake… and keep it up. Any muscle you build would probably be eaten by the body in a quest to nourish itself, because your food intake isn’t cutting it.

That’s where your food choices become important. Leave the white carbs alone – white flours and sugars – and stick as hard as possible to fruits, veggies, meats, nuts and legumes… with the occasional dairy, grains and whatever else. I think that developing a “cashew habit” might be the best way to eat a little but get a lot – lots of protein, lots of “healthy fats.”

Now, while you’re working on increasing your food intake, try exercises that slowly build muscle like yoga or pilates. Exercises that move slow and compel the body to work against itself (as in lifting the weight of your own limbs or long stretches) will help you to build muscle at the same rate of the increase in your food intake. Once you’re at the point where you can eat sensible sized portions of food, then I’d recommend weight training.

The biggest hurdle here is getting your body used to food again, which requires a slow creep. Once you manage that part, you’re in there like swimwear.

But before I close, let me just say this – just like I receive e-mails from women who are heavier and we respect their individual issues, this deserves respect as well. I simply will not post dismissive comments. At all. This isn’t that kind of environment – all women, both “thick and thin,” deserve our respect and understanding… and I won’t stand for less than that.

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