Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight GAIN?

Q&A Wednesday: A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight GAIN?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

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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Shante February 23, 2011 - 2:30 PM

Something that is really easy to add to your diet and that adds good calories is wheat germ. 100g will add about 350 calories to your intake. Personally I eat 2TB about 60 calories with my oatmeal because it is high in fiber and folic acid which is good for women of child bearing years. You can find it at your local grocery store in the cereal section or the health food section. Increasing your intake of healthy fats is also a plus. Avocados whole and oil and virgin coconut oil is great to cook with and add to smoothies. You might also want to think about making home made protein bars or even your own protein powder to add to smoothies. For that you would just grind in a coffee grinder your choice dried black beans, brown rice, chia seeds, hemp seeds, soy beans, or oats.

My brother has trouble gaining weight and he eats and eats and eats but he just has a very fast metabolism. He is over 6 feet tall and is so thin people think he doesn’t get fed but he does.I hope this helps you.

Donita February 25, 2011 - 12:49 AM

I am dealing with a similar issue. Mostly a result of nursing, however. I went to a nutritionalist, who gave me the sheet of how I can get the 500 extra calories I need a day, but she basically told me to add cheese and butter and calories wherever. (Let’s ignor my family history of high cholesterol and blood pressure, huh?) Likewise, as much as I LOVE food, the day to day hustle and bustle, dealing with kids and stress has put a dent in my appetite and energy to prepare full, healthy meals. Thanks for the added support and tips for healthily gaining (back) weight.

Verliz May 14, 2011 - 4:40 PM

@ Donita
Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! My issue is also related to breastfeeding. Had my son and lost like 15 lbs. Problem being that I’d only recently GAINED those precious 15 lbs! But I def. won’t count myself in the undernourished/underfed category. What ‘helps’ in getting the extra calories is Ensure shakes.. but that mess is expensive, and the minute I stop drinking them, OFF comes the few valuable ounces gained.. sigh.. I also stopped b-feeding a month ago, but it’s a steep uphiill climb, as I’m not good at snacking for snacking’s sake.. double sigh

Res December 1, 2011 - 8:52 AM

I’ve been underweight Black girl for most of my life so I feel your pain.

I’ve recently been able to reach a weight I like and here’s how.

You MUST eat three meals a day if you really want to gain weight. I don’t think there’s any way around this. I tend to skip breakfast in the interest of time, but when I eat 3 meals a day consistently, I gain weight.

You have to find the right fitness routine for you. For me it was vigorous walks with my dog (making sure to climb steep hills when possible), yoga, and pole dancing. When I don’t work out, I loose muscle and get what I call the skin and bones look. Also, underweight or not, if you don’t build muscle, you will eventually get cellulite. Trust

I gained weight when I stopped eating empty calories (junk food). I guess it sticks to some people but it went right through me. I try to eat a protein (not fried), a grain and veggies for lunch and dinner. I also eat larger meals than the average person. Eat like a man.

There may be a medical reason behind why you can’t eat enough. See your GP and investigate! See a gastro specialist. See a nutritionist and maybe get a trainer as well. Good luck.

AnonMiss December 1, 2011 - 9:41 AM

Eat lots of “white food” (sugar, bread, etc.) and bread (bread is evil!)
Of course, this isn’t the healthy way, but it’s what I do if, say, I’m headed to the beach in two weeks and want to look bootylicious in my bikini (vs. emaciated)

Healthy ways? Just make sure you are getting your nutrients. You could be suffering from malabsorption (besides the fact that you’re not eating three meals a day). You won’t absorb certain nutrients if you are deficient in others.

Also, might you have issues with tonsilitis? I’ve always been underweight even though I could eat most men under the table. I recently had my tonsils out and found out there’s a correlation between tonsil problems and problems gaining weight (they don’t know how, but it possibly affects metabolism). A lot of people who have problems gaining weight before, gain weight easily after a tonsillectomy.

Erika Nicole Kendall December 1, 2011 - 11:42 AM

“Eat lots of “white food” (sugar, bread, etc.) and bread (bread is evil!)”

*cringe* She said healthy pounds!

BJ March 8, 2012 - 10:39 AM

Second the comments about getting evaluated by a gastroenterologist; it might also be a good idea to have your metabolism measured. There’s this breathing doohickey that doctors use that can measure how many calories your body is using.

If you haven’t already, have you talked to a trainer? Bodybuilders and other athletes have these issues all the time, how to put on weight without just socking away extra fat.

And as for skinnyhate . . . don’t let other people’s issues interfere with your commitment to your own health and happiness.

Goldeelocks June 7, 2012 - 12:53 PM

This was really interesting. I’m glad that you’re open minded enough to address both sides of the spectrum.

renee September 25, 2012 - 6:36 PM

I really think I have a problem. I am an 18 going on 19 year old girl who is struggling with my weight. for most of my life my weight has gone up and down, but now i feel like it has gone to a hault. i am skinny and most people say i look like a twig and it is really hard for me to gain weight. i could eat a burger one day and gain a pound or two then go back to what i was before. the only thing that did make me gain weight was birth control, but now that i switched i have went back down to the low 100’s and it is bothering me .

taylor November 12, 2012 - 3:12 AM

It seems so hard to gain weight esp when u don’t have the appitite to eat all of the foods ppl want u to eat I’ve been struggling for years not being able to buy certain clothes cause they don’t fit me as well as a figured woman n.I’m just tired of looking like a twig stomach is literally about to touch my back soon. I know its possible because I gained. Weight before when I went to college but lost it as soon as I left someone help please:(

Gee-Gee January 6, 2013 - 11:55 AM

I am sooooo glad you raised this concern. The reality is… Black Skinny women often want to gain weight! Not to be fat but to be comfortable in our skin. We are often ridiculed for being skinny in ‘our’ community, being called names like “boney”, “stick”, “skin and bones” and other hurtful names,. I’ve heard those names all of my life and often felt unhappy with my body. The crazy thing is, is that I often felt a sisterhood with overweight sisters because we had a similar plight….being on the extreme pole of weight- one too big, the other too small. When larger woman began a movement that involved feeling great,sexy,fabulous and comfortable in their own skin, the world shuttered… but I secretly and not so secretly rejoiced in their acceptance and acknowledgement. it felt like a triumph for me too! Unfortunately, the skinny woman was left behind. Our heavy, vuluptious sisters rejected us and even called us “skinny bitches”, etc and made us the enemy!!! I felt betrayed…..
I have always weighed between 100- 115 pounds. Even during pregnancy I went up to 130 on baby number 2 but lost it immediately. Nursing both babies for 1 1/2 years made me loose all kinds of weight and even I felt and looked ‘sickly’ as some thought. The babies ‘sucked’ all of my nutrition from me and I didn’t know how to replenish myself.
Now, I am 45 years old, almost 5’8″ and weigh 135lbs. I’m still skinny by most standards but I feel comfortable in my skin. I work out and lift weights (and Haagen Daaz) which really is where my weight comes from (little as it is). My belly is getting very round and this is a problem for me and can’t seem to rid myself of it but in a way it feels good to have a lil fat on me, lol! I meditate and do my own version of yoga. I often grab 10-15 lb bar bells at the gym right next to the big buff guys, but I don’t care. I have nice arm and shoulder definition and I’m working on my legs. I feel good about my body. I’m a tall thin glass of water with a little more definition and weight than I’ve ever had in my entire life. Now, women are complimenting me on my body, go figure!!! 🙂 I still have a skinny girl complex underneath but I’m working on it day by day. At 50, I plan to wear a bikini on the beach with my husband for the first time in my skinny little life. I can’t wait!!!!

Gail April 1, 2013 - 4:52 PM

“All women, both ‘thick and thin,’ deserve our respect and understanding…and I won’t stand for less than that.

Thanks, Erica, from a skinny chick who loves your blog!

sandra May 30, 2013 - 3:05 AM

I love this blog and stumbled upon it when looking for ways to gain weight. All my friends are thick curvy women trying to actually loose weight. So needless to say im the skinny bitch of the group. I usually love it. But i used to be a size 12 (UK size) and for two years now iv been a constant 8(UK size). I just want to gain a bit so i can look good in jeans. My boyfriend loves my ass but i know he does love bigger. Sigh.

Vasha August 18, 2013 - 1:25 AM

Wow! I’m also that skinny African American girl who wants to gain weight! I’m 32, married, and I gave birth to two boys. I thought after our first son I would get thick LBVS (laughing but very serious) didn’t happen. It didn’t happen on second one either. I believe I losted even more weight. I breastfed them also. Now I’m maybe 110 at 5’6 it just sucks shopping for dressy clothes to look my age. Being that I’m running around with my boys (almost 4y.o &2y.o) I’m back on my journey to gain weight. I’m always saying black women has curves and are not ashamed of it and thats what I want!

alli January 16, 2014 - 11:01 AM

Thank you for this i hate getting passed over bc im too skinny and we arent talking healthy skinny we talking malnourished skinny its not cool being talking about i feel my sisters pain when ppl make overweight jokes bc i have my share of insults coming my way as well. I just want to be healthy.

KarinZ February 9, 2014 - 12:31 AM

Hi, I am very grateful coming across this blog post when doing a “gain weight” google search. I’m not a black girl haha but undoubtedly your advice provided will most definitely be to my benefit, including reading some of the comments. It’s tough feeling too skinny, and maybe it’s all the rave in the fashion industry (where I work), but coming from a latin family I would much prefer having a fuller figure and feeling sexier in my skin. Thank you.

Danielle January 7, 2016 - 8:49 PM

Hello, I’m a very small girl as well, have been this way all 27 years and counting. I do have other health issues(Crohns) that make my battle with gaining weight particularly difficult and my mothers skinny genes doesn’t help either. I am a very busy mother of a toddler and a very active 12 boy and work nearly 50hrs a week. I have never been bigger than a size 3 and I was at the height of my weight at 143 lbs when I was pregnant with my daughter. However, I am determined to gain 10lbs in 4 months. My first mission is to eat more home cooked meals, when I gained my weight in college(130lbs, gained 25lbs in freshman year) I actually cooked a lot along with eating out but I’m trying to cook more and eat more frequently. I’ve always had a big appetite but could easily take a few bites and been full, but I’m noticing my increased appetite. Ive used meal supplements before to help when my appetite was gone, like Boost, and I am continuing to use them along with my meals. I started taking L-lysine vitamins which is suppose to help with weight gain and body composition. I just started taking them so we’ll see how they work but so far so good(except they are HORSE PILLS). For snacks I will eat boiled eggs or a sweet potato or a sandwich and I’m drinking lots of water. I also started exercising because I want the weight to go to the right places.!All in all, I’ve increased my food intake, started exercising and I’m taking a supplement to help. I will let you know my progress but I’m feeling pretty good about it so far!

Danielle January 7, 2016 - 9:01 PM

I posted about my weight gain journey just a sec ago but for me, I’m not necessarily comfortable in my body type, never have been bc I’ve always wanted more curves. I’m a busty skinny girl and to be honest I get all the compliments from white women on my body type because of it…skinny girl with big boobs(they love it). But as a black community we do make the skinny girl feel like she’s done something wrong because she’s not hippy or holding a lot of junk in her trunk. and then i get the ridicule from people with their own weight struggles to lose weight who look at me and smirk, laugh, or just out right make a mockery of me when I say things like, I want to be bigger or I’m trying to gain weight, it’s almost like they get offended because my “struggle” is not seen as a “struggle” to them. It is aggravating to say the least.

jasmine January 9, 2016 - 8:44 PM

Hi guys I’m 25 yrs old and 115 lbs I’ve been struggling with insecurity my whole life about my size. I can’t put on weight and keep it. It bothers me because I want to be comfortable in my own skin but it’s frustrating when everyone around me calls me a stick, and saying rude comment like I need to eat more and go to sleep idk what to do.

Yolanda March 16, 2016 - 1:05 AM

It is really great to hear similar stories. I’m 42 years old and weigh 94lbs. I can snack all day and when I try to eat a meal I am stuffed before I’m done with the entire meal. My 2 teens weigh more than I do. It’s so hurtful constantly hearing “you’re so skinny”. I appreciate all of the tips and changing my diet.

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