I get skinny ashamed – should I gain weight? Mother of four and GP Clare Bailey answers YOUR questions
QI have a healthy diet and enjoy sports, but I still find it difficult to maintain my weight. I’m on the lower end of normal when it comes to BMI, at 19. But I don’t like being ‘bony’ – I’ve experienced my share of skinny shaming! Friends and family tell me to ‘just eat a burger’ or ‘consider yourself lucky’, but this really doesn’t help.
Junk food makes me slow. I like fresh, nutritious food, but I just can’t get enough calories from my diet.
How can I gain weight in a healthy way, without resorting to cakes, chips and cookies?
A Your weight is within the normal and healthy range, and it’s not okay for someone to feel bad about themselves. Your BMI (a measure of your weight for your height) is above 18.5, which is when doctors can start to worry.
A BMI lower than this doesn’t necessarily mean you have a health problem, but it can increase your risk for problems like osteoporosis, fertility problems, or poor immunity.
I don’t feel like fat pizzas, sugar-sweetened drinks and donuts because while junk food can help you put on weight, it goes to the wrong places and is stored as unhealthy belly fat
This increases your risk of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Eating more junk food is also likely to make you depressed (File image)
I can empathize, because I’m also on the skinny side. Like you, I don’t feel like piling on thick crust pizzas, sugar-sweetened drinks and donuts because while junk food can help you gain weight, it will go to the wrong places and be stored as unhealthy belly fat.
This increases your risk of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Eating more junk food is also likely to make you depressed.
So how can you increase your weight without compromising your health? Here are a few tips:
- Eat 100-120g of high-quality protein daily in the form of eggs, meat, fatty fish, legumes, tofu and dairy. This is key to maintaining a healthy immune system and strong, healthy muscles. Combining a high-protein diet with resistance exercise will build muscle mass. If you find it difficult to achieve these protein goals with food alone, consider adding high-quality protein shakes.
- Increase your consumption of complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and vegetables, including root vegetables such as sweet potatoes.
- Increase the flavors to make food more interesting – this will encourage you to eat more.
- If you feel full quickly, eat smaller meals more often and eat at least three times a day. Snack on nuts, seeds, cheese or fruit.
- Add energy-dense foods such as olive oil, whole milk, full-fat Greek yogurt, dried fruit, avocados, hummus, peanut butter, and dark chocolate
- Drink calories. Include a nutritious low-sugar smoothie with lots of protein and natural fats, such as milk and peanut butter.
- Avoid drinking water before a meal. You can fill this.
- Get plenty of sleep and manage stress – both can reduce appetite, as can smoking.
The challenge is to be in the middle or near the lower BMI range for your health. If you have sudden unintended weight loss, contact a health professional to rule out a medical cause.
Everyone knows that oily fish is good for you, unless you are pregnant. Then you will be told not to eat more than two servings of fish such as trout and mackerel per week as they may contain pollutants that can be harmful to the baby. But the risk is very small and far outweighs the benefits, according to a study of more than 4,000 women. Jean Golding, co-author and Professor Emeritus of Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology at the University of Bristol, said ‘there is evidence…that such advice can cause confusion’. She said the advice should change from eating “no more than” to “at least” two servings of fish a week, one of which should be fatty.
Feed gut bacteria to ward off colds
Winter is coming – peak season for colds. So now it’s time to boost your immunity by feeding the “good” bacteria in your gut.
A Mediterranean diet provides many of the vitamins and minerals your immune system needs, plus twice as much fiber as a more processed Western diet. Think warming tomato and bean soup and grain-filled salads. You can also replenish your good bacteria with probiotic supplements.