Many people consider themselves to be underweight and desire to weigh more. Perhaps before taking any direct action to gain weight, one should realize that, just like being overweight, being underweight is a relative condition. Average weight standards not only take pounds into account, but also include factors such as age, gender, height, and body-frame size. For this reason, one should consult a number of different sources for weight standards and Body Mass Index calculators, which will assist in setting realistic weight goals.
Genes are another factor that one should consider when setting weight goals. If the majority of one’s relatives are slim, yet healthy, being underweight may be normal according to one’s genetics. In this case, a healthy weight for the individual may be considered “underweight” by average standards. One might also consider a visit to the doctor for a general health assessment. A doctor can rule out disease or other medical conditions that may cause the individual to be underweight, as well as help the individual set realistic, timely, measurable goals for weight gain.
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In setting weight goals, it is helpful to understand that one pound is equal to roughly 3,500 calories. If one consumes more calories than one burns, you will gain weight, and vice versa. For example, to gain one pound per week, you would need to consume 500 calories more than were burned each day. Online calorie calculators can help determine how many calories an individual is burning during certain activities, and how many average calories are contained in a food item. These tools can help track progress, and assist in determining how many extra calories one would need to consume in lieu of their activity in order to continue gaining weight.
There is more to gaining weight, however, than simple caloric intake. Being overweight is no better than being underweight, and both conditions often indicate poor nutrition. Increasing the intake of high calorie foods that lack nutritional value, so called “empty calories,” will not remedy the situation. These foods do not provide fuel for the body, and lead to unhealthy increases in body fat. It is possible for a person to be underweight, but have an unhealthy amount of body fat, and this is just as dangerous as being overweight with an unhealthy ratio of body fat.
The most sensible fix for being underweight is to follow the time-honored food pyramid, and increase additional calories from healthy sources. It is a good idea to increase the quality of calories, as well as the quantity. Regular exercise is also important, as it increases appetite, adds muscle weight to the body, and helps the body process the additional food intake correctly. Incorporating calorie-rich snacks between meals can also add weight.
Complex carbohydrates are notorious for their weight-increasing effects. Refined or processed carbohydrates should be replaced with whole grain breads, granola, brown or long grain rice, and whole-wheat pasta. Dried fruits are less filling and equal in calories to fresh fruit, so one might be able to sneak in more calories by snacking on dried apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, and dried figs. Avocados, olives, nuts, potatoes, and beans are high in calories, nutrients, and healthy fats.
Another method to resolve being underweight is to maximize calories in the foods we already eat. Using honey to sweeten beverages adds calories. Adding milk powder, protein powder, wheat germ or flax oil to shakes or hot cereal, or using milk in place of water in soups or sauces can also maximize calories. Though they are often high in sugar, drinks or mixes such as Instant Breakfast®, Ensure®, and other brands can add balanced calories to the diet, as well as providing vitamins and minerals. Being underweight, just like being overweight, is a factor that most people can control. Finding a resolution to being underweight should be approached in the same way fighting obesity — with motivation, intention, healthy choices, and balanced living.