We’ve been talking a lot about weight loss lately. But what if you have the opposite problem? What if you have stomach issues or are on a restrictive diet and you need to gain weight?
First off, I see you. In our weight-loss crazy culture, you’ve probably had more than one person say some insensitive thing along the lines of ‘you’re so lucky…”
Being underweight and struggling to gain weight is no joke. And if you have IBS, SIBO, autoimmune disease, or something else that requires a restrictive diet, it’s even harder. It’s not like you can just go out and eat a bunch of high calorie processed food to try to put on some pounds. (I don’t recommend THAT for anyone BTW).
If you need to gain weight, regardless of your eating restrictions, you want to do it wisely. You need to make sure you are feeding your body the nutrients you need while adhering to your own personal dietary requirements and food sensitivities.
While it’s not always easy to gain weight on a therapeutic diet, it is possible. And I’m happy to share my best tips with you!
Many people who come to me with IBS are afraid to eat — and with good reason. IBS symptoms can be unpredictable. And the last thing you want is to have a bathroom emergency while you’re sitting in a meeting or out on a hike.
You figure, if nothing goes in then nothing can come out. So it’s not uncommon for IBS patients to avoid food in an effort to avoid diarrhea.
But that doesn’t work great either. Eating sporadically can actually worsen your IBS symptoms. Your best bet is to work with a practitioner and figure out EXACTLY which foods cause you problems. Then you can eat without fear again.
Obviously if you’re trying to gain weight, avoiding food is not going to help. In order to gain weight, you want to up your calories with foods that will both nourish your body and work well with your digestive issues.
I recommend that you eat smaller meals throughout the day. By doing this you can accomplish a few things:
✔ Stay consistent with your meal timing— which is good for managing IBS.
✔ Avoid overeating — which is not good for IBS.
✔ Fit in enough calories to successfully gain weight while sticking to a healthy diet.
Managing body weight is more complicated than just balancing calories and activity. There are a variety of factors that come into play including stress levels, sleep, and a number of hormone interactions. But generally, if you want to gain weight, you’re going to need to add in more calories.
I’m not talking about candy bars here. I recommend my patients include nutrient-rich, high calorie foods when they are trying to gain weight.
👍 Coconut milk or cream
👍 Nuts and nut butters — low FODMAP varieties like macadamias, peanuts, and pine nuts
👍 Healthy oils like olive oil and coconut oil — avoid processed oils like corn and vegetable.
👍 Low FODMAP cheese like blue cheese, brie, cheddar, or cottage cheese.
👍 Sauces, dressing, and mayo
👍 Starchy vegetables like potatoes
Just make sure whichever calorie-dense foods you include work with your individual food sensitivities and tolerances. And if you’re on a low FODMAP diet, check with your practitioner for higher calorie, low FODMAP suggestions.
Fat was demonized in our culture for decades. Low fat diets used to be all the rage. But research has shown that certain oils are healthy and important food choices. It’s not just that it’s ‘okay’ to eat oils, it’s important.
😃 Fatty acids are a crucial component in every cell
😃 Fats help keep you satisfied longer after a meal
😃 Fats help you absorb the vitamins A,D,E, and K.
😃 Including fat at each meal or snack helps keep your blood sugar balanced.
It’s important to choose the right fats. Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil are good plant-based choices. You want to avoid highly processed oils that can lead to inflammation like corn oil, cottonseed oil, and vegetable oil. And at the top of the “bad fats” list is trans fat. This are listed on labels as “partially hydrogenated”.
Don’t be afraid to add some oil to your foods. You can add extra virgin olive oil to your salad or use a heat-tolerant oil like avocado to saute your veggies or brown your meat. Or you can even add a healthy oil to your blended coffee or smoothie.
Nuts and seeds are rich in nutrients and higher in calories. They contain healthy fats, protein, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. And they make a great snack, either alone or combined with other foods. Just make sure you stick with varieties you tolerate well.
If you’re on a low FODMAP diet, you’ll want to avoid cashews and pistachios. And limit almonds or hazelnuts to 10. But there are a number of low FODMAP nuts including Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts, and peanuts.
Seeds are a good choice as well. Most seeds are low in FODMAPs. You can add chia, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds to your diet. Chia pudding made with coconut milk is a great higher calorie snack or breakfast. A quick Google or Pinterest search will yield tons of recipes.
You can snack on pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or even add them to your salad!
And no, I don’t mean soda. When you’re looking to gain weight, it’s important to stick with high calorie, nutrient-dense foods. High sugar beverages like soda or commercial coffee drinks may provide calories, but they work against you nutritionally.
Try adding high-fat cream options to your coffee or tea like coconut milk. Or you can start the day with a blended coffee or smoothie. When you make these in the blender you can add calories in the form of coconut milk, coconut oil, or nut butters. These additions will not only
add calories, they’ll also add flavor and creaminess.
If you are struggling to gain weight you may feel scared and misunderstood. In a culture obsessed with thinness, the people around you may not provide you the support you need. But a knowledgeable practitioner can.
In my practice, I work with each client’s individual needs. We look at symptoms, diagnoses, and target your health concerns head-on. Plus, I offer additional testing as needed. If you are struggling with stomach issues. can’t seem to shake your IBS symptoms, or are struggling to reach or maintain a healthy body weight, let’s talk. We’ll get to the bottom of what’s bothering you and get you feeling better again!