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Healthful Weight Gain is Possible

While many individuals struggle with trying to lose weight, others struggle with trying to gain weight. Whether someone seeks to recover from an eating disorder, manage a long-term illness (such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, an autoimmune disorder or food sensitivities/allergies), gain weight for sport or simply aims to try to gain a healthy body weight, healthy weight gain can often present many challenges.

For one, an individual may not wish to gain weight, but needs to do so for health reasons. Perhaps this is someone with an eating disorder. If the individual is a minor, a parent is often the one seeking out healthful ways to encourage his or her child’s weight gain at an appropriate rate. In these situations, it is imperative to work with a team of health professionals who specialize in eating disorders, including a physician, psychotherapist, dietitian and perhaps psychiatrist, as well. In this way, the parents do not become the “food police”, interrogating children at every meal and snack, nor do they choose unhealthy ways to gain weight (such as forcing unhealthful foods into a child’s diet). Additionally, the team can address underlying concerns and focus on whole body recovery, rather than just the weight restoration.

Another reason someone may be struggling with weight gain is simply a side effect of having an illness. Be it Alzheimer’s, where an individual forgets to eat or forgets how to eat, or cancer, where the body’s reserves are being depleted at an accelerated rate.

Men, often, (but, women, too) can struggle with putting on weight, while trying to achieve high muscle mass for sport. With intense exercise, it is essential to be consuming enough calories to not only avoid unwanted weight loss, but also to achieve healthy lean muscle mass. Working with a dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition is helpful in this situation.

Then, a situation may arise where unachievable weight gain occurs for unknown reasons. In this case, it is also important to work with a team of health professionals and get appropriate lab testing in order to determine the cause.

No matter what the reason, if you seek to gain healthful amounts of weight, here are a few ideas to consider incorporating into your eating plan. Remember, though, each plan should be catered to an individual, with individual needs and preferences addressed:

Julie Whittington is a Registered Dietitian in the Lake Norman area. Contact her at juliewhittingtonrd@yahoo.com.

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