I need to gain some weight. Yes, you read that right - I said 'gain', 'not lose'. While the rest of my friends used to sweat it out at the gym, swearing off fried food and stuffing themselves with bland salads, I would loll about gorging on junk food, watching everyone squirming into their tight jeans with a smug smile on my face. Exercise? That's something only those trying to shed some flab do!
Then, I happened to step on the weighing scale at the doctor's and was told that at 5 feet six inches and a feather-light 50 kg, I was severely underweight for my age. Being thin is good, said the doctor. Looking like Olive Oyl's twin is not.
CHEWING THE FAT
How thin or fat you are depends on how fast and efficiently your body can burn the calories you pile on. Doctors call it the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). The higher your BMR, the thinner you are.
People who have a high BMR are an envied lot - since they can pretty much indulge in anything they want without a substantial difference in weight. "It is a misconception that thin people are weak or unfit," says Dr Priti Vijay, Head of Department of Dietetics at the Max Heart and Vascular Institute. "As long as you follow a healthy lifestyle and don't suffer from problems like tiredness, lethargy and anemia, there is no problem with being thin."
If you're thin as a stick, however, gaining some weight can work wonders: for boosting energy levels, concentration and muscle mass (and, possibly, your chances of getting hooked up).
DO SWEAT IT
If you've been skipping working out since you're already thin, it's time to get the gym shorts out again. "Thin people are often under the illusion that exercising will make them thinner," says Dr. Vijay. "But regular, moderate exercise like jogging, skipping or even playing a sport like badminton is essential to gain some weight. Exercise increases your appetite so you can eat more food," she adds.
It is best to stick to light exercises like stretching, running on the treadmill and moderate weight training, feels Dr Vijay. "Work out too much, and you risk losing weight, especially if you do not increase your food intake," she says. "For good results, try supplementing your meals with cereal bars."
Here's something that will make overweight people go green with envy: If you're thin, you can go ahead and gorge on your favourite pastries, chocolates and ice creams - as frequently as once a day (yes, we double-checked)! "As long as you avoid an overdose of ghee and butter," says Dr Vijay, "you can safely go ahead and eat your favourite foods." Beer-lovers, however, are out of luck, since beer is just empty calories.
"Thin people should stick to an extremely high-calorie diet if they want to put on some body mass," says Dr Shachi Sohal, a dietician at B L Kapur Memorial Hospital, New Delhi. "It is also important to have at least four or five small meals a day, instead of three heavy meals," she adds.
Like obese people, thin people too are not immune to high levels of cholesterol and blood pressure. "So it is important to not just put on calories, but put on the right kind of calories," says Dr Sohal.
Typically, you should have at least one boiled egg with your breakfast daily and include nutritious things like chicken, fish, whole wheat grain, paneer and sprouted pulses like chana and moong in your meals. Try soups with plenty of vegetables as appetizers in lunch and dinner. Says Dr Sohal, "It is important to gradually increase your calorie intake along with the intensity of your exercise routine to gain a substantial amount of weight."
Desserts can include halwas, dates, curd with sugar and snacks like chikki and jaggery. "Nutritional supplements are beneficial," says Dr. Vijay, "But take them only in consultation with your doctor."
WEIGHT GAIN TIPS
Increase your calories gradually.
Cut down on smoking and alcohol consumption.
Chew your food properly. Properly chewed food saves your body some effort in digesting food.
Avoid drinking water with your meals. Water can greatly reduce appetite and can thus lead to a drop in calorie consumption.
Avoid beverages like tea and coffee immediately after a meal as they hinder the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Munch on dry fruits and nuts between meals.