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Gaining weight to be body confident

28th March 2014

vegetablesWe often talk about weight loss, but what about those who are underweight?

Our Health Trainers occasionally have clients who want to gain weight. Often, these clients have active lifestyles and their diet doesn’t reflect the amount of exercise they’re doing. As with any weight issue, it’s about balancing the number of calories going in with the number of calories you’re burning off.

Health Trainer Susan says: “One of my clients walks everywhere – often three or four miles a day – but he wasn’t eating regularly, so his weight remained very low. People often don’t make the time to eat – so they’re exercising, but they’re not giving themselves enough fuel.”

So how do the Health Trainers advise clients who want to gain weight?

The advice Health Trainers give to those who want to gain weight is actually very similar to the advice for those who want to lose weight: balance your exercise with a healthy eating routine. For most, this will mean getting into new habits; for example eating a regular three meals a day.

Health Trainer Keiran said, “the idea is to increase weight in a healthy way. It depends on the individual – and we work with people to make sure that whatever we plan is right for them – but generally this means finding creative ways to build extra calories and protein into their diet.”

Eleanor McGee, Public Health Nutrition Lead, says, “people who have got into the habits of a poor diet need help to make and maintain changes – and Health Trainers are ideally placed to provide this help.”

As with weight loss clients, Health Trainers help weight gain clients to set short-, mid- and long-term goals which include some accountability (for example, monthly weight review checks). And, as with all their clients, they work holistically, looking at what the existing barriers might be and working with the client to make changes that will stick.

Ben’s story

Being underweight can have a negative effect on someone’s confidence and psychological wellbeing, just as being overweight can.

Wayne’s client Ben is in his early 20s and joined the service in July last year. He felt that people hadn’t really taken his weight issues seriously in the past, and described himself as depressed about his body.

In his initial statement he said:

I want some help to gain weight and also to eat healthier. Today has been brilliant for me – I have someone who is listening to me. For the month ahead goals set are three fruits each day (I have not eaten fruit for a long time). Cut out all snacks and sugar intake. Eat potatoes and vegetables 3-5 days each week. Do more exercise. Join the gym with BeActive. Swim 2-3 times a week. I look forward to my life style changes.

By October, his routines had changed completely and it’s clear the changes have had a positive effect on his mental health as well as his physical health. He said:

Over the past 12 weeks I have changed loads. I now eat three meals each day and eat fruit and vegetables. I was very underweight. My start weight was 8st 7lb and now I weigh 9st 10lb. My goal is to get to 10 stone. I also feel I have more energy and more confidence. I now work part time.

Last week, Wayne asked Ben – who’s now gained 19 pounds – to record his progress and talk about how he’s feeling now. Have a listen to what he said.

If you feel that you might need to gain weight, visit your GP first, to check you are actually underweight. If you are, they’ll look at the potential causes and advise you of the best way to tackle it. Weight loss might be caused by a medical condition that needs treatment, so you must get a professional opinion before trying to gain weight by yourself.

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