Answered: Why Can’t I Gain Weight?
Being too thin is hard. It seems like everyone is worried about gaining too much weight. It’s hard to be skinny in a world where everyone is eating fat-free foods, going on diets, doing cardio, etc. Those of us who are too skinny are completed out of step with the rest of society. While everyone else is trying to shed the pounds, you might be asking yourself, “why can’t I gain weight?”
All throughout high school and college I was skinny as a twig. I would eat a ton and never be able to gain weight. I had a high metabolism, and nothing I could do would make me gain fat or muscle. Or at least that is what it seemed like.
Eventually I got sick of looking like a skinny twig. I wanted to get some muscles and to look healthy and normal. So I did the research and figured out exactly why I was not gaining weight like I wanted to.
Gaining weight is actually not terribly complex. In theory it’s really easy to do. In practice, things become more difficult.
If you have been trying to gain weight, but the scale stays the same, read on to see why you might be having trouble gaining weight.
Here are the top reasons why you are not gaining weight.
Believing Weight Gain Myths
These are common excuses that people give for why they are unable to gain weight. But they are just excuses. They are reasons that people present when they give up on their weight gain journey. Gaining weight is hard. Excuses and myths are used to rationalize failure. If you want to gain weight, You need to stop believing these myths.
I Cannot Gain Weight Because Of Stress
Stress is funny because it is used as a culprit by both those who gain weight and those who are unable to gain weight. Studies show that long term stress generally increases body fat. On the other hand, short term stress can lead to weight loss.
However, before you start to use stress as an excuse for not gaining weight, you need to realize that the main reason that stress causes weight loss is due to skipped meals. When life feels stressful and busy, people have a tendency to not eat. They might feel like they do not have the time to eat or are not hungry.
The truth is that stress does not hinder weight loss, it’s the skipping of meals due to stress that causes weight loss. As long as you are consistent about how much you eat, and how often you eat, short term stress will not have an effect on your weight gain journey.
However, long term stress may lead to health complications which can lead to either weight loss or gaining unhealthy fat. If you have a high stress life you should do your best to lower your stress levels, not because stress makes gaining weight more difficult, but because stress negatively affects your health.
Stress has also been shown to hinder muscle growth.
I Cannot Gain Weight Because Of High Metabolism
Metabolism refers to the sum of chemical reactions that take place in living cells. This includes the process where fuel such as food is transformed into energy and building blocks of biological cells.
When someone says they have a high metabolism they usually mean that they can eat a lot and not gain weight and/or that they get hungry easily. In essence they are saying that their body naturally burns calories at a faster rate.
Metabolism rates do differ from person to person. They are influenced by genetics. It’s very true that you may have been born with a high metabolism. Some believe that you can change the metabolism levels of your body, but evidence of such claims are inconclusive and controversial.
While metabolism does vary, it is not as large of an influence on weight gain and weight loss and many people believe. Studies show that resting metabolic rates do not differ more than a few percent for obese and non-obese individuals. One study shows a difference of around 100 kcal per 24 hours between obese women and non-obese women. One hundred calories in a 24 hour period is not that much. Another study finds that those who used to be obese had a resting metabolism rate of between 3-5% slower than those who were never obese. Again, there is a difference, but it just isn’t very large.
What this means is that while metabolism does play a role in weight gain, it’s not a very big roll. Metabolisms don’t actually vary as much as many people believe. Metabolism is not going to be a key factor in whether you are able to gain weight.
Saying you have a high metabolism is just an excuse.
One interesting thing to note that is skinny people tend to fidget more than obese individuals. This means that skinny people burn more calories just by moving around when they are sitting down, etc. This is not directly related to metabolism, but is an interesting side note.
I Have Worms
Really? That’s why you cannot gain weight?
OK, having worms really can stop someone from gaining weight. I recently read a post on the Internet where someone attempted to gain weight. He counted calories and was eating between 3500 and 4000 calories a day and was unable to gain weight. More importantly he did not have to poo very much and was often constipated. When eating 4000 calories a day, you are going to be producing a lot of waste and will definitely need to poo.
He tried a folk remedy of eating papaya seeds with pineapple and coconut juice and then a laxative immediately after. (Papaya seeds contain carpaine, which kills some parasites.) Apparently this led to poop which had clearly visible worms in it.
The poster went to a doctor, got some pills, killed off the worms and is now gaining weight as normal.
I mention this story not to convince you that you have worms. You probably don’t. I use it to describe how much worms affect the human body. Not being able to gain weight even though you think you are eating a lot is not the same as eating 3500 calories and not gaining any weight. Stomach worms are very rare in the Western world. Unless you live in a developing country, you likely don’t have worms.
If you are blaming worms for your lack of weight gain, answer me this: how many calories do you eat every day? Do you know? Because if you are not counting calories, then you are probably not eating as much as you think.
A lot of stomach worms will appear in feces, so take a look at your poo and see if you find any worms in it.
If you really believe you have worms you should definitely see a doctor. Worms can lead to serious health issues and should not be used as an excuse for a lack of weight gain.
I Eat A Lot But Am Naturally Skinny
I used to believe this one. I was 100% convinced I ate a ton and just naturally couldn’t gain weight. Probably because of my high metabolism. During meals I would eat more than anyone in my family, including my parents. To this day I find I eat more than almost anyone I know. When I eat a meal, I want huge portions.
There were a few problems with my thinking.
When growing up I ate more than my father, who was overweight. The problem is that he spent most of his day at work or in his car. This meant a lot of sitting down and not being active. I was young and full of energy. I rode my bike around, I walked a lot, etc. I was burning way more calories because I was active, not because I was naturally skinny.
The other difference between me and my father was that while I ate more during a single meal, I did not eat as often as he did. He had snacks and drank soda throughout the day, sometimes without really realizing it. I on the other hand ate a huge meal and was full for most of the day. It looked like I was eating a ton more than him because when we ate together during a single meal I ate more. But throughout the day, he snacked enough to make us equal in the amount of food we both ate.
I find that people who believe that they eat a lot actually don’t eat as much as they think. I am not calling you a liar. For years I was convinced that I ate a ton. But then one day I started to count my calories and realized I was eating around 2600 calories a day. That’s a lot for some people, but when I calculated my TDEE I found it to be right around 2600. I was eating enough to maintain my weight level at my age and exercise levels. It seemed like I was eating a ton, but I was actually eating just enough.
If you want to gain weight, you need to stop estimating how much you eat. You might think that you are eating a lot, but unless you count your calories, then you will never actually know.
Now that I have mentioned a few myths/excuses that people use for not gaining weight, lets see what actually might be stopping you from gaining weight.
Not Eating Enough
Gaining weight is simple. You need to eat more calories than you burn. Period. That’s all it takes. Calories are all that matter when it comes to weight gain and weight loss.
The most likely reason you are not gaining weight is that you are not eating enough calories.
Are you counting calories? If not, do so. If you are counting calories, and not gaining weight, then increase the amount of calories you are eating! Keep increasing this number until you notice your weight increasing. You can calculate your TDEE as a good starting point for how many calories you should be eating, but TDEE calculators provide only an estimate. Everyone is different, so you might require a bit more calories than what a TDEE calculator says.
Does it matter what you eat?
For gaining weight? No. You can eat salads and low-fat yogurt and still gain weight. As long as you eat enough calories, then you will gain weight, no matter what you eat. Eating 2500 or more calories of salad and low-fat yogurt is going to be difficult. You’re better off eating something that is more calorie dense, but it is totally possible to gain weight eating only salad.
Eating a tub of ice cream everyday will probably do wonders for your weight gain goals.
But gaining weight is usually not going to be your only goal. You probably want to be healthy and likely also want to put on muscle instead of just getting obese. If that is the case, then yes, it does matter what you eat. You can eat healthy and still gain weight. To do this, eat whole foods. Don’t rely on junk food for gaining weight.
Eat a lot, but eat smart. As long as you are accurate in counting calories, you will be able to gain weight.
Being Too Active
You might be eating a lot of calories. More calories than are recommended for someone that is your height. Yet you are still unable to gain weight. One problem might be that you are too active. Every movement your body makes burns calories. If you walk a lot, ride a bicycle, do cardio or just fidget, you are burning calories.
A lot of us do not realize how much we actually move around throughout the day. You might be burning more calories than you realize. That’s a good thing though. Exercise is healthy and cardio is great for you. Don’t stop working out.
The solution is not to be less active, but to increase your calorie intake. Eat more food!
Not Lifting Heavy Things
If you want to gain muscle mass you must lift heavy things. Do no rely on cardio for muscle gains. Cardio burns fat, but does not do much in terms of gaining muscle. If you want to be big, lift heavy things. This usually means going to a gym and lifting weights. You can also get a good amount of muscle by simply doing bodyweight exercises.
Whatever routine you choose, be sure that you are lifting heavy things. This is how muscles grow.
If you don’t lift heavy things, but eat a lot of food you are likely going to get fat, or even skinny fat.
One of the hardest ting to master when it comes to building muscles and getting bigger is consistency. Consistency is key and is probably the most important factor when it comes to working out and dieting. If you slip up your body ends up doing what it wants.
There are plenty of stories of people who would go to the gym here and there, work on whatever exercises they wanted to, without consistency and without a program and they would never make any progress.
The same goes for diets. Some people are constantly on a diet, but they are also always “cheating” or not following their diet.
If you are not consistent about eating enough and not consistent about going to the gym and lifting heavy things, you are not going to gain weight and you are not going to gain muscle.
You need to train yourself to be consistent and have a routine that you follow.
Not Enough Protein
You can gain weight without protein. However, protein is a key element in building muscles. Most people who want to gain weight want to get stronger. Protein is what feeds your muscles. Make sure you get enough of it.
For the average person, about 18% of their calories should come from proteins. If you are very athletic, lifting heavy weights or looking to build muscle mass you can double that and have protein account for about 35-40% of your daily calories.
If you are struggling to get enough protein, try drinking a good protein powder or a high protein smoothie.
Counting Calories Incorrectly
Finally, a simple mistake is counting calories incorrectly. A kitchen scale is great for counting the amount of foods you eat. Europeans are amazed that American recipes use things like “cups” and “tablespoons” instead of weights. Using a kitchen weight will help you be more precise in how you count calories. For ten dollars, a kitchen scale is a cheap investment.
The one nice thing about counting calories incorrectly, is you are probably doing it in a consistent manner. you are likely to be either overestimating or underestimating your calories all the time. This means it will be easy to adjust your diet.
If you are counting calories and eating a lot but still unable to gain weight, you might be over counting the calories. You are probably eating less than you think you are. The simple solution is to eat more. Just assume you are eating less than you think you are and increase your calorie intake.
You Have A Medical Issue
Most people don’t have any sort of medical issue preventing them from gaining weight. No stomach worms or anything like that. However, if you really are eating a ton of calories in a consistent manner and are unable to gain weight, go see a doctor. This might be an indicator of an underlying medical issue.