In a world where most people are obsessed with weight loss it seems strange that some people should be concerned with how they might gain some weight. But there are isolated situations where this is the case. For example people with some forms of eating disorder, some sports people and people with a chronic and/or life threatening illness. Here I am commenting in the latter situation.
As an athlete I spent many years trying to ensure that my “racing weight” was at an optimum level. This meant keeping my weight at a lower level than average for my age and height, but not at a level that would result in depleted energy levels. When I developed cancer, and weight loss became a health issue, I found I could reverse some of the ideas, I had used to keep my ideal racing weight, to gain a healthy weight despite significant loss of appetite, nausea and a general low level of energy.
Initially I found myself engaging in eating behaviours that I suspect many people in my situation follow. That is the non systematic eating of a small range of food, that I seemed to be able to tolerate, with no idea as to how it might impact on my weight. My weight began to dip; it certainly didn’t increase. I then implemented the following plan.
- I worked out the weight I thought I should be. I worked this out by finding the weight I thought I should be to produce an ideal BMI score. There are many internet sites that will help you calculate your BMI and interpret the score. My weight appeared to be below an ideal BMI, for a non athlete, so I did need to work on gaining weight.
- I then worked out how many calories I needed to consume each day to maintain a good weight. There are a number of web sites that can help with this calculation. The calculation will take into account the number of calories used when resting plus the number of calories used for daily activities.
- Once you have this figure you can decide on daily calorie intake depending on whether you want to lose or gain weight. If the weight loss is the aim then reducing your expected calorific intake by one or two percent would be the way to proceed. My aim was to increase my weight so I increased my expected calorific intake by about one percent.
- I then worked through the food that I thought I could consume in a day and worked out the calorie count. Initially, I was eating a very limited range of food, and not very much of it, so the calorie count came to only about half of what I needed per day.
- I worked out a balance of calories needed from a food supplement drink. There are a number of these available but I think it should be a supplement that provides good nutritional balance as well as being tolerable. The one I have used is called Ensure, produced by Abbot Laboratories. Each day I mixed up enough supplement to top up the number of calories needed for the day. I would drink this in small amounts over the period of the day.
- Once I had my diet worked out I kept to it as consistentlyas possible. Not easy when energy levels are down and nausea comes and goes. There have been times when I felt I was getting most of my calories from anti-nausea medication!
- I reviewed the plan weekly particularly with regard to the change in the calorie count that would occur if I felt like eating some different foods and/or more of some food type. I then adjusted my food intake, and the amount of supplement I needed.
- Gradually I increased my calorie intake though the food I was eating, and reduced the amount of supplement needed.
I recently came across a quote, in “Steve Jobs” a biography by Walter Isaacson, made by James Eason one of Steve Jobs’s medical specialists. In frustration with Jobs’s problematic eating behaviour Eason forthrightly stated – “You know, this isn’t a matter of taste …. Stop thinking of this as food. Start thinking of it as medicine.” I think this is a good guideline.
Over a four month period my weight has moved to a satisfactory level and stayed there. Now I do not need to follow the plan as systematically, but I have a good feel for the amount and range of food I need each day. When I have more treatment and have more problems with my food intake I will go back and re-implement the plan.
Please note: I am not a dietician, nutritionist or medical professional. Anyone with serious eating concerns should consult a specialist when they are setting up a diet plan and keep their doctor fully informed of any issues associated with their eating behaviour. I have detailed my plan here to provide ideas for people, in a similar situation, to consider. Eating problems associated with medical conditions can be complex and aspects of the plan may, or may not, work for other people.