Search Ask the Dietitian



Underweight


  1. Where can I find a dietitian who works with people who want to gain weight? Answer
  2. I have always been skinny. Could you send me some information on how to put on weight to get me to the average weight? Answer
  3. I have tried the powders. I do understand I need to take in more calories and fat, but I am not sure of the type of foods that I can consume. Answer
  4. I am stuck in my weight gain. What should my calorie intake be? Answer
  5. The Metropolitan Life Insurance tables qualifies me as underweight. I want to know if I should be worried and try to gain weight? Answer
  6. I want to gain weight. I've tried protein powders and they didn't work. Answer
  7. My wife fell and broke her hip. Ever since then she has been underweight. Do you have any suggestions? Answer


Where can I find a dietitian who works with people who want to gain weight?

The Weight Management dietetic practice group of the American Dietetic Association specializes in working with people who need to gain weight. You can find a dietitian at the American Dietetic Association. Include your zip code or city / state and the type of service you want (individual consultation) with expertise in general nutrition / wellness, healthy eating / meal planning or metabolic measurements.


I am writing to you because I am ready to begin the weight gain process. I am a 19 year old male. I am 6'3" and weigh 128 lb. I have always been skinny and so have a lot of the men in my family. I have always been told that because of my genes, I couldn't really gain a lot of weight. I hope you can tell me differently. I would greatly appreciate it if you could send me some information or tell me where to get information on how to put on weight to get me to the average weight. My ultimate goal is to be between 165 and 170 lb. and STAY there. I hope that you can help me out!

Here is some more information about me: 29" waist college student; part time waiter.

If you need anything else, please write back and ask. I look forward to your reply so I can get started.

The lower end of a healthy weight range for you is about 186 pounds for your height. Weight gain for people who are underweight is much more difficult that for people who are overweight. The underweight person may have a higher metabolism, be taller, fewer fat cells, "lean genes" or just not care about food. As a waiter, at least you are around food. Do you eat at work?

First I would suggest you try out the Healthy Body Calculator to find out how many calories you need to eat. Remember to select "gain 1 or 2 pounds per week". Next you will need to keep track of all the food and beverages you eat to make sure you are eating enough calories. A meal plan based on the Food Guide Pyramid would provide you with about 2000 calories as a base and you could increase the number of servings of each group to get more calories. You should be eating 3 meals per day and 3 or 4 snacks.

Also start an exercise program that includes weight training. After all, you don't want to just put on bodyfat, you probably want to put on more muscle.


Hi. I am 30 years old, 6'2" and weigh a mere 135-140. I really would like to gain 10-15 pounds and maintain it. I would say that I do eat regular 3 meals a day and some in-between as well. A few years ago, (maybe 5) I was weighing in at 145, which was not bad, but after going through a bad marriage I drop to 135, sometimes 125 and could not get back up to 145. Today, I go from 135-140. I have tried the "powders" but........... So I come to you for advice. I do understand that I need to take in more calories and fat, but I am not sure of the type of foods that I can consume to do so. Oh, I do exercise semi-regularly. Any suggestions would be great!

First, start with Healthy Body Calculator to determine how many calories you need to gain 1 or 2 pounds per week. Then using Your Nutrition Facts as a guide, write down how much and what foods you eat so you know whether or not you are eating enough food.

Generally to gain weight, you need more of everything, more meat, milk, starches, fruits and vegetables. Temper all this with some added fats, oils and sweets. You can use the Food Guide Pyramid as a guide to the number of servings. The basic guide contains 2000 - 2500 calories. You might also want to include 2 or 3 snacks between meals since you will probably feel full after larger meals.

Stress causes some people to lose, others to gain. exercise is a great stress reducer. Next stressor comes along, exercise regularly.


I am stuck in my weight gaining. I am 42 years old, 5'9" and now weigh 147 with a body fat of 9.5%. During the day I work at a desk, but I am always running around the office and at night I lift weights 4 times a week, 2 hours each night. I do very little cardio exercise, but I consider myself active.

What should my calorie intake be and how many grams of fat, protein and carbohydrates per day and meal do I need to start gaining again. What is the formula to figure it out myself as my weight goes up? Thanks for any help you can give.

Your calorie needs to maintain your weight at 147 pounds is about 2340 calories, 78 grams of fat (30% calories from fat), 59 grams protein and 351 grams carb. The calories and grams (fat, protein and carb) can be equally divided among three meals. This was based on activities you listed. Have you tried the Healthy Body Calculator?

BTW, you are within your healthy body weight and congratulations on the lean body fat. Don't worry so much if your weight goes up and your body fat stays constant because you could be adding on muscle with your weight lifting. A healthy weight for you is 132 to 162 pounds. I would encourage you to include aerobic exercise in your program. It would help keep your body fat stores low.


I am 5'7'' and weigh 108 pounds. By the Metropolitan Life Insurance tables, this qualifies me as underweight. But I'm only 18 and the tables don't include my age group. I want to know if I should be worried and try to gain weight, but I can't seem to find any information on my specific situation.

At 18, you are probably done growing as a female. Your healthy body weight is 122 to 149 pounds. At 108, you are at 80% of your healthy body weight. But how do you feel about your weight?

Underweight can decrease your immune response to infection and disease as well as postpone menstruation. Your body makes hormones from body fat and sometimes when body fat is too low, women quit menstruating. I would suggest you increase your calorie intake by 500 calories per day while following a healthy diet of 25 - 30% fat, 10 - 15% protein and 55 - 60% carbohydrate. This should cause a 1 pound per week weight gain.

Do you exercise? If not, start a program that includes weight training and aerobic exercise. If you are going to gain weight, why not make it muscle rather than fat.


I want to gain weight. I'm 5'10" and 180 pounds. I would like to get up to 190 pounds. I've tried protein powders and they didn't work. So now I'm trying yoga and yogurt. I work out a lot doing weight lifting and am really athletic.

It is more difficult to gain weight than to lose. However, you do not need to gain weight.

According to the 1980 revised height-weight tables published by Metropolitan Life Insurance, your weight should be 154-166 pounds for a medium frame or 161-184 pounds for a man with a large frame. So your weight is appropriate for your height now without gaining any more pounds. Maybe, you really want to increase your muscle size in which case your weight would go up because muscle weighs more than bodyfat.

The Metropolitan Life Insurance tables are for men and women, age 25 -29 with the lowest mortality rate (non-smoker, non-drinker without chronic disease). The weights are in pounds and assume you are wearing indoor clothing (weighing 5 pounds for men, 3 pounds for women) and are wearing shoes with one-inch heels. The weights are given for small, medium and large frame people.

If your concern to gain weight is related to your desire to increase muscle size, muscles increase with increased exercise, not diet. Diet alone could cause weight gain, but the increase would be mostly bodyfat without the exercise component. Keep exercising (about 30 minutes per day three to five times per week) on a regular basis and your muscle size should increase. Weight lifting is effective to increase muscle size.

Also, rather than trying every new fad diet that comes along, stick with the basics. Eat three meals per day that include two to three meat servings, two to three milk servings, six to eleven bread servings, two to four fruit, three to five vegetable servings. Limit your intake of fats and oils (eight teaspoons per day) and limit sweets (up to one per day or as little as one per week). With this Food Guide Pyramid Diet Plan, you will be getting the nutrients you need for maintenance and repair of your body. Also, this basic diet would support your athletic lifestyle much better.

PS The protein powders were developed for massively obese people and were to be used only under a doctor's care. Also, they require you to increase your water intake as the protein powders stress the kidneys. Also, yogurt is not a cure-all food. Plain yogurt is the same as one cup of two- percent milk. Fruited yogurt is the same as one cup of two- percent milk and two servings of fruit.


My wife fell and broke her hip two years ago. Ever since then she has been underweight. She only weighs around 94 pounds. When I try to sneak in larger portions, she notices it and leaves some. I can't get her to eat more. Do you have any suggestions? She can't walk very far either.

You didn't say how tall you wife is, but if she is over five feet tall, she is underweight. Her muscle mass is probably smaller because of her low weight and low activity level. Inactivity can cause a poor appetite, which in turn effects a person's strength.

When trying to get a person to gain weight, some usual dietary advice may be thrown out the window unless she has some other health problems like high blood pressure or diabetes. If she is on a special diet, you will need to see a Registered Dietitian to help you combine all her dietary needs, including weight gain.

Since she won't eat larger portions, I would suggest four approaches for weight gain. Try one or all of the following approaches to help your wife gain weight.

First, increase the calorie concentration of the food amounts she does eat. For instance, put margarine on everything you offer her, including toast, cooked cereal, pancakes, French Toast, potatoes, rice, noodles and vegetables. Cream or cheese sauces poured over potatoes, noodles or vegetables add calories. Put peanut butter or jelly on top of the butter on her toast, but vary what you put on the toast each day. Offer your wife whole milk only. You might want to try offering double strength milk. It has 50 percent more calories and double the protein of regular milk. (Double strength milk is one cup of whole milk with 1/3 cup of nonfat dry milk powder added.) You could also make eggnog occasionally. Use whole milk instead of water in cooking some foods such as cooked cereal and mashed potatoes.

Second, if volume is a problem, offer your wife smaller amounts more often. Instead of the usual three meals per day, offer six or eight smaller meals. Some people's appetites get turned off when a large plate of food is placed in front of them. The large amounts seem overwhelming.

Also, she may get too full on an 8 ounce glass of milk at mealtimes. Try a 4 ounce glass of milk with meals and the same amoung in between meals. You might want to flavor the milk with chocolate, strawberry, banana or another flavor. Remember, you would get bored with the same food and so will your wife. Another suggestion is, if volume is a problem, don't offer soups or lots of liquids with her meals. They will fill a person up fast and may be low in calories.

Third, you may want to consider using a nutritional supplement. Since there are several hundred on the market, you should consult a Registered Dietitian for her/his advice on the best one for your wife. You did not mention if she has diabetes or high blood pressure. Some nutritional supplements are not recommended for these people. If she doesn't have any medical problems other than her hip, I would recommend a formula that has 355 calories per eight ounces. There are several on the market that would probably be available in your local pharmacy. As a supplement, choose one that is high in calories, average in protein, lactose free and good tasting. They come in many flavors as well.

Fourth, you mentioned that your wife couldn't walk very far. Minimal exercise does help to stimulate an appetite. Encourage your wife to walk the same distance, only more often each day. It will build up her tolerance and endurance. I would suggest she see a physical therapist for exercises that would benefit her walking.

One last suggestion, remember, it is more enjoyable to eat with someone else than alone. Your mealtime with your wife should provide companionship and conversation for you both.






Search Ask the Dietitian