What Do You Do When You Can’t Gain Weight?

 “Ugh. I wish I had your problem!!” 

-Every person, ever, when I’ve mentioned anything about not being able to gain weight.

Well, I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that

Yes, my “problem,” annoyingly dismissed by so many well-meaning people throughout my life, is that I’ve always been chronically underweight. Stick-thin. Skin and bones. Nothing to me. Size 000. (Okay, they don’t make a triple zero. But I was super jazzed the day they came out with the double so I wouldn’t have to buy clothes from the kids’ department, anymore.)

I never wanted to be this way. When I had high school teachers accusing me of being anorexic, I wished they would have known that I actually probably had the exact opposite type of disorder — an obsession with wanting to gain weight. But I couldn’t. It seemed that no matter how many nasty protein shakes I choked down, no matter how hard I would try to stuff in another peanut butter sandwich between meals, I remained uncomfortably, unnaturally thin.

And, as alone as I have often felt in this struggle, I know that I really am not. Us skinnies are definitely in the minority, but there are plenty of people out there who are underweight and do not wish to be. And lots of families with kids who were just like me, and “failing to thrive.” That was the diagnosis I was given as a child, and the main reason why I decided to give the GAPS diet a try. But I ended up realizing that the diet probably wasn’t what I really needed, and definitely wasn’t helping me meet my weight goals. I changed course, and was finally successful in gaining the weight I needed to feel comfortable and no longer self-conscious of my body’s size. It was quite literally, a dream come true for me. I thought I’d share how I did it, so that anyone else out there reading who’s been in my shoes could benefit from learning about my experience.

How I Gained Ten Pounds in Three Months

I know that’s not a huge number, but I don’t think you really should be aiming for more than a pound or so of weight gain per week anyway. And I also know that if you’re anything like I was ten pounds ago, you would love nothing more than to gain even that meager amount, even if it took three months. You’d probably love five.

This is what I did, and what I’d recommend to people looking to pack on the pounds.

Fix Your Magnesium Deficiency

One of the things I was super excited about when I went on the GAPS diet was noticing a significant increase in my appetite. I thought this was a result of the gut healing going on inside me. But you know what else I started doing at the exact same time that I started GAPS?

Transdermal magnesium therapy. (Real quickly, in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, this is just applying magnesium oil which you can make yourself from magnesium chloride flakes, to your skin, instead of taking magnesium orally. Magnesium doesn’t digest or absorb very well in the gut, but your skin does a great job soaking it in.)

It became pretty apparent that I had been deficient in magnesium because not only did I have many of the symptoms of deficiency (poor appetite being a big one), I saw some very noticeable changes soon after starting with the transdermal magnesium. I didn’t smell anymore when I skipped a shower or three, for one thing. But I also think that my sudden increase in appetite was more than likely due to my magnesium supplementation, too.

If you don’t have much of an appetite, try the magnesium oil thing. It just may give you the hungry belly you need!

Check Your Temperature

The crazy thing about being chronically underweight is that the root of your problem often is the very last thing you’d expect — it’s very possible that you have a slow metabolism. Yeah, that wasn’t a typo. I know from experience that skinny people constantly are told that their “high metabolism” surely must be the reason they are so thin.

Sad thing is, most people, including doctors, nutritionists, and others in the medical field, are pretty clueless about metabolic function and its effects on the body. I’m so glad I became more educated on the issue thanks to the research of Matt Stone, that crazy dude I wrote about recently who tells you to eat junk food and not exercise if your metabolism needs some help.

Matt says that those who are underweight commonly have the very same symptomology of those who are overweight. Although manifested in different ways, it’s the same root problem  — the rate at which mitochondrial energy is produced and respirated at the cellular level, is malfunctioning.

Slow metabolism doesn‘t necessarily mean you‘re a fatty. The slowest metabolisms I‘ve seen were in the highly underweight people who dug themselves into a deep, dark, vegan or low-carb tunnel (with body temperatures below 95 degrees F, yikes!).

Matt Stone, Diet Recovery

So, how do you figure out where your metabolism stands? Easy. Take your temperature first thing in the morning, before you even get out of bed to pee. That’s your basal body temperature, and it should ideally be at the very least, 97.8 degrees.

If  your thermometer tells you you’re not doing so hot (har, har), don’t worry. It’s pretty painless to fix. Matt’s book, Diet Recovery, will teach you everything you need to know to raise your temperature and rehabilitate your metabolism.

Change Your Eating Habits

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been told all your life that you “eat like a bird.” You prefer really light meals and snacks throughout the day, rather than big, full plates of food.

Well, I learned that one important aspect of supporting healthy metabolic function is to always eat to appetite — no snacking or “bird” meals! Again, if you’re like me, you might get full very fast and easily “spoil” your appetite. That’s okay. What I did was just eat until I did not desire one more bite, try to eat that one extra bite, and then be done. No need to make yourself sick stuffing your face — eating needs to be a totally positive experience, always.

And then, the next time I so much as thought about eating something else, I’d do it all over again. Eat til I was completely full. Rinse and repeat. This is the process of overfeeding, a major part of the program outlined in Diet Recovery, which I highly recommend reading to really understand how it works and why it’s necessary to fix a sluggish metabolism.

Quit Being a Health Food Freak

“I don’t think so, Bob. This has THREE whole grams of SUGAR!!”

Going into a grocery store used to be one of the most depressing, self-defeating experiences I could encounter, just a short time ago. I’d walk in there and just pout — no raw, grass-fed milk, no pastured, soy-free eggs, no organic meats or produce… wah, wah, wah!! All I could see was aisles of crap masquerading as food, and processed packages full of poison. I would maybe find one or two things I could stand to actually purchase, and leave, eyes rolling, disgusted at the sorry state of our food supply. Granted, I had been living in the worst place ever to find quality food. What was available to me, and what I could afford, definitely wasn’t the healthiest by most people’s standards.

Here’s the thing, though. I now think my complete refusal to buy or eat any of it was because I was beginning to become orthorexic. That’s a topic for another day, but to sum it up, I was not eating enough food and was becoming malnourished because of my obsessive need to eat perfectly. Not. Healthy. And definitely not good for gaining weight!

After I read Diet Recovery and realized that I wasn’t doing myself any favors by severely restricting my diet and being afraid of the food around me, I calmed the heck down and started eating things that sounded good to me again. I ate white flour croissants and ice cream that wasn’t homemade. Juice that had been pasteurized. Bread that wasn’t sprouted. I just ate. And it felt really, really good.

Don’t get me wrong, I still cared about including as many healthy and nutrient-dense foods into my diet as I could. I just came to the conclusion that it was more important for me to just get more food into me than it was to have a diet with a Sally Fallon stamp of approval. Health is more important than health food. Words to live by, y’all.

Get Some Ridiculous Amounts of Sleep!

Sleep deprivation is a huge culprit of a malfunctioning metabolism. That’s because a primary function of sleep is to shut down your stress hormones, and when that doesn’t happen, metabolic rates plummet. But increasing sleep effectively diminishes chronically-elevated stress hormones, which is highly supportive to the metabolism, which improves sleep quality, creating a happy little cycle of an anti-stress system in the body.

So, much in the same way that providing more food than your body wanted can help boost the metabolism, so can providing more than enough sleep. It can serve as a bit of a “reset” button for regulating those hormones and getting things back on track.

I just started sleeping as much as possible. Napping whenever I felt tired, if I was at home. Going to bed earlier, and sleeping until I felt completely rested and wanted to get out of bed. That’s all a part of the Diet Recovery program, too. Some days I would get more than 12 hours of sleep, and my temperature eventually reached 99 degrees!

A Tip from the Bodybuilders

You wanna know what some of the biggest meatheads in the body building world will tell you is a great way to gain weight? The GOMAD diet.

It stands for “Gallon Of Milk A Day.”

Yes, a gallon.

Never would I ever encourage anyone to consume an entire gallon of fluids of any kind in a day, but there is a good point to be made here from this practice. Milk is an ideal weight-building food because well, it’s pretty much just an ideal food. It has a great macronutrient ratio, and if you think about it, milk is what sustains baby animals’ lives while their bodies are spending all the energy they can to grow and build tissues. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

So what I did, was drink about a quart of milk a day. I took a pint-sized mason jar, and drank it full, twice a day (not necessarily all at once—I drank to quench my thirst, and put my cup in the fridge for the next time I wanted a drink, usually with food). This is an extra 600 calories, which technically, is enough in itself to put on more than a pound of week, since it supposedly takes a surplus of 3,500 calories to build one pound of body tissue.

Speaking of calories, you might even want to try to jot down a food journal for a while. I don’t exactly buy into the whole calorie thing, as in, I don’t think it’s something to obsess over if you’re on the other end of the scale, but I do think it’s valuable for those who are trying to gain to have some idea of their caloric intake, just to make sure they’re simply eating enough food. Once again, if you’re anything like me, you can easily slip by eating way too little food in a day without even realizing it. And if you are eating too little, you can drink your way to consuming enough calories like I did with this GOMAD thing. Er, QOMAD. It’s helpful when you get tired of biting and chewing and feeding all day long.

Magnesium supplementation, metabolism rehab, and milk. It does a skinny body good!

What about you?

Have you ever struggled with being underweight? Or do you have a child who’s “failing to thrive” like I was? Were you able to overcome it?


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63 Responses to What Do You Do When You Can’t Gain Weight?
  1. Sunny says:

    I also believe that, rather than being the ‘opposite problem’ inability to gain weight starts with the same problem, just with different results. I don’t say this often, because I get such strange looks!

    My husband is one of those who ‘cannot’ gain weight. If he gets comments on it, though, he’s never mentioned it. I doubt men’s weight gets commented on as much in general, though.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      You’re wise to have recognized that it really is the same problem, for both underweight and overweight people! It was a surprising thing for me to learn, and a little hard to wrap my head around at first.

      Take your husband’s temperature if he’ll let you! I’d be really interested to see what it is!

  2. aimee says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing. I will definitely be looking into some of your suggestions, and I definitely identified with you in several respects (especially the health food freak part). I added a link to your website on mine. I referenced your site on one of my blogs. SO great to hear a success story!

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Thank you, Aimee! I’m glad it spoke to you and I sure hope you’re able to become another success story, yourself.

      • Rachel says:

        Again with Aimee above…I read some of her posts..been there ,, done that…trying to find the “solution” …..spending LOTS of money on people to consult with etc…when it comes down to freaking eating….
        pepole get so obsessed with all the health stuff (this oil, protein, organic, smoothies, etc etc etc)…when the Short TERM goals should be a lot more important..eat ….even if it means junk in order to gain

        i remember 6 years ago when I forced myself to gain…well, thats a long story i can’t go into…but ice cream, bread, white rice, crappy pork ribs, fake peanut butter…i had NO choice but to eat the crap…i gained, looked and felt fine and things were great

        years later, losing again,,,now its like my obsessions, the digestion, the bowels, the depression and anxiety intertwine and i dont know how to fix it…but if i had my time back, i would have just ate crap for a long time to gain an be normal again….but now its like its “too late” cause i’ve screwed evertyhing up….in the meantime, anyone , underweight, normal weight, or overweight is ALLOWED to eat crap food and is allowed to overeat or splurge or this or that now and then ..its life…anyway, just rambling..

        I just think that in Aimee’s case above, she is searching and overthinking…the plain simple answer is in front of her face…(or at a local burger shop up the road and in the ice cream section of the grocery store so to speak)

  3. Melissa says:

    My son is not “failing to thrive” but he is very thin and at the bottom of the BMI chart for his age. I have found that he will drink a lot more than he will eat, so I have started “making his drinks count”, going for full fat milk and fresh juices that are primarily veggies with a little fruit for sweetness. He is 4 and a very picky eater, but I have noticed that if we stay really laid back about it, and don’t hover, he eats more.

    My food issues often come into play, as I feel myself wanting him to “clean his plate” and sometimes reward him for eating more of the “good stuff” by treating him to the “bad stuff”. I know this is awful and I am working on it, but it’s true that we learn how to be parents from our parents, and watching your super-skinny kid walk away from his dinner nearly untouched is VERY difficult!!

    I hope that I can help him by correcting his metabolism now so that he doesn’t have the struggles that you have, Emily!!

    • ButterBeliever says:

      I sure hope you’re able to help fix your son’s metabolism, too! It’s wonderful to hear that you’re interested in that. I totally feel you on the “good food”/”bad food” thing… really tough to avoid that when you’re dealing with kids who are not very food-motivated to begin with.

      If I could offer a suggestion though, speaking as both someone who was once a kid in his shoes, as well as someone who used to coach kids’ behavior for a living… I wouldn’t focus so much on making sure he’s eating the good food. I wouldn’t worry about sugar intake (shuts down stress hormones — a good thing!), or him getting enough protein or veggies as is often the focus for children. I think the focus on the whole milk and juices is a great idea, especially if those are preferred food items for him. I’d continue with that, offering more of his preferred foods and praising his ability to clean a plate of them (even if it’s something highly desirable like a bowl of ice cream). That way, it helps lessen the differentiation between the “good” and “bad” foods. He’s doing the “good” thing by simply eating all of his food.

      Anyway, keep me posted! I’d love to hear about your progress with this!

  4. So happy for you that you were able to gain some weight! I think the issue of getting enough to eat is a big one for many people. Once they learn about all the bad stuff out there it gets harder to accept the lesser choices which many of us have to make either due to unavailability or financial constraints. We still need to eat!

    I was underweight myself as a teen and well remember the worried inquisition I was put to by well meaning teachers and counselors. I wrote a little something about it here in confessions of a picky eater. In my case, I’ve just never been able to eat much quantity wise. So I’ve been working to ensure that what I do eat is nutrient dense. Lots and lots of milk for me too!

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Thank you Kathy! Nice to see that you can relate. And yeah, couldn’t agree more that we all just need to eat the food, even if it isn’t perfect!

  5. Renee says:

    Perfectly said :) Taking the pressure off and just enjoying food has given my sanity back! I appreciate your honesty and love how relateable this is :) I think I’ll go make a pizza for dinner 😉

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Thanks Renee! Ahh… isn’t it so nice getting over all that orthorexic craziness?! Pizza sounds goood, mmm. Except, better make sure it’s got homemade, organic tomato sauce, grass-fed cheese, and soaked and sprouted organic whole grain crust!! Just kidding…hehe. 😀

  6. Melissa Murphy says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! Been underweight all my life. Going to start GAPS intro in September to see if it helps my numerous health problems. But terrified I’ll only end up losing weight. Will follow all your tips, except for the milk as not GAPS legal. Would eating loads of yoghurt/sour cream be as good?

    • ButterBeliever says:

      I’m so glad you found this helpful, Melissa! I went through GAPS myself, but decided it was not right for me. (http://butterbeliever.com/2012/06/11/moving-on-from-gaps-why-i-changed-my-course/)

      I gained a few pounds initially on GAPS, but then lost it all and then some. I just didn’t have an appetite for big piles of veggies and meat anymore. My body needed way more carbohydrates to recover — granted, I know GAPS isn’t intended to be a low-carb diet, but it’s very, very easy to wind up eating too low-carb on it. (I did try to eat a lot of yogurt, but it just wasn’t enough.)

      Matt’s program has helped tons of people that failed with GAPS like me, even those with food allergies, digestive problems, and other serious issues. Might be something you want to consider!

      • Rachel says:

        This comment is so good…yeah, I think GAPS would scare me…what you say makes sense…but I still don’t know how or what to eat or how to “fix” things or if i’m irreparbly damaged or doomed to need a doc to fix me. Oye. Just thinking out loud . Oops.

      • Melissa Murphy says:

        Well, just lasted a week on GAPS intro. Lost 7lbs in that week! And that despite eating as much squash and carrots as I physically could. So, I’ve stopped for now. Might try next year, once I’ve worked on gaining weight. Had some rice and potatoes for supper and it felt good! But then the creator of GAPS does say to listen to your body. And that’s one thing I’ve really learnt in the last week. Also I will keep the ferments, broths and sour cream, as I can feel them doing me good. And the detox baths, especially Epsom salts. I also use magnesium oil but haven’t noticed an increase in appetite. Will start taking my temperature and getting more sleep. And add milk back in. Fingers crossed I can actually start to gain weight for once in my life. I do believe I need to be on GAPS as I have fibromyalgia and convinced my gut has role to play on that. But think I’ll gain weight first, so at least it won’t be such a major deal if I lose some next time.

        • ButterBeliever says:

          Good for you for listening to your body! So many people have bad experiences on GAPS, convince themselves that they just aren’t doing it perfectly enough, and keep getting worse.

          It’s my opinion, based on the research of doctors Ray Peat, Broda Barnes, and others, that fibromyalgia is a symptom of hypothyroidism. Gut health plays a role in many health issues, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the root of the problem. I think it goes deeper than that, and that poor gut health is a result of poor metabolism related to poor thyroid functioning.

          • Brandi says:

            That’s very interesting because I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and fibromyalgia and decided to try the GAPS diet a few months ago. I did notice an improvement with fibromyalgia pain, but not unfortunately not the RA. I lost 5lbs in the first week, but didn’t gain or lose anymore for the next month after. The GAPs diet messed up my menstrual cycles too.

  7. Kari says:

    I really enjoy reading your posts. My 15 month old is not failure to thrive, but she is quite thin. I’m a fan of Matt Stone as well, and have been trying to put some of his ideas in practice for her. Her digestion isn’t great, but restricting her to GAPS foods awhile back did not help at all (her little hands and feet were always freezing). We’ve been doing quite a few starches and some sugar and it’s going pretty well. I don’t think some of the “health foods” are very easy for some people to digest when their metabolism is low.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Thank you Kari! You’re absolutely right — many of the best, most “nutrient-dense” foods we’re all told to eat really aren’t what you need when you’re recovering from a slow metabolism. That was one of the most fascinating things I learned from Matt.

      I sure hope your little one starts making good progress soon — GAPS can take a while to recover from when it knocks your temps down like that. What helped me the most in getting mine back up, I think, was the sleep. Maybe make sure she’s got a totally dark room to sleep in? I’ve heard that’s very helpful. Keep me posted!

  8. yup. in my 20s, this was me.

    Matt Stone rules. His thoughts on Diet and Food Obsession and Restriction have made me change course. Basal Body Temps too are fascinating…

    Thanks for bringing attention to this issue.

    :) Hope you are well

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Nicolette! So happy to hear from you. :) I’m soo excited you’re getting into this stuff and learning from Matt. I’m VERY interested to see how it might affect your son. I saw you post on the 180 facebook page and thought… wow, I wonder how typical low temps are for ASD kids? Can’t wait to see how things go for you guys. Thanks for stopping by! :)

  9. Erika says:

    Awesome post! Finally someone else who knows this is a real thing. I’ve had this problem forever. I’ve trying for years to gain weight, mainly because I look sickly, but now me and my fiance are planning to have our first child. The doctor however recommends against it unless I can 15 pounds. Now it’s no longer just annoying. I’ve just been eating a lot (I already eat large portions) then going right to sleep so i don’t burn the calories.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Thank you Erika! Totally know the feeling that people don’t get this is a “real thing!” I sure hope you’re able to gain what you need to so you can start your family. I’m probably gonna have to gain some more before we have kids, too.

      Have you tried checking your temperature? That’s great that at least you have a good appetite, and are focusing on sleep. Stress has such a huge effect on this stuff, and extra sleep is always great for managing it. I feel SO much better now that I sleep 9+ hours a night!

    • EV says:

      Erika – I was underweight too before I got pregnant with my son. After a few months of nausea and not gaining much, I was SO THRILLED that my appetite grew and my body knew how much to take in to grow my baby. I gained 25 lbs during my pregnancy which is on the low end of “the right amount”, and it was super easy to lose it afterwards, and along with nursing. My BMI was about 17 or 18 when I conceived, but due to nursing and being a stay at home mom (no more extravagant work lunches), I am struggling once again to gain weight. However, my doctor never told me I had to be a certain weigh to conceive, and my body knew exactly what to do and really cranked it up a notch and it was glorious to gain weight! 😉

      • Janelle says:

        I was probably underweight at 107 pounds prior to my 2nd pregnancy, but thankfully I gained about 28 pounds! Only to lose it all within a couple weeks and then some! During the winter while breastfeeding an older child and a 6month old I got down to 99 pounds. I am now about 105, I have been trying to eat the way Matt Stone outlines so I think that really helped. I am now hitting upper 97’s a lot but I also take 1 grain of dessicated thyroid.

  10. Kate says:

    Why would you not encourage anyone to drink a gallon of fluids a day? I drink 1/2-1 gallon of tea a day, plus 1-2 quarts of milk. Granted, I live in the south and only use AC in my bedroom, but in my experience most people don’t drink enough and are dehydrated without knowing it.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Good question, Kate. A gallon of fluids in a day would cause almost anyone to become overhydrated, which is a big problem for your metabolism. When cells are too flooded with water, they can’t produce energy properly. I’ll probably write up a post on this topic soon, cause I think it’s a pretty important one.

  11. Monica says:

    Wow! This is amazing! My sister just sent this link to me – I’ve been a skinny body all my life and I’d just given up on ever getting to a healthy weight. Absolutely no one I know can empathize and it is comforting to know that there other skinnies out there and that it is possible for us to gain weight! Thank you so much!I am excited to try this!

    • Monica says:

      Oh yes – I’ve heard that exercising is good to regulate any type of metabolism. Would this be helpful for gaining weight?

      • ButterBeliever says:

        Oh, regarding exercise… Matt says that it should mostly be avoided while you’re working on raising your body temperature. You want to make things as relaxing and stress-free on your body as possible. Later on, when you’ve recovered and your temps are back up, exercise is fine, but never chronic cardio like jogging for miles at a time.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      I’m so happy to hear that, Monica!! I of course know the feeling… like no one out there knows what it’s like to struggle with this. But I know we’re not alone, and now I know that we don’t have to be stuck this way for life! If I can do it, you can do it. I was really, ridiculously underweight. Check your temperature! If your metabolism’s to blame, you might have a pretty easy time gaining like I did!

  12. I’m so glad you found some ways to help you! I should really give the magnesium oil a try. I sometimes take a capsule, but I think I’m still deficient.

    I just launched a new real food blog carnival called Fill Those Jars Friday. I’d love to have you come stop by and share this on it: http://toomanyjarsinmykitchen.com/2012/08/10/fill-those-jars-friday-august-10-2012/

    See you there!

  13. kyung says:

    I was wondering if you would recommend coconut milk if someone was sensitive to dairy (Asian ethnicity).

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Coconut milk is great! But have you ever tried raw milk? Milk that hasn’t been pasteurized still has all the digestive enzymes that are supposed to be there intact, so many people who are intolerant to pasteurized dairy find that they can have raw dairy just fine. You can find raw milk locally at RealMilk.com

  14. If I remember correctly, Chico’s has a size 000. So confusing to pick up a size 0 and discover I could fit 2 of me in there! What’s with all the zeros anyways, can’t we just have a real size?

    Magnesium helped stop my weight loss. (I dipped down to around 110. I’m about 5’6″ or 7″. Now stabilized around 115-120.) Oral mag was fine for me. I hear you have to buy the correct kind though. Some types are not absorbed. Good to know about the transdermal, though. Thanks!

    If people know the background of my problems with gluten and other foods, they’ll admit they want to lose weight, but definitely not that way.

    Am I orthorexic? Maybe. I have a huge phobia about a lot of unhealthy foods. But I also have a valid reason in my food intolerances to avoid them. So I just do the best I can with what I can bring myself to eat and with the food that does not make me sick.

    One thing that helps me is tracking what I eat in the My Fitness Pal app. It shows me that although I eat a ton of food, volume wise, in terms of calories, not so much. So then I add some extra coconut cream to my smoothie or eat some other high calorie food.

    Glad you’re doing better and have found something that works for you!

    • ButterBeliever says:

      What’s with all the zeros anyways, can’t we just have a real size?

      Haha! Exactly!! Aahh…it’s so nice connecting with people who know what it’s like to be this way. That’s awesome that magnesium was helpful for you, too. The past couple weeks I’ve been without it, because our stuff was being shipped, literally on a ship that takes two weeks, over to our new place. I’ve really noticed a difference in my appetite! Good tip about My Fitness Pal… I used that for a while too, to learn how much I was really eating in a typical day. It also lets you set calorie goals and tells you something like, if you ate what you ate today, every day, you’d gain X pounds by X date. Of course, it’s geared toward people aiming for weight loss, but it still works for us doing the reverse!

  15. Kristen says:

    I am loving your posts on fixing metabolism! I think this is really ringing true with me. I went on GAPS Intro like you and actually gained about 5 pounds in just a couple of weeks only to lose it all and then some as I continued on with the diet. I’ve also developed a decreased appetite and am pretty fearful of trying to introduce new foods now. However, I have been craving milk and carbs, especially sweet potatoes! I am only starting to learn about Matt Stone’s approach but it is very interesting and makes me hopeful that I can gain some much needed weight. Congrats to you on your weight gain!!

  16. Rachel says:

    Hey, Just reading up on some of your posts :) I SO want to email you again with more of my thoughts or questions (I figure there is stuff going on likely with thyroid, metabolism, hormones, GI tract, intestinal health)…I worry I have allergies or intolerances and I’m so tired of obsessing :( I get the “orthorexia” thing, ugh.
    Plus, I see so many blogs or bloggers going paleo (and I think paleo rocks) but I have no willpower, i want bread, i want yogurt and chocolate…
    But my cravings or inability to stop the night time heavy eating is nuts (fruit, sugar, grains, yogurt, etc)..I know I’m underweight…but with so much lethargy, achy muscles and bowel problems (undigested food, gas build up, constipation, etc)I feel I need to be “better” at eating :(
    I’m worried cause I’m 31 now, so this stuff is all fooled up. I can’t afford things…like ebooks or whatever.
    I do take Mg in natural calm…wonder if that’s good?

    Anyway, I’ll stop bugging you :) I was going to email again but my email is all weird on me tnoight…oh and originally “Primal Toad” was just one of the people who linked me to your site and posts….you seem to be a credible and great gal :)

    And its nice to see someone who needed/needs to gain weight and understnad that stuff…

    secretly , sometimes i think i ought to just shove myself with crap pizzas and ice creamm and crap food…like my nurse practitioner says

    or sometimes i regret not taking the mirtazapine and lorazapam cause maybe my achy muscles would go away and maybe I’d be able to focus focus focus on important things or be SMARTER again, or maybe i’d be way better and not WORRY so much….it can’t be good if i have all t his cortisol in me all the time :(

    but those meds scare me…ugh…
    i am so fed up :)

  17. maeghan myers says:


    Thank you for posting this. I have never gotten bigger than 94 pounds and im 23. I have been bullied my entire life and accused of so many things. I wear certain clothing to hide my body just so no one will pick on me. I struggle to eat organic and trying to gain weight (just like you were talking about) also dealing with skin problems ):

    I just started using magnesium oil and have been drinking raw goats milk so I am hoping this will help….I am new to your website but am looking forward to reading it!


    • ButterBeliever says:

      Hi Maeghan! Well as you can see, I can definitely relate to the things you’ve struggled with. It’s difficult to get over those feelings as you transition into adulthood, especially. But, as I got older, I tried really hard to remind myself that I’m a grown woman, no one has any right to make unfair judgements about me based on my size, and I’m doing the best I can to be a healthy person — and that’s what matters. It doesn’t matter if people look at me and think I have an eating disorder, because I do not have an eating disorder. I don’t have to eat more food in front of people to prove that I don’t have a “problem” or to make anyone else feel better about themselves.

      Just like with people who struggle with weight at the opposite end of the scale — my self-worth is not based on the size of my body. The more I internalized these truths, the easier it was for me to project the kind of confidence I needed to for people to stop saying “OMG!! You’re SOOOO skinny!!” and instead say things like, “Yeah, you’re a size 0, but you’re just naturally thin.” When you don’t make a big deal out of it, when you wear what you want to wear and live the way you want to, other people stop freaking out over it, too.

      I wish I could give you a big hug and tell you you’re just fine, just the way you are. Because getting to your ideal weight won’t magically make you feel that sort of self-assurance you might hope it will. That part can be worked on right now, no matter what the scale says.

      Anyway. Fixing my metabolism was absolutely key in overcoming my inability to maintain a healthy weight. If you wanted to read that book I mentioned in this article, it’s on sale for only ten bucks this month. Although, Matt Stone, the author, just came out with another one that I think is even more helpful for people like us. It’s called Eat for Heat. Hope you keep in touch and let me know how your progress goes! Take care.

  18. Justin says:

    I’m a 16 year old guy, at 6’2″ I weigh only 158 pounds. Not quite underweight, but all my friends tell me to gain. I actually eat a TON of food, I even snack between meals. I eat a lot of nuts due to the caloric content. Any further tips? Should I temporarily drop coconut and palm oils due to their weight-loss effects? I eat a lot of fat, but at least 1 tbsp. coconut oil a day.
    The ironic thing is a year ago I lost almost 50 lbs, and now I can’t gain it back. It took me 6 months to get from 150 to 158.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Hi Justin. Being that you’re only 16 and also pretty tall, I normally would say you shouldn’t wouldn’t worry too much, since a lot of guys go through a skinny stage in their teen years before they’re able to fill out their height. And you may just be built to be slender (ectomorph body type). But the fact that you were 50 pounds heavier a year ago is kinda strange. Were you trying to lose some weight at the time, but just not that much? Did you diet or do a lot of strenuous exercise? How long did it take for you to drop 50 pounds?

      I’d advise taking your temperature and resting pulse rate to get a better idea of where you are metabolically. Do you often feel cold, especially in your hands and feet? I’d also suggest eating whatever sounds good for you, instead of eating things because they might help you gain weight. If you actually crave that coconut oil, go for it. I’ve been eating coconut oil this whole time and still gained weight, because I needed to. The reason it has a weight loss effect in people who are above their body’s weight setpoint is because it boosts metabolic function. But skinny people can have poor metabolic function as well— I definitely did.

  19. Just a thought. Im so glad that the weight gain has been consistent for you. But with pulse and temperature being the key to evaluation, would the diet still be helpful if there isn’t a low temperature and pulse problem.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      I would be very surprised if a significantly underweight person did not present with low temperature and/or pulse.

      Are you speaking for yourself? Make sure you’re taking your temperature properly, and testing for basal temps especially (first thing in the morning before getting out of bed). A cold thermometer stuck into the mouth will mess with the accuracy. Warm it up in your hands, let it warm in your mouth, and then take it. If pulse is very high, that’s indicative of a hyperadrenaline state. You’re aiming for about 85 bpm with that.

  20. […] My weight normalized. Although my situation may seem a little different than most, since I was underweight, the underlying problem is the same between what my body was going through, and what someone who struggles at the opposite end of the scale does. It’s all about the metabolism. But settling into  a healthy weight is merely a symptom of getting in better health, down to the cellular level. Healthy bodies naturally find a healthy weight. […]

  21. Tina says:

    I’m 5’6″ and was down to 114 (yuk!) w no appetite, etc. I tried GAPS and just about starved ( I know I have leaky gut, unfortunately :(). Then I read about Matt Stone’s over feeding program and went for it, although I do have diary, nut, gluten and egg sensitivities at the moment. Six months later, I’m up to 120! Wahoo! Eventually I hope to overcome the sensitivities because I REALLY miss milk and eggs, but that will come w time and healing. Also doing the “sleeping powder” due to the 2-4 am wake up call. It’s starting to work as well. Thanks for the great info!

  22. […] great post that I find very helpful right now. What Do You Do When You Can’t Gain Weight? | Butter Believer The grocery shopping part is exactly what I felt like when going shopping for myself. "How […]

  23. EV says:

    Thank you for writing about this! I actually was always thin, until I was put on antidepressants for 11 years… then I gained about 35 lbs. After I quit the drugs, the weight FELL OFF and I became very thin. I think being on the drugs really messed up my metabolism and my appetite was never quite the same. After being “drug free” for so many years my weight leveled off (about 120 at 5’7″). I still felt too thin… then I got pregnant, gained 25 lbs and LOVED IT! However, now that my son is over a year old, and I am still nursing (therefore burning a lot of extra calories), I am now very underweight. I appreciate the tips.. THANK YOU for hitting the nail on the head – I could have written this myself, even the obsession with trying to eat perfectly. Unfortunately I started magnesium supplementation (Natural Calm mag citrate drink), yet I still have not really gained much or developed an increased appetite. I get comments ALL THE TIME about my weight. Sometimes I’d get really upset and excuse myself to go cry about it, other times I’d joke it off. People don’t understand that I hear it everywhere I go .. “are you ok? you are getting really thin.” “Try eating more?” “Are you afraid of getting fat?” No! No! No! Especially since I was “normal” weight before, its’ noticeable, plus I am on the taller side, I look thinner. Clothes don’t fit me right, and I have a boyish frame. I also had hyperthyroidism after my pregnancy which probably did not help. I had to buy all new clothes and usually shop in the Juniors department! But most of all, I don’t like the fear of “maybe I have cancer???” or the comments from people. It makes me feel very self conscious. I mean, when did it become acceptable to comment on someone’s weight at all? (Unless you KNOW they are trying to lose). I am considering drinking a Boost High Calorie drink twice a day, but they are pricey…

  24. Daniel says:

    When I am gaining weight and building muscle I consume up to 4500 calories per day and eat about 10 times per day =)

  25. Dove says:

    Thanks for posting this! I’ve struggled all my life with low weight, and my BBT is now about 96.9. I am almost 5’7” and 117 lb. I have a 22 m old and a 7 m old, both nursing, and tried GAPS (full diet, including raw milk) last week. I was hoping to cure my eczema, allergies, and heal my gut before we have any more babies. (and with a family history of ADHD, schizo, bipolar, depression, asthma, thyroid, diabeties type 1, etc, I know these problems go faaaar back)

    Well, I felt horrible, after just a couple of days I was soooo tired of meat and veggies (ordinarily I love both!) and hungry ALL the time. My BBT temp dipped to 95.5. After a week I was shaking so bad and craving some carbs so I ate some rice with lunch. Felt normal after a couple of hours.

    SO I don’t know what to do, I want to heal my gut (and my families) but I don’t think my body can handle GAPS! I’ve heard about Matt Stone but am reluctant to go for anything that includes ‘junk’ food.

    Oh, and the sleep thing is kind of hard with two babies ;o)

  26. Alyse says:

    What was your before and after weight?

    My whole life I’ve struggled to get into the triple digits. I thought my problems were over when I got pregnant (got up to 150lbs!) But 10 months postpartum I’m back to 105. I had high hopes of holding onto some of that weight.

  27. Angela says:

    I have always been on the small side, 5’2 and average 112 lbs. After starting Prozac I dropped to 98 lbs. Due to other side effects I discontinued Prozac, but even after two months I cannot get my weight back up no matter what I eat. I feel skeletal and I hate it. I worry something is medically wrong with me. Thank you for these tips, I am going to try them!

  28. cessty says:

    this is quit interesting iam too thin and want to gain may somebdy elaborate more for me on how Magnesium oil wrk en were to get them en watxGAPS…respond to ma email efillemon@gmail.com…thnkx u

  29. Diane says:

    Awesome post! I’ve always been at a pretty healthy weight, but I only gained about 16 lbs when pregnant with my son despite eating a lot and trying to gain more. After he was born (stressful birth for mom and baby) I lost all the pregnancy weight in a week and then another 10 lbs over the next weeks/months. At that point I was very thin. I’m also just 5’1. I wasn’t able to produce nearly enough breast milk for my son though I worked with a Le Leche League consultant continuously and ate more than my husband.

    Five years later I’m realizing I’m hypo metabolic with a poor functioning thyroid. It took me awhile to wrap my head around this considering I’ve been an athlete all my life. The thing that really gets me is that my doc never even mentioned looking at thyroid function (or having me track temp/pulse…yeah right) when I was unable to produce breast milk, especially considering my considerable weight loss. I believe that I was possibly hypothyroid going into the pregnancy and prolonged, severe post partum-stress (son born with multiple chronic health problems) threw me into a full blown crisis. All the while people told me how lucky I was to be so thin after giving birth.

    Great info here!

  30. Megan says:

    I am 23 years old and never been 100lbs. I eat a lot, at one time or throughout the day and I just cant gain weight. I would say I lose weight the more I eat sometimes. My weight really bothers me, granted I don’t look sickly but in my eyes I don’t like what I see most days. Im not sure what to do, I try to eat things that would “help” me gain but at the same time I’m not huge on “unhealthy” foods, meaning I don’t eat fast food and I always eat my veggies! Im not at all a picky eater but I also can’t have much dairy bc I’m lactose intolerance. What can I do? Suck it up and deal with it or is this something that will actually help?!

    • ButterBeliever says:

      I would try coconut milk (I buy this kind: http://amzn.to/16wc1lp) instead of regular milk, then. Add some gelatin powder (collagen hydrolysate: http://amzn.to/1e2iBlu) to give it the protein it’s lacking. Coconut milk has even more calories than dairy milk! About 100 calories per 1/4 cup, versus whole milk’s 150 calories per full cup. Coconut milk can be a little thick and difficult to drink unless you dilute it, so I’d recommend putting a good 1/2-1 cup of it in a smoothie with some frozen berries, plus the gelatin, and whatever else you’d like.

      I know for me, drinking the extra calories has been the only thing that really worked. I just don’t usually have enough of an appetite to chew down the amount of calories I need with food. I’m guessing you can relate!

      • Annie says:

        I actually have the same issues: inability to gain weight. Im trying very hard to gain 10 pounds, as I suffer from osteoporosis and I am aware that my low body weight is contributing factor to bone loss.
        I was delighted to read your article, as I had tried many other ‘diets’, paleo and gluten-free…but not only was it not helping me gain weight, but it was sparking up my orthorexia. I am just plain fed up of worrying about what to eat/not eat, what diet to try next… and your article has given me tricks to explore, as I do actually have symptoms of magnesium deficiency and low body temperature.
        I have a question about drinking milk: I really dont like milk and cant digest it very well (although I can do yogurt). So I like the idea of coconut milk, but is the gelatin just for the extra protein or is it also for the collagen? Could I use whey protein suppl in the coconut milk instead of gelatin?

  31. Luke green says:

    Hi there im luke in 27 and weigh around 8stone. I know im under weight and iv been trying for several years to gain weight. Iv tried weight gainers,protein shakes etc etc ……. No matter what I eat what I do I cant even put a couple of pound on. It gets me down every day I get dressed and when I takr my clothes of for bed. It sick to death of it and need help. Plz dont ignore me or just say what every 1does JUST EAT MORE MEATS AND PROTEIN
    Thank you .

    • ButterBeliever says:

      I would suggest meeting with a qualified nutritionist to help you out. Here in the states that would be a registered dietician, but in the UK I’m not sure what qualifications are given.

      I know how hard it is to feel helpless about your weight, but I do know it’s possible to gain. You can try the methods I listed here that worked for me. Best of luck to you.

  32. R Swan says:

    Hi everyone,
    I know my case is not exactly the same as yours, due to my eating disorder, but now, after many years of struggling, I fell like I just can’t live like this anymore.
    My BMI now is 15.8 – I’m 5’4 and weight 92 Ibs. I feel extremely tired. Stomach pain and increased acid, I lost half of a teeth about a week ago, I can’t do anything, I forget an important things, If I go out, I need to recover about one or two days and it gets really hard now because of the heat.
    I’m turning 22 next month and I’m still in High School. I’m ashamed of myself.
    Maybe you hate all the anorexic people, or those with eating disorders. I’d say .. it’s not worth it. I’ve been hating my body since I was 5 year old. And now, I feel like an old machine and cannot function properly.
    I just want to say: even with this weight, I still don’t have any confidence. I feel like when I weighted 102 Ibs and I don’t know why.
    Satisfaction or confidence doesn’t come like that.
    I’m still trying to figure out how to get back my health and my life.

    • nicole says:

      I always say im not fine at all but remember your stronger than ever no matter what overcome i know the hatred and the pain and im still dealing with it

  33. nicole says:

    All my life i have been bullied and i feel depressed im 16 i eat so much and i cry myself to sleep i just can’t gain weight i have been on so many fat diets my stomach stands out like im pregnant and my boobs are big but my legs and arms and my back i can feel my bones sometimes who am i kidding all the time and it hurts i love food i eat so much and it hurts when people assume that im anorexic i went to the bathroom bawling in tears when my teacher asked me are you sick do you have anorexic do you know whats food you need to eat i hate her that same day i tried an overdose i couldn’t take that pills because i was thinking about my dad im literally crying now i have seeked help from a psychologist my mom bullies me she says its in the mind thats why i cant get fat i don’t believe that i even turned to modelling just to make me feel happy with my figure and find an excuse for my figure like no im thin because im a model but it hurts im a food lover i cook and eat 24/7 i wish i could meet the lady who wrote this story i just need a positive boost someone’s support i hate myself honestly

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