How Can I Gain Weight?
When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 68, I was 5 feet 5 inches, 135 pounds, very active, and eating reasonably. Two years later, after trying to follow diabetic nutritional plans, I am down to 104 pounds. How can I gain weight? Aja J. McTyre, Douglasville, Georgia
Meghann Moore, RD, CDE, responds
Many eating plans and diets for people with type 2 diabetes are low in calories and fat, which can affect weight loss. But unless you’re overweight, dropping pounds isn’t recommended.
What to Know
In order to gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you do currently. The Institute of Medicine recommends that moderately active women over the age of 50 get 1,800 calories daily. For men of the same age and activity level, the guidance is for between 2,200 and 2,400 calories a day.
To gain weight healthfully, focus on choosing nutrient-rich foods that are high in healthful mono- and polyunsaturated fats, such as avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, oils, and fatty fish. Up to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from these foods.
It’s also important to eat an adequate amount of food with dietary protein. With weight loss, you lose lean muscle mass, and protein is necessary for building and maintaining it. Try to get at least 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily (so 49 grams of protein for a 135-pound woman), though older adults may need even more. Examples of protein-rich foods include beans, nuts, eggs, yogurt, fish, poultry, and beef. Many of these high-protein foods (except yogurt and legumes) have little to no significant impact on blood glucose levels.
Stay away from foods marketed as “low fat,” including crackers, cookies, and other snack foods, many of which are high in sugar and other nutrient-poor ingredients that quickly raise blood glucose levels. Be mindful of meal-replacement beverages—although a convenient calorie source, they are often full of sugar.
Finally, if your appetite is small, try eating more frequently, and drink fluids 30 minutes before or after meals instead of with meals to avoid filling up on liquids.
To gain weight if you’re underweight, eat foods rich in healthful fats and protein. Some people may need to consult with a registered dietitian about nutritional supplements to address weight loss–related nutrient deficiencies.