Being underweight is typically caused by malnutrition or another health condition, but with a little bit of effort, there's no reason you can't put on the pounds slowly and safely. To put on weight, you have the fun task of eating more calories than you burn every day. Every extra 3,500 calories you take in adds another pound to your body. Put on the weight slowly and safely by figuring out how many calories you require every day, then adjusting what you eat and drink to ensure you’re meeting your daily calorie goal. But that doesn't mean you get to pig out and sit on the couch.
Step on the scale and record your starting body weight. This gives you a starting point and allows you to monitor your progress. Weigh yourself every two weeks or so and record your updated weight. You can then adjust your weight gain plan accordingly.
Estimate your current resting metabolic rate. Your estimated metabolic rate give you an idea of how many calories you burn every day. Find your rate by using the standard woman's formula: 655 + (4.35 x your weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years).
Determine how many pounds you want to put on per week. A healthy rate of weight gain is 1 pound or less per week, notes Rutgers University’s Recreation Department.
Monitor your daily caloric intake. If you want to gain a pound every week, then you should take in 500 more calories than your resting metabolic rate each day, for a total of 3,500 extra calories in seven days.
Incorporate high calorie, nutrient-dense foods into your diet. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you increase your daily caloric intake with foods such as almonds, avocados, peanut butter and dried fruits.
Participate in a strength-training workout two days per week, which should help you put on some weight due to the muscle you gain. In addition, exercising can increase your appetite, and thus encourages you to take in more calories. Lifting weights burns calories, so you'll need to increase the number of calories you take in on the days you weight train. A 160-pound woman burns about 365 calories in an hour of weight training and a 250-pound person weighs burns approximately 545 calories during a 60-minute workout.
- Increasing the amount you eat every day can be difficult because you may feel more full than normal. An easy and healthy way to increase your daily calories is to consume a smoothie of fruits, low-fat milk and flax seed oil 30 to 60 minutes before lunch. Avoid taking the smoothie with your lunch, because you’re likely to get full too quickly.
- Visit your doctor prior to changing your nutrition plan or embarking on a new workout program. Being underweight can cause health issues that may need to be addressed with medical supervision.
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.