Why can't I gain weight? Why can't I gain weight?

Why can’t I gain weight? 15 things to look out for

Everybody has seen or heard about how to lose weight, and with the innumerable amount of solutions for that, struggling with low body weight can be seen as a luxury except for the people not going through it. There are a decent amount of people who struggle with gaining it, and hence ask themselves the question, “Why can’t I gain weight?”

People who have less than normal-weight should also take better precautions. It can lead to complications like fertility issues, hair loss, weak immune, anemia, delayed growth of underweight children, osteoporosis1, skin issues, teeth problems, and irregular periods.

Why can't I gain weight?
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The mere reason for weight gaining is eating more. Eating more means intake more calories than those burning through movements after addressing all other reasons that act as hindrances like genetic reasons and hormone imbalance. This solution has layers.

Following a diet plan after knowing what your body needs are the only solution. So, to help you get a clear idea of why you’re not able to gain weight, here is a list of things to consider and address.

1. Genetic Reasons

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They play an important part in determining the look of one’s body, like similarity within blood relations, including one’s eyes and face structure. It is also important to note that genetics play a higher role in how fat or thin one might be.

No matter the amount of exercise and lifestyle changes and eating disorders one might address, they may not gain weight using any method because it runs in the family as 50% of it is due to genes, according to Dr. Rudy Leibel of Columbia University.

The famous BBC 2documentary confirms how some people who can have a hard time with weight gain due to genetic variations are naturally skinny.

If one is thin genetically, there is a higher chance they have a high metabolism, small appetite, and low BMI.

Despite this, one might be able to gain more weight as research points. The reason can be that they have more growth hormones, due to which they use more energy in their daily lives, as researchers consider as a theory.

2. Illness-

Issues like mere cold, vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, and digestive issues like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease (explained below) to complicated diseases like hyperthyroidism3, type 1 diabetes (both explained below), and cancer affect our appetite by decreasing it, and we feel not wanting to eat.

Why can't I gain weight?
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Problems like cancer and thyroid lead to weight loss can lead to trouble gaining weight. One can talk to their doctor and make necessary dietary changes as prescribed.

3. Hyperthyroidism-

Hyperthyroidism or as known as overactive thyroid is a condition that causes an excess hormone thyroid in the body.

This hormone is essential for our body as it determines many things, including every aspect of metabolism, including metabolic regulation rate.

People suffering from this condition have overactive metabolism. They burn more than normal calories on a normal day. They often experience unexplained weight loss.

Even if they increase their diet, without proper medication to cure hyperthyroidism, they might struggle to gain weight.

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4. Type 1 Diabetes-

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease where cells in the pancreas are destroyed. They are important in the production of insulin 4which in turn is a hormone responsible for the body to meet the glucose need. It is a chronic disease.

Because of low insulin, the glucose in our food does not reach our cells.

If one does not address the Type 1 Diabetes issue, they might have high blood sugar levels.

This leads their body to excrete them through the urine, leading to weight loss.

5. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)-

IBD5, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, covers all the issues one might face as the cause of intestine inflammation.

The issues are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These can impact one’s weight and make it difficult for one to gain weight.

These people face limitations like their diet and the amount of food they can have at a point in time, leading to diarrhoea-causing weight loss.

6. Eating Disorder-

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There is a difference between disordered eating conditions and eating disorders. It is a condition with limitations as to what and how much food one eats and thus affects their efforts to gain weight.

Disorders like anorexia nervosa, which is extreme, lead to more than normal weight loss. Another example of an eating disorder includes bulimia, where one has trouble maintaining calorie intake and thus less to no weight gain.

7. Certain treatments and medications-

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Some medicines have side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and low appetite. All these complications make it difficult for people to maintain their weight or gain weight.

Medications like antibiotics and treatments, for example, chemotherapy6, are known for side effects like gastrointestinal issues, and these people have a high time maintaining their weight.

8. Physical activities

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People do exercises like cardio and then wonder why they cannot gain weight. The situation is worse if one is an athlete. Athletes and even any person can get who workouts more than often can have a hard time gaining weight and have low body weight.

Being active does help in being energetic but can lead to burning up all the calories in their body, which helps in weight gain. No matter how much these people increase their diet, more physical activities will burn the calories and hence, weight loss.

One can reduce their physical activity and at the same time increase their diet.

9. Psychological Issues

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Eating disorders (explained above) like anorexia and bulimia are caused by body image issues and affect our eating habits. Ignoring mental health problems can go a long way, including affecting your way of maintaining a healthy weight. Simple mental health checks like anti-stress or antidepressants and checking on depression can help as they disrupt one’s eating habits, leading to difficulties in gaining weight.

We can cure these issues by checking our mental health. Like every doctor visit helps you take care of yourself, visiting a therapist should be a regular part of our lives as they help by taking care, counseling, and assistance.

10. Hormones

Hormones, for example, ghrelin, leptin (both are hunger generating hormones), and thyroid, affect our appetite and metabolic rate. One can consult their doctors on their health conditions and follow a strict diet plan to ensure that they can maintain a healthy weight.

11. Hunger/Appetite

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For anyone who has difficulties gaining weight, their first step is to eat more calories or increase their diet in general, and they get confused when they don’t see the results. Skinny people are so for genetic reasons or are simply picky eaters. These people tend to have a small appetite. These reasons are partly because of hormones (explained above) like leptin and ghrelin.

These reasons make people realize that no matter how much they feel they’re eating, it is less, and they need to track their calories and follow a plan. One plan can be to eat small meals through which they can eat more without feeling full at once.

12. NEAT

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Non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT includes all the activities done by a person throughout the day which burn calories. These activities might range from doing normal activities like brushing teeth, preparing food, or even the work one does for a living. These activities also empty calories in our bodies and do not exercise exclusively.

People attempting a healthy weight gain might increase movements after eating food that reduces the calorie, and we might think we will count it as an increase in calories. Some of these exercises might burn calories more than any exercise or a typical physical activity. Some things we do unconsciously, like fidgeting, are also movements, and we do so many things like these in a day which comes under movements and burns more calories.

It might not always be the case, and one should make fewer movements, especially right after having eaten something.

Hence, people looking forward to gaining weight often ignore these hidden calorie-burning movements, which become an issue. Limiting the useless movements goes a long way, and people having trouble gaining weight need to pay attention to this!

13. Metabolism

People who naturally have a high metabolism or have trouble gaining weight due to genetic reasons. No matter how much they eat and have more than enough calories, their body weight will remain the same due to high metabolism.

14. Diet

The first step to gaining weight is eating more, but some people might not see the result due to eating low-energy food and more physical activities.

A person needs approx 14-15 calories if sedentary and 18 if active. This happens especially when one eats junk food and sugary foods, which might look like eating more, but it does not help much. Increasing consumption of such things can lead to other problems like cavities.

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Healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, soups with meat and vegetables, and salads have low calories and are not much help if one is looking specifically for weight gain. Other food items that might help increase calories include dairy products, whole grains, healthy fats, seeds, pasta, cereals, starchy vegetables like corn and sweet potatoes, dry fruits, seafood, legumes, lean meat, and poultry are recommended commonly.

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Fat foods like roasting vegetables with olive oil, avocadoes in sandwiches, and nut butter on fruits like apples and bananas are also of much help. Protein-rich food often helps to build more muscle when one exercises.

One can also get healthy tips from their doctors and enrich their diet calorie-wise. Other than that, keeping track of calorie intake either through a journal, offline on paper, or online can help ensure how many calories one is having and burning in a day. With a track, one can also see the changes needed.

Another habit of how to eat food other than eating high-calorie one before a meal is to avoid drinking water between lower-calorie foods as it fills up our stomachs quickly. One can replace it with high-calorie drinks, too, like milk, organic fruit juice, and smoothies

15. Exercise

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Exercises are the best way to ensure that your body is healthy, but specific exercises like cardio can be bad for people struggling to gain weight. The focus should be on resistance training as much as 3-to 4 of these every week. Resistance training helps in weight gain through our muscles. Also, fewer repetitions with high weights increase muscle mass too.

Hence, these were the 15 reasons you couldn’t gain weight yet. If you find yourself in any of these situations, kindly consult your doctor and make a healthy diet routine to follow to get better results. Hopefully, this article will help you to live a healthy life, and stop asking yourself, “Why can’t I gain weight?”

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  1. Clynes, Michael A., et al. “The epidemiology of osteoporosis.” British medical bulletin 133.1 (2020): 105-117. ↩︎
  2. Kalogiannakis, Michail, Effransia Tzagaraki, and Stamatios Papadakis. “A systematic review of the use of BBC micro: bit in primary school.” Conference Proceedings. New Perspectives in Science Education 2021. 2021. ↩︎
  3. Wiersinga, Wilmar M., Kris G. Poppe, and Grigoris Effraimidis. “Hyperthyroidism: aetiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, management, complications, and prognosis.” The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology 11.4 (2023): 282-298. ↩︎
  4. Rahman, Md Saidur, et al. “Role of insulin in health and disease: an update.” International journal of molecular sciences 22.12 (2021): 6403. ↩︎
  5. Jakubczyk, Dominika, Katarzyna Leszczyńska, and Sabina Górska. “The effectiveness of probiotics in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)—a critical review.” Nutrients 12.7 (2020): 1973. ↩︎
  6. Bukowski, Karol, Mateusz Kciuk, and Renata Kontek. “Mechanisms of multidrug resistance in cancer chemotherapy.” International journal of molecular sciences 21.9 (2020): 3233. ↩︎

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