Nutrition Weight Management Wellness

The Other Side of Weight Management – the Struggle to Gain Weight

November 2, 2018

The Other Side of Weight Management – the Struggle to Gain Weight

When you turn on the TV you see ads for weight loss programs, gym promotions and miracle supplements. However, there are several conditions that may impact a person’s ability to keep weight on. Conditions like cancer, hyperthyroidism, Multiple Sclerosis and depression to name a few. For certain individuals they will do anything to keep from losing more weight.

Being underweight according to the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number less than 18.5. This can be used as a screening tool for providers. Besides a medical diagnosis, certain symptoms such as decreased appetite, taste changes and even difficulty swallowing can be contributors to why someone might not be able to obtain enough calories.

Unintentional weight loss and being underweight are serious problems that aren’t always discussed in the media. Are you or a family member struggling to maintain weight? Here are some solutions worth trying.

  • Try small frequent bouts of eating: Eating or drinking something every few hours can help to keep calories down without overeating, which could lead to vomiting or pain. Set a timer as a reminder that it may be time for a snack.
  • Make the most of each bite: Optimize your intake! Choose foods and beverages high in calories and protein to assist with weight gain. Think nuts, avocados, a smoothie with protein powder, nutritional drinks or eggs.
  • Beware of your beverage: Drinking a lot of water or diet soda may fill you up without much benefit for weight gain. Try protein shakes, milk/milkshakes or even homemade smoothies. Try my favorite high calorie smoothie recipe below.
  • Tips for dealing with taste changes: medications and cancer treatments can change how food tastes. Try seasoning things well with herbs and spices, eating with plastic utensils and marinating meat to help boost flavor.
  • The do’s of trying to get a loved one to eat more: Offer to prepare favorite foods or pick up what might sound good. Enjoy food together at regular meal and snack times. Batch cook meals ahead of time to limit the cooking burden for older adults or those with decreased energy.

Struggling to gain or maintain weight is a real problem for people and can have a big impact on health. Seek the assistance of your primary care provider or a registered dietitian if you or a family member are concerned with a weight issue.


Peanut Butter Banana Shake

  • ¼ cup whole milk (or low-lactose milk if you are on a low-lactose
  • diet)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup vanilla ice cream

Blend ingredients until smooth.

Yield: One 1-cup serving

Nutrition information per serving: 666 calories and 22 grams protein.

Smoothie recipe source: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Oncology Toolkit

Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE, IFNCP™

Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE is a clinical dietitian at CHI Health, working in Oncology and Functional nutrition. Ellen helps patients improve nutrition habits during cancer treatment and beyond. She is a group fitness instructor at the CHI Health Lakeside Wellness Center and enjoys helping people of all fitness abilities be active. Ellen is passionate about helping patients improve their lives through nutrition, activity and stress management.

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