The first time I remember someone making a cutting comment about my weight was back in primary school, around 5th grade, I think. There was a girl, a rather hefty one, especially for an 11 year old – she would run around and call me names because I was, well, am, very skinny. I remember my mum telling me in a comforting voice that at the end of the day, it is always easier to gain weight than to lose it. Back then it was all the explanation I needed and I shook it off like a doggie after a muddy walk in the forest. Now that I am a grown-up woman I know that that was neither the fair answer, nor true – as gaining weight is actually very difficult.
I remember this particular response from my mum not because this girl has stayed in my memory more than others – but because I have heard it over and over again down the years. Any time I’d try to tell her that people have a problem with how I look, I’d get this very response; and that is not because my mum is a bully to overweight people, I mean, she is married to my dad (sorry, dad), No. She is just but a little part of a general trend. People, we, me and you, tend to assume that gaining weight is easy and losing weight is hard.
But they are two sides of the same coin, no?
It is not malicious thinking that makes us assume such things. At least I don’t suspect anyone of (un)conscious discrimination. It is just that the act of eating is so… basic and necessary, it is hard to imagine a person that just doesn’t. Overeating we understand; whether because we look at it as an indulgence or a simple mechanism that is meant to protect us from the bad days to come. Undereating is alien.
Why would you not just eat more? is the first response I get and a very understandable one as well. Eating more is the answer. It is just that eating more – just as eating less for people trying to lose weight – is a very complicated process.
The truth is – I am a great failure when it comes to my weight gaining struggles. Sure, I am not unhealthy and overall I could go through my entire life at my current weight, no sweat. I eat regularly and don’t starve myself. I don’t detest myself for being slim either. But I just want to get somewhere I would feel safer with my weight – somewhere where I would feel more comfortable and not just ok. And it is simply not happening.
I wanted Keep Me Goings to be a category where we share grand successes, tips on how to achieve more and push ourselves, finally a place of absolute positivity. But I was wrong about that. Negative examples are needed too. If we look in the mirror each day with a fake smile on our faces and pretend like everything we touch is super peachy, nothing will ever change. And I need change.
I struggle to believe it is only me though. So if my failed example can help any of you, I am happy to put my head on the line.
But before I go on a great adventure of telling you how come I am failing and failing again, let me start by telling you what I know I should be doing.
Gaining weight 101
There are few no-brainers when it comes to gaining weight.
Firstly, you must eat more than your total daily energy expenditure. Not too much, since you don’t want to hurt yourself in the process, but still more. Preferably you’d like to squeeze in healthier calories and go for what my boyfriend would refer to as a lean bulk. Not only because you don’t want to, yet again, hurt yourself in the process, but chances are you that are very attached to your body type and a sudden increase in, for instance, percentage body fat may be hard to take psychologically.
Also, the chances are you just don’t like fatty foods. I do not. The very thought of eating a hamburger, even if it was me-friendly, makes me sick. I cannot stomach large quantities of white sugar. Oily dishes make me put my food away. I can put any amount of pasta into my body though; rice-pasta for life.
The truth is, unless you make yourself eat things you enjoy and things that are good for you, you will most likely fail. I have been there and done that, you know, stuffing myself with anything because it is calorific and then being surprised when I gave up a week later. Quality of food matters.
Secondly, you should exercise. See the point above. You’re more likely to want to build muscle than anything else, besides exercise is good for you, so there you go. Why not, right? In my case, exercise also makes me hungry – and since it doesn’t burn even nearly as much calories as it makes me consume, the net is very much positive.
Thirdly, you need to want it. That’s the tough part. Without good motivation, a good reason why, pushing yourself through one more bowl of yoghurt will just not happen. Eating while you are full or even completely stuffed, as will be the case at the very beginning, is very difficult, painful, unpleasant, simply off-putting. And if you’re struggling with gaining weight, chances are you’re not exactly the master of appetite.
And fourthly, you just mustn’t give up.
That’s it. That is all there is. Of course, one can help oneself with protein powders (pea protein for me, as whey is definitely out of the question), appetite enhancers, tracking apps and all other sorts of useful tricks, but the principles stay exactly the same.
I often wish there was a trick.
I wish that one day I could meet this person who has the secret to gaining weight, a special method I have never heard of, and all my problems would just go away. Even though in 99% of life situations I do not believe in miracles, I do when it comes to my weight. But there are no such things as miracles. There are only excuses, and I am a master of them all.
Some people say that such things can be out of our reach. Sure, a very slim percentage of people suffer from conditions that do influence their weight and make change borderline impossible. But, you see, I am quite a great example of the opposite – suffering from a condition that should make me at least 3 times the size I am just by breathing. At the end of the day the speed of metabolism matters too, of course, but it is our eating habits, my eating habits, that matter the most.
Eating when you’re sick is not easy, I kid you not. Stomaching anything when your entire body is against you is hard work. I feel the pain of all people too thin because their disease made anything else impossible. I feel the pain of people suffering in ways that make gaining weight a very unpleasant side effect, only adding up to the amount of worries and pain they are going through. Saying it fucking sucks is really an understatement.
For me, my eating habits won with the disease. For many people it is their eating habits that win with themselves too.
I am an overly confident person; some would even go so far as to call me arrogant, and arrogant I often am. But if there is one area in life where I doubt myself over and over again, it is my weight. There are a great many thoughts going through my head every time I break a streak of good eating, even if it is caused by travel (eating out, with my diet, is very difficult) or sickness, but there are two that hurt most:
You are too weak.
You don’t really want it.
And the saddest part of this all is that more often than not I think these are actually true.
I know it is my fault I fail over and over again. I know it is me who makes my gaining weight so terrifically difficult. There is no one, but me, to blame. I cannot just say – it is the models that gave me an unrealistic body image issues, because I am living this body image and I have been living it all my life. I cannot blame my parents, they are both excellent cooks. I cannot blame my boyfriend and my friends, as they are insanely supportive. The neighbours, society, the world, no one has done it to me.
This self-pity is what I detest most and try to squish away; but because of that I don’t think I face it properly and instead of jumping back into my routine, I avoid the topic till I feel brave enough in a few months. And here it goes. I do well, I fall off, I take a long break.
I’m a lazy bum, something anyone that knows me can vouch for. That’s why I pride myself on being efficient – I get things done quickly so that I can entertain myself with something else as soon as possible. Gaining weight is nothing like the other challenges in my life. No matter how much I want to rush it, it requires time and patience, of which I have none. I am not consistent. In my life I go through big swings of what I want and what I do; that’s just how I roll. Doing something every day for the rest of my life is a horrible prospect.
Small things – like taking meds, every day till the day I die, awful thing, small things I can handle. But eating is not a small thing to me.
I like food, but all the food I like seems to be very low in calories. I like mashed strawberries with pasta, sushi, rice cakes; I used to love dumplings but now making them edible for me is just a real pain and I often cannot be bothered. Eating heavy food does not bring any joy into my life, similarly eating samey food that most healthy diets promote. I like ice cream though and chocolates, but how many chocolates can I have per day?
One day my struggles will be over; I will jump over the final hurdle of some vegan carbonara and rush towards the sunset of weight I actually want to achieve. But I have no faith in myself keeping it this way. I know I will bounce back.
Because I am weak and I don’t really want it.
A little side note
As I have stressed many many times, I strongly believe that anyone can have any problems and no one is more or less entitled to voicing them. If you feel like I have the perfect body for our society and I cannot see the struggles of other people through my thin privilege, well, let me inform you that I do acknowledge the pain of other people and the very person you should say things like that to is the one you find when you look in the mirror.
Regardless of our age, culture, shape, wealth, anything like that, at the end of the day we are all just people – and as such we all have our own crosses to bear. What we should be doing is joining efforts to somehow help each other carry them along. What we should not be doing is sacrificing some to make other’s journey through life easier.
A little bit of kindness takes us a long, long way, I have heard.
And yes, I do not own any running shoes.