I tried to gain weight and why I think you should too
This winter I did something I never have done in my life: intentionally gain weight. For some of you, this is not a big deal - for others, this seems rather unfathomable. I never thought I would ever seek to intentionally gain weight but I did and it was quite an experience.
This past year is the first year where I practiced weighing and measuring my food. I have been scared of doing this for over a decade because of a deep mistrust in myself to keep this behavior on the healthy side. For a very long time I struggled with bulimia and even years after the behavior stopped, I was still in a mental prison built from poor relationships with food and body image.
But alas, my fear and distrust turned into mere hesitancy. And that eventually turned into hindrance. As an athlete and a coach, ti was actually holding me back to NOT learn more about nutrition and body composition via learning how to weigh and measure food.
I started this last May with a gentle cut. My cut was 2000 cals per day and my split was 30% protein, 30% carbs and 40% fat. This made my food rich rather than volumanus. I focused mostly on calories rather than macros, only chasing my protein goal when it fell well behind. I realized that I had easily been eating 2300-2700 cals a day previously. But I also realized HOW MUCH FOOD 2000 cals is when one is eating REAL food. This became even more apparent during the bulk when I upped my calories to 3000 per day.
I started my bulk because one day I went in the gym and I couldn;t do pull ups anymore. I had lost so much strength from my cut that I couldn’t perform. That was it for me. I needed to gain muscle. So I started my bulk in October.
The bulk was pretty fun. I made a choice I would eat mostly clean and healthy food. Many people do what is called a “dirty bulk” in the weightlifting community. This means you are just eating anything to gain weight. Bad idea. I believe that healthy food is more than just calories - it is medicine. I was unwilling to compromise this core belief or put my overall health on the line. I just don’t eat junk. Also, I didn’t need to gain THAT much weight - I mostly wanted more strength and muscle. For folks that are naturally thin - or “hard gainers” as the WL community calls it - this behavior is perhaps a bit more acceptable.
I started off with one day of fasting per week and weighting and measuring my food. I took my bulk up to 2300 - 2500 cals per day, multiplied it by 7, then divided that by 6 to alot for the one day of fasting. People say you can’t gain weight and fast but that is not true. You need to do the math on the calories and find your over all caloric intake for the WEEK, then stick to it. I was lean and gaining. I loved it.
After a while, I just got sick of weighing and measuring. I had a good eye for portion sizes and decided I didn’t need to go through all that rigamarole and I just needed to eat. Around the holidays that one day of fasting disappeared and I was just doing IF and eating anywhere from 2400-3000 cals per day, and lifting heavy 4-5 days per week.
Keep in mind, my goal in gaining weight was to gain strength. For bodies that have been exercising and lifting for a number of years, it is not possible to lose fat and gain strength at the same time. One can do a “lean bulk” but it takes far longer than it is worth and you have to know your body and numbers very well. Begging lifters and those with more than 23% bodyfat can more easily gain strength and loose fat.
It was wild to fell all of my clothes get tighter and and know that THIS was my intention. My thighs got bigger and I got thickened but I still kept my waist. I felt my thigh touching and rudding together more and more but it din’t bother me. Ingri from 10 years ago would have freaked out. But me today, I took great pride in my juicy physique and felt strong and sexy. It was a crazy thing to experience such changes in my body. I haven’t been pregnant but I imagine I got a slice of the wild capabilities of my own body.
Toward the end, I was pretty sick of eating and being thick. Although I was blogger, I was faster, swifter and stronger, it kind of sucked that my fave loose jeans were now extremely fitted. I think that also had to do with the fact that I had been spending most of my time in sweaters and leggings. Then I put on hard pants and oof! They were so tight!
Some things I regret was not taking more measurements before. Since I was hesitant and didn’t want to make a big deal out of my experiments, I didn't test all of my one rep maxes nor did I seek out a body impedance to measure my body fat percentage or weight (I don’t own a scale!). On the last day of the bulk, I went to a nutrition shot and got measured. Then we got donuts!
All in all, I was 5’8 and sitting at 165 lbs and 21% BF. Pre cut, my number were 155 lbs and 19% BF. I assume I was at 145 lbs and 17-18% BF when I started my bulk. So I gained about 5 pounds of muscle. Pretty good!
I loved doing this and next year I will do it again. It was a liberating experience for me - TRULY. To have a mindset shift like that was awesome. If you lift weights, I highly recommend every woman spend 4-6 months actively gaining weight to gain muscle. It was just such a joy to approach food with a mindset of abundance! It’s an empowering experience! It’s a bit scary in the beginning but if you have some of the foundations in place, you should be fine. Those foundations are: having a structure to your portion sizes, regular weight training, and a decent relationship with food.