Matt Offers Advice to Overcome Underweight

Being underweight can be as frustrating and embarrassing as being overweight. Matt writes about his experience with a fast metabolism due to thyroid hormone treatment for cancer. What he learned from his experience he puts into specifics to help others overcome a naturally fast metabolism and achieve a desirable body weight.

Matt offers members of the following comments:

It IS possible to gain weight, no matter how fast your metabolism is – I know from experience. I have a very fast metabolism – it was always fast – but now I *know* it to be abnormally fast because I have thyroid cancer, and as part of the treatment, I have to take a slightly above-normal dose of thyroid hormone, which is done to prevent the growth of the cancer. (Thyroid hormone controls the speed of your metabolism, so it would definitely be worth a trip to the doctor to have your thyroid levels tested if you have a hard time gaining weight.) My levels are not as high as they used to be (fortunately) since the cancer is now in remission and the level could be safely reduced somewhat, but I remember from when the levels were at their highest how it seemed like I had to eat constantly to maintain my weight. I remember that I seemed to have just as much of an appetite, if not more, than I did when I was running cross-country 8-12 miles a day (prior to my diagnosis), even though I was no longer running much at all.

What you have to remember is that it’s all a matter of how many calories you’re taking in. If you take in more calories than you burn, you WILL gain weight. It’s a lot easier to do with a well-designed nutrition program. After going through my initial cancer treatment, a couple years ago, I went to see a nutritionist who did numerous tests and designed a custom nutrition program for me. (The nutritionist was Dr. Frederick Sutter, if anyone’s interested, though I’m sure there are other nutritionists who can do similar tests.) One of the tests even determined the number of calories that I should be eating per day, which I think was 3500. Some of the people posting comments here may need even more calories than that.

Keep in mind that many professional athletes eat 8000 calories or more a day (Michael Phelps eats a staggering 12,000!) Talk about really having to spend a lot of time eating… unless anyone here is a professional athlete, you probably don’t need nearly that many calories. But it still can be a challenge.

While lately I’ve been a little less vigilant, and consequently my weight is a little lower than I’d like it to be, I know how to gain weight, and I successfully did so in the past even when my thyroid levels were higher. You do have to be vigilant to eat frequently.

What worked for me–and what my nutritionist recommended–was first of all to eat more protein. This is easiest to do on a non-vegetarian diet, but do make sure to include vegetable protein from sources like beans, nuts, and soy. This will help to increase caloric intake and build muscle. Also, eat frequently — preferably 4 meals a day, plus snacks. Healthy snacks include whole-grain crackers or rice cakes with peanut butter, cottage cheese with fruit and/or honey (or stevia), yogurt mixed with weigh protein, and protein shakes.

I think one of the biggest helps for me was supplementing my diet with weigh protein (I prefer the unsweetened kind, or Jay Robb’s sweetend with stevia since I avoid sugar), which as I just mentioned you can mix with yogurt or use to make protein shakes…or just mix with water or milk (or soy or almond milk). For one very brief period, I even started to gain too much weight, and I think it was due eating a lot of weigh protein without exercising enough–it works best if you’re working out, in which case it will definitely help you to build muscle. I’m also a big fan of Hemp Protein, which does not taste as good mixed with foods like yogurt, but can be used to make a good shake, especially when mixed with cocoa (I use a banana to sweeten it). It contains all the essential amino acids, plus chlorophyll, fiber, and more, and it’s completely vegetarian. It’s a big hit with vegetarian athletes.

Well, that should be enough to get you started…remember, it’s just a matter of figuring out ways to eat more calories! — but don’t eat junk! You may hear people say that you should just eat more cookies and cakes, etc., which is probably the worst advice that could be given. White flour (which on ingredient labels is referred to as “wheat flour”–watch out! look for “whole wheat flour”) and refined sugar are among the worst things ANYONE can eat, except in very, very modest quantities. And if this advice isn’t enough for you, research the glycemic index, and finally see a nutritionist if you need further assistance — it’s hard to find good advice in books and on the internet, since most of it is geared toward people wanting to lose weight. But a professional nutritionist can definitely help you to gain weight.

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  • vikas

    Rx, doc
    myself vikas, i am indian. with 23 yrs of age my height is 175 cm and my wt. is 52 kgs , my hips,chicks,waist and chest is not good looking which makes me shy, many suggest me that it is due to my genes. bt than also its a problem and hw should i overcome that. some times i think its because of my bad habits of mastarbating (twice a week) smoking, and of chewing tobacco. pls suggest me wat should i do.

    thx ,
    with regards

  • Igo

    I’m kind of at a loss here……. I’ve lost 30 lbs in a year, I’ve been to the doctor and he simply states “eat more” – I’m 5’3″ and just weighted myself again after a week – I’m down to a shocking 98 lbs. As I told the doctor – I do eat (at first he thought I had an eating disorder) – I actually eat ALL DAY LONG! I joke that I don’t eat meals – I graze through the day. It seems no matter what I do I am still loosing weight. I know part of the probelm is I am stressed with my work, and I have a very high metabolism – they have given me something to help with the stress (including something to help with sleep as I can’t seem to be able to shut my brain down) but I don’t know how much more I can shove down my throat! I’ve read some of the web sites – and someof the thing they suggest – but I find myself screaming back at the computer: “I’m already doing that!!!” This is just getting so frustrating!

  • Hi Igo,
    Please check out the forum posts about healthy weight gain and if, as you stated, you are “already doing that!” you really need to rule out a disorder such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism. There is some very simple blood work that give you a quick snapshot into your blood sugar and thyroid status. A full medical evaluation may be warranted as well. The fact that there is significant weight loss is what is alarming. 98 pounds at 5’3″ is underweight for a female or a male but it is the loss of weight that is a red flag. Another concern is that you most likely have lost lean body mass and that is not a good thing!!!

    You may consider an individualized consultation to shed more light in the issue,

    Beth Ellen DiLuglio, MS, RD, CNSD, CCN, LD/N
    In regards to this reply please read the our terms of service at:

  • Also, Thank You Matt for all of the tips and sharing your personal story. Excellent recommendations…. one can also use rice or pea protein as a low allergenic, vegetarian source of protein. I would add to the recommendations to use raw nut butters instead of or as well as peanut butter. Also beware of the “Glycemic Index” as it can be quite misleading. It is more important to know the “Glycemic Load” of the actual portion of food that you are eating. The best rule of thumb is to eat plenty of WHOLE, UNPROCESSED PLANT BASED FOODS to ensure an abundant intake of phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber.

  • Srinivas

    Hi i m srinivas,am 23old,i have d same problem i weigh only 49kgs,my height is 175 cms,at first i thought it was because of my gene bt then later my brother who is 7 years smaller than me in age even he was very lean bt somehow he picked up d more thing i m allergic to milk and milk products…its nt allergy completely i cant take smell it makes the omittin sensation in me…i drink,i smoke occassionally,bt dis isnt a reason i think…plsss plsss do suggest me a diet …i feel myself so embarassed when i go to swimming pools,shopping,and a date…i m really unhappy with my body build…