I bet I know what you are thinking, “I am already eating so much food, force-feeding, pizzas, brownies and cakes flying around, I am juggling donuts, I swallow jelly beans like they are magnesium pills and I am still skinny and not gaining weight, HOW am I not eating enough?”
If that is not what you were thinking, congratulations, you win! I lost, I have failed you… How did things end up like this? Where did I go wrong? When did I stray from the path?
Sorry about that, I am better now. If you indeed were thinking something along those lines, I could tell because I have been in your place in the past as well. I was thinking like that and I have talked with a lot of people that were thinking like that, that they are eating a ton of food and still not gaining weight, but after a brief talk, I was able to help them realise that they were not eating enough really. Let’s see a few reasons why this might be the case
The reasons have been broken down in three (3) main categories, so that it is easier to navigate and to keep things organized and easy to read.
How does weight gain occur?
Before we start searching for the reason, I would like to briefly explain how weight gain (and weight loss) work, just in case you are not aware of how this works. I know I was completely unaware about this when I started my fitness journey.
Ok, so, we, as human beings need energy to function. Depending on a few factors like height, weight and activity levels (how much you move during the day), some people need more energy and some people need less energy.
The way we gain that energy is by eating food and different foods give us different amounts of energy (that’s mostly why some foods are considered “clean” and some not).
If you gain more energy than your body needs, you gain weight, while, if you gain less energy than your body needs, you lose weight.
This energy is measured in calories (you will also see it as kcal often), so, throughout this article, if you read anything about calories, caloric needs etc just know that I am talking about the energy we consume/expend. Also, in the lables of the products you buy from the supermaket, this “calories” thing they write on the back, is how much energy you get if you consume that product (e.g. 231kcal per 100 grams).
I will not go into more detail about calories and energy in this article as it does not need to become more complicated (it probably already became too complicated but whatever), so, go ahead and enjoy the rest of this article
You are not eating enough
Let’s talk about the most obvious one first. You may just not be eating enough, you may not have a big appetite and you might be getting full with less food than the average person. If you are usually leaving food on your plate and do not finish your meals, you probably fall under this category and are not eating enough.
If you really want to start gaining weight and stop being skinny, you will have to push yourself to eat more, sometimes to the point where it feels uncomfortable unfortunately. That is called “forcefeeding” and for some people, it is necessary in order to gain weight and get bigger.
After all, we have all heard the famous quote
You gotta eat big to get bigRich Piana
You are eating too clean
Yes, you heard me right (basically read but whatever. Unless you have someone reading this to you, then yeah, you did hear me right). There is such thing as eating too clean. Especially if you are a skinny guy trying to gain weight.
The reason eating too clean is not ideal if you want but can’t gain weight is because usually “clean” foods are much lower in calories (the energy we talked about in the “how does weight gain work” section), which means that in order to gain weight, you need to eat these foods in much bigger quantities than their less “clean” alternatives. So, adding a few higher-calorie, dirtier meals and snacks here and there would be really helpful in your case
Disclaimer: This does not mean that you should go all out and start eating only pizza, burgers, fries and cotton candy every day, your diet should still mostly be clean and ideally have whole, unprocessed foods in the most part. With that being said, eating a pizza here or there, having a peanut butter sandwich or some granola here or there are definitely additions that will help you in the journey from skinny to god
There is too much space between your meals
Let me paint this picture in your mind… Ok, now imagine this:
There is a guy, let’s call him Bobert. Bobert is a skinny fella and wants to gain weight, but he can’t do that and wonders why. He has tried just about everything and still remains on the same weight he always was.
Meanwhile, Bobert has two (2) meals per day, his lunch and his dinner. No breakfast, no brunch, no second breakfast and no snacks to be found, just his two big meals, which keep him full for the rest of the day. How likely is Bobert to gain weight that way? I would say not very, somewhere around 2/7 likelihood in my honest opinion.
If you can relate to Bobert’s story, if there is so much space between your meals that you could star in “Space Jam 3”, then it is time for you to start introducing meals or snacks here and there, to increase your eating tempo. It doesn’t necessarily need to be much, maybe at first you could just add a protein shake or a turkey sandwich after your workout, see how it goes and if you still can’t gain weight, add another one
Moving too much
While the average online calorie calculator accounts from low to very high activity, your own activity levels are over 9000!!!!
If you are doing sports like track & field, like football, not like chess, like swimming, or you just go out for runs, you spend more energy during the day, which means that you also need more energy during the day. You have to eat back the calories that you burnt if you want to gain weight, so try eating a bit more, especially on the days you are the most active.
Then again, you might not be able to relate to the scenario above, but you might still be moving too much. How is this possible? What kind of sorcery is this? Let me to explain young friend.
Even if you do not plan sports activities, you might be moving too much in the form of walking, the classic example for this are people that work as waiters. Don’t be fooled by the name, waiters don’t just stand there and wait, they are always on the move, waiting people, taking the customer’s order and bringing them what they ordered. That’s what they do, give or take the occasional odd task. It is the kind of job that has you be on your feet all day long, walking up and down to serve the customers.
Thus, if you are a waiter, or have a similar, physically demanding job, this could be the reason you cannot gain weight and obviously you can’t just move less, so you should eat more.
But wait! There’s more!
Maybe nothing I’ve said so far has hit home and you cannot relate in the slightest. By now you might be thinking that I have no idea what I am talking about and I am just babbling and wasting your time. And I can’t blame you for that, that’s what I think too!
But wait. I said. THERE’S MORE!
There is one final class of people that are moving too much and they don’t event realize it most of the time. You guessed that right, it’s the elves. No, sorry, I’m kidding, it’s not the elves, it’s hyperactive people.
Now, you might wonder what I mean by “hyperactive people”. Well, obviously it’s the people that are overly active. Ok, that was the last joke. For now.
By hyperactive people, I mean people that are always moving in one way or another, even when they are sitting down. We all know that one person that is always moving their leg up and down when sitting on a chair, or the person that is always playing with a pen or a lighter or anything they can get their hands on, or constantly moving their body like they are half-dancing. These are the people I am talking about and you might not have noticed but most of those people are skinny or at least on the thinner side.
If you are that kind of a person, this is not something you can just stop doing, it is mostly predetermined by your genetics. This is a spectrum, so some people will be moving more than other, some will need to be chained to stop moving on their chair, some might play a bit with their pen and some might seem like they have passed out when they are sitting down.
Plus, the more food you eat, the more your body starts just moving around on its own, because it has an excess of energy that they need to expend, which makes it even harded for this kind of people to gain weight cause their body just starts moving more so they need to start eating even even more!
Not moving enough
Ah yes, the classic contradicting reasons, this guys says I might be moving too much for my own good and right after that he says I might not be moving enough, wassup wit dat?
The thing is, our bodies kinda sorta know how much food we need in order to keep our weight the same as it currently is, so, if you are completely sedentary (aka barely doing and physical activity or even walking throughout the day), your body is content with much less food than if you did some kind of physical activity.
Once you start moving a bit more, even if it is a brief walk, you will notice your hunger increasing, which you can use to eat a high calorie snack, like a smoothie or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This tiny bit of extra hunger could make all the difference
You are afraid of losing your abs
If you are a skinny guy, you probably are afraid of losing your abs. Don’t even try to deny it, I know how you think. You might have accepted the fact that in order to become big and strong you will probably need to sacrifice your abs in the short term in order to get better results in the long term.
But if you know that, why are you not doing that? Because you are still afraid of bulking up “what if I mess up my bulk and only gain fat?” “what if people make fun of me because I gained weight?” “what if I end up perma-bulking because i will not want to cut?”. This is what your brain is telling you when you think of gaining weight. But you should not listen to your brain *insert listen to your heart song*. Your brain is what has kept you skinny all these years, what it’s saying to you is clearly not working. So why keep listening?
Then, there is another kind of people, that know they have to bulk, they try to but still fail. Why? There is a chance that you are still subconsciously afraid of losing your abs, so your brain tries to rationalize actions that keep you from gaining weight.
For example, you might not eat the last part of your meal because you think may already be in a big enough caloric surplus. Or you suddenly decide to go for a walk for no apparent reason. Or you skip a meal thinking “I’m busy right now, I will make up for it later” but you never do.
All these are small things your brain does to keep you on the same weight, because it know that deep down, you don’t want to lose your abs. What you have to do is identify those behaviors and resist the urge. This might be the hardest part of gaining weight.
You may or may not have heard of thyroid diseases. There are a few of them and none of them are something you need to be afraid of, it’s usually a genetic thing and it’s not something you can transmit to other people.
Hyperthyroidism is one of those diseases and what it does is making your thyroid work extra hard, which results in you expending more energy than the average person (along with some other symptoms which are not the point of this article).
What this means is that if we take two different people with the exact same age, height, weight, muscle mass etc and one of them has hyperthyroidism while the other one doesn’t, the one that does have hyperthyroidism will expend more energy throughout the day and will need more food to stay in that weight.
There is no way to self-diagnose for hyperthyroidism and don’t just assume you have it just because you can’t gain weight. If you think you may have it, go to your doctor and get tested. Once you do get tested, if you end up having hyperthyroidism, you will probably get prescribed a certain pill to take every morning in order to slow down your thyroid and keep it in check
PS This is not medical advice, I feel like I am obliged to say that even though I don’t really think i gave any advice in this section other than “go see your doctor”
PS2 Because I didn’t say this enough times: hyperthyroidism
As said in the beginning of this article, the reason you are skinny and cannot gain weight is because you are not eating enough, but hopefully, after reading this, you have a better idea about what the root cause is, you can work on it and hopefully, you will start gaining weight, building muscle and eventually achieve all your strength and aesthetic goals.
When that happens and you become a full-fledged fitness influencer, I will be there, witnessing your progress, with a big, proud smile, thinking “wait? Did I buy milk? I think we may have run out. I certainly hope we did not, cause i do not want to eat my cereal in water. Again“
Let me know in the comments what you think of these reasons and share this article to a skinny friend who might need it.