Weight gain is hard. I don’t care what anybody else says.
It takes a toll on your mind when all you want to do is gain a few pounds but you can’t seem to see any changes. Let’s not even talk about the scale. I stepped on the scale so many times in my life just to see that the number never went up. Sometimes it would even go down 1 or 2 pounds.
Side Note: This is why I tell people not to put so much emphasis on the scale. And especially not to weigh yourself daily. Your weight fluctuates every day based on how much you ate, what you ate, if you consumed a lot of water, sugar, salt…if you pooped. Too far? The point is, don’t let the number on the scale ruin your day. Use pictures and videos to see your progress.
Anyway, you try all day to stuff your face with food, and that’s if you have the time to do it. And, if you’re anything like me, sometimes eating so much would make you feel sick because your stomach isn’t used to all of that food.
Then lets throw in other variables just for fun like, having trouble getting access to weights and equipment, or getting and keeping a gym membership, having time to workout, having to buy and cook extra food when you don’t really have the money to do it. Especially if you have a family and/or kids to take care.
So like I said, gaining weight is hard. And there’s no secret to doing it either. It really comes down to how bad you want it. And if you’re willing to sacrifice to get it.
Do or do not. There is no try.
This will probably be one of the most transparent topics I’ve written about yet because it’s what I and a lot of other females struggle with the most: food.
For the longest, I’ve avoided talking about what to eat and how much to eat because everyone’s different. Everyone has access to different foods, different levels of income, different taste buds, different weight gain goals, and different caloric intake needs (I’ll get into caloric intake a little later.)
But I’ve realized that because food is what people struggle with the most, it’s become what I get asked about the most. Which means it’s exactly what I should be talking about.
Now I won’t be telling you exactly what to eat. That’s not my job. And frankly that’s too scary-making. There’s too many allergies and health concerns out here to be doing that. But I will be telling you all of the foods that I ate while I was gaining weight. No holding back. You’re going to see the good and the bad, because I’m human and I don’t always eat healthy and I’m not going to pretend like I do.
I want you to see that you can still reach your goals without being perfect.
So in the spirit of transparency, I’ll be talking about my favorite foods and meals and exactly how I was able to hit my calorie goal consistently. Are you ready?
Foods I Ate to Gain Weight Naturally in One Year
(This post may contain affiliate links to products that I truly recommend. Feel free to use them if you want. Check out the disclosure for more info.)
Okay so I’m going to make sure I say this again and put it in bold just in case you skipped it the first time. I’m not perfect, I’m human and I don’t eat perfectly healthy. Now of course I’m going to always recommend eating healthy because it’s good for your body. But it’s okay to live a little. You’re gaining weight for your own personal goals. Not to be a bodybuilder or do competitions. So do it in a way that you can enjoy it.
In the beginning I had no clue what to eat or where to start. No one was talking about food or going into specifics about it. There were no ” What I Eat in a Day” youtube videos or blog posts to go off of. All I knew was that I should be eating healthy and that I had a calorie goal that I needed to hit everyday. If you’re not sure how many calories you should be taking in to gain weight let me briefly go into that for you.
Determining Calorie Intake
Your calorie intake consists of foods and liquids. Everything that has calories counts towards your calorie intake. So that means when it comes to gaining weight, especially gaining weight quickly, you have to be consuming more calories than you burn everyday. Period.
For example, let’s say that you know you need to eat at 2300 calories a day, minimum, to see significant weight gain progress. That’s without calculating workouts and whether you live an active lifestyle. So throughout the day with food and drinks you managed to consume 2500 calories. Which is great. And with all that energy, you went to the gym, had a great leg day, and burned 700 calories. Well that leg day changed things a bit. Now, you’re behind on your calories.
2500 – 700 = 1800 calories
This means you’ll need to make up 500 calories to get back to that 2300 minimum goal. I hope that’s easily understandable.
And that’s what makes gaining weight so difficult. So what do you do?
Well to make life easy, people have created calculators to determine your calorie intake by putting together your weight, height, your level of activeness, how quickly you want to gain, etc. The calculator comes up with the right number of calories for you so you don’t have to think about doing all of that adding and subtracting. It also includes macro nutrient percentages, in case that’s something you’re interested in keeping track of as well.
One of these days I’m going to come up with my own calculator but until then one of my favorite ones to use is the Macro Calculator by Katy Hearn. She was one of my first fitness inspirations and I still love the macro calculator she put together.
All you have to do is put your information into the calculator and it will determine the right number of calories you should start with to reach your goals. You can the adjust the number after a couple of weeks if you feel like there have been no changes. But if you do so, stick to only adding 100 – 200 calories at a time until you start to see progress either in pictures or the scale. Don’t stress yourself out about the number on the scale though!
So now that that’s been explained let’s get into the food.
Healthy Foods and Meals that I Ate
Eating healthy was never really a chore for me. I ate healthy 80% of the time because it’s what my body craved. It also helped me perform better throughout the day. I had more energy compared to when I would just eat whatever whenever.
I will say though, I never really meal prepped all of my food. It wasn’t my thing. The most I would do is prep my lunch for the week since I spent most of my time away from the house anyway. In the mornings and in the evenings I would cook, and for lunch I would bring whatever I prepped that Sunday to work. This made it really easy for me when I was focused on gaining weight.
But don’t get meal prepping is a great time saver and is convenient in the long run. So definitely try it out. It might save you on those days when you’re just not sure what you want to eat.
The meals I ate were simple. It was much easier to track my calorie intake when I wasn’t constantly changing my meals. My breakfast’s went something like this:
4 eggs with cheese (and sometimes spinach),
fruit (usually strawberries, blueberries, peaches, a banana, or an apple),
and a cinnamon raisin bagel with plain cream cheese
or peanut butter toast.
2 cups of oatmeal with almond milk,
a spoonful of brown sugar,
and fruit (usually strawberries, blueberries, peaches, or an apple). Oh, and cinnamon.
If I went out for breakfast it was typically the same meals but at a restaurant. I would simply substitute the bagel for french toast, pancakes, or a waffle. I might also add in some hashbrowns and orange juice. My favorite places to go out for breakfast were panera bread and famous toastery.
As for my lunches and dinners, I kept those similar. Sometimes I would have my left over dinner for lunch. And sometimes I would go out to eat for lunch or dinner. It depended on whatever I was feeling that day. So I’m just going to talk about them together. The majority of my meals were these:
Noodles & Company large Mac and cheese or large penne rosa
Panera bread half sandwich half broccoli and cheese soup or mac and cheese with chips
Spaghetti and ground turkey
Chicken and cheese quesadillas with mild salsa
Steak and Potatoes sometimes with broccoli
Rice, green beans, and ground beef
Voila! garlic chicken pasta ( I would eat the whole regular sized bag. If it’s a family sized bag I would cook it all, eat half and eat the other half later.
Baked chicken, corn, and rice
In between meals I always kept food around me. So snacks were a must. I made sure to eat at least 2 snacks in between meals and have 1 protein shake after my workouts. Even if I didn’t workout that day I would still take a scoop of protein and mix it in with a smoothie. My snacks were:
Pineapple Banana Smoothies with vanilla protein. Or a mango, strawberry, peach smoothie with vanilla protein.
My favorite protein powder is Syntha6. I’ve tried so many and this is the one that I stick to. As for protein bars, my favorite brand is ONE. It’s the only protein bar that doesn’t taste like I’m actually eating a protein bar. And I have yet to have a bad flavor from them, but may favorite is birthday cake.
Yogurt, strawberries, and granola
2 bananas together
2 granola bars
Half a bag of grapes
Original Pretzel Crisps ( I would eat these constantly. Not the healthiest snack but they were thin and great for mindless eating while I was sitting at my desk at work.)
Whenever I would go grocery shopping I would buy most of my snacks at once so I could have different options throughout the week. It got to the point where I was constantly eating. Sometimes even when I was tired of eating. But I pushed through whatever it was slowly, until I finished my food.
And besides all of that, of course I had to have some not so healthy meals to stay sane throughout the process.
My Not So Healthy Meals
Everyone has that one thing that they struggle with not eating. For me that was desserts. I would always crave something sweet when I was eating healthy for a long period of time. Brownies, cookies, cheesecake, you name it. Every week I would allow myself to have a little of these things so I never felt like I was restricting myself. I made sure that I didn’t go overboard though because I knew I had a goal.
As for actual meals that weren’t so great, I would eat:
Hibatchi and lots of it.
Chinese food ( it was always beef and broccoli with white rice).
Pizza, pizza, and more pizza. Frozen. Delivery. Pizzeria’s. It didn’t matter.
Fast food, although it was rare because it made me feel lazy.
To be honest I didn’t really eat that bad. Besides craving sweets I actually enjoy eating healthy. My body feels better and I don’t wake up feeling sluggish like I did when I ate junk. Even now, I hardly ever eat junk just for that reason.
But if you struggle with it, try to do like I did and have a good balance. Follow the 80/20 rule. 80% healthy clean eating and 20% fun foods. That way you won’t be stuck to a cheat day, unless you prefer it, and you can just eat sustainably. Gaining weight is so much easier when you actually enjoy the process. It doesn’t hurt to enjoy the food either.
So just to round out the whole image. a full day of me eating would look something like this:
Breakfast around 7 am
4 eggs with cheese
Strawberries and blueberries
A cinnamon raisin bagel with plain cream cheese
Snack at 10 am
Lunch at 1
Noodles and Company large mac a cheese
Snack around 3
Greek yogurt with granola
Workout then Protein Shake
Syntha6 Vanilla or Birthday Cake Remix
Dinner around 8
Rice, ground beef, and green beans
And that’s how it’s done!
I would make sure to hit my calorie intake every day. And if for some reason it was the end of the day and I still have a few hundred calories left, that’s when I would try to fill it with random stuff like ice cream or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I did what I had to do to reach my goal and I hope this helps you reach yours too.
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