Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Healthy Weight Gain Plan


Are you so embarrassed by your matchstick legs that you never wear shorts? Are you ashamed of your pigeon chest and puny biceps? Do you avoid beach holidays and swimming pools like the plague - just because you're too thin.

And before all you constant dieters start thinking "lucky beggars" you should know that it's far more difficult for skinnies to gain weight than it is for fatties to shed a few pounds. So, if you're a 7 stone weakling and people kick sand in your face on the beach you must be desperate to put on some weight.

Surprisingly the best starting point is exercise. Not aerobics, jogging or marathon running, but real old fashioned weight training and body building. The effort involved will build bigger muscles and dramatically improve your body shape but it must go together with a dramatic increase in your calorie consumption.

Unless the calories that you consume add up to more than the number you burn during the day, you will never succeed in gaining any weight at all. What you must not do is to get these extra calories from high sugar, high fat foods like biscuits, sweets, chocolates, cream, butter and breakfast fry ups. They'll make you gain weight but probably give you a heart attack at the same time.

Now for the healthy way to gain weight. The healthiest calories come from complex carbohydrates like wholemeal bread, oats, potatoes, pasta, rice and beans. But these are very bulky and there is a limit to how much you can eat at one time. But do make sure that they contribute at least half your food. Get extra calories from bananas, nuts - as long as they're unsalted and not covered in chocolate, and dried fruits. Raisins, sultanas, dates, and dried apricots are excellent sources of energy, vitamins and minerals and they also supply useful quantities of fibre.

As snacks and nibbles throughout the day they supply a significant number of calories in comparatively small amounts of food. One of the best sources of healthy calories are seeds and spreads made from seeds and nuts. Sunflower and sesame seeds are especially good and tahini - a spread made from crushed sesame - together with peanut butter provide a large number of calories and very little bulk.

For all of you who suffer severe embarrassment through being underweight, here's the secret weapon in my Healthy Weight Gain Plan. As well as exercise and plenty of healthy calories, here's a recipe which I've used successfully for years in my own practice. Make it up first thing in the morning, have a glass before your breakfast, keep the rest in the fridge and make sure it's all gone by bedtime.

You'll need one pint of whole milk, one certified salmonella-free raw egg, one banana, a dessertspoon each of molasses, honey, tahini, wheatgerm and Brewer's yeast powder, and finally, four dried apricots. Whisk all the ingredients together in a liquidiser or with a hand blender - don't forget to keep it in the fridge.

Now's the time for you to become a grazer - aim to eat something at least every two hours, starting with a really good breakfast and finishing with a bedtime snack. Dips like guacamole, made from avocado and olive oil, or hummus, made with chickpeas and tahini, eaten with wholemeal pitta bread, make an excellent between meals snack and like all the best foods provide a high proportion of nutrients with their calories.

If you're already thinking of yet another walking holiday in the northern fjords or the Outer Hebrides, start following my plan today and you could look good enough for the beach by August - and no-one's going to kick sand in your face.

The special milkshake recipe is also excellent for anyone undergoing chemotherapy or radio therapy who may not feel like or be able to eat 'proper' food. In these situations where the immune system is badly affected by the treatment, substitute pasteurised liquid egg for the raw egg.

I would also recommend a product called BioStrath Elixir when receiving chemo or radio treatment as this is an excellent tonic which boosts your immune system and may reduce the side effects.


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