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Gaining weight as frustrating as losing weight

I've read several of your articles about weight loss and how to lose weight but I haven't come across a topic about weight gaining. I guess it's a problem of only a few.

I haven't reached my ideal body weight since childhood. It's like my name is skinny. I stand 5 feet, 8 inches and weigh only 105 pounds. One of my friends joked that I could be a super model like Naomi Campbell that I should've taken as a compliment if I were a female. I have friends who had the same problem back in high school but they got out of it successfully in college. I blamed the problem on the stresses of my student life (skipping meals, poor diet, losing sleep, etc.) but since I graduated last March, all I gained was 5 pounds.

I refuse to admit that it's in my genes because my brother is the exact opposite of me. I'm more inclined to think that there is something wrong with my physiology or even my psychology if that affects your weight. The multiple physical exams I had didn't reveal any illness that can cause this problem.

I tried weight resistance training for four months but you can hardly notice the difference. I'm still 105 pounds. You can outline the muscles I've developed by just looking at them, like in an anatomy class. It really needs padding to look nice.

After graduation, I didn't have any problems with my diet. I eat a lot. I eat exactly what my family and friends eat. I eat everything. Now, I'm trying to eat all the animal fat in our kitchen. I eat less rice but with margarine or fried and more ulam. I also sleep and rest a lot. I do everything that fat people call evil and yet, no success. I'm glad I did not resort to steroids. I want to be fit before I have my first job.

You're right. More people have problems with weight loss than with weight gain. There are thousands of people who would love to be in your shoes - eating what ever they wanted without fear of gaining a single ounce. They don't realize that it can be just as frustrating trying to gain weight as it is trying to lose weight.

Body types.
I hate to disappoint you, but it could still be in your genes. Just because your brother is the exact opposite doesn't mean you couldn't have inherited the build of a long lost relative you have never seen. There are three basic body types (both for males and females) - endomorphs (big bones, naturally large muscles, easily puts on fat), mesomorphs (high percentage of muscle, little body fat, the ideal athletic build), and the ectomorphs (light bones, lean muscles, high metabolic rate, a "model's body"). From your description of your body (5'8", 105 pounds, difficulty in building muscle mass), you sound like an ectomorph. Your friends were skinny during high school and able to put on weight during college because no matter what their natural build is, most boys are thin while they are in their active growing period. True ectomorphs continue to be thin throughout their life until they are 40 plus when, finally, their metabolism starts to slow down and they start putting on fat weight. This doesn't mean that you are stuck with your light build forever. "The body is incredibly plastic," says Melvin Williams, Ph. D., director of the Human Performance Laboratory of Old Dominion University. "While you can't change your bone structure, you can modify what's on those bones through exercise and a proper diet to bring out the best in your body type."

Physiological and psychological problems.
Poor weight gain can be a physiological problem (hyperthyroidism, for example) or a psychological one (emotional stress can definitely cause weight loss). However, you have had multiple physical exams - this rules out the physiological reasons. You say you are sleeping and resting a lot. Your hectic college life is over so it would be safe to assume that you are not that stressed out anymore.

Too much animal fat is not good for anyone.
Eating all that animal fat is not good for you whether you are over or under weight. If you need to get extra calories, food fried with corn, soya or olive oil will give you the extra calories without clogging up your arteries (for example, fried chicken or fried fish). Besides, you want to gain muscle weight not just fat weight. Because the focus is on bulking you up, protein and carbohydrate intake is critical to keeping your muscles primed. "If there are enough carbohydrates in the diet, muscle doesn't break down as readily and your muscle base will be preserved and energized for subsequent workouts," says Georgia Kostas, director of nutrition at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. Good sources of carbohydrates are rice, pasta, bread, mongo, (all legumes have both carbohydrates and protein), fruits, and vegetables.

Anabolic steroid use is dangerous.
I know it must be tempting to consider using anabolic steroids to hasten the building of muscle mass, but I'm sure your nursing background properly versed you in the very real dangers (liver damage, sterility, higher risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, etc.) of steroid abuse. In addition, there is the danger of psychological addiction to steroids. Macho pride makes it difficult to stop taking the steroids once you see rapid muscular development.

Weight lifting still the best for muscle gain.
Weight training is still your best bet to gain weight the right way even though you say that four months of weight training hardly made a difference in the size of your muscles. Four months can be too soon to give up on lifting weights. Did you notice that you got stronger? Could you lift more weight at the end of those four months than you could at the beginning? If you did, then you were on the right track. You just needed to give it more time. Here's what scientists theorize happens inside your muscles when you start a weight training program. The initial gains in strength are from changes in the motor unit system. A motor unit is a nerve cell attached to several muscle fibers. When you start the program, many of the motor units are inactive or dormant because the muscles were never trained to lift heavy weights. As you lift heavier and heavier weights, the body responds by "waking up" the dormant motor units. Until all the motor units are put to active duty, you will notice yourself getting stronger but your muscles will hardly be getting bigger. Only when all the motor units are awakened, will the muscles respond by getting bigger. This is called hypertrophy, the opposite of atrophy. How long does this period take? Sometimes as long as six months in some individuals! Don't compare yourself with other people working out in the gym. Each person will respond at a different pace. The good news is that if you go back to weight lifting, your muscles will respond a lot quicker than they did the first time. This is because of what exercise scientists call "muscle memory". I am not saying that you will automatically develop a huge "terminator" body but you can develop enough muscle so you will not look like the male version of Naomi Campbell. I personally know two people who were skinny all their lives but through perseverance and hard work in lifting weights now have impressive physiques. Go for it! You can do it!

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