Skip Nav
Health News
According to the Experts, These Are the 15 Safest Sunscreens
Fitness Gear
This Activewear May Appear Expensive, but It's All Under $28 and From Forever 21
We've Found Your Next Workout

DrSugar: Tips For Healthy Weight Gain?

DrSugar is in the house and he's answering your health questions.

Dear Dr. Sugar,
I'd like some advice on how to gain weight the healthy way. I'm naturally petite and thin, yet I think adding a few extra pounds to my frame would be beneficial to my health, and I would probably look better too. The problem is I like to do cardio and other more vigorous sports (not to mention I work in a gym!), so it's difficult for me to keep my weight within a healthier BMI. Any suggestions as far as diet and exercise go? It's not as common to want to gain weight, but we skinny women are out there! Thanks.
— Looking to Add Lbs.

Thanks for writing in with your question. Although the majority of questions I receive are from women seeking weight loss advice, you are not alone. To see my advice on this topic, just


Problems with low body weight are very important to address in order to maintain good overall health. Being underweight is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 18.5. While the BM scale is not a perfect gauge of health, a BMI lower than 18.5 is almost always worrisome. Low body weight can be related to a wide range of medical issues such as eating disorders, serious bowel problems, and other chronic illnesses. It sounds like you are healthy, but are naturally very small. Even petite people should attempt to stay above a BMI of 18.5 for optimal health.

Weight gain can be difficult for very active people like you with a fast metabolism. Weight gain really boils down to a very basic formula: weight gain = calorie intake – calories burnt. This means that you need to eat more calories than you burn over the course of a day to gain weight. Here is an example of a calories per day calculator. You can go to the site and enter your height, weight, age, and activity level and it will estimate your daily caloric needs to maintain an even weight. To gain weight, you will need to eat more calories than that amount. A healthy amount of weight gain per week is about one pound. To gain one pound per week, you need to eat 3,500 more calories than you burned (3,500 calories = one pound).

The healthiest way to gain weight is to eat a well-rounded, protein-rich diet. You should opt for lean protein like fish and poultry. Another way to gain weight is to add strength training to your workout regimen in order to increase muscle mass. Foods to avoid include junks foods, processed foods, and foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. It might also help to increase the number of meals you eat per day to four or five instead of three. For some more helpful tips, check out these tips on healthy weight gain.

Have a question for DrSugar? Send it by private messaging me here, and I will forward it to the good doctor.

DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Join The Conversation
lilmisclare lilmisclare 7 years
Hotpink, I am totally with you on that! I'm about 5'3-4 and I weight around 103 pounds. I want to gain weight. I excercise and move around a lot, and I eat A LOT. People are always telling me I'm "So Skinny" and I "Need to Eat More".. I hate to admit it but it kills me a little inside everytime someone says it. I also agree with Allytta that why can't someone just be thin and very healthy??? by Nature??? That's a question I want answered my "Dr.Sugar". K
Allytta Allytta 8 years
is it really unhealthy if a person is thin by nature? if she eat right and doesn't overdo it with exercise? i think it's fine, if she's not sick and eating right - not everyone fits into the BMI frame of mind (which has been known to be kind of BS and not accurate at all).
gothamgal gothamgal 8 years
I normally don't read Dr. Sugar and you know why? I realized that it's because it's a nondescript male avatar! I think a female avatar would have resonated better for me.Today, for some reason, I thought I would give it a read and loved the readers' comments. I agree totally. Who is Dr. Sugar? Why is Dr. Sugar male or represented as such? Anyway, I quit reading after the first paragraph. Not that I couldn't relate (I couldn't but ...) it was pedestrian and predictable. To me. But probably good advice overall. Just the inverse of what's prescribed for someone who wants to lose weight. Back to my nap.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I had to gain weight because I was underweight...I was only 100 lbs at 5'3", so I put on a good 5-6 lbs to bring my body fat % up to a low-normal level. I did it by eating more complex carbs and cutting back a little on my cardio. I gained a little muscle mass as well, but I'm pretty sure it's because my body is naturally supposed to have a little more meat on it. Now that I'm a little heavier, I actually have an easier time maintaining my weight and I look a lot healthier as well.
soapbox soapbox 8 years
Thanks fit! I need to gain my weight back because I had just gotten over an ilness which caused me to lose a lot of weight. I'm 5'4" and I'm not even 100lbs. My doctor said that I was fine, but my weight loss has raised a lot of eyebrows and caused a few health issues. I've been eating more, but since I run, it hasn't been doing any good. I don't want to stop running, so I'll definitely try this.
hncarp00 hncarp00 8 years
Seriously, bad advice, Dr. Sugar! What you gave her is a recipe for weight-loss, not weight-gain. Gaining more muscle will up her metabolism even more, requiring more calories to maintain the little body fat she has now! Muscle, after all burns 50 calories (per pound, per day) whereas a pound of fat burns 2 calories (per day, per pound). Eating more lean proteins isn't the best way to gain weight. Eating healthy, whole-grain carbs is a great way to gain a little extra weight. Now, one of my dear friends who has difficulty keep weight on could only manage a six pound gain by moving to France for a semester. Her housemother was so concerned with her skinny frame (I know, and she's French) she insisted on 2nds. Well, when my friend came home (over Christmas) even with rich holiday fare, she wasn't able to maintain. So, investigate more varied, healthy carbs and perhaps a little rich French food as well. Peace
hottpink hottpink 8 years
I am glad someone asked this. I am only 5'2" and 100lbs. I eat healthy and exercise but my life is so busy and hectic. People roll my eyes when I complain about not being able to find clothes that fit but it really is a problem...I can't fit into a size petite zero :( I have no hips or butt!
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
Actually, I've been looking into this, too. I think I've been looking too scrawny (and less womanly). I would like to gain about one dress size (and go back up to a size 4 petite. I've been this size before, and I think I felt and looked my best). The way I'm doing this is increasing my servings of healthy carbs.
michlny michlny 8 years
I am similarly built and very active. To keep weight on - I eat very, very healthy foods but focus on nuts and lots of healthy fats - like avocado. It's a good idea to eat calorie dense foods like nuts, avocado, healthy grains - brown rice, quinoa, et al. Snack often! (healthy snacks only, of course :))
Shebelle Shebelle 8 years
I find it a bit strange that the answer Dr Sugar gives to this question is the exact same answer that he would give to somebody who wants to lose weight. To "Looking to add LBS": If you are using low-fat or sugar free products, cut those out of your life and go for the full-fat versions instead - that is healthier anyway. Also - if you like to drink - have a glass of wine with dinner every night, that also causes weight gain but at the same time is something doctors say is good for your heart. The only thing that I really agree with Dr Sugar on is the "eat more meals". A lot of people I know who are naturally very thin (but to a degree that they have health issues like feeling dizzy sometimes) only eat once or twice a day because they are too busy or simply not hungry. Try to eat healthy but higher in calorie snacks like walnuts or dried fruit. Make sure to get in at least breakfast, lunch and dinner.
lattegoodness lattegoodness 8 years
I've thought the same thing, nia.
nia0nia nia0nia 8 years
Who is Dr Sugar? Is Dr Sugar really a man? Is Dr Sugar just one person? The sugar website is full of women, women writters, women readers and commenters. Dr Sugar stands out as the only male sugar i 've come across. If he really is a real male person then great, if not, then the picture of the male doctor is just perpetuating gender stereotypes.
What Will Happen to My Body When I Stop Taking Birth Control Pills?
What Causes Digestive Issues During Menstrual Period?
Why Do My Feet Cramp?
From Our Partners
Latest Fitness
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds