Mother-of-four and GP Clare Bailey answers YOUR questions

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I’m being skinny shamed – do I need to gain weight? Mother-of-four and GP Clare Bailey answers YOUR questions

Q I have a healthy diet and love to exercise, yet I find it hard to keep weight on. I am at the lower end of normal when it comes to BMI, at 19. But I dislike being ‘bony’ — I’ve experienced my share of skinny shaming! Friends and family tell me to ‘just have a burger’ or ‘consider yourself lucky’, but this really doesn’t help.

Junk food leaves me feeling sluggish. I love fresh, nutritious food but just can’t seem to get enough calories from my diet.

How can I put on weight in a healthy way, without resorting to cakes, crisps and biscuits?

A Your weight is in the normal and healthy range, and it is not OK for anyone to be made to feel bad about themselves. Your BMI (a measure of your weight for your height) is above 18.5, which is when doctors may start to get concerned.

Having a BMI below this does not necessarily mean you have a health problem, but it can increase your risk of problems like osteoporosis, fertility difficulties or poor immunity.

I don’t fancy piling into thick-crust pizzas, sugar-sweetened drinks and doughnuts, for although junk food can help put on weight, it will go to the wrong places and get stored as unhealthy tummy fat

This increases your risk of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Eating more junk food is also likely to make you depressed (File image)

This increases your risk of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Eating more junk food is also likely to make you depressed (File image)

I can empathise, because I am also on the slim side. Like you I don’t fancy piling into thick-crust pizzas, sugar-sweetened drinks and doughnuts, for although junk food can help put on weight, it will go to the wrong places and get stored as unhealthy tummy fat.

This increases your risk of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Eating more junk food is also likely to make you depressed.

So how can you increase your weight without compromising your health? Here are some tips:

  • Eat 100-120g high-quality protein daily in the form of eggs, meat, oily fish, legumes, tofu and dairy. This is key to maintaining a healthy immune system and strong, healthy muscles. Combining a higher protein diet with resistance exercises will build muscle mass. If you find it hard to hit these protein targets with food alone, consider adding high-quality protein shakes.
  • Increase your consumption of complex carbs, such as wholegrains, beans, pulses, nuts and vegetables, including root vegetables such as sweet potatoes.
  • Bump up the flavours to make food more interesting — this will encourage you to eat more.
  • If you feel full quickly, have smaller meals more often and eat at least three times a day. Snack on nuts, seeds, cheese or fruit.
  • Add energy-dense foods such as olive oil, full-fat milk, full-fat Greek yoghurt, dried fruit, avocados, hummus, peanut butter and dark chocolate
  • Drink calories. Add a nutritious low-sugar smoothie with plenty of protein and natural fat, such as milk and peanut butter.
  • Avoid drinking water before a meal. This can fill you up.
  • Get enough sleep and manage stress — both can reduce appetite, as does smoking.

The challenge is to be in the middle or near the lower range of BMI for your health. If you have sudden unintended weight loss, contact a health professional to exclude a medical cause.

Everyone knows oily fish is good for you — unless when pregnant. Then you’re told to eat no more than two portions of fish such as trout and mackerel each week as these can contain pollutants, which may harm the baby. But the risk is very small and far outweighed by the benefits, according to a study of more than 4,000 women. Jean Golding, co-author and emeritus professor of paediatric and perinatal epidemiology at the University of Bristol, said ‘there is evidence… that such advice can cause confusion’. She said advice should change from eating ‘no more than’ to ‘at least’ two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. 

Feed gut bacteria to ward off colds

Winter is coming — the peak season for colds. So now is the time to bolster your immunity by nourishing the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut.

A Mediterranean diet provides many of the vitamins and minerals your immune system needs, plus twice the fibre of a more processed Western diet. Think warming tomato and bean soup and grain-filled salads. You can also top up your good bacteria with probiotic supplements.

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