Gaining weight on Paleo/GAPS/SCD

When I first started following my grain-free, dairy-free, added (cane) sugar-free, preservative-free, additive-free, nightshade-free, added anything-free lifestyle (i.e. eating real food), I faced a challenge that most people on a “diet” don’t have to consider: how to gain weight.  While losing weight is certainly difficult and frustrating for a lot of individuals, gaining weight can be equally so.  When I was acutely ill earlier this year, I lost 12 pounds, which was 9.2% of my total body weight.  I’m 5’6″ and 12 pounds really is quite a bit on my smaller frame.  Every time I went to the doctor, I wanted to scream when the medical assistant would cheerfully announce, “My goodness, you’ve lost some more weight!”  I was not excited about that to say the least and I certainly was not doing it on purpose.  As a female athlete, I’ve always found it challenging to put on healthy weight and, ironically, I was celebrating hitting 130 pounds a mere month before I became ill.  When I started this lifestyle, stopping the weight loss and gaining weight back was a priority.

Throughout the course of my research into Paleo, GAPS, and SCD, I’ve heard it said that these lifestyles cause weight stabilization and allow you to reach an ideal body weight.  So, if you begin the diet and you need to lose weight, weight loss will occur if you adhere strictly to the diet.  Similarly, if you need to gain weight, the diet will correct the underlying cause of malabsorption and allow your body’s nutrient needs to be met and you will eventually gain any necessary weight.  Although I believe that there is some truth to the idea that these lifestyles allow weight stabilization to occur as they eliminate unnecessary processed products and replace them with vital nutrients that heal the body, as with all things, it does require some amount of conscious effort.  Even within the lifestyle, there are wide variations of the foods that you can choose to eat, as well as the overall macronutrient composition of your diet (percentage of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats consumed).  Gaining weight, just as losing weight, doesn’t always just happen.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’ve pieced together aspects of Paleo, GAPS, and SCD that I use to maintain my health.  As time goes by, I find myself leaning towards Paleo, with some GAPS influences, for reasons that I will save for a later post.  They are all very similar diets with a few variations on what is allowed versus not permitted.  However, I do believe the GAPS/SCD intro diet is critical if you have any autoimmune or digestive issues. Regardless if you are following Paleo, GAPS, or SCD, the following tips will assist you in your weight gain journey:

–Lose the fat phobia!  Before I started the Paleo lifestyle, I believed that I followed a very healthy diet.  I followed “clean eating” principles, so I eliminated most processed foods and I was a vegetarian.  I also fell into the “low fat” trap common among anyone who has listened to the dogma of USDA food recommendations.  I made almost all of my food choices “low fat” or “no fat”, if there was an option.  On rare occasions, I would indulge in a special treat, but that was very rare and I admit that there was sometimes a small amount of guilt associated with it.  One of the most freeing aspects of this lifestyle is not having any feelings of guilt, hesitation, or regret over what I eat anymore.  I now realize that fat is not something to be feared!  Fats and cholesterol are necessary for your body and there are a whole host of reasons why “low fat” or “no fat” products are not healthy choices.  Fats are the most calorie-dense source of nutrition and you need to incorporate more healthy fats into your diet, especially if your goal is to gain weight.  Approximately 55-65% of my daily caloric intake comes from fats depending on the day.

–Eat more!  In order to gain weight, your calorie intake has to be higher than your energy output.  You can increase your calorie intake by eating more food, eating more often, and/or eating more calorie-dense foods, such as fats.  For someone suffering from autoimmune disease, it is often difficult to eat a great deal more food.  Personally, I find that eating 3 meals a day with several snacks in-between works well for me.  I make sure that the snacks are calorie/nutrient-dense (examples to follow).  I also recommend using an online food diary and calorie tracker in order to keep track of your calorie intake.  There are several free online sites and apps available.  I have used a few and I recommend My Fitness Pal for the ease of use and the integration with the iPhone app.

–Add calorie-dense fats and foods!  There are several ways that you can go about adding calorie-dense fats and foods into your diet. 

  • Meats:  When choosing meats, make sure to choose the fatter cuts instead of leaner cuts of meat.  While meats such as bison and wild game are healthy choices to incorporate into your diet, be aware that they do not have as much fat as other meats and you should not rely on them exclusively.  When eating chicken and poultry, leave the skin on to add extra fat.
  • Oils:  Don’t be afraid to add in a bit extra of healthy oils while cooking and baking.  I often use olive oil as a topping for my eggs in the morning and also as a dressing for salads and sides throughout the day.  Coconut oil is a favorite of mine and I add it to a lot of my snacks and dishes.  When making fruit smoothies, I often add a tablespoon or two.  Recently, I’ve been eating a lot of pumpkin puree and I always add in a decent amount of coconut oil.  Coconut oil is also a great oil with which to cook and bake, as it holds up well to high temperatures (as opposed to olive oil, which is not as stable of a fat and should only be used for low-heat cooking).
  • Nuts and Nut Butters:  Nuts are very calorie-dense and a great source of healthy fats.  I often eat raw almonds, pecans, and walnuts for a snack.  Nut butters are also a good choice if you are trying to gain weight.  However, if the diet does not seem to be working for you, be aware that nuts are sometimes a trigger food for those with auto-immune disease.
  • Coconut Milk:  I avoid all dairy products and use coconut milk as a substitute.  It has a high fat content and can help you to gain weight.  However, be very careful if you are attempting to buy coconut milk at the grocery store.  A lot of coconut milk products have additives and preservatives.  Canned coconut milk is one of the few “packaged” products that I buy.  I purchase it from Trader Joe’s and it contains no preservatives or additives.  As an alternative, you could make homemade coconut milk.
  • Avocados:  Avocados have a much higher monounsaturated fat content than most other types of fruit.  It is also a very versitile food that can be incorporated into smoothies, salsa, salads, and even pudding!  Yes, an avocado pudding…this is one of my favorite snacks and something that I will feature as a recipe soon.
  • Olives:  Olives are another fruit that are higher in fat.  I enjoy eating olives by themselves or using them in salads and other dishes.

–Balance your energy output!  When you are trying to gain weight, especially shortly after a flare or episode of illness, you may want to consider taking it easy for a while.  Now is probably not the time to be starting a new sport or exercise program.  If you already exercise regularly, consider cutting down on cardiovascular endurance activities.  It is also very important that you get plenty of sleep.

These are all tips that have helped me to gain weight.  I admit that I still have not gained as much weight back as I would like.  I’m currently at 124 pounds, so I’ve gained 6 lbs back that I had lost.  Ideally, I would like to gain at least another 4 pounds.  My clothes are fitting again and I do feel good though, so I’m not watching the scale quite as closely.  Gaining weight can certainly be quite a challenge for some of us!  How about you?  I would love to hear from you about your challenges and tips in gaining weight while following this lifesyle.

About these ads

20 thoughts on “Gaining weight on Paleo/GAPS/SCD

  1. Great advice. Much of which I followed myself. As you asked – one tip I can offer is to also check for candida. I followed some great SCD/GAPs/C&C diets (most of which work for me now), but could still not gain weight. It was not until I went on a strict candida diet, in stages, for 3 months that I found the weight returned. Once I finished the diet, and moved on to a whole food, preservative free, sugar free, wheat free, dairty free diet, I was amazed how quickly my healthy weight returned (even with a fair amount of cheating on the side)!

    Thanks for posting!

  2. I’m in that struggle now too. I’ve dropped 10-11 pounds in the last 2 months and I’m starting to swim in my clothes again… I just bought more nuts today to try and get my calories up. Good idea about adding oils to smoothies. I find there are a lot of things that can be disguised in my protein shake (spinach, flax oil…)!

    • I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling with the weight loss too. It is very frustrating, but it sounds like you are on the right track. I find that if I log my food, it really helps me to remember to eat more/more calories. Hope you start gaining soon!

  3. Weight gain is exactly my problem. I feel like an alien in the weight loss world and love to see there are others like me. One word of caution on healthy fats: I had a period of time when I indulged in butter and was happy to see the weight going up. I have ended up with ridiculously high cholelsterol (my doctor showed signes of heart attack when reviewing the lab results, not me) and had to go to much more moderate quantities. Replaced the caloric intake by oats (not so paleo but what the hell, it still is real food and it works for leaky gut syndrome too) and I am sloooowly gaining since

    • Hi Martin! I’m sorry about your experience with the butter–all things in moderation :) There are different schools of thought about high cholesterol…this is one of them: I wouldn’t completely write off “fats” in general. I do well on a diet that is 55% – 70% fat. Unfortunately, oats are not permitted on paleo, SCD, or GAPS. They are still a grain and they do have anti-nutrients that can contribute to leaky gut (not help it). If you are going to eat them, I would recommend soaking them to remove the anti-nutrients. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

  4. Hi, i am having this exact problem right now, been following the gaps diet for a while and seen some good improvements to my allergies. After losing weight when i first started i just cant seem to put it back on. My Doctor has been so worried and urged me to change my diet to put on weight. So i started eating potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips again. I felt terrible all my symptoms came back. I am hoping once i sort my gut problems out the weight will come. Great post by the way, very helpful. Dean

    • Hi Dean- I’m glad you found this post helpful! I think you have the right idea- once you get your GI issues under control, the diet will help to balance your weight. Hang in there and let me know if I can be of any assistance.

  5. I have been on GAPS diet for about 10 months now. Initially, I lost a few pounds, which I could stand to lose. However, over the past 2 months, I’ve gained back all the weight I lost, plus a bit more and now am back into my pre-GAPS clothes, which is not a good thing. I am NOT pigging out on GAPS snacks. The bulk of my diet is meat, fats, veggies, and I feel hungry and unsatisfied all day. I’m working on yeast overgrowth and eat little to no fruit. No honey. I’m seriously worried because I’m gaining 1 to 2 pounds a week.

    • Hi Nancy- I’m sure that must be very frustrating. Without knowing more about you and what is going on with your health, it’s hard to say what the culprit could be. If you feel hungry and unsatisfied, that is a sign that your macronutrient ratio is off. Are you getting enough fat? What type of veggies are you eating? Are you getting enough carbs? There can also be a hormonal component to weight gain…

  6. Thank you for the help! I’m struggling with weight loss as well. My husband tells me I’m waisting away to nothing. I started out thin and at last check I had lost 12 pounds. I really need to stop losing. A couple months ago I went out and bought new pants because mine were falling off of me without a belt. Now those new pants are very loose and I need to go shopping again! I’ve never been this thin before. I’m checking into the candida thing and will be trying to eat more fatty meats and adding more coconut oil to my diet and using my fitness pal.

  7. Hi Katy thanks so much for posting this information and helping others with similar issues. I am one of them who is under weight and have been for about 1 and half years now. Since my digestive and candida symptoms got severe around that time i could hardly eat anything and it took me a long time to find out what was wrong. Doctors thought it was my gallbladder but they found it to be all normal including all my other digestive organs and basically just said its indigestion and ibs. Anyway I have kept losing weight since I was first ill and have had good and bad times but since moving to candida diet/GAPS diet I have seen an amazing improvement of digestion and i am pain free and stress free from any bloating etc but am still worried about my weight. I am trying to increase fats in my diet now and I will stick to making lots of meat bone stock and casseroles. I have a fast metabolism and always have been a thin woman but i literally look anorexic with collar bones pertruding and none of my clothes fit either. I am a uk size 4/6 and even then sometimes the clothes are baggy. I need more advise on other ways to gain weight or slow my metabolism down? Thanks so much for your already amazing advise, I’ve taken to eating alot more macadamia nuts and almonds and coconut oil too.

  8. Thanks for this info, it’s good to know I’m not alone! I’ve been on gaps/clean diet for 40 days and I’ve lost way too much weight. I want to cry every morning on the scale…and I’m already maxing out my food (and time) budget every day just trying to do the right things. I wish there were fat pills I could take!

  9. It is a relief to read this! I have been on GAPS for about 1.5 years – I moved ahead too quickly and have had to go back to stage 1 recently. I’m following a ‘candida style’ stage 1 with no fruit, dairy or honey as these cause problems. I’m 5’6 1/2 and down to 117 Ibs in the last few weeks. Previous to this I was about 122Ibs but still too skinny. I want to get up to 130Ibs. I already eat tons of fat. Maybe I have to accept losing during these strict stages and look forward to gaining it in the future? I feel weak and miss being a little more curvy!! It is so frustrating! I also feel hungry every 2 hours like I can’t get enough. People glare at me when I say I want to gain weight in the skinny obsessed culture. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Haley- I know that unintentional weight loss can be frustrating. Have you looked at portion sizes and the volume of food you are eating? Also, if you are feeling hungry every 2 hours, that typically indicates a lack of fat. I know that you mentioned you eat “tons of fat”, but I often find that clients underestimate how much fat they need or that they are getting through their diet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s