Patience Is a Virtue

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By consuming the prescribed 500 to 1,000 additional calories per day, you should see some weight gain. Be sure to include muscle-building resistance exercise (weight workouts, push-ups) to promote muscular growth rather than just fat deposits. Consult with the trainer at your school, health club, or gym for a specific exercise program that suits your needs. You may also want to have your body fat routinely measured to make sure your weight gain is indeed mostly muscle, not fat. Untrained men might gain about 3 pounds (1.5 kg) of muscle per month initially. The rate of gain in well-trained athletes is slower.

If you don't gain weight, look at your family members to see if you inherited a naturally trim physique. If everyone is thin, accept your physique and concentrate on improving your athletic skills. Rather than drain your energy fretting about being too thin, capitalize on being light, swift, and agile. You will likely be able to surpass the heavier hulks that lack your speed.

Also keep in mind that most people gain weight with age. If you are still growing or are in your 20s, your turn to bulk up may still come. All too often, scrawny young athletes fatten up once they get out of school and start working. That's why I hesitate to encourage my clients to force-feed themselves. Doing so upsets the natural appetite regulatory mechanisms, and people lose the natural ability to stop eating when they are content.

Such was the case with Wes, a 30-year-old photographer and former football player. He reported with a sigh, "I was skinny all through high school. In college, my football coach insisted that I gain weight by eating extra buttered bread, piles of French fries, and mounds of ice cream. I developed quite a liking for these foods. I continued to eat them even after I'd reached my weight-gain goals. Voila—look at me now! I'm 60 pounds overweight and can barely walk, to say nothing of play football. I long for those days when I was lean and mean."

With a food plan that contained no fatty snacks or sugary soft drinks, Wes did lose weight over the course of a year. That fall, he coached an after-school football program. He advised the thin kids to be patient, eat healthfully, and develop smart, lifelong eating habits.

I offer you the same advice. To gain weight, you need to choose larger portions of healthful foods at meals and snacks, eat on a regular schedule—no skipped or skimpy meals—and be responsible. You need to work hard to eat your fill consistently. You also have to work hard at weightlifting and other muscle-building exercise.

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