Journey to Weight Gain and Body Positivity

Body image issues have reached new heights these past several years especially with the advent of social media, a platform to advertise ideal body types and seemingly perfect lives. While the struggle to lose weight is far more common especially in the Western world, I know from personal experience that weight gain is just as much of a battle for many. Before you expect to read a post entirely about fitness and "diet," I might as well note that this is also closely tied to mental health, self-care, and acceptance. So, with that minor disclaimer out of the way, read on and let's get vulnerable.

 My Body Image History
     Despite spending my whole life on the lower end of the scale, body image issues never really haunted me to an alarming extent. I was always aware of being “too skinny” as a child because adults back home would remind me quite frequently that I didn’t fit into Filipina beauty standards that hailed curvy figures, but flash forward to my teen years and my thin frame was much more accepted by Western ideals that praised thigh gaps, small waists, and flat stomachs – all of which my body naturally took form in. While I would still encounter the typical “anorexic” and “eat a burger” comments on occasion, they’d barely leave a scratch on my body image perception because I simply didn’t care enough to do something about my below-average physique.

     For as long as I can remember, I’ve weighed under 90 pounds which is slightly underweight but not worrisome enough for doctors to call it a problem, so I never felt the need to address it. It sure didn't stop me from wearing almost anything I wanted – from my favorite oversized sweaters to skintight tops and form-fitting jeans that I didn’t even have the curves to pull off. Needless to say, I felt comfortable enough with my body and just blamed my petite, shapeless figure and lack of assets on fast metabolism and unfortunate genes.

Mind Over Matter
     People often say that if you just take care of your body, it’ll take care of you – but for me, it was definitely the other way around. I took care of my mind before I ever did anything to my body. I picked up my love for writing right where I left it years ago. I eagerly sought newfound knowledge outside my field of interest. I took on a consistent hobby of reading recreationally. I’d hysterically laugh at the smallest things that no average human being would find amusing. I strengthened my relationships with old friends who have been with me since the beginning. And I was finally happy enough with who I am to share my life with someone else. Essentially, I spent these past few months living for myself. 

     Finding ways to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually will always be a never-ending process that radiates from within, but growing physically has a bit more tangibility in a sense that progress can be objectively measured and goals visibly attained. So, as my mind began to stabilize and build resilience, my desire to look physically healthier immediately soared – something I previously didn’t have the willpower to do. 

     I'm well aware that my level or state of mental health is much less complicated than someone who has had more severe struggles, so my take on this aspect of growth is simply a suggestion that may or may not help anyone. One thing I know for sure, however, is admitting to yourself that something is wrong is always a good place to start.
Weight Gain Process
     If you're already mentally and emotionally intact yet you still struggle to improve yourself physically, this is one of the many ways to do it – given that you have a decent understanding of your own body and how it reacts to certain regimes. Keep in mind that this is what personally worked for me, so it may not work for others. 

      Quick overview: I was always a picky eater with the smallest appetite but after keeping track of the food I put into my body and trying to consume 2,000 calories a day, I’ve acquired a much deeper appreciation for food. I increased my carb intake, started eating in larger portions, made sure I didn’t miss a meal, and simply savored the delectable taste of my favorite cuisines – all without feeling like I had to force myself. My appetite skyrocketed so drastically that my parents were surprised to see me eat like they’ve never seen before. Food wasn’t just a means to an end to me anymore – it became something that fueled my soul and encouraged me to lead a healthier, fuller lifestyle. All things considered, here's how I achieved my goal weight in a span of three to four months!

My Fitness Pal
     I truly never would've achieved these results if it weren't for this app called My Fitness Pal, which allows you to keep track of a multitude of components that I will try to address to the best of my abilities:

Food Diary
     The diary is separated into 6 categories (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, exercise, and water) to guide you through every meal and ensure that you get adequate exercise and consume enough water every day. Below is a blank food diary entry shown in the desktop version of My Fitness Pal. I personally think the iOS app is more convenient and user-friendly, but they both work fine and all the data will be synced either way if you log in. 

Food and Drink Entries
     This component requires you to manually enter every food or drink you consume. I know it sounds like a tedious chore, but it'll become a habit soon enough if you are really dedicated to making a change in your diet. What's great about this feature is that all you have to do is enter the name and/or brand of the food you ate and the app will already have it in its system 90% of the time. Every item in the drop-down will include the number of calories and % carbohydrates, protein, fat, sodium, vitamins, etc. of the food/drink you want to include in your diary. Having all these stats will help you hit the right amount of nutrients based on what the app has custom-calculated for you. If the system doesn't have the food you're looking for, you can enter the details based on its ingredients, but if that's too much of a hassle, you can just choose an item from the options that most closely resembles the food you consumed. 

     Here's a sample of one of my "cheat days." As you can see, I went way over my daily calorie goal of 2000 kcal as well as my macros intake, but if you're trying to gain weight, I'd say take advantage of all the cheat days you can have, but do make sure that you're trying to keep your nutrients balanced. It also helps that it tells you how much you would weigh in 5 weeks if you were to eat like this every day. It's largely hypothetical because you will likely eat differently every day, but it's a nice, encouraging aid to guide you through your weight gain experience.

     I don't really have an established diet because I don't like restricting myself from types of food that I enjoy eating, but here are some things that I do  consume on a fairly regular basis that allow me to hit my daily caloric intake:

  • 1 1/8-2 cups of white rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – 675-1200 kcal
  • 3-4 King's Hawaiian bread rolls as an alternative to rice for breakfast – 270-360 kcal
  • Some source of protein (usually chicken or any meat included in a Filipino dish) ~150-400 kcal
  • 2-3 steak tacos (Baja Fresh, Rubio's, or other local Mexican restaurants) – 460-690 kcal
  • 16-24 oz homemade smoothie (1 banana, 3-5 frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup milk, 1 teaspoon organic honey) ~300-400 kcal
  • 20 oz Taro milk tea (7 Leaves, Bon Épi, or Cha for Tea) ~400-500 kcal
  • Starbucks Grande Iced Green Tea Latte with caramel syrup – 290 kcal
  • 1 cup Tillamook Oregon Strawberry Ice Cream – 300 kcal
  • 2 cups of Indulgio hot cocoa mix or White Chocolate Mocha (mornings and nights) – 140 kcal

     Several combinations of these items typically satiate my everyday appetite as long as they amount to around 2000 kcal. I know they're heavy on carbs and fats which clearly made me gain weight effectively, but I can definitely try much harder to balance my macronutrients. For now, these are the kinds of food that have been significantly filling up my body.

Weekly Goals
     One of my favorite things about this app is that it's perfect for anyone with very limited knowledge of nutrition and fitness (a.k.a. me). According to your current weight, goal weight, weekly goal (how many pounds you want to gain or lose in a week), and activity level, it will generate calorie and macronutrient goals best suited to your needs. You can also adjust these settings to your liking, but I'd rather stick to what they advise.

Progress Tracker
     It can't be a fitness and nutrition app if it doesn't have a tool to track progress, so this one includes measurements for steps, weight, neck, waist, and hips along with a progress chart and a date range selection. You can also attach photos alongside your measurements to compare visible results, and it even comes with a "before and after" option in case you want to export your progress shots to social media. Below is my five-month progress from the end of March to the end of August. My starting weight was 86 lbs and it just went uphill from there until I reached my goal weight of 100 by June. It has been 9 months now and my weight has been stable at around 105 lbs ever since. 

     There will definitely be periods of stagnation and fluctuation, but that's nothing to fret about because ultimately, the numbers are only meant to point you in the right direction. The most important part is that you feel revitalized and constantly driven to achieve a healthier lifestyle. 
From end of March to end of August
86 lbs, 93 lbs, 97 lbs, 100 lbs, 105 lbs
    These photos don't do it justice, but my thighs and hips were definitely the first to show changes. Half of the shorts in my collection don't fit anymore, which is why I've put them up for sale on my Vinted closet. Regardless, I still want to gain just a bit more weight until I start establishing a workout routine and a healthier diet. While my body isn’t nearly where I want it to be yet, it’s enough for me to actually love it rather than just be content with it, which honestly makes a vast difference. I didn’t need to take on drastic measures to achieve this progress because my desire to look good stemmed from internally feeling good. I don’t weigh myself every day/take frequent measurements, nor do I get upset when I don’t reach my daily caloric intake because the process, as I said, is far more gratifying than the results. Based on my doctor visits, laboratory test results, and my own intuition, this is the healthiest I’ve ever been in all aspects of my well-being and that’s more than enough for me to keep progressing.
December 2017
     It's quite incredible to see that it was only a few months ago when I achieved a clinically normal weight, as in for the first time in my life, the scale displayed three digits. My thighs now touch as the glorified thigh gap is slowly diminishing. My waist and hip measurements have reached new lengths. My favorite pairs of Daisy Dukes and distressed jeans perfectly hug my lower extremities like I’ve always wished they would. Needless to say, I started gaining (happy) weight… and I owe it all to these past several months of profound reflection, heightened self-awareness, and growing acceptance of imperfection.

     As exciting as it is to see objective progress through numbers, don't obsess over the measurements because you'll end up relentlessly looking for results rather than enjoying the process. Remember that improving yourself on a physical aspect is a substantial part of self-growth, and self-growth is all about the journey or everything in between, not the outcome. Savor what you put into your body and think of food as a nourishment for both your body and soul rather than a means to reach your goal.

     Weight gain is only the first step in my expanding body positivity agenda. There's much that I need to learn about constructing a healthier and more balanced diet and adopting a physical activity regimen to further cultivate my drive for a happier body and mind. 

     If you've gotten this far into this extensive, elaborate post, I sincerely hope it ignited inspiration somehow and will perhaps help you start thinking about ways to move towards a positive change. Your version of "body goals" won't be attained if there's no healthy mind to go along with it. As difficult as it is to dig for motivation, know that the only way to start – is to start.

Happy New Year! 

Have an incredible year ahead filled with plenty of self-love, gratitude, and humility.



  1. Your healthy progress is very inspiring. I like your comprehensive approach. It's great seeing your progress in photos from March through December. You look fabulous in those December 2017 photos!!! I hope your year 2018 has been going well and that you have a wonderful year 2019 too!


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An Irvine-based style & beauty blogger

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