“Wait a Minute, I Can See Your Ribs!”

April 3, 2012 in Categories: by

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This, sadly, was not said to me.  My weight seems to be firmly entrenched 10-20 pounds heavier than I’d ideally like it to be.  I don’t know if it’s hormones, lifestyle factors, or a need for further diet tweaks that is stopping me from losing those last few pounds (or all of the above).  And I know ALOT of us deal with this same issue.  I am trying some new ideas to get beyond this body weight set-point, but this is a topic for a future post; I am off on a tangent. 

No, it wasn’t anyone else who said those words to me.  I said them.  I said them to my husband.  And then, I realized what I was saying.  Holy [expletive deleted], I can see my husband’s ribs!  Now, my husband has always been naturally thin.  He doesn’t need to lose weight, he needs to gain it (preferably in the form of muscle).  But all this healthy paleo food that I’m cooking (which tends to be on the low-carb side to help me reach my goals) seems to have resulted in my husband losing a couple of pounds (and this is after he lost weight with an illness a year and a half ago that he never regained and after he lost weight with his hernia repair last December which he never regained).  He just plain old isn’t eating enough.  He is lazy when it comes to preparing his own breakfast and packing his lunch.  He doesn’t have a big appetite (he probably is eating too low carb for what his goals are).  But my sudden realization has sparked some conversation about ways that he can eat more.

So, what do you do if you want to gain weight on a paleo dietA paleo diet already focusses on food quality, so really, the most important thing is to just eat more.  How much more?  Well, weight gain should be slow and steady so that hormones aren’t completely disrupted.  With my husband, I’m aiming for 25% more (we’ll evaluate in a month or two).  If you’re looking to gain weight from a plateau, 10% would be a better place to start.  The biggest challenge for my husband is that he just isn’t that hungry. 

So, what do you do if you just aren’t that hungry?  Increase your carbs.  Yes, I said more carbs, but I don’t mean go nuts and start eating tons of refined sugar.  For my husband, we’re aiming for 3-4 pieces of fruit per day (because more fructose stimulates appetite) and at least 1 big serving of a starchy vegetable.  Hopefully that should help him down those bigger servings at meals.

So, where should those extra calories come from?  From everywhere.  A bigger serving of everything, every time you eat.  We are tackling this with some specific “rules”.  For breakfast, we are trying smoothies, since that’s the easiest (and quickest to prepare) way to incorporate a lot of nutrition (and calories) in one easy to consume package (and incidentally, smoothies are not a great food if you are trying to lose weight).  The shake I made for him this morning contained:

  • 3 pastured eggs,
  • 1 cup homemade coconut milk (full-fat)
  • 1 large spoon almond butter (I would guess 2-3 Tbsp)
  • 1 banana
  • About 2 Tbsp frozen chopped spinach

I put everything except the banana into the large travel cup for my Magic Bullet and put it in the fridge for him the night before.  In the morning, he just had to peel a banana, add it to the cup, blend it for 15 seconds and that was it.  Yummy!  Actually, my 5-year old has decided that she likes these too!  My husband is adding a mid-morning snack (which he didn’t eat before) of homemade trail mix.  For lunch, my husband is either packing himself a healthy portion of leftovers from supper the night before or two sandwiches on paleo bread along with some fruit, some veggies and a paleo granola bar or muffin.  I am also putting more food on his plate at supper, including a starchy vegetable.


This seems like a pretty good amount for my husband to eat.  We’ll see how it works.  My husband has also recommitted to doing more exercise, including some strength training around the house so that the weight he puts on is more likely to be muscle.  I am optimistic that this will do the trick!


Finally, someone else trying to gain weight on paleo, I could have sworn I was the only one. No blogger ever talks about it. It’s a nice change of pace to read something that doesn’t revolve around “being healthy = losing weight”. Please keep posting about his progress.
Btw I’ve found strength training to help me want to eat a lot of food 🙂

Thanks! My husband is not very fond of strength training, but he’s forcing himself to do some (on threat of “or else all the weight you put on will be a pot belly!”).

Thanks for this post, it was very timely. We’ve been paleo for about 7 months now, and while I am struggling to lose weight, my husband is withering away at already 35 pounds lost. He does not need to lose any more weight and could stand to put on some muscle as well. I’m going to try your suggestions for him. He does not need to be low carb like me, so it’s a challenge fixing a meal that meats everyone’s needs. Basically, my husband and daughter can eat the good carbs, where I cannot even smell them or I gain 2 pounds!

Have you tried just eating non starchy veggies? We tend to overeat those things. Try to up your non starchy veggie intake. (Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, greens, salad, zucchini, yellow squash, spaghetti squash.)

I’m still playing with exact methodology. But here are the two ways I make it. Method #1: soak 1 cup of finely shredded unsweetened coconut in 2 cups water for 1 hour or more (I usually let it sit for 2-3 hours). Blend in a blender on high for 2-3 minutes. Pour through a fine metal sieve or cheese cloth or nut-milk bag to strain out the pulp. Method #2: mix 3 Tbsp coconut butter (also called coconut cream concentrate) with 1 cup water and blend on high for 1 minute. I like the flavor better the first way but the second way is more instant. 🙂

I am also on the lean side weighing in at 82kg. I started paleo this time last year and my weight plummeted to 69kg. Whilst it took a while for my body to settle down, it now sits at 74kg.
I think the biggest issue here is ego. Although I to would like to be a big fit looking human, I have been genetically designed to be lean and unfortunately there is nothing that I can do about it. I have to be happy with what I have. For the last 3 years I have done heavy weight training three times a week. I feel happy, healthy and think clearly after converting onto this new healthy way of living.
Just be careful with “eating more”. Remember we should only be eating .8 of a gram of protein per body weight kilo. Any more than that and the body metabolizes It into glucose. This in turn increases insulin levels in the body which is the cause of most illnesses including cancer.
Unfortunately these days the problem is that when people see that you are lean they think they are sick. But remember Paleolithic people were all lean and fit. They were the epitome of health.
Tell him not to worry about being lean. That was how he evolved to be. Remember, Lean=health.
Try him on a heavy weights programme. Once on it, it is addictive, just like paleo! He will put on a bit of weight. But more importantly he will be lean and healthy.

Thank you so much for this post! It’s helped us in our household where I am trying to lose weight with an auto immune condition and my husband stays rather underweight. This is great advice and we’re making it happen!

Yup, I’m in this boat too. I lost a little too much weight. Now I’m trying to put on a few pounds. Good think I like veggies and fruits!! 🙂 It’s the bacon that kills me. I eat too much bacon. Can’t help myself.

Thanks for this. We have been eating auto immune protocol and Paleo for 4 weeks and my 16 year old son has lost 5kgs (about 12 pounds). He is very thin already and definitely should not be losing weight. This has been concerning me but not sure how to increase his eating that will actually help him gain weight and muscle. He likes to work out as well but clearly his output of energy is more than his input of calories. Any other suggestions on how to help a teenage boy gain weight would be really appreciated 🙂

What suggestions would you have to gain (or maintain weight) for someone with a very sensitive stomach (IBS)? I’ve already lost enough weight and am losing a lot more since going Paleo. I’m currently trying the GAPS diet, but losing even more weight!

So glad you posted this. My boyfriend lost about 30 pounds on this journey and eats like me. I told him recently that he cannot eat like me, he needs larger portions. Then I asked him to read this post. I will work on upping his fruit and starchy food. His solution was to go back to his old ways and started eating gluten again. {shaking my head} He doesn’t have any autoimmune issues, but I think gluten is bad for EVERYONE!

My hubby is in the same boat. I adopted a paleo-ish diet to help with some digestive issues not to loose weight. But the hubs is not happy. He too is a small guy, lazy when it comes to cooking, and needs to put on the muscle. When I purged our home of gluten you would have thought the world had ended (Which didn’t last long. I caved and bought the gluten eaters their bread). I am very interested to see how this works out for your husband, and maybe some of us will get some helpful pointers.

I can’t wait to see how this comes out. My hubby has trouble maintaining his weight (keeping it on, not getting it off). Thanks.

What if it’s a child? My 13 year old son is just growing like crazy! I mean growing inches so fast their were urgent care visits for pain just to find out his bones are growing to fast for his muscle and he was having tendon pain in his joints!! He has grown almost a foot over the last 18 months sometimes up to a inch a week! He eats 90% paleo and is celiac, but he’s a kid so if he asks for a gf treat or a candy bar I dont say no but he is a super healthy eater by choice so this happens maybe once a week he is 5.4 and weighs 100lbs and is rail thin and see every bone! He eats a lot of carbs and smoothies and fruits and has a huge appetite. Any suggestions?

SO glad you reposted this, I don’t know how I’ve never seen it before! I’ve struggled with gaining weight my whole life. So starting paleo 2 years ago, has caused every single extra pound to melt away. I worked hard to get those extra pounds (but destroyed the inside of my body doing so) and nothing I seem to do now is working. Did you end up finding something that worked well?

I’d like to see an update to know if this worked for him. I have always struggled with being skinny. I always hear about weight loss, but weight gain is information that is hard to find. I’ve honestly just accepted that this is just the way God made me. I have an enormous appetite. My husband jokes and says that I have a fat woman living somewhere inside my body. I eat very healthy, and I eat alot! I just never seem to gain weight. This was even the case when I did not eat healthy. Even after having two babies, I dropped weight very quickly to my original weight. What people don’t realize is that looking at someone and saying, “Wow! You look like you NEVER eat!” is just as damaging as looking at someone and saying, “Wow! You look like you NEVER stop eating!”

I am already very large portions, am always hungry, snack on more nuts than i think I probably should, eat avocado and have increased my carbs (I even eat regular potato). I am still losing weight and my BMI is now below 17. Any hints?

I started at 170lb @5’9 and most people will say I’m thin already but I was more skinny fat. I eliminated wheat and lost 15lb in about 3 months, went Paleo and lost another 10 and found my six pack again. Wife got mad that I was too skinny. I was never hungry, plenty of energy, worked out better but she was unhappy. Started counting my calories and realized I was only taking in about 1,800/day. I had to intentionally increase my food intake. Just plainly eat more of good stuff. Managed to gain about 5 back so I’m at 150 now. Pretty much stuck here so the wife will have to live with a skinny but muscular me…

Some of us are just naturally what’s considered “Hard Gainers”. The bottom line is my blood work is great, Triglycerides is down to 80. Total cholesterol (>300) & LDL (>180) are through the roof but HS-CRP shows no inflammation (<0.1). I feel great, no more brain fog, thinking much more clearly at work, working out great at the gym. Stronger than I was 10 years ago. No more hay fever, no more skin breakouts, no more aches and pains, no more canker sores, no more plantar faciatis, no more bloated belly. Being a bit skinny (I prefer "lean") is not a bad price to pay for this. Not sure if I would change anything other than maybe put on another 5 lbs of muscle. Did I mention no more hay fever???

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