Ask the Doctor: What can I do to gain some weight?

What you need to know:

  • A healthy BMI, a measure of body fat based on height and weight, at 60kgs is between 1.56 m -1.75 m for adult men and women.

I am a 29-year-old woman who despite doctor’s advice to eat fatty foods and get pregnant, I still weigh 60kgs. My other family members all have healthy weights and I would also want to add some weight. What can I do? Amina

Dear Amina,

Whereas you think it is diet and genetics alone that determine body size, other factors, including age, sex, lack of or exercising too much and use of drugs, among other factors, may determine a person’s body size.

Some people can eat fried foods and junk often and not exercise at all but may still not gain any weight. Others may exercise excessively and miss meals but still fail to lose weight.

It is likely that your need to gain some weight is cosmetic rather than a health measure. At 60kgs, your weight, depending on your height could still be healthy. Please check your height as well so that we can assess your healthy weight using a Body Mass Index (BMI).

A healthy BMI, a measure of body fat based on height and weight, at 60kgs is between 1.56 m -1.75 m for adult men and women.

If your BMI is as I indicated, do not worry since your weight then is healthy. Trying to gain weight even when you are small may still predispose you to disease conditions caused by too much cholesterol in the blood, including heart disease and stroke.

Healthy weight is achieved through physical activity, minimising stress and avoiding lifestyle factors which may raise one’s cholesterol. 

Putting an end to smoking, taking too much alcohol and eating fatty foods may also help.

Many women gain weight during pregnancy (due to a growing baby, storing fat and holding more water, among other reasons). However, when a woman delivers, depending on many factors, she may still lose this gained weight as could have happened to you.

Why do I feel sleepy after eating food?

Every time I eat, I feel weak and sleepy. This is a recent development and I am worried that since nowadays I eat in a restaurant, I am being drugged. Kasaija 

Dear Kasaija, 

Feeling sleepy after a meal (postprandial somnolence) is common in humans but since it does not cause any disruptions to one’s day-to-day activities, it is usually considered normal by many people.

Much as the type of food eaten (sugary or fatty foods) may be to blame, if food is eaten close to sleeping time, such food may elicit the feed, breed and sleep system (parasympathetic nervous system) into activity, where some blood from the brain will be sent to the gastro intestinal system to help digestion and food absorption, are some of the reasons more likely to cause one to sleep after a meal. 

If you have not had the problem before, another factor may be the cause of your sleepiness, requiring checking it out and dealing with it.

Other causes may include changing your diet to include milk and alcohol , daytime sleepiness after a bad night’s sleep, taking certain drugs which might be causing you more sleep, disease conditions including a poorly performing thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) low blood pressure, anaemia and diabetes.

Much as you think you are being drugged at the restaurant, first see your doctor to rule out the usual causes of your problems, some of which are mentioned above. 

Meanwhile, you should exercise and practice good sleep hygiene so that you sleep well at night to avoid a sleep debt being paid after eating. 

Changing your diet from the one that causes lots of sleep, hydrating yourself well, avoiding smoking and taking alcohol with or after meals, avoiding sleep-causing drugs, getting checked and treated for any cause of sleep after eating may also be helpful in solving your problem.