Not everyone's trying to shed kilos. Here's how you can gain weight

by Jennifer Bowden / 25 July, 2018

Photo/Getty Images

Jennifer Bowden has some tips for those, especially elderly people, who are trying to gain weight healthily.

Not all weight loss is desirable or intentional, a fact often overlooked in a society that praises the pursuit of thinness. It can be the result of a personal crisis or illness.

Indeed, unintended weight loss in people aged over 60 can be an early sign of prostate, ovarian, lung, pancreatic and colorectal cancers, according to a recent study in the British Journal of General Practice.

Being underweight can also be a matter of genetics. At the extreme end, British researchers found people with a specific set of genes on chromosome 16 were significantly more likely to be underweight, to the point that some children died of malnutrition and their parents were accused of neglect.

Often, however, being underweight is the result of not eating enough to fuel your body. For children who are active and still growing, one of the key risks of being underweight is long-term stunting; that is, not reaching full height potential.

The 2014/15 New Zealand Health Survey classified about 47,000 adults (1.3%) and 35,000 children (4.4%) as underweight or thin, with a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 or less.

If food intake doesn’t meet energy needs, there’s also a good chance that nutrient needs are not being met. Older adults are particularly at risk of developing malnutrition. This can increase their hospital stays, lengthen wound-healing time and reduce the ability to complete day-to-day tasks after a hospital stay.

A study published last year in the Australasian Journal on Ageing found 23% of older adults living in north-west Auckland were malnourished, and a further 35% were at high risk of malnutrition.

Malnutrition is not an inevitable side effect of ageing. Many octogenarians are fit, healthy and active. However, changes that occur with ageing, such as decreases in taste and smell sensitivity, deteriorating dental health, reduced physical activity, isolation and loneliness, and inability to shop or prepare food can promote malnutrition.

So, although the simple answer to gaining weight and staving off malnutrition is to eat more nutritious foods, older adults need to take a gentle approach to eating more. With these tips, they can promote both their health and happiness:

Eat more often. If you get full quickly, have five to six smaller meals each day, rather than two or three large ones.

Eat nutrient-rich foods. Wholegrain breads, pasta, cereals, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, lean meats, chicken, fish and eggs, along with nuts and seeds, are good choices.

Drink smart. Fluids can blunt your appetite, so rather than drinking before a meal, sip something with your meal or 30 minutes after a meal.

Try smoothies and shakes. These are a good way to consume more energy and nutrients without feeling full. Suggested ingredients include milk, yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, nuts and ground flaxseed.

Make every mouthful count. Add high-energy spreads such as nut butters and avocado to sandwiches, toast and muffins. Snack on nuts, dried fruit, cheese and crackers.

Find foods of the right texture. Use a food processor to grind up nuts and other foods and try cooking meat in a slow-cooker for a softer meal.

Add a dollop on top. Boost the energy content of meals by topping casseroles with grated cheese and potatoes with sour cream, adding milk powder or cheese to soups, and pouring a tablespoon or two of olive oil onto your meal after serving.

Enjoy sweets. Allow yourself ice cream, cake, chocolate or biscuits.

Get moving. Being active stimulates your appetite, so find ways to move more. Strength training, especially, is beneficial.

Be sociable. Join luncheon clubs, share a weekly meal with a neighbour or friend (taking turns as host) and accept offers of shared meals with your extended family. We eat more when we eat in company.

This article was first published in the July 7, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

Best of Wellington: What to do in the capital
98651 2018-11-15 00:00:00Z Travel

Best of Wellington: What to do in the capital

by Metro

A round-up of great things to do in Wellington, plus where to experience the best of capital culture and tips on where to stay.

Read more
Irish music star Damien Dempsey's spiritual connection with Aotearoa
99078 2018-11-14 14:27:13Z Music

Irish music star Damien Dempsey's spiritual connec…

by James Belfield

Damien Dempsey’s music recounts Ireland’s traumatic history, but it resonates half a world away in New Zealand.

Read more
Andrew Little announces decision to re-enter Pike River Mine
99051 2018-11-14 07:16:04Z Planet

Andrew Little announces decision to re-enter Pike …

by RNZ

Andrew Little says the plan to enter the drift at Pike River, using the existing access tunnel, was by far the safest option.

Read more
The NZ armed forces' toxic culture of impunity and cover-ups revealed
98957 2018-11-14 00:00:00Z Crime

The NZ armed forces' toxic culture of impunity and…

by Nicky Hager

Is a defence force that regularly covers up and denies wrongdoings among its ranks – from war crimes to drunkenness – operating above the law?

Read more
How Kiwi Anthony McCarten wrote the Queen movie Bohemian Rhapsody
98989 2018-11-14 00:00:00Z Movies

How Kiwi Anthony McCarten wrote the Queen movie Bo…

by Russell Baillie

New Zealand screenwriter Anthony McCarten talks about Bohemian Rhapsody, his second big film of 2018 after the Churchill drama Darkest Hour.

Read more
Excavated cult-horror film Suspiria is an ambitious failure
98994 2018-11-14 00:00:00Z Movies

Excavated cult-horror film Suspiria is an ambitiou…

by James Robins

Released in 1977, Dario Argento’s campy Suspiria was a landmark in cult horror. Now, director Luca Guadagnino has remade it in a new style.

Read more
Scottish-Bengali crime writer Abir Mukherjee on his 'cultural schizophrenia'
98517 2018-11-14 00:00:00Z Books

Scottish-Bengali crime writer Abir Mukherjee on hi…

by Craig Sisterson

Abir Mukherjee uses India’s painful struggle for independence as the backdrop for his Sam Wyndham detective stories.

Read more
Lunchtime legends: 5 hospo stalwarts on Auckland's restaurant evolution
93848 2018-11-14 00:00:00Z Auckland Eats

Lunchtime legends: 5 hospo stalwarts on Auckland's…

by Alice Neville

Restaurant veterans Chris Rupe, Krishna Botica, Tony Adcock, Geeling Ching and Judith Tabron reflect on the Auckland dining scene.

Read more