Eating To Gain Weight
( Originally Published 1921 )
In this and the following chapter we will consider the question of eating from the stand-point of changing the weight of the body, but before one sets about to change the weight of the body, with the view of attaining an ideal weight, he, or she, should know what the ideal weight is.
This question of the ideal weight must ever remain an individual one; no two people, even of the same sex are born with the same inherited capacities for bodily growth and development. Not only is there a difference in stature which once attained cannot be materially altered, but there are fundamental differences in build or type which should be considered. Some frames are heavier than others, the bones are actually larger; also there are differences in relative breadth of frame in relation to height.
The muscular development is far more within the control of the individual than the skeleton, or the size of the vital organs. Most people under civilized conditions are sadly lacking in muscular development; only a very few attain the full, maximum muscular development of which they are inherently capable. Almost all men, and more certainly all women, could materially improve the muscular development by muscular exercise. But even with the most thorough regime of physical exercise there will still be distinct differences in the degree or heaviness of muscular development. Some will develop large and exceedingly strong muscles; others, even with the same exercise, will develop muscles of a lighter type, perhaps adapted to dexterity and speed or wiry endurance. When all these facts are considered it is seen that any table of ideal weights, even properly arranged for heights and sex, will still fail as a guide for a particular individual. The far better source of knowledge from which to determine the ideal weight is a well trained conception of the ideal—or more properly ideals—for their distinct types—of physical beauty. This sense for bodily beauty is instinctive in us all, but may be cultivated by the observation of such beauty, as expressed by painters and sculptors, or even better, as observed from the development of living individuals or their photographs.
One point of caution only is needed—the ideals of physical beauty have not always been maintained upon the basis of the admiration of physical efficiency or muscular development. The ancient Greeks did maintain such ideals and the imitation of their art has done much to preserve these ideals even in ages when the original ideals of physical development were lost to a world struggling between the puritanical conception that everything connected with the body was indecent and unclean, and the licentious conception that the only physical beauty was that which would stimulate passion and lust.
The practice of the puritanical world has usually been to hide the body, particularly the female body, or to distort it with mutilations achieved by insane fashions in dress. Happily these absurdities have largely disappeared from the mind of the present generation and the styles in clothing of the present day, though by no means perfect, are more sensible and more artistic than anything that has prevailed since classic periods.
The absurd fashions, now happily disappearing, seem to have had a dual purpose. On the one hand was the puritanical element insisting upon the complete hiding of the form with a superabundance of clothing, and on the other hand the licentious element which attempted to exaggerate the distinctive features of the female form by restricting the waist and giving undue prominence to the bust and hips.
Some of the models used by artists, in this age of absurdity, were of the type that unduly accentuated this "femininity." Though artists rarely consented to paint or chisel the extreme hour-glass waists, many artists did take their models from feminine types entirely too exaggerated to be considered as ideals of physical fitness or to be considered beautiful to any other than the voluptuous mind. Other former paintings, especially of the Dutch artists, appear very ludicrous to us now, as their models were distinctly fat.
I dwell upon this point because I have found many women who think themselves under-weight and are always stuffing themselves in efforts to overcome their thinness, when as a matter of fact they are eating plenty of food and are fat enough, though they would be improved by a better muscular development.
In the case of men there is rarely any excuse for them to try to fatten themselves. With women we may be somewhat more lenient; al-though muscular development is always to be preferred to the acquisition of fat, yet some women are so built that they cannot maintain an attractive form wholly from the development of muscles. For such, at least, during the period of youth, the carrying of a moderate pro-portion of fatty tissue may be worth in personal satisfaction any injurious effects that might be caused by eating the additional food required to maintain such development. To argue that a woman should be so thin as to be unattractive to all men, in order that she might live longer, is a waste of words—she wouldn't want to live longer.
The most frequent cause of undue thinness or underweight is the lack of sufficient muscles; exercise and not diet must always remain the true remedy for such a lack. But there are cases in both sexes in which there is a lack of both fat and muscle tissue that may have a dietetic origin. In these instances of true under-nutrition, the trouble is usually not a question of insufficient eating, but of an impairment of digestion and assimilation through past dietetic errors. The mere effort to increase the food eaten may, indeed, in such cases have quite the opposite effect than that which is desired.
Before giving practical dietetic instructions for those who wish to gain weight, I want to call attention to one marked distinction between the problem of weight-gaining and the problem of weight reduction. In the case of weight reduction, dieting is a positive and infallible method; if one eats less of the fuel or fat forming foods than the daily functions of the body require, loss of weight must result. But in the contrary case the eating of more food will not always result in an increase of weight. More-over, while the loss of weight, for those who are too heavy, almost invariably results in physical benefit, the increase of weight on the , part of those who are undeveloped will not be of benefit unless the increase is largely in the form of useful active tissue rather than mere fat.
True under nutrition may be caused either by lack of sufficient food, a lack of properly proportioned and balanced food, or, a lack of ability properly to assimilate food eaten. In any case the first thing to do is to see that the diet contains all the necessary food ingredients and contains them in approximately the correct proportions. A diet so selected will usually remedy the trouble without any particular effort to eat a larger quantity than natural hunger calls for. Such a diet combined with the general program of hygienic living will remedy all ordinary cases of under-weight.
In particular instances where the digestion has been impaired, special diets will be needed to overcome such impairment. For this purpose there is no diet more worthy of a trial than the milk diet. Milk is one of the most digestible of our foods and unquestionably supplies nourishment in a very efficient form for the production of either muscular or fatty tissue. The milk diet has given splendid results in thousands of cases of under-weight and malnutrition. Such gains, however, may prove to be of a temporary nature, if the temporary milk diet is not followed by a permanent regime that includes both proper food and sufficient exercise.
One should not attempt to gain weight too rapidly, as the human being cannot be fattened like a pig, without producing an utterly worth-less form of tissue. If too great an amount of food is eaten the results will be quite opposite from weight gaining. Such deliberate over-eating was tested by English scientists; they pre-scribed for several subjects a diet of about 4,500 calories, and the subjects agreed to eat it and see what happened. They were healthy men, taking moderate exercise. For a few days they laid on fat rapidly. Then, in every case, the appetite failed and they had to force themselves to eat at all. They continued, however, until serious indigestion followed by diarrhea put them on the sick list. As a result they lost more weight than they had gained and were completely "knocked out" for some weeks.
The process of gaining weight should be one of growth, not of fattening, and the human body grows slowly; even in the most rapid growing period of youth, a gain of twenty pounds a year is a large one. The adult whose muscles and tissues have been destroyed by malnutrition or lack of exercise—or which never were developed —can grow new vital tissue the same as youth grows it; but the process is slow, and quicker increases in body weight must necessarily be of fat only which is not so desirable nor in many cases so easy to retain.
As evidence how little food is required beyond the body's daily consuming needs, in order to gain weight, we have only to figure out that if the nutrients of an extra glass of milk or two eggs a day were retained in the body, it would mean a gain of about five pounds a month or sixty pounds a year.
The following sample menus are of the type to use for the increase of weight. You should be able to make other menus of this sort from the general knowledge you have acquired from this book. It is assumed that in all weight gaining programs proper exercise for muscular development is to be taken.
As is noted three meals are suggested though many people will gain more on two than on three meals. It is not so much the quantity you eat as it is the amount that is eaten with a keen appetite. Also remember the necessity of partaking quite freely of liquids, especially at meal time. This suggestion does not include ice water. Hot drinks are usually preferable, though strong tea or coffee should be tabooed. Though not fattening, buttermilk can be used at each meal as a drink for a stomach tonic if it is appetizing.