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How to know if you really need to gain weight?

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I am 5'4 and weight about 103.  I am small framed.  I have a history of anorexia however, I've done well for about 8 years now.  But I am not sure how I am right now.  I eat different things, I eat things I would have never eaten in years past, but everything is very controlled.  I eat mostly healthy but will quite often "allow" myself pizza, chocolate, dessert, however I NEVER eat spontaneously - was surrounded by holiday treats at work and would not touch one thing, even though I would have liked something.  I get into ruts with my eating (seem to eat the same breakfast and lunch everyday) - dinner does vary though.  I do get my period.

So, I guess my mind is playing games as to whether or not I really need to gain weight.  I function very well, I can exercise (just strength training and yoga) without wearing myself out.  I keep up with my kids.  My mind keeps saying...I just a small framed healthy person and don't need to gain?

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You know you need to gain weight. Your BMI is 17.5. You're at risk of osteoporosis and a lowered immune system/white blood cell count among so other things at your weight. Furthermore, your long history with anorexia means you need the weight to at least try and repair what will be an inevitably harmed body. You need to gain. "Small frame" is an excuse put forward by your ED and I have a feeling you know that.

Getting back on the wagon....

Reread this thread again; it covers everything for you. And don't cheat yourself. This is the only body you will ever have.

My mom who was a naturally thin person at 5'5" all her life and very healthy, barely weighed in at 100 lbs until her 30s now is taking a variety of drugs to help build up her calcium levels in addition to weight training several times per week.  You really do suffer later for the things that happen deliberately or accidentally in your youth.

actually lala she doesn't risk osteoperosis if she is getting her period. the reason osteoperosis becomes a risk is because when menstruation stops it indicates that oestrogen is no longer circulating, which means calcium is being stripped  off the bones. so while the op is slight it is in fact a fair indication that she is healthy.

you may or may not wish to gain weight, but it may also be your natural hovering point. what is your rough cal intake. no one can make you be more spontaneous only you..... you can and must decide if you want to change the rigidity of your diet.

Whoops. I missed that.

I'm a bit confused now, since I get my period maybe that should be my indicator of where my body should be?  I hate trying to decipher rational thoughts and ed thoughts.  My ed goes  back 20 years so I have a hard time with it.

Are you using birth control? because that will give you a 'phantom' period no matter what which is not an indication of health. I would recommend gaining a bit at least to see if that helps your mindset at all, not to mention the health benefits of being at a healthier bmi. also, with your history of anorexia, if gaining does Not help your mindset and you continue to be so rigid with food I don't think it would be out of line just to touch base with a counselor and talk about what you've been feeling, lest it spiral. 

I have an IUD (Mirena) that is screwing with my period (but I'm still getting it).  I look back at pre-ed, when I ate what I wanted and I maintained around 115-120 (didn't really watch it but I know it was in that range - how I long for the days where I didn't care!!!!).

mirena releases hormones, so your period is not real.  hence, you cannot tell if you are at a healthy weight just because you are getting your period.



If you are small framed then it is possible to have a BMI of 17.5 without starving yourself, where as a larger framed women would need to starve to attain a BMI that low.

Your BMI if 17.5 - it is SO CLOSE to the lowest point in the healthy range ( which is 18.5) that you SHOULD try to gain the weight for health reasons.

Many experts have proven that even small framed people who feel perfectly fit and healthy DO benefit from gaining weight

You do not have to gain heaps - you are small framed so gaining to a BMI of 19 would make a huge difference!

I WAS THE SAME HEIGHT AND WEIGHT AS YOU for most of this year and all of 2007... I thought I felt fine too, but after I gained a little weight I notices a HUGE difference

So, even if you feel perfectly fine now, it is 100% guaranteed that your body WILL benefit if you gained a little weight, nothing huge, just to a BMI of at least 18.5.

Trust me, I know plenty of people, including myself, who felt healthy with a BMI like yours who then felt much better once they gained a little weight!

Just because you “ feel” fine does not mean that you are not at risk of the problems associated with being underweight.

And how do you know you should gain weight? Well, you have made this post which sounds to me a part of you IS concerned and KNOWS that a tiny bit of extra weight would be better for you.

It does not mean you are not small framed or naturally thin, but even naturally thin people like us benefit from gaining weight; trust me, I have been in a similar position to you and I asked this same question you are asking, because deep down I knew I needed to gain a little despite my old ED voice telling me I was fine the way I was.

Wow, your post really hit home.  I think I am trying very hard to rationalize not changing my habits right now which is a bit frightening at the moment.  The way you worded things really helped me see that - it helps so much to know there's someone like me and that you did feel better with a little added weight.  I know that when I was discharged from IP in 2000, after having regained 40 pounds (going from 76 to 115) I felt the best I'd felt in over 10 years.  So, I'll give it a go and see what happens this time around.  Thanks again.

your eating habits and stats sound similair to a post a i made back in 2007, except i never had a history of anorexia.  maybe you can relate to my story or not.  i hope someone finds this post helpful.

since i continued my habits  (similair to yours) without concern, i found myself to continue to lose unintentional weight to as low as 94-96 pounds and i STILL had my period monthly without fail so i still didn't worry about it.  (btw  i have never been on any form of birth control other than condoms).  however, if i am honest with myself, that is not a sign that i am healthy at this weight.

my fiance had a heart to heart with me recently.  he was actually really scared to bring up his concern for my weight, as he knows that i am have a bad self image.  i didn't know, but he's been really worried for a long time.  he says i seem frail, as if i would break.  now i am NOT one of those pictures of skeletal anorexics. with my clothes on, no one has ever told me i look too thin. 

but he took pictures of my back while i'm bending over to show me how prominent my rib cage looks from the back when i'm not standing perfectly straight.  typically i can see is that from the front, no bones show unless i lift my arms or breathe in so i look normal (if not a bit of a round tummy). he is trying very hard to encourage me to put on weight and i am reluctantly trying.   i think it would have been easier if i hadn't gotten this low to begin with, back when i was first wondering if maybe i could stand to gain back a few pounds.

looking back over the last couple years if i'm really honest, i can say this.  i get cold ridiculously easy.  i  sometimes get dizzy when i get up quickly or out of the shower. i seem to forget details more easily.  i seem to get distracted and lose concentration.  i used to make more sharp witty comments and come up with lots more creative ideas and projects.  i used to enjoy brain puzzles and now i notice i slip up and make more simple, messy mistakes than i used to.  i get less sleep and have less energy.

 most of all, i have definately gotten more easily depressed and less motivated and enthusiastic about many things i used to do.  it's really hard for me to admit all these more subtle changes.  it's not like i became a total zombie, but i am really the same person i was before the weight loss?  is it all attributed to the loss of weight?  maybe not all but i think the connect must definately be there.  i don't want to admit it, i have always taken secret pride in my mental agility and work performance, so it's very difficult to acknowledge myself faltering in that department.  also admitting it means i need to change my habits and my food rules were a source of comfort. 

my rules were typical "healthy" diet rules but i follow them apparently way too strictly or don't include that "moderation" clause often enough, because we're talking normal rules like no hydrogenated or heavily processed food products, no adding extra sugar, salt, butter, sweets/treats in small regulated amounts, small frequent meals, 1200+ calories ect...with a few vegetarian add-ons such as no meat.

in short, i think you should lighten up on your food rules.

i'm still struggling with trying to change my focus from diet, nutrition, body, health, to things like work, family, friends, hobbies.  its a lot easier to eat without guilt or rules, when i am focused on something else.  i find eating with loved ones, although a bit expensive to eat out a lot, is a lot easier than at home to relax my rules and not think about it.   


i don't come to this forum much anymore as part of my resolve to actually change my habits and obsessing this year but your post struck a cord with me and i'm more determined to allow myself to let go of structured eating and gain weight.

anyway sorry for the long post and i wish you good luck and a happy, healthy (physically and mentally) new year!


Well, if you have already gained 40 pounds and felt better, then gaining a few extra pounds now won’t be that bad then will it!? Just a tiny bit of weight to put you in the healthy range of at least 18.5.

I’d recommend a BMI of 19, you are small framed so if you feel fine at that weight then you could just stop gaining at that point/

You are almost there, so why not reach that target BMI since you are already so close to it?

I know it is hard to rationalize gaining when you don’t feel sick or unhealthy, but it has been proven that perfectly healthy people who are under weight benefit from gaining even a little bit

Whenever you see some one thinner then you or see an add with a starving child on it, do not let it make you feel less worthy of gaining weight - you HAVE the choice to do something healthy, and the fact that other underweight people are not trying or cannot afford/access the food does not mean you should not take ADVANTAGE of your choice! Don’t let other people’s situations influence your choices in life and hold you back from achieving something!

Just remember to use a lot of self talk - talk to those irrational annoying voices that tell you reasons you don’t need to gain weight; tell the voices to get stuffed because you know best, and medical experts know better then that voice who does not value the health benefits of gaining even a tiny bit of weight.

There are a small % of people who cannot gain weight and have so much trouble gaining that they have to have medical assistance so at least you CAN gain weight without resorting to such drastic measures!

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