Do people often comment on how skinny you are, including strangers, some even asking if you’re anorexic?

This include that age-old joke: “If you swallowed a marble, you’d look nine months pregnant.”

When I was a personal trainer I worked with women who were believed to be anorexic, but were not.

How to Gain Weight so that People Don’t Think You Have Anorexia Nervosa

Have you been told to “just eat more”? This is what I’m going to tell you to do, even though you may have found this advice to be impractical or ambiguous.

Make a food diary for a few weeks to see if you’re eating a lot less than you think you are.

  • Every “anorexic” woman I’ve worked with turns out to be eating less than she thinks she is.
  • She’s not necessarily eating like a bird, but their food diary reveals there’s plenty of opportunities to add calories.

Increase consumption of high calorie but healthy foods. For example, eat nuts and seeds.

  • Add chopped walnuts or almonds, or pine nuts (extremely high in calories) to salads and to rice.
  • Add pine nuts or chopped walnuts to ground turkey, ground chicken or ground beef.

Replace grain fed beef with grass fed. Healthier meats are better for adding muscle.

Have one protein-fruit smoothie a day. Smoothie recipes vary quite a bit, but whichever you choose (this can also include using a juicer rather than a blender), add a scoop or two of flavored protein powder.

  • Then add two tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Mix everything really well.
  • The olive oil adds 240 calories and 28 grams of healthy fats, but trust me on this: You will NOT taste it!

Do you like chocolate? After a workout, have 16 ounces of chocolate milk with three tablespoons of chocolate syrup and one-quarter cup of chocolate, vanilla or mint ice cream.

The calorie total is significant, and many of those calories will go to muscle recovery.

Don’t like chocolate? Have a strawberry, mint or vanilla milkshake: whole milk + ice cream + juiced strawberries, mint flavoring or vanilla yogurt/vanilla flavoring.

Do NOT pig out on junk food. A milkshake after a hard workout does not qualify as pigging out on junk food because it’s a post-workout meal, and the rest of your meals should focus on healthy foods: whole sources of meats, poultry and fish; nuts and seeds; whole sources of grains and legumes like rice, potatoes, lentils, beans, barley, quinoa and oats.

Add all-natural butter or creams for extra flavor and calories. Also eat eggs.

Weight Gain from Strength Training

If you’ve already been doing this and people are still asking if you’re anorexic, you’re not doing the right exercises and/or are not working out hard enough (and probably not eating enough).

Shutterstock/Just dance

To transform that anorexic look to a lean, healthy look, do the following exercises two or three times a week:



Leg press

Bench press

Dumbbell or barbell shoulder press

Lat pull-down

Seated row

Shutterstock/Tyler Olson



Shutterstock/Syda Productions, katemangostar

Though I’ve written about how these exercises are total fat-burners, this isn’t the same as making someone skinny or keeping someone looking like they’re anorexic.

A person with low body fat doesn’t necessarily look anorexic. In fact, ever hear of the “skinny-fat” body? This is a thin person who looks soft and frail.

The above compound exercises will build lean muscle (healthy weight gain) and burn a lot of fat, and if you initially “look anorexic,” this will change. You’ll develop shapely, healthy-looking muscle. And here is why you will not bulk up.

It may seem counterintuitive that if an “anorexic looking” woman wants to gain weight, she shouldn’t do fat-burning exercises.

But the compound strength training routines above will build muscle size while burning fat. The end result will be a “curvy lean” body, not a “scary skinny” body, as you make progress.

Over time, if you desire, you can make your body appear “lean” rather than “skinny.”

A lean body of shapely, strong muscle may be 20 pounds heavier than your current “anorexic” body, yet have LESS body fat!

It’s all about body composition.

Muscle Weight Gain Formula

When I say muscle weight gain here, I don’t mean bulking. I mean a weight gain that will transform an anorexic-looking body to a lean, physically fit looking body.

The weight gain formula is to do the exercises above for an 8 to 12 repetition max: Lift as heavy as you can for 8 to 12 reps. If you can do more reps, increase the load.

Finally, if you’re tired of being called “anorexic,” always eat a full breakfast within an hour of awakening (unless you work out first thing in the morning); always have a post-workout meal within an hour of completing your workout; be mindful of what and how much you eat.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.