Illustration showing a skinny woman who can't gain weight.

“Why Am I So Skinny?”: Why Some Women Can’t Gain Weight

When it seems like everyone else is trying to lose weight, if you’re a skinny woman trying to gain weight, it can feel isolating. On top of that, some skinny women are eating a ton, and they still can’t weight. If you’re a woman who is thin, skinny, slender, bony—whatever you want to call it—inside this article, we’ll cover what’s going on.

In an era obsessed with getting smaller, us people with a naturally skinny body type—we’re outliers. When it comes to fitness, at best we’ll find ourselves slotted into a footnote: “Oh yeah, and if you’re naturally skinny—must be nice—you’ve got a fast metabolism and stuff so, you know, just eat more.”

Of all the issues skinny women run into, perhaps the most prevalent is finding it hard to eat enough calories to gain weight. The common advice we get is, “Just eat more.” And that advice is awful.

What most people don’t realize is that telling a naturally skinny woman to eat more is as silly as us telling an overweight person, “Just eat less—duh!” That won’t solve any problems.

Anyway, I’m sure you’ve realized there’s much more at play here than how much you eat. And you’re right. So what’s going on here? Why is it so hard for you some women to gain weight? And what can you do about it?

“Wait—You Want to GAIN Weight?!”

While most people struggle with too fat, we struggle with muscle and strength. When we’re looking to get healthier, we aren’t looking to trim down, we’re looking to power up. This can be frustrating because it’s such an uncommon goal to want to gain weight—especially for women. But why is that?

Part of the reason is that gaining muscle and strength, at least for women, isn’t nearly as popular as skinniness. Even women with healthy and attractive body-fat percentages are hopping on the weight-loss bandwagon because they assume that smallness is sexier than strength. Smallness isn’t sexier than strength, but the fact remains that weight loss is the fitness industry’s default.

This wasn’t always the case. Building curves used to be a fashionable accessory. Between the 30s and 70s, mainstream weight gain products and marketing campaigns for skinny women were pretty common. Check out this advertisement for “Wate-On” weight-gain tablets:

Curves used to be fashionable, and there were ads targeted at naturally skinny women who couldn't gain weight

Then foods started becoming cheaper, more processed, higher in calories, and tastier. People started eating more. Nowadays, people are consuming around 200 more calories from carbs and 200 more calories from fat than they were in the 1970s (study).

…and they’re getting fatter. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 1960, 13% of Americans over the age of twenty were obese. In 2008, that number had risen to 34%.

The Majority Of People Struggle With Being Overweight

So it’s understandable that the health and fitness industries now concern themselves exclusively with weight loss. Obesity is a far more widespread problem than skinniness, and most people have no issue whatsoever moving the scale up. However, it means that when we read fitness information, we need to be constantly asking ourselves, “Does this apply to me, or is the article assuming that I’m overweight?”

Even when it’s a curvaceous body being advertised, weight loss is still assumed to be the way to get there. Since most people are overweight, if not obese, the assumption is that the curves are already there, and we just need to whittle away the fat to reveal them. (Not to mention that naturally curvy gals will often be photoshopped thinner.)

Even curvy women are used to advertise weight loss. If you're a skinny gal trying to gain weight / build muscle this doesn't help at all.

This is even true with the “strong is the new skinny” trend. Muscle, health and strength are being advertised—which is awesome—but more often than not, even strength workouts marketed at women are designed for women who want to finish a muscle-building program weighing less than when they started.

So you could say that the new strength trend is for fat loss (heavy weightlifting and protein + a calorie deficit) while keeping muscle instead of weight loss (cardio and veggies + a calorie deficit). The new goal is to come out leaner instead of just littler.

However, the goal is still weight loss. This still doesn’t help us as naturally skinny people.

That’s because our problem isn’t just a pop culture disconnect. It’s that we’re naturally skinny. So why are we skinny people so different from everyone else?

Three Body Types—Ectomorph, Mesomorph, Endomorph

female body shapes & somatotypes—female ectomorph, endomorph, mesomorph

There are a number of factors that result in a large variety of body types. Our naturally skinny body type is called the “ectomorph” body type, also known as the “banana” body type. Around here, we usually refer to ourselves as “naturally thin.”

Whichever term you use, they all describe a combination of traits that make you naturally thinner:

  • a narrow bone structure
  • a fast and adaptive metabolism
  • a modest appetite
  • higher insulin sensitivity
  • a smaller stomach size in proportion to their body size.

Combine enough of these traits together, and it can become incredibly difficult to gain weight.

We’ll discuss these skinny ectomorph traits in more detail over the course of the article.

To start, let’s talk about bone structure.

A Naturally Skinny Female Bone Structure

According to research done at Columbia University, before puberty, both women and men have more or less the same body shape—that of a string bean. When puberty hits, a couple of things usually happen:

  1. Testosterone causes the growth of broader shoulders and muscle mass in both women and men.
  2. Estrogen causes women to develop broader hips and to store more fat in their breasts, butts, hips, and thighs.

This happens to different degrees in different people; however, most men will be shaped far more by testosterone, and most women will be shaped far more by estrogen. This causes most men and women to look quite different from one another. Both may develop the desirable V-shaped upper body, but predominantly women develop bigger hips, thighs, butts, and breasts.

At this point, you might be thinking, “But I went through puberty and I’m still a string bean!”

The Four Main Female Body Shapes

Everyone has different degrees of the two hormones, creating various body shapes. And besides there are many factors that shape us besides our hormones. Of the many body shapes that women naturally develop, the narrow “string bean” bone structure is the most common. Check it out:

female body shapes & bone structure—skinny banana, pear, hourglass, athletic

The Narrow Female Body Shape—46% of Women

This body shape is also known as a banana or the rectangle. This is the most common female physique, shaped by average amounts of both estrogen and testosterone. North Carolina State University found that 46% of women had this bone structure. (This doesn’t mean that most women are thin, just that most women have narrower bone structures.)

The Pear Female Body Shape—20% of Women

This body shape is also known as the triangle. The pear body type is shaped even more heavily by estrogen. Estrogen causes structurally broader hips. It also causes fat to hang out primarily in the thighs, buns and boobs. It can sometimes be difficult for women with this body type to build muscle in the upper body. This describes about 20% of women.

The Athletic Female Body Shape—14% of Women

This body shape is also known as the inverted triangle. This is the body type shaped more heavily by testosterone, although testosterone levels are still just a very small fraction of what men typically have. This body type will often have broader shoulders, smaller breasts and an athletic edge over other women in sports performance and building muscle. Around 14% of women have this body shape.

The Hourglass Female Body Shape—8% of Women

The hourglass physique is shaped more heavily by both testosterone and estrogen. It’s a more hormonal physique overall. The testosterone creates structurally broader shoulders and makes it relatively easy to build muscle. The higher estrogen levels mean that the hips are naturally wider and also that fat is stored primarily in the buttocks and boobs. While popular in the media, only 8% of women have this body type.

Most Women Are A Blend

These are generalizations, of course, and most people are predisposed toward a couple of the body types above. As a thin gal, you’ll probably find that you have a narrow bone structure with hints of the other body types showing through in varying degrees.

skinny female body shapes—skinny banana, thin pear, slim hourglass, narrow athletic

While the amount of fat and muscle on your body is largely within your control, your bone structure and where you tend to store fat is largely due to genetics—more precisely, the hormones you were exposed to as your body developed.

Luckily, if you aren’t thrilled with your bone structure, you can change your body shape by changing your lifestyle, exercise, and diet habits.

Fat gain creates a pear shape. The more fat you gain, the wider your thighs, butt, and waist will become, giving you more of an endomorphic pear-shaped physique.

Fat loss creates a narrower shape. The more fat you lose, the smaller your waist, hips, and thighs will get, causing you to develop more of a narrow physique.

Muscle-building creates an hourglass shape. The more muscle you build, the bigger your butt, back, shoulders, and thighs will get, creating more of an hourglass physique. This means that you can build yourself an hourglass figure simply by building muscle overall, perhaps directing a bit more of that muscle growth towards your hips.

Admittedly, we’re generalizing here. Different body types have different fat storage and androgen receptor patterns, and will store fat and build muscle differently. However, having a healthy amount of body fat and muscle will usually result in an attractive female physique.

Even if you’re a naturally skinny woman, your genetic muscular potential is probably quite high, which should allow you to build a stronger, curvier body. However, building muscle is much easier said than done. After all, there’s more than just our bone structures making us skinny!

A Hardgainer’s Metabolism

If you’ve ever wondered why you’re so skinny even though you eat a lot—this is the section for you. Many naturally skinny women feel like caloric bottomless pits. They feel that no matter how much food they shovel into their mouths, their weight still refuses to budge on the scale.

That being said, many experts argue that most women burn more or less the same amount of calories each day—that naturally skinny women just underestimate how much they eat (study, study, study). So why does it often seem like you’ve got this furnace-like string bean metabolism making it impossible to gain weight?

Well, that’s because that’s not the entire story.

Those experts are right, of course. You do burn about the same amount of calories as everyone else does while you sleep (BMR), while you’re roaming around and being active (TEA), while you exercise (EPOC), and while you digest food (TEF).

However, many skinny women also have their metabolisms kicking things into overdrive in a far more elusive way.

Where your metabolism may differ from other women is with regards to your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). These are the calories burned through unconscious activity—things like heat production, fidgeting, and postural control (study).

Subconscious Calorie Burn / NEAT

Most people’s bodies are fairly frugal with calories and try to store as many as possible for rainy days. Not us. We’re caloric high rollers, baby, and we’re all about spending calories like there’s no tomorrow!

For example, I don’t get cold. Ever. I live in Canada and don’t even wear a proper winter coat. My friends joke that I’m a human furnace. I also pace when I talk on the phone, tap my feet and bob my head along to music, and generally find sitting still difficult.

How much of an effect can this have? A pretty huge one, apparently. A study looking into metabolisms found that most people burned 3% more calories sitting in a chair than lying motionless on their backs. Add some fidgeting, though, and people burned 54% more calories just by casually relaxing in a chair. The same is true when we stand. Casually standing burns just 13% more calories than lying on your back, whereas a skinny gal may burn 94% more calories while standing (study).

Why some women are skinny—metabolism

This means that while doing the same things as your friends and colleagues, you may be burning far more calories than them. Over the course of a day, that can mean 475 extra calories burned if you spend most of your time sitting or 750 extra calories burned if you spend most of your time standing.

Even if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, this more than cancels out the extra calories people have begun consuming since the 1970’s. No wonder everyone is inadvertently gaining weight except for us.

A Skinny Gal’s Adaptive Metabolism

There is more evidence of this metabolism phenomenon, too. James Levine, a leading metabolism researcher, recruited ten obese people and ten lean people and measured their postures and movements every half-second for ten days. (He did this by using high-tech undergarments.)

The lean people spent two more hours standing than the obese people, burning an estimated 350 more calories each day. This held true even when naturally skinny people gained weight, leading him to believe this is largely genetically predetermined (study).

And that’s only the beginning. Things get really interesting when you start overfeeding us skinny people.

A Hardgainer’s Response to Overfeeding

Different people respond very differently to overfeeding. In one study, participants were overfed by 1,000 calories per day for eight weeks and instructed not to exercise (study). At the end of the eight-week study, some people gained 0.79 pounds of fat and some people gained 9.3 pounds of fat. That’s more than a 10x difference in how much fat was stored.

The group of people who resisted weight gain were called “hardgainers.” That’s us.

This hardgainer phenomenon puzzled researchers for a long time, but now we know that our higher metabolisms are largely explained by extra subconscious movement.

When overfeeding, almost everyone’s metabolism revs up, but it’s usually not nearly enough to offset the effects of overeating. If your friend eats a 200-calorie cookie she may burn an extra 50 calories and store 150 as fat.

We hardgainers respond to overfeeding by turning up our caloric furnaces far higher than the average person, producing more heat, moving more, and fidgeting more. We might eat that 200-calorie cookie and burn all 200 extra calories.

Other studies have found the same skinny-gal phenomenon (study, study).

This all helps to keep us lean, sure, but it also keeps us small.

What’s a Skinny Gal to Do?

“Just eat more” is technically correct. But as far as advice goes, it isn’t very helpful (and it’s annoying to hear it over and over again). And besides, it can seem hopeless when our already overactive metabolisms eagerly adapt to our attempts to overeat.

To put this into perspective, most people’s calorie requirements fall within the range of their body weight multiplied by 13-23, with the naturally plump being on the lower end and the naturally skinny being on the higher end. For a 120-pound woman, that’s the difference between burning 1,560 and 2,760 calories each day.

That’s a huge difference.

You might be able to eat the same amount of food as your best friend, add in an entire tub of Ben & Jerry’s, and still not gain weight.

But we aren’t simply trying to gain weight, we’re trying to gain muscle. Luckily, our bodies adapt to heavy weightlifting stimuli by building up extra muscle before sending the surplus calories off to the furnace. Calories that need to be invested in muscle growth aren’t extra calories, after all, so they won’t be discarded.

Furthermore, Eric Helms, PhD, has found that lifting weights calms overactive metabolisms. This means that if you gear into a lifting routine, you may notice that you instinctively start to take things a little easier. You may start burning fewer calories simply because you’ll be calmer during the day. When you sit on the couch, you may notice that you sit on the couch. If that doesn’t make sense, just give lifting a try, and you’ll see what I mean.

You know how chubbier women often have to do all kinds of cardio in order to stay slim? Well, our adaptive metabolisms keep us lean by default. Doing cardio while gaining weight is still a good idea in terms of maintaining good general health, but not for the purposes of staying slim.

The tricky part is that since we don’t naturally have a lot of muscle, we need to stimulate muscle growth by stressing our muscles. To do that, we can’t rely on cardio, aerobics, yoga, or general fitness routines. We need to do hypertrophy training, aka, a workout routine designed specifically to stimulate muscle growth.

Small Appetite & A Small Stomach

The fact that naturally skinny women are awesome at building lean muscle while they’re in a hearty caloric surplus is all well and good, but the problem remains: eating a huge caloric surplus is really damn hard. To make matters even more frustrating, nobody else seems to understand this.

Here’s why:

Skinny-Gal Appetite Hormones

Maybe you’ve read about the “Paleo” approach to dieting—about how avoiding grains, beans, peanuts, potatoes, dairy, and junk food can help you become lean and muscular. This restrictive approach to nutrition works by cutting high-calorie foods that people often overeat.

The same is true with most other recent diet trends. Low-carb and ketogenic diets can be effective ways to lose weight, but they don’t tend to be very good for building muscle.

However, overeating probably isn’t a concern of yours.

You may have wondered why some women hangrily wrestle to control their appetites. One reason is the interplay between hormones like leptin and insulin and how it influences your appetite (study). For simplicity’s sake, we’ll use just insulin as an example here.

When we eat, our insulin levels go up. As our insulin levels go up, our appetites go down. This leaves a nice pleasant feeling of fullness (meta-analysis). This is how our body tells us that we can put down the fork. Insulin also allows our bodies to store fat and build muscle (study), making it extremely important when trying to change your physique.

Naturally, thin women tend to be rather sensitive to insulin (study). This means that:

  1. Your insulin rises eagerly in response to food: in goes food, up goes insulin.
  2. Your body is hypersensitive to insulin—i.e., up goes insulin, down goes appetite. This is good as far as health and appetite regulation goes, but awful if you’re trying to eat more.

Most people nowadays are much less sensitive to insulin, especially chubbier people (study). Since their insulin response is blunted, their process looks more like this: in goes food, in goes a little more food, up goes insulin, up goes a little more insulin, and finally, down goes appetite. By the time their insulin gets high enough to trigger a feeling of fullness, they’ve often already eaten three more burritos than they should have.

And this is why they often need to avoid things like burritos. Protein is highly insulinogenic (study), meaning it will do a great job of filling you up. Fibre will help keep you full for longer. The high protein and high fibrous veggie approach that Paleo takes can be pretty effective at managing appetite. This is probably why it’s caught on like wildfire. (However, grains, beans, carbs, and all the other things that the diet demonizes aren’t unhealthy. As a result, I’m guessing that this diet, like the low-fat diets of the 80’s, will just be a fad.)

You don’t need to baby your insulin, though, because your insulin sensitivity is already babying you.

Although this might seem like a pain in your too-small ass, being insulin sensitive is pretty sweet. Having more insulin sensitivity in our muscle cells and less in our fat cells helps to direct more nutrients toward muscle and less toward fat, making it easier to build muscle leanly. We skinny folk hit the genetic jackpot with this one, and we want to hold onto it at all costs.

Luckily, as long as we approach building muscle cleverly, we can not only hold onto our rad insulin sensitivity, we can also improve upon it. Being lean increases insulin sensitivity (study). Heavy weightlifting increases insulin sensitivity (study). So does building up more muscle mass (study). If you take a skinny girl with a genetic insulin-sensitivity advantage, and put her on a hearty muscle-building program, she’ll be an insulin-sensitivity powerhouse. This is excellent news as far as your body composition goes.

But while having heightened insulin sensitivity is a tremendous muscle-building and fat-prevention asset, it certainly doesn’t help us overcome our appetites. For that, we’ve got to do the opposite of what most people do, turning to higher-calorie foods that are easier on our appetites.

Satiety Index Chart

Here’s a chart listing some foods and how filling they are per calorie:

Why some women are skinny—appetite manipulation (how to eat more)

The least filling food was a croissant. The most filling food was potatoes. The study concluded that foods rich in fibre, protein, and water are more filling. This is troublesome because fibre, protein, and water are also essential for health and building muscle.

This is where things get controversial.

Focusing on high-fibre and low-calorie vegetables is common among women who want to be healthy or lose weight. If you’re trying to build muscle, though, this can be a mistake.

Don’t Follow Secret Fat-Loss Advice

If you’re trying to gain weight, following common diet advice can backfire. For the general population, filling + low-calorie = magic health combination. Popular diet foods tend to be things like: celery, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, beets, spinach, skinless chicken, cucumbers, peaches, etc. These can be our worst enemies.

These mainstream “health” foods make it nearly impossible to consume enough calories overall (study). Foods like broccoli, which are essentially just fibre and water, would fill you up miserably without contributing much to your daily calorie consumption. While broccoli is technically a healthy food, this makes it a very poor staple food choice if you struggle to eat enough.

If we try to follow a diet constructed around low-calorie foods we run the risk of consuming so few calories that we run into malnutrition issues. As an already skinny person, whenever I’d go on my “health food” kicks, I’d accidentally lose weight. I’d be doing everything I could to improve my health and build muscle, however, my friends and family would grow ever more concerned about my health.

Focusing on micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) at the expense of macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) is getting your priorities backwards. You’ll survive way longer eating just sugar than you would eating just celery, since the sugar is at least satisfying your body’s most basic energy needs, while the celery is not. Priority number one should ensure you get the energy you need to thrive (short and long-term health) and priority number two should be getting the macronutrients and micronutrients you need to thrive (long-term health).

If you’re trying to consume 2,500 calories per day, 2,200 calories from whole foods and 300 calories of dessert is way better than 2,200 calories from whole foods, skipping dessert, and missing your target by 300 calories. Both have the same amount of micronutrients, however, the “clean” diet fails in an even more important way—it doesn’t meet your basic energy requirements.

We don’t need to be using reduced-fat coconut milk, drinking light beers or making cauliflower mashed “potatoes.” We’re better off eating foods that are still minimally processed, still rich in micronutrients, and yet higher in calories. Foods such as avocados, bananas, trail mix, muesli, eggs, fatty fish, and dairy… and burritos. (Here’s a bigger list of good bulking foods.)

These are nutritious whole foods that are also calorically badass.

Hell, if you need to eat some “dirty” calories to meet your lofty energy requirements, well, it might be time to get a little dirty. At least nutritionally. And in moderation. Here’s how.

(I hope calling foods “clean” and “dirty” is also a fad, as studies show that it’s a great way to develop weird food fetishes.)

Anyway, there are a million other ways to manipulate our appetites, and we wrote a couple of chapters on it in the Bony to Bombshell Bulking Program For Women, and we have another guide on eating more calories here, but there’s one more trick we can cover here pretty quickly.

Whole foods in liquid forms, such as smoothies and milk, are also high in calories and easy on your appetite (study). Adding a protein/fruit smoothie into your day is a pretty easy way to add more calories, micronutrients, and protein into your diet without maxing out your appetite. With some cleverness, you can make them taste pretty good, too.

A Small Stomach Capacity

Skinny women tend to have thinner torsos, leaving less room for their stomachs. In a 2001 study conducted at Columbia University, researchers discovered that obese people had markedly larger stomachs than people who weren’t overweight and that binge eaters had larger stomachs still. Stomachs are sort of like balloons, with each balloon coming in a different size and can inflate to different degrees (study).

Perhaps you’ve read about intermittent fasting, where you strategically reduce the number of meals you eat. Since some people have very large stomachs and enjoy eating very large meals, this is a diet designed around eating fewer meals instead of smaller meals when dieting. This helps people consume fewer calories overall (study).

However, intermittent fasting isn’t an effective way to build muscle or gain weight, since eating fewer meals means less protein synthesis throughout the day. It works quite well for people with naturally large stomachs/appetites since it helps manage appetite. Appetite manipulation aside, however, it isn’t any more or less effective than a regular meal schedule when it comes to losing fat (study, study, study).

Are we stuck with our small stomach size? In another study, scientists recruited a group of obese people and split them into two groups: one group ate what they normally eat, and the other was forced to eat itty bitty meals. Four weeks later, the group that ate in their typical manner, not surprisingly, had the same stomach sizes as they did when they started. The itty bitty meal group, however, had reduced their stomach size by 27–36% (study).

More relevantly, the researchers in the first study suspect that binge eating was the cause of the larger stomach sizes. The binge eaters weren’t born with larger stomachs but rather adapted to their eating habits by growing larger stomachs over time. This suggests that by gradually eating larger and larger meals, we could gradually increase our stomach sizes. Sort of like how stretching out a balloon makes it easier to inflate it.

Small Stomach? Eat More Often

With that said, skinny people don’t need to increase their stomach sizes. Simply eating more meals (study), adding snacks between meals (study), eating more calorie-dense foods (study), or using any number of other appetite manipulation tricks is plenty. Eating larger meals might help, but you don’t want to create unhealthy binge eating habits, pack so much food into your little stomach that you cause acid reflux, or eat so much that you need a nap after every meal.

Just don’t go intentionally trying to skip breakfast. If anything, you’ll want to be adding in some meals or snacks, not taking them out.

Dopamine Release & Eating

There’s of course another reason why people tend to eat a helluva lot of food that has nothing to do with appetite or stomach capacity. Eating food causes the release of dopamine, and that release of dopamine causes feelings of intense pleasure. That’s how our bodies let us know that we’re doing something pleasurable in the first place. This helps us shape our behaviour around what our bodies feel is important.

Unfortunately, modern junk food, which is high in both sugar and fat, can create an extremely large dopamine response (study). Some argue that this can create unhealthy “addictive” habits surrounding junk food (study).

Perhaps when people get bummed about their love lives (or lack thereof), tired after a long day of work, or stressed out by life in general, it’s common to turn instinctively to fatty/sugary food because your body knows it can get a hit of dopamine there. They aren’t eating because of physiological hunger insofar as they don’t need more calories; they’re eating simply for the predictable pleasure response. This is your typical rom-com scenario where the heartbroken gal drowns her sorrows in a tub of ice cream.

When enough dopamine is released, it satisfies that insatiable craving or urge. Some people are more sensitive to it than others, thus, some people need to eat a ton of food in order to stimulate a large enough dopamine response to satisfy their cravings. Bony hearts, however, can often be mended with relatively small portions of ice cream.

But turning to ice cream in tough times isn’t even something that naturally skinny people tend to do in the first place.

Eating for that pleasurable hormonal response is more of a naturally chubby person thing (study, study). As skinny people, our stress response is often far more affected by other factors—factors that turn our appetites off. When we get stressed, bummed, or tired, we often lose our appetites entirely or entirely forget to eat. In tough times we tend to find ourselves losing weight, not gaining it.

So if you get in a fight with your lover, they might storm off and raid the fridge; meanwhile… you’re busy forgetting to have dinner.

Most Women’s Workout Programs Aren’t Designed For Building Muscle

Health, fitness and weight loss are often bundled up together, so it can be really hard to figure out how to exercise in order to gain weight.

Jogging, pilates, spin, light weightlifting circuits, yoga, CrossFit, Insanity, boot camps, Body Pump, and p90x all make it harder to eat enough to even maintain your weight (study, study). This is more true for some people than others. However, as naturally skinny people, both low and high-intensity aerobic exercise tends to cause us to burn more calories than we consume (study, study). These types of programs also don’t do much to promote muscle growth (study, study, study, study, study). These are great programs for general fitness and losing weight (both muscle and fat)—which is what they’re all designed for—but they’re awful for gaining weight, building muscle, and preserving muscle while losing weight.

Since mainstream exercise promotes weight loss, and since we aren’t trying to lose weight, we often skip out on exercise altogether. That’s a problem for several reasons. First, it isn’t healthy for our bodies. Second, it isn’t healthy for our brains. Third, skinny ectomorph or not, a sedentary life will ever so slowly lead to the dreaded “skinny-fat” physique. It might take decades of inactivity to get there, but it’ll usually catch up with us.

That’s where things get tricky though. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. We can do everyday fitness routines, get no visible rewards, and struggle even harder to eat enough to maintain our weight… or skip out on exercise and slowly let our health degrade.

And it’s a little stressful too. I mean, if we combine some sort of general fitness program with a “bulking” diet, we run the risk of getting fatter. We may be thin, but Hell, at least we’re good at it! The last thing we want to do is lose our natural advantage by becoming chubbier.

Can General Fitness Routines Help You Build Muscle As A Naturally Skinny Woman?

If you’re eating a surplus of calories and gaining weight, you can build muscle at first if and only if your workouts are relatively heavy for you. As a result, in beginners, many different types of exercise can stimulate a little bit of muscle growth at first (study). Beyond that very early stage, though, it doesn’t matter how gruelling the workouts are, how fearsomely your muscles burn with a hellish fire, or how much you want to pass out on the floor… if the stimulus isn’t heavy enough, it won’t cause adaptations that will make your muscles bigger and stronger (study, study, study, study, study). If you keep eating in a calorie surplus, at a certain point, you will begin to gain fat instead of muscle.

The good news is that if you follow a proper weightlifting program designed for women, your muscle cells will soak up the extra calories and you’ll be able to build exclusively muscle in all the right places:

Frankly, even if you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll probably want to go with the “strong is the new sexy” approach to weight loss and do a type of exercise that will help to build and maintain muscle mass so that you’re only losing fat. We skinny people don’t have much muscle to spare!

Can General Fitness Routines Help A Thin Woman Burn Fat? 

A twelve-week study looking at body composition while losing weight found that all participants lost 21 pounds on average, regardless of whether they were doing no exercise, light workouts, or heavy workouts. However, the type of exercise participants performed had a huge impact on the type of weight they lost. The ones who weren’t exercising lost an average of 14 pounds of fat and 7 pounds of muscle; the ones who were doing light weightlifting lost an average of 16 pounds of fat and 5 pounds of muscle; and the ones doing heavy weightlifting lost an average of 21 pounds of fat and 0 pounds of muscle (study).

The findings of another study looking into fat loss and exercise are even more extreme. It found that the lighter weightlifting group lost an average of 13 pounds—7 pounds of fat and 6 pounds of muscle. The heavier weightlifting group lost 18 pounds, losing 22 pounds of fat and gaining 4 pounds of muscle (study). You can read more about what happens if you lose weight without exercising here.

Long story short, while in a calorie deficit, general fitness exercise makes you smaller, whereas lifting weights will make you leaner (and perhaps ever so slightly more muscular).

Why does this happen? Lighter exercise causes our bodies to make endurance adaptations. We improve blood flow so that we can fuel our muscles for longer periods of time. Conversely, heavy weightlifting stimulates muscle growth by making our muscle cells more sensitive to insulin. Our muscles will hog more calories and use them to become bigger and stronger. This is also why when losing weight, it’s important to lift, as that’s what preserves muscle mass.

Fat Loss Versus Weight Loss in Women

So if you don’t already have extra muscle hanging flexing around, you’ll want to start doing a hypertrophy lifting program for women (like this one). That isn’t the only option, but it’s the best option. Hypertrophy training is designed to improve muscle size and is hands down the most effective way to gain weight, build muscle, and improve your appearance:

Before and after photo of a woman's weight gain transformation

Summary: So, Why Can’t You Gain Weight As A Skinny Female?

People come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Each body type is a little different and often responds best to a slightly different approach; however, in general, being healthy, fit, and strong will result in an aesthetically pleasing physique, regardless of genetics. Every woman is different.

That has little to do with why we’re skinny, though. The reason we struggle to gain weight is that we have a number of ectomorph/hardgainer traits that make it difficult to get into a caloric surplus—such as a raging metabolism, an adaptive metabolism, a small stomach capacity, amazing insulin sensitivity, and greater dopamine sensitivity.

It’s often frustrating, but these can be great things. We never need to be hungry or hangry, we don’t need to restrict the foods that we love, and, perhaps best of all, we don’t need to deal with the weird negative psychological effects of perpetually trying to become smaller (study).

The problem is that nowadays, weight gain is a rare goal, especially in the women’s health and fitness industry.

The Skinny-Gal Approach To Nutrition

Since most people eat too much, the emphasis in most diets is on what to remove. There’s also a lot of fear surrounding foods that are higher in calories, like sugar, carbs, gluten, and fat. Since we’re actively trying to eat more, the first thing we should be doing to our diets is cleverly adding things in. We don’t need to be restricting anything.

So put some milk and honey in your coffee. Blend up a fruit smoothie to drink alongside it. Ask for an extra egg when you’re out for brunch. Put some olives in your martini. And at dinner, maybe have a fruit salad instead of a salad salad.

The Skinny-Gal Approach To Fitness

Similarly, since most fitness advice is about moving more and improving our general fitness, we need to take a different approach. If you want to gain weight, doing a proper lifting program is a far better way to get strong and build muscle. Once you become good at it you’ll probably realize that building muscle isn’t as out of reach as you once thought.

Now I’m not saying it’ll be easy. To say that this was a huge challenge for me is an understatement. I tried and failed more times than I can remember before finally wising up and succeeding. You, too, will need to be clever, and you’ll need to develop good habits.

The good news is that once you’ve successfully packed on some lean mass, maintaining muscle is pretty easy. A pound of muscle only burns around 6 calories per day (study, study, study). If you were to gain a whopping twenty pounds of muscle you’d only need to consume an extra 120 calories to maintain it. That’s a small glass of milk. (And milk is pretty good for bulking, by the way.)

If you liked this article, you’d love our muscle-building newsletter. We’ll keep you up to date on all the latest muscle-building information for women. Or, if you want us to walk you through the process of building muscle, including teaching you the lifts, giving you a full workout program, a complete diet guide, a recipe book, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Bombshell Program.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has over ten years of experience helping over 10,000 skinny people build muscle, get stronger, and gain weight.

Cassandra González Duquette is a certified nutritionist (CNP) who studied at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto, Canada. She's personally gained 22 pounds, going from 97 up to 119 pounds.

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  1. Laura on September 5, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Reading that was worth every minute of my time!! So refreshing to be able to understand my body/the way it works. I have never found any resources dedicated to us skinny mini’s and have been getting things all wrong for years because I was reading articles geared towards other people. Great work guys!

    • Shane Duquette on September 6, 2014 at 3:48 pm

      Really glad you’re digging our approach, Laura 😀

      We’ve got some cool articles in the works—always for us skinny folk—so stay tuned. Also, if there’s ever anything in particular that you’d like to learn about, let us know! We’re always open to suggestions 🙂

      • brenda on June 21, 2016 at 12:04 pm

        I am 14 years old and have not had my period. In school I am really skinny and am usually caked anorexic , I don’t know what to do, what do you recommend.

        • Shane Duquette on June 21, 2016 at 2:21 pm

          Hey Brenda, I wish we could be of more help, but that’s something that you’ll want to discuss with your doctor. If they determine that the right thing to do is to gain weight and/or build muscle in a healthy way… that’s where we step in 🙂

          • Tiffany Gibson on December 2, 2019 at 4:06 pm

            Wow, I have an hourglass bone structure and I was always very muscular growing up but kept getting called fat or overweight or something like that, so I just ended up losing weight in a very unhealthy way. Now I’m trying to gain my muscle back but had no clue how. Now I have somewhere to start. Still underweight but I’m confident that I can do this with the help and support of my family and friends that I have now. May all of you be successful in your endeavors and don’t worry about what the media calls beauty, because they called a woman who was a size six ugly and a woman who was so skinny she could barely walk beautiful…

        • Eva on May 12, 2017 at 1:00 am

          Being naturally skinny can be tough especially when you’re a naturally skinny person like me who developed an eating disorder. I’ve been thin most of my life but loved sugar and sweets my mom told me if I kept eating that way I’d get fat she probably didn’t understand I craved junk food because my system used up sugars and starches so quickly plus I was a figure skater so this probably really kicked it into overdrive. For some Reason I really liked being skinny and had an irrational fear of becoming fat even though I knew I was skinny genetically like my dad. I became anorexic at 12 you can imagine the effects of that on an already skinny person. My mom was really mean I was very sensitive most ectomorphs are BTW and also typically artistic shy and reserved this was me too can be socially awkward but not always. I sought treatment for it and then unfortunately became a bing eater. My naturally high metabolism was also slowed from starvation. That combined with binge eating made me hit 112 at 5″3. Still not too big. I stopped bringing and went down to 101lbs and a bunch of stupid people asked if I was anorexic and I was like no I just used to be a compulsive over eater that’s the only reason I looked normal before. It made treating my eating disorder twice as difficult because the programs are geared to average built people I imagine naturally bigger people have trouble accessing treatment to eating disorder treatment as well. Eating disorders don’t discriminate! They don’t care if you’re naturally skinny you can still get them! I heard about a girl with compulsive overeating who weighed a mere 100 lbs. My parents were incredibly mean and insensitive especially my mom I wouldn’t want anyone to grow up like I did. My mom was downright cruel I know there’s people that have had it worse but by God she did so much damage and stole so much of my childhood and teen years. She’s different now but wow I want to cry looking back. I still struggle with the psychological effects of an eating disorder and the irrational fear of getting fat despite knowing I’m naturally slim. My mom not understanding my large appetite do to my good metabolism told me I would turn into a fat ugly pig and asked me if I wanted to weigh 200 lbs I still have nightmares. She encouraged “self control” not understanding I simply required more calories as a surplus. Other naturally heavier set women pick on me about my eating habits and tell me I should eat healthy and it makes me want to engage in disordered eating. I know logically it’s probably envy but it still messes with my mind.

          • Eva on May 12, 2017 at 1:04 am

            Oh and when I slowed down a bit and filled out some due to age hitting about 123 at 5″5.5.(my growth was stunted from the eating disorder) I was 26 years old and my mom and boyfriends dad called me fat which I know that’s skinny for my age I am not a teenager I cried

          • Jared Polowick on June 28, 2017 at 9:54 am

            That sounds like an incredibly difficult situation to grow up in. I really hope that one day you can reclaim a natural and healthy relationship with food.

            PS with what you shared about your mom, it could have been her trying to protect you. We all struggle with different things. Perhaps hers was worrying about body fat and self control, not realizing that your body wouldn’t need to struggle that way.

    • allison on July 15, 2020 at 7:44 am

      Smallness is sexier than strength. There’s nothing you can do about it.

    • Maryanna Norton on September 10, 2021 at 1:34 am

      May I ask how old you are. . . And believe it or not, it will work out to your benefit later!!!

  2. Brady on September 5, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I stumbled upon this website after Googling, ‘skinny to muscular’ Sometimes, I feel like if I look stuff up online that it might renew my motivation to get active again and make my current physique not seem so bad. However, lately I have felt the urgency of needing to do something, and fast, or I will never take my clothes off again or wear a swimsuit for that matter. Even now, I can’t say that I’d wear one. I am 5’6”, 120lbs, at 31 years old. I never thought I would feel so disappointed in my own body. I have tried to workout hard at the gym but I always seem to get so discouraged because I can’t figure out my body and what it needs being a skinny gal and staying skinny.

    This website has definitely been the most refreshing site I have ever visited. Most of the others do not address the life long skinny battle and only assume that I am someone who can follow their regimen and Viola! I’m a babe. Not the case, ever. The articles and information that you have provided made me feel like you were answering my cry for help. Thank you for creating this website and I look forward to learning more from you.

    Skinny Brady

    • Shane Duquette on September 6, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Oh man, as you can probably tell, I had the same issue. I’d always do all these programs designed for chubbier people, and skinny me would just get skinnier and skinnier. I assumed it must be that I just had a genetically crappy body. Not the case, I was just doing programs designed for other people. I hope we can help you accomplish your goals, too. Over the coming months (and years) we’re going to delve deeper and deeper into this stuff on the blog, have more and more transformations and case studies coming out of the member area, and turn this into a better and better resource 🙂

      As you go though, you might be able to also tackle this from a mental perspective. No matter how in or out of shape we are, I think we should always be able to confidently rock a swimsuit, you know? I mean, who says we need to look like cover models to feel confident in our bodies, right?

      • cheri on August 5, 2015 at 4:57 pm

        haha right

      • Me on April 22, 2020 at 7:42 pm

        Hi, I can’t decide if I’m naturally skinny or normal. OK, maybe I’m a bit fat. But I think I have a skinny body type because I eat a lot and have a weakness for cookies. If I could stop eating those I’m sure I would have a leaner physique. I remember how thin I was at 18, and I can’t go back. Too many cookies, too little movement, and no special exercise routine. I don’t walk as much anymore, either. But I used to. So skinny people, enjoy. It’s not forever if, like me, you eventually start overeating. P.S loving the articles.

        • Shane Duquette on June 22, 2021 at 1:06 pm

          Ahaha, yes. Cookies can definitely do that, for better and worse 😛

  3. Emi on September 11, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Happy to see this article up 😀

    I’m a ‘narrow athletic’ ectomorph with a big appetite actually – my stomach is pretty stretchy haha. Maybe it’s a good thing I store fat on my stomach and not hips, otherwise I would’ve kept eating chocolate all day long and never have bothered to actually build muscle. Now that I’m trying to though, I’ve never met a more difficult to pass challenge. Trying to consume 2300-2500 calories in one day sometimes is gruesome [if I remember to snack not so much], but especially the 116gr of protein often seems like I could never eat enough to get there t__t

    I wonder if ectomorphs loose muscle more quickly than other bodytypes? I mean, if slack off for a week or two [only one workout instead of three] I see the scale going down, despite eating the same things.

    • Shane Duquette on September 12, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      Ahaha a stretchy stomach is a huge asset! Struggling to eat enough is definitely one of those #ectomorphproblems situations.

      I would say ectomorphs lose WEIGHT more quickly than other body types. Hard to say whether we lose more muscle mass. Generally the more mesomorphic types hold onto it more easily because of their higher testosterone levels and naturally larger muscles, but I’d guess we hold onto it better than endomorphs? Provided we still lift now and then, I think we should be okay. I’ll keep an eye out for research looking into this!

      I would guess that the weight loss you’re experiencing with only a week out of the gym is mostly fluid, not actual muscle. A week or two isn’t long enough for muscle atrophy to really be a problem, but enough for muscle inflammation to go down (because you’re no longer damaging them in the gym) and perhaps for glycogen storage to decrease. If that’s the case, it would then level off and hold steady.

  4. elaine on October 4, 2014 at 2:44 am

    Hi, Interesting site . I am 60 years of age and not overweight but flabby wondering if this program is adaptable for a woman 156cm 50 kg who needs to tighten up and has a Rotator Cuff injury due to following a DVD Les Mills Body Pump 6 months ago.

    • Shane Duquette on October 5, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      Hey Elaine,

      You should be okay to do this, and we’d love to have you—provided you get cleared by your doctor first. In fact weightlifting is especially important as you get older 🙂

  5. Darcy on October 22, 2014 at 12:59 am

    Finally found a website that describes how and why my body is the way that it is!
    Reading this article definitely helped me a lot and I look forward to reading more from you guys. I do have one question though; Is eating right before bed bad? I work a night job and my eating schedule is waaaaay off. I wake up at 12- 1 p.m. and I’m not really hungry till 4-5 p.m. (when I have to go to work & is usually my first meal of the day). I snack through out work (usually junk food) then when I arrive home from work at 2-3 a.m. I binge eat. Like I will eat anything I find till I’m full- or overfull, then 30 mins later, I go to bed and the cycle continues the next day. I know that I’m not hungry when I wake up because I’ve ate so much from the night before. Is this why I’m becoming the dreaded skinny fat with skinny arms/legs and protruding lower belly and chubby face? I’m 19 years old 5’2 and 105 pounds, I do drink protein powder and do minimal exercise example:
    standing all night with a lot of fast pace walking, I never sit down for more than 10 minutes throughout whole night (from my job)
    Thanks, hope to hear back!!

    • Shane Duquette on November 16, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      Hey Darcy, really glad you’re digging the site 🙂

      Eating right before bed is fine from a body composition perspective. While you sleep is when your body is building the most muscle, and having plenty of nutrients digesting away is great—it tends to help. Eating a lot in one meal is okay too. What matters most if the overall quality/quantity of what you eat, not when you eat it.

      …However it may not be best from a digestion and sleep perspective. Some people get acid reflux if they eat a big meal and then lie down. Other people don’t sleep as well if they’ve eaten a big meal recently.

      Walking and light exercise would burn calories and maybe get your heart rate up, but it wouldn’t help you build muscle. I’d recommend lifting (heavy) weights, eating well, and trying to get plenty of good quality sleep 🙂

  6. Hanna on November 7, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I found this article the same way as Brady and I couldn’t be happier reading it. For years I suspected I had some kind of a serious medical disease which kept me so skinny and with dangerously low levels of fat in my body. Trying to eat a lot of high calorie and fatty foods didn’t help me at all – my weight stayed the same or even decreased to my horror. I also never thought of the fact that my favourite sports (skiing, swimming, jogging) contribute to weight loss rather than weight gain.
    Looking back I have to admit I was really unaware of everything related to how my body works, why I couldn’t gain weight, why my training habits didn’t suit my goals etc.
    I have been weight training for a couple of months now and I can already see the results. I can’t believe how easy it has been for me to actually grow muscles.
    This article has answered a lot of my questions and confirmed many suspicions I’ve had regarding fitness trends, different diets, metabolism etc and how different people get different results. I know now that I only get the results I want when I eat and train in harmony with the needs of my own body. I’m looking forward to reading more of your articles!

    • Shane Duquette on November 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      Really glad you’re enjoying the site, Hanna 😀

      Yeah, there’s a paucity of information out there for us naturally skinny folk. We’re rare, so I get it—but still… it’s rough growing up and having absolutely no idea what’s going on with our bodies.

      Great job gaining weight! Sounds like things are going really well 🙂

      Good luck!

  7. C ferguson on January 31, 2015 at 8:07 am

    This is an amazing article!! I’m 5’2, 120lbs and have been lifting but it seems I’m not going anywhere. When I gain, the lbs go to my hips and thighs, so I do more exercise on bottom body instead of top. My upper body is so scrawny 🙁 I just don’t want muscles on my shoulders and arms in frightened of having Bruce Lee’s upper build lol because my waist is so small. I love this article…. I’m a skinny pear 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on January 31, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      Hey C,

      Really glad you enjoyed the article!! 🙂

      It’s really really common to worry about bulking up looking bad, especially in the upper body, and especially for women. That doesn’t mean that your fears are real though. They might be, but I think if you do some more upper body work you’re really going to like how it looks! Also keep in mind that lifting will make you bigger in the areas that you train. Bigger in a shapely and appealing way, but bigger nonetheless. So if you tend to gain weight in your lower body, and then you train your lower body, that will make your lower body bigger still! If you don’t tend to gain weight in your upper body, and you avoid training your upper body, that will mean atrophied and untrained muscles in your upper body.

      Just my two cents, but if you train your ENTIRE body, while putting a bit of extra emphasis on the areas you want to grow/improve/tone, then I think you’ll really like how your body starts to look 🙂

      I hope that helps!

  8. Catherine Monica on February 4, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Wow. This morning after my workout I googled, “go from thin to muscular.” I have never been more ecstatic at a Google result. I have always loved heavy lifting, but have gotten so discouraged in the past because I would see little results even when I would stay dedicated to lifting heavy weights regularly for months. Which would lead me to stop, then restart all over again months later hoping it would be different. I am 5’9 and about 119 pounds. I have more muscle than most thin girls my height, but I really want to be more curvy. After reading this article, I can say that I have never been more knowledgable about my own body. Thank you so much for what you are doing. I used to have a passion for working out and had dreams of being a personal trainer. I had given up on those dreams through so much discouragement with my own body. My dream has come alive again. Thank you again! Keep it up!

    • Shane Duquette on February 6, 2015 at 10:39 pm

      Hey Catherine, so glad you loved the article! Glad we could help.

      We’ll be coming out with some new stuff soon, so stay tuned 🙂

      (And there’s always the program if you want a package with everything you need!)

  9. stephanie on February 7, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Thank you so much for this article!!! I am 5’9″ and 115 pounds and no one understands the difficulty you face in a society where the focus is on weight loss. There are limited resources out there but this gave me significant knowledge! I’ve gained 5 pounds in the last couple of weeks from eating more and I plan to continue my journey using your tips. Thanks again!

    • Shane Duquette on March 3, 2015 at 9:02 pm

      Congratulations on the five pounds, Stephanie—that’s amazing 😀

      I hope we’re able to help you more over the coming year.

      Best of luck, and stay tuned!

  10. M on March 24, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Happy to have arrived at this article. I am nearly 5.6″, 27yrs, and a mere 89 lbs.! Recently, I was at the GP clinic where the horrified doctor asked me if i throw up after eating. I know for certain I don’t have an eating disorder unless you call “eating 5-6 decent sized meals a day (digesting it!) and being light as air” a disorder. I love food and don’t care much about being a bombshell.
    One thing I definitely want to improve though is my strength, because, well you can tell, at my weight , it sucks.
    I would like to get on with the strength training and wish to know how this programme can help. However, wonder if you recommend it for someone like me or you think better to go to the doctor and get a check up first?
    I should mention- I don’t have diabetes, overactive thyroid or cancer- phewwww. Perhaps also important to mention- I follow a veggie diet.

    • Shane Duquette on April 5, 2015 at 12:39 pm

      Hey M,

      People used to wonder if I was anorexic. I wasn’t, but I certainly appeared that way. I know firsthand how hurtful those comments can be. I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

      You’re wondering if you’re too skinny for the program? Hell no! That’s our specialty. Of course you should consult with your doctor—this would be true of any exercise program—but dealing with the very skinny is what we do best 🙂

      No problem with being a vegetarian either. It makes things a little trickier, sure, but you already know how that is—you can’t stroll into a barbecue, close your eyes, and point at something on the menu like some of your friends can… but as far as building muscle goes there’s no problem 😀

      I hope you decide to join us!

  11. Steph on March 28, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Thank you for the great article, very enlightening! I’m 5’7 117lbs, I’ve always been comfortable with my skinny frame growing up but at 31 years old I realize the importance of building muscle mass and also how difficult it is for ectomorphs! I think the only part I struggle with in your article is that CrossFit is targeted to weight loss, as a Strength and Conditioning program which involves heavy lifting, why is CrossFit not a suitable fitness regime? I have actually been quite pleased with CrossFit results and weight gain. Thanks again!

    • Shane Duquette on April 5, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      Hey Steph,

      CrossFit is designed to be an extreme sport version of a general fitness program. It’s quite good at improving general fitness (not the best, but good), the risk of injury is quite high, it’s good a strong community, many people find it a ton of fun, lots of people find it pretty gruelling, tiring and draining. Lots of advantages and disadvantages.

      There are some strength components, sure, and many people do gain some muscle from it—especially at first (and especially if they eat a ton of food)… but it’s so so far from being optimal at building muscle that it’s not really a good choice if your primary goal is building muscle. If you’re someone who struggles to build muscle, like a lot of our readers, then it would be a very poor path to choose.

      Why isn’t it good for building muscle? The volume per week per muscle group isn’t close to ideal for building muscle, and that’s one of the main determinants of how effective a program is. The exercise selection isn’t really appropriate, it’s often combined with a Paleo approach to nutrition (which is super bizarre pseudoscience, and also awful for building muscle). The exercise intensity isn’t really appropriate. CrossFit does use weights, and sometimes those weights are heavy enough, and sometimes the movements are appropriate… but it’s hard to find a part of it that is ideal for building muscle.

      Not surprisingly, we have a lot of people coming into our programs who have struggled with CrossFit. I’m sure there are many others that have a great time doing CrossFit though and get the results they’re after. If it’s working for you, I see no reason to stop! 🙂

  12. Julie Swink on April 1, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    BEST Google search on how to go from skinny to muscular ! Whoa ! So thankful for the awesome information I found her. Hoping to gain maybe 10 lbs from now to Fall by lifting heavy & eating more-ish.

    Thank you so much!

    • Shane Duquette on April 5, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      So glad you dug it, Julie 🙂 Good luck gaining those ten pounds!! Let us know how it goes!

  13. Stephanie on April 3, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    This makes so much sense!! I fidget constantly and now I know why I’m so exhausted all the time. I’m not nourishing my body enough to even fidget! That is the hard part, eating. I can so relate to the not eating and forgetting to eat. Being a mom keeps me pretty sidetracked. I can’t wait to join the program! I have one question, will there be an eating guideline or plan included with this plan? I have no idea where to start. Thank you for doing all of this research and helping the “skinny kid” be first pick for the first time in her life.

    • Shane Duquette on April 5, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      Hey Stephanie,

      Ahahaha yeah I’m the same way, and have the same problem—and I’m not even a mum! Oh man, you must burn so many calories! Sounds like a pretty great reason to burn ’em though 🙂

      Absolutely! We’ve got a ton of information about how to design and customize your own nutrition plan to suit your preferences, schedule, budget, appetite, etc. We also have sample meal plans that are optimized in a more general way for all of those things already. Aaand we can work with you on that stuff on a personal level in the community 🙂

      I got your email too, and I hope to see you in there soon!

  14. Karla on April 5, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Well written and very informative article! Thank you so much for posting this. I am starting a journey to put on more mass as currently I am weighing in at 51kg (110 pounds) and I’m 5 ft 6. I rock climb 3-4 days a week so although I have built up lean muscle in my upper body I feel as if I have plateaued as I have become so used to lifting my own body weight I can’t get any stronger. I would like to gain at least 4kg (8-9 pounds) to bring me up to a healthier weight range and assist with strength training. Initially I used to go to the gym and lift weights however admittedly I did find this quite boring but I am determined to put on more mass so am willing to do whatever it takes – just wondering if you think your program will be suited to me?

    • Shane Duquette on April 7, 2015 at 7:56 pm

      Hey Karla,

      You sound like a pretty great fit! Coming in already healthy, strong and athletic will be a huge asset when it comes to building muscle, and I bet you’ll come to like lifting weights once you get into the sport of it. It can be a little dull at first, especially if you just lift haphazardly, use machines, etc… but most people we work with find that as soon as they’re on a structured plan, that making steady strength (and aesthetic) improvements can be pretty fun and addictive 🙂

      I hope you decide to join us!

  15. Marie H. on April 25, 2015 at 2:20 am

    Hey there,
    So, I’m 14, 5″4 and 105 pounds. I’ve tried eating unhealthy foods, but I can’t gain any fat. I’ve tried eating healthy and exercising, but I can’t gain any muscle. It’s like God hit the pause button on my weight… I know I’m pretty young, still going through puberty or whatever, but I was just wondering if it would be healthy for me to participate in this program?

    • Shane Duquette on April 25, 2015 at 11:50 am

      Hey Marie,

      Most of the research looking into weightlifting as a teen are very very positive. They show healthy improvements in body composition, strength, willpower (and thus reduced likelihood of addiction), and even beneficial adaptions in the brain!

      Eating more and eating better, especially as someone who’s fairly slender, also has the possibility to improve your health, strength and energy (and appearance).

      Everything we’re doing is “natural” and healthy, so it won’t mess up your hormones or development or anything. (You wouldn’t be starving yourself, becoming obese, or training to compete in the olympics or anything, all of which are so extreme that they’d likely affect you in a negative way.) In this more moderate case, where the goal is to look amazing and feel awesome, eating well and lifting will help optimize your hormones and development as your body sees fit.

      Of course you’ll want to discuss this with your parents and doctor, but I see no reason why you can’t start. If they give you the all-clear and you do sign up, just make a post in the community and we can make sure that the exercises are appropriate for your age and experience level. We already use a lot of progressions and take a slow and careful approach to gearing into heavy lifting, but with you we would start you off a little bit lighter still, for example 🙂

  16. Dali on May 1, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Omg this is PERFECT!!! Good Job putting this together. I am very glad I found this. I am 5’9″- 123 lbs – 31 yrs old – 2 kids later and still super skinny and tall on top of everything so yeah this was very helpful .. I work out pretty much all the time but I’ve clearly been doing that completely wrong plus the nutrition part is what always gets me because i’m so clueless to what i can and cannot eat and then I’m spanish and we eat a lot of unhealthy meals that taste super delicious lol ….I am so tired of people looking at me crazy when i say i want to gain some weight and the “eat more” quote.. GOD, they need to stop with that. I’m not saying I want to be unhealthy and fat …anyway…. looking forward to see some real change in my body. i’m so pump!!!!

    • Shane Duquette on May 2, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      Hey Dali, really glad you dug the article!

      Hehe my mum is a Cuban who’s madly in love with Mexican/Spanish cuisine. She even has a little greenhouse next to the kitchen where she grows her own assortment of habanero peppers. I know it’s a little different from the food in Spain, but you might be surprised at how well it can work for healthfully building muscle!

      Some of the best fast food options around here are Mexican (e.g. Chipotle), my all-time favourite bulking meal is chili, and Spanish food seems to usually be based around tons of nutritious whole foods (avocados, beans, chicken, seafood, meat, cheese, fresh fruit and veggies, etc) combined with easy to digest carbs (rice, tortilla, etc). Should make for a pretty brilliant high protein muscle-building diet… not to mention it’s delicious! 🙂

      Good luck!!

  17. Antecessus on May 8, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Omg. This is so me! Thank you!! It explains so much! I have been asked if I was anorexic before, and I often get people asking me if I’ve eaten enough, and they doubt me when I say I’m eating all the time! Heck, I’m 4 months postpartum, and despite all the avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes, and frequently box of cookies a day, I gained a total of 5lbs after baby weight… so frustrating!

    I’m vegan too, so there’s plenty of foods that could help me gain, but I just won’t go there. The odds are against me lol. I’m just worried about how much weight to start lifting. I’ve hurt my neck before, not doing it correctly and using too many weights. I’ll have to do more reading!

    Either way, thank you so, so much!!! I understand myself better! 😀

    • Shane Duquette on May 8, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Really glad you liked it! We’ll be posting some more detailed articles on lifting soon. You don’t need to lift super heavy, just heavy enough to cause your body to adapt by becoming stronger, not just developing more endurance. Most people in this field would say that 1-5 reps is “heavy”, 6-12 reps is moderate, and 12-20 reps is light. Any of those rep ranges will build muscle (and muscle will be best built with a combination of all of them). When starting out 12-20 reps is fairly safe (although sometimes painful, since it causes lactic acid buildup in your muscles).

      There’s also a lot to be said about progression! It might not have been the heaviness of the weights, but the difficulty of the movement pattern. We’re in the middle of coming up with a version for Bony to Bombshell, but in the meantime you might find a lot of value in this article here 🙂

      Does that help at all?

  18. Eliasani on June 5, 2015 at 12:58 am

    Do all pear shapes have wide hips? And, in case of extreme or unexplained weight- loss do they tend to look narrow shaped? Thank you.

    • Shane Duquette on June 8, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      Everyone is a little different, and these body types aren’t perfect. Not all pear shapes have wide hips. The body type is usually defined by storing more fat in the hips and legs though, creating a heavier bottom half.

      When they lose weight it can really depend! If they go on an extreme diet and lift weights, for example, they’ll probably build muscle while losing fat, creating more of an hourglass shape. If they adopt a low calorie vegan diet or something and do lots of cardio (or no exercise at all), then there won’t be much protein or muscle stimulation to keep muscle around, so they may get skinny-fatter.

      Does that help / make sense?

  19. Amanda on June 8, 2015 at 4:17 am

    I am literally almost in tears right now. I have never found anything like this at all in my years of search for a plan to gain weight and feel great. I have struggled for years and years to gain weight. I’m 18 and am so skinny that I get called a twig, stick, and many other names including often getting told that I look sickly and anorexic. I am so glad that I found this. Even though I am a struggling college student right now I will definitely be saving up my money to join this program and start to feel happy and healthy. I also love all the articles they are all very interesting and everything that I read I agree with.

    • Shane Duquette on June 8, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      I’m so glad that you liked the article, Amanda! Thank you so much for all the kind words. I can definitely relate to people thinking I was sick or anorexic, even though I was really trying my best to eat a lot, exercise and be healthy. It’s something we hear a lot from our members, too. Something all of us skinny people seem to experience 🙁

      That’s awesome that you’re thinking of signing up! I hope to see you on the other side soon 🙂

  20. Alessandra on June 9, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Hi! I’m really happy i finally found something helpful for me and my type of body. I’m 18 years old and i live in south América where almost every single girl has curves and al they want is to lose weight! I’ve never found someone with my same problem and i felt completely out of place. Thanks forma sharing this with us 😀

    • Shane Duquette on June 12, 2015 at 1:26 pm

      Really glad you like it, Alessandra 🙂

      I feel the same way here in Toronto, Canada. It feels like everyone is trying to lose weight, and I’m this lone skinny guy. What I love about this website is that we can take these people who feel alone in their skinniness from all over the world and bring them into one community where everyone is struggling with similar things and working towards similar goals 🙂

  21. Jessy on June 12, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    I can not tell you how excited I was to find this site!! I am 25 yrs old, 5’3, and about 95 lbs. I have been this way all my life and have hated it! I’ve gotten all of the rudest comments you can imagine about being skinny throughout my life and it has shattered my self esteem. I always thought something was wrong with me even though doctors have given me a clean bill of health everytime. But now, I am feeling more confident and just want to build some muscle and tone my body more…and I never realized I have been doing it all wrong! I’ve also never known exactly why my body is the way it is. I feel so much better about my body now and am so glad there are other people like me out there! Thank you for this amazing article!!

    • Shane Duquette on June 13, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      Hey Jessy,

      I’m so sorry to hear about all the rude comments you’ve gotten, and about how your self esteem has suffered as a result.

      Really glad you liked the article! Hopefully now you can go about doing this the right way 🙂

      • Jessy on June 15, 2015 at 10:34 pm

        Thank you!! ☺

  22. Sophia on July 12, 2015 at 6:41 am

    Thanks for this!! I’ve been on the skinny side my entire life. Almost everyone I know has commented on my weight one way or the other, and i’ve even been accused of being anorexic (behind my back and from a friend, no less). The one thing that doesn’t fit me in this article is the small appetite – I eat like a beast and I used to out-eat most guys my age ;P I just recently started lifting weights and already I’ve seen myself developing curves I never thought I’d have. It’s been inspiring to see how much the women here have completely reshaped their bodies. Makes me want to keep going!

    • Shane Duquette on July 13, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      Aghh I hate it when people assume the worst like that. I’ve had people think that about me as well, so I know how much that can hurt. It’s even worse that it’s from someone that you care about—someone who should be assuming the best of you instead of the worst.

      Congratulations on already having such great success! That’s amazing 🙂

      Keep it up!!

  23. wants2know on August 7, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Really amazing article. So thoroughly researched and written in great detail.

    I’m curious what you make of someone who is thin framed but with a propensity to gain fat (although maybe it’s not as fast as other body types). I’ve always struggled with whether I’m a true ectomorph since I’m really thin but feel like I also can put on fat, especially in my abs and thighs for how lean I am elsewhere. I’m 5’6″ and 118 lbs with body fat at 25% approximately. Would I classify as an ectomorph? If I eat recklessly it goes to my stomach basically and the rest remains thin. I workout quite hard, to keep things in balance, and can relate to the hard gainer part of being an ectomorph as adding curves/mass to calves, glutes, etc. seems to be so hard.

    Your input would be fantastic. I’d love to add muscle and tighten up but again not certain if I’m in the same category composition wise.

    • Shane Duquette on August 8, 2015 at 11:44 am

      I got your email too, but I’ll answer here so that others can benefit from the answer as well 🙂

      It’s rare to find someone who fits one body type perfectly. Most people are a combination of several. What you’re describing is fairly common, both in general and in our community.

      25% body fat isn’t that high! You’re not overweight or anything. I get that your body fat percentage is higher than you’d like though, and it’s certainly possible to get it down. You’ve really got two options for getting started:
      1) Aim to lose weight while preserving muscle mass. Lift well, eat a lot of protein, eat in a calorie deficit, and strategically adjust each week based on the results you’re getting. You should be able to preserve all of your muscle mass while doing that. It’s even possible to GAIN some muscle while doing it.
      2) Aim to gain weight without gaining (much) fat. Lift well, eat a lot of carbs (and a moderate amount of protein), eat mostly whole foods, get plenty of good sleep, and strategically adjust each week based on the results you’re getting. You should be able to build muscle fairly leanly.

      After you’ve accomplished one goal, or at least moved significantly closer to it, then you can slowly switch to the other. You zig-zag towards being lean and muscular, rather than trying to achieve both simultaneously.

      It can seem difficult now, or like you’ve got bad genetics, but over time you pull more nuclei into your muscle cells, making it more easy to build/maintain muscle. Your muscle cell insulin sensitivity improves, sending more calories towards muscle and fewer towards fat. You learn more about what works for you and what doesn’t, and you develop better habits. This will all make it feel like you have far better genetics.

      Does that make sense / help at all?

  24. Molly on August 17, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    This was an awesome article and really informative.
    I have a few questions, if you have the time. I’m 5’1″,95lbs, 24% body fat without exercise, and kind of a cross between an hour glass/athletic–34, 25,31 bust/waist/hips. I’m not exactly looking to have more curves (I have a hard enough time trying to find clothes that fit). Ideally, I’d like to feel capable and strong and hopefully go down a cup size without it affecting my chicken legs + bum. I’m concerned that a lot of the cardio reccommeneded for fat loss, will just shrink me, versus balance my proportions. What’s your take?

    • Shane Duquette on August 25, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      Hey Molly,

      Okay I see what you’re saying. Jared’s wife has a lot of trouble with that too, having to tailer the waist in on all of her clothes.

      You’re right, if you focus on cardio you may lose weight from everywhere, including losing muscle. That might make your lower body a little flatter. It won’t do a good job of making you stronger, either. However, cardio is great for your health and general fitness, and it’s never a bad idea to have some in your life 🙂

      I’d recommend lifting as well though. If you eat in a calorie surplus (i.e. gain weight) this will make you curvier, especially in your butt, shoulders, hips, and thighs. The more weight you gain, the curvier you’ll get. To prevent this, and to help you go down a cup size, you’d just eat in a slight caloric deficit (i.e. lose weight). When someone first starts strength training they tend to build muscle even in a deficit, and that extra muscle will make you quite a lot stronger. (It will also make your legs and butt a little thicker / improve your muscle tone.)

      In addition to building muscle, you’ll also become a lot better at using the muscles you already have. Learning to activate the right fibres at the right times, learning how to use muscle groups together, how to lift things with proper leverages, etc.

      Does that help / make sense?

      • Molly on August 26, 2015 at 10:02 am

        Thanks Shane! This does make a lot of sense and it is really helpful, I really appreciate the work you put in to respond to all the questions/comments!

  25. Malena on September 16, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Hi, guys! Always a pleasure reading your articles!!! I’m wondering afer reading the list of exercises that you wouldnt recommend as muscle-building exercises, and CrossFit is one of them. I am 5´3” and 105 pounds, and my goal is to weight at least 110 by the end of the year (while loosing some of my belly fat while I’m at it). I started a CrossFit training program a few weeks ago,and some of the girls that train there are just HUGE, they compete in the CF Games and all, ad they lift serious weight. So I was surprised to find CrossFit among the exercise programs that you would not recommend. Is there any reason for this? Do you think they are “cheating” on CrossFit and doing some other training on the side? I would love to know your thoughts about this. Thanks!

    • Shane Duquette on September 26, 2015 at 2:59 pm

      Hey Malena,

      A lot of CrossFit athletes were professional athletes and weightlifters before CrossFit even existed. For example, Rich Froning was an all-star baseball player in high school and an excellent football player. He then got an athletic scholarship to college. After college he became a firefighter. Throughout this whole period he was presumably lifting weights. At that point he turned to CrossFit and became a world champion competitor.

      I wouldn’t say they are “cheating” on CrossFit per se, but I also wouldn’t say that CrossFit made them fit or strong—they were fit and strong already. CrossFit may have made them fitter and stronger however. CrossFit is actually a pretty cool way for advanced lifters and extreme sports sort of people to turn fitness into a competition/challenge. I think it has a great sense of community and friendly constructive competition. The injury rates are high, but for advanced competitive lifters and athletes this is a risk they’re willing to take… and they’re also sturdy, rugged, and coordinated people that are less likely to get injured in the first place.

      Do these people do more than basic CrossFit? Probably! If you want to excel at a particular task, you generally need to train that specific task to a certain degree. If you want to be the very best, that generally requires a combination of exception genetics and exceptional dedication. The CrossFit competitors are all genetically gifted people and likely train in a very specific and deliberate way for the specific tasks they’ll be faced with during the CrossFit games. Since they’re so dedicated, they probably invest a lot more time and energy into training and recovering and supplementing (and perhaps performance enhancing drugs) than the average enthusiast.

      The reason we don’t recommend CrossFit for building muscle is because it’s not that effective. It’s most effective than many other fitness programs, since it does involve lifting weights, but it’s not nearly as effective at building muscle as something designed for building muscle (like bodybuilding), or nearly as effective at building strength as something designed to develop strength (like strength training). It’s also far more dangerous, far more time consuming, far more expensive, far more difficult, far more painful. It’s not a bad approach, it’s just not the best option for most skinny people who are trying to build muscle and improve their health/appearance.

      If you were a professional athlete or lifter asking me for a good way to improve or maintain your strength and fitness while having a blast competing against other likeminded people… I would enthusiastically recommend something like CrossFit 🙂

      Does that help / make sense?

    • Shane Duquette on September 26, 2015 at 3:08 pm

      To use the example of champion CrossFitter Rich Froning again, he’s got the same height and bodyfat percentage as Frank Zane, who was the top bodybuilder in the world for many years (during the 70s). Frank Zane almost certainly used steroids and devoted his life to building muscle. Rich Froning has ten more pounds of muscle.

      Rich Froning also trains several times per day.

      You see similar stats and lifestyles with female CrossFitters. They have physiques that may not be achievable without drugs. Certainly that are unachievable without world class genetics. They also often train several times per day.

      • Malena on September 28, 2015 at 7:38 pm

        Thank you for your answer, Shane! Keep up the good work. Greetings from Argentina 🙂

  26. Shea on November 6, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    I’ve searched & searched but have never found anything this comprehensive. I’m awestruck at how great this article is & actually thought it was written by a female. I just figured, only another skinny female could understand me. I love that I felt like this article covered everything that I am dealing with & that you back it with research, I love research! I am curious, as a 5′ 3″ 100lb female who is pretty weak, should I bother with jumping into your program or perhaps work on some basic strength training? For example, I can barely deadlift a barbell no plates.

    • Shane Duquette on November 7, 2015 at 12:05 am

      Hey Shea, so glad you liked the article! All of the issues in this article were ones that I struggled with personally as well. (Plus I’ve got a similarly skinny sister who I grew up with.) I think us skinny men and women perhaps have more in common than we realize, sometimes. In this case a love of research 😉

      We don’t start the program with barbell deadlifts, don’t worry. We begin with progressions that are easier to teach and safer for you to learn… yet still allow you to build muscle at a very rapid pace. I think you’ll dig it 🙂

      And I really hope you decide to join us! We’d love to have you.

  27. Stacy on December 1, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    You are SO awesome for this article. Finally, I have found a home on your blog! OMG, I am
    sucking up all this information like my life depends on it because I am sick of my boyish

    Question for you Shane: I started incorporating some moderate junk foods (the cornbread from
    Au bon pain for instance, is 480 calories, lots of peanut butter mixed with coconut milk and
    bananas etc.), and part of me is fearful that I will still be thin but now with some cellulite.

    But, on the other hand, it’s such a super quick way to add extra calories. Is this a bad idea? Thanks!

    • Shane Duquette on June 22, 2021 at 1:08 pm

      Thank you so much, Stacy! 😀

      It’s okay to add some easy calories into your diet. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that around 80% of your calories come from whole foods. When you’re making your foods yourself, that tends to be pretty easy. Even that “junk” food you’re describing has some great ingredients in it.

      So, no, it’s not a bad idea. Just make sure you’re also eating plenty of fruits, veggies, legumes, and protein 🙂

      Cellulite isn’t caused by eating junk food; it’s caused by body fat peaking through your fascia. It’s usually a rise in body-fat percentage that causes it to appear. Junk food doesn’t necessarily cause an increase in body-fat percentage. Only when it’s taken to excess.

  28. georgina on December 1, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    I’m so delighted to find this website! For ages I always wondered why I couldn’t find a website that caters for us skinny minnies!! I’m 21,5’2 and 92 pounds. My weight and figure have really started to depress me lately, with nasty comments being thrown around. This website was a godsend!

    I’m in college and have limited funds, but I’m just wondering… if I trained with heavy weights, would it actually give me a bum and decent legs? I have literally no hips so I’m just wondering is there anything I could do to give myself that curve at the hip or am I screwed?

    I’m more concerned about those specific areas, but I’ve also been called dangerously underweight for my BMI. I sleep all the time. For some reason, I’m always tired. I just don’t know what to do anymore!

    Thank you for making this website!

    • Shane Duquette on June 22, 2021 at 1:17 pm

      Hey Georgina, thank you so much!

      I’m sorry people have been bothering you about your body. That’s super frustrating. I always hated that.

      Yeah, if you lift weights, you can absolutely build a bigger bum and stronger legs! Squats and Romanian deadlifts are amazing for that. If you can get stronger at those movements, you’ll notice great gains in your lower body 🙂

      Gaining muscle goes hand in hand with increasing your BMI, too. If you can eat enough calories to gain a little bit of weight each week, and enough protein to build muscle, then your BMI will start inching up as you add muscle to your bum and legs.

  29. Vanessa on December 2, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    Oh. My. Gosh!!! I’m so happy to have found this site! I was getting so frustrated not being able to find information for my body type. Its only been the fact that I have had children back to back that has helped me maintain my 112 lb at 5’4, former 100 pounder soaking wet, body. 8 kids in all and it was the last 3 that finally gave this boy body some shape! Lol Only in the last five months have I had this insane tenacity to work out and get fit since I’m typically not athletic at all. In this process I’ve been able to pick up information here and there but only by sifting through all the “weight loss/build muscle”programs…you have it all concentrated down and so easily explained for a beginner like me!
    By reading just one article, I already feel a sense of relief! Thank you!!#

    • Shane Duquette on December 3, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      8 kids?! Wow! Congratulations x 8! 😀

      So glad you liked the article, Vanessa. I really hope it helps you accomplish your goals!

  30. amanda on December 21, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    I feel like a lightbulb finally went off in my brain !!! In college I weight lifted hated running and did martial arts .I ate tones of bacon hamburgers and fried chicken(I worked at wendys ) and then I took protein shakes … I felt better in my body than i did growing up . After college I used to work at a job where I lifted 5 gal paint buckets with ease another job were i lifted furniture ,I ate veggies bread and meat I felt great ! After I had my baby I lost all the fat I carefully gained with breast feeding and muscle and I felt terribly depressed I ate and Ate but non of those glorious curves stayed . I dont eat when im stressed and not working has stressed me out about money , food etc. I finally understand my body after reading this article . As i sit here I am noticing my twitchy fingers hovering over the keyboard twitching . my son gets hangry and is slim like me so is my husband . Now I can help them .will be sharing so the haters understand.

  31. Aly on January 3, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    Wow. I’m 11, 5 foot 3 and 80lbs. I am an noodle and now am working towards my goal or stronger, not skinnier

    • Shane Duquette on January 13, 2016 at 5:34 pm

      Best of luck accomplishing your goal, Aly! Rock on 😀

  32. Tessie on January 12, 2016 at 3:07 am

    I love this Article!

    In high school, I was a worry wort about being underweight. And gaining weight was a challenge. Now that I’m in the army, I have to prove to others that I’m more than a string bean.

    Just the other day, A girl at drill basically called me anorexic! She said that because I’m tiny, I must not eat. Even when I tried to explain why I’m so small, she interrupted me and acted like she knew my body. I love food. I love trying new foods and cooking anything Asian-related!

    In the Army, I’m known as a 92G (cook) but the food we have to cook is pig-related. All the others know I can’t eat it or I’ll get sick. (Plus the food is always gross anyway!) And when we get to go eat at a deli, I’m broke! Can’t eat if you have no money. (National Guard gets terrible pay).

    This girl calling me anorexic made me mad, but reading this though made me feel happy again. I’m going to send her this link and tell her to shove it where the sun don’t shine. I hardly have trouble maintaining a healthy weight and gaining muscle mass, but sometimes I get a bit antsy and check it anyway.

    Thank you for posting this and I definitely want the book!

    J.I. Jane

  33. Nadine on January 12, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Thank you for this article. I’m going to bookmark it and use it as a reference.

    I love seeing the before and after pictures. I wish there were girls I could relate to. I’m 5’7 and weigh 98-100 pounds. I’m really trying to change that. I’m so sick of not being able to dress the way I want, avoiding short sleeve shirts, skirts, and dresses. My goal weight is 115-125 pounds. I thought when I got pregnant, I would gain weight, but to no avail. I’ll give this a shot with high hopes.

    Thank you!

  34. soodeh on January 27, 2016 at 5:16 am

    Hi, this article was great!! I really loved it, especially because it seemed that finally, somebody understands me!

    You mentioned that we want to gain muscle. I think it’s probably because you’re a guy. Though developing stronger muscles helps the breasts look better on a woman, we know that fat is actually what will make women’s breasts bigger.

    So I was wondering if there is any way to gain fat, let it stay in the breasts part, and make it into muscles in other areas and in breasts too?

    • Shane Duquette on January 29, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      Hey Soodeh, so glad you thought the article was great! 😀

      We made this site not because we thought that women wanted to build muscle, we made it because we had tons and tons of requests from women reading our site for skinny men (Bony to Beastly) who were asking for a women’s version 🙂

      Your hormones and genetics will influence where you store fat, but gaining fat is fairly straightforward. Not necessarily easy, but straightforward at least. You’d need to eat enough to be in a calorie surplus. Once you’re in a calorie surplus your body will start storing some of those extra calories. If you’re lifting weights and eating a hearty amount of protein then much, if not all, of that weight will be muscle. So to make sure that you also gain fat you’ll need to eat even more, driving that calorie surplus even higher, and assuring that there are so many extra calories that your body will have to store some as fat.

      That would probably give you the visual change you’re looking for, since the muscle will also be helping to fill out and hold up the areas you’re eager to build 🙂

      I hope that helps!

  35. hdotpdot on January 27, 2016 at 7:47 am

    This was a great read. The problem is now, I need to stop being picky with my food and motivate myself with weight training, which is a little hard.

    • Shane Duquette on January 29, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      Ahaha, yes, this is true.

      I’d recommend building your diet out of foods you already like. No need to switch over to entirely eating salad or anything. And with the training, start small! Anything is better than nothing 🙂

      Good luck!

  36. Adrianne on January 31, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this article. I’m 29, 5’4″ and 106lbs, and although that’s at the lower end of a healthy bmi, I’m still “skinny fat”. I’m don’t regularly exercise and last summer I decided I wanted to tighten up my mid section and legs, but everything I read online didn’t really seem to fit my body type. I needed up getting down to 100lbs and still wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, all that happened was that I lost my boobs and butt! So, if I start weight training will I simultaneously lose the little layer of fat that I have while also building muscle? I assume this means I don’t need to restrict my diet like I thought I’d need to to lose that last bit of fat? Would this program be suited to my body type?

    • Shane Duquette on February 1, 2016 at 8:56 pm

      Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that, Adrianne. Unfortunately, I can relate to following advice that was poorly suited for my body type and winding up even scrawnier 🙁

      Building muscle while losing fat is not common, as muscle is best built in a calorie surplus and fat is best lost in a calorie deficit. However, you’re in a good position to be an exception to that rule. Numerous studies have shown that people who are new to lifting weights (properly) will often simultaneously lose fat while building muscle if their diet is also on point. (The other exceptions are obese people who are lifting weights while dieting, and bodybuilders taking steroids.)

      Your diet would need to be pretty good. Not in a crazy way, but good in a couple specific ways: a good amount of protein, and not an absurd amount of junk food (especially if it’s very high in fat), for starters. Your weightlifting program would also need to be quite good.

      Yes! This program was designed specifically for women with your body type, and I’m very confident that we can help you accomplish your goals 🙂

      I hope you decide to join us!

  37. Bee on February 2, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    Hi I love this article brilliant insight in to how your body works. I am currently 8st 5pounds and naturally toned already. For the life of me I’ve been trying to gain weight for years and it is really getting me depressed, I’m currently eating 2500-3000 calories a day for the past week to try and gain weight, not really exceeding but I do a lot of working and light lifting throughout the day and I have a child that keeps me active lol. I’m quite musculature already so I’m very reluctant to lift any weights etc. What do you recommend for me I will do anything if it will definitely work but I want to gain it relatively fast not in a week obviously but I want to gain at least 10pounds in the next few weeks, is that realistic? Thanks

    • Shane Duquette on February 2, 2016 at 6:29 pm

      Hey Bee,

      Are you saying that you want to gain weight, but you don’t want to lift weights because you don’t want that weight gain to be muscle? So you want to gain fat, yes?

      People can gain fat fairly quickly, yeah. If you eat enough food you’ll gain fat. How much you eat will determine how quickly you gain the fat. You’ll gain a little bit of muscle while doing it too, simply from gaining weight. You can minimize the muscle gained by not eating a lot of protein.

      Does that help?

      • Bee on February 2, 2016 at 7:04 pm

        Hi, thank you for your prompt reply. Yes i want to gain fat as I’m quite slim and I have a natural athletic physique. I’ve been eating so much a day for years now but maybe I haven’t been consistently enough or been eating for a lengthier period. I’ve been eating healthy high calorie foods like Avocadoes and natural fruit shakes like banana smoothies etc as well as a little binge eating too, but I’m just not getting the results that I crave. I’m putting the weight on my boobs and a little on thighs but it is very minimal and doesn’t stay. Do you know how much realistically some body can put on before it shows? I’m guessing it will be more than 3-4 pounds. I just want to be a fuller woman but im not sure what to do to get a fuller figure all round. B

        • Shane Duquette on February 5, 2016 at 3:53 pm

          Yeah, consistency is a big part of it. A few days of overeating + a couple days of under-eating won’t always result in weight gain. You could start keeping track not just of your daily calories (and a rough estimate will do) but also your weekly calories. Just to make sure that at the end of the week you’ve eaten enough to be in a surplus overall.

          Five pounds will sometimes show on smaller women, depending on where the weight is. Ten pounds will usually be quite remarkable. Mind you, we’re more experienced with seeing muscular gains, not fat gains. Maybe it’s a little different with fat.

          The foods you’re eating are very healthy. If you want to gain fat you may find that dessert helps too. A nice healthy dinner + a ton of calories from higher calorie foods.

        • Shane Duquette on February 5, 2016 at 3:54 pm

          Also worth noting that it’ll likely be your genetics that determine where the fat goes. Unlike with muscle, it’s not entirely in your control.

  38. Bee on February 2, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    **i do a lot of walking but no exercising or lifting weights, I’m quite muscular naturally

  39. michael on February 14, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    So I’m a guy who read this and I’m 21, at 12 I was 74lbs, and my senior year in high school I was the most I ever weighed 125. I’m now taking a nutrition class in college and a lot of the information we’ve gone over so far coincides with what I read here. Personally this was hugely informative and makes my life (body) so much more understandable and I believe it will help in my own endeavors for gaining weight mainly muscle.

    On the criticism side the only thing I can think of missing from this awesome article is being aware having too little body fat in comparison to the rest of your body as you gain more weight, or as ya’ll say bombshell.

    • Shane Duquette on February 16, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      Hey Michael. Thanks for the kind words, man! Glad you dug it. Have you seen our Bony to Beastly site for skinny dudes? You might dig it 🙂

      What do you mean about having too little body fat as you gain weight? That’s more of a cutting issue rather than an issue people often run into when bulking, but I think I’m misunderstanding you there.

    • Shane Duquette on February 16, 2016 at 7:15 pm

      Oh! My max weight at the end of university was 130 at a height of 6’2. I definitely feel ya on the skinny guy front 🙁

  40. Lisa on February 15, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Thank you so much for this wonderful article! I’ve been searching so long for something like this and I just happened to stumble across it today. I’m the skinniest of everyone in my family and I’ve always been underweight. I thought I’d catch up but I realised my sisters have been heavier than me at my age. I’m 27, 5’6 1/2 and had been stuck around 115lbs but now I’ve gone up to 121lbs thanks to dance. I dance 3 days a week ( modern, ballet, pointe) and although there’s no weightlifting I had to build a lot of muscle strength to be a stronger dancer. I used to be very disappointed with my weight but puberty gave me a slim hourglass/ athletic shape and I’ve decided to just live how I am. My ideal weight is 125lbs though and I think your method will really help me. I’m also a hardgainer and I lose about 5 lbs every time I get sick with the flu or so. I think I eat well enough, I love fruits and vegetables especially. I really appreciate you writing this article. Love from the Caribbean island of Grenada :).

    • Shane Duquette on February 16, 2016 at 7:18 pm

      Our pleasure, Lisa! Really glad you liked it. And congrats on gaining those 6 pounds!! That’s awesome 🙂

      I really hope you’re able to gain those last four pounds! I agree. I think with some good lifting and a big diet you’ll have great success 🙂

  41. Makida on March 5, 2016 at 2:24 am

    Thank you,thank you, thank you! I have been trying so hard to figure out what I could do to gain weight for the last 11 years+. I thought after having my daughter I’d keep some of the weight and be able to tone it out, but I ended up being smaller than I was before the pregnancy. I can’t tell you how many so called diets/exercise routines I’ve done and fail miserably at but I knew that it had to do with having a high metabolism. You clarified everything for me. But I’m also from Toronto and I get cold quite easily, I figured that was because I was small. Being 30,5’4 and always being 101 lbs sucks but I find hope knowing that I’m not the only one thinking like this and for that I thank you again. Definitely going to sign up! Motivation is key!

    • Shane Duquette on March 5, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Really glad the article helped, Makida! You sound like exactly who we wrote it for, and exactly who the program is designed for. I hope you do decide to sign up! 😀

  42. Ana on March 11, 2016 at 12:24 am

    I weigh 110 and my height is 5’8″. I’ve been trying to gain for years but it’s impossible. im too scared to try exercising because I don’t want to loose weight. What would you recommend?

    • Shane Duquette on March 11, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      Hey Ana,

      I know exactly how you feel. That’s how it was for me as well. I would try to exercise to build muscle / gain weight… and it would just increase my metabolism to the point where I would lose weight. I know how frustrating that is.

      What would I recommend? I’d recommend following a good weightlifting program while making sure to consume enough calories and protein. If you do a good job of this, the weightlifting will cause your body to invest in building new muscle, and the calories and protein will allow for that growth.

      We’ve got a free beginner’s lifting guide here:

      We’ll also be coming out with a free beginner’s nutrition guide within the next couple of weeks.

      And if you’d like a fully optimized lifting and nutrition program that includes a yearlong membership in the community and coaching from us along the way… there’s the Official Bony to Bombshell Program. If you’re really serious about this that’s what I’d recommend.

      I hope that helps, and good luck!

  43. Sydney on March 12, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Wonderful Article! I’ve just gotten back into exercising after being lazy for 4+ months (And it’s quite noticeable if I do say so myself).
    I’m an Endomorph/Mesomorph with a somewhat hourglass-ish shape and I’m trying to lose fat. Recently I’ve started the T25 workout (when I say recently, I mean a week ago! XD). I’m curious of what other types of workouts there are for me!

    • Shane Duquette on March 12, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Sydney! Really glad you liked the article.

      T25 is sort of an intense “no pain, no gain” approach to general fitness, from what I can understand of the workout structure. (So not much related to body composition or strength, but rather blood vessel development, oxygen delivery, muscular endurance, etc.) Bony to Bombshell is more about strength, muscle growth (and fat loss while maintaining muscle mass, if you so choose). Different styles of training with different goals and outcomes 🙂

      As someone who already has an athletic physique and an hourglass shape you may not need a program that focuses on building muscle/curves, as you may develop them very easily (or already have them). If you wanted to lift for growth and strength though, I bet you’d love the results of something like this too!

      Best of luck with your training 🙂

  44. Carolyn on March 21, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    This is amazing!!!! I have been looking for information like this for such a long, long time. I have always been a skinny gal and struggled with it forever but this year has been especially frustrating. I gave birth to my daughter in June and after gaining 60 pounds during pregnancy (and never looking better honestly), I did what EVERYONE told me to do and started moving and exercising postpartum to get my body back. Between light exercise and breastfeeding I have dipped below what I was prepregnancy! Its so frustrating that the only information I have been able to find is just to eat more. Which of course I have been really putting an effort into. I have thought about stopping breastfeeding but my goal was to make it to a year and my daughter is so healthy it feels wrong to stop just for my own vanity. Nobody has any sympathy for a woman who has lost all her pregnancy weight and then some but I look and feel terrible. Just skinny and bony and worn out. I’m 5’9 and 115lbs. Anyway, I can’t afford the program now but I will definitely be saving up! So interesting! Thank you so much for all the work and time you have put into these articles. Can’t wait to read more.

    • Jared Polowick on March 23, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      Hi Carolyn,

      Congrats on your new little one!

      Breastfeeding is more energy and protein intensive, so you’re right, you’ll need to make up for that by getting in a bit more calories and protein. However there are ways to make this easier. Having more liquid calories is one trick, as liquids don’t affect your hunger the same way chewing your food does, so having smoothies is a quick tip to getting in some more calories pretty easily!

      All the research continues to demonstrate just how much better breast milk is for your LO over formula. Obviously if there is medical condition preventing breastfeeding, there is nothing wrong with formula and it would then become the best option, but we’d encourage you to find some improvements to make to your diet to make it easier to get some more calories. For example new research found how the sucking creates a vacuum on the nipple, and some of your LO’s spit gets brought into your body for analyzing, so your body’s more developed immune system can send important antibodies over to her through breastmilk to keep her healthy!

      Getting in those extra calories should also help with feeling better. My wife and I just celebrated the birth of our first child 3 weeks ago, I was just saying to some friends how for my wife it’s like the perfect storm for not feeling good: lack of sleep, hormones going crazy, completely new routine, and she’s in a calorie deficit (losing weight never feels good in the moment).

      PS we do have a payment plan option to help spread out the cost over 4 months. Give us a shout at or through the contact page if you’d like more details 🙂

  45. R. on April 8, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Hey guys, I’m 22 years old, 5’7 and weigh 107 lbs (I typically fluctuate between 105-110lbs) the most I think I’ve ever weighed was 115-117 lbs when I was a full-time dancer AND participated in P90X 6 years ago. Obviously, I have a high metabolism, because it takes a LOT for me to gain weight, and it’s typically muscle if it is any sort of weight. But the thing is, I eat really well. My mom is former nurse and has studied health and nutrition for years, I take a lot of supplements, eat organic foods, but I still splurge like any average American does. Anyway, I recently was in a conversation with a bunch of people about weight, and I brought up the fact I am also physically smaller boned, and how I feel that with my petite build, I don’t feel that weighing 107-110lbs is necessarily a BAD thing, or an indication that I’m unhealthy. Because I’m not, again, I will stress I eat an extremely healthy diet, and I’m also very active, I’m a former ballet dancer. I’m just super lean, and my bone structure is a lot smaller than how the average woman is built. So, this one chart was insisting that a 5’7 woman *has* to weigh at least 135 lbs. It was a feat for me to reach a 115 pounds, I can’t fathom breaking the 120 lbs barrier. Anyway, am I wrong in using the build/bone structure as a reasoning for being so small and a lightweight? I’ve been told that’s a bad excuse, but in my instance of being petite and 100% healthy, I can’t think of any other reason why that doesn’t make sense.

    • Shane Duquette on April 9, 2016 at 11:06 am

      Being “the small boned type,” as Reg Park once famously said, is closely associated with being lighter and naturally carrying less muscle mass. You’re totally right that your bone structure itself will weigh less, and you may also have slenderer muscles. If you became good at lifting you’d likely be the person that was considered strong for their size.

      Are you at a healthy weight? That depends! Eating nutritious foods is very important, as is being active, but the most important thing is eating the right amount of food. Someone on the verge of starving to death because they only eat salad is in far worse shape than someone maintaining a healthy weight on McDonalds, you know? However you are right, different people will have very different healthy weights. Your ideal, healthy weight might be far lower than most other people if your bones weigh substantially less.

      You also need enough protein, calcium, vitamin D and heavy lifting to keep your bone structure strong. This is especially true because your bone structure is narrow and more fragile, and it sounds like you’ve got a body type that would benefit from lifting more than cardio if you wanted to pursue general health, as that would bring up your weak points (strength and bone density). Another approach would be to take your genetics to their extreme and become a fantastic decathlete or marathon runner or whatnot, although that may not be as healthy.

      Anyway, yes, what you’re saying totally makes sense. I think your BMI will always be on the low side. I don’t think that’s necessarily a problem—and may even be a very good thing!—so long as you rock your body type well 🙂

  46. Kaity on April 9, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    Wow. Thank you for caring to put so much time and effort into sharing your knowledge. This was so helpful to me. I’ve struggled with being a tiny 5″ and 94 lbs at my worst and maybe 108 lbs at my best (that’s a complete estimate though. I never really cared to weigh myself at my best). I’ve always thought I had a “problem” with my appetite. I just get full quicker than most people I know (now I know why, thanks!). The only times I ever had a big appetite were when I was training to become a firefighter and worked my bitty butt to the max and when I was pregnant 🙂 For me, exercise (a LOT of it) has been the only thing that has ever boosted my appetite. However, since I had my daughter (18 months old now) I just don’t have enough time yet to be able to get back into much of an exercise regime (at least not one intense enough to boost my appetite). So along with my exercise went my appetite. Lately, I feel like I’m constantly trying to put on weight (simply to avoid all the horrible “You’re so tiny!” and “Don’t you eat?!” comments that are usually followed by the feeling of being completely misunderstood and judged). I’ve tried just eating more, but I’m always in a battle against my appetite. I keep telling my body, “EAT MORE, c’mon DO IT!” and my body says, “please… no more. I don’t waant it.” and even though I uncomfortably force myself to eat more, I’ve had minimal results. I now realize I haven’t been taking into account the types of food that I’m eating. After reading your article I really feel like I have the information I need to be able to manage my appetite and gain more weight. I’m also inspired to do some heavy lifting when I get the time. Thanks again for the article, and even for taking the time to reply to EVERY comment. They’re each so informative in themselves. And it’s just so impressive that you take time to help out strangers. So I guess I’m also inspired to help out strangers. Lol. 🙂 Honestly though, I really am.

    • Shane Duquette on April 11, 2016 at 11:55 am

      So glad we could help, Kaity! I can definitely relate to your struggles with eating enough to gain weight, and I’m so happy that we’ve been able to help you succeed at it without feeling like you’re always force-feeding yourself. Good luck! 🙂

  47. Lea on April 13, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Guys, can you help me? I don’t know what to do with my body anymore.
    I’m 20 years old, 4’11 and 104 lbs and still I’m not skinny, I’m actually kind of fat, I have huge legs with no thigh gap, big hips and a very flabby appareance. In the past I tried to bulk and the result was even more cellullite, even a bigger butt, even more fat in the hips and a bloated face. But I’m afraid of losing weight since I’m already at an healthy BMI of 20 and don’t know how lower I could go.Thank you!

    • Shane Duquette on April 14, 2016 at 12:20 pm

      Hey Lea, when you’re relatively new to lifting and eating for muscle gain, you can actually gain some muscle and strength even while losing fat. Since a lot of your concerns have to do with your body fat, I’d recommend cutting first. I know that will mean losing a little weight, but that weight would be in the form of the fat you’re trying to get rid of. Once you’re leaner and feeling better about having less fat, from there you can slowly bulk up while trying to stay lean, and it’s easier to stay lean once you’re already lean 🙂

      Just make sure to follow a good, heavy lifting program and eat plenty of protein (around a gram of protein per pound bodyweight) as emphasize muscle retention and growth!

  48. Andrea on May 23, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Reading this website has been a breath of fresh air! I am 20, 5’2” and have never been over 97 lbs (my goal was 100 by 18yo). I love eating healthy (but I do also enjoy junk food) and I am active, so I didn’t think there was hope for me to ever gain weight while maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but now I know that I can! I am seriously looking into this program, but as a student my budget is limited, but I know where to start now. 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on May 28, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      Hey Andrea, really glad you’ve been liking it!

      I’m going to send you an email with a student discount in it 🙂

      (Any other students reading this can send us an email at: for that same discount.)

  49. Swathi on May 29, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Finally something!! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article. I appreciate your effort. I’m Indian, 24, 5’2 and weigh 94 pounds. I’m extremely unhappy the way I look. My parents were quite the same when they were of my age. are my genes faulty or can I do something about it?

    • Shane Duquette on June 2, 2016 at 7:24 pm

      Hey Swathi,

      Yes, your genes may not be helping you build muscle. If you’re naturally less muscular though, there’s a good chance that you’re built well for something else. For example, a lot of us naturally thin people naturally have good cardiovascular health and endurance, meaning we don’t need to do tons of cardio in order to be in good shape.

      To get a stronger and more muscular physique though you may find that you need to approach it very deliberately, following a dedicated muscle-building program in the gym and eating a muscle-building diet. If you can do that, I think you’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish, even with genetics that aren’t great for building muscle 🙂

  50. Wen on June 10, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Finally a great article for naturally skinny people! I’ve always been thin and in high school when asked if I was anorexic, I would reply, no I’m bulimic just to traumatize them (I’m not bulimic nor anorexic). I find that no matter what, I can’t seem to force myself to eat more than what my body asks for. I have no cravings for junk or sweets. I eat when I’m hungry and I’m naturally attracted to eat healthy foods. I’ve also always been a slow eater and I think that helps your body to know that you’re full compared to people who swallows way too fast. Also I’m an anxious person so I think that doesn’t help with the weight…and i sweat easily… I’ve also checked for my thyroid many many times and seems like I’m fine! Just a super metabolism! I’m 31, 5’4 and currently at 95lbs (because I just passed through a stressful part of my life and when I stress I lose easily). My highest weight was 115lbs and to be at that weight, I was doing Tae kwon do 3x a week and playing ultimate Frisbee which opened my appetite and made me eat a lot more… I was also drinking more beer back then. So I agree with the article. When I train (muscle mass), I gain weight and appetite. My only problem is when I stop training. I lose the weight so easily. I also tried to do the calories counting thing but had a hard time forcing myself to meet the numbers and I get so hooked on trying to gain. My conclusion is, train and eat as your body ask for (I do eat calorific food – olive oil, avocados- in my diet) but I don’t count anymore nor look at the scale. As long as I feel good in my body, that’s what counts.

    • Shane Duquette on June 10, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      Hey Wen,

      If you eat super quickly you can definitely get ahead of your appetite and accidentally eat too much, although in your case that might be a welcome effect! 😉

      The guy who invented the body type classification system, William Sheldon, called us naturally thin people “ectomorphs” and said that we were the anxious ones. While I don’t know of any high quality research showing this to be true, there does seem to be a link—at least enough of one for me to be curious about it.

      Most ectomorphs lose their appetites when stressed, which is the opposite response to most.

      Sounds like you’ve found a system that works really well for you! That’s awesome. And thank you for sharing! I bet a lot of readers will see themselves in your comment 🙂

  51. Praise on July 11, 2016 at 4:25 am

    I’m 16 and weigh about 45kg. I’ve tried to eat a lot and at right times but it never helps. My collar bones are overly visible and my parents keep complaining.
    My stomach size must be small because I get so filled easily.
    Are there any foods I should eat more to gain healthy weight fast?
    I look forward to your reply, and thank you for this site!

  52. Brittany Manbeck on August 16, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Hi my name is Brittany. I’m 19, and about 5’3.5″ and about 90- 100lbs. I’ve always been this small even ever since I was little too. I’m really trying to gain weight because I always have to hear from my Nana about my weight all the time about me needing to see a doctor and everything. And when I do gain a little weight it comes right back off. Thanks for this article it was also really helpful.
    Please, please help me!

  53. Goran on August 20, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Hi Shane,
    I see that you (and most others) are advocating low rep, heavy weights.

    What do you think of this article?

    I was able to find the cited studies online (just google the univ. + topic), but I don’t have the technical knowledge to interpret it correctly.

    • Shane Duquette on August 22, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      Hey Goran, sorry about your comment not posting right away. We don’t censor or pre-approve comments or anything like that, but you included a link, which got it automatically flagged as spam. (You can post a link in the text field that says “your website” and it won’t be auto-flagged as spam.)

      As for the article, Jim Stoppani is a legitimate source and he’s accurately explaining the results of good studies. The only confusion is that you think we disagree. We don’t! The science is very clear that using both higher and lower reps is ideal for growth, so the Bony to Bombshell program uses a strategic blend of higher and lower reps. That’s also what we recommend in all of our articles 🙂

      I think I see where the confusion is coming from, though, and I’m going to take that into consideration when writing from now on. We do talk about endurance work being atrocious for building muscle, and it is. However, when we talk about endurance work, we’re talking about jogging, aerobics, etc. In that article, Jim Stoppani is talking about higher rep bodybuilding stuff. That’s still considered strength work, the purpose is still to make your muscles bigger and stronger, and it’s still very effective. The difference is that you’re emphasizing metabolic stress instead of mechanical tension in order to grow the muscle. Like Stoppani says, the best results are achieved when you use both.

      Does that help / answer your question?

      • Goran on August 23, 2016 at 5:36 pm

        Yes it does! I see I should have spent more attention when reading both here and the article. I’ve just recently started on my quest to gain weight and muscle and I am pretty green on this. However, this site is helping!

        Thanks for taking your time to clear up my confusion/question. I’m very impressed with this site and your focus on having everything referenced in empirical studies – something that seems to be sorely missing from most sites trying to offer information on this topic. Keep up the good work.

        • Shane Duquette on August 24, 2016 at 9:39 am

          Thank you, Goran! So glad that you like it. Best of luck gaining weight and muscle! We’re here for you if you need any help 🙂

  54. Raisa on August 21, 2016 at 10:40 am

    HI there, so I recently came across this article and it was very helpful but I still have a lot of questions. I am 17 and my body is extremely messed up, like I have fat legs but my waist is thin and my upper body is extremely thin, I’m only losing weight from my upper body and not my my lower part which sucks because it makes me look much more unattractive than I already am. I don’t know what to do because i highly doubt many women have my ugly body structure, I have terrible self esteem issues because of my body and face, what can I do? :/ I have tried to eat less, eat more, exercise nothing works on me and it concerns me a lot.

    • Shane Duquette on August 22, 2016 at 8:13 pm

      Hey Raisa, it sounds like you have a pear body shape. That’s common for women. In fact, it’s the most stereotypically feminine body fat storage pattern. Frustrating, I know, but definitely not a bad sign as far as your genetics go.

      The solution is to lose fat and build muscle. Losing fat will help you trim up your lower body, building muscle will replace your chubbier lower body with a more muscular, curvaceous one while helping you build up a stronger, more toned upper body.

      I suspect the reason that things aren’t going smoothly right now is because you aren’t doing the best job of building muscle while you’re lose fat, which is possible for almost every woman who is new to weightlifting. You may even be losing muscle as you’re losing fat, which is resulting in a skinner appearance.

      Are you following a good lifting program, eating enough protein (around a gram per pound bodyweight) and losing weight at a moderate pace (around a pound per week)?

      • Raisa on August 24, 2016 at 4:26 am

        Thanks for answering back!! I have been eating tons of protein but I haven’t been able to find a good lifting program. I m not allowed to go to the gym and I don’t really have those weightlifting stuff at home :((( I m exercising my legs a lot (eg pulses, squats, lunges) I have only started recently though but i hope to continue for the rest of the year. The problem is I m extremely underweight and I m scared I might lose too much fat if i exercise too much I m also worried I might keep gaining weight in my lower body if I eat a lot. I don’t know what to do at all :(((

        • Shane Duquette on August 24, 2016 at 9:48 am

          If you were able to lift weights you could expect to gain some muscle as you lose weight. If you aren’t lifting weights, any exercise you do will help, although you’ll probably still lose a little bit of muscle.

          Here’s an excerpt from the rough draft of a little cutting guide that I’m writing:

          “Overweight test subjects were assigned to one of three groups. The first group just dieted. The second group dieted and did aerobics. The third group dieted, did aerobics, and lifted weights.

          The dieting group lost 14.6 pounds of fat over twelve weeks, proving that even just a calorie deficit can produce weight loss. The downside is that they lost 6.5 pounds of muscle along with that fat.

          The dieting and aerobics group lost 15.6 pounds of fat over twelve weeks. A little bit of extra fat loss from the aerobics, but they still lost an appreciable amount of muscle—4.5 pounds.

          The group that added in strength training lost 21.1 pounds of fat. That’s 44% more fat loss than the diet group and 35% more fat loss than the aerobics group. Even more impressively, they only lost half a pound of muscle. Not perfect, but very close.

          This study isn’t a black sheep either. All the other studies looking into body composition during weight loss are finding similar outcomes. In a 2014 study, for example, the aerobic group lost 7 pounds of fat and 6 pounds of muscle. The lifting group lost 22 pounds of fat and GAINED 4 pounds of muscle.”

          Have you seen our beginner’s workout guide for women looking to build muscle and gain weight?

          You’ll want to do the lower body stuff, yes, but you’ll also want to do the upper body stuff! Building some muscle mass and tone in your upper body will help balance out your natural pear shape.

          If you don’t have any weights at all and you aren’t willing to get any, just do the best that you can without them.

          Does that help at all?

          • Raisa on August 25, 2016 at 6:24 am

            Yes this definitely helps, thank you so much!!!

          • Shane Duquette on August 25, 2016 at 2:40 pm

            My pleasure! 🙂

  55. Candy on October 11, 2016 at 12:11 am

    Hi I am 22 years old. Weigh like 113 lbs last time I checked. & I am 5’2. But I am too thin for my own good I feel. I eat & eat & nothing helps me gain weight. I do not know what could help. I want to get thicker thighs/hips & waist. But my body does not work with me. Any advice or workouts that could help if that’s what I need. Thanks!

  56. Diana on October 17, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Hey, firstly, this article was extremely informative/ helpful and I can’t thank you enough for it. I just have a few questions I can’t seem to find the answers to no matter how much I look. I’m not sure if i’m pear shape because I barely store any fat in my hip waist area. Heck I don’t even store much fat in my thighs but instead all my fat goes to my calves? Does that happen to pear shaped women? My upper body won’t store fat at all and it’s getting really annoying for me because I don’t look very good in the body I have. I started exercising about 2 months ago, I recently found some good leg workouts and I also do upper body workout so I don’t know what’s wrong?

    • Shane Duquette on November 3, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      Hey Diana, that’s definitely a stranger situation. Are you sure that your calves are storing fat and not muscle? Or that your bones in your legs aren’t thicker?

      The good news is that these things tend to get solved when you gain enough muscle and/or lose enough fat. In your case, it sounds like you’d benefit more from building muscle in your thighs and upper body to balance out your calves, and it sounds like you might be headed in the right direction already! Have you been succeeding in gaining weight over these past couple months?

  57. Liberty on November 26, 2016 at 1:47 am

    I have to echo the sentiments of so many others—I am blown away by the thought, time, and care that went into this….this has to be more information in one article than I’ve gotten anywhere else COMBINED. I’m 5’9″ and have been 105-110 lbs since I was 15 (I’m now 30.) I’m narrow from head to toe, like a normal person that got stretched! I struggle with feeling like something must be deeply wrong with me, yet I carried three babies to full term, gained a healthy 35-40 lbs each time, all my girls were 8-9 lbs at birth and born at home without complications. So my body has to be stronger than it looks, right?? :p I think my biggest struggle is that while I love food and will happily eat whatever is put in front of me, I’m also bad about taking time to feed myself extra….all my energy goes toward my girls (all homeschooled, and they EAT all my SNACKS lol….) anyway I got myself a kettle bell and I am feeling motivated to give this a shot. I’d honestly love a little fat too (boobs and a butt would be nice!) but most of all I just want to feel strong and healthy….not like a weakling! Thank you so much for this site and I’ll be a frequent visitor!

    • Shane Duquette on November 30, 2016 at 7:48 pm

      So glad you loved the article, Liberty! Thank you so much for the kind words.

      It sounds like you have an incredible family, and definitely: being naturally thin doesn’t mean that your body isn’t capable.

      I’ve found that keeping some fun variations of trail mix around can help me when I’m busy and need some easy calories. They contain an absurd amount of calories, often with most of those calories coming from whole food, they require 0 prep time, it takes seconds to wolf down a handful, and it would actually be pretty good for them if your girls stole some 😛

  58. Pax on November 30, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Omg, everything finally makes sense. I have been so so puzzled about my body all my life!

  59. lizzy on December 12, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Love this article. I’ve finally gotten what’s going on with my body. I find it very difficult to eat n sometimes I won’t even be hungry at all. I lose weight faster than I gain it. I stopped exercising ( hoping to add muscles) as soon as I discovered I was losing more weight. Pls guide me on what to do. Thanks.

    • Shane Duquette on December 20, 2016 at 10:28 am

      Hey Lizzy, you’re exactly who we made this site for. Have you considered signing up for our Bony to Bombshell Program? We can help you make sure you’re gaining weight, building muscle, and moving closer to your ideal body every week 🙂

  60. Sajar on December 20, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    This is pretty much the greatest article I’ve ever read in my life. As someone who has gone between 88 to 95 pounds at 30 years old, I’ve heard my fair share of homicidal-thought-inducing comments like “Doesn’t anyone feed you? You need some biscuits and gravy! Are you anorexic? Are you sick? Must be nice to have your “problem” . This, coupled with the hate filled stares by people unhappy with their weight, has created so much insecurity that I resorted to hating on myself just to make people want to be around me. Then one day I said, fuck it. I’m getting a personal trainer, getting my version of healthy and will walk my skinny proud ass around regardless of the bitter bastards. I can’t help my genes but I can help how people’s opinion on them affects me. Kudos again to this study because it has boosted my continued desire to be fit and healthy without the mother effing biscuits and gravy. You are awesome.

    • Shane Duquette on December 31, 2016 at 10:28 am

      So glad you liked the article, Sajar!

      Wow, that sounds frustrating. Getting comments like that ourselves is exactly why we made this site, and I really hope it can help.

      Sounds like you’re already on the right track. Good luck! 😀

  61. Sophie on January 23, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Hi, thanks so much for writing this. Im 19, 5′ 6.5″ and 42kg/90 pounds. Im not looking to gain much weight but some sort of curve would be good as i am currently a stick insect. I am also asked if i eat enough whenever i go to the doctors, and am getting sick of all of the articles on weight loss. If you have any tops, especially as im celiac (gluten free) and a lot of supermarket gluten free food is also marketed as diet food, that would be fantastic. Thanks so much, S.

    • Shane Duquette on January 31, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      Hey Sophie,

      I can totally relate to all of what you’re saying. All of our tips are for people in exactly your situation: thin, and struggling to eat enough to get the body they want. Fortunately, even as a celiac, all the same weight gain principles still apply. We’ve had a lot of members go through the program with harsher food restrictions than that, it just involves some strategy. I think you’ll do fine 🙂

      If you’re looking for a free beginner’s guide, we’ve got an article on the eating side of things here.

  62. Monica on February 25, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Hi im 16 years old im 5’2 and weigh 140 pounds im skinny fat which means i gain weight mostly in my stomach so i wanted to gain weight in the right places and lose weight in my stomach what should i do ? I do workout everyday i only do butt thigh and sometimes ab workouts which is resistance traning but i have no weights and i the only unhealthy things i eat is white bread white goods and canned goods

    • Shane Duquette on February 28, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      Hey Monica, it sounds like your nutrient partitioning is off. When you’re eating too many calories, your body is storing too much fat instead of building muscle. When you’re eating too few calories, your body is burning too much muscle instead of burning fat. It’s a really complex issue since it can have multiple causes. Perhaps you’re not doing a workout that’s good for building muscle, or eating enough protein. Or your calorie intake is swinging too high and too low depending on the day. Even smaller factors can play a role here, like how well you sleep and how stressed you are. I’d start by improving your workout program and diet, though.

      It’s not so much about how healthfully you eat, but what kind of body composition changes your diet is encouraging. So a diet that’s high in protein but low in fruits/veggies isn’t as healthy as it could be, but it could build muscle and burn fat just fine. What you might be doing is the opposite of that: eating healthy, but not in a way that builds muscle or burns fat very well. Ideally we want you doing both: eating healthy in a way that has you building muscle and burning fat optimally.

      Have you read our beginner’s guide to nutrition or our beginner’s guide to working out? Those should help you get started. If you want a full program to guide you through the process of toning up your stomach while building muscle in your butt and thighs, I’d recommend The Bony to Bombshell Program.

  63. Topaz on March 20, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Hi, ( this might seem late but here we go) I’m a 14 yrs old African American, who weighs 105lbs ( last time at the doctors office that was my weight I don’t check at all unless I go to the doctor for a checkup), and is 5’3. I’m naturally skinny and I’m not sure where to start in gaining muscle. My legs aren’t to skinny (kinda really fat unlike the rest of my upper body) but from the waist up (excluding head) I feel that I look like a skeleton. And me having long legs and arms doesn’t help either. I think it would be nice if I had just a bit of curve and maybe slightly bigger boobs, just slightly because being flat does have its benefits I suppose. Thanks for taking time to read this.

    • Jared Polowick on March 28, 2017 at 9:35 am

      Hi Topaz,

      Anyone under 18 would need permission from their parents to join our program. We recommend that every person, no matter their age, go to their doctor first to get cleared for lifting and for a new nutrition plan. This would be for any new exercise or diet program, not just ours. As with all online programs like ours, we can’t see you in person. So it’s a good idea to make sure you’re healthy and able to train by seeing a professional in person first.

      One other reason it’s best to get permission is that while weightlifting is extremely safe, safer than gardening, and much safer than sports especially soccer, there are still risks of injury such as dropping a weight on your toe and breaking it, etc.

      On a general note, lifting combined with a diet with lots of whole foods and protein is a great idea for almost everybody, including teens. A big part of our program is focused on nutrition which is very healthy (lots of protein, veggies, etc.) to help gain weight. For many of our members, who are underweight, even just gaining weight is healthy.

      Teenagers are a bit clumsier than adults though because they’re still growing. So it’s good to be mindful of that, watching your toes with weights, making sure to always have safety measures in place or spotters, etc.

      As a starting point I’d recommend checking out our beginner’s guide to nutrition and lifting and showing it to your parents to get the conversation started:

      We hope that’s somewhat helpful Topaz!

  64. Velma on June 25, 2017 at 6:26 am

    It may be vain of me but thank you for your websites original, simple illustrations and focused color palette. I have probably walked away from many useful websites because I simply could not justify reading in a cramped and chaotic webpage. Thanks to your forethought, I can actually appreciate this message.

    Also, thank you for making the case for strength. I don’t consider myself skinny. In fact, I’d be very happy if I could just make it to 140lbs and if that 140 lbs was made of muscle, Look Out World!!

    P.S. Your images popped up in my search for “good posture”

    • Velma on June 25, 2017 at 6:31 am

      140= 10 lbs difference I have yet to get by “just eating more”

    • Jared Polowick on June 28, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      Thanks Velma! We put a lot of effort into our design and illustrations. We feel like it’s something missing from the fitness sphere.

      Glad to know that some people do appreciate it, thanks again 🙂

  65. jasmine on July 8, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    Thank you for this it really helped me. I’m definitely in shape i play sports 4 days a week, but my body is not as toned or muscular as i’d like. I’m 5’5 126lbs but would like to gain more 5-10 lbs more maybe. I’ve tried some lifting but I’m not too good at keeping up with it and challenging myself to a long enough time of lifting and heavy enough weights. Everytime I seem to gain i lose it with the next month not sure what to do.

  66. Amelia on July 9, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    hello I can’t find my body shape could you help me please ?
    I’m 5″3 and I weight 112 limbs, 37.” inches around the shoulders my shoulders are quite square), no boobs (32 inches around the torso) small waist (26.3 inches) and hips with an ass (36.2 inches), when I stand in front of a mirror my hips are broader than my torso but a little bit smaller than my shoulders
    I really hate my body I feel ugly in it people keep telling me I’m an hourglass but I feel like I’ve got masculine broad shoulders even if people tell me I’m crazy

    so if I know my body shape I’ll follow your instructions in order to become a bombshell haha

    • Yona on August 5, 2020 at 6:04 am

      I saw this and I just had to reply, you have a very beautiful body and a very nice figure you are not ugly and I’m very sure you’d look great in anything

    • Yona on August 5, 2020 at 6:05 am

      Oh and you have a pearish hourglasshish figure

  67. Zara on September 23, 2017 at 2:48 am

    Okay so I weigh 40 kg and I’m 15, I have a fast metabolism and I honestly don’t like it. I’m always paranoid with my arms and legs so I try cover them up all the time. Do you have any tips how to gain muscle or even fat on my body.

  68. Clarissa on November 30, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    Weigh 107, I’m 5’6 ish and I’m 16 years old. I’m a skinny person and I’m taller than most girls and no matter how much I try to eat, my weight does not go up!!
    I eat a lot of fast food than my other friends and my weight still doesn’t increase. When I am eating I notice that I get full really fast and I try to overfeed in order to gain weight but I still look super skinny.
    I have found that I probably have a fast metabolism and I’ve tried looking everywhere for ways to increase weight and the only thing articles say is “Eat healthy foods” “exercise” but I have found this useless. I really don’t know what do to increase my weight!! I feel like I burn all the calories I eat in a matter of minutes!!
    Any advice that would help?

    • Shane Duquette on December 19, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      It’s common for naturally thin people to be taller than average. That’s one of the reasons we can be thinner than average: because our limbs and spine are longer than average.

      Okay, so, it’s pretty common for naturally skinny people to appear to have a large appetite and/or calorie intake. However, the very fact that you’re thin shows that you aren’t eating enough to gain weight. For many of us, that’s because we eat a ton of calories some times, but other times we eat fewer calories. When you average out your entire calorie intake, it winds up not being as much as you need to gain weight.

      It could also be that you have a very high metabolism, yes, or a very adaptive one. The adaptive metabolism is especially tricky because it means that when you eat lots of calories, your body will burn off the extra calories through body heat, or movement, or fidgeting, or etc. The goods news about having a high metabolism is that it won’t cancel out the results of lifting weights. I’m not sure if you’re lifting weights or not, but if you start following a good weightlifting program and you combine that with a diet that’s high enough in calories, your metabolism will not prevent you from building muscle, just from storing fat. So that actually winds up being a good thing 🙂

      The trick is to stimulate your muscles so that they’re desperate to grow.

      As for eating healthy, that’s just silly advice. Those people don’t know what they’re talking about, as you’ve already discovered. Healthy food tends to be LOWER in calories. If you switch from McDonalds to a salad, for example, you’re going to be eating WAY fewer calories. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t eat a healthy diet, but that it absolutely will not help you gain weight. A better approach would be to keep eating the foods you enjoy, but to add in higher-calorie foods that are also very nutritious. Some examples:
      -Dried fruits
      -Protein shakes
      -Dark chocolate
      -Trail mix
      -Cereal + milk
      -Whole milk

      These foods are both healthy and also a good source of calories.

      I really hope that helps!

  69. anabel on January 5, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Hi, am Anabel am 28 need help on how I can gain weight

    • Shane Duquette on January 8, 2018 at 11:55 am

      Hey Anabel, that’s what this entire site is about! You can browse all the articles, all of which cover different things that will make it easier for you to gain weight… but if you want a full system and to be walked through the entire process, check out The Bony to Bombshell Program:

  70. Sharon on January 9, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Oh wow!! This is really enlightening to be honest and at least now some things have been brought into perspective. I feel encouraged, motivated and more aware of my body Thank you!

  71. Hollie on January 24, 2018 at 6:00 am

    This website is great and really motivating! I’m 20 and at 5 ft 6 struggle to get over 110 lbs (usually fluctuate between 104 and 108). It’s weird because in some ways I love being slim but in other ways I don’t like it (wearing clothes made for a 10 year old and having people telling you that your knobbly spine is gross doesn’t exactly make you feel sexy). People seem to get the wrong end of the stick when I say I’m making healthy eating choices or going to the gym, there seems to be an assumption that slim women don’t need to take care of themselves. But you can be skinny and still have a pudgy tum and flat bum (bane of my life!).

    • Shane Duquette on January 24, 2018 at 11:04 am

      Hey Hollie, so glad you like the website!

      Yeah, some people can be jerks. I have no idea how people think that pointing out a knobbly spine is a good idea…

      But if we take care of our naturally thin bodies, they can serve us pretty damn well, and it sounds like you’re doing exactly that 🙂

      If you ever want help building up the most un-flat bum you’ve ever seen, we’ve got the Bony to Bombshell Program, by the way.

      Keep kicking (and building) ass, Hollie!

  72. Leila on February 1, 2018 at 3:19 am

    Hi I’m Leila, I’m only 15 but i am skinny as!! I often get called anorexic and skinny and it really affects me because I eat like a pig! I have read this whole artical and I’m going to take into consideration about eating high calorie foods and not fidgeting aswell. I have a physio therapist as I have a problem with my knees and she’s trying to build up the muscle in my knees but it’s not really working, so this article has really helped! Thank you. I now get why I’m skinny- I thought I was the only one as well but I see all of these people and I don’t feel alone. I really want to gain muscle weight and I have tried to for so long but I now know what I need to do- thanks you!!

  73. Amirah on February 11, 2018 at 1:36 am

    I’m 18 years of age I’ve always been really skinny I never really had a problem with it until I was told how skinny I looked and that I had lost weight I remember the average weight I was happy with when i was about 16 was 122 or so my height has almost always been 5″7 since 15. I cry almost every night because I feel as if I won’t gain weight and that I’m too skinny and that I’ll end up anorexic the next time one of my friends sees me. I was weighed a couple weeks ago and weigh 113 last weight was 120 I have lost 7 pounds doing nothing and I felt as if this was a bad disease my doctor told me to eat more and healthier and to work out I’m afraid none of this will work and I don’t have money to buy this program although it looks great and I wish I could do this myself.. Well so much for my lean body.

  74. Amy Jackson on April 21, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    None of the body types in this article describes me! Im 47 and have 3 children (last one was c section). My entire adult life I have had large shoulders and breasts (38 in), a large waist (32 in), and small hips (35 in). Im 5’2″ and 1 18 lb s. I used to be muscular but a genetic connective tissue disorder has robbed me of strength and I have limited mobility. It is impossible to find clothes that fit properly! If its big enough for my waist, the hips/rear are very baggy and pants slide down. Shirts dont button or are stretched tight across my bust! Forget dresses or two piece sets because I need radically different sizes on top and bottom. Nothing I have done over the years made much difference. If I lose weight, its usually from where I dont need to lose it. My belly/boobs dont change. My waist was 28 in at puberty when I was 12 and went up to 30-32 by the time I was 18.

  75. Puzzled on May 11, 2018 at 7:54 am

    Thank u soooooo much for this wonderful article … I have questioned myself why I have such skinny physique all these years … Even after having large meals… But after reading your article im very much clear with my questions… Thanks for this wonderful favour for people like us… Im 5’4 and 53 kg but still my upper body n waist very skinny and shoulders extra broad… Don’t know how I can gain weight around my waist .

  76. Dani on July 1, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    I’ve seen a lot of pictures of women’s lower half (butt and legs) but what about upper body? Toned arms?

    • Jared Polowick on July 3, 2018 at 8:57 am

      Hey Dani,

      Every photo on the sidebar of the website includes their shoulders. But the reason why there’s a focus on the hips is because men and women have differences in movement patterns due to structural differences, and because of that, women have a ton of strength in their hips. But toned shoulders are definitely great too!

  77. Reesha on July 19, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    This program sounds great! I think my body is finally explained. My only concern is that I was a dancer and I am trying to get back to “dancer-fit”. Can’t I just replace the calories if i do some cardio and stretches? I don’t want to be just a muscle-head that can’t really move around and dance.

    • Jared Polowick on September 7, 2018 at 8:24 am

      Yep. Let’s say you burn off 200-300 calories from dancing, then you’d just need to make that up with a bit more food. You’ll be using your daily weigh-in as your measuring stick as for if you’re getting into a surplus or not, and then you can adjust your calories from there. (Who knows, maybe you burn a ton of calories while you dance!)

  78. Jasmine on August 7, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    I’m a 19 year old female and I’ve Always been really skinny. I’m 5’4” and I currently weigh around 95 lbs. It’s so refreshing to read this article. It makes me feel less alone and makes my body feel less taboo to me. Everybody worries about my weight even though I’m definitely eating enough. Sometimes I even overstuff myself because I want to gain weight. The fidgeting thing makes sense, I do fidget a lot. Thanks for writing this!

    • Jared Polowick on September 7, 2018 at 8:30 am

      Glad to hear it connected with you, thanks for dropping us a comment Jasmine!

  79. Danielle on December 24, 2018 at 1:08 am

    Wow! Fabulous article. I was more intrigued about the body type index and the different body types. This article was very thorough and I really appreciated the study’s and statistics. Great job!

  80. Alaya on March 7, 2019 at 8:47 am

    im 13 and i weigh a 101 pounds. i dont really know what to do at this point. im always getting bullied because im so thin. people ask me if i starve myself and i get really offended. I asked my doctor why im so thin and he asked me if i do any sports and i told him that Im in a running team and he told me that my weight cant keep up with my calorie burning. Is it true?

  81. Yheng on October 30, 2019 at 12:49 am

    Hi. I’ve been severely underweight before. Since Highschool and through mid 20’s, I only weigh 87lbs at 5′ tall. But after a year of heavy lifting, i now weigh 13lbs heavier. Its not what i expected, (I mean, i still look thin except my thighs are a bit more rounder and my glutes more fuller) since most people still say that i look thin but i can now lift heavier than most girls at the gym who weigh more than me. But my main concern is that, i’m not developing abs. There are even days that i have a pouchy stomach which i lose quite easily most of the time. Is it because I’m eating too much? I read in your other articles that lifting heavy could cinch waist naturally.

  82. […] more extreme is the lack of studies focused on weight loss through exercise, such as these from the National Institutes of Health. “Health, fitness and weight loss are […]

  83. Katira on August 3, 2020 at 5:15 am

    wow that was helpful

  84. Katelyn on August 25, 2020 at 11:07 am

    Thanks for this blog, so helpful knowing the science behind behaviours. Is there any advice you would give to a woman who does put muscle on really easily, but it’s gotten to a level that I am no longer happy with? Basically, I am lifting weights intensely as I a) find it easier than cardio, and b) I think I have a low sensitivity to insulin and I love the dopamine kick of eating after a workout, and love protein. Basically, when people say, if a woman lifts heavy she will not be bulky does not apply to me, I’ve always had a muscular physique with muscular quads and arms but also a unhealthy relationship with eating too much food,

    • Shane Duquette on September 29, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      Yup, that can happen. Some people build muscle easily, and it’s absolutely true that some people can become more muscular than they’d like. For some women, it’s true that they won’t ever become too bulky, but we see a lot of the inverse, too.

      Maybe you want to switch your exercise selection around so that you keep building muscle and gaining strength, but only in areas where you’re eager to build more muscle? So, for instance, if you don’t want to build bigger arms, maybe swap out underhand chin-ups (which train the biceps) for overhand pull-ups (which mainly build the lats). Or if your quads are too big, but you wouldn’t mind your butt growing a bit bigger, squat a bit less and do some extra Romanian deadlifts, good mornings, or hip thrusts. With the bench press / push-ups, maybe use a wider grip that builds the chest instead of a narrower grip that also trains the arms.

      There’s also the possibility of lifting weights with shorter rest periods, more supersets and circuits, more Olympic lifts. More like a CrossFit workout, you know? But that may feel too much like cardio (because it would be).

      Does any of that help? Let me know. I’d be happy to keep brainstorming.

  85. Jem on August 29, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    🙁 im a very inverted triangle upper body excess fat magnet i have broad shoulders and waist,but narrow hips,skinny thighs& flat rear it’s an awful nom feminine body shape for a woman too much testosterone .I really would love the pear shape i wish i had more estrogen. :’(

    • Shane Duquette on September 29, 2020 at 4:38 pm

      Hey Jem, don’t sweat your bone structure too much! I know it can suck not to have the bone structure you want, but it’s a fairly minor factor, and most people’s bodies look great once they get in shape. Hell, you probably look great already, and it will only get better the fitter you get.

      Skinny thighs and a flat butt are really simple to fix, in the sense that some squats, Romanian deadlifts, and hip thrusts will fix that right up. Not saying that habitually lifting weights, eating enough protein, and eating enough calories is easy, but building bigger hips and thighs is absolutely realistic with some weight training. You can pack a ton of muscle onto those areas.

      As you do that, you may find that you lose some fat. If not, you can remove some calories from your diet, driving into a calorie deficit. The fat will slowly come off, and you can likely build some muscle while you do it (if you’re lifting weights and eating enough protein).

      It’s not easy, but it’s possible. And it will improve your general strength and health, too 🙂

  86. Ricky on February 19, 2021 at 1:45 am

    I really like the article! It looks like the author sure did his research and spent quite a bit of effort on finding ways for skinny women to gain weight(particularly muscle mass).

    I’m a 20-year-old male weighting 110 pounds and I’m 5 foot 7. A few months ago I almost reached 120 pounds. That was over the summer and early Fall and I drank chocolate milk every other day, occasionally went to the gym and biking, and had a good sleeping habit. However, now I weight 110 pounds after not persisting on doing those things. It is so easy for me to lose weight.

    I see that you have a weight-gaining program for women. Do you have one for men as well, particularly for young men?

    Thank you for your great program!

    A College Student

  87. Cat on April 7, 2021 at 10:00 am

    Hi. I don’t want to say my actual age but I will say I’m between 10 and 13.

    So, I eat. But, like, not SO much. I always munch as much as I can and try to cram as much good food as I can in my body, but after 15 spoonfuls or less, I am like, “Ok, Goodbye food. I’m outta here.” But then before I leave the room, I remember THAT word: sweets.

    My parents always tell me “eat more! You eat too slowly! Eat faster! You didn’t eat enough! Have some more before you go.” It’s just, I’M FULL!!! I keep telling them, but then I glance at my plate. I really did eat pretty much nothing. I think I’m distracted and can’t focus on my food. It happens with my schoolwork, too.

    Just so you know, I exercise every day. But whenever I look in the mirror and take off my shirt, I see my ribs and my face. I have bags under my eyes even though I sleep 10 hours a day and drink TONS of water.

    When I’ve spent enough time eating, my brain thinks I’ve had enough food, and so I push the plate away. Even if I’m still hungry, I feel like I’ve had enough time, and I’ve eaten enough. But My dad says that I’m eating too slowly.

    I think the answer to my problem is to eat FASTER. I’M DYING TO KNOW THE ANSWER! What do you think I should do?

    • Shane Duquette on June 21, 2021 at 4:17 pm

      Hey Cat, I love all the personality in your writing. This comment made me smile.

      Eating slowly can indeed make us feel fuller sooner. It gives our appetite time to catch up with the food we’ve eaten. And for most people, that’s a good thing. It could be that eating faster would help you eat more.

      Drinking lots of water with meals can also help us feel fuller sooner. Maybe if that’s when you’re drinking most of your water, you shift some of that away from your mealtimes. That way you have more stomach space for food.

      It sounds like at the end of your meals; you’re still hungry. Maybe try eating until you aren’t hungry anymore. Hunger is the body’s way of telling just that we should eat. That doesn’t mean that you should ALWAYS listen to your hunger. But if you’re underweight AND hungry, maybe your hunger is on the right track.

      The other thing is, you’re still young. You’re exercising; you’re trying to eat enough. That’s great. Maybe there’s no problem. Maybe your body will naturally fill out as you continue to grow older. Sometimes we grow taller first and fill in later, you know? Maybe ask your doctor if there’s any need for concern. It could be that everything is perfect 🙂

  88. Dorien on July 28, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    Oh. My. GOSH!!! I have been looking for information like this for well over a year! My friends and I wanted to do a get healthy together group but I could not find any info on what I should be doing. Somehow I searched the correct thing finally and ended up here! IDK how many times I’ve been told to just eat protein and everything will work itself out. I’m 33, 5’7″, and weigh about 108lbs and other than being pregnant that’s been my weight since high school. We actually had a celebration when I hit 100 and stayed there! All of this makes SO much sense and I will definitely be diving deeper into this website for more great info! Thank you so so much!

  89. Amber on September 27, 2021 at 4:37 am

    Hi this is such a great article and I got so much insights that I couldn’t get anywhere else. I actually want to ask about the opposite though. My whole life I used to be a calorie bottomless pit and would never gain weight no matter how much I ate or how little I moved. I was always 48kg. But all that changed when the pandemic hit. I actually started gaining weight and got past 50kg for the first time in my life!! And not in a good way. I was just skinny fat, I get bloated easily and my hips keep widening. I started doing diets and all that stuff but nothing really worked. I mean, my weight does go down when I go on calorie deficit, but it just doesn’t feel the same like before, like I stopped being an ectomorph or something. Sure I’m still much skinnier than most people, but I want to get back to the way I was again, and couldn’t find anywhere else where I can ask about this. I know this site is about bulking up, but if you have any idea how to do the reverse please do share!! Thanks so much in advance

  90. Lisa on October 18, 2021 at 7:13 am

    What If I’m 13? I’ve been struggling with gaining weight ever since I was really small. Will the lifting thing work for me? I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it..?

    • Shane Duquette on October 18, 2021 at 10:56 am

      It’s usually great for teenagers to lift! Exercise is healthy. Lifting isn’t so different from sports and being generally active. It’s worth talking to your parents about. Maybe you start with a bodyweight workout or with some beginner dumbbell variations.

      The main thing for teenagers to avoid is intense dieting to lose weight. You don’t want to be robbing your body of the nutrients it needs to grow and develop. But if you’re trying to gain weight, and strength, and muscle, that won’t be an issue. You can eat enough protein and food to slowly gain weight. Just be slow with it. No need to force-feed yourself or intentionally overeat. Instead, I’d focus on eating lots of protein and whole foods. Let your appetite guide you. And talk about this stuff with your parents 🙂

      Also, remember that you’re still a teenager. It’s normal not to be at your full weight. People fill out as they age.

  91. Tiara on December 15, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    Best article I’ve ever read on this subject, hands down. So well written and jam packed with so much good information, incredibly grateful I stumbled upon this article. Thanks so much for writing it. I’m in the process of building my own online coaching business which I’m hoping will become profitable very soon, and once I have my own income, your program is definitely going on my list of wishlist investments to make for myself! I’ve made a lot of good discoveries in my own experience about what helps me gain weight, but as a coach myself, I understand the value of just placing myself in front of the experts, and learning it the right way the first time with the right guidance. Thanks for the article and for now at least just giving me hope! I started at 93 lbs 2 years ago and just got up to 102 so I’m getting there

  92. Saymiddin on March 14, 2022 at 1:54 am

    Hi, I have problem with suddenly weight loss. I lost 15 percent ot my weight. I was about 50 now I’m 43. I lost that much in a month. Also these days I have stomach pains. So what should I do to rebalance myself?? I think I’m walking alot which i didn’t use to. And don’t have good appreciate.
    Please help me to treat myself?!

  93. Jeanie on September 16, 2022 at 7:41 pm

    Brilliant article, very refreshing.
    You mentioned every single reason why I’m like the gable end of a fiver but you didn’t mention height.
    I am quite tall for a girl at 6ft. Im 4 inches taller than my mum was.
    I started my periods towards the later end of normal, at 15, which probably contributed to my height but maybe also my weight.
    Im also sub clinically hyperthyroid which became apparent during a pregnancy and i have always had naturally low bp.
    Not sure if any of this is relevant as it’s hard to find studies on being too thin but just thought it was worth mentioning as I’ve given this a lot of thought over the years and I’m inclined to believe it’s all linked.
    I also need very little sleep compared to most.
    Thank you for taking the time to put this article together. I feel better just knowing I’m not the only one struggling to maintain a healthy weight.

    • Shane Duquette on December 6, 2022 at 12:55 pm

      Yes, totally! We’ve noticed that in both our men’s and women’s communities. Our members are much taller than average. I’m 6’2. My business partner is 6’4. You’re the same height as my mum. That absolutely plays into our natural thinness. For another example, take a look at the NBA and WNBA. Everyone is very tall and also very thin.

      Part of this is just how we’re built. The idea isn’t to change our genetics, and certainly not our height, just to make the most of our frames. For a lot of us, consciously eating more food, lifting weights, and gaining some weight can be good for us. The opposite is true for most other people.

  94. Sue on April 4, 2023 at 9:13 pm

    Wow! Amazing article! I am a very small woman, just under five feet tall and I sit naturally around 90 pounds and I am nearly fifty years old. I started to worry about five years ago when my weight started to go down, it got down to about 85 pounds before I switched how I ate. I actually found for me, that a paleo(ish) diet helped, since I really increased my protein. So I would fill up on chicken instead of rice(I still eat rice but mostly protein and veggies). I still didn’t really gain weight but at least it leveled out. I am somewhat muscular looking, but very thin. I have been trying to increase my muscle mass to gain weight in a healthy way and I’ve reached out for help but people don’t seem to understand how to help me. Many have just told me to eat more(not very helpful) but now that I am getting older, they are starting to ask me if I have gastrointestinal issues (which I don’t). Everywhere, the focus for getting healthy is strictly on losing weight, never gaining. So THANK YOU! I really look forward to digging through this website and figuring it all out!

    • Shane Duquette on April 5, 2023 at 8:11 am

      I hear you. Health has become synonymous with weight loss, and I understand why, but it’s not for us. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to create this site 🙂

      Good luck, Sue! Let me know how it goes! I’m also happy to answer any questions you have.

  95. Sophie Devine on May 15, 2023 at 3:02 am

    Interesting. It was a great need to focus on a topic like this. People just think that gaining weight is easy. However, there are some people who find it difficult to do so. Thank you for sharing the in-depth research on why it is challenging for thin people to acquire weight and touching all the other important aspects.

    • Shane Duquette on September 21, 2023 at 8:28 am

      My pleasure, Sophie! Glad you liked it 🙂

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