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Weight Gain: The Struggle is Real

Ben Graef

Posted on September 07 2016

Everyone experiences obstacles en route to their goals. That’s just a fact of life. And just as each person’s goals are different, the obstacles they face are not necessarily the same.

As for me, I’ve got a weight problem. Now, I’m perfectly healthy at my current weight and it’s really only a “problem” insofar as it doesn’t quite align with my goals, but I consider it a major obstacle to achieving those goals; I’m just too skinny.

The solution seems simple, right? Just eat more!


Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. In case you don’t know, having Celiac means that my body considers gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) to be an invader and attacks it mercilessly, even going so far as to damage itself in the process. You see, we absorb nutrients from the food we eat through the villi in our small intestines. When I eat gluten, my immune system attacks it while it’s attached to my small intestine, and thus attacks my small intestine by association. I found all this out after months of abdominal pain and other symptoms, a couple blood tests, and an endoscopy that showed my small intestine had already begun to wear smooth.

The damage to my intestine meant that I had a reduced capacity to absorb nutrients from the food I ate, even gluten-free food. It also made me painfully sensitive to caffeine, alcohol, and other foods for a very long time. In short, my digestive system was all jacked up. Eating wasn’t fun at all.

There’s no cure for Celiac. The best you can do is just try to never eat gluten ever again. That means no pizza, pasta, or beer. That means no regular wraps, buns, or bread. It also means nothing that might have been processed with wheat (like oats, for example) or even prepared on a space where gluten-containing foods were also prepared.

Honestly, it’s really not such a big deal to give up those foods if it means getting and staying healthy. It would be nice to have Guinness again, or eat pizza that wasn’t made of cardboard, but those things really lose their luster when I know that they’ll damage my innards and make me physically ill for days.

Want to know what I really miss? Convenience. I miss being able to order food in a restaurant without researching it, checking all the ingredients, and having a burdensome conversation with the server (that I still am reluctant to engage in even after 4 years). I can’t just walk into a fast food place, sandwich shop, or diner and order something. If I’m hungry, it’s just easier for me to eat at home.

So here I am today, trying to cram food in my maw whenever I can and strength training 3x a week to meet my lifting goal. Since I’m trying to ‘bulk up’ and my metabolism is naturally very fast, I’m doing as little calorie-burning cardio as I possibly can. I’m away from home a fair amount for trips, gigs, or other engagements, so I plan my meals as best I can, but I’ll invariably get hungry shortly after leaving the house. For that reason, I always travel with a bag of snacks.

And guess what?! It’s working! For my entire adult life, I have steadily hovered at 145 lbs. In the past 6 months, I have gained 20 lbs., bringing my total weight to 165 lbs. Still skinny at 5’11, but solid.

It’s an uphill battle. Just like anyone that loses weight and fears it will come right back, I fear that if I stop cramming in calories, I’ll start sliding back to my previously waifish form. And this isn’t “fun” eating. I’m not gleefully snacking on donuts and cake to my heart’s content. So far, I’ve been trying to gain only with whole, clean food. No powders, shakes, or supplements. That means I enjoy my first helping of chicken, rice, and broccoli, then choke down another that I don’t actually want. I make more of everything than I think I should. Always an extra burger, always more vegetables, always beyond satiety.

If it were easy for me to gain weight, maybe this post would have the opposite perspective… but, like I said, everyone’s obstacles are different. Really, it’s not the goals that we reach that make us proud of our accomplishments, it’s the difficulty of the obstacles we’ve overcome. And while it’s easy for many to write off my “weight problem,” it’s actually been pretty difficult for me to attain and maintain this weight. As for questioning my dedication: when I sit down after a double-dinner to eat a dessert that’s more chore than treat, the proof is literally in the pudding.

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