If underweight, will paleo always make you gain?

Answered on January 10, 2014
Created January 07, 2014 at 10:00 PM

I'm trying to embrace this lifestyle due the slew of physiological benefits I believe it can provide. I really do feel so much healthier since I've gone strict paleo. I gave been loading up on fatty meats and veggies. I recently cut out nuts and eat very little fruit....no paleo desserts either. I'm going very low carb not even allowing myself sweet potatoes.

But when I am really hungry, I go for the meat. I'm beginning to feel like my calorie count must be much higher than before paleo. The issue is I really don't want to gain any weight. I swing between 108-110 lbs, 5'. 8" (young female). I want to do this whole "listen to my body" approach, but will this lead to weight gain? I've worked so hard to get thin and cannot tolerate more than 1-2lbs of gaining above my range. Can I maintain being underweight on paleo?



on January 09, 2014
at 08:32 PM

you may want start focusing on measuring rather than weighing then...because you may add muscle (& look/feel better for it)

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6 Answers


on January 10, 2014
at 12:30 AM

Gaining weight is a function of energy balance (calories consumed over caloires expended), not which particular diet you follow (atkins, paleo, south beach, grapefruit, cabbage soup, whatever).


on January 09, 2014
at 09:23 PM

I do have anorexia. I have spent the last year eating mostly frozen vegetables and lettuce, some other small things like lattes and dry cereal. I went from 165 to 110 in about 9 months. I know I am going to die if I continue down that road.

I'm turning to Paleo to try and recover my body and maintain as much as possible. I don't really want to lose any more, but I do want to feel better and minimize weight gain. So far, this diet has done that. I'm a month in and I've only gained about a pound. I just wondered if this could last.

Thank you very much for all thoughtful responses.


on January 09, 2014
at 07:41 PM

I'm sorry to bring up stuff you didn't ask for but when I read your post I feel really sad.

I suffered from an eating disorder (first anorexia and then bulimia) for over 10 years. Throughout that time I constantly told myself that being underweight was ok for me, that I could still be healthy and happy and so on. I was terrified of gaining weight, even when I accepted that I needed to! I kept trying to convince myself that if I could somehow manage to eat "perfectly" it would be ok to maintain a frighteningly low fat level and body weight. I was ok, really. Maybe I was just meant to be really thin? This basically turned out to be total BS.

I'm happy to say I consider myself fully recovered now. The mental stuff was important to work out and I spent a lot of time on it. I was also malnourished (severe b12 deficiency, iron deficiency, other mineral deficiency) and when I started to treat that my brain worked a lot better and I was able to make rational decisions about my health again, which led me to accept gaining weight and actually enjoying life again.

I gained weight and I also started to nourish myself properly and "naturally" (e.g. not measuring every last little thing and acting like I was checking I was eating healthily when really I was just counting calories). It was like waking up from the dead, seriously. My body is so much more functional now and most importantly, to me anyway, my brain finally works again! I no longer feel "grey".

"Paleo" (I use the term loosely - I am referring to moving towards a non-grain based form of eating that somewhat mimics what hunter gatherers and other healthy traditional populations eat) has been a life changer for me, but the most important thing about it was complete abandonment of fixating on weight. I haven't weighed myself in 6 months and I honestly don't care. Looking in the mirror I see I have a lot more fat on my body than I used to and believe me when I say it looks bloody great and was much needed.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you truly want to do what I call "paleo", which means moving towards a way of eating and living that actually makes you healthy all over, then you need to give up your weight obsession. If it takes you that much effort to maintain the low weight you are, then I am sorry to say that is an indication that it's not a weight that your body wants to be it. On the flip side of that though be aware not to trick yourself with the reverse - it was pretty easy for me to stay extremely underweight for years and years but that didn't mean it was natural for me. What it meant is that I was very good at pushing my body and ignoring it's natural signals.

Please consider what I have said and I am sorry I haven't really answered your question. If it helps, you can maintain weight on any diet - whatever people say, at some point it does boil down to input versus output. And you can tweak that on paleo, on vegan, on any kind of diet. If you are good at controlling what you eat (and I'm guessing that you are...if you are anything like I was) then you will manage it easily. But if you let go of control and listen to your body wants then you may well gain weight and I don't think that would be a bad thing.



on January 09, 2014
at 06:30 PM

I'm not here to judge you, but did you see what you wrote? "Can I maintain being underweight on paleo?" -_-

Paleo is about being the healthiest you possible, both physically and mentally. Underweight is not the healthiest version of yourself, especially when you couple it with the fact that you state "I've worked so hard to get thin and cannot tolerate more than 1-2lbs of gaining above my range". That sounds quite depressing actually. Paleo is not a diet, it's a lifestyle that if you allow it, will change your life for the better. You can still be 'thin' on Paleo, but you should not be fixated on the scale.

Two people can both weigh the same amount and look TOTALLY different. Someone who looks 'thin' can weigh the same amount as someone who looks a bit thicker. Muscle weighs more than fat but also takes up less space than fat does.

And just a hunch but it sounds like you're probably a Chronic Cardioer, which could lead to major health issues down the road. Not to mention that as women, we need fat to regulate our hormones and be fertile. I suspect you're a young girl -- do you still have your period? Do you want to have babies one day? Do you want to be able to cope with the stress that life will throw your way? If so then please don't repeat the mistake that I made at first and use Paleo as a reason to further pursue some ideal of perfection that is not sustainable. It WILL catch up with you.

Learn to love yourself and nourish your body with the foods that it craves, and that includes sweet potatoes.

I wish you luck.

Medium avatar

on January 07, 2014
at 11:10 PM

You certainly can eat paleo and not gain weight even if you're under weight. I thought I was underweight but I'm starting to think I'm not.

In agreement with @OuroborossoroboruO, I think you should reconsider the weight obsession. If you're eating right it should all go to the right parts of your body. The number on the scale isn't as important as the way you feel and the looks you get from passing men, right?

That said, I've been strict paleo for about a year now. I was very thin when I started and while the weight has re-positioned itself quite favorably, I haven't actually gained any weight. At first I gained about 5 lbs but that disappeared again even though I WANTED to gain weight. I no longer care about the number so long as I feel good and look good. FYI I'm not low carb and I certainly have my own version of "strict paleo"... For instance I eat rice, white potatoes, even a little peas and corn. I also eat loads of dark chocolate and macadamia nuts. Let your appetite be your guide and THROW AWAY YOUR SCALE. I don't even have one in my apartment. I prefer my GF not be weighing herself all the time.

Medium avatar

on January 07, 2014
at 10:12 PM

Why would you want to maintain being underweight? That sounds incredibly unhealthy; physically and mentally.

I think you need to reevaluate the relationship you have with your body and food.

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