Nourishing Series Part 2: Gaining Weight While Healing

In Part 1 of this nourishing series, we talked about normalizing eating and nourishment in general. Society is often telling us to eat less food, eat less frequently, and restrict more and more. Our goal with this series is to remind you that eating nourishing foods is required to heal. One topic that often comes up with this is weight gain during the healing process.

Here’s a classic case we see in our practice and work with women:

A woman seeks out hormone health support to get rid of her unwanted symptoms (fatigue, acne, painful periods, thyroid concerns, PCOS, endometriosis, etc.). The first big change is how she approaches food. She starts incorporating more nutrient-dense foods and prioritizing protein and carbs at meals. She makes sure that she is eating breakfast every day and isn’t afraid of snacking now. Overall, her energy is slowly improving, she’s sleeping better, and her symptoms are improving. She starts to notice her clothes are fitting a little tight, and her weight has gone up.

Why does this happen? There are a few key reasons, but the big one is that our bodies are still looking for safety. Most of us are entering the healing journey in a state of fight or flight. We rarely slow down; we are addicted to behavior the increases cortisol (under-eating, low carb, intense exercise, constantly being on your phone, staying up late, etc.). This means we have likely been making a lot of cortisol for a long time. When we start slowing down, nourishing our bodies, and reducing that cortisol, our bodies regulate. They are working together in homeostasis or balance, but it can take time, especially if we have been super stressed for a long time. Our bodies are looking for that safety, and that means storing energy in our fat cells. Your body cannot increase its metabolic rate until it is safe and balanced.

If you’ve been yo-yo dieting or under eating for a long time, your body is still trying to catch up. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are under-eating. Most women that I work with are under-eating overall or are under-eating essential macronutrients like protein. As you start to give your body the nutrients it needs, it’s going to want to hang onto those until it feels safe enough to increase your metabolic rate.

Making Nutrition Changes Too Quickly

One thing that I often see leading to more weight gain than usual on a healing journey is going from 0 to 100 with food. If you’re coming from a restrictive diet and start adding in a ton of previously off-limits foods, and you’re eating more frequently and eating more in general, you will likely gain weight. Making changes slowly is a great way to avoid this. There are always pros and cons to going all-in vs. going slowly. A pro of going all-in is that you usually start to feel better quicker; you just might gain a little more weight at first. We can avoid weight gain when we go slower but often don’t see symptom relief as quickly. Which approach works best will depend on the person and how quickly they want symptom relief.

Other Areas That Impact How We Use Energy

When our metabolism has slowed down, this means it takes us longer to take the food we eat and turn it into energy. This leads to sluggish digestion, hormone production, thyroid function, etc. and is what causes our symptoms in the first place. Our nutrition has a huge impact on how we use energy, but there are many other areas that will impact this as well:

  • Sleep
  • Light Exposure
  • Macronutrient balance
  • Gut health/digestion
  • Vitamins & minerals
  • Stress

If you have made nutrition changes but aren’t getting the results you want when it comes to your hormones and overall health, you will want to look at each area and make sure you’re covering all of your bases. We can eat as well as we want, but if we don’t sleep well, never get outside, and are super stressed, we won’t achieve balanced hormones.


Not everyone gains weight during the healing process. If you make changes slowly, you can often avoid this or at least minimize. We often look at losing weight as healthy, but I’d like to ask you to shift your mindset to gaining weight, especially at the beginning of your healing journey, as a good sign. Your body is doing what it is designed to do, keep you safe, alive, and procreate (even if that isn’t your goal). This weight gain is safety weight and it’s part of the healing process for many.

The process of healing your hormones and supporting your metabolism involves using energy more efficiently. Often times, we gain weight because we have not yet improved our metabolism. As you stay the course and boost metabolic health, your body will eventually use that energy better.

Learn even more about each area that can impact how we use energy by checking out the podcast episodes below from the Are You Menstrual? Podcast:

And start working on your minerals today with my free minerals 101 guide!

reminder: i’m currently taking on 1:1 clients. if you’d like to explore what it would be like to work together and if we are a good fit, fill out this form to get more details!​

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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