Anorexia nervosa is a mental health condition characterized by a relentless drive for thinness, leading to extreme weight loss from excessive dieting and exercising, says the National Institute of Mental Health. Because anorexics become so underweight, they can develop serious health problems. According to the American Psychological Association, these complications can include anemia, heart palpitations, hair loss, tooth loss, hear attack, kidney failure and even death. Therefore, it is crucial that anorexics get help and gain weight. Certain diet and exercise choices can help with weight gain.
Eat more often. Eating five or six small meals throughout the day rather than three large meals can help you gain weight, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This may also help with the anxiety and stomach discomfort many anorexics feel when they try to suddenly increase meal size as a way to ingest more calories.
Choose higher-calorie foods. Rather than focusing on high-fat, high-sugar foods to increase your caloric intake, pick nutrient-rich foods that still provide substantial calories but will also fuel your body. Dried fruit, avocado, whole-grain granola bars, cheese, nuts and nut butters all provide needed nutrition while pumping up your daily calories.
Add calories to your cooking. Many recipes can be altered to increase their calorie contents in healthy ways. Stir extra dry milk powder into pasta dishes and creamy soups, add chopped nuts to oatmeal, muffins and salads, top casseroles with bread crumbs or shredded cheese and blend oats or ground flaxseed into fruit smoothies. These calorie-increasing strategies can be less anxiety-provoking for anorexics than obvious and visible additions such as butter on a baked potato or cream in coffee.
Eat with others. Sharing meals with friends or relatives can help distract you from the sometimes upsetting task of trying to consume more calories. Enjoy the company and conversation, and try to relax as you eat.
Enlist the support of your family and friends. Explain your problem to them if possible and ask them to support you in your efforts to gain weight and recover from anorexia. This could mean cooking or grocery shopping with you, sharing a snack or encouraging you to try a new high-calorie food.
Follow the treatment recommendations of a professional with experience treating anorexia. The American Psychological Association says that treatment for anorexia is effective, especially if sought as soon as possible. Psychologists, physicians and dietitians with expertise in treating anorexia can provide invaluable help in your weight gain process.