Maintaining a healthy weight isn't always easy, whether you're underweight or need to lose a few pounds. Understanding the safest and healthiest way to gain or lose weight is essential to keeping your body healthy and making sure your body is getting the proper nutrition it needs to function. Talk to your doctor before making any major changes to your diet and work with her to come up with a goal for how much weight you will gain or lose.
Calories for Gaining
If you're underweight, it might be easy to think you can just have extra portions and eat anything you want in order to gain weight. But putting on pounds in a healthy way and avoiding excess amounts of unhealthy foods is essential to preventing the formation of bad habits as well as conditions such as high cholesterol and excess weight gain. According to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, adding 250 to 500 calories per day to your diet will give you a healthy weight gain of 0.5 to 1 pound per week.
Protein for Gaining
According to Rutgers University, the goal of healthy weight gain is to gain lean muscle mass. The best way to achieve this is to combine a diet that's higher in calories with a strength training program that will help you build lean muscle. Increase your protein intake by between 0.8 and 1.7 grams of protein per day for every 2.2 pounds of your weight.
Goal for Losing
If you're trying to shed pounds instead of gain them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends setting a weight loss goal of no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you are extremely overweight or obese, you may lose more than that per week in the initial stages of weight loss, but this should be your goal for the long term.
Calories for Losing
You have to burn about 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound. That means if you want to lose 2 pounds per week, you need to consume 7,000 fewer calories per week than you burn on a daily basis. Use a calorie calculator, such as the one on the American Cancer Society's website, to determine your daily calorie needs. Set a goal to consume 1,000 fewer calories than you need on a daily basis -- or the amount recommended by your doctor -- to meet your weight-loss goals.