What being a hardgainer can teach you about losing weight

Posted on March 28, 2013

(Last Updated On: April 11, 2016)

I recently made a new lady friend and we were talking about our college athletics experience. (We’re going to gloss over the fact she played softball at Oklahoma and may have taken a trip to the college world series, as it makes me feel inferior / turns me on.) One thing we talked about is all the work outside of gameday college sports necessitates. Other than the injuriesthe worst thing I went through in college was the amount of work it took to gain weight.

Just getting all the food was a problem. I used to steal from the school cafeteria all the time. I would walk out of there with a thermos of chocolate milk, a gourmet sandwich wrapped up, and a plastic bag full of bagels. If anyone thinks I felt bad about this, you’re insane. For $50,000 a year, I had no problem when people asked me what I was carrying, replying with “Tuition.”

There was one time I gorged myself so much I walked out of the cafeteria and proceeded to violently projectile vomit all over the quad. The worst part? All I could think about was I needed to walk to Wawa and eat the calories I just regurgitated.


The above helps illustrate I am what many would classically describe as a “hardgainer.” I have been lean my entire life, and gaining weight / muscle has always entailed quite a bit of work. You know that guy people talk about akin to, “I hate that fucking person. They can just eat whatever they want and never get fat.”

I’m that guy.

Now this ignores things such as:

  • I’ve been extremely active my entire life. And I do mean entire life. I believe my first word was “ball.”
  • I currently have a very active job. I move around more than probably 99% of people in the U.S. One reason I can eat / drink so much is because I move so much.
  • I got heavily into watching how I ate at about 12 years old. One of the reasons I’m in tune with so many different dietary approaches is because I’ve done many of them myself.
  • I am acutely aware of how much I eat each day, and how much it takes to maintain my bodyweight. It is not at all like I just eat whatever the hell crap I want and don’t think about it.
  • I’m 6’4″ tall. People are often quite surprised to hear how much I weigh (~190 lbs). They typically think I’m much lighter. The point here is I would be actually fairly heavy for a person of average height. It’s not I can just eat whatever I want and not be heavy, it’s just damn hard to notice any weight gain or loss when you have a body as long as mine.

Even with those caveats, I will still agree to having a natural propensity towards being leaner / skinnier, so we’re going to ignore the above for the rest of this.

An issue I’ll run into with clients is some think either due to me being a hardgainer, being younger, being taller, etc. I don’t know as much about losing weight as a guy who has lost 100 pounds himself.

Beware of the success story’s advice

However, many people who have lost a lot of weight themselves are horrendous at giving health advice. The short reason for this is they assume what worked for them is what all future humans should do. They have an awful time not letting their own experience bias their approach to others.

For example, I know of many trainers / nutritionists / people who don’t drink alcohol, didn’t drink when they lost weight, whatever it is, they don’t drink. Therefore, in their mind, any person who is ever looking to lose weight should not drink. I have heard verbatim “You have to stop drinking. No more alcohol. Your weekends are killing you.”

You can show them how drinkers often weigh lessit doesn’t matter; they can’t comprehend it.

Or I’ll tell them how much I drink and I’ve never been overweight. Hell, I all the time hear people around me going, “The alcohol is just killing me.” Never mind the fact I am sitting right next them, 3 beers ahead, and 50 pounds less than they are.

Beyond that, there’s actually quite a bit to learn about losing weight from those who have trouble gaining it.

How hardgainers can gain weight

I remember looking around the internet back in the day for tips on gaining weight. The majority of advice was, “Eat more.”

Thanks. That really helps. It’s like telling people who need to lose weight, “Just eat less.”

You think they don’t know that? Meanwhile the asshole saying he doesn’t get why people are overweight, “They should just eat less,” is the same guy who has a pill addiction. Hey bro, you know, just stop taking pills. Oh, it’s not that easy you say? Weird how that works.

This is the long way of saying it’s worth knowing HOW to eat more / less.

Here are some ways hardgainers can help themselves gain weight. These are things I did which helped take me from 195 to 233 pounds.

1) Track how much you eat- They always underestimate how much they’re eating. 

2) Eat more often- Eating 3 times a day? Eat 6. 

3) Just eat all day-  You can do this by snacking. Nuts are fantastic here. I used to carry around a jug with me and pull from that thing all day. My stool had visible nuts in it, but that’s ok, I was swole son.

4) Drink more of your calories- I used to make shakes with about 1500 calories in them. I put everything in those shakes. I would make them with yogurt, milk, ice cream, peanut butter, protein powder, flaxseed oil, olive oil, eggs, I think I threw tuna in there one time, you name it, it went in. And for those thinking this must have tasted disgusting, the trick is to always top it off with a shitload of honey. That always makes it bearable.

5) Hang out with the offensive lineman aka Change your environment- A great deal of the teammates I hung out with most were the biggest dudes on the team. We would go out for 25 cent wing night, buy one steak get one steak free Tuesdays, have eating contests in the cafeteria, etc.

A guy ate 100 fucking wings at dinner once. He won by like 30 damn wings, and he came into the contest 20 minutes behind! The other guys tapped out, and he just kept going until he was bored. He would literally put an entire wing in his mouth, pull it out, and it would be bone dry. I remember seeing this and thinking, “Uhh, am I the only one who thinks so and so has a hobby none of us know about?”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Another time my friend Jon and I, who was 250ish, went to a football game and each took a gallon of milk with us, with the intention to see who could finish their jug first and be declared more of a man.

Milk picture

6) Go to the Chinese Buffet- This was a huge favorite. We would go for upwards of three hours and just eat.

One time my pal Rich and I went to get ice cream. We got tired of scooping so we just took the 5 gallon jug and brought it to our table. The workers were not amused, but couldn’t say anything. “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” We ate all we took.

They did kick us out when Erik took the entire tray of crab legs back to our table though. The 10 people in line behind him complained a little bit after that one.

7) Get girls to bake for you- I would never talk to a girl just for her baking skills though. Never.

Applying this to losing weight

Let’s look at some great principles for those looking to lose weight:

1) Track what you eat- Overweight people drastically underestimate how much they eat.

2) Eat less often- No, eating 6 times a day is not necessary, and is often counterproductive. The biggest reason people are overweight now compared to 40 years ago? They eat more often. 

3) Stop snacking- It’s not a good idea when trying to lose weightThis is more important than portion control!

4) Drink less of your calories- In many cases, it’s a good idea to work towards drinking none of your calories.

5) Hang around in shape people aka Change your environment- Be cognizant of who and what you’re around. Make your environment conducive to losing weight. Hanging around a bunch of smokers makes you more likely to become one yourself. Hanging around the morbidly obese when you’re trying to change your eatings habits is not helpful. Your environment is very, very important. 

6) Avoid buffets- Self-explanatory, I hope.

Do you see what happened there? Everything one should do to help themselves gain weight, is quite often the opposite of what one should do when looking to lose weight.

By learning how to gain weight I learned what most people do – often unconsciously- to make themselves less likely to lose weight. Yes, a faster metabolism can play a part, but it’s A part, typically of the 5th supporting actor variety. Like I said, I did still gain 40 pounds after adjusting the above principles in my favor. 

I know how to lose weight because I know how you gained it.

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