Can You Gain Weight But Look Leaner?

Can You Gain Weight But Look Leaner?

Yes it’s possible to gain weight and look leaner than you do now.

You can be heavier and not only look leaner, but FEEL better in your body too.

Being skinny is no healthier than being overweight, especially if you’re restricting your food intake and don’t have much muscle.

If you:

  • always feel weak and tired, 
  • are always thinking about food,
  • are insecure in your body even though people tell you that you’re “slim”,

..then this article is for you.

I’m going to explain how to gain weight but look leaner, and why gaining weight can be the best thing for your body image, health, and mind.


How To Gain Weight But Look Leaner    

You can gain weight but look leaner because your body weight is made up of more than just fat. There’s your organs, bones, and of course muscle. 

You can’t change your organs and bones, but you can change how much muscle and fat you have.

Two people can weigh the same, but the one with more muscle will look leaner because muscle is denser than fat. 

You can be at a healthy weight or even underweight and still have too much body fat. But it’s  because you don’t have enough muscle. 

If you want to LOOK leaner you need to worry less about changing your body weight and focus on changing your muscle and fat composition. 

If your muscle mass goes up and your weight says the same (or goes up in some cases) you can get a lower body fat percentage and look leaner.

You don’t need a calorie deficit to do this though. That’ll help you lose weight.

To lower your body fat percentage you need to build muscle.

To do this you need to eat enough food. 

A calorie deficit isn’t enough but you don’t need a surplus either. Maintenance calories are where you want to start.

You can read more about how maintenance calories work for fat loss here. 

Then you need to focus on building as much muscle as possible by training correctly.


Fat Loss Is Not The Primary Goal

To keep making progress, you’ll need to slowly build your calories up further.

Even if fat loss is what you want most, you need to change your focus to building muscle first.

If you’re doing things right, you’ll continue to lose fat as you increase your calories and build muscle.

Your training needs to be on point. This means using correct form, following a structured program, and aiming to get stronger each week. 

If you need a solid program to follow, my 8 week Toned and Tight program is for you.

The hardest part is staying consistent with it all.

There will be times when it looks like nothing is happening but it is. 

I would highly recommend having someone walk with you though this process so you stay the course for long enough to see results.

It is a slow process and you can’t speed it up because physiologically muscle gain takes time.

Speeding it up will result in fat gain. Or if you keep jumping back into a deficit, you won’t reduce your body fat percentage either.

You need to build muscle first remember!


30 Pounds Up But Leaner And Healthier  

My client Claire gained 30 pounds to get the body she wanted. She ended up healing some major health issues along the way too.

I asked Claire to share some of her experience in her own words:

1.Where were you before finding me (in terms of your body, body image and relationship with food)?  

My whole life I had been unhappy with my stomach area. Even though I had been slim all my life I always carried extra belly fat. This wasn’t very noticeable in clothes but I was always insecure in bikinis or clothing that showed off this part of my body. I would often get comments from people saying I was slim and looked great but I didn’t feel this way deep down. I never experienced an eating disorder but I would intentionally try to not overeat or eat less for fear of “getting fat”, as many women and girls do.

 2.What were you struggling with?

From 2020 to 2021 I struggled with multiple health issues. I had extreme bloating and stomach pain and I also struggled with aches and pains throughout my body due to an extreme lack of muscle, which I was attending physical therapy and acupuncture sessions to try to fix.

3.What had you tried to change and how did it make you feel?

As a teenager I was a competitive swimmer and exercised a lot. As an adult I was still very diligent about working out and would go to the gym 5-7 times a week following online HIIT classes or youtube workout videos in addition to cardio. I would feel very accomplished from working out but it was sometimes hard to stick too and I never saw lasting change in my physic. As a young adult I followed a vegan diet but I wasn’t tracking my calories or on a specific diet but I was intentionally eating as little as possible everyday, which coupled with working out so intensely made me constantly exhausted.

4.What made you decide to take the leap to work with me?

My physical therapist suggested I hire a personal trainer to help me build more muscle because that was the root of my problem. Around the same time I was introduced to the concept of “body recomposition” by my boyfriend, who was interested in going through the process himself. I had a hunch that my aesthetic concerns with my body were due to both a lack of muscle and excess fat rather than just excess fat. Both of these conversations prompted me to try to learn more about body recomotpion online. I stumbled across Jodie’s videos on youtube and found her explanations so clear and easy to understand. I took a leap of faith and decided to contact her and start working with her and the rest is history!

5.How has working together changed things for you?

I’ve been working with Jodie for almost three years and my life has completely changed. I live life with no aches and pains and my stomach problems, which were due to years of undereating and lack of nutrition, have healed. When I began working with Jodie I could barely lift anything and now I am much stronger and can easily deadlift and squat above my body weight which makes my everyday life much easier. I also am able to maintain my weight by eating much more and because I can eat more I have more energy and I am not tired and sluggish throughout the day. Additionally, I was able to achieve a body I am proud of by working out less (4-5 times per week) and mostly eating at or above my maintenance calories.

6.What results have you got and how has your mindset shifted throughout your journey?

Because I was underweight and severely under muscled I had to gain 30 pounds to reach my aesthetic goals and heal my body. It was mentally very challenging in the beginning to see the scale go up as someone who had feared gaining weight her whole life. Jodie’s amazing support helped me through the journey and if I didn’t have her as a coach to talk to whenever I was feeling unsure about the process I thought I would have quit a long time ago.

Now I don’t see my weight as that important, and I just see it as a data point as I bulk, cut, or move towards another goal. I have a much better relationship with food and I don’t feel guilty when I eat certain foods or too much or two little. It wasn’t always easy to shift my mindset but having someone to coach me through it made the world of a difference, I don’t think I would have been able to achieve my goals without my coach.


The Mindset To Gain Weight But Look Leaner

As Claire said, the process is very challenging mentally.

To gain weight but look leaner you have to work on your mindset so you don’t give up too soon. 

Gaining weight, even if it’s mostly muscle, will mess with your head. 

We’ve been taught to believe weight gain is bad and equals getting fat.

You have to keep reminding yourself this isn’t the complete truth. It can also be due to adding muscle.

Weight gain can be leading to a leaner body with a lower body fat percentage.

Changing your mind around this is a journey in itself. It’s a slow, non linear process.

Some days it will make sense and feel right. Other days you’ll feel like you’re fighting with yourself.

There will be times when you’ll start to question whether you’re getting fat and should stop.

You have to force yourself to stay focused on the right things and stay consistent, even on the days you see the scale going up.


But I Feel Puffy Not Leaner

At times you’ll feel puffy during your weight gain journey.

Given that you’re doing everything correctly, you can be sure it’s NOT FAT.

Bloating and water retention can make you feel like you’re going backwards.

This is where your progress data comes in handy. It’ll show you that you’re on the right track even if you don’t feel it.

You need to be objective when interpreting your data including photos. 

Avoid judging yourself if you’re in an off mood. You’ll always see your imperfections not the progress you have made.

When you’re not feeling great, focus on the fact you have been more consistent, you’re getting stronger and feeling healthier.

These will lead to you getting your best body. So it’s more important to focus on these anyway.


Bigger Can Be Better

When you gain weight but look leaner, your clothing size will change.

Buying a size 10 when you used to be a size 6 can make you feel like you’ve gone backwards at first. 

It’s crazy how numbers can have so much meaning, but that’s all it is.

It’ll take time to adapt to choosing bigger clothing sizes.

You’ve associated a small size with being better.

Now you also need to create new meaning around bigger clothing sizes and integrate that.

When you have a healthier, stronger, more energised body, you can accomplish so much more each day.

What’s the point in being skinny if you have no energy, are deprived of nutrients because you don’t eat enough and aren’t healthy.

You likely don’t even realise how much restricting your food is impacting your health because you haven’t experienced what healthy really feels like.

A lot of my clients go through this.

They’ll come to me eating 1200-1500 calories daily.

I’ll bump their calories up to 2000 plus (overtime).

Then when they eventually go back into a deficit they feel worse and wonder how they ever ate so little.


Weight gain and buying bigger clothes can be a good thing.

It’s fun to take up more space. It’s fun to have more energy and to experience more of life because you feel better.

That number on the scale doesn’t help you do this! A healthy body does. 

Eventually you’ll get to a point where you’re so solid in who you are.

You feel so good, that you won’t be phased by numbers at all. Whether it’s on the scale, clothing sizes or how many calories you’re eating. You won’t care. 

How do I know this?

I’ve been though the process and I’ve helped so many women like Claire get here.

It’s the part of coaching I love most. Helping you feel free in your body by not only changing your physical appearance but your mindset too.

If you need help with your body recomposition or weight gain journey you can reach out for coaching here.