From the Blogposts » inbox

Gain Weight – The Fatboy BMI Challenge

Team ChallengeIt’s been nearly 2 years since I set out to gain weight to improve my lung function. The data that I read, in combination from years and years of clinic begging me to try something – anything – to gain weight, points definitively to the correlation between a normal BMI (body mass index) and improved lung function. I discussed that in length back in 2010 and want to remind you of these highlights:

  • Malnourished adolescents aged 12–18 years experienced a serious decline in FEV1 of about 20% predicted, whereas mean FEV1 values remained stable at above 80% predicted in adolescents of normal weight.
  • During 1 year of observation adolescents who experienced a >5% predicted decrease in weight for height had a concomitant mean loss of FEV1 of 16.5% predicted during that year, whereas patients who gained relative weight had a parallel increase in FEV1 of 2.1% predicted.

If that isn’t enough to convince you, just stop reading now, because that’s what the rest of the post is about and is the modus operandi I’ve been going with for the last 2 years. Look in the sidebar to see when the last time I was sick enough to need IVs was. Are we on the same page?

If you’re still reading now, congratulations. You’re ready for my challenge:

For you or your loved one whom you influence the food they eat: increase your weight by 3 BMI or get to between 23 and 24 BMI.

That is the recommended cystic fibrosis BMI. If you go much beyond 24 BMI without it being solid muscle, you do have a chance of dealing with issues related to being overweight. Here’s a BMI calculator. For example, my BMI at 5’4″ puts my “healthy range” between 110 and 140lbs. I can assure you that 110 is not enough for me, as I need to be at least 120 to feel like I have buffer to protect against infection.

My own experience with BMI-related health

For years, I was having an exacerbation every few months and I’d have to go on IVs to stop the slide. This built up so many resistances to drugs that we were down to two meds remaining that could fend off an infection. TWO! I was always between 105 and 113 when I was “healthy” and dropped to the very low 90s when I was the sickest. That’s a 15.8 BMI for my height! The last time I was in the danger zone was in 12/2009 when I was 103. I got on IVs in January and finished at the beginning of February when I weighed 112lbs. (Here is a hidden page of some records.)

Today marks 23 months since that day I stopped IVs and started some serious weight gain. Three months later, I was easily 120, but I’d hit a hurdle. That is where my body wants to be, but the doctors want more. That is the struggle – that is what you need to drive through with determination and treat eating like a full-time job or like it’s as important as getting good grades. If your weight suffers, so will your work and school. I had to eat like an animal for three more months until I hit 135. I backed off and lost that down to the 120-125 range ever since, with dips down into the teens when I get run down.

There is the key: I got run down and my weight dropped. Let’s ask a simple question: what happens when you or your loved one gets run down? IVs! My buddy Steve and I had a long talk about BMI and what it is to be 33-34 and a working dude with CF. We were finishing each other’s sentences like this: “So I’ll be around people who are sick and I’ll start to get the throat and nose crap going … the very next day! … exactly, and then I take it easy … for 3 days, with the second being the worst … and then I feel fine … I’ve lost weight, but … I feel fine. … That weight is the buffer. Oh, by the way, it’s been a year since Steve has been on IVs.

Here’s my BMI

Okay, let’s do this together. I’ve slipped down just below 21 BMI, depending on the day and what I’ve eaten – 21 is about right. I need to get to 23.5. A BMI is 6lbs per unit, so I need 2.5-3.0 BMI or 18lbs.

Fatboy BMI Challenge Chart

There, it’s official! I’m not where I need to be, so let’s challenge each other, because I’m sure challenging you with this rallying cry: be in your BMI sweet zone. Two pounds per week is a decent goal, so that’s 9 weeks for me. Knowing my past weight gain slope, I’ll give myself 3 months to account for ups and downs.

Who’s with me? Just comment and say you are in, what your BMI is (you don’t need to get personal and give your height and weight unless you want to), and how long you want to give yourself. Every time I post another update for the challenge, leave your new BMI and we’ll track them all together in a reverse Weight Watchers sort of way.


  1. Erintaylor8284 says

    18.1…just low enough to be “underweight” unfortunately! I’m in…good luck!

    • Erintaylor8284 says

      Which is roughly 30 lbs to gain (5unitsx6lbs)…I don’t know where I’m gonna put 30 lbs on this ol body but we’ll try!

      • Muscle! When I put on 30, I needed new clothes and all of my shirts got beer bellies. All of the shorts I got that spring were about to bust their buttons and zippers so I had to go to clothes from when I didn’t know how to fit sizes and then got a new shirt and slacks for college graduation.
        You can do it and look good if it’s a stable gain.

  2. BMI of 25.5.   I am 5′ 6″ and 160lbs.   According to the chart I am overweight but my doctor wants me to be where I am at or even gain a bit….. I would like to be at 145-150 or so which is what I was when I was in College and high school.   Continuing to walk 2-3 miles a day and some other exercise.   Good luck on your weight gain.   I will try to send some weight your way! 


    • Thanks, Mark. Yes, BMI can be deceiving when a ripped athlete is a 30 BMI and such, and I suspect your frame allows for a 25 just fine, as mine would if I built up my muscle. I know I could wear 170 if it was muscle, so just send muscle. 😉

      • Jesse,
        With your improved breathing using Spiriva and some of these new drugs getting closer to coming out of that pipeline we have a lot to look forward to in terms of health improvements.  Good luck on your weight gain!  God Bless!

  3. Joe Sleeper says

    I’m in.  I’m 32, 5’9″ and 151 pounds – BMI 22.3  I want to get back to 160.  I’ll give myself until my 33rd birthday – May 25.  My GF is on weight watchers right now – we are still trying to get the balance of a CFer and a non-CFer living and eating together with vastly different goals!

    I have a bit of a history with weight and lung health.  In 2006, it was a time I “didn’t have CF” – I got so sick I couldn’t function and I was down to 118 pounds.  A lot of these articles on your site I could have written then!

    • Great to hear from you, Joe! Wow, we’re close in age and circumstances, as 2006 was my worst health year, too. Glad you’re doing better and that you’re on board. It’s so much easier to gain weight with a goal and others, because it’s such a lonely journey, especially with someone else who wouldn’t like what happens if they were to partake in our eating lifestyle.

  4. Annabel Clouston says

    I am in. Long way to go at BMI 18.4 and aiming for BMI 22. Giving myself 10 weeks at 1kg per week. Been there before and know how good it feels, but how hard it is to achieve! Game on!

  5. Ronnie Sharpe says

    I’m 5′ 8.5″ and my BMI is 27. I’m overweight according to the chart. Great challenge! Maybe mine should be to lose some weight while you gain it? Be on the lookout for a challenge that I’ll be throwing down this week.  

    • Sure thing. I’ll bet it’s exercise-related. You’re a muscled beast with good-sized parental genes! I’ll just have to try for one of the “can’t see me behind the linemen” running back looks. 😉

  6. Max Winkler says

    I’m In! Pretty new to the blog but have really enjoyed it so far and see some familiar names that also read 🙂  I’m a 25 y/o CFer living in Denver, CO and am currently weighing in at 160lbs standing 6’3” tall – BMI of 20.

    My new year’s resolution is is actually your 3K calories by 3 PM so this fits right in!

    • Awesome. I love it: 3k by 3pm. Good measuring stick.

    • Does the altitude affect your breathing?  I used to live in Denver in 90-91.  I wasn’t aware of it or even trying to think of it now but my parents say my breathing and pft’s weren’t so hot.  I was 13-14 yrs old.  Luckily my DAD was in the Army at the time and asked for a transfer because I wasn’t doing well.  Hope you are doing well though.

  7. It was a very enjoyable conversation Jesse and I had.  It felt great to hear somebody else feels and understands what you go through.  Gaining weight does work.  I used to be 150 to 155lbs and when I got sick I’d drop 10 to 15lbs. and looked very unhealthy and skeletal.  Now, within the last year I’ve jumped up to 168 to 172 pounds with a BMI at 24.  This is from eating high calorie and high fat foods, drinking ensure and mixed milk shakes.     Example: 
    SCANDISHAKE     600 calories   21g fat
    Oreo cookies x4     280 calories   14g fat
    Ice Cream 2 cups   720 calories   36g fat
                  TOTAL      1600              71g
    Split the shake up and you have 2 800 calorie meals.

    Food:  Homemade ham, egg, cheese egg English Muffin.
               Personal trail mix:  nuts, granola, chocolate covered raisins, almonds, and a fruit.  Snack on all day.
               Yogurt and apple with peanut butter. 
    The extra weight is your “buffer” like Jesse says.  When you get sick, the bugs attack, you loose weight, and you feel bad for a good week or so.  With the extra weight, the bugs attack, you loose the extra (so you are still healthy) and only feel bad for a few days, 3 to 5 in my opinion.  It works, try it and let Jesse know how you it works for you.

    Hope this works. 


    • Thanks for stopping by, Steve. I do believe that’s your first comment. 😉
      I just finished a Boost Plus, string cheese, yogurt, and glass of tea. Time for bed!

      • Indeed it is my friend.  How’s your challenge going to gain some weight and change your BMI?  Hope all is well. 

        • I’ve been wanting to do a post on the challenge but events keep happening that I want to blog about. I am maintaining while dealing with all of this insurance crap. My post will either be Friday or Monday.

          How is your goal coming?

  8. C Artprocess says

    Great Challenge! This falls under my 2012 Resolution to get back to 170 lbs., a BMI of 25.1. Despite the “overweight” label, 170 is an athletic look for me. A quick history of my body type: My lowest adult weight was 148 (13 years ago,) my highest was 186 (20 years ago,) and my current weight is 161 lbs. I started 2012 at 158 (a sickly-low for me) and have spent the past 5 weeks struggling with trying to force myself to eat more than 3,000 calories a day. Consuming so many calories is proving more difficult that I initially thought, as I try to stay with the modified type two diabetes diet that has successfully kept me off of injected insulin for the past 7 months. You pegged it by calling that much eating a full-time job! 
    I am also progressing through a workout plan that has me incorporating some cardio/endurance with weight training (about 40% of my exercise as cardio and 60% as weight training.) I built cardio back into my regimen so I would be better prepared for Surfing more often this year, another 2012 Resolution -and- I’m not as active as I used to be. I’ve already noticed that cardio has slowed my weight gains and forced me to change my projections to only 2 lbs. a month. I’ve dealt with this by deciding I don’t have to bring more stress upon myself to meet my original goals….I need only be more patient and stay the coarse. Besides, I’ve also noticed that turning 40 has brought on a few more unexpected challenges in the way of gaining muscle mass. I’m figuring it’s probably best that I make allowances rather than push myself too far, too fast, and wind up with a dreaded injury/setback.

    • Let me start by saying “welcome” AND you’re over 40! Congrats. Surfing? Where do you live?

      You’re a tall one, eh? Beautiful and I were just discussing last night at dinner height/weight of CFers and wondering how much of it is genetics from our parents and how much of it is which mutation we have, as pancreatic insufficiency doesn’t always make the determination.

      Weights and cardio… great plan. I’m going to post about my new routine at the end of the week, but for now I’m walking and will start a little jogging until I can build over over several months to just jog. I need to get my butt to the small gym that our HOA covers, but that is extra time that I haven’t worked out how to commit to just yet. When I am jogging, getting there will be quicker. 😉

      2lbs per month is slow and steady and sure to be more muscle than fat or water, so I commend you for your patience to dial it down that much to ensure a healthy “overweight” BMI.

      • C Artprocess says

        I wish dude, I’m 5′ 9.25″ when I can actually straighten out of that dreaded CF posture.
        Thanks for the Welcome….I’m still living on the outskirts of Orlando. It’s been a good 7 months since I visited your Blog. I came to the realization that I needed to make a clean sweep of my Facebook account and eliminate my fellow CFers- I’m down to just under 100 close family and friends. Facebook is now my haven away from CF related issues; and as it turns out, I really need that. I’m much happier now visiting CF sites/blogs when I feel interested and am strong enough to handle the day to day struggles that other CFers go through. 
        Anyways. Glad you’re still plugging away at it- That’s a good thing!

        Slow and Steady? I jacked my liver and kidneys up 20 yrs. ago when I used all sorts of legal nonsense to get up 186 lbs. I was in college and full of piss-n-vinegar, hence the big rush to gain mass. Mistakes have been made and I’ve learned to take it nice and slow using scandishake as my only supplement……I can only dream of 186 without all the creatine and other performance enhancing CRAP that is on the open market. If able to go back in time, I would knock some sense into that college punk! Can’t do that, but I can benefit from the daily reminder of liver pills, aching old injuries, and that lovely hernia scar down the middle of my torso. Heck, who am I kidding, I just ate my lunch all over the walkway the other day because I thought I could skateboard like a teenager again! That adventurous part of me has kept me going all these years, but it sure leaves a wake of damage across my body. Sometimes I wish I could just sit still long enough to enjoy a sedentary lifestyle, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the sedentary version of myself would not have made it this long?