Bulking up, not slimming down

Junior Sawyer Ladd’s journey to gaining weight has his whole life-changing


Achyuta Ambal

Junior Sawyer Ladd lifts weights, stretches and eats to gain weight. Ladd has spent over a year practicing a routine involving eating more and going to the gym frequently to work towards his goal. “It has taken me way longer than I thought it would to gain even a little bit of weight. I don’t know if I need to change my methods, but I know I will stick with it until I reach my goals,” Ladd said.

A large culture has been growing on social media and other platforms based on helping as many individuals as they can lose weight. However, people need to recognize the struggle on the opposite side of the spectrum. Junior Sawyer Ladd and others like him struggle with gaining weight instead.

Ladd has dealt with being underweight for his height and age his whole life, and growing taller in high school has only increased his insecurity. Finally, Ladd decided that he needed to bulk up and healthily gain weight.

“My doctor always told me that I had a low BMI, and that hasn’t changed up until now. One day I looked in the mirror and decided I didn’t like how skinny I looked,” Ladd said. “I have always appreciated people that put in the effort to make themselves look how they want, and I wanted to do so as well. So I changed some things.” 

The first thing Ladd changed was his eating habits. He changed his caloric intake from less than 2,000 calories daily to around 3,000. Ladd also regularly goes to the gym to bulk up. Because he wants to bulk up healthily, weightlifting burns off unused calories and, as a plus, also builds weight in the form of muscles.

“People might associate gaining weight with just putting on a lot of weight by eating food, but it isn’t that easy. I’ve had to rearrange a large part of my life to make time for the gym, meal prep and other parts of my bulk,” Ladd said.

Diet changes and going to the gym are typical strategies people use to lose weight. While they go fairly hand-in-hand, Ladd considers gaining weight and losing weight very different matters to tackle.

“I think it’s harder physically to gain weight, and it’s harder mentally to lose weight. To lose weight, you have to reprogram your body to function off a calorie deficit and still have enough energy to exercise to lose the weight but to gain weight, you have to go against your body’s natural instinct to not eat as much food, which is a whole different beast,” Ladd said.

At the beginning of his journey, Ladd weighed in at 6 foot 1 inch and 120 pounds and reached 6 foot 3 inches at 135 pounds. As hard as gaining weight has been, Ladd has already seen some credible benefits.

“I wasn’t in a great headspace when I started gaining weight, and as I started gaining more, I’ve noticed a positive change in my mental health,” Ladd said. “I appreciate the progress I have made, but I am not anywhere near satisfied. I just haven’t climbed as far up as I want.” 

Ladd’s dissatisfaction has led him to create and revise goals as his journey has progressed. His goals include gaining knowledge about how his body works and continuing to gain weight.

“I have already learned a lot about the general human body because I had to learn how to target specific muscle groups in the gym, but I need to learn how my body reacts differently to different things. I want to reach 150 pounds by August,” Ladd said.

Through learning from people at his gym and home, as well as from his own experiences, Ladd has advice for anyone trying to change their weight.

“If you want to gain or lose weight, that’s great. When you start towards your goal, remember that it will take longer than you think to see progress. No one expects to lift a single weight on your first day in the gym and look like a bodybuilder, but it could take longer than a month for you to start seeing progress. Keep at it, and don’t give up,” Ladd said.