Weight loss is a serious problem in the United States. Consumers constantly see advertisements and news reports about fashion diets, screaming products and magic pills that promise to help them lose weight.
As the ongoing “battle against weight” is a priority for many people, too weak can seem like a “good problem”. However, the reality is that being underweight can cause health problems.
The road to better health
Fats have a bad reputation for causing overweight and obesity. However, not all fats are bad. In fact, breaking down and storing energy (calories) as fat is good for you. This is just one of the many ways the body uses food to function, heal and grow.
The stored energy from fat helps you to do hard work or exercise. In addition, it plays a key role in brain development and in preventing inflammation (swelling) and blood clots. Fats also contribute to healthy hair and skin.
You can determine if you are underweight using a body mass index (BMI) calculator. This online tool takes into account your weight, height, age and gender to calculate the result. If your BMI is less than 18.5, you are underweight. Your doctor can also help you determine if you are underweight based on your height, weight, what you eat, and your level of activity.
Your doctor may put you on a weight gain program if you are underweight. However, this is not a permission to go crazy with junk food. Healthy weight gain requires a balanced approach, just like a weight loss program.
Eating junk food can lead to weight gain. However, it will not provide the food your body needs. Even if the fat, sugar and salt in junk food do not lead to extra weight, they can still harm your body. To achieve healthy weight gain, the following tips can help you:
- Add healthy calories. You do not need to drastically change your diet. You can increase calories by adding a side dish of nuts or seeds, cheese and healthy side dishes. Try almonds, sunflower seeds, fruit or wholemeal toast.
- Choose foods rich in nutrients. Instead of eating empty calories and junk food, eat foods that are rich in nutrients. Think of high-protein meat, which can help you build muscle. Also, choose dietary carbohydrates, such as brown rice and other whole grains. This helps ensure that your body gets as much food as possible, even if you have a reduced appetite.
- Don’t limit snacks. Enjoy snacks high in protein and healthy carbs. Consider options such as a mix for trails, protein bars or drinks and crackers with hummus or peanut butter. Also, enjoy snacks that contain “good fats” that are important for a healthy heart. Some examples include nuts and avocados.
- Include small meals. If you have appetite problems due to medical or emotional problems, eating large amounts of food may not seem appealing. Consider smaller meals during the day to increase calorie intake.
- Increase muscle mass. While doing too much aerobic exercise will burn calories and work against your target weight, strength training can help. This includes weightlifting or yoga. Load up if you increase muscle mass.
Talk to your doctor before starting a weight gain program. Being underweight can be due to a major health problem. It will not be corrected only by changes in diet. Your doctor will be able to help you track your progress. In addition, it will ensure that healthy changes are made.
Aspects to be considered
People who are underweight usually do not get enough calories to feed the body. They also often suffer from malnutrition. Malnutrition means that you do not get enough vitamins and minerals from your diet. If you are underweight, you may be at risk for the following health problems:
- Slow growth and development. This is especially true for children and adolescents, whose bodies need a lot of nutrients to grow and be healthy.
- Fragile bones. Vitamin D and calcium deficiency, along with low body weight, can lead to weak bones and osteoporosis.
- Weakened immune system. When you don’t get enough nutrients, your body can’t store energy. This makes it difficult to fight the disease. It can also be difficult for your immune system to recover from an illness.
- anemia. This condition can be caused by a lack of enough vitamins, iron, folic acid and vitamin B12. May cause dizziness, fatigue and headache.
- Fertility problems. In women, low body weight can lead to irregular periods, missed periods and infertility.
- Hair loss. Low body weight can lead to weight loss and easy hair loss. It can also cause dry, thin skin and health problems with teeth and gums.
Many underweight people are physically healthy. Low body weight is due to various reasons, including:
- The genetic. If you are underweight from high school and it is hereditary, it is likely that you were born with a higher than normal metabolism. You may also have a naturally reduced appetite.
- High physical activity. If you are an athlete, you probably know that frequent exercise can affect your weight. However, high physical activity can also be part of an active job or an energetic person. If you are on your feet for a long time, you can burn more calories than people who are more sedentary.
- Disease. The disease can affect your appetite and your body’s ability to use and store food. If you have recently lost a lot of weight without trying, this may be a sign of a disease such as thyroid problems, diabetes, digestive diseases or even cancer. Talk to your doctor about sudden weight loss.
- Medicines. Some prescription drugs can cause nausea and weight loss. Some treatments, such as chemotherapy, can reduce appetite and worsen weight loss from the disease.
- Psychological problems. Our mental well-being affects every part of our lives. Some factors, such as stress and depression, can disrupt healthy eating habits. Dissatisfaction and distortion of body image can lead to eating disorders. If you have damaging emotional problems, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you get any care, help or advice you may need.
Questions to ask your doctor
- How do I gain weight if I’m not hungry?
- Is being overweight more serious for babies?
- What are some affordable and healthy foods to help me gain weight?
- Should I stop exercising if I am underweight?
- Do I have to stop taking prescription drugs if I am underweight?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides an overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and for more information on this topic.
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