Are you too thin?
Are you really too thin? Use our BMI calculator to find out. Many people envy thin people. But there are an increasing number of people who are too thin or underweight, through no fault of their own, because of illness or a predisposition. They know how difficult it can be to put on weight.
How do you define being underweight?
Underweight is a condition when the body weight is 10-20% less than the average expected for one’s height, age and sex. If the body weight is less by 20 % or more than ideal body weight, the individual is grossly underweight and it is a matter of higher concern.
What are the causes of being underweight?
Inadequate food intake both in quantity and quality is a very common cause for being underweight. Besides that, there are a number of psychological and physiological reasons why a person could be underweight.
- Psychological factors like in patients with mental illness or anorexia nervosa who refuse to eat adequately
- Irregular habits of eating and poor selection of foods leading to inadequate nutrient and calorie intake
- Increased physical activity without an increase in food intake
- Malabsorption due to vomiting, diarrhoea leads to poor nutrient absorption. This can also be due to prolonged use of laxatives
- Conditions like fever in which appetite is poor and energy needs are greatly increased may lead to weight loss due to inadequate nutrient intake
- Hormonal imbalance like hypo or hyperthyroidism can cause one to be underweight
- Eating disorders due to obsession with thinness like anorexia nervosa (not eating enough due to eating less), bulimia (induced vomiting after eating) are other causes
Health hazards of being underweight:
- Being underweight results in growth retardation and failure to thrive in growing children
- Resistance to infection is lowered and general health is poor in underweight individuals
- Underweight persons often feel fatigued and cannot work efficiently
- Being underweight increases chances of complications during pregnancy leading to preterm delivery and smaller babies
- It Increases risk during surgeries
- Underweight people are susceptible to certain infections like tuberculosis
What to do if you are underweight:
- Eat a balanced diet and choose your food carefully, so that you eat enough carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals
- An increase of about 500 Kcal per day results in a weight gain of 0.5 Kg per week. If more weight gain is desired, daily energy intake may be increased by 1000 Kcal
- A higher protein intake must be accompanied by higher energy intake to build up the muscle tissue. A daily intake of 1.5 to 2 g protein per Kg body weight is therefore recommended. Foods with high protein quality like milk, eggs and a combination of cereals and pulses should be included in the diet
- A high carbohydrate intake helps to meet the high energy needs. Sugar, honey, cereals, starchy vegetables, and fruits must therefore be included in the diet
- Although fats are energy dense foods and help to reduce the bulk of the diet, they must be provided only in moderation . Emulsified fat like butter, cream are better tolerated
- Plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals, nuts and pulses particularly sprouts help in ensuring an adequate intake of minerals and vitamins
- Supplements may also be given to combat any nutritional deficiencies after consulting with the doctor or dietician
Keep it slow:
As it is difficult to adjust at once to a higher energy intake, it is better to begin with the normal intake and gradually increase the food quantitatively and qualitatively. An overloaded plate may often cause a loss of appetite.
Eat regularly to stimulate your appetite. Eating often – 6 to 8 meals a day is the ideal way to avoid feeling full.
Playing sport regularly or going for walks in the fresh air are also good ways to stimulate appetite.
Weight gain like weight loss should be a slow and steady process, only then can the results be lasting. Follow the diet and lifestyle changes suggested above to achieve and maintain your desired body weight.