This article is going to outline the causes of underweight, its challenges, and how to gain healthy weight healthily.
Being underweight can be as bad for your health as being obese. Just as there are health problems associated with overweight, there are also many people with challenges attributed to being too skinny or underweight.
Whether you’re clinically underweight or simply want to gain some muscle mass, gaining weight or adding muscle can as well be challenging as losing weight.
How to gain healthy weight involves keeping a food diary, exercising, setting realistic goals, eating more calories, eating just before bedtime, eating more often, drinking your calories, and staying away from junk food.
But what does underweight, Healthy weight, and overweight mean?
According to the national institute of health, the above parameters are defined based on body mass index (BMI). Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. This applies to both adult men and women.
In short, BMI is the person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. This means that a high BMI implies high body fatness and a low BMI implies too low body fatness.
A BMI of less than 18.5 indicates an underweight range, 18.5 to 24.9 falls within the healthy range, 25.0 to 29.9 implies overweight and a BMI of 30.0 and above indicates the obese range.
We can also measure these parameters using the waist circumference. Excessive abdominal fat may be an indicator of obesity and risk for developing obesity-related conditions, such as Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease.
Therefore, your waistline means a lot when it comes to whether one is overweight or underweight. A man with a waist circumference of more than 40 inches and a woman of waist circumference of more than 35 inches are at risk of being obese.
Both BMI and waist circumference can be used as screening tools but may not be diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual. Visit your healthcare provider to perform appropriate health analysis to assess your health status.
What causes underweight?
The causes of underweight may include;
1. Anorexia nervosa
Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa may be responsible for the underweight. People with this particular condition have a distorted image of their body whereby they think they are fat yet in actual sense they are underweight.
They restrict the number of calories they eat and exercise compulsively. This makes them very ill because they start to starve. Anorexia affects individuals of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, races, and ethnicities
2. Thyroid problems
Since the thyroid gland controls the body’s metabolism, an overactive thyroid puts the body into overdrive (hyperthyroidism). Your body then burns more energy at rest leading to excessive weight loss.
3. Celiac disease
This is the disorder that makes people intolerant to gluten. If not treated, celiac disease can cause malnutrition whereby your small intestine can’t take in enough nutrients. This leads to anemia and weight loss.
With diabetics and lack of insulin, the body cells don’t get glucose from the blood for energy. Instead, the body burns fat and muscle for energy. This causes drastic weight loss.
Cancerous tumors burn a lot of calories leading to weight loss. This is common with cancer of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus, or lung.
Viral infections such as CMV, HIV, gastroenteritis, and parasite infection can weight loss.
What Are the Health Consequences of Being Underweight?
Although obesity is a world problem, being underweight is just as bad for your health.
- In one study, it was established that being underweight was associated with a 140% greater risk of early death in men, and 100% in women.
- Being underweight impairs the immune system, raising the risk of infections, weak bones, and fertility.
- Underweight people are more likely to get sarcopenia, which is age-related muscle wasting and may be at greater risk of dementia
How to gain healthy weight in a healthy way
Keep a food diary
It is hard to remember everything you eat daily. Always record what and when you eat every day. This will help you monitor the eating habits and know where you need to change to make sure you’re getting the right nutrients.
Exercise to build muscles
Exercises such as weight training, push-ups, pull-ups, and other activities help to build muscle mass, and this can help you to add weight. Although they burn calories, they make the body demand more calories so you can eat more.
Visit a dietician or personal trainer to advise you on the exercises you can do to pack on extra pounds.
Here is our detailed guide on exercises for weight management.
Eat more calories
Try adding extra calories to your daily intake and adjust up or down depending on results. Know how much calories your body burns daily at rest. This will help you determine how much more you may need to consume.
Eat before bedtime
Many body processes such as tissue healing, repair, and regeneration take place when we are sleeping. Therefore a healthy snack right before bedtime supplies the body with nutrients needed to do all that work.
You can have lean proteins for example beans, chopped chicken breast, or an organic crumbled cheese.
Eat more often
Eating 6 or 5 small meals a day instead of three big ones will guarantee you more calorie intake, and that can help you gain weight.
Drink your calories
With liquids, you can add nutrition without feeling stuffed or bloated compared with solid food. Reach out for skim milk, fruit juice, and smoothies.
Stay away from junk food
Even when you are underweight, refined carbs, sugar, and unhealthy fats have health risks. They have risks to diabetes, cancer, pressure, and more. Therefore, if you want to gain healthy weight healthily, side with nutritious foods like fruit, dairy, meat, beans, and vegetables.
Eat healthy, but dense foods
Choose nutrient-rich foods with a lot of carbohydrates, protein, or fat into a small serving. A good example is dried fruits with zero sugar or preservatives.
healthy dense foods include;
Beef, lamb, pork, beef, dates
Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, etc.
Dried fruit: Raisins, dates, prunes, and others.
High-fat dairy: Whole milk, full-fat yogurt, cheese, cream.
Fats and oils: Extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil.
Grains: Whole grains like oats and brown rice.
Meat: Chicken, beef, pork, lamb, etc. Choose fattier cuts.
Tubers: carrots, potatoes
You may also need to look at our article ” foods for muscle gain” visit the article and learn the most important foods for muscle mass.
Eat several foods at once
Have at least three food groups at a time. Instead of a banana, have different foods like whole grains, a piece of meat, and fruits to provide your body with a wide range of nutrients to work with throughout the day.
Set attainable goals
Just like weight loss, weight gain needs a lot of patience, effort, and consistency. You will not get your dream weight in one day. Weight gain is a process that varies from one individual to another. Therefore set achievable targets and this will give you hope for better results
What are the benefits of a healthy weight?
When your weight is in a healthy range;
- Blood is efficiently circulated in the body
- You have manageable fluid levels
- You are less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, gallstones, osteoarthritis, breathing problems, and sleep apnoea.
- Self-confidence and more energy to make other health activities like exercises
what are the dangers of overweight?
Unlike people with a normal or healthy weight, obese people have a higher risk of many diseases and health conditions. These include;
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnoea and breathing problems
- Low quality of life
- Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
- Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning
To gain and maintain a healthy weight, you need to eat healthy food and exercise regularly. Most fad diets and quick weight fixes don’t work, because they only have short term results. They never teach you how to maintain a healthy weight in the long run.