When it comes to health and fitness, a lot of what we read and hear about is how to lose weight. Some people, though, are advised by their doctors to gain weight. If being overweight or obese is a cause for concern, being underweight can also be unhealthy since it can lead to various complications and illnesses. In this article, we discuss how to gain weight safely and healthily.
How to Tell if You're Underweight
The best weight for you is not one rigid number; rather, it is a range. Staying outside this range is what causes health problems.
Weighing yourself regularly is a good way to monitor yourself. The best way to know if you’re under the optimum weight range is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). This method accounts for other factors like your height and age.
Causes & Risk Factors
Many factors affect your weight, some of which make it difficult to either lose weight or gain weight safely.
A study by the University of Cambridge in 2019 showed that a person’s weight can be hereditary. This was a unique study since previous research on people’s weight generally focuses on obesity. So, if being thin runs in family’s history, then there’s a pretty good chance that you may become underweight. Some people are also genetically predisposed towards low BMI and small body structures.
Although researchers concluded that genetics plays an important role in a person’s weight, they stressed that it isn’t the sole factor.
Race or ethnicity
Just like genetics, some racial and ethnic minority groups lean toward extreme weight measurements.
According to a longitudinal study published in 2016, the Philippines is among the top 10 countries in the world that have the largest number of underweight men and women. Data showed that the number of underweight men and women nearly doubled from 1975. The country had 3.6 million underweight men and 4.4 million underweight women. The study, however, did not take into account socio-economic factors that may have led to such statistics.
Diet and environment
Diet and environment play a significant role in weight. Many people can’t afford or lack access to nutritious food. Some do not eat properly because of an illness, stress, or lack of sleep. The lifestyle and eating habits of family and friends may also contribute to these food choices.
If you undergo high-level physical activity then you will burn a lot of calories. If you accompany this with a poor diet, you may find yourself losing too much weight.
Illnesses and disorders
Certain diseases like hyperthyroidism or diabetes and disorders like anorexia may affect your weight. In particular, hyperthyroidism speeds up your body’s metabolism rate causing rapid weight loss. If you suddenly start losing pounds despite eating a lot, it’s better to consult your doctor on how to gain weight safely.
Health Risks & Complications
Malnutrition is the foremost health risk of an underweight person. It means that a person does not get enough calories to fuel their body, and/or they don’t take in the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from the food they eat.
For children and teens, malnutrition may lead to developmental delays. According to UNICEF, one in three Filipino children under five years old are too short for their age and about 7 percent of them are too thin for their height.
On top of malnutrition, an underweight person may risk developing additional health problems:
Osteoporosis. A deficiency in vitamin D and calcium can lead to weak or brittle bones.
Weak immune system. This is a major cause for concern if you are sick because your body will have a hard time fighting off illnesses or infections.
Anemia. A deficiency in iron, folate, and B12 can lead to lower red blood cells. You may be anemic if you always feel dizzy, tired, suffer from headaches, and look pale.
Fertility issues. Underweight women may suffer from irregular or lack of menstrual periods, infertility, or a higher chance of pre-term labor.
Hair loss and teeth and gum problems. Issues with vitamin deficiency can lead to falling or thinning hair, or teeth and gum diseases.
Treatment & Prevention
What can you do to gain weight safely and stay within your body’s healthy weight range? Here are some tips:
Eat nutritious food more frequently. Instead of the usual three large meals, eat five to six small meals throughout the day or set a timer to remind you to eat every two hours. This habit will help you feel full faster because you will not be forced to eat a large meal. It may also prevent you from snacking on unhealthy junk food in between meals.
Choose nutritious foods. Include fresh fruits and vegetables into your meals as much as you can and choose lean meats. Avoid unhealthy snacks and beverages that are high in salt or sugar. Make sure that everything you eat is packed with the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your body needs.
Do strength training instead of high-impact exercise. It’s essential to build up your muscles when you want to gain weight. You don’t have to go to the gym but you need to pick the correct exercises. Focus on squats, arm workouts, leg extensions, weight lifting, and similar routines. Also, remember that overworking your body can be counterproductive, so be sure to rest and not over-exercise.
Always consult a doctor before undergoing a weight-gain program. Gaining weight should be a slow process. It may take months for you to attain and maintain your ideal body weight. Go for a healthier diet and lifestyle so that you gain weight safely.
Learn more about Healthy Eating here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.