Being underweight is a term used to describe a person who has a body weight that is lower than what is considered healthy for their age, height, and gender. It is typically determined by calculating a person’s body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of body weight relative to height. A BMI below the normal or healthy range is often an indicator of being underweight.
The classification of underweight can vary depending on the guidelines used, but generally, a BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight. However, it’s important to note that BMI is just one measure of health and doesn’t take into account other factors like muscle mass, bone density, and overall body composition. Some individuals may have a low BMI due to genetics, a naturally slender build, or other factors that do not necessarily indicate poor health.
Being underweight can have negative health implications, including:
- Nutritional deficiencies: Underweight individuals may not be getting enough essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in their diet, which can lead to various health issues.
- Weakened immune system: A lack of proper nutrition can weaken the immune system, making underweight individuals more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
- Muscle loss: Chronic underweight can lead to muscle wasting and weakness.
- Decreased bone density: Inadequate nutrition can lead to a reduction in bone density, increasing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
- Fertility issues: Women who are underweight may experience irregular menstrual cycles and fertility problems.
- Compromised organ function: Insufficient body fat can affect the function of vital organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys.
- Mental health concerns: Being underweight can contribute to psychological issues such as body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders.
What is the Ideal Weight to Be?
There is no one-size-fits-all ideal weight for all individuals of a particular age, gender, or height because factors such as body composition, muscle mass, bone density, and genetics can vary significantly from person to person. Instead, healthcare professionals often use body mass index (BMI) as a general guideline to assess whether an individual’s weight falls within a healthy range. BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters.
However, it is important to note that BMI has limitations and doesn’t take into account other factors that influence health, such as muscle mass and distribution of body fat. It’s a basic measure and should be used alongside other assessments of health.
Here are general BMI categories for adults:
- Underweight: BMI less than 18.5
- Normal weight: BMI 18.5 to 24.9
- Overweight: BMI 25 to 29.9
- Obesity: BMI 30 or greater
For children and adolescents, BMI percentiles are used to account for growth and development. These percentiles compare a child’s BMI to the average BMI for their age and sex.
Keep in mind that these BMI categories are guidelines, and what is considered a healthy weight can vary depending on individual factors. Some people may be perfectly healthy and fit even if they fall outside the “normal” BMI range.
How Do I Know That I Am Underweight?
Being underweight can be associated with a range of symptoms and health concerns. Not everyone who is underweight will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity can vary. Common symptoms and signs of being underweight may include:
- Unintentional weight loss: Losing weight without trying to do so.
- Fatigue: Feeling constantly tired or lacking energy.
- Weakness: Muscle weakness or a lack of strength.
- Feeling cold: Having a lower tolerance for cold temperatures.
- Dizziness: Experiencing lightheadedness or fainting.
- Poor immune function: Increased susceptibility to infections.
- Irregular menstruation: For women, underweight can lead to irregular or absent periods.
- Hair and skin problems: Dry or brittle hair and skin.
- Reduced bone density: A higher risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
- Gastrointestinal issues: Problems with digestion or gastrointestinal discomfort.
- Depression or mood changes: Underweight individuals may be more prone to mood disorders.
- Developmental issues: In children and adolescents, underweight can lead to growth and developmental delays.
It is important to note that being underweight is a sign of an underlying issue, which can include inadequate nutrition, malnutrition, or an underlying medical condition.
Why Am I Underweight?
Being underweight can have various causes, and it is important to understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all explanation. Some common reasons for being underweight include:
- Inadequate calorie intake: Not consuming enough calories to meet your body’s energy needs. This could result from poor eating habits, restricted diets, or a lack of access to sufficient food.
- High metabolism: Some individuals naturally have a faster metabolism, which means they burn calories at a faster rate, potentially leading to difficulty gaining weight.
- Genetics: Your genetics play a significant role in determining your body’s natural shape and size. Some people may have naturally slender frames due to their genetic makeup.
- Medical conditions: Underlying medical conditions can contribute to being underweight. These may include gastrointestinal disorders (such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or malabsorption issues), hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and cancer.
- Mental health issues: Conditions like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders (e.g., anorexia nervosa) can lead to unhealthy weight loss and being underweight.
- Medications: Certain medications can affect your appetite, metabolism, or nutrient absorption, potentially leading to weight loss.
- Inadequate nutrition: Even if you consume enough calories, a lack of essential nutrients in your diet can result in being underweight. This can happen if you’re not getting a balanced mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, or if you have specific nutrient deficiencies.
- Stress and lifestyle factors: High levels of stress, a busy lifestyle, or engaging in activities that burn many calories (e.g., intense exercise) without compensating with sufficient nutrition can contribute to being underweight.
- Eating habits: Skipping meals, irregular eating patterns, or not eating enough due to appetite changes can lead to being underweight.
- Dental or oral health issues: Dental problems that make eating uncomfortable or difficult can result in lower food intake.
What Are Some Natural Ways to Gain Weight in a Healthy Manner?
Gaining weight in a healthy way involves increasing your calorie intake while still focusing on nutrient-rich foods and making lifestyle changes that support your goals. Here are some natural ways to gain weight in a healthy manner:
- Consume More Calories: To gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn. Calculate your daily calorie needs and aim to eat more calories than that. However, don’t rely on empty calories from sugary or processed foods.
- Eat Balanced Meals: Opt for a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups: carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. Aim for nutrient-dense options.
- Frequent Meals and Snacks: Eat more often throughout the day, including three main meals and several snacks. This helps increase your calorie intake.
- Protein Intake: Include sources of lean protein in your diet, such as poultry, fish, lean meats, eggs, dairy products, and plant-based sources like beans, lentils, and tofu. Protein supports muscle growth.
- Healthy Fats: Incorporate healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil into your meals. These are calorie-dense and provide essential nutrients.
- Complex Carbohydrates: Opt for complex carbohydrates like whole grains, brown rice, quinoa, and oats. They provide sustained energy and extra calories.
- Dairy or Dairy Alternatives: Consider whole milk, yogurt, and cheese for added calories and protein. If you’re lactose intolerant or follow a vegan diet, there are many dairy-free alternatives available.
- Nutrient-Rich Snacks: Instead of empty-calorie snacks, choose nutrient-rich options like mixed nuts, trail mix, dried fruits, and energy bars.
- Strength Training: Incorporate strength training exercises into your routine to build muscle mass. Muscle is denser than fat, so increasing muscle can contribute to healthy weight gain.
- Stay Hydrated: Drink enough water to stay hydrated, but avoid excessive amounts of water before meals, as this can fill you up and reduce your appetite.
- Limit Empty Calories: Minimize the consumption of sugary drinks, candies, and heavily processed foods. While these can increase calorie intake, they lack essential nutrients and can lead to health issues.
- Consult a Dietitian: A registered dietitian can help create a personalized meal plan and offer guidance on healthy weight gain.
- Monitor Your Progress: Keep track of your food intake, weight, and measurements to gauge your progress. Adjust your diet and exercise routine as needed.
- Manage Stress: High stress levels can suppress appetite. Practice stress-reduction techniques, such as mindfulness, yoga, or meditation.
- Be Patient: Healthy weight gain is a gradual process. Don’t rush it, and focus on long-term health and well-being.
The ten modern lifestyle root causes for hormonal imbalance related to PCOS that may on some level lead to problems with being underweight are:
- Food Related Causes– Inflammation, toxicity, acidity, excess male hormones, insulin resistance.
- Exercise Related Causes: Sedentary lifestyle, lack of muscle strength, excess ovarian fat.
- Sleep Related Causes: Poor sleep quality (Lack of Deep Sleep).
- Stress Related Causes: Chronic Stress. Addressing these triggers through an integrated approach can naturally restore hormonal balance.
How can the Five Pillars Integrated Lifestyle Approach Help You to Have Hormonal Balance and Help With Being Underweight?
- Eat Right: Embrace living, water-rich, whole, plant-based foods that nurture our genetic potential. By opting for local and seasonal choices, we honor nature’s wisdom. Eliminating packaged and processed foods liberates us from epigenetic imprints, elevating our hormonal health.
- Move More: Embark on a journey of holistic lifestyle changes, where staying active transcends mere exercise. Embracing constant movement throughout the day optimizes epigenetic expression, igniting hormonal balance. Engage in pleasurable physical activities, dance, or even mindful walks to unlock the power of epigenetic triggers.
- Breathe Aware: As we deepen our understanding of Pranayama, the science of breath, we access a profound gateway to support gland function and harmonize hormones. Harnessing the breath’s epigenetic influence, we transcend the ordinary and elevate our hormonal well-being.
- Sleep Better: Unlock the secrets of deep sleep, a transformative practice for healing and regeneration. With the art of Yog Nidra to avoid being sleep deprived, we embrace epigenetic potential, unearthing hormonal harmony in the realm of dreams. Rejuvenate your entire being through this exquisite dance with the epigenetic clock to stop feeling sleep deprived.
- Mind Free: Journey into the realm of emotions, thoughts, and stress resilience, where journaling, gratitude, and emotional practices become our guiding compass. Embracing epigenetic intelligence, we shift our narrative from stress to serenity, empowering our hormonal landscape.