Causes, Consequences And Cures: What You Need To Know About Being Underweight And Achieving Healthy Weight Gain
Although the nation's obesity epidemic tends to take center stage when it comes to discussing weight, some individuals are struggling to increase their body mass index. If you are underweight, your friends and family members may be envious, but carrying such a thin physique also carries health risks. To achieve your ideal weight, you need to increase your caloric intake in ways that will provide your body with healthy nutrients.
Causes of Being Underweight
In some cases, an underweight individual may be genetically slim. In others, certain factors contribute to unintended weight loss, which can dip them below the threshold of a healthy body mass index. Some causes of such weight loss include:
- Maintaining a constant high level of physical activity throughout waking hours
- Gastrointestinal disease
- Certain prescription medications and treatment agents, including chemotherapy drugs
Being underweight means that you are taking in fewer calories than your body needs to thrive. While being overweight can lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, a body mass index that falls below the normal range can have some adverse consequences to your health as well.
Consequences of Being Underweight
Your body requires enough calories and balanced nutrients to carry out its cellular growth and metabolic functions. Maintaining a trim physique is healthy, but if you are considered to be underweight, your body is not able to function optimally, which puts you at risk for the following consequences:
- Low muscle mass
- Irregular menstruation cycles
- Infertility or pregnancy complications
- Hair loss
- Abnormal hormone regulation
- Compromised immune system
While so many individuals struggle with one weight loss regimen after another, you have the green light to eat as much as you need to gain back those missing pounds and place you in a healthier weight range. This is not a green light to up the ante on your junk food consumption, however. The key is to gain weight with the foods that will provide the nutrients that your body is craving and to build up your weight by increasing lean muscle mass rather than extra body fat.
Weighing the Edible Options
Once you and your physician determine your ideal weight and how many calories you need to take in daily to achieve your goal, you need to turn to foods that will at once increase your weight and restore your body's balance of nutrients. Consuming three double cheeseburgers, a super-sized order of fries and a milkshake may pack on the pounds, but your body will be deprived of balanced nutrients. A diet that is rich in proteins, healthy fats, some complex carbohydrates and plenty of produce is a safe and effective way to gain weight. Consider incorporating more of the following foods into your daily meal plan:
- Sushi rolls
- Peanut butter
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole grain breads, pastas and cereals
- Dried fruits
- Whole milk Greek yogurt
In addition to making smart choices about the foods that will adorn your plate more often, you can make a few other modifications in your lifestyle and eating habits to gain weight effectively.
Build Up to a Healthy Weight
While weight loss programs focus on lower caloric intakes and aerobic exercise regimens, weight gain goals can be achieved by increasing caloric intake and altering your exercise program. Try incorporating the following habits into your routines:
- Aerobic exercise is essential for maintaining cardiovascular health, but swapping out a portion of that treadmill time for lifting weights will help to build muscle, which will increase your weight while increasing your strength.
- Increase the number of daily meals that you eat. This is especially helpful if your recent weight loss is due to a cause that has curbed your appetite. Eating smaller meals several times each day will be effective in gaining weight.
- Eat healthy snacks whenever you feel hungry. Some ideal choices include hummus with pita chips, nuts, granola bars, trail mix and crackers with peanut butter.
- Enjoy dessert by choosing options that are dense in nutrients, such as oatmeal raisin cookies or pumpkin bread.
Be sure to monitor your progress by weighing in weekly. Work together with your physician to pursue your healthy weight and to address the underlying cause of your weight loss, if necessary. Click here to learn more about family medicine.