How to gain weight when underweight

Gain Weight


When people read the title to this article, their first thought is probably “I wish I had that problem!”  Being underweight is not much of a public health concern in this country unlike obesity. But anyone who is underweight and wishes to gain a few pounds will tell you they can be just as frustrated and disappointed in trying to gain weight as those who try to lose weight. 

Underweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) less than 18.5 kg/m with too little body fat. Some people are naturally thin and may have always struggled to maintain a more normal body weight.  If it is an inherited pattern that runs in a family, there may not be much worry for health risks as long as the person’s diet and health are good.  But for many underweight individuals, there needs to be further evaluation as to why they are having problems gaining weight.  Let’s take a look at the causes of being underweight, concerns over it and strategies to help with weight gain.

What are some of the causes of being underweight?

·      An eating disorder

·      Addiction to drugs or alcohol

·      Metabolic and hereditary factors

·      Psychological or emotional stress

·      Hyperthyroidism

·      Poor appetite and or gets full quickly when eating

·      Can also be a sign of an underlying disease

·      Heavy smoking

Concerns of being underweight

·      Inadequate nutrient stores leading to nutrient deficiencies

·      Poor pregnancy outcome such as low-birth weight or premature baby

·      Increased risk for infections and illness due to a weakened immune system

·      Menstrual irregularities in women

·      Higher risk of osteoporosis

·      More difficulties in recovering from illnesses such as pneumonia and cancer

·      Insufficient growth in children

·      Can lead to low self-esteem

Weight gain strategies

·      Have small, frequent meals consisting of nutrient-dense and energy-dense foods and beverages.  Eat at least 3 meals a day with 2-3 snacks throughout the day.

·      Avoid skipping meals

·      Drink fluids at the end of a meal to prevent getting full before the meal is over

·      Drink juices, milk, or smoothies between meals to get in extra calories

·      Take bigger portion sizes

·      Quit smoking – it decreases appetite

·      Exercise/lift weights – this helps to gain lean muscle mass and without just putting on fat weight. 

·      Take snacks along when away from home to have something to eat

·      Have ahealthy bedtime snack

What is a healthful body weight?

Everyone comes in different sizes and shapes – that’s one of the things making each of us unique!  Defining a healthy body weight is not based on how thin or how muscular a person is.  There is no one particular body type that can be defined as healthy.  But it does help to know  there are some guidelines you can find useful in determining what body weight is best for you:

·      A weight appropriate for your age and physical development.

·      A weight you can achieve and sustain without severely curtailing your food intake.

·      A weight based on your genetic background and family history of body shape.

·      A weight that leads to normal blood pressure, lipid and glucose levels.

·      A weight promoting healthy eating and participation in physical activity.

·      A weight that is right for you.

If you meet the above guidelines, you can trust your body size is normal for you and to keep following a well-balanced, healthy diet with regular exercise.