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18 March 2011

Underweight? DietDoc's Q & A

Struggling to sustain a healthy weight can be caused by a variety of factors, some of which are psychological, while others are physical - DietDoc answers your questions.

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Unfortunately, society still views being thin as healthy and good. But being too thin can have extremely negative effects on your immunity, normal menstruation, performance and mood, amongst other things. DietDoc answers questions on how to pick up weight.

Q: 20kgs underweight

I am a 27 year old woman, about 1.5m tall and weigh anything between 39 and 42kgs.

I have three kids, my youngest one being 19 months old, and I have a problem gaining weight (I look anorexic).  I went to a dietician in September and was informed that I am about 20kgs underweight. The dietician gave me a diet which I've followed, and tests were done on me.  It turned out that I have a serious iron deficiency, and was put on chronic iron medication.  But I'm still not gaining weight. What else could be wrong (my thyroid was also tested and this too was fine)?

A:  If you weigh 42 kg and are 1.5 m tall (is this height correct?), then your present BMI = 18,7 which is very low and in the underweight range.

To have an ideal BMI of 22, you would need to weigh 50 kg (which would mean an increase of 10 kg). Basically individuals who struggle to gain weight do not ingest sufficient energy for the high demands of their Basic metabolic rate and/or physical activity. I have written some articles on this subject.

For basic information see the 'Weight gaining' centre where you will find all the relevant articles. Companies like Nestle, among others, make meal replacement supplements Phone the Nestle Consumer Services at 0860 09 6789 and ask about Nutritional Supplements to boost your energy intake.

You can purchase liquid meal supplements at most chemist shops. Talk to the pharmacist about your need to gain weight and see which products he or she will recommend. Basically you need to eat more food either by gradually increasing how much you eat at each meal, or by taking supplements IN ADDITION to your regular meals (not to replace meals), or by having more snacks between meals. If you use a liquid meal supplement at the rate of 200 ml 3x a day, then you should gain 1 kg per week. Feedback from other Readers has indicated that they have successfully gained weight by using a meal supplement.

Q:  No appetite, need to gain weight

I've been trying to gain weight for a while, but my appetite keeps on fluctuating. I am planning on taking a protein shake to assist me. Which protein shake is the best, and what else can I do to ensure that I always have an appetite and gain weight?

A: Protein shakes such as the ones used for slimming and by athletes are not ideal for weight gain. You should rather use a high-energy shake.

Basically, individuals who struggle to gain weight do not ingest sufficient energy for the high demands of their Basic metabolic rate and/or physical activity. I have written some articles on this subject – click here for the weight gain information.

Q:  Weight loss due to stress

My daughter lost 9kg during matric exams probably due to stress. She does eat often, but can't seem to gain the weight back. She's 175cm tall and weighs 56kg.
We went to the doctor and they did all sorts of blood tests and found nothing. Her thyroid function is normal.  Which foods should she eat to gain the weight back or which supplements could she take?

A:  Stress, anxiety and depression are all psychological states that can cause pronounced weightloss (or weight gain in some individuals). Your daughters present BMI = 18,8 which is just still in the normal range. When she weighed 65 kg her weight was ideal for her height. If she is not suffering from underlying anxiety or depression then here are practical tips for gaining weight

Basically she needs to eat more food either by gradually increasing how much she eats at each meal, or by taking supplements IN ADDITION to her regular meals (not to replace meals), or by having more snacks between meals. If she uses a liquid meal supplement at the rate of 200 ml 3x a day, then she should gain 1 kg per week. Feedback from other Readers has indicated that they have successfully gained weight by using a meal supplement. Rest and relaxation after the exams should also be beneficial.

Q:  I can't maintain weight

I am a 40yr old female. I have a small frame. My height is 1.57m. I find that I lose weight easily and then I struggle to pick it up again. I had a full check up a while ago and everything was fine. I frequently take Ensure or similar products to try to increase my weight. I am fairly active. At the moment I weigh 48.5kg. Do you think I am underweight? If so, how can I gain weight?

A:  your BMI = 19,7 which is very low. You would need to weigh 54 kg to have an ideal BMI of 22. Start taking the Ensure again, but use it every day because ingesting 200 ml 3x a day, should result in a gain of 1 kg per week. Once you have regained your weight, take a maintenance dose of Ensure every day to prevent weightloss. Read this weight gain eating plan that should help you.

More info:

More weight gaining tips

Causes of underweight

(Joanne Hart, Health24, March 2011)

 
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