53 percent of adults are overweight nowadays. Although there are now so many different diets and nutritional concepts, the proportion of overweight people in the German population is constantly growing. This shows, above all, that sufferers with these weight loss programs not successful in the long term are. Healthy and sustainable weight loss based on a change in diet should therefore be the goal. A mix of exercise, a whole-food plant-based diet, and the healing effects of interval fasting shows the best results for my patients in practice. Overweight is a much discussed topic in the society. Rightly so: because the health risks such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease increase immensely as a result.
But what about underweight? How can the risks of a low BMI be assessed and, in the best case, minimized??
Underweight – less common, but just as dangerous to health
Two percent of the German population had an eating disorder in 2017 BMI of under 18.5 and were therefore considered underweight. Even though the rate of underweight people in our society is very low, those affected often do not know how to help themselves. Recommendations are rare and usually underweight people catch critical looks when they express their desire for a few kilos more. In comments on my videos, but also in my practice, patients ask me for advice on how to gain a few kilos in a healthy way. For this, the cause of the underweight should be clarified first.
Cause: Not always an eating disorder is behind it
Underweight can have very different causes and does not always have to be related to an eating disorder.
→ Slightly underweight can sometimes simply be predisposition and remains unproblematic throughout life. If the body gets all the important nutrients, the metabolism is maintained and the organs perform their work without restriction. For those affected, gaining a few extra kilos is more of an aesthetic concern. Even with a fast metabolism, they can eat a lot without the amount of food being reflected in the body weight.
→ Severe underweight on the other hand, may be related to a food intolerance and should definitely be checked by a doctor. Hormonal imbalances, such as hyperthyroidism, can also be a reason for low body weight. Gastrointestinal diseases or celiac disease are other possible causes of being underweight.
Particularly dangerous in these cases is an absorption disorder of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements). If the vital substances do not reach the cells or are not metabolized in the organism, deficiencies arise that have serious consequences. The general health of the patient suffers and the defense is weakened.
→ Even with regular intake of medication side effects such as loss of appetite and changes in taste can make it difficult to absorb food and thus have an immense effect on body weight. In old age these factors play a role. Seniors simply don’t like to eat anymore due to their declining sense of taste and smell, and they also forget to drink.
Health consequences of long-term underweight
However, the physical consequences of a significantly low body weight are usually the same. Those affected often suffer from deficiencies and are therefore much more susceptible to infections than those of normal weight. limited resilience in everyday life, both physically and mentally, because your low body weight does not provide much energy. Small reserves are increasingly depleted and the body provides its energy needs from muscles and the remaining fat tissue.
Once even these minimal stores are depleted, underweight becomes life-threatening. The organs limit their functions and the metabolism comes to a standstill, the heart beats too slowly and everyday tasks have long been unsolvable.
Other symptoms of being underweight also include:
- low body temperature and permanent hypothermia,
- low blood pressure,
- chronic pain,
- Dry, cracked skin,
- Increased hair growth on the face, arms and legs as a protective reaction,
- Hair loss on the head due to lack of micronutrients,
- delayed wound healing and
- a weak immune system with increased susceptibility to infections.
If you have a BMI of less than 18.5 and suffer from being underweight or are already experiencing symptoms, then you should definitely get to the bottom of the cause. Develop a plan with your doctor to maintain a healthy weight in the future.
If there is no health reason for your low body weight, I have some helpful tips for you to gain weight in a healthy way:
- It is important that you do a little check-up for yourself. A food diary can serve you well in this case. For a period of seven days you can enter your meals and snacks and calculate your energy intake. This gives you an overview of whether you are eating enough food at all.
- The goal should be to increase your calories in the next step. In order to really increase your weight, you should first add 300 calories to your requirements. After two to three weeks, increase the amount of energy to 500 calories extra.
- This gradual increase in intake does not overwhelm your body and you can divide the amount into several small meals. This is better for most people than eating three large ones. Five to six small meals, such as a second breakfast or a larger afternoon snack, are therefore perfect.
- Healthy weight gain requires healthy food. It is important that you do not live on chocolate and fast food, but integrate both energy-providing and micronutrient-rich foods into your diet.
Focus on these foods
Even with wholesome, plant-based foods you can succeed in increasing your body weight. Nuts, legumes, pasta made from wholemeal flour, dried fruits such as dates and apricots, as well as avocados and olives as healthy sources of fat provide you with enough energy. You can combine them wonderfully, prepare fresh dishes and arrange them nicely. After all, the eye also eats and your appetite is stimulated. Fruit juices or smoothies as a snack are not heavy on your stomach, are easy to digest and are excellent for taking in extra calories.
If you are on the road a lot or hardly have time to eat, it is important that you take precautions. Prepare your own energy bars from dried fruit, nuts and oatmeal. You can find a recipe here here .
In addition to bananas or sandwiches, you can use these bars to provide a good foundation and cover your snacks in between meals.
If you prepare your main meals, then also rely on high-quality vegetable oils. You can add energy to your meals with a good olive (extra virgin) or canola oil. 3 tablespoons of oil will give you 300 extra calories, but won’t take up much space in your stomach.
Move, but properly
Gaining weight is your goal, but preferably on the right parts of your body too? Then you can achieve good results with healthy food and the right sport. Instead of losing yourself in endurance sports, start building muscle and do moderate strength training. Build daily tightness stretches from Liebscher& Bring in or move mindfully with Fayo’s whole-body flows.
This is how you not only strengthen your muscles, but also ensure strong bones and flexible joints.
You like to swim, ride a bike or love jogging? This should usually not be a problem, as long as it gives you more health benefits than disadvantages.
The right amount of exercise and nutrition can help you to gain weight in a healthy way. Smartwatches or tracking apps can be a way to roughly calculate both your energy expenditure and daily energy intake. In detail, however, you should not rely solely on these values, because they initially provide you with a rough orientation. A simple tape measure can also be more useful than a scale. This way you know more precisely where on your body you gain weight, build up muscles and how your body weight is approximately distributed.