What can I do About Being Underweight?

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  • Written By: Devon Pryor
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2019
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Many people consider themselves to be underweight and desire to weigh more. Perhaps before taking any direct action to gain weight, one should realize that, just like being overweight, being underweight is a relative condition. Average weight standards not only take pounds into account, but also include factors such as age, gender, height, and body-frame size. For this reason, one should consult a number of different sources for weight standards and Body Mass Index calculators, which will assist in setting realistic weight goals.

Genes are another factor that one should consider when setting weight goals. If the majority of one’s relatives are slim, yet healthy, being underweight may be normal according to one’s genetics. In this case, a healthy weight for the individual may be considered “underweight” by average standards. One might also consider a visit to the doctor for a general health assessment. A doctor can rule out disease or other medical conditions that may cause the individual to be underweight, as well as help the individual set realistic, timely, measurable goals for weight gain.


In setting weight goals, it is helpful to understand that one pound is equal to roughly 3,500 calories. If one consumes more calories than one burns, you will gain weight, and vice versa. For example, to gain one pound per week, you would need to consume 500 calories more than were burned each day. Online calorie calculators can help determine how many calories an individual is burning during certain activities, and how many average calories are contained in a food item. These tools can help track progress, and assist in determining how many extra calories one would need to consume in lieu of their activity in order to continue gaining weight.

There is more to gaining weight, however, than simple caloric intake. Being overweight is no better than being underweight, and both conditions often indicate poor nutrition. Increasing the intake of high calorie foods that lack nutritional value, so called “empty calories,” will not remedy the situation. These foods do not provide fuel for the body, and lead to unhealthy increases in body fat. It is possible for a person to be underweight, but have an unhealthy amount of body fat, and this is just as dangerous as being overweight with an unhealthy ratio of body fat.

The most sensible fix for being underweight is to follow the time-honored food pyramid, and increase additional calories from healthy sources. It is a good idea to increase the quality of calories, as well as the quantity. Regular exercise is also important, as it increases appetite, adds muscle weight to the body, and helps the body process the additional food intake correctly. Incorporating calorie-rich snacks between meals can also add weight.

Complex carbohydrates are notorious for their weight-increasing effects. Refined or processed carbohydrates should be replaced with whole grain breads, granola, brown or long grain rice, and whole-wheat pasta. Dried fruits are less filling and equal in calories to fresh fruit, so one might be able to sneak in more calories by snacking on dried apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, and dried figs. Avocados, olives, nuts, potatoes, and beans are high in calories, nutrients, and healthy fats.

Another method to resolve being underweight is to maximize calories in the foods we already eat. Using honey to sweeten beverages adds calories. Adding milk powder, protein powder, wheat germ or flax oil to shakes or hot cereal, or using milk in place of water in soups or sauces can also maximize calories. Though they are often high in sugar, drinks or mixes such as Instant Breakfast®, Ensure®, and other brands can add balanced calories to the diet, as well as providing vitamins and minerals. Being underweight, just like being overweight, is a factor that most people can control. Finding a resolution to being underweight should be approached in the same way fighting obesity — with motivation, intention, healthy choices, and balanced living.


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Discuss this Article

Post 11

I am 18 years old and I have faced an underweight problem since my birth. I am 85-86 pounds and I am always hungry and unable to overcome it. I don't know what to do or what to try? Can I have some help?

Post 10

I was underweight when I was about 16. I went to the doctor and he gave me this liquid medicine that I had to drink a tablespoon of every morning. I also got chocolate Ensure with extra protein. I'm still a petite person but those things really helped me.

Post 9

There don't seem to be any answers here for those of us who want or need to gain weight. Probably because the main focus today is on those who need or want to lose it. I have always had a problem maintaining my weight. It seems very easy to lose it without even trying, but very difficult to gain back. The doctors just say eat, even when you tell them you don't have any appetite or taste, or even if you tell them you eat a lot. Or they tell you to take some form of anti-depressant which may or may not help and may make you even worse.

Anyway, we may not have exactly the same issues as an

overweight person, but it is still dangerous. I know I am not healthy at 86 pounds. I weighed around 100 pounds for about 20 years and through two children. Then, I suddenly gained over a few years about 19 pounds. In three months time, I lost 33 of those pounds. That was a year ago and I have not been able to gain any back. I've been to several doctors and they won't even consider looking for the cause of this.
Post 8

Last year I was 115 pounds (at 5'4"), and this year I was 110, then I got sick recently and now I'm 105. I'm not sure if I should be concerned or not. I've not really been concerned about weight before, but going from 115 to 105 in a year seems a bit odd to me. Is there cause for concern here?

Post 7

I'm 5'2, 17 years old and only weigh around 84-86 pounds. I eat all the time and I'm always hungry. What the heck can I do to fix it? I'm desperate!

Post 6

I'm 21 years old and 6"4 and weigh 146 pounds, and have weighed, give or take, 101 pounds in the past five years in this weight zone. Genetically my parents are skinny, although I am going to formulate a schedule to gain weight and for staying fit.

Thank you for the helpful information. I'm going to research the food pyramid a bit since there is a lot of controversy based upon what is healthy and what are empty calories.

I hope everyone who came here will work hard to get themselves as fit as they want to be.

Post 5

I am 14 and am male. I am about 5ft 5ins and only weight like eight and a half stone. I need to gain weight healthily and stay fit.

Post 4

I'm 14 almost 15 and female. I'm 5ft 3in. and I'm like 86 pounds. i do eat a lot at times, but i just don't gain that much.

Post 3

i am 15 male 5'5 94 pounds. Every day i strugggle to gain weight with no results. i really need a solution. Please help. Please.

Post 2

I'm the same, but 5'2". I'm trying to gain weight too, by doing weights and trying protein shakes. give them a try. don't do cardio exercises. they make you lose weight.

Post 1

My weight is extremely low. I am 5'4" and weigh 84 lbs. I have absolutely no appitite most of the time,

and then when I do I make what I think is going to fill me up. (two pieces of peanut butter toast, yea sounds good to me), nope I eat one and I'm done. I want the rest but my stumache sais no! I am losing more and more. My muscles I can actually feel doing something as little as brushing my hair, they feel like they're tranquilized or something. I am really scared and don't know what to do. I try to eat and I try exercise but can't manage either one.

I don't even look in the mirror any more because all that I see is a skeleton with skin and it's really ugly.

I went from 124lbs. to 84lbs. in 8 years. What's going on? can you help?

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