It seems like everyone is trying to lose weight, but what if you want to gain a few kilograms, healthily?
How Do I Know If I’m Underweight?
You can assess whether you’re underweight, overweight or a normal weight by calculating your Body Mass Index (BMI). Your BMI is: your weight in kilos divided by your height in metres squared, and if it’s less than 18.5, you’re underweight. A normal, healthy BMI range is 18.5 – 24.9.
For example, if your height is 1.70 and you weigh 50kg then your BMI will be 17.3 (underweight). However, if your height is 1.70 and you weight 57kg, then your BMI will be 19.7 (normal weight range).
Why Am I Underweight?
The reason why you’re underweight, or might struggle to put on weight could be due to a number of reasons. The most likely of which are:
- Hereditary: If you’re healthy, but have always battled with being skinny, it may be in your genes. The only way around a fast metabolism is to eat more than your system burns. The right kind of weight training and a smart diet can help you put on healthy weight.
- Medical conditions: If you’re concerned, ask your doctor to test for any health conditions that may be causing you to lose weight, for example an overactive thyroid or a condition that prevents your body from absorbing food properly, such as coeliac disease. If your weight loss is being caused by a medical condition, then treatment, diet and medication can help you reach a healthy weight.
- HIV wasting syndrome: If a person is HIV positive, then weight loss can lead to HIV wasting syndrome if it’s not treated immediately. Wasting syndrome is when weight and muscle loss occur quickly, and it leaves a person weak and unable to fight off infections. Gaining weight can be difficult if you’re HIV positive, but it is possible to reach a healthy weight as long as you continue taking your medication exactly as prescribed and follow a healthy diet.
How can I gain weight healthily?
The best way to gain weight healthily is to make smart food choices. The basic principle of weight gain is simple: you need to eat more calories than you burn. Remember: your actual calorie requirements are specific, and will differ depending on your height, weight, activity level and your body’s metabolic rate. Speak to your doctor or dietician to work out a healthy eating plan to suit your needs.
Increase your calories
This will involve some calculation, so you can keep track of how much you’re eating. The average male needs around 2 500 calories a day, and the average female needs around 2 000 calories a day. To gain half a kilogram a week, you need to eat 1 000 extra calories a day. You could do this by eating bigger portions, or by eating more often.
Make smart food choices
Just because you can afford to put on weight, it doesn’t mean you should start living on fast food. If you want to gain healthy weight, then aim to eat more dairy products, fish and meat, and other high protein foods such as beans, pulses and peas. Rice, potatoes and maize are also good high starch food choices.
Want to find out more about how to gain weight healthily? Why not speak to one of our doctors – they’re available 24/7 to answer your health questions.