If you are underweight, you may find you come up against health challenges such as fatigue and a weakened immune system. Sometimes illness itself leads to unintentional weight loss; if you are losing weight suddenly without trying, it’s worth visiting your doctor to check there are no medical causes.
If you have the all-clear from your doctor and want to gain weight to support your health and wellness, seeking support from a nutrition professional may help. Here we’ll look at the causes of low weight, how to gain weight and how a nutritionist can help.
Causes of low weight
There are several factors that may lead to someone being underweight. For some, it’s down to family genetics and a naturally slight figure, for others an illness may be the cause. Below are a few examples of what could cause a low weight:
- a high metabolism (those with high metabolisms may struggle to gain weight even when eating high-energy foods)
- genetic disposition (for some, low weight runs in the family)
- frequent exercise (those who are very physically active may find they have a low body weight)
- physical illness (illnesses like diarrhoea may cause you to lose weight temporarily while long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and digestive issues can lead to ongoing weight management struggles)
- mental illness (some mental health conditions can affect weight, including depression, anxiety and eating disorders)
If you’re concerned about illness, whether it’s physical or mental, visit your doctor for support and treatment advice.
Older adults and unintentional weight loss
Sometimes when we get older we may find we lose weight. This can be due to illness or simply a loss of appetite. Being underweight as an older adult can be especially serious, risking health problems like fragile bones and susceptibility to infection.
If a lack of appetite is affecting your weight, try switching up your portion sizes and eating smaller meals more frequently rather than three big meals. Eating with friends and family can help to increase your motivation to eat too.
If you struggle to prepare food try nutritionally balanced ready meals, keeping tinned and dried fruit and frozen vegetables. You may also want to consider having your meals delivered through ‘meals on wheels’.
Risks of being very underweight
In a society that often praises bodies at a low weight, you may think there isn’t a problem with being underweight. The truth, however, is that being very underweight can lead to health problems. Below are a few to be aware of.