Issues with obesity and being overweight frequently make headlines, but you don’t hear about the problems associated with being underweight nearly as often. While being underweight might not be as widespread, the risks can be just as harmful. Find out why being underweight is so dangerous and how you can increase your calorie intake in a healthy way.

How to Know if You’re Underweight

While you should talk with your doctor to receive an underweight diagnosis, you can use your body mass index (BMI) as a screening tool. Enter your height and weight into a BMI calculator and then use your BMI to determine your health status based on where your number falls within the index. If your BMI is below 18.5, there’s a good chance that you’re underweight.

How Being Underweight Poses Dangers

More than merely being skinny, being underweight can pose a range of dangers and risks to your health. From malnutrition to reproductive issues, take a closer look at some of the biggest risks.

Malnutrition, Vitamin Deficiencies, and Developmental Issues

If you’re underweight, there’s a good chance you aren’t consuming the macronutrients, vitamins, or minerals that you need for your body to thrive. Restricting your daily calorie consumption can quickly lead to deficiencies in calcium, potassium, and other essential nutrients, which can prevent your body from growing and repairing itself. That can cause developmental issues in children and teenagers and malnutrition in people of all ages.

Lack of Energy

When your body fat is low, you don’t have extra stores of fat for your body to draw upon when it needs additional energy. That often translates to a low energy level and frequent feeling of fatigue, which low iron levels can exacerbate. You might not have to run a marathon to feel fatigued. Instead, your lack of energy might kick in when you’re doing relatively sedentary tasks.

Poor Immune Function and Increased Risk of Certain Conditions

When you don’t consume the nutrients you need, you may not have the essential vitamins to keep your immune system strong. That means your health is likely to suffer over time. Many underweight people find that their immune systems don’t offer adequate protection from germs and viruses, which may mean that they fall ill more often. Studies have also linked being underweight with depression, increased risk of suicide, and an increased mortality rate from external factors like accidents.

Fertility Issues

For women, being underweight can have serious implications, including reproductive issues and infertility. Hormone imbalances can result from being underweight, which can make it impossible for some women to become pregnant. Those who do are 72 percent more likely to experience a miscarriage during the first trimester. If underweight women do carry to term, their babies have a greater risk of being either premature or underweight.

How to Increase Your Daily Calorie Intake

If you’re underweight, the most effective way to reach a healthy weight is by increasing your daily calorie intake. Take a look at some easy ways to add more calories to your day.

Use a Calorie Intake Calculator

First, you need to know what your ideal calorie count should be. Start by calculating your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which will tell you how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. Known as maintenance calories, this measurement is based on how much energy your body needs to function and how much energy you burn at your normal activity level.

If you aren’t sure how much energy you consume on an average day, a calorie intake app can be a lifesaver. This smartphone app tracks how many calories you consume on a daily basis so you’ll know whether you’re hitting your goals or if you need to increase your calorie intake. A calorie intake app can also calculate the protein, fat, and carbohydrates in your meals so you can ensure you eat the right balance for optimal health.

Add Healthy Calories to Your Diet

If you usually consume your maintenance calorie count every day but you’re still underweight, try adding more healthy calories to your diet. Depending on your current weight and your ultimate goal, you might want to start with 250 or even 500 extra calories per day.

Make your extra calories count by opting for whole grains, healthy oils, lean meats, fatty fish, and nuts and seeds. Rather than skipping the olive or avocado oil when cooking or avoiding toppings like cheese and eggs, try embracing these added calories.

No matter what you choose, don’t merely add junk food to your diet. You should still strive to avoid sugary sweets, processed starches, and empty calories. Junk food might increase your calorie intake, but it won’t provide you with the added nutrients your body needs.

Eat More Frequently

If you’re underweight, eating larger meals or dishes with significantly higher calorie counts can be difficult. Instead, try eating more small meals throughout the day. This method can be particularly helpful if you’re accustomed to skipping breakfast or avoiding snacks.

Your extra meals and snacks don’t need to be elaborate affairs, but they should increase your calorie and nutrient intake. Try snacking on a handful of nuts, a cup of yogurt topped with granola, or slices of avocado on whole-wheat toast.

Rethink Your Drinks

While you should always avoid fruit juices and soft drinks, some beverages can add much-needed nutrients and calories to your diet. Try making smoothies using fresh fruit and yogurt or milk, and mix in flax or chia seeds for extra calories.

Staying hydrated is essential to your health, but take note of when you tend to drink water and the effect it has. Drinking water before a meal can make you feel more full and could prevent you from eating enough calories. Try drinking water with your meal or after you’ve eaten to ensure you don’t miss a single bite.

Whether bring underweight is a new issue or you’ve struggled with it your entire life, it’s important to understand the related risks. Follow these tips to supplement your diet in a healthy way and maintain a weight that’s ideal for you.

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