A person is considered underweight if his or her body weight is more than 20% less than the ideal body weight.
For those of you who fit this bracket, we understand how frustrating it can be when the world looks at you with envy while all you’d rather want are a few curves or definition. But before you decide to eat all the burgers in sight take heed. Gradual weight gain is healthier than sudden drastic weight gain, as sudden weight gain can harm the body, says Shachi Sohal, Senior Dietitian, Dietetics Deptt at Dr. B.L. Kapur Hospital, New Delhi. Here are her top 6 steps to kick-start a healthy weight gain routine.
People may be underweight due to various reasons: Inadequate feeding habits, prolonged meal time gaps, poor selection of foods, increased physical activity without increasing the food intake can lead to energy deficit, are a few of the major reasons for being underweight. Other reasons can be malabsorption due to prolonged illness, diseases such as tuberculosis, cancer, hormonal imbalances (hyperthyroidism) and eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia.
Healthy weight gain: Gradual weight gain is always advisable. An increase in 500 kcal per day can result in increasing the body weight by 0.5 kgs per week. Objective should be to restore a desirable weight/ ideal body weight according to one’s age, gender and height. To rebuild body tissues, to maintain a good nutritional status and to maintain ideal body weight are a few reasons why healthy weight gain is important. Easily digestible proteins with higher biological value as milk, eggs, meat, chicken, fish etc. should be taken for tissue building. An intake of 1.5 to 2 gms of proteins can be taken for adequate tissue building. A high carbohydrate diet helps in adequate weight gain and has protein sparing action.
Dietary supplements for gaining weight: Supplements should be taken only in consultation with a doctor/ dietician, only if required in case of nutrient deficiencies. Supplements can cause more harm than benefit as many of these supplement powders contain excess of proteins, which are used by people who are gymming for body building and can overload the work of the kidneys. There can be an increase in BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) levels and creatinine levels. Excess of multivitamins can cause hypervitaminosis leading to various problems as diarrhoea, vomiting etc.
Food groups you should consume: Fibre intake should be only sufficient to regulate bowel movements and avoid constipation. Prefer whole grain cereals, sprouts, green leafy vegetables, which provide adequate amounts of fibre as well as nutrients. Fats are a good source of energy, hence can be consumed liberally but excess of saturated fats as ghee, vanaspati etc. should be avoided as in due course of time it may lead to elevated levels of bad cholesterol. Good sources of vitamins and minerals should be consumed to ensure good nutritional status and build up for the deficiencies which may be present. Fruits and vegetables should be taken in adequate which provide essential vitamins and minerals. At least 2 – 3 servings of fruits should be taken.
Food habits that help you gain weight: Chew the food properly to improve digestion. Avoid beverages as coffee and excess of tea immediately after meals, as it hinders the absorption of minerals as iron. Keeping a track of your weight as it is essential to increase approximately 5 to 6 kgs weight per month which is healthy weight gain. Cook smartly using wide variety of food choices which are beneficial for health as make palak pooris instead of plain pooris. Use a variety of fruits and vegetables to make salads, amla pudina chutney, which is a good appetiser. Consuming right type of fats is important because consuming excess of saturated fats increases the levels of bad cholesterol which can cause health hazards as cardiovascular diseases.
Exercise: Exercise plays an important role in gaining weight. Light exercise as walking, jogging, yoga, dancing, meditation etc help in reducing stress, building stamina, improves blood circulation, improves digestion, increases and induces sleep. Thus, promoting better health. Exercise helps in building muscles. Light exercise can be done in gym and light weight can be lifted to build muscle mass.