I was visiting with some family this weekend who own a house on a lake. The weather was beautiful so we decided to lounge lakeside and dip in and out of the water in the hot afternoon. As the guys did their own thing, I sat and chatted with my sister-in-law, who is a very smart and wonderful person and who is also very, very thin. I’m not sure how the conversation came around to it, but at one point she was telling me how she wants to lose the “rolls” on her stomach. I squinted to see the little rolls on her stomach, which is likely loose skin from when she was pregnant and nothing to do with body fat. “I’ll show you rolls” I thought to myself, with visions of whipping my t-shirt up and having her gasp in shock at the ebb and flow of my rolling bodyscape, but I didn’t. Instead I told her she looked wonderful, which she does.
Afterward my sister-in-law and I talked about what a “healthy weight” would be for her, and for me, and we shared about counting calories and the daily struggles of trying to stick to a healthy diet. It was good to have the focus of weight be off of me for a change to be honest. It was also good to address that fact that there are many health dangers associated with being underweight as there are with being overweight and that unhealthy eating habits tend to be at the root of both of these problems.
A lot of attention has been focused in dealing with overweight issues but much as this is justified, little attention has been directed to tackling matters pertaining to being underweight. Scientifically speaking, people who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) that is under 18.5 are considered to be underweight. Some of the main causes of weight loss that leads a person to being underweight include; stress and depression, malnutrition, abuse, eating disorders, and dental or oral problems.
Being underweight can be a serious risk to the immune system by making it weak. That basically means that the body is not getting enough nutrients and can therefore cause one to have the flu, a cold or be at risk of other related infections much more frequently than other people. It can also result in a serious loss of hair (as discussed in the previous post “Dieting Causes Hair Loss” or growth of hair in the most unlikely and unwanted areas. This condition is more common in women than men. Hair needs to be nourished by adequate and healthy intake of food just like the body.
An underweight person is at higher risk of having osteoporosis and bone loss. Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones and makes them brittle. Having osteoporosis increases chances of one having fractures and broken bones. The body needs energy that is found in food to strengthen bones. Women in menopause are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis. Serious weight loss especially because of deliberate food restriction or illness is also known to reduce the levels of muscle mass. For growing teenagers, the muscles may not develop well by being underweight.
Many pregnancy complications have also been related to a woman being underweight, resulting in miscarriages especially in the first three months of the pregnancy and in severe cases it may actually cause infertility or make it almost impossible to conceive. Underweight conditions can also result in anemia. Anemia is brought about when the body is not able to transport enough oxygen in the red blood cells. Some of the symptoms of anemia include heart palpitations, exhaustion, fainting or feeling extremely dizzy. This condition is caused by iron deficiencies. People restricting food intake or dieting are more likely to suffer from anemia. Another effect of severe weight loss is that it causes menstrual irregularities by making the menstrual flow become irregular or it can make it stop in severe cases also known as amenorrhea. Other health dangers of being underweight include heart irregularities, vulnerability to diseases, memory loss, cancer, digestive diseases and hypothermia.
It is as important to remember and address the health dangers of being underweight as it is to address the ones associated with being overweight or obese. If you have friends or family who are very thin, watch out for signs that may make one see that the weight loss is becoming a problem. Some physical signs can be loose and elastic skin, depression, loss of muscle bulk and lethargy, which is also lack of energy. Rapid weight loss can also be a strong sign that something is wrong. Being underweight is just as risky as being overweight and is typically caused by unhealthy eating habits, such as starvation diets and skipping meals. There are also some health problems that may cause one to become underweight, such as hyperthyroidism. Of course, one major cause of someone becoming underweight is an eating disorder. Whatever the cause, it is important to address the issue if it is present.