UNDERWEIGHT

We are what we eat! Deciding what to eat and drink has a big impact on our overall health and the way we feel. The right food, the right portion sizes and the right balance makes a big difference.

If you’re worried about your health now, or how being underweight could affect you in the future, there are many ways to make small changes to your diet and how active you are. There’s no quick or easy fix, but there is lots of help and support.

I am unable to put on weight

There could be several possible reasons why you are underweight and struggling to put weight on, both physical and psychological. It could be down to and underlying medical issue such as an overactive thyroid, stress and anxiety, or simply because you're not getting enough calories from your diet.

If you are anxious around food and need to control what your eat, or if you have a fear of putting weight on, it's important to speak to someone who can help.

Spotting the signs of an eating disorder

Undereating or eating disorders can be difficuly to see, but there are a number of warning signs you should watch out for. It's important to spot these changes in behaviour and habits as soon as possible, so you can get help for yourself, or for someone close to you.

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The effects of being underweight

If you're underweight, it's likely that your body is not getting all the essential vitamins, nutrients and minerals it needs to function effectively and fight infections. It can affect your health both now and long-term, in several ways.

Compromised immune system

Low muscle mass

Hair loss

Irregular hormone regulation

Are you worried about someone else's undereating?

If a friend, family member or someone close to you is showing signs of an eating disorder or being underweight, it can be difficult to know what to do.

But if someone you know is being secretive and defensive about their eating and their weight, or has done something to make you worry, it's important to get them help and support them through their journey to recovery.

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Putting on weight healthily

If you're underweight, it's likely that your body is not getting all the essential vitamins, nutrients and minerals it needs to function effectively and fight infections. It can affect your health both now and long-term, in several ways.

Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.

Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates.

Have some dairy. Choose lower-fat and lower sugar options.

Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein. Aim for two portions every week.

Get support

BEAT

BEAT is a great site for information on support for eating disorders with links to local eating disorder services.

Eating Well in older age

The PaperWeight Armband is a tool to identify and deal with malnutrition.

British Nutrition Foundation

Find out more about food and drink and what changes you can make