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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- Constant or repetitive dieting
- Changes in eating habits
- Excessive or compulsive exercising
- Always going to the toilet after meals
- Often skipping meals
- Cooking lots of foods for others, but not eating any themselves
- Pushing food around the plate, or chopping into very small portions
- Evidence of binge eating
- Regularly weighing self and always looking in the mirror
- Evidence of vomiting or laxative abuse
- Only eating certain low-calorie foods like lettuce or celery when people are present
- Sudden or rapid weight loss (over a stone in less than a month)
- Feeling tired all the time
- Frequent changes in weight
- Struggling to concentrate
- Feeling unwell after meals
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling cold all the time (even in warm environments)
- Thinning or loss of hair
- Dizziness or fainting spells
- Disrupted sleeping patterns
- Obsession with food and nutritional content
- Always worried about body size and shape
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Constantly thinking they are fat, despite being told otherwise
- Uncomfortable eating in public places
- Preoccupied with celebrity images and their bodies
- Anxious about eating with others
- Mood swings, depression or easily irritated
- Seeing things, especially food, as black and white, good or bad
Compromised immune system
Low muscle mass
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.
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.
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.