Will being underweight affect my body growth
Underweight in teenagers
By: Jutta Kamensky - Consumer Service Bavaria
Underweight with young people is hardly a public issue. The fact that gaining weight can really be a problem is often underestimated, as is the suffering of adolescents.
So-called “bean sticks” and “asparagus tarzans” can seemingly "Eat as much as you want", but still not gaining weight.
Those who weigh too little do not necessarily have health problems. However, if the underweight with a Malnutrition and that is associated with an undersupply of nutrients, caution is advised.
A balanced and tasty diet complemented by many high-calorie tips can help to slowly but surely add a few pounds.
- Underweight in adolescents - not a problem?
- When does being underweight start?
- Causes of being underweight
- Does being underweight harm your health?
- Gain healthy weight if you are underweight
- Tips for gaining weight
- Sport - easy and well dosed!
Underweight in adolescents - not a problem?
Around 8 percent of children and adolescents between 6 and 16 years of age are at least 15 percent below their normal weight and are therefore underweight. The current Child and Adolescent Health Survey found that 21.9 percent of 11-17 year olds have characteristics of an eating disorder.
Girls are affected almost twice as often as boys. The “slimming mania” is still worrying. Teenage girls therefore often opt for a strict and one-sided diet. Other teens are underweight with no desire to be slim. They find their bodies and especially their thin arms and legs unattractive. Unsuccessful attempts to gain weight put a great strain on young people and, above all, on their self-confidence.
When does being underweight start?
Even without scales and calculations, underweight can easily be recognized by the sharp protrusion of the chest and pelvic bones. Whether the weight of children and adolescents is within the normal range can be assessed more precisely with the help of the body mass index (BMI), also known as the body mass index.
The BMI indicates the relationship between height and weight. For the calculation, the body weight in kilograms is divided by the height in meters squared.
Example: 50 kg / (1.65 mx 1.65 m) = 18.3
This BMI of 18.3 indicates a slight underweight.
Weight classification according to BMI:
- under 17.5: pronounced underweight,
- under 18.5: underweight,
- between 18.5 and 25: normal weight,
- between 25 and 30: overweight,
- between 30 and 35: obesity grade I,
- between 35 and 40: obesity grade II,
- over 40: extreme obesity, grade III.
Since the normal body fat percentage in children and adolescents changes constantly depending on age and gender, the percentile curves (growth curves) for the BMI have been developed for them. Using the age and BMI, you can read from the percentile curve in which range the value is located.
BMI calculation for children and adolescents
Causes of being underweight
Heredity plays an important role in the causes of underweight, because the body is largely determined by genes. Some people have a very active metabolism for genetic reasons. Their calorie requirement is on average 300 to 400 calories higher than that of people who are “good feed converters” and who tend to gain weight quickly.
Even under stress, which affects many people in the stomach, there is sometimes weight loss. Stress affects the feeling of hunger and appetite. Particularly active underweight people, who generally attach little importance to food consumption, also tend to be underweight. They even forget to eat something every now and then.
Weight loss with illness
Anyone who eats normally but is still underweight should definitely have a doctor clarify whether they suffer from a disease that is associated with weight loss.
This is the case, for example, with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Food intolerance or an overactive thyroid can also be responsible for a low body weight.
Do you have an eating disorder?
Not every underweight adolescent suffers from an eating disorder right away. And yet a body mass index below the normal range could also have a purely psychological cause.
Should parents suspect that the adolescents are suffering from severe forms of disturbed eating behavior such as anorexia (anorexia nervosa) or eating and vomiting addiction (bulimia nervosa), this is definitely the case professional help from a doctor or psychotherapist necessary.
Does being underweight harm your health?
Those who are underweight do not automatically have to get sick. Some people do not gain weight due to their increased metabolism and stay very lean for a lifetime despite consuming plenty of calories.
If underweight adolescents feel well and productive, there is no cause for concern. However, to be on the safe side, the pediatrician should clarify the health status. Aiming for normal weight could be a long-term goal.
Malnutrition if you are underweight
Underweight only has a negative effect if there is also malnutrition or malnutrition. Insufficient intake of the vital nutrients carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals shows up in a variety of symptoms in the long run. The breakdown of muscles, fatty tissue and metabolically active cells weaken the immune system. Underweight people are more prone to infections and have few reserves for stressful phases. The risk of later osteoporosis is significantly higher in underweight people than in normal weight people.
Signs of serious underweight
- Fatigue despite getting enough sleep
- Stunted growth
- Difficulty concentrating
- Circulatory disorders
- frequent freezing
- dry skin
- dull or brittle hair to the point of hair loss
- Menstrual disorders
Gain healthy weight if you are underweight
If medical causes for being underweight have been ruled out, it is helpful to take a closer look at eating behavior. A nutrition log kept for 4 to 7 days provides information about the actual nutrient and calorie intake. It also clearly shows where calories can be added or where too much has been saved. In any case, the basis for weight gain is a wholesome diet. It should be balanced and cover the need for all important nutrients. As a guideline for the composition of the diet, the same recommendations apply as for people of normal weight.
The food pyramid shows the amount and importance of the individual food groups per day that children and adolescents should consume.
Every day young people need:
- plenty of fluids: water, tea, juice spritzer or a glass of juice
- plenty of cereals and cereal products, potatoes, rice or pasta
- plenty of fruits and vegetables
- moderate milk and dairy products
- Moderate meat, low-fat sausage, fish and eggs
- sparingly oil and fat
- every now and then a small portion of sweets or high-fat snacks
Copyright: BZfE, idea: S. Mannhardt
Energy requirement when gaining weight
On average, adolescents between the ages of 13 and 14 need around 2200 (girls) and 2700 (boys) kilocalories per day. For 15 to 18 year olds, the energy requirement is 2500 (girls) and 3100 (boys) kilocalories. Underweight people should take in at least 500 to 1000 kilocalories per day in addition to their average energy requirement. This additional calorie intake can also be increased slowly from 500 to 1000 kilocalories.
How much of which food group? Age-appropriate food consumption quantities
Tips for gaining weight
The goal for underweight people is to achieve a slow but continuous weight gain by means of a balanced and varied mixed diet. The ideal way to gain weight is to have at least five to six meals a day, or something to eat about every two hours. High-calorie snacks between meals improve the energy balance. Diet and light products do not belong on the menu of underweight people.
This is how foods become high in calories
The art of gaining weight is to eat high calorie meals without feeling full quickly. The easiest way to achieve this is through high-energy preparation and the upgrading of the food with calories from fat and sugar. Flatulent and very filling foods are unfavorable because they inhibit rather than increase appetite.
Enrich soups, sauces or casseroles with
- Cream, double cream cheese and creme fraiche
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil
- grated cheese
Supplement salads or raw vegetables with
- roasted hazelnuts, almonds or walnuts
- Oil seeds such as sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Vegetables pickled in oil such as sun-dried tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines, mushrooms, artichokes or olives
- Cheese cubes
Refine desserts with
- Cream and melted flakes
- one to two teaspoons of high quality vegetable oils
Choose the high-calorie variant
Reduced calorie alternatives are available for many foods by nature or influenced by industry. Underweight people should always opt for the high-calorie option. You should also pay attention to "more" energy during preparation.
To be preferred for underweight:
- Bananas, grapes or plums instead of watermelons
- Muesli prepared with a milk-cream mixture in a ratio of 50:50 instead of milk
- thickened cream soups instead of clear broths
- Double-topped breads and spread generously with butter or vegetable margarine
- As a topping on bread: high-fat cheese (from 50 percent fat in the dry matter) or high-fat sausage (liver sausage, Mettwurst, salami)
- Energy-rich spreads such as nut butter, pesto or nut nougat cream
- Salad dressings with high-quality oils such as walnut, olive or rapeseed oil
- Use milk products with full fat content (e.g. cream instead of low-fat quark)
- Fatty fish like salmon, tuna or mackerel
- Whole grain bread instead of white bread
- Pan the vegetables, pasta and rice in butter
- Avocados with 30g fat to 100g as a dip or pasta sauce
Snacks to gain weight
- Vegetable sticks with cream quark dip
- Fruits rich in sugar
- Cakes made from puff pastry, batter or shortcrust pastry such as croissants or nut cakes
- Muesli and cream yogurt
- Wholemeal biscuits, fruit slices
- Open sandwiches
Drinks for more weight
Instead of mineral water, two liters of undiluted fruit and vegetable juices are allowed per day. For a change, a glass of whole milk, cocoa, soy milk, lemonade and cola also tastes good. Milkshakes can be enhanced with cream ice cream or delicious fruit and a cherry on top. It is best to sweeten tea with honey or syrup. Drink better after eating than before or with it, otherwise you will be full too early.
Snacking and nibbling welcome!
- granola bar
- Chocolate, candy, gummy bears
- Trail mix, nuts, dried fruits
- Chips, cheese cubes, peanuts
- Ice cream
This stimulates the appetite:
- Various herbs and spices such as parsley, coriander and cumin
- a lot of variety on the menu
- several courses with every meal
- Sets, napkins, attractive table decorations
- Favorite dishes
- a harmonious table community
- Walks in the fresh air
Fast food: yes, yes!
Eating in company increases appetite. For a high-calorie meal - contrary to other recommendations - the fast food restaurant is also a good place to go. A maxi menu provides more than 1000 kilocalories and also brings variety, a nice community and lots of fun.
Special products: sip food
Those who do not achieve success with "normal" foods can try high-calorie drinking foods from the pharmacy. They come in many different flavors, sweet and savory. They are also great for on the go.
Sport - easy and well dosed!
Intense exercise and intense stress can slow down the feeling of hunger. Light, regular exercise is important and can even stimulate your appetite. Exercise to build up muscles is recommended. This shapes the body and promotes a positive body feeling, which is often less pronounced in underweight people. Endurance sports such as jogging, swimming or rowing use up a lot of calories, which then have to be supplied with food. To avoid excessive fat burning in these sports, they should be done for a maximum of 20 minutes.
Photo credit: 3638035 © PeJo Woman with underweight
Calculation of the body mass index
The Free State of Bavaria provides you with independent, science-based information on consumer protection on this website.
Unfortunately, we cannot offer individual legal information and personal advice. We are also not allowed to issue warnings ourselves to companies that behave in an anti-competitive manner.
If you have any questions about your specific situation, please contact the contact points listed under Service.
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