Being underweight can be just as concerning for a woman’s health as being overweight. While the media often glorifies thin bodies, having a BMI below 18.5 is associated with many health risks.
Underweight women may suffer from low energy, poor immune function, loss of menstrual cycle, and increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures later in life. The psychological impacts can also be significant. Underweight women are more prone to body image issues and can end up having eating disorders and depression.
Achieving a healthy weight is important not just for physical health but also for self-esteem. With the right nutrition and lifestyle habits, underweight women can reach their ideal weight safely and sustainably.
The tips below provide a holistic approach focused on building healthy habits over the long term.
Chronic stress can negatively impact appetite hormones and digestive functions in the body. It is important for underweight women to make time in their daily schedule to actively unwind and relax through practices like yoga or meditation. Other stress relief methods, like journaling, have also proven to be beneficial.
Getting adequate sleep of 7-9 hours per night and taking regular breaks during the workday to recharge can also help prevent burnout and excessive stress levels. Ensure workplace activities don’t interfere with daily routine, and avoid overscheduling activities and social commitments. If that’s a challenge for you, consider seeking professional counseling and support; this can be especially beneficial if high stress or underlying mental health issues are consistently making self-care and stress management difficult to implement.
Develop a Positive Body Image
Practicing body acceptance and having a positive body image is crucial when aiming to reach a healthy weight. Many women might resort to cosmetic procedures to think positively about themselves.
The biopolymers in body enhancing procedures, such as breast augmentation or butt lifts, can do more harm than good. In fact, the FDA has strongly advised against the use of biopolymer or silicone injections since these can lead to severe, life-threatening health problems.
Hence, instead of trying to achieve a curvy body with quick but unsafe procedures, it would be best to focus on the positive aspects of your body and remember that what you see on social media isn’t always real! Moreover, it would be best to hang-out with people who do not push you into thinking negatively about your physical appearance but rather help you view yourself in a positive light.
Challenging negative self-talk and focusing more on what your body can do and its incredible features and functionality can further cultivate body confidence. So, take time to appreciate all the amazing things your body does for you each day.
Eat More Frequently
Underweight women often undereat due to a poor appetite or busy lifestyle.
It is recommended to aim for eating three balanced meals per day along with 2-3 nutritious snacks in between meals. Each main meal should provide a good balance of lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Including healthy fats and fruits/vegetables also ensure adequate nutrition. Some easy and portable snack ideas include yogurt paired with granola, peanut butter spread on whole grain toast, hummus dip with raw veggies like carrots and celery, or a handful of mixed unsalted nuts.
Packing snacks to have on hand when needed and planning out meals ahead of time can help busy women ensure they are eating frequently enough throughout the day. Setting reminders to eat can also be useful.
Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods
It is important for underweight women to maximize nutrition in everything they eat and focus on nutrient-dense whole foods. Nutrient-dense foods provide substantial amounts of important nutrients to support the body’s needs.
Some excellent nutrient-dense options to incorporate into meals and snacks include oily, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, eggs, quinoa, sweet potatoes, avocado, nuts like almonds and walnuts, seeds like chia and hemp, and dark leafy green vegetables. On the other hand, empty-calorie foods with minimal nutritional value, like sugary drinks, candy, chips, cookies, and other heavily processed snack foods, should be avoided.
Maintaining proper hydration is also key for underweight women. Dehydration can suppress appetite, which can lead to reduced food intake. Drinking plenty of water consistently throughout the day, along with choosing hydrating foods and beverages, is important.
Fruits and vegetables with high water content, broth-based soups, yogurt, oatmeal, and herbal teas without added sweeteners are great options to help meet fluid needs. It is best to limit the consumption of dehydrating beverages like coffee, soda, and alcohol. Carrying a reusable water bottle and setting reminders to drink water can help ensure adequate hydration.
Gain Muscle Through Strength Training
Engaging in strength training exercises can help underweight women build lean muscle mass, which boosts metabolism and provides more shape and definition to the body. It is recommended to aim for 2-3 strength training sessions per week that target all of the major muscle groups in the arms, legs, back, core, chest, and shoulders.
Effective strength training can be done through weight machines, resistance bands, free weights like dumbbells, and bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, and lunges. Hiring a qualified personal trainer, at least when first starting a strength routine, can be very helpful for learning the proper technique and form for each exercise to avoid injury.
Some dietary supplements can support nutrition and fitness goals but are not necessary for those consuming a balanced, nutrient-rich diet. Multivitamins may help fill in any nutritional gaps in someone’s diet, while supplements like protein powder, creatine, and omega-3 fish oil promote building muscle mass. Probiotic supplements support healthy gut function as well.
However, it is strongly recommended to consult with a doctor before starting any new supplements, especially for underweight women. Excessive or unnecessary supplementation can potentially do more harm than good. The safest approach is to meet nutrient needs through whole food sources first before trying supplements.
Achieving a healthy weight requires an integrative approach to nutrition, exercise, stress management, and mental health. While each body is different, the tips above provide a solid foundation for helping underweight women reach their goals safely. With time and consistency, the habits become second nature. The process is also easier with supportive people. Remember, your body is incredible and worthy of care. Implement these lifestyle tips and feel energized and empowered.