Can being underweight harm my health?

Eating too little and being underweight can affect both your physical and mental health. Don’t put yourself at risk. Learn how to avoid and overcome eating disorders.

Spotting the signs of an eating disorder

Undereating or eating disorders can be difficult to see, but there are a number of warning signs you should watch out. 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.

Spotting the
signs of

Behavioural signs

  • 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

Physical signs

  • 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

Psychological signs

  • 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.

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 an 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 you eat, or if you have a fear of putting weight on, it’s important to speak to someone who can help.

    The effects of being underweight

    If you are 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 different ways.

    Are you worried about someone else's undereating?

    If a friend, family member or someone close to you is showing any 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.

    Putting weight on healthily

    If you want to put on weight, it’s important you go about it in the right way. This includes a healthy, well-balanced diet, that provides you with all the essential calories, nutrients and vitamins you need.

    You should aim to get your calories from a wide range of food types, including lots of fruit & veg, protein and carbohydrates. It’s still vital that you choose the right foods and avoid fatty options that can affect your health. Always seek the advice of your GP or a dietician if you’re unsure.

    How does being
    effect me?

    Available help in your area

    If you need to talk to someone about putting on or maintaining a healthy weight, there’s lots of dedicated support in Salford. Don’t struggle in silence, find an event near you or speak with your local GP.

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    MyCity Health can point you in the right direction with the information, advice and support, you need on common health issues and lifestyle challenges.