Many of us think that being lean means that we’re healthy. Unfortunately, being underweight is often not taken as seriously as being overweight, since society sees that thin and skinny figure is healthy and it’s what considered as “ideal”. Being underweight, in fact, can be as bad as being overweight.

Being underweight can be caused by many factors. It can be caused by genetics, stronger satiety cues (some people can feel fuller faster, prompting them to eat less), diseases, stress, and also eating disorder. According to the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale, which measures a person’s height and weight to estimate their body fat level, having a BMI of less than 18.5 qualifies as being underweight. You can check your BMI with your doctor or dietitian.

We may think that in order to gain weight, underweight person only needs to eat more than they usually do. But it’s not easy as it seems. Here is how you can gain weight safely:

Eat regularly

People who are underweight usually feel fuller faster, so they can’t eat much food at once. If this is also the case for you, don’t let yourself go without eating more than 4 hours. Eat small portion of meal per day to keep the supply of energy. Make sure that you have regular meal time with balance nutrition. Don’t skip meals anymore!

Add the calories

You can also try adding an extra 200+ calories a day in the beginning, and adjust up or down depending on the results. To know how much calories you need per day, you can check your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) with your doctor or fitness professional. BMR shows the number of calories your body burns on a daily basis while at rest, as well as helps you determine how much more you’ll need to consume. Once you have that number, you can gradually increase your daily intake and see how your body responds.

Adding the calories to your daily diet doesn’t mean that you only have to eat junk foods and other empty calories. High protein meats, for example, are a great choice as it can help to build muscle and eventually gain your weight. Also, choose nutritious carbohydrates like brown rice and other whole grains so your body is receiving as much nourishment as possible.

Snack away

Keep high-carbohydrates and high-protein snacks near you to enjoy between meals. Consider options like protein bars or drinks, crackers with hummus or peanut butter. Nuts, avocados, or yogurt are also great choices.

Read also: healthy snacks to keep on your work desk

Drink your meals

If you don’t have much of an appetite for snacks between meals, try drinking your calories at snack time. Liquid can make you feel full, even if it’s only a glass of plain water. However, since your intention is to gain weight, replace water with fruit juice or something thicker like milk. Smoothies are a chance to toss in all those calorie-dense fruits, vegetables, and nuts. You can add yogurt or vanilla ice cream to the recipe (if you’re not lactose intolerant).

Read also: delicious smoothie recipes.

Exercise religiously

Exercise is not only for those who want to shed some pounds. However, the exercise type might vary for those who’re facing underweight problems. While too much aerobic exercise will burn calories, you can do strength training, which includes weightlifting and yoga. You will gain weight by building muscle.

Before trying a new exercise regime, make sure you talk to your doctor first, as being underweight may be due to a health problem.

Indulge carefully

Many of us think that eating cakes and other sugary desserts will make us gain more weight. This strategy may work well for some, but for others it could just lead to visceral fat (the fat around your vital organs). Occasional unhealthy desserts or other foods are okay, but always remember that it’s the nutrition that counts.

See a nutritionist

You might need someone who controls what you eat or the exercise type you do, especially if you have certain health condition. And there are people who are qualified to do so. Dietitians, nutritionist, fitness trainers, and in some cases, psychologists or eating disorder specialists can help you develop the meal plans and strategies needed to safely achieve your goals.

Read also: recommended nutritionists in Jakarta.

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