Harmful Effects of being Underweight

I wanted to talk about this subject since “dieting” is such a hot topic in our society.

Sure, it’s important to watch what we eat to ensure we are getting good nutrients and to exercise to encourage a healthy lifestyle and to maintain a healthy body, but sometimes we can take this whole “healthy lifestyle” thing a bit too far.

Please note that I am not a doctor and can not diagnose anyone.  I just want to open up dialogue on a topic that I think is often pushed aside.

Never in my life have I personally been underweight or overweight.  Due to an active lifestyle, balanced diet, and good ol’ genetics, I’ve been able to maintain a healthy weight for my height.  (I know the blog world is a curious bunch, so I’ll tell you my stats: I am 5’7 tall and and around 140lbs.  I range anywhere from 138-143lbs on any given day. It’s completely normal for our bodies to do that if anyone is wondering!).  I’ve been at this weight since I was 20 years old.  And according to the BMI scale, I am approximately at 21.9, which is in the healthy ideal range for someone of my stats.

BMI Categories:

  • Underweight = <18.5
  • Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight = 25-29.9
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

Calculate your BMI here. Where do you fall?

Now if I am going to be completely honest in this post, I will say that I have had thoughts of wanting to be thinner (and I still do from time to time).  I look at others around me, whether on TV, people in my “real” life, or even other bloggers, and sometimes get an urge to want to “lose just a few pounds”, because then I’ll be perfectly happy and content.  Right?

Wrong.  These thoughts are nothing but self destructive.  They are especially destructive for those of us who are already at a completely healthy weight for our bodies. You start getting into an unhealthy mindset and can fall trap to taking a healthy lifestyle too far.

Every day we are bombarded with images of the female body and what we’re “supposed” to look like.   Before you start wishing you looked like any of these people, you should first know that there are harmful effects of being underweight.

Victoria Beckham

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Teri Hatcher

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Jessica Alba

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Guliana Rancic

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Kristin Cavallari

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The Downside of being too Thin

Adapted from this article

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a body mass index (BMI) that falls below 18.5 is considered underweight by medical standards. If you experience low body weight due to emotional, physical or unknown circumstances, seek guidance from your doctor.

Some of the main causes of weight loss that leads a person to being underweight include; stress and depression, malnutrition, abuse, eating disorders , and dental or oral problems.

Weakened Immune System

Being underweight can be a serious risk to the immune system by making it weak.  If one is undereating,  than they are most likely not getting all the nutrients that they need.  Makes sense; I don’t see how you can possibly get all the recommended nutrients when eating to few calories.  Many of these vital nutrients are key players in boosting our immunity and ability to fight off illness and disease.

Osteoporosis

We often think of osteoporosis as an “old person’s disease”.  And while it is something that usually occurs as we age (especially women), it is also something that can arise in our early years if we do not take care of our bodies.

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones and makes them brittle. Having osteoporosis increases chances of one having fractures and broken bones. The body needs energy that is found in food to strengthen bones.

Women in menopause are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, but serious weight loss especially because of deliberate food restriction or illness is also known to reduce the levels of muscle mass. For growing teenagers, the muscles may not develop well by being underweight.

Pregnancy

Many pregnancy complications have also been related to a woman being underweight, resulting in miscarriages especially in the first three months of the pregnancy and in severe cases it may actually cause infertility or make it almost impossible to conceive.

Women who are restricting their intake may also experience menstrual cycle irregularities or they may lose their cycle altogether

Anemia

Underweight conditions can also result in anemia, which is when the body is unable to transport enough oxygen through the red blood cells.

Some symptoms one may feel if they are anemic can be feelings of dizziness,  heart palpitations, exhaustion, or one may even faint.

Anemia is causes by low iron intake. Again, this makes sense if someone is restricting their calories, they are more than likely not getting the recommended values of iron through their diet.

What YOU can do

If you are someone you know is underweight or you notice one has lost too much weight than it’s important to address it.  It’s important for yourself or your loved ones to get to the underlying cause of the weight loss (stress, anxiety, an eating disorder, etc).

If you are not sure if your weight is an issue than ask yourself how you feel on a regular basis. Some physical signs can be depression, loss of muscle, and lack of energy. It’s important to also note how your menstrual cycles are.  Remember, if you are on the pill, this can mask any underlying issues!

I really hope everyone can take something from this. I know it can be difficult to have images of so-called “perfection” thrown in our face, but it’s not reality.  If you are at a healthy weight than stop trying to “lose just a few pounds”.  Learn to accept yourself and your body.  Remember, life is not just about food and exercise.  It’s MUCH more than that.

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28 responses to “Harmful Effects of being Underweight

  1. ironic that you talked about this! I have a member at my gym who came to me because she wants to GAIN weight…it is not an issue I deal with alot, because at a gym usually people want to LOSE weight, but she wants to get pregnant, and her doctor told her for taht to even be possible and healthy, she needs to gain 5-10 lbs, she is very underweight! WHAT is that pic of teri hatcher?!?! omg she looks terrible!!

    love this post, so important that you shared this information

    kristin cavallari, I acutally used to LOVE her body, she was healthy, and beautiful but now she has just lost a ton of weight and no longer do I see her as having a body that I envy

    • Good for that woman trying to gain weight! That’s awesome.

      You know, Teri Hatcher has the “apple” shape body, so her legs are incredibly skinny…could be an odd photo or she really could be THAT skinny!

  2. Ugh, I gagged at some of those images…I mean, yes, beautiful women, but I will take my curves and extra pounds ANY DAY over the figures those women.

    This is a great post, and very important…

    🙂 you and your blog rock!

  3. I love this post! It is definitely something that needs to be addressed more often. You know I can relate to the pregnancy one. There is no way I could even be able to have the chance at getting pregnant with where my body was about 6 months ago. Sadly, many women don’t consider that until it is too late. We have a serious issue with focusing on what is on the outside instead of inside.

  4. Thanks for putting this out there girlie!! We actually just had the conversation at lunch how we put unrealistic goals on ourselves based on what we see on tv and in magazines.

  5. FREAKING awesome post!!! Love it! This is so true!!! Being too thin is just as harmful to your health as being overweight! I did my BMI…19.4….woo hoo!!!! Let’s hear a shout out for NORMAL!

  6. i cringe everytime i see that pic of teri hatcher..eek. great post,
    …made for a very interesting read!

  7. I love your healthy attitude SO MUCH!!! And that picture of Teri Hatcher makes me so sad. 😦

  8. I think you are beautiful and I think you seem to be super healthy.
    A good post.
    First off, Terri Hatcher especially looks scary scary thin there…that stuff is so wrong.
    and kristin cavallari looks way tiny too…they all do.

    its crazy…cause a lot of the time, alot of them all look so normal and beautiful and awesome shape…
    then they go super-duper fanatical about it…and get even tinier, and toned , etc etc…
    makes it harder cuz they get so cut and shapely
    and its just something unachievable…
    i mean who can have a flat stomach, a perfect chest and yet be so tiny.
    It just can’t last.

    this stuff can have long-term effects on bones, reproduction, bowels, brain cells – not good at all!

    the irony is that the nation is full of the underweight and the overweight. it would be nice to just be…not in the middle perfect..but floating around…some chubb and “jiggly parts” cannot hurt us , no? 🙂

    • I know, we seriously need some normal, healthy weight lovin’ up in this world! I think they forget about us in the marketing industry! It’s just one end of the spectrum (underweight) to the other end (obese).

  9. Love this post…as always 🙂
    You always seem to know exactly what is on my mind every day!

    & the funny thing is that I didn’t think Kristin Cavallari was too thin until recently…I’m wondering if those rumors about drugs, etc. are true..kinda sad.

    • I am a big “Hills” lover and I enjoy watching all of those gal’s drama. You never know with Hollywood thought, could be rumors could be true, who knows! She has lost a bit of weight in the recent year though!

  10. This is a really important post. With so much emphasis in our society on losing weight, we almost forget that going the other way is just as dangerous, if not more so! I applaud you for bringing the issue to light!

  11. AWESOME POST!!! Thanks for reminding me that I don’t “need” to lose those 12 pounds after all, my weight of 142 pounds is a healthy one 🙂 I had too pretty much quit going to any website or forum that promotes weight loss. It’s way too triggering for me and I get wrapped up in unrealistic expectations and set unrealistic goals for myself.. besides after a day or two of dieting I usually end up binging which is something that I struggle with a lot. So Instead I seek out healthy blogs such as this one :), it’s blogs like this that remind me that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and I that I don’t need to be competition thin to feel good about myself.

  12. This is such a great post!
    I am painfully aware of the dangers of being underweight. I’ve experienced it. It isn’t pretty. The media makes it seem all glamorous but it definitely isn’t. I had a lot of emotional issues that went along with being underweight, but even if low weight isn’t a result of depression or an eating disorder it is still dangerous. My friend works out so much and is at such a low weight that she has weak bones at the age of 24. It makes me so sad. I am so happy that you are spreading the message that there is more to life than being thin. You are so beautiful and healthy and normal..I can’t believe you would ever think you want to lose…oh wait, yes I can, because we live in a crazy world. But please know that you are beautiful!

  13. Wonderful post!! I really think women are starting to lose sight of what is a healthy weight. So many women look at these underweight stars (who you perfectly represented here) and think “I want her body.” When their bodies are actually quite unhealthy. It wouldn’t surprise me if those celebrities suffer from one or all of the things listed above.

    The ironic part is that many women feel like they need to be underweight to be desirable to men. SO not the case!!! Guys just want a girl who is happy and healthy 🙂 Two of my best friends are actually underweight and have been looking to me for advice to put on a few pounds the healthy way. It’s affected their ability to have babies. So the body they enjoyed as single women, is now fighting back and they’re devastated.

  14. Great post! I just stumbled upon your blog…so glad I did! 🙂

  15. It’s so sad that people desire to be underweight when it can be so dangerous. I am all too familiar and wish society would shift towards HEALTHY. I’m sorry, but none of those girls look the least bit healthy. Why are girls aspiring to look like that?! Things need to change..it’s so rare to see a “normal” looking body in Hollywood anymore. So far, one that comes to mind is Kim Kardashian..I like her body, she seems “normal”. We’ll see how long that lasts.
    Thanks for another great blog post!

  16. Being underweight is not fun, especially when people ask you how you lost all the weight. One thing that isn’t mentioned here is being constantly cold. Since I’ve gotten to an unhealthy weight (a combination of stress and overexercising put me at about 98 lbs. on a 5’2″ frame), I am always cold! After you have maintained that weight for awhile, it is hard physically (and emotionally) to add the weight back on. That being said, i am finally starting to see that it’s so worth a few extra pounds (that probably look better anyway) to have energy and health.

  17. iam happy to welcome becouse you are my fanne “jessika alba” ilove you and i’ll be happy to accepte my invetation

  18. I am in middle school, am around five and a half feet tall and only weight around 100 lbs. Am I underweight or is that a perfect weight for a tall, thin girl?

    • Hi Rosella,

      You are still very young and probably still growing and developing. If you really are concerned with your weight, I’d check with your parents and/or doctor to determine if it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

      And there is no ‘perfect weight’ we’re all unique 🙂

  19. Also, being bulimic or anorexic not only affects you, it affects your loved ones. So many beautiful, healthy girls think they are too fat and so they starve themselves. It’s not only foolish, it’s stupid. I am never going to be that girl. I am worried I am underweight, not overweight!

  20. BMI doesn’t work on athletic or muscular people. Muscle weighs more than fat, and because I have a lot of muscle, I’m at the higher end of the normal range – even though I look quite slim on the surface. My husband is classified as obese even though he is around 8% body fat. Quite a flawed system!

    • I agree, it’s flawed for muscular individuals and I’d recommend getting a body fat assessment. For the general population though, it can still be a useful tool.

  21. Pingback: My Seven Links |

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