The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, July 2, 2000

Help for the underweight
By Anup Deb Nath

WHAT should one eat to lose weight, which exercises are the best to burn off those extra kilos, what clothes are best suited to those who are overweight.

The list is endless, people seem to be preoccupied with their weight and there seem to be umpteen books, magazines and columns devoted to losing weight.

There are those who have exactly the opposite problem — that of needing to put on weight. For those who try to eat as much as they can and excercise as little as possible in the hope of gaining a few precious kilos, there really seems to be a paucity of written material and expert help.

Underweight people are largely left to their own devices and get little help from health experts or fitness experts. There seems to be so much emphasis on losing weight and getting rid of fat and so little on the reverse.

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Weight training will give you a more shapely figureTechnically health experts tend to feel there is no such thing as ‘too thin’, but for those who have been the butt of many a rude joke or find that they are unable to wear sleeveless tops and shorts because they just don’t look good then they certainly need to fill up a little. Easier said than done, it is as difficult if not more to put on weight as it is to lose it. People who are underweight can often be heard complaining that no matter how much fattening and calorie-ridden food they eat the scales never seem to budge.

Medical experts feel that a person can be said to be underweight if his/her body weight is 10-20 per cent lower than the average weight for their height. On the plus side of being underweight is the fact thin people are less likely to die of heart attacks and strokes than their overweight counterparts. In order to gain weight most people tend to gorge on food that those who are overweight and trying to lose weight, try to avoid. The logic being that do the opposite to gain the opposite effect. This will not help you gain weight, but if you are bingeing on pastries, colas, burgers etc almost in exclusion to all other food, then you certainly might add a few problems to your list. Lacklustre hair, unhealthy skin, a lack of energy etc.

In order to gain weight you still need to eat a healthy balanced diet like you do if you are trying to lose weight. The difference is that to gain weight you should eat three full meals and add in three snack meals as well.

The food you eat need not be low in fat but neither should it be over fried. Some portion of fat is essential for the body but taken in large amounts both fat and sugar tend to depress your appetite and hunger signals.

You should try to ensure that you eat a variety of food from each of the major food groups — milk, meat, fruit, vegetables and cereals. People who are underweight often have a higher metabolic rate and their appetite regulator is also set on a lower setting. This means they will feel less hungry and eat less. Thankfully as you eat more the regulator moves up to a higher setting, making you more hungry and thereby helping you gain weight.

Stress is said to play a great role in determining our health in general and being underweight could also be a side effect of stress. The only way out of this is to get de-stressed. This is undoubtedly easier said than done but removing stress will help you gain your appetite and zest for life. Meditation is one way to stay de-stressed and calm, otherwise exercise is a great way to de-stress your body. Many underweight people shun exercise and vigorous activity in the fear that this will make them lose more weight. This is not true, exercise is good for your health and done correctly can help in almost every problem. With exercise you will find that your appetite will increase, your blood circulation will improve and your body will begin to function better. You will have more energy and stamina and best of all, exercise is a great way to reduce stress.

Incorporate weight training in your exercise routine to add muscle and bulk to your body. Women have a fear of weight training as they feel they could become female versions of Arnold Schwazzanegar.

Thankfully this is not possible and it is a baseless fear. What weight training will do is give you more muscle tone in your body and that means a more shapely figure.

Eat healthy and exercise regularly and try to weight train. This is a way of getting your body to look as shapely as you want and having fun at the same time.