Everyone has heard the old saying "You can't be too rich or too thin".  With so many people coming to see me to lose weight, it's interesting that occasionally someone will come to see me because they are underweight.   It may be hard to be sympathetic if you are one of the roughly 72 million American adults who are overweight or obese.  But about five million American adults are underweight. And being underweight can be a health risk.

    Being underweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5.  If you are not sure of your BMI you calculate it by going to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Web site, to determine what is a healthy weight.  An analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys reported that underweight people have a greater risk of surgical complications, of dying from infections and in being prone to other conditions than people who are normal weight.

    The first step in dealing with being underweight is to analyze why a person is underweight.  Obviously, genes factor into a persons ability to lose weight, gain weight or just be thin.  But if you have unintentional weight loss, you should see your physician and be evaluated.  A number of diseases and chronic conditions can cause weight loss.  Among those are chronic conditions such as celiac disease and Crohn's disease that may lead to malabsorption and digestive problems.  Chewing and swallowing conditions may affect weight.  In addition, some mental and emotional issues such as depression can lead to unintended weight loss.  Medications may also factor in to a person being underweight.  Some antidepressants, antibiotics, painkillers and diurectics may cause a person to lose weight.

    Once a person has been evaluated by a physician  to screen for an illness or medication causing weight loss, s/he should try to gain enough weight to reach a healthy goal weight.  There are a number of things you can do to gain weight.  A reasonable goal is to gain one to two pounds a week.  An underweight person needs to add as many as 1,000 calories daily beyond what they have been consuming. A person with a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease may need the help of a registered dietician to plan his weight gain program.

     If you have experienced any of the signs of depression such as difficulty with  concentration, feeling hopeless, having changes in sleeping and eating patterns or changes in mood, get professional help. Depression is among the main causes of adults who have lost interest in life and it's pleasures such as eating.  Get professsional help if your weight loss seems to be a symptom of depression.

    Eating suggestions to help gain weight include: consciously planning to gain weight by getting more fat into the diet, adding food-supplement beverages like Ensure Plus or Carnation Instant Breakfast and snacking often.  An underweight adult may eat three large meals and three high-calorie snacks.

    If you are a smoker and underweight, be aware that smoking suppresses the appetite.  In addition, cigarettes often become an oral substitute for food.  Many smokers gain weight when they quit smoking.  If you are a smoker and underweight, it's just another reason to stop smoking.

    And it's time to get moving.  This may surprise you.  Sometimes my clients who want to lose weight are fearful of starting to exercise for fear of burning even more calories.  But exercise can build greater muscle and bone mass, increase appetite and improve your mood so you want to eat more.  A combination of strength and flexibility exercises working up to 30 minutes daily is a good goal to encourage you to eat more and begin to gain weight.

     Hypnotherapy won't change your genes.  But it can help you to get motivated to make the changes so you can gain the weight and no longer have the health risks of being underweight.