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The health risks of obesity have been much talked about. And when we talk about weight problems, the first ones we think about is obesity. However, being underweight is an issue worth our concern too.

I have been underweight for a large part of my life (in my late teen and young adult years) and I’ll be sharing my experience about how having a low Body Mass Index (BMI) had an impact on my lifestyle.

But first, a brief run-down how the BMI is interpreted.

What is Body Mass Index (BMI)?

Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated by dividing your weight in Kilograms (Kg) by the square of your height in Metres (m). Your BMI shows the degree of your body’s health. Here is a diagram of unhealthy and healthy BMIs.

Read on to learn more about my experience.

Late Teen Years: BMI = 18.5

I had a rather lean body as a teenager. I was on the school cross-country team and ran at least an hour a day to keep fit. While my stamina was rather strong, the strength in my upper-body was weak. I did relatively well on the 2.4 runs for National Physical Fitness Assessment (NAPFA) tests, but always faired poorly at inclined pull-ups (I remember only being able to do six when I was 17!)

My Physical Education teacher at the time told me that I ought to increase my weight and upper body strength. But I brushed it aside, not knowing the dangers of being “too thin”.

Things continue to deteriorate and at 21, I slowly saw my weight plummet way below the healthy range because of stress.

Young Adult Years: BMI = 15.4

Because of stress from school, neglected my diet – I just did not have any appetite. Whenever I bought food, I only ate a couple of mouthfuls before feeling bloated. Initially, I figured it was probably “just a phase” and that my appetite would return to normal eventually. Unfortunately for me, the difficulties of being underweight surfaced as my weight dropped from 51 kg to 41 kg between 2014 and 2016.

Just as there are health-related problems associated with being overweight, there are issues that I faced because I was underweight.

Some difficulties I faced

“It’s too heavy!”

Even my laptop of 1.2 kg gave my shoulders aches and pains! It was worse when I went traveling as I could barely carry my suitcase. After a while, I felt like a burden to my friends and family – who always came to my aid whenever I could barely manage, because something was “too heavy”.

“I’m so tired!”

Be it a gentle 30-minute jog or even running after the bus, I felt exhausted from doing the most mundane of things. It just went to show that being underweight affected my physical capacity! I always felt drained at the end of my day, and sometimes even felt dizzy. After a while, I only put minimal effort into exercising (although I used to work out a lot) as I just had no energy for it. I felt my fitness levels deteriorate and I lost my drive to get up and work out.

“My body is aching!”

This was rather weird – but sometimes sitting on the floor made my back and feet ache! When I was barefooted, I could feel the bones of my feet jutting against the floor. Also, sometimes my shoulders hurt excruciatingly when I carried a backpack.

“I’m ill…. again!”

I fell sick so easily – getting colds, headaches, and migraines was common. Popping medication eventually had negligible effects as I fell ill quickly again after recovering, within a matter of weeks.

“Are you okay?”

As I mentioned earlier, I initially shrugged the whole “underweight problem” aside. In spite of concern and encouragement from my friends, I brushed off the issues.

One day in April, a tutor pulled me aside and asked if I was okay because I looked really frail. That was when I took a good look in the mirror, at my scrawny and bony physique.

It was a disturbing sight. I was astonished by how frail and tired I looked. From that day on, I resolved that I had to adopt more wholesome eating habits and healthier ways to manage my school stress.

Click to the next page to find out how I gained the weight back by changing my diet and workout regime!