It seems like there’s no happy medium, doesn’t it? Obesity and bullying over an overweight or “unhealthy” body image has been widespread across public media, glorifying thin frames. Amidst the fat-shaming, reports have glossed over the fact that health risks go both ways.
Patients are classed as being underweight if their BMI *Body Mass Index* is 18.5 or under. But what self-respecting man is going to complain about his girlfriend being too skinny, right? Sadly, they’re out there.
While, admittedly, we do live in a very shallow society, we also live in one where your boyfriend likely cares whether or not you are putting your health and body in danger. There are many risks involved in being underweight–both with your health and your relationships.
How does being underweight affect your relationship?
You may not notice that that your relationship is affected until it’s too late. Here are the things you should be watching out for.
#1 Worry. Your family and your mate love you, and when you have an unhealthy, underweight body, their main concern is going to be for your health. There are many health risks associated with being underweight, so it is only natural for them to express concern.
While suffering from anorexia, my outings with friends often consisted of them watching my food intake and worrying about my strength. It doesn’t exactly make for a night out on the town for either party.
#2 Lack of energy. The less you eat, or the skinnier you are, the less energy you are going to have. Not only is this unhealthy for your body, but it will also give you less gusto to go out and do things with your partner. You may even feel too sluggish to attempt anything remotely sexual. This can eventually become dull for both of you, as you will have limited options for what to do.
#3 Obsession with losing weight. This can manifest itself in several ways, such as over-exercising and under-eating. Both will result in the worry and frustration of your significant other. Your quest to stay at an unhealthy weight will not only make them feel like they are not good enough for you, but it will also cause them an untold amount of frustration and helplessness.
#4 Decreased libido. When you’re underweight, there is a high chance that your body won’t produce enough hormones to maintain some of your body’s functions. This may result in a lowered sex drive, which, as you can imagine, is bad news for your partner.
Effects of being underweight
Along with a lack of energy, there are a number of health risks associated with being underweight. Your partner would likely become worried, should you start to show signs of the following:
#1 Anemia. If you are underweight, you are likely not taking in the nutrients that your body needs. Those who are not consuming enough iron may be at higher risk of anemia, a lack of red blood cells in the body. This may leave you feeling sluggish and tired. Because you have a lack of red blood cells, your body has a harder time carrying oxygen throughout your body, which may leave you feeling cold all the time, as well.
#2 Susceptible to sickness. When you are underweight or small, your immune system may be at risk. You may be more susceptible to common viruses like colds, the flu, or other bodily infections. This can be bad news for your partner, because they may need to spend a lot of time nursing you, and you may pass illness on to them.
#3 Increased risk for osteoporosis. This disorder happens when bones become fragile and brittle, and the sufferer is at an increased risk of fractures and bone loss. This is true not only of underweight people, but also those who have a smaller body frame. As you get older and your bones become weaker, your spine may no longer be able to support your body, and you may end up with stooped posture before you even hit your 40s!
#4 Fertility issues. Women who are underweight may have interrupted or altogether missing periods. While this may sound like a blessing in disguise, this may have an effect on your ability to conceive. A man’s sperm count will also be negatively affected if he is underweight.
#5 In extreme cases: death. As with being severely overweight, being severely underweight carries the risk of premature death. A Canadian study by Dr. Joel Ray at St. Michael’s Hospital found that underweight adults carry a 1.8% higher chance of dying.
Recent studies have shown that being underweight may be more dangerous than being overweight; when the body is too thin or is being deprived of food, this has a severe effect on your organs. Your organs may begin to shut down the more they go unused, and when your body’s systems start shutting down, your body will start to wither away.
#6 Side effects of eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder wherein the participant refuses to eat or severely lessens their amount of food intake. Those with this disorder also have an intense fear of weight gain, and they usually have a distorted sense of body image, wherein they feel like they are not thin enough, no matter how slender they actually are. Anorexia may have little to do with one’s preoccupation with body image; instead, it may be a side effect of depression.
Lying just opposite of anorexia nervosa are those suffering from bulimia. Men and women suffering from this condition eat a lot of food, then “purge” or vomit the food to make up for the calorie intake. Symptoms of bulimia include obsession with one’s body image, eating a large amount of food in one sitting, frequent trips to the bathroom after eating, guilt, and drastic changes in body weight. Sufferers of bulimia may also have eroded teeth, due to the stomach acids coming back up on such a regular basis. Intense bulimia may be extremely dangerous, too.
What can you do?
If you are not suffering from an eating disorder and do not know why you are underweight, consult your doctor. There are many natural ways to gain weight, such as working out and constructing a high carbohydrate and vitamin-filled diet.
Trying to gain weight while you are underweight does not mean you should polish off a tub of ice cream for dinner–as delicious as that sounds! Instead, stick to foods such as lean red meats, whole milk, tropical fruits, lean nut butters, avocados, whole grain breads, pasta, and potatoes. All of these foods contain vitamins and minerals that can help you gain weight in a safe, healthy way.
When in doubt, consult a dietitian who can help you create a meal plan that works for your height, weight, activity level, and nutrient requirements to gain weight and improve your health.
[Read: Look better naked with these 15 tips!]
Being underweight not only affects your body; it also affects the lives of those close to you, and particularly the one who’s in love with you. Do your body, your loved ones, and your significant other a favor, and take better care of your health.
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Waverly Smith is a freelance writer who has been getting paid for spreading her sarcastic take on love, life, and sex since 2010. She is many things that peo...
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