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Healthy Weight Center

Understanding Weight Measurements

03/11/2009

Question:

I`m a girl, 15 years old, 5ft 5in tall and 43kg. Am I underweight?

Answer:

To judge whether or not you are at a healthy weight, health professionals not only look at the scale but also use a growth chart. This chart compares your growth in height and weight over time (from birth). If you have consistently followed the same growth curve from birth, you are in a healthy range for your body type. Another tool we use is the body mass index or BMI (an estimate used to determine if a person may be at health risk due to their weight). In children, a BMI under the 5th percentile or over the 85th percentile indicates health concern. Since you stated that your height is 5'5" and you weigh (43 kg) 94.6 lbs., I calculated your BMI using the on-line tool at http://pediatrics.about.com/cs/usefultools/l/bl_bmi_calc.htm. It calculated your BMI to be 15.5 (this is below the 5th percentile) which is considered underweight. According to this web site: "This can be normal, especially if you have been growing and developing normally, have a healthy diet, and are active and energetic. However, being underweight can also be a sign of a problem and deserves a full medical exam, especially if you are not gaining weight or have recently lost weight, have diarrhea, vomiting, poor appetite, an unhealthy diet, or a low energy level." So, to determine if you actually are underweight it would be helpful to have your parents take you to see the doctor for an evaluation; then it would be a good idea to see a dietitian for some individual help. Your diet and exercise patterns would need to be evaluated. You (along with your parents and a dietitian) will need to make sure that you take in enough calories to support your continuing growth and ensure that you are getting the proper nutrients you need (including protein, iron, and calcium for development of bone and lean tissue). Weight gain should be gradual, over time. Small increases in healthy foods throughout the day will help you put on weight. Do not go for the "quick fix." Remember to try not to fill up on "junk foods" (chips, fried foods, pop, candy); let your calories come from nutritious sources (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats, nuts) instead. If you visit the ChooseMyPlate.gov website, you can tailor a diet to meet your needs according to your age, gender, and activity level. Go to the Healthy Weight Center at NetWellness. I hope this helps put things into perspective for you. Be patient with yourself and be sure to speak to your parents and doctor about your concerns. Good luck!

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Response by:

Jane   Korsberg, MS, RD, LD Jane Korsberg, MS, RD, LD
Senior Instructor of Nutrition
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University